“Brilliance…Is Not Wholeness”

Freedom to Worship by Norman Rockwell

A few years ago,  I went to a show of Norman Rockwell prints and paintings held at the BYU Museum of Art  with my sister-in-law Jeannie. It was magnificent.  If you aren’t familiar with his art, google his name and you will see the many paintings he did.  As we moved from picture to picture of a simpler, more wholesome time, I started feeling bugged.  I said to Jeannie, “Why couldn’t we parent in this time, when our culture supported our religious values? We have to guard against so much and be so vigilant! Yes, I KNOW this was during the Great Depression, World War II, but our job is so much harder!” 

“Really?” Jeannie said. “You want to live when there isn’t a polio vaccine, or civil rights for Blacks, or women were so marginalized?” She made me stop and think. “Oh yeah, you’re right! But still—” I said, “ I can’t help feeling somewhat sad  when I see these pictures.”  I thought  about my childhood of taking off on a Saturday on my bike and being gone all day without any worry on my mother’s part.  Or coming home from school and watching one or two  shows on TV out of five channels to choose from.  Parenting seemed so much easier back then. It took me a while to get over this feeling of injustice. 

What a test! We get to choose what  to learn or not to learn, to believe or not to believe.  We are being flooded with information, images, articles, books and more and more social media.  We have to learn to see what is “fake news”. We are fighting the biases of authors and we can spend a lot of time everyday reading and looking at trivial knowledge, hour by hour…

As the apostle  Paul said, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, in an inspiring talk on the importance of choosing for ourselves  what knowledge is critical had these insights when it came to what we need to focus on:

  • “Our being saved by gaining knowledge obviously refers to a particular form of knowledge, a “knowledge of God” and knowledge of the things of God.”
  • “ In fact, Joseph Smith’s translation of Jesus’ lamentation—about how those in his time had lost the “key of knowledge”—provides a definition; it adds five words defining what the word key means: “the fulness of the scriptures”.
  • “We are dealing with some things of transcending importance. Some truths are salvationally significant, and others are not.”
  • “Therefore, gaining knowledge and becoming more Christlike ‘are two aspects of a single process’.” 
  • The gospel’s bright and illuminating light thereby helps us see God, ourselves, others, the world, and the universe more correctly and more deeply.

Elder Maxwell continues:

“Other insights bear down upon us as Latter-day Saints. Brilliance, by itself, is not wholeness, nor happiness. Knowledge, if possessed for its own sake and unapplied, leaves one’s life unadorned. A Church member, for instance, might describe the Lord’s doctrines but not qualify to enter the Lord’s house. One could produce much brilliant commentary without being exemplary. One might be intellectually brilliant but Bohemian in behavior. One might use his knowledge to seek preeminence or dominion.”

I appreciate how Elder Maxwell qualifies the use of salvational knowledge and the many ways it can be distorted. As we work to stay honest, simple, solid and true,  what are some salvational truths that we can start teaching our children? 

I mentioned in an earlier post of  this BYU devotional, “Stand Forever”, given by Elder Lawrence  Corbridge. Elder Corbridge says, echoing Elder Maxwell’s point, “Begin by answering the primary questions. There are primary questions and there are secondary questions. Answer the primary questions first. Not all questions are equal and not all truths are equal. The primary questions are the most important. Everything else is subordinate. There are only a few primary questions. I will mention four of them.’

  1. Is there a God who is our Father?
  2. Is Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Savior of the World?
  3. Was Joseph Smith a prophet?
  4. Is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the Kingdom of God on earth?

 By contrast, Elder Corbridge said,  the secondary questions are unending. He lists some of them: Church history, polygamy, women and the priesthood, and how the Book of Mormon was translated, among others. 

He finishes:

 “If you answer the primary questions, the secondary questions get answered too, or they pale in significance and you can deal with things you understand and things you don’t and things you agree with and things you don’t without jumping ship altogether.’

How we magnify these truths, or the way we layer them into our children’s lives is up to us. I have found as a mother spending time in the scriptures, and being prayerful about  seeking ways to teach my children eternal essential truths, that the Spirit helps me to not overdo it. We will be given real life examples that we can talk about at dinner about these four primary doctrines. Over and over, if I have prepared myself to receive the Spirit I am illuminated as to how to teach my children. I love this promise:

For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will—yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man. [D&C 76:10]

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