I’m going out of my normal format on this post. It’s a poem…and a painting.

I have to be honest. I did not come up with this idea on my own. A lady, named Naomi, in a the ward I grew up in, through various circumstances, provided the title and the impetus. It was such a brilliant idea! The moment it was presented to me I felt immediately impressed to write the poem below after studying Lehi’s dream for an entire day. The inspiration and work for the painting followed last night and today. So, here’s a brief thought to preface it.

Lehi recounted a dream/vision he had to his children: Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Nephi, etc. We get Nephi’s summary of the dream in 1 Nephi 8, and the interpretation thereafter. I’m quite sure there was more to it. But, because Nephi was the mouthpiece, we are resigned to be happy with his particular perspective. Which, is an effective perspective.

However, did Lehi’s dream, in detail, include more information on what it looks like when we begin to feel the pull to come back? Does the original (which we don’t have) talk more about repentance and those who come back from the great and spacious building, or who manage to find their way back after wandering off and being lost?

When those of us who do falter for a while begin to feel the pull to come back, it can be a daunting view when we turn again to find that sweet white fruit. We are living “Lehi’s dream,” and it’s not the part of the dream that’s fun. That tree, which contains the fullness of God’s love (as available through His ordinances and covenants), seems awfully far away. It’s not a matter of simply grabbing back onto the iron rod after having taken a few steps away. It’s a matter of starting a journey full of peril and struggle simply to get back to the iron rod. Then, once we find the rod it’s another journey to get back to the tree.

I wrote this poem for my kids…all of them. My past seminary kids. My present YW. My step kids. My daughter (who is still a toddler).  I also wrote it for my family–all of them. I dedicate this to “those whom I love,” that they may know that when they decide to turn back to that sweet, white fruit, that they can make it. The Man-in-white will be there. Christ’s grace is sufficient.

Below, find the picture I painted and the poem I wrote, both titled, “Back to the Tree.” Any time you see a (…) it indicates a “pause for effect.”

BackToTheTree

Back to the Tree

By the Doctrine Lady

I’m standing on a balcony that’s way up in the sky

I sometimes can’t remember how I got up here so high

I look across a wilderness with shadows long and tall

Then chance a glance down toward the ground, it makes me feel so small

The balcony it trembles underneath my tired feet

Then suddenly I am pelted with dark rains and bitter sleet

I take a step back from the ledge to get out of the rain

And find that even inside there is emptiness and pain

I cast my eyes out to the field as backward I retreat

And see a small light flickering with continual repeat

It wakes a mem’ry in my mind, I know that tiny flare

It’s small white fruit that’s on a tree in the darkness way out there

 

My soul begins to rumble like the building that I’m in

I’m hungry for that fruit, but my head is in a spin

The cement beneath my feet begins to crack a little bit

I turn and run to find some stairs, then fall into a pit

The people all around me, I guess they’ve been there all along,

Take notice of my wretched fall but still won’t heed my song

“We cannot get you out—if we do you’ll run away.”

“You’re better off here, trust us—it has to be this way.”

I cast my eyes up to the sky, but the building blocks my view

I feel no hope, I’m in despair, I don’t know what to do

I bow my head, hand on my heart, yet not sure how to begin

Then the building shakes, the ceiling cracks, and a little light gets in

 

My courage grows, I open my mouth and call out to the Lord

Then the building falls into an abyss, and I’m left hanging by a single cord

I get cradled by a warm south wind and it carries me to the ground

My feet touch down onto the earth, I don’t even hear a sound

My hungering soul leads me forward—into a deep dark night

But my feet trudge through some dreary waste and I lose the small white light

I walk and walk for hours and collapse upon the dirt

And when I wake I find myself in red mud up to my shirt

Determined to press forward now that day at last has dawned

I cast my eyes fast forward where a dirty fountain spawns

I scarce can see a trace, of the white fruit through mist and trees

Unworthiness, it crushes me, and I sink back to my knees

 

And then, before I cast myself back on the filthy ground

I hear a glorious being say, “At last you have been found.”

“I have left the flock to seek you. Please rise and take my hand.”

“For I am here to lead you past the river and the sand.”

Before I can look up, I feel sore tears upon my face

Then the Man-in-white He wipes them with His robes and with His grace

He bids me take His hand, then pulls me up off of the sod

Then strangely now He places my hand on a rusty iron rod

I take the metal in my hand, but I don’t want to cling real tight

And after walking just a bit, the Man-in-white soon leaves my sight

I panic now and stop and look to see where He has gone

And I only see the iron rod, it’s extensive, it is long

 

Yet, it’s dark enough to see among the mists and all the fog

That seem to appear from nowhere, so I break into a jog

But in my haste, my hand breaks free from the solid metal rail

My feet twist up, I trip and fall, and muddy water hides my wail

I’m drowning now in a murky bog, it’s bottom binds my feet

And suddenly, the rain is back, as is the cold, dark sleet

My limbs go numb and I curse myself, for letting go the rod

Why couldn’t I have just slowed down and been satisfied to trod

Impatience was my downfall, and some carelessness, and fight

I was angry that I had been left by the Man I saw in white

Not ready yet to freeze to death I start paddling with my hands

I call for help, … and there He is, … to remove my selfish bands

 

“Hold to the rod, I promise you, it’s strong and bright and true.”

“Look past the rust and hold on tight, it’ll safely guide you through.”

I’m shivering now with cold, and I still feel a bit uptight

But I trembling stomp up to the rod while mumbling about my plight

Yet, casting my eyes forward I see through the mists a hole

And through that hole I see the fruit, it’s flickering warms my soul

Clinging a little tighter, I walk forward next to the rod

It’s sturdy, and it’s iron, and I trod and trod and trod

I’m tempted very often to keep my eyes cast down and back

But as I trip and stumble I notice my hand begins to slack

Remembering the filthy bog, I grab tight to the cold rail

I raise my eyes and find the fruit, I’m determined not to fail

 

The mists are cold, the darts are sharp, it would be so easy to let go

And the building in the air is back, it’s in the sun and all aglow

I see its people laughing, clinking glasses, and poking fun

They are pointing at me and my sodden clothes, and I suddenly want to be done

One hand pulls free from the iron rod, and for a moment I feel the warm

From the sun, and the building up in the sky, seep into that one arm

I start to cast off, to join the group, they beckon with hands to me …

Then I see the building shake a bit and my temptation is wrestled free

I remember how it crumbled and the treatment of its crowd

I remember how the Man-in-white heard my voice when I called out loud

I quickly grab back hold again of the rusty iron rod

But it looks a little more shiny to me, which I find a little bit odd

 

Hand-over-hand, I pull myself, with my eyes fixed upon the tree

The mists, they clear, and at last I see my fam’ly beckoning to me

A fire kindles in my soul and renewed hunger in my heart

I reach for their hands, and the offered fruit, and pull out a final dart

They pull me in, I feel ashamed, how had I forgotten they were here?

But they hold me tight and tend my wounds, and it’s suddenly all so clear

When finally fed and rightly healed, I feel a pounding in my head

It’s a mix of awe and gratitude and just a little dread

I turn my face toward the beautiful tree and see the Man-in-white

With arms outstretched, He calls to me, and I remember again my plight

I bow my head, in a mess of shame, as I think back on my past

Back then I didn’t quite understand what it meant to get off the path

 

Then feeling the pull of His powerful gaze, I slowly raise my eyes

He beckons to me, I swallow hard, wishing I’d prepared my weak replies

“I lost my way but I’ve come back. I never forgot the light.”

“I simply looked away too long, and doubt bedimmed my sight.”

“When mists of darkness hid the way I sought the building in the sky.”

“And then once there, I couldn’t recall, how I’d gotten up so high.”

“It wasn’t until I found the courage to look back the way I’d come.”

“Then, I saw the little light flickering, and I knew it was time to go home.”

… With measured steps, I close the space between His feet and mine

When barely there, … I fall to my knees, … and say, “My will is thine.”

The Man-in-white, He lifts me up, His hand beneath my chin

“Your will was all that I required so that I could cleanse your sin.”

 

BT

 

Doctrine: God is the exact opposite of casual. If we expect Him to be personal then we cannot expect Him to be casual. If we want a personal relationship with Him then we cannot be casual either.

The origin of the word “friend” has it’s root meaning from Indo-European “to love.” And yet, where once the term friend truly meant someone close to us—whom we knew and loved; in modern times we now use the word friend casually; meaning loosely, without much thought or premeditation, relaxed, indefinite, and in a less meaningful sense. It means everything from acquaintance to someone remotely connected to us through other acquaintances—which person could not truly be categorized as a real friend (by actual definition).

I grew up in a world only barely impacted by the Internet, social media, and texting. Yet, now these three mediums for communication have literally become powerhouses changing the social, emotional, and psychological makeup of the entire world. Indeed, how we find, create, enter, and maintain relationships (whether romantic, family, or friend) has been drastically affected by the way we communicate socially, which is now primarily online, or through an electronic device. The nature of communication and relationships has changed and so also our proper perceptions of them.

In conjunction with these societal changes, our perception of what our relationship with God should be has also changed. And, in many cases, not for the better. The generation born in the 90s knows no other world than the one before us now. And, to them everyone is a “friend.” And, that casual assignment of such a powerful word has stretched to their expectations of God.

The whole world has become casual about so much, and so people now assume or expect God to be casual. He is NOT.

Young pretty woman using social media on her smartphone

We preach that God is personal. That Christ is our friend. And people today suddenly assume that means He’s on Facebook—spiritually. They assume they can talk to God casually. They assume that He will answer casually. When they say, “God’s my friend,” they literally view Him as a casual FB buddy who follows their timeline and posts emoticons and silly comments.

People seem to believe that God is casual about communication. That He should respond immediately to all “texts,” and post status updates if He’s going to take a while to get back to us. People suddenly expect God to spill His guts “online” for the whole world to see because that’s what “friends” do. They expect God to post selfies and enjoy and repost innocent (if a bit crude) jokes. After all, it’s all in fun, right? God should be able to handle a little humor.

Now, I’m the first to claim God as my truest friend. He has been there for me when no one else could be. He is loyal. He is true. He tells me the truth about myself even when I might rather not hear it. He doesn’t beat around the bush. I know exactly what He expects out of our relationship. He’s never failed me. He hasn’t always explained everything, immediately; but to date, I can say confidently that He’s answered all my sincere, genuine questions. But even though He’s personal with me, I would certainly never label Him my buddy. Such a term is too casual for the kind of relationship, the kind of friendship I enjoy with God. And to label it so would diminish, rather than support, who He is to me.

God is not a casual pal. The word casual means: relaxed, unconcerned, laid back, acting without much thought or premeditation, acting without sufficient care or preparation, not regular or permanent, temporary, happening by chance, accidental, happening without formality of manner, informal…

God is the exact opposite of casual. He is deliberate, concerned, focused, acting only with thought and premeditation, acting with sufficient care and preparation, regular, permanent, fixed, acting by choice, purposeful, acts with formality of manner, formal… It is because He is NOT casual that He is able to be personal. A casual being cannot be personal because the very nature of “personal” is sacred, deep, and attaching. We cannot attach ourselves, ultimately, to people who are casual—they simply can’t be trusted.

If God were casual being then He could not be a personal God, and in fact, He would not be a God at all.

However, it is His lack of casualness and His incredible personal nature that often confuses and discourages the modern world from forging ties with Him. They want Him to care less and expect less. But, unfortunately, He cares perfectly and always has the highest expectations. And so, the modern generation struggles to come to know Him because they are unwilling to bend to His terms for a relationship. They want Him to be deep with them without them having to be deep in return.

Society, for all that it claims, is actually more impersonal than ever before. And God, cannot be impersonal. He is our Father. Thus, He refuses casual and impersonal relationships. For He wants only serious and personal relationships with His children. And, consequently, it is only that type of relationship that will enable us to come to know Him, become like Him, and live in His presence forever (St. John 17:3).

C.S Lewis has a brilliant quote in The Problem of Pain that perfectly describes the world today as regards their desire for a casual relationship with God. He says:

By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness—the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’. Not many people, I admit, would formulate a theology in precisely those terms: but a conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds. I do not claim to be an exception:  I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that, God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.

This year I took time out to watch the Face-to-Face with Elder Holland and President Eyring (which I highly recommend all of you watch by clicking on the link provided). I was merely interested, as any of us should be when two apostles of the Lord, Jesus Christ, take time out to have a candid conversation with the youth of the world, as to what they would talk about. So, I listened to it.

I didn’t realize it was going to last as long as it did. But, once I got rolling I didn’t want it to end. They said so many wonderful things. But, in response to a question from a girl who was struggling with her relationship with God, they said some of the most astounding things.

The girl was struggling to establish a back-and-forth dialogue with God. She was trying to talk to Him in her prayers and get immediate responses back, etc. I remember listening harder, because I was certain these two Christlike men would give us all the answer to this personal dialogue with the Almighty that we all fundamentally desire. And yet, their response was unlike anything I expected. They, instead of giving the recipe for “chatting with God” like we tend to expect these days, they both indicated the exact opposite.

I don’t remember their exact words (you really should go listen to it on your own). I only remember the distinct impression I got when President Eyring talked about when he prays he imagines himself approaching the throne of God. This image, of approaching God on a throne, hit me powerfully: GOD IS PERSONAL, BUT HE IS NOT CASUAL. I was then grateful for the two apostles’ reassurances that in all their experiences, they, neither of them, had ever had the privilege of having God, the Father, carry on a casual back-and-forth conversation with them. They reminded the youth, and me, that God is our Father, but He is also the Almighty God, Creator of worlds without end, and in no uncertain terms, Master of the Universe.

While God is love we must also respect the type of being He is and how He is capable of being Love. One does not become all-loving by being casual in any way. Thus, though God is personal with us, and we should be ourselves when we approach Him, we should not be casual in our conversations with Him nor should we expect Him to be casual with us or to be satisfied with a casual relationship.

After listening to President Eyring’s comments, I remember thinking I almost wanted to laugh. Why had I, or this girl, ever expected God to be casual when His very station requires that He be the exact opposite? Why would any of us imagine that we, in our limited mortal station, could converse—as if with a Facebook friend—with the Almighty God. I hadn’t even realized that I had been harboring that incorrect ideal, and yet after hearing this Face-to-Face, it occurred to me that in many ways I had been attempting to formulate an idea of God and prayer that was far more casual than it should be. It has changed me and my prayers for good. They will never be the same, and I can tell you that they are far better than they have ever been.

Now, lest anyone think I’m trying to present God as a being we can’t approach, let me clarify. God is our Father. He wants us to come before Him and we desire it (whether we recognize it or not). But, how we approach Him and how we expect to converse with Him is not casual, nor should we ever treat it as such. Because if we consider our supplications and applications to Him as casual (relaxed, unconcerned, laid back, acting without much thought or premeditation, acting without sufficient care or preparation, not regular or permanent, temporary, happening by chance, accidental, happening without formality of manner, informal…) then how can we expect Him to take such conversation or applications seriously? Do we take them seriously?

In order for us to have a relationship with God we must take that relationship seriously.

Yes, we can be ourselves. But, we need to be respectful. Yes, we can talk to Him about everything. But, we need to take those conversations seriously. Yes, we can pray anywhere. But, when we pray, we need to focus on that prayer and care about it. It shouldn’t be a passing thought that we toss into the air and hope God catches it.

I don’t take seriously the sentence someone yells to me in the wind as they drive by in a car with their radio blazing and horn honking. Do you? I don’t take seriously a sentence my husband says to me if he’s saying it half-heartedly while he’s surfing the Internet. Would you? Do we expect the God of the Universe, and our Eternal Father, to take seriously casual conversation that neither increases our relationship with Him nor shows a sincere desire to listen to what He might actually have to say to us? Or, do we ask and ask and ask Him for guidance and help, but expect His instructions to allow us to remain casual in our observance of His commandments?

God has everything we want IF we are willing to take Him, His plan, and His communications with us seriously. That means we listen with the intent to obey and we ask with the intent to bend our will to His, not the other way around.

God, our Father, spends every moment of His eternity trying to help us become like Him (Moses 1:39). He has offered up His Only Begotten Son, willingly, that we might each, individually, have the chance to choose to become like Him and spend eternity with Him, working by His side to exalt others. Thus, He takes His relationship with us so seriously that He doesn’t waste time with casual conversation. What good to Him is ‘shooting the breeze?’ What serious love, mercy, grace, repentance, and eternal progression we are willing to receive, He offers to us in whatever doses we are willing to receive them when we approach Him deliberately and purposefully. If we approach Him not at all, He reminds us of His love and expectations through others.Young  girl using smart phone,Social media concept.

So, it does us no good to insist that God get to know us on our casual, relaxed terms. It does us no good to try to force the God of the Universe to “chill out” and simply let us do as we want, and when we feel like it we’ll try to do a few of the things He asks. To do so is to ask Him to love us less, which He cannot do, for His love is perfect. And His perfect love requires that He never desist in offering us all that He has on His terms, which are the only terms upon which His powers and glory can be received.

I have spent years trying to get to know God better. I didn’t always know that I was doing it. I was just trying to keep commandments, get answers to hard questions, and try to understand how He worked. And, in consequence of my deliberate, purposeful, determined efforts, I was surprised to find out that I was getting to know Him. Far be it from me to claim that I understand God. I don’t think that’s possible. But, as much as I am able, I am learning who He is, how He works, and how to learn more and more about Him. It has brought so much light and understanding into my life that I weep to see so many so oblivious to Him and His outstretched hands. They simply mentally bat those eternal hands aside because they don’t want to take seriously the conditions necessary to grab hold.

I cry in my head, “I know Him! He loves you! Please take some time to get to know Him! The answers to everything come in time…I know, I’ve tested it. Please try it! You’ll be so much happier!” Sometimes I cry it in my blogs…like this one…

But, for most, God is still—in their minds—a casual acquaintance; a distant friend on social media connected to them distantly through other family and friends. They ignore most of His “posts.” They view Him as external and unknowable. They have no desire to know Him—yet. And, yet, He waits and waits and waits and waits for them. “Come unto me,” He says in a very personal, deliberate, and loving manner.

So, if you find you are struggling in your relationship and prayers to God, perhaps it may help you to consider that while He is personal, He is not casual. And, perhaps the more seriously you take your relationship with Him the more quickly you’ll find that it blossoms and grows into something not unlike what Christ offered to the woman at the well; the kind of relationship that will sustain you through all others, because it’s the only relationship with the power you need. You can’t get it anywhere else. Not from children, friends, from a romantic relationship, and not even from a treasured spouse. Those relationships generate power only as they are approached through your relationship with God.

As C.S. Lewis said (Mere Christianity, Book 2, Chapter 3:

…What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they…could…invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside of God, apart from God.  And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

The reason why this can never succeed is this.  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 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.  There is no such thing.

That is the key to history.  Terrific energy is expended—civilizations are built up—excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong.  Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back to misery and ruin.  In fact, the machine conks.  It seems to start up all right and run a few yards, and then it breaks down.  They are trying to run it on the wrong juice.  That is what Satan has done to us humans.

As long as we expect God to be casual we will fail to find a truly satisfying and fulfilling personal relationship with Him. This lack of a personal relationship with God will prevent us from finding ultimate peace and happiness in our lives. We need that personal relationship with Him to thrive, not just survive. But, in order to do that, we have to get out of this casual mind set. We have to become serious about God and choose Him deliberately (as He has chosen and loved us), not casually—as we seem determined to do.

BT

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

impossible4

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

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

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

C.S. Lewis said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

If You Understand Grace, then the Gospel is Not Impossible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Doctrine and Covenants 137:9, it says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The prophet Lorenzo Snow taught:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mia Wasikowska is Alice in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Conclusion

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

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

BT

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: Our primary identity is that we are Children of God. If we are true to God, then we are being true to ourselves. Christ faced and experienced ALL temptation and He overcame all of it to be “true to Himself,” and His role in God’s plan of salvation.

Today’s post is a guest post. I came across Tristan on Instagram (@the_gay_r.m) and was so impressed with his posts, and eventually his story, that I asked him to write this post. And, it’s power has already sent my mind to pondering… There is some powerful doctrine here. It is simple, but not easy. It’s clear, but daunting. And, it applies to all of us, whether we experience this particular mortal struggle, weakness, or others.

Tristan FosterYou can also follow Tristan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thegayrm/ or the direct link to his blog is http://thegayrm.blogspot.com/

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As a member of the Church who experiences same-sex attraction, I often find myself in the crossfire between well-intentioned churchgoers and the LGBT community. I am often asked by members of both of these parties why I choose to stay in the Church. The short answer is that I have a testimony of the Gospel forged in the trials of my faith. However, a complex situation such as mine warrants a more detailed explanation.

From a young age I was taught the Gospel of Christ in its purity, as most children who actively attend church are. In primary we are drilled with the song “I am a Child of God,” which quickly grows old for many people. It took many years for the importance of this hymn to pierce my heart. I often thought that being a child of God wasn’t all that special, since literally everyone is a child of God (even Satan, for crying out loud, and look what happened to him!). My patriarchal blessing advices me to always remember that I have Heavenly Parents who know me better than I know myself.

A common phrase in the world today is “Be true to yourself.” This is especially true in the LGBT community. I know many people who have left their spouses to pursue same-sex relationships in an effort to be “authentic.” And, ironically, active members of the Church who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria are continuously ridiculed by the world for “living a lie.” This attempt to invalidate the choices of temple-worthy saints has long-lost its novelty in my book.

Everyone on the planet chose to come here by accepting Christ’s Plan of Salvation. We are all children of the Supreme creator of the universe, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. The God who parted the Red Sea and whose power broke the bonds of death and hell. We are children of deity. Now, if I were to live a lifestyle contrary to the commandments and framework of God’s plan, am I living true to myself as a son of God? Absolutely not. Neither am I being true to Him. I often tag my posts with #TrueToHim to illustrate what it means to be truly authentic as a child of God. If we are being true to Him, we are most certainly being true to ourselves.

The second gospel doctrine that my testimony is rooted in is the infinite atonement. It’s something that we have right in front of us all the time yet we too often fail to comprehend its power. My favorite verses of scripture are Alma 7:11-13 because they so beautifully elaborate upon this subject. Because the Lord chose to endure all that we have gone through, not only our sin and guilt but even our pain and temptations, He was enabled to best succor us. Many people teach that to “succor” means “to run to.” However, it actually means “to nourish or help.” His bowels are full of mercy toward us because of the empathy granted Him by His sacrifice. Because of this, He above any other force knows us. He weeps with us because He understands the difficult choices we have to make daily and the opposition that seems to crush us.

Did the Savior experience same-sex attraction? Maybe. We aren’t entirely sure how He took upon Himself our temptations, but in any case I know that He understands something that so many in the Church do not. Knowing that I am not alone in my struggle means the world to me. We can never say that we aren’t understood by anyone because of the atonement. I am strongly attracted to other men. This isn’t just a fetish or an addiction as I’ve overheard at church. I’m drawn to men physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I know that this must be nearly impossible for “straight” people to wrap their minds around, but we don’t have to literally experience or atone for such a trial in order to empathize. We are all connected by common denominators, such as pain and suffering. While the Savior is the ultimate source of comfort, we are commanded to take His yoke upon us and mourn with those who mourn.

It seems that in times past the atonement was portrayed as the solution to sin (which it is), but more recently we’ve been better educated on another aspect of the atonement: enabling grace. I know that the atonement of Jesus Christ has granted me power to bridle my passions. We learn in Ether that the Lord will convert our weaknesses into strengths if we humble ourselves and have faith in Him. For a long time I thought that this meant that He would take away this struggle that I didn’t choose and certainly didn’t want, but I’ve found that, at least for the time being, this scripture has a slightly different meaning.

I am heavily involved with a group of active Church members who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. I was considered for a video profile on the Church’s new MormonAndGay.org. I’ve been interviewed by the Salt Lake Tribune and a BYU reporter, and I’ve published articles, videos, and other interviews to be the person I needed when I was younger. I hate to say it, but my parents don’t understand the depth of what I go through, and I imagine that many LGBT members face comparable difficulties. It is because I am in the trenches with them, similarly struggling to master the natural man and grow to be the being that God intends, that I am able to reach them. It is through the enabling power of the atonement that I am able to use my weakness to bless and uplift other children of God. I don’t say this to brag, but rather to illustrate that strength doesn’t come from an absence of temptation, but courage in the face of it.

People ask me why I’ve chosen to step forward and share my story. They fear that I’m putting myself in a vulnerable position, which is absolutely true. However, if the Savior stood beside me, would I be willing to testify of Him from the unique perspective of a same-sex attracted member? My answer is yes.

The third doctrine of the Gospel that keeps me grounded is the resurrection. I have a firm testimony that Christ our Savior lives, that His death on the cross was conquered through His priesthood power, thus paving the way for us and our kindred dead to rise in the glorious resurrection of the millennium. The Messiah breathes and walks beside us in our afflictions, carrying our load without us recognizing it. He is a god who weeps. I have felt His arms around me as He sat with me in the darkness of my deepest despair. His is the ultimate power in the universe, and He employs it to lift us up. Because I know that I will live again in the life to come, I know why I’m here. So while the struggle to avoid romantic relationship with other men is excruciating, the thought of not being with my family in the next life is far more haunting.

Through the doctrines of divine identity, the infinite atonement, and the resurrection, I can see beyond the vision of my eyes. Only a step at a time is illuminated in the path before me, and the Lord sometimes asks me to take a leap of faith into the darkness. However, I have faith that the enabling grace of His atonement can reach even a sinner such as I. I hope that by sharing my story I can help others remember that there is room for all of us at the table of Christ, that there are unsung songs that need to be heard in our journey to sainthood. The Lord understands what it is to be Tristan, and He knows what is to be you.woman drawing a picture, sketch of herself

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I only have one thought to add, spurred by this powerful post.

While reading this post, it hit me hard, that Christ doesn’t ask any of us to do what He hasn’t already done. Christ was God’s Only Begotten Son (in the flesh). That was His true identity. And, as such, He had the potential and power to be the Savior (if He chose…which He did). And, He experienced all temptation and suffering (whether “in the flesh” as He lived a mortal life, or through the literal, vicarious ordinance of the atonement). Yet, He overcame all to be “true to Himself.” And, He asks us to do the same (with His help). He asks us to overcome our weaknesses and struggles and overcome temptation to be true to ourselves…to become who we were born to be…not just God’s offspring with the potential to be gods; but to become like God (Romans 8:16-17).

It brings to my mind a quote by C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, Book 3, Chapter 11, Faith, Paragraph 7).

I’d like to preface this quote by first noting that we are all a combination of bad and good and that is that which we choose to act upon that defines us (thanks Sirius Black, HP movie 5); and that C.S. Lewis’s use of the word “bad” in this quote should not be taken too personally, as some people resent the “label” because they think it means I am trying to blanket judge their entire lives as bad (which, I’m not). However, interestingly, if we labeled them “good,” I think they wouldn’t put up a fight and complain about us blanket-judging them to be perfect. If it is easier to chew on, consider replacing “bad” with “sinful” and “good” with “sinless.”

…No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.  A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means.  This is an obvious lie.  Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.  After all, you find out the strength of the [an] army by fighting against it, not by giving in.  You find out the strength of the wind by trying to talk against it, not by lying down.  A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.  That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness.  They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.  We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only  man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.

No matter what our weaknesses, sins, or struggles are, may we choose to be “true to ourselves” as Children of God, and not identify ourselves by our weakness, our sins, our struggles, or any other lesser term…for certainly this “label” is of all the most powerful, the most important, and the most empowering.

BT

Doctrine: Because Christ suffered, our suffering matters and gains the power to make us godly. Because Christ died and was resurrected, our deaths have power to help us progress in God’s plan. Because Christ suffered, as we suffer we will come to understand Him and know Him better and thus gain eternal life (John 17:3). Our suffering “according to the flesh” enables us to know how to succor others.

In the beloved movie, the Princess Bride, Wesley (disguised as the Dread Pirate Roberts) says to the Princess Buttercup, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” And, the interesting thing is that Wesley is right. Life is pain.

In this life, pain hits us from all sides. There’s physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain, psychological and pain. There’s pain we cause ourselves. There’s pain that happens to us on accident. There’s pain that’s a default of Mother Nature and Father Time. There’s pain others cause us. And it seems to just go on and on.

girl sits in a depression on the floor near the wall

Recently I heard the question more, or less, asked:

“If Christ suffered for everything, sins and other kinds of suffering too, on our behalf, why then do we still suffer? Since we still suffer, then why did Christ have to suffer if it doesn’t keep us from suffering [referring specifically to physical pain]?”

The answer given to this question was:

“Christ had to suffer for our physical pains—even though we still suffer them too—so that He could understand how to succor us.”

This answer was based on the scripture Alma 7:11-13. And, though it’s not incorrect, I felt that it was insufficient in response to the question asked. Or, at least to me, it didn’t provide much comfort. And when the question was asked, I perceived that the person asking was looking for comfort and more understanding.

Sure, it helps me to know that Christ understands all of my suffering, personally. It helps me to know that everything I go through He comprehends perfectly so that even when I struggle to explain it in my prayers that He knows. But, I think that there is so much more that could be offered in response to this question.

So, let’s look at Alma 7:11-13:

And he [Christ] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

Verse 11 refers specifically to the life of Christ. His life was full of pain, affliction, and temptation. And, as He went through it all He also set a perfect example of how to respond to such struggles. So, for me, the first reason Christ suffered things that we still have to suffer (to a lesser extent, I might point out), was so that He could show us how to respond to suffering in a godly manner.

Verse 12 refers to His ability to take on the ultimate physical pain/problem—death. Yes, we die. But, we don’t have any control over whether or not we die. Christ did. As part of the great vicarious ordinance of the Atonement, Christ had to choose to lay down His life (John 10:18). For those familiar with vicarious ordinance work, Christ basically chose to die for, and in behalf of, each of us. Then, He loosed the bands of death by choosing to take His life up again, in the resurrection, for, and in behalf of, each of us. Because He did this we will all be resurrected as well.

So, why do we still die if Christ already died for us? Because death and resurrection are both ordinances which we must pass through to receive our immortal glories. Ordinances, which would have no power or effect if not for Christ granting them power through the grace of His Atonement. If Christ had not died, He could not have raised Himself up again so that we could also rise again: perfected and immortal. Meaning, that our deaths would be ordinances that had no authority/power to advance us forward in God’s plan. As Latter-day Saints with access to true priesthood authority and power, we often cannot comprehend what it is to partake of ordinances that “avail us nothing” because they are “dead works” (Doctrine and Covenants 22:2-3). But our deaths, without Christ’s death, would be “dead works” and avail us nothing.

Verse 12 also refers to the primary source of the original answer. However,  when quoted out of context from verse 13, it loses a bit of meaning. So, let’s look at them together.

…and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

The phrase “according to the flesh” is used three times. This seems rather significant to me. Especially in light of the fact that precursor to the final use of it we see the phrase, “Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless…”

From His birth we know that Christ was a perfect vessel that absorbed pure information—through the Holy Spirit—as He grew “grace by grace” until He received a fullness (Doctrine and Covenants 93:12-13). We know that Christ was instructed entirely by the Spirit because “he needed not that any man should teach him” (JST Matthew 3:25). If this was the case, then we could say that He already knew according to the Spirit how to succor us according to our infirmities. Yet, He chose to also suffer for our infirmities “according to the flesh” that He might know “according to the flesh” how to succor us. Then, He suffered “according to the flesh” that He might take upon Him the sins of His people.

Just as Christ’s death and resurrection grants power and progression to our deaths, and makes possible our resurrection. We might also say that Christ’s suffering “according to the flesh” grants power to our suffering “according to the flesh,” and makes possible our sanctification. Let me explain.

gethsemanefinal

I think sometimes we forget that the Atonement of Christ, though deeply individual and personal, is also much more all-encompassing and grand—on a universal scale—than we mortals can ever comprehend. But, for those of us who understand vicarious ordinance work, it seems quite clear that all eternal, saving ordinances must be performed “in the flesh” or “according to the flesh.” From this, we might postulate that while Christ knew enough according to the Spirit to succor us in our infirmities, that as part of His great vicarious ordinance on our behalf, He also had to pass through it all physically as well in order to grant the ordinance power and validity. But, by default it also grants power and validity to our individual sufferings, which, without the Atonement would be powerless to improve, refine, or sanctify us.

So, we have established why Christ had to suffer even though often we still suffer. But let’s now consider the question, “Why do we still suffer if Christ already took all the suffering upon Himself?”

All the answers to this question come from the very same doctrines we’ve already canvassed.

If we are to become like Christ, then even though we do not have to (nor could we) perform the Atonement, it seems clear that in order to become godly we still have to suffer “according to the flesh” that we might be able to learn to succor others. Certainly the Holy Spirit can reveal certain things to us according to the Spirit , and yet I think we can all grasp the fact that our compassion is deeper and our capacity to comfort and succor is greater when we have passed through something “according to the flesh.” This includes emotional, mental, and spiritual anguish because they all manifest themselves in amplified forms through our physical bodies’ reactions.

As well, as mentioned above, because Christ suffered our suffering now matters. Because of Christ’s suffering, our suffering now has the power the help us progress in God’s plan of salvation. Because of Christ’s suffering, our suffering grants us power to actually become godly, and to help others in ways we could not otherwise do. Have you ever considered that without Christ none of our suffering would have any purpose? We would be doomed to misery (Mosiah 16:4). But, because of Christ’s life and Atonement, all of our suffering becomes important, meaningful, powerful and necessary. We cannot become godly without it.

Most importantly, we know that Christ said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent” (John 17:3). We also know we can’t become like Christ if He is far from the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Mosiah 5:13). As well, the five foolish virgins were kept from the wedding feast, not because they were late, but because they didn’t really know Christ (Matthew 25:12). They were strangers to Him. They didn’t know Him because they hadn’t become like Him (1 John 3:2).

If for no other reason, we suffer in this life, continually, that we might not only become godly, but that we might come to know God.  I still remember the first time I truly suffered anguish and deep emotional injury because of the deliberate actions of another person. It was so entirely unfair and hurtful. And I remember realizing for the first time this was the only type of pain Christ suffered. All of His suffering was the result of others’ deliberate actions and was unfair. He warranted none of it. I remember this moment so clearly because my love for the Savior grew exponentially as I began to (in a small way) comprehend what He really did for me and for you. I thought I had understood before. But in that moment I realized how little I had ever understood anything. Because of my suffering, I came to know Him better.

Portrait of sad woman.

Certainly we suffer pain from the consequences of sin so that we might be led to repent. But, I find that the majority of the pain in life that we suffer is outside of our own sinfulness. Pain, both fortunately and unfortunately, is what makes everything in this life matter. For, if we can’t be hurt then we also can’t be healed, helped, or blessed.  Pain is what makes it possible for us to come to know God. It makes it possible for us to understand, and purely comprehend, the joy of life without pain (when we are privileged to experience it for a time). Pain is the crux of opposition which is critical to agency (2 Nephi 2:11). This list just goes on and on.

So, as Wesley so wisely said, “Life is pain.” It has to be. It’s a problem, sure. And C.S. Lewis undressed this problem in a literary fashion so much better than I ever could in his book The Problem of Pain. But I congratulate myself that the one thing he doesn’t point out is its most critical function in helping us come to know Christ. But, if he were alive at present he might beg to differ. Who knows.

But it all boils down to this. Christ had to suffer. We have to suffer. I think the sooner we understand this the tiniest bit easier it is to accept pain, rise above it, use it to progress toward godliness, and to help others through it.

BT

Doctrine: God will give us as much light and truth as we are willing to receive in whatever form we are willing to ingest it. Yet, piecemeal doses of truth, while great supplements for entertainment, are no substitute for the actual word of God.

I’m a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. But, my main motivation for writing began by reading fiction.

For me, there is something powerful in fiction. It’s a sneaky way to sort of tell people what you think, what you believe, and who you are in a make-believe world. This make-believe world allows writers of fiction to preach, if you will, without being preachy. They couch truths, political opinions, deep mores, personal standards of living, humor, sin, and culture within worlds that aren’t real. Then, we read the books, step into the worlds, and are slyly influenced as we investigate for entertainment.

Tree growing from the old books over the grass and cityscape bac
Fiction is good for you

Several years back, I fell upon an article which I believe, for myself, holds a great deal of truth. It is called, Fiction Is Good For You and was posted in the online Boston Globe in April 2012 by writer Jonathan Gottschall. What is the article about? Well, it talks about how reading fiction is good for us. Here are some of the benefits that research for the article claims.

  • “…fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction…”
  • “research consistently shows that fiction does mold us.”
  • “Fiction enhances our ability to understand other people; it promotes a deep morality that cuts across religious and political creeds.”
  • “…the most impressive finding is how fiction shapes us: mainly for the better…”
  • History reveals fiction’s ability to change values at the societal level, for better and worse. For example,  Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”
  • Virtually all storytelling, regardless of genre, increases society’s fund of empathy and reinforces an ethic of decency deeper than politics.
  • “Heavy fiction readers outperformed heavy nonfiction readers on tests of empathy.”
  • “…fiction serves the function of making-the-world-a-better-place by improving interpersonal understanding.”
  • Children exposed to a large number of children’s books…had a…stronger ability to read the mental and emotional states of other people.
  • Fiction…is strongly dominated by the theme of poetic justice…goodness is endorsed and rewarded and badness is condemned and punished.
  • “…fiction generally teaches us that it is profitable to be good.”
  • “Traditional tales, from hero epics to sacred myths, perform the essential work of defining group identity and reinforcing cultural values.”

When this article came out, I didn’t think much about fiction being “scripture.” But, recently, as I have pondered the doctrines of grace and God’s mercy and love for His children, a general doctrine appears.

Doctrine: God will give us as much light and truth as we are willing to receive.

So, what if I am not a big Christian? What if I’m not that religious at all? Or, what if I come from a tradition of religious beliefs and I hold true to the big beliefs but nothing else? What if reading from the Bible, Book of Mormon, or any other non-fiction religious text or commentary is well beyond my current desire or capacity?

Book with science fiction scene and open doorway of light

Where then will God find a way to give me truth if I won’t search His words directly?

In Moroni 7:5, 12 and 13, and Alma 5:40, we learn:

  • By their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.
  • That which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
  • Whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil.

Anything in the world that is good, that invites and entices us to do good, to love others, to serve others (and by consequence to love and serve God), comes from God. So, I’m NOT saying every fiction book, novella, or novel is completely inspired of God from front to back. But anything good in the books’ themes, plots, character arcs; anything that shows examples of good, humility, self-sacrifice, and other Christlike qualities and commandments—whether the writers intended it or not—comes from God. And, as we read them, take joy in them, and find inspiration and power in them; they then become, in essence, a form of scripture—or how God gets His word through to us. Especially if we’re not inclined to study the real thing.

I find that in most fiction works, the general themes of good versus evil are preserved. They sort of have to be. That is the only real conflict in the eternities. That is the root story. Even if you don’t believe in God, you can admit that minimally, over the course of human history, there is also a theme of tyrants versus the greater good of society. There are holocausts with D-days. There are wars overcome by peace treaties. There are basic, over-arching human themes of good versus evil. There is always someone or something trying to take away human free will, human life, individuality, creativity, and even human dignity.

So, if you read **decent fiction (see ** at the bottom of the article for my definition of decent fiction), by default, you are getting a tiny dose of God’s word. You are getting a minimal amount of enticement, influence, and an invitation to emulate or desire the good being delivered to you through a fictional story.

I’m NOT saying decent fiction IS scripture. But, for those who don’t read or study God’s word at all, good, **decent fiction could be seen as their scripture; or the most amount of God’s word that they are willing to receive, couched secretly in something they would never dare to call “God’s word.”open book

So, what if you read your scriptures and you’re getting your dose of God’s word on a daily basis? Is fiction any good to you? Should you take any time to read it? Is it better than some good non-fiction, religious non-fiction, or commentary?

If God’s word is already a part of your life, then adding side-dishes of entertainment that include quotes, themes, and character-arcs that validate and witness of things you already believe, is, in my humble opinion, the best kind of entertainment and relaxation you can get. It validates, cements, and enhances your current love for goodness and your desire to live up to it. For myself, I love when I read a favorite fantasy series or religious commentary and find there the made-up stories of others, or the real-life experiences/opinions of others, that validate what I believe and bring it bursting out in some happy tale or personal declaration. It brings me joy, peace, excitement, and often it’s during those moments that I find deeper gospel parallels and better ways of understanding the word of God that is already available to me—that I have already studied.

Watch

One example is Aslan, the Great Lion of Narnia, the Son of the Emperor-over-the-sea. I don’t know what it is really like to see Jesus Christ face-to-face. But, when I read of the interactions of the characters with Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, I feel that C.S. Lewis’s basic ideology in writing those interactions is pretty accurate. Every time I read through the series I see deeper and deeper parallels between Aslan and Christ. I see it in how good people feel in his presence. I see it in how good people who need to repent feel in his presence. I see it in how wicked, unrepentant people feel in his presence. And, I see it in the good people who are deceived yet still good, and how they feel and act when they meet the Great Lion.

(If you’ve only ever read the popular The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, then you are missing a great amount of insight into the Savior. I here give a suggestion to any so inclined to read the Narnia series and take notes of every interaction between Aslan and the book characters. It will be a deep spiritual journey.)

I can go down the entire list of my favorite fantasy and science fiction and find moments, characters, or plot pieces that illustrate principles and doctrines of the gospel. The whole book is never something I can apply directly across. But, there are so many good vignettes that deliver delicious packets of truth. Take a look at this video I made from snippets of Harry Potter 5. A few quotes and a ton of doctrinal truth.

In non-fiction and religious commentary, I also often find personal declarations or life-stories that impact me deeply. Somehow, because I know real people have exhibited these elevated, godly characteristics of perseverance, self-sacrifice, endurance, humility, loss, and love, it strikes a chord that resonates with my personal affinities and beliefs.

So, again, I’m not advocating that any, or all, fictional writing is scripture. But, I am advocating that the word of God can be found in all that is good, uplifting, and ennobling. Whether you believe in Christ or not, anything that persuades you to believe in His truths and to do His works, comes from Him (this includes self-improvement as long as it’s not too eccentric). Decent fiction can be an incredible source of good doctrine and gospel principles. Good fiction makes for great parables or stories that illustrate gospel truths. Some of these stories can impact us with almost as much life-changing power as some actual scripture if we grasp the deeply hidden truths that shine out at us all, in different ways, as we read these texts.

There is, however, no substitute for the actual word of God. As much as I love reading I can testify of this to you from my own experience. In fact, being familiar with the real word of God amplifies and strengthens the truth we find elsewhere. This amplification will not take place and is not possible to us if we aren’t studying the “real thing.” The good things in fiction will have less power if they are not supported by a foundation of undiluted truth. It’s like trying to have a good red sauce for pasta with only good spices and no tomatoes. The tomatoes are what make it a red sauce. Fiction can make some truths more edible, but ultimately it isn’t a complete source for a spiritual foundation.

We are commanded to study our scriptures daily: the Book of Mormon, the Bible, the Pearl of Great Price, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the words of living prophets and apostles. As we do so, at least in my experience, the truths found in other more secular forms—such as fiction—stand out all the brighter, are more recognizable, and are more impactful in our lives.

BT

**Decent fiction, is to me, fiction that is written with the purpose of telling a good, uplifting story. There is some fiction that while it is “made up” has a purpose other than telling a good, uplifting story. Whether it’s goal is scaring the pants off of you or to arouse you to some unhealthy sexual feeling it is not “decent” in its ultimate goal. Those genres are labeled pretty well and should be fairly obviously “not decent.” So, steer clear. However, generally, I find that even fiction with some unsavory patches (maybe a few pages in the whole), as long as its main purpose is to tell a powerful story, those unsavory elements or pages quickly slide to the back and lose importance. Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what is “decent,” but I find that “if it leads us to do good, AND to believe in Christ, AND to serve Him,” then it is usually a good read.

Book with science fiction scene and open doorway of light

Doctrine: #5) We have to understand and know God from personal study and faith in order to be able to withstand and reason through struggles, issues, and doubts.

This is continued from PART ONE, PART TWO, and PART THREE

Not the last reason I don’t leave the church, but the final one I will share, and that reason is “I know the God whom I worship” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:19). I don’t mean to laugh, because I do care, but sometimes I shake my head or laugh when people I know and people I don’t know get caught up in church policy and the actions (past and present) of church leaders, local leadership, or indeed even of church organization and many other things they don’t take the time to understand.

Why do I laugh? Because these people get all in an uproar about how “God wouldn’t do this,” or “God wouldn’t do that,” and I’m incredulous because I know, for a fact, they haven’t studied the scriptures. Not really. They haven’t gone to the Bible or other Standard Works to research what God would really do! Because He would do exactly what they’re saying He wouldn’t… He has done it before in many different ways and for very specific reasons.

Who God is and how He deals with His people is wide open for all to see in every page of scripture available—for those who study them. A knowledge of God and a close relationship with Him is the most important things each of us can ever gain from a study of the scriptures. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God who led Moses and the Israelites, the God who came down to earth and gave His life as a ransom for ours; the God who organized His church with Peter, James, and John; the God who appeared to Joseph Smith and restored His gospel and church back to the earth, is a god who:

  • Upholds justice and law

  • Allows all His children to learn and seek for answers whether they are in leadership positions, politics, the middle class, living on the streets, or not. He gives out freebie revelations in rare instances.

  • Offers mercy and salvation in exchange for repentance and a change in who we are becoming

  • Asks His people to do things that do not always make sense, but that do make sense in principle for those who seek to understand it (Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened…)

  • Wants His people to be different from the rest of the world

  • Requires sacrifice of personal possessions, beliefs, traditions, time, goals, professions, and even family and friends (in some circumstances), and seeks to help us accomplish this with commandments we do not always like or want

  • Blesses us all in many ways even though we don’t deserve it but is bound to bless us when we keep His commandments and He takes joy in being free to do so

  • Reveals much to us concerning His will but only line upon line as we are able to accept it or live it by faith

  • Is capable of doing what is best for all mankind and for each individual at the same time

  • Will command us to do things that previously He has forbidden if it serves His current perfectly-intentioned purposes

  • Is long-suffering and will continue to offer blessings and repentance to us until our last mortal breath no matter who we are or what we’ve done

  • Can heal any injury or suffering whether spiritual, psychological, emotional, or physical in this life or in the resurrection

  • Will give us exactly what we want if we are determined to have it whether to our glory or condemnation

I could go on. But, put simply, I don’t leave the church because I have worked long and hard to know who God is (and I continue to do so) and I trust Him. I know how He works and so many of the things that throw other people off their groove I find I can easily take in stride because I have seen the precedence of it in the scriptures, in my life, in the lives of others, and I recognize it in its modern version. I know that He truly is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

In the Book of Mormon, Laman and Lemuel murmured, “because they knew NOT the dealings of that God who created them” (1 Nephi 2:12). As well, in the Joseph Smith Translation of Mathew 24 found in The Pearl of Great Price we read, “And whoso treasureth up my word shall not be deceived…” (JST-Matthew 1:37). In the parable of the ten virgins Christ doesn’t keep them out of the feast because they’re bad people. They were obviously fairly decent. They knew about Him and they believed in Him or they wouldn’t have tried to attend the wedding feast. But, what He clearly says is, “I know you not,” meaning, in other words, you don’t know me. (John 17:3) Ouch!

So for those whose path to joy takes them away from the church, I know it is a path they must take. I hope they will find their joy. And, I know that ultimately they will find where they are meant to go, who they are meant to be, and will be able to accomplish what they need to accomplish. This is one of the blessings of the grace of Christ. However, for myself, the reasons I have shared in these blogs are why I stay. And, if others are uncertain about whether to stay or go, or even to come back, I hope this blog is helpful.

BT

Return to PART ONE