Doctrines: Spiritual interventions and ultimatums are godly, acceptable, and necessary to deliver before we can be justified in taking serious and drastic courses of action in close relationships. The whole point of an intervention or ultimatum is to invite a person to act on their agency. It is to invite them and provide conditions that encourage a person to decide what they truly want and to act on it. Interventions and ultimatums are about godly sanction for us to LET GO of the accountability we have tried to appropriate for others. Forgiving others for trespasses against us does not mean enabling them to continue trespassing against us and God’s commands.
A study of the standard works (Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, as well as modern conference talks and lesson manuals) will reveal that God is a god of spiritual interventions and ultimatums. God is NOT an enabler of sin. These three terms are often used but loosely understood. So, let’s define them:
Intervention: come between so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events.
Ultimatum: a final demand or statement of terms, the rejection of which will result in retaliating action or a breakdown of relations.
Enable: give authority or means to do something.
Whether we believe it or not, whether we like it or not, this life is NOT about learning to become good. The majority of the people who come to this earth are good to varying degrees—naturally. Therefore, this life is about what level of goodness we want and our potential path to godhood. We are here to prove whether or not we want to become more than good. We are here to prove whether or not we want the power and accountability that come with the high and holy responsibility of godhood.
All of God’s plan is set up to ensure we have agency to pass through this process with complete honesty, validity, and personal accountability. His commandments are about becoming godly. His covenants are about becoming godly. So also, His use of spiritual intervention and spiritual ultimatums, and His unwillingness to enable us in sin, are about leading us to godhood.
God does not actually intervene in our lives without some act of agency on our part. But, He does do all He can to open us up to His counsel, which if accepted and followed, will alter the course of our lives toward godhood. His enticements are what open us up to the available intervention He offers. He does this by providing multiple opportunities—daily—for us to receive spiritual guidance and counsel. These include:
- Promptings and inspiration from the Holy Ghost
- Callings and opportunities to serve
- Commandments and instructions on how to become godly
- Scriptures—His written words
- Wise friends and family
- Trials and struggles
- Uplifting music
- Church meetings where we are taught and instructed
- Dedicated temples (His house) available for us to become worthy to enter and receive guidance
We accept God’s intervention in our lives by inviting Him to make it. We do this by making and keeping covenants. Once we are in this “covenant zone,” we have willingly given our lives over to God, meaning that He can, in some ways, act to intervene, and give us a chance to alter our course toward godhood. Note that He doesn’t force us to change course, but He does have the authority we’ve given Him to offer frequent interventions, which allow us to act, or choose, to get back on course for godhood.
If we start to get off the straight and narrow path—which we covenanted with God to follow—God will frequently call us up and offer interventions. If we get completely off the path, God will eventually issue spiritual ultimatums. Basically, if we are not trying to keep the covenant which we promised Him we would keep (and invited Him to help us keep), He will not let us sit around and twiddle our thumbs or make light of our relationship and covenant with Him. He will issue a final demand or statement of terms, the rejection of which will result in the loss of blessings, power, and most certainly a breakdown and loss of our covenant relationship with Him.
It is very important to understand what happens when we abandon covenants with God and we fail to respond righteously to His ultimatums. God will release us from our covenant and in consequence withhold blessings. He is not an enabler. He will not give us the authority or the means to use His blessings and powers in our pursuit of sin.
However, this loss of privileges, powers, and our close relationship with Him does not mean we step outside of His love. He will take back from us those gifts and privileges from Him that we didn’t want, didn’t honor, and took for granted. But, He will continue to offer back to us as much as we will receive.
The scriptures are, backwards and forwards, a record of spiritual interventions and ultimatums. They are issued to families, individuals, children, regions, wards/branches, and even the entire church; when such exhibit outright rebellion and are on the path to ultimate physical and spiritual destruction.
Here are just a few (a very few) examples:
- Laman and Lemuel received spiritual ultimatums from Nephi to repent or be cast off.
- The Nephites repeatedly received spiritual ultimatums from their prophets/spiritual leaders to repent or be swept off the promised land by the wicked nations around them.
- The Israelites constantly received spiritual ultimatums to repent or be destroyed by the heathen nations around them.
- Chief Captain Moroni offers a spiritual intervention with the Title of Liberty, allowing those sitting about the opportunity to rise up and defend their religion and their freedoms.
- Alma and Amulek issued spiritual ultimatums to the people of Ammonihah to repent or be wiped out by the Lamanites.
- Jonah issued a spiritual ultimatum to Nineveh to repent or be destroyed.
- An angel issued a spiritual ultimatum to Alma the Younger to stop trying to destroy the church or he would be cast off eternally.
- Abinadi issued a spiritual ultimatum to King Noah that the people needed to repent or they would be driven to and fro and made slaves by their enemies.
- Paul often offered spiritual interventions in his many letters to the churches.
- Lehi frequently pled with Laman and Lemuel and offered spiritual interventions, and asked them to accept.
- God sent an angel to Laman and Lemuel (who were beating their younger brothers nigh to death) to intervene on both their behalf and Nephi and Sam IF Laman and Lemuel would listen.
So, why talk about spiritual interventions and ultimatums and how to NOT enable?
Because, we all tend to offer interventions and to issue ultimatums of our own, and we do it without godly direction. As well, many of us who try to be forgiving and well-meaning end up enabling those who sin against us to continue to sin against us, and God. So, we all need to understand a little better how to offer interventions, issue ultimatums, and to NOT enable. As we do, we may find that our relationships improve and agency is still honored.
Now, each of us is part of some type of human relationship. Either we are a devoted friend, a caring brother or sister, a worried mother or father, a hurting and struggling spouse, a faithful visiting or home teacher, a bishop, or the head of a presidency serving in the auxiliaries of the church. Sometimes we are bosses in a work environment.
In all of these relationships, spiritual interventions and ultimatums are necessary and appropriate IF done correctly.
My first suggestion is for each of you, as you study your scriptures, either tonight or in the coming weeks, to pay attention and pray to notice the spiritual interventions/ultimatums. When you come upon them, take the time to stop and make note of:
- Who they are offered/issued to
- Why they are offered/issued
- How they are offered/issued
- When they are offered/issued
- What happened to the person(s) who offered/issued the intervention/ultimatum
- What happened to the person(s) who received the intervention/ultimatum
Over time, you will be taught by the Spirit the things you need to know to offer/issue spiritual interventions/ultimatums in the relationships in your life. You will also be taught by the Spirit the things you do currently—when you try to offer/issue—that are not helpful.
However, here are some basic principles/doctrines regarding the spiritual ultimatums God offers:
- A godly ultimatum states clearly and concisely the sinful actions of the sinner and that they have broken a specific covenant.
- A godly ultimatum is not apologetic, nor is it laden with “I’m sorry to say this…” “Please forgive me that I have to do this…”
- A godly ultimatum is not full of resentment, vengeance, or overt hurt and emotion (other than righteous anger). These tender, and valid emotions must NOT be included. Stating feelings at this point will only lead to an argument about how you have also hurt them. Who has sinned and how and who hurt who when is not in question. The ultimatum is about a lack of repentance (purposeful rebellion) and their clear intent to NOT keep their covenants.
- A godly ultimatum includes immediate consequences and removal of blessings that cannot be restored without repentance during a probation period.
- A godly ultimatum includes a final, or ultimate, consequence for failure to repent within the probationary period.
Now, here is one (and only one) example of a Marriage Covenant Ultimatum. Please take the time to look for and identify each of the principles/doctrines of a godly, spiritual ultimatum in this example.
Example: Marriage Covenant Ultimatum
Mindy is an abused wife (of 2+ years). Her husband, Mark, doesn’t beat her physically, but he is addicted to pornography and in consequence sexually abusive and verbally abusive. He consistently sins against Mindy and his marriage covenant and makes insincere apologies that turn into guilt sessions where Mindy is left feeling that if she seeks divorce she is abandoning her own marriage covenant.
Mindy has tried to confront Mark with his lack of repentance and unwillingness to treat her with love and respect. She has even gotten Mark to meet with her and the bishop a few times. Yet, while the bishop has called on Mark to repent and become better, he also keeps telling Mindy to not withhold sex from Mark. Mindy is barely clinging on to hope.
While Mindy has urged Mark to repent and tried to express how he is hurting her feelings, her offered interventions (as well as the bishop’s) have been ultimately rejected. Mark is now a rebellious, knowing, sinner who is refusing to truly repent and embrace the covenants he has made with God and Mindy. Therefore, it is now time for Mindy to issue a spiritual ultimatum.
She must issue a final demand or statement of terms, the rejection of which, by Mark, will result in Mark losing his relationship with Mindy.
Such an ultimatum may sound like this: “Mark, you have repeatedly shown that you have no desire to quit using pornography, to quit sexually and verbally abusing me, and to keep your marriage covenants. As of tomorrow, (no matter what you say or do) I am moving in with my parents for 6 months. If you love God and me, you will use these 6 months to truly repent, seek counseling and addiction recovery help, and embrace our marriage covenants. After the 6 months is up, if you have not done these things and shown that you sincerely desire to repent and change, I will file for divorce.”
Interventions, Ultimatums, and Learning NOT to Enable are about Proper Use of Agency
Agency is the most important thing God has given us and it is the one thing we should all protect. This is what godly interventions and ultimatums do. They do not try to manipulate people into a course of action. They invite them to act. Then, the choice and accountability is left up to them—not to us. As well, interventions and ultimatums are as much about us letting go as they are inviting others to act.
The whole point of an intervention or ultimatum is to invite a person to act on their agency. It is to invite them and provide conditions (which includes immediate consequences) that encourage a person to decide what they truly want and to act on it. It is not our job to protect others from consequences, nor allow them to continue to receive blessings if they do not merit them. It is also not our job to enable them to continue in sin or by appropriating accountability through micromanaging their actions—which is akin to trying to change their innate desires and repent for them.
If you offer an intervention or an ultimatum without being prompted/guided by the Holy Ghost to do so, or validated by the Holy Ghost when you express your plan to God, then you will likely offer it unsuccessfully.
If you do not pray, study, plan, and prepare before offering your intervention or issuing your ultimatum, you will not have the confidence to back it up or the ability to react in a godly manner if it doesn’t go how you expected.
If you do not stick to your plans (the ones God has validated/prompted) when you issue your ultimatum, or offer your intervention, and avoid inappropriate emotional responses and micromanaging, then it is no longer an ultimatum or intervention. You must own what you can do and let them own what they can, or are willing to, do. Offering interventions and issuing ultimatums are not about making statements of who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about making a statement that will not change based on what happens after it is issued.
If you design your intervention or your ultimatum to guilt someone into choosing the right (or what you want them to do) by dramatic statements and exhibitions of emotion, then you are trying to get them to act in fear and pity rather than by the true desires of their hearts. This is a manipulation of agency. Whether they desire good or evil, you must allow them to choose what they want and then allow them to be accountable for what they choose.
In all things, we must learn to forgive others for their sins and trespasses against us (Doctrine and Covenants 64:9-11). But, in relationships, forgiving others does not mean enabling them to continue trespassing against us and God’s commands. It means letting go of our resentment and anger toward them and not seeking retaliation or vengeance. Interventions and ultimatums must not enable the sinner to continue sinning. There must be stated consequences and we must follow-through on those consequences.
God forgives us any time we sincerely and truly repent (Mosiah 26:30). God loves us always (Romans 8:39). But, He does not enable (give us authority or means) us to live against His will. This is why He continually offers interventions and issues ultimatums.