The Shaded Areas of Our Testimony

This week, as part of the General Conference Odyssey we are writing about the final session of the April 1971 conference. Already, having completed only one conference, I have been deeply struck by the powerful, uplifting, and inspired message that come from general conference. While of the themes have been similar to more modern conferences, I have been struck by many of the vivid metaphors used.

I had been struck on my initial read through by Elder William H. Bennett’s talk, but it took additional resonance for me today in light of some of the new uproar sparked by Elder Nelson’s recent comment that the same-sex policy change was revelation from the Lord.

William H. Bennett spoke of the test for color blindness that he had to take when he enlisted in the army during World War II. Many soldiers were disqualified because even though they could distinguish between solid colors, they had a hard time discerning the shaded areas between the colors. Even though these shades of colors were visible to others, these color blind individuals could not discern the difference.

Elder Bennett noted that this color blindness is similar to “the condition of a member of the Church who claims that he is seeking the truth, is anxious to develop a strong testimony pertaining to the truth, and yet is not willing or able to humble himself before the Lord, to exercise faith, and to live the gospel?”

He noted that in our world, while there are some areas that are obviously black and white, many other areas constitute shaded areas, but “unless aided by a higher power, are not able to see clearly, to interpret correctly, and to come to sound conclusions.” Indeed, we have “some limitations when it comes to our understanding of things as they really are.”

For such spiritual matters, “[o]ur thinking is often highly selective and segmented and our judgment is often faulty.” But fortunately, “we need not walk alone.” God has given us guidance to help us navigate these shaded areas. In particular, the scriptures and the words of the prophets are there to help us. Likewise, seeking the gift of the Holy Ghost can “broaden and extend our horizons and can turn the lights on for us so that we can see more clearly in the shaded areas of life.”

Unfortunately, so many “seem to be more inclined to disbelieve the scriptures and the teachings of our present-day prophets than they are to believe them.” If only “they would put forth the same effort to believe that they do to disbelieve” the holy ghost would help them come to believe “many of the things they now think they disbelieve.”

I particularly loved the metaphor of color blindness to describe this phenomenon. The Colorblind simply are not aware that they are colorblind. They think that they see all of the colors, and are unaware of how limited their perspective truly is. To them, the whole world simply appears to have fewer shades. When we are spiritually blind, we likewise tend to think that we are wise and become puffed up in the certainty of our knowledge. We imagine that we understand things as they truly are and will be. It isn’t until we are made aware of our colorblindness, and have our sight expanded that we can begin to see clearly.

When I hear of members so quick to assume that they know better than the living prophets regarding Church doctrine and policy, I feel sorry. I was once color blind to the beautiful doctrines of regarding the family. I too kicked against the pricks and fought against the teaching’s of God. In my heart, I believed that I could see everything in full color. I believed that I understood as much as the Prophets do.

But as I got on my knees, poured my heart out in prayer, and went to the temple to gain heightened perspective, I realized that I had suffered from colorblindness. I realized that the Prophet had been able to see the shaded areas and had warned us of those dangers that lay within them. I gained a greater appreciation of the divinity of such truths. It was an agonizing process to gain that witness, but once I did I was able to proceed onward with a greater testimony and conviction of the divine truth’s of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I also remembered the words of Amazing Grace which resonated as I thought of this subject:

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.”

The power of God’s grace can heal and instruct us. It can overcome darkness and blindness of all kinds. It isn’t always easy to access that grace. Our blindness is deeply rooted in us as a result of the mortal condition. Because we are fallen, we are limited in our sight and perspective. It isn’t easy to root out that natural blindness. And yet that is precisely why God sent his son, and why he sends us prophets and apostles to help to guide us along the way.


Overview of General Conference Odyssey project

Other Posts this week

Nathaniel Givens The Path Out of Shadows
J. Max Wilson LDS Conference April 1971 – A Really Round and Hairy Look at Honesty
Walker Wright You Have Entered the Twilight Zone
SilverRain Liminality and Shaded Areas, Unborrowed Light
Michael Worley He Lives, and there were gold plates!! (General Conference Odyssey: April 2015 Tuesday Afternoon)
Ralph Hancock A People Blessed by Revelation
Michelle Linford Eyes to see

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