Thursday, September 11, 2014

Joseph Smith—History 1:11-13 -- On Fear and Faith

"While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.
At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture."
Joseph Smith—History 1:11-13

Reading this today, I am struck by the bravery and faith of this young boy, who was willing to read the scriptures and believe them enough to take God up on his promise.  And I wonder what it is that stops us from doing the same thing.  Have we lost hope?  Do we not believe?  Maybe some of it is that.  I think though that the biggest thing stopping us is fear.  Fear that either God won't answer us, or maybe worse, that he will, and that we will have the responsibility to act on that knowledge, when we're trying to run away from the responsibilities that we already have.
Young Joseph Smith's life was changed in the moment that he read that verse of scripture and determined to do something about it.  He prayed, and his answer came, and from that moment everything was different because he *knew* without doubt that God lived and had a work for him to do.  We often talk about wanting something so obvious and solid in our lives, but often when we come close, we turn around and run away.  We are afraid of certainty, and associated responsibility.  It reminds me of Psalms 84:10 "For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness."  We forget that even with more responsibility, life with God is overwhelmingly and infinitely better than the alternative.  We fear burdens that God can make light.  We worry about weakness that God can turn to strength.  We fear losing parts of ourselves, when God can make us more whole than we have ever been.
I am not trying to mock anyone's fear.  I have it too.  I know that it is real, and strong, and hard to overcome.  But I am saying that it is needless.  If we can work to act in spite of it, we will discover that commitment to God is not the scary thing that we imagine, but instead is a source of constant strength and love and hope and confidence.
Today, let's work through our fears.  Let's become more childlike and act on the example of a young boy who read the scriptures and believed them enough to act.  Let's ask God for wisdom, and for peace, and for whatever else that we need.  Let's open up and let him into our lives.  Even though it frightens us, let's allow our lives to be changed into something better.

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