One of the best lessons I ever learned was because of President James E. Faust.
At one point in my life I wanted ― I needed ― divine answers to a specific problem I faced.
It was March 1, 2005. I was about to graduate from law school, a stripling lawyer (I mean, warrior) just 25 years old.
Imagine my excitement when I heard that President James E. Faust of the 1st Presidency was going to give a devotional address to the students at BYU.
At the time, I was looking forward to becoming a freshly-minted lawyer, studying for the Bar exam, and I had always admired President Faust ― feeling a connection with him the way tradesmen do (both being men-of-the-law).
In him I saw an example of someone I wanted to be like, an attorney who had remained faithful. What were the chances?!
His biography, In the Strength of the Lord: The Life and Teachings of James E. Faust, was an inspiration to me. I went through a period of my life when I read all of the biographies I could find on the Brethren: I found their lived experiences more instructive then their preaching.
This was my chance, I thought, to hear from one of the Lord's anointed; surely, I believed, if I prepared myself spiritually, I could receive the answers I desperately needed through the Lord's mouthpiece.
I prayed and fasted and went to the devotional, hoping the Lord would speak to me through the words spoken by President Faust.
I hung on every word, read his every breath, listened during every pause, as President Faust delivered his speech, "Where is the Church."
He said, "But the keys of the kingdom rest with the president of the Church. It is that authority that activates and governs all Church activities. Without priesthood keys and authority, there would be no church."
It was a good talk, I guess. It was a good reminder of some good principles. It quoted some good scriptures.
And yet . . . .
I was disappointed.
Now, would it surprise you that President Faust gave the identical talk 15 years earlier, in 1989?
Well, I understand that truth is eternal and unchanging, and what is said to one generation can certainly be repeated to another.
But on March 1, 2005 I had come with open hands, waiting to be taught light and truth from my priesthood leader, and was left wanting.
That day I received a recycled message of general applicability.
I suppose you could argue the fault was mine: that I was unreceptive or hard-hearted or failed to be in tune with the Spirit, or something.
But please, just this once, trust me when I say that I had done everything I knew how to do in order to be worthy and ready to be taught by the Lord and one of His prophets.
But the words that day felt hollow and empty.
It hurt. I hurt. I locked myself in my bedroom and cried, pouring out my grief to the Lord, heartbroken and hungering.
I mean, if I couldn't get answers I so desperately needed from those the Lord had given keys to unlock the mysteries of the kingdom, then where else could I get them?
I Dreamed a Dream
Shortly after President Faust's devotional, I had a dream.
In my dream I entered a room, like a conference room, where the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency were gathered.
I recognized immediately that I had interrupted their meeting. They were not expecting me.
They stared at me, waiting, without a word, as if implying, "What are you doing here?"
This was my chance, I thought! I can finally ask them my questions and get personalized answers that I have waited so long for.
As I opened my mouth, I found my tongue was bound.
I could not speak.
Really, I can't make this stuff up. Oh no, I thought desperately, fearing I would miss my chance, and realizing I looked like a fool in front of these men, when a feeling washed over me as if saying, You're such an idiot, Tim! You're wasting their time. What are you even doing here?
As I panicked, my eyes fell on then-Elder Oaks. My favorite detail in the dream was the yellow legal pad of paper Elder Oaks held in his hand, taking notes.
That detail indicated to me that this was being recorded. This was no social call.
Then a very different sort of feeling came over me, one of peace and understanding, communicating an awareness that the answers I sought were not here.
I understood, all at once, as if it should have been obvious to anyone with half a brain, that I had come to the wrong place.
In that moment, I knew I didn't need to ask them anything.
I felt foolish, but for a different reason. I was now able to speak, but this time I had no questions for the group.
"Thank you," was all I said to them, a feeling of pure love and gratitude filling my heart.
That was all I needed to say, in the end.
They stood and hugged me. I remember clearly the embrace of President Thomas B. Monson (even though President Hinckley was the prophet at the time), and how good it felt.
"Have Ye Inquired of the Lord?"
President Faust passed away a couple of years later. I will always be grateful to him for being the catalyst for this valuable lesson.
Things changed for me after my dream, leaving me with two long-lasting impressions:
(1) A love for the Brethren; and
(2) An understanding that the Brethren aren't the source of the answers I needed to progress on my sojourn here on earth.
"Lord, to whom shall we go?"
So what do we do? Where do we go, if the Brethren don't have the answers or solutions to our problems?
Peter's question took on new meaning for me after this experience, when Peter said to the Savior, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."
Now, to be clear, I believe we can receive the words of Christ from the mouths of babes. Even from the mouths of our modern leadership.
But as much as I believe that truth and light can come from others who speak with the tongue of angels the words of Christ, there is something distinctly precious about the words of Christ being spoken directly to us, Spirit-to-spirit.
What Are Prophets For?
What are prophets for, then?
Well, prophets invite us to come unto Christ.
And the way we come unto Christ, of course, is to have faith, repent, and to call upon God.
That last part sort of summarizes the first part, doesn't it? At the end of the day, it all comes down to talking to God and having God talk back to us.
For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.
But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.
(2 Nephi 32:8-9)
So, don't wait. Just start talking.
God is listening.
Why Haven't They Inquired of the Lord?
There are a lot of weighty matters that many of us are wrestling with, important doctrinal issues, practical day-to-day things we need further light and knowledge about in order to cope with our pain, understand our purpose, and be victorious in Christ.
Take, for example, the issue of Heavenly Mother which is an important topic for many members in the Church.
This past General Conference in the Women's Session, Elder Renlund addressed the issue of our Heavenly Mother, saying:
"Demanding revelation from God is both arrogant and unproductive. Instead, we wait on the Lord and His timetable to reveal His truths through the means that He has established."
(Dale G. Renlund, "Your Divine Nature and Eternal Destiny," April 2022)
Re-read that quote. Clear your mind. Open your heart. Can you feel the light in these words? Does it taste good? Does it fill your heart with grace in Christ?
No, me neither.
Was Elder Renlund saying we shouldn't ask the Brethren to petition the Lord for new revelation and light on various subjects?
Was Elder Renlund implying the Brethren either (1) do not ask, or (2) are unable to receive answers from the Lord?
Has Elder Renlund ever read the parable of the unjust judge, because his message is the exact opposite of what Christ taught.
The Parable of the Unjust Judge
And Jesus spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
How do we explain the role of living prophets when they are strangely silent on critical issues of our time, except to reinforce a Western cultural narrative sprinkled superficially with scriptures?
Ezekiel lamented in his day:
Because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall.
When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?”
(Ezekiel 13:10, 12, NIV)
What topics are we whitewashing?
Why can't we repair the gap with bricks of revelation and new truth from God rather than the dismissive whitewash of "it'll be okay, things will work out in the hereafter."
If Nephi Were Here Today
Remember the irony of Nephi being a teacher to his older brothers, and how they hated it?
How dare Nephi, a junior upstart, presume to educate his superiors, right?
Leaders: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our Prophet, Joseph Smith, hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.
Nephi:Have ye inquired of the Lord?
Leaders: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.
Nephi: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?
Leaders: Woah, hold on, Nephi. That sounds like apostasy to speak thus to us.
Nephi: Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said? —If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.
Leaders: Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear.
Nephi: And now my Brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and to give heed unto it, then ye would not murmur because of the truth.
Balaam was a bad prophet.
But even Balaam ― yes, Balaam! who was so off track God had to chastise him through a dumb donkey ― even Balaam spake answers from God.
- What happened to an open canon?
- What happened to the flood of truth that was going to sweep the earth?
- What happened to the time when nothing was going to be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, all thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, and the bounds set to the heavens, and what was ordained in the Council of the Eternal God ― all of these precious truths that were to be revealed in the dispensation of the fulness of times?
Well, while we're waiting, we might as well . . . "ponderize."