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The Lord has been quite direct in His instruction to us about how we can receive blessings at His hand. As we mentioned previously, one of the clearest promises found in the scriptures is that if we will ask anything of Him, He will give it to us. He says it often, and He says it in many contexts. Let us explore the principle of asking and receiving that we may fully understand its intent, ramifications, and boundaries.Written by James L. Thompson author of The Miracle of Faith.
This dispensation of the gospel on the earth began when young Joseph Smith read the promise of the Apostle James in the New Testament; “if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). The principle is clear—ask, and you shall receive that which you requested. However, as with most of the occasions when this promise is extended, we are taught to ask in faith:
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:6–8).
Like most of us, Joseph recounts that this scripture had always seemed like nothing more than a truism to him. He had read it before with no particular interest or compelling feelings. Something changed within him while he read the promise upon that special occasion in his fifteenth year, and the full import of the promise was seared into his soul.
Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith—History, verse 12).
Young Joseph was suddenly filled with faith—faith that the promise was true and was from the Lord. Faith that, if he did what he was instructed to do, the promised blessing would be fulfilled exactly as the Lord had pledged. Joseph recounts,
At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid(1). I might venture (Ibid., verse 13).
I find this last comment to be endearing of the young prophet. “I might venture” seems like he didn’t have a lot of faith to propel him to call upon the Lord. Yet, Jesus specifically taught that faith is faith, and even a small amount, as in the case of a mustard seed, is sufficient to perform miracles. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus declared, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move from here to there and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
As a direct result of Joseph’s acceptance of the truthfulness of this promise of the Lord, the dispensation of the fullness of times was opened, and “all things” are being restored preparatory to the Lord’s return to the earth (Matthew 17:11;12 Acts 3:2113).
Joseph’s experience in exercising his faith in the Lord’s promise eventually and even naturally led to the next level of certainty—knowledge. Joseph reports that he “had found the testimony of James to be true—that a man who lacked wisdom might ask of God, and obtain, and not be upbraided” (Joseph Smith—History 1:26). The prophet asked mighty and marvelous things of the Lord many times during his life and was blessed with monumental miracles and visited by heavenly messengers on dozens of occasions. Every visitation, every miracle, every wisp of inspiration, and every act of divine intervention was the direct result of that initial, foundational step—to ask, and thereby, receive—which the Prophet repeated continually throughout his life.
In this example of the Prophet Joseph Smith, we establish that the Lord has promised that if we ask Him for wisdom, He will give it to us, just as He promised through the Apostle James. In fact, the promise covers all topics, all things, and all people, and all times in the earth’s history—including today. The promise is to all God’s children; men and women. The promise is not an idle invitation, however. It is, in fact, a commandment of the Lord.
But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving (D&C 46:7).
As we see in this statement by the Lord, we are to remain close to the Spirit of the Lord, and act in accord with that Spirit, with the correct attitude guiding our resolve to accomplish His divine will.
The ancient prophet Enoch was one of the most successful practitioners of “asking and receiving” of which we have a record. His accomplishments are remarkable and extensive. He makes clear to us in one of his revelations that he learned to ask for divine help and intervention by way of commandment.
And Enoch beheld the Son of Man ascend up unto the Father; and he called unto the Lord, saying: Wilt thou not come again upon the earth? Forasmuch as thou art God, and I know thee, and thou hast sworn unto me, and commanded me that I should ask in the name of thine Only Begotten; thou hast made me, and given unto me a right to thy throne, and not of myself, but through thine own grace; wherefore, I ask thee if thou wilt not come again on the earth (Moses 7:59).
Enoch knew the Lord, and knew that all things are made by Him, and come through His grace—as a gift of love and kinship. His remarkable statement, “and given unto me a right to thy throne,” sets the unlimited nature of the promised blessings of the Lord, and reminds us of Christ’s declaration, “for in my Father’s house are many mansions, and I have prepared a place for you; and where my Father and I am, there ye shall be also” (D&C 98:18; see also John 14:2).
Enoch explained to the people of his time that upon his expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Father Adam was told to repent and be washed in the waters of baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, that he might receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, by which he would ask “all things” in Christ’s name, and they would be given to him.
If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men, ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask, it shall be given you (Moses 6:52).
In this, we see that the promise and commandment of “asking and receiving” is foundational in the relationship between God and his children. We see that it was in the same breath that repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, through the grace of the Savior, were first revealed. The commandment and promise of “asking and receiving” was extended to all humanity. Not only is the entire gospel plan of salvation and exaltation outlined in this single scripture, but the interactive relationship of asking and faith is revealed to us as well.
1 - Biblical meaning of UPBRAID: transitive verb. 1) to criticize severely : find fault with. 2) to reproach severely : scold vehemently. The promise included the assurance that God will not criticize, find fault with, reproach or scold anyone who asks Him something in this manner.