Looking More Closely at Lenses

A few days ago, I was mindlessly scrolling through social media, as one does, when I came across a quote on one of my friend’s Instagram posts. It read”

“Either Scripture will be the lens through which you view the world, or the world will be the lens through which you view Scripture. Ultimately one or the other will be your authority.”

Dustin Benge

Lots to think about with this one. Obviously, it is still in my head, because here I am – three days later – still thinking about it, and now writing about it.

My first thought was, “Man, that’s a good quote,” and I shared it on Facebook. My second thoughts was “Who is the Dustin Berge guy that he should be so wise?”

Does it matter who wrote the quote, or what he believes in? Kinda. The quote stands on its own, BUT knowing more about the author helps inform me as to his understanding of what he is saying.

A quick search on Google led me to Dr. Benge’s homepage where I learned this: He “is provost and professor at Union School of Theology, Bridgend, Wales.” He has written a bunch of books and taught at theological institutes, of the Southern Baptist persuasion. (link) Seems to be a REALLY good man, with a remarkable understanding of his faith.

The main thing I learned was that Dr. Benge and I have a different interpretation of what the word “Scripture” means. Baptist beliefs are Bible-centric: “We affirm without reservation that we must rely exclusively on biblical theology for understanding God’s plan for His world and the power of the Gospel to accomplish His plan.” (link)

That presents a significant difference between Brother Benge and I, as to what the word “Scripture” means in his quote. For him, it means the Bible. For me, it means much more, because I believe in modern scripture as well as continuing revelation to the Lord’s servants to be scripture as well:

“And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the powerof God unto salvation.” (D&C 68:4)

A few weeks ago at General Conference? A whole lotta new scripture.

With that understanding, I would like to take the liberty of changing one word in Dr. Benge’s quote to clarify that distinction:

“Either Revelation will be the lens through which you view the world, or the world will be the lens through which you view Revelation. Ultimately one or the other will be your authority.”

I feel that this concept is more important in today’s world that at any time in my life. The world is a mess, and getting messier. Sure, we expect that, as things move towards the winding-down scene. But, in the meantime, we have lives to lead and choices to make.

One of the most damaging influences of modern society is the tendency to do exactly what Dr. Benge alluded to: Using the World as a lens to view Revelation. It is common in our culture, our world, and our lives. (All of our lives.)

Here’s a quick example from the most recent General Conference: President Dallin H. Oaks gave a remarkable talk about the U.S. Constitution as looked at through the filter of revelation. (Link) Right off the bat he stated that this was the lens he was using, when he said, “The United States Constitution is unique because God revealed that He “established” it “for the rights and protection of all flesh.”

It was a remarkable, and much-needed, talk. However, it caused plenty heartburn with some. I saw a lot of responses along the lines of “He has no business talking about the Constitution in Conference.” Or, “What happened to the seperation between Church and State?” Or even, “I had to turn off my TV, I was so disgusted.”

Sad, but not unexpected. Even if you discount the comments as merely woeful ignorance about what the separation of Church and State actually means, you are left with a pretty powerful observation: Those who disparaged President Oak’s talk were evaluating it though the lens of the World, not the lens of Revelation.

I think I am safe to say that anytime we bristle at Revelation, it is because we are not looking at it through the lens of Revelation, but through the World’s lens – with the World writ large, or our own, personal World.

The World (and he who drives it) works hard to get us accustomed to looking at it through the lens of its choosing. Meanwhile, the Lord has directed us to look at the world differently – through His lens.

The World also works hard at diminishing the importance of Revelation – or religion in general – by disparaging eternal concepts such as faith, grace, and even God himself. Quite successfully, I might add.

Every choice we make is impacted by which lens we are looking through. Of course politics is an obvious one, but more personal things like how we raise our children, how we educate ourselves, how we manage our money, even what we watch on Netflix are impacted by which lens we are looking through as we make those choices. If you are at all like me, I imagine that many of our choices would be different if we made them using the lens of Revelation in the decision-making process.

My experience has shown me that, most of the time, looking at things through the lens of Revelation brings clarity, and a vibrancy to what I’m looking at. The lens of the World seems to muddy the picture.

Part of the problem is that we make distinctions – even as members of the Church – that attempt to draw a line between what is “spiritual” and “not-spiritual,” and that gets us in trouble. The Lord has made it clear that he doesn’t see that kind of distinction:

“Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal” (D&C 29:34). (Which is interesting, considering many still call the Law of Moses a “Temporal Law.” Sure, it seemed ‘temporal,’ but to the Lord, it was spiritual, and obedience/disobedience had a spiritual impact on the Israelites.)

If we accept the fact that the Lord considers all things to be spiritual, and let it clarify our choices, then we are more likely to make better choices in our lives, professions, relationships and yes, even Netflix.

Let him that is ignorant learn wisdom by humbling himself and calling upon the Lord his God, that his eyes may be opened that he may see, and his ears opened that he may hear.” (Doctrine and Covenants 136:32).

Opening our eyes is a slow process that ebbs and flows in our lives. There are times in my life when it seemed easy to look at life and its decisions through the lens of Revelation, but there are also times when the World’s lens seems to shade everything I look at.

I don’t know if any of you have ever been in an argument, and the other person pleads for you to “look at it from my point of view.” I believe that is exactly what the Lord expects from us: To look at things from His point of view. Always, as in “that we may always remember him.”

This doesn’t just happen, and it’s not a one-off decision that we make. It is a lifelong learning process. It requires desire, prayer, faith, study and all those good things that help us be better. Importantly, they are the things that help us see through the Lord’s lens – from His point of view.

To wrap up, this quote from Sister Michelle Craig sums up the importance of seeing through God’s lens”

“I witness that Jesus Christ loves us and can give us eyes to see—even when it’s hard, even when we’re tired, even when we’re lonely, and even when the outcomes are not as we hoped. Through His grace, He will bless us and increase our capacity. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, Christ will enable us to see ourselves and see others as He does. With His help, we can discern what is most needful. We can begin to see the hand of the Lord working in and through the ordinary details of our lives—we will see deeply.” (Link)

Thanks to Dr. Benge for helping me reflect more deeply on these concepts, and thanks to Tammy for sharing them on Instagram.

Have a great Sabbath!

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  1. I have spent this week pondering a thought shared in Sacrament Meeting last week that is along these same lines: “Don’t let your temporal mind talk you out of what your spirit knows.”
    I will be spending the next week pondering this quote you shared. Thank you for your post!

  2. Fabulous, as usual. I love this concept you clarified for us. Pres. Oaks talk was a favorite of mine. Our inspired Constitution makes it possible for us to worship as we choose in a free country.

  3. I needed this today. Confirmation of a prompting from earlier this week. Thank you for writing this.

  4. I must agree with Suzanne Long Foster. I LOVE when I am able to think deeply…
    I read this a couple times to really put these thoughts into my heart!
    It helps me to contemplate on even the simple decisions I make every day.
    Am I truly looking through the Lord’s lens in ALL that I do and say???

  5. I always enjoy your columns and read them faithfully, but this one was particularly great. Thanks, as always, for giving me something to think about.

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