First, A Note About False Traditions
In my personal journey to know the Lord, I have been faced with the very uncomfortable situation of learning truth. Truth is anything that is revealed directly from the Lord–either personally or through the Spirit of Truth. This sort of truth can be so humbling that it breaks down your personal foundation but also has power great enough to rebuild it stronger than ever before. This is especially true in the case of our personal foundation is rooted in false traditions.
False traditions are simply the ideas or philosophies of men or women. Yes, sometimes they are mingled with scripture. But mingling something with scripture is to borrow some principles (righteous or unrighteous–both exist) and leverage them for personal gain. Personal gain may be something as simple as a personal “feel-good” but also something as heinous as power, control or dominion over another person (see also Lectures on Truth, Lecture One, 18-18.1).
The purpose of dispelling false traditions is to remove obstacles and barriers that truly bring us to become converted to the Savior, Jesus Christ, only. This is never easy. No one, especially the “natural man/woman” enjoys being wrong and that is true for me personally.
The problem with false traditions, assuming they are in fact false, is that we share them–we pass them onto other generations who, in turn, also share them and pass them on. The natural man/woman finds comfort in these traditions–that’s why we hold onto them and impart them to others as chunks of wisdom in hopes they too will hold onto them for their personal benefit. We find so much comfort in these false traditions. So much so that we depend on them even to the point that our personal salvation is linked-to or dependent upon them.
We should challenge orthodoxy while remaining in harmony with doctrine and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When Christ came he broke the traditions of the Jews and especially the Pharisees because they loved their traditions more than Christ, Himself. They found comfort in their traditions and they even believed their traditions would save them. Their false traditions were roadblocks or idols in place of Christ, Himself.
Confronting unbelief and false tradition is never easy. If you truly love God, value truth, and want to develop faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, you’ll need to confront your unbelief and seek truth above tradition. Faith can only be founded upon truth. If it is founded upon anything else, it is not faith. If confronting unbelief and false tradition is uncomfortable yet the only way to know the Lord, I will gladly offer that sacrifice.
The False Tradition
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to develop your gift of discernment–particularly your confidence in the voice of light. If you have not done so yet, I personally invite you to immediately begin your study of The 3 Voices of Personal Revelation Study Guide. The purpose of this guide is help you develop this gift, increase your confidence and dispel false traditions associated with personal revelation.
Today’s post is a recent addition to this study guide. It addresses the false tradition that “confusion is evil or of the devil.”
We have heard that any time you experience “confusion” that this is a sign, if not “the” sign, that one has been deceived–that confusion is evil or of the devil. We have also heard the phrase “stupor of thought” cited from D&C 9:9 as synonymous with “confusion.” The Lord has taught me how important it is to correctly understand the role of “confusion” in using the Gift of Revelation and the Gift of Discernment.
What is confusion
First, let’s correctly define “confusion.” One arm-of-flesh dictionary (Merriam-Webster) defines “confusion” as:
- “lack of understanding; uncertainty.”
- “the state of being bewildered or unclear in one’s mind about something.”
So, for the sake of this discussion, we will say that the definition of “confusion” is:
“a state of uncertainty caused by opposing or varying ideas.”
So, in the New Testament, when it says, “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33) we can absolutely agree. God, for example, would not offer you both a “yes” and “no” answer to the exact same question (see also D&C 132:8).
- (Alma 7:20) “I perceive that it has been made known unto you, by the testimony of his word, that he cannot walk in crooked paths; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left, or from that which is right to that which is wrong; therefore, his course is one eternal round.”
- (Mormon 9:10) “And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles.”
Before going any further, let’s remind ourselves what the voice of your own spirit speaks or does identified in The 3 Voices of Personal Revelation Study Guide.
- It is always asking questions (childlike). It wants direction, knowledge, answers, understanding, explaining.
- Expressions of your own voice will start with question keywords: “Who…What…When…Where…Why…How?”.
- Expressions of your own voice usually starts with “I”—“I think… I wonder… I hope… I wish… I want… I need…I would like to…” Even shortened thoughts you have that, in a typical complete sentence, would normally start with one of these “I” phrases is likely your own voice.
- It is always analyzing what you hear or sense; trying to make sense of it all.
- It is constantly choosing, using the only thing you truly own–your free will. Even choosing not to choose is a choice.
So your own spirit is constantly experiencing the voices of light and the voices of darkness. Therefore, a person experiences “confusion” simply because their own spirit is being offered both an absolute truth from a voice of light and an opposing or deceiving idea from a voice of darkness. This brings us back to our definition–confusion is “a state of uncertainty caused by opposing or varying ideas.”
What is the role of the adversary in confusion?
So what’s the connection between confusion and the adversary? From our definition, let’s take a deeper look at the words “opposing” and “varying” by understanding the role that the adversary plays in confusion.
- The adversary plays the role of a necessary “Opposer”
- The method of an “Opposer” is to simply present an obvious or clear opposite idea. Simply, when a voice of light offers a simple “yes” answer, darkness will offer a simple “no” answer.
- (D&C 29:39) “It must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves.”
- (2 Nephi 2:11) “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.”
- The adversary also plays the role of a necessary “Deceiver”:
- The methods of a “Deceiver” are “cunning”–to take something that is good and twist it, make it crooked (not straight, not absolute), or even vary it to any degree to make it more appealing. Being a deceiver requires devices [wisdom of the world (Alma 2:1), mysterious arts (Helaman 16:21), fraud (Alma 47:35), flattering words (Alma 46:10), lying (Alma 20:13; Mosiah 10:18), snares and wiles (Helaman 3:29), philosophies of men, intellectualism and knowledge of sciences (Daniel 1:4), arts of war (Ether 13:16), eloquent orator (2 Nephi 13:3), craftiness (Mosiah 7:21), wordly skills, education, and more].
- (2 Nephi 9:28,39) “O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.”
- (Alma 10:13,15) “Nevertheless, there were some among them who thought to question them, that by their cunning devices they might catch them in their words, that they might find witness against them…Now these lawyers were learned in all the arts and cunning of the people; and this was to enable them that they might be skilful in their profession.”
- (D&C 3:2) “For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.”
- (Mosiah 2:22) “And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.”
We can see that the relationship between confusion and the adversary is simply that the adversary provides an alternate option to the voice of light. Maybe that’s why we call darkness, “the adversary”?
Confusion is Naturally Part of the Learning Process
By now you should understand that confusion is a natural experience for all mortals and definitely not evil. You could even make the case that confusion is good. It would be considered good because it is an essential part of learning and gaining experience. It is the process of your own mind trying to decipher the voices of light from the voices of darkness.
One of the most clear examples of this is found in LDS church history–Joseph Smith History:
8 During this time of great excitement my mind [the voice of his own spirit] was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness [uncertainty, confusion]; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind [the voice of his own spirit] became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them [his own analysis or conclusions from his own voice]; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations [uncertainty, confusion], that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong [more of his own analysis or conclusions from his own voice up to that point].
9 My mind [the voice of his own spirit] at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult [uncertainty, confusion] were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others [more of his own analysis or conclusions from his own voice up to that point].
10 In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions [uncertainty, confusion], I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it? [all the voice of his own spirit]
11 While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties [uncertainty, confusion] caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: 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 [he would realize later that this scripture was one of many messages being offered by a voice of light].
12 Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart [light filling his bosom signifying a message from the voice of light is speaking to his mind]. I reflected on it again and again [the voice of his own spirit analyzing], knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible [more of his own analysis or conclusions from his own voice up to that point].
13 At length I came to the conclusion [his own analysis or conclusions from his own voice] that I must either remain in darkness and confusion [he would remain in darkness or confusion if he chooses not to to act or seek for an absolute truth or resolution], or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God” [his own judgment that the actual message from God was to “ask of God”], concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture [more of his own analysis or conclusions from his own voice up to that point].
14 So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God [his own judgment that the actual message from God was to “ask of God”], I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties [uncertainty, confusion] I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.
It’s clear that confusion was a profound part of the revelatory and discernment process for Joseph Smith. Again, confusion is simply the natural experience of one’s own spirit caught between the ideas of light and darkness.
Stupor of Thought is Not Confusion
I also think it is appropriate to address this reference to a “stupor of thought.” To do this, let’s first define “stupor” or “stupor of thought” (Merriam-Webster):
- a condition of greatly dulled or completely suspended sense or sensibility a drunken stupor; specifically : a chiefly mental condition marked by absence of spontaneous movement, greatly diminished responsiveness to stimulation, and usually impaired consciousness.
- a state of extreme apathy or torpor resulting often from stress or shock.
This is clearly not synonymous with “confusion.” “Stupor” could be applicable in all sorts of situations but definitely not the same thing as “confusion.”
Now let’s take a look at the only reference of “stupor of thought” used in the scriptures:
(D&C 9:9) “But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.”
What is notable about this, is that the Lord is speaking of a specific reference to the gift of translation directed at Oliver Cowdery. Also, the footnote for “stupor” directs us to D&C 10:2:
“And you also lost your gift at the same time, and your mind became darkened.”
Again, this is specific to the gift being taken from Joseph Smith for several reasons including disobedience for losing the 116 pages.
“Stupor of thought” is specific wording in a specific situation and cannot be used in broad strokes and it definitely not the same as “confusion.”
I also feel like it is important to also distinguish confusion from “second guessing.” “Second Guessing” is, in fact, a tool of the adversary (see also “What the voices of darkness speak or do” in the 3 Voices Study Guide). When an idea or thought from the voice of light comes into our minds the adversary will attempt to displace or uproot that truth with insecurity. We won’t dig into this here. However, a great place to begin your personal study of this tool (second guessing) of the adversary is Mark 4:14-20.
Confusion is Not of the Devil
It is not correct to say that “confusion” is of the devil or even a device of the adversary. Confusion is a temporary state of being. It is the natural experience of one’s own spirit being caught between the ideas of light and darkness. We can also see that it is the precursor to making a choice. Any person that is faced with confusion is faced with a decision of, “Ok, what will I do with this now?”
For Joseph Smith he says he “was called up to serious reflection” on the matter. He clearly spent weeks visiting the different religious events of his day and studied it out in his mind until he came to both a conclusion and a decision to act on that very conclusion.
It is correct however to say that confusion is good–good for our mortal experience, good for our souls, good because it is a necessary component to learning from the Lord. It is the natural desire of our own spirit to seek for direction and more knowledge than what it has already. In the process of seeking, our own spirit will be entertained with absolute truth from the voices of light and at least one alternate message from the voices of darkness. This is confusion and hopefully the natural experience of confusion will drive us each to ponder, seek for truth and ultimately a confirmation from the Lord.
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