Reasoning Together

Hyrum Smith wrote a letter to the saints dated 15 March 1844 that I have been reflecting on for a few days. All of the letter is quite worth careful consideration and can be found in T&C 152. The second paragraph of the letter states:

“And again, I say unto you, an elder has no business to undertake to preach mysteries in any part of the world, for God has commanded us all to preach nothing but the first principles unto the world. Neither has any elder any authority to preach any mysterious thing to any branch of the church unless he has a direct commandment from God to do so. Let the matter of the grand councils of Heaven, and the making of gods, worlds, and devils entirely alone, for you are not called to teach any such doctrine — for neither you nor the people are capacitated to understand any such principles — less so to teach them. For when God commands men to teach such principles, the saints will receive them. Therefore, beware what you teach! For the mysteries of God are not given to all men; and unto those to whom they are given they are placed under restrictions to impart only such as God will command them, and the residue is to be kept in a faithful breast, otherwise he will be brought under condemnation. By this God will prove his faithful servants, who will be called and numbered with the chosen.”

It reminds me of the statement in Alma: “It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless, they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart — only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word. And he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God, until they know them in full. And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the Devil and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.” NC Alma 9:3

Both Hyrum and Alma state that God’s mysteries are restricted, given only to a few, and guarded from being told openly by a commandment to not teach of them.

It occurs to me that those who are most interested in learning about great mysteries are perhaps diverted from giving attention to the “weightier matters” of God. (Christ’s list of those were: “the weightier things of the law: judgment, mercy, and faith. NC Matt. 10:31.)

In our day the “weightier matters” have been discussed by the Lord at some length in T&C 157. One excerpt states: “Take care how you invoke my name. Mankind has been controlled by the adversary through anger and jealousy, which has led to bloodshed and the misery of many souls. Even strong disagreements should not provoke anger, nor to invoke my name in vain as if I had part in your every dispute.” T&C 157:54

I’ve wondered if the command to guard God’s mysteries and the caution against invoking God’s name in vain as if He had part in our every dispute might be related. We stop reasoning together when anyone interjects into the conversation: “The Lord has revealed to me that….” Or, “God told me that…” Or, “I received a revelation on this question…” Or, “Let me tell you what God told me about that…”

When someone uses the “God-Card” in a conversation about an issue it signals that the person throwing down cannot yield a point. They are duty-bound as a matter of fidelity to “God’s word” to insist on their position prevailing.

What if God’s word to you was intended to be kept in your “faithful breast” (as Hyrum put it)? What if it was meant only for you, and not for me to hear? What if the purpose of God’s answer to you was to allow you to participate in the discussion, and not to force the end of a discussion? What if the word given to one, and a different word given to another, are intended to allow you to “reason together” and see more of the issue?

God does not have part in our every dispute. But He does want us to: “Forgive one another. Be tender with one another, pursue judgment, bless the oppressed, care for the orphan, and uplift the widow in her need, for I have redeemed you from being orphaned and taken you that you are no longer a widowed people. Rejoice in me, and rejoice with your brethren and sisters who are mine also. Be one.” T&C 157:50

There are so many things yet to be done, and so many difficult moments yet to be endured, that we should soberly assess how much effort we squander on foolish disagreements. “

“A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination be aware of, because the things of God are of deep import, and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Your mind, O man, if you will lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost Heavens, and search into and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss, and expand upon the broad considerations of eternal expanse. You must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God than the vain imagination of the human heart? None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.
“How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations: too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of his will from before the foundation of the world[.]” T&C 138:18-19

It is vulgar, low, mean and condescending when we demand someone surrender their position in a discussion because we use the “God-Card” to announce the final decision. In one place the Lord says, “Come now and let us reason together, says the Lord.” (NC Isa. 1:3) and in another place the Lord admonishes us, “Study to learn how to respect your brothers and sisters and to come together by precept, reason, and persuasion, rather than sharply disputing and wrongly condemning each other, causing anger.” (T&C 157:54)

It appears that the Lord wants us discussing important and worthy things. Things that require sober and solemn thought. And He wants it to be accomplished ponderously, and with care. Perhaps, if it is done correctly, it will elevate us all. Clearly it will please God.

In writing this I do not imply that there are not other matters, mysteries if you will, that are sacred and not to be discussed openly. There are obviously many matters that God withholds from mankind. Those are revealed to be kept in the faithful breast and not dispensed to others (unless by command from God, to whom those mysteries belong).