During 2019, I’m going to organize my study around questions. Each day, I’m going to ask a question and see what I can learn from the Book of Mormon about that question. I have received a number of questions from readers, and I would love to have you submit more questions (anonymously) on my Questions submission form. I’m also going to ponder some of the 544 questions found in the Book of Mormon.
This week, I’m starting the process by asking a few questions about questions. I start the year with the most fundamental question of all:
Why is it important to ask questions?
After Lehi shared with his sons a spiritual dream he had experienced, none of them fully understood what he had taught them. One of them—Nephi—took his questions to the Lord. He knew that God would answer his prayer. “He that diligently seeketh shall find,” he tells us, “and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (1 Nephi 10:19). In contrast, his brothers argued and complained that they couldn’t understand their father’s words. Nephi understood the confusion, “for he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord” (1 Nephi 15:3). But he didn’t understand why they were unwilling to ask their questions. “Have ye inquired of the Lord?” he asked, and they replied, “We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us’ (1 Nephi 15:8-9). They had hardened their hearts and closed their minds. Because they didn’t believe that they would receive an answer, they were unwilling to ask the question. Therefore, they didn’t receive an answer. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Nephi later warns us not to stop wanting to learn more. Commenting on Isaiah’s declaration that we learn “line upon line” and “precept upon precept” (Isaiah 28:9-13), Nephi said:
Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have (2 Nephi 28:29-30).
The prophet Alma taught the people of Ammonihah that choosing not to harden our hearts is a key to acquiring spiritual knowledge:
He that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full (Alma 12:10).
As a fourteen-year-old boy, Joseph Smith saw the Father and the Son in a vision because he asked a sincere question: “Which church should I join?” (Joseph Smith—History 1:15-20). He was inspired to do so, in part, by the following passage from the Epistle of James in the Bible:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5).
President Russell M. Nelson has counseled us to follow the same pattern with our questions:
What will your seeking open for you? What wisdom do you lack? What do you feel an urgent need to know or understand? Follow the example of the Prophet Joseph. Find a quiet place where you can regularly go. Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort.
Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will “grow into the principle of revelation” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” General Conference, April 2018).
So at least one answer to the question, “Why ask questions?” is because we have so much to learn. When we ask, we demonstrate our faith that God will answer us, and we open our mind and our heart to receive the further wisdom and understanding which can only come to us one step at a time.
Today, I will follow the counsel of Nephi, Alma, and President Nelson: I will ask God for the wisdom I need. I will avoid hardening my heart, by acknowledging that I still have much to learn and believing that God will help me acquire the knowledge I lack.