Monday, August 24, 2009

Hedging My Bets?

These days we rather despise the hedging of bets. The practice of betting on both sides in an effort to protect ourselves from losses has become pervasive, even institutionalized in the stock market. We get all upset about the devastation the practice has had on the economy, but hedging in our own personal lives is more common and even worse.

Let me give you a few examples of how we hedge our spiritual bets. When I was serving a mission in the Philippines we were instructed to live on $100.00 a month. Our parents were told the same. Before I arrived, missionaries had discovered that if we cashed our checks on the Black Market we could get 600 pesos for $100.00 as opposed to 350 pesos if we exchanged our dollars at the bank. We used the Black Market. For a while we went each month to see the China Man in Quiapo in his dark hole in a shady part of town. It seemed so adventuresome to sneak through the dark alleys and up secret stairs to conduct our clandestine errands. Later, for our safety, the China Man began coming to the Mission Home on P-Day. He was doing so when Elder Ezra Taft Benson came for a visit. Clearly, that gentle Apostle was not pleased.

Elder Benson admonished us to have faith. He counseled us to refrain from this illegal activity and promised that if we went to the bank and trusted in God we would manage just fine. We did so. In other words, we quit hedging our bets. The next month the Philippines floated their peso on the international money market and thereafter, and for the remainder of my mission, the bank yielded 650 or so pesos in exchange for $100.00!

A friend once told me that she would pray each morning for the strength to quit smoking and then (just in case God was too busy) she would slap a nicotine patch on her shoulder. She was hedging her bet. When she realized what she was doing, she repented, put her trust in God, quit hedging and, exercising her faith, quit smoking too!

I am aware that Brigham Young admonished us to pray as if everything depended on God and then to work as if everything depended on us. There is merit and blessing in this counsel. But too often we use such counsel as an excuse for our own lack of faith. Exercising faith in God is not the same as gambling. Laboring in the vineyard is not the same as hedging.

If we are short on funds enough to pay the bills, keeping back our tithing is hedging, even if we promise to make it up next month.

If we truly accept Joseph Smith's declaration that, "I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves," we won't teach correct principles to our children and then hedge by controlling their lives. Joseph wasn't a control freak and neither is God.

Today, I have been offered a job, that, in my heart, I know I should not accept. Still, I am tempted to accept the offer because I have no other present prospects. In other words, I am tempted to hedge my bet. The thing is, it is not a bet. I know what God expects of me and I must trust that He has something else in mind for me. While I am not privileged to know what lies in the future, I am clearly assured that this job is not for me. I am grateful for what knowledge God has granted me and that must be good enough. If it is not, what does it say of my faith and trust in God. If not, it says I don't truly trust Him and that I feel I must rely on the arm of the flesh to ensure my survival.

Trusting in the arm of the flesh is always a case of hedging our bets. It means that we have yet to come to trust God sufficiently that we are confident that he is true and faithful. It means that we feel we must have contingency plans in place in the event that God doesn't come through for us. Trusting in the arm of the flesh does not mean we should not prepare. It is an expression of our faith in Him when we follow the Prophet and store a year's supply of food, for example.

When the saints were leaving Nauvoo, Brigham Young gave very explicit instructions as to what each family should prepare and take with them. Many were unwilling or unable to fully adhere to those instructions. Brother George A. Smith was one who followed Brother Brigham's instructions to the letter. Weeks later President Young encountered Brother Smith while crossing Iowa. George A.'s wagon was bogged down in mud up to its axles. He anxiously asked Brother Brigham what should be done, whereupon the prophet told him his load was too heavy and that he ought to lighten it by giving much of his supply to the poor. George A. Smith, didn't flinch, didn't hedge his bet, he simply, humbly, trustingly complied.

Today, I want to be like George A. Smith.

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