Revelation and keeping your mouth shut

At a certain threshold of knowledge, it seems that the more we know, the less God wants us to say. Possessing such knowledge creates temptation to share it, saying or revealing more than we should. If we, lacking spiritual permission, indulge in that temptation, we essentially repeat Lucifer’s actions in the Garden of Eden, in that we are disseminating knowledge that we are not authorized to give.

Let me restate in a much fuller way.

Point 1) God does reveal things that are not public knowledge, but those to whom He reveals them are also not authorized to share them publicly. This is the plain meaning of Alma 12:9, which occurs in a temple context.

It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

As an example, it is frequently stated that no one can receive revelation for the Church except the President of the Church. The accuracy of this statement depends on how we understand it.

a)One can receive or learn information, truth, or doctrine that is not publicly revealed or declared, that affects the whole Church. (Heck, if it’s Truth with a capital T, it affects everyone, right?) Source:

If the Lord Almighty should reveal to a High Priest, or to any other than the head, things that are true, or that have been and will be, and show to him the destiny of this people twenty-five years from now, or a new doctrine that will in five, ten, or twenty years hence become the doctrine of this Church and Kingdom, but which has not yet been revealed to this people, and reveal it to him by the same Spirit, the same messenger, the same voice, the same power that gave revelations to Joseph when he was living, it would be a blessing to that High Priest, or individual; but he must rarely divulge it to a second person on the face of the earth, until God reveals it through the proper source to become the property of the people at large. Therefore when you hear Elders say that God does not reveal through the President of the Church that which they know, and tell wonderful things, you may generally set it down as a God’s truth that the revelation they have had is from the Devil, and not from God. If they had received from the proper source, the same power that revealed to them would have shown them that they must keep the things revealed in their own bosoms, and they seldom would have a desire to disclose them to the second person.

Journal of Discourses, 3:318 and Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 338.

b)As for binding instructions or inspired counsel, you can receive those only for those within your area of responsibility. Thus, only those who are responsible for the whole Church can declare binding instructions for the whole Church. This is the usual sense of “only the Prophet can receive revelation for the whole church.”

Source:

I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them; but if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom.

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 21.

c) Once again, in terms of knowledge or doctrine, we all have potential access to everything that has been revealed to the head of the Church. Source:

God hath not revealed any thing to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve & even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to-bear them.

Words of Joseph Smith, 3.

Summary so far:

Some, by study and obedience, may learn truths that go beyond the stated position of the Church, but this does not authorize them to speak officially for the Church or to present their views as binding on the Church. There are many subjects about which the scriptures are not clear and about which the Church has made no official pronouncements. In such matters, one can find differences of opinion among Church members and leaders. Until the truth of these matters is made known by revelation, there is room for different levels of understanding and interpretation of unsettled issues.

-Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Doctrine.”

Point 2) If we violate God’s trust after He reveals something to us of this category, God will quit telling us things.

God doesn’t talk to blabbermouths.

-Attributed to Elder McConkie by a BYU professor I trust.

I do not tell all I know. I have not told my wife all I know. I have found that if I tell everything I know and explain every experience that I have had, the Lord will not trust me.

-Elder Marion G. Romney, as quoted by Elder Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, 326, Elder Alexander Morrison, Dawning of a Brighter Day, 61.

Point 3) Expanding these principles beyond revealed knowledge, it is tempting to share any knowledge that is deliberately limited. Whether a person has given me an unpublished paper in trust that I won’t share it with others or God has revealed something to me, the end result is essentially the same. I now have knowledge I didn’t before and that most others don’t.

Personal example: I have learned some interesting things about Temples from my studies, from the scriptures, and from spiritual experiences, as well as unpublished papers, one unpublished book, and one particular unpublished (for the time being) talk and discussion with a current high-ranking General Authority. I would characterize some of these things as Truth, and therefore inspired.

As one who teaches and aspires to be a teacher, I’m torn between two fundamental contrasting principles.

Principle 1) If I receive it, I can’t share it. (What good is knowledge that doesn’t get shared, beyond my personal benefit? Especially knowledge that could help someone spiritually? )

Principle 2) If I share it, I receive no more. (Gah! Who in their right mind would deliberately kill the informational Golden Goose?)

Now, in the various classes I’ve taught, I have sometimes touched on these things I’ve learned as I feel appropriate. I have ocassionally really wanted to say more. How do I determine what I should say of these things?

a) The Spirit. “Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation” D&C 63:64.

b) Motivation. President Benson taught that “Our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest.” (“Beware of Pride.”) If pride or ego motivates me, I’m probably in trouble.

I confess that this is a common temptation. It’s the feeling, greatly exaggerated, of “I know things, secret things, hidden things! I possess arcane wisdom you do not! I am the servant of the secret fire, wielder of the flame of Anor! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!” Ok, Perhaps not quite that maniacal, but certainly you get the point. Like name-dropping, revealing that you know such information elevates you above those who don’t. In socio-linguistic terms, it puts you in the “one-up position.”

On the other hand, if the Spirit so moves, and it’s for the good of the student, I feel more secure in discussing at least the ideas, if not the sources. I think. There’s nothing quite so rewarding as a teacher than watching a student “get it” or have an “aha!” moment. When teaching spiritual things, such moments can really be rewarding. (It makes up for the low or no pay :)

Perhaps this post has inaccurately maximized the tension between these two principles. In the end, it comes down to a case-by-case basis for me, walking the line differently based on circumstances and inspiration.

Edit for anyone reading for the first time: I include in this third category of deilberately-limited information all kinds of things: Personal revelation, temple information, spiritual experiences, unpublished books or papers, personal conversations that, if shared, would probably qualify as gossip, in short anything that is sensitive but potentially share-able.

26 thoughts on “Revelation and keeping your mouth shut

  1. I think you have put it very well. One minor quibble with “What good is knowledge that doesn’t get shared, beyond my personal benefit? Especially knowledge that could help someone spiritually?”

    If the Lord has seen fit to bless you with some sacred knowledge through the Spirit, or through your diligence of your own (which is also from the Spirit, albeit indirectly), it is precisely that the Lord has seen fit to share it with you for YOUR benefit. Not in the sense of one-upmanship (because there is pride involved in that), but that the Lord is speaking peace unto your heart and mind.

    As always, you have to follow the Spirit in what you share. I have some experiences which I have shared with no one, and some that only my wife and I know.

    President Packer has said that if we have sacred experiences, and share them inappropriately, the Lord will send us no more.

  2. 1b) “only the Prophet can receive revelation for the whole church.” Is it the way of God for the Prophet to receive revelation for PART (Stake, Ward, Quorum, Family, individual) of the church or only the WHOLE church? Examples that come to mind are: The early church (as recorded in the D&C and elsewhere) and missionary destinations. Likewise is it the way of the Lord be anybody but me to receive revelation for my family?

    2) I’m saddened to hear that an Apostle report that he can’t/won’t share (some things) with his wife. This is understandable if the revelation pertains to church calling. I believe that my wife is as spiritual (if not much more so) than I. Personally if I received something for the family (or myself) I would beg the Lord to reveal it to her also (or at least let me share it).

    3) It is interesting that you use the words “deliberately limited”, especially as it pertains to unpublished material. What criteria do you use to determine “deliberately”?

    It ALWAYS boils down to follow the spirit, doesn’t it?

  3. Well said, Ben. And who am I to argue with one who wields the flame of Anor?

    There is another side to the issue, however. Jesus said, “What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops” (Matt. 10:27). In the New Testament, early Christians were quite open about sharing their spiritual experiences.

    On a more practical level, knowledge grows when people share ideas and critique each other. That’s not just the scholarly model, that’s how bad ideas are weeded out in business, in publishing, even in government. It seems like less knowledge hoarding and more dialogue would be beneficial for the Church as well. That’s not to say, of course, that every mystery of the kingdom should go into the seminary curriculum.

  4. I don’t tell my husband everything I know, for various reasons.

    I don’t think God just reveals secret and sacred things to people unless He has a good reason and each situation should determine individually the level of discretion.

    What made this personal to me was my tendency to tell everything. Perhaps for me, I should just keep my mouth shut about my sacred experiences…but then, it seems selfish.

  5. Ben, you’ve sown your good ideas with the seeds of apostasy. Are you saying that Gandalf was motivated by pride and hubris? Shame on you.

    As for the main theme of your post, I think you’ve treated it with exactly the right delicacy. And that’s probably the key word: delicacy. In the example of you and your students, my guess is that much of your privately revealed knowledge might be appropriate to share with them, if you sense a need and a worthiness for it, as well as pure motives for sharing, on your own part. Anyway, I’m glad the church has teachers like you, who seek revelation for themselves, and then earnestly do their best to impart that knowledge to their students, when allowed by the Lord.

  6. Ben, this is an interesting post, and it’s helped me think about the issue (which has troubled me) in a new way. I guess I understand better now why–if the propositional content of the revelation contradicts or suprasses current teachings or policy–the recipient of this information should keep the revelation secret: sharing it indiscriminately could create real confusion among the community of saints. On the other hand, there’s almost nothing more alienating than somebody, even a GA, saying, in effect, “I know something that you don’t, and I won’t tell you, but believe me, it’s really, really great!” (Sort of like what you did in this post, although you’re too good-natured to be alienating!) Almost as frustrating is a sort of “witness-by-dropped-hint” (as I’ve heard it described), in which it’s *almost* implied that some sort of unusual revelatory experience has occurred, but the listener is left without the kind of assurance and detail that one would generally expect from “witnesses.”

    I guess this is the crux of it, for me. There are believers who could, I think, really benefit from detailed accounts of revelatory experience, of the sort Joseph and other early saints often shared–not as an exercise in sign-seeking, but merely to convey first-hand information that is not available to everybody. I know, I know, the witness of the Holy Ghost is the surest witness, and I truly believe that, for those who are blessed with the spiritual capacity to discern the Spirit. But there are many, many sincere and believing Saints who seem unable to receive personal revelaiton of this sort (I don’t count myself among these, incidentally) who would be strengthened and reassured by reliable second-hand knowledge that God still speaks to individuals.

  7. Excellent post Ben. I’ve wondered about the information flow during the early days. I have thought that the early Saints shared so much, because of the level of intimacy between them (not that there are not great examples of “secret knowledge” throughout our history). Telling the whole church over the pulpit or in someone’s home (when they number in the tens, hundreds or thousands) is alot different than telling the whole world over the internet. Potentially, some of the off putting character that Rosalynde describes boils down to a simple cultural dynamic – access. It doesn’t seem fair that some people get access to people and material that is not available to all.

    My dad has been a stake President for about 9 years. They used to have Apostles do Stake presidency training and the location (once or twice) was his stake. Consequently, my dad got to chill with the apostles. He took immaculate notes and shared them with me. He also was great about sharing his experiances and conversations with them. So what do I get out of the deal? Some great nuggets and impressions that are completely unatributable (and unsharable) in contemporary dialogue.

    This “secret knowledge” is completely different from any direct revelation I get. Because the personal nature of direct revelation (not something recieved from other people or books), I find it a lot more difficult to share than the former. Mostly because outside of my experiance, there is nothing to validate it. As a result I tend to treat this as “secret oppinions”, even though to me it is true.

  8. God doesn’t talk to blabbermouths.

    -Attributed to Elder McConkie by a BYU professor I trust.

    Errrr… Am I the only one that finds this comment ironic?

    I agree with Dave on this. While there are innapropriate times and places to discuss sacred things, I wonder if we have clamped down so hard on such communication as a church that nobody is learning any of the mysteries of God anymore. I’m not sure what constitutes a blabbermouth but the scriptures make it abundantly clear that God won’t give us anything we do not seek.

  9. “In the New Testament, early Christians were quite open about sharing their spiritual experiences.”

    I don’t know that this is entirely accurate. I think there is a reasonable amount of evidence that the early Saints hid a fair bit of stuff. THey did share other things. But not all.

    Ben, this was a good post, thanks for gathering the sources together. When I go to the temple and am lucky enough to see something I hadn’t seen, I often wonder who I can share it with, if any. President Benson’s comment about looking at what motvates the action is very revealing.

    Geoff,

    I would guess that if we are lacking knowledge, it is for the same reason other groups and ages lacked knowledge: looking beyond the mark, seeking what they could not understand, and lacking faith.

  10. It’s hard to imagine what “secret” things might be revealed to me. However, I feel that much of my personal revelation has been answers and guidance when I have turned to the Lord for help….or when he has helped without me knowing what to ask.
    All of my mortal experiences, and spiritual ones, help me come to a better understanding of the gospel, of life and eternity, of God’s will. I have gained wisdom from the Lord.
    SOmetimes I share that wisdom. Sometimes it is difficult to tell was the Lord guiding me to learn that or did I learn it all by myself….but ultimately, really, it all comes from him and I think him for it.
    But sometimes, what I have learned I can’t really share with someone else. Unless they are at a particular place in their life, what would it mean to them?
    When I was young, I thought revelations were all visions and out of the ordinary. Now, I see the Lord’s hand in my life, and feel the Holy Ghost answer my questions.
    It is difficult to imagine why I shouldn’t share one experience or another. What else can I say when people ask if I was really scared when my husband had cancer. Should I lie and say yes? Should I say no, and leave it at that?
    But there are times when someone does share a powerful experience at church and I feel uncomfortable–so uncomfortable that I did not feel the spirit. Especially when I don’t know them.
    I much prefer when someone has experiences, that they get up like 2 families in our ward who have had life and death health struggles (both mom’s my age with kids my kids’ ages). “We have had many small miracles” “We have seen the power of priesthood blessings.” “We have felt the Lord’s hand in our life.” And I’ve seen their gratitude for their own personal spiritual experiences. Experiences that could never mean the same to me, as it did to them when it was their daughter, their wife, or their life, or their own heart that needed what the Lord could provide.

  11. I was told that Elder Marvin J. Ashton came home from the temple one day in 1978, and said to his wife:

    “I have just had the most marvelous spiritual experience of my life!”

    “Wonderful!”, she said: “Tell me about it.”

    “I can’t tell you anything about it,” he said.

  12. I would guess that if we are lacking knowledge, it is for the same reason other groups and ages lacked knowledge: looking beyond the mark, seeking what they could not understand, and lacking faith.

    Come on Frank, that is just silly. Since when is all lack of knowledge due to looking beyond the mark? You’re a college professor fer cryin’ out loud — do all of your students lack knowledge simply because they had been looking beyond the mark their whole lives?

    I was inspired by your post again Ben. I put up a blabbermouth post tonight.

  13. Rosalynde (6):

    On the other hand, there’s almost nothing more alienating than somebody, even a GA, saying, in effect, “I know something that you don’t, and I won’t tell you, but believe me, it’s really, really great!” (Sort of like what you did in this post, although you’re too good-natured to be alienating!)
    […]
    But there are many, many sincere and believing Saints who seem unable to receive personal revelaiton of this sort (I don’t count myself among these, incidentally)…

    Thanks, Rosalynde, for dropping some of yours and Ben’s crumbs our way! (LOL–by the way, you’re too good natured to be alienating, too.)

  14. The things God tells us that we aren’t supposed to blab around usually aren’t secret things and new truths. That’s been the thrust of this thread, but usually that isn’t so. Mostly its just private, intimate experiences with him, teaching doctrines everyone already knows. Its not the doctrine, its the experience, that’s secret or, rather, sacred.

  15. Amen Adam Greenwood. That is the complaint I have had with the concept (and the point of my responding post). I think we as a people have taken that concept and overapplied it to make any investigation of the mysteries of God off limits. God cannot be pleased with that development.

  16. Ben, there are two things I’d like to hear your thoughts on—if you’re willing to reveal them to me!

    First, I wonder why you say Alma 12:9 occurs in a temple context. (Similarly, my recollection is that President Packer has referred to Alma 13 occurring in a priesthood meeting.) I agree that Alma 12 and 13 contain a lot of material that we would relate to temple themes (or priesthood meeting themes), but as I recall the plain context is public preaching to apostates and antagonistic lawyers in Ammoniahah, which (to this superficial reader) doesn’t seem like a temple context.

    Second, while you cite many precedents in our tradition supporting the idea of private, sacred knowledge, I’m not seeing in your post any clear reasons justifying the existence of such a category. It’s useful for shielding ideas (and holders of power and authority) from scrutiny, and also for maintaining coherence by motivating followers to obedience; but these may not always be good things, and they seem to be in tension with ideals in 2 Nephi (25 and 26 I think) of speaking in plainness, doing nothing in the dark, etc.

  17. Christian:

    I don’t think anyone is getting ordinances in Alma 12. It’s something I mean to investigate fuller, but here’s how I see it, loosely.

    1) Alma discusses the resurrection, inserts his verse about mysteries, but speaking only the public portion, moves on to Adam, Eve, and the Fall.

    2) Evil lawyer asks, but how can one get past the cherubim (ie the guardian figures) and partake of the tree of life?

    3) Alma explains that he was just getting to that, and continues with Adam, Eve and the (two?) trees in the garden, and the angels that visited them after they were expelled.

    4) Alma moves on (in chapter 13) to talking about priests and Melchizedek, the pre-mortal existance, and the “holy order” (which was one phrase among others that JS and the early members used to refer to the Temple ordinances.)

    5) Having talked of priests and the holy order which Melchizedek was part of, Alma says “Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.” Alm 13:16 Wait, what ordinances? Unless we take paying tithing to be an ordinance, I think he’s referring back to the ordination as priests in v. 8-9.

    Now, Alma doesn’t explicitly say so, but he has answered the lawyer’s question. Who passes by the cherubim and reenters the garden of eden where the fruit is? Aaron, the high-priest. Once a year, he ritually undoes the fall and walks back past the cherubim into the garden/holy of holies. (See Parry, Donald W. “Garden of Eden: Prototype Sanctuary.” In Temples of the Ancient World, edited by Donald W. Parry, (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994): especially the picture on 134-35.)

    How does one become a priest? According to Exo 29/Lev. 8, you go to the outer courtyard of the temple, and are washed, clothed in ritual priestly clothing, anointed, and your hand is filled (Exo. 29:9, Heb. male yad, which is translated “consecrate” in the KJV.)

    Admittedly, these connections are loose and not without problems (such as the conflation of different kinds of priests.) However, I find that them plausible for one particular reason. Alma’s shift to discussing Melchizedek and priesthood always seemed very non-sequitor to me. However, if I view his discussion in terms of the temple, it seems to be a natural and scriptural way to respond to the lawyer’s question.

    Once I’m done my coursework, I hope to work this up into a paper of some kind.

    Question 2)”It’s useful for shielding ideas (and holders of power and authority) from scrutiny, and also for maintaining coherence by motivating followers to obedience;”
    I don’t see theseto be related at all to my post, nor have I seen this reason given for anything you’re suggesting. Help me see the forest.

    As for 2 Nephi 25, this is the same Nephi who says “I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.” (2ne 32:7)Even Nephi had a limit of what he could say,, in this case because of the spiritual limitations of those he’s addressing.

  18. Posting #2, on disclosure to one’s spouse, is interesting in light of our recently released bishop and one of his councilors. The bishop told his wife everything, who felt a need to tell anyone who would listen. The youth started coming to me (a former bishop) for confessions because they had heard that confidences weren’t kept. I told them that they needed to see the current bishop, as I no longer held those keys for the ward. The new bishop is swamped. His councilor had the same problem. He would tell people who was GOING to be called to fill positions in the ward. As a result, he was not recommended to replace the bishop. I always felt that unless the person explicitly told me that I could share the information that I was not to share it even with my wife. My wife told me that Sister *Jones* was pregnant. I said, *Yes, she’s probably three months along.* My wife was surprised that I knew and I told her that the good sister had not told me that I could share that information, so I didn’t. But on the other hand, I share my spiritual experiences with my wife.

    I wonder if those who wanted to push the issue of extending the priesthood to all worthy brethren hadn’t received an assurance that it would happen, but could not understand that the Lord would implement it in his own due time.

    I feel that one of the more important lessons of life is to learn to recognize the spirit. My own experience is that the more I exercise the gifts of the spirit, the better I get at it and the more gifts I am given. Some cannot differentiate between their own desires and revelation. We do not learn the things of the spirit by reading about them, but by reading them with the spirit.

    I was driving to speak in one of the wards in our stake when the spirit told me that I needed to share a deeply personal spiritual experience. I had prepared a talk that I thought was quite good and was a little loath to change on the spur of the moment. After the sacrament, the bishop announced that a family in the ward had been killed in an auto accident. Suddenly, I knew why the Lord wanted this particular experience shared with this ward. I couched it as an experience of an Elder in my mission. I just didn’t say that the Elder was me. My motivation behind the change was modesty. I wanted them to concentrate on the experience, not on me. I take the admonition to not be a spiritual blabber mouth seriously.

  19. Ben, thanks for the interesting detailed response. My concern is that any discourse that starts with the fall and ends with the salvation of man (as you know there are several in the Book of Mormon) is going to sound like it has temple echos, simply because this journey of man is what the temple is about. Hence I’m not sure that the subject matter of fall and salvation are sufficient to identify a “temple context.” It may be that this subject matter from such discourses, and associated imagery (e.g. robes of righteousness in 2 Ne. 9, initial instruction by angels in Alma 12, high priests in Alma 13/Book of Hebrews, Kings and Priests and Crowns in Revelation) are source material for the modern endowment, and hence are not necessarily diagnostic of the practice of an endowment we would recognize in ancient times.

    Having said that, as I indicated before, I would agree that Alma 12-13 is unusually rich in temple-related ideas. But even if you don’t have actual performance of ordinances, it still seems to me you must establish some relevant audience to make a claim of “temple context.” Does the antagonistic audience of Alma 10-13 fit the bill? I suppose one could claim that Alma is trying to remind apostates of their temple covenants in an attept to bring them back.

    Regarding Question 2, my question is “What is the utility of esoteric knowledge, of dispensing information only to trusted initiates?” I pointed out some abuses of such a system that could shield falsehood, help prop up unrighteous leaders, and generally impede the progress that comes with openness and accountability. (Hence the gains made since the Enlightenment in both the generation of knowledge and political liberty, as esoteric perspective of Alchemists and the like, and the divine right of kings, began to be broken down.) If the Lord uses this system, there must be benefits that outweigh the danger of potential abuses. What are these benefits? In your post you simply argue the historical affirmation that this is the Lord’s method of dispensing information; why does the Lord think that’s a good way to do it?

    Yes, the tension between plainness/openness and witholding is intramural (“within the walls”) of Nephi himself—but the tension is still there begging discussion. (Speaking of intramural tensions, as an expert on the Bible perhaps you can help me out with my question on a tension within the sermon on the mount.)

  20. “Revelation and Keeping Your Mouth Shut.†Hm, so much here opens the door to the Devil I don’t know which threshold to thrust my foot across first. Apparently Ben thinks I did something wrong in calling Eve’s attention to the Tree. I assure you, all I did was give her a “Yoo-hoo, over here!†She chose for herself, and then believe you me, her eyes went wide to the possibilities. IMHO, Eve took a leap of faith rather than a fall. Everybody ought to grow up, and, as that sterotype (and perhaps the archetype) goes, girls mature faster than boys! Fascinating, this idea that Truth must be protected. But I think I’ll opt instead for the subject of Trust.

    The word “Trust†comes up frequently in this post and comments. Like the nature of Truth, the nature of Trust seems to be a given. BTW, the words “trust†and “truth†are related, to each other and to another word, “tree.†All of which casts interesting light on that whole business in the garden, but I don’t want to distract anyone. Brass tacks (and fashion statement): check your roots.

    Back to “trustâ€: Everyone appears to know what it means to “trust†someone. Yet Trust comes with a dangerous undertow, a current of risk folks feel but rarely discuss. The truth is that as an admirable principle in and of itself, Trust doesn’t exist. That precious coinage of human feeling with which you people are so miserly, giving it out only after careful and delicate appraisal of another’s character, like all currency has its value in illusion. The Truth about Trust: what someone usually means when she says she trusts you is that she expects you to behave within the parameters of her rules regarding your behavior toward her. If for some compelling reason it becomes necessary to step outside of those parameters, the person who gambled her pittance on you feels betrayed and lays the blame for this betrayal at your feet, when in fact what has really happened is that the individual in question had the wrong idea about you all along. You can only ever trust people to be who they are. To trust them to be who YOU are (the condition of most trust) is irresponsible.

    “But,†you might argue, “if I can only trust a person to be who he is, then I have to know a person thoroughly to trust him!†Again, that’s missing the point. You can trust people to be who they are whether you know them well or not, because that’s what people do—be who they are. They devote their lives to it.

    The statement “God doesn’t talk to blabbermouths,†meaning God doesn’t trust someone who tells what they know, is a serpent eating its own tail; Polonius might have given such advice to Laertes. “Neither a borrower nor a lender be,†“This above all: to thine own self be true,†“Give thy thoughts no tongue,†“God doesn’t talk to blabbermouths.†Fits right in.

    Look, people, God is a SMART fellow! He trusts people to be who they are. If a person is in fact a “blabbermouth,†you may assume God knows it; yet God is so confident in creation that He trusts blabbermouths to be blabbermouths, all the while providing, of course, experience for them to become more than just that. And God knows Truth—He trusts Truth to be what IT is. To think that you might somehow dirty eternity’s tablecloth by letting drop some priviledged tidbit is sheer hubris. Not that there’s anything WRONG with hubris; I have a soft spot for hubris. But think for a minute, and I do hope I’m not overstepping my bounds here: Truth, as you seem to define it, exists all around you all the time—how can it not? Truth is that it is. Sometimes it appears to hang beyond reach, not because God withholds it but because you lack the imagination to reach out, pluck it, and give it a taste. Some of you overlook Truth out of self-preservation because intuitively you understand that Truth’s lightning bolt, once it strikes, changes the world forever, and you are loathe to give up that comfortable little garden you know and love to take the next step. Like I said: You all ought to just grow up. “If we indulge in that temptation, we essentially repeat Lucifer’s action in the Garden of Eden … disseminating knowledge that we are not authorized to give.†Give me a break! Take a little responsibility for yourselves, will ya? Grab that Truth and get out there!

    That I should be the one to have to explain all this! I must be bored. Speaking of gardens, how come no one here ever discusses the Devil’s favorite garden tool, the lawn mower? (Cat D9 dozers run a close second.) In the western U. S., I use the relationship between grass and lawn mowers to lead entire Mormon communities astray. Dear, sweet Mormons who go to church faithfully, take the Sacrament, and keep so chaste when it comes to taking tea, coffee, and tobacco into their bodies think nothing of planting thirsty bluegrass in a dry region, drowning the stuff in paroxysms of watering, and then fouling the environment with noise, PM-10 particulates, and noxious fumes as they obsessively cut down that which they have forced to grow. Lawn mowing is a form of madness I take special delight in, a malignancy that creeps into other areas of life, defiling the sacred. Cracks me up how Mormons equate keeping a nice lawn with maintaining proper stewardship over the Earth. Nice. Perverse! I like it. California has caught on; eventually they’ll ban lawn mowers altogether, darn them! But in other places, like Utah, the Cult of the Lawn Mower is roaring strong.

    But I’d better stop. Don’t want to let slip something people don’t already know (or worse, something they don’t want to know) lest I mar eternity’s dainty doily.

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