My Little Narrow Prison

Joseph once called writing a “little, narrow prison” of words; “total darkness of paper, pen and ink—and a crooked, broken, scattered and imperfect language.” That sentiment speaks to me more with each passing day. As I’ve come to understand greater mysteries, seeing the deep coherence and beauty of the gospel, I find it near impossible to reduce these things to words.

It’s not that I feel I know a lot – just that what I do know is beginning to transcend my ability to explain it. Language, sentences, and words are linear; these truths exist in grand patterns and arrays. Putting these things in words is a lot like trying to describe a painting to someone who hasn’t seen it, or tasking a stranger with picking out my friend from a crowd, just based on my description. I recognize and comprehend it when I see it, but struggle to capture its fulness in words.

Like Moroni, I sense my weakness in writing (Ether 12:25).

Like Joseph, Moses, and Enoch, I am slow of speech, “but a lad, and all the people hate me” (Moses 6:31).

I feel increasingly inadequate, relying on the Spirit to distill upon the hearts of the penitent the truths I cannot put in words – ever cautious that I don’t, “by any means, get shaken from my firmness in the Spirit, and stumble because of my over anxiety for you” (Jacob 4:18).

I also understand with increasing clarity why the Lord has said, “Say nothing but repentance unto this generation” (D&C 11:9). It’s impossible for others to receive greater truth from God if they ignore what He has already given them. We all have access to the same light and Spirit of truth, and any person who will give serious attention and heed to that influence will attune themselves to the melody of creation, and thus be empowered to see and understand all truth (Moroni 10:5).

“But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion; which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter; neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; to whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves; that through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory” (D&C 76:114-118; see also Moses 1:2-11).

This same gift and power is accessible to any person in any age of history. Whether it’s our day, or Joseph Smith’s day, or Peter’s, or Nephi’s; it is the same Spirit, available to everyone. This is why, not only did the early converts to the Church feel the same Spirit and power in the Book of Mormon that is felt today, but the same eternal truths that were understood by Joseph Smith were understood by Peter (and vice versa); they were animated by the same Spirit.

As Nephi said:

“And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.

“For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him. For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round” (1 Nephi 10:17-19).

My hope is in the fact that despite my weakness, these things can be understood by any person who will give heed to the Spirit, and diligently seek to know the mysteries of God.

I pray we all do, and that my words inspire faith to pursue that course.

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