I am often on my knees asking for those things that I feel I need and want. I am often praying for guidance. I am often looking for peace, or inspiration. Aren’t we all? I am often on my knees because that’s where I’m supposed to be. I’m more frequently on my knees (these days) because I know nowhere else to go to get the power, comfort, peace and reassurance I need. Indeed, there is nowhere else to go…in my experience.

Efficiency is something I like. I’m great at cleaning and organizing quickly because I’m efficient. I know how to see all that needs to be done and find ways to organize and clean in an order that saves time while also accomplishing a great deal at a high quality. I can be detail oriented when I need to be, but I never get lost in details.

Prayer is something I have worked long and hard to be efficient at. Not efficient as in praying as fast as I can, in as few words, with the most impact, like I’m running a business, or organizing files. No, efficient as in getting the power and guidance out of prayer that I need. Getting out of my own way, so to speak. Praying in a way that works. Not simply spouting words or expecting God to read my mind (which I know He can do). And, by focusing on how to make my prayers matter TO ME, I find that I offer them better and with more effect, granting me expediency…or the ability to get those things I so desperately seek.

I hope I’m saying this right. There are many ways to accomplish things in life. But, there are better ways, and best ways. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to, metaphorically speaking, eliminate the fluff, and get to a point where my prayers hopefully have maximum efficiency in helping me to increase my relationship with God and my ability to call down the powers of heaven to gain peace, guidance, inspiration, and assurance on my path through this life.

One of the ways I have found that I’ve been able to improve upon this (because I’m in no way perfect at prayer) is to understand and utilize the power of expediency.

Expedient

Several times in the Doctrine and Covenants, an entire book of revelation given based on expediency, we see the word expedient used to define what should be asked for in prayer and/or what things will be manifested unto us by the Holy Ghost (Doctrine and Covenants 18:18; 88:64-65).

Expedient = what is advantageous, practical, beneficial, useful

The scriptures are full of counsel regarding prayer. There are some important elements: addressing God—the Father, expressing gratitude, seeking forgiveness of sins, praying over anything in our lives that we need help with, asking for grace, praying for others, etc., and closing in the name of Jesus Christ—our Mediator.

However, when it comes to getting specific answers from God to our prayers, there are guidelines that are given. However, it hasn’t been until very recently that I have begun to understand, to a better extent, all the guidelines and examples of expedient prayers given in the scriptures and what they mean for me. And, more importantly, how to use them to receive the answers I seek.

What NOT to Ask For

In the scriptures, God has told us in many ways expedientthings we are not supposed to ask for. We are to not ask for things that are not expedient (Doctrine and Covenants 88:5). We are not to ask for signs for proof, or to create faith or testimony (Doctrine and Covenants 63:7-12). We are commanded not to ask for things to consume upon our lusts (James 4:3). We are not to seek for revenge upon our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We are not to pray for riches, except that we may use what riches we receive to build up the kingdom of God (Jacob 2:19), etc.

So, we can talk to God about everything. But, we must take into consideration some important guidelines when it comes to what blessings we seek at God’s hand. Asking God to do a back flip just to satisfy our curiosity about his mobility is hardly a proper thing to ask of the Almighty. We must be mindful of what we pray for, ask for, and seek for from our Father in Heaven.

So, what are those guidelines for asking?

While there are many scriptures that point to these guidelines, I’m going to boil it down to a few.

James 1:5

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not and it shall be given him.

What are we commanded to ask for? Wisdom.

Note that God uses the word “wisdom.” He doesn’t say information. He doesn’t say fun facts. He says wisdom. Wisdom is far different than information and fun facts.

Wisdom = experience, knowledge, good judgment, intelligence, common sense; as well as the ability to apply such to our lives. Wisdom also refers to general societal knowledge and principles.

So, when God says, “If you lack wisdom,” He means that you don’t have the wisdom/intelligence you need to act wisely.

James 1:6

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering, for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

Note that God says to, “ask in faith, nothing wavering.” We also often receive the counsel from God to ask, “with real intent,” or in “sincerity of heart” or with “full purpose of heart” (Moroni 7:9; 10:4, 2 Nephi 31:13). I believe these are all similar in meaning, in that God means us to pray with the intent to listen and to follow. If we seek answers or instruction or guidance, He wants us to know He won’t give us wisdom if we have no intent to act upon it (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33; Matthew 7:6). He only gives light and truth to those who will receive it, act on it, and seek for more (Alma 12:9-11).Man praying

How are we commanded to ask for wisdom? With the sincere intent to act upon the wisdom we hope to receive.

Joseph Smith-History 1:18

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join.

Alma 22:18

O God Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.

In these two scriptures it’s important to pay attention to what the individuals are praying for. Joseph asks to know which church is true that he may know which to join. The King of the Lamanites wants to God to manifest unto him if He exists, that he may give away all his sins to know Him and live with Him.

Herein lies the answer to expediency. Both want simple answers that they may know how to act so that they may progress spiritually—for themselves.

We know that God’s work and glory is to bring about our immortality (living forever) and eternal life (life like God and with God) (Moses 1:39). If that is God’s most important and eternal work, then, it would seem that those things that are expedient for us are those endowments of knowledge and wisdom that will lead us (if we listen and follow it) to live with and become like God.

What wisdom are we supposed to seek? The wisdom that will lead us forward in God’s plan toward becoming like Him.

Doctrine and Covenants 9:6-10

Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.

Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right…

Now, if you have known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now.

This scripture was given for Oliver Cowdery who was told he could help translate the Book of Mormon. But, once he was told he could help he expected all the wisdom and guidance from the Spirit he needed would simply come. Poof. He took no thought for the effort required to receive the wisdom and guidance he needed.

A modern equivalent of the mistake Oliver Cowdery made is to get a calling to teach Sunday school at church. And then, simply because you were called and set apart you didn’t think it was necessary to prepare your lessons, pray for guidance before each lesson, and then to follow that guidance in preparing and delivering your lesson. The calling didn’t exempt you from the effort to do the calling the Lord called you to do.

It’s like getting the validation that God is okay with whom you choose to marry. But, simply because you got married in the temple you expect that everything will be celestial without actually living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ in your daily married life–simply because God said, OK. Nothing in this life, or in eternity, is simply handed to us without accompanying effort and responsibility to care for the gift received. All godly guidance requires effort to receive and effort to follow.

Woman hands praying with a bible in a dark over wooden table

How are we to seek for the wisdom we lack? We are to do our part to get what wisdom we can before going to the Lord for either validation or further guidance. We are never “done” getting personal revelation until we have become godly.

Now, let’s set forth the specific pattern we’ve identified for getting answers to our prayers.

Pattern #1: You’ve got to work

Brigham young taught, “It is only where experience fails that revelation is needed” (BY, 416). I might alter that to say, “where wisdom fails.”

If the information is reasonably available to us through sincere efforts of searching, seeking, discussion with wise friends and family members, and pondering, God isn’t going to give a separate answer. God is loving but I suspect a perfect being is also perfectly efficient and not prone to ridiculous acts simply because we come to Him crying. As well, when we put ourselves into a climate of seeking, pondering, discussing, and searching, there is no limit to the answers God can give us about many things. So, to just dispense one sentence phrases or even short paragraphs anytime we have a question is not only inefficient and contrary to God’s nature, it deprives us of the further light and knowledge God has for us on many topics. A truly loving God will choose the more helpful, expedient, and valuable of the two ways to answering our prayers.

Pattern #2: Expediency*

As God’s 24/7 goal (if you want to put it in mortal time constraints) is to save and exalt us and help us become godly (Moses 1:39). It would stand therefore, that though all questions are good, the best questions are those that are derived from the deepest, simplest desires of our hearts.

*I want to make a brief comment about lines of revelation. God has set up His church to have accepted lines of revelation so that we know when something is from God, or not. God is a god of order, and not confusion (Doctrine and Covenants 132:8). Revelation for the entire church comes through the prophet. Revelation for the region comes through the designated Seventy. Revelation for our stake comes through the Stake President. Revelation for our ward comes through the Bishop. Revelation for the Relief Society comes through the Relief Society President, etc.

Revelation for our lives comes to us. As well, in personal lives there are also smaller, but distinct lines of communication. Parents can only get so much guidance for their children. The older children become the less revelation a parent can receive on behalf of a child. A parent may receive inspiration to caution a child about something. But, if child receives a spiritual witness that a parent has not also received it means that the child is capable of getting his/her own revelation and that God doesn’t need to cycle that revelation through the parent. Etc.

So, expediency may also relate to questions we ask that are not for ourselves. Even if the wisdom will comfort us, but it is ultimately wisdom intended for a line of authority which we are not in; then we are not likely to get such wisdom, especially if we cannot act on it for our own, personal salvation.

Pattern #3: Real Intent

Finally, we must have the true intent to act upon the wisdom we receive. If we want facts to satisfy fears and doubts, but we have no intent to do anything based on the counsel or guidance that comes, we are very unlikely to get much, if anything.

Example of the Expedient Pattern:

If we look at Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in Joseph Smith-History; we learn that prior to going to the sacred grove to ask which church to join, Joseph attended all the several meetings of the many churches in his area. All focused on different points of doctrine. All interpreted the Bible differently. We know Joseph got to know many of the pastors well. We know he conversed with them and asked them questions on their varied doctrines. We also know Joseph studied the scriptures looking for guidance as to what church to join. He searched and pondered and studied. He did all the seeking he could. HE WORKED

Then, when the wisdom of society, the scriptures, and his own failed, then he went to ask of God.

JOSEPH ASKED AN EXPEDIENT QUESTION. Which church should I join?

JOSEPH ASKED WITH REAL INTENT. Joseph asked with the intent to join whatever church God told him to join. He simply wanted to know which one was God’s.

Note, he didn’t ask God, “Is the Methodist church better than the Presbyterian?” He didn’t ask, “Why are there so many churches?” He didn’t ask, “The Bible says there’s one faith and one baptism. Why then do all the churches have so many different ways of baptizing?” None of these are bad questions. They simply don’t have the greatest expediency.

Joseph’s question was expedient because the answer would allow Joseph to progress toward godliness and salvation.

Questions that are generally not expedient

Based on these patterns, let’s look at questions that are generally not expedient. These are unlikely to get answered because the answer doesn’t necessary lead to personal action or progression.

  • What color was the Liahona?
  • When will the second coming of Christ be?
  • How come you let the prophet put this new policy in place that seems so unlike you?
  • Why can’t women also officiate in the Priesthood?
  • Why did you let me lose my job?
  • Why did you let that terrible catastrophe happen?
  • Was the earth really created in five earth days or is what science says correct?
  • Did you use evolution to create all life?

Now, let’s look take these un-expedient questions down to their core. Let’s look at the deeper, simpler questions that are behind them that are expedient. The answers to these questions require pre-work and also will lead to personal action and progression.

Questions that are more expedient**

  • I have read the Book of Mormon and find much good in it. Is the Book of Mormon Woman Sitting Down in Prayer Silhouettetrue? Is it your word?
  • I’m trying to live a good life, but I know I’m not ready to see Christ. So, what is the most important thing I can be doing right now to prepare for the second coming of Christ?
  • I am trying to accept and follow the prophet’s counsel in all things. But I’m struggling with this most current policy. Can you please reassure me. Is <current prophet> a true prophet?
  • I’ve been studying the scriptures and have found several passages that indicate your love for all your children. But, I’m still struggling to feel peace about it in relation to how the church is set up. Can you reassure me? Can you help me to know that you love women as much as you do men?
  • I’ve lost my job. I’ve looked at several jobs and have applied to the ones I feel will best help me take care of my family. Is the course my life is taking according to Thy will? Will I be able to find the job you want me to have?
  • Science makes it seem like the earth coming into being was random and took eons (implies study). I don’t know how to reconcile that with what the Bible says (implies study). Perhaps there is much missing from both the scientific and the Bible accounts. So, can you please reassure me? Did you create the earth?
  • Am I really your literal spirit son or daughter? Or am I just a product of evolution? I need to know so that I can feel confident in the course of action I’m choosing for my life. If you’re real and I’m your child, then that will change the decision I make.

**Note that the answer to any of these questions requires previous personal action and study and that the answer will lead to continued personal action and eternal progression.

We can be upset or confused about many things in life. But, that which is of most value for us to do is to break down those frustrations we have to their core doctrine, their deepest simplest root, and then take that question to the Lord rather than the more complex and less expedient questions we often have.

It is important to note, however, that the Lord can answer any question we put to Him. There are occasions when He has answered what, according to the formula I have presented, are less expedient questions. When He has done so and why is beyond my ability to confer to you. But, from my own study and experience, I have felt that, in general, we are likely to get answers more quickly and more clearly if we seek to make our questions and requests expedient.

Why doesn’t God tell us everything? Why doesn’t He speak the answer to every issue and question we have in our minds and hearts? I don’t know. But, as I am confident in his “true love” for us, I believe that the problem is not His limitation in answering, but ours in desiring the best knowledge and understanding how to receive those expedient answers.

Our finite understanding, perspective, and capabilities make it impossible for us to converse with the Lord as we would likely wish. There is much the Lord can tell us if our hearts and minds are right and prepared. But, He has chosen to reveal only those things that are expedient for our eternal progression.

So, we can get upset that God doesn’t tell us everything. OR, we can follow the pattern He has set for getting answers to prayers.

BT

Doctrine: Expediency has everything to do with getting consistent answers to our prayers. The scriptures lay out a pattern for asking expedient questions and receiving answers. God is not limited in His ability to talk to us, but we are limited in our ability to hear His voice and understand His ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Doctrine: Trust your Christlike feelings. Understand the difference between guilt and shame. Understand the formula the Holy Ghost uses and how false prophets try to mimick it. Remember that true prophets uphold agency, accountability, personal responsibility, and personal testimony.

Feelings. We all have them. And, if we understand them and listen to them, they can teach us a lot. And, as I’ve been pondering about how to tell the difference between a false prophet and a true one, I have noted that feelings play a significantly large part.

Obviously, Christ has taught us how to judge (see scriptures in previous blog The Very Elect are Being Deceived). But, sometimes, when feelings come into play, all that quick and accessible logic gets blurred by our feelings. As I pondered which feelings blurred our minds and which cleared our minds, I came upon something which to me is rather interesting and telling.

Trust Your Christlike Feelings

Feelings that have their foundation in Satan make it difficult to think, obscure truth, cause confusion, increase depression, despair, and exacerbate passionate emotions like anger, vengeance, entitlement, arrogance, ingratitude, fear, distrust, and resentment (Alma 12:9-11). On the other hand, feelings that have their foundation in Christ make us think and ponder more deeply, reveal truth, clarify our thoughts, make certain memories and experiences more poignant, increase hope, faith, and strengthen emotions like forgiveness, a righteous sense of justice, gratitude, humility, courage, trust, and charity (Doctrine and Covenants 84:45; 50:23-24).

So, as I got to evaluating the false prophets and anti-Christs in the scriptures, I began to note quite clearly and accurately, that ALL of them, when they preach, excite feelings that have their foundation in Satan—which in consequence lead us to act unwisely, narrowly, foolishly, and too quickly. False prophets and anti-Christs cry for justice but motivate us with satanic emotions to act in un-Christ-like ways. By using such satanically motivated excitement, they actually dull our ability to think rationally, think long-term, use reason and logic, and to consider the end result of our actions.

On the other hand, true prophets in the scriptures (and presently), when they preach excite feelings that have their foundation in Christ—which in consequence lead us to act slower, wiser, with the long-term in mind, and more carefully. True prophets and true advocates for Christ cry for mercy and also justice but motivate us with Christlike emotions. By using such Christ-centered tactics to properly motivate, they increase our ability to think rationally, use reason and logic, to consider the end result of our actions, and to take the time to ponder, research, and seek personal revelation.

True Prophets Will Increase Our Feelings of Guilt NOT Shame

Unlike shame, which comes from Satan and fundamentally makes us feel worthless, useless, unworthy, and miserable; guilt comes from God and is in place because of His love for us. Guilt reminds us that we are better, that we can be better, and that we should be better; all of which are fundamentally trying to draw us upward toward God. Guilt incites us to feel sorry for giving offense to God (and others) and includes sort of a spiritual pressure to repent and change. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

Shame, or worldly sorrow, is not guilt. It drives us toward the feelings of pride, resentment, entitlement, and fundamentally leads us to try to hide our sins and nurture them in the dark.

It’s important that we understand the difference between guilt and shame. And, a true prophet will incite guilt, not shame. A False prophet will incite shame, not guilt.

Now, let’s talk about anger. Can a true prophet make us angry? Sure. Defensive? Yes. However, I would suggest that when we get defensive and angry at something they’ve said it’s because of the following reasons:

  • We see clearly that we need to repent and we aren’t ready, don’t believe it’s necessary, or simply don’t want to (1 Nephi 16:2-3)
  • We haven’t paid the price to “know God” and how He works like we should, so we don’t recognize His hand in commandments, prophetic counsel, and church organization and policy (Mosiah 5:13, St. John 17:3, 1 Nephi 2:12, St. John 10:14, Exodus 5:2)
  • We think we know better than God and His servants (Exodus 5:2, Doctrine and Covenants 121:37-40)
  • We want God to give us His glory, power, and blessings on our terms, not His; we don’t like conditions placed on what we want (Doctrine and Covenants 121:36-40) or think we deserve

False Prophets Attempt to Mimick How the Spirit Works

In Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3 we read:

Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation…

I point out a few key words: mind, heart, dwell, revelation

Often people ask the question, how do I tell the Holy Ghost from my own thoughts and feelings. Here, I suggest is the answer. Note the formula: God will tell us in our mind and our heart. Not just mind. Not just heart. But, heart and mind. The heart, I would suggest is our feelings. The mind, I would suggest is our reason, logic, and current knowledge and understanding.

Next, note the word dwell. The information will dwell with us. It is not a temporary thing. It will persist. Then, the word revelation, which doesn’t denote a mere feeling, but an understanding, an enlightened thought, etc.

Now, let’s put it all together. 1) it sits well in our mind because it jives with our accumulated knowledge and understanding or sense of reason and logic, 2) it ALSO sits well in our heart or is accompanied by a Christ-like feeling, 3) it is not a fleeting thought that disappears or becomes a stupor (Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9), it persists, and 4) it contributes to our understanding and enlightens us.

So, to feel excited or temporarily happy and elated about something that we know from our memory we’ve been taught is counterproductive or likely unwise, then we should see a big X and hear an uncomfortable buzzing sound. To be presented with something that seems to have lots of logic and sense and is accompanied by apparent facts, but doesn’t sit right in our hearts, then we should see another big X and hear another uncomfortable buzzing sound. If an idea is fleeting and doesn’t enlighten us or contribute to our overall understanding of life and God, then big X and the buzzer.

False prophets somehow understand this fundamental formula. So, when they preach to us they try to mimick it. They try to present logic and reason, they present that data using emotional events or tactics, they try to show us how the knowledge they are giving us will impact our lives, and they try to convince us that they are enlightening us because we are currently “in the dark” or being fooled.

Thus, we return to the step: trust your Christlike feelings.

True Prophets Uphold Agency, Accountability, Responsibility, Personal Revelation and Testimony

In my study, it seems that false prophets and Anti-Christs talk about individuality and independence and then attempt to convince you of such independence through the use of GroupThink (the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility) or crowd mentality. They are masters of peer pressure using others who have already come over to their philosophy. They will tell you that you are pursuing your own needs but then will instruct you to do so by following their crowd followers. They will say something to the effect of, “Abandon this crowd you are following and stop being fooled by this tradition and be your own person. Do what makes you happy. Stop being deceived” (Alma 30). And, then, they will say, “Go do what everyone else is doing. Find your individuality by doing what my followers are doing instead of following this one closed-minded group.”

False prophets are incredibly persuasive and it is so easy to get swept up. Take the time to examine the logic and reason a person/self-proclaimed prophet is presenting. Examine the emotions they are trying to invoke. What do their tactics lead you to do? Do they use fear and shame? Do they try to make you feel deceived and stupid and that they are saving you? Do they fire up your sense of justice on a topic you barely know anything about and then give you the facts you think you are lacking to increase your trust? Do the emotions they invoke lead you to act rashly, angrily, foolishly, or too quickly? Do they tell you to “experiment upon their word” but then promise you that if you do you’ll find out what they’ve already discovered so you can save yourself the trouble? Hence, actually discouraging you from looking deeper. Do they invoke GroupThink?

True prophets will teach truth and that truth will not be easy or popular. True prophets point us away from a worldly majority toward God. God is their majority. True prophets encourage repentance and hope in Christ. True prophets preserve God’s laws and ways despite the fact that the world disagrees with such ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). True prophets will not force truth on us but will expect that we “experiment upon the word” for ourselves (Alma 32:27, St. John 7:17). They will not tell us that doing so is a waste of time because they understand that personal testimony is the only kind of testimony that matters (Moroni 10:4-5) and the only sure way for us to know godly truth through the Holy Spirit. True prophets will teach us to do what’s right despite the crowd, or group (1 Timothy 4:12). True prophets will not set aside individual accountability. They will uphold agency by upholding law, consequences, conditions, and so forth—as God does (Alma 42:17-22).

Conclusion

We can tell the difference between true and false prophets. ALL the guidelines, examples, and facts are in the scriptures. Ponder God’s instructions on how to get truth from Him. Then, stick to those instructions. Get to know God better than you know anything or anyone else. Then, you’ll be able to recognize with clarity those things that come from Him or from false prophets and anti-Christs.

BT

I am often on my knees asking for those things that I feel I need and want. I am often praying for guidance. I am often looking for peace, or inspiration. Aren’t we all? I am often on my knees because that’s where I’m supposed to be. I’m more frequently on my knees (these days) because I know nowhere else to go to get the power, comfort, peace and reassurance I need. Indeed, there is nowhere else to go…in my experience.

Efficiency is something I like. I’m great at cleaning and organizing quickly because I’m efficient. I know how to see all that needs to be done and find ways to organize and clean in an order that saves time while also accomplishing a great deal at a high quality. I can be detail oriented when I need to be, but I never get lost in details.

Prayer is something I have worked long and hard to be efficient at. Not efficient as in praying as fast as I can, in as few words, with the most impact, like I’m running a business, or organizing files. No, efficient as in getting the power and guidance out of prayer that I need. Getting out of my own way, so to speak. Praying in a way that works. Not simply spouting words or expecting God to read my mind (which I know He can do). And, by focusing on how to make my prayers matter TO ME, I find that I offer them better and with more effect, granting me expediency…or the ability to get those things I so desperately seek.

I hope I’m saying this right. There are many ways to accomplish things in life. But, there are better ways, and best ways. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to, metaphorically speaking, eliminate the fluff, and get to a point where my prayers hopefully have maximum efficiency in helping me to increase my relationship with God and my ability to call down the powers of heaven to gain peace, guidance, inspiration, and assurance on my path through this life.

One of the ways I have found that I’ve been able to improve upon this (because I’m in no way perfect at prayer) is to understand and utilize the power of expediency.

Expedient

Several times in the Doctrine and Covenants, an entire book of revelation given based on expediency, we see the word expedient used to define what should be asked for in prayer and/or what things will be manifested unto us by the Holy Ghost (Doctrine and Covenants 18:18; 88:64-65).

Expedient = what is advantageous, practical, beneficial, useful

The scriptures are full of counsel regarding prayer. There are some important elements: addressing God—the Father, expressing gratitude, seeking forgiveness of sins, praying over anything in our lives that we need help with, asking for grace, praying for others, etc., and closing in the name of Jesus Christ—our Mediator.

However, when it comes to getting specific answers from God to our prayers, there are guidelines that are given. However, it hasn’t been until very recently that I have begun to understand, to a better extent, all the guidelines and examples of expedient prayers given in the scriptures and what they mean for me. And, more importantly, how to use them to receive the answers I seek.

What NOT to Ask For

In the scriptures, God has told us in many ways expedientthings we are not supposed to ask for. We are to not ask for things that are not expedient (Doctrine and Covenants 88:5). We are not to ask for signs for proof, or to create faith or testimony (Doctrine and Covenants 63:7-12). We are commanded not to ask for things to consume upon our lusts (James 4:3). We are not to seek for revenge upon our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We are not to pray for riches, except that we may use what riches we receive to build up the kingdom of God (Jacob 2:19), etc.

So, we can talk to God about everything. But, we must take into consideration some important guidelines when it comes to what blessings we seek at God’s hand. Asking God to do a back flip just to satisfy our curiosity about his mobility is hardly a proper thing to ask of the Almighty. We must be mindful of what we pray for, ask for, and seek for from our Father in Heaven.

So, what are those guidelines for asking?

While there are many scriptures that point to these guidelines, I’m going to boil it down to a few.

James 1:5

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not and it shall be given him.

What are we commanded to ask for? Wisdom.

Note that God uses the word “wisdom.” He doesn’t say information. He doesn’t say fun facts. He says wisdom. Wisdom is far different than information and fun facts.

Wisdom = experience, knowledge, good judgment, intelligence, common sense; as well as the ability to apply such to our lives. Wisdom also refers to general societal knowledge and principles.

So, when God says, “If you lack wisdom,” He means that you don’t have the wisdom/intelligence you need to act wisely.

James 1:6

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering, for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

Note that God says to, “ask in faith, nothing wavering.” We also often receive the counsel from God to ask, “with real intent,” or in “sincerity of heart” or with “full purpose of heart” (Moroni 7:9; 10:4, 2 Nephi 31:13). I believe these are all similar in meaning, in that God means us to pray with the intent to listen and to follow. If we seek answers or instruction or guidance, He wants us to know He won’t give us wisdom if we have no intent to act upon it (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33; Matthew 7:6). He only gives light and truth to those who will receive it, act on it, and seek for more (Alma 12:9-11).Man praying

How are we commanded to ask for wisdom? With the sincere intent to act upon the wisdom we hope to receive.

Joseph Smith-History 1:18

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join.

Alma 22:18

O God Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.

In these two scriptures it’s important to pay attention to what the individuals are praying for. Joseph asks to know which church is true that he may know which to join. The King of the Lamanites wants to God to manifest unto him if He exists, that he may give away all his sins to know Him and live with Him.

Herein lies the answer to expediency. Both want simple answers that they may know how to act so that they may progress spiritually—for themselves.

We know that God’s work and glory is to bring about our immortality (living forever) and eternal life (life like God and with God) (Moses 1:39). If that is God’s most important and eternal work, then, it would seem that those things that are expedient for us are those endowments of knowledge and wisdom that will lead us (if we listen and follow it) to live with and become like God.

What wisdom are we supposed to seek? The wisdom that will lead us forward in God’s plan toward becoming like Him.

Doctrine and Covenants 9:6-10

Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.

Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right…

Now, if you have known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now.

This scripture was given for Oliver Cowdery who was told he could help translate the Book of Mormon. But, once he was told he could help he expected all the wisdom and guidance from the Spirit he needed would simply come. Poof. He took no thought for the effort required to receive the wisdom and guidance he needed.

A modern equivalent of the mistake Oliver Cowdery made is to get a calling to teach Sunday school at church. And then, simply because you were called and set apart you didn’t think it was necessary to prepare your lessons, pray for guidance before each lesson, and then to follow that guidance in preparing and delivering your lesson. The calling didn’t exempt you from the effort to do the calling the Lord called you to do.

It’s like getting the validation that God is okay with whom you choose to marry. But, simply because you got married in the temple you expect that everything will be celestial without actually living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ in your daily married life–simply because God said, OK. Nothing in this life, or in eternity, is simply handed to us without accompanying effort and responsibility to care for the gift received. All godly guidance requires effort to receive and effort to follow.

Woman hands praying with a bible in a dark over wooden table

How are we to seek for the wisdom we lack? We are to do our part to get what wisdom we can before going to the Lord for either validation or further guidance. We are never “done” getting personal revelation until we have become godly.

Now, let’s set forth the specific pattern we’ve identified for getting answers to our prayers.

Pattern #1: You’ve got to work

Brigham young taught, “It is only where experience fails that revelation is needed” (BY, 416). I might alter that to say, “where wisdom fails.”

If the information is reasonably available to us through sincere efforts of searching, seeking, discussion with wise friends and family members, and pondering, God isn’t going to give a separate answer. God is loving but I suspect a perfect being is also perfectly efficient and not prone to ridiculous acts simply because we come to Him crying. As well, when we put ourselves into a climate of seeking, pondering, discussing, and searching, there is no limit to the answers God can give us about many things. So, to just dispense one sentences phrases or even short paragraphs anytime we have a question is not only inefficient and contrary to God’s nature, it deprives us of the further light and knowledge God has for us on many topics. A truly loving God will choose the more helpful, expedient, and valuable of the two ways to answering our prayers.

Pattern #2: Expediency*

As God’s 24/7 goal (if you want to put it in mortal time constraints) is to save and exalt us and help us become godly (Moses 1:39). It would stand therefore, that though all questions are good, the best questions are those that are derived from the deepest, simplest desires of our hearts.

*I want to make a brief comment about lines of revelation. God has set up His church to have accepted lines of revelation so that we know when something is from God, or not. God is a god of order, and not confusion (Doctrine and Covenants 132:8). Revelation for the entire church comes through the prophet. Revelation for the region comes through the designated Seventy. Revelation for our stake comes through the Stake President. Revelation for our ward comes through the Bishop. Revelation for the Relief Society comes through the Relief Society President, etc.

Revelation for our lives comes to us. As well, in personal lives there are also smaller, but distinct lines of communication. Parents can only get so much guidance for their children. The older children become the less revelation a parent can receive on behalf of a child. A parent may receive inspiration to caution a child about something. But, if child receives a spiritual witness that a parent has not also received it means that the child is capable of getting his/her own revelation and that God doesn’t need to cycle that revelation through the parent. Etc.

So, expediency may also relate to questions we ask that are not for ourselves. Even if the wisdom will comfort us, but it is ultimately wisdom intended for a line of authority which we are not in; then we are not likely to get such wisdom, especially if we cannot act on it for our own, personal salvation.

Pattern #3: Real Intent

Finally, we must have the true intent to act upon the wisdom we receive. If we want facts to satisfy fears and doubts, but we have no intent to do anything based on the counsel or guidance that comes, we are very unlikely to get much, if anything.

Example of the Expedient Pattern:

If we look at Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in Joseph Smith-History; we learn that prior to going to the sacred grove to ask which church to join, Joseph attended all the several meetings of the many churches in his area. All focused on different points of doctrine. All interpreted the Bible differently. We know Joseph got to know many of the pastors well. We know he conversed with them and asked them questions on their varied doctrines. We also know Joseph studied the scriptures looking for guidance as to what church to join. He searched and pondered and studied. He did all the seeking he could. HE WORKED

Then, when the wisdom of society, the scriptures, and his own failed, then he went to ask of God.

JOSEPH ASKED AN EXPEDIENT QUESTION. Which church should I join?

JOSEPH ASKED WITH REAL INTENT. Joseph asked with the intent to join whatever church God told him to join. He simply wanted to know which one was God’s.

Note, he didn’t ask God, “Is the Methodist church better than the Presbyterian?” He didn’t ask, “Why are there so many churches?” He didn’t ask, “The Bible says there’s one faith and one baptism. Why then do all the churches have so many different ways of baptizing?” None of these are bad questions. They simply don’t have the greatest expediency.

Joseph’s question was expedient because the answer would allow Joseph to progress toward godliness and salvation.

Questions that are generally not expedient

Based on these patterns, let’s look at questions that are generally not expedient. These are unlikely to get answered because the answer doesn’t necessary lead to personal action or progression.

  • What color was the Liahona?
  • When will the second coming of Christ be?
  • How come you let the prophet put this new policy in place that seems so unlike you?
  • Why can’t women also officiate in the Priesthood?
  • Why did you let me lose my job?
  • Why did you let that terrible catastrophe happen?
  • Was the earth really created in five earth days or is what science says correct?
  • Did you use evolution to create all life?

Now, let’s look take these un-expedient questions down to their core. Let’s look at the deeper, simpler questions that are behind them that are expedient. The answers to these questions require pre-work and also will lead to personal action and progression.

Questions that are more expedient**

  • I have read the Book of Mormon and find much good in it. Is the Book of MormonWoman Sitting Down in Prayer Silhouettetrue? Is it your word?
  • I’m trying to live a good life, but I know I’m not ready to see Christ. So, what is the most important thing I can be doing right now to prepare for the second coming of Christ?
  • I am trying to accept and follow the prophet’s counsel in all things. But I’m struggling with this most current policy. Can you please reassure me. Is <current prophet> a true prophet?
  • I’ve been studying the scriptures and have found several passages that indicate your love for all your children. But, I’m still struggling to feel peace about it in relation to how the church is set up. Can you reassure me? Can you help me to know that love women as much as you do men?
  • I’ve lost my job. I’ve looked at several jobs and have applied to the ones I feel will best help me take care of my family. Is the course my life is taking according to Thy will? Will I be able to find the job you want me to have?
  • Science makes it seem like the earth coming into being was random and took eons (implies study). I don’t know how to reconcile that with what the Bible says (implies study). Perhaps there is much missing from both the scientific and the Bible accounts. So, can you please reassure me? Did you create the earth?
  • Am I really your literal spirit son or daughter? Or am I just a product of evolution? I need to know so that I can feel confident in the course of action I’m choosing for my life. If you’re real and I’m your child, then that will change the decision I make.

**Note that the answer to any of these questions requires previous personal action and study and that the answer will lead to continued personal action and eternal progression.

We can be upset or confused about many things in life. But, that which is of most value for us to do is to break down those frustrations we have to their core doctrine, their deepest simplest root, and then take that question to the Lord rather than the more complex and less expedient questions we often have.

It is important to note, however, that the Lord can answer any question we put to Him. There are occasions when He has answered what, according to the formula I have presented, are less expedient questions. When He has done so and why is beyond my ability to confer to you. But, from my own study and experience, I have felt that, in general, we are likely to get answers more quickly and more clearly if we seek to make our questions and requests expedient.

Why doesn’t God tell us everything? Why doesn’t He speak the answer to every issue and question we have in our minds and hearts? I don’t know. But, as I am confident in his “true love” for us, I believe that the problem is not His limitation in answering, but ours in desiring the best knowledge and understanding how to receive those expedient answers.

Our finite understanding, perspective, and capabilities make it impossible for us to converse with the Lord as we would likely wish. There is much the Lord can tell us if our hearts and minds are right and prepared. But, He has chosen to reveal only those things that are expedient for our eternal progression.

So, we can get upset that God doesn’t tell us everything. OR, we can follow the pattern He has set for getting answers to prayers.

BT

Doctrine: Expediency has everything to do with getting consistent answers to our prayers. The scriptures lay out a pattern for asking expedient questions and receiving answers. God is not limited in His ability to talk to us, but we are limited in our ability to hear His voice and understand His ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Doctrine: #2) Salvation is personal even for prophets, apostles, and saints in leadership callings/positions.

This is continued from PART ONE

A common reason people leave the church is that they have issues with the leadership or the church policies that doesn’t immediately make sense. So, why don’t I leave when leadership appears to be human or because I don’t immediately understand a policy? Well, I don’t leave because it’s no surprise to me that the leadership is not perfect. And that, indeed, God is leading them to their salvation just as He is leading me to mine. It’s no surprise to me that they have to run into issues and concerns before they ask questions and seek revelation from God for the Church just like I have to run into issues and concerns before I ask questions and seek personal revelation from God for my life. The process of revelation is the same for all of us (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3; 9:7-9) whether prophet or member.

Those who study the scriptures (OT, NT, BofM, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants) on a regular basis should never be surprised at the humanity of God’s chosen prophets, apostles, and leadership of all types from the local, ward, level to worldwide level. Every prophet that I’ve studied was human, made mistakes, learned to repent and change, had to be tutored and taught through years of trial and personal struggle the importance of consistent righteousness and the path to receiving revelation. Sometimes the Lord gave revelation without much work. Other times the revelation and counsel came through others with the experience or knowledge. Or, in other words, when the information wasn’t available through study and counsel with others, the Lord gave it once it was sought in prayer. Other times the answer took lots of work, seemed like it would never come though it eventually did, or came through others. (1 Nephi 3 and 4 & Exodus 18 are two easy examples, but there are many more.)

My mother always taught me that if God had revealed the information I needed to others and if it was accessible through study, research, and wise counsel, that that was the only way I’d get the information. God would not speak to me from the heavens information that He had already dispensed. So, I did the work and when I found the information and answers I needed the Holy Ghost provided the clear witnesses of truth. It is the same for every child of God no matter what calling or position they hold in the church.

As well, simply because God has called people to stewardships of leadership in which their decisions, actions, and weaknesses affect everyone beneath them doesn’t mean that God expects them to make perfect decisions, or to carry off His kingdom in a way in which no one gets offended, or in a way that no one’s faith gets tested. He has given them these callings to help perfect them—and us. He expects those in leadership to live by grace and we are expected to grant grace to them in their service. The leadership is allowed to lead us despite their weaknesses because of grace, and we learn the doctrine of grace by supporting and sustaining them. It’s that simple. Does it mean it’s easy? It might not be. But it can be.

If we are to be honest, people got plenty offended by Christ who was perfect. So even if our leaders were perfect everyone still wouldn’t be happy. Truth can set people free—if they want it—but most truth causes offense and is painful to hear (1 Nephi 16:2-3). So my faith in God’s church and its leadership can’t be shaken by the imperfections of fellow-servants in Christ, it can only be shaken by my own deficiencies—or in other words, the state of my heart (see the parable of the sower in the NT) and my willingness to accept grace for myself as well as allow it to embrace others.

It’s interesting these days as the church works to be more transparent more and more information is coming out about Joseph Smith. People are leaving the church over it. Of course, not all of the information that comes out is true. Some of the less favorable things that people like to toss around have some truth to them, but many inferences and suppositions made in light of these truths are not true, or are purposely presented in an unfavorable light. But the hints of truth make it all seem true to those who read it. Indeed, it’s become a hobby of some to dig and dig and infer as many weird and negative things about Joseph Smith, and the early leaders of our church, as they can.

I find it interesting that these people take such a passion in trying to make sure that I know what kind of man restored the church—my church. I have to ask myself… Have they really taken a look at my life and my religion and are they genuinely worried about my eternal salvation? Are they really worried that I’m getting shafted by my religion? Are they really worried about whether I’m becoming less Christlike by reading The Book of Mormon? Or, are they worried that I’m bound down by silly religious traditions (Alma 30:12-18, 22-28)? That I dare not look up and grab hold of the privileges my religion tries to deny me (Alma 30:12-18, 22-28)? Are they worried that I’m being made a fool (Alma 30:12-18, 22-28) or that my religion’s standards are too high? Or, do they want to make it easy for me to disavow Joseph Smith, leave the church, and justify doing things they believe I should be able to do (Alma 30:12-18, 22-28)? Do they want me to be afraid that I’ve been hoodwinked? And if so, why?

So, let me get right to it. Many knowledgeable and articulate people like to find fault with Joseph Smith (or other church leaders or policies made by church leaders). They like to pick on the prophet’s human weaknesses and personal idiosyncrasies. Or they like to show how they can’t be inspired because they are so out of touch with the world and God. They like to make light of Joseph’s susceptibility to the culture of his time. They delight in making suppositions and inferences about Joseph’s struggles to almost single-handedly restore God’s church upon the earth. They try to prove he wasn’t God’s prophet because of weaknesses he had in administration. The list goes on.

I don’t mean to draw this out, but do they realize that none of what Joseph Smith did ever brought him any personal gain? He wasn’t paid to be prophet. He was never praised by the world. He barely ever had a roof over his head. He lost children and friends. He was beaten and persecuted, tarred and feathered and shot at and was driven and torn from his family and associates time after time. He of all people had every right to throw up his hands and say, “this is stupid. Why am I doing this?” Why then did he insanely persevere? How many people will die for what they believe? Few, unless they were truly called by God. The only reason Joseph did it, the only reason he kept going, was because God called Him to do so and who would turn against God just to please the world?

Those people who study Joseph’s life and make light of his efforts never take time to mention that despite his weaknesses (the ones they deride him for) he kept going when no sane man ever would. He kept doing what God asked even when he knew it led to him sealing his testimony and prophetic role with his blood. Did not Alma (30:34) say: “And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren?” As well, didn’t wise Gamaliel say in Acts 5:38-39: “And now I say unto you, refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”

Finally, St. Matthew 7:16, 20 says, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Moroni 7:15-17 teaches us clearly how to judge if something comes from God or man by whether it leads us to Christ or not. St. John 7:17 says, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of god or whether it be of myself.” Or, in other words, “experiment upon the word” (Alma 32).instagramquotes3

I can see the fruit of Joseph Smith’s life and mission and so did the people who lived in his time, when he was actually visible to them. Those who had a witness of his prophetic role were not swayed by his weaknesses. Those who didn’t have a witness or who let their fear crowd out their faith left. Everyone thought the church would die with Joseph when he was killed. It didn’t. And, the church rolled on despite his and other church leaders’ weaknesses. This church, it’s unprecedented growth, it’s incredible reach across the earth, the fullness of God’s plan it provides, the amazing blessings and miracles I have seen in my own life and the lives of others, the good the church does the world over, the priesthood authority and the ordinances and covenants it provides, the growth and goodness of the leadership… I just can’t figure out what about the fruit of Joseph’s Smith’s work that is not leading me to Christ and to a joyful life now and a joyful eternal life.

So, if people want to sit around and make a pastime of picking at Joseph Smith’s or other church leaders’ weaknesses, they can do so. But, it seems to me that sitting around and picking at other’s shortcomings and weaknesses is not a past-time that is very Christlike. And, indeed, Christ says that we are allowed to have weaknesses in this life that we may be humble (Ether 12:27) and that those who mock the weakness of those trying to do His work are fools (Ether 12:26).

As well, concerning Joseph Smith, God says in the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants that the weaknesses and mistakes of early church leaders—including Joseph Smith—will be included in the record that His word may be fulfilled “That the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers. Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.” He also says to Joseph Smith that his name, “should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.”

Well, it appears that this promise has come true. So, I don’t leave the church over it. My faith is strengthened by it.

Click here to go to PART THREE