How can you not keep reading with a title like that? Let’s start with a story.
Imagine you are going bowling with God. Jesus is there, just hanging out and eating nachos or something. So you rent your bowling sandals and pick out a ball- you’re ready to go. You walk up to the line, and look back at God, who’s sitting there waiting for you to roll.
“Well aren’t you gonna help me??” You ask Him dubiously. “I thought you were like this all-knowing God… I was kinda hoping you’d help me out here.”
“Uhh, I mean, you do know the concept of bowling, right?” He asks you.
“Well yeah, but like can’t you come hold the ball with me and show me how to roll it??”
Then He’s like, “No…just roll the ball. That’s kind of the whole point, just hit the pins…”
So now you’re a little disappointed. Naturally, you want to bowl well in front of God and Jesus. You don’t want to be embarrassed.
So after pushing God’s patience a bit more, He finally explains to you. “Listen Clements, I want you to imagine a 360 degree circle all around you,” He says. “In my Infinite Wisdom, I have calculated that it is very unlikely that you will roll the ball backwards into the audience! Is that a fair assumption?”
You nod your head confused as He goes on. “I have also prophesied that even with your minimal athletic ability, it is unlikely that you will roll the ball across the isles and into the other lanes! Is that right?”
“Yes…” you answer, waiting for the punch line.
“So now imagine that circle again, but this time like a pizza. If our lane is a slice of pizza, what angle do you have to roll the ball at to keep it in our lane? 5-10 degrees,” He says. “I believe that with zero guidance from Me, you can somehow manage to get this bowling ball within 5-10 degrees of where it needs to be.”
Now you’re all amazed, thinking “Woahhhh You must be a Prophet or something!!“
God goes on. “Now, Clements, I want to make a deal with you. I brought my friend JC here with us today, who, if you haven’t heard, is rather good at bowling. For every round, as long as you roll the first ball, I will allow JC to roll your second ball. So even if you just get 2 pins down, you can let Him try to get the rest.”
So you take the deal and walk up to the line. You do your fancy moves- twinkle toes, behind the back, through the legs, doing everything you can to knock the pins down. Your first round, you knock down 2, as if Somebody had guessed it. Sure enough, JC knocks the last 8 down for you with ease. As the game goes on, you get better and better, and you end up having a perfect score (mostly due to JC).
The key part of the deal here is that you have to at least try. You have to roll the ball and try to get within 5-10% of the right choice. From there, you can let Jesus finish the job. Let’s look at this in a few scenarios.
You’re a missionary. You go into a lesson prepared and you give it. You do all you can and through your 18-20 year old skills and lack of language mastery, you knock down a few pins. Luckily, God and Christ knock the rest down and suddenly it’s a perfect lesson.
You’re a Seminary teacher. Same thing. One hour you nail it and knock down 6 pins yourself, JC gets the rest, and it’s a perfect class. The next hour you’re way off your game and only knock down 1 pin… yet the students walk out feeling like it was a perfect class.
If you’d really like to take this analogy further, you can think as Satan as the janitor. He comes to your lane and gets all up in your business, saying “You’re such a sissy, you need someone to help you knock down the pins! You’re terrible at bowling!” Luckily, you can remember that the janitor doesn’t even have his own lane and has never even bowled himself.
This analogy has several purposes, but my favorite is that it teaches us about the nature of God. Here’s a direct quote from Maurice Harker:
What if God is an actual person with a diverse personality and you can actually get to know Him?
This is the first principle of the gospel according to Joseph Smith. And, it is the motivation behind all my writings. To come to know God. So I invite you to go bowling with God and get to know Him in the process.