I’ve been studying the New Testament for years. On my mission, we’d talk of following Christ and his teachings as a way back to Heavenly Father. My question is when the rich man asked Jesus what to do to return back to Heavenly Father, why didn’t Jesus teach him a first discussion? Why didn’t Jesus tell the rich man to get baptized or to accept Peter as his prophet seer and revelator and the only one on earth possessing all priesthood keys? Why is our message so different from Jesus?
One of the wonderful traits of Heavenly Father is that He knows His children and tailors His guidance to their needs. You didn’t mention how long it’s been since you were on your mission, but Elders and Sisters today have electronic resources now that I never even dreamed of when I was on my mission. They have different discussions than the ones I taught too. And these changes happened within just a couple of generations. Consider also, that sometimes even today it is necessary to teach people from different cultures differently. The way a missionary might approach investigators in the Bible belt of America is very different than the way they would approach a family in Hong Kong who has not been raised believing in Christ. But God loves us and meets us where we are.
Remember that most of the people Jesus taught were Jewish. Their education in the scriptures is very different than what you and I received. So He gave them the message that was appropriate for them. Let’s take this a little further. Remember in the Old Testament it was common for people to have inspired dreams. The Lord taught people and prepared them through dreams. Dreams were a very important aspect of Joseph of Egypt’s life. On the other hand, it is not common for people to talk about dreams today. It is still possible for the Lord to use dreams as personal instruction, but culturally speaking it is less common. I don’t recall President Thomas S. Monson ever sharing a dream that revealed a message for the Church. These are more examples of the Lord guiding His people in the way that they are ready to listen. It is much the same we that we tailor our lessons to each other. On Sundays we have lessons at church to the Primary, the Youth, to investigators and to adult members. Often they are all covering the same topics but taught in different ways depending on the audience.
The best part, James, is to know that He knows you, and knows the best way to teach you. This is such a blessing from a loving father.