I was making something this morning and decided to check my work. I became confused when what I was making wasn’t matching what I was reading in the pattern. I had to tear out a large section of it and try again. I thought to myself, “Why can’t the Lord just let me know when I am messing up so I don’t waste so much time going back and fixing everything?”
Chain of thought
This got me thinking. I was just asking the Lord to be preemptive in what he allowed me to do before correcting my actions. What if I had been preemptive in how I raised my children? I can hear my toddlers’ cries of “No! No! Do it myself! I do it!” This is what I would hear anytime I tried to correct them and prevent them from making a mistake when attempting something new. The best course of action was to just stand back and let them work it out for themselves.
Isn’t this what we fought for in our premortal life, the opportunity to make our own decisions and succeed or fail based on the choices we each make? That is the basis for the whole plan of salvation. We are given principles by which we are to govern our lives, and we will be judged based on how well we learned the lessons those principles taught us. Or perhaps it would be more correct to say we will be judged on how much we allowed those principles to teach us.
As we gear up to study Church history and the Doctrine and Covenants for the 2017 year, I remember all the times I was critical of the clumsiness of the saints in the early days of the Church. They made so many mistakes, and misunderstood so many of the doctrines we often take for granted now. They seemed petty and sometimes feckless in the keeping of their covenants. We tend to focus on those who were super faithful and seemed to get the big picture. These are the people we use as role models and after whom we name our children, like Kimball, Joseph, Sarah, and so many more.
How often do I fall into the category of the rank and file members of the Church who didn’t get what the prophet was trying to teach and continued to blunder about until they finally spiritually caught up with the program? As I sat there and looked at the work I had to redo on my project, I realized that there is good reason for the Lord letting me make my own mistakes.
As I looked at my work then back at the pattern I was trying to follow, I decided to look more closely. Yes, my eyesight isn’t what it used to be. I held it up closer to my face and realized I had misread the pattern. This is why I had to tear out a large portion of what I had done and start over. I had to go back to where I had messed up and correct the mistake so that subsequent work would not be affected by the earlier mistake.
If the Lord had stepped in and pointed out the mistake the moment I made it, I would not have learned to be more careful about following directions. I would have become careless, knowing that I would never be allowed to stray without someone pointing out my change in course.
But how do I react to people catching my mistakes? Don’t I get frustrated for the very same reason my toddlers got frustrated? I also want to do it on my own. I want to prove to myself that I can figure it out. This is the very characteristic that drove so many of us to support the Lord’s plan in the premortal life and reject Satan’s plan. We don’t like a know-it-all, someone who is always right and whom we feel is rubbing our nose in our own incompetencies.
Our Father in Heaven is wise. He lets his children find their own way. We have been blessed with a mortality that gives us that opportunity to figure out what we really want to do with our life. Do we really value our Father and His Son? Do we really find personal joy in serving and doing and being good, like our heavenly parents? Or do we prefer to do what we want and don’t really care about the consequences of the eternity that is to follow our little time in mortality?
We fought a battle in heaven for this privilege to learn for ourselves, and we were willing to accept the consequences of our own actions because of that granted privilege. The early saints of this dispensation were no different than you and I are today. We all stumble about trying to figure out on our own how we are supposed to behave and react to the principles the Lord has given us. We each learn at a different pace, and we all have different lessons to learn.
The sooner we learn on our own that we can’t do it without God to guide us, the happier we will be. But each of us needs to come to that conclusion independent of everyone else. That is a personal lesson that has to be learned in the deepest part of our soul, for it will change the whole direction of our life both here and in eternity. But as much as we recognize that we need the Lord to guide us, He will still never just step in and take away our opportunities to learn for ourselves. We seek his counsel and try to follow his laws and commandments, but he will always let us stumble and learn at our own pace.
I believe that when all is said and done, He wants us to be able to come back to his presence with hearts full of gratitude that we were allowed to do it on our own, as messy as that whole process is. When we return to his presence we will better understand just how much we truly do need and value His direction, and he will have shown us that by him not being a know-it-all he has let us learn what our limits and capabilities truly are.