What Should I Do When Prophetic Teachings Are Difficult to Understand or Accept?

Prophetic teachings are generally not intended to be soothing. A primary role of prophets is to call us to repentance, which means making course corrections or incremental improvements. Therefore, when we have the opportunity to hear messages from prophets, we should plan to be challenged.

Samuel the Lamanite denounced the people of Zarahemla for supporting only teachers who said what they wanted to hear:

If a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.
Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him (Helaman 13:27-28).

In contrast (and Samuel knew this by direct experience), they were quick to reject teachers who admonished them to change their ways:

If a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil (Helaman 13:26).

Abinadi faced an unreceptive audience (Mosiah 11:27-29). So did Alma in Ammonihah (Alma 8:8-9). Jacob prefaced a sermon with a warning that his message would be difficult to hear (Jacob 2:2-10). King Benjamin began his speech (to a receptive audience) with a plea for his people to open their ears, hearts, and minds (Mosiah 2:9).

Today, as I participate in general conference, I will expect to be challenged. I will pay attention to the ways I’m being pulled out of my comfort zone. I will specifically write down teachings which are hard for me to understand and will make a plan to study those teachings in more detail, with an open mind and heart, so that I can more fully understand what the Lord expects of me.

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