God’s Intentionally Incomplete Instructions

Dec 13, 2020
3 min read

If the brother of Jared followed God’s instructions without question, he and his people may have likely suffocated in the dark shortly into their journey in air-tight barges.

The brother of Jared’s sincere questioning opened up solutions and led to a great revelation that not only benefited him personally but became sacred scripture.

And it came to pass that the Lord did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel. And it came to pass that they did travel in the wilderness, and did build barges, in which they did cross many waters, being directed continually by the hand of the Lord.

Ether 2:5-6

God gave continual directions that were carried out by the people that included the building of barges.

At length, they arrive at “that great sea which divideth the lands” (vs.13) where they settle for 4 years. They are commanded to build barges once again, similar to what they had previously built “according to the instructions of the Lord.” (vs.16)

How similar these new barges were to the previous ones build is unknown, but it does appear that the brother of Jared began to realize that there would be serious problems if they tried to use these barges to cross the massive body of water before them.

The brother of Jared notices that there were three key issues the Lord’s instructions did not appear to address: steering, breathable air, and light.

It seems that God already expected to drive the barges by the wind, that the people would not need to steer them. When asked about the air, the Lord offers a solution that involved two strategically placed holes that would allow for airflow when needed but could be sealed if necessary.

As for light, the Lord points out that fire or windows were out of the question and, rather than offering more instructions, asks the question, “What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels.” (vs.23)

The Lord could have simply instructed them to create sailing ships like he did with Nephi, but for his own reasons, the Lord required these unique barges for this particular group of people.

The Lord’s question appears to indicate that the solution must come from a divine source and that it is not within the brother of Jared’s mortal power to handle this particular solution to the problem.

This exchange between the Lord and the brother of Jared reveals some important insights as to how the Lord works with us. It appears that he may give instructions that are initially incomplete.

To really flesh out the whole plan, we must inquire, and faithfully question the Lord’s designs when we get stuck. If we look at the patterns from this account it seems that solutions could come in at least three forms:

  1. A newly revealed piece of instruction that solves a problem. (Make two holes in the barge)
  2. Further light on the overall plan that was not initially comprehended. (The barges will not need someone to steer them)
  3. An unprecedented divine solution outside the power of human effort. (Stones lit by divine means)

Whatever form the instructions of God come to us, scripture, personal revelation, or through his servants, we may want to consider that if something the Lord asks of us seems incomplete or impossible, that the solutions may be found through inquiry and come in varied forms.

By studying the scripture accounts and pondering the patterns we find there, we can better understand how we too can engage in God’s work in our day and carry out his instructions.

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