When I was younger, my family visited relatives in Utah every summer. During those visits, I often found the wards (LDS congregations) we visited to be cold, unwelcoming, and stand offish. The whole ward may not have been that way, but the youth and youth leaders (in my experience) were. Now, this is no way affected my testimony of the gospel or of Christ, but it did instill in me a dislike for Mormon Culture (which is a different thing from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Because of that culture, I vowed, for many reasons, that I would never live in Utah.

Over the years it sort of became a joke to me that there were two types of “Mormons”: Utah Mormons, and all others. This joke, of course, referred to the (in my opinion) nature of having so many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in an area that much of the belief system became “every day life” and became taken for granted. I was certain that it must be impossible to develop a deep and true testimony in a culture where there was very little opposition to the truths I held so dear. I didn’t want to raise my kids there and I never wanted to live there.

Well, teenage vision is far from omniscient and is most nearly always distorted. My experiences formed in me an very narrow vision of what Utah was…most certainly an incorrect vision of “all” its people and its members. But, nevertheless, that vision was powerful and I adhered to my vow. I never lived in Utah, nor was I ever even tempted.

Fast forward to 2013. My life was in upheaval. I had gone through a heart-wrenching divorce in 2009. I’d been living and working from home, with my angelic parents. I’d sworn off mid-singles LDS dating (and all dating), quite content to be single, to work, and to travel with close friends. I was teaching early morning seminary. I had a host of “adopted kids” from seminary and a little writing group I led. I felt, as much as I could at the time, quite complete. My family was around me and I was loved and in a society of people I trusted.

It’s a long story, and someday I hope to write a book about it, but I was subtly introduced to my current husband via a missionary that served in both of our wards. After getting to know him, the very real object of him moving to Utah came up. While I was (against my will) developing an attachment to him, I was quite willing to let him go and continue on with my life, especially if dating him and becoming serious required a move to Utah.

Now, certainly, in the back of my mind, I realized how juvenile these feelings were. But, as I was afraid to ever get married again, it seemed very logical to rule this man out of my life for many reasons, not least of which was moving to Utah. We’d only been on a handful of dates, but this man decided to go visit his parents for Christmas. And with that visit came an invitation from his mother (my would-be-mother-in-law, though I wasn’t certain of that at the time) to visit them over the New Years holiday.

I admit, something in my gut knew more than my conscious mind did. I was afraid to go. But, I relented with very little persuasion (wanting to be kind and gracious as she was paying for my travel). The trip was fine. I had a good visit. But the real shocker came when “my man” gave me a ride back to the airport.

I’m a moderate-to-severe introvert. I get my energy from alone time. Thus, I’m a homebody (in many respects) and I like to limit my social events to one-on-one visits and usually only close family and friends. Home, or the feeling of “home,” has always been centered around one place, Moberly, MO. Home has always been with my parents. Even in my previous marriage, our apartments and houses felt like home, but being centered near central MO was always where “I felt home.”

So, as I was driving away from my future in-laws home and a powerful pull tugged at my gut and the desire to cry (as if being torn away from home) began to swirl in my heart, head, and stomach, I was shocked beyond reason. I held myself together (didn’t want to cry like a baby in front of what I now realized was probably my soon-to-be fiancé) the best I could until I got through security. But the feeling only increased when I sat in a chair near where I would board my plane.

I literally cried, in that suppressed leaking sort of way, ALL the way home. I managed to pull myself together enough to meet my parents (who were picking me up from the airport); but that three-hour plane ride the feeling that home had been “moved” never changed. And off all the places God had moved my home…he moved it to Utah.

My heart and head and gut had never been so overwhelmed in such an unexpected way. But, the feeling was certain. Even after getting “home,” a place that was still home, I felt strongly that it was home “in a different way.” God wanted me to take my life “to the mountains,” (Doctrine & Covenants 112:7) and my heart had been adjusted by the Spirit to feel it.InstagramQuotes452

As I was studying Numbers 12 today, the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh felt that home, for them, was on the east side of Jordan. This hit a chord with me. It made me think of Abraham. Abraham was often led from one place to another. Even though he was promised the land of Canaan for his inheritance, it was meant to be the inheritance for his blood line. He never got to enjoy that inheritance. His “home” was where God led him.

It made me think of my own family, that has for so long had its promised land in Missouri. Over the years, God has led our hearts to the homes where He would have us serve, learn, grow, and become. My whole life Missouri has been home. But, since 2013, God has made “home” Utah (despite my best efforts to avoid it). I didn’t know He would lead me to a land other than the one that had always been home. But, God does that. He most certainly works that way with us.

Now, I live in “the culture.” Where everywhere outside Utah is “the mission field” (their joking description for everywhere else that’s not saturated in LDS culture). I’m on “the other side!” And, guess what, there are wonderful people here. It’s something I suspected (and knew in my heart) but didn’t want to know. Now that I’m here I’m grateful that God has set me straight. He has taught me to see more clearly and to “go where I’m called.”

The reality is that people are the same everywhere. Some of us are still learning to be charitable. Some of us are still learning to see past the culture and live the gospel for the gospel’s sake. Some of us are great at welcoming people, but we have other things to work on. Some of us have pioneer ancestry. Some of us are the pioneers in our families and in our lives. It’s not Utah. It’s not Missouri. It’s individuals all trying to live the gospel and to come unto Christ in the best way they can.

What is certain is that God has led each of us where we need to be, if we are listening. I’m here because my heart is here. Where is your heart? Are you where God needs you to be? Have you come to a crossroads in your life where you feel are searching for your home (Ether 1)? Has someone invited you to visit and when you left you felt like you were leaving home (Mosiah 9)?

If you are sincerely looking, God will tell your heart where home is…where your current promised land is. It may be where you are. It may never change. But, it may change. Trust your gut. Go in faith.

BT

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

The Holy Ghost is a Gift, not an Entitlement

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

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

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

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

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

So, how bad to you want it?

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

Hands opening a red gift box with ribbon in shadow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Prescription for Better Recognizing the Guidance of the Holy Ghost

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

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

I might add:

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

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

Different Ways of Feeling or Receiving Promptings and Guidance

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

Reading the Scriptures

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

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

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

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

Making Life Decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Inspired at Church

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

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

Preparing a Lesson

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

BT

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

End Notes

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

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

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

Ministering—it’s a word that, thankfully, most of us don’t use very often and so we can’t attach a sudden meaning to it other than a sense of service or religious work. It’s a word we have to think about, ponder, and look up. And, through the revelation of a prophet, this is what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now do instead of home teaching and visiting teaching.

From what Elder Holland and Sister Bingham taught in their messages, we know the Lord is asking us to drop our Law of Moses approach to what should have always been an act of ministering, but had traditionally become an item to check off a list and document in percentages. For so long, always wanting a measurable way to know if we’ve done our part, as a church, we’ve sometimes turned visiting teaching and home teaching into a numbers game. We’ve frequently made it about us, about checking it off a list, about a way to measure our activity in the Gospel. Well, it’s to be that way no more. God is raising the bar, slowly, for all of us.

The phrase that stuck out to me as this historical organizational change was preached is, “It will not be about you, but about them.”

Ministering is About Following the Spirit

Ministering is not about a checklist or a line to avoid stepping across. It’s first and foremost about learning to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Think of late President Monson. No man ministered more than he and the key to his ministering was following the promptings of the Spirit. Following the Spirit was more important to him than anything else, and it was this spiritual strength that he had that we applauded so much. He was a Christlike example of ministering.

If you google the word “ministering” (verb) you get the following definitions:

  • Attend to the needs of someone
  • Provide something necessary or helpful
  • Act as a minister of religion, meaning to: tend to, care for, take care of, look after, nurse, treat, attend to, see to, help, and assist

Ministering means, more or less, to be a servant.  And, in our case, we need to be inspired servants.

We can’t attend to needs we are unaware of. We can’t be on call for someone who doesn’t trust us or think of us when they have troubles. We can’t provide necessities and helpful acts of service if we don’t have a foundation of friendship upon which to offer them. We can’t care for look after, attend to, or assist people we know nothing about or whom we know only as distant acquaintances and ward members.

Ministering is a whole new level of service that must come from the heart. No heart. No ministering. It means we can’t coast with a disconnected effort and expect miraculous results. It means we are going to have to “tune in” to the lives of others in a deeper, more honest way, so that the Holy Spirit can guide us on the love they most need and the service that will best touch their lives. We’re going to have to become a great deal less self-concerned and a whole lot more self-less.

Home teaching (HT) and visiting teaching (VT) should have always come from the heart. And, I’m certain that for many people, it did. HT and VT should have been a catalyst for ministering. And, for some it was. My testimony of HT and VT came because of a few examples where I was actually ministered to, not simply visited and taught. I’ve had sisters do things that I needed because they were thinking about me, and worried about me, not checking their visit off a list. Their actions then became lifelines to my desperate soul during desperate times. They saved me. I’ve also had home teachers provide for my family in dire need because they paid attention to our needs, and because they had the means to bless us personally. They didn’t think twice about our want, they simply filled it—anonymously, though we puzzled it out. They didn’t just visit and deliver a message. They paid attention. They ministered.

So my testimony of these callings has always been based on ministering experiences that came because of them, not on the calling itself. I have a strong testimony of ministering.

So again, I repeat the phrase that touched my heart, “It will not be about you, but about them.”

Here is the doctrine of ministering. When we make our service about us, then the Spirit cannot help us. When we make our service about others, then the Spirit can get involved. If our only goal is to check something off a list and say we got it done and comfort ourselves regarding our own righteousness, then the Spirit is handicapped in His ability to inspire us how to minister to others. But, if our goal is to do anything, whatever another may need in any way, and we focus our time and energies on discovering those things, the focus drops from us and moves to those for whom we are to minister. Suddenly, the Spirit can work with us and get involved.

(Interesting that we were reminded a great deal about how to learn from and access the gift of the Holy Ghost during this conference. Not a coincidence, I think.)

ministering1

Ministering is About Flexibility and Consecration

In a very literal Sermon-on-the-Mount-type addresses, God told us all through a prophet that checking a visit off a list is a lesser law. “Do not even the Publicans so” (Matthew 5:47)? He is asking us, very pointedly, “Lovest thou me?” And, if we answer, “Yes,” then He is saying very pointedly, then, “feed my sheep.” (St. John 21:16-17)

That’s the command. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And, God isn’t going to give us a one-size-fits-all meal or message.

He isn’t going to tell us how many days to minister. He isn’t going to give us a minimum or maximum on how much love to show or how often to try to touch base. There are no limits to love, are there? God is asking us to love truly from here on out. God is asking us to pray, to ponder, to seek, and to be guided by His Spirit on how to bless the lives of those to whom He gives us stewardship.

Our time, our talents, our resources…everything with which the Lord has blessed us and with which He may bless us…is going to come into play here. I feel that very strongly. Ministering requires meekness (a topic we also learned a great deal about in Conference). Ministering requires a willing heart, and a consecrated heart.

So, what’s the doctrine here? It’s that if we adhere to a rigid idea of what ministering is then we are closed to inspiration and guidance from the Holy Ghost. If we are looking for a checklist, then we are not going to be flexible. We can’t be taught or inspired if we come up with a fixed formula for service and love. We can’t copy others. We must tailor our efforts to the needs of those to whom we are given stewardship. That will always require access to the Holy Spirit and an unlimited ability to be prompted to help in whatever way we are impressed. We can’t close our minds to what might be needed or asked of us.

ministering2

Ministering is About Ultimate Family and Church Unity

And the Lord Called His People Zion because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. (Moses 7:18)

I suspect that this higher law of Ministering is going to require a whole lot more of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that we yet realize. Our goal is not simply to be a little bit better at serving (though that’s a good start and we have to start somewhere). Our goal is to be of one heart and of one mind. Unity in the church is not simply a nice idea. It’s essential as we prepare the earth for the second coming of the Savior. It’s essential as we fulfill the role of our dispensation to take the Gospel to every corner of the earth. It’s critical in our mission to gather Israel.

The church has gone through many changes in the last twenty years. But, note that none of those changes are in fundamental doctrines. The doctrines have never changed. The vast changes are taking place in our application of the fundamental doctrines we espouse. The changes are taking place in how we teach, serve, and build the kingdom. The changes are taking place in small ways as the Lord slowly helps reach a pinnacle of unity that the world has never before seen. We must become more unified to accomplish its mission. And that unification will come as we are all more individually one with Christ.

As a worldwide church, we are better learning how to love the sinner without condoning the sin. We are better learning how to accept people where they are. We are better learning how to hold true to our doctrines without looking down our noses at other religions. We are better learning how to seek out common ground in beliefs with others and finding unity in those common beliefs. We are better learning to understand covenants and promises and how to keep them. We are better learning how to deal with addictions and mental disorders. We are learning to have more charity and to love as Christ commanded us to love… “even as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

The list just keeps going. We ARE getting better…but WE AREN’T THERE YET.

In Doctrine and Covenants it 38:27 says, “I say unto you, be one: and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”

How to Tell if We are Ministering and Not Simply Teaching or List Checking

The Spirit is unrestrained when there is unity. If we would have something to measure ourselves by in this new Ministering challenge, we can measure our success by the amount of unity we achieve in our families, quorums, auxiliaries, groups, branches, wards, stakes, regions, countries, and in the church. The church must stand together, whole and well, if it is to rise to its prophesied stature for these Last Days.

How to Learn How to Minister

Doctrine and Covenants 97:18-21 says, after encouraging the saints to build a temple that the members might be perfected in the understanding of their ministering:

And, now, behold, if Zion (meaning the membership of the church) do these things she shall prosper, and spread herself and become very glorious, very great, and very terrible. And the nations of the earth shall honor her, and shall say: Surely Zion is the city of our God, and surely Zion cannot fall, neither be moved out of her place, for God is there, and the hand of the Lord is there…

If we want to better understand ministering, we should make ourselves worthy of, and attend the temple frequently. One of its purposes is to help us be perfected in the understanding of our ministering. Just thinking about what we must do to enter the temple and minister for ourselves or for those who are dead tells us a lot. We:

  • Remove the world from our bodies and lives
  • Unify ourselves in dress and appearance that we are not distracted by class, rank, titles, wealth, etc.
  • Meet together in reverence
  • Focus on the eternal salvation and exaltation of ourselves and others
  • Seek personal revelation, guidance, comfort, reassurance, knowledge and confidence in God’s will for us
  • Do for others that which they cannot do for themselves
  • Communicate with love, humility, and reverence
  • Focus on being saviors of others, to do what they cannot do for themselves
  • Focus on eternal family, both ancestors, present family, and our posterity

All of the above are also critical for being worthy and able to receive spiritual guidance as we seek to minister to our brothers and sisters outside of the temple. Simple visits with usually well-meaning and well-thought out messages? A bygone thing. A lesser law, even despite its goodness. Constant personal revelation for ourselves and on behalf of those to whom we are given the stewardship to minister? A higher law, a true Christian law, a celestial law.

The celestial kingdom is governed by the law of Christ. Christ didn’t merely visit and recite a message. Christ ministered. If we would learn to minister, we must study the life of the Savior and seek to emulate Him. We must pray for gifts of the Spirit. We must filter the good and better from our lives and seek only the best. We must rise up and meet the challenges of our day without fear, and with an outpouring of love.

Ministering. Yes, we can do this!

BT

There is something for everyone in this blog. From short easy ways to study the scriptures to long and in-depth pondering. Sit tight, and look for what speaks to you.

When I was younger I was taught to read my scriptures daily. That includes the whole Standard Works: Bible (OT and NT), The Book of Mormon-Another Testament of Jesus Christ, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price, along with modern General Conference Talks by Prophets, Apostles, and General Church Authorities.

So, I began reading and studying my scriptures at the age of 13 to 14, thanks to the example of my older sister, Kalley, who read her scriptures every night. Since I shared a room with her we couldn’t go to sleep until she was done. One night, feeling frustrated that I had to wait for her, I gave her a hard time. She said to me, “You should read your scriptures too.” After a few moments of feeling angry, upset, and resentful, my conscience spoke very clearly to me and it was emphasized by the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I should read my scriptures. I could have ignored it. But, I chose to listen to the still, small voice.

At that time, I assumed a front-to-back reading of the Standard Works. You know, start at page one and read, in order, to the end. And, as a young teenager, that worked for me. I was still at that age where during family scripture study, if my mom dared try and stop and have a cool doctrinal discussion, I would grunt, groan, and urge her to move on so we could “wrap it up.” (Sorry Mom!)

But, very soon, as a high school freshman, I started early morning Seminary. This is a 40-50 minute early morning scripture study course, which is free, and which is open to all (members and non-members alike) IF you are willing to get up before 6:00 a.m. and get there on time prepared to hasten off to high school immediately after.

In Seminary, I was led through the scriptures almost chapter by chapter. My mother happened to be my Seminary teacher for my first three years, and she taught me with her passion and her own deep study, how to look a lot deeper at what at the time had still been a lot of black-and-white pages. I began to see from Seminary how the scriptures fit into God’s plan. I saw how the stories taught me about how God works with His children. I saw covenants that I was making as a young member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being made by people from a time in the world I didn’t think I could relate to. Suddenly, I could relate.

Light bulbs began to go off in my mind and in my heart (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3). The Holy Ghost began to work with me. He began to teach me then how to study my scriptures. And, He’s still teaching me. I learn more about how to study God’s word every single day.

And, that’s the key. It’s the Holy Ghost that instructs each of us how best to study for our lives and our needs. You need Him to guide you in what’s most effective for you. My mom didn’t actually ever teach me how to study my scriptures. People at church didn’t teach me how. No mortal actually can. It takes your desire and your efforts PLUS the Holy Ghost to learn how to study the scriptures in a way that will change you into something better. That’s how you get the most out of it, by getting a personalized guidebook from a member of the godhead.

However, suggestions help. You can try them and then the Holy Ghost can help you tweak them just for you.

But, before you study the scriptures you have to have a strong motive. I mean, after all, what’s the point? Why read when you can watch videos or pick up a host of other much more easy to read and interesting books? You have to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” If you don’t know, then you need to figure it out, otherwise, there simply isn’t sufficient motivation.

Some people read because it’s a commandment from God (D&C 1:37-38). Some people read because they are list checkers. They feel better about themselves for being able to check off something good. Some people read because they see it as a way to earn blessings or grace, or to avoid consequences and condemnation.

While none of these are bad reasons, they aren’t going to keep you going for long, or they certainly won’t help you be consistent; and they certainly will not magically create effective study. If you want to get a lot out of reading God’s word, you’ve got to establish a sincere, heartfelt desire as your motivation.

For me, reading my scriptures is about three very important things:

  • Getting to know God so that I can have eternal life (John 17:3)
  • and by consequence coming to truly know myself
  • Understanding how He works, how His plan works, and where I am in that plan

These are my motivators. I can’t come to know God without learning how He speaks, directs His people, shows mercy, blesses, curses, guides, etc. Sure, I can pray and stuff, but He isn’t going to reproduce answers for me about Him and His plan that He’s already put at my fingertips.

The more I come to understand God, the more I recognize about myself. It’s amazing all the things you can discover about yourself as you come to know God. He reveals them to you as fast as you are willing and able to stomach them. It leads to deep peace. It leads to firm faith. It leads to joy.

God’s plan for His children is everywhere in the scriptures. If you don’t understand it, you will never understand life. That’s because “life is the plan.”

So, if you need a boost to get going, here are some ways you can practice, or try out, studying your scriptures. If you try them prayerfully, you will figure out which ways the Spirit is best able to communicate to you. Then, He will instruct you further on how to get the most out of reading your scriptures.

latter-day_saint_scripture_quadruple_combination

Suggestions for Studying Your Scriptures

  1. Try to read all of the Standard Works front-to-back at least once. If you’ve not read them all at least once, do it. Context is important.
  2. Don’t commit yourself to a certain number of pages per day. Instead, commit yourself to read until something stands out to you. Then stop, and ponder what stood out to you.
  3. Read the scriptures with a narrow focus and choose only one focus at a time:
    1. Look for only those verses that talk about covenants
    2. Look for only those verses that talk about God’s love for His children
    3. Look for only those verses that talk about grace (whether using the actual word grace or whether it’s there when you see between the lines)
    4. Look for only those verses that talk about women
    5. Look for only statements of truth/doctrine
    6. Look for how God deals/works with/instructs/ His children, etc.
      1. When you find these focused verses, STOP and ponder what they mean and apply them to your life
      2. Write down what you learn (or else you will forget)
  4. Memorize. Read each day until you find a verse you want to commit to memory (at least for that day/night).
    1. Keep a journal of them. Write down the verse.
    2. After you commit it to basic memory, write down how you feel about the verse and why you chose it.
  5. Are you a music person? Then start at the front of the hymnbook. Each and every hymn has scriptures at the bottom. Use both the words of the hymn and the accompany scriptures to learn more about the power and truth behind that hymn.
    1. Sing it to yourself
    2. Read it to yourself
    3. Write down what lines from the hymn stick out to you and why
    4. Teach yourself how to lead it, as if you were leading a choir.
      1. What words would you have them sing loud? Soft? Intense? Joyful?
      2. Record why you would have them sing certain lines certain ways.
  6. Study to assist you in your own life. Do you have an illness? Are you depressed? Are you without work? Do you struggle to find the money to buy food? Do you have temptations and desires you simply can’t seem to fight another day?
  7. Read the Standard Works looking for others who share your same struggles.
    1. Record who they are and what their issues are, how they dealt with it, how they were blessed or cursed based on their choices
    2. Record how you saw God work with them
    3. What was He trying to teach them?
    4. How was He trying to bless them? What help did He offer?
    5. Was His help accepted and recognized? Or rejected and resented?
  8. Study with a need for a blessing, trait, or power. STOP reading when you come upon verses that speak to you about this need. Write down the inspiration and guidance you receive for that need. Then, MAKE PLAN and PRAY FOR UNDERSTANDING on how to act on and implement this inspiration in your time of need.
    1. You want to have more faith
    2. You want to have more patience
    3. You want to be prepared and able to make and keep temple covenants
    4. You want to strengthen your marriage
    5. You want to understand how to better teach your children
  9. Read a chapter or story as if you have to teach it to others (see a video on this here)
  10. Read to find a daily quote. Then, STOP, and write that sentence or phrase down. Write it in your own words!
    1. Hang the quote on your fridge or front door
    2. Find a way to share it with at least a few other people during that day (or the next if you read at night)
    3. Share it on social media testifying why you know it’s true and how you plan to make it a part of your life that day (application is important)
  11. Read to serve. Immersing yourself in God’s word is a great way to open your mind up to personal revelation.
    1. Say a prayer to ask God to reveal to you who you need to serve to today and how
    2. Open your scriptures to anywhere, or where you’re currently reading
    3. Read until you understand how God wants you to serve that day
  12. Read to eat/feast. Read your scriptures until you find a quote that talks about eating (spiritually or temporally). Type the quote/verse up and put it by everyone’s plate in your family for dinner that night. Have a family discussion about it before eating dinner (or during dinner).
  13. Read to Read. I’m sure that sounds funny. But, if you’re a story person. Read until you come upon a really good story in the scriptures.
    1. Focus on the story
    2. Who are the characters?
    3. What problem are they struggling with?
    4. What do they do?
    5. How is God a part of the story? What role does He play?

I could go on and on. The scriptures are so rich and wonderful. Read to find psychological advice. Read to find what you like! Big on battles? The scriptures are full of them. Just take note of why they were fought, who the opposing parties were, what their political platforms are, and which side trusted in God.

See, you can do it with anything.

Finally, study in faith. The things of the Spirit can only be understood by those who are spiritual, or seeking to be so (1 Corinthians 2:10-11, 14).

I can say, with absolute certainty, that there is no greater power in my life than scripture study. Since I began (thanks to my sister, Kalley) all those years ago I have never been able to put them down. They are a daily companion. I tried to set them aside one night, at the age of 15, and the Spirit whispered, “If you set them aside, what does that say about your life right now? Why would you want to set them aside?” I knew the answers to those questions and though that night I didn’t feel spiritual, I read. Reading changed the actions I took the next day. Those actions made a very clear fork in the road my life took—one that I’m forever grateful for.

May each of you seek to get the most out of reading your scriptures. It will change you—forever.

BT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Holy Ghost is the STAR

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

Making presentation

As a Spiritual Stage Manager our role is to:

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

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

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

Spiritual Stage Management Methods

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

Choose a Clear Gospel Doctrine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open new opportunities

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

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

stagemanagerwheel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parables

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

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

Here’s an example:

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

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

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

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

My Parable:

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

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

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

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

Questions/Discussions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

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

OR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stories & Testimonies

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

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

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

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

Object Lessons

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

Vet your object lessons with the following questions:

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

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

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

Humor

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

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

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

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

Doctrine and Covenants 18:10, 15

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

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

The humor

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

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

Examples of inappropriate humor (DO NOT USE THESE):

Example 1

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

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

Example 2

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

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

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

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

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

Hand open stage red curtain on black background

Summary

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

I hope this is helpful! Good luck.

BT

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You recognize your weaknesses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You have learned to trust God above all else

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful Hispanic Woman Sleeping.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

BT

Doctrine: 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.

BT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Gordon B. Hinckley stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doctrine and Covenants 88:34, “And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.”

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

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

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

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

Truth Torn Paper

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

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BT

Doctrine: The Gift of the Holy Ghost is about being in constant communication with the Almighty God. The baptism of fire, or the Holy Ghost, is prerequisite to entering God’s celestial kingdom. God’s commandments are how we gain spiritual reception and receive His messages, guidance, correction, and inspiration. When we place ourselves in places and circumstances that allow us to get the spiritual reception we need, the Holy Ghost can deliver His heavenly correspondence. By communicating with God, and especially by receiving His messages, we come to know Him!

If you are Christian, then what you are trying to become is more “like Jesus.” This results in a desire to emulate and to invite others to also emulate Him. However, if you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you aspire not only to emulate Christ and invite others to do so, but to actually become like Him, which includes inheriting and sharing in His glory (Romans 8:16-17).

When we are baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we covenant to:

  • Take upon us the name of Jesus Christ
  • To keep God’s commandments and progress toward higher covenants
  • To help, serve, bear with, and bless our fellow men
  • To live worthy of the companionship of the Gift of the Holy Ghost

We promise to do all these things in exchange for one major promised blessing: that His Spirit may always be with us (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77, 79; Mosiah 18:8-10).

It may seem like a lot of effort for one primary accompanying gift. But, OH what a gift it is.

The Gift of the Holy Ghost is the baptism of fire (Matthew 3:11), which Christ, Himself, said was prerequisite to entering His kingdom (John 3:5). The Gift of the Holy Ghost is the gift of eventual sanctification, perfection, and holiness akin to that of Christ. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is about being in constant communication with the Almighty as He tells us what we need to do to become like Him and inherit and share all that He has and His glory.

QUESTION: So, how do we get this constant 24/7 communication and instruction from the Holy Spirit that will help us in our goal to become godly?

ANSWER: We place ourselves in places and circumstances that allow us to get the spiritual reception we need so that the Holy Ghost can deliver His heavenly correspondence.

That’s it, huh? Yep. Think about. How hard is it to make/get a phone call or a send/receive a text message with only one bar? How difficult is it to upload or download files with a spotty Wi-fi connection? And these are just worldly metaphors. When it comes to divine communication, the strength of our connection and service provider makes all the difference.human hand using smartphone on white background

If you want to know why it makes a difference whether you go to church or not, you need only ask yourself the following type of questions:

What happens when I go to church that enables me to get messages from the Holy Ghost that I may not be able to get while sitting at home?

What happens when I accept a calling at church and fulfill it that doesn’t happen when I’m merely a spectator?

Church is one of the places we can increase our number of spiritual service bars or strengthen our spiritual Wi-fi connection.

If you want to know why it makes a difference to read your scriptures, you need only ask yourself the following type of questions:

What happens when I read God’s word that enables me to get messages from the Holy Ghost that I may not be able to get by reading other things?

What happens when I study the scriptures looking for answers to a problem that doesn’t happen when I merely sit on my couch and complain that I have a problem?

The shear act of exerting mental and physical effort toward something increases the strength of our spiritual connection.

If you want to know why it makes a difference to pray even though God already knows your thoughts, feelings, and future, you need only ask yourself the following:

What happens in my mind when I get on my knees and talk to God?

What happens to my logic and reasoning as I try to seek God’s help or explain my troubles to Him?

What happens when I confess my sins to God and ask for Him to forgive me that doesn’t happen when I don’t consciously approach Him?

Now, it’s possible to pray with vain repetitions and not do much to change our spiritual reception. That is akin to uploading your files but not downloading the response. It’s also quite possible to pray and ask God what decision to make and yet be unwilling to accept His answer. In these cases, we may be trying to get a message, but we keep failing to receive it based on our lack of humility and submission to His actual answer. God doesn’t send messages we are not prepared for. Hence, the need for us to do the things He requires so that we are willing and prepared.

Every commandment we have, no matter how small or simple it seems, has the ability (as we keep it) to open our minds and hearts up to communication from the Holy Ghost. When we open up our hearts and minds, the Holy Ghost can tell us the next step we need to take to inherit eternal life. He can tell us what we’re doing right, where we’re close but need to refocus, and what we need to improve upon, change, or forsake. He can help us to forgive. He can grant us peace while we persevere through a trial. He can open our eyes to the struggles of others so that we can help them. Every message we get from Him we get by placing ourselves in circumstances where our thoughts and actions will best open us up to God’s guidance.

By communicating with God, and especially by receiving His messages, we come to know Him! It is the only way to do so. Yet, many Christians (and that includes those who claim to be Mormons) today are happy to settle for a one-sided relationship with God, and only when it suits their needs. Indeed, modern views of God and His commandments are preached by those who are the worst kind of follower—fair weather friends—who abandon God anytime loyalty requires sacrifice, struggle, patience, long-suffering, charity, or effort.

In Alma 37:6 we read:

Mobile Phone Signal Search

And now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.

God’s simple requests and commands to get spiritual reception baffle even the most devout when they fail to understand their incredible and necessary purpose—to create opportunities for us to receive heavenly communication and develop a relationship with God.

A person can’t truly claim to have a relationship with God if they don’t try to communicate with Him (especially receiving communication from Him) in even small ways. Showing up for twice a year holidays is not a relationship. As well, if they keep a selective list of commandments and agree with only some beliefs then they are not the religion they call themselves by, they are their own religion and have created their own god (Doctrine and Covenants 1:16). We can claim to be Christian, but if we don’t attempt to at least emulate Christ and “keep His commandments,” than we aren’t truly His (John 14:15). If we claim to be Mormon and yet make no attempt to become godly and enter into the strait and narrow path that allows us to inherit His glory (Doctrine and Covenants 132:21-25), then we are not keeping our baptismal covenants (priesthood covenants, or temple covenants). We are of those who say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name done many wonderful works” (Matthew 7:22)? God’s answer to this minimal or partial conversion to His plan was this (Matthew 7:2123):

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven… And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

This is also reminiscent of the parable of the ten virgins. Remember the ten virgins were likened unto the Kingdom of God, which is His church (or those who claim to be of His church). The five foolish virgins were rejected because Christ knew them not, meaning also that those foolish virgins didn’t know Him, either (Matthew 25:1-12).

If we don’t live our lives so that we can receive correspondence from the Almighty, how can we say we love Him? We don’t even know Him! It’s like having a thousand celestial text messages sitting out in the limbo of cell phone towers waiting for us to put ourselves in places where we get service. And then, we can still only get one message at a time and respond to it before the next one will come. Meaning, that occasional moments of reception a few times a week simply isn’t going to cut it.

In Mosiah 5:13 it says:

For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?

For this is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent (John 17:3).

To know God is to know His voice, which we can’t know if we purposefully choose to avoid receiving messages from that voice. If we truly love Him we will keep His commandments and follow Him (John 10:14-16). For, the things that He has done we are commanded also to do (3 Nephi 27:21-22).

So, maybe you pray, but you don’t attend church and you knowingly break commandments. Failed connection. You’re missing tons of messages. So, maybe you attend church, but you don’t read or study your scriptures. Failed connection. You’re still missing many messages. So, maybe you attend church but you refuse to accept a calling. Failed connection. I could go on and on with temple attendance and many other things God has asked us to do; and most of them are small and simple things. If you are ignoring one or many of these things, you’re still missing messages. In fact, you are spurning them because of your pride. And, the longer you go without good spiritual reception (on a consistent, constant basis) the longer it will take you to truly come to know God and to understand the path He wishes you to take in order to inherit His glory and to become like Him.

God is the one who established the spiritual reception guidelines (i.e.commands). They include daily prayers with real intent, daily scripture study, daily service to our fellow men, keeping the Sabbath Day holy, attending the temple, and NOT doing many things. He gave us those commandments so that we could get to know Him, correspond with Him, and become like Him. And He gave us those commandments, which if we keep, we will have constant, 24/7 guidance and help from Him. That’s what we covenant to do when we are baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Most of us rarely miss a text message or social media post from mere acquaintances. Indeed, we can hardly set down our electronic devices for fear of missing one of those cursory messages. How sad, then, that we do not treat messages from God with at least the same urgency because we don’t want to do what it takes to “get spiritual reception.”

BT

Doctrines: There is no vicarious road to replace the individual effort required to ponder, study, reason, and receive individual answers and witnesses from God through the Holy Ghost. If we let others ponder for us we are likely to end up converted to, and preaching, their version of the gospel, instead of God’s version… And their version cannot spiritually sustain us nor lead us to Christ.

I’d like to start this blog with some quotes from one of my favorite books, The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. By themselves these quotes contain true doctrines with many possible applications to this discussion.

“Expectations is the place you go to before you get to where you’re going. Of course, some people never go beyond Expectations, but my job is to hurry them along whether they like it or not.”

___

“Help you! You must help yourself,” [Tock the watch dog] replied, carefully winding himself with his left leg. “I suppose you know why you got stuck.”

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

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

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

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

___

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I suppose the first question is, “What is IL-PONDERING?” Well, turns out the word ponder doesn’t have any very good antonyms, or at least not that I liked. They all are basically “not thinking,” but I think il-pondering is far more about thinking you are pondering, when really you are not.

The prefix IL means: not, opposite of, without

So the perils of il-pondering are that you are actually not pondering (though you may think you are), or that you are doing the opposite of pondering which is letting others think for you; or perhaps you ponder but invalidate the process for many various reasons.

Question

So, before we can discuss how il-pondering happens, let’s talk about how to ponder.

The following steps have been compiled from a combination of four scripture references: Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3, 9:7-9; Joseph Smith-History 1:8-13; 2 Nephi 32:1-7.

HOW TO PONDER

  1. Set aside your self-imposed, limited expectations for what God’s answer and guidance will be and open yourself up to consider not what you expect to learn, but what God has for you to learn and understand.
  2. Establish a firm, doctrinally-based question upon which you intend to act (For help with this concept see blog post Getting Answers to Prayers: EXPEDIENCY). God can tell you anything, but He’s much more likely to reveal those things to you which pertain to “you” and which will help “you” become more like Him.
  3. Pray for guidance and then while you are waiting for it, study, research, and reason. Then, pray again for understanding and to sort through the knowledge you’ve gleaned.
  4. Live worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost and invite Him to testify and guide you by being an active learner. You can do this by accessing those resources God has commanded us to use to get His answers: prophetic guidance, scripture study, prayer, and other appropriate and positive influences within our lives.
  5. When you receive advice from others, get the advice confirmed by the Holy Ghost who will tell you in BOTH your mind and your hearts, if the advice is God’s will for you.

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

Il-pondering will happen when we limit our perspective for learning and receiving answers from God to our own limited and finite expectations. We think we can imagine what God will say, but we can’t (Isaiah 55:8-9). So, if we try to put God in our box (which can’t be done), then we will sit inside that tiny box, all alone—or with others who have climbed in—and never get the knowledge we need.

Many times we il-ponder when we focus on superficial questions to which God has an answer, but because of the lack of eternal importance of the answer, or our inability to comprehend the infinite expanse of the answer, we cannot receive it. For example: it’s not that understanding how the dinosaurs and Cro-Magnon man play into the creation of Adam and Eve aren’t interesting, but the reality is that the answer won’t affect our ability to keep God’s commandments and become like Him. We can do that without knowing those things. Plus, the answer would probably be beyond our ability to grasp.

We also il-ponder when our intense or excessive emotions of disappointment, anger, resentment, vengeance, passion, and even dumfounded-confusion drive our search. This is because what we are looking for is an immediate fix for our emotional discomfort and not the ultimate truth—which is often not immediately comfortable.

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

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

We il-ponder when we study minimally, research at a glance, reason only our limited viewpoint, and fail to pray before and after for inspiration, help, and guidance.

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

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

Relaxe

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pharisees were the blind guides upon whom so many were so often deceived. They spent years establishing the Oral Law and making it more important than The Law. Then, with their education and wealth, they set themselves up as examples to follow. When Christ came, these Pharisees were unable to let go of their expectations of the Christ they had failed to truly study about and prepare for. They did not know Him, or His gospel, they only knew their version of Christ and His gospel…so they could not recognize Him! The Pharisees were also accused by Jesus Christ of being blind guides and making converts to “their version of Christ’s religion” twofold more the children of hell than they, themselves, were (Matthew 23:15).

If we continually submit to others’ versions of truth, to others’ pondering, and not doing our own, we are allowing ourselves to be led by “blind guides” and we have no personal promptings or spiritual witnesses to fall back on. And, if we are not careful, we will become their converts and not Christ’s, we will preach their gospel and not Christ’s, and we will become twofold more the children of hell, than those whom we originally followed.

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

2 Nephi 32:1-7 says:

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

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

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

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

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

Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ

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

I am one of those people that is inherently untrusting of others’ opinions, and even more so of their facts. If someone cites a reference in their essay, research paper, blog, or other post, I usually look it up. And, I’m never shocked (no, never shocked) to find out that they’ve skewed the idea, misunderstood the point, misquoted the facts, failed to read the whole reference themselves, and “jumped to conclusions” about its interpretation. Often they steal ideas because they don’t have their own!

Some of those who preach the most vehemently about negative or accusational religious topics are often il-ponderers themselves. Yet, people eat it up for the il-pondering reasons above. And, the only way for you and I to know the difference is to research their words, check their references, compare it with teachings in the scriptures, compare it with the words and teachings of living prophets and apostles, and vet their negative and accusational declarations through prayer and a witness from the Holy Spirit.

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

So, hopefully, if you’re reading this and you’ve been an il-ponderer, you will get moving again by thinking on your own and seeking your own witness. Or, perhaps you will swim back from the Island of Conclusions—even though it’s a long swim. Or, hopefully, you will finally get past Expectations and to the destination that God intends for you.

BT