Joseph has many debts incurred by the church. A man by the name of Burgess stated that there was a large amount of money stashed in the cellar of a certain home in Salem, Massachusetts. Joseph, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum, and Oliver go to look for the home and cannot find it.
The day after they arrive in Salem, Joseph receives D&C 111. Burgess met the brethren in Salem and could not locate the home.
The Prophet’s folly lay less in the fanciful hope of finding a treasure than it did in his failure to counsel with the Lord. A little over two years earlier he had received direction from the Lord about the Church’s indebtedness. At that time the Saints were told that if they would humble themselves and be prayerful and diligent that he would send means for their deliverance (D&C 104:78-80) The trip to Salem was a venture of their own design, not one of divine direction.
About 100 people do end up joining the church in Salem and end up coming to Nauvoo – via Elder Erastus Snow’s missionary efforts here.
The idea is that the Lord gives us direction to get things done but usually leaves the details for us to figure out. He doesn’t spell everything out. This principle helps the students to not only understand how the Lord works, but to identify specific actions that they are to take in their lives.
When we do what we can- the Lord will help along the way to “fill in the gaps” as to where we are missing some expertise or skill
Some examples from the scriptures:
1. Nephi – build a boat
2. Nephi- go and get the plates
3. Joseph- go and build a temple
4. BOJ- go and build eight boats and get your people to the Promised Land
Our classes all spend some significant time analyzing how Nephi was commanded to get the plates, but was not given specific direction as how to accomplish this. He went about the process as he would any venture – using his reasoning and communication skills. On all accounts, he was an absolute failure. Then comes the moment when he states that “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Nephi 4:6). This illustrates the principle: God expects us to act. When we do, He will guide us along the way. The Lord is not going to spell out every detail in how we can fulfill His commands.
I like who Elder Richard G. Scott puts it:
Confirmation comes through packets of help found along the way
He is our perfect Father. He loves us beyond our capacity to understand. He knows what is best for us. He sees the end from the beginning. He wants us to act to gain needed experience:
When He answers yes, it is to give us confidence.
When He answers no, it is to prevent error.
When He withholds an answer, it is to have us grow through faith in Him, obedience to His commandments, and a willingness to act on truth. We are expected to assume accountability by acting on a decision that is consistent with His teachings without prior confirmation. We are not to sit passively waiting or to murmur because the Lord has not spoken. We are to act.
Most often what we have chosen to do is right. He will confirm the correctness of our choices His way. That confirmation generally comes through packets of help found along the way. We discover them by being spiritually sensitive. They are like notes from a loving Father as evidence of His approval. If, in trust, we begin something which is not right, He will let us know before we have gone too far. We sense that help by recognizing troubled or uneasy feelings. (Richard G. Scott, Learning to recognize answers to prayer, Ensign, Nov 1989, p. 30)
I asked the students what things they are expected to accomplish, when they know that all the details are not always spelled out. Some of the things we discussed were:
* Marriage – how to find the person, being the right person, etc.
* College education – where to attend, how to afford it, etc.
* Getting along with family members
* Obtaining employment, providing for a family
I shared a story of someone I know who was engaged to another person prior to being married. This person went through several months of engagement only to break up and go through that difficult process before eventually meeting their future spouse much later in life. This seemed to resonate with the students… sometimes in the process of trying to do the right thing, we get some bumps in the road. This is to be expected.
It would appear to our natural eyes that Nephi was a failure in his first two attempts. Perhaps the first tries were merely the needed introduction to the actual successful attempt which needed some preparation. Sometimes in our moments of failure or being in limbo, we are actually being prepared for our future destination or success. This is not unlike a missionary who is called to Brazil and yet spends several months in another country waiting for his visa. Are his months in another country meant to be? Is this apparent delay an actual preparation for a future event? This is the second main idea that we worked with in class. Several students shared examples from the lives of their parents or grandparents where this occurred.
One example of this that was shared with me is a story of a young elder who is on his mission in Texas. When this young man was in high school in California, he was very short of stature. Because of his lack of height, many of the other students would bully him. It got to the point where he would avoid walking in the halls and avoid certain locations of the school due to the incessant nature of the bullying. During this time the young man’s father had continual impressions that he needed to move to Utah. He resisted these impressions for some time, but eventually did move, not knowing exactly why he was leaving his successful business and friendships in California behind.
When the young man moved to Utah, he was surrounded with incredible friends, all of which are now serving missions in various parts of the world. He grew both physically and spiritually. This young man, no longer being bullied, had a chance to grow in the gospel. A few years later, right before he went on his mission, he told his father of his bad experiences in California when he was in high school. His dad never knew. He knew at that point why he was prompted to move to Utah. The young man, now serving his mission in Texas, met an investigator who felt the Spirit and knew the Church is true. When asked to be baptized, the young man replied, “you have no idea the teasing and harrassment I will get by joining the Church. I don’t know if I can handle it.”
This was the moment of truth for this young elder. He told this young man of his experiences in high school. He talked of the courage it takes to remain strong and be of good courage when it seems like the whole world is against you. His words gave the young investigator the courage to commit to be baptized and live a life inside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This young elder’s experience in high school, although at the time horrible, was a preparation to be a tool in the hands of the Lord to affect the life of one of Heavenly Father’s sons. An apparent detour in a young man’s life was the perfect recipe to bless the life of another.