I suspect God can seem pretty changeable if you don’t know Him. If you haven’t gotten to know how He works with His children; if you haven’t prayed to Him or tried out His commandments or tested His ability to bless, it would be easy for you to come to the incorrect assumption that He is changeable. That sometimes He provides miracles and sometimes He doesn’t. That sometimes He is merciful and sometimes He isn’t.

If all your education is through the opinions of others, through heresay, it would be easy to make the incorrect assumption that God either doesn’t exist or that He can’t be depended upon, or simply that He isn’t worth following. You might assume He loves men more than women or that some people aren’t as preferred. All false assumptions because you don’t know Him personally.

In St. John 7:17 Christ teaches us:

If any man will do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.

In Alma 32:26-27 we are encouraged to “awake and arouse our faculties” to do an “experiment upon the word.”

If we really want to know what God is like and cultivate the faith to follow Him, to even know He exists, we’ve got to study Him out for ourselves.

I know a lot of good people who feel that God is limited in His attributes. Some will say He can’t be all-loving and all-powerful at the same time. Because somehow they assume that all-loving means no rules or commandments, no consequences, and no sorrow or suffering, period. Some religions teach that God once had prophets but that now such things are done away; as though people in the past needed prophets but we don’t. Some teach that miracles like those in the scriptures don’t take place any more.

1 Nephi 10:18, 2 Nephi 27:23 & 29:9, Mormon 9:9, Moroni 10:19, Doctrine & Covenants 20:12

These scriptures teach emphatically that God doesn’t change. And, if these scriptures are true and God doesn’t change, then a lot of mysteries about life and religion can be immediately solved by a study of God’s character and the ways in which He works in our lives. Such a study will reveal, as I have discovered for myself, that much about God and His plan for us feels a bit uncomfortable. But, it’s the type of discomfort we all feel when we have a sore that needs healing or a cavity that needs to be filled. The discomfort ends when we seek out the often uncomfortable process of getting healed. That healing requires effort but in ends in peace, relief, joy, and comfort. It doesn’t start in comfort, but it ends in comfort (I credit C.S. Lewis for this wording which he provides in Mere Christianity).

God’s nature and His plan for us is uncomfortable in the best way. It makes us feel uncomfortable until we become more godly, which His plan for us facilitates. He doesn’t allow us to take comfort in things that aren’t godly. His ultimate goal for us isn’t mortal bliss, it’s eternal bliss. Thus, all the things we would plan out on paper to lead us to a peaceful mortal life are often the things God allows to be taken away from us or which He asks us to sacrifice at the first possible opportunity (Mark 10:17-22).

And, this pattern is clear in every book of scripture we have currently available to us. The Old Testament, New Testament, Doctrine & Covenants, Book of Mormon, and Pearl of Great Price all have this pattern running clearly, obviously, and repetitively through them.

SAINTS: The Standard of Truth, Volume I

Recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out with the first volume of their new saints2history of the church. It’s titled: SAINTS: The Standard of Truth, volume I. You can read it online (that’s where the link takes you) for FREE, for FREE on the Gospel Library app (look it up on your phone). You can listen to it FREE (through these same avenues), or you can buy it for $5.75 through brick and mortar or other distributors.

As I’ve been reading this history, I have been repeatedly impressed that the pattern of the Restoration of the Gospel from 1830 until now mimics directly each and every other time God has had to re-establish His true church. Such times are called dispensations because the Gospel has to be re-dispensed. It began with Adam and Eve, and we see the patterns there in the Pearl of Great Price. We see Moses re-dispensing the Gospel in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ, yet again, had to re-dispense, fix, update, and teach His Gospel. The New Testament shows this. The Doctrine and Covenants, of course, which is about the final dispensation began by the prophet Joseph Smith is quoted directly by the history SAINTS: The Standard of Truth, Volume I. A close study of these scripturally recorded dispensations, where God has had to re-establish His church through prophets and re-dispense priesthood authority, ordinances, and commandments reaffirms that He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

Here are some of the commonalities that I find among all of these dispensations and scriptural/historical accounts and which are historically illustrated for us in SAINTS:

  • The first and most critical piece of any new dispensation is that God calls a prophet.
  • The prophet is someone who is seeking for God’s truths and is humble and open to be taught.
  • The prophet God calls is never perfect.
  • God doesn’t give the prophet all the knowledge at one time.
  • The prophet is required to ask, seek, and knock, the basic formula for personal revelation.
  • The prophet is subject to mistakes and follies but retains His office as long as he is repentant.
  • God doesn’t prevent the prophets, or apostles, from human error; He teaches them line upon line, precept upon precept and they slowly rise to the pinnacle of their potential and calling.
  • We gain faith in prophets as we sustain them, support them, and follow them.
  • God expects us/His people to follow the prophet and sustain Him regardless of imperfection or a lack of talents.
  • God asks His people to do very, very hard things more than once in their lives.
  • God isn’t afraid to reveal things that are uncomfortable simply to build up numbers. He is interested in the quality of His followers, not the quantity.
  • God reveals things that are hard and uncomfortable specifically to build faith and weed out lukewarm followers.
  • God gives promises to His people that can only be fulfilled if they are obedient.
  • If we/God’s people fall short of living up to the promises God gives, we/God’s people can repent and keep trying.
  • God cares more about our spiritual health than our physical/mortal comfort. If our mortal suffering will bring about spiritual growth then He loves us enough to let us suffer.
  • God gives peace and comfort to His people/us even when all else seems to be temporarily denied.
  • The church, comprised of us/God’s people, can’t move forward without unity; which unity is often obtained by the excommunication of blatantly unrepentant members or members rebelling against and/or leaving the church of their own will.
  • The number of members in the church, joining the church, or leaving the church, has nothing to do with its veracity. It’s truth is independent of numbers.
  • God recognizes that we need community to help us live the gospel. He gathers us together, where possible, to provide the strength we need to press forward in doing His will.
  • God often asks us to do hard things when it feels as if we can’t handle any more; such sacrifice, once given, is immediately rewarded by blessings, peace, comfort, and an ability to transcend struggle and trial…even to not even feel it.
  • The first step to apostasy from God’s gospel is criticism and distrust of God’s prophet.
  • Personal revelation is for all. Revelation for the guiding and directing of the church comes to the prophet.
  • Sacrifice is the greatest builder of faith and spiritual power.
  • Ultimately we have to trust in God or abandon Him. Middle ground doesn’t actually exist.

I could go on and on here. But, I recommend that any person who knows very little about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to read this first volume of its history (and those that follow as they are published). I feel it should be obligatory that any person proposing to belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints read this history. The patterns I have mentioned above reveal themselves and are reaffirmed to the pure seeker of truth.

One thing it has reaffirmed for me is that God is, without a doubt, the same, yesterday, today, and forever. We can trust Him. He is worth following no matter what is asked of us. His character and His power is reaffirmed in this book.

BT

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You recognize your weaknesses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You have learned to trust God above all else

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful Hispanic Woman Sleeping.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

BT

Doctrine: God’s plan is small, simple, and plain. It is based on small and simple doctrines and principles. Satan can’t frustrate God’s plan and so he focuses on frustrating us by distracting us with complexities that steal away peace and faith. Life is hard. It will always be hard. But, by embracing the small and simple principles, ordinances, and covenants God offers us (Christ’s yoke) it can be easier, more full of peace, and will ultimately lead us where we want to go.

Simple is a word frequently misinterpreted and under-defined.  We often use the terms simple and easy synonymously, but they do not have the same meaning; they are not the same.  The word easy means requiring no great labor or effort.  In other words, if something is easy then it comes to us without doing much of anything.  Many things start out difficult and then as we do them, they become easy.  But easy is not the same as simple.

The word simple means understandable; not complex or elaborate; not compound; free of deceit. Therefore simple does not necessarily mean easy to do because many simple things require great labor and effort.  As well, many things that are easy are not necessarily simple.  Therefore, when something is simple, it means that it is something that is within our ability to comprehend.  Things that are simple are not designed to be above us or to be evasive.  Things that are simple are also not designed to deceive; they are specifically designed to help, teach and support.

The word ‘small’ is often used synonymously with words defining size and importance, such as short, tiny, unimportant, irrelevant, trivial, or minor.  All of these synonyms, while often used interchangeably with the word small, are really very different in definition.  They indicate a lack of substance.  The word, small, however, while referring to a limited size, has greater meaning outside of that context.  It is actually a perfect partner for the word simple, because small means narrow, not great in amount, degree, extent or duration; small means humble, modest and unpretentious.

Small and simple principles are plain. Small and simple principles are within comprehension and are not too large hard for us to understand. Small and simple principles, then, are not principles that are limited in size. They are principles that have been made understandable while still maintaining importance and substance.

So, how does Satan combat the small and simple principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Well, his objective is to complicate the simplicity of the gospel and render us miserable in the obsession and distraction of complicated and confusing minutia. He spends all his time trying to get us to complicate what is quite clear and simple and plain.Complicated - Simple signpost with sky background

  • Simple doctrine: The purpose of life is to become like God.
  • Simple doctrine: God has given us a perfect plan whereby we can accomplish this.
  • Simple doctrine: He has provided the Atonement by which we access grace to aid us in the godly learning process. We can make mistakes. We can sin. We can learn from these mistakes and sins. Then, we can be made clean again. We can then be sanctified as we meet the conditions for repentance and become godly.
  • Simple doctrine: We have been given agency which means we can hurt and we can be hurt by others. We can get sick. We can get injured. We can even die. But, then, God can give us back our lives, perfect our bodies from any loss or damage, and make us immortal.
  • Simple doctrine: God has given us His simple gospel plan, with proper priesthood authority, saving ordinances and covenants, and guidance, comfort and hope through the Gift of the Holy Ghost to aid us in achieving the purpose of the plan—to become like and to live with Him forever (i.e. eternal life).

This is the plan. It is simple. It is small. It is plain. God gives us, in addition to simple doctrines, simple principles with which apply these doctrines. They come in the form of commandments (do’s and do not’s). They are short and sweet. For example: Learn of me. Listen to my words. Walk in the meekness of my Spirit and you shall have peace in me (Doctrine and Covenants 19:23). Then, there’s the B-attitudes. There’s the ten, specified, commandments. There’s examples and witnesses in the scriptures for us to apply and learn from. All are given simply and clearly.

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

And the Lord god doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.

Alma 37:6-7

So, how does Satan complicate this simple plan, it’s simple doctrines and principles?

Satan encourages us to ignore the Atonement and complain about the unfairness and inconsistencies in life. He tempts us to find happiness in more complex ways that require dishonesty, pride, selfishness, and entitlement. He encourages us to ignore the value and power of faith based on witnesses from the Holy Ghost (a member of the godhead) and instead place our trust in cold hard facts that we can see…though those facts are human-delivered and change from year-to-year, decade-to-decade, and century-to-century. He leads us to believe false, complicated doctrines with a hint of truth. He encourages dissent, contention, nit-picking at the flaws of others, and disbelief. “It can’t be that simple,” he will say. He ever and always leads us down more complex roads with arduous journeys and dead ends.

Satan’s tactics work simply by their ability to distract us from the simple straight and narrow path. They work because we do get tired. We do get offended. We do get discouraged. We desire answers. We want revenge or justice, etc. Satan’s uses our desires to fuel his tactics to distract and complicate our way.

  1. Are there imperfect people in the world and God’s church? Yes.
  2. Does God care? Yes.
  3. Will God force others to be how we want them to be? No. Agency is paramount that personal accountability and justice might be preserved, mercy met, and the plan upheld.
  4. Will God still sanction His gospel, His organized church, and the small and simple plan it preaches and teaches despite the imperfection of its people? Yes. His church is His church because it has the fullness of His plan not because it’s people are perfect. It’s a boat that leads us to a destination. It’s that simple.
  5. Does God expect us to apply simple doctrines and principles in the face of great offenses, deep hurts, unfair treatment, and the like? Yes. (see Doctrine and Covenants 122:8)

There is no path in life that is not hard. But, we can be tossed to and fro on the minutia and struggles of life and the imperfections of people if we focus on those to the loss of the straight and narrow path.

Live. Love. Forgive. Repent. Serve. Be better each day. Keep the commandments as poorly or as well as you can each day and let grace carry what you can’t give, but desire to give. Seek and find. Knock and receive blessings. Get your ordinances. Make your covenants. Pray always. Endure to the end.

I have had my share of trials. I have had my share of offenses. I know more trial and problems will come. Life is guaranteed with nearly constant opposition. These things are not fun. I have struggled to get through most of them. Some, I managed to pass through with a bit more gracefulness. Some, I have eked through by the skin of my teeth. When such issues are present they seem to absorb all of our mental functioning. They make the small and simple truths of the gospel plan seem ineffective and uncomforting, at times. But, when endured, I have looked back and realized that nothing more than the simple instruction I received would have been helpful in enduring and coming out better on the other side. There was never a complicated solution to what was only a need of simple time, faith, and endurance.

I have read my share of excellent arguments against God, His people, His church, and religion in general. Some were quite compelling. Some were ridiculous. Some were well-researched. Some were full of well-hidden fallacies. Some attempted to be unbiased and simply ask questions. Others were horrifically biased. But, they all left my mind spinning with distracting minutia that when placed against the small and simple plan of God were shown to be nothing more than that—a distraction.

And, when I looked at those who were succumbing to such trials and being caught by those excellent arguments I saw them get obsessed with busy, overwhelming, depressing minutia. They focused on some detail or argument to the exclusion of everything small and simple, and true (which is always in greater amounts). And, I have not yet seen these obsessions with minutia bring peace or joy to any who so struggled. Some are doing better than others. But none of them are “settled.” None of them are truly at peace.

Simplicity concept.
Illustration depicting a green roadsign with a simplicity concept. White background.

Life is hard. People can be really messed up sometimes. But there is no substitute for the small, simple, and plain plan God has provided for His children. It makes up for all the weakness, struggle, opposition, unfairness, sickness, loss, and death. It’s all covered.

So, we can choose to get caught up in minutia. We can panic, fear, or resent. We can obsess over things we don’t understand or the imperfections of even the supposed elect of God. But, none of that is going to make us happy. None of that is going to get us to our goal of eternal joy. And that’s exactly what Satan wants. It has ever been his design to frustrate the plan of God. But, he can’t frustrate God’s plan which is really frustrating to him. So, at this point, he can only frustrate us.

The UN-MAN

I highly recommend reading C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy. It’s not science fiction at all…not really. It’s religious philosophy beautifully couched within a fantasy/science fiction story. In the second book, Perelandra, there is a character called the “un-man.” If you’re brave enough to read this series, you will come to an understanding of how Satan tries to complicate simple, plain truths better than ever before. You will see how he works by studying the “un-man.” I could also recommend the Screwtape Letters.

[note: C.S. Lewis was a truly inspired man. He was raised Catholic. Became an atheist. Then, through pondering, some philosophizing, and other experiences found his way right back to God. He was a man who understood the tactics of Satan.]

Satan will use intellect, education, current scientific facts for as long as we will listen to them. He will use flattery and persuasion as long as we will listen to them. He will mix truths with half-truths for as long as we will entertain them. He will incite selfishness over a slow course of time and convince you that you are always acting for the benefit of others for as long as you will fall for it. And, when at last intellect and reason fail, he will resort to ridiculous, childish tactics that distract and wear us down.

On the other hand, God “doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness…” (2 Nephi 26:33). God wants us back. He wants to give us all we have. That’s why He keeps it small and simple. We can choose to get distracted…but that choice is ours.

Now, this doesn’t mean that questions or struggles or concerns are bad. But, as we’ve been counseled by God’s servants. We are to doubt our doubts and hold on to the faith and testimony we have (Jeffrey R. Holland, Lord I Believe, April 2013). We are to seek, study, ask, knock, and keep the gospel simple, not getting caught up in unnecessary and ridiculous complexity (Uchtdorf, It Works Wonderfully!, October 2015). We are to endure until the answers come, line upon line, precept upon precept (Doctrine and Covenant 50:24). These are simple doctrines and principles that require patience and endurance. Two more simple principles.

Yes, it’s hard to be patient; but seeking out complexities doesn’t ease our anxiety. It only complicates and increases it. So, if we are finding something complicated, distracting, and troublesome and it causes us to fear and doubt, then it doesn’t come from God. That is NOT how He works.

Yet, God certainly doesn’t make everything in life clear. For example, He doesn’t tell you why you get one trial or struggle and someone else doesn’t. He won’t tell you why your child was allowed to die and He decided to save another. He doesn’t step in and explain all of His ways. And, even if He did, we do not have the capacity to understand them all because He is an all-knowing, omniscient being who can see past, present, and future before Him at all times (Isaiah 55:8-9). He knows what is best for each of us whether we understand it or not. We are mortal, finite beings. It is arrogant to think we are entitled to all of God’s knowledge when we can’t handle it all. And, what knowledge He does dispense He gives line upon line, precept upon precept as we are willing to accept it, act on it, and honor it (Alma 12:9-11). His knowledge isn’t for those who doubt, unless they are willing to press forward in faith.

Jacob 4:8 teaches: Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him…

Then, building upon that thought; in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Horse and His Boy, Aslan (a type of Christ) constantly tells Shasta and Aravis (when they ask questions about the paths and journeys of others; the whys and why nots) that he tells each person their own story and no one else’s. We can easily become distracted by the whys and why nots and minutia of other people’s paths and problems. We can take offense for what we do not understand and what God will not reveal to us since it is not our revelation to get. If we are excited by such troubles of others to serve and strengthen them, this is good. But if we become obsessed with the minutia of other people’s lives, it is a waste. God is not going to tell us about anyone’s path but our own.Keep It Simple

Keep it Simple

So, it’s a hard thing to ask, but I hope all of you will accept the small and simple plan God has given us. I encourage you to focus on the small and simple doctrines it has which explain the majority of the whys and why nots (which I find are “because it helps us become like God,” or “because it doesn’t help us become like God”). Then, use the small and simple gospel commandments and principles to press forward and receive the immortality and eternal life God is spending all His eternity trying to give you (Moses 1:39).

So, I said small and simple. I never said any of this was easy. But God did! (see Matthew 11:30).

How is God’s small and simple plan clear and easy? Life is hard. But, it’s harder without God and without the fullness of Christ’s grace and Atonement. So, God has said His plan, and our life, is easier as we embrace the Atonement and grace Christ offers through His ordinances and covenants (His yoke). His ordinances and covenants are how God dispenses His power and blessings (see previous blog “God’s Power is NOT Absolute”). Under His simple yoke, our burdens will indeed become easier and lighter (Matthew 11:30) because we are avoiding distractions and Satan’s tempting complexities and a path of Satan’s that will wind and twist and take us further and further away from what we truly want.

BT

Doctrine: The Word of Wisdom is a law of health only as that health leads us to being in greater tune with the Holy Spirit. The health is not end goal of the law. As well, following this law is clearly about its capacity to mark us spiritually as the people of God and followers of Christ, to set us apart from the world, so that the “destroying angel” will pass us by.

I was asked to write a blog on The Lord’s Law of Health. But, this blog is not going to be about eating right. It’s not going to be about abstaining from alcohol, drugs, or addictive substances. It’s not going to be about the negatives about tea and coffee. It’s also not going to be about supplements, eating organic, or any personal or fad eating interpretations of the Word of Wisdom.

So, what’s it going to be about? Well, put on your seat belt and hang tight. I’m going to get right down to the doctrine behind the Word of Wisdom, and it has much less to do with health that you might suppose.

Does God want us to be healthy? Yes. He wants us to take care of the gift of our bodies which He has given us; which bodies, though gifted to us, are not actually ours. This is because Christ actually bought our physical bodies and spirits with His everlasting atonement (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

With His suffering in Gethsemane, Christ performed a grand and infinite vicarious ordinance and paid Justice for our sins and took upon Himself all of our pains, sicknesses, suffering, and misery; that He might know how to succor us (Alma 7:12). That act purchased our spirits IF we choose to accept it, to repent, and to follow Him and become like Him. Then, on the cross He gave His physical life and then three days later took it up again in the second, beautiful, grand vicarious ordinance of the resurrection. By so doing He purchased the physical bodies we had already been given as a gift; and made it so that we too, all of us—regardless of whether we repent and follow Him or not—might also be resurrected, our bodies healed, perfected, and restored to immortality.

So, God wants us to take care of the gift of our body that He has given us. He wants us to keep it clean. He wants us to honor it. But, if that were the sole purpose of the Word of Wisdom, or even the most important purpose, then the Word of Wisdom should have included a bunch of other things like: avoid trans-fat, don’t overeat, exercise regularly, don’t take one part of this commandment and get excessive, oh, and by the way, there may be exceptions to this rule as mortality will subject people’s genes and bodies to mutations and weaknesses that may not always jive with this standard list (like celiac disease). We have vegetarians (of all types) in the church and yet in the scriptures God clearly condones the eating of meat. So, we simply can’t limit an infinite and eternal being, like God, to giving a command that is merely finite and mortal. If we treat this law as finite and mortal we will miss the entire point of it.

Though basic health is a likely benefit, it is hardly the most important purpose of the Word of Wisdom. In fact, the Israelites were given a Word of Wisdom in the Old Testament. It contained all sorts of things that ours doesn’t today. They were not forbidden to drink wine like we are. They were discouraged from strong drinks (drinks made to be purposefully intoxicating), yet it wasn’t totally forbidden. However, they couldn’t eat pork and lots of other things that God allows us to eat today.

Now, people like to generalize and justify and say, “Well, the water quality wasn’t as good back then, so God had to let them drink wine,” or, “They didn’t have the same capability to keep things clean and so a lot of the meats they couldn’t eat likely would have caused problems, etc…” While it’s nice sometimes when we can find scientific realities that support our beliefs, it simply can’t sustain a testimony of this godly law.

In Doctrine and Covenants 89, which contains the major portion of our current Word of Wisdom, the Lord clearly states His first purpose for the Word of Wisdom. He says, “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you and forewarn you, by giving you this word of wisdom…” Note that God doesn’t say, “Because I’m worried about your health.” No, He clearly mentions its purpose relates to the evil designs of mankind that will exist regarding food and drink in the last days. This could range from anything to commercialized alcoholic drinks to eccentric diets, health fads, and to the misuse and perpetuation of drugs for non-medical uses. The current eating and drinking environment in our world today is clearly plagued by commercialism, crime, and conspiring people who live off our enjoyment of, dependence on, and/or addiction to unhealthy substances.

Now, I could go on about the evil designs and how they relate to the Word of Wisdom, but I’ve already deleted (several times actually) the paragraphs I keep writing about these designs. I need to pass over those because the real doctrine, the real beauty of this law is in the blessings—which in and of themselves teach us the most important reasons for God’s giving us this law and its most amazing and powerful underlying doctrines.

According to the scriptures (Doctrine and Covenants 89), the blessings for keeping the Word of Wisdom are as follows:

“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments (notice that the Word of Wisdom must be kept in conjunction with other commandment keeping to bring about the desired blessings), shall receive

  1. health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; and shall run and not be weary and shall walk and not faint (Yes, this is all ONE unified blessing with related parts—note the punctuation).

  2. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass them by, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.”

Now, the first blessing has “health” as the first word and so that’s what everyone runs with. But, if you look at the scripture reference directly, the health is directly tied to the wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures, and the running and walking and not wearying and fainting. Thus, the health is not a stand-alone blessing. In fact, it isn’t. It is a blessing that facilitates another two blessings: wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures, and running and not wearying and walking and not fainting.

So, how does health facilitate hidden treasures of knowledge? When our bodies feel good and they are not impaired by a lack of health; when our bodies are not distracting us with the effects of processing unhealthy chemicals and substances, we are better able to receive personal revelation and inspiration from the Holy Spirit. We can assimilate secular knowledge better, we can better discern between right and wrong, we are less confused, and we are more in tune with ourselves. By default, we then have a greater chance of receiving promptings and inspiration from the Holy Spirit; which, I continue to remind people isn’t some sub-standard messenger. He’s a member of the godhead! Meaning, He’s a god!

A standard level of health and well-being = more open and able to receive communication from God.

So, the first purpose of the Word of Wisdom is to give us a better chance of communicating with God because of our health. Health itself isn’t the big blessing. Health merely facilitates the blessing.

It’s important to understand this clear doctrine because the moment we think health is our main goal we become eccentric and make health fads and the version of health that works for us more important than the true purpose, which is to facilitate personal revelation from the Holy Spirit. If we preach health we must first focus on its goal and never swap the order of importance.

Now the first blessing continues to include: walking and not fainting and running and not wearying. As we consider these things it’s critical to remember God never gives us anything that is strictly temporal, or physical, or only for this mortal life (Doctrine and Covenants 29:34-35). All His commands and blessings have both temporal and spiritual purpose and meaning. I mean, all the people that live by the Word of Wisdom are not perfectly healthy. They aren’t exempt from diseases like cancer and diabetes. My mother can’t walk that well, nor has she run since she was a child. So, if keeping this law doesn’t make us able to walk and run physically, what does God mean?

Well, if we think it through, then one logical path we can take is this: 1) general good health and the lack of addictions and fad foods and dieting can help us better receive 2) personal revelation from God for our lives; which revelation can give us the 3) spiritual strength to endure to the end in keeping God’s commands, in walking in His footsteps, in running around serving others, and in living valiantly through mortal trials and struggles. So, IF we are healthy we have the insight to be what God wants us to be and to do what He would have us do. That, my friends, is a beautiful, enduring, and joyful gift.

Now, to my favorite part. The second blessing is so full of symbolism and deep, religious meaning. We are promised that we will be passed by as the children of Israel, by the destroying angel. What did the Israelites do to be passed over by the destroying angel? They marked their doors with the blood of a lamb; a lamb which represented Christ. Christ was the Passover lamb. And to be “passed over” they had to mark their homes.

So, let’s do a comparison here. By keeping God’s Word of Wisdom we are spiritually marking ourselves as true followers of Christ. Certainly Mormons have been known to be healthier as a whole and to live longer generally, then the average public. And that’s great. But, the real treasure of the Word of Wisdom is that it makes us different from the rest of the world in ways no one will ever see with physical eyes. It is a spiritual mark. And, it marks us as a “peculiar treasure,” as Christians, as the people of God (Exodus 19:5; Psalms 135:4). It is one of the ways God has commanded us to mark ourselves in these modern times.

Keeping the Word of Wisdom = we are marked spiritually as God’s people and will be passed over by the destroying angel

If you take the time to see the Word of Wisdom this way, then preaching about eccentric health fads loses importance in a drastic way. Are any of those fads profitable to us? Well, yes, sometimes, and no, sometimes. Each of us is different, has different health issues, struggles, and genetics. But if there is a health fad or tool that is helpful, we should use them to turn our focus to receiving personal revelation and understanding the critical purpose of being spiritually marked.

Should we help others improve their health? Certainly! But we should encourage them to improve their health for the right reasons and in the ways that work best for them. We can testify of the methods that help us, but we should not make those methods a gospel unto themselves, or more important than their purpose. We should say, “Hey, taking enzymes helps me feel better. It helps me be more healthy and to feel less distracted when I’m serving God and seeking His will.” Then we should preach not that those enzymes are how everyone should keep the Word of Wisdom, but that each of us should seek those ways which best help us to feel good so that we can receive the magnificent blessings that are available to us as we honor the gift of our bodies.

I have an amazing sister who uses PLEXUS products. She loves them. I love that she talks about them and encourages others to try them. She shares her personal experiences about how they have blessed her life. But, she doesn’t suggest that they are the only way. She encourages people to try them to see if they will help them to achieve this feeling of well-being that she has discovered.

Now, I sometimes think that as her sister that I should try the products, but the truth is I feel great already. I exercise and eat pretty healthy. I almost never eat out unless it’s somewhere incredibly delicious and worth the money. I prefer to eat breads with only whole grain (on the grounds of taste and texture as well as healthy). I drink tons of water and chew ice…which probably isn’t good for my teeth, but I’m very hydrated. I avoid some processed foods, but certainly not all. I try to be well-rounded and balanced in all that I eat, enjoying treats often. I even overeat, especially on holidays and when someone cooks a darn good dinner. I simply don’t get caught up in any one fad or supplement because in understanding the end blessings that I want; I don’t ever need get overly converted to “the way” in which I achieve them. I stick to basics—God’s basics.

Some supplements and health fads have many aspects of truth to them. So, if you’re into those and they work well for you, I say, “Go for it!” But my plea is only to not forget the “why” of your goal of health. Don’t become so converted to the “the way” you are becoming healthy, that you let it distract you (or others) from the “why” you are becoming healthy.

Getting healthy is about being strong and being able to serve and bless those around us. It’s about having the ability to serve the Lord. The Word of Wisdom IS about feeling good about ourselves in a healthy, appropriate, way so that we aren’t distracted by low self-esteem or unnatural self-consciousness. Because low self-esteem and unnatural or unhealthy self-consciousness can directly affect our ability to serve God and receive personal revelation. They can distract and preoccupy us.

To get healthy and feel good has direct spiritual blessings and those blessings have deep and beautiful doctrine beneath them. That is the purpose of the Word of Wisdom. That is why the health aspect is important.instagramquotes4

So, get healthy to increase your capacity for personal revelation. Get healthy and follow the Lord’s Law of Health to put a spiritual mark on yourself that is as powerful as the Lamb’s blood that marked the doors of the children of Israel in Egypt. That spiritual mark has significant meaning and the Lord wants it there for a reason. I don’t know how the destroying angel will pass us by now and in the future, but I think I’m certainly not willing to risk not having the spiritual mark. I want the blood of the Lamb of God marking my life and preserving me spiritually as it preserved the Israelites physically so long ago.

BT

I’d like to preface this blog with what I call a spiritual disclaimer. What I’m about to share is the abridged personal revelatory process I went through during my own struggle to understand the Lord’s law of plural marriage. I share this process because I have been asked to do so, and also because I hope it will help any of you who are seeking for that same peace—and doctrine. But, no matter how good I convey what I have come to know for myself, it is still a peace, a testimony, that you have to receive from the Holy Spirit for yourself.

Doctrines: 1) God loves all His children, 2) God knows how to give good gifts to His children and will give them better blessings than anything they can imagine if they keep His commandments, 3) God loved us so much He gave His Only Begotten Son to preserve our opportunity to receive eternal joy and salvation, 4) God is bound by eternal laws and can’t break those laws or He ceases to be God, 5) Whom God calls He qualifies, He prepares the way to keep His commands, 6) Knowledge of God’s character and establishing a deep, personal relationship with Him is critical to trusting His promises, 7) God’s goal is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life.

At some point in every Latter-day Saint woman’s life, there comes a time when you have to make peace with the fact that God has at times during church history (both ancient and more modern) commanded some righteous men to take multiple wives and has extended the call to some women to accept this role and raise up righteous seed/build up His church and kingdom on the earth. Some women try to ignore that it ever happened because they have a testimony of every other part of the gospel. They push it aside out of discomfort. They are afraid to find out the whys behind why God would command such a thing. They are afraid they will be asked to live it. They are afraid what they find will shake their testimony. Some of what they have heard is shaking their testimony.

To all women I say, “Stop being afraid.” This is not something you can dance around. You need to attack it and ponder it head on and with faith, not fear, and trust the God you know to instruct you, or at the least, give you peace. He’s your Father. He’s not your enemy.

I was one of those women who pushed aside, or avoided, coming to peace with polygamy until my own unplanned and undesired divorce after an 11-year temple marriage. It was easy to pretend that plural marriage didn’t exist. Sure, people who were not members would bring it up sometimes, but it was easy to say, “Well, we don’t do that anymore,” rather than to admit that I didn’t understand it or have a testimony of it. Turns out if you feel the need to avoid something you’ve likely felt injured by it (http://susannabarlow.com/healing/the-five-stages-of-emotional-healing/) whether the injury was intended or not. Avoidance is the first sign and step that you need to seek understanding, healing, and peace.

Why is this something Mormon women need to face? Because, we are a powerful force. This is our time to rise up and testify. These are the last days. We have a sacred duty to show the women of the world that we know our religion, we know our God, and that they can trust Him too. It is time for us to rise up and be heard and to save souls.

So, during the aftermath of a very life-changing divorce I had all sorts of issues. I can’t list them all or go into them in detail, but, as many women do, I was suddenly quick to judge all men as inherently unfaithful, disloyal, and carnal. I determined to continue faithful in the things I knew to be true, but as I read my scriptures it seemed all the worst injustices to women stood out. There were moments I began to doubt the God I thought I knew and His feelings and purpose for His daughters.

Now, as anyone who has passed through such emotionally-wrenching years should know, and what any woman in the midst of such trials should learn, is that you’re mortal. Psychological and emotional issues are going to color your view of the world, and heaven. You should know that this is part of the healing process. You have to get angry and confront an issue before you can press onward to healing (http://susannabarlow.com/healing/the-five-stages-of-emotional-healing/). But, you need to recognize that your view of the world is colored. You need to be careful to use that colored view to seek knowledge, learn, act, grow, but not to cast final judgments on life, yourself, God, or others. Your vision will begin to clear in time, you will have spiritual epiphanies. But you have to give it time. How much time, you ask? It’s different for everyone. But the sooner you start the process the sooner you can hope to rise above your struggle.

Despite my internal struggles, because I remained faithful in the things I knew to be true, I was called to teach early morning seminary. This was my second time being called to this position, so I was ready. Well, I thought I was. Then, when it came to time to teach the Doctrine and Covenants the issue of plural marriage was literally thrown right into my path. I knew I could avoid it no longer. If I was going to give peace to my female seminary students I had to find peace for myself.

Now, from here on the process I went through took a few days, because I had to teach the topic that week. But, the fodder for pondering and learning I had slowly been gleaning over the course of my life and in my own personal study and pondering since my divorce. I can’t go into all the details and sources. But, I will try to put in as much as I can for those who want to research and ponder for themselves.

So, as I sat in my house on a Sunday evening preparing my seminary lessons for the week I had to step back from my emotional issues, my colored vision, and my heart’s penchant to defend against hurt. I had to get down to what was really the crux and doctrine of the matter. And, that matter was God. When it came to polygamy He was really the one with whom I had the bone to pick. I had to confront Him and what I understood about Him. Why? Because it was His eternal promises of my joy and happiness that were called into question. As my trust had so recently been jeopardized mortally, my spiritual trust was dangling by a thread. So, as I pondered God and my relationship with Him, I asked myself a series of questions:

  • What do I know about God? What about His character am I certain of? What am I uncertain of?

  • Has God given any other related commands that go against our innate sensibilities and feelings?

  • Why would God occasionally command something that is normally forbidden by Him?

  • How does this “why” fit within the character of the God I know?

Now, I’m certain there were more detailed questions that fit into this list that I pondered, but I believe these will suffice. So, let me tell you what I did. I pondered my life, my spiritual witnesses, my spiritual experiences, and I wrote down what I knew about God. As I am prone to do, these pondering moments brought several scriptures to my mind including, but not limited to:

  • 1 Nephi 11:17 (Nephi says He knows God loves His children, but he doesn’t know the meaning of all God does or everything in God’s plan)

  • St. John 3:16 (God loved the world so much that He gave His Only Begotten Son that whoso believed in Him would have everlasting life)

  • 2 Nephi 26:24 (God doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world, for He loveth the world)

  • Jacob 2:31-33 (God delights in the chastity of women and is angered when men injure their delicate hearts and spirits)

  • Doctrine & Covenants 132:20 (Those who abide God’s laws become gods themselves)

  • Doctrine & Covenants 98:3 (We can’t even begin to imagine or dream of the blessings God has in store for us if we are obedient to His commands, indeed it is impossible for us to comprehend the eternal glory God has in store)

  • Moses 1:39; Excerpts from D&C 76, & 88 (God spends all His time in total servitude trying to lead us toward eternal life—life like Him in highest degree of celestial kingdom—and joy, but if we reject that He will still give us immortality—resurrection and a lesser level of celestial or other kingdom of glory)

  • JST, Matthew 16:28 (If we lose our life in this life we will gain it in the next life)

  • Matthew 7:11 (If men, being evil, know how to give good gifts to their children, then for goodness sakes certainly God knows how to give good gifts to us…took some liberty with the phrasing there)

Now, one of the scriptures I have recently pondered is Moroni 7:10. It says: “Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good: neither will he give a good gift.”

Now, when God says evil here, he means evil intent. A person with evil intent and ungodly goals cannot translate that evil intent into something good. It’s contrary to the person’s intent. I say intent because nowadays people are afraid to call anything wicked or evil for fear that they are labeling. But, though no one likes to say it, regular everyday people who in general desire good and do good things are still quite capable of being evil, or wicked, in some ways by acting with evil, or wicked, intent.

So, let’s flip this scripture around. Let’s reword it to say: “Wherefore, a man being good cannot do that which is evil: neither will he give an evil gift.”

So a man with good and righteous intent cannot make a gift into something evil if that is not the intent. In this case, it seems it really is “the thought that counts.”

Now, not only is God more than a man, He is perfectly good. His intent regarding our lives is clear. He wants to give us all that He has and He wants us to have eternal Joy. So, if that is true (and I know for myself that it is), then nothing He commands us to do will lead us to a bad gift, a bad ending, or a miserable eternal existence. It simply isn’t in His nature, or His intent, to do so.

After studying these and many other verses, the Holy Spirit testified to me that God was who I thought He was—and more. I felt keenly that I could trust Him. I don’t know if I can describe the feeling of certainty as one of complete and immense healing, but I felt a profound sense of relief and sort of a feeling of intense and perfect logic.

So, then it was onto the next question. Has God given any other related commands like plural marriage which are normally forbidden by Him? It didn’t take long to come to a resounding YES.

  • 1 Nephi 4:8-18 (The Lord commands Nephi to kill Laban so that he may obtain the records)

  • Exodus 33:2; 1 Samuel 15:2-3, etc. (The Lord commands the Israelites to go to war and drive out the unrighteous people in the land of promise; the Lord commands King Saul to destroy Amalek and his people: man, woman, child, and beast—pretty horrific)

So, then I came to the question how? How could God command murder, and make an exception to His own standard laws from time to time? I could ask the same thing about the flood. I mean, we read the story often, but it’s actually rather barbaric UNLESS you consider some critical factors that make God different from men.

First, God has power over life, death, marriage…well, everything. We cannot make one hair black or white (permanently), but He can (3 Nephi 12:36). We cannot restore virtue, but He can. We cannot restore life, but He can. We cannot do much, but He can do all. So, not only the fact that God is our Father and that He loves us, but that He is all powerful and has perfect righteous intent gives Him authority over His own commands. If His intent with such commands is good, then no matter how we may perceive it, it will lead to happiness and to blessings we can’t fathom, because He can’t give a bad gift. The reason why God is god is because He knows how to do what’s right and best in all things.

We can’t be trusted to make exceptions to God’s standard laws and commandments because of our finite and imperfect state. If God gave us leeway on the regular marriage commandment or on the regular “thou shalt not kill” commandment, on a regular basis, how many of us could be trusted not to abuse them in fits of anger or in times of intense sensual temptation? Our imperfect perception and vision would ensure that we’d abuse such commands. If you consider the level of difficulty in righteous implementation, it also helps us to understand why it’s always hard to actually carry off plural marriage correctly when the Lord does command it. The selfish and unrighteous always find ways to abuse God’s laws—all of them—not just plural marriage. Thankfully, the Lord knows how to perfectly restore and compensate any of His children whether in this life or the next. Because of the Atonement, it’s all already covered.

So, the point is, God doesn’t abuse His own laws because He won’t, it’s not in His nature, but also He can’t abuse them if He wants to remain God. Doctrine and Covenants 88:21-22, 34-41 clearly specifies that power and glory is preserved and protected by law. The same laws that bind God to bless us when we keep His commandments (Doctrine & Covenants 82:10) also bind Him to righteously use His power otherwise; He would cease to be God.

So, here’s a side-by-side comparison of what I prepared for my seminary class. It’s drastically summarized, but in conjunction with this blog hopefully it will make sense.

So, now we get down to the final avoidance issue that must be confronted. Would you be willing to live this law of plural marriage if the Lord commanded you (because it would serve His righteous and eternal purposes and plan)? Well, if you don’t know, let me ask you these questions.

  • Would you be willing to kill someone if God asked you to?

  • Would you be willing to take one of your children and sacrifice him to God if God asked?

  • Would you be willing to kill one child that the rest of your children might be saved?

Now, don’t ever say, “Well, God won’t ask me to do that. He may have done that to Abraham, but He wouldn’t do that now.” Well, God has repeatedly shown throughout the history of the scriptures that He does and will ask all of us to do things we never expected to do. The scriptures teach that all of us must be chastened and tried even as Abraham (Doctrine and Covenants 101:4). And, as Latter-day Saints we believe, claim, and preach that “God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (Mormon 9:9).

The real question you have to answer has nothing to do with plural marriage. It has everything to do with your willingness to do all the things which God commands you (Abraham 3:24-26). Just as Abraham was asked to give up his only son by his first wife, his birthright son, to God; so also each of us will be asked at some point (or points) in our mortal lives to sacrifice something of incredible value to us; a tradition, a belief, a weakness, a sin, etc. Why? Because God himself had to be willing to sacrifice His Only Begotten Son that the rest of us might have a chance at eternal life. How can we expect to aspire to godhood if we cannot do what God would do? We have to sacrifice our fear of losing something ourselves to save others; and we must do it in faith that it will produce an end result and blessing far more glorious and wonderful than the one we would have ended up with otherwise.

If God had reneged on the idea of a Redeemer when Christ asked for the cup to be taken, then none of us would ever have had the chance to become anything more than a spirit with limited, or even completely impeded, eternal progression. God would have saved the life of one son only to damn all the gazillion trillion others. What joy would there have been in that for Him or us? Why do you think we allowed Christ to volunteer as Redeemer? Why do you think we accepted this plan in the pre-mortal life? Because we understood that a fullness of joy comes with a fullness of sacrifice.

With our limited vision, we think that if we preserve one good ideal that we hold to that it will bring us infinite joy. When God knows that it won’t, that one good ideal may even limit our joy. But, because we can’t see what He does, we think we know better than Him. It’s rather foolish of us, if you view it that way.

When God asks us to do things, He knows exactly the blessings that will come to us if we are willing to abandon our finite understanding and trust Him to give us a gazillion trillion more blessings than what we actually thought we desired or asked for. He is only limited in His ability to bless us by our limited ability to trust Him and give our life to Him.

This is a topic that each of us must ponder for ourselves. Whether we are willing to live the law of plural marriage is more about us than it is about God, and yet we make it all about God. It’s not about who He is, it’s about who we are and what we want to become. It’s about our ability to trust Him. But, it’s easy to see why it’s hard for us trust, since mortal men and women are very difficult to trust. But God is the one being whom we can test and prove and He will show us that He can be trusted. I invite you to test Him. And when He proves His trust, then you must go on and trust Him. Malachi 3:10 says, “and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (and for goodness sakes, that’s just about tithing…).

But, now onto some more comforting words. Here is some good news. Unless the Lord has asked you to live this law then you don’t need to spend time worrying about it. What a waste of time to worry about something that you have not been asked to do or that you may never be asked to do. Not everyone’s faith is tested in the same ways. Not everyone’s Abrahamic trial is exactly like Abraham’s. It’s not like we all sit around making ourselves sick and ask ourselves if we would be willing to sacrifice our first born child to the Lord just because Abraham was asked to do so. Do we?

The only purpose in continuing to hash this plural marriage topic around in your mind is because Satan wants you to remain in a state of unrest and doubt about the God you love. He wants you to doubt God. He wants you to doubt God’s purposes and plan. He wants you to doubt your faith. He wants you to doubt yourself. For doubt is the perfect breeding ground for the seed of fear which is the antithesis of faith. It is also the antithesis of peace and joy. And Satan certainly doesn’t want you to have those (2 Nephi 2:27). He wants you to be miserable. Are you feeling miserable, untrusting, and faithless? Then, you can be certain of the source, and it’s not God. It’s not your Heavenly Father.

If people outside the church ask why the church practiced polygamy you hopefully can and should say: Because God commanded us to that we might build up His church and kingdom upon the earth. And, you need to be able to say it with confidence. You need to know for yourself that God loves you. That He has clearly set precedence for this law by commanding other difficult things—when they support His loving purposes. He also is the only being with the power and the authority to command such things.

It’s important that you dismiss all unimportant and unnecessary mortal speculation regarding plural marriage. A lot of educated (and uneducated) people have read this or that, or teach this or that about how they’ve made sense of why God did it. They quote isolated scriptures too and speculate, “It’s because so many men were killed…” or “It’s because in heaven we’ll all be part of plural marriages…” look at this scripture, etc. I simply can’t include all the attempted scriptural interpretations or rumors here.

This speculation can be purposeless and damaging. Why? Because though we, as mortals, can sometimes kill two birds with one stone, God can accomplish and billion and one things with one action. For us to suppose that we can truly comprehend His purposes and goals is unfruitful, because we can’t. When we try we end up with more confusion and polluted doctrine. God’s vision, knowledge, and understanding is so far above ours that there is no way for us to fully understand it (Isaiah 55:8-9; Proverbs 14:12). If we ponder such possibilities on our own as we move toward peace, that’s fine. But we should never preach it to others and we should never accept others musings as absolute truth or doctrine.

I want to add just a few more comments to those who will continue to sit around and stew about whether or not they’ll have to live this law in the celestial kingdom. I want to you remember the most important and fundamental principle of the gospel: agency. God will never force you to do something you don’t want to do. Plus, as we’ve already discussed, if you really think that you’ll spend your whole life hoping for pure joy and get to the celestial kingdom and be miserable, that somehow all you hope and dream of will somehow fall short, then you need to go back to the first issue: your relationship and knowledge of the character of God. St. John 17:3 says, “For this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true god and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.” Just reading this blog isn’t going to automatically change your understanding of God if you haven’t already put in the work to come to know Him. This is something you must do in faith.

Now, to close, I will make a few more comments. First, just because this is how I came to this conclusion and peace doesn’t mean that reading this post will lead you to the same conclusion. Part of the process of gaining peace is going through your own process of discovery and receiving a witness of peace from the Holy Spirit. I can’t give you what I have worked hard to obtain. But, I can give you the fodder to press forward if you’ve just begun. I can give you another witness to the one you are already receiving, or have received. And, I can start you on the path if you are ready to gain a witness, to stop avoiding your fears and to confront your concerns. But, ultimately, you are going to have to study and ponder and ask God if the things that you have read here in this post are true—the things about Him and His character. You are going to have to seek your own witness or at the minimum, validate what you’ve felt.

So, in summary I suggest the following:

  1. After reading this, study these principles and doctrines and seek your own witness.

  2. Strengthen your testimony of God’s love and character. Understand Him better and you will have more confidence to do whatever He may ask of you. Not knowing Him was why the 10 virgins were turned away (Matthew 25:12, “Verily I say unto you, I know you not”) and why Laman and Lemuel fell away too (1 Nephi 2:12). So, make this a priority.

  3. Don’t sit around stewing about whether or not God is going to ask you to someday walk 1000+ miles across the plains, to sacrifice your first born child, or to live the law of plural marriage. When, and IF, that moment ever came; if you have come to know and trust God and His character in your life, you will understand and be given power to do what you need to do when harder sacrifices are requested of you. President Thomas S. Monson has said on multiple occasions, “Whom God calls He also qualifies.” 1 Nephi 3:7 clearly states that God provides a way to keep His commandments.

  4. Enjoy the life and blessings you have been given. Ultimately, if you boil down mortality, it’s entire purpose is to help us gain bodies and help each other learn and grow, become like God, and return home to live “like” Him. Yes, it’s about us personally, in some ways, but ultimately it’s all about God’s plan to exalt us. And “he who loses his life for my sake shall in this world shall find it in the world to come” (JST Matthew 16:28).

In closing I leave you with my witness that I know God loves His daughters. I know that He can and will command us to do things that are hard. What those things are only He knows and it does no good to sit around dreading them or presupposing what they may be. When our Abrahamic trials come God will qualify us and prepare the way that we may accept them and do His perfect will. We can trust Him. I know that He does such things that we may fully comprehend and become that which we need to become; to comprehend and receive the unspeakable, unimaginable blessings that He has in store for each of us. I know that whatever He gives us will be far and above whatever we think we have imagined for ourselves. We simply can’t comprehend the glory, power, honor, and joy that awaits those who keep God’s commandments. We need not fear God. We need not fear the world. We need only gain a witness and stand strong.

BT

DOCTRINE: This life is about learning and obtaining godly attributes so that in God’s eternal plan (and process) we may become as He is—a god. Therefore, the purpose of the atonement of Jesus Christ, which provides forgiveness for sin, the power to change desires and appetites, and a resurrected perfected body (we call it grace), is in place to perfect us (both body and spirit) since it is necessary to become imperfect and mortal in the godly-learning process.

The first topic I’m going to blog about is Grace. However, this topic is going to be broken into multiple parts because Grace is not something any one person can sum up in a few paragraphs.

Grace means many things to many people. From covering sins to helping us live a good life, grace is ultimately the power that most of us feel gets us back to God’s presence. But, I have to ask, why do we even need grace in the first place? Why did God place us here on earth in such a manner, or with a plan, that required grace at all? Isn’t that a bit unfair?

So, there has to be a purpose to grace. It can only be this generic, in-explainable, thing that we accept on blind faith for so long. At some point our faith has to be fed by understanding. By doctrine.

In Romans 8:15-17 we learn that God’s intention for us is to be led by His Holy Spirit to live in such a way that we can—through grace—become joint heirs with Christ and partake of the same glory IF we “suffer with Him”. It teaches us that we are the spirit-children of God. Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe that as children of God each of us has the potential to become as God is, or indeed, joint-heirs, at some future point IF we learn to be like Christ.

However, this is often all people hear about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and they write it off thinking we are nuts. I mean, after all, who can truly become a God? That’s for mythology and movies, right? Didn’t we see Bruce Almighty? Doesn’t absolute power corrupt absolutely? Has our religion paid attention to world history, even a current look at humanity? Sure, there are some good people. Sure, there have been some “saints.” But, are we really crazy enough to believe that all of us could really become a god?

Yet, I repeat, what’s the purpose of grace? Why put us here on a planet in the middle of an infinite universe, out of His presence, and then tell us to be good if being good has no purpose but to simply bring us back home again. I mean, what then was the purpose of leaving His presence to begin with? For example, this is what the current accepted purpose of grace is across the world and across many religions, “Hey kids, go outside and play in this big ol’ universe and if you are mean to each other I can’t let you come back inside the house. You’ll have to live forever in the basement. Oh, but if you are really sorry, then in order to get back in I’ll have to send my Only Begotten to suffer horrifically for your mistakes and then, if you believe in Him I’ll let you back in the house.”

Why not just keep us inside the house to begin with? Why would God send us outside at all if He knew one step onto the porch would make it so we couldn’t come back inside? Why purposefully create a need for something like the atonement, where His son would have to undergo some incomprehensible suffering to get us all fixed back up and back in the house?

This scenario only becomes more silly when we consider the vast, incalculable amount of human suffering that comes from being “set loose outside God’s house.” Injustice practically rules human life. And to what point? Depending on where you’re born and into what situation, you are either forever in bondage to poverty, starvation, political injustice, etc. or you are born into a situation where you can attain great wealth and power and use your free will to your own whim, damn the consequences to others. The rest fit somewhere in the middle of these two extremes enjoying some peace and happiness, but at best still spend most of their lives in difficult situations. Even the best people ever born on this earth made mistakes, offended others, and caused suffering in some shape or form.

Grace covers injustices, we may answer, but why should it have to? That’s the question.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, section 122 verse 7 we read:

“And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”

I didn’t include the list of things in the verses prior. But, how can so much pain and suffering be for “our good?” As well, any of us could plug any number of less poetic injustices and horrific circumstances into this verse and by doing so the statement “that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good,” almost sounds ridiculous and totally unfeeling and un-godlike. Why would God say something like that?

So many times in our lives we ponder the question, “Why does God let happen?” In fact, it is often the reason people choose to no longer believe in God, or any kind of deity. They choose to abandon the idea of a higher being because this life and all its issues and problems seems to have little purpose especially when we get phrases from God like, “all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”

I have pondered this question for years based in part on the horrific scenes I have heard about in the news or witnessed and also in part from my own suffering. Why have the atonement of Christ at all? Why allow all this pain and suffering to happen? Why do we need grace?

But, when you place all this “experience” within the doctrine of Latter-day Saint belief, that we are in training to become like God, suddenly, there seems to be a bit of sense in all of this. For example, consider this thought. Who wants a God that doesn’t know what it’s like to have trials, pain, and suffering? To be all-knowing mustn’t one suffer—at least to a certain extent?

Now, I can say that I haven’t suffered all the things the people around me in life have suffered—yet—the things I have suffered have granted me insight into all kinds of terrible suffering: physical and emotional/psychological. I’m not saying I know it all, but I certainly know that having gone through some of the things I’ve gone through has taught me to have a lot more compassion on others who are going through similar, related, and sometimes unrelated issues. Because I know how hard it was to pass through my own trials, I can look at others and be impressed that they are getting out of bed when I believe they have every right to stay in bed and curse the world.

Who wants a God who hasn’t needed mercy and forgiveness and so consequently doesn’t understand the terrific need for mercy and forgiveness? Who wants a God who can’t control himself or herself physically or mentally? Who wants a God who can’t prioritize or who has an incorrect view of justice? Who wants a God who doesn’t have the wisdom to see beyond momentary pleasures into the life principles that bring consistent peace and happiness. I mean, I could make a list that could span thousands of pages. A whole lot of things, commandments especially, begin to make a lot more sense if we place them in the context of learning to become like God. Even LDS food storage is no longer about saving for a rainy day or some natural disaster that hasn’t happened yet. It becomes about learning to wisely manage earthly resources so that we have enough for ourselves, enough to share, enough to bless, and enough to fix problems–that’s what God does.

If the whole point of this life is to learn the traits and characteristics that will allow each of us the opportunity to—over a course of eons—become godly (if we choose to try), then suddenly, there seems to be a bit of sense to the statement, “that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good [as you learn to become like Me].”

So, if God put us on this earth to suffer and make mistakes in a long, eternal process that helps us develop godly attributes; (a process which really sucks at times) then it makes sense, at least to me, that grace now has a purpose.

What is that purpose? Well, if we have to become imperfect to learn to be perfect and godly, like God, then we have to have a spiritual and physical restoration to perfection after we’ve gained the experience we need to be, and remain, perfect.

The purpose of grace is not as cursory as we might all have often believed. It’s not just so we can come back inside God’s house and strum harps and flap around with white, fluffy wings. Grace, bought by the blood, death, and resurrection of God’s Only Begotten Son, was necessary and put in place so that we could learn to be like God (to eventually have our own eternal houses with spirit kids to raise and help become godly) without being condemned by the godly-learning process.

Grace = learn to become like God without being condemned by the godly learning process.

Christ’s atonement overcomes the weaknesses of those who bend their will to God’s will (Alma 5:21; Alma 11:37; 3 Nephi 27:19). It allows people to change, over time, a characteristic or personality trait that must be honed to a godly level (See quote by C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity, Book 3, Chapter 4, paragraph 8). It allows people to learn about themselves and what they need to improve upon. It allows the wicked to improve, repent, and become holy; and it allows the righteous to become sanctified and godly. It provides a million+ do-overs as we wander around figuring out what this life is all about and if we want to use it to become like God—because it takes all of us differing amounts of time to encounter this decision and decide what we will do.

So, grace helps us become like God. It allows us to aspire to a level of power that can only be offered to those who have learned to become selfless enough to use it (and to be bound by the righteous laws of self-control and goodness that protect such power). I mean godhood, not everyone wants it. However, it is offered to all and everyone can choose it, if they want. Certainly, a heavenly father wants us to come back inside the house and grow up to become like Him. But, if we really don’t want to, we don’t have to. But, all His efforts are going to be to encourage us to try. And, why wouldn’t He?

This sort of makes me laugh because people think Mormonism is rigid and bigoted and behind the times. People think we lack mercy and grace. Yet, they want mercy and grace—indeed godly attributes—without law. To be a God, does there not have to be an ability developed, indeed a willingness, to follow law with perfection and to delight in that which perpetuates the proper use of godly power? Mercy and grace are nice, but what about other aspects of God’s power, like the ability to create worlds and manage universal forces? What about His justice, honor, and love?

It doesn’t so much matter what God commands but that we learn to do it with exactness and honor, partaking of grace when we need to improve, and granting grace to others without reserve as they also learn to be godly. But grace, as Christ showed in His mortal ministry, was never about condoning sin or tolerance, as we might label it today. Christ’s grace was about not condemning, or casting final judgment, on those who had sinned…until they had been given the opportunity to repent. He always recognized the sin but because of His love and mercy for the sinner He encouraged them to “go and sin no more.” He encouraged righteous, godly behavior with love and mercy and discouraged unrighteous behavior with strict teachings and promises of the consequences of sin.

I think I’ve made my point, but, if you’re still reading, then let me give an example of grace and how it applies to everyday LDS living. Or, how it should apply.

First, I’m convinced that whether or not I drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes matters little to God in the short-term. However, I believe that He commands such restrictions that I may learn to stand apart from “the norm”, that I learn to understand the importance of keeping my mind clear in the long-term. I mean, who wants a God ruling the universe while he’s drunk or hyped up on caffeine, nicotine, or any other drug? Or, even worse, who wants a God whose rule of the universe is put in jeopardy when he’s run out of his latest fix, or who places hot-fudge pudding cake or hard liquor over answering our prayers? Is it really that hard to understand why Latter-day Saints adhere to such restrictions? Health, yes, but far more important is the ability to control our physical appetites and keep our mind clear.

Yet, none of us is born with perfect control over our physical appetites. We need grace as we learn to control ourselves. Some of us Christians smoke, drink, take drugs, struggle with obesity, and all other issues. Yet, little-by-little, because we are commanded and we keep trying, we learn to gain control and understand the importance of the principles behind the commandments. Grace allows us to mess up and yet still change, or improve, and work toward godly attributes.

The purpose of grace isn’t just about being basically good. The purpose of grace is to help us become like God.

BT