Saturday, August 22, 2015

To Climb a Tree

Joseph Smith is attributed to have said:

"Don't climb to the extreme branches of the tree, for there is danger of falling: cling close to the trunk."1

The general sentiment, to me, is that our search for truth is like climbing a tree. We go out on a limb, so to speak, when we fixate on certain doctrines or questions, certain "mysteries", social issues, or historical questions, and these extreme branches, if stepped on too far, can extend to a point beyond the support of the trunk, where they cannot bear our weight.

There are a whole lot of branches to climb around on these days. There are questions and doubts and trials of faith that we need to face as disciples of Christ. This is a good thing, actually, because after all, we need those questions, those branches to step on, if we want to climb the tree. But it is only a good thing if we have learned to stay close to the trunk.

What is the trunk?

The trunk is the essential doctrine of Christ:  "And this is my doctrine:  that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe on me. And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved." (3 Nephi 11:32-33)

"Whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them." (3 Nephi 18:13)

There is safety and simplicity in that old trunk of the gospel tree:  faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. No matter what questions you have, or what issues you struggle with; no matter the floods or winds or rains that beat on you, you cannot fall if you are holding tight to that trunk of the gospel. It is strong because it is Christ's doctrine and no one else's. It is strong because it comes to us through the infinite love of Christ who suffered it all and then died for us.

Does that mean we just cling tight to the trunk and stop our ascent? No. The day we stop having questions is the day we become spiritually lazy. We stay close to that trunk, and then keep climbing!

"Clinging close to the trunk" does not mean stop asking questions, but it means keep your feet close to the principles of faith, repentance, and covenant keeping. Then, you can expect that with each faith-filled step, the Holy Ghost will teach you truth and extend your understanding, taking you ever upwards where the air is fresher, the heavens are nearer, and the perspective is so much better.

1 As recorded in Truman Madsen, Joseph Smith The Prophet, 104.