The scriptures direct us to seek the Lord for help in solving problems:
“Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” (D&C 112:10.)
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
“For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matt. 7:7–8.)
These directions seem clear enough, but experiences with life and with other passages of scripture teach us that the invitation to ask, to seek, and to knock involves more than merely asking. Through Jeremiah the Lord said, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13.) A certain amount of searching, forethought, and preparation are required. Once when Oliver Cowdery failed to get the help he desired, the Lord explained:
“Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
“But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong. …” (D&C 9:7–9.)
This principle was used in finding a wife for Isaac, the son of Abraham. Abraham placed upon his servant the responsibility of finding the right woman and persuading her to return with him. The servant thereupon devised a plan and asked for the Lord’s help:
“And he said, O Lord God of my master Abraham. … Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:
“And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know. …
“And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, … with her pitcher upon her shoulder.
“… and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up.
“And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher.
“And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink.
“And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also. …
“And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.
“And [he] bowed down his head, and worshipped the Lord.” (Gen. 24:12–21, 26.)
When Nehemiah, the governor, was trying to solve the problems of his people, he said, “I consulted with myself …” about it. (Neh. 5:7.) Since Nehemiah frequently prayed to the Lord, this probably means that he worked things out in his own mind first.
This principle was also demonstrated when the brother of Jared asked the Lord: “… I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?” The Lord expected the prophet to put forth a little effort himself in solving the problem, and so replied, “… What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?” Then the prophet “went forth unto the mount … and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones, and they were white and clear, … and cried again unto the Lord, saying:
This same type of initiative is encouraged by the Lord in the latter days:
“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things. … Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them. …” (D&C 58:26–28.)
Laman and Lemuel, however, did not seem to understand the principle:
“… I [Nephi] spake unto my brethren, desiring to know of them the cause of their disputations.
“And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken. …
“And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
“And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” (1 Ne. 15:6–9.)
Apparently these men lacked the faith to inquire of the Lord for information, and they had not worked at it diligently enough to get an answer. Nephi said that they “knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” (1 Ne. 2:12; see also Mosiah 10:14.)
Thus the scriptures indicate that one of the more effective ways in finding answers to our problems is to work at a solution ourselves according to our best judgment, asking the Lord for guidance in formulating the right procedure, and then putting it into operation.
This does not mean that each time the way will suddenly be manifest as clearly as the noonday sun, for as Nephi once explained: “… I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless I went forth. …” (1 Ne. 4:6–7.)
The answer may be a gradual unfolding: “… ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along” (D&C 78:18); “… and I will order all things for your good, as fast as ye are able to receive them” (D&C 111:11).
Therefore, “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly. …” (D&C 90:24.)