I suspect God can seem pretty changeable if you don’t know Him. If you haven’t gotten to know how He works with His children; if you haven’t prayed to Him or tried out His commandments or tested His ability to bless, it would be easy for you to come to the incorrect assumption that He is changeable. That sometimes He provides miracles and sometimes He doesn’t. That sometimes He is merciful and sometimes He isn’t.
If all your education is through the opinions of others, through heresay, it would be easy to make the incorrect assumption that God either doesn’t exist or that He can’t be depended upon, or simply that He isn’t worth following. You might assume He loves men more than women or that some people aren’t as preferred. All false assumptions because you don’t know Him personally.
In St. John 7:17 Christ teaches us:
If any man will do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.
In Alma 32:26-27 we are encouraged to “awake and arouse our faculties” to do an “experiment upon the word.”
If we really want to know what God is like and cultivate the faith to follow Him, to even know He exists, we’ve got to study Him out for ourselves.
I know a lot of good people who feel that God is limited in His attributes. Some will say He can’t be all-loving and all-powerful at the same time. Because somehow they assume that all-loving means no rules or commandments, no consequences, and no sorrow or suffering, period. Some religions teach that God once had prophets but that now such things are done away; as though people in the past needed prophets but we don’t. Some teach that miracles like those in the scriptures don’t take place any more.
These scriptures teach emphatically that God doesn’t change. And, if these scriptures are true and God doesn’t change, then a lot of mysteries about life and religion can be immediately solved by a study of God’s character and the ways in which He works in our lives. Such a study will reveal, as I have discovered for myself, that much about God and His plan for us feels a bit uncomfortable. But, it’s the type of discomfort we all feel when we have a sore that needs healing or a cavity that needs to be filled. The discomfort ends when we seek out the often uncomfortable process of getting healed. That healing requires effort but in ends in peace, relief, joy, and comfort. It doesn’t start in comfort, but it ends in comfort (I credit C.S. Lewis for this wording which he provides in Mere Christianity).
God’s nature and His plan for us is uncomfortable in the best way. It makes us feel uncomfortable until we become more godly, which His plan for us facilitates. He doesn’t allow us to take comfort in things that aren’t godly. His ultimate goal for us isn’t mortal bliss, it’s eternal bliss. Thus, all the things we would plan out on paper to lead us to a peaceful mortal life are often the things God allows to be taken away from us or which He asks us to sacrifice at the first possible opportunity (Mark 10:17-22).
And, this pattern is clear in every book of scripture we have currently available to us. The Old Testament, New Testament, Doctrine & Covenants, Book of Mormon, and Pearl of Great Price all have this pattern running clearly, obviously, and repetitively through them.
SAINTS: The Standard of Truth, Volume I
Recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out with the first volume of their new history of the church. It’s titled: SAINTS: The Standard of Truth, volume I. You can read it online (that’s where the link takes you) for FREE, for FREE on the Gospel Library app (look it up on your phone). You can listen to it FREE (through these same avenues), or you can buy it for $5.75 through brick and mortar or other distributors.
As I’ve been reading this history, I have been repeatedly impressed that the pattern of the Restoration of the Gospel from 1830 until now mimics directly each and every other time God has had to re-establish His true church. Such times are called dispensations because the Gospel has to be re-dispensed. It began with Adam and Eve, and we see the patterns there in the Pearl of Great Price. We see Moses re-dispensing the Gospel in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ, yet again, had to re-dispense, fix, update, and teach His Gospel. The New Testament shows this. The Doctrine and Covenants, of course, which is about the final dispensation began by the prophet Joseph Smith is quoted directly by the history SAINTS: The Standard of Truth, Volume I. A close study of these scripturally recorded dispensations, where God has had to re-establish His church through prophets and re-dispense priesthood authority, ordinances, and commandments reaffirms that He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.
Here are some of the commonalities that I find among all of these dispensations and scriptural/historical accounts and which are historically illustrated for us in SAINTS:
- The first and most critical piece of any new dispensation is that God calls a prophet.
- The prophet is someone who is seeking for God’s truths and is humble and open to be taught.
- The prophet God calls is never perfect.
- God doesn’t give the prophet all the knowledge at one time.
- The prophet is required to ask, seek, and knock, the basic formula for personal revelation.
- The prophet is subject to mistakes and follies but retains His office as long as he is repentant.
- God doesn’t prevent the prophets, or apostles, from human error; He teaches them line upon line, precept upon precept and they slowly rise to the pinnacle of their potential and calling.
- We gain faith in prophets as we sustain them, support them, and follow them.
- God expects us/His people to follow the prophet and sustain Him regardless of imperfection or a lack of talents.
- God asks His people to do very, very hard things more than once in their lives.
- God isn’t afraid to reveal things that are uncomfortable simply to build up numbers. He is interested in the quality of His followers, not the quantity.
- God reveals things that are hard and uncomfortable specifically to build faith and weed out lukewarm followers.
- God gives promises to His people that can only be fulfilled if they are obedient.
- If we/God’s people fall short of living up to the promises God gives, we/God’s people can repent and keep trying.
- God cares more about our spiritual health than our physical/mortal comfort. If our mortal suffering will bring about spiritual growth then He loves us enough to let us suffer.
- God gives peace and comfort to His people/us even when all else seems to be temporarily denied.
- The church, comprised of us/God’s people, can’t move forward without unity; which unity is often obtained by the excommunication of blatantly unrepentant members or members rebelling against and/or leaving the church of their own will.
- The number of members in the church, joining the church, or leaving the church, has nothing to do with its veracity. It’s truth is independent of numbers.
- God recognizes that we need community to help us live the gospel. He gathers us together, where possible, to provide the strength we need to press forward in doing His will.
- God often asks us to do hard things when it feels as if we can’t handle any more; such sacrifice, once given, is immediately rewarded by blessings, peace, comfort, and an ability to transcend struggle and trial…even to not even feel it.
- The first step to apostasy from God’s gospel is criticism and distrust of God’s prophet.
- Personal revelation is for all. Revelation for the guiding and directing of the church comes to the prophet.
- Sacrifice is the greatest builder of faith and spiritual power.
- Ultimately we have to trust in God or abandon Him. Middle ground doesn’t actually exist.
I could go on and on here. But, I recommend that any person who knows very little about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to read this first volume of its history (and those that follow as they are published). I feel it should be obligatory that any person proposing to belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints read this history. The patterns I have mentioned above reveal themselves and are reaffirmed to the pure seeker of truth.
One thing it has reaffirmed for me is that God is, without a doubt, the same, yesterday, today, and forever. We can trust Him. He is worth following no matter what is asked of us. His character and His power is reaffirmed in this book.