Thursday, August 1, 2013

My Testimony of Continuing Revelation

My mom and I just had a really great discussion about continuing revelation, and how that is a principle that makes our church different from a lot of other Christian churches. 

Here's the thing. We as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believe that God won't ever cease to communicate with his children. We believe that he has given us great doctrine like the Bible and the Book of Mormon, continues to give us more doctrine through modern prophets, and will continue to do so for the rest of time. I've had conversations with non-Mormons who have brought up many points countering this principle. Some of them, at the time, I didn't know how to answer. But now I have figured out how to explain it in a (hopefully) uncomplicated way. Many of the points that my friends of other Christian denominations have brought up are:

"God is an unchanging God. Why would his doctrine change?

"Is the Bible not enough for you?"

I will start by answering that yes, I do know and have a testimony that God does not change. He is a perfect and wonderful Father who doesn't waver. But let us remember that He is also a Father. On that note, think about your own father. Imagine if he gave you a book, when you were just a wee tot {please read the term "wee tot" in a Scottish accent, if you will}, about how to grow up and live life. Imagine that your dad handed that book to you in your young and naive age and said, "This explains everything", and left, and never talked to you again. Never helped you with your various particular and personal situations, or situations that were sensitive to your age or maturity. Never communicated with you about what he meant by anything in the book, or told you what you were doing well and what you weren't. All you had was the book.  You might get through okay with just that, you might not. It depends on who you are, how you learn, at what pace you learn, and what your circumstances are.

Now let me answer the question of "Why would his doctrine change".
In doing that, let me make one thing certain. The very base, foundational parts of our gospel have not, do not, and never will change. God will always be our Father. He has always and always will have a plan of happiness, the Plan of Salvation, for us to return to him after this life. Jesus Christ will always be our Savior, the one and only way to happiness in that Plan of Salvation. The gospel will always center around families, we will always need to be baptized, we will always be commanded to love one another, yada yada. But there are some principles not so core and vital to our eternal salvation, that we believe God will adapt to his people.

Because God may be an unchanging God, but lemme tell ya, his children are hoppin' all over the place.

Exhibit A: Let me take you back to the Old Testament, with the children of Israel being led out of Egypt by the prophet Moses. As they went along, God talked with Moses, and gave him doctrine appropriate for those children of Israel. Doctrine that they were ready for, doctrine that would help them, in their own way, learn and grow closer to Christ. It included things like the ten commandments and the law of sacrifice. It had many rituals and symbols that helped remind the people of what Christ was prophesied to do for them (the atonement). They called this set of doctrines the Law of Moses.
Fast forward 1400 {or so} years later to the New Testament, during the life and ministry of Christ, specifically to the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:17-18, Christ says to the people, 

Matthew 5:17-18
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."

Christ was there, adding upon the Law of Moses. If you read all of Matthew 5, you see many of the principles of the Law of Moses being added upon. This addition was given because the disciples in Jesus's time were ready for that higher law. They knew about the Law of Moses, and had been living it faithfully for thousands of years, and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ were so thankful for their faithfulness and obedience. And now they were ready for the next step.

Continual revelation is based on that idea, that God's children are constantly changing. Sometimes they get better and become better ready for higher principles with more responsibilities (and in turn, more blessings), and sometimes they even decline due to pride or wickedness, and are in need of more basic doctrines. It was this way for the early saints during the time of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. The church was newly restored, and although revelation was coming to Joseph often and quickly, this new and budding church could only take so much at a time, because it was (and always was, and still is, and always will be!) full of imperfect humans. Imperfect humans who live in an imperfect and quickly changing world. Imperfect humans that are always learning. That is why we need more than the Bible. We need the testimony of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon, testifying of Christ and his purpose. We need modern prophets like Thomas S. Monson, helping us to be a little better all the time by challenging us with the next best principle that brings us that much closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

There is a scripture in the Book of Mormon that explains this whole concept, and I will finish with that. I hope that this explanation was simple enough to decipher and understand, and that it helps people to better understand why we as Mormons live on doctrines not limited to (but including) the Bible. 

2 Nephi 28:30
"Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have."

No comments:

Post a Comment