I never thought I would ever want to give up chocolate (regular chocolate that is). Now, some people may not like it, but I believe, on the whole, most people like some form of chocolate. Myself, I prefer dark chocolate.

When I met my husband, the first thing he warned me was that if I hooked up with him I would lose all desire for regular, store-bought chocolate. Why? Because he makes his own chocolate. He sources the beans, he roasts them, cracks them, turns them into chocolate liquor, adds a few (very few) ingredients, and then grinds the whole thing into the absolute best chocolate I have ever eaten.

It’s hard to describe my husband’s chocolate to most other people. And this is simply because they’ve never had anything like it. So, when I say, “It’s really good. It’s way better than other chocolate.” They simply smile and nod—humoring me, of course. I know what they’re thinking because it’s the same thing I thought when my husband told me the desire for all other chocolate would die after having his chocolate.

Arrogant? No. Boastful? Maybe. True? Yes.

And, so it must be for other people. If they wish to have the “best chocolate” they must be willing to let the desire for the “regular stuff” die. And the same goes for love. There’s regular, over-processed, homogenized (made to taste all the same every time you eat it) chocolate, which is great comparison for “being in love.” Then, there’s the bean-to-bar chocolate, which is a great comparison for “true love.” The former always leaves you wanting more and never is enough because it’s pleasures just can’t seem to last. The latter, however, is so “real” that it provides something lasting.

Being “in love” is not all it’s cracked up to be because it is not “true”

For all relationships, there’s a sort of “in love” period. I fall in love with my four-year-old every day. She’ll do something absolutely adorable or amazing or intelligent beyond her years and I simply swoon. Best friends (plutonic) have beginning moments where they find they have so much in common and trust in each other gets reinforced, and it’s very like a type of “in love” feeling. BFF necklaces are exchanged and they can’t spend enough time together. Then, especially romantic relationships start with infatuation and transition (often quickly) to being “in love.”

But, in every relationship, this “in love” feeling always eventually gets challenged by what I like to call “reality.” My four-year-old succumbs to an irrational fit. A best friend finds an interest apart from us, or fails to be there when we need them. And, especially, in a romantic relationship, the infatuation begins to wear off when the person holding our romantic interest does something that goes against our expectations or some of their negative traits begin to show up more frequently. Basically, we get hurt. All relationships hurt us, then the walls of “in love” come crashing down.

And this is when being in love suddenly becomes a problem. Because it is a drug of sorts; a euphoric haze that has us living in an idealistic cloud world. It’s awesome. There’s no denying it. But, the higher we jump the harder we fall. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t jump high. But I am merely indicating that the capacity for hurt increases in proportion to the bliss.

The bliss, we signed up for. The hurt, not so much. And this is where a very critical relationship death must take place in order for us to move beyond being “in love” to a very special thing called “true love.”

In other words, being “in love” cannot be our main goal. If it is, we will consistently settle for mediocre chocolate instead of graduating to the “real stuff.” And, let me tell you, mediocre chocolate never satisfies. We always go back for more and more, often binging on what is a very good treat. But in binging we end up sick, and very likely overweight. In a literal way, when we binge on the idea of being “in love” we end up with continual disappointment and the heavy weight of emotional issues. We focus all our efforts on producing the ideals (in ourselves or another) that created our in-love feelings to begin with. Losing weight, new clothes, more time together, more expensive dates, more expensive jewelry, and yet…it just doesn’t seem to last.

Perhaps the worst thing about “being in love” is that it can never be “true love.” It can only lead to true love. It is, as nearly as I can figure, a necessary beginning to true love—because it leads us to make promises and commitments—but it can never be, in and of itself, true love. Being in love puts us in a haze so that we will make covenants, commitments, and bind ourselves to other people. Then, when the haze of “in love” wears thin, or off completely, we are bound by the promises we’ve made when “in love” even though we no longer feel in love. It is from this point, this death of “being in love” that we have at last placed ourselves within the range to progress toward true love.

True love requires the death of being in love

Now that I have had amazing chocolate, I can tell you from experience that the depth of taste, flavor, and nutrition of high quality chocolate (true chocolate) is such that I am satisfied after a 1 ounce bar. And I can bask in the glow of the experience easily rather than running back to the bowl for another fix. How? Because I am not attempting to recreate a feeling that has long past. The effects of it are still with me.

True love is the same. Because true love proceeds from a depth of understanding, a deliberate use free will, and personal character development it provides an ongoing security and satisfaction that being “in love” can simply never match. It stays with us. It doesn’t fade as long as we deliberately choose it.

True love is a result that comes from depth of understanding about people. People who find true love understand that no person, no matter how wonderful, can be perfect. No person can satisfy all of another person’s needs and should not be expected to. No person can be exactly what he or she has always dreamed of and expected him/her to be.

True love is also a result that comes from a depth of understand about self. People who find true love understand that they, themselves, can’t be perfect either. They understand that they can’t be another person’s all any more than the reverse; and that no amount of perfection on their part makes them more or less worth being loved by another.

Now, this understanding doesn’t mean that individuals don’t need to try to be their best selves. But, that it something that is individual, and not controllable (ultimately) by the other individual. And, no successful relationship can exist when one or the other individual presupposes that any amount of perfection on his/her part (or manipulation or coercion) will produce the ideal in the other. This is why it is so key to be careful who we fall in love with. A commitment is not lessened because we allowed ourselves to fall in love with someone who is not the kind of person we can live with. It only makes the commitment more difficult. We can control who we fall in love, or at least minimally who we make commitments with.

[For more commentary on being careful who we establish relationships with, please listen to my podcast The Stuff You Should Know About Relationships]

True love results from you, or I—once understanding our own and other’s imperfections—deliberating choosing to love anyway. We see an imperfect individual—once beyond the haze of being “in love”—and we choose to love them anyway. We choose to love someone even though they don’t meet all of our needs. We choose to love someone anyway even though they have the potential to hurt us as times—and often do.

Why would we choose to love when faced with reality instead of going back to finding another “in love” experience? Because learning to love as an act of our own deliberate will rather than because a mere feeling compels us to do so results in something that has the power to last. We can’t make any “in love” experience last. But, we can make our own love last forever. And, such a deliberate choice to love allows us to experience a fundamental and godly change in our very natures and internal character.

When we learn to love because we want to be a loving person, and because we genuinely want to influence others to be their best no matter what we receive in return, we experience a depth of peace and strength in our personal character that can’t be undone. True love becomes about us in an unselfish way because it is no longer dependent upon the actions of others. True love is freeing! We also begin to become godly and our power to influence others for good increases exponentially because our love can’t be wiped away simply by a change of feeling.

Haven’t you ever wondered how God can be so loving and so powerful at the same time?

Let me quote some C.S. Lewis here to make my point (reference in footnote):

But what, it may be asked, is the use of keeping two people together if they are no longer in love? There are several sound social reasons… But there is also another reason of which I am very sure, though I find it a little hard to explain.

It is hard to explain because so many people cannot be brought to realize that when B is better than C, A may be even better than B. They like thinking in terms of good and bad, not of good, better, and best, or bad, worse, and worst…

What we call ‘being in love’ is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us. It helps to make us generous and courageous, it opens our eyes not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty, and it subordinates (especially at first) our merely animal sexuality; in that sense, love is the great conqueror of lust. No one in his senses would deny that being is love is far better than either common sensuality or cold self-centeredness. But, as I said before, ‘the most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.’ Being in love is a good thing. But it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married’, then it says what probably never was no ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, and your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love.

Love in this second sense—love as distinct from ‘being in love’—is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

People get the idea from [media] that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on ‘being in love’ forever. As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled to a change—not realizing that, when they have changed, the glamour will go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one. In this department of life, as in every other, thrills come at the beginning and do not last… The thrill you feel on first seeing some delightful place dies away when you really go to live there. Does this really mean it would be better not to live in the beautiful place? By no means. …if you go through with it, the dying away of the first thrill will be compensated for by a quieter and more lasting kind of interest. What is more, it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction. …the man who has settled down to live in the beauty spot will discover gardening.

This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying a good thing will not really live until it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go—let it die away—go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow—and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time. But if you decide to make thrills your regular diet and try to prolong them artificially, they will all get weaker and weaker, and fewer and fewer, and you will be a bored, disillusioned [person] for the rest of your life.

Death is not the end, it is the beginning

In gospel of Jesus Christ, the ultimate belief is that Christ’s death brought about the reality of eternal life. Death brought about life. The atonement of Jesus Christ (which encompasses His suffering for and paying Justice for our sins as well as His resurrection which vicariously allows us to be resurrected someday) is about sacrificing something to gain our greatest desire—life. And since God’s love is that which, by His will, brought about the death and resurrection of Christ (John 3:16); and God is love, then it would naturally follow that true love of any kind (paternal, friendship, or romantic/marriage) must follow the same pattern: the death and sacrifice of being ‘in love’ puts us in a position to progress toward real love, or love that is true.

Whether it is a child, sibling, friend, relative, or a current/future spouse, no love can be true until we are willing to stop pursuing the ‘in love’ feeling. If we do all that we do, in relationships, to seek that ‘in love’ feeling, we will consistently find ourselves disappointed. We will find that we are manipulative, selfishly motivated, easily offended and hurt, and possibly abusive (in many ways).

If we wish to save any relationship we must begin by first divorcing ourselves from our ‘in love’ ideals; that other people will meet our expectations or eventually act the way we wish. Or that somehow continually to re-invent and re-imagine ourselves (superficially) will return to us, or recreate, all of the sentimental in-love experiences we remember from the past. We must learn to love truly. We must learn to love because we wish to be loving, not because we are trying to manufacture a certain type of relationship or a certain feeling within that relationship.

True love is, and always will be, independent of our feelings. And only when we let the ‘in love’ feeling die will we at last open ourselves up to the ability to experience love in more powerful, and ultimately more exciting and lasting ways.

So, it’s about time to let go of your “store-bought” chocolate (i.e. love) and open yourself up to the idea that while some things are worse than regular chocolate (going without, I suppose), that does not make it great and most certainly not the best that there is available. Let your desire for only being ‘in love’ die and begin the process of seeking for the kind of love that builds, sustains, secures, heals, and nourishes forever.

BT


[1] The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics ©2002 by C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. | Mere Christianity ©1952, C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed ©1980 C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd., Christian Behaviour, Christian Marriage, pp. 92-94.

When I was growing up, I saw commandments as something I was supposed to “do” not as something that helped me to actually “become” a certain type of being. It’s quite possible that such depth of gospel comprehension is hardly possible beneath the age of 16 without significant experience. I did believe that keeping the commandments would make me happy, but I didn’t think too deeply about why keeping commandments brought happiness. I simply had tested it a bit, and it seemed to be an accurate philosophy. I knew that fundamentally I wanted the Holy Spirit to guide me—it simply made sense. But, it never occurred to me that there was a larger purpose to having the Spirit with me beyond that it was something good.

I don’t think it was until I was in my late 20’s that it dawned on me that the whole gospel (grace, ordinances, commandments, covenants, etc.) was about “becoming godly” and not simply about “doing good.” It wasn’t about simply getting blessings, or avoiding pain and suffering—it was about those blessings transforming me despite the pain and suffering that would inevitably come.

The dissimilarity between doing good and becoming godly is vast. I think in general people define good far more broadly than they would ever define godliness. Which is probably why people like to stay away from the idea of becoming like God. They place it on a list of things that are ridiculous and simply not possible. Therefore, it never enters their mind that becoming godly the root of all spiritual growth and lasting change.

Law of Obedience

I remember the first time I read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. At the time, I was already well read in the scriptures and even in some religious commentary. Yet, Lewis’s uncanny ability to take the spiritually complex and simplify it blew my mind. It was like drinking the purest water or eating the best food you’ve ever eaten. I simply couldn’t get enough. It was in my late 20s that I was coming to the realization of what the gospel was. And it was during that time I came upon this quote:

People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, “If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.”  I do not think that is the best way of looking at it.  I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the other part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before.  And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long, you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself.  To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power.  To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness.  Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

This quote sums up God’s law of Obedience. It sums up grace. It sums up the absolute possibility and the process through which we embark upon spiritual growth and realize the reality of lasting change—in our very being. It’s the only way that becoming like God becomes truly possible. We have to be able to change fundamentally, in our very being, for godliness to be within reach.

Grace is About Lasting Spiritual Change

So often grace gets boiled down to this godly bleach that simply wipes away sin and makes us clean enough to endure God’s presence. But, what good would such bleach be if, once in God’s presence, we still had the tendency to sin? Grace would be worthless if it couldn’t also bring about lasting spiritual change. Grace would be meaningless if it didn’t have the power to make us eternally clean. It has to have the power to cleanse as well as to make that cleanliness a permanent condition.

One of my favorite scriptures right now is 2 Nephi 2:14:

…for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

God didn’t create everything to act. And, in reality there are things that will never move or change or undergo any changes because they don’t have the power to act. Thus, they also have no power to change. Their course, state, and purpose is fixed in mortality.

On the other hand, God has created us, His children, to act and not to be acted upon. That power to act, to choose for ourselves, is also the very power that enables us to become godly. If we could be acted upon (or forced) to do things we wouldn’t have the power to change, grow spiritually, or ultimately become anything. We would always be subject to external forces. However, we are not.

Throw in the atonement of Jesus Christ, and suddenly our righteous choices and desires gain the power—over time through God’s forge of grace—to change our very being into something better, something godly. This is how the Law of Obedience works when we understand it and live it fully. Obedience slowly changes us (through grace) into a godly being.

Grace is the godly fire that makes it possible for our desires and continual righteous action (obedience) to bend our spirits into something better. The Law of Obedience is part and parcel with the atonement of Jesus Christ. We don’t obey to earn grace. We can never earn grace, nor will we ever truly deserve it. Thus, we obey to invoke the power of grace so that our hammering and attempts to bend (obey) actually work. If we don’t hammer or try to change and bend, grace serves little purpose. If we don’t show by our efforts to change, that we want grace, God will not force change upon us. He will not force us to accept His grace.

Obey and Repent: Steps to Lasting Change

So, throwing the doctrines of grace and obedience out there makes changing sound easy. It makes spiritual growth sound easy. It makes lasting change sound easy. However, though the doctrine is simple. It is not easy to change. It is not easy to become a spiritual powerhouse. It is not easy to make change permanent, to make it last, and to not revert to past habits. Change, however, is why we are here.

Yet, it does become easier to change when we understand that change rarely happens overnight. When we recognize that ALL of our efforts effect our central being, each effort gains importance. One act of kindness is powerful. And, that act gains power as it is repeated over and over and over again. Every hammer fall makes a dent.

Just as one hammer fall dents, so also no hammer fall means no progress. Thus, simply because we falter sometimes doesn’t mean we should stop keeping the commandments. Sincere, genuine repentance (full of godly sorrow) is a powerful blow to the forge of grace and ratchets up the heat toward any spiritual change. And, when we’ve made a significant effort to repent because we desire to be godly, our hammer falls gain weight and fine tuning. We progress faster and faster, and our lives become more directed toward God. We are no longer merely hammering madly all over the place. We start hammering (commandment keeping) with deliberate understanding, with eyes open to a grander pattern for our lives.

The reason true repentance has so much power is because our intent is clear and our desires our pure and deep. Even if we’ve been hammering for years on the wrong pattern, or not hammering at all, sincere repentance (because of grace) can grant us a monumental blast of energy to remake and hammer over our past patterns. The fire of grace burns hotter on our behalf.

However, that crank up on the furnace of grace isn’t permanent. We must keep hammering to maintain our new, more dedicated rhythm. Grace makes our changes last as we put forth the effort to maintain that change. Grace makes it possible to change. Obedience is the hammering that creates a change.

All the “little commandments” that we cast aside as things of minimal impact and importance tend to be those with the most power to change us and grant us lasting spiritual growth (Alma 37:6-7). They are the strongest spiritual pattern in our lives. An innumerable number of tiny dents and turns in our lives create a base spiritual strength. The repetition has a power that can’t be properly explained by mathematics or statistics. That base spiritual strength makes all of our other spiritual experiences, actions, and moments exponentially more powerful.

Testimony meetings come and go. Aha moments come and go. Miracles come and go. But, daily obedience in even the smallest things create a spiritual noise that buffers us from the distractions that would inhibit our desires to improve.

Spiritual math is obviously its own eternal subject. And perhaps we’ll study it in the eternities. I don’t claim to understand it. I do, however, claim to know it works—perfectly.

Conclusion

In Doctrine and Covenants section 93:20, we learn that we grow grace-by-grace through the atonement of Jesus Christ as we are obedient to all of God’s commandments.

For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fullness, and be glorified in me and I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.

Constant spiritual growth is possible with the endurance of obedient commandment keeping. We don’t have to keep commandments perfectly. But, we have to have genuine intent—a true desire to love God and become like Him. Then, through grace and with time, lasting change takes place even as C.S. Lewis described. We become a heavenly creature. We don’t simply “do” commandments, they become a natural part of who we are. We no longer have to think about being heavenly, we are heavenly.

The only way to constant spiritual growth and lasting change is to embrace the path to becoming like God. Our goal is not simply to do good. Our goal is to become godly.

BT

Doctrine: <Your super power> is the power by which God works! <Your super power> is evidence of the power and reality of your faith. <Your super power> reflects your testimony and understanding of who you are and who others are as children of God.

If you could have super power, what would it be? What would you use it for? Would it have limitations or rules for its use? Or, is the power to wield it absolute?

How would you use your super power to change your own life, the lives of others or the world?

Whether you realize it or not, if you are a human being, you already possess a super power—a very real, tangible, power that you use daily.

Consider the following quotes and see if you can guess what your super power is.

Dumbledore, Deathly Hallows: Word are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Proverbs 15:4 A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are…sweet to the soul and health to the bones.

James 3:2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.

Alma 31:5 …the preaching of the word…had a more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword or anything else, which had happened unto them.

Matthew 12:34 …for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

Matthew 12:36-37 But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Matthew 15:11 No that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Jeffrey R. Holland, The Tongue of Angels The stroke of the whip maketh marks in the flesh: but the stroke of the tongue breaketh the bones.

Jeffrey R. Holland, The Tongue of Angels A woman’s words can be more piercing than any dagger ever forged, and they can drive the people they love to retreat beyond a barrier more distant than anyone in the beginning of that exchange could ever have imagined.

Jeffrey R. Holland, The Tongue of Angels With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail.

Emily Dickinson I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word.

Pearl Strachan Hurd Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs

Anonymous Don’t mix your words with your mood, you can change your mood but you can’t take back your words.

Power.

I suspect that after skimming all of these quotes you’ve come to the conclusion that your super power is words, or the power of speech. But, before you brush it off as a “let down,” and are disappointed that it wasn’t something more amazing, let me enlighten you just powerful and critical the power of speech is.

First, ponder the question, “How could words be so powerful? What could possibly make them so powerful that they could be considered a super power?”

Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught:

The Prophet Joseph Smith deepened our understanding of the power of speech when he taught, “It is by words … [that] every being works when he works by faith. God said, ‘Let there be light: and there was light.’ Joshua spake, and the great lights which God had created stood still. Elijah commanded, and the heavens were stayed for the space of three years and six months, so that it did not rain. … All this was done by faith. … Faith, then, works by words; and with [words] its mightiest works have been, and will be, performed.

Wait a minute. Did you catch that? Speech is the power by which God works!

So, if we break that down, then we could say, to be a god one must have the power of speech. Meaning then, that because we, as humans, have the power of speech, that we are capable of becoming like God. And, in fact, if we didn’t have the power of speech (which I remind you is a super power) we couldn’t become like Him.

Elder Holland also implied (as well as several of the quotes/sources listed above) that the most powerful works of faith and individual authenticity are evidenced in our words. Our words can create and destroy both matter and people. Thus, words are the actual evidence of the power and reality of our faith.

Have you ever wondered how powerful your faith is? Have you ever doubted your faith? Well, then, how can you test its strength and power? Answer: review your daily speech.

If you want to know how powerful your faith is, review your speech to your family, friends, at work, at church or at school, over texts, and on your social media accounts. That will, without a doubt, reveal to you the current level and extent of your faith in God, His Son, and His plan.

Thus, if you want to increase your faith, you can do so by changing your daily speech. It’s that powerful.

In Matthew 25:40 we read:

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

We could replace the word “done” with “said.” Thus, inasmuch as we have said it unto one of the least of God’s children, we have said it unto Christ. Hmmmm, powerful, eh? But there’s more to this thought.

C.S. Lewis has a beautiful quote in The Weight of Glory:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

“All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations…” Meaning, we have the power to influence people toward godhood or what Lewis implies is some type of devilhood. We have the power to influence…

Granted, as potential gods and goddesses we are certainly in control of our own fates. We have the complete power of agency. But if fellow demigods are working against us, then it serves to reason that such powerful influence can be a major hurdle, even a major battle to overcome in such a process.

So, drawing from this scripture and quote it seems quite clear words are evidence of our understanding of who we are and who others are. If we want to know the depth of our testimony of our divine nature, of our possibility to become like God, then we merely have to review how we talk to ourselves and others. If we think we have a strong testimony that we are children of God but we talk to others as if they are something less…then perhaps our testimony is not truly what we thought it was.

It is one thing to know a truth. It is another thing to embody it. God doesn’t simply know truth, He embodies it. He is love. He is mercy. He is truth, etc. How we use our super, godly power of speech reflects directly on our ability to progress toward becoming like God.

We cannot become like God, ultimately, if we use our godly power of speech to demean ourselves or others. To do so is to literally fight against God and His children.

Now, this is quite a daunting revelation. But, don’t panic. Just begin today. Evaluate your words. Do they reflect what you believe to be the current level and extent of your faith? Do they reflect your testimony of your own divinity and the future divinity of others? Do you use your words to help others (and yourself) toward godhood? Or, do you use your super power to battle others, slowing them down on their upward journey?

Woman with Super Powers - shallow depth of field

Don’t just recognize where your super power is being used for ill. Sit down and ponder how you can begin the slow change toward using it for godly purposes. Make plans on how to implement what you are inspired to do. Practice. Evaluate when you fail and strengthen and adjust your plans. Keep trying.

The beautiful thing about this super power of speech is that you can begin immediately to use it well. Give a compliment. Offer encouragement. Apologize for a wrong. Share an uplifting quote on social media. Cease gossiping. Cease making light of others as a joke. Avoid sarcasm and demeaning intellectual forms of manipulation.

The super power of speech is so multifaceted and powerful. It can be used for good or ill in nearly every circumstance. Do not underestimate it. It is God’s reigning power. It is what gives you the potential to become like Him.

BT

Doctrine: There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. ~George MacDonald~

I have written before about “true love.” If you haven’t read those blogs you can certainly read this one and be fine without the others. But, if you’re interested in the prior, please click here.

True Love and How to Get It: Part Three

I was reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis this week (for probably the third or fourth time) and was particularly impacted, on this particular read-through by chapter 11. It might be easy to get confused by the title of this book without knowing what it’s about. The title however was chosen as an antithesis to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake. C.S. Lewis’s title is a play on Blake’s title and makes the point that no such marriage is possible. That in fact, at some point in all of our lives (and in God’s over-arching plan) there will be nothing less than a final great divorce between heaven and hell.

George MacDonald, Lewis’s primary inspiratory and muse said:

No, there is no escape. There is no heaven with a little of hell in it—no plan to retain this or that of the devil in our hearts or pockets. Out Satan must go, every hair and feather.

And, it is upon this that I will begin my thoughts.

True love IS heaven. God IS love. And, not only is He the definition of love and the embodiment of love, but He is the teacher, author, and example of perfect, true love. We cannot even begin to conceive of true love without loving its Author.

So, taking George MacDonald’s words, we might make any number of translations using the word love.

  • There is no true love with a little of selfishness in it…
  • There is no true love with a little lust in it…
  • There is no true love with a little illegality in it…
  • There is no true love with a little immorality in it…

And so on.

As selfishness, lust, criminality, and immorality (among other things) are all pieces of hell, we cannot ever expect to find true romantic love, true motherly love, true fatherly love, true friendship love, etc., if we are determined to arrive at and achieve such with a “little of hell,” in whatever type of form it may take in our particular lives.

Society would argue that all love is good. And, perhaps they might be right, in a manner of speaking. But, I would correct them by saying, “All love starts out good, but it may not end up good;” and George MacDonald and Lewis would, I believe, back me up. And my reasoning is that because God is the source of true enduring love (of all kinds), any exercise of love that does not lead us to love Him and convert us to follow Him, is essentially polluted. Polluted love is love that is attempting to be true while also fettered with a bit of hell. And as such, that polluted love cannot last. It cannot endure, and it will in fact eventually be shaken by some hellish variable. Polluted love cannot achieve a fullness because it loses power when is ceases to lead us to the source of true love—God. It ceases, in fact, to be love at all and begin to be a form of eventual hell.

Moroni 7:13-14 instructs us very clearly:

…that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every [love] which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.

Alma 41:10 reminds us that, “wickedness never was happiness.”

Doctrine and Covenants 132:5, 13-14

For all who will have a blessing, [or love], at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing [or love], and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.

And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.

For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed.

True love is, in other words, the only real love; and anything else becomes merely a temporary state of mind. Which, because of its temporary-ness and lack of “real-ness” is why it is eventually lost or corrupted and becomes hellish. This descent into hellishness may take minutes or years, but it will happen, if it is not real and true.

George MacDonald, as C.S. Lewis’s Teacher, in The Great Divorce says:

Hell is a state of mine-ye never said a truer word.  And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind-is in the end, Hell.  But Heaven is not a state of mind.  Heaven is a reality itself.  All that is fully real is Heavenly.  For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.

vintage image of a mother and daughter wearing rollers in their hair and having a good time

In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis observes a ghost who is visiting sort of a place between heaven and hell. It’s like a ghost on a “holiday from hell.” This ghost is a woman, who in her mortal life lost a son to death. And, her idea of motherly love (in both life and now in death) has ended up being an obsessive, selfish love. She, who believes she has loved truly, is deceived in her ideas of true love.

In this in-between place, a messenger of sorts, a Bright Person, comes to teach her so that if she is willing to re-educate herself on what true love is and accept it, she can go on to heaven and be with her son again.

ONE OF the most painful meetings we witnessed was between a woman’s Ghost and a Bright Spirit who had apparently been her brother. They must have met only a moment before we ran across them, for the Ghost was just saying in a tone of unconcealed disappointment, “Oh … Reginald! It’s you, is it?”

“Yes, dear,” said the Spirit. “I know you expected someone else. Can you … I hope you can be a little glad to see even me; for the present.”

“I did think Michael would have come,” said the Ghost; and then, almost fiercely, “He is here, of course?”

“He’s there-far up in the mountains.”

“Why hasn’t he come to meet me? Didn’t he know?”

“My dear (don’t worry, it will all come right presently) it wouldn’t have done. Not yet. He wouldn’t be able to see or hear you as you are at present. You’d be totally invisible to Michael. But we’ll soon build you up.”

“I should have thought if you can see me, my own son could!”

“It doesn’t always happen like that. You see, I have specialised in this sort of work.”

“Oh, it’s work, is it?” snapped the Ghost. Then, after a pause, “Well. When am I going to be allowed to see him?”

“There’s no question of being allowed, Pam. As soon as it’s possible for him to see you, of course he will. You need to be thickened up a bit.”

“How?” said the Ghost. The monosyllable was hard and a little threatening.

“I’m afraid the first step is a hard one,” said the Spirit. “But after that you’ll go on like a house on fire. You will become solid enough for Michael to perceive you when you learn to want someone else besides Michael. I don’t say ‘more than Michael,’ not as a beginning. That will come later. It’s only the little germ of a desire for God that we need to start the process.”

“Oh, you mean religion and all that sort of thing? This is hardly the moment… and from you, of all people. Well, never mind. I’ll do whatever’s necessary. What do you want me to do? Come on. The sooner I begin it, the sooner they’ll let me see my boy. I’m quite ready.”

“But, Pam, do think! Don’t you see you are not beginning at all as long as you are in that state of mind? You’re treating God only as a means to Michael. But the whole thickening treatment consists in learning to want God for His own sake.”

It’s interesting to note the point the Bright Person makes. Love for anyone should lead us to love God “for His own sake.” True love is not to love God as a means only to get to love the people we want to be with. True love is to love God first. Then, and only then, can our love for others become unselfish, chaste, legal (in both the mortal and eternal sense), and eternal.

We so often cast off our love of God in an attempt to save our relationships with others, only to find that they never flourish. Some relationships may die, initially, when we decide to love God first. But, we will find that in the long run, they will rekindle or transform into something far greater than the quality of relationship/love we initially tried to save—by casting God aside.

The account continues:

“You wouldn’t talk like that if you were a Mother.”

“You mean, if I were only a mother. But there is no such thing as being only a mother. You exist as Michael’s mother only because you first exist as God’s creature. That relation is older and closer. No, listen, Pam! He also loves. He also has suffered. He also has waited a long time.”

“If He loved me He’d let me see my boy. If He loved me why did He take away Michael from me? I wasn’t going to say anything about that. But it’s pretty hard to forgive, you know.”

“But He had to take Michael away. Partly for Michael’s sake. . . .”

“I’m sure I did my best to make Michael happy. I gave up my whole life….”

“Human beings can’t make one another really happy for long. And secondly, for your sake. He wanted your merely instinctive love for your child (tigresses share that, you know!) to turn into something better. He wanted you to love Michael as He understands love. You cannot love a fellow-creature fully till you love God. Sometimes this conversion can be done while the instinctive love is still gratified. But there was, it seems, no chance of that in your case. The instinct was uncontrolled and fierce and monomaniac. (Ask your daughter, or your husband. Ask your own mother. You haven’t once thought of her.) The only remedy was to take away its object. It was a case for surgery. When that first kind of love was thwarted, then there was just a chance that in the loneliness, in the silence, something else might begin to grow.”

“This is all nonsense-cruel and wicked nonsense. What right have you to say things like that about Mother-love? It is the highest and holiest feeling in human nature.”

Pam, Pam-no natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves. They are all holy when God’s hand is on the rein. They all go bad when they set up on their own and make themselves into false gods.

“My love for Michael would never have gone bad. Not if we’d lived together for millions of years.”

“You are mistaken. And you must know. Haven’t you met-down there-mothers who have their sons with them, in Hell? Does their love make them happy?”

“If you mean people like the Guthrie woman and her dreadful Bobby, of course not. I hope you’re not suggesting. … If I had Michael I’d be perfectly happy, even in that town. I wouldn’t be always talking about him till everyone hated the sound of his name, which is what Winifred Guthrie does about her brat. I wouldn’t quarrel with people for not taking enough notice of him and then be furiously jealous if they did. I wouldn’t go about whining and complaining that he wasn’t nice to me. Because, of course, he would be nice. Don’t you dare to suggest that Michael could ever become like the Guthrie boy. There are some things I won’t stand.”

What you have seen in the Guthries is what natural affection turns to in the end if it will not be converted.”

“It’s a lie. A wicked, cruel lie. How could anyone love their son more than I did? Haven’t I lived only for his memory all these years?”

“That was rather a mistake, Pam. In your heart of hearts you know it was.”

“What was a mistake?”

“All that ten years’ ritual of grief. Keeping his room exactly as he’d left it: keeping anniversaries: refusing to leave that house though Dick and Muriel were both wretched there.”

“Of course they didn’t care. I know that. I soon learned to expect no real sympathy from them.”

“You’re wrong. No man ever felt his son’s death more than Dick. Not many girls loved their brothers better than Muriel. It wasn’t against Michael they revolted: it was against you-against having their whole life dominated by the tyranny of the past: and not really even Michael’s past, but your past.”

“You are heartless. Everyone is heartless. The past was all I had.”

“It was all you chose to have. It was the wrong way to deal with a sorrow. It was Egyptian-like embalming a dead body.”

“Oh, of course. I’m wrong. Everything I say or do is wrong, according to you.”

“But of course!” said the Spirit, shining with love and mirth so that my eyes were dazzled. “That’s what we all find when we reach this country. We’ve all been wrong! That’s the great joke. There’s no need to go on pretending one was right! After that we begin living.”

It’s again interesting to see Pam trying to prove her true love by her obsessive actions. And yet, her actions showed her lack of love toward her husband and daughter. She obsessed about her lost son, Michael. Obsession is not love. It is destructive to both the obsessor and the object of the obsession. Both die under its influence. It leads a person to make an idol of the obsessed which they place before God and never reach Him, or the love of Him at all.

The account continues:

“How dare you laugh about it? Give me my boy. Do you hear? I don’t care about all your rules and regulations. I don’t believe in a God who keeps mother and son apart. I believe in a God of Love. No one has a right to come between me and my son. Not even God. Tell Him that to His face. I want my boy, and I mean to have him. He is mine, do you understand? Mine, mine, mine, for ever and ever.”

“He will be, Pam. Everything will be yours. God himself will be yours. But not that way. Nothing can be yours by nature.”

“What? Not my own son, born out of my own body?”

“And where is your own body now? Didn’t you know that Nature draws to an end? Look! The sun is coming, over the mountains there: it will be up any moment now.”

“Michael is mine.”

“How yours? You didn’t make him. Nature made him to grow in your body without your will. Even against your will . . . you sometimes forget that you didn’t intend to have a baby then at all. Michael was originally an Accident.”

“Who told you that?” said the Ghost: and then, recovering itself, “It’s a lie. It’s not true. And it’s no business of yours. I hate your religion and I hate and despise your God. I believe in a God of Love.”

“And yet, Pam, you have no love at this moment for your own mother or for me.”

“Oh, I see! That’s the trouble, is it? Really, Reginald! The idea of your being hurt because . . .”

“Lord love you!” said the Spirit with a great laugh. “You needn’t bother about that! Don’t you know that you can’t hurt anyone in this country?” The Ghost was silent and open-mouthed for a moment; more wilted, I thought, by this reassurance than by anything else that had been said.

Pam’s (the Ghost’s) next tactic is to make God the problem by saying He isn’t a god of love if He doesn’t let her have Michael on her terms. Because He’s IS love, she feels God shouldn’t have terms for the eternal relationship with her son that she so desires. She forgets of course that her kind of love is not true and thus would only continue to drive away those she so desires to have. Such love cannot, and will not ever be, a part of heaven. Only by submitting to God’s terms of love, true love, could Pam ever even begin to hope to have her loved ones, especially Michael, forever.

We so often do this in our lives. We demand God allow us to love whom and how we wish on our terms which may, or may not, be very close to His terms. Then, when such relationships struggle we either blame the other person or God. We rarely take the time to look at ourselves and evaluate the terms upon which we were trying to retain the love we sought. We rarely see where we were determined to keep a little hell in our heaven.

The account continues with Lewis having a discussion with his Teacher (George MacDonald) about this discussion between Pam (the Ghost) and her Bright Person (her brother Reginald):

“Come. We will go a bit further,” said my Teacher, laying his hand on my arm.

“Why did you bring me away, Sir?” said I when we had passed out of earshot of this unhappy Ghost.

“It might take a long while, that conversation,” said my Teacher. “And ye have heard enough to see what the choice is.”

“Is there any hope for her, Sir?”

“Aye, there’s some. What she calls her love for her son has turned into a poor, prickly, astringent sort of thing. But there’s still a wee spark of something that’s not just her self in it. That might be blown into a flame.”

“Then some natural feelings are really better than others-I mean, are a better starting-point for the real thing?”

“Better and worse. There’s something in natural affection which will lead it on to eternal love more easily than natural appetite could be led on. But there’s also something in it which makes it easier to stop at the natural level and mistake it for the heavenly. Brass is mistaken for gold more easily than clay is. And if it finally refuses conversion its corruption will be worse than the corruption of what ye call the lower passions. It is a stronger angel, and therefore, when it falls, a fiercer devil.

“I don’t know that I dare repeat this on Earth, Sir,” said I. “They’d say I was inhuman: they’d say I believed in total depravity: they’d say I was attacking the best and the holiest things. They’d call me . . .”

“It might do you no harm if they did,” said he with (I really thought) a twinkle in his eye.

“But could one dare-could one have the face-to go to a bereaved mother, in her misery -when one’s not bereaved oneself? . . .”

“No, no. Son, that’s no office of yours. You’re not a good enough man for that. When your own heart’s been broken it will be time for you to think of talking. But someone must say in general what’s been unsaid among you this many a vear: that love, as mortals understand the word, isn’t enough. Every natural love will rise again and live forever in this country: but none will rise again until it has been buried.”

“The saying is almost too hard for us.”

“Ah, but it’s cruel not to say it. They that know have grown afraid to speak. That is why sorrows that used to purify now only fester.”

“Keats was wrong, then, when he said he was certain of the holiness of the heart’s affections.”

“I doubt if he knew clearly what he meant. But you and I must be clear. There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. It’s not out of bad mice or bad fleas you make demons, but out of bad archangels. The false religion of lust is baser than the false religion of mother-love or patriotism or art: but lust is less likely to be made into a religion.

This part, where Lewis is pondering and evaluating what he saw (between Pam, the Ghost, and Reginald, her Bright Person) with help from his Teacher, is very interesting. Where we all might be want to condemn lust above misguided natural loves, MacDonald shows that, the higher a natural love the easier we find it to justify as true, or pure. How many people justify away their chastity by the high nature of being in love because it is, often, such a high level of natural affection. And yet, by itself is it not true or pure once it goes on for its own sake instead of for God’s sake.

MacDonald says, very clearly that it is difficult to justify lust and call it godly, or make a religion out of it. And, even today with lust being more acceptable, I don’t think anyone still dares call it “godly,” though they may worship it, to an extent. But, today we dare to call fornication (of all kinds and between all genders) and adultery forms of true love, as if following one’s heart or seemingly innate/natural attraction is what makes something pure or true. That we often feel high forms of love is certain, but ultimately, if we pursue them selfishly, illegally, lustfully, or immorally, they cannot be true, and they will not last. They will be shaken.

Pam (the Ghost) loved selfishly and obsessively. Thus, her “love,” which she felt was true, was not. And, it did not lead to peace, joy, or a love of God (much less an increased love for the rest of her family). Pam was miserable in life and her love never resembled charity, or even self-sacrifice. It was always obsession and resentful longing, and even, I suspect, manipulative pity or a spiritual temper tantrum. Thus, by its fruits, it was clear that it was not true love. And, it could not endure. Pam could not have Michael “forever,” if she insisted on persisting in that type of false love. The requirement to “have Michael,” was that she first learn to love God so that her love for Michael might be purified and perfected.

The same goes for all kinds of love: romantic, familial, friend, etc. If it does not lead us to love God first, then it ultimately will fail and will not endure. And, if we do not come to love God more than anyone else, then we will never be able to love those around us (in any type of relationship) as we could, and should, in the long run. And thus, it will not endure.

It is not coincidence then that the first and great commandment is to love God (Matthew 22:37-38); because then, and only then, can we learn to love our neighbor, spouse, father, mother, children, friends, and others as ourselves.

Note: I highly recommend reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Not only is it incredibly short, not only is it a religious classic, but it will open your eyes and provide ample opportunity for you to be taught from on high on more matters than true love.

BT

Doctrine: Because Christ suffered, our suffering matters and gains the power to make us godly. Because Christ died and was resurrected, our deaths have power to help us progress in God’s plan. Because Christ suffered, as we suffer we will come to understand Him and know Him better and thus gain eternal life (John 17:3). Our suffering “according to the flesh” enables us to know how to succor others.

In the beloved movie, the Princess Bride, Wesley (disguised as the Dread Pirate Roberts) says to the Princess Buttercup, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” And, the interesting thing is that Wesley is right. Life is pain.

In this life, pain hits us from all sides. There’s physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain, psychological and pain. There’s pain we cause ourselves. There’s pain that happens to us on accident. There’s pain that’s a default of Mother Nature and Father Time. There’s pain others cause us. And it seems to just go on and on.

girl sits in a depression on the floor near the wall

Recently I heard the question more, or less, asked:

“If Christ suffered for everything, sins and other kinds of suffering too, on our behalf, why then do we still suffer? Since we still suffer, then why did Christ have to suffer if it doesn’t keep us from suffering [referring specifically to physical pain]?”

The answer given to this question was:

“Christ had to suffer for our physical pains—even though we still suffer them too—so that He could understand how to succor us.”

This answer was based on the scripture Alma 7:11-13. And, though it’s not incorrect, I felt that it was insufficient in response to the question asked. Or, at least to me, it didn’t provide much comfort. And when the question was asked, I perceived that the person asking was looking for comfort and more understanding.

Sure, it helps me to know that Christ understands all of my suffering, personally. It helps me to know that everything I go through He comprehends perfectly so that even when I struggle to explain it in my prayers that He knows. But, I think that there is so much more that could be offered in response to this question.

So, let’s look at Alma 7:11-13:

And he [Christ] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

Verse 11 refers specifically to the life of Christ. His life was full of pain, affliction, and temptation. And, as He went through it all He also set a perfect example of how to respond to such struggles. So, for me, the first reason Christ suffered things that we still have to suffer (to a lesser extent, I might point out), was so that He could show us how to respond to suffering in a godly manner.

Verse 12 refers to His ability to take on the ultimate physical pain/problem—death. Yes, we die. But, we don’t have any control over whether or not we die. Christ did. As part of the great vicarious ordinance of the Atonement, Christ had to choose to lay down His life (John 10:18). For those familiar with vicarious ordinance work, Christ basically chose to die for, and in behalf of, each of us. Then, He loosed the bands of death by choosing to take His life up again, in the resurrection, for, and in behalf of, each of us. Because He did this we will all be resurrected as well.

So, why do we still die if Christ already died for us? Because death and resurrection are both ordinances which we must pass through to receive our immortal glories. Ordinances, which would have no power or effect if not for Christ granting them power through the grace of His Atonement. If Christ had not died, He could not have raised Himself up again so that we could also rise again: perfected and immortal. Meaning, that our deaths would be ordinances that had no authority/power to advance us forward in God’s plan. As Latter-day Saints with access to true priesthood authority and power, we often cannot comprehend what it is to partake of ordinances that “avail us nothing” because they are “dead works” (Doctrine and Covenants 22:2-3). But our deaths, without Christ’s death, would be “dead works” and avail us nothing.

Verse 12 also refers to the primary source of the original answer. However,  when quoted out of context from verse 13, it loses a bit of meaning. So, let’s look at them together.

…and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

The phrase “according to the flesh” is used three times. This seems rather significant to me. Especially in light of the fact that precursor to the final use of it we see the phrase, “Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless…”

From His birth we know that Christ was a perfect vessel that absorbed pure information—through the Holy Spirit—as He grew “grace by grace” until He received a fullness (Doctrine and Covenants 93:12-13). We know that Christ was instructed entirely by the Spirit because “he needed not that any man should teach him” (JST Matthew 3:25). If this was the case, then we could say that He already knew according to the Spirit how to succor us according to our infirmities. Yet, He chose to also suffer for our infirmities “according to the flesh” that He might know “according to the flesh” how to succor us. Then, He suffered “according to the flesh” that He might take upon Him the sins of His people.

Just as Christ’s death and resurrection grants power and progression to our deaths, and makes possible our resurrection. We might also say that Christ’s suffering “according to the flesh” grants power to our suffering “according to the flesh,” and makes possible our sanctification. Let me explain.

gethsemanefinal

I think sometimes we forget that the Atonement of Christ, though deeply individual and personal, is also much more all-encompassing and grand—on a universal scale—than we mortals can ever comprehend. But, for those of us who understand vicarious ordinance work, it seems quite clear that all eternal, saving ordinances must be performed “in the flesh” or “according to the flesh.” From this, we might postulate that while Christ knew enough according to the Spirit to succor us in our infirmities, that as part of His great vicarious ordinance on our behalf, He also had to pass through it all physically as well in order to grant the ordinance power and validity. But, by default it also grants power and validity to our individual sufferings, which, without the Atonement would be powerless to improve, refine, or sanctify us.

So, we have established why Christ had to suffer even though often we still suffer. But let’s now consider the question, “Why do we still suffer if Christ already took all the suffering upon Himself?”

All the answers to this question come from the very same doctrines we’ve already canvassed.

If we are to become like Christ, then even though we do not have to (nor could we) perform the Atonement, it seems clear that in order to become godly we still have to suffer “according to the flesh” that we might be able to learn to succor others. Certainly the Holy Spirit can reveal certain things to us according to the Spirit , and yet I think we can all grasp the fact that our compassion is deeper and our capacity to comfort and succor is greater when we have passed through something “according to the flesh.” This includes emotional, mental, and spiritual anguish because they all manifest themselves in amplified forms through our physical bodies’ reactions.

As well, as mentioned above, because Christ suffered our suffering now matters. Because of Christ’s suffering, our suffering now has the power the help us progress in God’s plan of salvation. Because of Christ’s suffering, our suffering grants us power to actually become godly, and to help others in ways we could not otherwise do. Have you ever considered that without Christ none of our suffering would have any purpose? We would be doomed to misery (Mosiah 16:4). But, because of Christ’s life and Atonement, all of our suffering becomes important, meaningful, powerful and necessary. We cannot become godly without it.

Most importantly, we know that Christ said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent” (John 17:3). We also know we can’t become like Christ if He is far from the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Mosiah 5:13). As well, the five foolish virgins were kept from the wedding feast, not because they were late, but because they didn’t really know Christ (Matthew 25:12). They were strangers to Him. They didn’t know Him because they hadn’t become like Him (1 John 3:2).

If for no other reason, we suffer in this life, continually, that we might not only become godly, but that we might come to know God.  I still remember the first time I truly suffered anguish and deep emotional injury because of the deliberate actions of another person. It was so entirely unfair and hurtful. And I remember realizing for the first time this was the only type of pain Christ suffered. All of His suffering was the result of others’ deliberate actions and was unfair. He warranted none of it. I remember this moment so clearly because my love for the Savior grew exponentially as I began to (in a small way) comprehend what He really did for me and for you. I thought I had understood before. But in that moment I realized how little I had ever understood anything. Because of my suffering, I came to know Him better.

Portrait of sad woman.

Certainly we suffer pain from the consequences of sin so that we might be led to repent. But, I find that the majority of the pain in life that we suffer is outside of our own sinfulness. Pain, both fortunately and unfortunately, is what makes everything in this life matter. For, if we can’t be hurt then we also can’t be healed, helped, or blessed.  Pain is what makes it possible for us to come to know God. It makes it possible for us to understand, and purely comprehend, the joy of life without pain (when we are privileged to experience it for a time). Pain is the crux of opposition which is critical to agency (2 Nephi 2:11). This list just goes on and on.

So, as Wesley so wisely said, “Life is pain.” It has to be. It’s a problem, sure. And C.S. Lewis undressed this problem in a literary fashion so much better than I ever could in his book The Problem of Pain. But I congratulate myself that the one thing he doesn’t point out is its most critical function in helping us come to know Christ. But, if he were alive at present he might beg to differ. Who knows.

But it all boils down to this. Christ had to suffer. We have to suffer. I think the sooner we understand this the tiniest bit easier it is to accept pain, rise above it, use it to progress toward godliness, and to help others through it.

BT