There’s a popular Mormon doctrine that describes the future of the soul. It’s always called the Plan of Salvation. Teachers present it so often that I have wondered what made it so important. People wouldn’t accidentally find themselves in Hell just because they forgot the order in the diagram.
The prophet Wilford Woodruff taught,
I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so he will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.
This doctrine says that the prophet will always lead the church correctly. A different, and equally accepted, doctrine maintains that prophets are just people that can make mistakes. I recently heard a story retold about the fallibility of divine revelation:
Simonds Ryder was converted to the Church in 1831. Later he received a letter signed by the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, informing him that it was the Lord’s will, made manifest by the Spirit, that he preach the gospel. Both in the letter he received and in the official commission to preach, his name was spelled Rider instead of Ryder. Simonds Ryder “thought if the ‘Spirit’ through which he had been called to preach could err in the matter of spelling his name, it might have erred in calling him to the ministry as well; or, in other words, he was led to doubt if he were called at all by the Spirit of God, because of the error in spelling his name!” (History of the Church, 1:261). Simonds Ryder later apostatized from the Church.
For many believers there is tension between God’s perfection and the apparent mistakes in some of his earthly messages. Ironically, only someone who achieved complete confidence in a prophet could be surprised by as small an error as a spelling mistake. After a short digression, I’ll explain my way of reconciling these two doctrines. Continue reading
When we are faced with a decision that is going to have long-term consequences, it would be easier if we could predict which outcome is going to make us the happiest. Sometimes we pray about the decision as we try to discover the best answer. A good goal is to feel strongly enough about the decision that those feelings will sustain us later, as we live out the consequences of the decision.
Prayers occasionally add to the stress though, because we worry that a bad decision will indicate that we were spirituality misguided. It’s as if we want to travel forward in time and have a conversation with ourselves. We would like to ask someone who has all the facts about which decision is better. And we want prayer to help us attain that level of certainty.
Prayer works better if we use it in the other direction. Instead of asking our future self which decision is better, we should tell our future self which decision we want. First we need to understand what it is we feel is right. Then we need to commit to that course of action. After that, it doesn’t make sense to worry that the future might prove us wrong. Our actions and our attitude will control how satisfied we are. We can have peace of mind just by knowing that we will persevere until our future works out.