Many times I have received letters from missionaries who were discouraged because a Church leader had promised that if they would pray and set a monthly goal for baptisms and then sacrifice and work hard and follow the Spirit, they would be able to call down the powers of Heaven to help them achieve their goals. Those writing me said that they worked long hours, fasted and prayed and did everything they could and at the end of the month they fell short of their goals. Some had no baptisms that month. They questioned their faith and their righteousness. “Please help me to know what’s wrong with me?” one pled. I wrote that there was probably nothing wrong with them, except that they believed that their righteousness could manipulate events.
Some LDS struggling with guilt about SGA have been told that if they were spiritual and worthy enough that God would make them “normal”. They tried to live fully righteous and in tune, received blessings, etc. and their attractions didn’t change. They then began to question if God loved them. They began to wonder if they could be loved by a Perfect Diety. I know that feeling well.
Believing that I can call down the powers of Heaven by my righteousness is to believe in magic. Magic is the supposed knowledge of the right formulas and procedures to tap supernatural powers to bring to pass what we want. I believe in miracles, but I don’t believe in magic. Righteousness and faith do not call down God’s power to your will. They give us power to do His will on His timetable. Jesus said, “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” (Moroni 7:33)
I have seen miracles. I have been an instrument in God’s hands to heal people. He has spoken through me, addressing things that only He and the individual knew about. I didn’t do these things. I was privileged to be part of the miracle. Yet there have been other times when I wanted a miracle. I pled for the miracle. I tried to be worthy to be an instrument in the miracle. But it didn’t happen. I asked, “Why, Why! Certainly God would want this to happen! I don’t understand.” When I am finally open to that Still Small Voice, it whispers, “You don’t need to understand. Don’t let what you don’t know get in the way of what you do know. You know that God loves you. He knows what He is doing. Be at peace.”
“Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things.” (Alma 32:21) God works within eternal laws which He will not violate or He would “cease to be God” (Alma 42:12). I am certain that faithful Lehi prayed that Laman and Lemuel would change. They didn’t. Was there something wrong with his faith? No. Can our faith and prayers affect the lives of others. Yes, but they do not take away free agency or violate eternal principles. Jesus pled that His cup of agony be removed and then submitted to His Father’s will.
Paul said, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2Cor. 12:7-10) Did he struggle with SGA? I don’t know. But he learned to live with his handicap. I am learning to live with mine.
We don’t control God’s power, but when it is His will, it can flow through us. We do have power to listen for His guidance and submit to His will whether guidance comes or not. Many times we receive no witness until after the trial of our faith. (Ether 12:6) There is so much that I don’t understand, but occasionally His peace does flow into me bringing the “joy that surpasseth all understanding.” Then I know that no matter how hard it seems, it is worth it.