Doctrine:

Just like a toddler wakes up each day thinking that he/she finally has the world figured out; so also, each and every time we as Christians master a new doctrine, ideal, or commandment, we get this light bulb in our minds and we enter a period of false security where we think we have “arrived.” That, suddenly, we’ve gotten where we need to be and we can relax. “Religion is conquered at last!” and we celebrate our arrival. “How could we have been so dim before? How could we have failed to grasp this level of truth? Alas, however, we are here!!!…..”

However, just as not more than a day may pass for a toddler to discover there’s quite a bit more he/she hasn’t mastered; so also, each of us, as Christians, usually soon discover that the call onward and upward is still there. We simply never “arrive” at a point where we can coast. And those who think they are coasting are inevitably stopped and actually sinking.

Despite this sort of daunting ideal that we can’t arrive (or ever glide or coast) as a Christian, I have found for myself, that there are broadly (and generally) about four stages of Christianity that I’ve had the opportunity to pass through, or visit, and observe in others. Obviously these stages aren’t documented or titled as I’ve titled them, in scripture, but the symptoms and qualities of them are in scripture. And, though we don’t ever “arrive,” I find there is value in understanding what stage we are in and what stage we should be reaching for.

The Four Stages of Christianity

If you Google the word Christianity, you will find it defined as “the religion based upon the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, or Jesus of Nazareth…” or something to that effect. And, while this is certainly true, most Christians realize that it is so much more. In fact, if you are a true Christian, then your goal is not only to follow—loosely—the Son of God; your goal is to emulate Him, to become perfect as He is perfect (3 Nephi 12:48; Matthew 5:48).

Herein lies a very real distinction. Some people claim to be Christians and yet only follow Christ’s person and teachings loosely (i.e. in a way that is not firm, tightly fixed, or held together). Thus, I might offer that as a stage. But, I won’t. Why? Because not until we have committed all that we are to becoming like Christ can we be considered true Christians. If we do not accept all that Christ is and all that He taught, then we are not Christians. We are only obsessive admirers, picking up a few recipes that we like from a vast buffet and lightly passing over the rest of the offerings. This cannot and will not ever be true Christianity.

We can’t commit 99% of our lives to following Christ but ignore 1% in favor of a fetish or weakness that we have. Christ has commanded and shown by example that we must “deny ourselves of all ungodliness,” (Moroni 10:32) not merely the majority of ungodliness, or almost all of ungodliness. I guess what I’m trying to communicate is that Christianity is not a nice ideal. It is a way of being. It simply cannot ever be a nice and comfortable side thought in our lives. It must be the center of our lives. If it is not, then we are not true Christians because the person and teachings of Christ demand that it be the center—that is Christianity.

Stage 1: The Excited Convert

The word converted is an adjective describing that a person, place, or thing has been changed from one type to something else. In the case of religion, being converted means being changed from one belief to another. A convert (noun) is someone who has been converted, past tense. And, conversion (noun) is the process one goes through to be changed from one belief to another.

Now, why the need for all that defining? Because The Excited Convert is not actually fully converted. The process of conversion is still taking place. We often define people who have newly been baptized as “converts,” as if the process is done now that they are “official,” when in reality they are still at the very beginning. Whether someone has been raised in the Gospel or not matters very little. Eight-year-olds are not fully converted. Neither, I might add, are most of us. We are still being processed.

However, I have named this stage The Excited Convert because this is exactly what early conversion looks like. Primary kids who have finally reached the big baptism-milestone have that same toddler euphoria, “At last I have arrived!” Teenagers who are finding their testimonies for the first time, or who are discovering the power of the testimony they didn’t realize they had also have this fiery passion for “the work.” “We know that God is there and we are going to be faithful forever!”

Newly baptized adult converts are usually so on fire that they want to run off and convert everyone they know, especially family members and close friends. Young adults and aging teens are looking forward to missions. They are all off to save the world from spiritual darkness.

Now, I’m not actually trying to make light of this stage. But, I do want to point out it’s frailty and why it’s not a time to coast. People in this stage do not have Christianity mastered. They are in the beginning of the conversion process. Nor will their spiritual highs last inevitably—as they usually believe they will.

We see this spiritual high in teenagers fresh home from girl’s camp, scout camp, high adventures, youth conferences, EFYs, and other spiritually saturated events. New converts who have been fed a steady stream of knowledge and enlightenment from missionaries are nearly bursting with light. It’s all so clear. And then, as Elder Holland intimated in one of his recent conference addresses, we all go home and the difficulties of daily life douse those spiritual flames and leave us panting as we continually try to stoke the coals back to life.

Just like being in love and infatuated is fabulous, but ultimately unsustainable, so also The Excited Convert Stage is also unsustainable. God will no more feed us a steady stream of spiritual heroin than He will force us to choose the right. At some point, that spiritual high has to return to earth and we have to continue forward in faith on our own. Truth has been burned into our soul by that Excited Convert Stage and now we must apply that truth without the heavy dose of spiritual euphoria dragging us forward. We cannot be puppets physically, mentally, or spiritually.

Faith is many things, but it is primarily doing what we know (and have once felt strongly) is right even when we don’t feel particularly inclined to do it in a current, or future, moment. We have to learn to apply truth and to do it even when we don’t feel spiritual! It is that willful, faithful action that changes our fundamental nature into something more like Christ—because we’ve acted without being coerced, induced, forced, or tugged.

We have to read and pray when every other part of life is trying to drag us from such small and simple commandments. We have to repent even when it’s humiliating, embarrassing, confusing, and heroically difficult. We have to make time to create our own spiritual euphoria, and invite the Holy Ghost to validate our efforts. We have to remember that these initial bursts of light are not candy that we keep getting without effort. They are evidence of what we can continue to feel if we now put forth our own effort and come closer to Christ.

Christ fed His followers spiritually and physically. Then, IF they continued to follow, His sermons increased in depth and reality. He asked more and more of His followers. He demanded more and more obedience and faith. Then, when His sermons no longer came with free food and were full of hard doctrine, most left Christ. Did He not say to His disciples after He preached “hard things” unto the multitude who left Him and walked no more with Him, “Will ye also go away?” (St. John 6:68-69)

And, why did they stay? Not because Christ was handing out free food and miracles and not because His commandments were easy. They stayed because, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou has the words of eternal life, and we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”

So, this Excited Convert stage is a great stage to be in! It’s awesome! However, watch out for the following FALSE doctrines that may scorch your testimony (Mark 4:16-17) while you’re seeking for a higher level:

  • If I’m not on a spiritual high, God has abandoned me.
  • I have to feel spiritual to do spiritual things. God doesn’t expect me to act unless I feel spiritual.
  • If I don’t feel the spirit so powerfully that I’m going to burst into tears then the Holy Ghost is not with me.
  • If my life has struggles and things don’t come easily, then I must have made God mad and so He isn’t going to bless me or help me.
  • The church is only true if I experience spiritual euphoria all the time. If that euphoria goes away, then the church must suddenly not be true anymore.
  • Because I’ve been saved I don’t have to work hard anymore to maintain my testimony. I’ve “got it” now so extra study and effort is merely redundant. I’ve got the basics.
  • Other powerful feelings must be true also because they overwhelm me, even though they may go against things I’ve been taught, or have once felt, are not right.

Now, obviously there are a lot of things that can derail an Excited Convert but these should give you an idea of the fragility of this stage of Christianity. This stage does have a mature piece, but it usually graduates to another level, though often people can dip back down into this early stage for various reasons.

Stage 2: The Wannabe Pharisee

Before you immediately skip past this stage thinking “I’m not one of these,” please read a bit. Because, I fear that most of us (myself included) spend the majority of our Christian lives either in this stage, fighting our way out of it, or desperately trying not to fall back into it.

In Doctrine and Covenants 121:39 (parenthesis and brackets added) we read:

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men (and women), as soon as they get a little [spiritual] authority [or knowledge], as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

If you want to know more about what unrighteous dominion actually is, please visit this link.

So, we make it past the Excited Convert Stage and we are in a more binding relationship with God. It’s at this time that we go through yet another aha moment. We see the slow steady nature of the Gospel. We see that it’s not all spiritual highs. That it’s deep and it’s full and it’s beautiful and all-encompassing. We start seeing that it’s hard—super hard, and yet also so very simple, and in some things very easy. So, we start keeping score. We start measuring where the “sin line” is and build several layers of fences in front of it to protect us from accidentally stepping over it because we don’t trust ourselves to not be tempted.

We recognize that God demands A LOT and yet we are starting to not only see the big picture, but grasp a bit of it. In our renewed excitement we begin to establish spiritual coping mechanisms. We have reminders on our phones to pray and read. We’ve got that whole visiting teaching and home teaching thing down. We show up every Sunday. We manage some form of FHE on a regular basis. We’ve set rigid rules for our kids (and ourselves) for eating, sleeping, etc. We’ve got on all the psychological gear we need to avoid falling away from Christ.

Short People Scribble - upstairs

It’s like starting an exercise and diet plan and finally getting past that first horrific part of “getting in shape,” and denying ourselves of less healthy foods. We are finally in a rhythm! We’ve been doing the spiritual diet and exercise routine now for a bit and so it’s not so painful anymore. It’s not as difficult because we’ve established habits. We’re finally getting it!

And then, without even realizing it, we’ve entered the realm of Wannabe Pharisees. Because everything has suddenly become black and white. We become list checkers. Read, check, pray, check, visit, check, go, check, forgive, check, and so on and so on.

We begin to look around at others who aren’t quite at our level of spiritual coping or spiritual dieting (you know, forgoing the “greasy” stuff that takes us away from Christ). They don’t have quite our extensive list of check marks or electronic reminders. They only fast two meals instead of 24 hours. They still go to work after block meetings instead of refusing to work on Sunday. They watch Bible videos at lds.org instead of reading a solid chapter of hard core scripture every night. They haven’t lasered off their tattoos from their past life. They let their kids wear shorts above the knees…and on and on and on…

Tada! We’re now Pharisees! How? Why? Because we measure righteousness by comparison to ourselves. We judge by our spiritual coping fences, boundaries, rules, etc. We judge others by our own righteousness and “omit the weightier matters of the law, [righteous] judgment, mercy, and faith” (Matthew 23:23).

We get fussed and annoyed by others lack of spiritual tact in sacrament meetings and testimony meetings. We get preoccupied by others weaknesses in fulfilling callings, personality burdens in their execution of those callings. We see ourselves in a grand light, that if only all was put in our laps we’d set those people right (or the Ward right…or Christ’s church right). We see in negative. All is black with only outlines of white. And if only people could listen to our comments in Gospel Doctrine and follow our example of how we keep our kids modest and out of trouble, then all the world would be better.

Does any of this sound familiar?

It does to me. I struggle to listen to others speak and teach at church because somehow, I’ve got this puffed up idea of myself that I’ve got the speaking and teaching pattern down. I’ve got Teaching No Greater Call, Gospel Teaching and Learning, Teaching in the Savior’s Way, and many other tricks and tools memorized. And, if people would only do what I do, then church and lessons every Sunday would be wonderful and fulfilling. I struggle each week to pull myself down off this horrible pedestal. Sometimes jumping off that pedestal is nigh upon Abrahamic.

Can you see the error in my thinking? I’ve made the Gospel all about me—and that’s exactly what the Pharisees did. So much did they wind the success of God’s church around their own pride and outward righteousness that when God came to earth they completely ignored Him! They hated Him! They were jealous of Him! They hunted Him down; and of course He allowed them to torture and crucify Him.

So, I have to ask myself, “If Christ came to church next week and gave His talk or taught His lesson different than I would expect of Him (because of course I expect Him to do it like me), would I lose faith in Him? Would I ridicule Him to my neighbor in the pew? Would I sigh and roll my eyes and stare at the clock?” Would you?

This stage of Wannabe Pharisee is where the majority of us stand. Now, I’m not here happily. Most of us aren’t. Some of us are here ignorantly and will remain here ignorantly until we figure it out. Most of us are trying, desperately to get out. And, I do occasionally find my way up to Stage 4: The Charitable Christian, though my stays are not as long as I’d like. That’s a slippery place for most of us because it requires a higher level of conversion—a more firm bond to Christ, and a much more eternal, consistent, and inherent Christlike perspective. The less spiritually firm we are, the less spiritually confident we are, the more self-absorbed we are, and the more pride we have, the more impossible it is for us to lodge in The Charitable Christian.

So, whether your shining example of righteousness is your food storage management, your word of wisdom interpretation, your hours of temple service (carefully recorded each week), your level of Greek or Hebrew knowledge, your travels of the Holy Land, your service at a church funded institution, your service in leadership positions in the church, your mission, etc. it doesn’t shine at all next to Christ’s life and perfect example. Thus, to use it as a comparison of your own righteousness next to others is rather ridiculous. What is a brown speck of sand next to a tan speck of sand when both are compared to a diamond? They are both just specks of sand.

When Christ said the weightier matters of the law were [righteous judgment], mercy, and faith, He meant they were weightier. He requires ALL of the law, but we are most certainly not to leave the weightier matters undone. So, maybe people at church do need to work harder at things. But that is not for us to worry about! Aslan said in The Horse and His Boy, “No one is told any story but their own.” Aslan made very clear that the only progress (or story) each of us should worry about is our own progress, our own story. We can sit and stew about everyone else’s unrighteousness in comparison to ours. We can get frustrated about all the things they omit and simply haven’t figured out yet. OR, we can take a trip up to The Charitable Christian and simply be grateful they are trying at all.

Christ said to the Pharisees of His time (Matthew 23:24-26):

Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel…ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within you are full of extortion and excess…cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter that the outside of them may be clean also.

The gnats we strain at, as Pharisees, are the outward shows of righteousness we use to check off our splendid list and judge others. The camels we swallow, the truly horrific sins, are our pride, unrighteous judgment, lack of mercy, lack of forgiveness, and primarily our lack of faith that God can, and will, work with and save any who come unto Him. Not just us with our pretty, modge podge photo frames (I have one, by the way) and books of remembrance.

Can you picture that in your head, you (and me) straining and swatting at other people’s gnats while we are trying to swallow a camel? It’s a ridiculous picture and that’s exactly how ridiculous we look to God as we judge others by our standards (and ideals) of what righteousness looks like.

Downfalls of this stage? False doctrines? Too many to list. Pray about it. Find out where you are a Pharisee. Try to get out. That’s what I’m doing. And, some days I do actually manage it, thanks to the mercy of God. But again, a slippery slope.

Stage 3: The Doubter in Despair

This is a stage I only mention because of its increasing stash of members AND because one must first have had a great deal of obedience and faith, usually, before this stage even becomes a possibility. You usually have been a true Christian before you can waver and doubt. Sounds odd, but I have found it to be true. The more we have committed and sacrificed often the greater the chance we will find ourselves a Doubter in Despair.

The Christians inside this stage come from every other stage. Many Excited Converts jump to this stage as soon as the euphoria wears off. Many Wannabe Pharisees find their way here as they struggle to breakdown their perfectly constructed framework of spiritual coping and check lists. Wannabe Pharisees also end up here because life has broken those frameworks and they are teetering on a major spiritual crisis; they’ve made the Gospel so black and white they can’t find anywhere to put all the grey that keeps popping into their lives, especially into the places they hurt the most. Fewer, but some, Charitable Christians dip into The Doubter in Despair when old weaknesses and fears raise up their ugly heads. However, the common theme among all who visit is the triggers: the struggles, trials, pains, issues, disappointments, and the unfairness of life.

If you’re in doubt, it has far less to do with your testimony than you may think. And, it has far more to do with your expectations (misguided, incorrect, or otherwise) based upon your testimony. Doubters only doubt because they’ve established firm ideals and have given their all to them—usually. Thus, it’s not unlikely that your testimony in God is just fine (in general), but that your expectations or ideals based on that testimony had issues from the outset and need to be corrected. I strongly suggest you read some of my past blogs: When Was Your Last Spiritual Temper Tantrum, or Between a Spiritual Rock and Hard Place, or The Very Elect Are Being Deceived

Many Doubters in Despair leave the church. Some don’t. Some just go inactive or go through a series of spiritual temper tantrums. However, at some point, all Doubters in Despair will exit this stage. It is inevitable because one cannot remain in this stage. It’s a volatile and inhospitable place.

The Doubter in Despair stage of Christianity forces every person who enters to make a very real, very critical decision. Here it is:

Either God is there or He isn’t no matter what I don’t understand about life and religion. Christianity is either my life or it isn’t no matter what I don’t get about life and religion.

For those who exit out of The Doubter in Despair they usually go one of two places. First, they either exit out of Christianity altogether into a limbo of a place I call, “I believe in God and His Son, but this whole religion thing is stupid.” These are the loose followers of Christ, who aspire to pieces of His person and teachings, but refuse the whole smorgasbord (see introduction at the top).

Or, second, they head into Wannabe Pharisees or The Charitable Christian, sometimes tiptoeing on the edge of both. I’ve seen a few make other decisions, but they fall roughly into the same categories. Even if people leave “the church,” if they remain Christian, then I see them basically as Charitable Christians or Wannabe Pharisees based upon their actions (especially toward their previous religion).

What to watch out for if you’re in Doubter in Despair? Here are a few FALSE doctrines that often send people to loose followership which is technically outside of true Christianity.

  • Because I can’t make sense of this issue/situation in my life, God doesn’t care and all He’s promised me isn’t real.
  • Because life is unfair God doesn’t exist (or He certainly doesn’t care).
  • God can’t be all-loving and all-powerful or life wouldn’t be like it is. He has to be one or the other.
  • Because of this problem, trauma, or issue, God’s promises and covenants must be useless.
  • Because God isn’t pulling me out of this struggle (that I can tell), then I’m going to show Him just how angry I am by ____________________ because that’ll make Him show Himself in my life. I can force His hand by acting out.
  • If I act out in anger and God doesn’t show His hand, or fix things in my life, then He doesn’t love me or doesn’t exist at all.
  • Because I can’t see how this issue fits in with my beliefs my beliefs must be faulty.
  • Because God doesn’t run His church in a way I understand then this must not be His church.

I could offer all sorts of scripture references on these false doctrines. But, hopefully simply reading them (I suggest doing it out loud as that makes them seem even more ridiculous) you will see how limited and ridiculous such false truths are.

Stage 4: The Charitable Christian

Ah, my favorite stage. This is the stage we all want to get to. That’s because at this stage of Christianity we finally stop keeping score! We toss out our lists and we start taking a closer look at not only our own hearts, but the hearts of others. We start seeing our own actions and the actions of others as a peripheral thing that does not entirely define the individual. We start seeing others, and ourselves, not through rose colored glasses, not “through a glass darkly,” but through clean glasses (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Aha! Come to think of it, we start to see everyone as amazing and wonderful and worthwhile and good. If they have a few or several black blots, we see only that they are not yet aware of them or are already working feverishly (with God by their side) to remove those blotches. There is no competition. There is no score. We see everyone bathed miraculously in the light and mercy of Jesus Christ and any blemishes are merely a small thing for God to purify; and we know He will the very moment they turn to Him.

Thus, we seek not to judge but to persuade. We seek not to manipulate, but to serve. We seek not to fix but to empower. We seek not to push others forward at our pace but to wait with patience as they move forward at their own pace. We define others by their true identity—as children of God, demigods, if you will—instead of devils trying to earn their way to heaven. (Sad, this one, but often that’s how we treat people)

Most importantly, those who are in The Charitable Christian stage have no need for checklists. They have no need for competition or scores. They focus solely on Christ because He is all that matters. Their individual agendas, concerns, panics, loves, fetishes, jobs, careers, weaknesses, losses, worries, fears, prides, etc., don’t matter because as long as they focus on Christ all those things are fixed, saved, purified, destroyed, restored, or magnified.

Charitable Christians truly understand the phrase, “For whosever will save his life, shall lose it; or whosever will save his life, shall be willing to lay it down for my sake; and if he is not willing to lay it down for my sake, he shall lose it” (JST, Mark 8:37-39). They realize they haven’t “arrived,” and never will, but they still get it.

They worry less about gnats and they’ve learned to ride their camels (to rule them, own them, and not to swallow or hide them). They recognize how all of God’s commands help them become like Him. Thus they don’t fear the commandments, because they aren’t panicking about all the ways they may accidentally sin. They’ve lost the desire for sin and they trust themselves! Nor do they build fences around the commandments. This is because they are no longer commands, but tools to godhood. They ride those commandments along the path to actually becoming godly. They evaluate their progress of conversion, of becoming godly and move toward it. They don’t merely focus on staying on the right side of some imaginary line—like a Pharisee.

The Charitable Christian is a stage of Christianity that is hard to lodge in. We can do it. I’ve managed a few days at a time. But, the Wannabe Pharisee is powerful. The Doubter in Despair is so dark and has such drastic exits. The stage we are in usually offers many variations, but none has more exits than The Charitable Christian. This is not because it’s a stage we want to exit, but rather more because like the game Chutes and Ladders, it’s simply extremely difficult to roll perfectly all the time. We hit those chutes and cry “Noooooo!” all the way down…well, or at least I do.

And, it’s important to remember that Charitable Christians aren’t perfect. They aren’t. But, they are sanctified. (See this link for clarification on the difference between perfectionism and sanctification)

The Key to Being A Charitable Christian

However, I think the key to remaining in The Charitable Christian stage is to ponder and plan. Yes, that’s it, ponder and plan. Sounds awfully simple.

When I’m sitting at church and I get the urge to ridicule or roll eyes at someone’s talk or lesson delivery, I have pondered in advance my response. I have sat and pondered and thought, “How would I want God to respond to my issues? How would I like to see myself respond as a Charitable Christian?” That’s all it took. My plans? My answer? Here it is what I pondered and planned.

I want to look at them with love. I want to listen harder and feel the meaning behind their words and delivery and not focus on the delivery. I want to appreciate their willingness to try to serve God, and by default ME. I want to remember that they are doing what they are doing because of their love of God. I want to remember that God is working with them individually and with me individually. I want to remember that no matter how good I think I am, God could just as easily look at me and ridicule me (IF that were His nature) because of my poor delivery of His doctrines and words. I want to remember that if I ridicule them I am ridiculing God (Matthew 25:40). I want to remember that I have made covenants not to speak ill of God’s children, especially those anointed to do His work.

I am proud to report that I have been doing what I have pondered and planned for months now, and it has drastically improved my capability to be charitable and to be uplifted and inspired at church—go figure, right?. I’m not a permanent resident in The Charitable Christian. I wish I were. But, I’m visiting a whole lot more often. However, those chutes are multiplying and I find I’m awfully good at sliding down. Boy, I can’t wait to get out of Wannabe Pharisee for good someday.

So, it’s one thing to desire to be a Charitable Christian. It’s only a little extra effort to ponder and plan how to be one.

Conclusion

Well, hopefully you’ve noticed that different parts of your life and spiritual devotion are in many different stages. But, I hope that seeing that in some ways we can visualize those stages will help you on your journey to being like Christ…The Charitable Christian. Stage 5: Perfection, well, that one comes in the next life, I believe, so hopefully we’ll meet up there one day.

BT

 

 

Doctrine: Faith is the certainty of things hoped for, the body of facts and information witnessing of things not yet seen. Whether we feel atheistic or theistic, doubtful or faithful, it has to do entirely with our relationship with God—whether we doubt His existence or not. Thus, atheism is all about what we know and understand about God, or what we don’t know and understand about God.

What is atheism? Atheism isn’t a disbelief in or a denial of gods, it is a lack of belief in a god, or gods (atheists.org). I would venture to drag that out further to say that atheism is a strong doubt in the existence of a god, or gods. An agnostic is also a type of atheist because they have a lack of belief in, or they strongly doubt, our ability to know a god, or gods. So, to an agnostic, even if there is a god, they don’t believe we are capable of coming to know that god or interacting with that god.

However, whether you call it a lack of belief or a strong doubt, it is almost certain that all of us struggle with levels of atheism. This is because whenever we lack faith and belief in any aspect of God’s existence, character, or will, we are leaning toward atheism. The question then becomes, what about God do you doubt or lack faith in?

Now, before we can determine the level of atheism, or doubt, we have, we must first talk about its opposite: faith.

Google will define faith as a complete trust or strong confidence in someone or something. It also calls faith a belief based on spiritual apprehension (anxiety or fear). While these definitions allude to aspects of faith, faith itself is far more than the dictionary can teach us.

Atheists will use the dictionary to define faith. The God-fearing will use the scriptures. So, to be fair to the God-fearing (since I already used the online dictionary), let me put out there the spiritual definition of faith:

Now, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. JST Hebrews 11:1

Now assurance is a certainty or confidence. And, evidence implies an available body of facts or information. So, if we use synonyms and reword this scriptural definition of faith, we get:

Now, faith is the certainty of things hoped for, the body of facts and information witnessing of things not yet seen.

It is important to note that faith is not about believing in something random or that we have no evidence for. It is a confident belief in things we have not yet seen, but that we have sufficient evidence for, and that we are certain exist or will be/take place.

Silhouette of a man an atheist

Tossing “spiritual apprehension” out the window, true faith cannot be generated, satisfied, or maintained by a mere fear of some higher power. Faith generated by fear/anxiety, which is not true faith, will eventually be pushed to one side or the other: it will either result in either atheism or theism.

True faith can only be based in a certain amount of assurance and evidence. And, by evidence, I mean any information (or experience, or feeling) that leans in favor proving the belief that we have faith in. It doesn’t matter if others consider the information, etc. as evidence. If we do, then it is sufficient to engender more faith and more belief.

If we look at atheism and theism from a merely scientific perspective, it is possible that we can’t ever completely disprove the existence of a god, or gods. Nor, can we ever completely prove the existence of a god, or gods. Because the true scientific method cannot ignore any evidence for either side, no matter how small. This is because evidence is evidence. We can’t merely toss it aside because we don’t like it. And, the fact is that there is abundant evidence for both sides.

If we look at atheism and theism from a spiritual perspective, then we know that anything spiritual (or godly) can only be comprehended by the Spirit, or spiritual communication from God (1 Cor. 2:4-15). If that’s true, then to get spiritual evidence and confirmation, we must first try to live by God’s word and by worthy of spiritual communication, for God doesn’t give spiritual witnesses to those who do not desire to have faith in Him or come to know Him (Matt. 7:6; Doctrine and Covenants 88:33-34).

So, what constitutes evidence for God?

  • Myths, history
  • Testimony of people/others
  • Personal spiritual experiences, spiritual feelings
  • The unexplainable, miracles
  • The whole of creation

Whether or not we give credence to the evidence others use for their faith in a god, or gods; IF they give it credence, then we are left with a choice. Either, we can believe the feelings and testimony of others and try to gain our own, or we can decide they are out of their minds and disbelieve (or doubt) their feelings and testimony. Just because others believe in God (whether to a lesser or greater extent) does not mean we have to have faith in God. However, the very fact that they do puts out there a tiny shred of evidence that its possible for a god, or gods, to exist.

So, to what extent are we all atheists? Answer: to the extent we lack faith and assurance of God and in God. Which means, that at any particular time in our lives, we may be in a place along a wide spectrum of atheism and theism.

We may feel more atheistic if our lives are not going how we want them to or how we planned. We may feel more doubtful (atheistic) if world events lead us to believe that the God people talk about is not what they say He is. Any number of negative events can lead any person, even the most faithful, to toy with ideas of atheism. Why?

I would like to suggest that whether we feel atheistic or theistic, doubtful or faithful, that it has to do entirely with our relationship with God—whether we doubt His existence or not. And therefore, how we handle relationship doubts and struggles will correlate directly with how much faith we exercise in God—and how we treat Him when we have doubts and struggles.

Are we natural relationship stonewall-ers when misunderstandings arise? Do we naturally overreact to issues before we have all the information? Do we tend to trust the opinions of our other friends and family first when misunderstandings arise? Do we lose trust in our relationship quickly when rumors reach our ears? Are we natural retaliators and vengeance takers? Etc. OR, do we go to the person with whom we have the relationship and get the information we need and resolve the issues together?

Mother and daughter find out the relationship

John 17:3 teaches, “And this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.” In Matthew 25:12 Christ (the bridegroom) refuses admittance to the marriage feast to the five foolish virgins, not because they were literally foolish. He says, very clearly, “I know you not,” meaning, you don’t know me.

How can we resent the action (or inaction) of a god if we don’t have at least a minor relationship with him? Even a minor idea that He may exist. Is not our anger at injustice, human weakness, and suffering focused against the higher power that didn’t step in to stop it, or fix it? If we are angry at the unfairness of life and we don’t point that anger at a deity, then we must point that anger at mankind—meaning, we hate our own blood, including ourselves. And, if we were not created by a higher power then it would be counterproductive, even destructive, to hate our own kind (as far as evolution is concerned). Engendering such hatred would only lead to eventual extinction.

And, if we weren’t created by a higher power, where did we get our idea that life should be fair and just, at all? Animals, and nature, certainly don’t live by a system of fairness or justice. They live by instinct—and it is far from fair. Where then do our ideas of justice and fairness originate from? If not from a deity, and only from evolution, then we never should have arisen to the consciousness that anything about life was unfair or unjust. We should have only ever lived by instinct. We would never have coined the words “unfair” or “unjust.” And, we would never have exceeded such base and instinctual consciousness as we see in all animal life (aside from ourselves), UNLESS it was given to us.

So, if this logic is correct (And you are certainly not obligated to believe that it is), then if we lack a belief in god and doubt His existence or our ability to interact with Him, then this very feeling we have “against Him” is derived from our actual, tangible, real relationship with Him (whether we recognize it or not). How can we be angry at a being that doesn’t exist? We can’t, we can only be angry at a being that exists whom we do not understand. How can we fight against or actively ignore a being that doesn’t exist unless some part of us does know that He exists?

Thus, atheism is all about what we know and understand about God, or what we don’t know and understand about God. And, whether we claim to be atheist or agnostic or theistic and faithful, we can’t claim such without wanting to, in some way, identify our relationship with the Almighty. In fact, we claim these titles in order to make a public show of our relationship with God.

Those who claim to know God (to an extent) and understand His ways tend to label themselves as “believers,” “Christians,” “Jews,” etc. Those who claim to not know God (even though they do a little bit) and not understand his ways tend to label themselves as “unbelievers,” “atheists,” “agnostics,” etc. And, I suppose there are a rare few who actually believe in God but choose to openly fight against Him, and they label themselves “satanics.”

So, if you are more of an atheist than a theist, then the only way to move toward faith is to come to know God. Which, can only be done by emulating Him, keeping His commandments, visiting His home(s), and serving His family (fellow-men). If you are more a theist, or believer, then you will become more of an atheist as you sever your relationship and understanding of God. Which, can only be done by mocking Him, making light of and spurning His commandments, never visiting His home, and persecuting His family.

Now, whether you want to believe in a god, or gods, or not: mocking people, spurning good works, alienating people, and persecuting others, is generally accepted as stupid and unacceptable societal behavior. Psychologists and life-coaches, aplenty, will instruct you that hanging onto anger and doubt are poisonous and unhealthy to your psyche. Hate of any kind, anger of any kind, whether it is directed at your own kind or a deity whom you resent or want to pretend doesn’t exist, is always unproductive.

So, while there are many good people out there who claim to be atheist or agnostic (meaning they don’t recognize and often fight against their relationship with God, because they don’t want to understand Him, get to know Him, or figure out why He works the way He does), what I’d like to do is talk about how to do the opposite: to build your relationship with, and your faith in, God.

If you don’t understand why the world is the way it is; if you don’t like your own life; if you can’t make sense of injustices, etc. AND IF YOU TRULY WANT TO, then the only way to do so is to plant a seed of faith and try to get to know God.

Heart and love

True faith requires the following three things:

  1. An idea or belief that God actually exists
  2. A correct idea of His characteristics and attributes
  3. A knowledge that the life one is pursuing is in line with God’s will

I find that the majority of people in the scriptures who turned away from God, did so because they did not come to know Him (1 Ne 2:12). And, the majority who turn away usually continue to believe that there is a God, they simply are upset because they don’t have 2) “a correct idea of His characteristics and attributes.” As well, they were usually 3) unwilling to pursue a life that was in line with God’s will for them.

Firstly, many people believe that God is either all-loving or all-powerful based on their idea of what godly love is. To them, godly love lets no bad happen, prevents all suffering, and give us everything we want when we want it. Because they believe He is all-powerful then they also assume that such power should be brought to bear in a certain way, their way, in order to be “all-loving.” If they do not see sufficient evidence for this kind of love, then they assume that God is not all-loving and only all-powerful. However, their issue is their idea of God’s characteristics and attributes is “not correct.” And, until they come to understand what true, charitable, godly love is, they will always fall short of their ability to come closer to God and understand His ways/dealing because they are constantly in opposition and argument against the false god they have created.

A true study of the scriptures reveals quite clearly that God’s love is not comfortable love. It is the kind of love that does what’s best for us, even if we don’t like it. God’s love is the truest love. It loves and has long-suffering for both the sinning and the righteous soul. And, it will try to make a godly being out of both.

Second, people believe that they can maintain a relationship with God while also making a mock of His will for them, His Only Begotten’s sacrifice for them, and His personality and characteristics. By living contrary to His will (and the true manner of happiness), and settling for counterfeit versions of joy and fulfillment, they still suppose that they and God can be best buddies. Unfortunately, this is an ignorant and illogical assumption.

We are flawed mortals, and yet we still naturally gravitate toward those people and places where we enjoy what is going on and where the people do what we do and where we feel comfortable. We don’t maintain true friendships with people who live entirely contrary to how we want to live. It doesn’t work because we are not “like” people. Over time, such friendships die down to past acquaintances. Sometimes, they become enemies or disappear from our hearts and minds altogether.

Now, while God will always love us, and do what’s best for us, it stands to reason that He doesn’t have to like us—or how we live. And, if we live the kind of life that is different from His, then it stands to reason that He will love us, He will still invite us over all the time. But truthfully, we wouldn’t accept His invitations anyway because if we live contrary to His will, then we won’t find His home (and the environment of it) enjoyable, or even comfortable (Alma 12:14); and will more likely avoid His calls, texts, and mailed invitations. We will find reasons to not answer when He calls. We will say we lost our invitations and apologize for not showing up to His get-together. In short, if we are not trying to live godly and become godly, then we aren’t going to be able to trust in and believe in God because His life will be incomprehensible to us. And, therefore, we won’t desire or maintain a relationship with Him. Which, consequently means we will never come to understand Him or His ways/dealings. And, you could say that this means we will always feel resentful toward His perceived inaction/action and live a life with veiled hurt and anger.

If we do not desire, seek out, search out, study, and pray for a relationship with God, and then act on the relationship in a positive way, then we will forever be toying with atheism.

BT

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.

BT

Doctrine: God will give us as much light and truth as we are willing to receive in whatever form we are willing to ingest it. Yet, piecemeal doses of truth, while great supplements for entertainment, are no substitute for the actual word of God.

I’m a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. But, my main motivation for writing began by reading fiction.

For me, there is something powerful in fiction. It’s a sneaky way to sort of tell people what you think, what you believe, and who you are in a make-believe world. This make-believe world allows writers of fiction to preach, if you will, without being preachy. They couch truths, political opinions, deep mores, personal standards of living, humor, sin, and culture within worlds that aren’t real. Then, we read the books, step into the worlds, and are slyly influenced as we investigate for entertainment.

Tree growing from the old books over the grass and cityscape bac
Fiction is good for you

Several years back, I fell upon an article which I believe, for myself, holds a great deal of truth. It is called, Fiction Is Good For You and was posted in the online Boston Globe in April 2012 by writer Jonathan Gottschall. What is the article about? Well, it talks about how reading fiction is good for us. Here are some of the benefits that research for the article claims.

  • “…fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction…”
  • “research consistently shows that fiction does mold us.”
  • “Fiction enhances our ability to understand other people; it promotes a deep morality that cuts across religious and political creeds.”
  • “…the most impressive finding is how fiction shapes us: mainly for the better…”
  • History reveals fiction’s ability to change values at the societal level, for better and worse. For example,  Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”
  • Virtually all storytelling, regardless of genre, increases society’s fund of empathy and reinforces an ethic of decency deeper than politics.
  • “Heavy fiction readers outperformed heavy nonfiction readers on tests of empathy.”
  • “…fiction serves the function of making-the-world-a-better-place by improving interpersonal understanding.”
  • Children exposed to a large number of children’s books…had a…stronger ability to read the mental and emotional states of other people.
  • Fiction…is strongly dominated by the theme of poetic justice…goodness is endorsed and rewarded and badness is condemned and punished.
  • “…fiction generally teaches us that it is profitable to be good.”
  • “Traditional tales, from hero epics to sacred myths, perform the essential work of defining group identity and reinforcing cultural values.”

When this article came out, I didn’t think much about fiction being “scripture.” But, recently, as I have pondered the doctrines of grace and God’s mercy and love for His children, a general doctrine appears.

Doctrine: God will give us as much light and truth as we are willing to receive.

So, what if I am not a big Christian? What if I’m not that religious at all? Or, what if I come from a tradition of religious beliefs and I hold true to the big beliefs but nothing else? What if reading from the Bible, Book of Mormon, or any other non-fiction religious text or commentary is well beyond my current desire or capacity?

Book with science fiction scene and open doorway of light

Where then will God find a way to give me truth if I won’t search His words directly?

In Moroni 7:5, 12 and 13, and Alma 5:40, we learn:

  • By their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.
  • That which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
  • Whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil.

Anything in the world that is good, that invites and entices us to do good, to love others, to serve others (and by consequence to love and serve God), comes from God. So, I’m NOT saying every fiction book, novella, or novel is completely inspired of God from front to back. But anything good in the books’ themes, plots, character arcs; anything that shows examples of good, humility, self-sacrifice, and other Christlike qualities and commandments—whether the writers intended it or not—comes from God. And, as we read them, take joy in them, and find inspiration and power in them; they then become, in essence, a form of scripture—or how God gets His word through to us. Especially if we’re not inclined to study the real thing.

I find that in most fiction works, the general themes of good versus evil are preserved. They sort of have to be. That is the only real conflict in the eternities. That is the root story. Even if you don’t believe in God, you can admit that minimally, over the course of human history, there is also a theme of tyrants versus the greater good of society. There are holocausts with D-days. There are wars overcome by peace treaties. There are basic, over-arching human themes of good versus evil. There is always someone or something trying to take away human free will, human life, individuality, creativity, and even human dignity.

So, if you read **decent fiction (see ** at the bottom of the article for my definition of decent fiction), by default, you are getting a tiny dose of God’s word. You are getting a minimal amount of enticement, influence, and an invitation to emulate or desire the good being delivered to you through a fictional story.

I’m NOT saying decent fiction IS scripture. But, for those who don’t read or study God’s word at all, good, **decent fiction could be seen as their scripture; or the most amount of God’s word that they are willing to receive, couched secretly in something they would never dare to call “God’s word.”open book

So, what if you read your scriptures and you’re getting your dose of God’s word on a daily basis? Is fiction any good to you? Should you take any time to read it? Is it better than some good non-fiction, religious non-fiction, or commentary?

If God’s word is already a part of your life, then adding side-dishes of entertainment that include quotes, themes, and character-arcs that validate and witness of things you already believe, is, in my humble opinion, the best kind of entertainment and relaxation you can get. It validates, cements, and enhances your current love for goodness and your desire to live up to it. For myself, I love when I read a favorite fantasy series or religious commentary and find there the made-up stories of others, or the real-life experiences/opinions of others, that validate what I believe and bring it bursting out in some happy tale or personal declaration. It brings me joy, peace, excitement, and often it’s during those moments that I find deeper gospel parallels and better ways of understanding the word of God that is already available to me—that I have already studied.

Watch

One example is Aslan, the Great Lion of Narnia, the Son of the Emperor-over-the-sea. I don’t know what it is really like to see Jesus Christ face-to-face. But, when I read of the interactions of the characters with Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, I feel that C.S. Lewis’s basic ideology in writing those interactions is pretty accurate. Every time I read through the series I see deeper and deeper parallels between Aslan and Christ. I see it in how good people feel in his presence. I see it in how good people who need to repent feel in his presence. I see it in how wicked, unrepentant people feel in his presence. And, I see it in the good people who are deceived yet still good, and how they feel and act when they meet the Great Lion.

(If you’ve only ever read the popular The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, then you are missing a great amount of insight into the Savior. I here give a suggestion to any so inclined to read the Narnia series and take notes of every interaction between Aslan and the book characters. It will be a deep spiritual journey.)

I can go down the entire list of my favorite fantasy and science fiction and find moments, characters, or plot pieces that illustrate principles and doctrines of the gospel. The whole book is never something I can apply directly across. But, there are so many good vignettes that deliver delicious packets of truth. Take a look at this video I made from snippets of Harry Potter 5. A few quotes and a ton of doctrinal truth.

In non-fiction and religious commentary, I also often find personal declarations or life-stories that impact me deeply. Somehow, because I know real people have exhibited these elevated, godly characteristics of perseverance, self-sacrifice, endurance, humility, loss, and love, it strikes a chord that resonates with my personal affinities and beliefs.

So, again, I’m not advocating that any, or all, fictional writing is scripture. But, I am advocating that the word of God can be found in all that is good, uplifting, and ennobling. Whether you believe in Christ or not, anything that persuades you to believe in His truths and to do His works, comes from Him (this includes self-improvement as long as it’s not too eccentric). Decent fiction can be an incredible source of good doctrine and gospel principles. Good fiction makes for great parables or stories that illustrate gospel truths. Some of these stories can impact us with almost as much life-changing power as some actual scripture if we grasp the deeply hidden truths that shine out at us all, in different ways, as we read these texts.

There is, however, no substitute for the actual word of God. As much as I love reading I can testify of this to you from my own experience. In fact, being familiar with the real word of God amplifies and strengthens the truth we find elsewhere. This amplification will not take place and is not possible to us if we aren’t studying the “real thing.” The good things in fiction will have less power if they are not supported by a foundation of undiluted truth. It’s like trying to have a good red sauce for pasta with only good spices and no tomatoes. The tomatoes are what make it a red sauce. Fiction can make some truths more edible, but ultimately it isn’t a complete source for a spiritual foundation.

We are commanded to study our scriptures daily: the Book of Mormon, the Bible, the Pearl of Great Price, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the words of living prophets and apostles. As we do so, at least in my experience, the truths found in other more secular forms—such as fiction—stand out all the brighter, are more recognizable, and are more impactful in our lives.

BT

**Decent fiction, is to me, fiction that is written with the purpose of telling a good, uplifting story. There is some fiction that while it is “made up” has a purpose other than telling a good, uplifting story. Whether it’s goal is scaring the pants off of you or to arouse you to some unhealthy sexual feeling it is not “decent” in its ultimate goal. Those genres are labeled pretty well and should be fairly obviously “not decent.” So, steer clear. However, generally, I find that even fiction with some unsavory patches (maybe a few pages in the whole), as long as its main purpose is to tell a powerful story, those unsavory elements or pages quickly slide to the back and lose importance. Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what is “decent,” but I find that “if it leads us to do good, AND to believe in Christ, AND to serve Him,” then it is usually a good read.

Book with science fiction scene and open doorway of light

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.

BT

Doctrine: The Light of Christ is our basic conscience, but it can be dulled or altered. The Power of the Holy Ghost is a momentary burst or intense “glow of truth” that is temporary so that we can choose to act upon it, but not be compelled. However, the GIFT of the Holy Ghost is an endowment of POWER that makes our imperfect efforts and sincere righteous desires effective in actually changing us into a godly beings.

For many Christians, there is a clear deficit in understanding the role of the GIFT of the Holy Ghost. I think this is because there are so many ways in which the Holy Spirit functions that most of us fail to see the distinctions between His several functions AND how we are supposed to take advantage of those functions for our own journey back to God. In fact, most people don’t understand and can’t differentiate between the Light of Christ, the Power of the Holy Ghost, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

The Light of Christ is something that comes with us when we are born into this world (Doctrine and Covenants 93:2; St. John 1:9). It is in our flesh, blood and spirit. In fact, it cannot be separated from us because it is tied directly to the power by which we were organized and made. Christ created the earth. Every particle of it is under His command and is given life and purpose by His divine influence. God, our Heavenly Father organized our spirits. Therefore, the innate goodness and godliness from which we originate has been preserved in our very nature. It is a part of who we are, eternally. Which, is why every person that comes into this world has a basic understanding of right and wrong and a sense of guilt. The Light of Christ is our basic conscience.

However, the Light of Christ is not sufficient to perfect us. It is an innate sense but not an active source for help. It can be warped or altered by our environment and life experiences as we actively choose to override it. Alone it is insufficient to help us become like God.

Unlike the Light of Christ, the Holy Spirit is an active source of guidance. The Holy Ghost is a member of the godhead. He is omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly loving, perfectly just, and so forth. He is exactly like God the Father and Jesus Christ. The only difference between Him and Them is that the Holy Ghost does not have a body of flesh and bone (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22-23). This bodily difference is necessary so that He can communicate directly with our spirits.

So, how is the Power of the Holy Ghost different from the Light of Christ?

Before we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost through confirmation (after the ordinance of baptism), the Power of the Holy Ghost can descend upon us and give us what I like to call an intense “glow of truth.” This glow may be an injection of pure reason or logic that connects some spiritual and intellectual dots for our life. It can be a feeling of comfort or peace that something we have been taught or that we have read is true. It can be an unmistakable feeling of love or assurance that God is with us. But, the key to all of these things is that they are significant moments. We know during this intense “glow of truth” that something is God’s will, or that something is true, or that we need to make a little, significant, or a big change in our life.

But, while the glow is intense and something we are infinitely sure of while we feel it, it doesn’t stay with us. Why not? We’d certainly like it to, wouldn’t we? Because often when the glow is gone we doubt or lose sight of what we felt. But, the glow can’t be permanent. This is because once we know something God isn’t going to attach strings to our arms and legs and make us act on that knowledge. And, having a permanent intense “glow of truth” is akin to doing just that. No matter how great it feels when we feel it, to make the glow remain with us at that intensity is an act of compulsion.

Once the Holy Ghost has given us a clear witness, He has to step back to allow us to use our free will to follow it. The glow was an obvious and blatant invite to recognize and follow God’s truth and will. But, after the invitation has been delivered, we have to be free to choose (2 Nephi 2:27). God will not act upon us (2 Nephi 2:14-16).

So, what about the Gift of the Holy Ghost? If the Power of the Holy Ghost teaches us truth with an intense glow, what does the Gift of the Holy Ghost do?

Both before and after confirmation by the laying on of hands (see 4th Article of Faith), we experience the Power of the Holy Ghost (the glow) which is like a shot of veritaserum for our mind and heart (pardon the Harry Potter reference). But, it doesn’t last. However, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is a much more subtle experience. Rather than a sporadic shot it is a consistent, subtle flow of direction.

For those who want the “constant glow,” they can get something even better through the Gift of the Holy Ghost by accepting the covenant of baptism and being confirmed by the laying on of hands (see 4th Article of Faith). This is because they have exercised their agency/free will to enter into a covenant to serve God and keep His commandments. Covenants are how God protects and dispenses His power (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33-36). Meaning, we can’t get access to certain aspects of His power without making a covenant with Him. Therefore, a condition of the baptismal covenant—wherein we agree to give our will to God and keep His commandments and take His name upon us—is that God provides us with the constant guidance (not compulsion) we want.

However, this constant guidance isn’t a gigantic glow. It is more like a trickle of constant truth that will aid us in our designs to become godly. It also doesn’t compel us to be godly. But, it puts forth subtle invitations that alter our path a little at a time toward a godly end. This trickle is meted out to us in greater or lesser degrees as we continue to exercise our agency in keeping commandments, seeking for more knowledge and understanding, becoming Christlike, and receiving and entering into more covenants. If we don’t keep our end of the covenants the trickle is slowed to an occasional drop and eventually will leave us if we fail to repent and keep trying. We don’t have to be perfect to have the guidance of the Holy Ghost. We only have to be sincerely trying.

So, what good is a constant trickle of truth? How do we use it? What does it do?

Now, I don’t wish to diminish the experiences of those who claim to have been preserved physically by the Holy Ghost’s promptings. And yet, the fact is that those inexperienced with the Gift of the Holy Ghost often seem to preach about such physical-saving experiences as if this is the most common and important purpose the Holy Ghost serves. It is not. In fact, if indeed the Holy Ghost prompts us to take an action that will preserve us physically (which He can and has done at times but certainly doesn’t do often), it is the least important function to hope for. And, if we are not preserved from physical accidents and calamities, it rarely has anything to do with our ability to listen to the Holy Ghost.

Consider this, Christ overcame death with His Atonement for all of us, regardless of how we choose to live in this life. Therefore, no matter what happens to our physical bodies, they are guaranteed to become perfected and resurrected. However, though Christ overcame sin for all of us with His Atonement, access to that portion of grace is guarded and protected by covenants and conditions, like all the rest of God’s power. We can’t be forgiven without sincere action on our part. To offer it otherwise would be a grand mockery of the sacrifice Christ gave. Therefore, in order to receive the spiritually perfecting power of the Atonement we have to use our agency to choose to repent, keep God’s commands, and follow the nudges we get from the Holy Ghost.

The Gift of the Holy Ghost differs from the Light of Christ and the Power of the Holy Ghost in that the Gift of the Holy Ghost has POWER to enact permanent changes in our very emotional, mental, spiritual, and psychological selves. This is what Christ was referring to when He said that we must be born, not only of water, but of the Spirit (St. John 3:5). Baptism is an ordinance and takes place in a moment. But, being slowly changed by the Holy Ghost over time is baptism by fire.

For example, if we have a temper problem but we desire to be better and exercise our agency to try to be slower to anger and more quick to listen and love; over time, the POWER of the GIFT of the Holy Ghost can take our sincere intent and make it powerful enough to actually change our innate nature. If we take any temptation or weakness and exercise our agency to change it or overcome it, the GIFT of the Holy Ghost has the POWER to help us to actually overcome and change.

It doesn’t matter if we have a very debilitating psychological or physical addiction. It doesn’t matter if we are encountered with something that isn’t very tempting to us at all. The amount of temptation or the level of the weakness doesn’t matter. In order to be released from that temptation or addiction we must exercise our agency to overcome it. That act, combined with the POWER of the GIFT of the Holy Ghost, is what gives us the power to change and overcome. It may take one time of saying no and steering away from a temptation. It may take thousands of attempts to say no and steer away from a temptation. Depending on who we are different struggles and temptations will be harder for us. But, a sincere effort, over time, combined with the Gift of the Holy Ghost is what actually purifies and SANCTIFIES us and helps us become more like our Father in Heaven.

This is the amazing role of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. And, combined with our basic conscience and occasional glowing bursts of the Power of the Holy Ghost, each of us is capable of using our agency to become like God. However, without the Gift of the Holy Ghost, even the Power of the Holy Ghost testifying of truth cannot make us godly. We need the POWER of the GIFT to enact real spiritual change in our very beings.

Because of the sacredness and the power of the GIFT of the Holy Ghost, it is guarded by covenant. So, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is not a power to trifle with. He is a member of the godhead. We can’t take His companionship and help for granted.

So, the Light of Christ is basic and beneficial. But, it can’t change our very beings. The occasional bursts and intense glows of truth we get from the Power of the Holy Ghost can help us know God’s will for us and help us recognize His truths. But this burst of truth is an isolated experience that abates in time so that we can exercise our agency to accept or reject it. But, the GIFT of the Holy Ghost is a gift of POWER to become better, until someday we can become perfect. This GIFT is the power by which we become sanctified and holy. And, it is guarded by sacred covenant and only dispensed to those who try to keep that covenant.

BT

Doctrine: 1) We don’t have to be perfect to receive blessings from God and guidance from the Holy Spirit. Our righteous desires and intent validate our imperfect efforts. 2) Guidance from the Holy Spirit will always be recognizable.

So, life’s in general pretty good. But, perhaps today, or the last several days, weeks, or months, you feel as though you are in a spiritual limbo. Or, maybe you’re in the middle of a mentally and emotionally taxing trial, and now it’s getting to you spiritually. Or, maybe you feel like you’re spiritually okay, but you’ve been seeking an answer or guidance in something and it seems to be elusive. You’re not really wondering if there’s an end, but when. You’re not really wondering if God’s going to help you out, but when…and what your role is in getting there.

There are many kinds of spiritual dilemmas, and I can’t list them all here. But, for the anxiously engaged Latter-day Saint, I find there is a common dilemma.

So, what’s this dilemma? It’s placed firmly between the rock of agency and the hard place of God’s grace. It’s the constant struggle to be anxiously engaged in righteousness while still turning our entire life over the will of God. It’s trying to do your part to get blessings without forgetting to submit to God’s plan for you. It’s trying to figure out when to let go and just let God handle it, or when to take more responsibility in the exercise of your agency to arrive at the righteous desires of your heart. It’s the rock and the hard place many good Christians find themselves between when blessings and guidance seem prolonged or well beyond the horizon.

Between a rock and a hard place
A paperclip figure standing between paving stone and a marble stone

We who have slid down into this dilemma often start over-self-examining our lives, our prayers, our Christian service, our past sins, our current weaknesses. Often we ask ourselves ridiculous questions…but they don’t seem ridiculous to us.

  • Have I forgotten to pray for the right thing? Did I get the wording wrong?

  • Have I failed to look in the “right place” for the right job, the needed information, or the answer?

  • Did I stop being anxiously engaged and so the blessing is being withheld?

  • Has God said no, or wait, and I simply missed the signal?

  • Did I respond to my own feelings and not a real prompting, because I thought it was a prompting, but now I’m not seeing any effect?

The list could go on for eternity. I know, I’ve made several such lists.

The problem, however, with such over-zealous self-examination and question lists is that we are ignoring, unaware of, or have forgotten two clear doctrines when it comes to how God works in our lives.

#1: The first doctrine that is misunderstood or misapplied is of our ability to earn blessings and grace. Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 teaches us that there is an eternal law “upon which all blessings are predicated. And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” God has also said, “I the Lord and bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10). Again, we also read, “But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with a doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned [or stopped in progress]” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:29).

The anxiously engaged Latter-day Saint often takes these scriptures to mean that if a blessing isn’t coming, then they must have failed to cross a “t” or dot an “I” somewhere in their commandment keeping; that somehow they have been “unknowingly” slothful; that their “unintentional” weaknesses are keeping them from God’s grace, answers, peace, comfort, and blessings.

The big deception here is that God expects us to be perfect commandment keepers before we can receive blessings and grace. This, is 100% untrue. We don’t have to be perfect. We only have to try to keep the commandments, and to do it with the right intent. “For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (Doctrine and Covenants 137:9).

Note, that God does say that our works matter, but that they are given validity (despite our inability to do them perfect) by the intent and the desire behind it. Our intent is like a seal of approval on a University Diploma or a watermark on a check: it validates that our efforts are not counterfeit or fake. Intent and desire for good validate good actions offered imperfectly. Jeffrey R. Holland said in this year’s April (2016) conference:

“With the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the strength of heaven to help us, we can improve, and the great thing about the gospel is we get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed…

I love that doctrine! It says again and again that we are going to be blessed for our desire to be good, even as we actually strive to be so…” (Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You).

In Moroni 7 we learn that if our intent and desire is righteous then we can only give a good gift. On the other hand, we also learn that we can go through motions of goodness, but that if our intent and desire aren’t righteous, then those pretend motions of goodness don’t count in our favor. They’re fake, or counterfeit.

So, here’s the deal. If you are trying God isn’t going to hide some mysterious phrase from you that if you only used in your prayer, He would bless you. God doesn’t have a big labyrinth full of actions that only if you find and complete each and every one, He would bless you. God, our Heavenly Father, “delights to own and bless us, as we strive to do what’s right” (LDS Hymns 96, Dearest Children, God Is Near You).

#2: The second doctrine we often either have not yet come to understand or study is that promptings and inspiration from the Holy Ghost, while still and small, are NOT wisps of smoke that we can easily ignore or miss. They will carry significant emotional, spiritual, and mental weight; for God will tell us in our mind AND our heart—both (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3). Inspiration and promptings are not hidden under layers of odd images and symbols. God “doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men” (2 Nephi 2:26). (There are some more references to this “weight” further down.)

In other words, God doesn’t play games with any part of our life whether small or great. He doesn’t hide messages from us. He sets very basic conditions upon receiving such messages. If there is something important we need to know or do, the Holy Ghost will make sure we “feel” the weight of such a prompting if we are meeting the conditions for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Now, if you miss a day of scripture study due to sickness or sheer exhaustion; or if you by accident forget a morning prayer, or you were lax in your visiting or home teaching this month, you have not forfeited your right to guidance from the Spirit. Such thinking is rooted in issues mentioned in the first doctrine. You have to openly rebel against God, on purpose, and with evil intent to completely block your reception to the Holy Ghost.

However, if you want to get detailed, then let’s do so. The scriptures teach us that the mysteries of God are kept hidden and are only revealed unto us according to the heed and diligence we give unto that which is revealed to us (Alma 12:9). So, the more in tune our lives are to the Holy Ghost, then the more delicate promptings we can receive. So, there are differing levels of spiritual reception and guidance, but God has given very clearly such conditions: if we listen to and heed a prompting, we will receive more and more until our knowledge and righteous grow brighter and brighter, until the perfect day (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24).

While there are differing levels of spiritual instruction (based upon our heed and diligence) we’ll never be uncertain whether something IS a prompting. It won’t be that elusive. Think about it. We have to know we’ve been prompted or we can’t be accountable for not following the prompting. If we aren’t sure, we can’t be held accountable. Therefore, if you’ve received guidance, you will know.

Now, I don’t know how everyone feels the Spirit. But, most of the scriptural descriptions of the feelings of the Holy Ghost imply a significant “weight of feeling” that is unmistakable. It’s not always a burning in the bosom. Enos said, “…and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, SUNK DEEP INTO MY HEART.” Joseph smith said of James 1:5, “Never did any passage of scripture come with more POWER TO THE HEART of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to ENTER WITH GREAT FORCE into every feeling of my heart.” Joseph F. Smith said of the first epistle of Peter, as he read prior to his vision recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 138, “…and as I read I was GREATLY IMPRESSED, MORE THAN I HAD EVER BEEN BEFORE…”

Sometimes, our natural righteous inclinations lead us to do God’s will without Him having to reinforce it with a big feeling. An idea may just “sit right” with us. God doesn’t have to prompt us to do every good thing (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-27).

Recently, of my own accord I felt the desire—based on my knowledge of her situation and struggles—to write a letter to a dear friend. I agonized over the letter for a few days, but worked hard to write it by the Spirit. Then, I put it in an envelope and put it in the mailbox. I certainly felt a little bit of trepidation about what was in the letter, but never at any time did I feel constrained not to send it. It “sat right” with me to send it, like the two opposing ends of magnets snapping together. I didn’t have to force the idea upon myself, or force myself to ignore any feelings of confusion or spiritual discomfort, like forcing the two same poles of two magnets together—without force they will push apart.

I didn’t feel remorse or guilt for writing the letter. And, I knew the testimony I had borne in the letter was true. Two days later, the very day this friend was receiving my letter, I received a letter from her asking the very questions I had answered in the letter I sent. It was then that I felt an immense weight of relief, joy, and confirmation that my righteous actions—taken without a big prompting—were inspired. Not because God had compelled me to send the letter, but because I had been anxiously engaged in doing something I desired which was right; and because I had sought to do it by the Spirit. As well, God didn’t have to compel me to write the letter, because if I hadn’t sent it, I would have received my friend’s letter eventually and been able to respond. So, it wasn’t a one-time-chance pass/fail thing either. God doesn’t work like that.

Consider, if it was so hard to know what God wanted or expected of us, then choice and accountability would be shot, as well as agency. What confidence could we have in the Holy Ghost if we believed He always spoke so small and still that we had to be perfect, and in perfect silence in the middle of a desert to hear him?

Do we need to live in a such a way to be open and receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and to receive the blessings we desire? Yes. But, if we’re making a consistent effort, not just token offerings, then we don’t have to destroy ourselves with guilt and misery that somehow we missed a light that flashed while we were accidentally blinking.

So, you don’t have to worry that God is playing games with your blessings, help, or answers. His promptings and guidance are clear and recognizable EVERY TIME. If you want deeper promptings and information, live a little closer to the Spirit and heed whatever guidance you receive. And, sometimes you just have to wait for your blessings and answers a little longer. Usually, when you are patient enough they end up being well worth the wait. At least, that has been my experience.

“Therefore, dearly beloved brethren [and sisters], let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power [with righteous desire and intent]; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (Doctrine and Covenants 123:17).

BT

Doctrine(s): Sadness is necessary to comprehending Joy. Opposition in emotion can also lead us to knowledge and understanding. Feeling sad is not evil or sinful, it is natural and necessary. All of our emotions, when properly utilized and controlled, act on our behalf to lead us to Joy. We should not allow Sadness (or any other emotion) to become a fixed state; it should be a stepping stone back to Joy.

I’m not sure how many of you have seen the Disney Movie “Inside Out”. But, owing to the fact that I have a young toddler at home who absolutely loves the movie and can watch it start to finish without blinking, I get to see it a lot. Strangely, it’s not one of those movies that’s easy to get tired of. Let me tell you why.

Each and every time I watch the movie Inside Out I see more and more subtle truths being revealed in grand splendor. To me they are like little nuggets of “real life doctrine” that teach important, yet simple, truths that help us understand life and get through it just a bit better.

The first doctrine seems to be the main plot of the movie. That is that sadness is necessary in life, it’s okay to feel sad, and that sadness is necessary often times to arrive at pure joy and happiness. There needs to be an opposition in all things (2 Nephi 2:11) and indeed, even the omniscient, omnipotent God of heaven still experiences sorrow and weeps (Moses 7:28-33). That’s how important it is.

When the movie begins, Joy doesn’t understand the purpose of sadness. And, in her lack of understanding, she tries to save Riley from Sadness. Sadness is the initial enemy. Even though Riley has been subjected to a major, life-changing event (moving), Joy seems determined that Riley (the character) can proceed forward with life without any emotional impact.

At the beginning of the movie, after Riley has moved to her new house, Sadness begins feeling compelled by the difficult impact of the move to touch memories, fix things, and take control of the console. This compulsion, as Riley reacts to the move and change, is natural. But Joy doesn’t understand that. Indeed, she and the other emotions are sort of in a panic. Then, Riley’s first day of school produces the first ever sad core memory. Joy is so upset by this change she does everything she can to stop the sad core memory from becoming part of Riley’s islands of personality.

Joy, who doesn’t understand the need for Sadness, tries to prevent Riley from it. Because of Joy’s panic, and in her attempts to stop the sad core memory from being put in the core memory slot, she causes both she and Sadness, and all the core memories, to be sucked up into the tube that takes memories to Long Term Memory. Once they’re stranded down there, Joy blames Sadness for their descent from headquarters, but it was actually Joy who was to blame. Joy was so adamant that Riley (the character) not have Sadness in her life that she caused the whole malfunction.

Now, I don’t mean to be hard on Joy. But, the reality is that we all do what she does. We try to have Joy without Sadness. We often try to ignore Sadness or prolong it affecting us. We try to push Sadness to a corner and hope to avoid it. And yet, just like the movie, by not letting Sadness have its place in our lives we cause the opposite of our true desires: significant lack of Joy and a great deal of mental, emotional, and psychological malfunction.

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteous could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11).

 Here’s another interesting doctrine the movie teaches. If Joy were not balanced with Sadness then we would also remain ignorant and be kept from greater happiness. This is illustrated by Joy as she tries to occupy Sadness with mind manuals to get Sadness out of the way, so she (Joy) can keep Riley happy. Then, when the two of them finally do get stranded down in Long Term Memory, Joy doesn’t know anything about where to go or what to do, how to get back to headquarters, what dangers to avoid, or anything. She’s clearly never read the mind manuals herself; likely this is because it wasn’t fun, or because of her positive outlook she kept planning to get around to it eventually. She’s so uninformed that she misses the fact that the mind workers send a memory up to headquarters through a recall tube and yet she doesn’t think to send the core memories she’s carrying up that way. Or, it may also be that her natural selfish bent to “I can fix everything and keep Riley happy” throughout the movie may have blinded her to the idea of not being present to present the core memories and fix Riley herself. So, instead of sending them up to headquarters without her, she plunges onward.

Joy, alone, can often be selfish. Joy, by itself, often procrastinates the necessary drudgeries of life that when embraced lead to greater amounts of Joy. But Joy tends to live for the moment; which is the type of thing that often leads to more sorrow, not more Joy.

The next instance we see Joy’s ignorance is in her inability to comfort Bing Bong after he loses his wagon. Joy wants to ignore his pain and disappointment. She tries to make him laugh, or play a fake game to get him to do what she wants. She sees no point in taking time to be sad so she tries to bypass it. This makes Joy seem a bit insensitive and unkind, which Joy can be when not balanced with other emotions. Then again, we see Joy’s inability to succeed in waking Riley up from sleep with happy dreams because she thinks that only happiness can solve problems.

Thankfully, this continued struggle is slowed when Joy begins to trust Sadness. Sadness helps them get into the subconscious. Sadness helps Joy to see that scaring Riley was the only way to wake her up. But, then, yet again, when Joy thinks she’s found a way back to headquarters through a larger recall tube, she won’t let Sadness come too because Sadness’s presence is turning the core memories sad. This return to thinking Sadness is bad for Riley is Joy’s final downfall. She ends up in The Dump.

Joy only begins to understand Sadness’s true purpose while in The Dump. She realizes that Riley’s sadness is what allowed people to come to her aid in the past. She also sees that Sadness was also the precursor to one of Riley’s happiest moments! At last Joy understands.

So often, each of us thinks that Sadness is an evil thing. That we should never feel sad. That we should feel bad about ourselves if we can’t feel super happy each day. Even when life’s is throwing big things at us like: job changes, moves, financial struggles, relationship issues, crises of faith, and more; we think there is something wrong with us if we can’t paste on a smile.

I’m not saying that people don’t suffer with anxiety or depression that doesn’t need to be treated. Modern medicines are so helpful and often necessary. But I am saying that as Latter-day Saints, we often misinterpret, “…and if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high…” to mean that we have to pretend to be happy in difficult times and avoid the natural dips into sadness (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8). Being at peace is a form of happiness and joy. But, it does not mean we can’t have days where we feel sad, sorrowful, or depressed when the weight of life is upon us. It doesn’t mean we don’t pray for, cry for, and hope for the end of some struggles and transitions. It does mean that we don’t lose faith and that we press on with or without a smile. But, though we should try to remember our blessings, to count them, and to serve others, it doesn’t mean that being sad is wrong or bad.

Sadness leads us to seek help from God when we are down. Sadness is a precursor to humility and seeking knowledge and comfort. Guilt for sin—a form of regret and sadness—leads us to seek repentance. Sorrow from the consequences of unwise choices leads us to make wiser choices. And so on.

In fact, it is those depths of sadness and sorrow to which we sink which make rising out of them into glorious blessings, relief, forgiveness, and answers so sharp, beautiful, clear, fresh, and transcendent. Well did Eve say, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth to all the obedient” (Moses 5:11). If it were not for the lows, the highs would not feel so high. “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).

 Having been down to plenty of sad lows myself, I can testify that the joys are far more rich than they ever could have been had the lows never come. Contrast is a true teacher.

The rest of the doctrines in the movie Inside Out are much more subtle. For instance, one time that I was watching Inside Out, I was struck by the fact that the other emotions (aside from Joy) didn’t seem to resent the fact that Joy did most of the driving. She was acknowledged and accepted as the PRIMARY DRIVER. Indeed, the other emotions only came into play when they wanted to return Riley to a happy state. Disgust drove when she wanted to keep Riley from eating broccoli. But, when the vegetable was avoided, Disgust stepped aside and let Joy resume driving. When Riley was threatened with losing her dessert Anger stepped in to provide the impetus for Riley to complain so that her happiness could be restored by getting dessert. Fear stepped in only to keep Riley from hurting herself, then immediately stepped aside. On Riley’s first day of school, when Joy suggested that she drive the console all day, not one of the other emotions seemed to feel shafted or left out. Why? Because, it occurred to me, that the purpose of all the emotions is to help Riley to be happy. Anger, Sadness, Fear, and Disgust play their roles to help Riley have Joy. It is not a matter of equality in time driving or in importance.

The doctrine: all of our emotions, when properly understood, utilized, and controlled, play a necessary part in helping us achieve Joy.

Now, when the other emotions were left to drive without Joy and Sadness, the excess of Anger, Fear, and Disgust put Riley’s life into crisis. She made poor decisions that while they led her to action, that action was not going to lead to actual happiness. So, though our emotions try to protect our happiness they must be trained to understand what true happiness is. Losing out on dessert can teach us to eat healthy which in the long run will lead to greater happiness, etc.

The doctrine: when our emotions/passions are not properly understood and controlled, they try to bring us happiness, but their excessive responses can lead us to more Fear, Anger, and Disgust.

So, all in all, it’s amazing how much doctrine one cartoon can contain. You wouldn’t think you’d read a blog article telling you it’s okay to be sad. But it is okay. It is not bad. It is not a sin.

Yet, while I do encourage the notion that Sadness is necessary and most certainly okay. We must all still exercise our agency and not allow Sadness to engulf us. Sadness has a place. It is meant to help us get help. It is meant to help us comprehend true Joy and feel true gratitude. It is meant to lead us to self-evaluate and act to climb back up to Joy. To let Sadness overwhelm us is just as ineffective as letting any other emotion mindless control.

BT

(P.S. Sadness is my favorite character!)