Back in my teenage years, I was a nerd. Ok, I take it back, I still am.
I remember a particular day sitting on the school bus and debating with fellow friends about whether or not hot water could freeze faster than cold water. (I KNOW! I told you I was a nerd).
I held vehemently to my position that hot water freezes faster than cold water while others insisted that was impossible because cold water was closer to freezing and thus would freeze faster.
Well, guess what…it depends. Go and read Scientific American or numerous blogs and experiments about it. It is a striking phenomenon known as the Mpemba effect and something that doesn’t completely make sense, but in some cases and under certain circumstances, and based on how “hot” you are talking about as hot water and how “cold” you are talking about as cold water and what kind of container you have the water in and so on and so forth, there is a possibility that hot water freezes faster than cold water.
It could possibly happen under certain conditions, but it usually does not happen, and it’s not entirely certain the exact circumstances in which this is the case because there are too many variables involved. The point here is, I was right and wrong at the same time.
It hurts to be wrong, especially when you’re sort of right. But that was just a silly school bus debate.
Closer to my heart, and closer to my adulthood, is another experience.
Some years ago, I asked a question. In the context of this story, I won’t describe all the circumstances behind the question, but in essence, I was asking God why I wasn’t married and what needed to happen before I could be married. It was a sincere question. And I thought I received an answer. In fact, my pride convinced me thoroughly that I had an answer from God that a specific event needed to happen in my life before I would get married. (and no, the event was not “date and get engaged” although that seems to be helpful, from my observation). So until that event happened, I did not need to worry about why I wasn’t married. I held to this belief for several years. I still sought for opportunities to date because the event could happen at any time, right? Yet, it didn’t seem to be happening nor was there any indication that it would happen.
In frustration, I asked many times why it wasn’t happening and what I needed to do to make it happen, as it felt mostly out of my control (and because I wanted to get married and felt stopped because this event hadn’t happened). I felt impressed to make it a sincere matter of prayer and fasting. And I went to the temple. I asked if that belief I had was true. The answer? A stupor of thought. A complete stupor of thought. I was shocked. I had never experienced that kind of answer in that manner before. In my heart, not only did I know that I had been asking the question in the wrong way (really, there wasn’t a “why” to why I wasn’t married, beyond it just being God’s timing), but also that I was wrong in my self-supposed answer. For years. Even though I had been faithful. Even though I had read my scriptures and prayed daily and attended the temple weekly, and in general I was doing just fine. I had just simply held a belief that was wrong. And I knew it. The answer came that the event could happen before I was married, or it might not ever happen at all, and it didn’t matter because it was in no way correlated to whether or not I got married.
What. the. What.
You may be tempted to think here that perhaps I was fooling myself the second time around. But I can assure you that was not the case. I was wrong. And I knew it. I did not necessarily feel the wrath or disapproval of the Lord. But I did feel that He had probably been trying to tell me that answer for a long time. But in that case, my pride wouldn’t let me listen, even though I listened to SO many other things He told me, even constant promptings day in and day out from the Spirit. But to that particular thing I did not listen.
It is always hard for me to admit that I am wrong, but I was. I know I am not a bad person and this does not negate any of the good things I have done. And really that untrue belief did not affect my life very much. But I was still wrong.
I have thought of this recently in light of many issues of discussion arising among Church members. Many ask questions. And many ask good questions. In general, I would say we ask the right questions and we receive the right answers, even if the answers take years. But sometimes I feel we are receiving answers that are right in some contexts, but also wrong in some circumstances. And sometimes the answers are self-answered instead of inspired, and wrong altogether, even when the questioners, personally, are doing things that are right. I don’t know entirely how all this can happen, but I do know that our Father has a way for us to know Truth. God has called a prophet and the Savior Jesus Christ leads and guides the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth today. It is definitely ok to ask questions. And I firmly believe that all followers of Christ ask questions. We all have to ask ourselves who we truly believe, what we truly believe and why. There is no certain group who asks better questions or more important questions.
However, I do believe that many times we are asking the wrong questions–perhaps a topic for another blogpost. And I also believe that sometimes our pride won’t let us listen when the Lord tells us that we are wrong, or the prophet tells us we are wrong, or our Church leaders tell us we are wrong, or even Church statements tell us we are wrong. But just because we don’t want to listen doesn’t mean we are right.
Before the last general conference, I felt heavy in my heart by the confusing claims of many on issues concerning the family, concerning equality, concerning faith and belief and testimony and so much more. I wondered whether I was listening to the right voice and if I was asking the right questions and receiving the right answers. But as I prayerfully listened to conference, I spent two days wrapped in the Spirit, as the Lord gently reminded me that His servants are the ones who are called of God. They provided answers to the questions. And I listened. And the false claims of others simply melted away.
The Lord wants us to ask, but He also wants us to listen to Him.
“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38).
“Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:23).
This I know.