Who Can You Believe?

Courtesy LDS Media Library
Jesus teaching in the temple at age 12 (Luke 2:41–52)

With “so many kinds of voices in the world,” it’s really no small task to figure out who’s telling the truth, who’s not, and who thinks they’re telling the truth, but aren’t.

This Interwebical world of ours offers up more opinions, anywhere, anytime, than ever before in history. We’re drowning in a hard swill of opinions and the world is drunk on them. Even my own opinions make me a little tipsy sometimes.

But I take comfort in this great truth: God doesn’t have any opinions. He knows infinitely more than me—more than all of us put together. And I trust Him completely. He speaks to my spirit in a way that I can actually understand, if I am really listening, turning distraction aside by keeping my “things to repent of” list as short as I possibly can (it’s still kind of long). None of this is easy.

What about all the folks in the world and the billions—yes, billions—of opinions that they collectively hold? Who can you believe? The scriptures offer the best guidance I can find on who and what to believe. I’ll share a few verses with you that answer four specific questions.

First of all, who can you trust? The Book of Mormon teaches: “Trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments” (Mosiah 23:14). Trust those who strive, in word and action, to walk in the light and keep the commandments, but beware of the critic whose standards have slipped to those of the world. (See also 2 Peter 2:18–19.)

Second, why do they speak out against what you know is good? “Those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves” (D&C 121:17). The apostle Paul also wisely wrote: “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things” (Romans 2:1). It is good and right to seek justice, but we must be wary of strident voices that only tear down and do not build up. (See also D&C 50:23 and Ephesians 4:29–32).

Third, why do some seem impervious to light and see things so differently than you do? Of such the Lord has said: “Satan has great hold upon their hearts; he stirreth them up to iniquity against that which is good; and their hearts are corrupt, and full of wickedness and abominations; and they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil; therefore they will not ask of me” (D&C 10:20–21). Satan stirs up some against the truth because they prefer darkness over light and don’t inquire directly of the Lord, but prefer appeals to reason and intellect alone.

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Fourth, why do they claim that good is evil? Isaiah wrote: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20–21). Those who “set themselves for a light unto the world” (see 2 Nephi 26:29) have a difficult time discerning between good and evil, “for every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (John 3:20). (See also Alma 47:36.) The natural man defends his sins when he could be repenting of them.

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Recently, I looked up the Mormon Tabernacle on Wikipedia. The article reported that the celebrated playwright, Oscar Wilde, after visiting Salt Lake City in 1882, said that “the tabernacle was the most purely dreadful building he ever saw.” On the other hand, Frank Lloyd Wright, among the most notable architects of the 20th century, said that the tabernacle was “one of the architectural masterpieces of the country and perhaps the world.” So which one do you believe? Which one of them can you believe? Elder Vern Stanfill’s October 2015 general conference address, “Choose the Light,” provides some insight. He spoke of the cynical voices that are so often “heard” on the Internet:

When we consider thoughtfully, why would we listen to the faceless, cynical voices of those in the great and spacious buildings of our time and ignore the pleas of those who genuinely love us? These ever-present naysayers prefer to tear down rather than elevate and to ridicule rather than uplift. Their mocking words can burrow into our lives, often through split-second bursts of electronic distortions carefully and deliberately composed to destroy our faith. Is it wise to place our eternal well-being in the hands of strangers? Is it wise to claim enlightenment from those who have no light to give or who may have private agendas hidden from us? These anonymous individuals, if presented to us honestly, would never be given a moment of our time, but because they exploit social media, hidden from scrutiny, they receive undeserved credibility.

Our quest for truth should include following men and women who look to God for answers more eagerly than they look to the world for validation, who look up more often than they look down, who honestly strive to keep the laws of God instead of trying to change and distort them, whose hearts are truly broken and whose spirits are contrite.

Their voices are not shrill and they don’t bludgeon others with them. Their voices are meek and confident, forthright yet respectful. They don’t talk over you or behind your back. However, they courageously follow this advice from Ezra Taft Benson: “It is good strategy to stand up for the right, even when it is unpopular. Perhaps I should say, especially when it is unpopular.” They speak from a pure heart and not purely from intellect alone. They spend more time quietly repenting than openly rebuking. Their words and character endure the test of time, the test of ages. They follow this counsel from the Lord:
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. . . . I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy; and then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive. (D&C 11:12–14.)

Trusting Me with My Problems

Courtesy LDS Media Library

Some of you who are acquainted with us personally know that my wife and me work in a homeless branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in downtown Salt Lake City. The branch serves those who temporarily live at The Road Home, the Rio Grande Hotel (now the Home Inn), and the Salt Lake Rescue Mission.

To say the least, everyone who attends there is on the line of scrimmage. Everyone who joins us there on Sunday is in a desperate fight for spiritual and physical survival. Most everyone is pliable and vulnerable and tender. Here’s a case in point.

I heard a member of our branch say something during our testimony meeting today that moved me deeply. He said, “I thank Heavenly Father for trusting me with my problems.”

What does that mean? I am not quite sure yet. I’ve been rolling it around in my top knot all day. I know, at least, that it was inspired. I sensed that it was something plain and precious, though still beyond my conscious reach.

One hint I’ve gotten so far: Heavenly Father entrusted us with problems—our trials, our sorrows, our betrayals, our terrors—as gifts that would move us farther ahead than other earthly experiences. If that is true, most of my problems may actually make sense, even the one’s I’ve brought on myself.

Although, speaking of self-imposed trials, regret isn’t my favorite teacher, but it’s certainly one of my most effective ones. Regret is wounded memory. It keeps me humble. It reminds me of what to work on. It is difficult to heal, but it let’s me know that I’m alive and that I still have a chance to go in a new and better direction.

P.S. Another thing we heard over the pulpit in testimony meeting: a marriage proposal. Yes. She accepted. That was a first. 

This Winter

I know winter will be blue. It’s how
the ashes of summer color the cold, and
the stubborn grass leans on my regret,

and how timid, ripe clouds—
silent angels—storm my fitful hopes
and wounded resolve.

I wait at the season’s verge
with skyward eyes, not daring
to look down,

and trust the Timekeeper of heaven
who promised, long ago, to weep
with me through the night.

Michael James Fitzgerald

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