Saturday, April 26, 2008

Seeing Through a Glass Darkly

I have always had a hard time understanding the Fall of Adam. When I was young, I studied it a lot, with commentaries and scriptures and many, many questions, trying to wrap my mind around principles that appeared to contradict each other. A few months ago, I almost thought I understood that particular doctrine. Then I took a Pearl of Great Price class, where we discussed the Fall in great detail.

When we talked about the Fall in class, though, I realized that there was still much that I didn’t understand. The simpler things that had seemed to make sense to me before no longer did in light of some of the principles we discussed in class. If Adam and Eve really chose to fall, with an understanding of the consequences, then why were they punished for it? Why didn’t they defend their decision when God asked them what they had done? Why do the scriptures say they were “beguiled” and “deceived” if God had commanded them to fall? What was Satan’s role in the whole business? Suddenly I had to deal with issues I thought I had put to rest.

I was talking to my sweetheart about it one day, frustrated because there were so many things I didn’t understand, even after so much study. I knew that the records we have of the event are spotty at best, and leave a lot out, and that I was operating on insufficient knowledge, but I still felt like it was a doctrine I ought to be able to grasp, since it was so fundamental to the gospel (Elder McConkie even called it one of the “three pillars of eternity”). He and I talked about the lessons taught using the rich symbolism so common in the gospel. He told me that he used to think that there was a one-to-one correspondence between a symbol given in the temple and the thing it represented, but he realized that there were so many levels of symbolism, and so many lessons being taught, that he couldn’t just assume that he understood everything after he had figured out one lesson or the meaning of one symbol.

What he taught me that night, and what I have since learned, is that some things are not made to be understood immediately. The gospel is somewhat paradoxical in that it is so simple that even a child can understand it, but so complex that great scholars can dedicate their lives to its study and still not comprehend it in totality. Sometimes the struggling and pondering involved in trying to understand a principle bring us closer to God than we would be if the answers to all our questions were self-evident. I know that the Lord will lead and guide us in our efforts to understand the gospel, but I have also learned that sometimes it is in the seeking that we not only find, but are also made ready to receive the answer that will come—but only after much study and prayer.

I have, at times, had serious questions about spiritual topics, and have found that the Lord will answer my prayers for understanding, but that He will also try me so that I can be prepared to receive His answer when it comes. Some of my questions have reduced me to tears, and when my friends and loved ones are unable to satisfy my soul's hunger, I have turned and pled with the Lord for an answer. Sometimes He answers right away. Other times, it seems He looks at me lovingly and asks, "You say you want to know, Amy...but how badly do you really want to know? Are you willing to pay the price to know Me?" That price is steep--it involves a test of my willingness to walk by faith when I cannot see my path ahead. It involves trust in the Lord and in His plan for me. And it involves work, since it is only by sincere seeking and working that I find the answers to my questions. And in the work, a change takes place in my heart, and it becomes prepared to receive the answer.

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).

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