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

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

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

So, what are you afraid of?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you excited for?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The trial of faith

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

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

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

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

Give it time—wait it out

C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She answered, “No.”

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

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

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

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

What Do You Make Too Important?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Time to Evaluate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What is power?

Power is the ability to progress…to truly move forward in our lives. Progression implies the ability to change for the better.

Listen to the podcast “The Stuff that Gives Us Power” with more thoughts and ideas about this topic!

What things give us power?

That which gives us the greatest power to progress, to change fundamentally and eternally is—integrity.

Integrity is honesty with self. It’s facing the truth about ourselves. It’s being honest with God.

In Alma 31:5 we learn that the word of God has a more powerful effect on the minds of wicked people than the sword or anything else. And Alma thinks it is critical that they try the VIRTUE of the word of God against their enemies rather than going to war against them. So, why would the word of God have more power than the threat of death? Because the word of God is truth.

The scriptures describe truth as “knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (Doctrine & Covenants 93:24). Real truth has virtue, or in other words, power. Christ’s power is virtue. In the New Testament, when the woman with the issue of blood touches Him, He says, “I perceive that virtue [or power] is gone out of me” (Luke 8:46).

Christ is the truth, the way, and the light. Meaning, Christ’s power is in truth. The more truth about ourselves we embrace, the more power (through Him) we have to progress.

A lot of people feel that truth is relative. That simply isn’t true. Real truth isn’t susceptible to public, or even personal, opinion. Truth is established by God. So, our integrity fundamentally rests upon our willingness to accept God’s truths about ourselves and about Him.

What things take away our power?

If power is the ability to progress, and progression is dependent upon us being willing and able to face the truths about ourselves and to accept and embrace God’s truths, then it would follow that our power is drained or rendered temporary when we embrace partial truths, false truths, or if we purposefully rebel against truth that we know.

Elder David A. Bednar (2011) in his book Increase in Learning defines knowledge as our understanding of a truth, but intelligence is actually acting on the truth that we know (pp. 63-75). So, a person can be knowledgeable but that does not presuppose intelligence. If we know truth but do not act on it we are not very intelligent. In Doctrine & Covenants 130:18 we read, “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life [meaning the level of truth we choose to act upon],  it will rise with us” in the next life. This, according to Elder Bednar, is also why God identifies Himself as “more intelligent than all” (Abraham 3:19) because He acts perfectly on all truth.

In this context, not acting upon truth removes power to progress toward our best selves. And one of my favorite scriptures in Alma 12 teaches us that when we don’t act on truth we actually lose our current knowledge and deep understanding of it. We literally become duller, both spiritually and mentally. We lose the ability to comprehend the truth we once knew because we have not, or no longer act on it. We don’t simply stop progressing, we actually regress.

Listen to these words, “And they who will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing…Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell” (Alma 12:11).

God always makes very clear that we have complete control over our progression. If we learn truth and then act upon it, we gain access to more truth and thereby more power, until we know all that God knows…which means that if we act on all the truth we know (that God also knows), then it really is possible to become like Him.

Evaluate your power: What do you need power to do?

Whenever we are struggling to progress, to get out of a rut, it is usually because there is a truth that we lack.

In most cases the power we need is to progress, or to get out of our rut, is to find the truth that we lack. Finding truth (i.e. knowledge) creates a possibility of progression—if we act on it.

Or, if we know our issues, our power may be falling flat because we expect our knowledge of a truth to simply fix our problem without any research, planning, preparation, or practice on our part.

Visualizing, researching, seeking, counseling, planning, preparing, practicing

One of the things I’m currently excited about it some books and a Netflix show I tried one day about Tidying with Marie Kondo. Evidently this has been going on a while, but I just discovered her! Her process is all about helping people find the power to tidy. Two of the main things she has her clients do is to visualize their ideal life—in detail. Because, there is no power to tidy up if you don’t know what you hope to accomplish with it. What’s the point of keeping a tidy house if it doesn’t contribute to your ideal life? The second thing she teaches her clients is how to understand those things that spark joy for them. She teaches them how to show gratitude for things that no longer spark joy for them and how to part with things that they don’t see in the ideal life they’ve imagined.

The most powerful parts of her process are her clients learning to know what they want out of life—a critical and important truth—and learning to identify the objects they possess that spark joy for them—a tool of learning to feel truth. Identifying truth and feeling truth.

So, when it comes to using integrity to pull ourselves out of a rut in our lives, or to progress, it begins with looking for the truths we ignore, avoid, don’t have, and those which we are ready and willing to face. Anytime we embrace God’s truth for us we will immediately begin again to progress. That’s power.

When I was in high school I was very good at basketball. But, a few things jammed up my path to playing in college. But, the primary jam was that I didn’t play my Junior year of high school, at all. That year staying home changed my whole course in life. I learned to function differently without basketball being part of every moment of my life. I grew spiritually. I grew closer to my parents. My ideals about basketball and playing in college changed so much that when I played basketball my senior year I declined recruiting opportunities and had given up that dream altogether.

The few variables that made me skip my Junior year were at the time uncomfortable. But, I often look back and wonder what would have happened if my life, and my schedule, and my day-to-day functioning hadn’t been upset and shaken up. There’s no way to know. I only know that I’m glad they were.

From Two to Twenty

I credit my mom and my husband, Luke, for this blog post. Because they took something I thought I understood and made it even more mind-blowing, more relevant, and more powerful.

When two-hour church was announced I was immediately excited

(for those who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our Prophet has changed our Sunday schedules from a three-hour event to a two-hour event and we are supposed to replace that third hour with all-week study and instruction in our homes…more or less).

We already have frequent gospel discussions in our home naturally, and so I was excited to have the impetus to “beef” them up and make them more special. I also thought that this added another facet to ministering, as I’d be able to discuss the same material with those who minister to me and with those to whom I minister. I was excited, in general, for yet another change, another alteration in the application of doctrine to shake things up and make people rethink things.

I also guiltily admit that I would generally much rather discuss “the lesson” at home than sit through an extra hour of church. But, I happily admit that I never saw two hours of church as less work. I knew it was more devotion and time the moment they explained it and I was excited to take it on.

Seeing the Parable of the Ten Virgins Anew

Then, this past Sunday, my husband, Luke, taught gospel doctrine…the last one in the old format. He said a few things that impacted me immediately.

  1. If the oil we get from church is all the oil we get, it is insufficient for deep conversion and a deep relationship with God, and Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:12, John 17:3). The five foolish virgins were active members of God’s church and they loved Christ (the bridegroom), but they had insufficient oil reserves to endure the wait for His second coming. Those oil reserves were insufficient because all the oil they had came from passive reception of gospel teaching through the efforts of others. They didn’t know Christ as they could have because they hadn’t put forth the diligent effort. Therefore, their relationship with him was not sufficient to be “recognized” for entry to the feast.
  2. The oil reserves of the five wise virgins had sufficient reserves because their relationship and knowledge of God came from active seeking, diligent study, and intelligent action. They knew Christ (the bridegroom) and their relationship with Him was sufficient to be “recognized.”
  3. Home-centered, Church-supported means that the church cannot support us if there is nothing to support. If there was no church support at all, what would our gospel knowledge, conversion, and relationship with God look like? The home is the primary center for gospel learning and instruction and if we do not cultivate something to be supported, no amount of church attendance will provide what we need.

My mouth didn’t drop open, but my mind and heart was opened to the full magnitude of what the Prophet was asking of us. He’s asking us to get real. He’s asking us to stop depending on others to provide the study, instruction, and application. He’s asking us to consider our priorities, not only on Sundays, but throughout the week. We are trading an hour of church for multiple hours during the week. We are changing out one hour a week for a life re-centered and re-focused on God, His plan, and His work.

Tearing Apart the Roof to Get to Jesus

In the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and even during the early days of the Restored Church, tradition has often stifled personal and church growth. For the Israelites tradition was an old testament burden and it became a new testament handicap to their ability to “get to Jesus,” to “recognize Jesus,” and to become converted to Christ.

The Nephites in the Book of Mormon always succumbed to the famously titled “pride cycle,” because when life got good and they established traditional frameworks and got comfortable, without fail their children always struggled to become converted to Christianity and dissenters and persecutors increased rapidly. Getting in a rut of tradition has always been the downfall of God’s people, past and present.

I was chatting with my mom on the phone just a day or so ago about her take on this new unifying curriculum and the two-hour church block. And, this is what she shared with me:

In Mark 2:1-12 we see Christ in Capernaum and He’s in one house. That house is packed to the hilt. Other people are in the way. And, the only way they can bring the man sick with the palsy into Christ’s presence to be healed is to tear up the roof. Then, after breaking up the roof, they lower the man with palsy down into Christ’s presence.

After reading this my mind kept being drawn back to the word roof. And I knew there was something about that word that needed to be discovered. After pondering over Christ as the “chief cornerstone” and Apostles and Prophets as the “foundation” of God’s church, I began to see other pieces of the gospel doctrines, principles, ordinances, covenants, and commandments take shape.

It was then I thought, “What is the roof?” In the account, the people had to tear up the roof to get the man to Christ to be healed, and it hit me, all this change, and other changes, being made are not to doctrine, or organization, or commandments, etc. The changes are all being made to the ways in which we apply these critical aspects of the gospel and integrate them into our lives. The roof then symbolized to me the applications, the traditions. Many times throughout the scriptures God makes changes that “tear up” or “break apart the roof,” or the traditions and applications we get so comfortable with so that we can see Him again! So we can get to Him again.

Thinking I had already been enlightened on this topic through my husband’s lesson, I was impressed yet again with the many things I was hearing. Elder David A. Bednar’s “gathering all things together in one in Christ” entered my mind. Things are changing because as a people we are getting too comfortable! We have ceased to see Christ and to seek Him (and to be LIKE Him). We have been fixated on traditional expectations and lines and have forgotten to look far beyond where the line has been set, to where crossing over those lines should lead us. We may even be getting in each others’ ways! It’s time to tear up the roof that we might again focus on the Savior and refocus our entire lives to come to know Him and to prepare the world for His second coming.

Giving Up What I Thought I Loved

The tradition of my life, as a teenager, of playing basketball and focusing on that goal got shaken up and torn away to reveal the Savior, and His path for me, in a few different ways. I made a hard decision to give up what I thought I loved for a year only to find that though I loved it, I didn’t love it as much as the path God put down for me. I have never regretted and forever been grateful for the things that happened to shake up my life and make me choose to not play basketball my Junior year. And, God has repeated that pattern in my life in various ways. When I get “set in my ways,” He always finds ways to “tear up the roof,” the comfortable traditions and focused ideas I get that take me down a path that is not as close to Him as I think it is.

The Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, under the direction of Jesus Christ is “tearing up the roof.” He’s upsetting our comfortable schedules. He’s shaking up our focus and getting us to look up and pay attention. He’s providing the impetus for us to re-evaluate, better prioritize, more easily identify the good-better-best in our lives, and take a major personal/family step in ensuring we have sufficient oil (a deeper understanding of the doctrines of the gospel and a firmer relationship with God) to help us withstand these latter-days and to prepare the world for Christ’s Second Coming.

So, get out your lamps, begin acquiring that extra oil, and embrace tearing up your schedules, your plans, and those traditions that get in the way of you recognizing, seeing, and seeking Christ—and taking the path He has set, not the one you’ve laid out.


I still remember when Elder David A. Bednar gave his talk on the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It was later quoted and focused on by Carol J. Rasmus.

Here is a direct quote from Bednar’s address:

I frankly do not think many of us ‘get it’ concerning [the] enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement, and I wonder if we mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities.

The belief that through our own “sheer grit, willpower, and discipline” we can manage just about anything seems to be widespread these days. This simply is not true…

Before I continue my own commentary on this topic, let me place before you a couple parable-like metaphors.

  • A three-year-old young girl wants to play basketball, but the 10-foot-tall hoop is simply beyond her capacity. So, she grits and practices and throws, but no matter what she does, after weeks of total devotion, all she manages to do is to hit the rim—once. And not with the proper technique needed to grow up and become an accomplished player. Her father offers to alter the hoop, to lower it, to a realistic height for her to develop the proper skills and techniques. But, offended by the offer of assistance (since she thinks she can do everything for herself), the four-year-old rejects it and decides she simply won’t try to play basketball anymore. It’s too hard, and the years it will take to “grow up” seem too far away.
  • A middle-aged man, an inventor, has always been brilliant beyond his years. But, no matter what he invents, he can’t seem to get it from invention to market. He gets several offers for help on the business side from what appears to him to be fairly qualified people, but he simply doesn’t have faith in their ability to understand him or his inventions the way he does. He’s worried his inventions will lose integrity if he lets anyone else assist him. He also doesn’t want to share any of the glory of the invention simply to get it to market. So, refusing assistance, he remains unable to move forward and find success.

Stop for a moment. What do you think the commonality is (the shared ideal/belief) between the three-year-old girl and the middle-aged inventor that prevents them from accomplishing something they desire?

Enabling Power

The word enable means:

To make (someone or something) able to do or be something: to make (something) possible, practical…: to cause (a feature or capability) to be active or available for use: to make able; give power, means, competence, or ability to; to authorize…

God has taught us through the scriptures that the atonement of Jesus Christ gives us grace. That grace cleanses our sin—when we repent—and ENABLES us to learn and grow from our experience. The cleansing is ENABLED when we sincerely repent. That grace AUTHORIZES/ENABLES us to be physically resurrected at some future day. But, above and beyond these very accepted aspects of the atonement of Jesus Christ; that grace ENABLES us to practice being godly on a severely adjusted hoop, so that over time we learn the proper godly principles, doctrines, and skills in the proper way. Grace ENABLES us to become godly by giving us assistance for our mortal handicaps.

Lowering the hoop for the three-year-old ENABLES her to practice her skills correctly. The hoop can be raised, little-by-little, as she grows in capability and skill. At some point, she won’t need the adjustments. But by lowering it initially, she can practice correctly.

Taking on a partner with a different kind of brilliance does not lessen an inventor’s invention. It ENABLES him to accomplish his design by leaning on the knowledge and help of another who has the skills he does not. Does it make the invention belong to both? Yes. But without help it would have only ever been an idea. Trusting in another makes it possible for hopes to become reality, just as trusting in God makes our ideals possible, even if we have to give Him most of the credit.

God ENABLES us Physically and Spiritually

Several years back, when I was teaching early morning seminary, I began to have severe nerve pain in my back right heel. The nerve pain was right next to my Achilles tendon, and because of that, I immediately thought I had strained or even injured that vital muscle. It has always been a fear of mine to injure my Achilles. So, when this nerve began acting up, I immediately began all the necessary home treatment. I took ibruprofen. I iced it. I rested it. I stayed off of it. I tried to walk carefully and stretch it when possible. But, after a few weeks, so petrified I was going to rip the muscle, I borrowed crutches. The crutches ENABLED me to continue to get around. It ENABLED me to teach seminary (when I just as easily could have let another sub for me).

It was so difficult to trust in those crutches. I was so angry that all my diligent treatment hadn’t saved me from needing so much help. I was in despair that I couldn’t help my parents or my family as I normally did. I was completely “benched” from most of my life, but those crutches ENABLED me to accomplish, minimally, the mission the Lord had for me at the time.

It took a priesthood blessing, another ENABLING gift, to learn that God would heal me. It took a visit to a foot doctor (something I’d spurned up until that point), another ENABLING gift, to learn that my muscles were fine, that it was a nerve that was the problem. It took anti-inflammatory medicine and orthotics—two more ENABLING gifts—to rehabilitate that nerve and get it to quiet down.

Ultimately, it is the atonement of Jesus Christ that will completely ENABLE a full healing in our souls: emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually. But, until that day comes, God has provided ENABLING help: friends and family, psychologists, medical methods and apparatuses, and repentance, priesthood power, blessings, and the gift of the Holy Ghost to ENABLE us to learn and grow and become like Him (and to serve Him).

If it’s a lowered basketball hoop, a business partner, a walker or wheelchair, a translator, a piece of workout equipment, a friend, a medication, or one (or many) of several other things; ALL of it is part of God’s ENABLING power made possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ. There is no aspect of this life that He hasn’t designed to ENABLE us to become like Him. We should never give up because our own grit and hard work isn’t sufficient. It is because of the ENABLING power of the atonement of Jesus Christ that any of our efforts gain any power or validity.

Learn to See

For many of us, it’s hard to admit that our own efforts aren’t enough. It’s hard to admit that not only do we make mistakes but that our best efforts need an extra push. But, learning that all that we do requires grace can lead us in two different directions. Either we can throw up our hands and decide that we don’t have to make any effort at all—which is, counterproductive. Because that means all that godly power has very little to enable and so we make very little progress. OR, we can realize that all that we have ever accomplished has been with help and that we can accomplish even more the more we trust in and rely on God—and His many ENABLING gifts and blessings. That’s when the enabling power gains momentum in our lives and we make real progress.

We sort of have to alter the way we see ourselves. We have to learn to see that we’ve had a “lowered hoop” since day 1; and that realizing that in addition to that lowered hoop we need to add on metaphorical knee pads, tape up a few ankles, and get a lighter basketball shouldn’t daunt us, but allow us to press forward faster, better than we did before. Accepting the gifts of the ENABLING power of the atonement in our lives, accepting that we need them, seeing ourselves in the proper light, allows us to progress faster, not slower. The more we trust in and accept God’s grace (in whatever forms it manifests itself), the faster we learn, grow, progress, and become the person that God designs for us to become.

I spurned those crutches. I spurned having to ice and put my foot up nearly all day every day. I hated not being able to do what I wanted to do. But those little things ENABLED me to press on until I was willing to get real help. Then, even that real help didn’t make me independent (which is what I was going for). It gave me power, it ENABLED me, to understand my weakness and learn to use other ENABLING gifts to walk again and serve the Lord and function in my life. It made me more dependent on God, not less.

I still have to make special adjustments to my shoes to keep that nerve from acting up. I am now limited to the kinds of shoes I can wear. And, I have to spend a lot more on the shoes I can wear because my feet require a lot of ENABLING help. But, the knowledge I have gained has ENABLED me to learn how to continue to progress in my life. It has ENABLED me to keep walking (even it if it is with a little help). It has helped me to recognize other nerve problems that have surfaced. The entire experience with that nerve has ENABLED me in other ways.

Life has taught me that grit and willpower are powerful because of the enabling power of God’s grace, NOT that I can get by without grace because of my grit and willpower. At this Christmas season, I hope each of us will see ourselves as we really are: being with all sorts of handicaps already depending on many ENABLING gifts and blessings. I hope we will see that Christ came to ENABLE us, to save us from depending solely on ourselves. He came so that our efforts have both meaning and power, because of His grace.



When it comes to talking about a yoke (let alone being equally yoked), most of us (though not all) being of modern origin don’t comprehend the full meaning of being equally yoked. We may know what a yoke is, we may have seen it in pictures, in some random barn, or ornamentally used in a historical reproduction of an event, etc., but we haven’t had to toil in order to yoke two animals that must pull a very significant and heavy burden. We haven’t had to make use of a yoke for the survival of our families and homes.

A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and is also attached to the plow or cart (or burden) that they are to pull. It is also fastened to and controlled by the reigns held by a master who guides them as they pull.

Vintage Draft Animal wood Harness Yoke isolated on white backgro

To be able to merely walk side-by-side, the two animals yoked need to be of similar size, strength, and build. But that isn’t enough. When there is a burden to pull, these animals must also be able to coordinate their movements and share the burden so that it can be pulled successfully. That coordination is guided by the master who holds the reigns.

Note the characteristics needed to be equally yoked:

  • Similar size
  • Similar strength
  • Similar build
  • Willing and able to coordinate with their yoked partner
  • Willing to follow the commands of the master

Now, if we take this literal explanation and begin to apply it to relationships in our lives, primarily marriage relationships, we begin to see something interesting.

First, let’s take the physical and translate it into something spiritual. In a marriage relationship, for it to work, to allow us to pull our burdens, we must be equally yoked as spouses. Spiritually we need to have:

  • a similar spiritual size (testimony or witness of truth)
  • a similar spiritual strength (faith in Christ)
  • a similar spiritual build (foundation of faith built through righteous living)
  • a willingness to work with and coordinate the burdens of life with our spouse
  • a willingness to follow the guidance and commands of the master

Though differing personality strengths and weaknesses between spouses can be beneficial that we may learn and support one another; spiritual things must be far more compatible for a relationship yoke to work. Remember, a couple is not merely walking side-by-side. They must be able to coordinate successfully to pull a burden—many burdens. And, they must both be willing to obey the same commands from the master. Otherwise, progression is brought to a standstill.

Be Ye Not Unequally Yoked

Sometimes, when we read the scriptures, we can get confused about what it means to be equally yoked. We may feel that our marriage is unequally yoked in many ways. We may wonder if it will ever grow to become something as wonderful as we dream, or see in a few cute old couples.

Many marriages have a sufficient imbalance between spouses of spiritual size, strength, and build. Some marriages even have a sufficient imbalance between themselves of which commands they will respond to from the Master. But there is a big difference between a struggling marriage that has two people who are trying and who have varying levels of faith in Christ than a marriage where one person has completely checked out spiritually…they simply have no faith in Christ.

When one marriage partner denies their testimony (either verbally or by deliberate action), discounts or denies their faith in Christ (either verbally or by deliberate action), dismantles their foundation of faith (by deliberate actions), and refuses to work with their spouse or respond to the commands of the Master (Jesus Christ), then there is a serious issue. Such a marriage is not equally yoked.

Faith in Christ is revealed simply by a willingness to repent, to rebuild a spiritual foundation (if it has weakened or been dismantled), and to coordinate with their spouse and to respond to the commands of the Master.

All marriages are replete with error on the part of both. And, who can count how many hurts one has caused the other, perceived or real? But, the moment one party decides they don’t have to change, or that they won’t change, an incredible chasm is created in the marriage. One partner has completely stopped pulling, participating, and refuses to be guided forward. They no longer believe in Christ’s ability to forgive them, aid them (or their spouse), help them (or their spouse), improve them (or their spouse), reform them (or their spouse), and save the marriage. The marriage is now unequally yoked.

When one spouse completely checks out and quits trying to coordinate and quits trying to pull, the burdens are sufficient that the other spouse will also be brought up short. There is no progression, no forward movement for either party. The spouse who has lost their faith in Christ is not only damning his/her own progression, they are dead weight to the other.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 we read:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?

What concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

There’s a comes a point in some relationships where the believer (the spouse with faith in Christ) can no longer progress because he/she is unequally yoked with an unbeliever (a past believer who no longer believes in or has faith in Christ, as witnessed by their unwillingness to repent, or a person who has been introduced to Christ and refuses to accept Him). Forward progression will be hampered until the believer unyokes themselves from the unbeliever and gives themselves over to God.

We see this pattern with God and the Israelites. It was a covenant relationship, often figuratively compared to the imagery of a bridegroom and his bride (a figurative marriage relationship). Israel frequently would exhibit faith and then would turn away from their faith. God, unable to “move forward” with them as dead weight would always issue spiritual ultimatums (click on this link to learn more about spiritual ultimatums and how God uses them). God’s frequent ultimatum was immediate consequences for sin, and then a call to repentance, which, if it went unheeded resulted in Him un-yoking Israel from Himself and going to find a “faithful people.”

The Unbelieving Spouse is Sanctified by the Believing Spouse

Being equally yoked is again, not the same as we encounter here in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16:

…If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath and husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband… But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace

For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

This advice from Paul (which is merely his opinion and not direct counsel from God) has to do with people joining the church and their spouse remaining Jewish (or of a different religion). Paul was worried about circumcision, a mark of the old covenant persisting in families when Christ had done away with it. He didn’t want people to cast off their “unbelieving” spouses, however, especially if the marriage was otherwise good.

There are many marriages where the spouses have differing levels of faith in Christ, but again, it still moves forward toward God, whether faster or slower. Being unequally yoked is when the marriage is at a standstill. One party still firmly has faith in Christ. The other does not. One is willing to keep their covenants with God and the other is not. At a standstill no progression can take place for either party.

When Divorce is a Good Thing

Sometimes, for the spouse that’s faithful to their covenants and who has faith in Christ, it can seem to them that unyoking themselves from the marriage would be wrong. However, if the marriage with the spouse is hampering their spiritual progression and the spouse is unwilling to repent, then in order to continue to progress, the only way forward is to issue spiritual ultimatums and with personal revelation from God determine if He (God) would have them unyoke themselves from the unbelieving spouse.

So, how do we know when to un-yoke ourselves from a faithless spouse? How do we know our if our spouse is faithless? How do we know if they won’t change sometime in the future and we should simply hang in there?

Having been through this myself, let me suggest the following:

  1. Pray for help and clear, personal revelation throughout this process
  2. Issue spiritual ultimatums in the appropriate way
  3. If spiritual ultimatums are not met, immediately enact the promised consequences
  4. Set a specific and rigid grace period after the consequences are enacted and stick to it
  5. Make plans to un-yoke yourself in preparation (make it real and don’t delay!)
  6. Make your decision firmly (to stay yoked or to un-yoke) and take it to God for confirmation
  7. Follow-through with the personal revelation you receive

I have seen marriage relationships get clear to #6 before the faithless spouse began to come around, but the marriage ended up beautifully thereafter. I have seen marriage relationships bounce back immediately after step #2. I have seen marriage relationships make several trips to #4 but always survive. I have seen marriage relationships make it to #5, improve for several months, and then eventually end in divorce. I have seen some go through the whole process and end for the best for both sides (which did not necessarily mean both sides ended with faith in Christ or without faith in Christ, but for certain the believer was able to progress at last).

The reality is, our spouse may change when issued a spiritual ultimatum. But, they may not. They may change in the future, but that change may not come about “with us” and we shouldn’t hold out simply in vain hope. They may not even be fazed when we issue a spiritual ultimatum. Sometimes, no matter how we began as a couple (married in the temple or otherwise), we are better off and God would have us un-yoke ourselves so that He might bless us and we can progress as He desires. Otherwise, we will remain at a standstill until we shrug off the dead spiritual weight. As well, the unbelieving spouse will also be prevented from progressing if we refuse to let go. Sometimes, we need to let people hit rock bottom before they can progress back up…even if it’s not by our side.

Being Equally Yoked Under Christ’s Yoke

Christ Himself has said (Matthew 11:29):

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

When both spouses have faith in Christ, Christ is the driver of the marriage. It is His yoke that we have allowed Him to put upon us. Perhaps we may see this verse as Christ in the yoke with us, but I see it more as Him as the driver and we submit to His yoke that He may guide our lives and our marriages. We not only give Him the reigns and allow Him to guide us, He leads us in the best ways to carry our burdens and find ultimate rest. When one marriage partner (that began under His yoke) comes to a complete standstill, or tries to walk backward or escape His guidance, or refuses to change despite the cracks of the whip, God may inspire us to allow Him to un-yoke that person from our lives. By so doing, it allows God to continue to be the master of our spiritual and eternal progression. It means He can pick up the slack and move us forward again toward our eternal blessings.

I don’t think anyone should ever enter a marriage relationship with the idea that they can easily toss it away in divorce. I think marriage should be fought for, worked at, and committed to with integrity. Even tough marriages should be held on to, covenants kept, because God will bless such faith. However, as no person is a guarantee, if the time should come that our spouse abandons their faith in Christ and refuses to repent despite spiritual ultimatums, then in such cases divorce may be a good thing to pursue for those that seek eternal relationships.

For the rest of us, we need to keep pulling, keep making efforts to live by our faith in Christ together. We must both choose to submit to His yoke, His commands, and His guidance as we carry our burdens. If we’re a bit awkward or slow, no worries. We need only maintain our faith and we will progress. We will move forward. Our relationship will improve. God will guide us. We will eventually find the rest we seek.


How often have you thought you wanted something only to find that after having it, it didn’t bring with it the impact or delight you had expected? Yet, somehow, prior to possessing the thing, you were convinced, even certain, that it was going to delight you far beyond the present moment and affect all the threads of your life. Then, it simply fell short. So, you have to ask yourself, why did you think that to begin with? How come you didn’t know that it would fall short; that it would fail you?

How often do people pursue a certain college degree and a specific career, only to find shortly in that they hate what they do and money isn’t a sufficient draw. They’d rather do what they love for a far lesser paycheck than do what they hate for the big bucks. Why did they go into the original degree and career path in the first place? Why did they waste all that time and money in the wrong path? Because they thought that was what they wanted. It took experience for them to realize it wasn’t.

I could make an endless list of scenarios where our expectations about ourselves and life continually throw us for a loop. But, it all boils down to the main point of this blog.  And that is this…

There comes a time in our lives when we start to realize, a little at a time, that many of the things we supposed about ourselves aren’t actually true. We thought we loved being the life of the party only to realize now that in all actuality, it has always worn us out. We thought we hated sappy romance novels only to realize after finally buckling down and reading one recommended by a friend, that we like them better than the crime thrillers we have read for years. Or, perhaps we thought our dream life was living in a home on a lake or golf course and sailing around on a yacht, and now that we have those things, they are kind of cool, but they pale in comparison to eating out at the one favorite restaurant with our significant other and playing board games with our kids.

I remember the movie The Runaway Bride where the bride (Julia Roberts) kept running way from the altar. Why? Because when the long-awaited moment arrived she didn’t feel like she thought she should. It failed her expectations and assumptions despite all the glitz and glam. Yet, time after time she’d get proposed to, make it to the wedding day, and then she’d bolt. In the end, it came down to the fact that she was always trying to be the woman these men wanted because she thought that was the woman she was, or the woman she wanted to be. It wasn’t until she took some time to figure herself out that true love became possible.

And, this is the point of this blog. The gospel, the real deep down gospel, only becomes truly possible for us when we know who we really are and what we really want—for eternity.

God knows who we are and what we really want. But, in reality, we don’t. And I have always felt strongly that this life, God’s plan, is actually about us coming to a realization of what God already knows. Why did He send us down here, then, if we already knew? Isn’t that sort of unkind and unfair to put us through this often miserable mortal experience just for us to come to the same conclusion He’s already got?

Well, imagine the premortal world. We were God’s spiritual offspring, but we weren’t exactly as He is. He had godly qualities and attributes that we had not yet attained. And, in fact, we got to a point where we couldn’t progress to become like Him without this mortal existence.

It had to be frustrating, after progressing for eons, to suddenly come to a point where we couldn’t rise higher. So, God says to us, “Do you really want to become like me? It’s tough stuff. Sure, I have powers and capabilities you don’t have, but to be like this requires a lot of hard things.” Without a thought, “Ya, we want that,” we all said. Because we really thought we did. We didn’t have the experience to know ourselves any deeper. And, though most of us were inherently very good, we weren’t yet perfect. And, therefore, we were incapable of knowing ourselves perfectly. That was why we were no longer progressing.

Think about it: God could have said, “Cindy and Mark, you actually don’t want to be like me. I know you don’t realize that yet, but in reality, you both prefer to bowl and drink beer for eternity and would be much happier doing that, rather than to spend it creating worlds and working eternally to exalt your spiritual offspring.” Then, He could have turned to Cain and said, “Cain, you think you want to become like me, but once you’re down there you’re going to murder your younger brother out of jealously and greed and then be damned for all eternity.” Then, He could have turned to all of us and said, “So, as you can see, rather than put you all through this whole testing and proving thing, I’m just going to consign you to your eternal destinations because I know you better than you know yourself.”

No longer sounds loving, does it. And it wouldn’t have been because we would not have had the ability to know if He was being fair to us. To us, it would have sounded unkind and unloving because we would have truly believed we wanted to be like God, and no amount of God telling us otherwise would have solved our lack of knowledge, understanding, and experience.

No, it is far more loving to bring us down to this life and let us learn by experience to know the good from the evil; to let us learn from experience whether we prefer self-sacrifice or selfishness, whether we prefer keeping the Sabbath Day holy or playing golf, whether we prefer to be perceived as right or actually doing what’s right despite others’ perceptions, etc. Because then, when we stand before God at the judgment we won’t be offended, or even sorry, when He sends us off to play golf for eternity, because we will know that we prefer that over the other options available to us. We learned from our own experience who we are and what we really want for eternity. There won’t be any bartering for a higher glory, because we won’t want it. By experience we will come to know that we don’t want it…or that we do.

Allowing us to learn the truth about ourselves for ourselves—that is true love. And, it’s not easy.

.photo with a man and a questionmark mask

I get a little annoyed at times when I hear people talk about how God is testing them to see if they can get back home to Him. First of all, they forget that it’s not just about getting home to God, it’s about becoming like Him. There is a big difference. Second, saying, “God is testing me to see if I can get back home to Him,” makes God’s character sound untrustworthy—as if He’s up there treating us like white lab rats, sending us through mazes, all just to see, through some morbid curiosity what choices we’ll make and if we’ll make it. No, sorry. I simply dislike that wording and what it implies about God. That’s not the God I know.

So, it’s fairly simple.

God knows us better than we will ever know ourselves. Why? He knows everything, past, present, and future. (2 Nephi 9:20)

Then, that’s predestination, right? That means He knows who going to make it (to become like Him) and who’s not, right? Yes. He sure does.

Well, then that totally refutes my agency, doesn’t it? I mean, what’s the purpose of life if God already knows what I’m going to choose? Good question. Keep reading.

If this life is about God testing me, doesn’t God’s omniscience cancel out the test? Great question. No.

This life is not about God testing us for His knowledge and benefit. The word “testing” is shallow and insufficient to encompass the purpose of God’s plan. It implies merely ticking off right answers. The real purpose of life is for us to be “proved” (Abraham 3:25 which implies providing evidence or real life data), to learn by experience who we are what it is we are going to choose. God knows, but we don’t. And, because we don’t truly know ourselves this existence is entirely valid, no matter what God knows. It’s also why He doesn’t interfere, because it’s not about having a perfect world. It’s about us “becoming godly” nor choosing to not become godly. The atonement has taken care of all the rest.

So, now you may ask:

But, if God knows what I’m going to do, does that mean He refuses to bless me because He knows in 10 years I’m going to apostatize and fall away from His plan? No.

God is bound to bless us if we keep His commandments irrespective of past or future sin (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10; 130:20-21). If He deviated from that law He would cease to be God. This is why being a god is not for everyone. Not everyone wants to be bound so tightly by law and covenant (see previous blog post, God’s Power is Not Absolute). So, no matter what you have done or what you will do, God will bless you when you keep His commandments. The same applies to the opposite. No matter how righteous you’ve been or how righteous you may be some day, you will still lose blessings and suffer consequences if you sin now. That’s God’s eternal law.

So, when I imagine the premortal life this is what I see.

We knew God was the father of our spirits. We also realized that He was God. And, He was a bit different from us in a few important ways. He had a glorified, celestial body of flesh and bones. We didn’t. He had an eternal family unit (including an eternal marriage with a glorified, celestial woman). We were only children. We did not have spouses and children. And, while we were basically good, God was perfect. He was perfectly kind, loving, merciful, just, etc. We were not. Finally, while we had some power, God’s power to influence not only His environment, but the entire universe was infinitely greater than ours (except perhaps when we acted under His direction—and thereby His power and authority, not so much unlike this present life).

So, it stands to reason that we all wanted to be “like God, our Father,” or we thought we did. So, God presented a plan. That plan was “how to become like God.” But it was also, “how to determine if becoming like God is what you really want.”

Why do we have to go through a plan? Because being 100% like God is super-duper hard. It requires being bound by covenant and law. It requires all the traits God has that we yet do not have. It’s a worthy goal and we can do it IF we follow God’s plan and use this “proving environment” to become; which it is designed to help us do.

However, IF, while we’re down here in this proving environment, we learn for ourselves that while being exactly like God sounds great, it isn’t actually what we want (something we didn’t know previously); then, His plan provides for some alternative glories. Which, is actually pretty cool!

Before we came to this life, becoming like God sounded great. We knew it would be hard. But, we believed we wanted it. However, now that we are here, we—by our own jaunt through God’s godly proving environment—learn for ourselves if being like God is truly what we do want. So, again, the testing and proving isn’t really for God. It’s for us. Or, at least, that’s my opinion.

And, if this life is about getting to know ourselves. Then, it means it’s entire framework is meant to help us conquer our false assumptions and get to the crux of what really rules our hearts and minds. It means learning through trial and suffering to peel back our outer shells and take a gander at who we really are, what we really want, what we are really willing to do, what we are really willing to sacrifice, and IF that matches up with what it requires to become like God.

I feel that when we think about life this way, it makes so much more sense. It stops looking like some masochistic game on God’s part and all of the sudden looks like a sifting sieve. That sieve has three main tiers (scripturally). Some people are ultimately too “coarse” to fall through the telestial sieve onto the terrestrial sieve. And, though refined enough to get to the terrestrial sieve, many more are too coarse to make it down to the celestial sieve. Even fewer will be refined enough to make it to the actual “like God” tray at the bottom of the mortality sifting machine.

It still means we teach the ideal—to become like God. But, it also means we have more respect for individual agency. It means we allow people the same privilege to worship how, where, or what they may (11th Article of Faith). It means we don’t condemn others when they seem to be choosing another path than the one God would want them to choose. Because, that is the point of this life. If the path they are on doesn’t lead them to godhood, then we should certainly encourage them to reconsider, but ultimately, they may learn more quickly that they want godhood if they first experience a different eternal option. Mortal experience is the most beautiful and powerful teacher in the universe. That’s why we’re here.

If we see life (and God’s plan) in the context of coming to know ourselves, it answers a lot of currently difficult or unanswered questions. For example:

Human pain and suffering seems too cold and indifferent as a test for God to figure out what we’re made of. But, if we look at it as a test for us to see what we’re made of—for ourselves—and whether or not we’re up for godliness, it makes a ton of sense.

Why does God allow any human suffering? Because even if we suffer unfairly, it refines us and helps us have Godly sympathy. I mean, after all, who wants a God who doesn’t understand pain and suffering? He or she would make a very poor deity.

Why does God allow imperfect people to be His prophets, apostles, and other leaders? Because their service is as much about helping them to come to know themselves as it is about us coming to know ourselves. You see, it isn’t about perfection, it’s about grace.

Why does God not answer every question or fix every seeming contradiction in life, the scriptures, etc.? Because having all the answers is not what matters. It’s whether or not we are willing to exercise faith—the faith necessary unto eternal salvation—and trust in what we do know. Consequently, when the answers are made clear our own knowledge of our own power, capability, and righteousness is strengthened and solidified!  Thus, we learn the truth of principles by experience prior to being told them. It works best that way!

Think of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac! That was a psychotic request IF it was for God’s benefit. But, if it was for Abraham’s knowledge of himself (and Isaac’s knowledge of himself), then it makes perfect sense. God said to Abraham, “Now I know that thou fearest God…” and yet what He meant is, “Now Thou knowest that thou fearest God…” Hugh B. Brown said: “Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham” (Five Scriptures that will Get You Through Anything).

Consider for yourself: what do you know about yourself but keep pretending you don’t know? What did you learn about yourself in your last trial or struggle? Or, what are you learning currently in a trial or struggle? What weaknesses and struggles have you overcome to date that have changed your for the better as a person? Have you given yourself that chance to try to live up to God’s covenants and laws? Do you yet know if you want to become like Him? Or, are you still in suspense about your own ability to be faithful and godly because you’re afraid to try? Do you know, as Abraham came to know, “That thou fearest God, seeing thou has not withheld thy <fill in the blank>”

For more on this line of pondering, see previous blog post The Solution to Utopia.


Doctrine: If you are Christian, than the witness of God’s Holy Spirit should carry more weight than the witness of “flesh and blood.” The Book of Mormon supports and validates the witness of the Bible. To disprove the Book of Mormon is also to disprove the Bible. Bible Prophets have the same human characteristics and weaknesses of Joseph Smith. To discount Joseph Smith as a prophet because of His humanity is to discount all prophets. The wisdom and witness of men is the god of atheists. The wisdom and witness of God and His Holy Spirit is the god of Christians.

If you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and your testimony is struggling in the current societal environment, buckling under growing church transparency, and stifling under a list of ordinances, covenants and commandments: what are your options?

You basically have only three options.

  1. You can hang on to what you believe even though it’s a struggle. You can trust the spiritual experiences you’ve had. You can turn to God with your questions and to His word for your answers. You can keep trying to come unto Christ as you wait to see more clearly through the all the worldly fuzz and your own personal confusion, struggles, and issues.
  2. You can leave the Church. You can decide that God isn’t real. You can become an atheist.
  3. You can pretend that the only things about God and religion that bug you are inside the Mormon Faith. You can try to join another Christian faith (with all its accompanying issues). You can try, for a while, to hold onto the logic you used to leave the LDS church until you realize it applies to all Christian faiths. Then, you either have to stick to your decision in pride to prove a point and avoid embarrassment, or you have to become agnostic or atheist (option 2), or you have to come back to your original faith and embrace option one.

If you are considering option one, then hopefully this blog will help you hold strong. If you are considering option two, then hopefully this blog will help you find belief in God again. If you are considering option three, then I hope this blog will encourage you to put your trust in the witnesses and information you have received “from God” through the Holy Spirit over the witnesses that come from “flesh and blood.”

The Book of Mormon

A lot of people leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because they become convinced that the Book of Mormon has some inconsistencies. From a misspelled word to some minute perceived educational or historical discrepancy touted by some anti-Mormon religionist (i.e. a person whose religion is to prove Mormonism wrong). These inconsistencies overwhelm any spiritual experiences or witnesses they have received of the book and cause them to fear. After all, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our witness of Christ. If it’s got issues, then the whole Church must be wrong, right?

First, let me take the apologetic argumentative approach to this. If you are discounting the Book of Mormon because of an inconsistency, then you must also discount the Bible for the same reasons. Or perhaps you feel you can safely discount the Book of Mormon because only 15 million+ people believe in it while 2.2 billion+ hold some respect for the Bible. But, if your comfort level believing in the Bible is only due to the number of people who accept its validity, then that’s not really a very good reason to believe in it at all.

Man under threat of failure

Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth and that a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book (Introduction to the Book of Mormon). When Joseph Smith said “most correct,” I don’t think he meant without flaws or issues. I think he meant that it is the “most correct” in its witness of Christ and Christ’s doctrines. The fact that its authors in their individual records may have written in a way that is contrary to what our modern society recognizes as historically accurate for that time, or that there are simple or minor errors in the translation from Joseph who translated it by the gift and power of God and those who were scribes for him is not surprising. If that is the case, we could discount any book on earth that contains any human error whatsoever–especially the Bible.

For the modern Christian, or for any Christian, the Bible is so full of perceived and real inconsistencies. And if we are to base its usefulness in leading us to Christ on its lack of inconsistencies, then we might rather be atheist.

Here is one, and only one example (or I would spend the whole blog on simply the Bible’s inconsistencies, or any religious text’s inconsistencies). The Bible says that God is the same (Ps. 102:27) and that He changes not (Mal. 3:6). If that’s true, then when God says in Amos 3:7 that He doesn’t do anything “except He reveals His secrets  to His servants the prophets,” then, it stands to reason that God should always have prophets on the earth to whom He can reveal His will. But, all modern Christian religions believe that “God has done His work,” that “there are no prophets today.”

Now, Catholicism adheres to the idea that the Pope communes with God to an extent, but aside from that, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church that believes in modern prophets, apostles, the church organization instituted by God, and constant, on-going revelation. So, people who believe the Bible are saying that God is the same…but He’s not? Or, they are saying that simply because we are such an enlightened world we don’t need God’s dedicated guidance through a prophet anymore? That’s hardly possible. Or, that God doesn’t love us as much as the people in the past and so He doesn’t have prophets for us? But, wait. Doesn’t the Bible say that God loves all His children the same? Hence, I could as easily disprove the Bible the same way people try to disprove the Book of Mormon.

Now, let me be quite clear. I believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. I believe it leads people to Christ as much as it is capable of doing, despite human meddling, human interpretation, and human deletions. As well, I’ve studied the Bible and I know what the God of the OT and the NT was like and it’s the same God that is preached in the Book of Mormon. As well, I have prayed about both books and the Holy Spirit has confirmed to me that they are God’s words.

The Book of Mormon is called “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” So, to discount the Book of Mormon is to say that you “have a Bible and there can’t be any more Bible” (2 Nephi  29:3-8). Except, the Bible you have came from the Jews, who aren’t even Christians (that they are aware of). But, whether you understand the origin of the Bible or not, what you’re saying is that you don’t want another witness—to the whole world—that the God you believe in is real? Or, you don’t want a witness of Christ that is not perfect…even though the Bible isn’t perfect? Or, you don’t believe that God spoke to any of His other children…and only the Jews?

Does not the Bible say:

Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and I will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. (Ezekiel 37:19)

Now, IF you believe the Bible is true I’m not saying you have to believe the Book of Mormon is the stick of Joseph. But, all “flesh and blood” logic aside, then where is the other stick/record? Is God a liar? Or, perhaps He hasn’t brought forth the stick of Joseph yet. But, either way, when it comes to light (if you don’t believe it’s the Book of Mormon), how will you know if it is indeed the word of God? Because some slick-tonged, educated, anti-Mormon religionist tells you it’s true? A man/woman who is no more than flesh and blood whose breath is in his nostrils (Isaiah 2:22) is going to control how you define where God’s word is?

In Matthew 16:13-18 Christ has a discussion about the authority of the voice of flesh and blood over that of God.

Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias or one of the prophets.

He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Here the entire world said Christ was something else than He was. And I have no doubt that they were convincing. At that time monotheism was a joke (except for the Jewish religion and even they struggled with reverting to idol worship). 2.2 billion+ were polytheists with idols and the like. Yet, Peter had a witness from God that Christ was the Son of the only true and living God. That was how he knew the truth. There were not even a few thousand, that actually believed Christ was the actual Son of God.

If the Bible is true in any sense, the only way to know it—despite its perceived or real contradictions and flaws—is by a witness from God. There is no greater witness. Not from “flesh and blood.” It is the same with the Book of Mormon. For those things that are spiritual are only comprehended by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:11, 14). Not by fact, not by science, not by educated men and women giving their thumbs up.symbol of the house at sunset on the seashore

But, let me continue on with a less apologetic rant (2 Nephi 29:7-8 [3-8]).

Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea: and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?

Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.

So, if you want to discount the Book or Mormon—another witness of Jesus Christ, the God to whom you so desperately cling—then you must also, at some point, discount the Bible. Because the Book of Mormon testifies of the Bible and Christ.

But, if your doubts about issues with the Book of Mormon is still strong. I have a few final things to share.

Here is the first. These are scriptures from writers of the Book of Mormon where they are concerned about their human mistakes in writing the record. They are worried that future generations will see these weaknesses and discount the record.

2 Nephi 33:10-11:

And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words (meaning the Book of Mormon) and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.

And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.

Ether 12:23-41:

And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things (meaning the records within the Book of Mormon) because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou has made us mighty in word by faith, but thou has not made us mighty in writing; for thou has made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou has given them;

Thou has also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.

And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness…

Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness…

And I Moroni, after having heard these words was comforted, and said…Wherefore, I know by this thing which thou has said, that if the Gentiles have no charity, because of our weakness, that thou wilt prove them, and take away their talent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly.

And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity…

And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.

And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things: And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.

Here is my second.

One of my biggest complaints about people that try to discount the Book of Mormon after having once testified of its truth or believing in it is that they never comment about whether or not it is bringing them to Christ or not. That never factors into why they stop disbelieving it or why they leave the Church.

Does reading the Book of Mormon make you better? More Christlike? Or, if you haven’t studied it in a long time (which is often the case), are you discounting it based on a vague memory of what you read? If it’s not true, don’t turn only to the few issues people point out. Read it from cover to cover. Find out if it leads you to Christ or not despite its weaknesses. Isn’t that the true test?

However, if your issue is that it was translated by Joseph Smith through the Urim and Thummim or a seer stone or a rock he found on the ground or through a stained glass window, then again, what really matters is “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:16-20), if you believe the Bible. What is the fruit of the Book of Mormon? Whether it has a million typos or a historical or other discrepancy on every page, what are its fruits?

Young businessman hiding head in the sand

If the Book of Mormon is flawed even though it testifies of Christ then so is the Bible. If you once accepted the Book of Mormon; either it’s from God and so is the Bible, or its not from God and neither is the Bible. It’s impossible to dismiss the Book of Mormon without also dismissing the Bible. If your issue is with how it was translated instead of what its fruits are, then you’re straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel (Matthew 23:24). If your issue is with Joseph Smith, then continue on…

Prophets, Apostles, and Church Leadership

The world and members of the Church have begged for the Church of Jesus Christ to be transparent. So, the Church has worked hard to become more transparent. They have produced as much honest fact and material as they can. And, some of this information doesn’t answer all the questions and issues people have. And, they are upset that there are still some things God hasn’t revealed to “their” pleasure. And, it suddenly becomes the Church’s fault.

As well, people who have only ever studied about Joseph Smith enough to gain a testimony of him and the Book of Mormon are now taking the time to look into the history of the Church, it’s past, and the humanity of its prophets and leadership. What they find shocks them. Joseph was a pretty regular human guy. He was subject to the culture of his time. He was poor with finances and most administrative concepts.

Of course, this delving into the Church’s history and the weaknesses of its leadership leads to all sorts of concerns and questions. Could this man really have been a prophet?

I’m not sure if the issues people have with past and present Church leadership is more a question of their unrealistic expectations versus reality. But, a lot of them seem to have this idea that God calls only perfect people to do His work. Some of them seem to think that once a person is called to God’s service that they won’t make any mistakes or that God will keep them from making certain mistakes and that all will be easy and well.

Just as so many religions claim “God has done His work,” we modern Latter-day Saints seem to also believe that God somehow was only meant to ask hard and difficult things of past people, not us present ones. Heaven forbid we are ever asked to do anything that teaches us the depth of our own faith. God is too nice for that now… He won’t ask me to do anything as difficult as Abraham” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:4).

I honestly haven’t been able to figure out what the real basis is of people’s complaint against Joseph Smith, but it boils down to a lack of faith. It has nothing to do with Joseph Smith—not really

But, I have found that most people who leave the church still like to fall back on Christianity (in a general sense) and therefore the Bible. They think there, in the Bible, they will find prophets who are “true prophets.”

So, let’s make a comparison of Bible prophets and Joseph Smith. For the sake of brevity, I’m not going to quote every scriptural reference that validates these lists. If you don’t believe the lists then I put it to you to search the Bible, both OT and NT, and prove my list wrong. It’s not hard, but it will take time. But, I had to put in the time, so it’s clearly possible.

Bible Prophets and Leadership Joseph Smith
·         Were previous sinners who reformed

·         Were doubted and betrayed by family and close associates

·         Became stronger, better, and more refined in God’s service

·         Lost privileges when they forgot to put God first

·         Regained privileges when they repented

·         Were often the “least” of their brethren and associates

·         Often had weaknesses that would have made them a surprise pick for prophet

·         Received a mission and commandments from God

·         Commanded to dispense God’s plan, ordinances, commands, and covenants

·         Saw the Lord Jesus Christ

·         Accepted their prophetic call despite their self-doubts

·         Were asked to do things by God that the rest of the world (at the time) didn’t understand

·         Were prone to the superstitions and culture of their day

·         Were often poor administrators or parents

·         Doubted the Lord’s requests and commands

·         Allowed others to lead them astray for a time

·         Made mistakes

·         Sometimes got direct instructions and revelations, and other times the Lord didn’t give the information freely and so they had to seek the Lord for guidance and information

·         Had annoying human personality traits

·         Had marriages that were disliked or questioned

·         Had multiple wives as commanded by God

·         Was a previous sinner in some normal human aspects and reformed

·         Was doubted and betrayed by close associates and friends

·         Became stronger, better, and more refined in God’s service

·         Lost privileges when he forgot to put God first

·         Was the “least” of the people of his time

·         Had weaknesses that made people doubt God would call him as a prophet

·         Received a mission and commandments from God

·         Was commanded to restore God’s church (dispense His full plan), ordinances, commands, and covenants

·         Saw the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father

·         Accepted his prophetic call despite his doubts

·         Was asked to do things by God that the rest of the world (then and now) often don’t understand

·         Was prone to superstitions and culture of his day

·         Was well known to be a poor administrator as well as poor at most organization and finances

·         Struggled with some of the Lord’s requests and commands

·         Allowed Martin Harris, and others, to lead him astray on some issues

·         Made mistakes day to day like all humans do

·         Sometimes got direct instructions and revelations, and other times the Lord didn’t give the information freely and so he had to seek the Lord for guidance and information

·         Had a natural playfulness that many people of his time thought was unbefitting a prophet, and irreverent of a holy man

·         Had marriages that were disliked or questioned

·         Had multiple wives as commanded by God

I’m sure there are more things to list on both sides. I’m not trying to present a comprehensive list. I’m merely trying to point out that Joseph Smith was no different than any other prophet called by God. In fact, most of the prophets had some or most of the items on the list, but not all. Joseph was proven and tried with everything past prophets had been tried with. What a burden! And people don’t even give him any credit.

So, Joseph Smith is Joseph Smith. A good man, not a perfect man, who became a great man, but who nonetheless was human. Was he a prophet? That’s for you to decide. But, it’s very senseless to take any part of his humanity and use it as a data point to say he couldn’t have been a prophet. God can and will use whomever He wishes to fulfill His work. If we want to sit around and entertain and hiccup over complexities and doubts based on a person’s imperfections and humanity rather than to trust the fruits of the person’s labors, that’s our business. But, it will never bring us peace.

If we are willing to serve God and we love Him, it matters not how imperfect or weird we are. God can use us to do His work. And, He will. The only time God can’t use someone to do His work is if that person isn’t willing, and doesn’t love God. It has nothing to do with perfection or talents or charisma or experience. If God chooses someone, then they are chosen until they become unwilling to do God’s will. End of story. That’s GRACE! Grace is about doing God’s will imperfectly and still being accepted because we are trying. I know we like to put people on pedestals, but it applies as much to prophets and apostles as it does to us.

So, on a final note, people like to pick and pry and complain about all of Joseph Smith’s (and other Church leaders issues, policies, etc.). And, yet, they can solve all of the little doubts and complexities with sincere prayer (2 Nephi 32:8) offered with real intent to follow the answer: “God, was Joseph Smith a prophet despite his humanity?” Or, if you’re issue is with modern prophets and leadership: “God, is <current prophet> your chosen vessel for dispensing revelation and guidance today?”

We can pray about individual policies too, but in reality, it’s much simpler than that. If Joseph Smith was a prophet then the Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth and will bring us closer to God than any other book. If <current prophet> is God’s current chosen vessel for dispensing revelation and guidance, then God is behind whatever he is doing whether we understand it or not. Don’t trust man! Ask God!

Indeed the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). The Book of Mormon says, “Ask God if these things are true and the Holy Ghost will reveal the truth of it unto you” (Moroni 10:3-5).

“Flesh and blood” is no good for a foundation of faith. If you want to believe in God and not be an atheist, then you must place the witness of the Holy Ghost above the witness of men. Men’s wisdom is the god of the atheist. Godly wisdom is the god of the Christian. If you claim to trust God’s word then you must study it and “by its fruits” and a witness of the Holy Ghost know if it is true.

Close up on hands holding Home made from sand. House on seashore. Summer holiday, vacation, postcard, background.  Real estate investment concept

Most of the time, in my life, I have found that seasons of doubt—which are often fueled by the doubts of others—are most often caused by a shock to our religious expectations. The only way to overcome this romantic, incorrect view of God and His plan is to study His word, listen to His prophets, and seek the witness of His Holy Spirit—not the factual, data-driven witness of men. We must come to know Him, not our version of Him. Then, we can stand with surety in our faith. Until then, we have merely built our spiritual house (testimony) on sand.


Doctrine: All sin is trying to get something God intends for us to have in the wrong way–or NOT the way God has designed. God dispenses all blessings and powers through the keeping of commandments and the making and keeping of covenants. His way is the only way to get what we really want.

Often the excuse or argument people use for justifying their actions is to equate their actions with something that is respectable and acceptable. They draw all the positive comparisons in an attempt to make what they’ve done “okay” or “respectable.” Sometimes, they even gloat about getting something for nothing, or “beating the system.”

Some people are quick-witted, intelligent, brilliant, and savvy. They are skilled at using small print, big terms, scriptural examples, and logical assumptions to masterfully justify their unrighteous actions. What they don’t realize is that they are in poor company. They are not the first to be so brilliantly foolish and prideful. And, they won’t be the last.

Who was the first to think He had bypassed the system and could get what he wanted without the red tape? Well, Satan of course.

Satan came before God, during the foundation planning for the earth. He didn’t like the idea of having to go through such restrictions, commandments, and covenants (or red tape, as he saw it) in order to get God’s power. He saw no need to exercise restraint, to be bound by covenant, or to actually become godly.

So, he looked at God’s plan and thought, “Well, it looks like God just wants us all to come back home. So, I’ve got a plan that will do the same thing…in a different way. But, it’s still the same thing. Everybody will get what they want without all the hard work and suffering. It’s a better, smarter way.”

So, Satan, NOT knowing the mind of God, suggested to God, and all of us, that there was no real need for agency, for a Savior. Why didn’t God just force us all to do what’s right? Heck, he’d go down and do it, if God didn’t want to. He’d be the quote-unquote-savior. “Then, we’ll all come back home. Savvy? Oh, and by the way, in exchange for me bringing us all back home, Father, why don’t you go ahead and make me a god. Give me your power without all the red tape.”

This is likely not Satan’s first attempt at getting something good in the wrong way, but it’s the first one we have a record of. God, of course, whose goal for all of us was far more deep, rewarding, and eternally beneficial, said, “No.”

Satan, of course, thought this was ridiculous. How could God not see how smart and simple his plan was? It was so much easier. He got angry and would not submit to God’s plan. He refused to except God’s perfect plan of salvation—which was perfect in its design in allowing us learn through experience by choice and consequence, to exercise righteous restraint, to bind ourselves by covenants, and to actually become godly—and so Satan was cast out. So, not only did he NOT get what he wanted, he got much less than any of the rest of us will get.

But, Satan couldn’t accept his fate. If he couldn’t have what he wanted in his easier, more enlightened way, he would take revenge and try to frustrate God’s perfect plan. He would take power for himself—in the wrong way. He would do what God would normally do before God could do it. So, NOT knowing the mind of God, he got Adam and Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit. But, here again, trying to get God’s power in the wrong way and to frustrate God’s plan did not work. The works of God can’t be frustrated (Doctrine and Covenants 3:3). He got nothing but another curse. Lessen NOT learned.

Choosing The Right Way
Choosing the Right way instead of the Wrong one.

Next, Satan influenced Cain to get what he wanted in the wrong way. Cain thought he was going to be a master of such a great secret, “to kill and to get gain” (Moses 5:31). This sneaky plan to get something “in the wrong way” ended poorly, as the scriptures say. So again, the “brilliant, better way” was not really the brilliant, better way.

There is a reason there is such a thing as stealing. Stealing is getting something we want “in the wrong way.” There is a reason there is murder, rape, extortion, cheating, unrighteous dominion, or blackmail. These, and many other things, are considered wrong because they are all ways of getting what we want “in the wrong way.”

If life, or people, treat us unfairly, we take revenge to get justice “in the wrong way.” If life, or people, have damaged our self-esteem or our emotional and physical needs have gone unmet, we often act in ways to get what we want that are “not the right way.” God’s way always requires restraint, self-discipline, love, forgiveness, patience, trust, and faith—all traits that require a lifetime to develop and improve upon with no short amount of failure in the process.

Some people use unrighteous dominion (see blog entry “Unrighteous Dominion: It’s easy to do” for details on meaning) to control others and get what they want. But, this is not the way God has commanded us to get these otherwise good desires. He want us to use long-suffering, persuasion, kindness, meekness, love un-faked, pre-instruction/pre-reproval, etc. and so on (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-43).

I’m not going to try and make a comprehensive list. There are diverse sins that are sins simply because they are an attempt to get something that God dispenses in a way that people don’t like to conform with. The think it’s needlessly difficult.  There is a reason God has set specific “right ways” of receiving certain powers and desirable blessings (see blog article “God’s Power is NOT Absolute”). This is because power that is not bound by law and covenant (or, in other words ‘absolute power’) brings eternal destruction and corrupts absolutely.

There is an LDS Seminary video called “The Maze” which illustrates the different techniques people use to go around the “right way.” They do this because the “right way” seems time consuming, foolish, and unnecessary. But, in the end, it ends up being the best way. It’s the way that brings true reward and fulfillment. Watch it here! The other ways end up being the ones that are foolish.

In this finite, mortal existence, God allows us to abuse His laws, use some of His powers unrighteously, and abuse the “right way” of getting things. He allows it so that we can learn by experience to know the good from the evil (Moses 5:11). But, beyond this life we cannot have access to that which we learn to take for granted and abuse here on earth. This is why celestial glory is reserved only for those that bind themselves by celestial covenants and laws (and keep them); and when this life is past only they will be able to reside in family units and have access to powers, authority, gifts, and blessings to progress eternally (Doctrine and Covenants 88:14-40; 131:1-4; 132:15-21).

The sad thing is that people truly believe they have found a way to get happiness by going around and bypassing “the right way.” But, even if they are happy for a moment, that happiness will end at some point; and most certainly it will end when they die. Just as Satan’s plans to bypass God’s ways are short-lived, so also will be ours. There is no shortcut to true repentance. There is no shortcut to becoming patient. There is no shortcut to creating a celestial marriage relationship. There are NO shortcuts to becoming like God.

Satan spent (and still spends) all his time trying to get God’s power “in the wrong way.” He wants power, the same power we all want, but he has and will continue to pursue it in the wrong way. If he can’t have God’s power, he will also try to get us to lose it as he did. Seeking good things “in the wrong way” does not bring ultimate happiness, peace, comfort, or joy. Instead, so doing creates addiction, powerlessness, anger fear, unhappiness, resentment, and misery.

Want to go do a doctor who faked his degree to get access to the paycheck because he figured out how to bypass the system? Want to go to a hairstylist who faked her certificate to do something she loves but is too lazy to learn? Want to date or marry a man or woman who lied to you about who and what they are so that they can get you, or the “you” they are obsessed with? The principle can be applied endlessly.

There is never a shortcut to true joy, true peace, and true comfort. There is never a shortcut to becoming like God and having His power. There is always a right way and it comes with hard work, discipline, knowledge, study, law, and covenant.

So, we can pride ourselves on being smart enough to take shortcuts, on “bypassing the system,” on “showing God” that His way is full of useless red-tape. But, if we do this, then we must not forget where the source of our brilliant justifications come; and what happened to him, what is still happening to him, and what will always happen to him…forever.

I remember once teaching my Seminary students that if there is truly opposition in all things (2 Nephi 2:11), then a fullness of joy comes only after a fullness of sacrifice. We can’t give only a little and expect to get a lot of joy; just as it wouldn’t be fair to sacrifice a lot and get only a little joy. In fact, God requires all of us—mind, heart, soul, body. We must give all that He requests to get what we want. And, He has made “the right way to do things” clear. But, the beauty is, that when we do this, He always gives us far more than we deserve (Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:30)—save through grace.

So, in this life we can try to bypass “the right way” and find sneaky, intelligent, yet foolish “wrong ways” to get the things we want. But, it’s much better to pride ourselves on the brilliance of God’s plan. It’s much better to pride ourselves on taking the hard road and enduring to the end. For that is the road that leads us to eternal life—life like God (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7). It’s even better not to “pride ourselves” at all, but to humbly and gratefully submit to God’s plan, partake of Christ’s grace, and help others to do the same.