Know of the doctrine

There are many wise sayings found in the Bible, particularly those attributed to Jesus.  There's one I'd like to focus on in this post that I have personally found to be very useful in my own life--especially over the last year or so.  It is found in John 7:17, which reads "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."  I have heard this passage paraphrased many different ways in my years of attending the LDS church.  I suppose the way I would word it is "If you want to know whether a commandment is really for your own good and happiness, try it out and live it."  This is the ultimate empirical experiment. When you go clothes shopping, you commonly try the clothes on in a fitting room to see if they fit and if you like they way they look on you.  When you do homework for school, you try one thing and if it works, you keep going, otherwise you try something else.

I have found this advice to be extremely useful in my own life in deciding what commandments are from God and which ones are of men (the "or whether I speak of myself" option that Jesus mentioned).  Let me name a few here to demonstrate how effective it has been.

The counsel found in Matthew 6:2-4 I have found to be good counsel.  I enjoy helping other people out--giving to charities, picking up hitchhikers, helping friends move, and all sorts of random acts of kindness.  I have found that the times when I have done so without anyone else knowing about it have been the most thrilling.  It's kind of a game to see if I can get away with doing something nice without anyone else knowing about it.  When I was on my mission in Japan, my mission president told all of us that we should do service projects where we could be seen by members of the community, so as to build PR for the church.  This bothered me greatly because I didn't like the idea of showing off the service that I rendered.  I much preferred to do it quietly without being noticed.  I even expressed this concern to my mission president.  From these experiences I have had (both when I was asked to show off my service work and when I have chosen to do so quietly) I have come to the conclusion that the preferred method is that advised by Jesus as found in the passage above.

Next, I would like to address the counsel found in Alma 38:12, "bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love".  I have found that in order to truly love someone, I do need to bridle my passions.  I also should point out that I find it significant that the word "bridle" is used--not "deny" or "ignore" or "destroy", but "bridle".  The way a bridle works on a horse is by directing the horse in the direction that it should walk, not by prohibiting the horse from walking.  Therefore, one should control the passions that he feels and channel that energy to a useful and righteous purpose rather than consuming it on a whim.  That is, one should not be quick to anger or quick to satisfy the lusts of the body.  All of the times in my life when I have let my passions control me, I have found it difficult to love people.  I have found it difficult to love myself.  But all of the times in my life that I have bridled my passions and been in control of my own emotions, I have found it easy to love and I have been much happier.

I have also tried this experiment with the doctrine concerning homosexual behavior.  I went the first 27 years of my life without engaging in any homosexual activity at all (even so much as holding hands with another man, except one time in jest).  I even married a woman in order to test out the doctrine that all men should marry women.  This doctrine did not pass the test.  Having had a girlfriend (who became my wife) and a boyfriend, I can say with complete confidence that the teaching that man should not be with man is not of God.  It is not a teaching that will help me reach ultimate happiness or my highest potential.  I can be just as happy with a man as a straight man can be with a woman.  I do not need to be married to someone of the opposite sex in order to fulfill God's plan for me.  I have tested and tried this doctrine--just as is counseled in the Sermon on the Mount--and have found it to be of man, not of God.  I can safely say that, having a sweetheart to call my own, I have never been happier at any time in my life.  There are those that say that this happiness cannot last--that ultimately it will end in sorrow.  To that, I suppose my only reply is: wait and see.  We will see if at any future point in my life I come to the realization that this assessment is correct.  If such a time ever comes, I will humbly admit that it is so.  But, until that time comes, I say that a life in a homosexual relationship can be just as fulfilling to a gay person as life in a heterosexual relationship is for a straight person.