I have always loved studying the scriptures in an endeavor to understand the Gospel more. But, the more I progressed, the more more I realized that I was blind and not awake nor open to the glorious truths that are in the Gospel. I then studied how to become more open to all truth, even if it made me feel uncomfortable or was did not match my current paradigm.
In Matthew 13:10-17, Jesus explains the reason why he taught in parables:
10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?I have come to realize that there have been times in my life where I was much like these Jews. Jesus wants to teach us deep truths, but not everyone is able to bear it. The people Jesus was teaching weren't ready for these truths and so they just heard stories instead.
11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
There are several reasons why we block ourselves from accepting new truth. I think Laman and Lemuel can show us why. I know it might seem preposterous that I am comparing us to Laman and Lemuel, but I think sometimes we are more like them than we'd like to admit.
Network of truth
Each of us have a network of truth. When a new truth is presented to us that builds on it, it is easy to accept and assimilate into our network. But when it lies outside of that network or even destroys a part of the network, it is much harder to accept, never mind assimilate. Usually in these cases we either just dismiss it (neutral response) or get angry (negative response). It becomes very challenging to open our minds and hearts to the spirit telling us this is true.
We don't believe the Lord will reveal more to usLehi and Nephi had seen the vision of tree of life and Laman and Lemuel were trying to understand it. They began arguing with each other about the meaning (See 1 Nephi 15:1-11). Why weren't they understanding it? What had Laman and Lemuel done wrong?
Well, when Nephi asked them if they had asked the Lord, they said, "We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us." They either had not asked the Lord or if they had asked the Lord, they seemed to think that the Lord should give the answer. Sometimes the Lord takes a while before he answers us. We have to continue asking until he gives us the answer or tells us to stop asking.
Nephi had just learned some really hard truths in his vision and his response to these truths is contrasted with Laman and Lemuel. Nephi felt grieved because of the things he had seen and felt overcome (See 1 Nephi 15:4-5). Despite how the truth made him feel, he accepted it as truth.
Several years ago I had some questions on my mind about the eternities and spent many nights pleading with the Lord to show me the answers I was seeking. One night I heard the Spirit in my mind tell me to stop asking. I have since come to know that I wasn't ready for the answer, but one day I hope to be. In all other instance, I get an answer, mostly after a lot of seeking, pondering, and praying. Sometimes it takes days and in some cases it has taken years.
Truth makes us angry
There are truths that could be revealed to you that would seem so crazy that you would not believe them. Most people get angry when they hear new things and this is why Christ and prophets have been killed.
Joseph Smith said, "Many men will say; 'I will never forsake you, but will stand by you at all times.' But the moment you teach them some of the mysteries of the kingdom of God that are retained in the heavens and are to be revealed to the children of men when they are prepared for them they will be the first to stone you and put you to death. It was this same principle that crucified the Lord Jesus Christ, and will cause the people to kill the prophets in this generation" (TPJS, 309).
Joseph Smith also said, "Have not the least idea but if Christ should come and preach such rough things as he preached to the Jews, but this Generation would reject reject him for being so rough" (Words of Joseph Smith, 11 Jun 1843).
After Nephi explained the vision of the tree of life, Laman and Lemuel got angry (see 1 Nephi 16:1-3). Most people think that hard truths wouldn't make them angry, but I believe Joseph when he said that we each have our limits on what truths we are able to bear.
Block truth outside of the status quo
We have a tendency to block things that come outside of what has been established as true or goes against the tradition. We also have a tendency to block truth from sources outside of the established hierarchy.
The law of Moses had had laws added to it over the years. The people didn't know where the laws came from or how they came to be, but they regarded those laws as from God. Because they didn't know the scriptures and the history of their people as well as they should, they were unable to discern between the commandments of God and the commandments of men. For example, one added law was that one's hands needed to be washed before eating. This was seen as a law from God, despite it being a commandment of men. The scribes and pharisees were asking why Jesus' disciples didn't wash their hands before they ate and so Jesus went to them to clear the matter up. He said to them: You're asking why we don't obey this commandment, but I am wondering why you don't obey the commandment to honor one's parents. Take a look at what Jesus said in Matthew 15:7-9
7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,When we follow commandments of men, Jesus says we are honoring him with our lips but our hearts are not anywhere near him. His disciples then said that the Pharisees were offended at what he said. He said those leaders who were not called of God (and had established and upheld commandments of men) would be uprooted. There were blind and were leading the blind and in the end, both would fall.
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.In the verses following, Jesus says that not washing one's hands before eating won't defile a man. Why? Because it is a commandment of men and not of God and so God doesn't honor it.
Jesus was able to discern between truth and error. We can too as we know what the scriptures contain and have the Spirit to guide us. As in Jesus' time, we also have commandments of men. They are accepted as truths within the status quo and so they are mostly very difficult to discern. It is important to determine what they are in order to progress. Knowing what is truth and what isn't will enable God to teach us further light and truth.
The pharisees and the Sadducees were the teachers and the leaders in Jesus' day. Those outside of that hierarchy, such as John the Baptist and Jesus, were not readily accepted as sources of truth. Joseph Smith was a great example of allowing anyone to teach him. He then decided after he heard them whether they were teaching truth or not. Truth can come from any source and if we are to progress, we need to be willing to accept it from anyone or anywhere.
Often we think we know what we need to know or what the Lord knows. We possess false wisdom.
Second Nephi 9:28 says, "O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish."
For example, we may think we understand the temple or what the Lord expects of us for exaltation and so on. But, the Lord always has more to reveal to us, because we usually are limited or wrong in our understanding of things, especially as we progress.
I love Isaiah 55:8-9
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. In each of these cases, we tend to be closed to further light and truth.