Personal Musings of a Latter-day Saint with Asperger's Syndrome

Initiating Action

A source of frustration for myself (and perhaps other AS-LDS as well) is the fact that we belong to a church of ACTION, of DOING.  Countless talks, especially those directed at the youth, cite various passages of scripture to support this concept:

  • Faith without works is dead (James 2:17)
  • We are made to act for ourselves, and not to be acted upon. (2 Ne. 2:26)
  • We should not be commanded in all things, but do many things of our own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.  (D&C 58:26-27)

Such statements, while intended to inspire and motivate, can have the opposite effect on the person with AS, especially when coupled with depression/anxiety as it tends to be.  Does that mean that we are not to be “acted upon” by our condition?  Are we to bring to pass as much righteousness as another who doesn’t have our challenges?

The element common to the three passages above seems to be initiative—self-starting.  It assumes that we are aware enough to know what needs to be done, and have the energy and capacity to do it.  From my own experience, I know that I often do have to be commanded in many things (not quite all) simply because my thinking tends to be a bit foggy, and I’m not always sure what to do.  I’ve gotten better over the last couple of years, but it’s something that I will probably always struggle with to some extent.

This may seem to be an unbreachable impasse—the commandment to act for ourselves, conflicting with the reality of our own limitations—but the happy news is that the Lord already knows all that.  He knows that everybody has limitations which collides with the ideal of acting for oneself; the fact of being mortal is itself a severe limitation.  To balance out the passages above, we may also remember the following:

  • We are not to run faster than we have strength (Mosiah 4:27)
  • If we honestly have the genuine attitude that we would do more if we had more capacity, then we are justified (Mosiah 4:24-25)
  • If we have worthy desires, then we are judged by what we have been given rather than what we have not been given. (2 Cor. 8:12)

The second set of passages, in concert with the first group, indicates to me that the Lord’s expectations of us take into account the entire package:  He views us in light of both our strengths, and our limitations, but He also expects us to do what we can and not use our limitations as an excuse for not even trying.  We are to do what is within our power, and cheerfully leave the results to God’s grace.

What this means to me is that while I may need to have many things spelled out to me, I can still use my own steam to do those things that don’t have to be spelled out to me.  I may not be very good at reaching out to people, but I can let them know that I am available and anxious to be of service.  I may not be good enough to play ward basketball, but I can encourage and support those who are.

In short, as I do that which I am able to do (writing, teaching, contributing my insights to church meetings), God is more willing to work around my limitations.  And happily enough, I’m better able to face them as well.


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Hugh Nibley [off the record]

Candid musings of the LDS scholar who was the church's strongest intellectual defender and Mormon culture's gad-fly critic.

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