Thursday, August 11, 2016

Two Parables on Testing

The Parable of the Weightlifter and the Toddler

There once was a man who enjoyed lifting weights. He had a young son who enjoyed being with his dad while he was lifting weights. Usually the boy stayed out of harms way while the father lifted weights. However, the risk was very high, as most things his father was doing would seriously injure him were he to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tremendous concentration and focus is needed to do weightlifting, but the father had to develop an ability to immediately switch out of this focus if his son entered into the lifting area at the wrong time.

The Parable of the Painter and the Carver

There once was an oil painter. Her paintings would follow her stream of conscious. If certain areas turned out other than she expected, she could surgically scrape off that area with her putty knife and repaint it. Sometimes the whole scene ended up different than she expected, and she could scrape the whole canvas clean.

Her brother was a carver. The carver had to be more careful with his strokes than his sister. Mistakes were irreversible. While minor mistakes could find use in a redesigned carving, all mistakes permanently altered the carving, and major ones ruined it.


We are here to be tested. Most of our lives have nothing to do with the tests. Instead, like a vitamin, the majority of the content is just filler. The filler is not passive. It takes an incredible amount of time, energy, and focus, and how you handle it has a dramatic effect on your life and the lives of others. The tests are few and far between, but they are what actually control your ascent to or decent from God.

And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; (Abraham 3:25)
The son--my son--is much like God. He sometimes seems far away, but we cannot get complacent in our ability to hear and respond. The tests come according to his wisdom, not our timing or desire. They usually come when we are least ready for them. Our performance on each test determines where our character is, how much he can bless us, and how soon he can test us again.

A man's character is multidimensional. When we fail a test, that dimension of our character stalls until God retests it. We might progress (or retrograde) in other dimensions before the retest in the failed dimension. A retest could take hours, days, years, or decades to come. Truly, our whole life is a set of incredibly important tests, each one altering the path of the rest of our life.

Our decisions determine our outcome. There are many tests that control the maximum ascent we are capable in this life. Put another way, some mistakes we make limit just how much we can achieve in this life, and some mistakes are so egregious that they make it better that we hadn't been born because they lock us into a lower degree of glory than we enjoyed before this life. God is not obligated to continuously offer us a test that we continue to fail in this life. He will not be mocked. There are many examples in the scriptures where individuals and groups reached the end of their allotted chances. For example, the Israelites in the wilderness first lost their chance of seeing God face to face early on in the exodus. Then they lost their chance of coming to the promised land.
36 And now, my brethren, behold I say unto you, that if ye will harden your hearts ye shall not enter into the rest of the Lord; therefore your iniquity provoketh him that he sendeth down his wrath upon you as in the first provocation, yea, according to his word in the last provocation as well as the first, to the everlasting destruction of your souls; therefore, according to his word, unto the last death, as well as the first. (Alma 12:36)
Maybe we get ten chances, or maybe just 2, or maybe just 1. If we fail to pass it in the times allotted, we must wait until the next life to get another chance. Many if not most people have already lost their chances to gain all blessings God was willing to give them in this life.

Everyone but Christ fails in this life. Everyone but Christ comes to the point where they are taught a new truth that they are unwilling to embrace. If not, they would continuously qualify for and receive further light and truth until they were perfect, and earn redemption from the fall for themselves as did Christ. Everyone is willfully disobedient. Everyone has come short of the glory of God. To put it another way, no one will finish the race of mortality, so the question is not who won. The question, rather, is how far will you carry the baton before you collapse?

When Jesus forgives us of our sins, it erases the penalty for those sins, but not the consequence of those sins on our character. Our character is fixed only as we conquer our sins by passing the test they present. This is the difference between justification and sanctification. We are justified by asking. We are sanctified by the law we live.