I’m not a fan of negative titles, but in this case it is the only way to give you an idea of the point of this blog post. I call myself the Doctrine Lady because I’m all about doctrine. And doctrine is fundamental unchanging truth. So, I could call myself “the Fundamental, Unchanging Truth Lady”, but Doctrine Lady seems to be a tad bit more concise, and if I do say so: catchy.

This week my co-host Tawnee Saunders and I did a podcast titled: The Stuff We Need To Do But Struggle To Do. And in the limited experience my life can claim, I have found that the primary inhibitor of personal progression is a false belief. A false belief may also be called a limiting belief or a false doctrine. But, the everyday term is simply: a lie.

If there is something, anything, in our life that we know we need to do, but struggle to do, it is nearly always going to be because we are inhibited by a false belief, or a lie. And false beliefs and lies create fear, justification, procrastination, and other symptoms that significantly and consistently inhibit our ability to do the stuff we know we need to do.

We Know What We Need To Do

It’s very important that you take note of an important part of this topic. We are talking about things “you know you need to do.” These are things you are already aware of. Now, there may be very many things you are unaware of that you also need to do, but since you are not yet aware of those things it would be counterproductive to fret over them until you have first succeeded in accomplishing those that you already know about.

What do you know you need to do? Well, that’s entirely personal. You may know you need to repent (make a significant course change in some aspect, or many aspects of your life or behavior). You may know you need to eat better. You may know that you need to learn to control your reactions to the actions of others. You may know that you need to learn to “hold your tongue” or learn to be less sarcastic or to learn to stop insulting others—out of habit. You may know that you need to change jobs, work on your marriage, read your scriptures, pray more, do a better job at focusing on and keeping your religious covenants (or making them to begin with). You may know you need to exercise more, spend more time with your family, gossip less. You may know you need to make heart-wrenching, severe, or bittersweet but eventually positive choices in your life. But that’s the key, isn’t it? YOU KNOW what you need to do.

But We Struggle To Do It

The real puzzle in any type of lasting and positive self-progression is in figuring out the lie(s) that is keeping you from doing what you need to do.

Since I’m a religious blogger I am going to use religious examples. But make no mistake, all of life is about God and His plan for you, and so even the things you need to do that you consider temporal, regular, or outside of religion really aren’t outside of religion at all. God doesn’t offer any blessings that aren’t ultimately about propelling us closer to Him and making us more like He is. Thus, my examples may be universally applied to whatever it is you are struggling to do.

Repentance—Or the lies people believe that keep them from repenting

The world repentance has a negative connotation, and who is surprised about that? Nobody likes to be told what to do, and for certain, nobody likes to find out that the person who has been trying to tell them what to do is ultimately right. And, oftentimes we become even more reticent about making changes in the course of our lives, even turning around completely, if it means succumbing to the fact that someone else figured out it was the best way before we did. We humans have a very bad habit about thinking that we can only change if it’s our idea first. We want ownership in the eternal patent of “choosing the right.” To give in to someone else’s idea, no matter how right it may be, always seems to be sort of a concession on our part. And, it is. What we have to learn to do is to simply be happy about the concession. We have to overcome the lie that giving way to the wisdom of others, or of God, (or being wrong, or having been wrong) is worse than repenting.

There is an extreme amount of power in owning up to the fact and even learning to love the fact that there are all sorts of people who know more than you and have figured it out before you. Power? Yes. Because the great thing about humility and meekness (a willingness to give up the idea of power residing solely in us) is that it exponentially increases our power to do—everything. How? When we finally give up on the idea that the only power we can rely on is ours (which is of course a limited amount of power), we suddenly open ourselves up to other sources of power. And, if the power source you choose to open yourself up to is that of God, then you get the beautiful grace equation: you + God = nearly unlimited power.

The other equation: you + you = you, rather falls short to all other equations for power. However, you must take note of the fact that even though God knows everything and has figured it all out before you, your concession does in fact make you part of the patent equation. You do get the credit you wanted, but you don’t get it in the way that you wanted originally (which was to get the credit by yourself). Your agency (or free will) gives you credit for choosing to repent, or to do what’s right, to make major course corrections in your life by putting you in an equation of power with someone who actually has the power to make your concession powerful enough to change you fundamentally…meaning long-term. You can’t ever get the credit solely by yourself. You can’t even breathe without the light of Christ (Mosiah 2:21, John 1:9). Any progression you make is by the grace of God. But, you can get credit by adding God in.

The thing about repentance is that we can’t do it without God. And, this is the first lie that most of us are inhibited by from a very young age, that repentance is separate from God and that we can’t come unto Him until we’ve repented first. We say things to ourselves like: “Well, I’ll repent, but not until I’ve completely figured out how to change my life on my own,” or “Once I’ve changed on my own, then I’ll go to God and get myself right with Him and others…” Little do we realize that true repentance isn’t possible without God’s help. Oh sure, we can make some few little changes on our own power (which isn’t very much, you remember). But, those changes often are not sufficiently significant to alter our life’s course. They often fail after a time because the power we’ve used to make them (our power) has proven insufficient, or it has run out—we have gotten tired of carrying the weight of the change all on our own. Thus, we continue to fail. It makes it very hard for us to want to start again.

C.S. Lewis says beautifully in Mere Christianity that, more or less, only a good man can repent. And since all of us fall short of goodness (since no one is good but God, Matthew 19:17), we can’t repent unless God helps us. His goodness enables us to repent. So the longer we think that we can’t change until we’ve already changed on our own we will continue to struggle to change in the ways we know we need to.

Another lie, or limiting belief, that keeps us from repenting is the idea that it’s harder to do things God’s way than it is to do them our way. Nothing could be further from the truth, unless you were to say that God’s way is harder initially than our own way. This statement is true. God’s way is often harder initially because it requires integrity, humility, self-restraint, self-discipline, charity, gratitude, meekness, and a multitude of other godly attributes to be assimilated into our character as fast as we are able. Such virtues demand personal sacrifice and a large portion of hope and trust in God’s promises. And yet, God’s way is easier in the long run, and, more importantly, it is sustainable. This is something many people can’t comprehend because they’ve always subsisted primarily on their own power, and it has often failed them. They have trouble imagining how God’s power, added to theirs, can actually make change real and eventually permanent.

Our way, which is often much easier in the initial moments and days, even weeks, of our lives is easier because it allows us to put off assimilating all those godly traits. However, in the long run our own way leads to a halt in personal progression and leads us to develop traits that do not—and will not ever—lead to sustainable happiness. These traits include: dishonesty (with self and others), pride, gluttony, excess and immodesty, hatred, entitlement, impertinence, etc.

These words are harsh to the modern mind who believes that there is still a right way to do something wrong; which of course, there is not. This is yet another false belief that inhibits successful repentance. There is simply no way to get around God’s way which is the right way. Anyone who believes they can hoodwink God’s system somehow will waste their energy in futility.

Another lie the unrepentant often believe is that God’s way robs us of happiness and so they struggle to repent because they can’t seem to give up the idea that adhering to God’s commandments and entering into His covenants and ordinances will somehow cause them to miss out on something wonderful. So, they procrastinate repenting to be sure they’ve checked out all other viable options for happiness. Or, until they learn that they’ve been believing something false. It’s the opposite that’s true. That procrastinating repentance is actually what is causing them to miss out on peace, joy, and true, sustainable, and lasting happiness.

Forgiving—or the lies that people believe that keep them from forgiving

Forgiveness. It’s something we need to do but struggle to do. But, you have to ask, “Why do I believe that it’s better to hold a grudge, or to enact revenge, than to forgive?” Because ultimately that is the primary lie that keeps people from forgiving. They really do believe that holding a grudge is going to make them happier, or that getting revenge is going to satiate their anger and hurt. Often, this belief takes years to be undone. And in those years, people try over and over again to be hateful, to hurt the person that hurt them, to hold onto that grudge and to get revenge. And only after continuous and repeated attempts that result in very temporary, or most likely failed satisfaction, do they begin to learn that forgiveness is the only option for happiness. Only then do they begin the journey to forgive.

Another lie people believe that prevents them from forgiving is this; they don’t trust the atonement of Jesus Christ and the justice of God to be applied accurately. So, they refuse to forgive in an attempt to help an all-knowing God do His job of justice and punishment correctly. It’s no mistake that the New Testament makes it very clear that Christ is the only one with the authority to forgive sin. To try to usurp that authority by holding a grudge or enacting revenge damages only us. No matter how justified our feelings we will never have the authority to forgive sin, and especially not to withhold forgiveness from anyone.

Sometimes we see it in the reverse, but it is actually the same lie. We feel we can’t forgive because to forgive seems to feel like we are condoning the hurt and offense that has been given. After all, if they can’t feel and see our hurt then they’ll never change, and we most certainly don’t want to be responsible for allowing them to stay as they are.

These perspectives on forgiveness are, of course, false. Forgiveness has never been condoning sin. When Christ spoke to the woman taken in adultery, He didn’t say, “What you did was ok.” He said, “Go and sin no more.” Holding a grudge also doesn’t help others see that they need to change. Using pity as a weapon is in some ways incredibly vicious. It is no more justifiable than the hurt which was originally given, and is a type of revenge.

Thus, the truth is that in order to forgive we must learn to believe the opposite of all these lies. We must come to believe the truth. Holding grudges and seeking revenge only make us like Satan—empty, unhappy, and spiritually sick. We must learn to trust that the Almighty has not only taken care of justice, but also forgiveness and repentance in a past tense. The atonement of Jesus Christ is past and done. And, it’s effects and grace spread backward and forward throughout history. God has got it in hand. Finally, we have to understand and come to believe that we are not responsible to force, coerce, shame, or guilt others into change. And to try to do so is simply a form of manipulation and unrighteous dominion.

We Don’t Have To Struggle Anymore

If you have tried a million times to do anything YOU KNOW you need to do but just can’t seem to do, then you have to sit down and think. It’s going to take time, thought, and reflection. Ask yourself questions like:

  1. Why don’t I start? Why do I keep putting this off?
  2. Why have I quit repeatedly—after beginning—in the past?
  3. What do I keep telling myself that makes me justify putting this off?
  4. What do I tell myself each time, just before I quit?
  5. What do I think about others who seem to have been able to do this?
  6. Have I made excuses for myself, or excuses for why others succeed, that are preventing me from accomplishing this, or even beginning?
  7. Have I asked for help and willingly accepted it? (from others, God)
  8. Have I been meek enough to accept the power offered to me by others and God? If not, why?

These questions, and others like it, will (if you’re sincere) help you to identify the false doctrines—or lies—that are holding you back from doing the things you need to do but struggle to do. It’s amazing how much more possible something becomes, and how much more positive life becomes, when you remove the barriers of false doctrines and limiting beliefs from in front of you. Truth is power. Truth gives power to act—and to succeed.

BT

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

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

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

Common Faulty Religious Beliefs and Expectations

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

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

Coping Frameworks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asian man and woman playing wood jenga game.

Crisis of Faith

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

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

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

How to Get Through a Crisis of Faith

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Abandon Anything Until You Know What to Abandon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

 

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The Lost Art of Pondering

We live in a world that is literally drowning in information and social communication. Our idea of what it means to think about something, to ponder something, consists of typing it in Google and reading about what other people think. Or, we bump into it while scrolling through our Facebook feed. Sadly, this is not thinking, and it most certainly is not pondering.

I have a phrase that I like to use for the lack of pondering, it is IL-pondering. The prefix IL stands for not or no. So, IL-pondering is no pondering or not pondering.

To ponder means: to think about something carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion. To ponder is to contemplate, consider, review, mull over, and meditate on something. The origin of ponder comes from the Latin pondus (weight), to the Latin ponderate (weigh, reflect on), to the old French ponderer (consider), to the current Middle English ponder (appraise, judge the worth of).

Pondering is so much more than thinking. It’s reasoning. It’s comparison. It’s logic. It’s feelings and emotions. But, most importantly, pondering is done by us. And secondly, pondering takes time. Finally, pondering culminates in personal witness. Pondering does not end in a non-peaceful resolution.

You might ask, “Why is pondering so important?”

My answer, “If you don’t ponder, you are not in control of your life, someone else is. If you don’t ponder, then you will end up in places, situations, health issues, conversations, and even relationships you don’t want to be in. All because you didn’t ponder.”

Now, if you don’t value being in control of your own life, then not understanding pondering may not frighten you. But, if you ultimately want to be in control of who you are and where your life goes, then you must learn to ponder. Without pondering you are actively choosing to let others think for you, choose for you, and determine who you will be and where your life will go. And, if you are unhappy, then you have only yourself to blame for letting others determine what makes you happy.

There is no vicarious road to replace the individual effort required to ponder, study, reason, and receive individual answers and witnesses from God through the Holy Ghost. If we let others ponder for us we are likely to end up converted to, and preaching, their version of the gospel (or their version our life!), instead of God’s version… And their version cannot and never will spiritually sustain us or bring us true happiness.

My second answer to, “Why is pondering so important?” is this. “You can’t ever be truly converted to God (or satisfied with your life) if you haven’t received your own personal witnesses from God, through the Holy Ghost, from pondering.”

Pondering is not about a quick fix. It’s not about what we normally think of as happiness. Pondering leads to deep, inner peace and ultimate joy. And, it can’t be substituted by quick fixes, emotional highs, food binges, and short cuts.

Not pondering leads to only one end—and end you didn’t want, a place you don’t want to be, a life you can never be a peace with.

Here is a blurb from a middle grade fiction book I love, called The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Milo, the main character has entered an imaginary world in a toy car. He ends up stuck in a place called the Doldrums where his car has stopped moving completely and he can’t figure out why. He can’t seem to get it moving again and he is in a place he doesn’t want to be. He doesn’t even know where he is or how he got there to begin with. He’s stuck. Then, an interesting character, the Watch Dog shows up.

“Help you! You must help yourself,” the Watch Dog replied, carefully winding himself with his left leg. “I suppose you know why you got stuck.”

“I guess I wasn’t thinking,” said Milo.

“PRECISELY,” shouted the dog as his alarm went off again. “Now you know what you must do.”

“I’m afraid I don’t,” admitted Milo, feeling quite stupid.

“Well,” continued the watchdog impatiently, “since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect, that in order to get out, you must start thinking,” And with that he hopped into the car.

So, how does a person ponder? I suspect that the art of thinking is a lost one, these days. There are many ways to ponder. But, I think it’s fairly easy to do. The biggest problem is people don’t take time to do it. They get far too happy with only partially pondering or jumping off the thinking-bandwagon when it appears they’ve made some progress. They are to apt to jump to conclusions rather than to wait for the witness and certainty that comes from the Holy Ghost.

Here is another blurb from The Phantom Tollbooth, when Milo has again found himself somewhere he doesn’t want to be:

“Now will you tell me where we are?” asked Tock [the Watch Dog] as he looked around the desolate island.

“To be sure,” said Canby; “you’re on the Island of Conclusions. Make yourself at home. You’re apt to be here for some time.”

“But how did we get here?” asked Milo, who was still a bit puzzled by being there at all.

“You jumped, of course,” explained Canby. “That’s the way most everyone gets here. It’s really quite simple: every time you decide something without having a good reason, you jump to Conclusions whether you like it or not. It’s such an easy trip to make that I’ve been here hundreds of times.”

“But this is such an unpleasant-looking place,” Milo remarked.

“Yes, that’s true,” admitted Canby; “it does look much better from a distance.”

“Well, I’m going to jump right back,” announced the Humbug, who took two or three practice bends, leaped as far as he could, and landed in a heap two feet away.

“That won’t do at all,” scolded Canby, helping him to his feet. “You can never jump away from Conclusions. Getting back is not so easy. That’s why we’re so terribly crowded here…. The only way back is to swim, and that’s a very long and a very hard way.”

Pondering is only hard if you want everything to happen right now, everything to be solved right now, and everything to make sense right now. Pondering is not a right now thing. Sometimes certainty, witnesses and answers do come fairly quickly, but most often that’s because you’re seeking for knowledge, inspiration, and answers in the correct places with an open mind, a humble heart, and a willingness to submit to truth.

If you get used to not pondering, then just like Milo’s trip to the island of conclusions, you will find that getting back to the art of pondering is a very long and a very hard way. But it gets easier and easier the more you do it. And trust me, it’s worth learning to do. It gives you power over your own happiness!

So, in preparation to ponder, you need to understand the following.

  1. Pondering is very rarely, a right now thing. It takes as long as it needs to take: days, weeks, months, years.
  2. You have to make time to ponder. You have to get out your smart phone and carve out 15 minutes to an hour each day, either all at once or in pieces. Turn off everything! And turn on your brain!
  3. You need to make a list of things to ponder, or seek sources that will initiate pondering. God asks us to read the scriptures daily for a reason. Not to memorize the stories. To take the time to stop and ponder His will, our will, His plan, and our progress in it. If you read your scriptures without these thoughts in mind, you’re almost (not quite) wasting your time.
  4. You have to want personal peace and true joy more than you want anything else. You can’t be happy to settle for good, or better, when best is your goal. If you’re willing to settle, then you aren’t ready to ponder.
  5. You have to look in the correct places for knowledge. You can’t go to the easiest places (the web, your dysfunctional and opinionated friend). You’ve got to identify and go to the right places. (D&C 88:118; 109:7)
  6. You have to seek with a humble heart, and open mind, and a willingness to submit to the truth and witness from God that you seek. If you want to know but you have no intention of acting on what you learn, you won’t find what you’re looking for.
  7. Pondering ends in peace, certainty, and a feeling of assurance. It doesn’t end in extreme emotions that drive irrational or weakly thought out actions. It doesn’t end in emotions that drive revenge, anger, confusion, retaliation, jealousy, hatred, or irrational fear. It may inspire actions that scare you, or excite you, but it will inspire patience and preparation in whatever action it leads you to. It will lead you to act and not to be acted upon.

So, 1-7. If you’re good to go on those, then here are what I would suggest as steps on HOW TO PONDER. The following steps have been compiled from a combination of three scripture references: Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3, 9:7-9; Joseph Smith-History 1:8-13, as well as my own experience.

Once you have something to ponder (that has to come first, of course), then here are the steps.

HOW TO PONDER

  1. Set aside your self-imposed, limited expectations for what God’s answer and guidance will be and open yourself up to consider not what you expect to learn, but what God has for you to learn and understand. Don’t put God in a box.
  2. Establish a firm, doctrinally-based question upon which you intend to act (For help with this concept see blog post Getting Answers to Prayers: EXPEDIENCY). God can tell you anything, but He’s much more likely to reveal those things to you which pertain to “you” and which will help “you” become more like Him. That includes even the mundane, such as health, fitness, education, work, entertainment, music as well as the deep spiritual topics you have questions about.
  3. Pray for guidance and then while you are waiting for it, continue to act on the truth you have, study, research correct sources, and reason about your question or topic from every angle you can think of.
  4. Pray again for understanding and to sort through the knowledge you’ve gleaned. Ponder what you’ve already got and toss out anything that isn’t helping and study deeper anything that sticks out to you. (repeat as often as necessary)
  5. Do not allow yourself to be overly awed or swayed by educational credentials, claimed associations, quotes and blurbs taken out of context, etc. If something sounds good, but sits wrong in your gut or incites feelings of anger, confusion, jealously or revenge, chances are it is wrong, false, only partially true—or at the minimum biased and incomplete. Also be careful about sources that tell you exactly what you think you want to hear. That’s always a red flag. Click here for more info on what this means and how to tell truth from falsehoods (in any text, blog, quote, interview, etc.)
  6. Live worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost and invite Him to testify and guide you by being an active learner. You can do this by accessing those resources God has commanded us to use to get His answers: prophetic guidance, scripture study, prayer, and other appropriate and positive influences within our lives.
  7. When you receive advice from others, get the counsel confirmed by the Holy Ghost who will tell you in BOTH your mind and your hearts, if the advice is God’s will for you.
  8. Wait for that personal witness of peace, certainty, assurance, calmness, and patient determination. When the resolve comes to you, you will recognize it. It’s different from everything the world offers. (St. John 14:27)

Now that you know what pondering should basically look like, let’s also review what IL-pondering looks like. Sometimes looking at the reverse helps us identify where we are getting in our own way.

THE PERILS OF IL-PONDERING

So, how do we il-ponder? Il-pondering is skipping, reversing, ignoring, skewing, or slothfully completing any of the above steps. But, here are some statements that may help.

  • Il-pondering will happen IF we limit our perspective for learning and receiving answers from God to our own limited and finite expectations. We think we can imagine what God will say, but we can’t (Isaiah 55:8-9). So, if we try to put God in our box (which can’t be done), then we will sit inside that tiny box, all alone—or with others who have climbed in—and never get the knowledge and peace we need.
  • Many times we il-ponder when we focus on superficial questions to which God has an answer, but because of the lack of eternal importance of the answer, or our inability to comprehend the infinite expanse of the answer, we cannot receive it. For example: it’s not that understanding how the dinosaurs and Cro-Magnon man play into the creation of Adam and Eve aren’t interesting, but the reality is that the answer won’t affect our ability to keep God’s commandments and become like Him. We can do that without knowing those things. Plus, the answer would probably be beyond our ability to grasp.
  • We also il-ponder when our excessive emotions of disappointment, anger, resentment, vengeance, passion, and even dumfounded-confusion drive our search. This is because what we are looking for is an immediate fix for our emotional discomfort and not the ultimate truth—which is often not immediately comfortable.

Il-pondering can happen, and frequently does, when we allow others to do our thinking for us. This happens when we set out to research an issue, problem, question, or even a doubt. In our impatience and haste, we find that other people (often on the Internet) have already done some. Then, we sit down comfortably and listen to their pondering, eat their narrative meal, accept their biased viewpoint (which certainly sounds as if they are trying to be unbiased and fair), and completely ingest their answers and their gospel. This meal is especially appetizing if it agrees with our emotional feelings or uneducated conclusions. We jump to their conclusions, never having fully come to or pondered our own. When this happens, I know of few who actually take the time to take the easily ingested pondering (done by others) and vet it through an inquiry to the Lord. They simply think they’ve found the answer and then stop. They never seek a witness from the Holy Ghost. They put up an umbrella over their heads, blocking the further light and knowledge raining down that they would have found.

We il-ponder when we jump to conclusions before having all the information (and since when did anyone have all the information, except God?). We are so prideful and selfishly convinced of our own intelligent conclusion based on minimal evidence that we harden our hearts and become incapable of receiving any other information. Messages from the Holy Ghost bounce off of our armor because we’ve decided to only soften for certain kinds of information.

We il-ponder when we study minimally, research at a glance, reason only our limited viewpoint, and fail to pray before and after for inspiration, help, and guidance. And I’m talking about day-to-day life just as much as I am what we often consider the deeper spiritual questions. We’ve got to pray!

We il-ponder when we ask God for an answer and then turn to sources He has not instituted for His answer. We turn to men for guidance instead of God’s words and ordained mouthpieces (Doctrine and Covenants 1:37-38).

We il-ponder when we accept the counsel and guidance of others in our lives without vetting their guidance with our Father in Heaven. No matter how wise and wonderful advice may seem (of any kind); no matter how educated or experienced another is; none is more wise and educated and experienced than God. If we get good advice and He wants us to follow it, He will tell us IF we seek His opinion.

In the scriptures we see many people deceived by il-pondering.

Laman and Lemuel often sought explanations from Nephi. Nephi always preached true doctrine to them. So, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that Laman and Lemuel never went to the Lord to get it verified. They never got their own witness.

The Zoramites were notorious for not pondering for themselves. They turned to Alma and his sons for information. Alma 32 is an entire chapter in The Book of Mormon of Alma counseling the Zoramites to ponder! Try it out, plant the seed and see what happens! Alma taught.

Alma’s son, Corianton, succumbed to temptation because he struggled with a few critical gospel doctrines. His emotions got in his way of taking the time to ponder and get the truth. His father finally set him straight, but Corianton still had to gain his own witness.

Alma the Younger was an il-ponderer until his soul was at stake. Then, as he was “racked with torment” and “harrowed up by the memory of [his] sins” he remembered his father taught about “one, Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world” (Alma 36:17). In his internal pondering he sifted through all that he had ever heard and found hope and a testimony in Jesus Christ.

Zeezrom tormented Alma and Amulek with his cursory knowledge of the gospel. He tried to cross them in their words. When they were inspired by the Holy Ghost to put Zeezrom in his place, he too was tormented until he pondered what they had actually taught about Jesus Christ (Alma 11 & 15).

The Pharisees were the blind guides upon whom so many were so often deceived. The Pharisees were accused by Jesus Christ of being blind guides and making converts to “their version” of His religion twofold more the children of hell than they, themselves, were (Matthew 23:15).

If we continually submit to others’ versions of truth, to others’ pondering, and not doing our own, we are allowing ourselves to be led by “blind guides” and we have no personal promptings or spiritual witnesses to fall back on. And, if we are not careful, we will become their converts and not Christ’s, we will preach their gospel and not Christ’s, and we will become twofold more the children of hell, than those whom we originally followed. We will end up in places in life we don’t want to be! We will be on diets that work or others not us. We will be in jobs that others love but we don’t. Etc.

We cannot receive personal revelation and guidance from God if we let others do the asking, studying, and pondering for us. If we think God is not answering us, that His promises are not being fulfilled, it may be because we are not anxiously engaged in getting our own answers from Him (Doctrine & Covenants -58:26-33).

2 Nephi 32:1-7 says:

And now, behold, my beloved brethren, I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way. But, behold, why do ye ponder these things in your hearts?

Do ye not remember that I said unto that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?

Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.

For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.

Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ

And now, I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.

I am one of those people that is inherently untrusting of others’ opinions, and even more so of their facts. If someone cites a reference in their research paper, blog, or other post, I look it up. And, I’m never shocked to find out that they’ve skewed the ideal, misunderstood the point, misquoted the facts, failed to read the whole reference themselves, and “jumped to conclusions” about its interpretation. Often they steal ideas because they don’t have their own! Talk about unreliable information.

I’m not shocked because those who preach (especially the rigid, eccentric, angry, or overtly biased) the most vehemently are often il-ponderers themselves.

When I cite references in this blog, I fully expect (and hope) that you (my readers) will look them up. Why? Because if you read them, for yourself, the Spirit will be able to teach you far more than my little blog could ever do. If you read the references yourselves and ponder the right questions, the Holy Ghost will do wonderful things with your minds, hearts, and your lives. Far beyond what all my typing can do.

So, hopefully, if you’re reading this and you’ve been an il-ponderer, you will get moving again (out of the Doldrums) by thinking on your own and seeking your own witness. Or, perhaps you will swim back from the Island of Conclusions—even though it’s a long swim. Or, hopefully, you will finally get past Expectations and to the destinations that God intends for you. I hope you will use pondering to take control of your life and find your way to where you actually want to be.

BT

Doctrine: Trust your Christlike feelings. Understand the difference between guilt and shame. Understand the formula the Holy Ghost uses and how false prophets try to mimick it. Remember that true prophets uphold agency, accountability, personal responsibility, and personal testimony.

Feelings. We all have them. And, if we understand them and listen to them, they can teach us a lot. And, as I’ve been pondering about how to tell the difference between a false prophet and a true one, I have noted that feelings play a significantly large part.

Obviously, Christ has taught us how to judge (see scriptures in previous blog The Very Elect are Being Deceived). But, sometimes, when feelings come into play, all that quick and accessible logic gets blurred by our feelings. As I pondered which feelings blurred our minds and which cleared our minds, I came upon something which to me is rather interesting and telling.

Trust Your Christlike Feelings

Feelings that have their foundation in Satan make it difficult to think, obscure truth, cause confusion, increase depression, despair, and exacerbate passionate emotions like anger, vengeance, entitlement, arrogance, ingratitude, fear, distrust, and resentment (Alma 12:9-11). On the other hand, feelings that have their foundation in Christ make us think and ponder more deeply, reveal truth, clarify our thoughts, make certain memories and experiences more poignant, increase hope, faith, and strengthen emotions like forgiveness, a righteous sense of justice, gratitude, humility, courage, trust, and charity (Doctrine and Covenants 84:45; 50:23-24).

So, as I got to evaluating the false prophets and anti-Christs in the scriptures, I began to note quite clearly and accurately, that ALL of them, when they preach, excite feelings that have their foundation in Satan—which in consequence lead us to act unwisely, narrowly, foolishly, and too quickly. False prophets and anti-Christs cry for justice but motivate us with satanic emotions to act in un-Christ-like ways. By using such satanically motivated excitement, they actually dull our ability to think rationally, think long-term, use reason and logic, and to consider the end result of our actions.

On the other hand, true prophets in the scriptures (and presently), when they preach excite feelings that have their foundation in Christ—which in consequence lead us to act slower, wiser, with the long-term in mind, and more carefully. True prophets and true advocates for Christ cry for mercy and also justice but motivate us with Christlike emotions. By using such Christ-centered tactics to properly motivate, they increase our ability to think rationally, use reason and logic, to consider the end result of our actions, and to take the time to ponder, research, and seek personal revelation.

True Prophets Will Increase Our Feelings of Guilt NOT Shame

Unlike shame, which comes from Satan and fundamentally makes us feel worthless, useless, unworthy, and miserable; guilt comes from God and is in place because of His love for us. Guilt reminds us that we are better, that we can be better, and that we should be better; all of which are fundamentally trying to draw us upward toward God. Guilt incites us to feel sorry for giving offense to God (and others) and includes sort of a spiritual pressure to repent and change. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

Shame, or worldly sorrow, is not guilt. It drives us toward the feelings of pride, resentment, entitlement, and fundamentally leads us to try to hide our sins and nurture them in the dark.

It’s important that we understand the difference between guilt and shame. And, a true prophet will incite guilt, not shame. A False prophet will incite shame, not guilt.

Now, let’s talk about anger. Can a true prophet make us angry? Sure. Defensive? Yes. However, I would suggest that when we get defensive and angry at something they’ve said it’s because of the following reasons:

  • We see clearly that we need to repent and we aren’t ready, don’t believe it’s necessary, or simply don’t want to (1 Nephi 16:2-3)
  • We haven’t paid the price to “know God” and how He works like we should, so we don’t recognize His hand in commandments, prophetic counsel, and church organization and policy (Mosiah 5:13, St. John 17:3, 1 Nephi 2:12, St. John 10:14, Exodus 5:2)
  • We think we know better than God and His servants (Exodus 5:2, Doctrine and Covenants 121:37-40)
  • We want God to give us His glory, power, and blessings on our terms, not His; we don’t like conditions placed on what we want (Doctrine and Covenants 121:36-40) or think we deserve

False Prophets Attempt to Mimick How the Spirit Works

In Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3 we read:

Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation…

I point out a few key words: mind, heart, dwell, revelation

Often people ask the question, how do I tell the Holy Ghost from my own thoughts and feelings. Here, I suggest is the answer. Note the formula: God will tell us in our mind and our heart. Not just mind. Not just heart. But, heart and mind. The heart, I would suggest is our feelings. The mind, I would suggest is our reason, logic, and current knowledge and understanding.

Next, note the word dwell. The information will dwell with us. It is not a temporary thing. It will persist. Then, the word revelation, which doesn’t denote a mere feeling, but an understanding, an enlightened thought, etc.

Now, let’s put it all together. 1) it sits well in our mind because it jives with our accumulated knowledge and understanding or sense of reason and logic, 2) it ALSO sits well in our heart or is accompanied by a Christ-like feeling, 3) it is not a fleeting thought that disappears or becomes a stupor (Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9), it persists, and 4) it contributes to our understanding and enlightens us.

So, to feel excited or temporarily happy and elated about something that we know from our memory we’ve been taught is counterproductive or likely unwise, then we should see a big X and hear an uncomfortable buzzing sound. To be presented with something that seems to have lots of logic and sense and is accompanied by apparent facts, but doesn’t sit right in our hearts, then we should see another big X and hear another uncomfortable buzzing sound. If an idea is fleeting and doesn’t enlighten us or contribute to our overall understanding of life and God, then big X and the buzzer.

False prophets somehow understand this fundamental formula. So, when they preach to us they try to mimick it. They try to present logic and reason, they present that data using emotional events or tactics, they try to show us how the knowledge they are giving us will impact our lives, and they try to convince us that they are enlightening us because we are currently “in the dark” or being fooled.

Thus, we return to the step: trust your Christlike feelings.

True Prophets Uphold Agency, Accountability, Responsibility, Personal Revelation and Testimony

In my study, it seems that false prophets and Anti-Christs talk about individuality and independence and then attempt to convince you of such independence through the use of GroupThink (the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility) or crowd mentality. They are masters of peer pressure using others who have already come over to their philosophy. They will tell you that you are pursuing your own needs but then will instruct you to do so by following their crowd followers. They will say something to the effect of, “Abandon this crowd you are following and stop being fooled by this tradition and be your own person. Do what makes you happy. Stop being deceived” (Alma 30). And, then, they will say, “Go do what everyone else is doing. Find your individuality by doing what my followers are doing instead of following this one closed-minded group.”

False prophets are incredibly persuasive and it is so easy to get swept up. Take the time to examine the logic and reason a person/self-proclaimed prophet is presenting. Examine the emotions they are trying to invoke. What do their tactics lead you to do? Do they use fear and shame? Do they try to make you feel deceived and stupid and that they are saving you? Do they fire up your sense of justice on a topic you barely know anything about and then give you the facts you think you are lacking to increase your trust? Do the emotions they invoke lead you to act rashly, angrily, foolishly, or too quickly? Do they tell you to “experiment upon their word” but then promise you that if you do you’ll find out what they’ve already discovered so you can save yourself the trouble? Hence, actually discouraging you from looking deeper. Do they invoke GroupThink?

True prophets will teach truth and that truth will not be easy or popular. True prophets point us away from a worldly majority toward God. God is their majority. True prophets encourage repentance and hope in Christ. True prophets preserve God’s laws and ways despite the fact that the world disagrees with such ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). True prophets will not force truth on us but will expect that we “experiment upon the word” for ourselves (Alma 32:27, St. John 7:17). They will not tell us that doing so is a waste of time because they understand that personal testimony is the only kind of testimony that matters (Moroni 10:4-5) and the only sure way for us to know godly truth through the Holy Spirit. True prophets will teach us to do what’s right despite the crowd, or group (1 Timothy 4:12). True prophets will not set aside individual accountability. They will uphold agency by upholding law, consequences, conditions, and so forth—as God does (Alma 42:17-22).

Conclusion

We can tell the difference between true and false prophets. ALL the guidelines, examples, and facts are in the scriptures. Ponder God’s instructions on how to get truth from Him. Then, stick to those instructions. Get to know God better than you know anything or anyone else. Then, you’ll be able to recognize with clarity those things that come from Him or from false prophets and anti-Christs.

BT

Doctrine: Many elect are deceived because of spiritual entitlement, idols, doctrinal misunderstandings, dissenters, lazy/piecemeal scripture study, and anger.

Image: refers to The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis where an ape passed off a donkey as Aslan (type of Christ) to faithful Narnians (animals and men) who, because they didn’t “know” the real Aslan, were easily deceived.

Religious, and world, history has patterns. One of the primary patterns that continues to repeat itself is the pride cycle. This cycle is as much about individual pride as it is about collective pride, as the two influence and build upon each other. Pride manifests itself in many ways, which I’m not going to delve into. Suffice it to say, that as the pride of society increases, the pride and apostasy within God’s church also increases.

Why is this always the case? We read about it in the past and wonder, “How were the Israelites so stupid to doubt the God who brought them through the Red Sea and delivered them from Egypt? How could they complain about manna?” Etc. Well, look around you. The more food we have the more food prophets arise. The more clothes/stuff we have, the more image prophets arise. I could go on and on. But, most importantly, the more truth we have, the more false prophets arise. The more miracles and blessings we receive, the more entitlement prophets arise.

There seems to be a correlation between prosperity and prideful entitlement. And in spiritual matters, it often goes unrecognized, which is sad since it causes the most troubles. The more truth God presents to us the more we take for granted the processes and miracles by which such truths are communicated and dispensed (collectively and individually). We begin to think God should tell us everything instead of only those things we diligently seek. We begin to think all our questions should be answered, right now, instead of recognizing that true wisdom comes through patience, diligence, and faith. We start thinking that we can dictate when and how God blesses us. And on and on…

The more spiritually entitled we become, the less effort we put into seeking the mysteries, blessings, miracles, and knowledge God has to dispense to us. We want it without effort. We want it without having to wait. We want it without trials and troubles. We want it, we want it, we want it… And yet, we don’t want it enough to actually work and wait for it. And, when this spiritual entitlement takes over, we become ripe for the deception that arises from false prophets.

In Matthew 24:24, speaking regarding the time preceding His second coming, Christ said:

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

In Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:22, the Joseph Smith Translation version of this same verse we get just a tiny bit of clarification on this:

For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.

Before delving into this topic and these scriptures, let’s define a few key words and talk about what it means to be “elect, according to the covenant,” and how false prophets/Christs work.

Elect – chosen to hold an office by voting; chosen but not yet in office; singled out

Contrary to pejoration of the understanding of the meaning of the word elect, it does not mean to be of greater worth or value than. The word elect is often used in place of the word special which is also often misunderstood to mean of greater worth or value. Special, however, indicates being of a particular kind, or character; being set aside for a specific role or function. Thus, when referring to “the elect according to the covenant,” Christ was referring to those chosen to perform the function of carrying forth the critical principles, covenants, and ordinances of the everlasting Gospel (Abraham 2:8-11; Deuteronomy 14:2; 1 Peter 2:9). Therefore, being an elect person according to the covenant means to be of those chosen (or elected)—who have received the fullness of God’s principles, covenants, and ordinances—to help others receive the same principles, covenants, and ordinances necessary to help them become like God.

Being elect also does not mean to be perfect or without flaw—which we also often falsely assume. While the elect are commanded to become like God and be perfect (as they attempt to fulfill their responsibilities), it doesn’t mean that they are perfect or will perfectly carry out their responsibilities. It means that they’ve been elected and though they may rise or fall within that election, grace is as effective for them as it is for all who are blessed or offended by their imperfect efforts.

False – not according with truth or fact; not according with rules or laws; incorrect; appearing to be the thing denoted; deliberately made or meant to deceive; artificial, feigned, illusory; treacherous, unfaithful

Despite the fact that the word false is so full of rich meaning indicating its power to deceive, people still tend to think they will easily be able to recognize false prophets, and false doctrines. And, they think they will recognize such falsities with little research, minimal investigation, inexperienced pondering, leaning on other’s research/opinions, little to no understanding of literary/speaking fallacies, and with a limited use of logic and common sense. Many allow passionate emotions to dictate their research, as well, instead of a level head.

Prophet – a person recognized as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God; a person who advocates or speaks in a visionary way about a new belief, cause, or theory; Muhammed (among Muslims); Joseph Smith and successors (among Mormons), etc.

So, putting false and prophet together we get…

False Prophet – a person who appears to be an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God but is not; a person who deliberately advocates or speaks deceptively in a visionary way about a new belief, cause, or theory on purpose with the intent to be unfaithful, etc.

Sign – an object, quality, or event whose presence  or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else

Wonders – something strange and surprising; miraculous deed or event

So, the goal of a False Prophet is to find a way to present to us false objects, qualities, or events that indicate the presence or occurrence of something else false. A False Prophet purposefully creates something strange and surprising to purposefully deceive others into thinking something false. And false prophets focus their falsities at Christ, His Gospel, and His people.

Whether a false prophet says Christ is false or tries to convince us that one of His teachings or leaders is false, the focus is still against Christ. Thus, false prophets are anti-Christ. By chopping up Christ and His church or Christ’s teachings into bits and pieces and destroying only some of those pieces, the false prophet is still fundamentally anti-Christ. Why? Because the goal of the false prophets is to destroy pieces of Christ, and thereby Christ Himself.

How “the elect” are being deceived

So, after reviewing these terms and providing a context for understanding them, let’s talk about how it happens. And, to review how God’s elect get deceived, we will use examples from the scriptures. As I go through these examples, look at the patterns that emerge of the causes of apostasy. I will not always provide references, so I encourage you to go read them for yourselves!Deception Concept - Disguise Between Shark And Goldfish

Judas Iscariot

Matthew 26:14-16

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Isacriot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him [Jesus] unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And, from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.

I find it interesting that Judas Iscariot communed consistently with the very Christ and yet never knew Him (St. John 17:3). Judas seemed to value position, power, and money most and such were his ultimate downfall. On the other hand, Christ, knowing Judas future betrayal called him to be one of His apostles anyway, giving Judas his best possible chance of hearing the Gospel, understanding it, embracing it, and then helping others to receive it. Then, Judas, valuing money and power above His relationship with Christ—and Christ’s church and ministry—sold his opportunity for thirty pieces of silver.

  • Many elect are deceived because they place other gods before Christ (which includes Christ’s teachings and His Church). They convince themselves they can love Christ and yet still sell off His commandments, ordinances, and covenants in exchange for earthly power, position, fame, and money.
  • Many elect are deceived because another elect person falters, like Judas, because God gives them the opportunity to rise up to their full potential. When these elect falter the deceived say things like, “He couldn’t have been called of God,” or “This can’t be God’s church because it’s leadership is imperfect.”

Privileged and lazy Laman and Lemuel

There are too many scriptures to recount regarding Laman and Lemuel, but this much is certain. They were men of wealth and consequence. They lived in a time when the Gospel (and its ordinances) were dispensed through a Patriarchal/Family order. Thus, the “birthright” was not about money, but about Priesthood responsibility, church welfare, and leadership. Yet, Laman and Lemuel saw the birthright in a skewed light and saw having control over their family inheritance and the right to leadership as the fundamental part of the birthright blessing. Thus, they spent little to no effort learning to understand the birthright, and its inherent nature of dispensing Gospel ordinances and blessings; as well as the required worthiness.

Laman and Lemuel were also blessed incredibly with outward signs, miracles, and emotionally and spiritually impactful events. In the midst of these experiences they proclaimed God was the power behind the miracles, they repented and apologized. But, at heart they were unaffected. Thus, as soon as these experiences were past, and their lives were comfortable again, they discounted all of these experiences as false or contrived.

Our younger brother thinks to rule over us; and we have had much trial because of him; wherefore, now let us slay him, that we may not be afflicted more because of his words. For behold, we will not have him to be our ruler; for it belongeth unto us, who are the elder brethren to rule over this people (2 Nephi 5:3).

Thus, Laman and Lemuel chose to ignore the signs and wonders they received in order to maintain their fearful and angry viewpoint of being cheated. Their sense of entitlement kept them from that which they desired.

  • Many elect get derailed by deep spiritual entitlement. They have all the blessings and ordinances of the Gospel, but when a few questions go unanswered, a major trial hits, or a they fail to understand how God works (because they’ve never paid attention or studied, 1 Nephi 2:12), they throw away all that they had for the one or two things they felt entitled to but didn’t get with their minimal, lazy effort. They always had questions and instead of seeking for the answer they complained and murmured.
  • Many elect also get deceived because unworthiness and loss of the Spirit make them hard, or impermeable to the tender mercies of God and especially His miracles. They resent and explain away such experiences in the aftermath when such experiences would require them to truly change.

Esau and his pottage

Genesis 25

And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint… And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.

Remember, the birthright was a big inheritance meant for the firstborn son IF he lived worthy. He needed to be a worthy, righteous Priesthood holder so that he could dispense the blessings and ordinances of the Gospel. It was also the responsibility of the birthright son to provide welfare—or in other words, to take care of the temporal needs—for all those in his family. This was a big deal. It was a big responsibility. It was not simply about money or favoritism.

Thus, Esau, who was not necessarily a bad guy (and who proved to be a fairly decent guy in the long run) was willing to barter his priesthood responsibility for immediate temporal satisfaction. He wasn’t evil. He was just more concerned about hunting and living the Gospel his way than to rise to the difficult and covenant level of leadership that would have been his otherwise. Esau was afraid of the commitment and responsibility, and did not want to part with his way of life in order to tackle it. Otherwise, he never would have sold it for such a small thing as a meal.

  • Many elect become deceived and “despise” the Gospel because they misunderstand what it promises and their responsibility within it. It seems like too much to ask, or has too high of standards. They sell their “birthright” for less demanding responsibilities and selfish promises of ease and comfort. They have an ideal, or expectation, of what the Gospel is and when the picture they see doesn’t match the picture they had imagined in their mind, they “sell out.” The world, false prophets, seemingly benign support groups, etc., seem to promise better, faster, and especially easier results than Christ, or His Gospel, and so they go running to what appears to be the greener side of the pasture.

Nehor, Korihor, and Sherem

Nehor was a large, physically strong, influential speaker. He preached “that which he termed to be the word of God” (Alma 1:3, italic added). He wanted preachers to be paid. He taught people that God’s love was so great that sin didn’t exist and that ultimately everyone would be saved. He became so popular that he began to charge money for people to hear him preach. He got so used to being popular that when a man of God confronted him, the encounter made Nehor so angry and determined to protect his false doctrines that he slew the man.

Korihor and Sherem were slick-tongued. They were skilled in partial truths that sounded right. They were brilliant at taking scripture and twisting (wresting) its meaning to match what they were preaching. They quoted trusted sources to get people to listen and then carefully undermined the foundation of those very trusted sources with the rest of their false doctrine. They were masters of hiding fallacies in their speeches. And yet, any who studied the scriptures would find their deceptions easy to recognize (Jacob 7:23).

It’s interesting to note that all of these men studied enough of the scriptures, and Gospel, to be familiar with certain phrases, doctrines, and data. But they hadn’t studied the Gospel. They hadn’t studied all the scriptures for the right reasons, with the proper depth, and with the intent to find answers, comfort, or discover truth. Most anti-Christs (in the scriptures) always tended to be those who thought they were “wronged” by their beliefs in Christ, or His organized church. It was always their anger that led them to take their piecemeal understanding of the Gospel and pick it apart.

And, the people who were deceived by these anti-Christs were those of like minds. This doesn’t mean they were inherently bad. It doesn’t mean they were looking to be deceived. But, it does mean that offenses, struggles, misunderstandings, and the like, that while unfair or frustrating, should never have primed them for deception had they done their due diligence either before or when the anti-Christs came along. Those that were deceived were not those that knew God and faithfully studied. Those that were deceived were those that mistrusted the balance of their spiritual experiences and testimony and gave way to the fear and doubt presented by one or two nicely packaged false doctrines.

Others deceived by these anti-Christs were of truly like mind because they were looking for reasons to justifiably seek the non-Christlike desires of their hearts. They wanted to pursue sin with a stamp of approval which these anti-Christs supplied. They wanted to be popular, to be rich, to think God’s standards were lower or non-existent, etc. and wanted license to do so without feeling guilty.

  • Many, many, many elect are easily deceived by modern anti-Christs like Nehor, Korihor, and Sherem because they are looking for a reason to get out. Whether they’ve been offended or have unrighteous desires, they want a justifiable reason to be angry and set aside what they think is causing their problems. Most of these elect, I suggest, eventually find that what is causing their problems is fundamentally personal, and in many way entirely unrelated to Christ’s Gospel or church.

Dissenters

The primary bane of righteous Nephites, in the Book of Mormon, are Nephite dissenters. The primary bane of the Israelites in the Old Testament are dissenting beliefs because they didn’t obey God and exterminate the prior fallen society from the land. Thus, the Israelites suffered constantly from their propensity to adopt unrighteous fads, interesting idols, and other dissenting beliefs.

It often seems to be the primary mission of those who believe differently than God’s people to convince as many of God’s people as they can that their beliefs are wrong. This is an attempt to destroy the church. Some, if persistent enough, will succeed in deceiving many. And they succeed by drumming up offenses, suggesting offenses exist where they do not, and stirring up anger in the hearts of the elect.

Dissenters are angry. And, in order to keep from guilt and eventual repentance, they have to fill their life with anger and perceived injustice. Thus, they maintain anger and seek revenge by complaining all the time. They focus on the negative. They highlight the imperfect. They group up all their doubts and create the impression of reticence to answer such doubts by faithful members, the church as a whole, or even God.

  • Many elect fall for this “war-mongering” (thank you Wormtongue from LOTR). A little anger at their own misunderstandings and issues is all it takes for once faithful elect to get caught up in the flames of dissension. Such elect claim they are only seeking justice and transparency, when their ultimate goal is to gain support and community for their vengeful cause. Gaining other angry followers makes them feel that their actions are good and right, even justifiable. The elect fall for this dissension because they are selfishly focusing on their own anger and misunderstandings instead of forgiving, seeking for comfort, seeking for patience, seeking for knowledge and understanding, etc. They ignore Christ’s commands to leave vengeance to Him (Romans 12:19) and to forgive all men (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10) because by creating an angry community they have created a false sense of security and justification. They have engendered the belief that their actions are ok despite the fact that they go against all these individuals claim to believe.

How to Keep from Being Deceived

To keep from being deceived is really very easy to do. Here is the big fix. You ready?

Get to know God inside and out (St. John 17:3). Get to know how He works. What He does. Why He does it. If you do this, you will never be led astray.

How do you get to know God?

There are obviously several answers to this. But, I believe I can make it pretty simple.

#1: study the scriptures, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the words of the living prophets and apostles looking ONLY for information on how God works, what He does, and why He does it. No other study is more important since this is the one that will get you “eternal life.” Make three columns in a notebook and fill the whole notebook, and many more…

#2: pray for the gift of discernment—sincerely (meaning, be prepared to act on it when it comes). Ask God to help you learn to discern between right and wrong/deception no matter how small the wrong may be. Pray for it daily and act to receive it and you will get it.

#3: learn how to judge the way God instructs, not how man instructs. (This will likely be part of what God inspires you to do if you pray for the gift of discernment)

Here are some scripture references to get you started with #3.

  • Matthew 7:20
  • Moroni 10:5
  • JS-Matthew 1:37
  • James 1:5-6
  • Moroni 7:15-17
  • Alma 32:28-43
  • John 8:1-11
  • Doctrine and Covenants 1:37-38
  • Doctrine and Covenants 21:5-6

It is far easier to get deceived than the elect usually realize. So, I wrote this to help each of us take it more seriously. These are the last days. This is the dispensation of the fullness of times. This is the time about which Christ spoke. The very elect, according to the covenant, are being deceived.

So, it’s time to get to know God like we’ve never known Him before. It’s time to seek for spiritual discernment. It’s time to learn how to righteously judge.

BT

Doctrine: If you are fundamentally uncomfortable in life, then you are not growing up to be what you should be. You are doing the opposite, refusing to mature spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.

I read a post by a FB friend the other day titled, “10 Uncomfortable Signs You’re Actually Becoming the Person You’re Supposed To Be,” and it taught so many incorrect principles and doctrines that I felt compelled to do my own version. It is, in fact, the most depressing post I have read, of late, and I’m surprised that anyone would read it and feel “OK” about it, or would think that it is in any way something they should actually believe. IT IS NOT.

To show you just how “ick” it is, here is a comparison of the subtitles in that blog post versus those in this blog post.

That Blog Post Subtitles This Blog Post’s Subtitles
You do everything by yourself and you feel isolated from others You do many things by yourself and you know when to ask for help
You realize that you have some issues with yourself You recognize your weaknesses
You have a strong desire to cut off some unnecessary relationships You seek those relationships which help you become more like God, and you begin to see others as God sees them
It’s hard for you to trust people You have learned to trust God above all else
You always feel that your life is boring You recognize that life is meant to help you become like God
You are too familiar with the feeling of sadness You recognize the purpose of opposition and trial and are learning how to channel it into growth and personal refinement
You always feel like you’re running out of time You have learned to use time wisely and focus your time on the things that really matter
You regret the mistakes you’ve made in the past You have embraced your past mistakes and have used them to learn, grow, and become better
You always miss childhood, family, and your loved ones You embrace the time of life you’re in, and do not take for granted the family and loved ones you have
You feel lost, confused, and anxious about your future You take advantage of the direction of the Holy Spirit and find peace in your present and future

It’s sad to me how little the world understands true happiness. They think us religious types are missing out on all the fun. But I have yet to find one person who ignores God’s plan (to any extent) to be any happier or full of peace than I am. They simply can’t be. They are always nursing insecurity, fear, anger, resentment, pride, and the like.

Why?

Because the only true happiness and joy that can ever be found comes from God’s plan for us to become like Him. He is the author of the plan that brought us here to earth in the first place. We accepted that plan. We run on “God’s light” whether we recognize it or not. And, the only way to get more of that light (than the bare minimum) is to follow His plan. As C.S. Lewis said:

God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.

To the extent we follow His plan is the extent of light and happiness and peace we can access.

And, as long as all, a part, or even small pieces, of our life is in noncompliance with God’s plan we will to greater or lesser extents feel… isolated, full of issues, a desire to shun people, a lack of trust in God and others, that life is consistently falling short of what we wanted (boring), that there is more sadness than peace and joy, that there isn’t enough time to accomplish all we think we want to do to gain the happiness we seek, that our past mistakes have robbed us of future joys, that we can’t connect with our family and loved ones like we did when we were younger (more innocent and pure), and that our life is a mess that we aren’t sure where it’s going.

So, now I’m going to mirror the paragraphs written in that article with my own.

10 Comfortable Signs You’re Actually Becoming the Person You’re Supposed To Be

You do many things by yourself and you know when to ask for help

Contrary to what most people think, maturity is not doing everything by yourself. Maturity is humility, meekness, responsibility, and accountability. When you are mature, you take responsibility for yourself. You don’t have to be micromanaged into taking care of yourself. You own up to mistakes, repent when you mess up, make reparation for injuries to others, and proactively seek to be the best person you can by following God’s plan. You do these godly, grown-up things without having to be told. Are you perfect? No, but you know you’re trying and that gives you a comfortable feeling of confidence before God and your fellow men.

Is this type of maturity difficult? Does it require hard work? Does it require sincerity and humility? Yes. But, the discomfort and isolation and misery that comes with failing to do these things is far more uncomfortable. The confidence and peace that comes from embracing this kind of personal betterment and refinement is far more peaceful and comfortable.

You recognize your weaknesses

Let’s get to the bottom of weakness. By simply being mortal we are weak. We have to recognize that. And mortal weakness allows many trials into our lives that are simply part of mortality. This includes: sickness, infirmity, genetic problems, our ability to die, psychological issues, and so forth.

Once we recognize that most weakness simply comes from being mortal and stop taking it personally, it’s easier to own those weaknesses and act proactively to make them strengths. I spent years thinking I would never get the chance to be a biological mother. So, I didn’t toss the idea of motherhood aside as weakness, or something, I would never get the other side of. I studied, prayed, and worked to become the best “velveteen mother” I could. I embraced the principles of motherhood and became one despite being childless. Etc.

Weakness doesn’t have to “disturb our well-being.” It can, in fact, create well-being equivalent to the following:

…And I feel like Paul, to glory in tribulation; for this day hath the God of my Fathers delivered me out of them all, and will deliver me from henceforth… (Doctrine and Covenants 127:2).

You seek those relationships which help you become more like God, and you begin to see others as God sees them

Yes, as we age, we do often find that few people are those that will be by our sides for the entirety of our lives. Or, that we want them as close as they have been in the past. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we seek to cut them out of our lives completely. Obviously, there are a few types of people that do need to be “cut off.” But, in general, maturity should help us understand how to honestly see people how God sees them.

So, if we have a few toxic relationships in our lives, we need to love them, but we don’t have to trust them. Thus, we accept them for who they are, but we don’t allow them to manipulate our lives. We decide what is right and then do it. If they, in consequence of our newfound confidence and centeredness throw a fit and cut themselves off, then that is their choice. But, I think in rare instances (which do present themselves, unfortunately) do we actually have to send people out of our lives.

As we become godly, better, and more of what we know we should be, we will naturally gravitate toward those people that support that lifestyle and share our deep values. And, we should invite those from our past to join us. If they don’t, then that is their choice. But, when possible, as we see them and acquaint with them (since they don’t feel comfortable around us anymore), we should continually love them and try to bring them with us. Christ shunned none. But, He didn’t pretend that their way of life (if sinful) was okay. He always invited them to improve, learn, grow, and change. He said, “Come follow me,” and those that followed, followed. Those that went away, went away of their own volition.

You have learned to trust God above all else

People are imperfect. Even the best ones, to whom we will claim loyalty, can, and will hurt us and cause us disappointments—for various reasons. To live life with the acceptance that you can’t trust anyone is a horrible way to live. It is far better to accept that you, and everyone else, is mortal. Then, place your trust, devotion, and loyalty to the one being who can be trusted—eternally.

Those who have a firm faith and trust in God (despite the ups and downs) have more joy, peace, and confidence than anyone I know. They weather life’s storms with incredible grace. They seem to have unearthly strength and an unshakeable quality. And…that’s because they do have unearthly strength. They place their highest trust in God and His power, peace, comfort, and guidance is their reward. They fear no one, can love all, and don’t have to suffer the depth of continued disappointment that others suffer, for, “[they] know in whom they have trusted” (2 Nephi 4:19, 34).

You recognize that life is meant to help you become like God

The opposing subtitle in that article was about “you feel that your life is boring.” I thought this was the most useless section provided. It talked about becoming accustomed to the monotony of responsibility and lack of drama in your life.

Life, boring? How can life be boring? Oh, I know…if you have no eternal purpose or ultimate goal.

Sure, short term goals can motivate us and keep us “excited” and “busy” and “occupied” for a minute. But, we will always be bemoaning our current state and seeking for our next educational degree, trip, work promotion, money drop, etc. if we continue to ignore the ultimate goal and purpose of our life. There are no boring down times when your ultimate goal and purpose is to become like God. Every moment of every day presents opportunities for learning, growth, eternal advancement, self-evaluation, gratitude, personal change, service to others, etc.

Our purpose isn’t to just get a college degree. Our purpose isn’t just to find a livelihood and then use the money to seek for temporary thrills. Our purpose is to use all of our talents, gifts, education, trips, activities, and so forth, to bring ourselves and others to Christ and to become like Him. All of life is boring and loses meaning when you remove from it its primary purpose. That’s because you’ve taken away the diploma and rendered all the “classes” as important solely for their individual content and not for how that content should vault you upward toward godhood.

When you know where life is leading you and the purpose of all within it, it can’t get boring. Why? Because everything within it becomes deep, powerful, gains meaning, and eternal reality. It’s impossible to get bored with that. Overwhelmed a bit? Sure. But not bored.

Boredom is uncomfortable because it is the direct result of a lack of purpose. Eternal purpose may breed hard work and result in the need to make personal changes, but it breeds the comfort of purpose and peace. Both are priceless feelings.

You recognize the purpose of opposition and trial and are learning how to channel it into growth and personal refinement

We are all familiar with sadness. And, even to the godly it can be debilitating. Depression strikes all (god-fearing or not). But for those with confidence and trust in the purpose of sadness, it doesn’t long overwhelm or dominate their lives. It is nearly always accompanied by a deep hope.

I love the recent movie, Inside Out. This movie teaches us that sadness is nearly always the precursor to happiness. If we are familiar with sadness, then we should also be familiar with happiness. No down is ever long without an up. In fact, it is the downs which enable us to appreciate the ups. Those who go long periods of time with all ups and no downs, take their ups for granted. They’re spoiled and thus have no true joy, only entitlement.

Eve wisely said, “Were it not for our transgression (and accompanying confession, repentance, and covenant with God) we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11).

Sadness is often triggered by the feeling of pain, whether physical, emotional, or psychological. Sadness and regret often accompany sin and guilt. Sadness alerts other people to our struggles and jump starts the hope for help.

If we are too familiar with sadness and do not have enough opposing happiness, it may be because we are not making use of the sadness we feel to change, embrace help, and accept the happiness that can come to us. All of us were created to have joy (2 Nephi 2:25). If we cannot access it, it is not because it is not offered to us, it’s because we aren’t proactively using our sadness to enact the change, or accept the help, that will provide the happiness and peace we seek.

Beautiful Hispanic Woman Sleeping.

You have learned to use time wisely and to focus your time on the things that really matter

If you are running around with your head cut off and you never seem to have the time you need for the things that really matter, the answer is NOT that you are growing up and becoming who you were meant to be (as that article states). The problem is that you don’t focus your time on the things that really matter.

Latter-day Saints pay tithing. We don’t do it because God needs our money. We don’t have a paid ministry so our preachers don’t get it. The Church does use the money to build temples, chapels, print religious materials, etc. We have offerings for other more specific uses. But, ultimately, we don’t pay tithing to keep the Church running.

Why then do we pay tithing? Because it teaches us an important godly principle: to put the things that matter most first in our lives.

God should come first in our lives. He doesn’t need our money, it’s already His. But, He asks us to pay tithing with the money He has given us to teach us about our own hearts. If we can learn to pay 10% to God before doing anything else, then the principle of putting God first will begin to trickle down into our lives and prioritize it.

God first, family next, spiritual and physical self-sufficiency, then building up God’s kingdom (of which we desire to a part), then the rest.

If our lives are played out by what is truly important than we will have few, if any, regrets. We will sacrifice what we think we want for what is most important and find that we still have time for all the rest.

There is an object lesson commonly used to teach this principle. It is a jar in which you place three things: large rocks, small rocks, and sand. If you put the sand in first, then the pebbles, you will not ever be able to cram in the large rocks. However, if you put in the large rocks first, then the pebbles, and then the sand, miraculously you are able to fit it ALL in.

The order in which we choose to live our lives DOES make a difference. So, if we are unsettled, regretful, and always in a state of wishful thinking, wishing we had more time for the things that matter; it’s because we haven’t yet learned to mature and prioritize. Thus, we have constant misery, resentful-longing and regret.

If, we follow the “tithing principle” and put the things that matter first, we will have peace and comfort in our lives because the things that really matter are always getting taken care of.  People always tackle the pebbles and sand of life first because they live in fear of missing out. Then, they feel regret for the large rocks. As we lose the fear of missing out and tackle the rocks first, we will find peace in realizing the pebbles and rocks don’t matter so much and that in comparison they have not actually given us the fulfillment we thought they would.

You have embraced your past mistakes and have used them to learn grow, and become better

Those who actually learn from their mistakes and use them as catapults to vault them into a better way of life can never truly regret those mistakes. Few actually would be willing to take them back. Why? Because those mistakes enacted a fundamental change in their very being. It made them who they are.

Yes, we can regret the hurt we caused. Yes, we regret the offense against God. But, ultimately, if we truly repent and change because of those mistakes and sins, then they become blessings (in retrospect) rather than curses. They don’t haunt us or define us. They contribute to our capacity for understanding and compassion for others. They contribute to the strength of our personal testimony as we testify to others—who have current similar sins and struggles—that they can overcome!

In this light, our past mistakes become points of power, experience, and teachers of godly truth. This kind of perspective reflects our understand and appreciate for God’s grace, through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We know no matter our sins we can still become like God! That breeds peace, comfort, and confidence in the presence of God and our fellow men—not discomfort.

You embrace the time of life you’re in, and do not take for granted the family and loved ones you have

The paragraph in that article was incredibly depressing. “Growing up sucks,” it said. Ugh. Regret is the response to guilt from omission, transgression, and sin.

On the other hand, parting with a “time of life” can be sad, to an extent, but it should not be looked back on with regretful or resentful longing. It should be what I would call “bittersweet.” In other words, we are leaving something behind that was great, but we are also embracing the greatness that is to come.

Those who live life looking backward, or with unresolved guilt, are always going to be full of misery, sadness, and depression. Those who live life looking forward, who appreciate the journey and not just the destinations, who repent and make efforts to change, who appreciate what they learn from each stage, do not live with regret. They do not think “life sucks,” or that “growing up sucks.” For them, because they live and learn, life only gets better as time goes on.

The people who think that “growing up sucks,” tend to be those that don’t know what true joy or is where it can be found. They tend to be those that sin and do not repent. They tend to be those who don’t learn from their past. Thus, they regret the loss of each unfulfilling and fleeting happiness that ends because they think that is all the happiness that can be found.

You take advantage of the direction of the Holy Spirit and find peace in your present and your future

People who embrace God’s plan, and the blessings and guidance He offers within it, never are overly anxious about their future. Do they have worries? Sure. Do they have uncertainties from time to time. Yes. But, not the deep anxiety and life insecurity referred to by that article.

How can they live with so much surety? Because they have confidence in their standing before God. Thus, they have ultimate trust that He will guide their paths and lead them in the path that will help them become like Him. The initial stresses of job losses, life changes, trials, major illnesses, and many other calamities are all easily swallowed up in their understanding of God’s plan. They have an eternal perspective. They have made and kept covenants with God that assure them on an eternal scale (such as the sealing covenant).

Thus, no short-term mortal uncertainties can ultimately ruffle them. This is because they know that God is in charge and will remove the burden (if that’s His will), make a way for them to bear it (if it’s His will that they carry it), and turn that uncertainty into renewed and strengthened faith and trust when His blessings are poured out upon them.

Conclusion

To put it bluntly. If life is uncomfortable to you, fundamentally, then you are actually NOT growing up to become as you should be. Though life is darn hard, it can be full of peace and comfort. I know that to be true 100%. If you don’t know it, then perhaps it’s time to consider doing what you need to do grow up to be as you should be—like God—and to find true comfort and peace.

BT

Doctrine: You can’t be removed from God’s love. But, you can be removed from his ultimate blessings and glory. You may never stop hearing the voice of the Spirit, but you can limit the kinds of messages He is able to deliver.

LDS Living puts out some good articles. But, people need to remember that they are a periodical that is NOT church supported. Thus, they get some good stuff from time to time, but they are prone to emotionalism (which all newspapers/magazines) are, and they will turn a title or publish an article just to get readers. They subsist on readers and they will do what it takes to get them.

I don’t follow LDSLiving, though I do often check out the articles shared by others who read them. Most of the time they are alright. Sometimes, they are great. But, I have often noted a strong lack of doctrinal underpinning (which is a major problem leading to doctrinal aberrations), and a quick propensity to publish articles that lead to doubt rather than faith. So, today’s post is to address an article they’ve posted (based on a request from a good friend who found it confusing) that’s lacking a clear, doctrinal foundation.

That article is titled One Dangerous and Untrue Thing About Sin Mormons Need to Stop Believing.

The first issue with this article is the emotionalism the title prompts. This is a journalism tactic. It evokes fear and panic. However, if the panic is well-founded (which it rarely is), then OK. But, this article, by a wonderful lady (@qnoor_templedress) whom I follow on Instagram, has been titled wrong. It should be called, You Can’t Escape God’s Love.

The title is the biggest issue, and that is because it pre-conditions the reader to look for some major issue or sin with how the LDS Church (or its lay members) teaches truth. It breeds doubt before faith…my biggest issue with a lot of LDSLiving articles. Thus, it becomes an accusatory article. However, the article (in near direct opposition to its title) is a personal testimony about how God is always with us.

The fact that the author of the article refers to her own uncertainties about how lay leaders and members understand and teach how the Spirit works is not unprecedented. Keeping the doctrine of the church pure is a primary function of The Church (i.e., the organization of prophets, apostles, etc.); and it gets more and more difficult the larger the church gets, and that’s because people play the game telephone by generalizing church doctrines into phrases that lead to open interpretation and misunderstanding by those who didn’t coin the phrase (I’ve blogged about this issue before). And, so when it gets regurgitated it comes out as an aberration which is nearly always turned into a false doctrine.

Each person who teaches the gospel is required to pass on to others, in pure and undistorted form, the truths for which such great sacrifices have been made.

President Gordon B. Hinckley stated:

I have spoken before about the importance of keeping the doctrine of the Church pure, and seeing that it is taught in all of our meetings. I worry about this. Small aberrations in doctrinal teaching can lead to large and evil falsehoods (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 620).

What we have in this article by LDSLiving is a small aberration. An aberration is a precursor to false doctrine NOT because the individual always intends to teach false doctrine but because the way they state something leaves it open to interpretations that spread false doctrine. This is easy to do because none of us understands everything. This is why it’s so important for us to study, prepare, and to be careful what we teach and how we teach it. If we are unsure of something, we should not BS or makeup stuff, or generalize hoping that the Spirit cleans it up for us. We must obtain the word before we preach it (Doctrine and Covenants 11:21).

So, if you have issues trying to figure out how the Holy Ghost works, then I refer you to a previous blog and from there a host of scriptures, hard work, pondering, and study. From here onward, I’m going to talk about grace, the Spirit, AND the things about sin people need to keep believing.

This article, with its aberration, prompts the idea that there are no consequences to sin. Note, the author doesn’t say there are no consequences to sin AT ALL. And, I would bet if you asked her that teaching such an idea was not her purpose. But, her frustrations and the accompanying generalities in her testimony leave the reader open to the idea (if they choose to entertain it) that there are no consequences to sin as regards the Holy Ghost. But, there clearly are, so, let’s refer to some scriptures which can clarify the doctrines we need to understand about sin, the Holy Ghost, and God’s mercy and grace.

Doctrine and Covenants 1:31, “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”

Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21, “There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we receive any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

Doctrine and Covenants 82:10, “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”

1 Nephi 17:45, “…he hath spoken to you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore he has spoken unto you like the voice of thunder…”

1 Nephi 15:9, “And they said unto me: we have not, for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.”

Doctrine and Covenants 88:34, “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.”

Doctrine and Covenants 137:9, “For I the Lord God will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.”

Now, I could keep going with scriptural references, but now let’s get to the point.

Does God ever abandon us? Ever? No (Luke 15:4; Romans 8:29). But, the type of relationship we can have with Him (now, and eternally), and the type of communication we can receive from Him (now, and eternally) does change based upon our actions, whether sinful or righteous.

God gives truth and light (and salvation) to us line upon line and precept upon precept (Doctrine and Covenants 98:12); and I would add, covenant upon kept covenant.

Truth Torn Paper

What people misunderstand and thereby teach with aberrations is how the Holy Ghost works. The Gift of the Holy Ghost works very much like the Liahona, according to the faith and heed and diligence we give unto Him (1 Nephi 16:28; Alma 12:9). If we listen to Him and follow, we will get more and more personal revelations, knowledge, and light which is intended to sanctify us over time and make us godly. If we only listen to Him when we feel like it, the messages and information we get will reflect our faith, heed, and diligence.

For example:

Note that Nephi tried to keep the commandments of God. I’m sure he was far from perfect (even annoying as a person), but he was in a state of forward progression, living the commandments, repenting, and following the Spirit. Thus, his own actions and diligence in seeking God’s will, guidance, and mysteries led him in a path of revelation and personal sanctification. He got to see visions and receive doctrinal truths and interpretations of scripture and dreams. His mind was opened up to amazing things. And, whatever his personality or disposition, he was faithful, diligent, humble, and quick to forgive.

In contrast, Laman and Lemuel were fair weather friends with God. They only followed God’s commandments if it suited their own, personally designated plans for happiness. They were often rude, vulgar, impatient, mocking, bullying, degrading, prone to anger and violence, pride, and grudge-holding. Lehi communicated God’s love to them through priesthood blessings and fatherly council, but he couldn’t promise them the same blessings as Nephi, Sam, and Zoram—because of their sinfulness.

Thus, when Nephi asked Laman and Lemuel why they hadn’t asked God about their questions regarding Lehi’s dream, they said, “…the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us,” and they were right. God never had communicated such things to them because they had never sought it nor been worthy of it. Because of their mindset about God, God’s commandments, and His plan and will for them, they were not abandoned by the Spirit, but the types of communications they could receive from Him were limited to their limited faith, heed, and diligence.

The author of the LDSLiving article likely understands this principle. Yet, her frustrations were with an apparent lack of correct doctrinal teaching in her youth. She was led to believe, based on generalizations and aberrations, that God, and the Holy Ghost, would completely forsake her if she sinned. What she found in her own straying times did not agree with what she felt she had been taught. Thus, her frustration that these girls she speaks to might be getting the same soup of aberrated thoughts and false doctrines. Her desire was pure. She wanted them to know that even if they messed up, God loved them. And, she wanted them to know that so that they would have the courage to repent and seek His face again…with hope—as she did.

Can God communicate His love to us even if He can’t allow us into the temple? Yes. Can God comfort us even if He can’t teach us deeper truths and reveal to us things that will make us more like Him? Certainly.

As the author of the LDSLiving article indicated, God is always with us. However, it’s the status of the relationship and our ability to progress that is affected by our sins. If we persist in sin we can’t expect God to answer all our questions about Him and His plan…because we aren’t capable of understanding, accepting, and acting on such revelation. Therefore, we are limited in our progress in becoming like Him in many areas of truth we become “past feeling” until we sincerely repent and open ourselves up again to those other messages.

Also, it is important to note that since all sin and righteousness are accompanied by consequences (both mortal and eternal), that any sin does result in a loss of access to upward progress toward God, and often as well in a loss of mortal protection and guidance (because we are “past feeling”). Well did Lehi quote God when he said, “And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to land of promise…(1 Nephi 2:20).Portrait of a liar

God’s whole plan is to lead us to become like Him. Thus, any other path leads us to not become like Him and is thereby a lesser path with lesser messages, blessings, and progress. It does not lead us to the same knowledge, protection, blessings, and ultimate glory UNLESS we repent and change course. Which, of course, we can always do—if we are sincere. Then, our sinful experiences are changed to glorified ones BECAUSE WE REPENTED. Sin cannot lead us upward if it is not accompanied by repentance.

Now, the worst aberration that I see members and leaders of the Church spreading is, “Our goal is to get home to God.” WRONG. Our goal is to BECOME LIKE GOD. There is a HUGE DIFFERENCE. And this aberration, I have found, leads to most others, including misconceptions about grace and the atonement. But, I’ve blogged about those repeatedly and will likely continue so I won’t go into those today.

So, does sin affect our access to the Holy Ghost? Yes, it affects the types of messages He can deliver. Does sin affect our progress in becoming like God? Yes, if we do not learn from it, truly desire righteousness, and meet the conditions for repentance. Does God ever abandon us? No, but He cannot change the law for us or deny His word, and so consequences for sin stand.

If you are a youth and you are living in sin, you will still feel God’s love. He will still seek after you. He will still offer as much to you as you are willing to receive by your actions and sincere desires. But, you will lose out on blessings IF you do not repent. You will lose out on spiritual (and sometimes other mortal) opportunities during those times you persist in sin. IF you repent sooner, rather than later, much can be maintained (or restored to you). But, IF you persist in sin and procrastinate repentance you will begin to become the actions you espouse, and therefore repentance becomes more difficult as the years pass, though it is ALWAYS possible.

You can’t be removed from God’s love (Roman’s 8:29). But you can be removed from His ultimate blessings and glory (Doctrine and Covenants 132:21-23).

BT