The Doctrine of Covenants is a book of answers to prayers. It is appropriate to begin studying it by considering Joseph Smith’s first question that ushered the Restoration of all things by God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Joseph wrote this history in 1838, to “put all inquirers after truth in possession of the facts, as they have transpired, in relation both to myself and the Church, so far as I have such facts in my possession.” (Joseph Smith History – 1) He gives his family background and talks about the religious uproar at the time.
For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respected clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.”Joseph Smith History vs 6
There is a strife of words and a contest about opinions going on today as well. How can I handle disagreements without becoming disagreeable, like these people were in Joseph’s day?
It’s interesting and sad to me that these were the religious people getting all upset and unChristlike. But I see it happening now as religious people get worked up about politics or social issues. Their Christlike feelings, if they ever had any (to use Joseph’s words) are entirely lost in hate speech and bullying.
What can we do to ensure we don’t fall into this trap of devilish behavior?
Let’s read on. Maybe Joseph’s journey can help us see what we need to fix in ourselves.
Joseph had “serious reflection and great uneasiness” as some of his family joined the Presbyterian faith. His feelings “were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit.” (8) He leans toward Methodism, but the confusion and strife among various sects makes him uncertain still who is right and wrong.
How can I be a humble seeker of truth, like Joseph?
Joseph was open-minded and studied different religions, experimenting with all their different tenants to figure out truth. He didn’t let prejudice keep him from learning about new opinions and ideas.
The revised Church Handbook has this quote about seeking after truth:
In today’s world, information is easy to access and share. This can be a great blessing for those seeking to be educated and informed. However, many sources of information are unreliable and do not edify. Some sources seek to promote anger, contention, fear, or baseless conspiracy theories. Therefore, it is important that Church members be wise as they seek truth.
(see 3 Nephi 11:30 – Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.)
(See Mosiah 2:32 – But, O my people, beware lest there shall arise contentions among you, and ye list to obey the evil spirit, which was spoken of by my father Mosiah.)
“Members of the Church should seek out and share only credible, reliable, and factual sources of information. They should avoid sources that are speculative or founded on rumor. The guidance of the Holy Ghost, along with careful study, can help members discern between truth and error.
(see Doctrine and Covenants 11:12 – And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.)
(See Doctrine and Covenants 45:57 – For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.)
“In matters of doctrine and Church policy, the authoritative sources are the scriptures, the teachings of the living prophets, and the General Handbook.”Church Handbook
Joseph lived in a loud, confusing time, just as we do.
In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?”Joseph Smith History vs 10
This shows he didn’t just embrace Methodism and close himself off to other ideas. He also didn’t join Presybyteriansim just because the rest of his family had. He was genuine and open to being proved wrong. And he wouldn’t conform just to fit in.
Do I want truth, which may be uncomfortable and require me to change or admit I was wrong?
Or do I want confirmation that I am already right in my worldview (even if I’m not)?
Honestly, we can confirm anything through the internet. We can get “facts” (I use that term facetiously) to prove the earth is flat. We can prove our political party is right and the other side wants to destroy the country (beware those who speak in absolutes like this. They are rarely, if ever, true, and usually they are seeking to manipulate you).
Joseph Smith labored under mental anguish while trying to seek truth. It wasn’t until he read in the Bible in James 1:5 that he received direction. That verse reads: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, & upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
Joseph said this verse “seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again & again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did.”
We live in such an impatient and rushed society that if we ever want Truth, we must slow down. We must reflect on things, not hastily share something impulsively because it fits with what we agree with or incites our emotions. If we take time to check sources and facts, we will not add to the problem of misinformation and lies on social media. But we need to go further than that. We need to reflect and ponder on things more often. When we have given them thinking time in our brain, we start seeing things more clearly. We may see we were wrong and be glad we didn’t share the information as we wanted to do initially.
Nephi was another example of someone who sought for spiritual Truth. He didn’t just take his father’s word for the vision he had seen. He wanted to know those Truths for himself. He said in 1 Nephi 10:17 that the Holy Ghost is given to those “who diligently seek Him.” When we repent and come unto Christ, “the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost…” (1 Nephi 10:19)
Nephi’s brothers were a bad example. They didn’t inquire of God to know Truth because they didn’t believe He would make anything known unto them. That shows either a lack of faith or laziness…or both. Nephi asked them:
Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be make known unto you.”1 Nephi 15:11 (Book of Mormon)
Our God wishes to make Truth known unto us. But we must be willing to work for it and demonstrate faith in our Savior Jesus Christ before He will bless us with this gift.
Our living prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, has said this about receiving Truth from heaven:
One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will. The privilege of receiving revelation is one of the greatest gifts of God to His children.”Russell M. Nelson, Revelation for the Church, Revelation for our Lives, May 2018
He went on to say:
Imagine the miracle of it! Whatever our Church calling, we can pray to our Heavenly Father and receive guidance and direction, be warned about dangers and distractions, and be enabled to accomplish things we simply could not do on our own. If we will truly receive the Holy Ghost and learn to discern and understand His promptings, we will be guided in matters large and small.”ibid, Nelson
Let us pray and be more sincere and faithful in our efforts to gain eternal truths from God in our lives.
Learn more about how to Come unto Christ