Not More or Less than His Will
Paul Douglas Eden started as the Chief Information Officer and Director of the Office of IT at Ensign College in January 2021. He received a bachelor of science degree in family science with an emphasis in Human Development from Brigham Young University in 2000 and a master of business administration degree in finance from the Baker College School of Business in 2004. From 2000 to 2011, Brother Eden worked in various IT roles at multiple companies, including software developer, business analyst, system administrator, network administrator, and IT director. He then worked at BYU's Office of IT in various roles for nearly ten years, acting as the Senior Director of BYU Apps beginning in 2020.
Brother Eden currently serves as a musical missionary in the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, singing baritone. His church service includes a full-time mission in the Brazil Recife South Mission, bishop's counselor, Elders Quorum president, ward clerk, and ward choir director.
Paul Douglas Eden was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. He married Sarah Miller in 1999 in the Mesa Arizona Temple. They are the parents of two wonderful children.
Not More or Less than His Will
More or Less
The Savior, speaking of His doctrine, said to the Nephites, "And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them." 1
Later, he said the following to the same Nephites referring to the Sacrament, "But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them." 2
In our dispensation, He said the following about His doctrine and Church, "Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church." 3
Four of five years later, He said through Joseph Smith, referring to the Spirit of truth, "And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning." 4
In that same year, He then said, "And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil." 5
One way to understand these teachings and commandments is in terms of scope. "More or less," when looked at this way, denotes the quantity of something. I think that is a valid way to understand these scriptures. But, like many of our Savior's teachings, I believe He intended them to be understood in another way as well: in terms of the accuracy, correctness, rightness, or exactness of how we do what He asks us to do. I would like to explore this second meaning of these scriptures today.
A Bow and Arrow
It may be easier to understand with a metaphor. Let's envision what the Lord asks us to do as a target and our efforts as a bow and arrow. His comments around more or less signify Him wanting us to hit the target square in the center. So, in this sense, "more or less" describes our arrow's angle, direction, or aim. It also denotes anything that would affect whether the arrow hits the target or not. When all those inputs are correct, we will hit the mark the Lord wants us to hit.
Now, at this point, you may wonder, doesn't our ability to hit the target not only depend on us receiving and fully understanding the directions from the Savior but also having the skill to correctly use the bow and arrow? That's true, and luckily, our God doesn't expect perfection from us right now, just our best and improvement when we can. And He is the master marksman and has offered to help us with our tasks. So, if He can hit the target right in the center every time, then with Him helping us, if we don't get in the way or disregard His guidance, we can continually get better and better at hitting the target as well.
Now, I don't pretend to have any particular expertise in archery outside of what I learned in my archery merit badge in boy scouts. But even an archery amateur like myself understands a few things.
Sometimes you must aim a little higher than the mark to hit it. This happens when the target is far away, and I or the bow don't have the strength to shoot the arrow perfectly perpendicular from the ground. That change in trajectory helps the arrow go farther.
Sometimes you must aim to the right or left of the mark to hit it. Why? Because sometimes, there are crosswinds that can move the arrow to the right or left when it is flying towards the target.
There are so many variables involved that it boggles my mind. Air density, humidity, bow and arrow size and weight, wind in all directions, draw length, arm strength, and many other things play a part in where the arrow eventually hits.
If we compare the arrow to ourselves, disciples of Jesus Christ, trying to do what He would do in a given situation, we can feel overwhelmed. And with good reason. Our work is the same as our Heavenly Father's; “the immortality and eternal life of man” 45, and that has far-reaching consequences. My wife likes to say that "when you are dealing with people, things get complicated, and you are always dealing with people." Each of us has our God-given agency, complicating this equation further. I don't personally think that even the most sophisticated supercomputer available today can accurately predict how someone would respond in all circumstances.
So, should we just give up if the task at hand is so overwhelming? Definitely not! We have access to something much better than any computer, and I say that as one in charge of all technology in use across the campus. I love technology for the fantastic things it can do for us. We all benefit from the skills and inspiration our Heavenly Father gave to people like Alan Turing, Charles Babbage, and others who created the concepts used in today's digital technology. But, there is something even more fantastic, more wonderful, and reliable than technology. It is our connection to our all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. I intend to convince you today that you can and should rely on them more and, by so doing, will each day get better and better at hitting the target right in the center. Whether the target is moving, you must switch bows, or you just aren't feeling up to it that day. No matter if someone you are trying to help doesn't want it or you aren't sure what to do to improve a situation. With this connection and help from the Godhead, you will become a polished arrow in the Lord's quiver, ready to do whatever good He needs from you at that moment.
What not to do
Here are some examples of doing more than the Savior wants that can cause problems. When Sarah’s and my children were young, I would occasionally overreact to their questions, concerns, or disobedience. That overreaction caused more problems than our children's behavior did. Nothing in my overreaction was technically incorrect or sinful, per se. I just didn't handle the situation in the best way for that particular situation. I stuck to my guns and tried to follow an algorithm that I thought would bring correct results each time. Remember how dealing with people can be messy? The fun part is that each person is unique and often needs different approaches. How did I think I could be successful without Heavenly Father's constant guidance and correction before now? Ah well.
I'm not saying that there aren't principles that can help in most situations or even all. There are. And I'm not saying there aren't absolute truths. There are. If we had Heavenly Father's knowledge and wisdom, we could figure out precisely the right thing to do in each situation, but we don't. We need to rely on Him to be correct because there are just too many variables to figure it out ourselves.
Another example of doing more or less than what the Lord wanted comes from one of the best of us. The Lord lovingly corrected the great apostle Peter multiple times for doing more than he should. Remember when Peter cut off the ear of the soldier? Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each described that scene. Judas kissed the Savior to indicate who He was, and then the soldiers grabbed Him. Peter, undoubtedly thinking he was doing the right thing, cut off the right eat of Malchus, a servant of the High Priest who was there to take Jesus in. Jesus said to Peter, "Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" 6 "the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" 7 Then, He healed Malchus' ear, correcting the outcome of Peter's mistake. 8 In another situation, what Peter did could have been the exact right thing to do.
Here's another example. I'm not trying to pick on Peter. I love him and am grateful for his example of doing the right things. I love his inclination towards action and repenting quickly when he made mistakes. That proclivity also makes splendid examples like this one. "After that he [the Savior] poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." 9 I assume Peter, as was typical for him, had good intentions for asking the Savior not to wash his feet. Perhaps, he thought it beneath the Savior's high station. I don't know, but in any case, it wasn't exactly what the Savior wanted Peter to do at that moment.
Have you ever done something out of purely good intentions but found out later what you did was wrong? I think most if not all of us have. I believe this is one of the ways good people miss the mark, thinking they are right. Perhaps we think if a thing is good, then more of it would always be better. Or maybe after a long time, we come to think we understand what the Lord wants us to do. That can be true, but there are also times where the Lord's "thoughts are not [my] thoughts, neither are [His] ways my ways." He said, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." 10
I know of very well-intentioned people, including myself, who did the exact wrong thing in their attempts to serve others. Why? They probably thought they were doing the right thing and didn't know it wasn't what the person needed at that time. Yes, it's the thought that counts, and good intentions can ease the pain inflicted by errors, but what if we could do the exact right thing instead? Wouldn't that be so much better?
Bradley R. Wilcox said, "God loves us as we are, but He also loves us too much to leave us this way." 25
The king of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies knew how important doing just what the Lord wants is. He pushed to do that even when well-intentioned Ammon pressed him to do something else. This was a matter of life and death for many people. Here's how the scripture relates it. "And Ammon said: I will go and inquire of the Lord, and if he say unto us, go down unto our brethren, will ye go? And the king said unto him: Yea, if the Lord saith unto us go, we will go down unto our brethren, and we will be their slaves until we repair unto them the many murders and sins which we have committed against them. But Ammon said unto him: It is against the law of our brethren, which was established by my Father, that there should be any slaves among them; therefore let us go down and rely upon the mercies of our brethren. But the king said unto him: Inquire of the Lord, and if he saith unto us go, we will go; otherwise we will perish in the land." 13 The king of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies was unflinchingly dedicated to doing precisely what the Lord wanted, no more, no less. In so doing, he focused his aim on what the Lord wanted and hit the bullseye.
I've found that the longer I live, the more people are affected by my choices and actions. That is mainly because the longer I live, the more people I influence. First, I was a brother and son. Then I became a roommate, a mission companion, and then a district leader. Later, I became an Elders Quorum President and then a husband to my wonderful eternal companion, Sarah. Later we had children, and I became a father. Then, I became a team leader at work and then a leader of leaders. You, the students of Ensign College, will similarly find yourselves in situations where your decisions and actions affect more and more people as time goes on. Your influence in your families, workplaces, wards, stakes, and communities will increase and have increasing effects on those you interact with and have stewardship over.
For leaders, and that’s all of us, hitting the bullseye means remembering that revelation is scattered among all of us. So, to find it all, we must listen to each other and seriously consider each other’s perspectives.
Now how can we hit the target more often?
OK, hopefully, by this point, I've convinced you that it is much better to do exactly what the Lord wants us to do than just to assume we are. Now, how can you hit the bullseye more often? It's all in the scriptures.
The Savior showed us how to do just what He asks. The prophet Alma, the younger, explained to his son Helaman the key, “cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good.” 11
Our Lord said through the prophet Joseph Smith, “Pray always, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you, and great shall be your blessing—yea, even more than if you should obtain treasures of earth and corruptibleness to the extent thereof.” 46 We all need constant spiritual nourishment. There are dozens of references to the phrase “pray always” in the scriptures.
When the most intelligent, wise, powerful, and loving person anywhere offers you as much of their advice, insight, and help as you want and need, and at any time of the day or night, why not take greater advantage of that? You are not going to over-tax Him.
After baptism, we received the Gift of the Holy Ghost. That gift is the opportunity to have constant companionship and help from the Holy Ghost. 15
Then-President Utchdorf said, "Are we [...] living below our privileges when it comes to the sacred power, gifts, and blessings that are our opportunity and right"? 16 I know I was until I started doing some simple things that opened more revelation from God than I previously thought was possible for me.
First, Heavenly Father told me to “raise my sights.” I was living below my privileges and didn’t have my vision high enough. His visions for me and you are grander than we expect.
I testify that the Lord will guide you as much as you let Him. He can be like your coach, guiding you, calming you, and reminding you of what you need when anxious or overwhelmed.
Faith and trust
It starts with faith in Jesus Christ. Faith and trust are very similar.
Stephen R Covey said, "Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships."
Heavenly Father wants us to believe and trust Him and ourselves so much that He makes it a requirement for revelation. James, one of the apostles who walked with Jesus Christ and learned personally from Him, said, "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. 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." 17
I think Heavenly Father requires faith for revelation because faith is crucial to be like He is. Without it, we won’t be able to get the guidance we need to aim true.
Two places in Doctrine & Covenants say the same thing word for word; "seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith" 18 19 I believe one of those books that contain words of wisdom is The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey. It describes thirteen behaviors of high trust, four cores of credibility, five waves of trust, and how to extend smart trust.
At Ensign College, trust is not just part of our mission statement. It is part of everything we do. It is something we all personally value. The staff at the college have studied the principles of trust in that book, and I highly recommend it to you to enrich your understanding of faith.
Seeking learning by faith, at least in part, I believe, means learning from God through revelation and acting on that revelation.
I recommend documenting the revelations you receive. Doing so will help you remember you have received revelation and will help you see the outcomes of that revelation, increasing your faith in Heavenly Father’s guidance.
In my arrow analogy, I don’t want you to think that any effort that doesn’t hit the bullseye is useless. Try not to focus on perfection. Remember what Elder Christopherson said. "Ours is not a religion of rationalization nor a religion of perfectionism but a religion of […] redemption through Jesus Christ." 21 This isn't about your and my capabilities. It’s about our Heavenly Father's capabilities.
You won't be perfect in receiving revelation at first, but the Lord will give you line upon line precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. So don't be distracted by setbacks or disheartened by mistakes. Remember, a ship that is not moving cannot be steered, and a stationary bicycle cannot turn. The Lord told us how to ask, first "study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right." 20
If you keep at it, you will learn from those failures how to receive clear personal revelation just when you need it, to hit the targets the Lord asks you specifically to hit.
The Lord said, "and in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments." 22 Your gratitude for divine assistance will increase the help you receive next time.
When the Lord will help
"It is the Lord's work, and when we are on the Lord's errand, we are entitled to the Lord's help. Remember that whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies." 23
We need to be doing the Lord's work to receive His help, but that's easy because His work is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. That work includes saving you and everyone you interact with.
President Nelson said, "Anytime we do anything that helps anyone—on either side of the veil—to make and keep their covenants with God, we are helping to gather Israel." 24
Attributes we need to be successful in receiving and recognizing revelation
The Lord said, "and no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care." 27
The apostle Elder Christofferson said, "one particular attitude and practice we need to adopt if we are to meet our Heavenly Father's high expectations. It is this: willingly to accept and even seek correction." 26
In the book of Proverbs, it says, "For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth." 29 Humility is just confronting reality when interacting with God. It’s also wise to listen to others. One of my previous Elders Quorum presidents told me, “everyone you meet today is better than you at something.” That means you are also better than everyone you meet in something. Henry Ford said, "If there is any great secret to success in life, it lies in the ability to put oneself in the place of the other and see things from their perspective - as well as your own."
The Lord said to be humble, full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things. Temperance is an interesting choice here. Notice that he didn't say diligence, which I expected at first. Temperance means balance. Sometimes opposing things are both good. Trust and scrutiny are needed for smart trust. Justice or mercy alone would never be fully good without the other, but they are often in conflict. Our Savior asked us to be wise as serpents but harmless as doves. 14 President Worthen of BYU said, “without unity, diversity becomes divisive. Without diversity, unity becomes stagnant.“ 55 There is also good on both sides of political divisions, which is why they are divisive.
I used to work with Kelly McDonald at BYU. He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, a key to success is the ability to hold two truths in your mind at once that seem to conflict and be OK with that.
Sometimes Heavenly Father will ask us to change our aim in a way we don’t understand or give us directions we didn’t expect. To be happy and align with Heavenly Father's will, we sometimes need to become OK with temporary dissonance caused by seemingly conflicting truths. If these conflicting truths are both true, as Alma said, they will bring fruit, and someday we will understand how they can both be true. Just as how the Savior makes both justice and mercy and unity in diversity possible.
Watch your thoughts and your words
Another thing we need to reconcile in our minds is the fact that we are all children of God, inspired, strong and also weak, flawed and learning. I recommend speaking good of yourself and others. Remember to offer the same kindness to your leaders that you would want to receive yourself. They are people just like you, doing their best, and like you, the Lord is clearing away the bad as the good grows. Also, remember that although not perfect, like you, they are mostly good.
If someone has done something wrong, especially in a leadership position, pray for them, ask God to help them. I have seen this help leaders, including myself, to improve.
Everything else good stems from love and charity. That’s why it’s the greatest commandment.
You can and will receive more revelations to hit the bullseye of what Heavenly Father wants from you more and more often.
President George Q. Cannon said, “Obedience to the Gospel brings [people] into very close and intimate relationship with the Lord. It establishes a close connection between men on the earth and our Great Creator in the heavens. It brings to the human mind a feeling of perfect confidence in the Almighty and in His willingness to listen to and answer the supplications of those who trust in Him. In times of trial and difficulty this confidence is beyond price.” 50
I witness that God can and does make weak things strong and can enable us all to pray always and become polished arrows in His quiver to do much good.
You are already better than you think. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/3-ne/11?id=p40#p40 emphasis added