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

When I was younger I was pretty good at basketball. When I was in seventh grade I started on the eighth grade team. When I was a freshman I played varsity.

For some reason, this talent led many of the girls on my team to dislike me. Because of this dislike, I was often left to myself on bus rides, picked on once in a while at practice, and sometimes other subtle forms of dislike were exercised against me. I nearly always felt awkward, embarrassed, and  alone even though basketball was one of my favorite things. Sometimes this dislike even affected game play.

One night on a late bus ride home, I was sitting by myself in the back of the bus feeling miserable. I was tired. It was after the game and was the end of a long day that began with early morning seminary. I felt so alone and I fought back tears.

In my mind, the words of a hymn suddenly appeared:

Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee

E’en though it be a cross, that raiseth me

…angels to beckon me, Nearer my God to Thee

Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee

Random words from the hymn answered what my heart was really feeling. I was wishing that I was away from that bus, somewhere closer to God. I knew in that moment that God was my friend. He cared about me. I wanted so much to be “near to Him.”

This moment to me was what I like to call a “golden moment.” I felt God’s love and I knew even if no one else cared about me, He did.

All of us have golden spiritual moments in our lives. Moments where our testimony is sure. Moments of immense gratitude. Moments of peace and comfort. Moments where we feel the Lord’s love and know He is aware of us. Moments when we have received an answer to prayer. Moments where we are granted the power to forgive, or to heal from a past wrong.

In Alma 5:26 we read:

And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

Alma is asking us, in this verse, to look back on these golden spiritual moments. And he asks us, “Do we feel the same right now? Do we feel the impact and the power of those golden moments? Have we have a golden moment lately that we can think on?”

A Spiritual Maillard Reaction

One of my favorite things to eat in the world is golden-brown toast. And I like to toast bread that browns, or gets golden. It’s sort of disappointing to me if I put toast in and it comes up hot and dry but without that beautiful browning. Why is that so disappointing? Because all the flavor is in the browning. It’s the browning that makes eating the toast so wonderful.

This browning is actually caused by a chemical reaction called a Maillard (my-yard) Reaction. This is the same reaction that causes the browning on a marshmallow, in caramel, on a pie crust, and many other roasted, toasted, or baked foods. The Maillard Reaction is what makes them golden. And tasty.

This browning reaction is more likely to take place on non-acidic surfaces. Acidic foods, with a pH of 1-6 don’t brown, or at least not without a catalyst. Alkaline foods, with a pH of 7 or more brown. And in fact, we use alkaline substances as catalysts to help food get brown. We put egg washes on pie crusts and milk washes on breads before baking. If you want to caramelize onions quickly, you can sprinkle them with a little bit of baking soda.

Non-acidic, or alkaline/basic, substances act as catalysts. They increase the speed of the browning reaction. They can also cause a browning reaction where there wasn’t one before.

Sacred music, especially the hymns of the church, are the spiritual equivalent of a Maillard, or browning, reaction catalyst. Sacred music increases the speed at which a golden moment comes to us, or creates the possibility of a golden moment where there wasn’t one before. Sacred music is a spiritual catalyst for golden, testimony building moments.

In his 1994 conference address, Worship Through Music, Elder Oaks shared the following:

Last spring, some of our children and fourteen grandchildren had a family outing in the mountains. One of our activities was a meeting to share experiences. We gathered at the appointed time, but the little people were only gathered in body. The large spirits in those little bodies were clamoring for more of the exciting outdoor activities they had been enjoying.

The cabin where we met was too small to contain them, and it seemed as if a dozen restless children and their cries were ricocheting off the walls in every direction. I felt apprehension in trying to sponsor something serious in that setting. Suddenly, the instinctive wisdom of young mothers rescued our efforts. Two mothers began to sing a song familiar to the children. Others joined in, and within a few minutes the mood had changed and all spirits were subdued and receptive to spiritual things.

In this experience, we see that sacred music hastened the spiritual receptiveness of the children, and all in the cabin. It was a spiritual catalyst, increasing the speed with which a golden, spiritual moment became possible.

Catalysts, however, also have an opposite. They are called inhibitors. An inhibitor slows down or prevents a chemical reaction or process. It can reduce the activity of a catalyst, or even suppress it completely.

In food browning, the inhibitor is acid. Acidic foods don’t brown. And, when we attempt to brown them they often go from not brown at all to burnt, or minimally they become exceedingly dry, especially meat. The acid inhibits the browning, or golden reaction.

Though sacred music is all around on us a Sunday, and is available to us 24/7 in these modern days of ipods, mp3’s, online radio, etc., there are spiritually acidic behaviors, attitudes, and actions that can prevent the golden spiritual moments we all seek. Elder Oaks, in his address, suggests the following are spiritually acidic:

  • If a hymn is sung too slow at church it can inhibit the golden reaction
  • If a hymn is sung too fast at church it can inhibit the golden reaction
  • A lack of participation in hymn-singing, a lack of listening to a hymn, or not even mouthing the words, can suppress the possibility of a spiritually golden reaction
  • As a performer, if we become too caught up in entertaining or projecting our own talent rather than facilitating the Holy Spirit, we can inhibit a golden reaction
  • If the words of a song are doctrinally incorrect it can inhibit a golden reaction

It goes without saying that a great deal of the music we listen to outside of church, even if it has no purposefully evil intent, can and does inhibit our ability to have spiritually golden moments. Even a tiny bit of acidity (6.5 pH) can stop the golden, browning reaction.

Golden Spiritual Moments at Church

At church, our lack of participation in singing (or at least reading along or mouthing the words of the hymns) is perhaps the greatest inhibitor to our ability to have spiritually golden moments. In America (with some exceptions) we seem to lack heart and gusto in our singing. We often sing as if the hymns are a side-thought, like a plate of mediocre food that we have to swallow down. Or perhaps the hymns have become a tradition to us rather than a sacred privilege.

Elder Oaks related:

I stopped at a convenient ward meeting house and slipped unnoticed into the overflow area just as the congregation was beginning to sing these sacred words of the sacrament song:

Tis sweet to sing the matchless love

Of Him who left his home above,

And came to earth—oh wondrous plan—

To suffer bleed and die for man

My heart swelled as we sang this worshipful hymn and contemplated renewing our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. Our voices raised the concluding strains:

For Jesus died on Calvary

That all thru Him might ransomed be

Then sing hosannas to His name

Let heav’n and earth his love proclaim

As we sang these words I glanced around at members of the congregation and was stunned to observe that about a third were not singing. How could this be? Were those who did not even mouth the words suggesting that for them it was not “sweet to sing the matchless love” or to “sing hosannas to His name?” What are we saying, what are we thinking, when we fail to join in singing in our worship services?

When I have asked people why they don’t sing in choir, even when I have heard them sing and they can clearly carry a tune, I nearly always hear the response, “because I can’t sing.” And I always sorrow for the loss. Little do they realize the golden moments missed because they are focused on their performance, or their own talents. And the same applies to congregational singing. If our attitude is that we can’t worship because we don’t sound as good as someone else, we are placing the focus of our worship on ourselves, instead of on God.

Golden Spiritual Moments During the Week

In our day-to-day lives, during the week, there are many times when sacred music would much better bless our lives than even the best songs on the radio with good words. If we are seeking comfort, peace, answers to prayers, help to forgive, an uplift before dealing with a tough day at work or school; there is nothing more powerful than inviting the Holy Ghost into our mind and hearts through the catalyst of sacred music. Our whole day can be transformed as we are transformed (made golden) by sacred music. Our power to resist temptation and choose the right will be increased exponentially.

The Holy Spirit is powerful, but it’s presence in our lives is delicate. The “sweet spot” for the Holy Ghost falls in the golden area. We have to create an environment where He can comfortably dwell. We can upset the spiritual pH, or entirely suppress it without actively being evil. The Spirit is a personage of spirit, an actual being. His presence is conditional on us inviting Him to be with us by our thoughts and actions. We have to invite Him in. We do that quickly, and powerfully, with sacred music.

I see a lot of people who jam to iTunes while working out. And, there is nothing wrong with this. But, I can’t tell you how many revelations I have received while I have been working out, walking, and running. Some of the most powerful revelations and guidance I have received for my life in the last ten years have come during a long run or a long walk.

I tend to exercise in silence and ponder. My biggest hurts have been softened or silenced during these times. Sure, “rocking out” gives me a rhythm and sidetracks my mind from the annoyance and sometimes pain of trying to get healthy or stay in shape. But, I suggest that it’s something worth sacrificing since it can be replaced with something infinitely better—a golden spiritual moment.

Most recently in my life, sacred music has again saved me on some very desperately down spiritual, emotional, and mental days. It was counter to my feelings at the time to turn the sacred music on. I didn’t believe it would help. But, within moments it quieted my brain and set my thoughts down avenues where the Spirit could reach me. Sacred music is incredibly, and wonderfully, powerful.

Seek Out Golden Moments

The purpose of the hymns, music with a clear Christian focus, and all sacred music is to provide a spiritual catalyst that we might tune into the Holy Ghost and receive answers to prayers, comfort, a renewed shine on our deep testimonies, peace, messages of love from our Father in Heaven, and a number of other things we pray for daily. It’s not about us, it’s about God granting us those golden moments we seek. But first, we have to remove the acid of our attitude, thoughts, environment, or actions.

Elder Oaks also said:

Many have difficulty expressing worshipful feelings in words… Sacred music has a unique capacity to communicate our feelings of love for the Lord.

In Doctrine and Covenants 25:12 we read:

For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart, yea the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me.

When we refuse to participate in the singing of hymns, we create an acid barrier inhibiting our ability to worship the Lord, our God. We refuse to offer Him one of His favorite avenues of prayer, praise, and worship. We refuse to make use of one of the most powerful ways to express our gratitude and love to God.

Sacred music is not only a powerful catalyst to the golden spiritual moments we crave, it has the power to draw us closer to God. Perhaps that is why when it works the moments feel so golden, because in that moment we are close, both mind and heart, to our Father in Heaven.

Elder Oaks concluded with this. He said:

We who have felt to sing the song of redeeming love need to keep singing that we may draw ever closer to Him who has inspired sacred music and commanded [not requested] that it be used to worship Him.

I don’t know about each of you, but I crave golden spiritual moments far more than I crave a good piece of buttered, golden toast. If you are hungry for such golden spiritual moments, as I am, then I hope you will renew your interest in participating in singing at church. I hope you will make more use of sacred music in your homes and in your cars and in your lives. I hope you will remove the acidic inhibitors and desire to worship and come closer to the Lord far more than you worry about the quality or talent in your singing voice.

I hope that if you have felt to sing the song of redeeming love in your hearts at any time in your lives, that you will remember those times and renew that feeling often.

Sacred music has saved my soul on countless occasions. It has kept me from sinking too deep into despair. It has reminded me of God’s love. The words have come to me when I needed comfort or needed a prayer but didn’t know exactly what words to offer. Sacred music has helped in the process of trying to make me more golden, more Christ-like. It can do the same for you.

BT

When I was younger, my family visited relatives in Utah every summer. During those visits, I often found the wards (LDS congregations) we visited to be cold, unwelcoming, and stand offish. The whole ward may not have been that way, but the youth and youth leaders (in my experience) were. Now, this is no way affected my testimony of the gospel or of Christ, but it did instill in me a dislike for Mormon Culture (which is a different thing from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Because of that culture, I vowed, for many reasons, that I would never live in Utah.

Over the years it sort of became a joke to me that there were two types of “Mormons”: Utah Mormons, and all others. This joke, of course, referred to the (in my opinion) nature of having so many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in an area that much of the belief system became “every day life” and became taken for granted. I was certain that it must be impossible to develop a deep and true testimony in a culture where there was very little opposition to the truths I held so dear. I didn’t want to raise my kids there and I never wanted to live there.

Well, teenage vision is far from omniscient and is most nearly always distorted. My experiences formed in me an very narrow vision of what Utah was…most certainly an incorrect vision of “all” its people and its members. But, nevertheless, that vision was powerful and I adhered to my vow. I never lived in Utah, nor was I ever even tempted.

Fast forward to 2013. My life was in upheaval. I had gone through a heart-wrenching divorce in 2009. I’d been living and working from home, with my angelic parents. I’d sworn off mid-singles LDS dating (and all dating), quite content to be single, to work, and to travel with close friends. I was teaching early morning seminary. I had a host of “adopted kids” from seminary and a little writing group I led. I felt, as much as I could at the time, quite complete. My family was around me and I was loved and in a society of people I trusted.

It’s a long story, and someday I hope to write a book about it, but I was subtly introduced to my current husband via a missionary that served in both of our wards. After getting to know him, the very real object of him moving to Utah came up. While I was (against my will) developing an attachment to him, I was quite willing to let him go and continue on with my life, especially if dating him and becoming serious required a move to Utah.

Now, certainly, in the back of my mind, I realized how juvenile these feelings were. But, as I was afraid to ever get married again, it seemed very logical to rule this man out of my life for many reasons, not least of which was moving to Utah. We’d only been on a handful of dates, but this man decided to go visit his parents for Christmas. And with that visit came an invitation from his mother (my would-be-mother-in-law, though I wasn’t certain of that at the time) to visit them over the New Years holiday.

I admit, something in my gut knew more than my conscious mind did. I was afraid to go. But, I relented with very little persuasion (wanting to be kind and gracious as she was paying for my travel). The trip was fine. I had a good visit. But the real shocker came when “my man” gave me a ride back to the airport.

I’m a moderate-to-severe introvert. I get my energy from alone time. Thus, I’m a homebody (in many respects) and I like to limit my social events to one-on-one visits and usually only close family and friends. Home, or the feeling of “home,” has always been centered around one place, Moberly, MO. Home has always been with my parents. Even in my previous marriage, our apartments and houses felt like home, but being centered near central MO was always where “I felt home.”

So, as I was driving away from my future in-laws home and a powerful pull tugged at my gut and the desire to cry (as if being torn away from home) began to swirl in my heart, head, and stomach, I was shocked beyond reason. I held myself together (didn’t want to cry like a baby in front of what I now realized was probably my soon-to-be fiancé) the best I could until I got through security. But the feeling only increased when I sat in a chair near where I would board my plane.

I literally cried, in that suppressed leaking sort of way, ALL the way home. I managed to pull myself together enough to meet my parents (who were picking me up from the airport); but that three-hour plane ride the feeling that home had been “moved” never changed. And off all the places God had moved my home…he moved it to Utah.

My heart and head and gut had never been so overwhelmed in such an unexpected way. But, the feeling was certain. Even after getting “home,” a place that was still home, I felt strongly that it was home “in a different way.” God wanted me to take my life “to the mountains,” (Doctrine & Covenants 112:7) and my heart had been adjusted by the Spirit to feel it.InstagramQuotes452

As I was studying Numbers 12 today, the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh felt that home, for them, was on the east side of Jordan. This hit a chord with me. It made me think of Abraham. Abraham was often led from one place to another. Even though he was promised the land of Canaan for his inheritance, it was meant to be the inheritance for his blood line. He never got to enjoy that inheritance. His “home” was where God led him.

It made me think of my own family, that has for so long had its promised land in Missouri. Over the years, God has led our hearts to the homes where He would have us serve, learn, grow, and become. My whole life Missouri has been home. But, since 2013, God has made “home” Utah (despite my best efforts to avoid it). I didn’t know He would lead me to a land other than the one that had always been home. But, God does that. He most certainly works that way with us.

Now, I live in “the culture.” Where everywhere outside Utah is “the mission field” (their joking description for everywhere else that’s not saturated in LDS culture). I’m on “the other side!” And, guess what, there are wonderful people here. It’s something I suspected (and knew in my heart) but didn’t want to know. Now that I’m here I’m grateful that God has set me straight. He has taught me to see more clearly and to “go where I’m called.”

The reality is that people are the same everywhere. Some of us are still learning to be charitable. Some of us are still learning to see past the culture and live the gospel for the gospel’s sake. Some of us are great at welcoming people, but we have other things to work on. Some of us have pioneer ancestry. Some of us are the pioneers in our families and in our lives. It’s not Utah. It’s not Missouri. It’s individuals all trying to live the gospel and to come unto Christ in the best way they can.

What is certain is that God has led each of us where we need to be, if we are listening. I’m here because my heart is here. Where is your heart? Are you where God needs you to be? Have you come to a crossroads in your life where you feel are searching for your home (Ether 1)? Has someone invited you to visit and when you left you felt like you were leaving home (Mosiah 9)?

If you are sincerely looking, God will tell your heart where home is…where your current promised land is. It may be where you are. It may never change. But, it may change. Trust your gut. Go in faith.

BT

While all of us may have some experiences and memories of times when we have received clear impressions and instructions from the Holy Ghost, it is rarely an ability that we master without time and significant, consistent effort. In fact, sometimes it seems that God gives us Holy Ghost nibbles and snacks and then makes it difficult to get the rest of the banquet. And, in my opinion, this is exactly what He does and for good reason.

The Holy Ghost is a Gift, not an Entitlement

Unlike any other gift that God gives us, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is the one gift that is essential to our eternal salvation and exaltation. The Holy Ghost is the baptism of fire. He is the Master Teacher. He is the one who, because of the Atonement, can take our righteous desires plus our imperfect actions and effect real and permanent changes in our very souls. This makes the Holy Ghost the great Sanctifier. Even with the Atonement of Christ, without the Gift of the Holy Ghost, we cannot become like God nor even aspire to.

A gift like this God WILL protect. It is not for the passive Christian or the doubting Thomas’s. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is also not a gift with only one educational certificate that you can master by attending church a few times. There aren’t only a couple levels of personal revelation. Just as a person must participate in a basic course of education to become a doctor in any philosophy or profession (whether they are brilliant enough to skip grades and/or CLEP out of college courses), so also, recognizing the Gift of the Holy Ghost has nearly unlimited steps and degrees that must be pursued one at a time and with diligent, consistent faith and effort.

Christ was the most intelligent of us all. Yet, He humbled Himself to progress according to God’s will. He received grace by grace until He received a fullness (Doctrine and Covenants 93:13). He was perfect and yet He still was baptized, and so forth, to “fulfill all righteousness,” and to do His Father’s will (St. John 6:38), not His own. And, He didn’t make a fuss over having to do it. So, if we think we are too smart, or righteous enough at present, to submit to a path of hard work, humility, and diligence, then God will not force us to do so, nor will He lightly part with His guidance. We can demand that He give us proof and guidance in “our own way” and we will get exactly what we want (Alma 29:4)…to our own condemnation (Doctrine and Covenants 63:7-12).

The more Christlike we become, the greater our ability to recognize God’s promptings and guidance through the Gift of the Holy Ghost. And, though a doctor may spend up to 18 years or more reaching his/her desired level of understanding and education in a specific field, it would be very unwise to assume that the level and degree of promptings you can receive from the Holy Ghost ends as quickly time-wise and can be achieved with even a third of the effort.

So, if you’re looking for a quick answer, this blog cannot offer you a blanket set of ideals which will solve your struggles. At best, it will prescribe a course of “spiritual education and effort,” that, IF pursued will lead you along a path to your desired goal. It’s a prescription for years of hard work, study, hope, faith, and practice (St. John 7:17; 17:3). The prescription is simple and will follow below.

So, how bad to you want it?

Note: This blog post is directed specifically at recognizing promptings from “the Gift of the Holy Ghost.” For a commentary on the difference between the Light of Christ, the Power of the Holy Ghost, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost, please click here to visit a previous blog.

Hands opening a red gift box with ribbon in shadow

God Purposefully Requires Diligent and Consistent Effort in order to Access to Increasing Guidance from the Holy Ghost

Why does God make it so hard to recognize the guidance of the Holy Ghost? Is it some game to Him? Doesn’t He realize we are trying to do His will?

God doesn’t give guidance to those who don’t want it, don’t appreciate it, are skeptical of it, and don’t plan to follow it. He will invite you to seek His guidance, but He won’t give it lightly, “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33).

As well, God says (Alma 12:9-10):

It is given to many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they [the mysteries] are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of the word…according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. (See also Doctrine and Covenants 50:24)

The Gift of the Holy Ghost is just that—a gift. It is intended to be given to us in increasing amounts as we use it for its designed purpose: to grow, learn, become more Christlike, more humble, more faithful, more loving…more like God. So, if we get into a “I’m good like I am,” rut, then we may begin to struggle to receive continued guidance beyond the current level we have received to date. This is because the guidance is meant to lead us upward, not to keep us on the same plane we’ve camped on. We can’t be complacent or satisfied with a minimal, or even what we consider a high, level of righteousness.

The Gift of the Holy Ghost isn’t something we can use when it’s convenient. We can’t go crying to the Lord for help and then expect guidance to come if we haven’t been actively seeking His will to improve over time. Or, if we only seek guidance from the Holy Ghost for what we consider big decisions and ignore the little promptings about things He would have us improve on, change, forsake, or repent of, then we may find the Heavens silent, or at least a little slow in responding.

You may ask, “Well, even if I have been a little reluctant or complacent, when I go to God at last, you think He’d answer, right?” “He wants me back, right?” Well, while God loves us unconditionally, His love is true love—tough love. The kind none of us particularly like. But, the kind we actually need. Sure, He wants us back. But, it is also His work and glory to help us become as much like Him as possible (Moses 1:39). So, if withholding answers and guidance for a moment will lead us to re-evaluate our lives and become better; then God will likely withhold and give us a chance to desire, more deeply, such a priceless gift as the Holy Ghost. He will wait until we desire it so much that we are willing to come closer to Him and further away from our own will. He does this so that when He does answer we are humble and willing to follow His counsel. So that we have a greater chance of not taking it for granted.

Why doesn’t He let you make that decision? Why doesn’t He give without using tough love to help you improve? Because, “for he who sins against the greater light receives the greater condemnation” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:3). If God gives miracles and guidance and blessings when we are not willing to accept them or follow them, then our condemnation for not accepting or following is greater. In other words, the more you receive the more eternal trouble you can get for deciding not to accept that which is given to you. It would be unfair for God to punish us for not accepting light and truth if we weren’t prepared to receive or follow it. By withholding He is showing mercy.

The Prescription for Better Recognizing the Guidance of the Holy Ghost

President Monson, who seems to have a particular gift for recognizing the promptings of the Holy Ghost, gave these simple steps in several recent conference addresses (see endnotes for sources):

  1. Communicate daily with Heavenly Father in sincere prayer. God has commanded, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:63).
  2. Be worthy to receive inspiration. God has said, “…seek me diligently…” (ibid)
  3. Trust inspiration when it comes. (Proverbs 3:5)
  4. Follow inspiration when it comes.

I might add:

  1. Pray less passively. Ask for ways to act, listen, feel, hear, and do; instead of praying with passive, generalized statements, like, “Please help me to…” or “Watch over me when…” An active statement in prayer might be, “Please show me how to ensure this journey is a safe one for our family,” or, “As I visit with my friend, please make bring things to my remembrance that I can share to help comfort him/her.” (Check out this address Ask In Faith by David Bednar as he teaches how to prayer with active prayer language, and this helps immensely in being led by the Holy Ghost)

So, that’s it. I might surmise that if you are having trouble getting the guidance you desire to receive, then you might try to: 1) pray more often and more sincerely and meaningfully (Ask In Faith), 2) become more worthy and seek God’s will more diligently, 3) be more trusting when inspiration comes, 4) follow more willingly and more quickly when inspiration does come.

Different Ways of Feeling or Receiving Promptings and Guidance

Now, if you’ve made it this far, then what I’d like to do is to talk a little bit about the different ways the Holy Ghost talks to and guides me. This won’t mean that He’ll talk to you the same way. But, by seeing how He talks to me in different situations, it might help you better ponder the possibilities for yourself. That’s all I can offer. The rest is up to you.

Reading the Scriptures

When I’m reading the scriptures and the Holy Ghost wants me to take note of something, I generally find that the verse subtly zooms out at me a bit and gives me pause making me want to reread it. Sometimes, that won’t happen, but I’ll read past the verse and then my mind will catch a certain word or phrase as a trigger and it takes me back to the verse. Then, on the second read it will often give me pause and I will see a direct correlation between a few words or a phrase in the verse and something in my life.

I don’t always feel a big weight or burning in my chest when this happens. But, often, when I reread the verse several times and ponder why it is giving me pause, thoughts will come to me or aspects of my life that seem to tie to these words or phrases. Then, there is another step, if I’m willing to take it. As I think about how I can apply these words or phrases to my life situation, when one of the things I think about and consider is right, then, I will often feel a strong mental weight on that action or idea. Often I’ll feel it is something I need to do now, or soon. Once the idea has been pressed upon me, it is not easily forgotten, and will continue to come to my mind as something that needs to be done—until I do it. If I ignore it long enough, it will go away, but I try not to do that.latter-day_saint_scripture_quadruple_combination

Other times, when reading my scriptures, I come across something that means something different to me than it did before. This is not a pillar-of-light kind of experience. But, it is enlightening. Usually, I review cross-references on the phrases that have a new meaning to me and find my mind carried away into aspects of a principle or truth I have never considered before. It’s a pleasant journey. It uplifts me. It’s exciting to learn something new. Then, if I continue to ponder how to apply it in my life (which is yet another step required), I will find ideas and inspiration coming to me. Not always in the moment. Sometimes it will come the next day, or days later. However, often, if I do not record these impressions, they are lost by the next day. Sometimes I can be reminded of them by revisiting the verses, but sometimes not. Then, I find that the more I record these types of minimal impressions, the more frequent they become and the new and deeper truths and doctrines I uncover.

These are two of the ways that the Spirit works with me when I’m studying my scriptures. It may be different for others. But, I can recognize when these moments come. And, they don’t come when I just read “to read.” They only come when I’m putting forth sincere effort.

Making Life Decisions

Learning to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost in life decisions is not an easy task. I believe that the level of study and effort required to access this personal understanding says something about how sacred it is. Things given to us without effort and hard work are nearly always taken for granted, misused, exploited, wasted, etc. Not everyone who wins the lottery blows all the money and ends up in more debt than before winning, but the percentage who do is considerable.

I know some people who seem to get promptings for their life as easily as going to the faucet with a cup for water. However, I am NOT one of those people. I find generally, that the Lord lets me bump into walls and bounce about until I make my way down the path He intends for me. I often run spiritual marathons before finding a drop of water on a leaf that hasn’t dried up from a recent rain. So, I’m not about to tell anyone anything that will lead them to believe it’s easy to get promptings. However, I do know, after much bumping and running, how the Spirit speaks to me. And, at least for me, He always does.

When it comes to decisions, I am usually already trying consistently to keep the commandments, live worthy of the Spirit, and seek the Lord’s will. Because of this, I make my pros and cons lists. I study it out in my mind. I ask all the suggested questions, like: “Will this choice help me serve the Lord better? Will this move, or this job change, help me and my family come closer together and to the Lord? Etc.” Then, instead of asking the Lord to tell me which decision to make based on my research, I have learned, that for me, the Lord expects me to make a decision first and start moving toward it. Only then does the Holy Ghost exert influence upon me in the form of validation or an icky feeling that makes me feel uncomfortable with my choice.

Many people often overlook the “studying it out.” But, even more forget to “make a decision” before asking “if it be right”(Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9). And, for me, I have to actually exert effort and time into pursuing a decision before the feelings of “yes this is good,” or “no, don’t do this,” comes.

Many people take the words from Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9 so literally, that if they don’t get an immediate “burning in the bosom,” while they are still on their knees in prayer, they get confused. Yet others take the words “stupor of thought” to mean that while they are on their knees in prayer they will completely forget what they were praying about. I don’t know if this actually happens to some people. If it does, then lucky they are. However, for me, the confirmation or stupor of thought happen a bit differently.

All of us are familiar with small magnets. If you put two of the same poles together they push away from each other. If they are small, you can exert sufficient force to hold them together, but the moment you stop exerting force, they push apart naturally. On the other hand, if you put two opposing poles near each other they pull together without any extra exertion from you.Red and Blue Horseshoe Magnet Isolated on White Background

This magnet example is how most (though not all) of my life decisions come to me. If it is a good thing or even the best choice, it just “sits right.” This doesn’t mean there aren’t ever any external barriers, but as far as my mind, logic and heart are concerned, the idea makes sense and attracts me to it. On the other hand, things that are not wise choices, or that are not the best choice God would have me make; while they might sound nice or seem logical, they simply don’t “sit well.” I have to sort of force the idea on myself since it sounds so nice. But, I’m never comfortable with it. And, if I stop trying to make myself consider this unwise or not best choice, I do sort of stop thinking about it. It falls to the side and becomes unimportant or pales in comparison to another option or idea that arises. This is my particular kind of “stupor of thought.”

Now, some life decisions I have felt a big “no” or “yes” on. But, they are not common for me and I can remember all of them. So, sometimes I have received a more significant “burning in the bosom” or a weight of impression that is unmistakable. But, I can also say, that the better I get at recognizing the magnet-promptings, the more clear and understandable all of my promptings are becoming. But, I’m nearly 40 and I’ve been working at this since I got a testimony of the gospel at age 14. So, 26 years of practice.

Being Inspired at Church

If I am making an earnest attempt to pay attention and participate at church, I find that it’s not really the lesson, or talk, itself that impacts me. But, often, a certain phrase spoken a certain way, or an experience someone shares, or some small piece of what they do or ask triggers an idea or memory in my mind and heart. The idea or memory that comes past that trigger is often unrelated to the general topic being taught or spoken on, though not always. This is often how I know it’s a prompting.

Now, when I say “unrelated” I mean that it is unlikely that I would ever have made the connection between this phrase from the talk/lesson and a certain idea or memory on my own. It’s not impossible. So, I suppose it could be justified away. But, it’s happened so many times in my life that either I’m stupendously brilliant in ways other people are not, OR, the Holy Ghost is bringing these ideas and memories to my remembrance (St. John 14:26).

Preparing a Lesson

As I have noted in my blog entry “Teaching BY the Spirit or Some Other Way,” the Holy Ghost works somewhat differently in the teaching environment. Teaching is a different situation than basic personal revelation. It’s different than just having the Holy Ghost with you. It’s even different than getting up to bear your testimony. Why? Because you are not doing it for yourself. You are acting as an instrument through which the Holy Ghost can work to accomplish His task as the Master Teacher to both you AND those whom you are called to teach.

If you want to understand how the Holy Ghost works in teaching, then I refer you to that blog entry.

Conclusion

Now, there are lots of different aspects of life and for each of us the Holy Ghost will work with us differently based on our personalities, emotional/psychological state, talents, and spiritual gifts. I don’t have the knowledge or the ability to tell each of you how to figure out how the Holy Ghost works for you. That’s your job and His job.

So, that’s it. If you really want to get better at recognizing the Spirit, then you’ve got to work at it using the steps given by President Monson. The gift of the Holy Ghost is the most valuable gift you will ever receive in this life. Thus, it’s the most difficult gift to make use of. It transcends all money, possessions, intellect, fame, glory, etc. The Holy Ghost is the second baptism, the baptism of fire. If you do not seek His guidance, if you do not allow Him to sanctify you through diligently seeking to follow His promptings, then what remains to you? There’s either “you + a member of the godhead,” or “just you.”

I don’t know about the rest of you. You are free to feel and think as you wish. But, for me, I have found this gift of guidance from the Holy Ghost to be worth all of my efforts—through times of doubt, times of trial, and times of peace. I know, for myself, that the Holy Ghost is real. And, I can confidently promise any who read this that if you follow the simple steps above, and exercise hope and faith, that in time you will come to recognize the promptings and guidance of the Holy Ghost well enough to live your life well, and with confidence in the Lord.

BT

Doctrine: The Holy Ghost is a gift, not an entitlement. God purposefully requires diligent and consistent effort in order to access increasing guidance from the Holy Ghost. There are 4 simple steps to coming to better recognize guidance from the Holy Ghost. There are lots of different possibilities and ways the Holy Ghost may try to communicate with you.

End Notes

Thomas S. Monson, “Consider the Blessings,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 86-69.

Thomas S. Monson, “Stand in Holy Places,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 82-86.

Thomas S. Monson, “Tabernacle Memories,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 41-42.

Some of you may not be aware that on my FB page and Instagram Channel I’m running a series called #DailyDoctrines. I post short, quote-length doctrines daily. Whereas this blog is weekly.

I started #DailyDoctrines because it has become apparent to me that it is difficult for many people to identify and locate doctrine in the scriptures. Why does it matter? Why not just be satisfied to understand the basic story lines?

To just grasp the basic story lines of scripture stories (especially the Old Testament) defeats the purpose of scripture study. The whole point of scripture study is to come to know God, and invite the Holy Spirit into our lives. Why is actually getting to know God important? “For this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent” (St. John 17:3).

Eternal life is nothing less than life like God. And, we can’t spend an eternity with someone whom we don’t know. And we certainly can’t live like Him if we don’t know Him.

In the parable of the ten virgins, it has always impressed me that when the five foolish virgins show up at the feast that the Savior denies them entrance based on the following: “I know you not” (Matthew 25:12). I think what He is also implying is that “you don’t know me.”

Why would any of us let someone into our home whom we don’t know? We wouldn’t. We wouldn’t trust them. We would be surprised that they showed up and even wanted to come in. And we might even be slightly offended if they showed up for a party we were throwing, where they could mooch off our generosity, and we hadn’t even known they were coming. When they knocked on our door, we would say, “Um…sorry, I don’t know you.” Meaning reflexively, “Um…why are you here, you don’t know me.”

We might say that “oil in our lamps” is our relationship with and knowledge of God.

Identifying Doctrine Helps us Come to Know God

The whole purpose of identifying doctrine in the scriptures is because doctrine teaches us as much about God as we can ever come to know in this life. It teaches us two very critical things: 1) What God is like, and 2) How He works with us, His children. And, I might add that in some cases we learn 3) why He works with us in certain ways.

I seem to have a knack for finding doctrines. And, the more I practice, the more and more fundamental it becomes to who and what I am and how I live. Doctrine answers the “why” behind everything in God’s plan for us. It answers the hard questions that we struggle with each day. I haven’t come upon a question yet, in my life, that I haven’t found the answer to through clear doctrines from the scriptures. Granted, I don’t always love the answer. It may not be as specific as I like. Sometimes, it’s too specific. Sometimes the answers test my fortitude. But, more than anything else, the answers—the doctrines—give me power to keep going, to endure. The doctrines give me confidence before God. The doctrines teach me what to expect from God and how not to freak out and worry when I see Him at work.

An Invitation

I’ve only been at this for just under two years. I’m not sure who follows me and why. But, I’m issuing you a direct invitation. If you feel any of the following things (see below) would help you in your life and in your desire to follow God, please like and follow my Facebook Page: TheDoctrineLadyBlog. And please visit and follow me on Instagram: @TheDoctrineLady. As well, once you join, start with me right where I am (currently Leviticus in the Old Testament). If you use the NIV Bible or the King James, you should be great. You don’t have much to do. Just read a chapter a day and look for 1) things you learn about God, and 2) things you learn about how God deals with us, His children. Then, check out my FB Page or my IG account each day and see what I’ve come up with. See if it sits well with you. See if you found a doctrine I missed. See (and record in a journal) what it allows the Holy Spirit to teach you about your life and your relationship with God.

Do you want any of the following:

1.       Closer relationship with God

2.       Increase your belief in the existence of God

3.       Understand some of what God does better

4.       Reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New Testament

5.       Understand better temple worship and ordinances

6.       Recognize how God is working with you in your own life

7.       Understand and recognize steps God wants you to take in your life right now

8.       Strengthen your witness and testimony of Christ

9.       Increase your capacity to live a godly life

10.   Increase your capacity to understand and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ

If you decide to join me in this journey, and feel that someone else you know would benefit, invite them! Don’t be afraid. Our role as Christians is to invite others to come to Christ. Our role is to “feed His sheep.” You aren’t responsible if people choose to come to Christ. But, you are responsible for extending the invitation. I’m extending my invitation to you. I hope you will extend the same to others.

I’m going to keep doing my #DailyDoctrines whether I have 10 followers or 10,000. When the Old Testament is through I’ll push right on to the New Testament and so forth. This is a lengthy journey. But, isn’t the effort worth it if it will help each of us to secure our eternal life with the God, and Father, of us all? Did not God, Himself, teach us that a relationship with Him, a deep knowledge and love of Him, is what will make life with Him in eternity possible? I’m doing #DailyDoctrines to help myself, and anyone who wants to join me, to increase their capacity to come to know God.

Challenge and invitation issued. I hope you will join me.

BT

This past week I was pondering the difference between an idol and a graven image. They are far too often treated as one and the same. I felt strongly that they were different. But, above and beyond understanding the difference, I wanted a modern application. I wanted to know how we might make a graven image in our lives–unwittingly. As I continued to study Exodus (and not for the first time, mind you), ideas came to mind. But, it wasn’t until I sat down and had a discussion with my eldest son (as he was pondering a very similar question), that we both began to understand the fundamental differences better. This is obvious only one possible interpretation. But, I found it exceedingly reasonable, and relevant.

I often like to write several pages showing my thought process. But, today, I hope that sharing the brief vlog I posted on my YouTube channel the other day will be a nice change for you all. Enjoy!

When I was younger, I remember getting the idea (whether or not it was actually verbally taught to me that way) that if I kept God’s commandments, life would go fairly smoothly, according to plan, and that I’d have little trouble. I’m quite certain that in some way, some church leader or other said to me, “If you get married in the temple, everything will work out great,” and other such generalizations, when what they likely meant was, “If you keep the commandments, you’ll have the comfort and peace you need to get through all of life’s struggles.” But that’s not how I interpreted whatever it was they did say. I do not fault them. But twenty+ years ago, gospel generalizations were exceedingly common, and they are still more common than they should be today.

Now, realistically, if I’d taken the time to listen to my parents (who I’m fairly certain never taught me any such generalizations), paid closer attention to the examples all around me, measured what I’d heard to my experiences in reading the stories in the scriptures, I would never have allowed such a ridiculous notion to take root in my brain. Does not the story of Job clearly illustrate that the most righteous often suffer the most trial and struggles? To say nothing of Christ. Yet, somehow I failed to grasp the incongruous nature of something I was beginning to believe (and expect) versus what I was actually being exposed to. I was creating a belief framework that wasn’t accurate.

Despite the evidence all around me, I think my youth and youthful blindness allowed me to create an expectation for life and religion based on very cursory, and certainly not realistic, sentiments.

Common Faulty Religious Beliefs and Expectations

Many other such false expectations/beliefs plague many a religious soul. Though we are taught the scriptures and read them, in part, we somehow also fail to miss the fact that everyone the Lord calls to help Him is flawed, often has to repent, and often makes mistakes. We get the idea that God’s people, or at least minimally the leadership, are flawless and know and understand everything. We may also get the idea that since God has all the answers He will give them to us (and to church leadership) without any effort or seeking on our part (or their part). We believe, incorrectly, that we are entitled to all of God’s knowledge simply because He has it.

We may get the idea that the people that go to church and sit so neatly dressed in the pews never have problems. We may assume that those who seem to be most spiritually and doctrinally in tune have never made grave mistakes. We may form the incorrect notion that at a certain age doctrinal wisdom and ease of keeping the commandments will simply happen to us. We may form the silly idea that after a certain amount of time or trials that we will arrive spiritually and not have to work at it anymore. We may assume that studying the scriptures is something we have done (past tense) and that moving forward we will retain all the power and doctrine it once imparted to us. We may think that serving a mission will ensure we never fall away from the truth. We may assume that getting married in the temple will ensure we never divorce. We may think…and expect…many incorrect and false things that never have been true and never will be. But, for a time, we feel they are.

Coping Frameworks

When we have an expectation we then often naturally form a psychological coping framework. This framework is a system of relating to our environment that we lean upon. We use it to make sense of our world. It defines how we relate to our family, friends, acquaintances, members, non-members, kids, co-workers, etc. It defines how we approach, plan, and execute our lives. We expect things to happen a certain way or to exist in a specific way. And thus we define our lives around these expectations (whether false or true).

The foundation of our coping framework is the expectation or belief. This foundation may or may not be solid (or true). If our expectation or belief is untrue, and ultimately weak or unstable, then it will eventually crumble. It cannot stand because it is not true.

For example, when we get married we make the assumption that our spouse has committed to us and therefore will remain faithful to us. We may expect some troubles, but that covenant and commitment creates a safety net around our fears. We stop worrying that we may lose someone. We begin to form even more specified frameworks around the larger one. We begin to develop natural ways of communicating with our committed spouse. We learn how to compromise and live with this other individual. We develop a framework for juggling work, hobbies, and other pursuits in relation to this larger marriage framework. And, we base our framework on a fixed picture of our life. It does not usually have a lot of room for change. When changes happen, we have to break down pieces of our coping frameworks and replace them with new ones.

Imagine now that your spouse cheats on you and/or asks for an unexpected divorce when you thought everything was reasonably okay, or at least workable. This causes a complete demolition of your main coping framework. Your belief that marriage would ensure a commitment, that you wouldn’t lose this person from your life, has been completely demolished (from the foundation). Nothing in your life is left standing (or at least that’s how it feels), because you developed all of your other coping frameworks on top of and around this main one. It changes how you relate to your friends and family. It changes how you relate to romantic relationships. It changes (or has the potential to change) every other framework, because it is such a fundamental one.

When a framework is demolished, we lose the ability to trust ourselves, our environment, and others. Everything we thought we once knew (about ourselves, love, relationships, marriage, and this other person) is thrown into question. “Did he/she ever love me?” “Am I lovable?” “What did I do to make them stop loving me?” “Where did I go wrong?” “Is love a real thing?” “Is what I thought was love actually something else?”

The list of questions is endless. The reality is that very little has actually changed, but because our foundational expectations have been thrown out the window…expectations built upon false ideas…we begin to think everything is false. We begin to doubt everything because something we thought was true, or expected to be true, has ended up to not be true. This, is how a crisis of faith begins. Our false expectations and beliefs are NOT sufficient to withstand the drastic change because they were never correct to begin with.

When our foundational expectations and beliefs are true, drastic changes will certainly impact us deeply, and we’ll have struggles; but rarely does it result in a crisis of faith because our entire framework has not crumbled. Only some pieces of it waver, but not the solid, strong, bottom foundation.

Asian man and woman playing wood jenga game.

Crisis of Faith

A crisis of faith happens when something we thought was true appears to not be true for a time, or fails to be true, thus throwing into question our coping frameworks. And religious frameworks are incredibly foundational to personal identity, morality, goals, etc. When they seem to falter, we lose trust in past true experiences. We lose trust in our ability to tell what is true and what is false. We lose trust in others who may have influenced our beliefs, and so forth. We may often get angry at, denounce, or lose trust in God.

Religion, which is such a powerful, fundamental feeling and belief system, is particularly prone to what we call crises of faith. But, it usually has little to do with the actual religion itself and its doctrines, and far more with our incorrect perceptions, beliefs, and expectations formed in previous years or passed onto us incorrectly by other church-goers whom we have trusted. The doctrine itself is usually not the actual culprit. Sadly, it’s us. We have formed an incorrect expectation or belief in our minds and when it proves incorrect, and our coping framework crumbles, we no longer know what to do. We no longer know how to cope or relate to our world.

Crises of faith can also be caused by our own actions, or by mortality and mortal weakness itself. We stray morally and end up in a situation we never saw ourselves in. Our framework hadn’t planned for it. A natural disaster wipes out our home or brings death into our family. Another person(s) who we have had absolute trust and vulnerability with betrays us. We may begin to struggle with desires and inclinations that we never planned on having that have crumbled our spiritual/life “plans.” Suddenly, life is turned on its head and we, in spiritual vertigo, can’t seem to find right-side-up.

How to Get Through a Crisis of Faith

I wouldn’t have said this twenty years ago. But, now, I can. A crisis of faith is a good thing. Yes, a good thing. Why? Because it gives us a chance to correct our fundamental beliefs and expectations. It helps us to fix what is actually preventing us from spiritual progression. If we never come to a crisis, then we will never have the impetus to learn what we need to get straightened out so that we can become more like God and to understand His plan better. If we never came to a crisis, then we could never create a solid foundation upon which to endure all that life throws at us. We would simply continue to struggle, suffer, and drop into despair. We need such a crisis to fix our foundation.

We need not feel sheepish, ashamed, or even guilty at having a crisis of faith. We should own our crisis. “Hey, I’m in a crisis of faith right now!” We need to tell God about it. Not because He doesn’t already know, but because when we approach Him with it, He can comfort us, give us peace, and help us to feel loved even as we are still trying to put ourselves back together.

Once we own our crisis, we need to figure out what fundamental expectations/beliefs we have that have been turned on their head. What did we believe about God that has proven temporarily, or most certainly, to be untrue—or minimally that we have failed to understand correctly? What did we believe about members of the church that has proven temporarily, or certainly, to be untrue—or that we have failed to understand correctly? Church leadership? A certain prophet? The scriptures? Our family? A particular person in our lives? Temple covenants? Our weakness? Etc. ( I certainly cannot list them all.)

Remember, the crisis of faith serves a purpose. Its purpose is for you to correct, ultimately change, and strengthen your coping framework. Its purpose is to help you find the truth that you’re missing that’s ultimately preventing you from becoming like God, from spiritually progressing. It is a necessary piece of your spiritual journey. It is a spiritual mountain you have to climb before you can press onward.

After you identify the expectation/beliefs that have contributed to this crumbling of your critical coping framework, you can at last begin the healing process—the process of putting yourself back together—and creating a solid, firm, foundation. Seeking God, and using His process of finding truth, you can begin to re-evaluate your expectations and beliefs. You can heal what has previously alluded you and weakened your coping frameworks. You can assess the truth you’ve always known that’s still true and replace what you falsely believed with the correct knowledge. Truth is light and light chases away darkness (Doctrine and Covenants 50:23-25). I know it’s cliché, but the truth will set you free.

Don’t Abandon Anything Until You Know What to Abandon

Now, when we’re afraid and our life appears to be in complete disarray, there is a tendency to want to abandon everything and rebuild from scratch. With few exceptions, this is an incredibly unwise thing to do. If it’s only the plumbing infrastructure on your house that needs revamping, it makes little sense to take a wrecking ball to the entire edifice. The mental, emotional, spiritual, and mental cost does not heal the crisis damage, and will likely only make it worse. If it’s only one relationship that needs salvation or pruning, it makes little sense to burn the bridges all around you to everyone else. If it’s only one truth that you twisted, it makes little sense to discard all truth, simply because you’re afraid an in panic. Rash actions nearly always create more pain than peace.

Spiritual suicide is hardly more practical than physical suicide. To metaphorically slit your wrists and spiritually die in a dramatic display will no more help you than actual death. And trust me, I know how it feels to wish you could die—literally. But, the reality is, that feeling passes. You feel like you want to die only because you’ve put your trust and faith in false doctrines and you feel stupid, foolish. None of us like to feel the fool. But remember, your life is in shambles not because you’ve failed, but because at last you’ve come to a crossroads and a loving God wants you to build with a solid foundation.

You don’t need to divorce everything in your life in order to rebuild anew. You need to visit each piece of your life and belief systems, one at a time, and carefully educate yourself on where the incorrect expectations and beliefs are. Many of our false religious beliefs/expectations are interconnected with other very true ones. We must carefully extract the “spiritual tumors” from the very good spiritual tissue.

The reality is that most of what we feel to be true and have focused our life on is true. We need to realize that. If a few misunderstandings and false beliefs led us to places and problems we now feel ridiculous about or concerned about, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up. We should be grateful that this crossroads has finally come. We finally get to set ourselves straight and have a greater capacity to have joy, happiness, and peace in the future ahead of us.

So, here are the steps to getting through your crisis of faith:

  1. Own your crisis of faith
  2. Take your crisis of faith to God
  3. Remember the purpose of a crisis of faith is to replace false beliefs/expectations with true ones
  4. Identify the false beliefs/expectations that led to your crisis of faith
  5. Don’t abandon anything until you have carefully found the “spiritual tumors” and know what to let go
  6. Use God’s process for truth seeking to replace your false beliefs/expectations with true ones

Conclusion

God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Mormon 9:9). His truths never change. His doctrines never change. The only change is in us, or in the way we hear, learn, or interpret His truths. Others may unwittingly lead us astray. We may fail to give heed and to truly listen or observe truth. In the end, it matters very little where the inconsistencies, misbeliefs, and incorrect expectations originated. What truly matters, in the end, is if we use our crisis of faith to build a coping framework whose foundations are unshakeable. We do that by building upon true doctrine, true beliefs, and accurate expectations.

A crisis of faith is a good thing. It’s the beginning of a new day, a stronger foundation, and a life full of peace and joy.