Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Can Conflicting Impressions Both Be Inspired?

I've served in enough callings that include impressions about who to ask to do things to understand that there can be equally valid but competing impressions that can be inspired and appropriate.  

1) When I was serving in a Stake Mission Presidency many years ago, I had a very strong impression to talk with a particular person about being the Ward Mission Leader. I didn't know anyone in the ward, so I said a prayer, looked through the ward directly and couldn't move my eyes past one particular name. Interestingly, his last name was one I actually did recognize, but I didn't know him at all.

When I sat down in his home to talk with him about the potential calling, he told me there was no way he could accept it - since he was completely inactive at the time. He then said that he had been thinking about returning to church activity but hadn't been able to do it, largely because he was sure there wasn't a place for him anymore. He said that he knew he had the ability to function in the calling and that he interpreted my impression as God telling him that there was a place for him - as soon as he got his act together and felt he could accept a calling like that. He thanked me for talking with him about it and politely declined the calling due to his own "competing impression".

My question had been, "Whom should I ask to accept this calling?" I believe the answer I got was inspired, even though he didn't accept the calling due to equally valid personal inspiration.

2) When my wife was in the Primary Presidency, they prayed about who to ask for in a teaching position - asking who would be best for that particular class. I was in the Bishopric at the time, if I remember correctly (or maybe I just gave her some input from my previous times in Bishoprics), and their request wasn't approved by the Bishop. He ended up asking the person to serve somewhere else in the ward.

Both my wife (and the presidency) and the Bishop were certain their answers to prayer had been inspired - and I believe both competing answers were valid and appropriate. The Primary Presidency received an answer that was correct concerning who would be the best person to suggest, while the Bishop received an answer that was correct concerning which calling would be best use of that person for the ward as a whole. Two correct but competing impressions.

3) My parents submitted mission papers based on an answer to prayer that they should serve at Cove Fort in Utah. Their Bishop prayed about it and agreed. Their papers were sent to SLC with explicit reasons why Cove Fort would be an appropriate call and why a regular mission would not be possible. They were called on a regular mission to South Carolina - an impossibility at the time. They accepted the assignment and left home to drive to South Carolina, knowing it would be impossible to complete the assignment. They completed the assignment, and it was one of the highlights of their lives. Two competing answers and impressions - both valid and appropriate.

 (If you want to read the fuller account, it is in the following post: "Exercising Faith and Seeing the Hand of God".)

I know it might seem paradoxical, but I've seen and experienced correct but contrasting impressions happen so many times that I have to accept it as inspiration, even when it is not understood at the time - or even when it causes consternation.

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