We have all seen this picture of Christ knocking at the door. There is no doorknob on his side of the door, so it has to be opened from the backside, which is where we are. What I never thought of until recently is, “What is the question at the door?” When someone knocks on your door, what do you say? We all say, “Who is it?” or “Who’s there?” This need to ask a question is the key to everything.
I’ve been reading Clayton Christensen’s book, “The Power of Everyday Missionaries,” where he describes heaven as a giant library where God has placed all the answers to the universe in big volumes on bookshelves. But the only way to get a librarian to give you a volume to read is to ask for it. If we are not willing to ask the questions, the books just sit there unread and unappreciated. This, Bro. Christensen says has been the problem with mainstream Christianity for all these centuries. Somewhere back in the third or fourth centuries the pundits of religion decided that God had given them all the answers and no longer spoke to man. They had His scriptures, and it was their responsibility to interpret what was written, because there were no more answers to be gotten from God.
The reason there were no more answers is because people stopped asking questions. Look through your scriptures at the Lord’s interactions with His prophets. You will find that most of the time when they receive direct communication with God it is because they have been asking questions and seeking answers or God initiates a conversation that is a continuation of past conversations He has had with the prophet.
Injunction to seek and to ask
In the October, 1979 General Conference, President Howard W. Hunter gave the following advice.
There is nothing more helpful than prayer to open our understanding of the scriptures. Through prayer we can attune our minds to seek the answers to our searchings. The Lord said: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9). Herein is Christ’s reassurance that if we will ask, seek, and knock, the Holy Spirit will guide our understanding if we are ready and eager to receive.
We have been told to ask. If we ask, it will be given to us. We have been told to seek, and we will find. We are told to knock, and it will be opened to us. Yet asking is not enough. Oliver Cowdery was chastised by the Lord for only asking. He was promised the gift of translation, but when he tried, nothing happened. He became frustrated and complained to Joseph Smith that it didn’t work, so Joseph went back to the Lord and received this revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9.
7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.
Desire to Learn
It is not enough to have a passing interest to know something of a spiritual nature. When the Lord promises that He will open something up to our minds and give us understanding, when He promises that if we are looking for answers we will find them, and that when we ask Him it will be given to us, the underlying requirement is that we sincerely want to know. That kind of sincerity requires a willingness to study, to ponder, to search, to think the thing through, and honestly desire further enlightenment. Then, as He says in Doctrine and Covenants 9:8, once we have studied it out in our mind, and ask in prayer if we are correct in our assumption or answer, he will tell us either yes or no through the feelings he will give us. (Actually, the no answer is found in the 9th verse.)
When Alma was teaching the people about faith, he said that even if all you can muster is a desire to believe, that is enough for the Lord to work with until such time as faith has been replaced with knowledge (Alma 32:27).
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
So the first step to learning from the Lord is to desire to know something. That desire must cause us to do something. The desire must be followed by an action. That action, that step of faith, based on the desire to know, is what the Lord is anxious to confirm or deny. That is how the learning starts. At first it is a series of yes/no questions. As we become more accustomed to seeking the Lord in prayer through righteous living, through the gift of the Holy Ghost we begin to get promptings, whisperings, impressions, directions, all accompanied by the feelings promised in section 9 above. These lead us and guide us in how to behave, what to do, where to go, and who’s lives to bless.
When we study the scriptures and we ponder their meaning, asking for guidance, other doctrines or teachings will come into our minds. We will remember things that have happened in the past that, if we are thinking when it comes, we can connect to what we are currently doing. This is the Lord’s way of trying to help us see that all of our behavior, all of our lives are tied up into one eternal round of knowledge and service, doctrine and practice. There is no such thing as individual salvation or independent doctrine. Our salvation is at the cost of service and sacrifice for the salvation of others. All doctrines are connected and dependent on one another. Knowledge is not just for my benefit, it is to be used to bless the lives of all those around me. This is how it blesses me the most – by the joy and comfort it imparts to others.
The Lord does indeed want us to seek, to ask, and knock. He may be standing on the other side of the door, without a handle on His side to open it, but it also takes effort on our part to open the door to find Him. He never leaves where He is. He is always calling to us to open up to Him. He is constantly requesting that we open and let Him in so we can be blessed. But it requires us to have a desire to be willing to put in the effort to seek, to ask, to knock, to ponder, to study, and to serve. When we are willing to practice the principles we have already learned, He is ready and anxious to teach us more. But we have to want it. We have to ask for it. Our salvation is based solely on how great our desire to receive it is.
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