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

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

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

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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Check out this podcast by clicking here!

BT

Recently the question was posed to me, “If you could say anything to your past self, what would it be?” So, I thought about it. And, I struggled to come up with anything. Because in all honesty, I don’t see the point in doing it. If given the chance, I don’t think I would go back and try to mess with my past self. I’m not sure it would make a difference.

But, after some more thought, what I realized was, that more than it really mattering IF I actually would go back and say anything to my past self; considering what I might say to my past self actually had a great deal of value for my present self. Why? Because trying to look back and think what I might say is an exercise in remembrance, in reflecting on my life.

Click here to listen to the podcast: The Stuff I Would Say to My Past Self!

Immediately questions arise like:

  • Would I change anything about my past?
  • What advice and help did I receive in the past that brought me to this point I’m at now? Will it help me going forward?
  • What growing experiences did I have because I had to live by faith without frequent peeks at my future or a phone call from the future?
  • Do I see the hand of God in the path my life has taken?
  • If everything had gone the way I had planned or expected, would I be the same person?
  • What truths did I cling to then? Are they the same ones I cling to now? Are they the same ones I should cling to in the future?

It turns out, there is an incredible benefit to remembering our past and reflecting on the course our life has taken, if we do it properly.

Remember, Remember…

In the scriptures, prophets repeatedly encourage people to reflect back on their lives and remember (and acknowledge) the ways in which God has blessed and preserved them, as well as their forbears. This remembrance of our lives is an exercise in gratitude.

In Ephesians 2, Paul reminds the members of Ephesus to remember what they were like before the grace of God touched their lives. He encourages them to remember when they were without Christ and how their life and hope has changed since becoming converted to Christianity. This remembrance is not only an exercise in gratitude, but it’s a chance for the Holy Spirit to reaffirm our testimony.

Joseph Smith recorded that after reading James 1:5 that the message of the verse hit him so hard that he reflected on it again and again (JS-H 1:12). Many of us, like Joseph, have heard quotes, read scriptures, heard sermons, or recited prayers that have entered our hearts with such force that we find ourselves coming back to those messages again and again and again…often being taught even deeper truths each time we reflect on them. This type of remembrance is not only the reaffirmation of our testimony of a truth we’ve been taught, it’s a reflection that invites the Holy Spirit to teach us more about a truth we are willing to learn more about. It’s in invitation to be taught.

Pillar of Salt

Conversely, in the scriptures we also have accounts of people reflecting back on the past in a manner that breeds personal destruction. Lot’s wife, when she looked back at the destruction of Sodom (where her home was) turned into a pillar of salt. Or, in more blunt words, she was burned up by the destruction. She didn’t simply look back, she ran back toward the city and to her own death. Lot tried to lead her out of it to a life of righteousness, and she didn’t truly want that, so even though the city was going to be destroyed, she had rather run back and get burned up with it. Her reflection led her to run head first into self-destruction.

Often, when many of us reflect back on the past we do so with longing for things that aren’t beneficial to our present. We create sentimental trophies out of old romances, past friendships, once promising athletic careers, and other such childhood and teenage fodder. We glorify these images so much in our minds that it builds regret for our present location in life. We begin to resent and discredit all that we have built in our current lives by running full-force back to the imaginary happiness we truly believe we missed out on. We, like Lot’s wife, run head first into self-destruction.

Others, when they reflect back or dwell on their past mistakes they lean so hard into shaming and mentally destroying themselves, that they can’t press forward successfully in the present. As they look back at their lives and think what they might say to their past selves they use the opportunity instead to punish themselves more. To beat themselves up more. But, they aren’t beating up their past self. They are beating up their present self, creating self-destruction in the present.

God Wants Us to Reflect to Propel Us Forward

So, now I put the question to you. What would you go back and tell your past self, if you could? That past self could be the self of yesterday, a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, five years ago, or even twenty years ago. Would you tell all these selves the same thing? Why, or why not?

Now, here’s another question. Now that several things have crossed your mind about what you would tell your past self. How do these words of wisdom help you in the present? What would you tell your future self?

It turns out God has a primary purpose for self-reflection and remembrance. But, they are illustrated most powerfully in the man called Alma-the-younger.

Interestingly, Alma-the-younger (Jr.)’s father had been a Christian rebel when he was a young man. But, then he got himself straightened out. So, what happens? Well, his son, Alma Jr., decides to rebel also and run around trying to destroy Christianity (the church). Alma Jr. and his friends (the sons of the king, named Mosiah) describe themselves as the vilest of sinners (Mosiah 28:4). During their wicked streak an angel appears to them and tells them to repent or be destroyed.

These words hold particular hold upon Alma Jr.’s heart. He falls to the ground and is tormented with what he describes as “the pains of hell” for up to a day or two. The things causing his hellish pain? Well, they are his reflections on his wicked past.

And then, amidst Alma Jr.’s reflections he remembers hearing his father (Alma Sr.) preaching about Jesus Christ who atones for the sins for the world. That there is forgiveness. This reflection leads him to repent. He calls out in his anguish to Christ and asks to be saved. He is then suddenly filled with peace even greater than the hellish pain that he was being tormented with. He says, “And now, behold…I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more” (Alma 36:13,19).

Notice, he doesn’t say that he can’t remember his sins. He can. But what he can no longer remember is the hellish-pain, guilt, misery, and suffering that he was under because of his recognition of his sins.

Alma Jr.’s reflection back on his past had the potential to propel him forward. First he reflected on his sins and was nearly overwhelmed by his vivid understanding of just how rotten he’d been. But, then, so very important, is that second, he reflected on what he’d been taught about Christ and in faith he sought Christ. What happened then? He found peace in the grace of Christ and was able to be free from the pain of his sins. Certainly he could still remember them, but they didn’t torment him anymore. Now, he was free to use those memories to press forward…to become better.

A Challenge

Out of this topic, I have come to the conclusion that the best way for us to reflect upon the past is to do so with God’s help. If we are to look back and reflect in a way that has the greatest potential to propel us forward, then we should look back with the help of a being that can see our past as clearly as He can see our present and our future.

Consider questions like:

  • God, is there anything in my past that I still need to deal with and resolve?
  • God, is there a time in my past where you were with me but I didn’t realize it back then? Show me so I can find peace now.
  • God, can you help me to remember the times your grace carried me through, or your Holy Spirit taught me truth so that my current testimony can be re-affirmed?
  • God, is there anything more you would teach me about this truth that I already love so much?
  • God, are there any truths I’m overlooking in my past that I need to understand so I can receive the future you have in store for me?

I’m Finally Going to Answer the Question

I have to be honest. I don’t think I would go back and tell my past self much of anything. But, if I did, it would sound something like this:

Don’t waste any mental or emotional effort on the fact that it simply isn’t your nature to care about being popular or fitting in. You never do seek out those things, but you will try to waste a lot of effort on whether or not it’s important. So, don’t.

Next, God has given all of us bodies. Mortal genetics play their part. Be grateful for the body you have been given. Don’t waste another second beating yourself up because you weren’t born four-to-six inches shorter, four-to-six inches narrower, or 40-60 lbs lighter. Your body is the power God has given you to do His work. Take glory in the fact that you can accomplish it with the body you’ve got.

You were right. You’ll keep being right. You’ll keep trusting in God. You’re going to make it.

BT

I remember my baptism with mixed clarity. Some details are vibrant and mark the day, even ingrain it in my mind with both a combination of anxiety and peace. Other details I cannot recall with more than a flicker, perhaps a blur of faces and flashes of sentiment. But, while I remember a smattering of details, there are only a few which I find now to be of consequence.

Firstly, I know that I was baptized. I know that two men stood at either side of the baptismal font in a room that was lined with brown, scratchy, woven fabric walls and was covered in dark brown moldings and brown, tightly woven commercial carpet. They stood there to witness that when immersed, all of me went under—down to the last stray strand of nearly coal black hair. My baptism was by immersion.

Secondly, one of my joys of the day was knowing that it would be my dad, my wonderful father, who was then bishop of our little ward, who would baptize me. Having authority because of the Melchizedek Priesthood which he held, he raised his right arm up to what is often referred to as “the square” because the upper arm is supposed to be at a right angle from the forearm. He said a very specific prayer, and baptized me in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

My anxiety of the day was my baptismal attire. Somehow or other a past family had forgotten to return some of the baptism dresses that were kept at our modest meetinghouse in Moberly, Missouri. My mother was an excellent seamstress and would certainly have put something together in advance had she known. But the day came, we arrived, and the closet storing those dresses held only attire that was either unsuitable or too large. What then was I baptized in? Well, the tradition is to wear white, and so I was relegated to wear the white blouse I had come in along with the white slip under my skirt. Proving therefore, that a person can be baptized in any respectable type of clothing.

I remember being all too conscious that the boy’s my age would see my underclothes through my wet slip. But, my third memory of the day was that once completely immersed and brought back up out of the water, I hardly worried. Such a concern lost importance in the large scheme of what I was doing. I was whisked off to a private bathroom. Dried and dressed by my mother, and ushered out into that same brown-dominated room to be confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, again by my father and a couple other priesthood holders. He placed his hands upon my head and commanded me, in the name of Jesus Christ, to receive the Holy Ghost.

As happy as an eight-year-old could be, I was. And while I was not old enough to understand everything, I knew, and felt, that I had made the right choice to be baptized. There was never any question in my mind as to if I should not. And, while I don’t remember any of the talks given that day, who gave them, or what they said, I understood at a very shallow level that I was embarking on a path to do God’s will with my life.

One of my final joys of the day was receiving a two-dollar bill from my CTR teacher, Brother Reeves. All of the kids in my Primary class anxiously awaited getting baptized, because we all knew Brother Reeves would give us a crisp, two-dollar bill. We understood, somehow, that $2 bills were unique, uncommon, and special. And, now, thirty-two years later, I understand that he was trying to teach us that choosing to follow Christ at such an age is even more rare, more uncommon, and more special.

What Baptism is Not

There has been a lot of controversy, since the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, as to what baptism is, who should be baptized, who can perform baptisms, and how a person should be baptized. But, this is not a New Testament-only controversy. Baptism is an eternal ordinance and it was had by Adam and by all thereafter who desired to do God’s will with their lives (Moses 6:51-60; 3 Nephi 11:22-28). Adam, himself, asked after the purpose of baptism, and in the Book of Mormon we read that many were confused as to how it should be done.

Currently, in our modern society, baptism is seen much more casually and is held akin to joining a club. It’s a rite of passage, no more, and thus, it is thought, it can be performed in any numerous ways, by any number of people, and in some religions it is thought to be no more important than in confessing Christ with one’s lips. Many Christian religions encourage baptism, but not all now believe it necessary to salvation.

Baptism is so ancient that it is often taken for granted. And it’s so simple an ordinance that it is easily altered to meet our own desires, expectations, fears, and misunderstandings. Baptism, however, is not a human invention. It is God’s.

Baptism is NOT:

What Baptism Is

Baptism IS:

  • a ritual, a memorial event commanded by God to be performed physically, as an outward sign of an inner desire to follow Christ and give one’s life over to God
  • the gate to enter God’s celestial kingdom (John 3:4-5)
  • of eternal effect when performed by someone with true priesthood authority
  • necessary for the basic salvation of all those who are capable of being accountable
  • for those who have a true desire to follow Christ and live their live by God’s will
  • for those who wish to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost (baptism of fire) and be sanctified over the course of their life by the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and the receipt of higher ordinances and covenants
  • a choice that takes us off neutral ground and puts us on God’s side (Faith is Not by Chance, but By Choice, Elder Neil L. Andersen, October 2015)

Needless Controversy About Baptism

A lot of people get upset when Church policy (based upon the command of God to His prophet) restricts baptism to some until they reach a certain age. The children of polygamist families and now same-sex marriage families must wait until they are 18 to be receive the ordinance of baptism. Such policies create anger and resentment. Publicly, many decry this as an unkindness, a discriminatory policy, and an unfair one and use it to condemn the prophet, or “the brethren” as uninspired and old-fashioned, even oppressive.

However, for those that understand the incredible sanctity and privilege of such an ordinance as well as God’s mercy, they should have no such qualms nor take such offense. What is God saying by restricting baptism to such individuals?

He is indicating the following:

  1. They are not fully accountable before Him (because of their family situations) until they reach 18! Certainly, they are accountable in many ways, and such a measure does not condone the willful committing of sin, but should such die before the age of 18 and not have a chance to be baptized, they would still be eligible for salvation and exaltation. Much of their accountability regarding the impact of sin made so acceptable in their nurturing home environment is taken into account by God. This is a great comfort and one that has long been preached in Moroni 8:5,10-15,20,22,25.
  2. That the ordinance of baptism and the covenants attached are so sacred as to not be entered into lightly or without a conviction that a person wishes to follow Christ and live by the will of God. Children born into families where a natural softening toward sin (polygamy against the will of God, same-sex marriage against the will of God) need more time—which God knows—to sort out their feelings and decide what they believe. Baptism is sacred. God does not wish any to enter into such a covenant without first having a pure desire to enter His kingdom.
  3. That baptism is more than a gate; it is a journey toward a far greater destiny—the privilege of becoming like God (Doctrine & Covenants 14:7; John 17:3). This is not a spiritual educational path to embark upon lightly. Baptism is not just about “getting in” God’s church. It is about accepting a covenant and ordinance with our eyes looking forward to the future that God deeply desires and intends for us.

Why Baptism?

Christ was baptized to “fulfill all righteousness.” He didn’t need baptism to remit His sins but He did need to be baptized to continue to “do the will of Him that sent me.” He needed baptism to remain perfect, to remain faithful, to remain capable of being our Savior. For Him, to accept baptism was to accept, yet again, His role as our Savior, Mediator, and Redeemer.

His baptism was also an example to us. He went to a man who held authority from God to baptize. He was baptized by immersion. He received the presence of the Holy Ghost and gave His apostles the power and authority to confer the gift of it on others. For His baptism, which He was restoring/re-dispensing was a higher baptism. Unlike the baptism of John which was only unto repentance, Christ’s baptism was of fire (the Holy Ghost) and unto sanctification. And by Christ’s (and thus God-the-Father’s) decree, we need both (baptism unto repentance and the baptism of the Holy Ghost) to enter into the gate to the celestial kingdom of God.

So, unlike Christ, we do need baptism (and a the weekly ordinance/offering of the Sacrament) to continually remit our sins and renew our baptismal covenants. It is yet another outward ritual that helps us to remember our covenants and stay on the covenant path.

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Baptism is a physical marker. Thus, because it takes place externally, and is not merely an internal confession of faith, but a physical sign of our faith, it gives it meaning, memorability, and accountability to our actions of the day and thereafter. Such a physical mark gives us power to keep the covenants we make along with the physical ritual. There were witnesses! People know we made a promise to follow God. It adds to our internal desire a pressure to be true to our outward action

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God is a god of sacrifice, of memorials and rites (such as baptism), and of remembrance. Outward ordinances, such as baptism, are for our benefit. They make it nearly impossible to forget the covenants and promises we have made to God.

Conclusion

I can’t think of a better conclusion to the topic of baptism than this scripture, Mosiah 18:8-10:

…Behold, here are the waters of [baptism]…and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that he have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

The priesthood authority to baptize by water and by fire is within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I invite all to renew their baptismal covenants or to seek out such living works as can now be found again on the earth

BT

I’ll never forget, during one early morning seminary class, several years back now, when a student shocked me with a very inspired interpretation of a verse of scripture.

Often, as a teacher, you try to anticipate comments. It’s necessary in order to be prepared to answer questions, or to help students seek their own answers. Often, you feel in your preparation you’ve discovered all the most important doctrines, the most important things for your students to know, and grasp. You’ve dug up all the necessary “in the moment” information, and then you turn it over to the Lord.

But then, you have those days that no matter your preparation, no matter your own aha’s while getting ready, God has something better in store…and your students teach you. Those were always my favorite days—when my students came up with profound truths that made my mouth drop open and which set me pondering. And this is one I have never forgotten.

The scripture was Doctrine & Covenants 93:33-34. It reads:

For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.

I asked my students, during this particular lesson, to read certain sections of scripture and pull out truths (i.e. doctrines). These two verses were simply in a large block of verses assigned and I hadn’t even focused on them by themselves. Then, one of my students got up when it was his turn to share some “truths” and he said something to the effect of:

What I learned from these verses is that suicide won’t make people happier. Suicide disconnects people from their physical body. And, if a fullness of joy only comes from them being together, or eventually reunited, then maybe if people knew that, they wouldn’t be tempted to commit suicide.

I remember sitting there (because I always sat down when I had my kids stand up and share) stunned. Such a doctrine had never before occurred to me. And certainly reading those verses had never led me to contemplate the intricate doctrines attached to suicide.

In Doctrine and Covenants 138 we find a vision by Joseph F. Smith regarding what happens to people after they die. While studying verses about Christ’s atonement and what He did in the three days His body was in the tomb, Joseph F. Smith received this incredible witness of the spirit world. In verse 11-17 Joseph F. Smith recounts:

As I pondered over these things…the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great. And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company… I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand. They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death. Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided that they might receive a fulness of joy.

Then, in verse 50, we read:

For the dead had looked upon the long absence of the spirits from their bodies as bondage.

Contemplating suicide

Now, if we are to be frank, there are a lot of reasons people contemplate suicide. I myself, during the chaos and struggle leading up to my divorce (9+ years ago now) seriously considered the idea of it. I considered it from a very lucid state of mind, though I was most certainly compromised emotionally and in consequence physically from the stress and lack of sleep and the struggle to maintain my life at the time. I remember perusing all the medications in my house and seeing if any of them could be overdosed on. I did with an acute sense of how ridiculous it was, but I did it anyway.

But, in reality, I knew why I was doing it. And, it wasn’t because I didn’t believe that happiness was out there in the future somewhere. I figured it probably was, though I couldn’t comprehend it at the time. I contemplated suicide because I wanted to get my ex-spouse’s attention. I wanted to find a way to quickly bypass all the pain that was there, at present, and that subconsciously I knew was coming. I wanted to progress through this trial faster. I wanted to shock my ex-spouse into some kind of state where he was willing to see how much I (and our marriage) should mean to him. I wanted to skip past all the unknown drama and hurt, because there seemed to be no end to the pain (both emotional and psychological).

I had never known such numbness, such emptiness, such neglect, nor such personal stagnation. My life was in a horrific limbo. I couldn’t do anything until I knew I had given everything to save the marriage and I couldn’t move forward until the other party “threw in the towel.” And, suicide, in the back of my mind, seemed like a possible way to take control—to force something to happen, because it seemed like nothing was. I was trying so hard to save the marriage and yet it was getting better and it some ways it wasn’t getting worse…it was just stagnating in the slowest possible way.

That contemplation of suicide only lasted one evening. I have the blessing and curse of being incredibly self-aware and nearly incapable of going against my own testimony, my own logic, and reason. Rebellion against common sense and practicality is nearly impossible for me. Thus, so also was suicide.

However, other people contemplate it for reasons that may include: escape, fear, depression, revenge, control, psychological collapse, or despair. Other reasons tend to be more fanatic and are rare and I’m not sure such fanatic and eccentric reasons for taking one’s own life are related to this article at all.

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Bodies are a spiritual catalyst and a spiritual amplifier

However, no matter why a person may contemplate suicide, it’s important to understand that no matter how difficult life “in their body” is, that abandoning that body doesn’t necessary mean happiness. Bodies (whether mortal or immortal) are powerful. They are a power (i.e. glory, Abraham 3:26) that our spirit gains by simply coming to this life. To cast them off, no matter how much pain or suffering we may be experiencing, is to cast off the most powerful tool we have to access happiness.

The scriptures teach us that eternal happiness is achieved first and foremost by having our body and spirit together, or reunited (if we have died). A physical body (whether mortal or immortal) is a godly power. It’s something God had that we didn’t, and it is one of the primary reasons we chose to come into this mortal world.

A body grants us the power to create life, manipulate matter, and do all sorts of amazing things by the sheer act of our spiritual/mental will. In a body (D&C 138:33-35) we can gain access to ordinances and covenants that allow us to take advantage of God’s grace and by so doing seek godliness—to be like God. We can’t do that without a body!

Without a body…none of these critical, eternal things are possible unless done vicariously by proxy individuals who have bodies. And God has made it clear that this is not the best way, though it is available (Alma 34:32-36) because our bodies amplify who we are and are a catalyst to godly development. Simply separating our body from our spirit won’t make us into something we aren’t already, fundamentally. We are who we become while we are in our bodies. Our bodies have an amplifying effect upon our spirits (2010, Bednar, David. A, Things as They Really Are). Our bodies also have the power to help us change, and improve, our fundamental spiritual nature. If our spiritual nature needs improvement and refinement, a mortal body can help us accomplish that faster than eons of existence as a mere spirit.

A lot of people who don’t understand the purpose of life foolishly assume that religion is about simply being a good person. It is not. God’s plan of salvation and the fullness of His truth is about becoming like Him. We can’t do that by casting off our body simply to escape pain or trouble, to abandon fears, to avoid dealing with the very real physical struggles of depression and other psychological, to enact revenge, to seek control, or to escape despair. Our body is the very godly tool that allows us, through perseverance, to transcend pain and trouble, to overcome fears, to conquer depression and other psychological struggles, to gain peace and conquer forgiveness, and to find joy.

To cast off our body purposefully is to give up the power to gain happiness and joy. It does not create the power to gain happiness and joy.

Death comes to all

Death is a very real thing. It comes to each of us in God’s own will and time. It is the doorway to other pieces of God’s plan for us prior to our eventual resurrection. But, even to God death (separation of the body and spirit) is temporary. Through the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ we will get our bodies back, perfected and immortal. His body is eternally connected with His spirit and so will ours be. Our body, because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, belongs to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It is His to take, not ours to cast off.

Martyrdom and Sacrifice

There is only one person, in all of God’s plan, who got to choose (by God’s divine decree) when to offer up His physical body and cast it away and when to take it up again and reunite it with His spirit, and that was Christ (John 10:17-18). And, He did so in a supreme act of self-sacrifice and by a vicarious ordinance to save us both physically and spiritually for eternity. He didn’t do it to escape anything. Rather, He wished that He might not have to do so (Matthew 26:39).

Throughout scripture we see that God commands people to kill in rare instances, to be the hand of justice. We also see God commanding His prophets, apostles, and people to die for His truths rather than to compromise. We also see many people giving their lives to save others. Such instances, it would seem, are the only godly ways to walk purposefully into death. And God is the judge and grants the authority to do so.

Conclusion

What’s God’s feeling about suicide? Even as mortals we understand that suicide is not a solution, ultimately. It’s not something we should choose, and even non-religious people recommend against it. But how God treats it for those that commit suicide? That’s not for us to worry about. It’s in God’s hands.

But, if you are contemplating suicide, or if you know someone who is, please share with them God’s love for them. Remind them how precious and powerful their body is. And that just as their body allows them to experience so much pain and sorrow, it is also the catalyst and godly tool which can allow them to seek ultimately joy and happiness, both in this life, and in the life to come. Remind them that their soul (spirit + body) is, by the grace of God, the tool He has given them which gives them the power to find, create, and seek happiness and joy. Love them. Encourage them to hang on. Encourage them to seek help. To find answers. To take ownership of their ability (that body) to change their lives!

BT

I tend to feel guilty asking God to bless me when I’ve messed up that particular day. I feel unworthy to seek His help when I’ve struggled with my temper, said something unkind, or been impatient with others around me. I will sit down to blog and I’m afraid to start knowing that my heart hasn’t been perfectly kind and loving all day. “Who am I to try and do this good when I’ve acted so poorly?” I ask myself.

Have I said my sorrys? Yes. Have I asked for forgiveness of those I’ve offended? Yes. Then, why can’t I trust God to help me despite my failings? Why do I avoid asking for His help or sitting down to share my love of His character and His words when I know that these are most certainly things He wants me to do?

Here’s the big question: Does my imperfection in one area make it impossible for God to bless me in other areas?

The answer: No.

Why? Because God is just.

The Story of Samson Illustrates God’s Just Nature

Recently, while pressing forward with my #dailydoctrines (see @theDoctrineLady on Instagram), I got to Judges 14+ where there are several chapters devoted to Samson. Samson is precisely the kind of guy I can’t stand. I’m naturally annoyed and disgusted by guys who like to show off, seem to like to prove to others their superiority (whether or not they are), and who are womanizers. Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on Samson. But, the reality is that when I read his story I’m supremely skeptical of him as a heroic character. I focus more on his failings than his positive attributes.

Because of my bias, I recently turned to my husband for his viewpoint. I have to do this when my own feelings cloud my ability to be taught doctrine by the Spirit. Normally, I see doctrines quite quickly. With the Samson story, I just read and read and read…

What my husband and I discussed and what I have pondered regarding Samson’s story has truly enlightened me. It has strengthened my testimony of God’s just nature. Instead of being clouded by Samson’s weaknesses, I can at last see what his story teaches me about God (which is what #dailydoctrines are…#whatgodislike). Samson’s story is one that testifies of God’s justice and trustworthiness.

Samson is a Nazarite

Even before he was born, and angel told Samson’s parents that he was to be a Nazarite. Being a Nazarite is similar to, or semi-related to, being a nun, monk, or dedicated missionary. Not only do they keep basic commandments, but they have specific rules and covenants they keep that set them apart, even among believers. Being a Nazarite can be a lifetime vow, but it wasn’t always.

Samson was raised as a Nazarite (don’t confuse it with Nazarene, or being from Nazareth) from birth and it is clear that he honored the specific rules and covenants with being a Nazarite; most especially that of not cutting his hair. These covenants and ways of living marked him as God’s. He was set apart by these rules.

It seems, from the account in Judges, that the blessings Samson received from keeping his Nazarite covenant included an incredible amount of physical strength, which I suspect he had genetically but was amplified by his faithfulness. It also made him an extra talented fighter. It witnesses clearly that God can give us gifts and talents, but that these talents can become even more powerful and can even be multiplied when we use them in His service.

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Samson has Weaknesses and So Do We

Right alongside his righteous Nazarite observance, Samson has two very visible weaknesses. First, he is arrogant and has a need to prove his superiority. It seems evident that he needed a reason to boast about his secret, or unknown, acts of strength by challenging his wedding party with riddles. And, he does so not only to boast (in a sense) but also to win more gifts off of them.

Samson succeeds in stumping his guests until his new wife convinces him to tell her about the riddle’s meaning. Then, in order to make good on his betting debt (since he doesn’t have the possessions) he runs off and slaughters some of the Philistines and takes their stuff. Not such a Christlike showing, is it?

Often in Judges we see phrases like “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him” right before he runs off and slaughters people. While I have no way of knowing exactly Samson’s situation, I think it’s probable to consider that this may refer to the power of God as manifested through Samson’s gifts and talent of strength and fighting prowess. So, you could also word it his talents of strength and fighting prowess were activated or were amplified. Whether or not God actually guided/commanded Samson to slay the lion or to kill a thousand Philistines with a jawbone, or whether God honored the blessings of strength and fighting talent that came with Samson’s obedience to his Nazarite vow may not matter. But, I feel it’s more consistent with God’s character as displayed in all of scripture to say that God honored the blessings attached to Samson’s obedience to his Nazarite vow; rather than to say God guided/commanded Samson to slay the lion or to pay off his gamble by killing 40 people, or to slay a thousand Philistines with a jawbone because they offended him.

Was Samson’s job to deliver Israel from the Philistines? Yes. And perhaps though he never fully rose to this opportunity because of his weaknesses, these small battles were allowed or did not contribute to his condemnation because he was, in a sense, attempting to fulfill his mission.

So, Samson was full of human weakness. But, he was also an extremely faithful Nazarite until nearly the end of his reign as judge. Which makes him just like all of us. We are all full of a myriad of weaknesses and issues and yet all of us do many wonderful, righteous, and powerful things in the service of our fellow men.

God is Just

The story of Samson shows that God is just. How? Because even though Samson was sort of a mess, with many weaknesses, God still blessed him for the commandments he did keep. And, God was unable to bless Samson in the areas where he didn’t keep the commandments, thus proving Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 and 137:9 accurate.

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.

Samson didn’t desire to marry “in the covenant,” or, in other words, within his religion (according to the command of God, Deuteronomy 7:2-5) and people. His actions reflected that desire. He sought out Philistine women, not repenting when his parents tried to counsel him otherwise. Thus, he lost out on the blessings. His women were repeatedly a snare to him and ultimately his undoing (because he didn’t repent), as prophesied in Deuteronomy.

A God who will bless us where we are righteous even when we are wicked in some areas is just. A God who knows we will ultimately abandon Him in some aspects of our life in the future but blesses us in the present while we are faithful is just. We often forget that justice is as much about blessings earned as it is cursing or consequences earned. Consequences are not all from one end of the spectrum. Consequences are directly related to the laws of God. He must bless us when we do right, just as He must withdraw blessings (or curse us) when we don’t do what’s right (Doctrine & Covenants 82:10).

Conclusion

So, while it’s hard to approach God, say a prayer, seek for spiritual guidance, even to serve in our families and church callings on the days when we feel we’ve failed miserably; as long as we are penitent and the desires of our heart are good, we can pick ourselves up with gratitude and hope that God is just. He can and will bless us in the righteousness we do even when other aspects of our lives are still a work-in-progress.

However, in this let us be un-like Samson. Samson could have repented and received more power and blessings and fulfilled his earthly mission (and received eternal glory too), yet he did not. We don’t have to be like him. We can continue, through grace, to repent and work on the areas in which we repeatedly fail or struggle. We can seek for blessings and keep trying. And the mistakes we do make should not deter us from pressing forward in the good we seek to do.

BT

The Lord has spent much of my life, all of it really, teaching me how to be patient. I don’t remember asking for it (though I am guilty of asking His will to be done…). But, it’s certainly been a large part of every aspect of my sojourn here. Whether it was learning to be patient with my sisters (I was the youngest), or learning to be patient with my parents (as a teenager), or learning to be patient with the weaknesses and struggles of friends and leaders (at school and church), I’ve been being tutored in patience. As I got older, patience tutoring came in the lack of possessions, or a home, a car, or in the pursuit of education, or paying off debt. It seems everything about life, nearly, is about teaching us all to be patient.

Why the Need for Patience?

So, why is it we need to patient? Well, as mortals, it’s because we are always in the pursuit of stuff. We are always in the pursuit of knowledge, health, understanding, blessings, help, guidance, answers, etc. We are spiritually unfinished. We are physically unfinished. We are not yet immortal and exalted. And, a part of our soul knows this and so we have this incessant drive to achieve, get, arrive, and become.

So, from the moment we are born we are on the run asking for all the things we want and expecting them all to be handed to us. We’re here now and we want to get, receive, learn, and become as fast as possible and in the easiest possible way. We’re in a hurry to become whatever it is we’re supposed to become…

And herein lies our impatience. We are off running and we don’t even know where it is we are supposed to be running. We are in a hurry to get…we know not where. But God does, and so His plan is all about slowing down, figuring out His Plan for us and tackling it with wisdom and patience.

In my own experience, I have learned that when it comes to patience, there are only two major variables in God’s plan for us: when and how. We want stuff and we want it now. But, since we can’t have it now, the question is when. And, though for most of us our desires are good, often we don’t go about getting them in the best possible manner. We want things easy instead of in the way that will help us fulfill our purpose and God’s plan. Thus, patience requires leaving the how up to God.

When and How

When? Yes, when. And, how. When and how. But, when it really comes down to it, the how isn’t important because God’s how will always be far better than the how that you come up with.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about learning to be patient, truly patient. Patience is determined by our faith and trust in God.

When you truly have faith in God, there is never a question of if He will bless you. There is a never a question of if He will keep His promises. There is NEVER an if. The only real question is “When?” And, if you feel like the how is also a valid question, let me simply say that God’s how of blessing you will always be far more wonderful than the how(s) that you came up with.

Sometimes the “when” is a problem for a lot of us. We want our blessings now. We want God to fulfill His promises now. We want to become right now. We think we get it, that we understand, and that we’ve arrived. So, then we hold out our hand and demand the blessing we seek in our rush to continue on.

I used to feel that way. Until one day, I realized, that God’s path for me is perfect. If I ask Him to mess with that path, then I am asking Him for less than perfection; I’m asking Him to give me something less wonderful than He has planned.

This idea of getting less than God has planned simply because I’m impatient resonates horrifically with my type of personality. I’m exceedingly proactive, when it comes to seeking blessings, happiness, and peace. And, if the Lord handed me a Big Mac simply because I was too impatient to wait for a 5-star steak dinner, I would be devastated and unhappy. I would hate that Big Mac and I would not appreciate it. I’d likely take a hesitant bite, and then discovering that it was okay but certainly not the best that I could have had, I would toss it and feel angry and unhappy. I might even wonder why God didn’t make me wait for the better blessing.

But, I realize that it’s hard to patient with the Lord’s timescale for blessing us. It’s hard to imagine that there’s a celestial meal far greater than any 5-start restaurant we’ve ever eaten at, if we will only keep the commandments, be patient in afflictions and suffering, and strive to be Christ-like. It means sacrificing a whole bunch of metaphorical hamburgers and fries, a whole bunch of soft-serve cones, and plenty of quick fix snacks.

Hang on while I continue with this metaphor…

As all those snacks pass by on the mortal conveyor belt, it’s tempting to think that God’s promises are a farce. How could He possible want us to starve like this while we wait for some dinner when we can’t even actually imagine it’s fabulousness? This meal He’s asking us to wait for could be months, years, even a lifetime away. Is it worth it to wait that long? Is God really a god of love and kindness if He would ask us to wait soooo long?

Our blessings or long-awaited meal could be a job, spouse, health and strength, recognition, forgiveness, a spiritual witness or testimony, etc. When we ask, live for, and seek these amazing blessings God feeds us with metaphorical manna as we persevere toward our promised land. But, often, like the infamous Israelites in the desert, we get tired of the manna. We want the meal and we want it now and we don’t want to have to go to battle or suffer struggle to get it.

Often, in order for us to get our blessings and to appreciate them, God has to put us on a spiritual diet and training regimen to prepare us for this higher level of food. We end up dieting from worldly pleasures, leaving us quite hungry, and are asked to fill the void with spiritual ones. And, often, that spiritual food doesn’t look so appetizing. But, if we have the faith to trust in God and eat the spiritual food and the manna that He offers, we begin to find it far more satisfying than anything else we’ve ever tasted. At last, we are in preparation to hasten toward our blessings and our promised meal!

Patience, then, requires faith. We need God to be with us (Alma 38:4-5) and the Holy Ghost (Alma 13:28) in order to cultivate and maintain patience. The presence of God in our lives grants us the ability to see past the conveyor belt, to see forward to a far better meal worth waiting for. When they are with us, we can have peace as that mortal conveyor belt continues to roll on with all manner of “less than perfect” blessings and meals. God reminds us through His spirit all that He has in store and that it’s worth the wait. Such heavenly help strengthens our faith, our resolve, our confidence, our gratitude, and our patience.

Patience is cultivated as we go through this process time and again throughout our mortal life. Each time the conveyor belt gets longer. Each time the promised meal seems to be further and further away. And, according to our spiritual ability (1 Corinthians 10:13) God increases our capacity for godliness and patience. And, in proportion our blessings are deeper, more powerful, and more spiritually fulfilling.

A few years back I recorded a video for my mother for a class she was teaching on Job. Job is often thought of as a story of suffering. But, ultimately, it’s a story about patience and Job’s deeper discovering and understanding of grace. Without this seemingly horrific struggle in his life he may never have graduated to a greater understanding of grace. His relationship with God sustained him until far greater blessings were bestowed.

I’m younger here. But, my testimony is still the same. I’ve been through this process a few times now, and though it keeps happening, my patience and understanding of grace and God’s love for us is increasing exponentially. I wouldn’t ask for an easier life or trade away any of my metaphorical deserts. Each has taught me, increased my faith, and my patience.

It’s never a question of if God will bless you. It’s only ever a question of when. The how will ALWAYS be far better than you could ever come up with on your own. I promise each of you that you can trust God. If you are true to Him. If you live to have His Holy Spirit with you. If you remember to follow His advice (commandments) for receiving your blessings and desires, He WILL fulfill all His promises and you will receive blessings that are far better than you could imagine (Doctrine & Covenants 1:37, 1 Corinthians 2:9).

Patience with Others

With others, the principle is the same. We often try to hurry along their learning, their growth, and their understanding, and we want it to match ours (because we think ours is always better). We have duties to teach and instruct and invite others to learn truth and to come unto God. But, too often we feel that duty requires manipulation, micromanagement, belaboring, and coercion, none of which are of God (Doctrine and Covenants 121:37-43). We use these tactics, feeling justified by our good intentions. Yet, no intentions, no matter how good, ever justify using impatient means.

With those around us, the questions are the same: when and how. When…the answer is always eventually. Isaiah taught us that eventually “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” that Jesus is the Christ and that God is real and His ways are just (Isaiah 45:23-24). We don’t have to micromanage other’s journey to Christ’s greatest blessings or their repentance. We can love, serve, invite with charity, and entice with example. Then, we can leave the WHEN up to God. How…the answer is always between them and God. We can only pray to know when and if God would have us play a part.

Conclusion

It has been my experience that the sooner we stop panicking, fearing that God has failed us, and thinking we have to control everything and everyone and to rush it along, the sooner our blessings, our own growth, and the growth of others comes. It’s when we let go and have patience that things take their proper and necessary course. We have to get out of our own way, other’s way, and God’s way. We can’t force our own spiritual progression and blessings any more than we can force others. We must patiently submit to God’s will (Mosiah 3:19), cheerfully do all that lies within our power, and then stand still and see the salvation of God and for His hand to be revealed (Doctrine & Covenants 123:17).

BT