As a boy I was fortunate enough to be raised on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. One of our favorite past times after work is to go to the beach and cool off. One particular occasion my little brother wanted to bring a skim board, to slide over the thin layer of water- kind of like surfing on the wet sand. We were raised in a family of 11 children, but our only transportation at the time was a Volkswagen bug (1980’s), with a banged up trunk space. To say the least we had very little room for all the kids and the bulk of the skim board.
My mother told my little brother that he could bring the board if it could fit. But if he couldn’t, he’d have to leave it home so that everyone else could fit. He tried to make the skim board fit, but it wouldn’t. The trunk was stuck shut so that wasn’t an option either. In discouragement, my brother told my mom that he tried everything, and even the trunk didn’t open. My mother replied, “well… that’s the breaks son.” Five minutes later my brother returned in tears and frustration complaining that the trunk still wouldn’t open. She replied again, “Oh well… that’s the breaks son.” He responded immediately, “Even when I press on the breaks, it still won’t open!” Everyone had a good laugh at the miscommunication.
This is one of those stories that our family shares over and over again, laughing at the misunderstanding of a boy and a parent. While my mother meant that “such are the circumstances” and the board would have to stay home, my brother heard her words as a solution to his problem, so that he could get the thing he wanted.
Quite often we are the same in our asking, seeking and knocking. Our heavenly parents are using words that describe the circumstances, the principles of the things in heaven. Yet what we hear is geared more to our desires, to what we want, to consume it upon our lusts.
As we get older, more mature and learn to understand what our parents see, we can look back and laugh at our own stupidity, without offense. However, if we never mature, we continue to push on the breaks and find greater and greater frustration when the trunk won’t open. If we hear any hint of chuckle at our immaturity, a flood of offense will inevitably occur, and we’ll fly into pieces like glass.
The words of Christ are no different. If we try to use the understanding of man to identify God, then we are continuing to push on the breaks, expecting the trunk to open, or to have our problems solved the way we want them to be. That is an earthly-centered approach. However, if we let go of our traditions, start all over, letting the words of Christ point the way, then we are taking a “heavenly-centered” approach. Then… we are using a “Author Intent” approach, rather than a “reader-response” approach.
I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect. However, I believe that just as parents can make mistakes, so can the leaders of the church. Brigham young once responded harshly concerning a circumstance, sat down, and then returned to the pulpit and said, “That was the words of brother Brigham, now I will speak as the prophet…” and then his council was opposite from his first opinion. Leaders are men of God, but more men, then God. It is the gospel that is true. The church is not what is true. The church continuously makes mistakes, …and that’s fine with me. We all do. The church is not what Christ intends for us to attach ourselves to. The prophet, general authority, stake president, bishop, etc. is not what we are supposed to be attached to. The church is not what we need to develop a testimony in. The church needs no defense, marketing, or good public relations. The church is not what matters. Christ… is all that matters. Everything else was only purposed to lead men and women to Christ.
When Christ matters, all the rest is merely… you guessed it… a… “BI-PRODUCT!” When Christ matters, we will read the scriptures, do our home and visiting teaching, keep the commandments, love our neighbors, attend the temple, visit the sick, feed the hungry, etc. Best of all, we will not need to do it by compulsory means. It will flow naturally, like the dews from heaven.
That is the gospel, or “the good news.” That is what the allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5 refers to as the branch getting its moisture from the roots, and the result us sweet fruit. It is the sweet fruit that will be gathered up into the garners and protected when the rest of the tree is burned.
What I find interesting about the allegory of the olive tree is that the branches symbolize the church of Jesus Christ and the roots symbolize the gospel of Jesus Christ. What is the allegory saying then, when we see the branches being burned because the branches overgrew the roots and produced bitter fruit? The separation of the wheat from the tares came from the same land of crop. And the world is not the Lords vineyard, that is his church. We must be careful in whom we set as the foundation of our testimony, Christ, or man.
When we look beyond the mark, which is Christ, then we see results as the objective. When we think in terms of results, we think about bench mark achievements like young women’s medallions, eagle scout awards, serving a mission, being endowed and marriage in the temple as signs of success. We count weekly attendance, home teaching and visiting teaching statistics as indicators of success. Obviously, if the numbers of success can be measured, then that is also an indicator of the condition of the heart of the people, right? (hmmm). As we try to live up to the statistics and expectations, we think we have to prod, inspire, motivate, implement programs and remind one another to do our duty so that we can receive our rewards, …otherwise face the consequences. The “real leaders” are the ones that are really good at subtleties, such that their efforts to get you on the same track as they are on, seems almost unrecognizable. In the end, our success is measured in how well we can get other people to look just like us, whatever the cost. Does that sound like Christ’s plan?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that the prophet and the quorum of the twelve don’t know what their doing. I think that they do. All I am saying is that man can err. God is who produced the words of Christ. He, will not. We must trust in God, let the words of Christ tell you all things what you should do (2 Nephi 32:4), then will you be able to discern, as you use the words of Christ as a Urim and Thummim. No one has control over the words of Christ, but Christ. Then you too can discover the necessary attributes, characteristics and perfections of God so that you can exercise sufficient faith unto life and salvation.
Then, you will be the fruit that the servant of the vineyard lays up in store into the garners, before the vineyard is burned. You will be the few that were chosen from the many that were called. You will obtain that unshaken faith, and be able to endure all things. Eventually… you will have faith no longer, for you will substitute your faith with perfect knowledge. You will know the mysteries of God, in full. That is what Christ offers. That is the gospel, or the “good news!”
We cannot afford to justify our sins. We cannot continue to make excuses. Yes, each of us starts at different places, …trust me, I get that! But that does not justify sitting back and using that as an excuse to not work. When we get in there and do the work, we’ll find that the work eventually gets easier. Not that the work got easier, but that our ability to do the work has increased. We cannot fear the work. We all must work. We cannot shirk the work. What I am sharing is not merely zeal. It is my testimony of the words of Christ. Amen.
In the words of the movie Mulan, “Let’s get down to biz-ness… before the Hun’s arrive.” Not sure where that came from, but it popped into my head, and since that is where all the other words came from, I wrote it… So there! Bahh!