Sunday, July 13, 2014

How Heeding Wise Counsel Blesses our Lives

I was reminded today about a story from the life of George Washington, one of my all-time favorite heroes. I've written of my admiration of "the Father of our Nation" many times, and this story illustrates one of many reasons why I admire his character and the purity of his soul.

President George Washington
George Washington’s father died when he was only eleven years of age. For most of those eleven years and into his teenage years, young George had his heart set on joining the British navy.

His mother, however, had serious reservations about that path. Most mothers of teenagers could possibly relate. Eventually she felt so strongly about it she urged him to reconsider. He listened to his mother, and rather than becoming the captain of a ship, he eventually became Commander in Chief of all the military forces of the United States of America. Those forces he would someday command were little more than a rag tag bunch of farmers, pitted as they were against the might and power of the British army and navy, but his decision to heed wise counsel from his mother and submit to her counsel shaped the future of both nations.

Much of the future course of our lives is determined by the input we get when making decisions and whether we heed wise counsel when we receive it, or ignore it and fight against it. Those choices often shape not only our lives but those of our family.

There are many examples, of course, of those who rejected wise counsel. In The Book of Mormon, the prophet Jacob warns us this way:

“. . . seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand.” (Jacob 4:10).

I believe taking counsel from the Lord's hand includes His inspired servants who serve among us, particularly the bishops of the Church into whose hands are placed sacred priesthood keys to bless our lives if we are obedient to their counsel.

Generally, when I notice myself counseling the Lord it means disregarding the Lord’s counsel, either knowingly or unknowingly. Sometimes I replace His wisdom with my own, supposing I know better than His humble servants and substituting my own counsel or the persuasions of men. Even when my intentions are to do good and help others "catch the vision," when I travel down that tempting path for a little season I can sense I am distancing myself from closeness to the Spirit of the Lord.

Let me give an example. On these pages I sometimes have offered criticism, well-intended, but nevertheless perhaps too pointed and direct, about what goes on in our meetings in the Church. When I haven't been edified or inspired by another's attempts to teach, I have become angry, the Spirit has been grieved at my reaction, and has withdrawn. Catching myself in this self-destructive path some months ago, I earnestly sought forgiveness from my Father in Heaven in prayer, and indicated my desire to do better. I was answered almost immediately and have found the edification from within when I was deprived it elsewhere. My sincere but sometimes misguided desires to offer correction may have spilled over into hyperbole that wasn't wise and would be considered offensive by some. I learned that doggedly pursuing that course did more harm to me than anyone else.

I have to be reminded about others who may read these pages are not members of the Church and might mistake my words for something else I didn't intend. I fear with my "heavy hammer" counsel for those within the Church, too, I may be depriving them of the more sublime and subtle persuasions of the Spirit that might be theirs to obtain without me.

I suspect I have even offended some who may have seen themselves portrayed in a way not so pleasing or desirable. To them I apologize publicly, even though I have always preserved their anonymity. I promise I will do better.

President Marion G. Romney
Said President Marion G. Romney: "When a person learns what the Lord’s counsel is and follows it, he irresistibly draws close to the Spirit. From its very beginning, the history of God’s dealings with his children on the earth testifies to the fact that those who disregard his counsel fail and come to grief." ("Seek Not to Counsel the Lord," Ensign, August 1985, 2-5).

Today, following our three-hour block of meetings, our bishop asked if he could visit with me for a minute. We stepped into an empty classroom, we stood together for only a couple of minutes and he began by stating, "I have a concern."

I knew immediately what he was going to say next. He stated his concern, he offered counsel about how I could resolve it, and I immediately accepted his gentle invitation to obey. I could have been offended, but I knew he was right and I was wrong. It was just that simple. It was the final step I needed to take to make my repentance complete.

I came home and took immediate action.

Next time you're tempted to counsel the Lord or his duly-sustained leaders, think again. There is wisdom and revelation readily available to us through them if we will give heed to inspired counsel. The future course of my life will probably not be as dramatic as what happened to George Washington, but for me the counsel I received today was timely, accurate and came in the form of a gentle invitation to do better. The sweet companionship of the Holy Ghost was mine to reclaim because I was willing to submit in gratitude.

I testify being "right" is not as important as being submissive and accepting the counsel of the Lord through His inspired servants.

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