Keith Vorkink speaks about drawing spiritual inferences

Marriott School of Management Associate Dean, Keith Vorkink, shares his opinion about seeking out spiritual inferences in his March 28, 2017 devotional address. (Ryan Turner)

BYU Marriott School of Management Associate Dean Keith Vorkink spoke on the challenges of drawing spiritual inferences during his devotional address. He said the Lord provides a way to help avoid making the mistake of solely relying on consequences.

Vorkink said the important thing when making spiritual inferences is not only knowing what conclusion to draw, but also knowing sometimes no conclusion should be drawn.

He started off his address by telling a story of a scout trip he took as a boy in his home state of Alaska. The scouts were rafting down the Gulkana River and came upon a seven to 10 foot waterfall.

He said he decided to stay with his father, who was his youth leader at the time, and raft down the waterfall. The fall knocked his father out of the raft and Vorkink was left in the raft trying to keep it from tipping.

“At one point, I came to the brilliant conclusion that what my leaders were trying to tell me to do was to ‘hold tight to the raft’,” Vorkink said. “So with all of the trust and faith in their instructions, I did my best to increase my already death grip on the raft.”

Vorkink and his father made it safely back to shore, after many attempts to get the raft out of the current of the falls. They were greeted by Vorkink’s leaders.

“I believe my experience on the raft that day and the difficulty of determining what caused my safe escape represents, in some ways, the challenges we face in determining the true causes of outcomes in our lives” Vorkink said. “We make many mistakes in determining causality.”

Vorkink said the three parties involved in the rescue came to an incorrect conclusion about how he was able to escape.

First, his young men leaders. They thought their instructions helped Vorkink get out of the current even though he was unable to hear them over the loud rushing water.

“Perhaps they saw the tightening of my grip following their shouting and viewed this as leaning against the tipping raft and concluded that their instructions had been received, obeyed, and caused my safe escape,” Vorkink said.

Second, the other young men. Vorkink said there was too much uncertainty about what had actually happened and it gave the other young men a reason to accept his story of bravery and obedience.

“Perhaps they may have said to themselves ‘There is no way I could have done that, but Keith, he is brave and so of course he would follow the instructions and save himself,'” Vorkink said.

Lastly, Vorkink himself came to an incorrect conclusion. Vorkink said he wanted to believe it was his own bravery that helped him escape but since he couldn’t hear his leaders from the shore trying to help him, he knew that wasn’t the case.

“Like this experience, we face many situations as helper, observer, or participant where we can become misled or just make a mistake assessing the true causes of the outcomes in our lives,” Vorkink said.

He said fear, insecurity and the distractions of the world around us, can be misleading and  those thoughts then lead to a making the wrong conclusions about what actually happened.

Vorkink said one of the greatest challenges here on earth is learning how to make the right judgments when uncertainty arises.

He quoted President Russell M. Nelson who said it is important to pray to know what God is teaching his children versus what man is teaching the world.

“Through eons of time, Lucifer has honed his craft…he is skilled at distraction, distortion, deception, and misdirection,” President Nelson said. “I plead with you to avoid his cunning snares as you would avoid a plague.”

Vorkink said to not focus too much on the outcome, like serving a mission, because the opportunity for growth might be missed.

“To do so will keep us from coming to know Christ and his atonement more personally and to qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, the most important companion of a successful missionary,” Vorkink said.

He said sometimes it isn’t possible to get all of the information needed in order to determine causality, so sometimes there is no need to draw on a conclusion at all.

“Satan lures us into the need of trying to explain all behavior and his offered conclusions lead us away from seeing others as God does,” Vorkink said.

Vorkink said economists and statisticians define the term ‘instrument’ as information that can help get rid of the unimportant correlations in order to give direction as to the cause of the problem.

He said that the spiritual instrument is the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Vorkink quoted President James E. Faust who said there is protection that can be found in seeking the Holy Ghost.

“This gift comes undeviatingly by personal revelation to those who strive to obey the commandments of the Lord and to follow the counsel of the living prophets,” President Faust said.

Vorkink said it’s important to remember the gift of having His Spirit each week.

“I am personally grateful for Aaronic Priesthood holders who each week petition God in my behalf for help that I might always remember Christ and that I might always have His Spirit to be with me,” Vorkink said.



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