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

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

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

So, what are you afraid of?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you excited for?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The trial of faith

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

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

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

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

Give it time—wait it out

C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Think back to a time when you had a gut feeling that you shouldn’t do something, and you did it anyway. In the aftermath, did you think, “Why didn’t I go with my gut?” Or, perhaps you had a gut feeling that you should do something, and you didn’t. Did you ever think, “I should have trusted that feeling,” or “I wonder what would have happened had I trusted that feeling?”

Now, take a moment and ponder the questions I’m about to put to you.

Here are questions:

  • First, what is a gut feeling? If you had to define what it is to a family member, friend, or child, what would you say?
  • Second, what is the purpose of a gut feeling? Does it serve a purpose? And if so, what do you think that purpose is?
  • Finally, where do you think gut feelings come from? And depending on how you answer that, consider the question, “How is it even possible that we have gut feelings at all?”

The Gut Feeling Defined

So, why do we call it a “gut” feeling? Dictionary definitions of the adjective “gut” imply that we associate this term with the: internal part or essence of who we are. It’s also related to the idea of courage, or inner strength. The connotation of the word also implies that we associate the idea of a gut feeling with something that is instinctive to who we are, even involuntary. It’s not only at the center of who we are, it is inseparable from who we are.

This is interesting in light of the fact that involuntary reactions and processes in our body are normally things like: blinking, breathing, reflexes, the heart beating, flight or fight responses, and so forth. And, here’s something even more interesting. The “gut feeling” often times—even frequently—disagrees with our other involuntary or instinctual actions.

We may instinctively feel attracted to another person and want to be with them, but our “gut feeling” warns us that our other instinctive feelings needs to be set aside, or given less importance in light of a higher sense—that this person will not be good for us in a relationship in the long run. Or, we may feel instinctively that we need to leave a dangerous situation, but our “gut feeling” tells us that we need to respond to a higher sense—that we need to save someone else from the danger if we can.

We may want to eat food because we “feel hungry” and yet have a “gut feeling” that the food we are choosing will not help us become healthier and may, conversely make us less healthy. Our “gut feeling” may instruct us to seek for better food even in light of the fact that we are hungry, or thirsty.

Such examples suggest that our “gut feeling” is our highest and most important instinctual guide. If it is high enough to sense when other instincts are in error, then it is, all of the sudden, the most important and best instinct we have—and therefore, should be followed.

The Origin of the Gut Feeling

How did we, as humans, come to possess this “gut feeling,” this instinct that somehow senses the rightness, wrongness, or even future impact (for good or ill) of all other impulses and their accompanying actions? The very idea that it can see things—even foresee things—that the rest of our physical, emotional, and conscious reasoning self cannot suggests that it has a higher origin.

In the Bible Dictionary we can learn much from the spiritual identification and explanation of the “gut feeling.” It is called the light of Christ. Meaning, our “gut feeling,” which many people call our conscience, is actually a spiritual instinct installed in our mortal form by Christ. It is a portion of His light—which is His power and His knowledge of truth. This Light of Christ not only gives us a fundamental sense of right and wrong, it is the power by which we become beings of reason at all.

The light of Christ is just what the words imply: enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ. For instance, Christ is “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (Doctrine & Covenants 93:2; John 1:9). The light of Christ fills the “immensity of space” and is the means by which Christ is able to be “in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things.” It “giveth life to all things” and is “the law by which all things are governed.” It is also the “light that quickeneth” man’s understanding (Doctrine & Covenants 88:6-13, 41).

…its influence is preliminary to and preparatory to one’s receiving the Holy Ghost.

Our “gut feeling” then is really another way of saying the “light of Christ.” Such an understanding also gives us motive to trust it and to follow it. If our “gut feeling” is actually a deep, spiritual instinct given to us by Jesus Christ then it suddenly makes sense when we say things like, “I knew I shouldn’t have done that,” or “I wish I had trusted my gut. I can see now that…” Christ is all-knowing. And though we aren’t, a piece of His light is in us and that piece knows things deeply that we can’t see or put into words consciously. Our “gut” knows! How cool is that!

Light of Christ versus the Gift of the Holy Ghost

A lot of people, even learned members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, struggle with the difference between the “light of Christ” and the “gift of the Holy Ghost.” So, let’s address that for just a moment.

Now, I don’t claim to have all the answers. All I can talk about are the few insights I have received and how I’ve come to see it in my own life. These insights have helped me make sense of the difference. They may or may not help anyone else. They also may be understood (especially as metaphors) differently in the context of someone else’s life. So, what seems clear as a bell to me may seem like a glass of muddy water to someone else. But the fundamental point is this: if you really want to understand the difference, go to the Lord, pray about it, study, ponder, and you’ll get your own metaphors. I do not in anyway promise that these metaphors will work for you. Perhaps they may get you on a track of thought that will facilitate personal revelation of your own.

Analogy #1

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that heaven and hell aren’t merely two static places. We believe in multiple kingdoms of glory. Whatever law we are willing to abide by, that is the extent of the glory God is able to give us. The more Christlike we become by living the laws and commandments of Christ, the more of His glory we can receive in the life to come. For details on this doctrine read Doctrine and Covenants 88:13-40. It’s clear and direct.

Generally, however, we break down heaven and hell into the three degrees of glory: celestial, terrestrial, and telestial. And, if the blessings we receive correspond to that glory, you might say that the light of Christ (or that gut feeling) is a telestial blessing. It’s a basic knowledge of right and wrong with the potential to lead us to the next level of heavenly guidance. The terrestrial blessing would be the “power of the Holy Ghost” or direct manifestations/communications from the Holy Ghost (another member of the Godhead). These communications go beyond a mere gut feeling and are powerful witness of truth (when we hear it or see it, etc.). We may sometimes doubt a gut feeling (initially), but direct manifestations from the Holy Ghost are full of power. We may doubt them later (if we dismiss them and do not act on them), but in the moment there is no doubt that we are being taught, or are feeling that something is true. A celestial level blessing would be the gift of the Holy Ghost. The gift of the Holy Ghost is the constant presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, not just a burst now and then.

To elaborate, the gift of the Holy Ghost does the following (as far as I can tell):

  • He (the Holy Spirit) validates the gut feeling, so that we know for certain that what the light of Christ is telling us is true before we act. This is critical. We don’t merely suppose that our gut feeling could be right. We know it is and know that if we don’t follow it that we will be going against our own benefit and against the will of God.
  • He (the Holy Spirit) teaches us how to act on the direct messages of truth He delivers. The powerful messages that come to us from the power of the Holy Spirit can’t ultimately benefit us if we don’t act on them. That power will die away. The gift of the Holy Ghost (since it is with us always) teaches us and prompts us to act on what we felt.
  • He (the Holy Spirit), by the above actions makes it possible for us to learn truth, assimilate it into our lives, and have that truth become part of us. The gift of the Holy Ghost is called the baptism of fire because He (as a member of the godhead) makes it possible for us to actually be changed through the grace proffered to us by Jesus Christ. As we act on the validation and instruction of the Holy Spirit, He actually uses our righteous actions to make fundamental and eternal change within our very beings.

Analogy #2

We are all familiar with the idea of cell phones plans. Nowadays nearly all plans contain every kind of service for a flat fee. But it didn’t used to be that way. Different plans had access to different services. Long-distance calls were an extra cost/service. Text messages were an extra cost/service. Text messages including photos or media cost extra or were an extra service. Now that we have phones that are actually little computers and have access to email, internet and any other number of aps and services, this analogy works a little less well. But here it is.

Christ pays for a basic cell phone plan with His infinite atonement. We all get the “light of Christ,” which is a basic service for getting communication about right and wrong from God. These basic messages are not voice, text, or access to the Google ap. They are merely gut feelings. If we use this service and follow the basic messages we receive, we can upgrade our communication service from God to getting text messages anytime we hear or see something true. These clear text messages are a limited time service that is dependent upon our actions. IF we act upon those texted truths and agree to a life-time service agreement (covenant of baptism), we can receive an “unlimited plan” for communicating with God. But this plan comes with a bonus. Not only can we communicate with God directly—through His Spirit; carrying that “phone” with us all the time and using its godly services (acting on the continued communication and guidance we receive) will actually transfer God’s power and blessings to us directly from Him—changing us fundamentally into more godly beings.

Light of Christ = gut feeling
Power of the Holy Ghost = clear
communication that something is true (or false)
Gift the Holy Ghost = clear communication… + infusion of godly power…

Gut Feelings Transcend Emotion

It is important to note that as discussed in the beginning, the “gut feeling” transcends other involuntary functions and instinctual feelings. You may feel excited about the prospect of something and yet have a gut feeling that it’s not a right choice. You may feel angry and hurt about something and yet have a gut feeling that you should forgive, or minimally not take revenge. You may feel in love with a person and yet have a gut feeling that they are not going to be a good long-term partner and that the good you feel will be temporary. You may feel happy in the moment about something you are doing, or have done, but your gut may tell you that this feeling is going to wear off because of the incorrect way in which the feeling was achieved.

There is no end to the ways in which the gut feeling transcends and trumps other temporary instincts and involuntary processes. But, it’s important to reiterate this because it is so easy to get caught up in these other things. I, for one, find it easy to shove that gut feeling away when my emotions are screaming of hurt, offense, and exhaustion. I find it easy to shove that gut feeling away when what my physical body wants is a greasy hamburger and French fries. My mind and my body say, “Who cares that it’ll make you sick half way through! Who cares that it’ll make you want to sit around the rest of the day!” But, my gut says, “You’ll be far more satisfied with something that actually addresses what your body needs and tastes good at the same time.” Or “Take the time to make something that tastes amazing and addresses the nutrient need of your body.”

Our gut tells us to do a lot of things we know we should. But we ignore our gut in favor of what’s easier or more immediate. Love, excitement, fear, and other powerful emotions can hide our gut feeling if we aren’t in tune to it, or if we shove it away. And, I must admit, that at least for me, my gut feeling has never been eccentric like emotions are. Excitement has never been a gut feeling for me. Neither has love. Rather, my gut feeling has validated an emotion or warned against an emotion. It has invited me out of anger and revenge, but it has not felt like anger or revenge.

At least for me (and I suspect others) the gut feeling is an instinct, an involuntary reasoning that pushes itself up over the top of whatever else I am feeling. This is one way to recognize it apart from all else that you perceive or feel.

Why Trust Your Gut?

So, what is the whole point in getting to know your gut feeling and trusting it?

Well, if you’re gut feeling was given to you by Christ, then its trustworthy. It may not bring immediate success and prosperity into your life, but it will bring immediate peace—which is priceless—and guidance for the success and prosperity God has in store for you.

If trusting and following your gut feeling has the potential to lead you to clearer and more powerful communication from God, then that’s certainly worth it all by itself. It may not produce that clarity at the level you would like initially, but it opens the door for you to enter a contract/covenant with God for continuing clear guidance and direction—if you’re willing to act on it.

Many of us spend a large portion of our lives floundering. Many of us have a lot of regret, a horrific suspense for what we might have enjoyed had we trusted that gut feeling before. And, maybe we are still afraid to trust it. If that’s you, here’s why it’s time to start trusting that gut feeling.

God’s plan includes unlimited communication with Him and power to become like Him. His plan removes the floundering and the regret and replaces it with certainty, hope, and peace. And, the first step in that plan is learning to trust your gut. Start trusting your gut and you get bursts of powerful confirmations of truth in your life. Act on those bursts of communication and you will get the next offer—the unlimited plan, the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Then, as you are diligent in listening and following, floundering in life disappears. It is replaced with certainty. It is replaced with peace. It is replaced with guidance in all that you seek that is right. In fact, God can get you to your goals much faster than you can ever get yourself there. And, He does one better. He gets you to places far better than you ever aspired to be. This is the path that awaits you if you can learn to recognize your gut feelings and to follow them. Follow the light of Christ.


So, you’re standing at the starting line for a half marathon. The shot is about to sound. Do you have faith that you can finish this race? Here are 4 possible answers to this question.

  1. If you’ve been training for years and have run a half marathon before, you will feel confident, assured, and certain that you will finish. The only question may be your timing. Will you improve upon the last race? Will you run a personal best? Doubt about finishing? Not at all. You only wonder how and when you will finish and what level of success you will attain.
  2. If you’ve been training for the half marathon for months (though you’ve never run one before), you will likely feel that you can finish. After all, you’ve run shorter races. You have an assurance that your efforts to train and prepare your body for this exertion will enable to you at least, minimally, finish. Even more, you may hope that beyond finishing that you finish in a respectable time. And beyond that you may even hope to succeed in running well enough to secure an achievement. Again, it is most the how and when that is unknown.
  3. If you haven’t been training for a long enough time and have not run many races in your life, you may feel a sense of doubt, fear, or dread. You may be apprehensive and lack confidence in your ability to make it three miles let alone 13.1. You may be nervous that injury or exhaustion will take you down before you can reach the end. Thus, your faith in your ability to finish lacks assurance and lacks confidence.
  4. If you haven’t trained at all, it’s almost certain you aren’t even trying to run the half marathon. You may merely be on the sidelines prepared to cheer the others on. Your faith in your own ability to run a half marathon is dormant, because you have no desire to run a half marathon and therefore no need to exercise your feelings toward such a feat. The race itself has little meaning except perhaps that you may wish you had the courage to try to do such a thing. But it is a feat that seems somewhat abstract. Or, you may simply admire the worth it has to others you care about who are participating and you are happy to cheer them on.

Faith in Christ

Similar to this metaphor of a half marathon, faith in Christ is a lot more than believing He exists. It’s more than being on the sidelines watching His life and admiring His teachings. It’s more than doing a few of the commandments that you like, but leaving many of the others un-attempted. It’s a lot more than simply confessing His name.

Our ability to approach God and take advantage of His grace is directly related to our efforts to serve Him and keep His commandments. Our desire to be like Him—completely—and to follow Him—completely—affects our actions and therefore our assurance in the blessings He offers and the things of the gospel that are unseen, but are true. Our belief and trust in what God offers, shown by our faithful actions, is what translates to assurance that blessings (things we can’t yet see perfectly and don’t know how and when God will fulfill them) will come. That we’ll make it!

When we approach God in prayer asking for guidance, help, miracles, blessings, and understanding; the assurance we have of His response is directly related to the amount of desire we have to obey Him and how we have exercised that desire in our daily thoughts, words, and deeds.

In Hebrews 11:1, Ether 12:6, and Alma 32:21 we learn that

Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge (meaning that we have seen the future and know it precisely and exactly without any need to hope for it). It is the substance of things hoped for, the assurance of things hoped for, it is the evidence of things not seen, which are true.

In Lectures on Faith (lecture first, paragraph 9) we learn that:

Faith is the assurance which men have of the existence of things which they have not seen; and the principle of action in all intelligent beings.

What is meant by “principle of action”? We learn further (lecture third, paragraphs 2-5) that:

…three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. First, the idea that he actually exists. Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes. Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which [he/she] is pursuing, is according to [God’s] will

Faith is a principle of action because our assurance of God’s blessings gives us the motivation we need to act as He has commanded us to act. We act out of an assurance (not a perfect knowledge) that God’s blessings and words will be fulfilled, though we may not know how or when.

So, if God has said that He will bless us if we keep His commandments. And, because we feel that this is true, and we determine to keep His commandments the best we can, then we have a feeling of assurance that blessings will come. This assurance is a gift from the Holy Spirit. The Spirit testifies to our hearts and minds that our lives are “according to God’s will” and such a feeling gives us confidence when we approach Him in prayer and seek for things that we need. The very act of praying is an act of faith and hope because we have an assurance that we ask not amiss (2 Nephi 4:35) because we are trying to do His will.

Faith begins with a desire. Such desire leads to a hope that we can receive, or accomplish, something good that God has asked us to do. That hope and faith leads us to act in ways that increase our hope and faith. Then, when we approach God (or our figurative half marathon) we have a response that resembles numbers 1 and 2 above. Our actions, made in faith and hope, give us assurance that we will finish. It is only the how and the when that is unknown.

Female eye with long eyelashes close-up

Eye of Faith

Living our lives with an eye of faith is living a life of trust and assurance in God. But, such assurance, such substance, such evidence of things unseen (which are true) comes from experimenting upon God’s word/commandments (John 7:17, Alma 32:27-43) and acting in hope and faith. As we do so, we will slowly, little by little, increase our power to do good—or in other words, our faith. The more times we test God’s plan for us and find it to be good, and to be right, and to give us what God promises, the greater our power to do more. Why? Because our assurance and confidence in God increases proportionate to the heed and diligence we give to His requests of us.

In Alma 12:9-11 we read:

…It is given unto many to now the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed an diligence which they give unto him.

And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser potion of the world; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

And they that will harden the hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction.

In other words, the more we spiritually train (heed God’s commands and keep the covenants we’ve made with Him, or press forward to make more covenants) the greater our capacity to receive, and do, more. Just as an athlete starts with small goals, 5K’s, 10K’s, half marathons, marathons, triathlons, etc., spiritually, we start by desiring to do good and acting on that desire and on a hope for God’s promised blessings. When the blessings come, our belief and trust and assurance in God’s promises increases until there is nothing we can’t achieve—that is according to His will.

Which is True

You’ll note the caveat in the scripture, that our faith must be exercised toward something which is true. Truth is things as they really are and as they always will be (Jacob 4:13). There are many things we may choose to believe that are untrue. And, no amount of action in the pursuit of those false beliefs can produce a positive result—or a result that increases our faith, hope, and salvation. Thus, finding truth is critical to achieving the peace, assurance, evidence, and substance of things unseen.


Faith, and acting on our faith, has nothing to do with earning our salvation. We can’t earn it, and that’s not what God’s commandments and covenants are for. Faith, and living with an eye of faith, has everything to do with our intention to become truly Christian, like Christ. It’s a schooling process to keep commandments and receive and keep ordinances and covenants. His grace makes it possible for us to become just such people through such godly schooling. Repentance is His admonition to partake of His grace by accepting this process. Our righteous action—made in faith that we can become like God—is what we do to actively accept that grace.

Living with an eye of faith is hard. And, it gets ever more difficult in these modern days where our technology makes us believe that God doesn’t exist, that His plan is unfair, biased, prejudiced, or that we can find happiness without Him. But all who pursue such false truths will eventually come to learn that such things are not true. We all have our struggles and differences, but we can never fully separate ourselves from our eternal identity as children of God (Romans 8:35, 39).

The busier, faster, and more self-focused, and more distracted and occupied this world becomes with technology, communication, and self-invented progression, the more I feel compelled to slow down, focus more on home and family, trust in God’s simple truths, and to develop my talents to bless my family rather than to gain recognition from a lot of people I don’t know or to mold my life to make them approve. And, I feel strongly that those who live “with an eye of faith” will also feel inspired to do the same; to detach from the world and to follow the path that God presents for them; a path that is fuller, richer, and full of true progression.


Spirituality. It is a powerful thing. It’s the unspoken creator of faith and hope within us. It’s as much a power as any emotion and just as difficult to interpret and make sense of at times. It battles against our natural, human form, and yet thrives by our humanity as well. It seems on any given day we’d be happy to live without our spiritual selves, and yet try as we might, we also can’t abide to part with it. It’s a relationship between two pieces of ourselves that are either at war, in flux, or symbiotic. It’s a relationship with God.

I’ll say it again. Spirituality is a relationship between two pieces of ourselves. And, it’s a relationship with God. That’s two deeply internal and inescapable relationships.

And guess what…relationships are scary.

Spirituality and Fear

It makes perfect sense that at some point in our lives we all are afraid of being spiritual to some extent. Whether we’re a youth worried that by becoming spiritual we’ll miss out on all the fun or an adult worried that by becoming spiritual we’ll have to make uncomfortable changes and add new commitments to our lives. Whether we’re a teenager who fears being too spiritual and left out of the popular crowd or an adult who doubts the reality of God’s promises and the risk of trusting in them. We’re all afraid of embracing something within ourselves that seems to be unknown, and therefore might be untrustworthy. We’re afraid of what we can’t see. We want, and need, reassurance and security.

There are, in fact, many reasons to fear these two deep relationships within us that are incredibly personal and which, try as we might, we can’t ignore nor forget. But, before we can get down to the reasons we fear spirituality and how to overcome that fear, we must first define spirituality and fear.


What does it mean to be spiritual? It means to be focused on things that relate to, consist of, or that affect the spirit…or something that we consider to be intangible, though very real, within us and also outside of us. It means to be interested in things related to our spirit, to be concerned with religious and sacred matters, and to wonder how all aspects of our lives are related or joined to our spirit (see definition of SPIRITUAL at Merriam-Webster Online) and God.

Or, in other words, to be spiritual means to embrace one’s spirituality—to be concerned with the life of one’s spirit as much as with one’s physical body, recognizing that they impact and affect each other. To be spiritual means to be concerned with one’s soul (spirit + body) and one’s relationship to God.

True spirituality, then, might be construed as the actual level, or dedication, of our concern, interest, and occupation with your spirit, or spiritual things. Because we are all part spirit, it is hard to deny for any extended period of time that an intangible part of ourselves exists. We may call it different things based on our beliefs or philosophies, but it all points back to the same idea. We are more than just a physical being.

Scripturally, we understand that we are eternal beings, intelligence that has been literally borne spiritually (spiritually organized) by a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother (Abraham 3:21-22) through a deliberate creative process. When borne on earth to mortal parents, our eternal spirit becomes housed in a mortal shell. Thus, the level of devotion we pay to this spiritual interest is what I would term our spirituality.


Fear, defined, is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, and likely to cause us pain, or to be a threat to our person. Fear, in this context, is not reverence or respect (as when we refer to fear of God), it’s dread, anxiety, unease, apprehension, alarm, panic, agitation, worry, terror, confusion, and fright.

Fear is something that we learn from our earliest years. It’s a protection mechanism built into our physical, involuntary biological response systems. It’s naturally there (and chemically there) to protect us from harm; to tell us when to run, when to get out, what to avoid, and so forth. Fear is increased by negative experience and deepened by traumatic events and experiences in our lives.

How we respond to fear usually ends up being to fight, to run, or to avoid something. And unless a relationship is abusive (physically, sexually, emotionally, or verbally), running from it, fighting against it, and avoiding it can be far more detrimental to our ultimate well-being in the long-run than any mild struggles we may endure through in the short-term.

As fundamental as it is to fear, it is equally fundamental to seek relationships: romances, friendships, families, and even a connection with God. We have to learn to see that simply because a relationship is hard, or requires effort, or causes us discouragement or hurt on occasion, that this is not necessarily an indication that we would be better off without the relationship—even though our fear may try to lead us to believe so, in the moment of struggle.

Fear is Detrimental to Spirituality Because it Veils Truth

If spirituality is centered in us, and in God, (remember the two relationships) then fear of spirituality will lead us to do one of three things. We will fight against ourselves and God, we will run from ourselves and from God, or we will avoid ourselves and God. In this state of dissociation from ourselves, (and from God) we are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness (Mosiah 3:19, Alma 40:10). We are unhappy because we can never be totally honest with ourselves and thus we can never work on the relationship between our physical body and our spirit. We are also not peaceful because we cannot totally embrace God and thus we fail to commit totally to Him, meaning we cannot come to know Him or come to trust Him—leading to a continuing state of fear of our relationship with Him.

Fear is ultimately a veil to truth which is a defining purpose of spirituality. According to an article I read titled How Fear Blocks Spiritual Development, “fear blocks not just spiritual perceptions…but also, as modern neuroscientists demonstrate, everyday clear thought.” When we’re afraid, we can’t think straight (“we can’t remember a phone number or even how to tie our shoe”). That’s the gist. We can’t think straight at work, we can’t think straight in a conversation, and we certainly struggle to think straight regarding spiritual matters. The article goes on to say, “Fear is a veil to spiritual perception and basic psychological balance because it literally distorts perception… But also because fear is one of the main agents of psychological indoctrination (brainwashing), as he, she, who, or it that makes you fearful, controls your mind.”

When we are afraid, beliefs can be easily implanted; some of which may be massively destructive (and completely untrue)” (ibid.). Fear is the great brainwashing tool of evil and we often use it on ourselves, unwittingly, to protect ourselves against, or to avoid, perceived pain, possible danger, and possible threats. In other words, fear allows us to lie to ourselves and to ignore truth, hide it, or dissociate from it altogether (meaning we don’t see a need to apply it to ourselves because we are outside of it).

Our fear, however, is difficult to control. It’s hard to tackle that relationship between the two parts of ourselves and especially the eons-old relationship our spirit has with God, when life experience has implanted falsehoods in our minds. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), as well as other common trust issues, condition all of us—through fear—to mistrust even the most basic agreements, promises, relationships, and covenants.

Fears Relating to and Regarding Spirituality and a Relationship with God

So, what are the common fears that keep us all from increasing our level of spirituality? What holds us back from repairing the relationship with ourselves and with God? It took me a while to generate this list, with help from discussing it with my brilliant husband. However, it in no way encapsulates all possible fears. And, it may provide the right title for your fear, but not necessarily the most accurate description. Or, vice versa. Either way, see past the suggestions and use them to identify what your spiritual fears actually are. Write them down! And then ponder the matter that follows in your efforts to overcome those fears.

  1. Fear of FailureNobody likes to engage in something they believe, or fear, they will fail at. If we have a deep-seeded fear that we will fail at a relationship with God, that it’s almost certain that there’s no chance of us succeeding, then the barrier to beginning such a relationship is huge. This fear is likely based off long-ago experiences where we made a commitment to follow Him and failed miserably (in our own mind). It may be based off failed romantic relationships that have hurt us terribly and conditioned us to believe we are incapable of any type of long-term relationship—that we can’t trust anyone. We may have struggles with relationships in our families or with close friends. Our record may convince us that we are incapable of succeeding, thus, we fear to try yet again. (See blog post Perfection vs. Sanctification)
  2. Fear of “Not Being Cut Out to be Spiritual” – Sometimes we look at others and it seems that spirituality comes easy for them. It seems to be a talent. They seem to be able to be super-righteous with little effort. “Seem” is the key word. Thus, based on our fear, what seems to be accurate is likely not true at all. Thus, based on what we perceive, we assume that, in general, some people are cut out to be spiritual and we fear we may not be. We certainly desire it (to some extent), but our fear that we may not ever able to be what we visually see from others leaves us doubtful that we can do it. We are afraid to try only to find out we are that odd percentage (%) somewhere that can’t accomplish it. (see blog posts Three Steps to Helping the Gospel FEEL Possible, The Gospel Only Seems Impossible IF, What Does it Mean to be Active in the Church?)
  3. Fear of Judgment – Nobody likes to be judged. And, when we are afraid we tend to feel a sense of ego-centrism and paranoia (not unlike an awkward teenager). Will people notice we’re “coming back to church?” If so, what will they say? Will they welcome us? Will they judge us? Will they lecture us? Will they gossip about us? Will they ignore us? Will we be all alone? Will anyone help us kindly and accept us as we are… “a work in progress?” The fear of what others thinks keeps many people from God, when what people think has little to do with their relationship with Him.
  4. Fear of God Being More Condemning than Loving – Most of us don’t like being a disappointment. Most of us don’t like having to depend upon anyone else for help. Most of us try to avoid receiving charity. I’m fairly certain the vast majority don’t like to be yelled at, chastised, or reminded of their sins or faults. We simply know (for the most part) where we’ve screwed up, what we’re weak at, and we worry that re-kindling a relationship with God will include Him drumming up the past and making us shrink before Him. We doubt God will show us mercy and thus we avoid a reunion with Him.
  5. Fear of Losing Control – Some of us like being in control. Probably too much. The idea of vulnerability to anyone, let alone God, grips us with crippling fear. Either vulnerability has burned us in the past (with family, friends, or other relationships), or we simply have the type of personality that craves control. And, as a relationship with God requires spiritual, emotional, and mental vulnerability, many of us avoid it by keeping a discreet distance. We love God at a distance and try to keep control of our lives. We want to approach His commands and His covenants our way and not His. Thus, we never approach them close enough to actually enter into them and embrace them. We are afraid that if God gets the reigns we will lose power to create happiness in our lives, because we somehow feel that losing control will mean almost certain unhappiness, like a cage. We don’t want to be trapped in His will, only in our own.
  6. Fear of Self-Discovery and Dependence – Most of us have an idea of who we are and what we want to become. We have an idea of how we should get there. We have a picture of ourselves, our life, our talents, our wants, our needs, etc. We have a deep need to arrive at this future location “on our own,” independent of anyone—including God. We also have a deep-seeded need to prove to ourselves that we can achieve this vision we have of ourselves “on our own.” We want to prove it to others too. We want to prove it to God. This is a form of pride and self-sufficiency, but it is based in the fear of discovering we can’t do it alone. Others may have failed us in the past, or it may simply be a personality trait. But, we don’t want to discover that we can’t succeed without help. We want the glory of our success to be ours and ours alone—even though we may not think that or say it verbally, it drives all that we do. We want credit. We want acknowledgment. Thus, we stay away from spirituality and coming to know ourselves and God better, because anytime we have tried to do so we have been shown or taught that we have to depend upon Him. We start to see more clearly our weaknesses, and we shrink, wanting to prove we can make those weaknesses strengths before coming back to spirituality and its uncomfortably revealing nature. We don’t want to be dependent. We don’t want to know the extent of our dependence on God, either. We fear it..
  7. Fear of Change – Change of any kind is difficult. It’s not as simple as some people make it sound. Change requires a change in our day-to-day coping framework. Because each of us finds ways to cope with life and thus we create a framework for how to live, work, study, interact, etc. in ways that keep us safe from danger, threat, and pain. Change throws this framework into imbalance. It often collapses the entire thing. That, in and of itself, creates panic and fear. We may know that screaming and yelling every time we’re upset isn’t the best thing, but we have done it for so long that figuring out how to replace it—successfully—is frightening. We are afraid to take a wrecking ball to our framework because we don’t know how to rebuild it, and we are afraid to let God rebuild it with the unknown.

Overcoming the Fear of Spirituality

Cultivate More Love for Yourself and for God

I’m not sure there is a perfect prescription for overcoming the fear of spirituality. We all come by our fears differently (as explained above). Traumas and life experiences create incredibly powerful psychological and emotional barriers to opening ourselves up to ourselves and to God. But, since the atonement has (“past tense”) overcome even those barriers which we bump against day-to-day, it can be done. The atonement is all about love. The atonement of Jesus Christ came about by the love of God, Our Father, and the love of Christ (St. John 3:16). The love of God casts out all fear through overcoming spiritual death (separation from God) and physical death (all physical, mental, emotional, and psychological infirmity, deformity, and death).

Thus, the best answer for overcoming any fear is an increase in love: love of God, love of family, love of ourselves. Ultimately, we must come to love more than we fear. Our desire to love and our efforts to love must override any other struggles or fears. And ultimately, we must come to understand that if we love God, and try to love Him in return, there is nothing man can do (2 Nephi 12:22, Doctrine and Covenants 3:7-8), nor this world either, that hasn’t already been paid for and fixed eternally. Nothing that can happen to us will ever be permanent, except the state of our spirituality which is directly related to our free will and how we choose to exercise it.

The scriptures teach that “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18, Moroni 8:16).

How do you increase your capacity to love? The answer to that is in the scriptures and prophetic counsel. Visit and search “love” and study what you find. God will teach you how to increase your love.

Prove God and Yourself through Experimenting

If trust is your issue, then I can say that there is no way to gain evidence for God’s trustability (or your own, if that’s your fear) without putting yourself and Him to the test. “Prove Him” to see whether or not He will keep His word (Malachi 3:10) despite your fears. Prove Him to see whether or not you can trust Him. “Prove yourself” to see whether or not you can keep your covenant. Then, if you can, act in faith on that slow and tentative trust. “Nourish the seed” that has so far been good (Alma 32:26-43). Do not let your fear send you running. Don’t abandon the tiny plant you’ve cultivated so delicately. Do not abandon ship simply because a storm arises and you’re afraid it will sink. It’s far more dangerous in the tumultuous waters than in a boat that you’ve been promised will withstand the storm. Don’t let fear distort your perception of spiritual reality. Stay in the boat. Continue in faith and pray for God to “help your unbelief” and struggling faith (Mark 9:24).

It would be nice if I could promise each and every one of you that you’ll have an overnight rebirth. That after a few tries trusting God and seeing Him keep His word that you’ll be cured of your fear. But, I’m afraid it simply isn’t that easy. For your trust in yourself and in God to continue to grow, it will have to be tested. And, at some point you’ll have to give your heart and commit even though you don’t know how the future will turn out. That’s how relationships work. You’ll have to decide to be faithful to your relationship with Him despite your fears, trusting (or at least hoping) that He’ll give you the power to get through these faith/trust-testing experiences. You will never get to see the end from your current spot on the road to God. You’ll only get the assurance of His support as you walk with Him, learn of Him, and practice trusting Him (and yourself). The path will only build up more trust and love as you continue to walk it. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is no simple gift. It is the gift that God gives you to constantly communicate His love and His reassurance as you wait, patiently, for all His promises to be fulfilled.

Seek Godly Power through Ordinances and Covenants

If your intent is sincere, then I have good news for those whose greatest fears are regarding their own deficiencies and inabilities to rise to the level of spirituality they dream about. Something very few Christians understand is that God’s power is freely given through His ordinances and covenants. All of God’s power isn’t given at baptism. Even the Gift of the Holy Ghost gets “major updates” and increased strength to work with us as we continue to receive more ordinances and to make and try to keep more covenants. In fact, the types of things the Holy Spirit teaches us and prompts us to do increases in frequency and scope with every covenant and ordinance we accept. The power, confidence, love, and certainty we feel increases exponentially with every ordinance embraced and every covenant committed to with a sincere heart. You can’t imagine what the power feels like until you accept the ordinance and make the covenant. Power, guidance, spiritual gifts, and more await us with each level of spirituality we embrace with a sincere heart.

If you need more power and confidence, then making and keeping covenants is how you get it. In fact, it will never work the other way around. We don’t get the power we desire before making and keeping a covenant. We don’t get the proof and the reassurance before committing ourselves. We get it after making and trying sincerely for a while to keep the covenant (Ether 12:6-7). We take the leap of faith and God increases our trust in Him and strengthens our faith to become godly after we make commitments to Him. This is how He proves Himself and helps us prove ourselves to ourselves.

Avoid Spiritual Infidelity

When we are afraid or disappointed in a relationship, we tend to go running to others to gossip about our frustrations and to get our egos built up. We look for validation for our fears and justification to sever the relationship. We want to get out before we get hurt. Because when we feel hurt, our instincts tell us to run. Yet, with few exceptions, this is damaging to any relationship.

Thus, if we have a problem with ourselves or with God, we’ve got to have those difficult conversations with Him. If we have doubts. We need to address them to Him. If we don’t know how to fulfill our end of the covenant, we need to go to God. We need to ponder, reason, and talk with our own mind. We need to keep our covenants and look for ways to overcome our fears and save the relationship rather than to jump to conclusions and let fear send us running yet again. A long path of abandoned people, relationships, and covenants will not make us happier than gaining accord and security within an imperfect, ultimately good, but struggling one (with a few exceptions, of course to be noted later on).

Years back, when I went through a heart-wrenching divorce, I had a lot of questions about God, women, and covenants. I had thought I understood love. I had thought I understood the atonement. I had thought I understood how God saw and loved women. But, all those beliefs were tested heavily against the fears that broke upon me. I was eventually called to teach early morning seminary during these difficult years in the aftermath of my divorce, and I was forced to visit all of these topics, and other difficult, faith-testing topics one-by-one. I had to search them out, talk with God, and strengthen my relationship with Him.

In the darkest, most fearful years of my life, I took my concerns about God to Him. I searched and sought and talked to Him about all my anger, my fears, and my complaints. With hope mixed with fear I followed His prescriptions for finding reliable answers. I asked why and He answered—every time. And, He led me every step of the way to understand my fears and to silence them. Yes, it took time. But real healing does. He taught me about Him. And, as I learned about Him and gained increased faith in my relationship to Him, all of my fears were quenched. I gained a confidence I had never had, a certainty. I gained strength beyond what I’d ever experienced before. I had never felt so confident in God’s plan, His love, and my place within it. I had never felt so willing to leap into the unknown because I KNEW, no matter what, God had it covered. My unshakeable faith in Him, my love for Him, silenced all my fears. He allowed me to let go of so much while simultaneously gaining love, power, and trust in inordinate amounts.

Get Counseling

Some fears are severe and caused (as noted above) by horrible, traumatic experiences. While God can overcome all, He has often provided many tools for us to use in order to help us along until that future day when they will be healed in perpetuity. He won’t usually fix something with only a simple prayer that we can work to fix—to an extent—by seeking professional help. God won’t completely restore an amputated leg (in this life) any more than he will completely restore a severely injured psyche. But, He can provide spiritual, emotional, and mental prosthetics that will get us through and help us to function, even to thrive, almost normally, until a complete future healing takes place (the resurrection).

In other words, don’t expect only your desire to be healed to be sufficient. Prayers are critical. But they cannot be our only outlet for healing. God has blessed our modern society with nearly all the tools sufficient to strengthen our weaknesses until He can fix them eternally. He has revealed these tools in anticipation of our needs. They are as much from Him as the comfort and power we receive through prayer. He expects us to make use of them.

Within our means and reasonable research, we should (without any doubt) seek out well-qualified and trusted professionals who specialize in our specific mental and emotional struggles. Then, combined with prayer and pondering, we should use these professionals to help us conquer our trauma that the rest of our efforts can be successful and effective—as God would have them be.


I wish I had all the answers. I don’t. But, God does. If we can push through our fears (whatever they may be and however they came into being) and find ways to increase our ability to love ourselves and God, we will see progress—more than we’d expect or believe. If we will take yet another leap of faith, accept ordinances and make and try to keep covenants, God will prove us and Himself. Our trust in Him (and ourselves) will grow. He will grant us more power after we take these leaps and we will recognize it and feel it. We will gain confidence because we will know He is with us.

If we will avoid running at the first sign of possible, or perceived, trouble. If we will give our heart and our commitment to Him and ride out the storms, we will gain the evidence and proof we need to continue forward to discover the perfection and reliability of God and our relationship with Him. If we will avoid seeking out others to fix our spiritual relationship troubles, and instead go to the source—God—He will help us get to know Him and to strengthen our relationship with Him in ways we can’t now imagine. If we will do what it takes to learn about Him we will not be disappointed in what we find.

As a final note, it’s important not to compare our relationship with God to the relationship God has to others. We are each so very unique and different. God knows us better than we could ever know ourselves. Some people will get things from God differently than we will get them. God will talk to others differently than He talks to us. The certainty is that He loves us all and will talk to, teach, guide, forgive, and bless all of us. The sooner we stop comparing and come to understand the ways in which God works with us, the happier, more peaceful, and less afraid we will be.


If I was an investigator of the Jewish church, in Jesus time, and I had as my example Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes, I might have been extremely resistant to joining up. The Pharisees certainly never appear to be peaceful and happy. They were judgmental and preoccupied with others, rather than themselves—in a negative way. I certainly would not have been willing to count my steps on Sundays or avoid pork simply because some God commanded it if…their sour-faced life was the result.

I sometimes can’t figure out why the Pharisees stayed converted to their own version (because it was certainly of their creation) of Judaism. The only thing I can determine is that they stayed faithful out of fear. And, it was fear they passed on to others. Fear of breaking a commandment. So much did fear guide their actions that they passed it on to others—judgmentally. Everyone was doomed in their eyes…even Christ.

And, because the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes led the religion, (and their principles), it was dying out. Israel had been conquered and scattered and would have continued to dwindle had not Christ come to fulfill the law and restore the truths that had been lost. Fear does not convert people to God. It only keeps them afraid. And obeying out of fear, ultimately, cannot produce salvation.

So, why do people choose a religion? Why do people convert? Why do people stay faithful? Why do people come back to God?

I think I can sum it up in two words: happiness.

2 Nephi 2:25 teaches us that “men are that they might have joy.” So, are we so surprised that the reason we seek God, or religion, is because we believe it will bring us happiness? No. And, the gospel of Jesus Christ is about happiness. It is not about temporary, fleeting excitement. It is not about intense, dizzying highs followed by horrific lows. The gospel of Jesus Christ is about peace, happiness, and continual joy.

But, are you happy? Are you peaceful? Do you experience joy despite the struggles of life? If not, why? Why aren’t you happy?

Happiness is Personal Peace

When most of us think of happiness, we think of the absence of trials, struggles, pain, suffering, sorrow, etc. And yet, God has shown us that joy can only come from opposition (2 Nephi 2:11). If there is no down there can be no up. If there is no sorrow there can be no happiness. This life is about the ups and the downs. The triumphs and the sins, and the weaknesses, and the mistakes (Ether 12:27). The gospel of Jesus Christ is about finding peace in knowing the downs are part of the ups and that ultimately Christ has overcome all of the downs. The ups become precious because of the downs. We become godly during the downs.

Now we come back to the Pharisees. They made the gospel about fear. Fear of making mistakes. When instead they should have preached the hope of overcoming them. They made the gospel about lines, boundaries, and achievement. When instead they should have preached the destination of godliness. Because ultimately there are no lines. There is only becoming godly. There are commandments, but they are practice in becoming godly, not an end unto themselves. The Pharisees, out of fear, made the commandments and end unto themselves.

Nothing, in the gospel, has a beginning or end, save in Christ. If we give it another beginning or end, apart from Christ, it will cease to belong to Him. When it has a beginning or end in anything else it becomes the gospel of that thing or person. Grace is not about not sinning. It’s about becoming godly as we learn from sins and mistakes. And so forth.

Personal peace comes from knowing we can do it, we can make it, despite our struggles, sins, weaknesses, and so forth. And when we say that, so many pharisaical people want to freak out. They’re so afraid that if we tell people that, that those people will stop keeping commandments and staying away from those lines. Again…they’re so afraid. And so they can’t be happy. And they can’t let others be happy, or peaceful.

Problems with the Rising Generation

I was pondering this blog post when the memory of the Olive Tree Allegory came into my mind from Jacob 5. You know, that chapter everyone dreads reading because they’re so worried that it has 70+ verses rather than what’s in it?

In the Olive Tree Allegory we always have the Lord of the vineyard grafting branches in and grafting braches out. Pruning branches off and dunging and aerating the roots. And, it’s always about the roots and the branches. Either the roots go bad or the branches overcome the good of the roots.

As I was staring out a window, watching the highway go by, a principle jumped into my head. The roots of the gospel are: faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the ordinances and covenants that follow. All of these things are centered in Christ. The branches of the gospel are the commandments and the organization put in place to keep the roots healthy. When the branches overcome the roots, the tree (person, family, ward, stake, region, area, etc.) gets sick. If the tree stays sick too long then the roots get ruined.

The gospel ceases to be the gospel if we let the branches overcome the roots. The roots can become corrupted if we allow in false doctrine. But usually, the problem with long-term religious culture (like the Pharisees) in our homes is that we start focusing on the branches without tending to the roots. We start making the gospel about fear instead of happiness.

Oh, we may preach happiness and peace, but that doesn’t equivocate. It must also be a part of us. It must show in our lives. We can say going to church will make us happy, but if we go to church and then are not happy, what are we really teaching? It’s something different than what we’re saying.

Branches Overcoming the Roots

It’s easy for this to happen when you get past the first generation of converts to a religion. The original crew is usually converted. They get the foundation of the gospel because they depended upon it so heavily in their conversion. Thereafter, however, to children and posterity, the gospel becomes something it is not—it becomes a tradition. It becomes a system of do’s and don’ts rather than a framework for joy, peace, strength, healing, and happiness. It becomes a set of lines and rules and lectures about negative consequences instead of tools and paths for the greatest amounts of joy, peace, strength, healing, and happiness.

The culture of religion so often preaches that happiness can only be had from a strict regimen of religious ritual and participation but fails to continue on to explain the doctrine WHY. Happiness can be found in lesser amounts in less strict religious observance. It can. And when it does, we appear as liars and control freaks determined to force our children into a life they can’t see the benefit of. A life they don’t yet believe in.

God doesn’t want our obedience and our devotion to His gospel and His plan out of fear, awe, and reverence. Those are mildly important. What He wants is our obedience and our devotion out of love for Him. Love that stems from an understanding of what He offers, what He gives, how He loves, and who He is. That is the kind of understanding that creates a visible peace and happiness in us that transcends life’s struggles and problems. That is the kind of example others, especially our kids, need to see. If they can’t see what it is to be truly at peace, to experience true joy, and to know a fullness of happiness, how can they desire it? How can they see that it’s not worth it to settle for less?

The Pharisees (and the others), as nearly as I can tell from scripture always seemed to be unhappy. They were so caught up in the details of not crossing the wrong lines and not appearing evil that they had room for little else, aside from pride. They were so stressed and preoccupied with building fences around fences to prevent themselves (and others) from sinning that they sinned worse than if they had crossed those lines. They omitted love, mercy, and righteous judgment (Luke 11:42). They were absolutely miserable. The only happiness they seemed to get was from judging others by their over-zealous piety and righteous data. And, that’s not real happiness.

In the Book of Mormon we have the story of the people of King Benjamin. They extol Benjamin as an incredible king. They listen to his final sermons and have magnificent changes of heart, covenanting to follow Christ and take upon them His name. Then, as always happens throughout the Book of Mormon when there has been a great Christian revival, the rising generation doesn’t become converted, or doesn’t remain converted (Mosiah 26:1).

Obviously, even our children, our responsible for acting upon righteous principles and gaining their own conversion to the gospel. But, it’s highly important that they know what the gospel is and not just the rules, lines, and commandments. The gospel is the atonement of Jesus Christ. All else stems from it. From His love. From His plan of happiness.

Parents giving piggyback ride to children

We Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Teach the Gospel of Happiness

Now, I’m not saying parents have to be perfect and that as families we can’t have struggles. Life is hard for everyone. But, to some extent, there are those who preach the gospel and yet create toxicity surrounding it. They don’t embody the godly characteristics (to any great extent) that they keep preaching to their kids. They pound into their kids heads that if they read and pray and keep all the commandments that they’ll have the Spirit and be happy. And yet, these kids see parents who do all these things and yet are rarely, if ever, happy. They see parents preoccupied with commandments, not doctrines. They see family going through righteous motions but not becoming happier or more Christlike. And that’s because that’s what’s really happening! They aren’t progressing. They are tripping and stumbling over major stumbling blocks, just like the Pharisees.

Now, one or more parents or family members may struggle with keeping the commandments. And yet, this also should not create crisis. The gospel is the atonement. The principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ can be lived and taught in any home even with varying levels of belief and testimony. The atonement is mercy, forgiveness, patience, long-suffering, etc. Even with family members who lack righteous consistency, or who sometimes fail to say a kind word, peace can abide. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying it doesn’t take heroic effort. I’m saying it’s possible. That’s what the gospel should provide. That’s what people, especially our kids, should see. The gospel should be lived so that our kids can see that despite weaknesses, struggles, and differing levels of testimony, the basic principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ can abide. And that those principles are what create peace, joy, love, and happiness.

If we preach forgiveness and mercy to our kids. Then we have to show it to them and our spouses. If we preach that keeping the commandments makes us peaceful and gives us strength to find happiness. Then, we have to show it. And, if we fall short a bit in showing what we know to be true, then we have to be open, communicate and bear testimony of the hope and faith we have in Christ despite our shortcomings. We have to frequently, outwardly, and honestly show the gospel of Jesus Christ working in our lives. Our imperfections are what give us the opportunity to show our children that the gospel works! We should not pretend to be perfect when our kids are smart enough to know we’re not.

I was sitting in Relief Society one day, and a woman said, “If we were perfect our kids would never learn anything about the atonement of Jesus Christ.”

I was floored. I had been feeling so miserable that day for my failings as a mother. Then, here this woman brings me back to the gospel. I have worked hard to focus my efforts as a mother into using my own failings to teach my kids more about the atonement. I am also trying to get better, and not mess up as much, but I know that as long as I keep trying, I can have peace. I want so much for my kids to see this and to never despair. I want to show them the happiness and peace that comes from God’s grace. I want them to feel the faith I have and to be infected with it as they face their own weaknesses, sins, and struggles. I want them to see that for me it is a gospel of happiness and peace.

So, is the gospel a gospel of happiness and peace for you? If it’s not, it’s time to get back to the roots. It’s time to make it a gospel of happiness and not a gospel of fear.


Today I have a guest vlogger of whom I quickly became a fan. One video? Ya, that’s all it took. And you’ll be a fan, too. Why? Because she is a woman of truth. And when she speaks, the truth rivets you to the screen. She is an inspiration to all girls, young women, and women. I asked to her guest vlog for me and she accepted. Take the five minutes to listen to her talk about how to eliminate the fear in your life with perfect love. She knows. She’s had to fight those fears.

Thanks Rebecca Kiser!

Doctrine: Perfectionism is prideful, self-focused,  and judgmental; it amplifies fear, creates failure, feeds despair, and ultimately discourages righteous intent and action. Sanctification is humble, Christ-focused,  and judges righteously;  it increases peace, creates hope, and faith, and ultimately encourages righteous intent and increases the power and frequency of righteous action.

I spent a good portion of my life suffering from aspects of perfectionism. This perfectionism was a manifestation of my belief in doing good, keeping God’s commandments, and trying to become like Him. Only, it took me a long time to realize that my mindset was flawed about how to go about achieving all that goodness.

How did I know my mindset was flawed? Because I kept mentally beating myself up when I fell short using self-deprecation to make myself suffer extra-sufficiently for my wrongs. Because I lived in fear of messing up thinking that I would lose out on hopes, dreams, and blessings if I forgot even one prayer. Because I kept thinking that I was going to be tricked by Satan in some sneaky way despite my best efforts—that he would take me down with one little mistake.

I remember the day I finally realized that I was so afraid of messing up or being taken in by Satan, that I HAD BEEN TAKEN IN. If you are living in fear, you have been “taken in” by Lucifer.

Now, when I use the word fear, I’m not referring to godly awe and respect. I’m also not referring to the love I have for God that makes me not want to offend Him. I’m talking about crippling fear; the kind that inhibits progress. And, many, many Christians (and most certainly a large portion of Latter-day Saints) live by this kind of fear, and it manifests itself in perfectionism.

It is important to note that perfectionism is a chronic mindset. It is preoccupied with self and comparison to others. Perfectionism is prideful in the worst sense because it is blind to its own pride.  Perfectionism is not healthy, nor is it ultimately, eternally productive. Perfectionism is an aspect of self-imposed environmental, and personal control that has exceeded rational limits. It is NEVER okay to devalue yourself, mentally berate and abuse yourself, and the like imitations. It is okay to feel guilt and remorse, but those feelings alone are sufficient. When we have those feelings, they are not license for us to begin hacking away mentally at our self-worth and eternal potential.

“But, doesn’t God command us to be perfect?” you ask?

Well, let’s take a look at some scriptures and study this whole perfection thing a little closer.

Matthew 5:48 says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

From this scripture we receive the command to be perfect even as God, the Father. We could replace the words “even as” with the word “like.” But, either way, this command requires several readings and a lot of pondering. Does God really expect us to attain His level of godly perfection in this life? Why would He command such an impossible thing?

We could also consider the fact that God became who He is, perfect, by first going through the Plan of Salvation as we are. Lorenzo Snow taught this in his famous couplet: As man now is God once was, as God now is man may be. So, we could interpret Matthew 5:48 as becoming perfect in the “same way” God became perfect (which is certainly not immediate or possible in mortality).

But, let’s assume for a moment that the scripture is literal, and God is commanding us to become as He is, perfect, now, while we are mortal. Then, why do we also read the following (from God) in Moroni 10:32-33 which says:

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

And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

This scripture in the Book of Mormon about perfection is directly related to the atonement of Jesus Christ and the grace of God which it facilitates. In fact, it asks us to become perfected through grace, and perfected in Christ and to deny not the power of that grace and of God. And, when we’ve attained this kind of earthly perfection, then we are sanctified; or in other words we have been made holy—like God.

If you take the time to study all the scriptures about perfection, I think you will find, as I have, that God is not as concerned about perfection in action (during mortality) as He is about perfection in our desires and the intent/sincerity behind our actions—even, and especially, the flawed actions. Note that in Doctrine and Covenants 137:9 it says, “For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” We tend to understand this scripture as a dual thing: according to our works AND the desires of our hearts. But, that is NOT what it says. It says, “…according to [our] works, according to the desire of [our] hearts.”

Do you see what this is saying? God is clearly letting us know that it is not the perfection of our works, or actions, that we are judged by. In fact, He is stating quite clearly that it is the intent and true desires behind our works (whether offered perfectly or flawed) that we are ultimately judged by. This is huge!

Can you do a work perfectly and still have desires and intent that are contrary to the action/work performed? Absolutely. Can you do a work imperfectly and still have desires and intent that are pure, sincere, and true? Absolutely. Why do we always assume that if a work is performed sub-par that the intent or desire is sub-par? Why do we always assume that if a work is performed perfectly that the intent or desire is perfect? This is simply not the case.

black and white pencils

This brings us back to the idea of sanctification over perfectionism. Both are states of being. However, a sanctified person is focused more on perfecting their intent and purifying their desires rather than simply performing an externally perfect work. A sanctified person recognizes that it is perfection in intent that will perfect their outward works, and not the other way around. A sanctified person is trying to become like God and accepts that as they work toward learning and becoming that the works themselves will fall short, but takes confidence in the fact that grace accepts the perfect intent behind such imperfect works.

This, may still be confusing, so let me clarify.

I was sitting in the Gospel Doctrine class in my ward a few weeks past, and a pretty wise man and well-respected in the ward said something akin to the following: “There are two types of perfection. There is ultimate perfection—God’s perfection. And, then there is sanctification, which is the only type of perfection we can attain to on this earth. Sanctification is a state of being which while we are not yet perfect as God is perfect, we are in a state of sanctification, or earthly perfection—which is as much as we are able to attain to in this life.”

Sanctification is, again, a state of being. You don’t ever exit it by being imperfect in action/works. You can only exit sanctification (once you are in it) by being in open rebellion against God, which pertains to your desires and intent (and by extension to your works). And, I would like to point out that I have not found many perfectionists that would ever consider openly rebelling against God UNLESS they allow their perfectionism to destroy their understanding of His nature and their faith in Him.

Sanctification is a state of grace. It doesn’t mean that we actually do everything perfectly. It means that as long as we are sincerely trying to become godly, we are in a constant state of grace—or mortal perfection.

Intent is like a validating watermark on a check or the security features of paper money. Anyone can print a check or money that “looks good”, but it is not real unless it has a validating feature recognized by the institutions its presented to. Actions without sincere, genuine, pure, godly intent are just actions—no matter how good they look on the outside.

Romans 8:3-4 says, “For what the law [i.e. works] could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

What Paul seems to be talking about here is the fact that commandments and covenants and ordinances, which are all part of the law (and necessary in helping us learn to become godly), are weak by themselves. In other words, they are great things, but without the grace of Christ provided through His atonement, those aspects of the law can’t bend us into what we need to become. Just spitting out perfectly performed actions and works (checking commandments off a list) CANNOT and WILL NOT make us like God. Works alone are insufficiently powerful to sanctify us. But, actions and works performed (whether perfectly or imperfectly) with righteous desires and sincere intent DO HAVE POWER because it is our intent which validates our efforts and triggers the power of God’s grace.

When we embrace the life and atonement and grace God offers us, we are presently saved in a graceful, sanctified state. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus (or who are sanctified), who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made [them] free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).

On the other hand, if we rebel against and refuse to enter into God’s laws (receive covenants, receive ordinances, and try to keep commandments), then we cannot receive His grace (or sanctification). This is because we are not fulfilling the conditions for sanctification. Nor are we even perfectionists. We are in a state of rebellion, which is yet another state of being.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law [or grace] of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:5-8).

Perfectionists are obsessed with self. They judge themselves and others by the quality of their commandment keeping. If they keep a commandment poorly, they are less likely to judge others who struggle with it. Yet, if they keep a commandment perfectly (in their own eyes), then they are more likely to judge others who struggle with it. Indeed, perfectionists cannot see anyone as perfect, sanctified, or even saved unless they have not yet been witness to these individuals weaknesses.

Have you ever entered the home or hung out with someone you religiously idolized, only to find that they keep a commandment different than you? What was your reaction? Were you shocked? Did your faith waiver in their ability to be deified? Did you suddenly feel a sense of your own righteousness in contrast to them, and perhaps a sense of disappointment and pity for this “lost soul?” Then, you are a perfectionist.

Perfectionists are selfish (though they don’t recognize it). Perfectionists judge themselves and others by their own standards of outward righteousness. They have a terrible incapability to see beyond the outward actions of themselves and others, and to consider a person’s heart. This is NOT how God judges. God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7); the intent and the desires behind all that we do.

“Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we [or they] Christ’s” (2 Corinthians 10:7).

People who have entered into God’s covenants and who are trying ARE CHRIST’S and are perfected in Christ. This means, that if their intent and desires are godly, they are in a state of sanctification, or mortal perfection despite imperfect action. Wow!

And, that means that since we can’t see into everyone’s hearts that we must see and judge others always as if they are in a sanctified state, unless they are clearly in a state of open rebellion. The only deviations from this rare those given the keys to sit as judges in Israel (bishops, stake presidents, presiding authorities, high council, apostles, prophets). They alone are given the inspiration to make other judgment calls. We, however, must see others who are trying as currently sanctified and treat them as such.

“And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you… For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons [and daughters] of God… For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (excerpts from Romans 8:10-17, brackets added)

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).

One of the things that I love about this chapter in the New Testament, is that it is one of the few places that acknowledges the Holy Spirit’s role in grace and sanctification. I would venture that most Latter-day Saints when asked what the difference between “the light of Christ” and “the Gift of the Holy Ghost” would struggle to come up with an answer. But, this chapter makes it clear. The light of Christ is the basic conscience of right and wrong that we all receive upon entering this world. The “power of the Holy Ghost” refers to validations and witnesses of truth, and are given to those both inside and outside the covenant of baptism. The “Gift of the Holy Ghost,” however, is a gift of sanctification given to, and retained, only by those who receive the law and act upon it with sincere, righteous, and pure intent—NOT perfection actions.

Luke 11:34: “The light of the body is the eye; wherefore when thine eye be single, thy whole body is also full of light…”

In this verse, which we also see in Matthew, where the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) adds, “single to the glory of god,” it is possible that a correct interpretation may be that the eye represents intent. Which, if the intent of a person is godly, then their whole body becomes godly. Just food for thought. This makes the possibility of many “perfected” individuals walking the earth extremely likely. This is also where the confidence of prophets in the scriptures comes from; how they know that they are saved and will meet us at the judgment bar of Christ (2 Nephi 33:11). They understood sanctification. They had transcended the weak understanding and satanic bonds of perfectionism.

Those who are in a state of sanctification are humble in their judgments of others. They do not take themselves too seriously. They are not quick to judge others, and are, in fact, charitable, hopeful, and faithful in every way. Because they can see themselves as presently perfected and saved, they can see others presently perfected and saved. This perspective changes the way they treat themselves and others at a deeply mental level. Fear and panic are replaced with peace and long-suffering (with self and others). Arrogance and excessive, rigid self-control is replaced with empathy, sympathy, and compassion which doesn’t beget laziness; it begets a hope that increases the energy one has to keep trying to do right.

Perfectionists are always afraid of the doctrine of grace and sanctification. They always fear that if people believe it too deeply they will stop doing and keeping commandments. But their fear lies deeper. They are afraid others will get exaltation and salvation by doing less while they themselves have worked so hard and beat themselves up to achieve it. They throw in God’s face all that they’ve done and resent when others get blessed who have visibly done less. What a terrible way to live!

The truth is that true, righteous intent (despite imperfect action) breeds more hope and confidence in God and His plan, which translates to better, more sincere efforts, and in time, better overall execution of His commandments.  This is because those who are in a state of sanctification recognize all effort as positive because any effort, with the right intent, is a perfect effort—in God’s eyes—and leads them further along in His plan.

Perfectionism does the exact opposite. Perfectionism breeds despair and uncertainty in one’s own standing before God and one’s own place in God’s plan; which translates to worse overall execution of God’s commandments. Perfectionists tend to be all or nothing—if they can’t do it perfectly they don’t do it at all. Perfectionists can also be lazy—if they can’t do it perfectly they procrastinate. A perfectionist cannot see value in any effort but a perfect effort. What a sad and depressing way to live.

If you’re afraid that if you don’t live in crippling, perfectionist fear that you will fall away from God and become evil, then you are openly admitting that you are not confident in the true desires and intent of your heart. So, it’s time to figure out what those are and take confidence in what you love, who you love, what you want eternally, and the intent behind your righteous actions.

So, if you are, as I once was, living in a state of perfectionism. Stop. Pray to have your eyes opened to the godly, and correct, path of sanctification. It will take time. You will have lapses. But, all the efforts you make—with pure intent—to live in a state of sanctification will, to your utter surprise, bring you closer to mortal perfection than you ever had the chance of attaining before in your perfectionist state. Most importantly, you will be able to cast off the bonds Satan has wound about you. You will feel relief. You will feel peace. You will feel a hope you have never before understood or comprehended. Your faith will become increasingly powerful and unshakeable. And, you will receive personal revelation and power never before comprehended. Your eyes will be opened to God and His mysteries in a way they never have been before.

You will gain confidence before God and your fellow men with an accompanying and equal charity and humility that will fill your soul with joy. So, LET GO.