I’ve started taking one of the church’s self-reliance classes. I’m finding it incredibly challenging. In the middle of all the other things that I’m doing, I’m struggling to pass the equivalent of an undergraduate class. In truth, I’m loving the challenge — especially when I find out that one of the best ways to preserve brain function is to immerse myself in learning something new as I pass middle age!
Anyway, I wouldn’t be here without faith. As I’ve learned of people who are struggling with their faith, doubting that the church is carrying the true gospel message to the world, and leaving to find a different path, I’ve started pondering what might be going wrong with our faith.
- The Liahona showed up after Lehi’s family had gone into the wilderness, retrieved the brass plates, and even brought Ishmael’s family to join them. There was no angelic visitor in Jerusalem who showed up with a summary of the trip, a compass, and all of the tips the family would need to make the journey. Lehi and his family had acted in faith with the inspiration and visions that they had already received. The lesson is that faith is more than belief. Faith is a belief so strong that it motivates us to action — even when we haven’t seen the outcome.
- The Liahona showed up “just in time.” The Liahona came after Lehi and his family had accomplished all that the Lord had required and they were ready to take the next step. The lesson is that the Lord gives us just what we need as we need it. I have learned from personal experience that being given too much too soon is a curse and not a blessing. By waiting until we are ready to progress to the next level, the Lord both grows our faith and our understanding of how spiritual inspiration works as he also refrains from overburdening us.
- The Liahona was “of curious workmanship.” To be honest, the Lord could have sent angels to guide Lehi’s people, sent another cloud like he did for Moses, or even caused Lehi to be able to see markers and arrows to point the way that the families should travel. Instead, the family had to watch the pointers and read the messages on a ball of some sort. The lesson from this point is that the Lord’s solutions don’t always look like what we expect.
- Even though the Liahona arrived by a miracle and operated only as Lehi’s and Ishmael’s families were faithful and obedient, it wasn’t enough for Laman, Lemuel, and many of Ishmael’s children. Miracles stop looking like miracles when we begin to take them for granted. Miracles don’t look like miracles if we try to dictate what the Lord’s miracles should look like and which miracles he should send. When we fail to recognize how much we limit the Lord by putting more faith in our own perceptions and desires, we set ourselves up to be cut off from inspiration. Laman’s and Lemuel’s desires to return to the physical and mental ease that Jerusalem offered blinded them to the lessons they could have learned and the growth they could have achieved. They simply couldn’t see the Lord’s hand, because they expected something different and weren’t going to be satisfied until they got their own way.
Sadly, those who are struggling with their faith, are least likely to be in a position to open themselves to the channels of inspiration. The Lord requires us to take a step first.
However, if we can do as Lehi and provide a space for ourselves, our families, and our loved ones that has removed from it as many of the influences of the world as possible and is filled with as much of the warmth of the Spirit as possible, we give ourselves and others the best chance for feeling the entreaties of the Holy Spirit and being able to respond with a small step of faith.