“Two Degrees off Center” is a monthly blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience. Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.
By Rich Keys
There’s an old statement that says, “Religion is for people who don’t want to go to hell, and spirituality is for people who have already been there.” So many of us in Affirmation are on a spiritual path because we’ve had some very, very hard times and religion hasn’t provided all the help we need. Yet, we know there’s a loving God who knows our heart, knows where we are and where we want to go, and has a perfect love and wisdom to help us on our journey.
At a BYU devotional from 2006, author Joseph Fielding McConkie told the story of when he was an LDS chaplain in the Vietnam War. Word came down that Presiding Bishop of the church Victor L. Brown would be visiting South Vietnam and desired to meet every possible LDS serviceman and woman from one end of the country to the other. Brother McConkie and another LDS chaplain were asked to accompany Elder Brown on his trip. They saw this as the opportunity of a lifetime—to meet a general authority and ask him about all the problems the LDS soldiers were having—and there were a lot of them in that war. They made a list of questions and then memorized the list. While they were traveling from meeting to meeting, they asked Elder Brown the first question, and he gave them some feedback. Then they asked another question, and it quickly became clear what they were doing.
Elder Brown said, “Brethren, I’m going to tell you a true story. You won’t like it, but it’s a great story.”
Then he told them about a member who had a difficult problem and went to his bishop for help. The bishop asked a few questions to make sure he understood the situation, and then he said, “You know, I’m not sure how to advise you on this, but I’m going to be meeting with the stake president tomorrow evening, and I’ll ask him and I’ll get back to you.
He met the next evening with the stake president, and after going through their planned agenda, he discussed the member’s problem. The stake president asked a few questions to make sure he understood the situation, and then he said, “Bishop, I’m not sure how to advise you on this, but I’m going to be meeting with one of the apostles tomorrow morning, and I’ll ask him, and I’ll get back to you.”
The next morning, he met with the apostle, and after going through their planned agenda, he discussed the member’s problem. The apostle asked a few questions to make sure he understood the situation, and then he said, “President, I’m not sure how to advise you on this, but I’m going to be meeting with the prophet this afternoon, and I’ll ask him, and I’ll get back to you.”
That afternoon, he met with President David O. McKay, and after going through their planned agenda, he mentioned the brother’s problem. The prophet asked a few questions to make sure he understood the situation, and then he said, “Well, that’s his problem, isn’t it?”
Elder Brown was right—Brother McConkie didn’t like that story—but it was a great story!—because they left that meeting realizing that they had the same access—the same opportunity—the same connection as the prophet had—to go directly to the Lord for the answers to those questions.
Later in his life, Brother McConkie went to his father, Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, with some gospel questions, and his father told him, “Look, Junior, you have the same sources available to you as I have to me.” Now, his father is gone, and the questions continue, but he still has those same sources for answers that his father had.
Even in a church where we sometimes feel so distanced and estranged from, it’s comforting to know that one of its core doctrines teaches that we can go right to the top—that there are no intermediaries between us and God Himself. Wherever we are on our journey, He’s always there.
It’s a new year…Where are you on your journey?
Is it taking you where you want to go?
Are you willing to ask for directions?
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.