Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Power of Questions

"Members of the Church are entitled to personal revelation as they listen to and study the inspired words spoken at general conference." - President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

A few months ago I spent a few minutes walking across campus with Clayton Christensen. Clayton is not only the smartest person I know, he is simply one of the best people I know. He related to me a conversation about heaven which he recently had with a friend. He described his view of heaven as a giant warehouse, filled with rows and rows of boxes - something like the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. In those boxes are the answers to every question. A newcomer, realizing that here were the answers to every question of life, might ask, “If you have all the answers here, why don’t you send them down to earth? We really need answers down there!” To help the newcomer understand, an angel-guide says, “Well, it’s not that simple. See that man down there? I’ll pull an answer out of this box and send it down to him.” And with that the angel reaches into a box and, like a flash of lightening, sends an answer to one of life’s great questions down to an unsuspecting mortal. The answer strikes the man on his forehead but bounces off; the recipient is completely unaware that anything has happened. The angel then explains, “You see, until a person asks a question, there no place for the answer to go. It just bounces off.”

When we ask a question, Clay explained, it is like putting a little piece of velcro on our forehead, a place where the answer will stick when it arrives from heaven. That’s why asking good questions is so important - we don’t get the answers until we ask the questions.

"As you prepare for general conference, I invite you to ponder questions you need to have answered. For example, you might yearn for direction and guidance by the Lord regarding challenges you are facing." - President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Kathleen and I were thinking about the importance of asking questions last week as we prepared for our weekly class with the Priests and Laurels in our ward. It was the week before General Conference, and we wanted to encourage these 16 to 18-year olds to ask questions, then watch General Conference in search of answers.

In thinking about the lesson, we came across a simple little story contained in a weekly letter sent to me by a missionary when I was a mission president:
Ivie showed up at church last week with her young daughter and we had no idea who she was. She said some elders invited her to church. She doesn't speak a ton of Spanish but she loved the Spirit of the meetings and we were able to translate Sunday School for her. Her daughter loved primary.

We met with Ivie on Tuesday and she was thrilled to receive a copy of the Book of Mormon and accepted a baptismal date for the 29th of May. We met with her two more times later in the week and she came to church again yesterday, this time with both of her young children. She is extremely prepared.

Yesterday during Relief Society the lesson was on tithing and as I began to translate with some hesitancy because we hadn't talked about that at all yet, she got really excited and said, "That was one of my questions!" She showed me a piece of paper where she had been writing down questions during church or from her reading in the Book of Mormon and one of her questions was, "How do I donate tithes?" Wow! This woman is incredible. Her husband agreed to join us for the lessons for the coming week and we're excited to help the whole family progress together.
During the class on Sunday we read this "mini-case study" together, then discussed what actions Ivie had done to become an “active” learner - someone who wasn’t just a passive listener but actively engaged in learning. The responses from class members were impressive:
  • She went to Church;
  • She read from the Book of Mormon;
  • She made a list of questions as she read;
  • She committed to learn more and prepare herself for baptism;
  • She met frequently with the missionaries;
  • She shared what she was learning with her daughter by bringing her to church.
The remainder of the class was spent discussing what we could each do to prepare for General Conference, with a particular emphasis on writing down questions and bringing them with us to Conference, just as Ivie had written down her questions and brought them to church.

So I am thinking about some questions, and hope to have a few pieces of velcro on my forehead before the week is over. I know if I do, some answers will come and will stick!

"Answers to your specific prayers may come directly from a particular talk or from a specific phrase. At other times answers may come in a seemingly unrelated word, phrase, or song. A heart filled with gratitudefor the blessings of life and an earnest desire to hear and follow the words of counsel will prepare the way for personal revelation." - President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

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