The scriptures teach that our relationship with the Lord is one of cause and effect. Blessings from the Lord come as results of things that we have done.
Enos Had Love For His People
For an example of this, let us review the conversion of Enos, as described in the Book of Mormon. Enos, the son of Jacob and a grandson of Lehi, had been taught to believe in the Lord. Even though Enos knew a lot about Jesus Christ, he apparently was not converted to him. As Enos reflected on his father’s teachings, he desired to come unto Christ.
Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.
And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. (Enos 3-4)
The Lord heard his pleadings and spoke to him.
And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. (Enos 5)
Enos did not doubt that his sins had been forgiven, but he did not understand how it had happened.
And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.
And I said: Lord, how is it done? (Enos 6-7)
The Lord explained that it was because of his faith in Jesus Christ.
And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole. (Enos 8)
After receiving this visitation from the Lord, Enos discovered that a marvelous thing was happening to him.
Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them. (Enos 9, emphasis added)
Enos realized he had new feelings of compassion and love for his people, and he began to serve his people.
Notice the sequence of events: Enos was taught about the Savior, and he had faith in him. He desired to personally know Jesus Christ and to come unto him. He went to his Father in Heaven in prayer and humility, and after much pleading, he received an assurance that his prayers had been heard and that his sins were forgiven. Then, he had compassion and love for his people and a desire to serve them, and that desire came as a result of his conversion to Jesus Christ.
Alma Converted To Christ
As another example of cause and effect, let us review the conversion of Alma, one of the priests of King Noah. Alma heard the prophet Abinadi testify of Jesus Christ, and he was converted to the Savior.
Behold, I can tell you–did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?
And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true. (Alma 5:11-12, emphasis added)
Again, as with Enos, we have the same sequence of events. Alma was taught about Jesus Christ and had faith in him. Then, conversion came through the Spirit, and he was cleansed by the Savior’s atonement. That cleansing was an effect. The cause was Alma’s sincere acceptance of Jesus Christ as his savior. The same sequence of events occurred as Alma taught his people.
And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved. (Alma 5:13, emphasis added)
Alma preached Jesus Christ, and the people were converted and were cleansed by the atonement.
We Seem To Be Doing Things Backwards
As I observe myself and the lives of other Latter-day Saints, I am concerned, because many of us seem to be doing things backwards. We desire blessings of God so much that we focus our energy and time on them. We do not realize that blessings are effects and that if we desire them, we must focus on the causes that will bring those effects. Instead, we focus on the effects themselves, and we are disappointed when things do not turn out as we expected. The following stories illustrate my concern.
Temple Marriage Is An Effect, Not A Cause
During the summer of 1993, I attended Sacrament Meeting in a ward at which the speakers were Seminary students from a local high school. One of the students told of a girl she knew who was married in one of our temples, wearing a beautiful wedding dress…….that she had shoplifted. I, of course, do not know the girl who was married, and I can only guess as to why she committed theft to obtain her wedding dress. My guess is that she had been taught by her family and church teachers to be married in the temple, and that she had lost sight of the reasons why temple marriage is important.
Temple Sealings Are Effects, Not Causes
A friend described the following incident. A temple sealing ceremony was held, and a father and mother and their children were sealed together. At the completion of the ceremony, the husband turned to his wife, and with anger in his voice said, “There, I hope you’re satisfied!” He left the sealing room, never to return to Church meetings. Again, I do not know this family and can only speculate why that man went to the temple without really desiring temple blessings for himself and his family. I suspect that his wife nagged him until he changed his behavior and qualified for a temple recommend.
Almost Everything We Value In The Church Are Effects
As Latter-day Saints, we desire that our children be active in the Church, live moral lives, hold the Priesthood if they are boys, serve missions, marry in the Temple, and perform acts of service. All of these Gospel values are results or effects of something else. I am concerned that we are focusing our energies and time on these effects rather than on the cause that will produce these effects. This concerns me, because there is danger in focusing on effects.
Effects May Lead To The Wrong Causes
As the two stories given above illustrate, effects can lead to wrong causes. The young woman focused on temple marriage and committed theft to get there. Even though she probably did not realize it, her goal was apparently the place of the wedding more than the reasons for the marriage. The wife probably nagged her husband into attending the temple; he went–once. Even though she did not realize it, her goal seems to have been completion of a sealing ceremony rather than the building of an eternal family founded on faith in Jesus Christ. In both cases, the people apparently focused on the effects they desired, rather than on the cause that would lead to those effects.
Causes and effects are tied together. If we focus on causes, certain effects will happen, and if we have chosen wise causes, the effects will be beneficial to us. In contrast, if we focus on effects, causes will happen, but the causes may not be what we want, because effects can have more than one cause; when we focus on effects, we risk obtaining different causes than we expected. If my suppositions are correct, the young woman received a “cause” of being married in a particular building. The mother received a “cause” of having a husband who was nagged into the temple and who apparently was not committed to Jesus Christ.
Desire Gospel Values But Focus on The Correct Cause
Am I saying that we should not desire church activity, clean moral lives, the priesthood, missions, temple marriages, and lives of service? No, of course not. All of these Gospel values are important, and we should desire them. My point is that when we teach Gospel values, we must teach them as effects, and we must couple those values with the one thing that will bring them. What, then, is this “one thing”?
Jesus Christ Is The Cause Of All Gospel Values
Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6) He is the way! He is the way that will lead to our receiving the Gospel values we desire. He is the cause upon which we must focus if we are to receive those values. The young woman referred to above would not have stolen her wedding dress if she had really been converted to Jesus Christ and if she wanted to go to the temple because of her love of the Savior. If the husband had been sincerely grateful for the Savior’s atonement and for the forgiveness of sin that he could receive because of that atonement, he would have gone to the sealing room with love in his heart for Jesus Christ and for his family, rather than having gone with anger and contempt.
As we participate in church activities, as we teach our families and teach in the Church, and as we perform acts of service, let us do these things because of our love of Jesus Christ. Let us focus on him and make him the center of our lives. Let us not only try to live as he lived, but let us do so with our hearts full of gratitude for him. Let us not only accept Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, let us accept him as our personal Savior because he suffered and died for our individual sins. In doing this, we will receive the Gospel values and Church activity we desire.