Circumstances ought to follow principles, not principles following circumstances. Our work would progress in our family as we put Principles First!
Our lives are very circumstantial. We go from one circumstance to another. Some good, and others not so good. Nobody’s perfect, and circumstances constantly change. That’s LIFE! An ultimate life-question is, “How do we deal with the ups and downs, and still have hope in God?” The answer is, “PRINCIPLES FIRST!”
I’ll use the scripture project as an example. Two groups of people recognized the problems of inaccuracy in the D&C, after reading the journals of those who lived through the restoration, Joseph Smith’s journals, and studying the Joseph Smith Papers project. They were independently impressed to accumulate an accurate set of scriptures, without the false changes, written in after the death of Joseph and Hyrum. After a year of their independent work, they were identified, and brought together on new years 2017, …and they began working together. In March, three months later, at the conference my wife and I spoke at in St. George, UT, the project was introduced, and made available for all to review it, recommend changes, offer insights, pointing to a more accurate document. It was presented to a body of almost two thousand people. To be brief, that is the CIRCUMSTANCE.
Since March, the work of correcting has fertilized the crop, allowing people to identify themselves. To use scripture, their were jarrings, strifes, malice, contention, covetous desires, etc. (D&C 101:6). Most of us come from Mormon origins of hierarchy, and many saw a position on the scripture committee as some position of power. Some of the committee began swatting down proposed ideas, as if they were now authorities assigned to make the decisions. Others made suggestions to put their revelations into the D&C, proposing they ought to have a say about what goes in it. And boy what a mess it has made of those who, in the goodness of their hearts, set out to be right with God. Good people, disconnected from heaven, can make a mess of a really good thing. The early saints have proven that to be true. I took a different approach.
I recognized that I knew nothing about Mormon history. Honestly, the D&C has never made much sense to me, so I just read the Book of Mormon over and over again, …and every once in a while I’d discuss portions of the D&C. Once, I held one of the Joseph Smith papers books, and flipped it open. Not only was the book huge and heavy, the print was so small that I knew I’d never read it. I took an opposite approach to the project, and found myself willing to accept the mistakes made by the scripture committee, rather than make change suggestions through my ignorance, causing more chaos and frustration. I read the scriptures, participated in the discussions where people were heated and angry, but walked away confident I had nothing to add, and satisfied with accepting whatever resulted in the end. Looking back, CIRCUMSTANCES have been leading-out, in a “scripture project” intended to teach PRINCIPLES. Backwards, right!?
As of two weeks ago, something new has come about. The scripture committee have written an apology. They pretty much said, When we began this, we didn’t realize that what we were engaged in was a covenant to inherit the land. Had we known this, we would have taken a completely different approach. And then they wrote a list of PRINCIPLES that they intend to use, to see through their CIRCUMSTANCES of the scripture project. Hallelujah!
Conclusion: At first, a small committee was making all the decisions for a large body of people, and we were no different than the LDS church. CIRCUMSTANCES ruled the day, …and PRINCIPLES were ignored, justified, and passed over, …in exchange for jarrings, contentions, malice, strife, and power.
Now things have changed. PRINCIPLES are governing, as they are easily understood by all, including young children. The people are becoming ONE in the CIRCUMSTANCES. The committee is being held to the principles, …and since the principles they stand on are the same principles the body already believes, the contention can begin to clear up.
A disagreement upon circumstantial decisions aims the conversation to the principles governing the decisions, instead of contention. Where we find gaps in our principles, we see an opportunity to petition the Lord for more wisdom concerning the missing principles. James 1:5 suddenly applies directly to our work, just as it did to Joseph Smith as a boy.
We have set aside dependence upon the arm of flesh, to allow principles to govern. The LDS church will not do it. Will you? CHOICES!