Friday, February 9, 2018

President Ezra Taft Benson on learning according to our spiritual maturity

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1943, and served as the 13th President of the Church from 1985 until his death in 1994 at age 94.
"God has to work through mortals of varying degrees of spiritual progress. Sometimes he temporarily grants to men their unwise requests in order that they might learn from their own sad experiences. Some refer to this as the 'Samuel principle.' The children of Israel wanted a king like all the other nations. The prophet Samuel was displeased and prayed to the Lord about it. The Lord responded by saying, Samuel, 'they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.' The Lord told Samuel to warn the people of the consequences if they had a king. Samuel gave them the warning. But they still insisted on their king. So God gave them a king and let them suffer. They learned the hard way. God wanted it to be otherwise, but within certain bounds he grants unto men according to their desires. Bad experiences are an expensive school that only fools keep going to. (See 1 Sam. 8.)
"Sometimes in our attempts to mimic the world, and contrary to the prophet’s counsel, we run after the world’s false educational, political, musical, and dress ideas. New worldly standards take over, a gradual breakdown occurs, and finally, after much suffering, a humble people are ready to be taught once again a higher law."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations," BYU devotional Dec 10, 1974; see also Ensign Dec. 1988 p. 2
Click here to read or listen to the whole talk on the BYU website
Click here to read the whole talk on the Ensign website

President Benson talks about what he calls "The Samuel Principle"—God sometimes allows us to have bad experiences, or to see the results of our bad choices "within certain bounds" when we ask Him for help, in order that we learn a lesson in life.

The statement "God has to work through mortals of varying degrees of spiritual progress" is intriguing. As we struggle in the beginning stages of our growth, our maturity or responsiveness may limit how He can work with us. When we progress further, He is able to work differently. But in those beginning stages, as President Benson notes, we are often tempted to "mimic the world" and make choices that conflict with prophetic counsel in areas such as "false educational, political, musical, and dress ideas." Those bad decisions have their consequences. We only hope that we learn the lessons and repent quickly to minimize the suffering that may result! It requires a "humble people" to be ready to receive the "higher law."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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