While serving in the Seventy, Elder Dean L. Larsen explained that the Israelites in ancient times “got themselves into great difficulty” because they “placed themselves in serious jeopardy in spiritual things because they were unwilling to accept simple, basic principles of truth. They entertained and intrigued themselves with ‘things that they could not understand’ (Jacob 4:14). They were apparently afflicted with a pseudosophistication and a snobbishness that gave them a false sense of superiority over those who came among them with the Lord’s words of plainness. They went beyond the mark of wisdom and prudence, and obviously failed to stay within the circle of fundamental gospel truths, which provide a basis for faith. They must have reveled in speculative and theoretical matters that obscured for them the fundamental spiritual truths. As they became infatuated by these ‘things that they could not understand,’ their comprehension of and faith in the redeeming role of a true Messiah was lost, and the purpose of life became confused. A study of Israel’s history will confirm Jacob’s allegations” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 11–12; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 11).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained how “looking beyond the mark” can be avoided today: “This incredible blindness which led to the rejection of those truths spoken by prophets and which prevented the recognition of Jesus for who he was, according to Jacob, came ‘by looking beyond the mark.’ Those who look beyond plainness, beyond the prophets, beyond Christ, and beyond his simple teachings waited in vain then, as they will wait in vain now. For only the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us of things as they really are and as they really will be” (“On Being a Light” [address delivered at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion, Jan. 2, 1974], 1).