Fixed Coordinates, and the Ever-Correcting Course…

Although the doctrine of Christ is unchanging, continuing revelation is how the Lord guides us through changing times.

Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 24 July 2023

I believe that if there is one thing upon which all thoughtful people can agree, it is that in natural order there is always the need for change in growth, and that change is often difficult and even painful. Nature is ever-changing. From the birth of a child to his or her maturation and eventual death by old age, life is a constant change.

No two people or lives lived are the same. Identical twins can be born of the same genetic structure, but the moment breath is drawn, and life is embarked upon, the human experience makes what would look the same a completely different outcome, unique as if born on separate sides of the world to radically different families.

Yes, from moment to moment, change is a constant in the universe upon which we can count. Yet, there is another constant, and that is the solid and unwavering love of Father in Heaven, whose laws and ways are an unchanging destination to bring about the immortality and eternal life of man. Truth, the kingdom and presence of Heavenly Father is immovable in its fixed coordinates.

With all of nature in motion changing, and truth fixed eternal, can both be constant? Yes, in our Eternal Father and Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ came to earth and revealed His eternal gospel to His apostles, and some believe that in this revealed all truth. While everything that Jesus revealed is truth, all truth could no more be conveyed in the short ministry of our Lord, than could the seas of all the earth be contained in a thimble. Since the depth and awe inspiring complexity of His infinite atonement could not be compressed into all the books ever written, placing limits on truth is certainly not of mortal capacity.

However, consistent with revealed truth, accepting the inevitability of frequent course correction in our journey to God, is as necessary as a seafaring captain making adjustments with the winds and currents to avoid being hopelessly lost. As surely as the sailor knows the understood science of navigation and the stars to guide his ship to safe ports, we have access to the revealed truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ for the safest harboring.

After Jesus Christ completed His mortal ministry, setting up His kingdom on Earth, He left His church in the capable yet imperfect hands of His apostles. I am sure things went along as well as could be expected in the immediate aftermath of the Savior’s earthly departure, but with time and growth in the church they were charged with building, the apostles determined that changes were necessary in order to adjust and continue in their divine charge.

Some changes were relatively easy to understand, such as the calling of additional leadership in order to manage growth among setbacks. Leaders were martyred and church membership increased dramatically. The original twelve could not forever alone take care of the needs of all the saints.

The experiences of Peter and Cornelius demonstrate that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).

As the Holy Ghost moved upon the hearts of Gentiles, other adjustments were made. The preaching of the gospel and the kingdom of God needed to be available to all mankind, not to only the Jews. Would coverts need to be circumcised as under the law of Moses? The answers to such questions and the course adjustments made came by revelation, as did all the workings of God’s kingdom. These changes were not impactful on the pure and true doctrine of Christ, but were of necessity made that more of God’s children could be impacted by the gospel and come unto Christ.

“We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Article of Faith 9). The Christian belief taught by the Savior in continuing revelation is necessary for the building of God’s kingdom and bringing souls unto Christ. For this purpose He has blessed us with His Spirit that we all might be guided by His all merciful hand. He also blessed us with authorized messengers to guide the saints, that we might receive His word for our day, inspired by His own will and love.

We believe in continuing revelation, regardless of how set we become in the patterns and ways for which we are accustom. While the doctrine of Jesus Christ is, always has been, and ever will be true and unchanging, the practices used to accomplish the work of the Lord’s kingdom are often subject to change in order to better serve the needs of the Lord’s children. The immutable laws of God are His and therefore they are not ours to either alter on our own nor even seek the Lord to change, for they are eternal. Divine truth comes from an ever consistent and perfectly unchanging Father in Heaven. His wisdom is perfect and therefore unneeding of alteration or even question.

The Lord in His perfect wisdom has seen the necessity for growth in His children to learn by experience to become more like Him, thus allowing us to work things out through inspiration on how to accomplish much of His work on Earth, whether in our congregations, communities, or families. In terms of doctrinal matters, God has exactly spelled out for us through revelation recorded in the scriptures and in the sayings and writings of His prophets, His law, ordinances, covenants, and most importantly the pure unchanging doctrine of the atonement through Christ, the Gospel.

As in the administration of His Church in ancient times, the Lord has required prophets and leaders to study out the needs of the day, and has provided the gift to see ahead in order for them to determine how needs will change in the future, and thus make determinations how to accomplish the building of God’s kingdom on Earth. Once decided, they seek divine approval for their plans. Through revelation the Lord will reveal His approval or will help them to make inspired improvements until a plan of action has His blessing. This is not to say that it is a perfect plan without challenge or flaw. It is only that this is a course or calling that the Lord approves for us to take. If He gave us the perfect route, how would we grow, and where would be our agency?

The same should be considered and practiced in the loving governance of our homes. Prayerful mothers and fathers, kneeling together for inspiration and guidance, will receive it at the hand of the Lord as we study out the needs of our families and seek the Lord’s blessing hand on our efforts. He will show us the paths we should take so long as we place revealed and eternal truths, the doctrine of Christ, at the very center of family life, seeking His direction in dealing with the painful challenges of growth and setbacks in every day life.

As in the days of Peter, when course corrections were made by revelation for the benefit of the saints in the Lord’s growing church, so it is today. When prophets, bishops, presidents, parents, and other leaders recognize the need for change, prayerfully study-out ways to affect such change, and then seek and receive the Lord’s approval on a course of action, it becomes the will of the Lord revealed to man. It does not mean that the previous course was uninspired nor that the new course should never change. On the vast and sometimes treacherous seas of life winds will blow and currents will vary. It is simply the course of action for the day, consistent with revealed eternal truth, that continues to keep our ever adjusting compass pointing toward Christ, our Salvation.

As we humbly sustain and follow our parents, inspired leaders, and the revealed word of God, the Lord’s Spirit will confirm in us through personal revelation His will regarding any doctrine or practice we receive. I am so grateful for the Lord’s law and the opportunities He provides us for growth and participation in establishing His kingdom on Earth. May we ever be willing to accept the course corrections given of the Lord, finding passage to safe harbors, and lighting the way for all to follow therein. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Daniel Malcolm is an entrepreneur, journalist, photographer, husband to Monica and father of twelve. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.