My biggest fear is that people will see me differently than I see myself. Sounds kind of funny, right? But it’s true. I feel I know myself very well, and if other people get to know me and somehow come away with a different conclusion, that is frightening to me. And certainly, you can understand why.

If people see me differently than I see myself, I can draw one of two conclusions. First, I can assume they are not very intelligent and are therefore incapable of recognizing my most important traits and my obvious virtues. Or, second, I might be in trouble, because how I see myself may not actually be accurate. And if its not, then its my intelligence and mental acuity which is now in question.

If I want to be seen as wise, intelligent, trustworthy, and capable and people see me instead as kind, shy, and long-winded (which is also one of my fears…talking so much I don’t notice people are bored), then I’m missing something big; and that is frightening.

So, what are you afraid of?

I find that especially when it comes to spirituality, a lot of people steer clear because they are afraid. They are afraid to get to know themselves—to see themselves in God’s eyes. They are afraid that in that light they will see not only the things they already know they do wrong, but others they haven’t noticed yet.

I find that people are afraid of what keeping the commandments means. “Will I have to give up X and stop ever doing Y?” They are afraid of what coming closer to Christ means for the comfortable pieces of their life. Because they can’t yet comprehend or get excited about What giving up X and stopping Y will open their lives up to receive.

I find that people are afraid of sacrifice. Christianity is, after all, a religion of sacrifice. Give up this to be in Christ’s fold. Give up this to be worthy to enter into a covenant. Give up…give up…give up…

In the scriptures we are taught to “lose our life” (JST Mark 8:37-38) that we may gain it, for Christ’s sake. To “take up our cross and follow Him” (Matthew 10:38).

Almost always, if we are afraid to keep a commandment, to take a leap of faith, it’s because we are afraid of not getting something of equal value to what we already have and which we don’t feel particularly keen to give up. Not realizing of course that what we will get is of far more worth than anything we currently have, or can imagine.

So, what is it you are afraid of? What are you afraid of losing, sacrificing, learning, seeing, sharing, or giving up in exchange for God’s way in your life?

What are you excited for?

Too often we focus on what we are giving up rather than what we will get. That is where Satan pounds on the fear pedal and we turn and run from God’s commandments, covenants, and offerings. The irony of this is that what we truly want is far better than anything we currently have. But in order to get what we truly want we have to be willing to part with our present circumstances and actions. Satan doesn’t want us to have the blessings God has for us. Satan doesn’t want us to get anything better.

Too often we make the idea of the choice a huge, ceremonial event, when all it is is our choice to “flip a switch” (thank you @_valeriecuevas on IG). No big event needed. We just make one choice, then another, then another.

The scriptures teach us that we can’t even imagine the awesome blessings and wonderful life we will have as a follower of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:9, D&C 76:10). We can’t imagine them because what we can imagine is so much less than what God has in store. That is reason for excitement.

Imagine you’re on a game show, and the host says, “You’ve chosen door #1. It’s $10,000. Do you want to keep it? Or do you want door #2, which, even though you don’t know how much it is, I can guarantee you it’s far more than you can imagine.”

Will you seriously hold on to your $10K even though you’ve been assured that door #2 is so much better—than you can imagine? If you do stick with the $10K, it’s likely because you believe the game host is trying to trick you, right? You’re afraid. But God is never going to try to trick you.

If, instead of being afraid, we focused on the awesome unknown blessings, the known blessings, and the love we feel from God, we would find excitement to obey instead of fear. “Take that Satan, not only do I have more than you already, but I’m going to get even more by doing what you could never do…listen, trust in God, and obey.”

The trial of faith

What good is keeping a commandment if you don’t learn something about yourself from it. Usually, when we commit to keeping a commandment the immediate “visual” result is… (pin drop) …nothing. “Wait! Where is my blessing?”

I would argue that in keeping a commandment we feel an immediate internal peace, knowing that we are doing the Lord’s will. Fist pump. We are on the right track. But that darn fear just likes to creep right back up. “What if this is the one time He doesn’t come through?” “What if He comes through with the blessing too late?” “What if…what if…what if?” and so on.

Sometimes blessings that we can see are immediate. Blessings we cannot see are always immediate. But often, blessings we can see are usually slower to appear, or we are slow to recognize them.

Why does God do that? Because, our obedience was never just about getting blessings. It was also about us getting to know ourselves, and learning what we’re made of.

Give it time—wait it out

C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity:

…I want to add that the next step is to make some serious attempt to practice the Christian virtues. A week in not enough. Things often go swimmingly for the first week. Try six weeks. By that time, having, as far as one can see, fallen back completely or even fallen lower than the point one began from, one will have discovered some truths about oneself. No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the wind by trying to talk against it, no by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full extent what temptation means—the only complete realist.

I love this quote because from it we learn a few things. First, God doesn’t always let us see our immediate blessings so that we have time to learn a little more about ourselves. But simply because we can’t see blessings doesn’t mean God lets us down. On the contrary. The longer we hang in there and wait—even if it seems like His help or guidance is past due—the stronger our faith and resolution in Him—and ourselves—when He finally does reveal all that He’s been up to since we started keeping His commandments.

In fact, this is one of my favorite things. Because I feel the stress of that waiting too, even though I’ve been practicing it for years. That “fear” still tries to get me. I get tired waiting, just like everyone else. But then the moment comes. And (fireworks!) I see how God has been putting my blessings together for a long time and how they’ve come together to bring something amazing into my life—that I could never have imagined—and “I stand all amazed.” It’s the most amazing process I’ve ever experienced in my life—and which I continue to experience. There’s nothing like it available anywhere on earth…only from God.

Having to “wait it out” or “sweat it out” creates godly character in us and gives meaning to our faith, our sacrifice, etc. We find out our mettle by trusting in the Lord. Then, by overcoming our fears, we gain greater excitement and faith in the blessings yet to come as we embrace more commandments, more covenants, and more virtues. In other words, our fear dies—Satan loses—and our faith and excitement in God’s promises increases. We get spiritually confident.

But we have to wait it out sometimes and recognize that this is part of the process that creates excitement and overcomes fear.

Challenge

So, I challenge you. Figure out your spiritual fear. What are you worried about losing in exchange for keeping a commandment, entering a covenant, forgiving, obeying, etc.?

Then, make a list of all the things you truly, deeply desire for yourself and your life. Hang them up where you can see them every day. At the bottom of that list write, “What God has in store for me is better than anything on this list.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I grew up with the word “agency” as a part of everyday life. When I made a choice, I was using my agency. I was able to make a choice because I had agency. Agency was fought over in the pre-mortal life, in a council where all of God’s spirit children were taught God’s plan. And in that plan, we needed agency. Satan (i.e. Lucifer) wanted to take away our agency, and force us to live right in this life. Jesus Christ defended our agency (our capacity to learn and choose for ourselves) and offered to be our Savior. It went on and on. (Abraham 3:23-28, Moses 4:1-4, Doctrine & Covenants 29:34-50)

Listen to the Mothers Who Know Podcast on Agency: the power to let go where I present!

I knew all the factual answers about agency. But though I was raised in an amazing home and was taught better than most, I didn’t really know anything about agency. Not really. I didn’t comprehend its depths and importance, I didn’t have sufficient understanding of the conditions of this life that made agency possible, and I certainly didn’t know how to reconcile the agency of others with how it impacted me and what that meant with regards to the atonement of Jesus Christ (grace).

When did I get a wake-up call? When my marriage of ten years began to crumble around me. It was a marriage solemnized by eternal covenants. It was a temple marriage.

What do you need to let go?

Before I continue my story, I’d like you to consider a few questions:

  • What part of your life causes you the most unease, fear, inner turmoil, distraction, anxiety, or despair?
  • Does it involve a relationship with another person?
  • Does it involve a relationship with yourself?

You might be surprised to find that “what you need to let go of today” can be identified by answering those questions. No matter what you began this article thinking you needed to let go of. When, if while you were considering those questions something else came to mind, then that is what you really need to let go of today.

Salvation and condemnation cannot be pronounced upon the ignorant

In Doctrine & Covenants 131:6 we read: It is impossible for [us] to be saved in ignorance.

If this is true then it also means the following: It is impossible for [us] to be condemned in ignorance.

But the question then becomes, “Ignorance of what?”

In John 17:3, Mathew 25:12, and JST Matthew 25:11 we learn that the knowledge we cannot be saved in ignorance of is a knowledge of, and a relationship with, God. Let that sit for just a minute.

Note: these scriptures don’t say anything about keeping a list of commandments, or ticking off any boxes. They don’t say anything about acting perfectly and never making mistakes. However, they indicate very clearly that whatever we do in this life, it had better lead us to a deep relationship with God and an understanding of our Heavenly Parents.

Thus, the first true goal of agency is that we might learn from our choices and experiences #whatgodislike and if we want a deep relationship with Him, and then to choose to develop that relationship. All of the rest, the commandments, covenants, ordinances—they are a catalyst to that eternal and saving relationship.

Too often we like to condemn people for imperfection or weakness. Too often we consider people saved because they appear to be ticking off all the boxes. But, if instead we changed our perspective to paying attention to the relationship they have developed with Jesus Christ and with Heavenly Father, then all of their weaknesses or kept commandments would mean far less—except in how they have helped these individuals develop that divine, critical relationship.

The power of agency is founded upon 6 conditions

The primary thing that I learned in the process of my failing marriage is that agency is not simply the power to make a choice. That is only a piece. What I learned is that agency is almost entirely about accountability: our ability to be saved or condemned based upon the relationship we have developed with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Agency = power to choose to develop a relationship with God + ability to be accountable for that relationship

The 6 conditions we need for full agency are:

  • Home away from home (our own space, stewardships, and possessions)
  • Law and consequence
  • Correct and complete instruction
  • Enticement
  • Experience
  • Atonement of Jesus Christ

Let’s look at each of these conditions separately.

Home away from home

When I first got remarried to Luke, my current husband, I’d had very little opportunity to get to know and develop a relationship with my eldest stepdaughter, Elizabeth. The month we got married she graduated from high school and headed straight to college. I didn’t get to know her really well until she came to live with us after I got pregnant with my youngest, and only biological, daughter, Anna.

While Elizabeth was living with us, she had chores and responsibilities. And, she didn’t always do them. When she failed to do them, I was always under the dilemma: 1) enforce her chores and responsibilities, or 2) do them myself and build the relationship. As a mom, enforcing rules and teaching children responsibility holds a lot of weight. But I was petrified of damaging the small relationship we had, and she had a lot of emotional and psychological injuries from her parent’s divorce. I was in a quandary.

While laboring over this quandary, the Spirit said to me, “She’ll very soon have a home of her own. She’ll learn by her experience then these responsibilities you’re worried about now. Let them go. Keep building the relationship.”

That was the answer. When Elizabeth had her “own home” she would learn by her experience the responsibilities I was so worried she’d never learn. When I came to understand that, I could “let go” of the quandary and simply love her.

One of the reasons we have been born in a mortal world away from our heavenly home is because there are some things we can’t learn without “having our own home” away from God. This is a critical condition of our mortal agency that allows us to choose for ourselves to develop a relationship with Heavenly Father. Out of His presence we are not compelled to develop that relationship. We have the opportunity to choose it.

Law and consequence

Law is established by God, and I am thankful for that. I haven’t met a person in this life that is capable of establishing right and wrong perfectly. So, we don’t have to worry about that. God has given us the law, and it is the law which creates accountability. It says what it right and wrong.

Consequences (eternal and mortal) are also established by the law. They cannot be changed, avoided, or transmuted. (Doctrine & Covenants 130:20-21)

Correct and complete instruction

The year before my first marriage ended, I was prompted repeatedly (and with great force) to preach at my spouse. I’d been praying so hard to save the marriage, then when these promptings came I was certain that by preaching at him I was going to say something to make him come around. I spent months saying the things and having the discussion the Spirit put upon me. Then, in the end, to my bewilderment, my spouse chose to end the marriage anyway. I was baffled.

However, a few months later I was open enough to learn, from the Spirit, that I had not been saving the marriage, I had been making my ex-spouse accountable. Accountable? How?

I thought my ex-spouse knew and had a testimony of the covenants he’d made with God next to me in the temple. But, after spending a year preaching to him about those very covenants and then to have it end, it occurred to me two things:

  • What he didn’t know, he now knows, and he was invited to act on truth and chose not to, and
  • Because I know that he knew those things and then he still chose an alternate path, I can “let go” of any concern I have that the marriage ending is my fault.

Did I make mistakes? Yes. But the Spirit taught me that ultimately, the accountability laid in keeping the covenant or rejecting it. I kept the covenant. He rejected it.

In our relationships with spouse, family, children, and friends; if we are invited by the Spirit to offer correct and complete instruction to them, thereafter we are free from the accountability. How many times in the scriptures do the prophets say that they are preaching to “rid my garments of your blood”? (See Testimony of Three Witnesses, Mosiah 2:28, and Mormon 9:35, etc.) This is accomplished by offering correct and complete instruction to those we love and then inviting them to act on it. Then, we can “let go.”

In Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis, the character named Dr. Ransom is kidnapped by two professors, smuggled onto a spaceship, and flown to another planet—against his will. The two professors won’t tell Ransom anything about the planet or its inhabitants. Thus, when Ransom arrives, “He saw nothing but colors—colors that refused to form themselves into things. Moreover, he knew nothing yet well enough to see it: you cannot see things till you know roughly what they are.”

We tend to expect people to “see” their errors clearly when they still know very little, or insufficient, to know what those errors look like—in all circumstances—and what they are. This is the purpose of correct and complete instruction. We need to lower our judgment and increase our instruction.

Enticement

I think we often expect people to know what God’s voice sounds like (or what it feels like) when they haven’t yet come to understand what Satan’s voice sounds like (or feels like). We expect them to identify the positive with as little experience with the negative as possible. This is an expectation we need to let go of.

Certainly, it would be nice if we all recognized the voice of the Spirit and never made any mistakes. But that is not the point of this life. The point of this life is to develop a relationship with God, a deep one. That involved learning to understand, recognize, and follow His voice, and to feel what it is like to have Him a part of our lives. For most of us, we cannot do this without some—and sometimes a lot of—experience with Satan’s voice, and what it feels like to have him in our lives.

Enticements by both Satan and God are necessary (both!) for us to gain experience and validate our knowledge of the instruction we have received.

Satan’s enticements look a lot like this:

  • Doubt, fear, feelings of worthlessness, encouragement to self-deprecate and despair,
  • Temptations to sin, to value the knowledge of men above that of our own spiritual feelings and experiences, to gossip,
  • The feeding of anger and the feeding of hopelessness,
  • The false belief that by controlling others we can save them

God’s enticements look a lot like this:

  • Light of Christ (gut feeling, or telestial guidance)
  • Power of the Holy Ghost – clear validation that we are hearing a truth (terrestrial guidance)
  • Gift of the Holy Ghost – constant validation of our gut feeling, reminders to act on validations of truth, and an actual change made in our central being toward sanctification (celestial guidance)
  • Spiritual Interventions – warnings that we are straying and what will happen if we continue
  • Spiritual Ultimatums – an immediate loss of some blessings combined with a call to repentance (a probationary period in which we have the opportunity to come back into compliance or will lose all blessings)

For more on spiritual interventions and ultimatums please check out my FREE book on PDF: Finding Greater Happiness, Peace, and Rest in the Covenant of Marriage.

I think it is easy to feel powerless as a spouse, parent, family member, or friend when those directly involved in our lives are heading away from the Lord or are openly fighting against Him. But we are not powerless. And, we can increase our power to “let go” by making use of spiritual interventions and spiritual ultimatums.

When I met my current husband, Luke, I wasn’t looking for marriage. But when it seemed clear that the Lord was offering me this path, I accepted it. Yet, I was tired. My divorce had taught me so much about agency, that I was determined to set some clear relationship boundaries with my new spouse.

So, I told him two things:

  1. I enjoy exercise and it’s a part of my life. I do it because I want to. I do it to be healthy enough to serve the Lord and my family. But I also love to eat. Good, really good, food is one of the most important things in my life. If you expect me at any point in our marriage to look like a super model, you can let go of that expectation and hope now. It’s not going to happen. Because it’s not important to me.
  2. Your salvation and exaltation are between you and God. Though I will enter this covenant with you, I have no intention of micromanaging, or even worrying, your relationship with God. So, don’t expect me to bug you or keep you in line. I’m going to be worrying about my own relationship and do not resent me for how I pursue that relationship. The only way I will ever bug you is if God inspires me to.

To date, I have only ever been prompted to bug Luke once. I have occasionally allowed myself to fear and bug him on my own—which didn’t help either of us. But as for the rest, God hasn’t prompted me to get involved. So, I have been able to “let go” of worrying about his salvation from the start.

I also prayed for the first several years only to ever see the good in him and to “let go” of the rest. Those prayers worked, and now I never worry. If I am ever tempted, I renew that prayer.

If, however, his salvation ever interferes with my working toward mine, then I am not powerless. I can use spiritual interventions and ultimatums. After which, I can again “let go.”

Experience

This is the condition of mortal agency that no one likes. Why? Because we want our spouses, friends, family members, and children to somehow develop a relationship with God by only making good choices, and never experiencing any negative consequences. If this is you, I hope this is a wakeup call.

Negative experience is scary to us, but it is not ever a loss. Experience with God’s opposite only teaches us more about God. Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ ALL experience is good experience if we learn from it. Remember that, and do not ever allow yourself to fear.

There is a popular book called The Giver by Lois Lowry which is about a society which has been created out of fear. By trying to avoid all the negative they produce a colorless, bland world where all but the Giver (in the society) see no color and feel no extremes in emotion. They don’t get to choose anything for themselves because:

  • It is scary
  • Because they might make the wrong choice
  • Because they might choose the wrong mate
  • Because they might choose the wrong job

However, in the end, the Giver—and the Giver to be—determine that this system must end. The Giver, alone, simply can’t bear all the negative memories and feelings, nor all the beauty and color, by themselves. It needs to be shared. And the most important reason, “so that people can choose for themselves.”

I often say these days “#GoAndDo” because the Spirit has taught me that no experience is a loss. So, when loved ones seem to be making choices that will make them miserable, I simply say, “#GoAndDo.” And I can say it with peace, and I can “let go” of fear and worry because I know that the sooner they choose and EXPERIENCE the consequences of their choices for themselves, the sooner they’ll learn. How they learn is not as important as that they do learn.

When loved ones do start down paths that lead to hard experiences, even negative experiences, I simply ask the Lord;

“If there is instruction I can give, and invitation I can extend, and example I can set, or love that I can show [this individual], let me know. Otherwise, it’s in Thy hands.”

The atonement of Jesus Christ

I’ve already said it, but the beauty of the atonement of Jesus Christ is that it allows us to gain experience and to choose a relationship with God with full accountability without being condemned by our mistakes or negative consequences in the learning process.

Read that again and again until you understand it well. It’s the primary key to “letting go!”

My eldest stepson, Daniel, was living at home with us. He’s always been exceptionally responsible. So, at the age of 17 my parents bought him a laptop. After having it a bit, he came to me and asked, “Aren’t you worried at all about the time I spend on my computer gaming or what I might be doing?” I was reading a book and at first, I didn’t look up. I just spoke, “No, not really. You know what’s right and wrong and healthy and unhealthy.”

Then, I looked up at him. He was standing in the doorway to the living room where I sat. “You’ve been taught. It’s your computer. Also, you know that if you make any mistakes or need help you can come to your Dad, and I, and we’ll help you…” Then, I laughed, “All your time on that computer is on you.”

Was I worried at the things he might do? No. I really wasn’t. I could let go because the 6 conditions of agency had been met—and I didn’t need to micromanage his relationship with God:

  1. The computer was his.
  2. We’d taught him right and wrong and the correct use of time and of his computer and the consequences of its use in certain ways.
  3. At the age of 17, he’d had experience with the voice of God and of Satan. He knew enough to be his own master.
  4. He’d already had experience with being tempted to play computer games too long and feeling the consequences.
  5. This was the first computer he’d had that was only his. It was time he began to learn from that experience.
  6. The atonement is in place, so if he makes mistakes, wastes time, or commits sin, he will learn from that experience and strengthen his relationship with Heavenly Father through repentance.

We often don’t realize this:

The entire purpose of agency is to allow us to gain sufficient experience to choose to become like, and develop a relationship with, our Heavenly Father with full accountability (Doctrine & Covenants 131:6). We can’t ultimately choose Him in ignorance (ibid.).

Agency is how we gain that accountability. The atonement takes care of all the rest.

A closing thought

The Israelites wanted someone else to have the relationship with God, to have the experience, and to bear the accountability. The result was a set of commandments I consider to be micromanagement. They had to get all their relationship and messages from God second-hand. They chose to deny themselves of the opportunity for that direct relationship with God. Why? They were afraid of accountability. Moses—and later their kings and judges—was their metaphorical Giver.

If we find ourselves micromanaging others choices, then are we getting in the way of them developing a relationship with God?

On the other hand, we have the Nephites, under the reign of King Mosiah II. When none of his children wanted the throne, King Mosiah II persuaded the Nephites to establish a system of judges and personal accountability.

Mosiah 29:38-39 says:

…yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins…and they were exceedingly rejoiced because of the liberty which had been granted unto them.

When the conditions for agency are met in our relationships with ourselves and others, we can LET GO.

As adults, we often ignore our experience and trade it in for our expectations. The Phantom Tolbooth by Norton Juster, one of my favorite books, proudly teaches us that we can’t get to where we’re going without first getting past expectations.

BT

Think back to a time when you had a gut feeling that you shouldn’t do something, and you did it anyway. In the aftermath, did you think, “Why didn’t I go with my gut?” Or, perhaps you had a gut feeling that you should do something, and you didn’t. Did you ever think, “I should have trusted that feeling,” or “I wonder what would have happened had I trusted that feeling?”

Now, take a moment and ponder the questions I’m about to put to you.

Here are questions:

  • First, what is a gut feeling? If you had to define what it is to a family member, friend, or child, what would you say?
  • Second, what is the purpose of a gut feeling? Does it serve a purpose? And if so, what do you think that purpose is?
  • Finally, where do you think gut feelings come from? And depending on how you answer that, consider the question, “How is it even possible that we have gut feelings at all?”

The Gut Feeling Defined

So, why do we call it a “gut” feeling? Dictionary definitions of the adjective “gut” imply that we associate this term with the: internal part or essence of who we are. It’s also related to the idea of courage, or inner strength. The connotation of the word also implies that we associate the idea of a gut feeling with something that is instinctive to who we are, even involuntary. It’s not only at the center of who we are, it is inseparable from who we are.

This is interesting in light of the fact that involuntary reactions and processes in our body are normally things like: blinking, breathing, reflexes, the heart beating, flight or fight responses, and so forth. And, here’s something even more interesting. The “gut feeling” often times—even frequently—disagrees with our other involuntary or instinctual actions.

We may instinctively feel attracted to another person and want to be with them, but our “gut feeling” warns us that our other instinctive feelings needs to be set aside, or given less importance in light of a higher sense—that this person will not be good for us in a relationship in the long run. Or, we may feel instinctively that we need to leave a dangerous situation, but our “gut feeling” tells us that we need to respond to a higher sense—that we need to save someone else from the danger if we can.

We may want to eat food because we “feel hungry” and yet have a “gut feeling” that the food we are choosing will not help us become healthier and may, conversely make us less healthy. Our “gut feeling” may instruct us to seek for better food even in light of the fact that we are hungry, or thirsty.

Such examples suggest that our “gut feeling” is our highest and most important instinctual guide. If it is high enough to sense when other instincts are in error, then it is, all of the sudden, the most important and best instinct we have—and therefore, should be followed.

The Origin of the Gut Feeling

How did we, as humans, come to possess this “gut feeling,” this instinct that somehow senses the rightness, wrongness, or even future impact (for good or ill) of all other impulses and their accompanying actions? The very idea that it can see things—even foresee things—that the rest of our physical, emotional, and conscious reasoning self cannot suggests that it has a higher origin.

In the Bible Dictionary we can learn much from the spiritual identification and explanation of the “gut feeling.” It is called the light of Christ. Meaning, our “gut feeling,” which many people call our conscience, is actually a spiritual instinct installed in our mortal form by Christ. It is a portion of His light—which is His power and His knowledge of truth. This Light of Christ not only gives us a fundamental sense of right and wrong, it is the power by which we become beings of reason at all.

The light of Christ is just what the words imply: enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ. For instance, Christ is “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (Doctrine & Covenants 93:2; John 1:9). The light of Christ fills the “immensity of space” and is the means by which Christ is able to be “in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things.” It “giveth life to all things” and is “the law by which all things are governed.” It is also the “light that quickeneth” man’s understanding (Doctrine & Covenants 88:6-13, 41).

…its influence is preliminary to and preparatory to one’s receiving the Holy Ghost.

Our “gut feeling” then is really another way of saying the “light of Christ.” Such an understanding also gives us motive to trust it and to follow it. If our “gut feeling” is actually a deep, spiritual instinct given to us by Jesus Christ then it suddenly makes sense when we say things like, “I knew I shouldn’t have done that,” or “I wish I had trusted my gut. I can see now that…” Christ is all-knowing. And though we aren’t, a piece of His light is in us and that piece knows things deeply that we can’t see or put into words consciously. Our “gut” knows! How cool is that!

Light of Christ versus the Gift of the Holy Ghost

A lot of people, even learned members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, struggle with the difference between the “light of Christ” and the “gift of the Holy Ghost.” So, let’s address that for just a moment.

Now, I don’t claim to have all the answers. All I can talk about are the few insights I have received and how I’ve come to see it in my own life. These insights have helped me make sense of the difference. They may or may not help anyone else. They also may be understood (especially as metaphors) differently in the context of someone else’s life. So, what seems clear as a bell to me may seem like a glass of muddy water to someone else. But the fundamental point is this: if you really want to understand the difference, go to the Lord, pray about it, study, ponder, and you’ll get your own metaphors. I do not in anyway promise that these metaphors will work for you. Perhaps they may get you on a track of thought that will facilitate personal revelation of your own.

Analogy #1

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that heaven and hell aren’t merely two static places. We believe in multiple kingdoms of glory. Whatever law we are willing to abide by, that is the extent of the glory God is able to give us. The more Christlike we become by living the laws and commandments of Christ, the more of His glory we can receive in the life to come. For details on this doctrine read Doctrine and Covenants 88:13-40. It’s clear and direct.

Generally, however, we break down heaven and hell into the three degrees of glory: celestial, terrestrial, and telestial. And, if the blessings we receive correspond to that glory, you might say that the light of Christ (or that gut feeling) is a telestial blessing. It’s a basic knowledge of right and wrong with the potential to lead us to the next level of heavenly guidance. The terrestrial blessing would be the “power of the Holy Ghost” or direct manifestations/communications from the Holy Ghost (another member of the Godhead). These communications go beyond a mere gut feeling and are powerful witness of truth (when we hear it or see it, etc.). We may sometimes doubt a gut feeling (initially), but direct manifestations from the Holy Ghost are full of power. We may doubt them later (if we dismiss them and do not act on them), but in the moment there is no doubt that we are being taught, or are feeling that something is true. A celestial level blessing would be the gift of the Holy Ghost. The gift of the Holy Ghost is the constant presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, not just a burst now and then.

To elaborate, the gift of the Holy Ghost does the following (as far as I can tell):

  • He (the Holy Spirit) validates the gut feeling, so that we know for certain that what the light of Christ is telling us is true before we act. This is critical. We don’t merely suppose that our gut feeling could be right. We know it is and know that if we don’t follow it that we will be going against our own benefit and against the will of God.
  • He (the Holy Spirit) teaches us how to act on the direct messages of truth He delivers. The powerful messages that come to us from the power of the Holy Spirit can’t ultimately benefit us if we don’t act on them. That power will die away. The gift of the Holy Ghost (since it is with us always) teaches us and prompts us to act on what we felt.
  • He (the Holy Spirit), by the above actions makes it possible for us to learn truth, assimilate it into our lives, and have that truth become part of us. The gift of the Holy Ghost is called the baptism of fire because He (as a member of the godhead) makes it possible for us to actually be changed through the grace proffered to us by Jesus Christ. As we act on the validation and instruction of the Holy Spirit, He actually uses our righteous actions to make fundamental and eternal change within our very beings.

Analogy #2

We are all familiar with the idea of cell phones plans. Nowadays nearly all plans contain every kind of service for a flat fee. But it didn’t used to be that way. Different plans had access to different services. Long-distance calls were an extra cost/service. Text messages were an extra cost/service. Text messages including photos or media cost extra or were an extra service. Now that we have phones that are actually little computers and have access to email, internet and any other number of aps and services, this analogy works a little less well. But here it is.

Christ pays for a basic cell phone plan with His infinite atonement. We all get the “light of Christ,” which is a basic service for getting communication about right and wrong from God. These basic messages are not voice, text, or access to the Google ap. They are merely gut feelings. If we use this service and follow the basic messages we receive, we can upgrade our communication service from God to getting text messages anytime we hear or see something true. These clear text messages are a limited time service that is dependent upon our actions. IF we act upon those texted truths and agree to a life-time service agreement (covenant of baptism), we can receive an “unlimited plan” for communicating with God. But this plan comes with a bonus. Not only can we communicate with God directly—through His Spirit; carrying that “phone” with us all the time and using its godly services (acting on the continued communication and guidance we receive) will actually transfer God’s power and blessings to us directly from Him—changing us fundamentally into more godly beings.

Light of Christ = gut feeling
Power of the Holy Ghost = clear
communication that something is true (or false)
Gift the Holy Ghost = clear communication… + infusion of godly power…

Gut Feelings Transcend Emotion

It is important to note that as discussed in the beginning, the “gut feeling” transcends other involuntary functions and instinctual feelings. You may feel excited about the prospect of something and yet have a gut feeling that it’s not a right choice. You may feel angry and hurt about something and yet have a gut feeling that you should forgive, or minimally not take revenge. You may feel in love with a person and yet have a gut feeling that they are not going to be a good long-term partner and that the good you feel will be temporary. You may feel happy in the moment about something you are doing, or have done, but your gut may tell you that this feeling is going to wear off because of the incorrect way in which the feeling was achieved.

There is no end to the ways in which the gut feeling transcends and trumps other temporary instincts and involuntary processes. But, it’s important to reiterate this because it is so easy to get caught up in these other things. I, for one, find it easy to shove that gut feeling away when my emotions are screaming of hurt, offense, and exhaustion. I find it easy to shove that gut feeling away when what my physical body wants is a greasy hamburger and French fries. My mind and my body say, “Who cares that it’ll make you sick half way through! Who cares that it’ll make you want to sit around the rest of the day!” But, my gut says, “You’ll be far more satisfied with something that actually addresses what your body needs and tastes good at the same time.” Or “Take the time to make something that tastes amazing and addresses the nutrient need of your body.”

Our gut tells us to do a lot of things we know we should. But we ignore our gut in favor of what’s easier or more immediate. Love, excitement, fear, and other powerful emotions can hide our gut feeling if we aren’t in tune to it, or if we shove it away. And, I must admit, that at least for me, my gut feeling has never been eccentric like emotions are. Excitement has never been a gut feeling for me. Neither has love. Rather, my gut feeling has validated an emotion or warned against an emotion. It has invited me out of anger and revenge, but it has not felt like anger or revenge.

At least for me (and I suspect others) the gut feeling is an instinct, an involuntary reasoning that pushes itself up over the top of whatever else I am feeling. This is one way to recognize it apart from all else that you perceive or feel.

Why Trust Your Gut?

So, what is the whole point in getting to know your gut feeling and trusting it?

Well, if you’re gut feeling was given to you by Christ, then its trustworthy. It may not bring immediate success and prosperity into your life, but it will bring immediate peace—which is priceless—and guidance for the success and prosperity God has in store for you.

If trusting and following your gut feeling has the potential to lead you to clearer and more powerful communication from God, then that’s certainly worth it all by itself. It may not produce that clarity at the level you would like initially, but it opens the door for you to enter a contract/covenant with God for continuing clear guidance and direction—if you’re willing to act on it.

Many of us spend a large portion of our lives floundering. Many of us have a lot of regret, a horrific suspense for what we might have enjoyed had we trusted that gut feeling before. And, maybe we are still afraid to trust it. If that’s you, here’s why it’s time to start trusting that gut feeling.

God’s plan includes unlimited communication with Him and power to become like Him. His plan removes the floundering and the regret and replaces it with certainty, hope, and peace. And, the first step in that plan is learning to trust your gut. Start trusting your gut and you get bursts of powerful confirmations of truth in your life. Act on those bursts of communication and you will get the next offer—the unlimited plan, the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Then, as you are diligent in listening and following, floundering in life disappears. It is replaced with certainty. It is replaced with peace. It is replaced with guidance in all that you seek that is right. In fact, God can get you to your goals much faster than you can ever get yourself there. And, He does one better. He gets you to places far better than you ever aspired to be. This is the path that awaits you if you can learn to recognize your gut feelings and to follow them. Follow the light of Christ.

BT

Negative self-image…it seems to be a plague upon man and woman, adult and child, and perhaps it hits most monstrously the teenager and younger woman. It punches at our self-esteem and attacks our fundamental self-worth. Why is self-image such a powerhouse of negativity in our lives?

It begins fundamentally with the world “self.” Note that self-image does not necessary imply a true image. What it means is that it is the way we see ourselves. And often, if we see ourselves incorrectly, it may also mean that we see others incorrectly as well. Because a good deal of negative self-image is spurred by comparison. But the negativity spurs from an even deeper place. The real problem is much further under the surface that most of us ever suppose.

I remember the day I changed my self-image, and it happened in a way that I would never have expected. And the change didn’t take place in my appearance. What I saw in the mirror didn’t change. Other people’s fundamental appearance or actions didn’t change. What changed was my sudden discovery of a truth—a fabulous and amazing truth.

I am not an object.

It seems to me that one of the primary issues with all of the problems that revolve around self-image, self-esteem, and even self-worth revolve around the false idea that we are an object. I’m talking about self-objectification. Now, let me explain.

If I see myself as an object of sex, then I’m going to weigh my self-image against what the world tells me the perfect object of sex looks like, or acts like. If I see my body as an object to be used in sex, then I’m going to hate it unless I can somehow transform it into what the perfect sex object looks like.

But what if I have the perfect Barbie or Ken body? Am I safe from objectification? No. Because I’m still functioning under a lie. I will treat others—who do not look like sex objects—with contempt. And, at some point, the lie will be revealed. I will eventually be rejected even though I look like a perfect sex object. What then happens to me? I may mentally create imperfections to be fixed? I may imagine I overweight when I’m not? I may become more overt in my actions to get attention. I may become subject to an eating disorder or depression.

When we derive our personal value based on the belief that we function only as an object, we will always undervalue ourselves. We will always see ourselves in comparison to other objects. We will develop the idea that our “use” is where our value comes from.

Let’s talk about other types of objectification.

What if I see myself as a sports object? My body is then an object to be used for sports. If I determine my value based on how well my body performs as a sports object, then anytime I fail to perform as well as I’d like, or anytime I perform worse than other object of sports, I will assume there is something wrong with me or that I’m not good enough. My self-image will plummet because it is based on my “use” as a sports object.

What if I see myself as a mom-object? Then, when I fail to do what other mom-objects do, I will find reason to devalue myself as a mother. Or, when my kids at last leave home I will become depressed because my function is no longer needed. Right?

What if I see myself as a business-person? My objectification is in regards to my “use” as an object of business. My talents in business define my value. If I fail in business, then I lose value.

What is an object?

An object is something that has no life. It does not have complex potential. It is developed to be of use to beings that have life and will power. An object serves a specific function. An object can be a goal, an ideal, a building, or a tool.

A person never will be, and never should be, an object. This is because people are not for the “use” of other people. People are not “tools” of other people. People are not “goals” of other people.

Using other people, or ourselves, is objectification. Making a person a goal is obsession—a form of objectification. Neither is healthy. Neither is right. All objectification of a person—with infinite capacities and potential—is wrong and will lead to actions that damage self and society.

Pornography is a form of objectification. Either we objectify someone else so that we can “use” them for our own pleasure. We turn them into objects. Or, we objectify ourselves trying to “use” others to create value in ourselves as a sex-object. We dress and act in ways so that people will see us as objects of sex to be “used” by them. All-in-all, no matter what the world says, a disgusting and incorrect thing to do.

Self-mutilation is a form of self-objectification. We turn our body into an object that we can damage in an attempt to make ourselves feel better, or to punish ourselves for being worthless, or to make a point to another person that we are willing to damage ourselves to get their attention. We are using our body as an object to make a point—the same object that is trying to keep us alive every moment of every day.

The ability to hurt ourselves comes when we turn ourselves into an object. Suicide may also result from the idea of self-objectification. The powerful sense of failure to “be” what people expect, or even what we expect, may find its root in self-objectification.

Objectification is not satisfying

In John 3:16 we learn that God (our Heavenly Father) sent the Savior, Jesus Christ—and Jesus was Himself willing to do it—to suffer and die and expiate and heal all sin and human infirmity. No object can be atoned for because it has no action. An object cannot sin. An object can not do good. Thus, the atonement of Jesus Christ was for you and I—children of God, humans with godly potential. We were created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). We were created “to act (or to use objects), not to be acted upon” (or to be used) (2 Nephi 2:14).

We were not created to “use” each other, though because of imperfection and sin we often try. And because of imperfection and sin we often let others use us. But, at some point we must come to understand that this “use” is ineffectual. When we allow others to use us it does not bring lasting peace or joy. And, when we use others, it does not bring us lasting peace, joy, or fulfillment.

One of the snares of turning ourselves into an object of desire is that it creates, rather than solves, our negative self-image. It creates misery instead of self-worth. Even if for a while we consider ourselves as having succeeded as looking or acting like an object of desire, at some point it leads to pride and contempt for others to whom we compare ourselves.

One of the snares of pornography is that it becomes addictive because it is not ultimately satisfying. It creates, instead, an immediate hideous self-loathing and misery that is never outweighed by the fleeting sexual pleasure. People return to it again and again—eventually seeking new and more exciting objects of pleasure—because the other objects became too familiar and boring. The addiction begins with the justification of objectifying others for self-pleasure. However, most people do not realize that this is what they are doing. Some do, and do it anyway.

The same snares can be found in any objectification—as a mother, sports-figure, etc. At some point all objectification leads to pride and conceit or self-loathing, hatred, and despair. Thus, part of the cure for any of these personal struggles lies in reversing this tendency to objectify.

My story

I have always been a healthy person. I grew up learning many talents. I could sing, play sports well, and move about as well as anyone could. But as I got into my early teen years—the years when most of us really begin to take notice of our self-image—I began to notice that I was much taller than other girls. Not only was I taller, I was just a bigger person. I was not overweight, but I felt overweight simply because I was bigger. I was taller than all the boys—that didn’t help. So, I began to objectify myself as an object of desire.

If I wasn’t desirable to boys then it was because there was a fundamental flaw in me. I wasn’t functioning well as an object. I compared myself to all the girls who did seem to be “functioning” well as objects of desire. And, I always fell short.

Now, I did not realize that what I was doing back then was self-objectification. I went to church. I had an amazing family. I had been taught since I took breath in this world that I was a child of God. But, I didn’t know how to reconcile that with my inability to “function” as I thought I should. I wasn’t of “use.”

Now, if you’d asked me, “Do you want to be ‘used’ by others?” I would have answered emphatically, “No!” But that’s because I didn’t understand what I was doing. And, I didn’t understand until I was in my early 30s.

I remember the day so clearly. I was at the gym, walking on the treadmill, horrifically comparing myself as an object to all the other objects in the room (because that was how I saw them…though I didn’t know that’s what I was doing). And, as always, my body—as an object—fell short in comparison to others bodies—as objects.

Then, so tired an exhausted of feeling negative about myself…since I recently gone through a divorce. I got fed up! I was just too tired to do this anymore. It was then that I looked around the room and saw everything differently. What I saw were people. They were all people, with bodies like mine. Bodies that did amazing things. Bodies that were healthy and strong and powerful. Bodies that could walk and move and run and lift weights. Bodies that could serve and bless. Bodies that were moms and dads and friends and sisters. Bodies that held the minds of people with infinite potential.

Then, it hit me, “Bam!” I am not an object. You are not an object. No human being is an object. We are children of God with talents, wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, and a capacity that makes inanimate, lifeless objects worthless. People are of infinite worth. We are not, nor ever will be, objects.

The flipside

So, how do we stop objectifying ourselves and others? How do we find our self-worth, our true self-image, and increase our self-esteem? How do we strengthen our capacity to stop comparing ourselves? How do we begin the process of overcoming some addictions?

Pick up any object in your house—any object. Now, ask yourself, “What do I use this for?” Do this with as many objects as you can see. It is critical to learn to see the difference between an object and yourself—between an object and another person.

Notice especially that you are the operator of every object you pick up. Not only are you not an object, you are one of the only beings in all of existence that can make use of and operate, even create, every object within your sight. Objects are inanimate. They can’t operate one another. You are alone in your ability to see an object, recognize its function, and make use of it to do good in your own life and in the world.

When you look at yourself in the mirror, or when you see other people in the world, you must see them as children of God (Romans 8:16-17), with the potential—if they seek it—to become very much like Him! You, and any person in the world, have the capacity to shape lives, change lives, and to change the world. No object can do that. An object in the use of a person can. You are that person. You are not the object.

Your value is not in how others can make use of you. Your value is not in how you can make use of yourself. Your value is not in how you can make use of others. Your value lies in your potential to use real objects (not people) to create a life of happiness and peace.

Another critical aspect of learning to value yourself and recognize your potential is to realize the power that is in your body—in you. Study about what your brain does every second of every day. Read about how you develop cognitively, how you are capable of learning and growing and being creative unlike any other being. Read about what your physical body does every second of every day. It’s miraculous! Learn to see the wonder in the power your body has to keep you alive and to do amazing things. Bask in the power a human being has to change. We don’t respond merely to instinct. We can choose how to respond, or how to bridle, instinct. It’s amazing! Your body is you. And you are a being of power.

You have power

As you learn to not objectify yourself and others, you will begin to notice, very clearly, when others try to objectify you. Do not allow them to do it. If you see others objectifying themselves, help them to see that they are not objects. Help them to see their value and potential.

As you begin to see yourself as what you are, a powerful being, you will find empowerment to define yourself by that potential and power. You will wake up anxious to use your power to make a difference in the world and to help others. You will wake up happy to make use of real objects in their correct functions and in ways that bring true happiness and peace to yourself and others. You will be less tempted to compare yourself or to value yourself, or others, by how they function as an object. You will be better at seeing similarities, that they are very like you—subject to their own genetics and life circumstances, and simply doing the best they can with what they have to be happy in their lives.

The only satisfaction, peace, and joy that can be found is in learning to see ourselves and others as we really are—human beings, children of God, with the capacity to act, with the power to make our lives what we wish (without objectifying others), and learning to use real objects in ways that bring peace and joy to the world. Now go and find that satisfaction and peace—you can have both of those things precisely because you are not an object. You have power that no object ever will.

BT

There is a reason that no matter how good life seems to be going it still always seems to break down. Whether sooner or later those breakdowns come. How can you avoid those break downs? How can you make life a journey of peace and prosperity?

Well, take the time to listen to one of my most recent podcasts. Find out why breakdowns happen. How breakdowns can get fixed. And learn how to avoid breakdowns and turn life into a journey of peace. Click on the podcast link below.

https://the-stuff-life-is-made-of.simplecast.com/episodes/the-stuff-you-should-know-about-doctrine

It was an interesting morning and it went poorly for one main reason, I made something too important.

I got up early to exercise. When you’re a mom, sometimes the only time you can get exercise is when your kids are still asleep. But before exercising, I got out bread that had been undergoing a slow rise in the fridge overnight. I’d made the starter two days before, formed the loaves only the prior day, and was very excited, this day, to see this Sicilian-inspired bread come to fruition. I needed it to come to temperature while I was working out so that I could begin baking it as soon as I was done. One hour.

But, while I was working out, my very young daughter woke up early. I was right in the middle and she wanted me to help her get a bowl of cereal. I told her firmly, “I’m working out, you’ll just have to sit on the couch and wait.” However, for a 4-year-old, 30-minutes is an eternity, and she simply wouldn’t quit bugging me. I really was frustrated. I just wanted to finish. I didn’t want to break my momentum in the work-out for the five minutes it would take to get her breakfast.

Then, as I was gruffly dealing with my daughter every 30-seconds, with an angry repetition of, “You’ll have to wait!” my sister came in (who was staying with me for a bit) and asked something about the oven. I didn’t hear much of anything she said, as I was already in a tiff. So, I loudly pronounced, “The oven isn’t on.” Somehow it didn’t occur to me she was about to try and bake something.

The next 30 minutes were quite similar with my little girl. I just wanted to get my workout in. Then, I would be totally available. Whatever was needed. Why couldn’t she wait? But, our mini-argument persisted.

At last, the workout was over. I sighed and huffed and slammed cupboards (a little bit) went into the kitchen to get my 4-year-old a bowl of cereal, only to see something cooking in the oven. My bread was just about to temperature and if I didn’t put it in, in the next 20 minutes, it was going to over prove. My first thought was, “Why didn’t my sister say she wanted to cook something!”

I got my little girl a bowl of cereal and huffed and puffed around the kitchen. My sister was off getting ready. Devastated at the 40+ minute cooking time I guessed was needed for her food, I shoved my bread back in the fridge wanting to cry for all the effort lost. Then, when my sister came out, I politely chastised her for not noticing my bread sitting there and putting something in the oven.

“I told you I needed to bake something. I asked if it was okay. When you didn’t say much, I figured I was clear,” she answered.

“But, didn’t you see my bread?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s why I asked. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to inconvenience you,” she said with complete sincerity.

I felt bad that I had chastised her, but I was also still upset about my bread. I was also miffed that I’d let my temper rule my interaction with my daughter too. I told her it was no big deal, but my heart wasn’t yet quite in agreement with my words. I headed off to my room to get ready myself, and a recent situation with my daughter popped into my head.

Anna, it’s time to get off your computer. You’ve been playing it all afternoon.

We were on a trip far from home and without toys, as we packed light, my little girl was relegated to a computer and an empty apartment. Quite difficult for a 4-year-old. She began to complain and throw a fit.

Computer time is a privilege. If you throw a fit, you’re going to get in trouble.

But she threw a fit, and I was quickly upset. However, I calmed myself down and proceeded to teach her.

I know you love to play your computer. I know it’s fun. I know there’s not a lot to do here when we’re not out doing stuff on this trip. But is your computer more important than me or your dad?

She answered, “No.”

That’s right. So even though it makes you sad to stop, it’s more important to be nice to the people you love than to yell and scream and throw a fit. We let you play a long time!

No sooner had this memory finished replaying than all my frustration about the bread, getting my daughter breakfast, and arguing with her for the last 30 minutes of my workout; it all went away. I had made my workout too important. I had made it more important than my daughter. I had made it more important than listening to my sister.

I immediately went out and told my sister, “Sorry for being so frustrated. There would never have been an issue if I’d simply stopped my workout for five minutes to get Anna breakfast. Then, I would have heard your question and we could have communicated just fine. Then, both your meal and my bread would have made it into the oven without any confusion. I made my workout too important. I’m sorry.”

My sister frankly forgave me. And I made the same apology to my little girl. The hardest part was realizing that it was me, not them, who had caused the frustration by elevating something less important above things that were very important.

What Do You Make Too Important?

The world tells us frequently to place self-care above all else. It tells us to make time for me. It tells us we’re worth it. And, the world is not wrong. Self-care is important. We do need time for ourselves. We are worth it. But some things are more important even than self-care, time to oneself, and our self-esteem. Those things are Christlike attributes, qualities, and actions. That thing is our relationship with God.

We do need to be mindful of self. But, our spiritual self, our progression toward godliness, is far more important than even the perfect skincare routine or workout regimen we’ve set up. It’s more important than inconveniences or putting out fires in our home or work. It’s more important than everything else.

A five-minute break in my workout was not going to derail my self-care regimen. And I acted like it would. And taking care of my little girl…well, she’s my world. If I have to gain five pounds to treat her as I ought every day, that’s worth far more to me, it’s far more important. Her feelings, her health, they are more important than whatever continuity I lose by pausing my work out for 5 measly minutes.

I’ve done this before in years past. I’ve taken the time to run 3 miles and prioritized it above date time with my spouse to go out for an ice cream, because I didn’t want to gain weight. I could still have run 3 miles at a different time. I was very active. And yet I made my image more important than time and good food with the very best company. I placed an activity above my loved ones.

One thing the gospel of Jesus Christ does is it teaches us how to prioritize. Tithing before bills. Sunday worship and sacrament ordinances before weekend activities. Scriptures daily. Family Sunday School weekly. Prayer morning, noon, night, and in our heart all day. And most importantly, God before self.

Our relationship with God is more important than everything else in this world. And if we honor it, the rest will take care of itself. It’s that simple.

But, too often we act out of fear, or prideful independence, or determination to achieve, that we make the things of this world (important or not) more important than God. Had I simply put God first by acting Christlike with my little girl, a whole morning would have gone differently. It made me think, “What else in my life am I making too important?”

Prioritizing in a Godly Manner Doesn’t Mean You Have to Give Up Everything

Sometimes when the Holy Spirit chastises me like this, my first reaction is, “Well, I guess I have to give up exercising altogether. I’ll just gain weight and all my clothes will look terrible, and I don’t have the money for a whole new wardrobe… I’ll just become a mess. It’s so unfair.” Yes, I’m that kind of drama queen.

But that is not what God expected me to do. He knows self-care is important. He merely expected me to act how I feel and according to what His Spirit has taught me is right. My daughter and my sister are more important than working out. Period. So, I merely needed to stop for 5 minutes, or even 10, to take care of those that are important and that I love. Then, I could return to my less important self-care workout, for me. Lots of levels of important, but taken care of in the best order.

It’s Time to Evaluate

Want something, but going after it requires you to compromise your morals or standards? What you want is important, right? It’s a house, or a car, a date, a job, a promotion, or a vacation, or something else. Maybe it’s even more significant than that. But, the fast way to getting it means making what you want more important than God. You think that once having it you’ll get your priorities straight again, but it’s never that easy. Once you make God less important getting Him back to the top becomes herculean.  

Stick to your belief that God is the most important. Put Him first and you’ll end up not with exactly what you want. Nope. You’ll get something, what you need, and it will be way better—far better—than what you were after initially.

Like playing video games, watching Netflix, or surfing social media, but fail to have time to read your scriptures and prepare your Come Follow Me? Which is more important? God, or those things? If it’s God, then put Him first. You’ll be surprised that you’ll still have time for all that you like to do, and you may even find that much of it becomes less desirable to you and that you feel prompted to replace it with things that really build you up, make you healthy, happy, and peaceful.

Have a job you love but it conflicts with Sundays? Negotiate with your company, or look for a new position that allows you to put God first on His Holy Day. Make the sacrifice to make Him more important than your fear of not doing what you love or not having enough money. Do it, and He’ll bless you not only with the job you need and the resources you need to “make ends meet,” but He’ll give you something that will lead to greater job satisfaction and greater growth opportunities.

Afraid to pay tithing? Worldly math doesn’t give God credit. Godly math is a higher law than worldly math. That’s it. God’s math is more accurate and more real than what we have here on earth. We’ve yet to discover all that God knows about numbers. So, when He says to pay tithing, to make Him more important. He’s worth trusting.

Afraid to change friends because the friends you have pull you away from God and family? Afraid to be persecuted or alone? What is more important? Put God first. Find people and situations that strengthen your relationship with Him. Stay in those places and with those people. Do so, and God will bless you with truer friends, more loyal friends, and more peace and happiness than you ever could have imagined before.

It’s a scary leap putting God first. It’s hard to make Him more important than our dreams and desires. But, as I learned in my difficult morning, everything would have gone so much better…everything would have been more peaceful…I would have had a better day if I had only remembered “what is most important.”

BT

Talent is a word that we often associate only with the types of skills and abilities that bring fame and fortune. I rarely, if ever, or never, hear people say things like, “Wow, what a talent she has for forgiveness!” or “Have you ever seen someone with such a talent for admitting fault?” And yet, the talents that most astonish me are those that have zero potential to bring a person fame or fortune.

I have the privilege of being acquainted with many people who have extraordinary talents for compassion, charity, humility, faith, friendship, and the like. Characteristics and talents for which there are no rewards save personal peace, joy in life, and the approbation of the Almighty. These individuals often mourn, saying, “I wish I could sing,” or “play the piano,” or “play sports like others do.” Little do they realize that such talents are as much a trial and a burden as they have the potential to be a blessing.

Talents that have the capacity to bring us fame, recognition, or fortune are as difficult as they are wonderful. Because they have the potential to create financial security they also have a strong potential to be manipulated by the adversary. Someone who has a gift for speaking can be a powerful tool to serve the Lord and uplift their fellow men. But, this person can also be a powerful tool to mislead and corrupt. If they can be “bought” by recognition or a dollar amount, then their talent can be spoiled. Those with gifts for music or athletics are also similarly at risk. And yet, they have such an incredible opportunity to do good with their talents on a vast scale.

The Parable of the Talents

In the New Testament is a beautiful parable: the parable of the talents. Now, this parable is about money. A talent is a measure of money in this parable. But, as God knew that many would read it and assume He was talking about skills, gifts of character, and so forth, it is as much about that type of “wealth” as it is physical money. And, indeed, such skills are a form of currency in our lives. So, let’s take a look at it. Matthew 25:14-29:

For the kingdom of heaven is as a man (God) traveling into a far country, who called his own servants (children), and delivered unto them his goods (gifts of skill and character).

And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one: to every man according to his several ability (or capacity and willingness to receive); and straightway took his journey.

Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.

After a long time the lord of those servants (God) cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

He also that had two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou has not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: thou oughtest therefore to have put thy money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury (or interest). Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath…

Parables are unique in that they have unlimited interpretations as the Holy Spirit wishes to use. So, the suggestions that I’m about to offer should not be construed as the best, or the only correct way to interpret this parable. It is, in my opinion, merely one way the Spirit has given me to see this parable.

Returning Talents to God with Usury

If God gives gifts of skill and character to His children, what then is their purpose? How do we create more talent-wealth from the initial gifts that we are given? How do we trade them or put them to exchangers?

If the purpose of our talent is to make money then that puts a limitation on how we apply our talent. We might as well use our talent in any way that allows us to earn money with no thought of ethics or morality. Such a focus does not increase our talent, but rather narrows its application in a way that can neither produce lasting joy nor spiritual progression. As well, its powerful impact on our fellow man will likely neither exalt or save them spiritually. It might end up doing the exact opposite.

But, if the purpose of our talent is to become godly, and godliness (or the work of God) is centered around exalting and saving others (Moses 1:39), then it follows that the purpose of our talents is to exalt and save others. Such a focus creates an unlimited scope for the application of our talent. We may use our talent to teach, uplift, serve, love, share, etc; and in so doing our original talent and its capacity increases exponentially by strengthening not only the original talent, but our ability to teach, uplift, serve, love, share, etc. For example, I can be a singer, a writer, an artist, an athlete, a musician, a great orator, a poet, etc., and if I use my talent to teach, uplift, serve, love, and share truth then suddenly my capacity to do all of those other skills has increased (created spiritual usury); and the use of my talent has amplified the power of my ability to help exalt and save others.

If we plug this into the above parable, those that trade or invest their talents then are those that use them to exalt and save others. And those that hide them in the ground are those that use their talents only for singular, or selfish, reasons; whether to earn money or gain some type of praise, status, or recognition. Now, it is certainly possible to earn money by one’s talent and also use it in godly ways if money (or praise, status, or recognition) doesn’t rule your use and application of your talents. I’ve seen it done, we all have. But, I’ve also seen it corrupt what began as a well-intentioned individual.

For example, if a record label won’t sign you as a singer unless you produce the type of music they want instead of the types of music you want to sing (to exalt and save others), then signing with them simply to get your voice (and name) out there (and to earn some money with which to do things your way in the future) creates an environment of compromise that allows Satan to make use of your talent (or minimally to prevent it from becoming what it should) rather than you. And in such an environment you can neither accomplish your righteous goals nor progress spiritually; also risking a negative impact before you can free yourself from the contract.

This is simply one example, but there are numerous examples.

Another way to hide your talent is to assume that only the types of talents that have the capacity to produce fame or fortune are worth developing. So many of us are given the weightier gifts of character, or the seeds for them, that help us to progress toward godliness and to help others progress as well. But we ignore them, undervalue them, and fail to discover them in our pursuit of more visible talents. We want to do some good in the world…but only in a visible way.

As well, there are many of us who are given talents that are visible. We can draw, sing, speak, or write. We have unique and graceful athletic capacities that seem to make us perfect for a professional sports track in our lives. And yet, despite all of our valiant efforts to “get them out there” we don’t seem to be granted the opportunity to use them on a wide scale, the scale that would make us feel that they were of worth. So, again, we undervalue them and wonder if it’s even worth developing them simply because we want to exalt and save millions and we only seem to be able to reach ourselves, or maybe our immediate family.

In my recent podcast The Stuff You Should Know About Talents, the guest podcaster, (singer, songwriter, and musician) Morgan Cottam talked about how the talents within her family connected them across generations. Her great-grandfather used to sing several songs and they became family tradition. Now, years after he’s gone, Morgan was asked to sing one of those songs for her grandmother (who grew up with that song being sung by her father).  It’s a very Coco thing. But, Morgan explains that learning the song and singing it for her grandmother made her feel connected to her great-grandfather and her Nana more. In this case, in a very valuable and important way, Morgan’s talent connected her with her family, especially her ancestors, and created unity. That’s powerful! And yet it brought her no worldly fame or fortune.

Listen to this recent podcast by clicking here!

Talent Confession

Even though I feel that I have always known the purpose of the talents God gives us, I admit to falling prey to many of these above ways of hiding one’s talent. It has taken me years (and I sometimes revert) to feeling like my talents are worthless simply because my scope of influence always seems to be so limited. I often lose focus of what’s most important and devalue my talents simply because I haven’t received the validation that comes from public recognition. I often want to cast off my talents, or bury them, or stop working on them because I have wrongly devalued them. And, I admit, it is incredibly difficult to keep creating and sharing and trying to use my talents to exalt and save others when I don’t feel like I’m exalting or saving anyone. And yet, I have seen fruits. I have created connections within my family. I have saved myself (many, many, many times) by the use of my own talents. I have been given peace, comfort, joy, and blessings beyond words by simply trying to develop what God has given me.

Verbal Survey

So, what talents do you have? What gifts of character have others noticed in you that you have undervalued? Use them and watch them increase your other gifts and reveal talents you hadn’t yet discovered.

What gifts of character do you value in others but they undervalue? Help them to see them and value them!

What talents do you have that you have been tempted to compromise, or have compromised, in order to get noticed? How did it make you feel? What have you done to correct that? If you haven’t made corrections, do it!

Have you devalued your talents simply because your reach is minimal? Who have you reached? Who are they? What do they mean to you? Stop sacrificing your talent to scope. Start using it to exalt and save yourself and those within your limited reach right now.

What talents have you sought? It’s okay to seek for more than what you already have. Have you sought for spiritual gifts and talents in order to exalt and save? If not, consider praying about and feeling which talent you might desire to acquire and multiply in God’s service.

Conclusion

It doesn’t matter if you have the same talents as someone else. You are unique and your application and combination of gifts and personality will always ensure that your talents are different, even from those who seem to be similar. And that means that your talents are purposeful in the world and much needed. That’s why God gave them to you. Don’t hide them. Get out there and trade and multiply them!

BT

Location, location, location; this is the slogan for real estate. But, it is also a doctrine for life. Location can be something emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physical. Where are you?

  • If you had to evaluate your current emotional state, or location, how would you say you feel? What emotion would you prefer to be feeling? How can you facilitate that emotion?
  • If you had to evaluate your psychological progression and your own personality, where are you on the spectrum of cognitive development, self-evaluation, self-honesty, and maturity?
  • If you had to give an account to God, today, of your life and your relationship with Him, what would you say? What part of your spirituality do you know you need to progress in?
  • Look around you at your room, your home, your neighborhood, your job, your community; is there anywhere else you would rather be? Do you have goals that can’t be reached where you are? Have you asked yourself lately, where do I want to be? Is where I am leading me to my goals? Where does God want me to be?

What is Your Location?

Travel, moving, relocation, scattering, and gathering are all types of travel that God uses to teach us, refine us, save us, and to help us progress in our relationship with Him. Sometimes He leads us to make a change in our friends. Sometimes He allows things to take place which lead to us needing a new profession, or, minimally, a new job. Sometimes that job takes us to a different physical location for our home. Sometimes God allows things to happen in our lives that make it possible for us to progress spiritually, emotionally, and even psychologically. Otherwise, we might not move. And movement is key to progression.

In Abraham 1:1 we see Abraham say, “I saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence.” After years of living the gospel in a community (and family) that was idolatrous and prone to violence and persecution, Abraham was nearly sacrificed by his own father and Egyptian priests. Jehovah saves him and then tells him to get out of the land. It would be preferable that our own physical lives were not in danger before we took the hint to move, but often our psychological, spiritual, or emotional life is in danger, and if we go to the Lord with an open heart and mind He will tell us to “obtain another place of residence.”

In the Book of Mormon, in the book of Mosiah we see many people inspired to search out the lands of their ancestors. A few feel inspired to move there. After being there for a while, the children of these travelers find themselves in bondage and slavery. In two instances, those who turned to God were “led away secretly” to safety and peace. Some choose to leave home and serve missions and are gone from their regular home for long periods of time—and their travel changes them and blesses others.

Sometimes we are inspired to search out new places; and, after visiting we feel a desire to be there and to make it our home. Sometimes a negative environment leads us to open up our mind to the idea of relocating, or of returning to a place that we lived before. Sometimes, in order to escape a type of bondage, God helps us to leave a place safely.

I think it is a profound thing to realize that our locations in all aspects of our lives matter to God and that He uses movement to help us progress, to heal, to find room to grow, and to grow closer to Him. Often, God has us “move” so that we can find safety and security and peace.

As we evaluate our many locations (emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physical) we can ask God if we need to “travel” or “move,” and if so, where. Are you ready to move? To progress?

Scattering and Gathering is a Spiritual Pattern

God’s use of physical movement to achieve spiritual growth is documented throughout scripture. Moses left Egypt to learn and grow spiritually that he might be prepared to move an entire people out of Egypt. The Israelites came to a point where they needed deliverance from bondage in order to have the opportunity to worship God and follow Him. In bondage they were unable to fulfill their covenants. They had to move to progress.

When Israel gets wicked, God scatters them about—creating separation—that they might learn and have a desire to repent and “return” or “gather together” toward Him again.

It is natural to find scattering of children from the home to adulthood as a bittersweet thing. But our natural propensity to set off on our own and create distance between ourselves and our parents is a natural part of individual growth. Changing location, being on our own, being separate is part of learning how to return and be unified with our family in healthy and appropriate ways.

God, Himself, created this earth, this location away from His presence, for us to be scattered to that we might learn and grow, with the intent to eventually become like Him and “return to Him.” We have been scattered from heaven that we might learn how to be one with God and to be “gathered” back home again.

Conclusion

We can use travel and movement in our lives to grow in amazing ways if we use it with deliberate intent. It’s a power that God uses and that under His guidance and influence we can use to create life-changing experiences and to bring about personal and family miracles. Where are you located? Where might you need to travel?

For more commentary and a fabulous discussion about The Stuff You Should Know About Travel, listen to the latest podcast by clicking here.

I’d like to start this blog with some quotes from one of my favorite books, The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. By themselves they contain true doctrines with many possible applications.

“Expectations is the place you go to before you get to where you’re going. Of course, some people never go beyond Expectations, but my job is to hurry them along whether they like it or not.”

“Help you! You must help yourself,” the Watch Dog replied, carefully winding himself with his left leg. “I suppose you know why you got stuck.”

“I guess I wasn’t thinking,” said Milo.

“PRECISELY,” shouted the dog as his alarm went off again. “Now you know what you must do.”

“I’m afraid I don’t,” admitted Milo, feeling quite stupid.

“Well,” continued the watchdog impatiently, “since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect, that in order to get out, you must start thinking,” And with that he hopped into the car.

“Now will you tell me where we are?” asked Tock [the Watch Dog] as he looked around the desolate island.

“To be sure,” said Canby; “you’re on the Island of Conclusions. Make yourself at home. You’re apt to be here for some time.”

“But how did we get here?” asked Milo, who was still a bit puzzled by being there at all.

“You jumped, of course,” explained Canby. “That’s the way most everyone gets here. It’s really quite simple: every time you decide something without having a good reason, you jump to Conclusions whether you like it or not. It’s such an easy trip to make that I’ve been here hundreds of times.”

“But this is such an unpleasant-looking place,” Milo remarked.

“Yes, that’s true,” admitted Canby; “it does look much better from a distance.”

“Well, I’m going to jump right back,” announced the Humbug, who took two or three practice bends, leaped as far as he could, and landed in a heap two feet away.

“That won’t do at all,” scolded Canby, helping him to his feet. “You can never jump away from Conclusions. Getting back is not so easy. That’s why we’re so terribly crowded here…. The only way back is to swim, and that’s a very long and a very hard way.”

I suppose the first question is what is IL-PONDERING. Well, turns out the word ponder doesn’t have any very good antonyms. They all are basically “not thinking,” but I think il-pondering is far more about thinking you are pondering, when really you are not.

The prefix IL means: not, opposite of, without

So the peril of il-pondering is that you are actually not pondering (though you may think you are), or that you are doing the opposite of pondering which is letting others think for you; or perhaps you ponder but invalidate the process for many various reasons.

So, before we can discuss how il-pondering happens, let’s talk about the proper way to ponder.

The following steps have been compiled from a combination of three scripture references: Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3, 9:7-9; Joseph Smith-History 1:8-13.

HOW TO PONDER

  1. Set aside your self-imposed, limited expectations for what God’s answer and guidance will be and open yourself up to consider not what you expect to learn, but what God has for you to learn and understand.
  2. Establish a firm, doctrinally-based question upon which you intend to act (For help with this concept see blog post Getting Answers to Prayers: EXPEDIENCY). God can tell you anything, but He’s much more likely to reveal those things to you which pertain to “you” and which will help “you” become more like Him.
  3. Pray for guidance and then while you are waiting for it, study, research, and reason. Then, pray again for understanding and to sort through the knowledge you’ve gleaned.
  4. Do not allow yourself to be overly awed or swayed by educational credentials, claimed associations, quotes and blurbs taken out of context, etc.
  5. Live worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost and invite Him to testify and guide you by being an active learner. You can do this by accessing those resources God has commanded us to use to get His answers: prophetic guidance, scripture study, prayer, and other appropriate and positive influences within our lives.
  6. When you receive advice from others, get the counsel confirmed by the Holy Ghost who will tell you in BOTH your mind and your hearts, if the advice is God’s will for you.

So, how do we il-ponder? Il-pondering is skipping, reversing, ignoring, skewing, or slothfully completing any of the above steps. But, here are some statements that may help.

Il-pondering will happen IF we limit our perspective for learning and receiving answers from God to our own limited and finite expectations. We think we can imagine what God will say, but we can’t (Isaiah 55:8-9). So, if we try to put God in our box (which can’t be done), then we will sit inside that tiny box, all alone—or with others who have climbed in—and never get the knowledge we need.

Many times we il-ponder when we focus on superficial questions to which God has an answer, but because of the lack of eternal importance of the answer, or our inability to comprehend the infinite expanse of the answer, we cannot receive it. For example: it’s not that understanding how the dinosaurs and Cro-Magnon man play into the creation of Adam and Eve aren’t interesting, but the reality is that the answer won’t affect our ability to keep God’s commandments and become like Him. We can do that without knowing those things. Plus, the answer would probably be beyond our ability to grasp.

We also il-ponder when our excessive emotions of disappointment, anger, resentment, vengeance, passion, and even dumfounded-confusion drive our search. This is because what we are looking for is an immediate fix for our emotional discomfort and not the ultimate truth—which is often not immediately comfortable.

Il-pondering can happen, and frequently does, when we allow others to do our thinking for us. This happens when we set out to research an issue, problem, question, or even a doubt. In our impatience and haste, we find that other people (often on the Internet) have already done some. Then, we sit down comfortably and listen to their pondering, eat their narrative meal, accept their biased viewpoint (which certainly sounds as if they are trying to be unbiased and fair), and completely ingest their answers. This meal is especially appetizing if it agrees with our emotional feelings or uneducated conclusions. We jump to their conclusions, never having fully pondered our own. When this happens, I know of few who actually take the time to take the easily ingested pondering (done by others) and vet it through an inquiry to the Lord. They simply think they’ve found the answer and then stop. They never seek a witness from the Holy Ghost. They put up an umbrella over their heads, blocking the further light and knowledge raining down that they would have found.

We il-ponder when we jump to conclusions before having all the information (and since when did anyone have all the information, except God?). We are so prideful and selfishly convinced of our own intelligent conclusion based on minimal evidence that we harden our hearts and become incapable of receiving any other information. Messages from the Holy Ghost bounce off of our armor because we’ve decided to only soften for certain kinds of information.

We il-ponder when we study minimally, research at a glance, reason only our limited viewpoint, and fail to pray before and after for inspiration, help, and guidance.

We il-ponder when we ask God for an answer and then turn to sources He has not instituted for His answer. We turn to men for guidance instead of God’s words and ordained mouthpieces (Doctrine and Covenants 1:37-38).

We il-ponder when we accept the counsel and guidance of others in our lives without vetting their guidance with our Father in Heaven. No matter how wise and wonderful advice may seem; no matter how educated or experienced another is; none is more wise and educated and experienced than God. If we get good advice and He wants us to follow it, He will tell us IF we seek His opinion.

In the scriptures we see many people deceived by il-pondering.

  • Laman and Lemuel often sought explanations from Nephi. Nephi always preached true doctrine to them. So, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that Laman and Lemuel never went to the Lord to get it verified. They never got their own witness.
  • The Zoramites were notorious for not pondering for themselves. They turned to Alma and his sons for information. Alma 32 is an entire chapter in The Book of Mormon of Alma counseling the Zoramites to ponder! Try it out, plant the seed and see what happens! Alma taught.
  • Alma’s son, Corianton, succumbed to temptation because he struggled with a few critical gospel doctrines. His emotions got in his way of taking the time to ponder and get the truth. His father finally set him straight, but Corianton still had to gain his own witness.
  • Alma the Younger was an il-ponderer until his soul was at stake. Then, as he was “racked with torment” and “harrowed up by the memory of his sins” he remembered his father taught about “one, Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world” (Alma 36:17). In his internal pondering he sifted through all that he had ever heard and found hope and a testimony in Jesus Christ.
  • Zeezrom tormented Alma and Amulek with his cursory knowledge of the gospel. He tried to cross them in their words. When they were inspired by the Holy Ghost to put Zeezrom in his place, he too was tormented until he pondered what they had actually taught about Jesus Christ (Alma 11 & 15).
  • The Pharisees were the blind guides upon whom so many were so often deceived. The Pharisees were accused by Jesus Christ of being blind guides and making converts to “their version” of His religion twofold more the children of hell than they, themselves, were (Matthew 23:15).

If we continually submit to others’ versions of truth, to others’ pondering, and not doing our own, we are allowing ourselves to be led by “blind guides” and we have no personal promptings or spiritual witnesses to fall back on. And, if we are not careful, we will become their converts and not Christ’s, we will preach their gospel and not Christ’s, and we will become twofold more the children of hell, than those whom we originally followed.

We cannot receive personal revelation and guidance from God if we let others do the asking, studying, and pondering for us. If we think God is not answering us, that His promises are not being fulfilled, it may be because we are not anxiously engaged in getting our own answers from Him (Doctrine & Covenants -58:26-33).

2 Nephi 32:1-7 says:

And now, behold, my beloved brethren, I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way. But, behold, why do ye ponder these things in your hearts?

Do ye not remember that I said unto that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?

Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.

For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.

Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ

And now, I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.

I am one of those people that is inherently untrusting of others’ opinions, and even more so of their facts. If someone cites a reference in their research paper, blog, or other post, I look it up. And, I’m never shocked to find out that they’ve skewed the ideal, misunderstood the point, misquoted the facts, failed to read the whole reference themselves, and “jumped to conclusions” about its interpretation. Often they steal ideas because they don’t have their own!

I’m not shocked because those who preach the most vehemently are often il-ponderers themselves.

When I cite references in this blog, I fully expect (and hope) that you (my readers) will look them up. Why? Because if you read them, for yourself, the Spirit will be able to teach you far more than my little blog could ever do. If you read the references yourselves and ponder the right questions, the Holy Ghost will do wonderful things with your minds, hearts, and your lives.

So, hopefully, if you’re reading this and you’ve been an il-ponderer, you will get moving again by thinking on your own and seeking your own witness. Or, perhaps you will swim back from the Island of Conclusions—even though it’s a long swim. Or, hopefully, you will finally get past Expectations and to the destination that God intends for you.

BT

Doctrines in this blog:

  • There is no vicarious road to replace the individual effort required to ponder, study, reason, and receive individual answers and witnesses from God through the Holy Ghost.
  • If we let others ponder for us we are likely to end up converted to, and preaching, their version of the gospel, instead of God’s version… And their version cannot spiritually sustain us.

Listen to more thoughts about IL-Pondering and Problem-Solving on this week’s podcast! Click here!

I’m going to share something that is very hard for me to share. But, it illustrates my experience with this truth better than any other.

I started writing in the year 2000. I felt inspired to start writing. It hit me like a ton of bricks. And so, I began. Primarily with fiction. I started in 2000 what would eventually turn into a 4-book fantasy series. Before finishing that and while writing many other fiction stories, I attended writers conferences. I attended writing groups. I prayed for the gift to write powerfully. I submitted my manuscripts to contests. I pitched before agents. I fasted, I prayed, I researched, I looked for writing niches. I bought every version of The Writers Market that came out for several years. I followed all the advice. I honed and polished countless query letters—trying each time for something new, unique, more honest, more catchy, more blunt, more of whatever would get someone’s attention in the writing world. All, to no avail.

I loved writing. I still love it. But, one day, I came to the conclusion that either it wasn’t God’s will for me to write, or that His plan for me would take a different road than the one I was pursuing. I found this so confusing. Because I felt so strongly the calling to write. And prior to feeling that call to write, it’s important to note that it had never before crossed my mind to try to be an author.

As a kid, I had loved the Scholastic Book Fairs. I loved books that were fun to read. But high school reading and literature nearly killed every ounce of that. I’ve since discovered class literature that isn’t painful, but evidently my high school teachers didn’t know which ones those were. What remained of my love of books and reading was reignited after graduation after taking a job at Scholastic Books. I learned to love reading again, while working there. But that was where it ended…except that from time to time my love of escaping into those fiction worlds tugged at a little part of me. I wanted to have the same impact, somehow. To impact the lives of others the way those books impacted me. But to be an author myself?

So, I knew I had been called to write. But, after nearly 15 years when doors to publication were still being closed in my face no matter what back flips I did or how much I fasted and prayed, I began to wonder where mine and God’s signals had gotten crossed.

I loved writing. I had made it an integral part of my life for over a decade and half. I had even branched into writing religious commentary. But…nothing panned out.

I loved writing. But, one night on my knees, heartbroken (for at least the 1000th time), I told the Lord that I loved Him more. That I would quit writing for Him. That I would do anything else He asked. That I would forget writing forever. Or that I would do it some other way. But that I loved Him more than my writing and I loved His way more than my own.

I can’t explain how hard that was for me. But, in that moment I knew my love for God was more than my love for writing would ever be. My love for God changed my desires, and the application of my desires. My desire to please Him and do His will was far stronger than my desire to write and to be published, because even though I loved writing, I loved Him more.

I’m still not published, officially. I have at least 16 books sitting on my hard drive and some of those sit on my shelf, my own copies, you know. Sometimes I look at them with a little twinge in my heart and some bittersweet feelings. But, most certainly not regret. I don’t regret that I’m trying to do things His way, instead of mine. Because I love Him more and my love of Him has changed my desires. I’d rather do things His way, than mine…even if that means none of those words ever see the light of day.

In the spring of 2016 one of my sisters suggested that I start a blog. My answer? No. To me blogs were journals or recipe-sharing. Some of the blogs I had seen were controversial. I didn’t want any part of that, and I didn’t see how what I could write about would have any place in that world. Then in October of 2016, sitting in General Women’s Conference, I felt prompted to start a blog. My answer to God? What?!

But, here I am…because I love Him and His way more than myself, more than my writing, and more than my way.

What We Love Should Change Us and the Way We Live Our Lives

There is another person’s story that I wish to share to communicate the power of change that love should bring into our lives. And that man’s name is Abraham. Abraham descended from “the Fathers” meaning the patriarchal line of Adam (through Shem). But his own immediate father and grandfather had turned to idolatry. So, their gospel instruction was likely poor and their priesthood authority totally inactive.

Somehow the records which had been handed down from Adam came into Abraham’s hands, and he found out that “there was greater happiness and peace and rest” available to him through God’s highest ordinances and blessings (Abraham 1:1). Note: He was already awesome. But, he found out that God had more for him. That God loved him and, let me say it again, had more in store for him! It is clear that Abraham, through his study of these records developed a love for God that changed his desires. He says:

And finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations (i.e. to enter into the New and Everlasting Covenant, Doctrine & Covenants 131), a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.

Abraham 1:1

Note how Abraham was already righteous and knowledgeable. But, his love for God made him desire to be more righteous and more knowledgeable, to be even like unto Melchizedek and others of “the fathers” before him. His love for God changed him because that love changed his desires. And because of his love for God and an increase, or a change, in his desires, he became more. He entered into those covenants and made himself worthy and became ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood and became a High Priest.

There are so many things in our lives that we love. But, which of those loves are powerful enough to change our desires? Which of those loves are powerful enough to motivate us to sacrifice so that we can maintain and even strengthen that love, or pass it on to others?

People who are converted to Christ usually feel so much love for God and for their new faith that they feel the desire, and find the power, to give up education, career paths, fiancés, and more to serve missions or fulfill other calls from God. Jean Valjean in Les Miserables is so affected by the love shown to him by the priest that he desires to be more than he is. Thus, he dedicates his life to showing the same love to others and to become more than he was.

If the love we have felt or the love we have for something isn’t powerful enough to change us, then that means we still love something else more. Real love (shown to us, or that we feel toward someone or something) should change us for the better. If it doesn’t, then we have to ask ourselves, “What do I love more?”

It is Possible to Love Something A Lot, but Not Enough to Change Us

Love is often developed in stages. So, even if we love something, we may not yet love it enough that it has the power to change us. And that’s okay. As long as we know what it is that we love more. If we are struggling to accomplish something in our lives or to progress or to conquer something, and we are continuing to fail at it; it may simply be that we need to keep practicing and trying. But, it may also be that our motivation, our desires, aren’t fulling supporting us. It may be that we love something else more; so much so that loving that (whatever it is) prevents us from forward and upward progression.

Maybe we love French fries more than we love the idea of losing weight. Maybe we love maintaining the idea that we are always right more than we love doing what is right, or best. Maybe we want to stop cussing but we love the idea of looking cool around certain people more than we love being right before God. I could make a very long list, but the principle is the same no matter how it is applied.

Let me give you an example. I have often heard people say to me, “I really wish I could quote scripture like you do.” And, I think that in their minds the idea of being able to do that really appeals to them. But, they haven’t yet begun assimilating scripture into their lives because there are things they love more. I don’t know what those things are, and it’s not my place to judge. But, if they really wanted to be able to quote scripture, then they must first come to love the scriptures more than they love other things. Then the desire to read and study their scriptures (because of their love for them) would naturally result in the scriptures and the words of God becoming part of their daily thought, conversation, and vocabulary.

I certainly don’t claim to be able to quote scripture at every turn. But, I do love the scriptures, the word of God. It is the greatest treasure in my life. I LOVE to read and study the scriptures. I love to go to them to find answers. I love the Spirit I feel teach me when I’m immersed in them. If that results in me often using scriptures in my daily speech and conversation, then that doesn’t make me special. It makes me a lover of God’s word.

Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son through his first wife, Sariah. Isaac, you remember was a miracle baby, born to Sariah long after she should have been able to bear children. To complicate the request further, Abraham’s own father attempted to sacrifice Abraham to idols (Abraham 1). Certainly, Abraham had some emotional and psychological baggage tied to this request from God. First, he was doing very nearly what his own idolatrous father had done to him. Second, Isaac was his birthright son; the one God had promised him, and which who had come through miraculous means. And here God was asking him to basically start all over. Then, to even make the matter more complex, Isaac himself agreed to be the sacrifice (once Abraham filled him in on what God had asked).

The only explanation for any of this was for Abraham to learn, to really learn, just how much he loved God (“Abraham needed to learn about Abraham.” Hugh B. Brown). In the end, both he and Isaac proved that they loved God more by their willingness to sacrifice and to be sacrificed. Foreshadowing, of course, the eventual atonement of Jesus Christ, of whom Isaac was a type, and God, the Father, allowing it, of whom Abraham was a type.

God and Jesus Christ loved all of us more than each other or themselves. Thus, “God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son…” (John 3:16). And Christ (John 10:18) gave His life freely. He was not forced. He loved us more than Himself. He loved God more than His own life. Their love for us was witnessed in their actions.

Had either God, Jesus, Abraham, or Isaac chosen otherwise than they did, it would have been because they loved something else more. If God had loved only one of His children more than all the rest, He wouldn’t have allowed Jesus to perform the atonement. If Jesus had loved Himself more, then He would have saved Himself rather than to accept the bitter cup. What implications His love had!

Thus, we can see that love, true love, should (and can) change us. It can give us power to be something or to do something we might otherwise not do. It has the power, through the grace of God, to change our inherent desires and to aid us in becoming more. And, if we can’t find the power to do something, it may be because we love something else more.

Conclusion

What can love do? What does love do? It changes us—for better or for worse. Better, if that which we love leads us to change our desires and our actions. Worse, if that which we love leads us to hold onto destructive desires and actions, or if it doesn’t lead us to make any progress at all.

What do you love? Who loves you? What change is it creating in you? If you want to create the power to change your desires and your ability to progress, you simply have to change what it is you love.

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BT