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The Right Questions…to Answers We Cannot Comprehend

The other day I was driving with a couple of my kids and my 4-year-old asked me, “How many miles till we get home? What time are we going to be there?”

If she was an adult I would have had no problem answering her questions, but this was a little kid! She was clever enough to ask two questions in a row that dealt with distance and time, but she had no understanding of the particular units of measure so how could I answer her questions?

I could have said that we were about one hundred and fifty miles away, but she has no concept of how long a mile is let alone one hundred and fifty of them. I could have said that we would arrive at approximately 8:24pm but she can’t tell time so she couldn’t use the car’s clock to know the current time in relation to the destination time. Telling her “We’re about 2 hours away” wouldn’t work either because she doesn’t understand hours.

The point is that the exact, true, and in my mind, simplest answer would have been useless to her. I wanted her to understand all the particulars but realized that she is not yet at a level where I can give her certain answers that she is capable of comprehending.

Her questions were good, but the answers were beyond her comprehension and did not solve what she really wanted to know deep down. She just wanted some way of comprehending how close home was.

As a loving father, I thought really hard about how I could answer her question. Thankfully, an idea came quickly to mind as I looked right out in front of me. My experience as a boy scout along with spending a lot of time outside enabled me to roughly estimate time by looking at the position of the sun in the sky.

So I answered by giving her a sign. I directed her to look towards the setting sun and said, “When the sun touches the mountains, ask me again because we will almost be home.” This satisfied her, she didn’t need to know anything more because she could observe the sun and have a sure understanding of where she was in her journey.

If you haven’t made the connection yet, don’t you think there is a parallel here to how God feels about responding to the questions we pose to him? Answer: there is.

Seeking answers

This morning I gave this exact example to my nine-year-old daughter who has one single question that she wants an answer to more than anything. Believe it or not, this kid’s question is, “I want to know how the first being came to be, where did God come from and if he had a father, who was his father, and his father and his father; where did it all begin?”

I’ve told her that there is probably an answer to her question, but it might only exist in the mind of God. I pointed her back to the story of her little sister asking about “how far and what time” and that it is possible that God could give her the exact answer, but she might not have sufficient knowledge, experience or faculties to even comprehend it. The right questions do not guarantee us the answers we may think that we want. The less we know God’s mind, the more difficult prayer is; we pray at him instead of communing with him. Read what the LDS Bible Dictionary has to say about prayer some time and read the entire entry because the latter half has the best stuff.

My two oldest daughters and I continued our conversation about the meaning and purpose of prayer and the personal necessity to know God by our own experience if we truly desire salvation. We talked about how ordinances only benefit us to the degree that we invest in the promises we were making and the openness we have to God’s mercy.

We referenced the Lecture 6 of the Lectures on Faith, Alma 12:9-11, 1 Nephi 15:7-11 and the first three verses of 1 Nephi 11 that go so wonderfully together.

We talked about how the hardness of our heart is determined by our willingness to engage God in desire-fueled prayer as opposed to habitually “saying” prayers devoid of any real intent or desire.

The best part is that I could see it sinking in. I could see them revolving the implications in their minds and their little visions expanding with new ideas.

It is these moments that I truly cherish being a father and understand, just a little bit more, the mind of our own Heavenly Father.

  • Richard J. Nobbe III

    What an excellent story you have here. I’ve often heard that it’s easier to comprehend God’s love for His children once you have children of your own. If an imperfect, mortal parent would do anything for his/her child, how much does a Perfect Parent know how to love, succor, and care for their eternal posterity. Hopefully my wife and I will be able to have this blessing one day. But if not, we know that we will be blessed in other beautiful ways to gain these precious experiences.

    Sounds like you have the best kids. I’m only too sure you are an excellent father who promotes learning and thinking in a rich, loving environment. Nine years old, hmm… If she’s old enough to read she could probably get through “The Sermon in the Grove.” Perhaps this will at least give her some perspective.

    • oneclimbs

      I never comprehended God’s love more than when I experience it. As for kids, I think having children provides you with a few more facets for understanding God’s particular attributes, but they are not a prerequisite for understanding the love of our Father.

      Biological parenthood is not possible for some people, but I think it is interesting to note that we never see Jesus as a biological parent in the scriptures. He is a vicarious parent in many ways and a friend of all children as we see him blessing the children of others. Interesting how that is.

      My kids are not the best kids (not sure how you would rate that) but they are my favorite kids ;) I try to be a good father, but all kids whine, leave messes and fight with each other. Like most parents, I get frustrated, make threats and reprove with lectures.

      Every now and then though, I think I get it right. When those moments happen, they are wonderful, but between them is a lot of chaos.

      • Richard J. Nobbe III

        I love how you say your kids are your favorite! That’s a tender thought. It’s a beautiful thing to know that we are all individually God’s “favorite” kids…He loves us each that much.

        I hadn’t read “The Sermon in the Grove” for a long time, but I went through it again. That might be a lot for a nine year-old. You might draw her attention to the first two paragraphs immediately under “Abraham’s Reasoning” and it might help your daughter gain some perspective. Like Joseph Smith says, “It is good reasoning.” Now your daughter may want to know how this is possible, but as humans we aren’t used to dealing with eternal things. But one day the “Eternal Rounds” will make perfect sense to us.

        The hymns are also chocked-full of delicious doctrine. You might consider having her read “If You Could Hie to Kolob,” and “O My Father” for some additional insight.

        • Richard J. Nobbe III

          Nothing so beautiful as the words to “If You Could Hie to Kolob.” This one hymn may help your daughter more than anything I can think of. Verses 1 through 3 especially.

          • oneclimbs

            The only thing that I think she would be disappointed in is that there isn’t a specific answer spelled out. But my answer would be, “welcome to life”. ;-)

          • Richard J. Nobbe III

            And as she grows up, she’ll probably learn that this is the way in which God teaches us. And it’s the most beautiful way there is.