Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Promised Blessings

One of the early prophets of modern times, Lorenzo Snow (1814-1901), once said this of our purpose in life:

--Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, 2012, p. 154

(I’m interested to know what stood out to you in this paragraph, so please let me know in the comments below.)

As I read this paragraph, the phrase, “outside of this there are no promised blessings” jumped out at me. At first, it struck me as odd since, in the context of peace, joy, happiness, wisdom, knowledge, and the power of God, what other blessings are there? But as I thought about it more, and in the context of the chapter title in which this paragraph was found—“I Seek Not My Own Will, but the Will of the Father”—I began to better understand what President Snow meant.

My thoughts are not your thoughts

In life we have ambitions and seek after things that we think will make us happy and are taught will make us happy. A lot of these things are very worthy desires, such as getting accepted into a good school, finding a great job, making money to be comfortable and support a family, being healed from a debilitating sickness, starting a family, trying to close on a house, or [insert  goal or trial here]. We are taught that if we study the scriptures, pray, attend the temple, and serve others, we will be blessed. We fast and pray for specific blessings, events, and knowledge, and study the scriptures for answers to specific issues and questions.

Yet, despite the purity of our intentions, the worthiness of our desires, and the diligence with which we keep the commandments to be worthy of the Lord’s help, none of the specific things for which we strive are guaranteed. We have never been promised wealth (even from paying tithing), entrance to a grad program, or even a family. No matter how righteous we live, we will not, by virtue of our own actions, receive a promotion at work or be healed from a sickness. These blessings all happen according to God’s will, as they work together for our eternal good and salvation. He is the grand author of our exaltation, His Son the author and finisher of our faith and They know what is best in the long run—the eternal long run—and bless us accordingly. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah taught:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

This begs the question, then, why do we even strive for specific blessings and plan our lives if nothing is guaranteed? For one, a lot of times we are given what we seek because that for which we strive does fit in Our Father’s eternal plan for us. Often the Lord will grant us according to our righteous desires if we would but ask. But for another, we came into this world to do the works of our Father and, as a result, receive peace, joy, happiness, knowledge, wisdom, and the power of God. And we will receive each of those blessings as we strive diligently to search the scriptures, pray, serve, and otherwise live as the Savior teaches. This means that sometimes obtaining a job at X company, while a worthy and desirable goal, will not bring us as much peace and happiness in the eternal scheme of things as finding a job at Y company later will. Add the struggle and time given to practice faith in times of adversity (such as unemployment) while X falls through and Y has yet to appear, and we are well on our way to all of the guaranteed, eternally-important blessings.

Our thoughts are not His thoughts, but as our ways become His ways, we will begin to see all of the promised blessings that come from a continued faithful life. And we will come to understand what is truly important and what doesn't matter so much in the eternal perspective.


Related readings:

But If Not…,” Elder Dennis E. Simmons, Ensign, May 2004
But If Not,” Elder Lance B. Wickman, Ensign, October 2002