For the last time…Stop Asking Me That!

13

Lion and Cub

I didn’t post anything last Sunday, and for those of you who know me, that is weird. So last night I sat down and started writing about being plain old tired. I’ll have to finish that one later because I stumbled across one of those scriptures that just jumped out at me. Here it is:

The Place: Kirtland, Ohio

The Year: 1833

The Circumstances: Some of the brethren in leadership were impatient that the Prophet Joseph had not joined them in Zion  and had been petitioning the Lord to make it happen.

The Source: Revelation to Joseph Smith, Doctrine and Covenants 90:32-33

“And behold, verily I say unto you, that ye shall write this commandment, and say unto your brethren in Zion, in love greeting, that I have called you also to preside over Zion in mine own due time.

Therefore, let them cease wearying me concerning this matter.”

The MMM translation: “Be nice, but remind those guys that I’m in charge, and I’ll send you to Zion when I feel like it. Also, tell them I’m tired of them bugging me about it.”

Wait. What? God was tired of being bothered about an issue? “Let them cease wearying me concerning the matter.” Sure sounds like he was tired of it to me.

It is obvious that Jehovah got tired of the Israelites now and again, because he would curse them and smite them. But you don’t hear a lot nowadays about God rolling his eyes (in a spiritual sense) when we repeatedly pester him about certain things.

So, I decided to dig deeper in my understanding of D&C 90:33.

I found nothing.

In the entire LDS.org archives, no one has ever used this scripture in a talk, and article or as a reference. So I went to the cool “Citation Index” app. It came up empty. Last place to look? I pulled out my trusty hard-copy scriptures and looked it up to check the footnotes. There were none.

Why do I care if this scripture has been essentially invisible all this time? Because I think it has become incredibly timely.

I do not recall a time in my life where so many are so caught up in their own agendas regarding the Church. Gay marriage, women holding the priesthood and other causes are constantly in the public eye. Often part of the “strategy” to foster change in the Church and Gospel is to encourage like-minded supporters to constantly pray that God will change his mind, or change the prophet’s mind – as if he will finally throw up his hands and say “Okay, okay, you win!”

To be fair, we do have an instance where that exact thing happened: Look at how it went for Brother Joseph when he kept pestering the Lord about Martin Harris borrowing the 116 pages  – even after the Lord had tried to shut it down. Twice. After the third request, the Lord essentially said, “Whatever. Do what you want to do.” The result? The manuscript was lost, and the gift of translation was taken from Joseph for a time. It was a dark day. (link)

I can’t help but wonder how many times prayers come up to God, and he gets weary of the requests. Especially when he has already made it abundantly clear how he feels about an issue. I can’t imagine that God would get weary of the brethren’s requests about Joseph Smith and not get weary about people asking him to give women the priesthood, or me asking that tithing be reduced to 5%.

A long time ago, the Elder Packer gave a talk in which he made this observation as quoted by Elder Dallin Oaks:

“Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve has likened the fulness of the gospel to a piano keyboard. He has told us that a person could be “attracted by a single key,” such as a doctrine he or she wants to hear “played over and over again. Some members of the Church who should know better pick out a hobby key or two and tap them incessantly, to the irritation of those around them. They can dull their own spiritual sensitivities. They lose track that there is a fulness of the gospel … (which they reject) in preference to a favorite note. This becomes exaggerated and distorted, leading them away into apostasy” (link)

Just like we can become irritated by those incessantly pounding on their “hobby key,” it would appear that the Lord feels the same way, and it is spiritually dangerous.

I imagine it isn’t just the high-profile issues that weary the Lord. I suppose I do it, too. How often have I said a prayer and asked the Lord to bless that my meal will be good for my body and then plow into a half rack of ribs, and a loaded baked potato? The answer: Not often enough  😉

I don’t know if God ever feels like slapping his forehead with his palm, but if he does, I am sure that I have been the cause on many occasions.

Heavenly Father knows us, and loves us. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect – he knows it is not possible. That is precisely why he established the Atonement for us. He has made it clear that he wants us to pray to him, to sincerely ask of him. Besides, we are counseled to let the Spirit guide what we ask for. Brigham Young prayed,  “We ask for the aid of thy holy spirit to teach us how to pray, what we should ask for, and how to ask that we may receive.”

Nephi made a similar point, “Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss. (2 Nephi 4:35) Apparently there are right things and wrong things to ask for, and it isn’t supposed to be our choice as to which is which.

At some point, when God has given us his opinion and command, whether through ancient scripture, modern prophets, or personal revelation, we have a responsibility to stop asking the same questions that have already been answered.

To use prayer as a tool to advance a personal belief or agenda that is not sanctioned by God or the Spirit is antithetical at best, apostate at worst.

Jacob, the Book of Mormon prophet said it well:

“Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.” (Jacob 4:10)

As any parent knows, a child can be pretty determined when they want something. From a young age we are conditioned to pester until we get someone to cave in to our demands. And as any parent knows, the “Can I? Can I? Can I? Can I?” kid can get pretty exhausting.

I don’t want to show up in heaven and have God look at me and sigh, “Oh…it’s him.”

I’d rather just have a hug.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve always wondered exactly how to apply Luke 18: 1-7 without being caught up in vain repetitions, or push my luck like Joseph Smith and the 116 pages…any thoughts?

    1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
    2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
    3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
    4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
    5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
    6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
    7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?

    • Truman Madsen spoke of this verse and the concept “weary the lord until he blesses you” and this is the message I take from it: the lord desires to bless us and many of those blessings are contingent upon us asking. Wearying the lord until he blesses us to me is like my persistent child asking me if they can do something and over and over emphasizing just how obedient they’ve been in word and deed. They are so wonderful that as a parent I can’t help but say yes. Now if there’s a “not yet” or “you need to wait a little longer ” then I liken that to the Lord saying “this blessing is yours and you can claim it now in the present for the use in your future.” I believe we can claim blessings today as if they’ve come knowing that they await us in the future. As long as our hearts are focused on gratitude, obedience and honor to God those blessings wil be granted in time. But when we seek to counsel the lord or control others with our petitions then those requests will not be honored.

      • Thanks. I think often our petitions are delayed and require additional “begging” because the Lord is waiting for something to happen – either a change of heart within us, or a change in circumstances, etc.

    • Here’s my thought and it has to do with that word vain. Vain can be proud or haughty, or it can mean without effect or power. So why are you repeating what you ask? Is it so your prayers are long and flowery, to impress people, or just because that’s what you say automatically without thought? Or, are you saying it because those words represent the thoughts and desires of your heart. Are you conversing with Him through your prayers, not just saying a prayer? If the latter is the case, I think you are safe from your repetitions becoming vain in any way.

  2. Joseph Smith counseled to weary the Lord. Keep asking until he blesses you…I did for years and I’d get answers along the way. I asked and asked for help and answers. I think that’s why I got so many eventually. However, when I prayed about finances and the answer came, I stopped asking that question. My question changed. It’s when I got an answer but kept asking because I didn’t like the answer that’s a problem.

    God would rather us weary him than complain to others or not pray. He lives to hear our soul’s complaint. I think we give up too easily and stop asking and that’s the bigger problem.

  3. You, Lynness; and YOU, MMM; tempt me to just remark, “Direct hit! You sunk my battleship.”

    Because I believe both of these lessons to be tru, and I fear that learning which applies when is going to take the rest of my mortal life. And then some.

  4. One of my rules while raising our five children was “No whining or begging.” I often think of that when I’m asking the Lord for things. Am I whining or begging? I’ve learned to mention my concerns in a prayer and then turn it over to him, saying Thy will be done. I feel so much better about whatever it is when I do that. An elderly friend of mine recently shared that once when asked if he could sum up his philosophy of life in one sentence this popped into his head, “God is in charge and He knows what He’s doing.” I’ve adopted that for my life motto. No more whining and begging for me.

  5. AuntSue
    One dark and stormy night (yes it was!) my husband was on a bus, traveling 14 hours with his Priesthood brethren to the Oakland Temple. There I was, late at night, very pregnant and with pregnancy anxieties, on my knees. I could envision that bus turned over on the side of the road in the wind, rain and lightning of the storm.. Over and over I prayed for the bus to travel safely and that everyone would be all right. After what seemed like hours, an answer to my prayers came, “They are in my service”, with the subtext, I will watch over them. Get into bed and go to sleep! So, I did, and they arrived and returned in safety.

  6. When my kids would pester me about something incessantly, I’d tell them – out of frustration – “If you have to have an answer now, it’s NO! If you can wait til [fill in the blank] , I will think about it.”

    Now they use it on their kids. *sigh*

  7. I have read your blog for years, yet this is the first time I have given in to the temptation to comment (yes, I am one of those who doesn’t think much of my own opinions – but I am getting better). However, this post had me laughing because of an experience that I had.

    Fifteen years ago, shortly after I was divorced, I realized that my kids needed their father who had moved to a different state three years before. After many nudges from the Spirit and a lot of prayers, I made the very difficult decision to make the move. While looking for a job and a place to live (and dealing with the fact that three of my four children decided to move in with their father and the woman he was living with), I kept praying for reassurance that this was the right move. I knew it was. I had received affirmation several times. But I just had to ask again. (Instead of the child asking, “Can I?” over and over, I was repeatedly asking, “Do I have to?” The very loving, but firm (and almost audible) answer I received was, “I have already given you the answer; don’t ask me again.” I didn’t ask again. I knew that line…I had used it myself many times.

    Thanks for this post – as always, I get so much out of your insights – and, not for the first time, a chuckle or two.

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