Saturday, October 23, 2004

Looking Beyond the Mark

My thoughts have gone to wondering why there is so much dissention in the ranks of the LDS section of the blogosphere, and I am reminded of the talks I have heard repeatedly of how we sometimes "look beyond the mark" (the mark being Jesus Christ). In searching through the words of the Church leaders I have found and share with you now some of the words of Elder Quentin L. Cook, from March 2003 Ensign in a talk entitled "Looking Beyond the Mark":

We live in a world where the latest story, the buzz, the hype, the "new thing" is much sought after and then publicized throughout the world. Movies, television, and other media often celebrate heroic gestures, dysfunctionality, conflict, and sexuality rather than the quiet, everyday acts of sacrifice, service, and love that are so much a part of the Savior’s message and example. The wild rush to find the new often tramples on what is true. Today there is a tendency among some of us to "look beyond the mark" rather than to maintain a testimony of gospel basics. We do this when we substitute the philosophies of men for gospel truths....

Some people seem to be embarrassed by the simplicity of the Savior’s message. They want to add complexity and even obscurity to the truth to make it more intellectually challenging or more compatible with current academic trends.... Some in their spiritual immaturity attempt to appear sophisticated and intellectual. Instead of accepting revelation, they want to dissect it and add dimensions and variations of meaning that distort its beautiful truths. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has pointed out, "The Jewish people … rejected the gospel, in part because it lacked adequate intellectual embroidery." We look beyond the mark when we refuse to accept simple gospel truths for what they are.

Some who are not authorized want to speak for the Brethren and imply that their message contains the "meat" the Brethren would teach if they were not constrained to teach only the "milk." Others want to counsel the Brethren and are critical of all teachings that do not comply with their version of what should be taught. The Lord said regarding important doctrine, "Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me" (D&C 10:68) and "That which is more or less than this cometh of evil" (D&C 124:120). We are looking beyond the mark when we elevate any one principle, no matter how worthwhile it may be, to a prominence that lessens our commitment to other equally important principles or when we take a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Brethren.

In many areas we are guided only by doctrines and principles rather than rules. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, "I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves." We are responsible to the Lord for how we respond in such situations. Those who are committed to following rules without reference to doctrine and principle are particularly susceptible to looking beyond the mark. Equally dangerous are those who get mired in rules and are thus less willing to accept change resulting from continuous revelation.

The "Mark" Is Christ
When we look beyond the mark, we are looking beyond Christ, the only name under heaven whereby we might be saved. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, "Jacob saw that the Jews would look 'beyond the mark' and stumble in their search for the Holy One of Israel, this literal Son of God to be known as Jesus Christ: 'By the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation.'"

One of the great challenges of this life is to accept Christ for who He is: the resurrected Savior of the world, our Redeemer, our Lord and Master, our Advocate with the Father. When He is the foundation for all that we do and are, we avoid the theological blindness that results from looking beyond the mark, and we reap the glorious blessings He has promised us. "Come unto me, ye blessed," He tells those who follow Him; "there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father" (Enos 1:27).
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