[I mean to work on this lots more, but in case I don’t (I’m known to forget about those saved drafts of mine), here it is, as a work in progress]
We also try to come up with explanations of why things are as they are. We speculate, we think, we reason, to try to understand why doctrines or principles are what they are. And doing so doesn’t make us unfaithful; often, this is an act of worship, to use our minds as well as our hearts. It is also possible to lose sight of that act as worship. It is possible to flip the order around, so that our minds’ reasons become frighteningly serious to us. Anxiety pushes us on to figure out what is real or reasonable, in order that we might act correctly and worship correctly. Fear of being wrong restrains our heart. Worship is put on hold or at least at distance. Rejoicing is paralyzed.
How do we reverse this order, or return to our sincere following out of doctrine and scripture, even though we have realized our potential to mess things up entirely? When is it safe to act?
How do we, in some sense, return to being like a child, after having our eyes opened?
The answer, I believe, comes in the form of grace. Certainly that is no shocking answer, but I hope to share another way of thinking about that path – from child, to adult, and somehow going on to a “child” again, in a forward direction, not backward.
Here grace might be coming in a surprising manner. Here’s the shocker: it doesn’t actually hold up God’s work when we get things wrong. When we misinterpret. Or when others oppress. Or even have ill intentions. Even though they aren’t good, they don’t actually matter.
Now, why would I say such a thing? Here’s why. God is very good at working within whatever situation we humans come up with or find ourselves in. Very good. Amazing, in fact. Actually, it might just be what makes God so real to me – He is so powerful, He can use any thing for good.
Or, we might say:
“[God’s] grace is sufficient for the meek … and [His] grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before [Him]; for if they humble themselves before [Him], and have faith in [Him], then will [He] make weak things become strong unto them.”
We typically interpret to this verse to mean we can work at things we aren’t good at and become good at them. And, to stay true to the point of my post, I think that is still productive and I can certainly see how God works within that interpretation to bless lives. However, I don’t think that is what Moroni and God were talking about together that day. Moroni is worried that his weakness in writing, his inability to write clearly or powerfully (or whatever exactly he wished he could do) was going to make the Gentiles mock – and hence – the work of the latter-days would be frustrated. That’s a lot of guilt he felt! His lack was going to hold back the work of God!
Like we often do to, and has been done over and over again throughout our history, he was taking what he knew of God’s word and thinking from there. From the small plates, he would have known that his people were going to be destroyed but redeemed someday. And that this record was very important. And, that the Gentiles were going to take this record to his people. Therefore, this record better attract their attention and convert them, otherwise his people were toast! (And he had just abridged a record of a Gentile group – the Jaredites – who didn’t take the words of prophets all too seriously!)
So you can see his concern. But what was God’s response? God says I know you can’t write well. I gave you weakness. And I give everyone weakness. That doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s what opens up the relationship between man and God. And as far as the Book of Mormon goes, I’ll use that weakness to my aims: as Gentiles have faith and come to me, I’ll make your weak book strong to them.
Or, we can also see it this way (from 2 Nephi 3:21): “the weakness of their words will I make strong in their faith, unto the remembering of my covenant which I made unto thy fathers.” The weak words (God confirms here Moroni’s concern!) will still be just as weak as ever, but because they teach the people of the covenant they are a life-source that strengthens them. The weak umilical cord that is the Book of Mormon will still be brings the strength from the fathers to the later Nephites and Lamanites. God worked with it anyway! (And personally I love the Book of Mormon as it is… I’m not saying it’s a pathetic book or anything. But even though it is weak in Moroni’s eyes or perhaps just the fact that it is a book, which is much easier to ignore than an angel etc., God is still doing His great work through it! Weakness doesn’t actually matter, as long as there is faith.
or, we might say,
“And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren. Nevertheless, … thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.“
Even though Jacob had suffered much, even though Laman and Lemuel had been unfair and caused a very hard life for Jacob, did that stop God’s work? Nope. Even when our weakness is something given to us by another person, even when we are the ones suffering for false ideas or ways of living, it’s okay. Why? Because God consecrates those very sufferings… for our gain!
It doesn’t matter what the source – our personal weakness, or others’ mistakes or even intentional hurt, God can turn it for good. Or, as Joseph says it, nothing can stand in the way of God’s work – nothing! His power is real, and His grace is real –
“How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.”
Just a few things I’ve been thinking about lately…