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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

latter-day_saint_scripture_quadruple_combination

Suggestions for Studying Your Scriptures

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

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

See, you can do it with anything.

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

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

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

BT

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

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

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

___

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

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

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

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

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

___

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The prefix IL means: not, opposite of, without

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

Question

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

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

HOW TO PONDER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relaxe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Nephi 32:1-7 says:

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

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

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

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

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

Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

BT

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

Training Neuroscience Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Abraham 3:19 we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feelings

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

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

Business Technology

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

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

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

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

Brain Radiates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Ether 12:27 we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BT

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