A few weeks ago, I was sitting on board an airplane flying over seemingly endless mountain ridges and valleys between Hermosillo, a desert city in the Mexican state of Sonora, and Mexico City. As the plane began its descent, we broke through the clouds and the Valley of Mexico opened up to my view. Although there are still some fields and open areas left on the outskirts, most of the valley is taken up by the mind-boggling sea of humanity which is Mexico City. (Somewhere between 20 and 24 million inhabitants – Not sure the mayor even knows how many!) All of a sudden, my mind was caught up with the story of the Savior’s confrontation with Satan, after Jesus had fasted and prayed in the wilderness for 40 days.
In Matthew 4:8-10 it is written:
Verse 9: And saith unto Him, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me”.
Verse 10: Then saith Jesus unto him, “Get thee hence Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.
Satan has long caught up wicked individuals into high places of pride and arrogance, and showed them the vision of worldly power. He has seduced many into all manner of sin and terror to obtain that power, by enslaving their brothers and sisters. But the Savior’s answer is so simple and so true – God’s commandment is that we should not look down with lust for worldly power. Rather, we should bow down on our knees in humility and look up to the heavens for knowledge and blessing.
I remember many evenings camping in the Uinta Mountains, where we gazed up in wonder at the darkening skies and the countless stars that came into our view. We could clearly see many constellations, and the Milky Way, looking like a faint cloud stretching across the night sky. As we humbly look up, we are reminded that our Father is the King of the Universe, and He positioned the Sun, Moon, and Stars to bear witness of His majesty and the glory of His plan of redemption for us.
As a loving Father, His greatest desire is to bless us with knowledge of His creations, His plan, His purposes and His light. This happens in accordance with our faith, desires, and diligent obedience to the light we have already received. The problem is, we rarely look up. While the adversary may not be luring us into a desire for world domination and power, he does keep us extremely focused on the things of this world below. Many of them are important God-given responsibilities, like supporting our families, pursuing our education, caring for our children, serving in the church, keeping our homes clean and our bodies in good shape, etc. It is in our discretionary time where he (Lucifer) likes to extend his influence and the pull of the world. He will always try and lure us into the soul tarnishing and inappropriate if he can. Even if he is not successful in this frontal assault though, there is another way he can claim a victory.
Many activities are deserving of some wisely measured portion of our time and attention – hobbies, recreation, favorite TV shows, other media, “staying connected” via all of our electronic portals, etc. In the aggregate, though, if time to quietly look up to the King of the Universe, and study and ponder questions related to our relationship with Him is largely crowded out, it is pleasing to the Enemy of our souls. I’d like us to look at a portion of the account of the Savior’s visit to the Nephites after His resurrection. Starting in 3rd Nephi 15:11, after He had prepared his disciples by sharing in essence a repeat of the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior started speaking on the subject of “Other Sheep”. He started by explaining that He told his disciples in Jerusalem about “other sheep that are not of this fold”. (John 10:16) He laments that they did not understand and did not ask him for greater understanding on this point because of stiffneckedness and unbelief. He makes it clear later in 3rd Nephi 16:4, that among those stiffnecked people were those, “who have seen me and been with me in my ministry”.
Apparently, even the Apostles failed to take interest in this and ask for more light. The Savior tells the Nephites that they are among the other sheep he spoke of in Jerusalem, and goes on to say there are still “Other sheep”, besides those at Jerusalem and in the Americas – potentially a group or groups of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Even after he has explained to the Nephites (including some very faithful disciples) His and His Father’s disappointment that the people in Jersusalem failed to ask for greater understanding – the record does not include one question being asked of the Savior in response to this teaching. I think the Savior was probably disappointed at that. He probably would have loved it if someone asked: “Where are they Lord?”.
Another: “Did they reject their prophets and experience the day of destruction we did?” And another and another. Now, I can imagine that standing in the presence of the Savior and hearing him teach, I would probably be prone to listen and stare at Him in wonder. It might not occur to me to open my mouth with a question. But this encounter teaches me of how much He wants us to look up in wonder at all that the Father has in store for us, and ask what it’s all about and how IT works, and how WE should work, and …. You get the picture. We all may get a bit exasperated when our 3-year olds ask so many questions, but perhaps this voracious appetite for learning is a fundamental dimension of the Savior’s pronouncement in Matthew 18:4:
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven”.
The disciples both in Jerusalem and the Americas were people of faith. They were obedient and offered loving sacrifices in service, and experienced the Gifts of the Spirit. But this principle of looking up continually and humbly seeking light and knowledge seems to be a crowning attribute of the Man and Woman of faith.
We ought to spend time thinking about questions we’d like to ask, and gospel principles we want to research. We can seek His help to prioritize those questions and topics most appropriately to our current stage of spiritual development and our upcoming needs. We should seek greater strength and joy in keeping the commandments and following His counsel from all sources, especially the promptings of the Spirit. If we can only budget 30- 45 minutes to the Lord, rather than simply reading through the scriptures chapter by chapter, how much better that time would be spent in searching, pondering and praying about questions He has guided us to. And as answers come and we establish that continuing dialog with the Lord, He will lead us along an ever-ascending path.
D&C 50:24 “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”
I hope and pray we can all take time to LOOK UP with wonder and humility, and a strong desire to receive what the Father has in store for us.