There is a reason that no matter how good life seems to be going it still always seems to break down. Whether sooner or later those breakdowns come. How can you avoid those break downs? How can you make life a journey of peace and prosperity?

Well, take the time to listen to one of my most recent podcasts. Find out why breakdowns happen. How breakdowns can get fixed. And learn how to avoid breakdowns and turn life into a journey of peace. Click on the podcast link below.

https://the-stuff-life-is-made-of.simplecast.com/episodes/the-stuff-you-should-know-about-doctrine

I am often on my knees asking for those things that I feel I need and want. I am often praying for guidance. I am often looking for peace, or inspiration. Aren’t we all? I am often on my knees because that’s where I’m supposed to be. I’m more frequently on my knees (these days) because I know nowhere else to go to get the power, comfort, peace and reassurance I need. Indeed, there is nowhere else to go…in my experience.

Efficiency is something I like. I’m great at cleaning and organizing quickly because I’m efficient. I know how to see all that needs to be done and find ways to organize and clean in an order that saves time while also accomplishing a great deal at a high quality. I can be detail oriented when I need to be, but I never get lost in details.

Prayer is something I have worked long and hard to be efficient at. Not efficient as in praying as fast as I can, in as few words, with the most impact, like I’m running a business, or organizing files. No, efficient as in getting the power and guidance out of prayer that I need. Getting out of my own way, so to speak. Praying in a way that works. Not simply spouting words or expecting God to read my mind (which I know He can do). And, by focusing on how to make my prayers matter TO ME, I find that I offer them better and with more effect, granting me expediency…or the ability to get those things I so desperately seek.

I hope I’m saying this right. There are many ways to accomplish things in life. But, there are better ways, and best ways. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to, metaphorically speaking, eliminate the fluff, and get to a point where my prayers hopefully have maximum efficiency in helping me to increase my relationship with God and my ability to call down the powers of heaven to gain peace, guidance, inspiration, and assurance on my path through this life.

One of the ways I have found that I’ve been able to improve upon this (because I’m in no way perfect at prayer) is to understand and utilize the power of expediency.

Expedient

Several times in the Doctrine and Covenants, an entire book of revelation given based on expediency, we see the word expedient used to define what should be asked for in prayer and/or what things will be manifested unto us by the Holy Ghost (Doctrine and Covenants 18:18; 88:64-65).

Expedient = what is advantageous, practical, beneficial, useful

The scriptures are full of counsel regarding prayer. There are some important elements: addressing God—the Father, expressing gratitude, seeking forgiveness of sins, praying over anything in our lives that we need help with, asking for grace, praying for others, etc., and closing in the name of Jesus Christ—our Mediator.

However, when it comes to getting specific answers from God to our prayers, there are guidelines that are given. However, it hasn’t been until very recently that I have begun to understand, to a better extent, all the guidelines and examples of expedient prayers given in the scriptures and what they mean for me. And, more importantly, how to use them to receive the answers I seek.

What NOT to Ask For

In the scriptures, God has told us in many ways expedientthings we are not supposed to ask for. We are to not ask for things that are not expedient (Doctrine and Covenants 88:5). We are not to ask for signs for proof, or to create faith or testimony (Doctrine and Covenants 63:7-12). We are commanded not to ask for things to consume upon our lusts (James 4:3). We are not to seek for revenge upon our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We are not to pray for riches, except that we may use what riches we receive to build up the kingdom of God (Jacob 2:19), etc.

So, we can talk to God about everything. But, we must take into consideration some important guidelines when it comes to what blessings we seek at God’s hand. Asking God to do a back flip just to satisfy our curiosity about his mobility is hardly a proper thing to ask of the Almighty. We must be mindful of what we pray for, ask for, and seek for from our Father in Heaven.

So, what are those guidelines for asking?

While there are many scriptures that point to these guidelines, I’m going to boil it down to a few.

James 1:5

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not and it shall be given him.

What are we commanded to ask for? Wisdom.

Note that God uses the word “wisdom.” He doesn’t say information. He doesn’t say fun facts. He says wisdom. Wisdom is far different than information and fun facts.

Wisdom = experience, knowledge, good judgment, intelligence, common sense; as well as the ability to apply such to our lives. Wisdom also refers to general societal knowledge and principles.

So, when God says, “If you lack wisdom,” He means that you don’t have the wisdom/intelligence you need to act wisely.

James 1:6

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering, for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

Note that God says to, “ask in faith, nothing wavering.” We also often receive the counsel from God to ask, “with real intent,” or in “sincerity of heart” or with “full purpose of heart” (Moroni 7:9; 10:4, 2 Nephi 31:13). I believe these are all similar in meaning, in that God means us to pray with the intent to listen and to follow. If we seek answers or instruction or guidance, He wants us to know He won’t give us wisdom if we have no intent to act upon it (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33; Matthew 7:6). He only gives light and truth to those who will receive it, act on it, and seek for more (Alma 12:9-11).Man praying

How are we commanded to ask for wisdom? With the sincere intent to act upon the wisdom we hope to receive.

Joseph Smith-History 1:18

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join.

Alma 22:18

O God Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.

In these two scriptures it’s important to pay attention to what the individuals are praying for. Joseph asks to know which church is true that he may know which to join. The King of the Lamanites wants to God to manifest unto him if He exists, that he may give away all his sins to know Him and live with Him.

Herein lies the answer to expediency. Both want simple answers that they may know how to act so that they may progress spiritually—for themselves.

We know that God’s work and glory is to bring about our immortality (living forever) and eternal life (life like God and with God) (Moses 1:39). If that is God’s most important and eternal work, then, it would seem that those things that are expedient for us are those endowments of knowledge and wisdom that will lead us (if we listen and follow it) to live with and become like God.

What wisdom are we supposed to seek? The wisdom that will lead us forward in God’s plan toward becoming like Him.

Doctrine and Covenants 9:6-10

Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.

Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right…

Now, if you have known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now.

This scripture was given for Oliver Cowdery who was told he could help translate the Book of Mormon. But, once he was told he could help he expected all the wisdom and guidance from the Spirit he needed would simply come. Poof. He took no thought for the effort required to receive the wisdom and guidance he needed.

A modern equivalent of the mistake Oliver Cowdery made is to get a calling to teach Sunday school at church. And then, simply because you were called and set apart you didn’t think it was necessary to prepare your lessons, pray for guidance before each lesson, and then to follow that guidance in preparing and delivering your lesson. The calling didn’t exempt you from the effort to do the calling the Lord called you to do.

It’s like getting the validation that God is okay with whom you choose to marry. But, simply because you got married in the temple you expect that everything will be celestial without actually living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ in your daily married life–simply because God said, OK. Nothing in this life, or in eternity, is simply handed to us without accompanying effort and responsibility to care for the gift received. All godly guidance requires effort to receive and effort to follow.

Woman hands praying with a bible in a dark over wooden table

How are we to seek for the wisdom we lack? We are to do our part to get what wisdom we can before going to the Lord for either validation or further guidance. We are never “done” getting personal revelation until we have become godly.

Now, let’s set forth the specific pattern we’ve identified for getting answers to our prayers.

Pattern #1: You’ve got to work

Brigham young taught, “It is only where experience fails that revelation is needed” (BY, 416). I might alter that to say, “where wisdom fails.”

If the information is reasonably available to us through sincere efforts of searching, seeking, discussion with wise friends and family members, and pondering, God isn’t going to give a separate answer. God is loving but I suspect a perfect being is also perfectly efficient and not prone to ridiculous acts simply because we come to Him crying. As well, when we put ourselves into a climate of seeking, pondering, discussing, and searching, there is no limit to the answers God can give us about many things. So, to just dispense one sentence phrases or even short paragraphs anytime we have a question is not only inefficient and contrary to God’s nature, it deprives us of the further light and knowledge God has for us on many topics. A truly loving God will choose the more helpful, expedient, and valuable of the two ways to answering our prayers.

Pattern #2: Expediency*

As God’s 24/7 goal (if you want to put it in mortal time constraints) is to save and exalt us and help us become godly (Moses 1:39). It would stand therefore, that though all questions are good, the best questions are those that are derived from the deepest, simplest desires of our hearts.

*I want to make a brief comment about lines of revelation. God has set up His church to have accepted lines of revelation so that we know when something is from God, or not. God is a god of order, and not confusion (Doctrine and Covenants 132:8). Revelation for the entire church comes through the prophet. Revelation for the region comes through the designated Seventy. Revelation for our stake comes through the Stake President. Revelation for our ward comes through the Bishop. Revelation for the Relief Society comes through the Relief Society President, etc.

Revelation for our lives comes to us. As well, in personal lives there are also smaller, but distinct lines of communication. Parents can only get so much guidance for their children. The older children become the less revelation a parent can receive on behalf of a child. A parent may receive inspiration to caution a child about something. But, if child receives a spiritual witness that a parent has not also received it means that the child is capable of getting his/her own revelation and that God doesn’t need to cycle that revelation through the parent. Etc.

So, expediency may also relate to questions we ask that are not for ourselves. Even if the wisdom will comfort us, but it is ultimately wisdom intended for a line of authority which we are not in; then we are not likely to get such wisdom, especially if we cannot act on it for our own, personal salvation.

Pattern #3: Real Intent

Finally, we must have the true intent to act upon the wisdom we receive. If we want facts to satisfy fears and doubts, but we have no intent to do anything based on the counsel or guidance that comes, we are very unlikely to get much, if anything.

Example of the Expedient Pattern:

If we look at Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in Joseph Smith-History; we learn that prior to going to the sacred grove to ask which church to join, Joseph attended all the several meetings of the many churches in his area. All focused on different points of doctrine. All interpreted the Bible differently. We know Joseph got to know many of the pastors well. We know he conversed with them and asked them questions on their varied doctrines. We also know Joseph studied the scriptures looking for guidance as to what church to join. He searched and pondered and studied. He did all the seeking he could. HE WORKED

Then, when the wisdom of society, the scriptures, and his own failed, then he went to ask of God.

JOSEPH ASKED AN EXPEDIENT QUESTION. Which church should I join?

JOSEPH ASKED WITH REAL INTENT. Joseph asked with the intent to join whatever church God told him to join. He simply wanted to know which one was God’s.

Note, he didn’t ask God, “Is the Methodist church better than the Presbyterian?” He didn’t ask, “Why are there so many churches?” He didn’t ask, “The Bible says there’s one faith and one baptism. Why then do all the churches have so many different ways of baptizing?” None of these are bad questions. They simply don’t have the greatest expediency.

Joseph’s question was expedient because the answer would allow Joseph to progress toward godliness and salvation.

Questions that are generally not expedient

Based on these patterns, let’s look at questions that are generally not expedient. These are unlikely to get answered because the answer doesn’t necessary lead to personal action or progression.

  • What color was the Liahona?
  • When will the second coming of Christ be?
  • How come you let the prophet put this new policy in place that seems so unlike you?
  • Why can’t women also officiate in the Priesthood?
  • Why did you let me lose my job?
  • Why did you let that terrible catastrophe happen?
  • Was the earth really created in five earth days or is what science says correct?
  • Did you use evolution to create all life?

Now, let’s look take these un-expedient questions down to their core. Let’s look at the deeper, simpler questions that are behind them that are expedient. The answers to these questions require pre-work and also will lead to personal action and progression.

Questions that are more expedient**

  • I have read the Book of Mormon and find much good in it. Is the Book of Mormon Woman Sitting Down in Prayer Silhouettetrue? Is it your word?
  • I’m trying to live a good life, but I know I’m not ready to see Christ. So, what is the most important thing I can be doing right now to prepare for the second coming of Christ?
  • I am trying to accept and follow the prophet’s counsel in all things. But I’m struggling with this most current policy. Can you please reassure me. Is <current prophet> a true prophet?
  • I’ve been studying the scriptures and have found several passages that indicate your love for all your children. But, I’m still struggling to feel peace about it in relation to how the church is set up. Can you reassure me? Can you help me to know that you love women as much as you do men?
  • I’ve lost my job. I’ve looked at several jobs and have applied to the ones I feel will best help me take care of my family. Is the course my life is taking according to Thy will? Will I be able to find the job you want me to have?
  • Science makes it seem like the earth coming into being was random and took eons (implies study). I don’t know how to reconcile that with what the Bible says (implies study). Perhaps there is much missing from both the scientific and the Bible accounts. So, can you please reassure me? Did you create the earth?
  • Am I really your literal spirit son or daughter? Or am I just a product of evolution? I need to know so that I can feel confident in the course of action I’m choosing for my life. If you’re real and I’m your child, then that will change the decision I make.

**Note that the answer to any of these questions requires previous personal action and study and that the answer will lead to continued personal action and eternal progression.

We can be upset or confused about many things in life. But, that which is of most value for us to do is to break down those frustrations we have to their core doctrine, their deepest simplest root, and then take that question to the Lord rather than the more complex and less expedient questions we often have.

It is important to note, however, that the Lord can answer any question we put to Him. There are occasions when He has answered what, according to the formula I have presented, are less expedient questions. When He has done so and why is beyond my ability to confer to you. But, from my own study and experience, I have felt that, in general, we are likely to get answers more quickly and more clearly if we seek to make our questions and requests expedient.

Why doesn’t God tell us everything? Why doesn’t He speak the answer to every issue and question we have in our minds and hearts? I don’t know. But, as I am confident in his “true love” for us, I believe that the problem is not His limitation in answering, but ours in desiring the best knowledge and understanding how to receive those expedient answers.

Our finite understanding, perspective, and capabilities make it impossible for us to converse with the Lord as we would likely wish. There is much the Lord can tell us if our hearts and minds are right and prepared. But, He has chosen to reveal only those things that are expedient for our eternal progression.

So, we can get upset that God doesn’t tell us everything. OR, we can follow the pattern He has set for getting answers to prayers.

BT

Doctrine: Expediency has everything to do with getting consistent answers to our prayers. The scriptures lay out a pattern for asking expedient questions and receiving answers. God is not limited in His ability to talk to us, but we are limited in our ability to hear His voice and understand His ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

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

The Holy Ghost is a Gift, not an Entitlement

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

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

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

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

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

So, how bad to you want it?

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

Hands opening a red gift box with ribbon in shadow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Prescription for Better Recognizing the Guidance of the Holy Ghost

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

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

I might add:

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

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

Different Ways of Feeling or Receiving Promptings and Guidance

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

Reading the Scriptures

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

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

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

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

Making Life Decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Inspired at Church

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

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

Preparing a Lesson

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

BT

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

End Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Identifying Doctrine Helps us Come to Know God

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

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

An Invitation

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

Do you want any of the following:

1.       Closer relationship with God

2.       Increase your belief in the existence of God

3.       Understand some of what God does better

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

5.       Understand better temple worship and ordinances

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

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

8.       Strengthen your witness and testimony of Christ

9.       Increase your capacity to live a godly life

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

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

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

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

BT

In a church where people talk about having “the truth,” and being so grateful to have “the truth,” I find that so many are fuzzy on what an actual truth, or doctrine, is. I know all of us understand that we have been blessed with truth. But, when I ask people (adults or youth) to state a truth, they often stare at me uncertain of what to say.

Now, I suspect that many factors may be the cause. Perhaps it’s because I’ve put them on the spot. Perhaps it’s because it’s hard to choose from hundreds of truths that they know. Or, it might also be that while they understand the idea of truth generally, they have very little understanding of it specifically, or how to generate or identify specific truths from looking at a piece of content.

For example. If I say, “Read St. John 17:3 and tell me what truth(s) you find there,” many people look at me stumped. And, I look back, stumped as to what the issue is. It’s a fairly simple scripture: “And this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.”

Possible truths from this very short scripture (though there are likely many more) that I can identify:

  • God and Jesus Christ are separate beings (if we have to come to know them both)
  • Eternal life comes through knowing God and Jesus
  • God sent Jesus Christ to us
  • Eternal life is possible

However, if I ask someone to tell me what they believe, what their beliefs are, then, all of the sudden they are spouting truths…and doctrines—for the most part.

What is a Doctrine?

A doctrine is: a fundamental, eternal, unchanging truth. It is something that was, is, and always will be (D&C 93:24; Jacob 4:13). It doesn’t change. Principles are tied very closely to doctrines and so often it makes little sense to define them separately. But, most usually they are the framework built upon foundational doctrines. Thus, principles rarely, if ever, change. But, applications—which people teach more than anything else—are changeable, adaptable, and often individual and personal.

So, when we are seeking for doctrines, we are looking for fundamental, unchanging truths. Looking back up, notice that the truths/doctrines I pulled from St. John 17:3 are exactly that—fundamental. God and Christ will always be separate beings. We can’t get eternal life if we don’t know God and Jesus Christ and have a relationship with them. God sent Christ to us (St. John 3:16-17). Eternal life is possible or we wouldn’t be here. All unchanging, fundamental truths of our life here on earth and of the gospel.

All of these individual statements of truth are a whole blog on their own. But today my focus is helping others find and identify clear doctrines. It’s a spiritual skill many lack merely because they’ve never been presented with the idea that they should acquire it. I would like to suggest that from this point in history onward, the ability to identify both true and false doctrine is the most important spiritual skill we can acquire.

I was reading last night in 1 Nephi and I came upon some very beautiful scripture—scripture referring to our time, our day, and doctrine.

1 Nephi 15:14

And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.

Here are the truths/doctrines that I can pull from this scripture:

  • We are of the House of Israel
  • We are the covenant people of the Lord (with a sacred responsibility–not an elite title–to dispense the gospel and it’s ordinances to the world)
  • We need the knowledge of the Redeemer and the very points of His doctrine so that we may know how to come unto Him and be saved

Obviously, the truth that sticks out the most to me is that we need to know Christ (have a relationship with Him) and understand “the very points of His doctrine,” so that we can know how to come unto Him and be saved.

Do you know how to identify doctrine? Do you know how to identify false doctrine?

So many people fall away from the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ because they fail to understand true doctrine and how to identify false doctrine. Thus, they are led away by “every wind of [false] doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).

In 1 Nephi 15:11 it says:

Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.

Here is one of many scriptures in which God gives a formula for getting answers (i.e. doctrine), for receiving personal revelation.

  1. Harden not your hearts
  2. Ask in faith, believing ye shall receive
  3. While diligently keeping the commandments you do understand

What does it mean to “harden not your hearts?” Well, something hard is inflexible. It’s usually impenetrable. It’s sometimes easily broken or brittle. Other substances roll off, cannot penetrate, or bounce off of it.

So, if you have a hard heart you can surmise the figurative connections. You have a set way of thinking and you are not willing to consider other information or perspectives (inflexible), not even for comparison or to strengthen your current point of view. You do not let the Spirit get in. You stop Him from entering by justifying actions or emotions that do not have the Spirit/Him as their source (impenetrable). Your anger or emotions are so full within you that it takes very little to break you, or set you off (brittle). You deny, dismiss, devalue, or reject kindness, guidance, help, service, or especially the idea that you may be wrong or deceived.

If you want to be able to identify true doctrine and false doctrine, you must have a soft heart. If your heart is hard, you have to soften it. If you’re going through the motions, you have to stop and smell the spiritual roses. If you’re justifying unrighteous actions in the name of righteousness, you’ve got to stop. If you’re justifying emotions and actions that are not godly to prevent being confronted with other ideals, you’ve got to stop deceiving yourself. If you’re looking for pillars of light every time you seek for truth you’re going to have to open yourself up to other types of light: enlightenment, peace, love, joy, feelings of wanting to do good and to serve, etc.

Asking in faith, believing that ye shall receive. This is not overly complex. It has to at least refer to our attitude. If you ask God as a dare or challenge, that is not faith. That is a doubtful, vengeful attitude. Asking in faith doesn’t require vast amounts of energy. It merely translates to allowing yourself to hope and to believe. To ask help for your unbeliefs or doubts, and express your hope for confirmations and guidance.  It’s far more about eliminating the negative than pretending to be overly confident, or to not have doubts (Mark 9:24). We all have doubts. It’s humility. It’s hope and belief.

Continuing to be diligent… Often people want to put their obedience on hold until they have proof. That’s like asking your current employer to give you a raise and more responsibility while you quit working and chill in the work room. Promising then to go back to work and assume your new responsibilities once the raise has been issued. Yes, it’s that silly.

Asking in faith while diligently keeping the commandments is critical to being able to identify true and false doctrines. You can’t abandon the truth you thought you understood while hoping to figure out the truth you are still trying to figure out.

  • All doctrine—all fundamental, unchanging, eternal truths are interrelated and connected with other fundamental, unchanging truths. This is because it all comes from God.
  • If you are acting upon the truths you know, or are more confident in, then it makes you more susceptible to discovering the truths you seek.
  • If you are acting in truth, it makes it possible to identify false truths. The very quality of being involved in truth makes untruths more clear. It increases the contrast.
  • The less truth/light you espouse (while you wait for confirmation) decreases your ability to recognize and to identify false truths.

D&C 84:45:

For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

D&C 50:24-25

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you;

Truths/doctrines I identified from these scriptures (though there are likely more):

  • True doctrine is light
  • Truth/doctrine is inseparable from the Spirit
  • That which comes from God is light (and truth/doctrine)
  • The more light (truth/doctrine) we receive the more light (and truth/doctrine) we can perceive and receive
  • Understanding that truth is light allows us to perceive and remove the darkness

So, if you have a soft heart and you are wanting God to reveal truth to you, all you have to do is immerse yourself in the word of God (including the Bible—as far as it is translated correctly, Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants, Conference addresses, and Church lesson manuals).

Now, I’m not saying there isn’t truth outside the Standards Work of the church. I’m not. There is truth everywhere. But, I am suggesting that all truths—even more secular ones (like psychology, chemistry, geology, etc.) still tie back, fundamentally to the most deep and fundamental gospel truths. So, I would admonish caution. Just like spring water that bubbles up from the ground. The further you get from the pure source of God’s word, the more likely you’ll find the purity infused with interpolations, omissions, and speculation. And, the tinier the interpolations, omissions, and speculation the easier it is to be taught false doctrine. So, be cautious.

How to Identify Doctrines

One of the best ways to identify doctrine is to focus on small portions. Take one quote from a prophet, or one verse or two from the scriptures. Or, look at a whole storyline from a chapter (or chapters). After reading the quote, or verses, follow a series of questions or pondering similar to this:

  • Write what it means to you in your own words.
    • Try to start with the words, “I can_______” or “Because of ______ I can _______” or “My ______” so that your formulate your feelings and ideas into a statement of truth. Trying to come up with if/then statements is also a good way to tackle it. There are other ways to start statements, but this helps if you struggle to begin.
  • Break the quote, verses, or storyline down into several small phrases or ideas/teachings. Write what each of these phrases means to you in your own words (trying to formulate it as a statement of truth).
  • Answer the following questions (as applicable):
    • What action, trait, feeling, or habit does this quote teach me about that helps me become like God?
    • What principles of the gospel does this pertain to?
    • What ordinances and covenants does this help me to make/keep?
    • What part of the plan of salvation does this help me to accomplish?
    • What would my life be like without this belief, teaching, or truth?

Let’s practice.

Consider this quote by Dieter F. Uchtdorf from the most recent October 2017 Conference and run through the steps above. Try not to read past it (to my examples) before you’ve tried at least one on your own. Why? Because you may be prompted by the Spirit to see something I didn’t see. If you look only at my examples, you may miss personal revelation and direction.

There may be many things about life that are beyond your control. But in the end, you have the power to choose both your destination and many of your experiences along the way. It is not so much your abilities but your choices that make the difference in life.

No, go try the steps before reading on. Just try one or two to start. Not all questions apply to every quote, scripture, or storyline.

latter-day_saint_scripture_quadruple_combination

Possible truths, put into my own words, from this quote:

  • I can control only certain things in my life
  • I can choose my destinations
  • I can choose many, but not all, of my experiences in life
  • My choices make more of a difference than my abilities

How these statements of truth help me to become like God:

God acts, He is not acted upon (2 Nephi 2:14). He is not a reactor, He is an actor. That’s how He remains God. By taking control of what I can control and letting go of what I can’t control, I become an active agent who does not allow my circumstances to dictate who I am or who I will become. I can choose.

What would my life be like without these truths?

Now, that’s a question that each of you can answer. Because, you know what your life is like currently. You know if you currently understand and act upon these truths. You know if you need to embrace and act upon these truths. Thus, you know what your life has been like without them, and you may likely guess how you need to change to integrate them into your life.

These statements of truths above are doctrines. They will not change.

Consider this scripture Ether 12:27:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

No, go try some of the steps…

Possible truths put into my own words from this quote:

  • I can be shown my weakness if I come unto Christ
  • I can choose to be humble (I may be humble) because of the weakness God has given unto me
  • My weakness can become a strength if I humble myself before God and have faith in Him

What trait this helps me to develop as I try to become like God:

Christ was humble before God despite His godly strengths. He was also humble before God because of His mortality (or weakness). His weakness made Him able to be our Savior, set an example for us, truly sympathize with our mortal struggles, and thus it became a strength to Him, to God, and to us. By using my weakness to serve the Lord I can also be a savior of others, set a specific example, truly sympathize with others’ mortal struggles, and thus turn it into a strength.

The part of the plan that this helps me to accomplish:

Weakness increases my opportunity to live by and exercise my faith in Christ. Faith is the first step in becoming like God and embracing the ordinances and covenants that will help me become like Him.

Note that every time I tried to make a statement I created a doctrine/truth. Every time I tried to answer one of the questions, I ended up making several statements of doctrine/truth. The applications…they were vague. What actions I need to control and not try to control. What ways I use my weakness to serve the Lord, set an example, etc. are all up to me. But, the doctrines discovered and noted were clear. The “why” behind the applications was clear, though I took no time to develop possible applications.

Don’t Focus on Seeking Applications or Teaching Applications

Too often we all judge others by our own individual applications of doctrine and thus judge unrighteously. We judge by the applications (which are variable) and not by the doctrine. We often then teach applications instead of doctrine…thus, polluting the doctrine with our own interpolations and omissions and speculations. We think if we tell others how to live they will live and be happy. Only to find that they don’t “get it,” because they don’t understand the gospel. This is because we have taught them behaviors and applications and not doctrine. We can’t do that anymore. Not for one more day or hour. We, and our children, need doctrine. They need to know how to recognize it, find it, and identify  it. They need God’s light! We need God’s light.

Learning to recognize, find, and identify true doctrines is how the paragraph in 1 Nephi 15:14 can be accomplished in our time

As we learn to identify true doctrines we will be able to more clearly identify false doctrines. And thus, as a generation of the gospel, we will have the power to come unto Christ and be saved. We can be saved from the false doctrines of our day. We can be saved from much sorrow and pain and confusion as we actively seek doctrine. As we more deeply understand the “why” behind all of the commandments, principles, and applications of the gospel, we will have our testimonies built firmly upon the foundations of the doctrines of Christ (Helaman 5:12). We will be unshakeable. We will know God and Jesus Christ through our experiences with their very personal instruction to us through the power and Gift of the Holy Ghost.

We can come unto Christ and be saved as we learn to identify and understand “the very points of His doctrine.”

Boyd K. Packer taught:

True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.

The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior [or application] quicker than a study of behavior [or applications] will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel.

I love doctrine. I crave it. I look for it (true and false) in everything I watch, read, or hear. We all need to learn to love true doctrine and to crave it, not only so that we can come unto Christ. But so that we can help others come unto Him, and be saved.

Want More Holy Ghost? Seek More Doctrine!

Just remember, doctrines don’t change. Applications can. The Holy Ghost uses doctrine to teach us individual application. It’s not the other way around. Teaching applications is a dramatic spiritual power drain. Doctrine/truth and the Spirit are inseparable. So, without doctrine, the Holy Ghost is limited in His power to guide us. As we learn to pull doctrine from everything we are exposed to (or learn to identify false doctrine), our power to be taught by the Holy Ghost will increase exponentially. He will use those clear, unchanging truths to teach us specific applications for our own lives (not necessarily for others). We will recognize His voice in our lives more than ever before. His ways of communicating with us will become clear.

What is doctrine? It’s truth. It’s light. It’s the power to be taught and tutored by the Holy Spirit. It’s life eternal.

BT

Doctrine: There is a difference between doing good and becoming good. We cannot truly become good, or as God is, until our motivation for doing so transcends expected, or even perceived rewards and blessings. Our sole motivation has to be personal peace. When we gain control of ourselves, instead of trying to control everything else, we are closer to “becoming” than we ever dreamed possible. This is spiritual independence.

  • How many of your words and actions, each day, are based upon your reaction to the words and actions of others?
  • How many of your words and actions, each day, are based upon aspects of life that are outside of your control?
  • What was the most recent thing you said, or did, in reaction to life, that you felt justified in doing, but which didn’t make you feel happy or peaceful afterward? It might even have made you feel worse-even though you were justified.
  • Finally, how much of what you do is because it’s a commandment with an expected or perceived blessing?

In the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, Christ gave sermons which we often call the beatitudes or the sermon on the mount. We often assume that the word “beatitudes” means BE ATTITUDES. But, the term beatitude is not English. It’s  a term adapted from the Latin: beatitudo, a noun meaning “state of blessedness.”

In other words, a beatitude is a “state or condition of being that results in blessedness.”

If you read the sermon on the mount, you’ll note that Christ doesn’t give instructions on how to “do” the beatitudes. He merely states in many different ways, “blessed are they who <blank> for they shall <blank>.” He seems to be implying that some blessings are not simply achieved by going through the motions or checking something off a list. Indeed, He makes it quite clear that some Christlike characteristics cannot be earned and that the blessed results are simply that: a natural result of becoming or embodying that attribute.

It is true that doing does lead to becoming IF our motivation becomes pure. So, let me restate that: the blessedness that accompanies each beatitude is a natural result of the person not simply doing certain actions, but becoming or embodying that Christlike attribute. It comes naturally to them. It IS who they are. They don’t have to sit down and think about BEING in these states. They simply are them and the natural blessedness results. For example, Christ said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

So, what is the difference in doing righteous actions in expectation of receiving a blessing or actually becoming, or embodying a Christlike attribute and blessedness following as an natural result?

BECOMING = ACTIONS ARE INDEPENDENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS, INCITING SITUATIONS, OTHERS’ ACTIONS, AND INFLUENCES.

When we act based upon who we want to be and not based upon what we think such actions will bring us, our actions become independent. They become fully ours in a deep and inexplicable way. Such actions then become able to be assimilated into our very being because the full power of our choice is behind them. We become literally spiritually independent.

Note: I said the full power of our choice is behind them. No one is bribing or persuading us to do such choices. No one is promising to behave a certain way if we act a certain way. We are giving all that we are to a choice that is not motivated by anything other than personal peace and conviction. Our action is fully independent of anyone or anything (even God, in a sense).

DOING = ACTIONS ARE VARIABLE AND BASED ON A PERCEIVED REWARD, BLESSING, OR OUTCOME FOR OURSELVES, OR AN EXPECTED ACTION OR RESULT FROM OTHERS (OR GOD).

To act in the pursuit of a reward is not evil. It is a beginning grace. But, it is not sustainable. We must grow from grace to grace (D&C 93:11-20).

If we are going through the motions, and reacting to our environment based on perceived outcomes and expectations; then we will continue to alter our actions and words in an attempt to arrive at a certain, desired result. We will act to feel justified. We will act expecting others to change or alter their actions toward us. We will act expecting a certain blessing or spiritual result within a certain time frame or during particularly rough parts of our lives.

This type of action does not have sufficient power to help us become godly because the full power of our agency is not behind it. It is still dependent on some other factor. We have not committed to behaviors for the best reason, only for a good reason. And, ultimately, we are willing to alter our actions if a better reward is offered or if the expected or perceived blessing goes unmet (or delayed). Thus, we do not become, and we cannot be trusted to remain the same. We are changeable, and as such are not able to merit the natural results of blessedness that accompany becoming like Christ.

The problem with this kind of thought-process determining our actions is that it often leads to despair, spiritual temper tantrums, unrighteous dominion, and agnosticism.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in the recent General Women’s session of conference about the Authentic Disciple:

She lived joyfully not because her circumstances were joyful but because she was joyful.

He also said:

We are responsible for our own discipleship, and it has little—if anything—to do with the way others treat us. We obviously hope that they will be understanding and charitable in return, but our love for them is independent of their feelings toward us.

He goes on to say:

There may be many things about life that are beyond your control. But in the end you have the power to choose both your destination and many of your experiences along the way.

A few years back I read a book called The Story of Utopias. And, I found it incredibly interesting. Not because of the many different kinds of utopias that people had envisioned over the years. But because they all had the exact same flaw. They all wanted to create a perfect society and then place people in it, assuming that the perfection of the society would then make the people perfect by default. They expected that people going through the motions of their perfectly planned society would indeed create a perfect society. But, as the author (Lewis Mumford) pointed out, human nature was never a factor in any of their experiments. The one problem none of them could solve was creating the kind of human that could live happily and contentedly in that perfect society on a consistent basis; that wouldn’t eventually rebel, leave, or coup.

It occurred to me when I finished the book that, in a sense, this is the flaw God has conquered with the plan of salvation. He doesn’t give us a kingdom of glory and hope that we’ll conform to it. He asks us to become the type of person who will be happy in His kingdom. We become, and the blessedness of celestial glory is a natural result.

And then, if we do not ultimately find peace and joy in becoming as He is (independent of all other perceived rewards and outcomes), He has provided other kingdoms in which many of us will feel comfortable—because such a kingdom will correspond to the type of person we have actually become. It will be the natural result.

I find it interesting that the scriptures say, “God IS love.” They don’t say, “God does love perfectly.” They say, “God IS the same yesterday, today, and forever.” They don’t say, “God goes through the same motions yesterday, today, and forever.” God doesn’t have to run through a checklist of righteous actions each day to make sure He remains God and remains perfect. He doesn’t have to remind Himself to BE a certain way because He has BECOME a certain way. It is NATURAL TO HIM. He is in a constant state of blessedness because of what He has become.

Concept Development and hidden features. Paper Boat which casts

My Experience With Learning How to Find the Power to Become

So, I’m the mother of a toddler, and, as each of you know, toddlers can try even the most saintly of individuals. A few months back, I increasingly found that I based my actions on the results I wanted from my daughter. I wanted her to do certain things and so I kept altering my methods in order to get her to act how I wanted. After months of struggles, I realized I wasn’t making any progress in becoming more loving, kind, patient, and a host of other Christlike attributes. I felt, in fact, that I was digressing at a rather alarming rate.

As time went on, other expectations in my life and blessings seemed to be either denied or delayed beyond what I felt both emotionally and mentally was possible for me to continue to endure. I was trying to be righteous because that was what I wanted to be, but also, still much of my motivation was fueled by the idea of future blessings and relief–none of which seemed remotely close to being fulfilled. Adding this all together, I passed several rather wretched days and nights. I’m sorry to confess that my actions during this time continued to reflect my desire and expectation to see certain results not only in my daughter, but from my poor husband, and especially from God. I was acting in ways that I thought would force God’s hand and make Him do what I was expecting. Becoming godly was not on the top of my mind. I was merely trying to exert control on my environment and “get what I wanted.”

On the third morning, I recognized, somewhat blearily, that my actions were not going to bring about any of what I desired—especially not peace. I remember pouring my daughter some cereal and making an effort to be patient and kind with her sweet little soul. It was in that moment that the thought occurred to me, “This is not the kind of person I want to be and it’s not working. It’s not forcing God’s hand. It’s not helping my toddler act how I want. It’s not helping my husband. It’s not helping me. And, even if none of them ever do what I want, and even if God never blesses me how I want or expect, I cannot be happy this way. This is not who I want to be. I want to be kind, patient, loving, etc. because that’s who I am, not based on what I think will happen, or what even could happen. I want who I am to be independent of my circumstances.

It wasn’t a literal pillar of light. But, it was a spiritual pillar of light that has changed my life. It has been so freeing! I thought I had to gain control by controlling the uncontrollable things in my life. It turns out, the way to gain control and peace was to gain control of myself. To decide who I wanted to be and to BE that, regardless of every other external factor. I don’t know if God would call my current state of being “blessed,” but I certainly feel empowered to become godly where before it seemed far more impossible.

By deciding who I want to be and mentally removing all other variables (aside from myself). Becoming is all of the sudden quite possible! I have always been spiritually independent. But, now that I know it, I can finally make use of it.

This, I believe, is what Christ meant when He taught the beatitudes. There are natural results that come from BEING godly. We simply have to decide who we want to be and practice being it. We have to own our issues and alter then independent of all other factors. Then will we find the power to actually become blessed and receive the natural result of that blessedness.

WE HAVE THE POWER TO BECOME. 

BT

Doctrine: Teaching BY the Spirit is not the same as teaching WITH the Spirit. The Holy Ghost is THE STAR of all spiritual productions and we can make Him so as we take on the role of Spiritual Stage Manager. Spiritual Stage Management Methods (or Teaching in the Savior’s Way) must be focused around CLEAR DOCTRINES or they will fail to hold sufficient power to impact our lives.

A few months back I was asked to teach the youth of our ward some basics on preparing lessons so they could Teach in the Savior’s Way. As someone who has been working (and still am) since the fall of 1998 to teach by the Spirit, I was both excited and daunted by the task. I was excited because I love teaching. I was daunted because I know you can’t teach someone “how to teach” in an hour and a half—or even a few months…and sometimes not even a few years.

Learning to teach BY the Spirit, and not just with Him in the room, is something that requires significant pondering, practice, and preparation on our part. It requires us being taught FROM the Holy Spirit, Himself, how to help Him fulfill His role as teacher. It requires us teaching not telling. It requires us to invite not force. It requires us to put our learners into action but not to selfishly entertain. It requires us to facilitate, not control. It requires us to prepare our lessons, but not script them. It requires us to teach BY the Spirit and filter out all the “some other ways” that we’ve adopted over the years (D&C 50:13-23). I could go on and on.

So, as a person who is fond of doctrines, I pondered for a couple weeks (because that was all I had) the following question:

“What one (and only one) truth/doctrine can I teach these youth about teaching that will help them learn to prepare and teach BY the Spirit more efficiently and quickly than I did?”

In other words, I knew that one evening wasn’t going to be enough. But, I figured there had to be at least one major truth that, if they could learn, and remember, would aid them in learning how to prepare lessons and to teach BY the Spirit a little more effectively now and hopefully far more effectively in the future.

What was the one truth I chose? THE HOLY GHOST IS THE STAR

That’s it. But, that one truth—if we ponder it—teaches us a multitude of other truths that will help us master Teaching in the Savior’s Way faster than any other teaching method, behavior, practice, manual, etc. If we evaluate every piece of our prepared lesson by asking, “Does this make the Holy Ghost the STAR?” there is a 9 out of 10 chance we’ll be Teaching in the Savior’s Way; because that is how the Savior taught.

The Holy Ghost is the STAR

If, THE HOLY GHOST IS THE STAR actor in our spiritual production (or lesson), then the class, or participants are also actors. That makes God the owner of the spiritual productions and it makes us a Spiritual Stage Manager.

Making presentation

As a Spiritual Stage Manager our role is to:

  • Know the spiritual production script backward, forward, and inside out (the plan of salvation that is, and detailed doctrines, principles, and applications regarding our lesson)
  • Know all the required spiritual props, costumes, backdrops, and when they are needed, by heart (classroom setup, object lessons, materials)
  • Draw all the attention to the STAR and the supporting actors
  • Cue the STAR and the supporting actors in their lines and actions
  • Facilitate communication between the STAR and the actors
  • Manage the spiritual productions script (lesson) and report back to the owner

Have you ever seen a stage manager in real life on the stage during a production? No. Have you ever seen a stage manager getting in the way of actors as they prepare to enter the production? No. Have you ever seen a Stage Manager walk out on stage and replace an actor and draw attention to himself/herself? No. Have you ever seen a stage manager do anything? Probably not. That’s because while their role is critical, they are to go unseen. The Spiritual Stage Manager is not, nor will he or she ever be, the focus of a spiritual production (lesson).

As Spiritual Stage Managers, we are the facilitators of a production. We make it easier for the STAR and the actors to fulfill their individual parts. But, we don’t do their parts for them and we certainly don’t take over the production. We aren’t the focus. But, without us, the production couldn’t go on. Our importance is vital.

Spiritual Stage Management Methods

As I’ve studied the Savior’s teaching in the scriptures over the years, I have noted that not only does He use certain methods and techniques (which you can find in any “how to teach manual” in the church); but those methods and techniques are always focused around a specific doctrine. Often the doctrine was one Christ knew the individuals He discoursed with needed to master. But, without fail, every method Christ used did not function without pointing to a specific doctrine.

Choose a Clear Gospel Doctrine

The biggest mistake most teachers make (I’ve noticed) is that they focus on a nice gospel topic or subject, even a scripture block, but NEVER tie it back to a clear, unchanging doctrine. They ask questions, they tell stories, they bear testimony, and they even come up with a few useful object lessons and parables. But the power of their methods and techniques die when they are never given a sturdy foundation. They talk in circles about the same applications, ideas, and topics, and can’t figure out why they are spinning and why the faces of their class are down, averted, bored, annoyed, or confused.

Teaching applications, behaviors, and even principles is nice, but it’s fluffy. It’s like eating a marshmallow. It’s sort of sweet, but it’s mostly air. It’s not the nice steak and mashed potatoes with a side of freshly steamed vegetables (followed by a sumptuous dessert) that we were hoping for. We walk away, certainly not unnourished, but with a nourishment that is fleeting, temporary, unmemorable and which often leads to a deeper spiritual hunger.

The doctrine of Christ is the meat. We’ve (you’ve) got to dig those doctrines out of the fluff.

A clear gospel doctrine is a fundamental, eternal, unchanging truth. So, if it can change in any way, then it’s not a doctrine. A principle can be a doctrine, but it’s much more often the guideline developed from the doctrine. The application is usually the most variable and changeable because it is defined (with few exceptions) personally, and individually. Applications are ways we act or live based upon the understanding we have of a doctrine.

For example, The Word of Wisdom is not a doctrine. It’s a guideline based off a doctrine. God has always marked His chosen people so that they are separate from the world. What good is that? Well, being marked, the destroying angel always passes them by (D&C 89:21). As well, it makes it easier for the rest of God’s children to seek them out to receive the blessings of the Gospel, and most importantly the fundamental saving covenants and ordinances (Abraham 2:8-11). There are obvious principle benefits of the Word of Wisdom, but health (which everyone focuses on) is not actually the primary, most important, or most dependable part of the blessing. Personal revelation and spiritual vigor (D&C 89:18-20) are key and yet even then, I’m not certain they don’t fall second to “being marked.”

Food storage isn’t a doctrine. It’s a guideline based off a doctrine. God is the ultimate master of the universe, managing worlds without end of resources. His house is a house of order. The celestial kingdom is a place of order. God fed the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness. He can feed us if He wants. He clearly doesn’t care so much about food itself. What He cares about is our ability to manage mortal resources. He also cares about our ability to organize, and prepare every needful thing (D&C 109:8,15), that we may have the self-reliance to bless others (John 21:16-17) and the attribute of order critical to becoming like Him.

So, it’s critical when preparing lessons and reviewing the suggested sources, not to read them and simply be awed by their uplifting content. Anyone can reread, regurgitate, or summarize a past conference talk. And you are not a mother bird feeding chicks. Your role, as a Spiritual Stage Manager, is to read those scriptures and suggested sources looking to identify clear gospel doctrines that you feel inspired are important for your class.

STEP ONE as a Spiritual Stage Manager: IDENTIFY AT LEAST 2 CLEAR, GOSPEL DOCTRINES from the suggested sources in the lesson, including scriptures and conference talks.

Open new opportunities

Choose, and Prepare, Several Stage Management Methods Tied to the Doctrine

We all know the methods Christ used: parables, questions, discussions, stories, and object lessons. However, once again, remember, Christ always tied these methods to a clear gospel doctrine.

stagemanagerwheel

Christ used these methods, focused around clear gospel doctrines, because these methods/doctrines allowed Him to facilitate the promptings of the Holy Ghost reaching His followers. He never made himself the star. Christ used the methods that invited and encouraged His followers to ponder, self-evaluate, and receive spirit-to-spirit communication and testimony from the Holy Ghost. He facilitated the spiritual production.

Gone are the days when lesson manuals gave you step-by-step ask, tell, and do instructions on how to give your lessons. Those days are gone because they are not conducive to teaching BY the Spirit. What is teaching BY the Spirit? It’s using those methods that allow the Holy Ghost to do the teaching. It’s preparing your lesson in a way that allows you to respond to direction from the Holy Ghost “in the moment” (D&C 100:6). It’s being prepared with more material than you’ll ever need and yet still flexible “in the moment” and able to pull out only those pieces you need.

How can you build in such intense preparation with momentary flexibility?

  • Treat your lesson as a reference manual that can be opened at any spot and closed at any spot.
  • Do not treat your lesson like a novel where unless you read it from beginning to end it will be incomprehensible or confusing.
  • Do not save your “big reveal,” or “punch line,” for the end. If you give yourself a finish line you will run for the line instead of being led by the Spirit.
  • Prepare several, independent (yet compounding or related) Spiritual Stage Management Methods, you can reference at any moment in your lesson. Prepare them so that they can be used in order, or rearranged.

STEP TWO as a Spiritual Stage Manager: CHOOSE 2-4 METHODS AND PREPARE THEM BASED ON YOUR 2 DOCTRINES.

Here are some thoughts and suggestions regarding each Spiritual Stage Manager Method

Parables

We can all make up a parable. Some better than others. It doesn’t matter how finessed it is. Most parables if taken too literally fall apart. So, don’t be too literal. The most important things to consider when developing a parable are it’s characteristics. Ask yourself:

  1. Does it help others to self-evaluate?
  2. Does it clarify the doctrine you’re trying to teach?
  3. Does it increase understanding of (and thereby an individual’s ability to apply) the doctrine?

Here’s an example:

Here’s one scripture reference from the Come Follow Me, October, How Can I Invite Others to Become Like the Savior?

Moroni 10:32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

CLEAR DOCTRINE: It is because of the atonement of Jesus Christ that we become perfect through grace as we do our part.

Now, my goal is to get my class thinking about how they can invite others to become more like the Savior. I might begin by asking them, “Why do you think people get discouraged when they’re asked to become perfect?” Almost always, people are daunted by the idea of perfection. It doesn’t seem quite possible. This is where the CLEAR DOCTRINE comes in. I hope they, and those they help, will grasp the fact that perfection comes through grace, not merely by our efforts. So, to help illustrate how grace works, I might share the following parable that I came up with. My goal in sharing it is to make the doctrine of grace more understandable. If my class can understand it, then they have more power to help others understand it, and they can invite them to become more like the Savior.

My Parable:

Once upon a time there were two blacksmiths. Both blacksmiths were skilled in their trade, but one, after a while, refused to use his forge. He had become confident in his own strength and power to create and thought it silly to use a forge. So, he would hammer and hammer and pound and pound, and yet, without the heat of the forge, he was unable to bend or shape any metal to a desired shape. He could make dents. He could scratch the surface. But he couldn’t make the metal become what he wanted it to become. He became frustrated and wanted to give up, despite the fact that the use of a forge was still open to him. But he’d lost faith in the forge. He didn’t believe it would help him.

The other blacksmith, however, though he was quite strong and skilled, always used his forge. And, because of the heat that came from it, as he pounded and pounded and hammered and hammered, he was able to turn any piece of metal into whatever he wished. The forge allowed him to redo and remove imperfections in his hammering and pounding. In fact, because he was willing to use the forge, he expended far less effort in the long run and he was able to take on more projects and orders. The forge made all the difference.

Now, I’m not sure this is a great parable. The first blacksmith does seem rather stupid. But, often, after we “enter in by the way,” (2 Nephi 32:1,5) we lose sight of how easy it is to use our forge of grace. We expect to hammer and hammer and pound and pound on our lives, all on our own, and bring a perfect construction to the forge, perhaps to be finalized? But, it doesn’t work that way. We have to use the forge to create the perfection we desire, over time. Our imperfect hammering and pounding becomes perfect as we use the forge to try and try and try again.

  • Did this parable help you to self-evaluate?
  • Did it clarify the doctrine of grace I was trying to teach for you?
  • Did it increase your understanding and ability to apply the doctrine of grace?

Questions/Discussions

Questions are the easiest tool we have to use in the Spiritual Stage Management, i.e. teaching, environment. However, because they are common, they are also commonly terrible. We ask them without taking any time to ponder what kind of response they will elicit.

When designing a question to point to your CLEAR DOCTRINE, vet it with the following questions:

  1. Does it invite others to ponder meaning and use logic?
  2. Does it invite others to feel?
  3. Does it invite others to remember or recall a past experience or feeling?
  4. Does it invite others to self-evaluate?
  5. How would I answer this question?
  6. When I read it aloud, is the answer too obvious?
  7. Is the obvious answer YES or NO?

Here are some examples of fairly decent questions using the same CLEAR DOCTRINE from the Parables section.

CLEAR DOCTRINE: It is because of the atonement of Jesus Christ that we become perfect through grace as we do our part.

  • Can you remember a time when you felt like you were “on track,” or “right with the Lord?”
  • What were you doing during that time of your life that contributed to feeling “on track,” or “right with the Lord?”
  • How can you adapt your actions during that time of your life to now to find that same peace of being “on track,” or “right with the Lord?”
  • If you had to pick one thing in your life to change right now to help you be more like Christ, what would it be?
  • How would you describe grace to a five-year-old?
  • What keeps you from making changes in your life to become more Christlike?
  • How would you counsel another person to help them overcome the same issues you are struggling with?

So, now, take a look at the questions I’ve shown you as examples for the doctrine perfection through grace, and run them through my vetting questions. Did one of them invite you to ponder meaning and use logic? Did one of them invite you to feel? Did one of them invite you to remember or recall a past experience or feeling? Did one of them invite you to self-evaluate? Did you have trouble answering any of the questions? When you read them aloud, is the answer to any of them too obvious? Is the obvious answer to any of them YES or NO?

If you ever ask a yes or no question (because there are times when they can be effective) ALWAYS follow it up with a well-designed question to extract more information. Raise your hand if questions are akin to Yes or No questions—most of the time.

For example:

Should we read our scriptures? (duh, yes!)

Follow up: OK, but why? What difference does it make if we don’t? What experiences have you had that have confirmed to you the importance of scripture reading?

This obvious yes question was a plant to get the kids to answer. Then if they answer, it gives unspoken permission to ask them to validate their simple response.

OR

Raise your hand if you’ve never had the chance to do baptisms for the dead.

Follow up: OK. For those of you that have never done baptisms for the dead, take a minute and come up with a question you have about baptisms for the dead. Now, those of you who have done baptisms for the dead, take a minute and write down one thing you know about baptisms for the dead. Then, when the others ask their questions, raise your hand and share if you have an answer.

In this example are any of the kids invited to ponder meaning or logic? I hope you’ll agree that by asking the few who haven’t done baptisms to come up with questions, that they have to ponder.

Are any of them asked to recall a past experience or feeling? I hope you’ll agree that the follow-up Qs and activity invite those who have done baptisms to recall their past experiences, and by default their feelings.

Are any asked to self-evaluate (indirectly)? I hope you noticed that by asking who has done baptisms and who has not, that indirectly, the youth are likely to evaluate if they are worthy right now to do such ordinances.

Would you have felt comfortable participating in this exercise? I hope that as a teacher in practice you’ll note how the kids were given time to come up with questions and answers without the pressure of an immediate or public response (which also helps you to avoid uncomfortable silence and non-response). Plus, the kids are going to be taught, ultimately, by their peers. This usually creates a sense of safety and comfort in participation.

Were any questions asking for answers that were too obvious? Since we don’t know what questions the kids would have developed, we don’t know that the answers were obvious. But, since their peers are prepared to respond, none of the questions coined will be viewed as ridiculous because peers usually want to help.

It will seem impossible to develop good questions if you do not FIRST IDENTIFY A CLEAR DOCTRINE. You must have a clear truth singled out in order to be able to develop good questions pointing back to it. Without that foundation you will feel stumped and create weird questions.

Stories & Testimonies

The problem with stories is that people ramble, include extraneous detail, lose their point, and feel the urgency to tell “the whole story,” especially parts they think will sound novel or exciting (even if only to themselves). They let other factors in the story-telling overwhelm the CLEAR DOCTRINE. If you ever take a look at any of the parables or stories shared by Christ they are power-packed and CONCISE. How? Because He focused the parables and stories on a CLEAR DOCTRINE. Having a doctrine to point back to keeps most people focused. If you don’t have a clear doctrine, you are going to lose focus and begin spinning. You may enjoy the ride, but no one else really does.

If you have a story or testimony you want to share to illustrate a CLEAR DOCTRINE then write it out. You don’t have to actually read it word for word when the time comes, but if you take the time to write it out, you will be able to avoid the pitfalls. Use the following guidelines (i.e. principles) to vet your story:

  • When I read it aloud, at a reasonable pace, it takes less than 5 minutes. (Do not read it in your head, it’s not the same)
  • My story doesn’t include unnecessary apologies, jokes, or side-points.
  • My story doesn’t include extraneous details like how many turns I took to drive somewhere, descriptions of scenery along the way, long descriptions about people I met in the experience that my class will not remember two minutes after it’s over, etc.
  • My story helps others feel how I felt about the CLEAR DOCTRINE.
  • My story helps others remember their own feelings about this CLEAR DOCTRINE.
  • My story encourages and invites others to trust in God about this CLEAR DOCTRINE.
  • My story very clearly points back to a CLEAR DOCTRINE.
  • Nothing in my story outshines or overshadows the CLEAR DOCTRINE.

Now, it’s important to keep your personality (as long as your personality doesn’t upstage the Holy Ghost), but try to do so with stories and testimonies as concisely and focused as possible. After you’ve written your experience and testimony out, you will see what you need to leave out, and when the time comes to share, you will be prepared to do so in an appropriate and non-upstaging way.

Object Lessons

The main trouble with object lessons is people try to make them too literal or too entertaining. The object lesson should never upstage the CLEAR DOCTRINE or the Holy Ghost. If you keep that in mind, you should be fine.

Vet your object lessons with the following questions:

  1. Does my object lesson help others make personal application of the CLEAR DOCTRINE?
  2. Does my object lesson help others ponder or better understand the CLEAR DOCTRINE?
  3. Does my object lesson help others to self-evaluate their life in regard to the CLEAR DOCTRINE?

One of the best object lessons I’ve ever seen was when a lady-teacher brought a cardboard paper-towel tube to class. She had each of us write down on a scrap of paper towel something that we felt “kept us from hearing the promptings of the Holy Ghost,” and then one by one she stuffed them into the tube. Then, she tried to tell us something by speaking through the tube. We could not, of course, understand one word she said. Then, she pulled each scrap out and read them one by one. So, we heard, very clearly, each thing that would impede our ability to receive promptings. Then, when the tube was empty, she spoke her saying through the tube. Not only could we hear it, but it was amplified by the tube. The doctrine? The Gift of the Holy Ghost is a gift. The principle? We need to act to receive the gift and to be worthy to hear His voice. The application? Get rid of anything stuffing up your tube. I’ve never forgotten it.

If you have to spend a lot of money on an object lesson, I can promise 9 times out 10 it’s a poor object lesson. Either it’s too literal, over-developed, or so entertaining your doctrine will be overshadowed. I’ve never spent any money on an object lesson (except once, I bought a bottle of water). It’s always been developed from things around my house.

Humor

I have a pet peeve with church humor. 99.9% of people who start their lesson or talk with a ridiculous joke fail miserably. Yes, people laugh out of pity and in an attempt to comfort the poor individual, but in general I’ve never heard anyone repeat the joke or talk about how that joke reinforced the doctrine or made the talk better. OR, the joke was all they remembered…which is sad.

If you are going to use humor, you MUST vet it with the following:

  1. This humor reinforces my class/congregation feeling loved, understood, and supported.
  2. This humor was inspired while I was preparing my lesson and I feel certain it was inspired by the Spirit.
  3. I did not come up with this joke to entertain or appear witty and draw attention to myself (since I’m the Spiritual Stage Manager).
  4. I did not come up with this joke because I don’t know how else to diffuse my embarrassment and awkwardness at being up in front of people.
  5. When I prayed about my talk/lesson, I felt prompted to use this joke.

Here is an example of something I have used and have found to fall in the realm of fairly appropriate humor. It is also, in a way, a parable, but far more on the humor side:

Doctrine and Covenants 18:10, 15

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

CLEAR DOCTRINE: The worth of one soul is great in the sight of God.

The humor

Once upon a time there was a preacher. He worked very hard in preparation for Sunday and prepared one of the most powerful sermons he could ever remember preparing. He couldn’t wait to get to church and preach. However, when he arrived only one man sat in the congregation. After waiting a good while, the preacher came down from the pulpit and approached the man. “So, what should I do?” he asked the man. “Well,” the man said. “I’m just a farmer, but if there’s only one cow in the pasture I still feed it.” The preacher nodded and returned to the podium. He then delivered his powerful sermon from top to bottom with all the vigor he could. When he was done, he went back down to the lone man in the pew. “Well,” he asked the preacher. “How was that?” “Well,” the man said. “I’m just a farmer, but if there’s only one cow in the pasture, I don’t dump the whole truck load of hay on his head.”

This humor clearly illustrated the doctrine I chose. But did you catch a second truth or lesson?

Examples of inappropriate humor (DO NOT USE THESE):

Example 1

So, I was driving to the store last week when my phone rang. Now, I know I shouldn’t pick up my phone while driving, and when I saw it was Brother X, I didn’t. What I did do was slam on my brakes…(ha ha). Once I got to a place I could pull over I tried to ignore the feeling in my gut and called him back. And, sure enough, he asked me to give a talk… (ha ha). So, here I am. And, if you don’t love my talk then blame it on Brother X. (ha ha).

  • Who does this humor draw attention to? Is it THE STAR?
  • Does it reinforce a CLEAR DOCTRINE? Why not?
  • Does it teach any false doctrine or any improper behavior?
  • How do you feel when people begin a talk or a lesson this way? What kind of talk or lesson do you expect?

Example 2

What’s the difference between Adam and Eve and everyone else? (pause for effect). Parents! (ha ha ha)

If Eve sacrificed the human race for an apple, (singing the jingle) “what would she do for a Klondike bar?” (ha ha ha)

So, you can probably tell my talk/lesson is on the Fall…

  • Who does this humor draw attention to? Is it THE STAR?
  • Does it reinforce a CLEAR DOCTRINE? Why not?
  • Does it each any false doctrine or any improper behavior?
  • How do you feel when people begin a talk or a lesson this way? What kind of talk or lesson do you expect?

I have to at least comment on the second joke. Eve did not sacrifice the human race for an apple. The human race would have never come to be if she had not eaten the apple (2 Nephi 2). So, this joke is not only terrible, it teaches false doctrine.

Hand open stage red curtain on black background

Summary

Here are the steps I would offer for you as you prepare lessons that will help you make the Holy Ghost THE STAR, and to ensure your methods have power by tying them to CLEAR DOCTRINE.

  1. Pray for help to prepare a lesson that makes the Holy Ghost THE STAR.
  2. Pray for help to identify CLEAR DOCTRINES that your class needs.
  3. Read the title and/or objectives for the lesson and identify any (if there are any) CLEAR DOCTRINES (unchanging eternal truths). Jot them down.
  4. Read the scriptures and suggested sources for the lesson and identify at least 2 CLEAR DOCTRINES. Jot them down.
  5. Write down on a sheet of paper (landscape) up to 3 clear doctrines (don’t do more than 3) and make a column underneath each one.
  6. Reread each CLEAR DOCTRINE and choose, based on your feelings and inspiration, at least 2 Spiritual Stage Management Methods for this doctrine. Write those two methods under each CLEAR DOCTRINE.
  7. Notate any quotes or scriptures (from the suggested lesson sources) that you feel state, reinforce, or illustrate the CLEAR DOCTRINES. Limit yourself to 2 scriptures and 2 quotes for each doctrine. More is just more. Write them in the column under the doctrine.
  8. Prepare your methods (create concise parables, develop good Q’s, plan a discussion, write out your stories or experiences, create your object lessons, and add any appropriate humor).
  9. Ponder how your class will respond/act, answer, feel, how much time they’ll take to think, will they need paper to jot down ideas, read your questions and stories aloud to get a feel of how they sound, etc. Jot down in the columns any notes you think you need to remember to be prepared for these responses.
  10. Review the suggested activities and ideas in the proffered lesson manuals (online or manual). Prepare any that will compliment what you’ve already developed, or substitute them for ones of your own that are very similar.
  11. Practice your lesson out loud
  12. Pray at the conclusion to know if you should change, alter, remove, or add anything else. Save this till the end and until you’ve practiced out loud. There is something about saying things out loud that changes how they may feel to you. You will recognize better that which you need to alter.

Conclusion

Now, this is pretty much how I prepare lessons. However, each person develops their own ways as the Holy Ghost works with them using their unique experiences, talents, and personality. However, I have found that if you begin with a framework it’s far easier to adapt it to your own strengths than to create one from non-existence. This framework that I use has come from nearly 20 years of pondering and thought. And, it may yet change as I continue to learn.

The key to any methods or lesson is to teach BY the Spirit, or in other words, in ways that He is the STAR and you are not. In a way that your class are the actors and they are interacting within the spiritual production with the Holy Ghost. In a way that you do not upstage either the Holy Ghost or your actors/class. Be a Spiritual Stage Manager.

I hope this is helpful! Good luck.

BT

Forever Families is one of the few notable doctrines that Latter-day Saints preach about that sets them apart from all other Christian religions. And yet, I’m shocked at how few of them actually understand why we preach that and what it truly entails. They see in their minds that this ideal is all about true love and never being parted from your loved ones. But, beyond that, they misunderstand the ideal of eternal posterity and eternal family completely. Likely because they were never taught. Likely because they didn’t always listen or pay attention. Most certainly because they didn’t take the time to study it.

Many people are drawn to the doctrine of eternal marriage and eternal families and yet they struggle with the doctrine of godhood. However, the two doctrines are one and the same. There is no eternal family without godhood. There is no godhood without eternal parenthood. Godhood is nothing less than perfect eternal parenthood.

God, our Heavenly Father, is the God of our universe—worlds without end. He is sinless. He is perfectly just. He is perfectly merciful. He is love.

God is bound by covenant to our Heavenly Mother. She is also sinless, She is perfectly just. She is perfectly merciful. And She is love.

Our heavenly parents have glorified, resurrected, celestial bodies. Not only are their bodies free from corruption, are perfect, and cannot die; their (celestial) bodies can create, beget, and organize eternal spirit children—in the same manner that we beget mortal children. And, as perfect eternal parents, they spend all of their eternal time helping these spirit children become like them—to become eternal parents, or gods.

The whole plan of salvation is about nothing more than helping each and every one of us become eternal parents, like our heavenly parents. The whole plan of salvation is designed so that we can become sinless, perfectly just, perfectly merciful, and become the embodiment of love. The whole plan is set up so that we can, if we so choose, receive a glorified, resurrected, celestial body. For, this is the only type of body that can enjoy “eternal life, (Moses 1:39)” sexual relations, and continue to beget children (i.e. eternal family, forever family) beyond the veil of death. All other resurrections i.e. immortality (Moses 1:39) (terrestrial, telestial, etc.) will glorify and perfect a body, but will not enable those bodies to enjoy sexual relations and beget spirit children. Modern revelation is fairly clear that all resurrected bodies are not the same (see Doctrine and Covenants 76, 88 for further study).

Forever family, or eternal family, is not simply about coexisting with another being (or beings) for eternity. It’s not about having everybody in our current family under the same celestial roof. Just as in this life begotten children grow up, leave home, and create their own homes; so also it is in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. “The same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which we do not now enjoy” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:2). That we may associate together is certain. That our lives are focused around each other is unlikely. We will (if we as family members all choose to inherit celestial glory) far more likely work side-by-side in our work and glory of “bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life” of our spirit children.

In Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-4 and 132:19-21 we are taught that in order to become like God, each of us must enter into the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, an actual order of God’s Priesthood Power (i.e. sealing ordinance of the temple) and keep our covenants, in order to receive godhood, or in other words, eternal parenthood. God is, and always has been, very exact with how He dispenses Priesthood power, authority, and blessings.

God…has ordained that the highest order and class of beings that should exist in the eternal worlds should exist in the capacity of husbands and wives, and that they alone should have the privilege of propagating their species…Now it is wise, no doubt, in the Great Creator to thus limit this great and heavenly principle to those who have arrived or come to the highest state of exaltation…to dwell in His presence, that they by this means shall be prepared to bring up their spirit offspring in all pure and holy principles in the eternal worlds, in order that they may be happy. Consequently, He does not entrust this privilege of multiplying spirits with the terrestrial or telestial, or the lower order of beings there, nor with angels. But why not? Because they have not proved themselves worthy of this great privilege. (In Journal of Discourses 13:186) (Elder Orson Pratt, quoted by Douglas E. Brinley, The Keys of Marital Success—Part 2, Eternal Companions, pp. 90-91)

Brigham Young taught concerning the way we have children that “there is no other process of creation in heaven, on the earth,…or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is, that were, or that ever will be” (Journal of Discourses 11:122). It is clear that God’s plan requires sexual intimacy, but he didn’t create us with compliance built in biologically. Instead he gave us a body like his, with all of the possibilities that entails. Our physical bodies are thus gifts, not givens. (Emily M. Reynolds, Talking About Sexual Intimacy, Eternal Companions, p. 147)

I have blogged before about God’s power not being absolute. He, in order to hold the powers, priesthoods, and position He has, must be bound by eternal law and covenant. If He were to soften, side-step, or go against any of these binding eternal laws and covenants “He would cease to be God” (Alma 42:13, 22-23, 25-26). I have also blogged about what true Motherhood and Fatherhood are and how we become such—it is through covenant that we attain such titles, not merely by birthing children. Such birthing makes us temporary, mortal parents only.

In fact, we, as mortals, and even as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, take for granted our opportunity to gain a body, marry, and learn true parenthood. So much so that we engage in sexual relations lightly, selfishly, and lustfully. So much so that we marry, divorce, cohabitate, and indulge in sexual addictions as though we were entitled to the satisfaction and pleasure by simply being alive. We are not. Whether we are heterosexual or claim other gender identities matters little. We are not entitled to eternal family or eternal parenthood unless we are willing to become like God.

There is no discrimination from God in this. All of us are born with issues that make it difficult for us to desire and pursue godhood (eternal parenthood). It doesn’t matter if it’s our sexual orientation, genetic obesity, missing limbs, propensity for sexual addiction (of any kind), mental depression, propensity for anger addiction or alcoholism, etc., they all make it difficult (heroic, even Abrahamic, D&C 101:4) to desire and pursue godhood. And yet, because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can have these issues and still become like God if we try our best to accept and follow His will and commandments. It matters not the status of our progress in comparison to others; only that we continue to progress and try—and never give up. If we simply try with all our might, mind, heart, and strength, then His grace is sufficient (Moroni 10:32). If we simply do not give up and repent every time we fail. If we do what we can do in keeping God’s ordinances, covenants, and commandments; we will be healed of our weaknesses and issues and become godly because we met the conditions for His grace. Mortal weaknesses, inclinations, and struggles will, and can, be overcome through grace by our efforts in this life, or healed completely before our final judgment and resurrection. Not one of us is ultimately denied anything, certainly not godhood/eternal parenthood, because of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Thus God is both perfectly just and perfectly merciful (Alma 42) because of the atonement.

Eternal parenthood/godhood is not for the good or the better. It is only for the best (metaphorically speaking). Yet, if people decide to choose good or better, that does not diminish them. They will get what they want, ultimately, with some exceptions (Alma 41:10) wherein they want to find happiness in sin which simply cannot be had (now, or in the eternities). There is plenty of suffering in this life. More than we can bear. But, if we choose not to repent in this life we will be subject to the full weight of the law of justice. We will suffer for our own sins (Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19). This cleansing from sin will proceed the final resurrection and judgment. We cannot be assigned to a kingdom of glory (even if it is not the celestial kingdom), without confessing Jesus is the Christ, that God is just, and that we have sinned (Romans 14:11, Isaiah 45:23, Alma 12:15, Mosiah 16:1, Doctrine and Covenants 88:104).

It’s important to note that Satan, who showed himself unworthy to even try for godhood in his attempted coup of God’s throne and power (Moses 4:1-4), was cast out of heaven. He was not allowed to be born on this earth, to get a body, or to seek godhood. He was damned—literally. He is left without family and any eternal association forever (Isaiah 14:12-20). Family, we should all understand, is the crowning glory of life and most certainly of godhood. Other glories are available, but they do not include this crowning glory, and cannot. For those who inherit them, while good, are not godly and cannot be trusted with the powers of creation (see quotes above by Orson Pratt and Brigham Young).

templemarriage2

Many religions preach two eternal outcomes as locations. They are heaven or hell. The kingdoms, however, of which they preach are basically the terrestrial and the telestial. And, if one aspires to the ideals preached about these kingdoms, one will not be disappointed when this life is over—if that is one’s only aspiration. If our goal is simply to be basically happy. Then, that’s what we’ll get (Alma 29:4). If our goal is to bowl, play golf, chess, cards, Yahtzee, or other pursuits, forever, then that’s what we’ll get (though likely much better, as God knows how to give good gifts to His children, Luke 11:13).

On the other hand, if our goal is to enjoy the blessings of godhood, and eternal parenthood and family, which brings more happiness than we could possibly ever even imagine (1 Corinthians 2:9), then we cannot have the same expectations for our conduct in this life, nor in our eternal progression. And, it is possible to grasp this high goal and reach it, we will only trust God, have faith in Him, and believe it!

In Doctrine and Covenants 88 we read the following about the purpose of our souls and the differences in our resurrections based upon what eternal laws we are willing to abide.

14 Now, verily I say unto you, that through the redemption which is made for you is brought to pass the resurrection from the dead.

15 And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.

16 And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul (the spirit and the body).

17 And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.

18 Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;

19 For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;

20 That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it (the soul) made and created, and for this intent are they (souls) sanctified.

21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.

22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.

23 And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.

24 And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.

28 They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.

29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

32 And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.

33 For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

34 And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.

35 That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.

36 All kingdoms have a law given;

37 And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.

38 And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.

39 All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.

40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.

41 He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.

I hope you had the patience to study that long excerpt of scripture, because it is so powerful.

So, now let me address something very important.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is comprised of doctrines, principles, and commandments. Principles and commandments are subject to individual application and interpretation (many times) through the Holy Spirit because they are how we apply doctrines. However, doctrines (which are fundamental eternal truths) do not change and are not subject to interpretation or change. Principles can also dual as doctrines.

Now, the purpose of this blog is not to strain and gnats and swallow camels (Matthew 23:24) as in the tiny differences that can be talked about between doctrines and principles. The purpose of this blog is to point out a very important, fundamental point. Here it is.

While the personal, societal, historical, and cultural applications of the principles and commandments of God may vary, fundamental Gospel doctrines and universal truths do not change.

For example, the Israelites had a different word of wisdom than we do. We apply the principles behind this commandment differently based upon prophetic direction. We can eat pork. They couldn’t. And on and on. But the doctrine behind the word of wisdom is the same. It is: by adhering to a word of wisdom, as revealed by God, we mark ourselves as Christ’s, that when the time comes for the separating the wheat from the tares, the destroying angel will pass us by (Doctrine and Covenants 89:21). All other blessings and proposed purposes of the commandment are both spiritual and physical, but can side track us from its main doctrinal basis. It’s a law for the weakest saint to mark themselves as Christ’s (verse 3).

So, when it comes to marriage, family, and sex, it is clear that we are seeing both outside and inside the church, an incredible softening toward the unconventional family unit, and even unconventional sexual orientations and claimed genders. Genderless marriage has been approved by government and all around people are trying very hard to be tolerant of what historically have been unconventional and unaccepted forms of behavior and beliefs. These children of God have previously been treated unfairly and unkindly, even persecuted, exiled, imprisoned, and mistreated.

Many, inside and outside the church, are beginning to assume that this softening in treatment (or the increase of understanding how to love the sinner but not the sin) of such individuals, who are beloved children of God, means a future change in commandments…or an eventual change in doctrine and therefore policy. I think if they make this assumption, in this they will be verily disappointed.

To me, the big leap that is taking place is that the church (which God allows to be carried forward by His flawed children who must learn and be saved individually and collectively) is beginning to realize that treating more unconventional sinners as evil criminals is not only wrong and un-Christlike, but that it is ultimately unproductive in spreading the Gospel. Historically, the fire and brimstone preacher would have condemned all of these sinning souls to hell without any mercy. The unwed mother, the inmate, the interracial couple, etc. Gratefully, we are, if slowly, getting beyond that un-Christlike understanding and reasoning. But, I think it would be wrong to presuppose an eventual change in principle, doctrine, or policy regarding God’s plan for eternal families, eternal parenthood, and eternal marriage.

Here are two examples. First, addictions have also been incorrectly assessed and misunderstood over the years. Where once people were disfellowshipped, or even excommunicated, for struggling with an addiction (smoking, alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc.), they are now counseled, supported, maintained in fellowship, and even allowed to serve in some capacities as they willingly work through and try to work consistent recovery. However, that all of these issues are still sins, and prevent us from being happy and becoming godly, has not changed—and won’t change. Simply our understanding of how to love and support the sinner has improved. And God seems to be content with allowing us to learn as we go.

Second, while Latter-day Saint women have for years and years enjoyed greater rights and privileges than women in regular society, and even in other religions (and still do); recently the assumption was made that society’s attempts to finally catch up with this trend meant that God would eventually let women officiate in Priesthood Leadership positions within the church on the basis that women in other churches can become paid ministers and because women can do what men can do—it was just assumed. There are many fundamentally incorrect comparisons made to argue for women being ordained to the Priesthood, but it boils down to the fact that even “the men” don’t get paid, and that the Priesthood is God’s and He determines how it is utilized, dispensed, and officiated in.

Anyway, while overall, the church sought to self-evaluate and include women where-ever it was possible that it already had not; yet, it did not, and will not, change that fundamental doctrine. God has doctrinally established covenant roles within His plan and those will not change. Just as God, the Father, has a different role than Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost within the godhead (and doesn’t belly-ache about it and neither do the other members of the godhead); men and women have different roles in godhood, the Church, and eternal parenthood. God isn’t going to change that. It’s biological, spiritual, and doctrinal.

I can look all around me and I can see successful heterosexual marriages that may never be eternal because the couples have no desire to get baptized, live the commandments, and receive those ordinances necessary to achieve their exaltation. No matter if they are two peas in a pod. That they get along is great. But that alone is not sufficient to make them worthy of godhood (i.e. eternal parenthood). To be eternal parents, not just eternal lovers, we must submit to the conditions required for godhood. Why? Because that is the only way to also be eternal lovers.

The same applies to people who are in genderless relationships or marriages. That they are happy together is great. That they are also extremely wonderful and spiritual and kind is great. These traits and beautiful things about them are not diminished by their sexual inclinations. But just like all of us, they must still submit to God’s conditions IF they want to be like Him. And, if they don’t, they will still receive a kingdom of glory—which we often fail to preach. This is the doctrine! And it’s wonderful, and it’s beautiful. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about giving us the chance to become like God. God will not force it upon us. Neither will He hand it over lightly. Yet, the plan also provides for those who are good but also simply don’t want godhood on its universally required and unchangeable terms.

They are not the lowest of the low as society has (and we have) always been want to treat them. They are divine, amazing, spirit children of God with godly potential. They will be blessed, and are blessed, for all the good they do (Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21). But, they are also denied blessings (like any other) for not submitting to God’s laws and commandments. That’s the doctrine.

Together Forever… the question only now remains, “Is that what you truly want?”

BT

Doctrine: The law of opposition requires that true joy comes only in response to true sacrifice. Getting something easy only makes it less valuable, less meaningful, and less powerful. Sin and righteousness are both very hard. The only difference between them is that sin seems easier up front but ends up being exponentially harder in the long run (entropic), whereas rightness seems harder up front but ends up being exponentially easier in the long run.

I get really frustrated with people who, over the years, have basically made the assumption that living righteously comes easy to me. I get frustrated, because when they make this assumption, they do it in the awestruck/pity context of saying that they would be righteous too if it came easier to them. They act like I’m some anomaly because I consistently try to be righteous (and healthy), and simultaneously resent me because I manage to keep going despite trials, stress, setbacks, and troubles.

Not only is their assumption semi-insulting, it’s also a reflection of their lack of common sense and reason. These people are basically saying the following to me:

IF something is easy, I’ll do it. IF something is hard, I won’t do it. Lucky for you that being righteous comes easy for you. I wish it came easy for me, because I’d want to do it if it was easy for me like it is for you.

These people are also basically saying to me:

Being unrighteous (or doing what I want despite commandments or sound advice) is easy, and that’s why I do it. So, instead of asking me to get stronger or work harder, I just wish God would make it all easier.

Now, I’m fairly certain these people don’t actually believe that the hardness or easiness of a thing is the whole reason for doing it. I don’t really think that they take the “path of least resistance” in everything in their lives. But, they seem to take this point-of-view when it comes to hard things, like keeping the commandments or getting healthy. They don’t want to admit to themselves that the real underlying problem is that they don’t want to keep the commandments or get healthy because they are not yet personally convinced that the effort to do such things is worth it to give up the perceived value of the things they will have to sacrifice. In other words, they don’t think effort and sacrifice = true happiness.

red ant rolls stone uphill

Now, here’s the doctrine:

Both unrighteousness and righteousness are extremely hard. The only difference in the two is that righteousness is harder up front and exponentially more rewarding  and joy-producing in the long-run; and unrighteousness is easier up front and exponentially less rewarding and misery-producing in the long run. Which, if you do the mental math means that unrighteousness is actually far more difficult because you’ll eventually have to do things the righteous way anyway, which will still be hard, initially when you finally get to it. In the long run, unrighteousness is non-sustainable. Righteousness is sustainable.

Unrighteousness is natural entropy (defined: natural decline into disorder or large-scale collapse). It will, if pursued continually, turn one’s (spiritual or physical) life into a living hell. On the other hand, righteousness is natural improvement, increase, or a natural rise. It will, if pursued continually, turn one’s (spiritual or physical) life into a living joy.

Righteousness is initial and up-front sacrifice of something we consider of temporary value (perhaps even extreme temporary value) for something of lasting and eternal value.

Sin is holding onto things of temporary value and ultimately sacrificing things of lasting and eternal value. (Or, in other words, sin is trying to get the lasting and eternal value of something in a way that cannot produce it.) [Makes sinning sound pretty stupid.]

C.S. Lewis says this in his book The Great Divorce:

That is what mortals misunderstand.  They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into glory.  And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin.  Both processes begin even before death.  The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness.  And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,” and the Lost “we were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.

Here are some scriptures about peace, joy, and lasting feelings that come after initial, upfront, and early hard work and sacrifice:

  • That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7)
  • …wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith (Ether 12:7)
  • And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! (Alma 36:20)
  • And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statues, and the commandments of the Lord in all things…we did sow seed…and we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of all kinds…And I did teach my people to build buildings and to work…And I, Nephi, did build a temple…I, Nephi did cause my people to be industrious and to labor with their hands… And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness. (2 Nephi 5:27)
  • For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad, [happiness nor misery, sense nor insensibility]. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one… (2 Nephi 2:11, brackets moved up from later in verse)
  • And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit… Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of our faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you. (Alma 32:37, 43)

Hard construction work

I could list volumes of scriptures. But, I wouldn’t want to deny each of you the joy that comes from discovering them yourself. But, the underlying doctrine regarding reaping true peace, joy, and fruit (i.e. lasting results) is sacrifice and hard work. It is NOT sitting around and waiting for something to become easy or easier. It is NOT waiting until the consequences of sin compel you to choose sacrifice. In order to get lasting joy and peace we must get stronger, not wait for things to get easier.

A lot of people wait until they are deep in the throes of depression, abuse, addiction, bankruptcy, incarceration, or other entropic ends before they consider living life the harder way (up front). The better, true, lasting way. Yet, in their current entropic/fallen state, they have nearly doubled the level of starting difficulty into their mental, spiritual, or physical health turnaround. Their choice is no longer simply about doing one or the other. It’s choosing the initially better, harder option, at last, while still dealing with the entropic consequences and aftermath of choosing the initially easier, worse option in the past. And, whether or not they are able to make the leap into “living after the manner of happiness,” they most likely will live with the extra weight of the consequences from their past unwise choices, for the rest of their life.

There is no “something for nothing” principle in all of the universe. Every choice has a consequence. It’s eternal law. No matter how we may fight it, we simply will never be able to get anything of value (and hold onto it lastingly) without considerable effort. [Which is worth it!]

There is no relationship, of any kind, that will magically last without significant, concerted effort. There is no career path or education that will magically fall into our laps without significant, concerted effort. There is no health or happiness of any kind that we can truly grab hold of without hard work and sacrifice. And, if we ever choose to sidestep into getting something that we want through lazy, faddish, shameful, or dishonest means, by the laws of entropy (since dishonesty is an entropic decision) that something will eventually be taken back away from us. We will lose it (Helaman 13:30-36).

Or, if we do not lose something by natural, entropic laws, we will cast it away ourselves because it has no value to us.

I’m not sure if the statistic is true. But, a lot of business articles out there claim that 70% of lottery winners (or people who get a big monetary windfall—implying that they didn’t have to lift a finger to get it) end up broke within five years. And the reason they end up broke is because the money has no meaning to them. Why does it have no meaning? Because they gave it none.

Determination concept

Things we have not worked for we are not prepared to receive. We haven’t thought about them. We haven’t pondered them. We haven’t planned for them. We haven’t done anything. Thus, we are not equipped to appreciate them or value them. And, because they came with no effort we part with them (or blow them in the case of spiritual, emotional, mental, or physical currency) with the same amount of thought—none.

Whether we like to hear it or not, nothing in life has meaning or value or power to bring us joy if we don’t give it meaning, value, and power by our blood, sweat, and tears. Our action in the pursuit of something is what gives that something meaning, value, and the power to grant us satisfaction—and lasting joy.

You don’t have to believe this. But, I guarantee that whether or not you put in the work to test it, you’ll eventually find that it’s true.

BT

Doctrine: The Gospel is only impossible to us inasmuch as we refuse to have faith in it, refuse to believe in it, and refuse to try to live it. What we believe will directly correlate to what we feel is possible. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most possible thing on earth.

impossible4

Climbing Mount Everest seems impossible to do. Yet, people have done it. And the people that did it desired to climb it, read about past people who tried to climb it (both those who succeeded and failed), prepared and trained to climb it, and then eventually, in time climbed it.

Running a marathon seems impossible to do. Yet, people do it every day. They desired to run a marathon, they read up on food and training, prepared and trained to run a marathon, and then eventually, they ran one.

Walking seems impossible to someone who has just been through knee surgery. I know. Because I’ve seen people go through it. So, how do they walk again? They desire to walk more than anything else. Thus, they are willing to stretch, ice, elevate, rest, and participate in physical therapy until they can walk again.

C.S. Lewis said:

Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in: aim at earth and you will get neither.

Alice in Wonderland believed six impossible things before breakfast, thus, fictionally, she was able to visit other worlds and accomplish great things, especially going against societal norms. The principle is similar. What we believe will directly correlate to what we feel is possible.

The point here is this, I’ve heard so many people say that they are leaving the church because God asks too much of them. They say it’s impossible to live the law of Christ. They say trying to become like God is impossible.

However, they fail to note (when they are saying this) that many people have succeeded in living the law of Christ. Many people have lived it, do live it, and are trying to live it every day. So, what makes it impossible? I’ll tell you.

People who think God’s plan is too difficult, that His expectations and commandments are too steep, and that the Gospel is impossible have a few common problems:

  • First, they don’t understand grace properly.
  • Second, their desires for eternal life (life “like” God) are likely surface desires only and not the true desires of their heart. Such an accomplishment seems like Mount Everest and they do not have sufficient desire to put in the hard work to climb it—though it is technically possible.
  • Third, they don’t know God well (because of a lack of faith, prayer, study, and at least attempts at keeping the commandments) and because they don’t know Him they don’t really understand what it is they are being asked to become; therefore, developing a strong desire to be like Him is difficult to do.
  • Fourth, perhaps they used to want eternal life but their current life and desires have superseded that original desire and so they have set it aside as a “nice thing” but no longer find it appealing—again, too much work. They truly believe that they will be happier living life their way and that belief guides their actions. They can’t trust God’s promises because they haven’t come to trust Him and they haven’t tried the experiment to see if He can be trusted.
  • Along with this, most people who think the gospel is impossible find that it is impossible to live when they aren’t willing to repent—and, it is, especially since repentance is the 2nd principle of the Gospel.
  • Finally, the Gospel is impossible to those who want salvation and exaltation on their terms, and not God’s. Since God is bound by law and covenant in order to have the exaltation that He enjoys—because that’s the only way to get it—then He can’t break those laws and covenants to give us exaltation or He would cease to be God (see blog post, God’s Power is Not Absolute).

If You Understand Grace, then the Gospel is Not Impossible

The purpose of Grace is to allow us to learn to become godly, and to give us the power to become godly, without being condemned by the learning and becoming process. God’s commandments, ordinances and covenants are not a list of things to do or to check off perfectly so that then we can become godly. They are things we enter into and do so that as we try to do and become them grace can make actual changes in us. Thus, it’s the trying that matters, not perfection in trying. But, we have to try. If we don’t try, then grace can’t function to make the changes necessary for godhood.

I have had piano students over the years who always got frustrated if they couldn’t play a song perfectly with only a few tries. These students would often quit lessons or at the least struggle with practicing as they should. However, when I could encourage them to practice, it would always surprise them that in time they could master the song. Thus, their parents (who paid for the lessons) didn’t pay for the lessons so that their child would play perfectly the first time every time. The parents paid for the lessons so that the child could learn to play well and love playing. They paid for the lessons so that their kid would learn to love music, appreciate it’s depth and intricacies, enjoy the spirit of the songs, and hopefully be able to serve in the future with the talent they had gained.

This is grace. Christ suffered for everything: sin, injustice, injury, physical infirmity, etc. so that we can take “becoming like God lessons” and learn to love Christ, God and the process of becoming like them. Grace pays for the lessons so that we can get good at aspects of godhood, learn to appreciate the depth and intricacy of what it takes to become like God, enjoy the Gift of the Holy Ghost as He teaches us more and more of God’s truth and light, and eventually learn to serve as a God—bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of others.

If you understand this basic principle about grace, then you can never say the Gospel is impossible or that the law of Christ is too hard. You can only say that you don’t understand it and haven’t taken the time to try.impossible possible

If You Truly Desire to Become Like God, then the Gospel Does Not Seem Impossible

I know a lot of people who say things like, “I wish I could play the piano like that,” or, “I wish I could teach like you,” or, “I wish I could sing like that,” or, “I wish I could become a doctor, lawyer, etc…” And yet, they don’t really wish it. What they like is the idea of it. They like the idea of something but not enough to put in the work for it.

The scriptures have records of people being saved and exalted, even translated. To say that it’s not possible indicates that there is a lack of true desire. It is possible. We have evidence of it. But, we also have evidence that you have to really want it in order to achieve it. Godhood is not something we achieve by a casual desire. And, would you really want a god that received godhood without having to work for it?

In Doctrine and Covenants 137:9, it says:

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

Note, God does NOT say “according to their works and the desire of their hearts.” People often read this verse and understand it that way, but that’s not actually what He says. He says, “according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” Meaning, that God judges us by the true desires of our hearts which are evident in our efforts (i.e. sincere actions, attempts at trying, true focus, etc.)

Do you want the salary of a self-made billionaire but you aren’t willing to do what that man/woman did to get it? Then, you don’t really want what they have. You only think you do. But, then, once you learn what they had to do to get it or how many times they failed before achieving it, then you lose the desire to have their enormous sums of money. Why? Because you don’t want that much money bad enough to go through what they went through to get it.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is in place to help us become like God, is only impossible to you if you think the end result isn’t worth the work. And, guess what, technically, that’s okay. That’s why there are multiple kingdoms of glory. And, whatever law you consider to be worthwhile and possible; the one you desire to live, that is the one that will govern the ultimate eternal kingdom you receive. But, you are also limited to the blessings of  that kingdom and you can’t choose otherwise once you get there (Doctrine and Covenants 88:36-40; 131:1-4).

So, it’s no use saying the Gospel is impossible simply because it seems hard to you. You only need to admit that you don’t have the desire to actually do the work it takes to live it.

If You Know Your God (and Christ) then the Gospel Doesn’t Seem Impossible

If you are asked to become like someone, but you don’t know anything about them, then initially, you’re going to consider such a request an impossible task. You may even ask, “Why would I want to become like God?” And, this is a great question.

Those of us who want to become like God want to because we want: 1) eternal family (or family with us forever and not just for this life), 2) a glorified, resurrected, celestial body, that has the ability to procreate and produce eternal offspring, 3) a perfect character (including perfect love, perfect justice, perfect mercy, etc.), 4) a perfect knowledge of the past, present, and future, and 5) the power to create worlds with the sole intent of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of others.

But, if you haven’t taken the time to get to know God by talking to Him, trying to emulate Him, and testing out His trustworthiness and promises, then you aren’t going to believe that He is what He says He is. You aren’t going to see the value in becoming like Him. You aren’t going to trust that it’s possible.

The prophet Lorenzo Snow taught:

As man now is, God once was
As God now is, man may become

So, if you think that becoming like God is impossible, it’s not because it isn’t. It is (Moroni 10:32-33) possible. But, you don’t think it is because you don’t know Him. And, unless you get to know Him, it will always be impossible to you (St. John 17:3).

If Becoming Like God is Your Primary Desire in this Life then the Gospel Doesn’t Seem Impossible

The second commandment is: Thou shalt have no other Gods before me (Exodus 20:3).

Thus, if we put a desire before the desire to become like God, then we have begun desiring or worshipping another God. And, the sad thing about this is that there is no other thing/person/situation that has the power to ultimately give us anything that we want. Everything that has it’s center in this life (and not in Eternal Life, i.e. life like God) is temporary and will end when we die. Only those things that are sanctioned by God, entered into by His guidelines and commandments, etc. will continue after this life (Doctrine and Covenants 132:7).

So, the Gospel is impossible to you if you have put something/someone in your life before your goal/desire to become like God. It is impossible because you have given your agency to a false god. Thus, that false god has no power to give you what you ultimately want. Thus, the Gospel is of no effect in your life, or only to the extent that you allow it.

So, to say the Gospel is impossible because you trust the power and authority of whatever false god you have chosen over Christ and God, the Father; then, of course it is impossible. But only because you are putting your trust in something/someone with “0” power. The moment you begin to put God first in your life again, your life will regain the power to bring you ultimate joy and happiness. The Gospel will then again become possible.

When You are Willing to Repent, the Gospel Doesn’t Seem Impossible

Salvation (and differing levels of grace and mercy) are disbursed on the conditions of repentance and faithfulness we give to God and His Gospel. When we aren’t willing to repent, change, and try to become godly, then the Gospel seems impossible. But that’s because as long as we aren’t willing to meet the conditions God has established for His grace and mercy (bought through the blood, example, and Atonement of Jesus Christ), then technically, the Gospel is impossible. God doesn’t forgive us without true repentance. We don’t get to become gods simply by being born into this life. The only thing we get for being born is an immortal, resurrected body.

Grace is spiritual money. God is the spiritual gazillionaire. We can’t demand His spiritual money on our own terms. We have to meet the conditions He has set. And, the conditions He has set are also those that will ultimately bring us more happiness and joy than we could ever imagine. Whatever you think you can imagine, God can do way better. But, of course, because you can’t imagine it, it’s hard to understand the scope of what He offers.

So, don’t say the Gospel is impossible simply because you are unwilling to repent fully. Admit to yourself that you have rendered the Gospel inoperable (and the fullness of the Atonement) by your own pride and unwillingness to submit to the will of God (Mosiah 3:19).

Mia Wasikowska is Alice in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Conclusion

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most possible thing on the earth. The only things that render it impossible we have complete control over: our desires, our willingness to act on those desires, our love of and desire to learn about and become like God, and our willingness to repent and submit to the conditions God has set upon His abundant and incredibly accessible grace.

Want steps to make the Gospel FEEL possible? Check out my next blog post.

BT