Doctrine: The Gospel will feel (and be) possible when we 1) think “progress, not perfection,” 2) willingly repent, and 3) get to know God better. That’s all it takes.

A couple of days ago I wrote a rather frank blog about my frustrations with people thinking the Gospel of Jesus Christ is impossible. It was a passionate entry for many good reasons. And, while everything I said I believe to be true, I realized yesterday that I hadn’t given any simple, clear steps to helping make the Gospel FEEL possible.

You see, the Gospel IS POSSIBLE whether we feel it is or not. However, Satan wants us to feel that the Gospel is impossible, because as long as we think/feel that, we won’t put forth any effort (which is, according to Satan’s plan, exactly what makes it impossible). So, if we don’t feel the Gospel is possible, it’s hard to change those feelings.

Let’s recap from my previous blog. We tend to feel the law of Christ is impossible based on:

  1. An incomplete or incorrect understanding of grace
  2. A half-hearted, surface, or cursory desire to become like God (i.e. have Eternal Life)
  3. An incomplete knowledge of and relationship with God
  4. A stronger knowledge/relationship, and/or a stronger preference for a false God
  5. An unwillingness to repent fully
  6. A selfish and lazy demand to have Eternal Life on our terms, not God’s

So, if those are many of the common reasons people feel the Gospel is impossible. Then, let me suggest three very simple things a person can do to make the Gospel feel possible—immediately.

Progress Not Perfection

The first thing all of us need to do is to update our understanding of grace as provided to us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Yes, God has commanded us to be perfect (Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 27:27). But, He has commanded us to do so “through Christ” by our sincere, imperfect efforts (Moroni 10:32).

This is critical! The command is to “Be perfect through/in Christ” NOT to “Be perfect to be perfect in Christ.”

Grace is what makes us perfect (over time) as we simply try to do God’s will. We don’t have to do God’s will perfectly. We just have to sincere desires behind our efforts (as per #’s 2, 5 & 6 above). Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “We get credit for trying even if we don’t always succeed” (Tomorrow the Lord Will do Wonders Among You, April 2016 General Conference). Trying is what turns on the #gracefactor. Grace is like a fiery forge. By simply sincerely trying to do God’s will (imperfectly) we enter the fiery forge of grace. Thus, our pounding, hammering efforts bend us “through the power of grace.” Thus, we become perfect because of our imperfect efforts through grace.

So, if you really, truly and sincerely, want to become like God but you know you’ve got a long way to go. That’s okay! Make your motto, “Progress not Perfection” (@SavedbyGraceCo in IG). Change your expectations for your actions to, “I’m going to always try sincerely, even if my efforts aren’t perfect,” rather than the impossible which is, “I’m going to live perfectly.”

The Gospel will FEEL possible if you understand that you can’t mess up by sincerely trying. You can only mess up by not sincerely trying. And you know for yourself what sincerity (proceeding from genuine feelings) is for you.

Repent

The Gospel is impossible to us as long as we try to live it on our own terms, not God’s. As long as our desires and ways are contrary to His, we will feel the impossibility of it. And, if we are unwilling to submit our will to God’s and continue to try to have things or do things our way, then, the Gospel IS impossible. So, we have to repent and submit to God’s will until the day comes that our will and His will is the same (Mosiah 3:19).

Christ’s atonement (pertaining to salvation) is not for everyone. It is for those who repent and submit to God’s will. Grace doesn’t make our wrongs right. It pays justice for the debt we incur for committing wrongs and make it possible for us to obtain mercy. We can’t just say, “Sorry God, now just let me do things my way and don’t expect me to change.”

The only thing the atonement buys for everyone is a resurrected, immortal body (see references below). But salvation (entrance into the lowest level of God’s Celestial Kingdom) is only received by those who repent, are baptized, receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, TRY to keep God’s commandments, and endure to the end (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7; Alma 11:37, 40-44). Mercy cannot rob Justice. Therefore, mercy is only extended unto those who meet the conditions for it (Alma 42:24-25).

Life like God, i.e. Eternal Life, requires that we make more covenants (beyond baptism) and bind our will so closely to God’s that we become like Him by our sincere efforts (Note: I didn’t say “perfect efforts” I merely said “sincere efforts.”). Thus, by TRYING to keep these covenants (however imperfectly) we learn to sacrifice, forgive, change, consecrate, endure, etc., by these additional covenants. And, unless we enter into these covenants and sincerely TRY to keep them, we cannot have Eternal Life.

That’s why we take the sacrament every week. We take it to take inventory of our lives. We make note of what we’ve done pretty well. We make note of what we can do better. We ask God to grant us POWER TO KEEP TRYING. And, by sincerely partaking of this sacrament, God allows us to maintain the Gift and sanctifying, perfecting, comforting, incredible power of the Holy Ghost.

Many people go to the temple because they feel that they walk out with renewed power. The same blessings can come to us as we worthily and sincerely partake of the sacrament. It is an ordinance that when understood can send us out of a church building clothed with power. It is, in a way, a lesser temple experience just as the Aaronic priesthood is the lesser priesthood. The temples, then, provide a full experience because they are governed by the Melchizedek priesthood (the higher priesthood).

So, 1) think progress, not perfection, and 2) repent!

Get to Know God Better

A lot of people find the commandments difficult because they see them in the wrong light. They simply think, “This is something I’m supposed to do,” which in turn creates an incorrect expectation that simply doing it is going to move mountains in your life. If you go to church because you’re supposed to then when it fails to inspire you, change you, uplift you, or even comfort you—immediately—you are going to think, “Well, this is a load of crap.”

God has commanded us to go to church not to check off an item on some trivial spiritual checklist. He does so because there (at church) we have two critical and powerful opportunities. 1) We have the chance to learn more about Him (how He works, how He lives, how He loves, how He sacrifices, etc.), and 2) By partaking of the sacrament, we have the chance to be more open and prepared to receive promptings from the Holy Ghost.

So, yes, church can often be boring. But, if you’ve got a rough/poor teacher or speaker, you can say a silent prayer and ask, “What can I learn about Thee, God, from this experience?” and I guarantee you, with that kind of attitude (if it’s sincere), you will be taught simple, peaceful truths from on high. If you’re tired and feel your mind is fuzzy, you can still be assured that in God’s house you are less fuzzy when it comes to receiving promptings from the Holy Spirit. So, no matter what is going on (in sacrament meeting or your current class), get out your scriptures and read, or say a prayer, and things will be clearer there. Why clearer there? Because that’s where God has commanded you to be! So your conscience before Him is, in that moment, perfect. You could read and pray at home, too, but because you know, fundamentally, that God has asked you to be elsewhere (at church), then subconsciously (or consciously) you will have a less clear path to His throne because you know your life isn’t in even attempted alignment with His will.

If you read your scriptures because you expect to always be enveloped by pillars of light and receive earth-shattering, novel revelations; then when it fails to be all fireworks and singing choirs of angels, you are going to think, “Well, this is a load of crap.” This is because you’ve missed the point.

We have been commanded to read the scriptures for two reasons. 1) We have the chance to learn more about Him (how He works, how He lives, how He loves, how He sacrifices, etc.), and 2) We have the chance to be more open and prepared to receive promptings from the Holy Ghost.

So, it doesn’t matter how much you read. It doesn’t matter where you read. It only matters that you are reading with the sincere desire to learn more about God, about yourself, and to be more open to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

For example, if you’re seeking an answer to a prayer, open your scriptures. Either open it up randomly (this works for some people), seek out a specific topic, or read it chronologically. It doesn’t matter. Go read the scriptures with the sincere intent to receive answers to your prayers and I guarantee you, you will be better able to get answers and you will get them faster. We’re talking days to weeks, instead of months to years. Or, if complete answers don’t come, critical guidance, comfort, and peace will—the kind you can’t get anywhere else than from God.

The scriptures also include General Conference addresses. Watch church produced scripture videos and messages from apostles and prophets! Mormon Messages these days are a great beginning step. If you find other scripture more tedious, begin with modern scripture and work your way up to ancient scripture. We need all of it because all of it teaches us about God and how He works, and who He is. We can’t get it all from a video. But, start small.

Experiment upon the word (Alma 32). After every attempt at ingesting some scripture ask yourself, “How do I feel? What does this make me want to do/feel inspired to do? What did I learn about God?” Do this, and you will get out of scripture reading what God intended.

If you pray because you’re supposed to or because you think God needs to hear from you then you are going to have unrealistic expectations about your prayers. Prayer is all about us, not God. And, we don’t do it because we are supposed to (though we are supposed to). We don’t do it to inform God. He’s perfectly informed. So, if it’s all about us, and not for God, why do it?

When you imagine yourself addressing God, what happens to your language? What happens to your thoughts about yourself and your life?

When you think about what you want to say in your prayers, what happens to your thoughts? Your focus? Your gratitude? What things are you reminded of?

When you really want something, and it seems it will take a miracle to get it, who do you turn to? Why is it we/you only turn to God when something seems impossible? Why is it that we think by suddenly praying that there is a chance that it will become possible?

Morning, night, while you’re running, in your car, at school, at work, before an important life event, etc., when we take the time to talk to God it is because by coming before Him we focus our minds (which are powerful beyond our understanding) long enough in the right direction to be re-aligned, to feel something higher than our day-to-day logic and feelings, to submit, to ask for, to plead, to hope, etc. By simply taking that moment or two to do that we learn about us and our relationship with God.

When I get on my knees to pray, I find out what is most important to me by what I take the time to ask for. It teaches me about myself. God already knows these things. But, by commanding me to take this time a few times a day to talk to Him, He is facilitating my ability to learn about myself, understand myself, and make conscious efforts to align my fundamental and underlying desires to His.

So, when it comes to keeping the commandments. Change the reason for why you do them. Don’t do them to “be perfect.” Don’t do them because you’re supposed to. Don’t do them to fulfill some obscure expectation you think God has. Do them because you want to get to know God and yourself better so that you can begin now to close the gap in your relationship with Him and your understanding of Him and how He works.

So, 1) think progress, not perfection, 2) repent, and 3) get to know God better.

Conclusion

That’s it. If you do these three things, then the Gospel will feel possible. It will feel doable. It will increase your hope for your life. It may change the course your life takes. It will increase your love of others. It will increase your ability to withstand your own struggles and the complexities of life. It will give you courage and certitude (especially as you embrace God’s covenants and ordinances) that no matter what life throws at you, if you simply keep trying, keep making progress, keep repenting, and keep getting to know God better, that you cannot fail. And, that is because IF YOU ARE DOING THESE THREE THINGS YOU CANNOT FAIL (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7; 82:10). It would be impossible. 😉

BT

 

 

Doctrine: Intelligence is the actual action taken and application made based on truths we know. God is God because He has learned to acquire truth, knowledge, and skills and to act on them perfectly—forever. Free will/agency is dependent on our ability to act on truth despite how we feel. Faith is acting on the truth we know even when we don’t feel like it. There is no weakness, or stupidity, that can’t be overcome—through grace—by intelligent action.

Training Neuroscience Development

I know a lot of good people. In fact, most of the people I know or am acquainted with are good people. I also find that people in general are good (if we take each person or communities as a whole). And yet, it seems that each of us is still prone to short, frequent, or long-term bouts of a total “lack of intelligence” (i.e. stupidity). I use these terms not in the sarcastic or demeaning sense, but in their literal denotation.

Intelligence: the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.

Knowledge: facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; theoretical or practical understanding; awareness or familiarity with a fact, or information.

Stupidity: lack of intelligence; behavior that shows lack of good judgment.

David A. Bednar (2011) says in his book, Increase in Learning: “Intelligence is the righteous application of knowledge and understanding in action and judgment” (p. 70).

Note, intelligence isn’t knowledge. Intelligence isn’t skills. Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. The key difference between knowledge and intelligence is that knowledge is the acquired information and skills, but intelligence is the willingness or capability to act on and apply such knowledge/skills.

So, when I say that all people suffer from bouts of stupidity, what I mean is:

  1. They have certain knowledge and skills to act on truth but they do not act on them
  2. They have the ability to acquire knowledge and skills but they do not use that ability to get such knowledge or skills…keeping them from acting on things they know to be true.
  3. They have the knowledge and skills to act on truth but are unwilling to sacrifice what they want (or think they want) now in order to act on what they believe, suspect, or know to be ultimately true.

Now, as we discuss intelligence, we’re talking about more than common sense.

In Abraham 3:19 we read:

And the Lord said unto me (Abraham): These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.

This statement is not a statement of superiority. What God is saying to Abraham here is basically this: “I have more knowledge and skills than any other spirit being in the universe, and I perfectly apply that knowledge and those skills eternally.”

God is God because He has learned to acquire truth, knowledge, and skills and to act on them perfectly—forever.

intelligencepicSo, I know that losing my temper doesn’t ever solve the struggles I have. But, knowing that is not the same as applying it. It is difficult to not lose one’s temper, especially in certain situations.

In fact, each and every day, each of us submits to frequent, temporary bouts of stupidity (i.e. lack of intelligence). Or, we continue to nurture long-term stupidity.  Stupidity happens every time we know a truth and do not act on it or apply it. How recently we’ve acquired the truth determines if it is a short-term or long-term spell of stupidity.

For most of us the most common type of stupidity is long-term. We may know a truth but we are unwilling to work to acquire the skills needed to act on or apply the truth; or we are unwilling to sacrifice immediate, selfish wants for the unknown but believed future promised by a truth. Acquiring these skills, or sacrificing current wants, takes extra work and so we are lazy with the knowledge of truth we have. Anytime we know better and yet still choose to act against what we know to be true, we are exhibiting a clear lack of intelligence. The smarter we are and the more capable we are of gaining knowledge of truth, the more stark and inexcusable our stupidity becomes.

Feelings

Now, the premier argument against stupidity is that emotional, spiritual, and psychological factors get in the way. Environmental factors can also make good justifications. And, I would agree. However, we have been counseled by prophets, motivational speakers of all kinds, psychologists, and wise associates (including family, friends, and random people posting quotes all over social media) that we have the power to 1) use our agency to make changes to our environments, and to 2) use our agency to act in a certain way despite what we feel.

So, yes, mortal factors make acting intelligently difficult. Sometimes it even requires heroic efforts. But, the reality is that we have been created by God with the capability to act and not be acted upon (2 Nephi 2:14, 25-26). Therefore, it’s possible to act intelligently even if it seems impossible. That changes everything.

Business Technology

My mother, a very wise woman, once said to me: “Faith is doing what’s right even when you don’t feel like it.” That phrase has had eternal impact upon me. It is exactly what this blog is about. If we have faith in God and in the truths (and promised blessings) He has established, then we act upon those truths even when we don’t feel like it.

We love our enemies (whom we obviously are not naturally inclined to love and serve) even if we don’t feel loved by them in return. We turn the other cheek even though our natural inclination is to retaliate or be vengeful. We forgive seventy-times-seven as long as someone continues to repent and try, though our natural inclination is to hold a grudge and maintain a sense of anger. We break up an unhealthy or ultimately unfruitful relationship if it isn’t leading us to honor the truths we know and the blessings we desire. We pay our tithes and offerings even though we don’t feel like we can afford it or that our tiny sum will make a difference.

Now, before anyone tries to convict me of saying that in order to act intelligently we aren’t allowed to feel at all, then I remind you of what I have said up to this point. I have said nothing about not being allowed to feel a certain way. I have only presented the fact that we are capable of acting differently than how we feel.

Feelings are always valid and necessary. They are evidence that everything we say and do matters, good or bad (which is necessary to the existence of free will/agency). If something hurts or angers us, then it hurts and angers us. If someone is nice to us and it makes us feel good, then we naturally feel good. However, whether our perception of a situation is what brings upon us certain feelings, or the actual intent of another person is to hurt or anger us, or make us feel nice, doesn’t matter. We are meant to feel, we are allowed to feel, and our feelings are understandable and expected. Yet, our feelings, no matter how real, never justify not acting on the truth we know. Wrongs don’t change into rights just because we “feel” one way or the other. This is something a lot of people have trouble understanding.

Brain Radiates

How often do you smile and converse when you are out in public even though inside you just want to get away and go home? You feel one way, you act another. The changing variable is your concern about other people’s feelings. In this case, it is their feelings that create your ability to act despite what you feel.

Obviously, this is a good thing; to be kind to others even when we don’t feel like it. But, more often we don’t act because we don’t feel anything at all. We don’t love because we don’t feel loved. We don’t serve because our mental, emotional, spiritual, and psychological reserves are low because others haven’t served us. We don’t communicate because others don’t communicate with us. We don’t forgive or apologize because others haven’t forgiven or apologized to us. Holding back our own intelligent action while we wait on the intelligent action of others is…stupid.

I could present a million different examples. The reality is that we don’t have to feel a certain way in order to act on truth. Does it make it easier to feel motivated? Certainly. When I’m feeling humble because of my own failings it makes it much easier for me to give others slack for theirs. When I’m feeling loved it is much easier for me to give love to others—even enemies. But, when I’m not “feeling” a certain way, it is a thousand times more difficult for me to act intelligently.

Why would God send us out of His presence and allow us to be born into mortality with not even a hint of a memory of our life with Him? Well, because those memories and feelings would make it difficult for us—likely impossible—to act with free will, especially not to the extent necessary to choose the path to and to train for godhood. We would be compelled to choose a certain way based on the feelings we had in relation to those memories. Consider, the small amount of God’s love we feel during this short, mortal existence is so powerful it changes us almost instantly. Communication from the Holy Ghost is so potent and powerful that we cannot truly deny it. How then, if we could see God, feel His presence, and remember our spiritual lives with Him, could our agency not be nearly overpowered by such influence? So, yes feelings are very powerful.

However, acting intelligently on our journey to godhood requires that we have the power to act of our own free will. We cannot become like God if we always have to be acted upon (or be made to feel a certain way) to do what’s right. We cannot always feel a certain way before we will do what is right. If God only acted perfect when He felt perfect, or if He only blessed us when we loved Him, where then would we and His plan of salvation be?

If I’m not feeling the same feeling that I felt during a particularly excellent church service, it makes it more difficult to act on the truths the Holy Spirit taught me during that service. The spiritual feeling has passed. The knowledge received remains. But, without the feeling I become stupid. I somehow think I have to feel charitable to act charitable. I somehow think I have to feel repentant to go and repent. I somehow think I have to feel forgiveness before I can begin to forgive.knowledgepic

But, consider this requirement we place upon ourselves to feel before acting in regard to our faith in Christ. Faith is acting on what we believe and know, not on what we feel in the moment. Faith, scripturally, is acting on things we know, or hope, to be true that are currently unseen to us (Alma 32:21).

If we always waited to “feel” a certain way (whether physically healthy, spiritually uplifted, or emotionally inclined) before we acted on the truth attached to those feelings, we would be of all beings the most weak. It is our ability to act despite our feelings that makes us inherently powerful—with the potential for godhood.

Military professionals, medical personnel, parents, etc. There are any number of groups of people who “train themselves” (or in other words, acquire skills and knowledge) so that when times of crises come, they know how to act despite how they feel. Doctors train some of their sensitivities so that they might be immune to medically traumatic scenes or individual physical appearance. Nurses and paramedics train to gain the skills necessary to handle situations that would send most people into psychological and emotional shock. In those moments, they let their training take control—not their feelings, or lack of feelings.

In Ether 12:27 we read:

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

Again, I acknowledge the fact that the cliché “easier said than done,” applies here. It takes consistent and often heroic effort to act differently than we feel. And, depending on our differing and unique personal situations, often it seems as though we can justify not acting on what we know based on circumstantial variables. But again, when it comes to our weaknesses, an important truth remains…

The Holy Ghost is the Great Sanctifier. As we act—especially if it is against our feelings and natural man inclination—the Holy Ghost can take that willing action(s) and use it to make deep and permanent changes in us, over time. But, if we do not act, despite our feelings, then He cannot create changes is us against our will. If He could, agency would not exist.

Grace is not free, meaning we cannot be made into a godly creature against our will and daily actions. But, Grace is offered freely IF we act to make use of it. For example: what good is a blacksmith’s fire on a metal rod if he does strike the metal rod with a hammer, or bend it with a bending fork after it has been heated up? So, likewise, is the fire of grace useless to us if we take no action to change or bend under the heat it has given us.

Sometimes we congratulate ourselves that our intelligence is greater than others simply because we hide our stupidity better, or because we have longer durations between bouts. But the reality is that comparing ourselves to others is another act/bout of stupidity. We can always justify our stupidity in comparison to others. But, this will not help us become more intelligent. We have to own our bouts of stupidity. The only comparison we can truthfully make is between ourselves and God; against whom we all fall short. That is the only way to see our stupidity clearly and find the motivation to acquire the knowledge and skills we need to act intelligently—if we desire to be like Him.stupiditypic

Think of one truth, right now, that you know you don’t act on at all, or at least not consistently, frequently, or successfully. Now answer these questions:

  • What usually keeps you from acting intelligently? Is it laziness? It is a feeling? Is it a lack of skills?
    • If it is a feeling, or lack of feeling, take the time to write down the details of how that feeling (or lack of feeling) impacts your mental logic.
    • If it is a skill set, take the time to research and write down the steps necessary to get those skills.

There is no weakness, or stupidity, that can’t be overcome—through grace—by intelligent action. But, it takes humility to own your stupidity. It takes wisdom to not be afraid of your struggles, or the hammering and bending necessary to overcome them. It takes courage to work to get the skills you need to act on the knowledge of truth that you have—to make weaknesses become strengths; to turn knowledge into intelligence.

BT