Thursday, March 23, 2017

2 Nephi 2:15-16 -- On Contradiction and Opposition

"And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.
Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other."
2 Nephi 2:15-16


Yesterday someone wrote in to the support mailbox that I monitor at work asking about the seeming contradiction between the commandment to "Honour thy father and thy mother" (Exodus 20:12) and the story from Christ's childhood where Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, causing his parents to worry: "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing" (Luke 2:48).  I've written before about other seeming contradictions, for instance the difference between "ye shall not resist evil" (3 Nephi 12:39, see also Matthew 5:39) and "let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords" (Alma 61:14).

It's easy to get confused when we encounter things like this.  The garden of Eden situation in the very beginning sets up what seems to be an impossible choice for Adam and Eve.  As our verses explain though, opposition is an essential part of the plan.  And I think that is what the seeming contradictions we run into are as well... they are opposition, forcing us to think through the choices.  Just like Adam and Eve faced forbidden sweet fruit, and the bitterness of the tree of life, we sometimes have to reject the bad things that look or feel or taste good in favor of the good things that aren't as immediately attractive.  Sometimes we need to be humble, and back down, and not resist evil... and sometimes we need to stand up and be bold and resist it.  And it is okay that both things are taught in the scriptures, for as Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."

I don't know the answer to why Jesus stayed behind in the temple, and I just laid out several different possibilities for the person who wrote in.  Maybe it was a choice between two fathers, or a spiritual prompting that he thought they would also have, or understand, or maybe we just can't know because we don't have enough information, but whatever the reason, it's okay.  It doesn't negate Christ being perfect or the commandment to honor our parents.  It doesn't invalidate the gospel.

Similarly, when we face confusing situations in life where we feel torn in different directions, it is still part of the plan.  We need opposition in order to have freedom, and in order to learn and grow and change.  Sometimes, like Adam and Eve, we might face choices that seem impossible.  But choosing anyway, and learning to deal with the ambiguities of life, helps us become our own people and find out what really matters most to us.  It's a hard thing to be thankful for, but I know in my life that facing those critical, impossible choices has helped me learn things that have changed my life dramatically for the better, including how to rely on the Lord... and I wouldn't give up that lesson, or any of the others, for anything.  Today, let's try to be thankful for the seeming contradictions and the opposition in our lives.  Let's ask for God's guidance, and step in and make the choices that we know are right.  Let's choose the path that leads to happiness, and become the people that we want to be instead of the people that we fear to become.

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