Looking Beyond the Mark

Jacob 4:14–18

14 But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.
15 And now I, Jacob, am led on by the Spirit unto prophesying; for I perceive by the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that by the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation.
16 But behold, according to the scriptures, this stone shall become the great, and the last, and the only sure foundation, upon which the Jews can build.
17 And now, my beloved, how is it possible that these, after having rejected the sure foundation, can ever build upon it, that it may become the head of their corner?
18 Behold, my beloved brethren, I will unfold this mystery unto you; if I do not, by any means, get shaken from my firmness in the Spirit, and stumble because of my over anxiety for you.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:

“In the Book of Mormon, Jacob speaks of ancient Judah as having rejected the words of its prophets because individuals living then ‘despised the words of plainness’ and because they ‘sought for things that they could not understand’ (Jacob 4:14). Intellectual embroidery seems to have been preferred to the whole clothing of the gospel—the frills to the fabric. In fact, one can even surmise that complexity was preferred over plainness by some because in conceptual complexity there might somehow be escape, or excuse, for noncompliance and for failure. In any event, this incredible blindness which led to the rejection of those truths spoken by prophets and which prevented the recognition of Jesus for who He was, according to Jacob, came ‘by looking beyond the mark.’ Those who look beyond plainness, beyond the prophets, beyond Christ, and beyond His simple teachings waited in vain then, as they will wait in vain now. For only the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us of things as they really are and as they really will be. There is more realism in the revelations than in reams of secular research, for secularism is congenitally shortsighted. Without revelation and its absolute anchors, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would also follow the fads of the day, as some churches have done; but as Samuel Callan warned, the church that weds itself to the culture of the day will ‘be a widow within each successive age.’ This is but one of the marks of the ‘true and living’ Church: it is spared the fruits of fad[d]ism.”

(On Being a Light [address delivered at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion, Jan. 2, 1974], p. 1.)