Saturday, April 13, 2013

Nephi on Searching, 1 Nephi 10:19

For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round. (1 Nephi 10:19)

This verse tells us the law of the harvest applies to spiritual things as well as temporal things.  You reap the insight and the spiritual strength that you sow from your searching curiosity and obedience.  There are no bargain-basement spiritual insights; you get what you are willing to put in, and the mysteries come by the power of the Holy Ghost.

I’ve had people ask me in the past how I come up with stuff for my blog.  All I can saw is that I’ve been willing to put in the time and the thought and the pondering and studying and prayer into it, and the Lord has blessed me with insight.  The times that I haven’t put in what was required I haven’t learned so much.   I also fight against the dreaded complacency of thinking that I’ve learned all there is to learn about various stories.  I fight the dreaded perfectionism of feeling like an insight isn’t good enough or profound enough to share (which I combat by remembering the “many flecks of gold” talk from conference a while back).  And I try to think of more to seek out because seeking answers is the best motivation for scripture study.

From time to time I hear people make comments about how they need to get better at their scripture study and I think one of the difficulties we have is that we haven’t learned how to seek adequately.  When we’re first starting out our study, we don’t know what to seek for, so we read to enjoy the story.  But story gets old when you’ve read it so many times.  And the scriptures have much more than story.

I remember when I was in Young Women working on Personal Progress, there was a requirement that I learn about a gospel topic and then talk to my parents about what I learned.  There was a suggested list of things, like prayer, faith, atonement, fasting, etc., but none of them sounded very interesting to me.  Now I realize that what I should have done was try to extract from any spiritual difficulties I was having at the time a few questions then seek the answers.   This is one reason why I think the new youth curriculum is inspired, as it structures the lessons around gospel questions.  Questions inspire a burning desire to find answers.

I listened to a BYU devotional lately called “The Age ofWonder in the Age of Whatever” by Michael Wesch in which it was pointed out that a search engine is really a question-answering machine.  We bring questions, often in the form of search terms, and it aggregates for us all the pages it can find on which someone has tried to answer that question.

To seek, we have to have something to seek for that we really want to know, a deep question of the soul.  Seeking diligently (instead of perfunctorily or haphazardly) requires that the question be important to us.  Seeking diligently requires that you learn search skills, learning places where you are most likely to find an answer, learning ways to phrase your question such that it can inspire you and not discourage you.  Good phrasing can mean the difference between intriguing others into trying to help and scaring them away from a perceived attack.

Nephi also has a warning to give about the act of seeking:

20 Therefore remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into judgment.
21 Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your probation, then ye are found unclean before the judgment-seat of God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever. (1 Nephi 10:20-21)

This has great relevance for our world of search engines.  In fact, it makes yet another argument for how the Book of Mormon is a book for our day.    Nephi is trying to give us a warning that what we seek will be part of what we are judged on.  It is certain that if we search diligently, we will find, but if we seek wicked things, we will be judged by that.   It matters very much whether we seek for good things or evil things, for the mysteries of God or the pleasures of the flesh.  There are no unimportant Google searches in God’s eyes.  No search is wasted, either for good or evil, since it all has an impact on the soul, even if the search was meant to waste time.   It teaches us that just because we can search for something doesn’t mean that we should.  It teaches us it is imperative to restrain the curiosity of the natural man or women and give the spiritual man or woman free reign.