I started my research on D&C 42:14 specifically because I was curious (baffled) that no one ever talked about the fact that the verse says there are times to not teach! Searching through lds.org I couldn’t really find any references that suggested we should actually stop teaching if the Spirit wasn’t there. Any talk on teaching by the Spirit will almost inevitably quote D&C 42:14, but never addresses this sharp and unusual command to not teach.
For examples, in my original conference paper, I quoted a Church News article on teaching which quoted that verse and went right on to talk about teacher preparation. I also found a talk by Elder Oaks that was almost too perfect for what I wanted to say. He says that we use D&C 42 and D&C 50 so much that “They are so familiar they are almost slogans, yet we are in danger of using them without understanding them.”
But even Elder Oaks doesn’t suggest that we should stop teaching if the Spirit doesn’t come. As far as I looked, I could not see anyone who actually suggested anyone should “not teach.” Rather, the focus is on being worthy of the Spirit, and why teaching without it is so much less effective. I suppose you could say most talks focus on talking us into using the Spirit, and explain how and why we should be worthy to receive the Spirit.
But still, no one addresses this possibility that D&C 42:14 opens up: what if the Spirit does not come?
I wonder why no one ever addresses this? My first assumption is that we as a people (and me included!) are often unsure of what the Spirit feels like, at least to the extent that we could say for sure that the Spirit wasn’t with us.
This being the case, it would serve little purpose to address this verse in its full weight directly head on.
But in addition, after all of my recent research, I think I would add one more perspective on this. In my last post I mentioned that all three of my interpretive ideas could come down to one thing: nothing works unless you are pure, clean, and worthy. The promise of being able to pray and receive spirits unless they are not of God only comes to those who are pure and sanctified. So even if I go that route and pick D&C 50 as the interpretive key to D&C 42:14, it still comes down to being worthy of the promise. If I pick the route of interpreting through D&C 20 and Moroni, then problem is still the same: how can a leader know how to conduct a meeting by the Spirit? Only if they are worthy of the Spirit. And if we see the “not” receiving the Spirit as a lack of the faith mentioned in D&C 42:13, then the same exhortation results: seek the Spirit, be worthy of it, trust it.
So, coming full circle, I can see the wisdom and the necessity of addressing this topic in the way it is always done. Seek the Spirit, be worthy of it, and trust it.