Monday, March 28, 2011

Variant Readings

As I neared the end of the Book of Mormon, I took things slower than normal this time. I usually zoom through Moroni's scrapbook, rushing through the officially recorded ordinances, the letters and his challenge, most often finishing the whole book in an hour or less, reading time.

This time, I paused between chapters. Sometimes for a day or more before going on. I savored the change in tone between the frenetic Moroni who had just started his final project after the trauma of the death of his father and destruction of his nation, and the wise, determined, quiet Moroni who was filling the remaining space on the plates with the things he thought of greatest import.

He started tentatively, with short pieces after his introduction: adding a new quote of the Savior's words, recorded when he set his disciples apart. Ordinances, faithfully transmitted so there would be no further dispute.

When he saw that he still had space left over, he began including longer pieces: the transcript of a sermon his father preached; carefully preserved letters Moroni must have cherished, keeping them with him for decades while he traveled, eluding his enemies.

Finally he concludes with his heartfelt admonition to the future readers of his record. No question that the plates would be found, translated and published to the world. He knew there would be detractors. He felt his humanity and had earlier expressed his insecurity "because of the placing of our words". Now he wraps up with his final firm message: promises and testimony about the things that matter most.

Previously, when I read the list of spiritual gifts Moroni includes, I concentrated on the idea that one person might have this gift, another might have another. Each person having a gift "to profit them". That section concludes with this idea: "they come unto every man severally, according as he will." I'd felt that this reinforces the thought that everyone can have a gift. However, the past several readings of Mormon and Moroni's work have begun to suggest another way of looking at things.

"According as he will", I had previously understood, referred to the Lord. But lately I'm thinking differently (just ask anyone in my family!). I believe that anyone can ask for gifts to be bestowed upon himself, "as he will", or as he desires. I believe that the Lord would have us ask to have gifts of the Spirit, as many as we can use to serve our brothers and sisters. I had thought that we all can only have a gift or two, but that was my finite understanding putting a box around the Lord. Despite my earlier, limiting thinking, he wants us to become like him. And he is the personification of someone who successfully utilizes all the gifts of the spirit.

As my mind has edged ever closer to the realization that I can ask for more gifts and as I have gained daily confidence that the Lord does hear and answer my sometimes silly petitions, I struggled with the idea that it might be selfish to set out to gain all spiritual gifts. The spirit prompts me, though, warmly encouraging, to make the request.

So, my prayers and fasting have changed recently even as my understanding has changed. I want to see as the Lord sees. I want to do the works of the Lord. I am confident that he already knows what I need and what I will ask for. I am sure that he has a course of instruction and "labs" for me to practice and for my edification. He has instructed us all to knock, seek and ask, promising his response. I will put myself in a position to listen for, understand and follow his will.

So that, eventually, "according as he will" will become "according as I will".