After hearing Elder Quentin L. Cook’s talk "Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus" in the last general conference. This quote has been on my mind.
"While there are many examples of looking beyond the mark, a significant one in our day is extremism. Gospel extremism is when one elevates any gospel principle above other equally important principles and takes a position that is beyond or contrary to the teachings of Church leaders.”
This phrase "looking beyond the mark comes from Jacob 4:14.
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.
If you look in the footnotes to Elder Cook's conference talk you will see that he wrote an article in the Ensign in 2003 on this topic, titled "Looking Beyond the Mark"
This article is significant because he wrote about specific was we can recognize when we are looking beyond the mark. He said we look beyond the mark when we:
1. substitute the philosophies of men for gospel truths
2. engage in gospel extremism
3. seek heroic gestures at the expense of daily consecration
4. elevate rules over doctrine.
Perhaps one shield against the temptation to look beyond the mark comes from Mosiah 4:27. Notice the principles of wisdom, order, requisite, and diligent are evident in this verses.
27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order. Mosiah 4:26-27
The gospel of Christ is simple, but we sometimes make it overly complicated and by so doing fall in the trap of preaching "more or less" than the simple doctrines of the gospel.
67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
68 Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. (D&C 10:67-68)
This has caused me to wonder if our "mark" might change as we mature and progress in the gospel. For some who are struggling with daily prayer and scripture study their mark may be different than for someone who has mastered that habit. We start to wander off the path when we take a gospel principle that we are personally working on and try to convince others that they should also move over and use our personal spiritual journey as their own. Each of us goes through phases where we concentrate on a particular gospel topic in order to gain a deeper understanding. This is good and spiritually healthy. However, when we have opportunity to teach or speak in Church we are commanded to teach the pure doctrine of the gospel. We look beyond the mark when our personal gospel study, personal inspiration, and individual revelation is shared in such a way to convince others to elevate your current personal gospel topic above the basic doctrines and principles of the gospel.