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:

  • Prayer
  • 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.

Stop Domino Effect - Hand Prevents Failure

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.

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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:

  1. Who they are offered/issued to
  2. Why they are offered/issued
  3. How they are offered/issued
  4. When they are offered/issued
  5. What happened to the person(s) who offered/issued the intervention/ultimatum
  6. 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.


Doctrine: When we are purposefully unkind, abusive (verbally, physically, emotionally), manipulative, demeaning, belligerent, hateful, rebellious, blame others for actions, and constantly cite our good intentions as justification or excuse, etc., we are setting ourselves up to exercise, or are exercising, unrighteous dominion.

unrighteousdominion-convertedUnrighteous dominion is one of those scriptural phrases we have trouble equating with normal life. So, let’s define it.

  • Unrighteous = not righteous, or wicked
  • Dominion = sovereignty, or control

So, we could also say: unrighteous control, wicked control, unrighteous sovereignty, or wicked sovereignty.

Wicked and unrighteous are also taboo-type words to those trying to be faithful Christians. We are very hesitant to label a person wicked or unrighteous even if they do something wicked or unrighteous; whether for a moment, a few days, or even a longer while. Therefore, if a normally good person does something unrighteous or wicked, we hesitate to call it what it is.

The Lord is not afraid to call wickedness what it is. When Martin Harris, a normally faithful and wonderful man, tried to take the translated record from “the prophet”, Joseph Smith, the Lord said, “And for this cause I said that he [Martin] is a wicked man, for he has sought to take away the things wherewith you have been entrusted; and he has also sought to destroy your gift” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:7). Martin Harris, and Joseph Smith, had been told “no” by the Lord several times when they asked to take the translation and show it to Martin’s family. But, Martin manipulated and guilted Joseph into going back to the Lord again and again. Joseph did so because he was afraid and aspired to Martin Harris’s friendship and financial support over the will of the Lord.  Both had great justifications which were nonetheless unacceptable to the Lord and full of pride. Both acted wickedly.

The Lord also said in Doctrine and Covenants 121:33-40 that when we:

  • “aspire to the honors of men” or, in other words, “seek for and desire the recognition and praise of the world/people over that which comes from God”
  • “cover our sins,” or delay repentance, or pretend we aren’t sinning
  • “gratify our pride,” or indulge or seek to please our own pride
  • “gratify…our vain ambition,” or indulge a useless and ultimately unproductive desire

…we are set up to “exercise control or dominion or compulsion” in unrighteousness. Or, in other words, UNRIGHTEOUS DOMINION.

We are all wicked and unrighteous in those times that we are doing purposefully unrighteous things. When we are purposefully unkind, abusive (verbally, physically, emotionally), manipulative, belligerent, hateful, demeaning, rebellious, blaming others for our actions, etc., which we all do or have done at times, we are being wicked. It doesn’t mean our innate nature is wicked or unrighteous. But, until we repent and cease from such behavior, we are, in effect, wicked men and women. And, even more importantly, when we are doing purposefully wicked things we are setting ourselves up to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Unrighteous dominion is often brought about by aspects of pride that most of us don’t think of. The first is fear. What are we afraid of? We are afraid we won’t get what we want. We are afraid someone else will do something, or not do something, that will affect us negatively. We are afraid others will get what they want and we won’t. We are afraid of being overshadowed, forgotten, unappreciated, etc. We are afraid sacrifices we’ve made will go unnoticed or unrewarded. We are simply afraid.child caught in the middle isolated on white

Another aspect of pride that creeps in and causes us to practice unrighteous dominion is a lack of faith in the intelligence and abilities of others. It is related to a fear of things not happening that we want. But it is also a feeling that we need to exert force, compulsion, or control in some manner to preserve our idea of what is best, or right. We are certain that our compulsive actions are “just” because we are doing them to “make up for” the weaknesses, issues, unrighteousness, or struggles of others.

The problem with these fears and a lack of faith in others is that is based in a lack of faith in God. Yes, a lack of faith in God. Ultimately, we try to wrest control from God when we fear the things we will not get and the things that others will not do. We step in and manipulate, abuse, guilt, badger, and the like, to compensate for our own fear and lack of faith that God has things in hand. We can see only what we will lose which blinds us to everything else. We can’t see others will and choice as their own. We can’t see or trust God’s compensations. We can’t see anything but what we can do and what others cannot.

When we can only see ourselves and what will or will not benefit us, then we can’t see clearly the feelings, needs, or capabilities of others. We judge in-righteously and exercise unrighteous dominion.

  • Unrighteous dominion has no respect for moral agency (i.e. free will, agency, freedom of choice, independent thought, etc.)
  • Unrighteous dominion tries to avoid, maneuver around, and ignore the natural consequences of choice by self and others (“I’m just trying to protect you from…”)
  • Unrighteous dominion is the momentary or complete absence of Christlike/godly love
  • All unrighteous dominion is fueled, in some form, by fear, self-love, and pride

God has said (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-45, brackets added for clarity and understanding), that in order to avoid unrighteous dominion:

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained…only by persuasion, by long-suffer [patience], by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned [or not pretend love];

By kindness, and pure knowledge [or full, complete, untainted or altered], which shall greatly enlarge [edify] the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile [selfish, personal agenda]–

Let they bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly…

As well, in the final verse God says that IF we do these things we will have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, and that our sovereignty (leadership or control) will be one of righteousness and truth…without compulsion…and that it will last forever. In other words, it will be godly.

Conversely, if we try to lead or hold sovereignty in any office or relationship WITHOUT the means listed above, then we can’t have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, which by default means that our leadership or control is unrighteous, full of deceit, full of compulsion, and that it will be short-lived. In other words, it will be like Satan’s control—satanic (which is the opposite of godly).

God does not exercise unrighteous dominion. He invites, entices, persuades, waits in patience, is gentle with us, and loves us. He waits for us to learn from the natural consequences of our choices. He blesses us with grace as we repent and change and strive to do what’s right. Certainly He can get righteously angry, but that anger never leads Him to compel us to repent…and He gives us plenty of warning if our actions are no longer to be tolerated (“reproving betimes with sharpness” means reproving or warning of consequences before we sin). If we learn to exercise righteous dominion, as He does, then we will be well on our way to becoming like Him.

Most of us exercise unrighteous dominion accidentally from time to time. When this happens, the reactions of those we are trying to dominate and control usually serve to check us in our actions. For those who have made it a way of life, the people around them are generally used to being dominated and controlled and either they submit (whether happily or unhappily) or they eventually rebel and leave.

Certainly verbal, emotional, and physical abuse are the worst forms of unrighteous dominion. Verbal abuse is manipulative, coercive, insulting, demeaning, threatening, and purposefully unkind. Emotional abuse is neglect, abandonment, withholding praise or compliments, giving dirty looks, exuding unspoken anger or disapproval, etc. Physical abuse can be as small as unnecessary pokes, punches, and shoves to outright pushing, hitting, slapping, and beating. It is all damaging. It is all unrighteous.

Almost without exception, those who exercise unrighteous dominion will apologize at some point. They will claim they were only doing it because they loved you. They will blame you for causing them to get to the point where they had to exercise unrighteous control. They will say they were doing it for your safety from yourself or others (excluding safety from them, of course). The excuses will mount, and they will all have the same tenor…they were doing it for you.unrighteousdominion2-converted

It is important to note that if such instances of unrighteous control/dominion were extremely rare; meaning once every five years…or something like that (excluding physical or sexual abuse, of course, because these are NEVER justifiable or acceptable). Perhaps you might understand that they were trying to do what was best for you and you could let it go. But, the blame is never yours. You do not have to repent that they acted wickedly against you.

If, however, such instances take place daily, weekly, monthly, or multiple times a year. This is NOT okay. It is never okay for a basically good person to justify unrighteously trying to control you no matter how strongly they may feel that it is in your best interests. If you allow them to continue dominating you unrighteously, you are standing partially (because they are responsible for their own actions, no matter what you do) in the way of them recognizing their faults and taking the necessary steps to repent and change.

Even God, who is ALWAYS right, never tries to compel us to do His will. His plan is that we “act for ourselves”, NOT for us “to be acted upon.” And anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is momentarily, or consistently, being duped by Satan, the Adversary.

If in the course of reading this you have identified areas in your life where you exercise unrighteous dominion, then I hope you will take the time to ponder these areas and make a plan to repent and change. Do what it takes to learn to react and act differently. Study how to “teach/lead by the Spirit.” Seek God’s help. Through the Gift of the Holy Ghost and your sincere efforts, God can effect permanent change in your very soul as soon as you truly desire it.

If, however, by reading this you have recognized that you are the victim of unrighteous dominion, then I hope you will take the time to ponder what you can do to help those you love see they are acting wickedly, and/or put yourself in a situation where you can be safe from such treatment, heal, forgive, and move on. Seek help.