In high school I liked a girl who’s dad would tutor me in chemistry. It was a great excuse to go to her house. I was learning chemistry, but she wasn’t feeling it. So that wasn’t successful – but I learned from her dad a nugget of truth that has been very helpful over the years when applied to spiritual principles.
The nugget was finding the “one thing”. My tutor taught me that when you are stuck on a problem you have to back out of it and discover the more basic thing underlying the problem that you are missing. Problems rarely are created at the level you are working, you have to go back into your assumptions, or more basic work, to figure out where you went wrong. He constantly told me, “you have to find the ‘one thing'”.
Of course this works really well in the gospel – a lesson my tutor may not have intended (and I probably should have applied this to dating in my earlier life). If you are stuck on a gospel question, revisit your premises. And if you can’t find the problem there – revisit your premises’ premises. Deconstructing in this way can be very hard, but it really does produce results. If we get something wrong, or skewed, or incomplete in our foundational understanding, at some point we get stuck. We have to always revisit our premises. You have to find the “one thing” that is distorting everything else.
Writing these recent essays on priesthood has required me personally to reassess the entire foundation of my understanding of the gospel. And I found many “one thing”s. For example, priesthood is not a power, it is an order. And to enter into an order you have to follow a pattern (ordination is only one little part of that pattern). Is there power in the priesthood? Yes, of course. But you have to understand how and why. If we get the priesthood is an order part wrong, then we will get the whole thing wrong. It will be confusing and our knowledge of the priesthood will be distorted.
The next “one thing” had to do with keys. If we think we have power or authority because we have been given a key we are mistaken. Receiving a key means we receive a charge. It’s a charge authorized by heaven, but nonetheless, it is only a charge. Until we turn the key fully, which means we fulfill all of the patterns associated with that key, we do not have the inherent authority or power of that key. A key is only useful insofar as we discover and fulfill its pattern. Exercising a key without fulfilling its pattern is usurping unrighteous dominion.
After keys, the next “one thing” was in regards to ordinances. They are not physical rituals. They are events where something on earth takes its heavenly form. They are transition points. They are ascensions into higher forms. Ordinances are manifestations of holiness. If the power of godliness was not manifest, an ordinance was not completed. Physical rituals with out the manifestation of godliness become keys, or patterns, for us to fulfill to get the actual ordinance.
And finally, the assumption that the oath and covenant of the priesthood is contained in D&C 84. This “one thing” assumption had driven general gospel confusion in my life since I was about 12 years old. From 12 yrs old to 40, it felt like one fumbling explanation after another. Until the realization came that D&C 84 was teaching ABOUT the oath and covenant, and was not THE oath and covenant, itself, I spent many, many hours trying to sort out those cryptic D&C 84 verses that we are all familiar with. In reality, they are very powerful and provide revelatory insight, but “the oath and covenant of the priesthood”, they are not. The oath and covenant of the priesthood is the oaths and covenants of the temple priesthood endowment. This was a lightning strike. It is so basic. It is so fundamental. But for 30 years of my life I had been wrestling with a false premise. Once it was identified and corrected, a whole new world of gospel knowledge suddenly opened up. The doors that blocked greater light and knowledge were blown off their hinges.
And so, perhaps it is not so much that the Lord withholds knowledge and understanding because he wants us to suffer and struggle unnecessarily. Perhaps our struggling is due to distortions or faulty assumptions that are imbedded in the foundations of our understanding. He can’t reveal things to us if it reinforces false ideas – or at least at some point, he requires us to find those “one things” and fix them. So, maybe we shouldn’t always think of progression as looking forward, progress is just as much fixing the past as it is pushing into the future. When small, but foundational, things are corrected, we may find our selves standing much farther down the road than we thought. We may have advanced to places we did not know we had, and all it took was some recalibration to bring ourselves to much more exhilarating heights.
If we fail to learn pure truth we will have cracks in our foundation. They may not be noticed at first, but as we build higher and higher at some point all cracks create inherit weakness. If we build on a cracked foundation, at some point gaining further light and truth may not be the only casualty. Many times I have seen people discard the entire gospel because they weren’t aware of how the cracks and untruths in their foundation were distorting their present views. The longer an untruth or a distortion is accepted, the harder it is to discover the “one thing” and root it out.
When we are guided by the Lord to find the “one thing”, we may be shocked at the great leaps forward we experience by the hand of the Lord in a short period of time. If we are earnest and diligent in our pursuit of truth, he will mercifully lead us along, both correcting us and always preparing us for greater things.