Warning! Spoilers follow! If you haven’t finished Harry Potter 7 and want no information about it, stop reading now. You have been warned.
God knows what we do not know and sees what we do not see. ?
(President Howard W. Hunter, Ensign, Nov. 1987, 60.)
Perhaps you are already tired of people talking and writing about Harry Potter, but since I just finished The Deathly Hallows, I’m still needing to decompress and sort through some of the things I have thought and felt. Today, my thoughts center on a parallel that I found powerful and meaningful.
Come with me first to a conversation between Hermoine and Harry:
He told everything that Muriel had told him. When he had finished, Hermoine said, “Of course, I can see why that’s upset you, Harry –”
“I’m not upset,” he lied, “I’d just like to know whether or not it’s true or –”
“Harry, do you really think you’ll get the truth from a malicious old woman like Muriel, or from Rita Skeeter? How can you believe them? You knew Dumbledore!”
“I thought I did,” he muttered.
“But you know how much truth there was in everything Rita wrote about you! Doge is right, how can you let these people tarnish your memories of Dumbledore?”
He looked away, trying not to betray the resentment he felt. There it was again: Choose what to believe. He wanted the truth. Why was everybody so determined that he should not get it? (p. 185, emphasis added)
It was interesting to journey with Harry through his struggle and frustration as he wondered if Dumbledore was really trustworthy. There were so many voices around him casting doubt. Was he really as noble and good as many thought, or were there condemning cobwebs and shadows in his past hidden in pretense? Was it indeed his fault his sister died? Did he really dabble in the dark arts? Had he really shown contempt toward Muggles? Was he really a selfish man at heart?
Harry struggled with doubts of his own. Why hadn’t Dumbledore left more specific information about his mission? (There was so much Harry didn’t understand and ached to know!) Why hadn’t his venerable mentor shared more about his past, about things like their common connection with Godric’s Hollow? At times Harry felt betrayed, felt as though perhaps if Dumbledore hadn’t held back information, he would be more able to move forward, more able to trust in the heavy task Dumbledore had left him. For a while, information seemed to be of utmost importance to Harry, the variable that could determine if full trust was possible or even right.
The peak of this tension for me as a reader came when Harry met Aberforth. Dumbledore’s brother tried to convince Harry that he should turn back, abandon his quest. Here was someone who was there when Ariana died. Aberforth knew Dumbledore’s weaknesses perhaps better than anyone. He also knew the dangers that lay ahead of Harry, and thought it utter foolishness for Harry to move forward. He did all he could to dissuade Harry.
My heart thrilled, however, when I read Harry’s thoughts, in spite of the onslaught of painful information:
Harry kept quiet. He did not want to express the doubts and uncertainties about Dumbledore that had riddled him for months now. He had made his choice while he dug Dobby’s grave, he had decided to continue along the winding, dangerous path indicated for him by Albus Dumbledore, to accept that he had not been told everything that he wanted to know, but simply to trust. He had no desire to doubt again; he did not want to hear anything that would deflect him from his purpose. (p. 563, emphasis added)
It was this choice, this determination and trust that allowed Harry to eventually conquer Voldemort, once and — literally — for all. But consider the cost: his decision to trust required Harry to willingly walk to his death. Trust didn’t guarantee that everything would be pleasant or easy, or that his efforts would provide him any personal benefit. Yet he moved forward resolutely and confidently to meet Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest. And he did it alone. No other voice mattered now; he knew what was right even though he didn’t know or understand everything. He had learned through his own experience to discern light from darkness, and found power and peace in his decision to trust.
I’m sure the parallel is clear. There are many voices and much information swirling around us. There are many who want to assert that there is more we “should know” about Church history, about past and present prophets, about alleged character flaws and bad decisions and changes in the Church. Some suggest that we really can’t fully put trust in the prophets because maybe that event or that policy or that character flaw could mean that they could be wrong. Therefore, we should hold back a little somehow, and continue instead our quest for information, for “truth.”
Like Harry, we all have to figure out what to do about these voices, about all the information to which we have access (or to which we wish we had access!). Of course, there is a time and place for studying things out in our minds. I’m not advocating ignorance by any means. But faith, by definition, requires that we act without a perfect knowledge. At some point, we, like Harry, need to decide that nothing else matters but resolute trust, a trust born of experience and faith — in spite of the unknown or what we still could know or what information may still continue to come at us.
President Boyd K. Packer recently stated:
“Some things that are true aren ?t very useful. And there are those…who have looked at the leaders of the Church, for instance, and found out that they ?re human and want to tell everything. There are steps and missteps that don ?t help anything. Some think that to be totally honest they have to tell everything. They don ?t. If they ?ve got the mindset for that, then they ?re always grumbling they have an appetite for it. They ?re free to do that, but it isn ?t really productive….”
Again, Harry “had decided to continue along the winding, dangerous path indicated for him by Albus Dumbledore, to accept that he had not been told everything that he wanted to know, but simply to trust. He had no desire to doubt again; he did not want to hear anything that would deflect him from his purpose.” Doubt is a choice. Trust is a choice.
What is our purpose? It is to help the Lord “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” It is to choose Christ and His cause, to help Him further His work on the earth. It is to help individuals and families come to Christ so that they can receive the saving ordinances of God and find eternal happiness. I simply cannot believe that we can fully serve the Lord in His purpose if we hold back, if we somehow hover undecided between opinions that abound. At some point, we need to make a choice that we don’t need to know anything more about history or about the prophets (or about whatever else we don’t or could know) in order to move forward firmly in faith.
The exercising of faith is a willingness to accept without total regular proof and to move forward and perform works. Faith without works is dead ? [James 2:26] and a dead faith will not lead one to move forward to adjust a life or to serve valiantly. A real faith pushes one forward to constructive and beneficial acts as though he knew in absoluteness. (President Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, (2006), 135 ?44)
This kind of faith will be essential for us to fulfill our purposes as members of the Lord’s Church and to be part of the Lord’s army that will defeat the adversary. President Harold B. Lee tells us in simple terms how we can safely stay on the Lord’s side:
We have some tight places to go before the Lord is through with this church and the world in this dispensation. ? The power of Satan will increase; we see it on every hand. ? We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet. ? There will be some things that take patience and faith ? (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152).
Being on the Lord’s side is not simply something we show in our words. We must show him daily in our thoughts and actions where our loyalties lie. President James E. Faust asks:
So where should each of us make our stand? As we demonstrate our devotion to God by our daily acts of righteousness, He can know where we stand. For all of us this life is a time of sifting and refining. We all face trials. Individual members in the early days of the Church were tested and refined when they had to decide if they had the faith…to put their belongings in a wagon or a pioneer handcart and travel across the American plains. Some did not have the faith. Those who did traveled with faith in every footstep. ? In our time we are going through an increasingly difficult time of refining and testing. The tests are more subtle because the lines between good and evil are being eroded. Very little seems to be sacred in any of our public communication. In this environment we will need to make sure where we stand all of the time in our commitment to eternal truths and covenants.
Elder R. Conrad Schultz’s words were what inspired the title of this post. He said:
[The adversary tries to] persuad[e] us that blindly ? following the prophets and obeying the commandments is not thinking for ourselves. He teaches that it is not intelligent to do something just because we are told to do so by a living prophet or by prophets who speak to us from the scriptures.
Our unquestioning obedience to the Lord ?s commandments is not blind obedience. President Boyd K. Packer in the April conference of 1983 taught us about this: Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God. ? We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see ? ( Agency and Control, ? Ensign, May 1983, 66).
We might call this faith obedience. ? With faith, Abraham was obedient in preparing Isaac for sacrifice; with faith, Nephi was obedient in obtaining the brass plates; with faith, a little child obediently jumps from a height into the strong arms of his father. Faith obedience ? is a matter of trust. The question is simple: Do we trust our Heavenly Father? Do we trust our prophets?
Again, trust is a choice.
I realize that we are all in different places in this journey of faith, and part of our purpose is indeed to gain experience that can strengthen our faith and resolve to move forward in the Lord’s cause without reservation, to stand behind the prophets in faith and trust. It is my conviction that they are trustworthy. I know they are not perfect, but it matters not to me. I made the decision long ago to trust them, as part of an expression of my faith in the Lord. Experience has taught me time and time again that that decision is good and right; that seed of faith I planted (“I will experiment and see if following the prophets is good”) has grown to a tree bearing delicious, sweet fruit. Trust in the prophets, particularly when I note repeated teachings (think: law of witnesses), brings the Spirit into my life. This trust gives me a feeling of peace and of power beyond my own, because I believe a key way to come to Christ is to receive His servants. I know the prophets will lead the Church aright, and that if I follow them, I will not be led astray.
The battle between good and evil is real. We can be deceived by the “subtle craftiness of men.” I believe trust in the prophets is a key to protection from deception. With that conviction and faith in Christ, I feel empowered to move forward, to face the trials of my life and our day.
It is perhaps because of this conviction that tears came to my eyes as I read one of the final, poignant scenes of the book. While the celebration continued in the Great Hall after the destruction of Voldemort, Harry, Hermoine, and Ron ascended the stairs to the headmaster’s office.
Harry had eyes only for the man who stood in the largest portrait directly behind the headmaster’s chair. Tears were sliding down from behind the half-moon spectacles into the long silver beard, and the pride and the gratitude emanating from him filled Harry with the same balm as phoenix song. (p. 747)
I would never attempt to fully equate an imperfect fictional character with the Lord, but in imagining this scene of the book, I can’t help but think of the joy that will fill our hearts — and the Lord’s — if we have chosen to live life in a spirit of trust and “faith obedience.” I believe that if we do, we will hear the Savior say: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”