Think back to a time when you had a gut feeling that you shouldn’t do something, and you did it anyway. In the aftermath, did you think, “Why didn’t I go with my gut?” Or, perhaps you had a gut feeling that you should do something, and you didn’t. Did you ever think, “I should have trusted that feeling,” or “I wonder what would have happened had I trusted that feeling?”

Now, take a moment and ponder the questions I’m about to put to you.

Here are questions:

  • First, what is a gut feeling? If you had to define what it is to a family member, friend, or child, what would you say?
  • Second, what is the purpose of a gut feeling? Does it serve a purpose? And if so, what do you think that purpose is?
  • Finally, where do you think gut feelings come from? And depending on how you answer that, consider the question, “How is it even possible that we have gut feelings at all?”

The Gut Feeling Defined

So, why do we call it a “gut” feeling? Dictionary definitions of the adjective “gut” imply that we associate this term with the: internal part or essence of who we are. It’s also related to the idea of courage, or inner strength. The connotation of the word also implies that we associate the idea of a gut feeling with something that is instinctive to who we are, even involuntary. It’s not only at the center of who we are, it is inseparable from who we are.

This is interesting in light of the fact that involuntary reactions and processes in our body are normally things like: blinking, breathing, reflexes, the heart beating, flight or fight responses, and so forth. And, here’s something even more interesting. The “gut feeling” often times—even frequently—disagrees with our other involuntary or instinctual actions.

We may instinctively feel attracted to another person and want to be with them, but our “gut feeling” warns us that our other instinctive feelings needs to be set aside, or given less importance in light of a higher sense—that this person will not be good for us in a relationship in the long run. Or, we may feel instinctively that we need to leave a dangerous situation, but our “gut feeling” tells us that we need to respond to a higher sense—that we need to save someone else from the danger if we can.

We may want to eat food because we “feel hungry” and yet have a “gut feeling” that the food we are choosing will not help us become healthier and may, conversely make us less healthy. Our “gut feeling” may instruct us to seek for better food even in light of the fact that we are hungry, or thirsty.

Such examples suggest that our “gut feeling” is our highest and most important instinctual guide. If it is high enough to sense when other instincts are in error, then it is, all of the sudden, the most important and best instinct we have—and therefore, should be followed.

The Origin of the Gut Feeling

How did we, as humans, come to possess this “gut feeling,” this instinct that somehow senses the rightness, wrongness, or even future impact (for good or ill) of all other impulses and their accompanying actions? The very idea that it can see things—even foresee things—that the rest of our physical, emotional, and conscious reasoning self cannot suggests that it has a higher origin.

In the Bible Dictionary we can learn much from the spiritual identification and explanation of the “gut feeling.” It is called the light of Christ. Meaning, our “gut feeling,” which many people call our conscience, is actually a spiritual instinct installed in our mortal form by Christ. It is a portion of His light—which is His power and His knowledge of truth. This Light of Christ not only gives us a fundamental sense of right and wrong, it is the power by which we become beings of reason at all.

The light of Christ is just what the words imply: enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ. For instance, Christ is “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (Doctrine & Covenants 93:2; John 1:9). The light of Christ fills the “immensity of space” and is the means by which Christ is able to be “in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things.” It “giveth life to all things” and is “the law by which all things are governed.” It is also the “light that quickeneth” man’s understanding (Doctrine & Covenants 88:6-13, 41).

…its influence is preliminary to and preparatory to one’s receiving the Holy Ghost.

Our “gut feeling” then is really another way of saying the “light of Christ.” Such an understanding also gives us motive to trust it and to follow it. If our “gut feeling” is actually a deep, spiritual instinct given to us by Jesus Christ then it suddenly makes sense when we say things like, “I knew I shouldn’t have done that,” or “I wish I had trusted my gut. I can see now that…” Christ is all-knowing. And though we aren’t, a piece of His light is in us and that piece knows things deeply that we can’t see or put into words consciously. Our “gut” knows! How cool is that!

Light of Christ versus the Gift of the Holy Ghost

A lot of people, even learned members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, struggle with the difference between the “light of Christ” and the “gift of the Holy Ghost.” So, let’s address that for just a moment.

Now, I don’t claim to have all the answers. All I can talk about are the few insights I have received and how I’ve come to see it in my own life. These insights have helped me make sense of the difference. They may or may not help anyone else. They also may be understood (especially as metaphors) differently in the context of someone else’s life. So, what seems clear as a bell to me may seem like a glass of muddy water to someone else. But the fundamental point is this: if you really want to understand the difference, go to the Lord, pray about it, study, ponder, and you’ll get your own metaphors. I do not in anyway promise that these metaphors will work for you. Perhaps they may get you on a track of thought that will facilitate personal revelation of your own.

Analogy #1

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that heaven and hell aren’t merely two static places. We believe in multiple kingdoms of glory. Whatever law we are willing to abide by, that is the extent of the glory God is able to give us. The more Christlike we become by living the laws and commandments of Christ, the more of His glory we can receive in the life to come. For details on this doctrine read Doctrine and Covenants 88:13-40. It’s clear and direct.

Generally, however, we break down heaven and hell into the three degrees of glory: celestial, terrestrial, and telestial. And, if the blessings we receive correspond to that glory, you might say that the light of Christ (or that gut feeling) is a telestial blessing. It’s a basic knowledge of right and wrong with the potential to lead us to the next level of heavenly guidance. The terrestrial blessing would be the “power of the Holy Ghost” or direct manifestations/communications from the Holy Ghost (another member of the Godhead). These communications go beyond a mere gut feeling and are powerful witness of truth (when we hear it or see it, etc.). We may sometimes doubt a gut feeling (initially), but direct manifestations from the Holy Ghost are full of power. We may doubt them later (if we dismiss them and do not act on them), but in the moment there is no doubt that we are being taught, or are feeling that something is true. A celestial level blessing would be the gift of the Holy Ghost. The gift of the Holy Ghost is the constant presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, not just a burst now and then.

To elaborate, the gift of the Holy Ghost does the following (as far as I can tell):

  • He (the Holy Spirit) validates the gut feeling, so that we know for certain that what the light of Christ is telling us is true before we act. This is critical. We don’t merely suppose that our gut feeling could be right. We know it is and know that if we don’t follow it that we will be going against our own benefit and against the will of God.
  • He (the Holy Spirit) teaches us how to act on the direct messages of truth He delivers. The powerful messages that come to us from the power of the Holy Spirit can’t ultimately benefit us if we don’t act on them. That power will die away. The gift of the Holy Ghost (since it is with us always) teaches us and prompts us to act on what we felt.
  • He (the Holy Spirit), by the above actions makes it possible for us to learn truth, assimilate it into our lives, and have that truth become part of us. The gift of the Holy Ghost is called the baptism of fire because He (as a member of the godhead) makes it possible for us to actually be changed through the grace proffered to us by Jesus Christ. As we act on the validation and instruction of the Holy Spirit, He actually uses our righteous actions to make fundamental and eternal change within our very beings.

Analogy #2

We are all familiar with the idea of cell phones plans. Nowadays nearly all plans contain every kind of service for a flat fee. But it didn’t used to be that way. Different plans had access to different services. Long-distance calls were an extra cost/service. Text messages were an extra cost/service. Text messages including photos or media cost extra or were an extra service. Now that we have phones that are actually little computers and have access to email, internet and any other number of aps and services, this analogy works a little less well. But here it is.

Christ pays for a basic cell phone plan with His infinite atonement. We all get the “light of Christ,” which is a basic service for getting communication about right and wrong from God. These basic messages are not voice, text, or access to the Google ap. They are merely gut feelings. If we use this service and follow the basic messages we receive, we can upgrade our communication service from God to getting text messages anytime we hear or see something true. These clear text messages are a limited time service that is dependent upon our actions. IF we act upon those texted truths and agree to a life-time service agreement (covenant of baptism), we can receive an “unlimited plan” for communicating with God. But this plan comes with a bonus. Not only can we communicate with God directly—through His Spirit; carrying that “phone” with us all the time and using its godly services (acting on the continued communication and guidance we receive) will actually transfer God’s power and blessings to us directly from Him—changing us fundamentally into more godly beings.

Light of Christ = gut feeling
Power of the Holy Ghost = clear
communication that something is true (or false)
Gift the Holy Ghost = clear communication… + infusion of godly power…

Gut Feelings Transcend Emotion

It is important to note that as discussed in the beginning, the “gut feeling” transcends other involuntary functions and instinctual feelings. You may feel excited about the prospect of something and yet have a gut feeling that it’s not a right choice. You may feel angry and hurt about something and yet have a gut feeling that you should forgive, or minimally not take revenge. You may feel in love with a person and yet have a gut feeling that they are not going to be a good long-term partner and that the good you feel will be temporary. You may feel happy in the moment about something you are doing, or have done, but your gut may tell you that this feeling is going to wear off because of the incorrect way in which the feeling was achieved.

There is no end to the ways in which the gut feeling transcends and trumps other temporary instincts and involuntary processes. But, it’s important to reiterate this because it is so easy to get caught up in these other things. I, for one, find it easy to shove that gut feeling away when my emotions are screaming of hurt, offense, and exhaustion. I find it easy to shove that gut feeling away when what my physical body wants is a greasy hamburger and French fries. My mind and my body say, “Who cares that it’ll make you sick half way through! Who cares that it’ll make you want to sit around the rest of the day!” But, my gut says, “You’ll be far more satisfied with something that actually addresses what your body needs and tastes good at the same time.” Or “Take the time to make something that tastes amazing and addresses the nutrient need of your body.”

Our gut tells us to do a lot of things we know we should. But we ignore our gut in favor of what’s easier or more immediate. Love, excitement, fear, and other powerful emotions can hide our gut feeling if we aren’t in tune to it, or if we shove it away. And, I must admit, that at least for me, my gut feeling has never been eccentric like emotions are. Excitement has never been a gut feeling for me. Neither has love. Rather, my gut feeling has validated an emotion or warned against an emotion. It has invited me out of anger and revenge, but it has not felt like anger or revenge.

At least for me (and I suspect others) the gut feeling is an instinct, an involuntary reasoning that pushes itself up over the top of whatever else I am feeling. This is one way to recognize it apart from all else that you perceive or feel.

Why Trust Your Gut?

So, what is the whole point in getting to know your gut feeling and trusting it?

Well, if you’re gut feeling was given to you by Christ, then its trustworthy. It may not bring immediate success and prosperity into your life, but it will bring immediate peace—which is priceless—and guidance for the success and prosperity God has in store for you.

If trusting and following your gut feeling has the potential to lead you to clearer and more powerful communication from God, then that’s certainly worth it all by itself. It may not produce that clarity at the level you would like initially, but it opens the door for you to enter a contract/covenant with God for continuing clear guidance and direction—if you’re willing to act on it.

Many of us spend a large portion of our lives floundering. Many of us have a lot of regret, a horrific suspense for what we might have enjoyed had we trusted that gut feeling before. And, maybe we are still afraid to trust it. If that’s you, here’s why it’s time to start trusting that gut feeling.

God’s plan includes unlimited communication with Him and power to become like Him. His plan removes the floundering and the regret and replaces it with certainty, hope, and peace. And, the first step in that plan is learning to trust your gut. Start trusting your gut and you get bursts of powerful confirmations of truth in your life. Act on those bursts of communication and you will get the next offer—the unlimited plan, the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Then, as you are diligent in listening and following, floundering in life disappears. It is replaced with certainty. It is replaced with peace. It is replaced with guidance in all that you seek that is right. In fact, God can get you to your goals much faster than you can ever get yourself there. And, He does one better. He gets you to places far better than you ever aspired to be. This is the path that awaits you if you can learn to recognize your gut feelings and to follow them. Follow the light of Christ.

BT

Change. We always see others somehow figuring out how to do it. Some person out there figures out how to change and lose a ton of weight. Some other person out there learns how to conquer a health problem. Some married couple out there figures out how to change and save their marriage, making it strong than ever. Some people manage to change the entire course of their lives with complete career and education changes. Some people manage to change their finances, radically, and create wealth. Some people manage to find joy after struggling with years of mental illness. Some people learn how to let go of past offenses and renew their capacity for love. Some people manage to sincerely repent of sins and make drastic strides toward becoming a more Christ-centered person.

To change is to become different. It is the act of becoming different.

But, the power, the actual miraculous fundamental change that some people manage to take on…how does that happen? What is the secret? How do we invite such change to happen to us?

From Water to Wine

This week while studying the Come Follow Me for Individuals and Families my family and I discussed Jesus’s first miracle of turning water into wine for His mother. Our discussion was simply lovely. And, while there were many facet’s to this miracle of “change,” the formula is not complex.

  1. The miracle of change was preceded by a request from Mary, Jesus’s mother. She said quite clearly, “We are out of wine. Help.”
  2. Then, as my eldest sister pointed out in our discussion, the water was changed to wine only by the servants doing exactly what Christ said. It mattered little that His instructions in this instance were simple. What mattered most was that “whatever He saith unto you, do it” (John 2:5), and they did. Water was changed to the best wine ever drunk.

Christ demonstrates in this first miracle (and teaches all of us) that the power to change comes from and through Him. First, we must desire to change and ask for His help. Then, we must do exactly what He asks us to do in order for the miracle to come.

For Ourselves and For Others

Many years ago, while struggling to avoid divorce and save my first marriage, I read a book called Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. It’s an excellent book, but what stuck out to me was his repeated caveat that his advice and commentary were only effective on someone who was a good Christian man or woman who reasonably wanted to be good. Over and over he pointed out that extreme cases would not likely be effected by much of the suggestions in the book. Why? Because if a person is not willing to follow Christ and invite His power into their lives there is no power to change (at least not fundamentally). Cursory change, temporary change, most of us can accomplish that. Fundamental change? That requires godly power. It requires us to reasonably desire to be good.

Changing Ourselves

Though this section is about changing ourselves, it should be noted that if we desire to change others, such cannot be accomplished unless we are first willing to change ourselves. We can’t say, “Well, I’ll be nice when he/she learns to be nice. I wouldn’t have any trouble if he/she would simply…” (Matthew 5:46-47). If our desire to change is fueled only by our wish that others would change, then our change will never be permanent. Blame also only stunts personal growth and puts accountability on others instead of ourselves. If we think ourselves so powerless that our own personal change is dependent upon the actions of others, then the minute the other person jumps off the change bandwagon, we will too. And we will both remain—unchanged.

Our change is entirely independent of the change we desire in others. We have to decide who we want to be independent of others. That way, when we invite the power of Christ and He helps us to change in a deep, lasting, and fundamental way; what others do or don’t do won’t affect us so much. We can attain peace and joy independent of them.

When we desire to change ourselves in any way, all we need to do in order to gain the power we need is to invite Christ into our lives. We come to Him with our metaphorical empty pitcher of X-characteristic/need and ask Him to take what we have and help us change it into a full pitcher of X-characteristic/need. Then we pray, sincerely, and continually, “Whatever though sayest, I will do it.”

The scriptures are replete with God’s commandments to us. It may seem too simple. But, the quickest and easiest way to gain the power to change and become something different (in any way) is by acting to become something different. Choose any Christlike characteristic and practice becoming more Christlike. Practice temperance, patience, forgiveness, mercy, charity, long-suffering, selflessness, service, kindness, etc.

As we invite Christ’s power into our lives in any way He will reciprocate with gifts of power. As we become more forgiving and patient our minds will be open to revelation on how to achieve the change we desire in another area of our lives. It doesn’t matter whether it’s losing weight, saving your marriage, or pursuing a new career path. The more Christlike attributes we practice and assimilate into our fundamental nature, the more power, light, and truth we can receive. All three of these things give us not only the motivation, but that actual capacity to become better, different—to change.

Changing Others

We can’t. Period.

We should never attempt to manipulate, guilt, persecute, abuse, or coerce other people into changing. Change brought about by fear is damaging and unChristlike. It may create temporary change, but eventually the victim will rebel or retaliate. Such change is not lasting. And, those who attempt to bring about such change are sinning against others and against God. Thus, their power to change and become better decreases because of their unrighteous dominion (Doctrine & Covenants 121:37).

But, we can influence others powerfully. As we change ourselves (see above), the power of Christ that enters our lives and homes will naturally impact and influence others…if they have a reasonable desire to be good, they will over time (maybe a very, very long time, who knows) be influenced by our example.

How much power is there in love? If you know the answer to that, then you know the only answer to influencing others to change is Christlike love. Ask God, “How can I show love to <name> as You would?” Then, go and do it.

Now, remember, those who don’t reasonably desire to be good may not respond to all the loving and Christlike influence in the world. It is not okay or reasonable for us to submit to the unrighteous dominion of others. In such cases, the best way to show love and to influence another to change is by understanding and properly issuing spiritual ultimatums. God uses them. We can too, if we seek His guidance.

Conclusion

Change is always within our grasp. Whatever the change is that we desire, we can have it, if we are sincere. If we take our request to God and submit to the conditions He sets for us to succeed in that change we seek, He will guide us and teach us what to do. All we need to do then is to go and do it. The power to change will be there.

If Christ can change water to wine, He can change us if we seek it sincerely. We can begin to invite the power to change ourselves and others into our lives immediately as we keep the commandments God gives us, and seek to practice Christlike characteristics and become Christlike ourselves. Christ is the only one with power that can change us permanently, fundamentally, and eternally. No other supposed power, no other motivation will last sufficiently long to change us. Only Christ can change us.

Invite Him into your lives and change becomes possible.

BT List Accent

Spirituality. It is a powerful thing. It’s the unspoken creator of faith and hope within us. It’s as much a power as any emotion and just as difficult to interpret and make sense of at times. It battles against our natural, human form, and yet thrives by our humanity as well. It seems on any given day we’d be happy to live without our spiritual selves, and yet try as we might, we also can’t abide to part with it. It’s a relationship between two pieces of ourselves that are either at war, in flux, or symbiotic. It’s a relationship with God.

I’ll say it again. Spirituality is a relationship between two pieces of ourselves. And, it’s a relationship with God. That’s two deeply internal and inescapable relationships.

And guess what…relationships are scary.

Spirituality and Fear

It makes perfect sense that at some point in our lives we all are afraid of being spiritual to some extent. Whether we’re a youth worried that by becoming spiritual we’ll miss out on all the fun or an adult worried that by becoming spiritual we’ll have to make uncomfortable changes and add new commitments to our lives. Whether we’re a teenager who fears being too spiritual and left out of the popular crowd or an adult who doubts the reality of God’s promises and the risk of trusting in them. We’re all afraid of embracing something within ourselves that seems to be unknown, and therefore might be untrustworthy. We’re afraid of what we can’t see. We want, and need, reassurance and security.

There are, in fact, many reasons to fear these two deep relationships within us that are incredibly personal and which, try as we might, we can’t ignore nor forget. But, before we can get down to the reasons we fear spirituality and how to overcome that fear, we must first define spirituality and fear.

Spirituality

What does it mean to be spiritual? It means to be focused on things that relate to, consist of, or that affect the spirit…or something that we consider to be intangible, though very real, within us and also outside of us. It means to be interested in things related to our spirit, to be concerned with religious and sacred matters, and to wonder how all aspects of our lives are related or joined to our spirit (see definition of SPIRITUAL at Merriam-Webster Online) and God.

Or, in other words, to be spiritual means to embrace one’s spirituality—to be concerned with the life of one’s spirit as much as with one’s physical body, recognizing that they impact and affect each other. To be spiritual means to be concerned with one’s soul (spirit + body) and one’s relationship to God.

True spirituality, then, might be construed as the actual level, or dedication, of our concern, interest, and occupation with your spirit, or spiritual things. Because we are all part spirit, it is hard to deny for any extended period of time that an intangible part of ourselves exists. We may call it different things based on our beliefs or philosophies, but it all points back to the same idea. We are more than just a physical being.

Scripturally, we understand that we are eternal beings, intelligence that has been literally borne spiritually (spiritually organized) by a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother (Abraham 3:21-22) through a deliberate creative process. When borne on earth to mortal parents, our eternal spirit becomes housed in a mortal shell. Thus, the level of devotion we pay to this spiritual interest is what I would term our spirituality.

Fear

Fear, defined, is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, and likely to cause us pain, or to be a threat to our person. Fear, in this context, is not reverence or respect (as when we refer to fear of God), it’s dread, anxiety, unease, apprehension, alarm, panic, agitation, worry, terror, confusion, and fright.

Fear is something that we learn from our earliest years. It’s a protection mechanism built into our physical, involuntary biological response systems. It’s naturally there (and chemically there) to protect us from harm; to tell us when to run, when to get out, what to avoid, and so forth. Fear is increased by negative experience and deepened by traumatic events and experiences in our lives.

How we respond to fear usually ends up being to fight, to run, or to avoid something. And unless a relationship is abusive (physically, sexually, emotionally, or verbally), running from it, fighting against it, and avoiding it can be far more detrimental to our ultimate well-being in the long-run than any mild struggles we may endure through in the short-term.

As fundamental as it is to fear, it is equally fundamental to seek relationships: romances, friendships, families, and even a connection with God. We have to learn to see that simply because a relationship is hard, or requires effort, or causes us discouragement or hurt on occasion, that this is not necessarily an indication that we would be better off without the relationship—even though our fear may try to lead us to believe so, in the moment of struggle.

Fear is Detrimental to Spirituality Because it Veils Truth

If spirituality is centered in us, and in God, (remember the two relationships) then fear of spirituality will lead us to do one of three things. We will fight against ourselves and God, we will run from ourselves and from God, or we will avoid ourselves and God. In this state of dissociation from ourselves, (and from God) we are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness (Mosiah 3:19, Alma 40:10). We are unhappy because we can never be totally honest with ourselves and thus we can never work on the relationship between our physical body and our spirit. We are also not peaceful because we cannot totally embrace God and thus we fail to commit totally to Him, meaning we cannot come to know Him or come to trust Him—leading to a continuing state of fear of our relationship with Him.

Fear is ultimately a veil to truth which is a defining purpose of spirituality. According to an article I read titled How Fear Blocks Spiritual Development, “fear blocks not just spiritual perceptions…but also, as modern neuroscientists demonstrate, everyday clear thought.” When we’re afraid, we can’t think straight (“we can’t remember a phone number or even how to tie our shoe”). That’s the gist. We can’t think straight at work, we can’t think straight in a conversation, and we certainly struggle to think straight regarding spiritual matters. The article goes on to say, “Fear is a veil to spiritual perception and basic psychological balance because it literally distorts perception… But also because fear is one of the main agents of psychological indoctrination (brainwashing), as he, she, who, or it that makes you fearful, controls your mind.”

When we are afraid, beliefs can be easily implanted; some of which may be massively destructive (and completely untrue)” (ibid.). Fear is the great brainwashing tool of evil and we often use it on ourselves, unwittingly, to protect ourselves against, or to avoid, perceived pain, possible danger, and possible threats. In other words, fear allows us to lie to ourselves and to ignore truth, hide it, or dissociate from it altogether (meaning we don’t see a need to apply it to ourselves because we are outside of it).

Our fear, however, is difficult to control. It’s hard to tackle that relationship between the two parts of ourselves and especially the eons-old relationship our spirit has with God, when life experience has implanted falsehoods in our minds. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), as well as other common trust issues, condition all of us—through fear—to mistrust even the most basic agreements, promises, relationships, and covenants.

Fears Relating to and Regarding Spirituality and a Relationship with God

So, what are the common fears that keep us all from increasing our level of spirituality? What holds us back from repairing the relationship with ourselves and with God? It took me a while to generate this list, with help from discussing it with my brilliant husband. However, it in no way encapsulates all possible fears. And, it may provide the right title for your fear, but not necessarily the most accurate description. Or, vice versa. Either way, see past the suggestions and use them to identify what your spiritual fears actually are. Write them down! And then ponder the matter that follows in your efforts to overcome those fears.

  1. Fear of FailureNobody likes to engage in something they believe, or fear, they will fail at. If we have a deep-seeded fear that we will fail at a relationship with God, that it’s almost certain that there’s no chance of us succeeding, then the barrier to beginning such a relationship is huge. This fear is likely based off long-ago experiences where we made a commitment to follow Him and failed miserably (in our own mind). It may be based off failed romantic relationships that have hurt us terribly and conditioned us to believe we are incapable of any type of long-term relationship—that we can’t trust anyone. We may have struggles with relationships in our families or with close friends. Our record may convince us that we are incapable of succeeding, thus, we fear to try yet again. (See blog post Perfection vs. Sanctification)
  2. Fear of “Not Being Cut Out to be Spiritual” – Sometimes we look at others and it seems that spirituality comes easy for them. It seems to be a talent. They seem to be able to be super-righteous with little effort. “Seem” is the key word. Thus, based on our fear, what seems to be accurate is likely not true at all. Thus, based on what we perceive, we assume that, in general, some people are cut out to be spiritual and we fear we may not be. We certainly desire it (to some extent), but our fear that we may not ever able to be what we visually see from others leaves us doubtful that we can do it. We are afraid to try only to find out we are that odd percentage (%) somewhere that can’t accomplish it. (see blog posts Three Steps to Helping the Gospel FEEL Possible, The Gospel Only Seems Impossible IF, What Does it Mean to be Active in the Church?)
  3. Fear of Judgment – Nobody likes to be judged. And, when we are afraid we tend to feel a sense of ego-centrism and paranoia (not unlike an awkward teenager). Will people notice we’re “coming back to church?” If so, what will they say? Will they welcome us? Will they judge us? Will they lecture us? Will they gossip about us? Will they ignore us? Will we be all alone? Will anyone help us kindly and accept us as we are… “a work in progress?” The fear of what others thinks keeps many people from God, when what people think has little to do with their relationship with Him.
  4. Fear of God Being More Condemning than Loving – Most of us don’t like being a disappointment. Most of us don’t like having to depend upon anyone else for help. Most of us try to avoid receiving charity. I’m fairly certain the vast majority don’t like to be yelled at, chastised, or reminded of their sins or faults. We simply know (for the most part) where we’ve screwed up, what we’re weak at, and we worry that re-kindling a relationship with God will include Him drumming up the past and making us shrink before Him. We doubt God will show us mercy and thus we avoid a reunion with Him.
  5. Fear of Losing Control – Some of us like being in control. Probably too much. The idea of vulnerability to anyone, let alone God, grips us with crippling fear. Either vulnerability has burned us in the past (with family, friends, or other relationships), or we simply have the type of personality that craves control. And, as a relationship with God requires spiritual, emotional, and mental vulnerability, many of us avoid it by keeping a discreet distance. We love God at a distance and try to keep control of our lives. We want to approach His commands and His covenants our way and not His. Thus, we never approach them close enough to actually enter into them and embrace them. We are afraid that if God gets the reigns we will lose power to create happiness in our lives, because we somehow feel that losing control will mean almost certain unhappiness, like a cage. We don’t want to be trapped in His will, only in our own.
  6. Fear of Self-Discovery and Dependence – Most of us have an idea of who we are and what we want to become. We have an idea of how we should get there. We have a picture of ourselves, our life, our talents, our wants, our needs, etc. We have a deep need to arrive at this future location “on our own,” independent of anyone—including God. We also have a deep-seeded need to prove to ourselves that we can achieve this vision we have of ourselves “on our own.” We want to prove it to others too. We want to prove it to God. This is a form of pride and self-sufficiency, but it is based in the fear of discovering we can’t do it alone. Others may have failed us in the past, or it may simply be a personality trait. But, we don’t want to discover that we can’t succeed without help. We want the glory of our success to be ours and ours alone—even though we may not think that or say it verbally, it drives all that we do. We want credit. We want acknowledgment. Thus, we stay away from spirituality and coming to know ourselves and God better, because anytime we have tried to do so we have been shown or taught that we have to depend upon Him. We start to see more clearly our weaknesses, and we shrink, wanting to prove we can make those weaknesses strengths before coming back to spirituality and its uncomfortably revealing nature. We don’t want to be dependent. We don’t want to know the extent of our dependence on God, either. We fear it..
  7. Fear of Change – Change of any kind is difficult. It’s not as simple as some people make it sound. Change requires a change in our day-to-day coping framework. Because each of us finds ways to cope with life and thus we create a framework for how to live, work, study, interact, etc. in ways that keep us safe from danger, threat, and pain. Change throws this framework into imbalance. It often collapses the entire thing. That, in and of itself, creates panic and fear. We may know that screaming and yelling every time we’re upset isn’t the best thing, but we have done it for so long that figuring out how to replace it—successfully—is frightening. We are afraid to take a wrecking ball to our framework because we don’t know how to rebuild it, and we are afraid to let God rebuild it with the unknown.

Overcoming the Fear of Spirituality

Cultivate More Love for Yourself and for God

I’m not sure there is a perfect prescription for overcoming the fear of spirituality. We all come by our fears differently (as explained above). Traumas and life experiences create incredibly powerful psychological and emotional barriers to opening ourselves up to ourselves and to God. But, since the atonement has (“past tense”) overcome even those barriers which we bump against day-to-day, it can be done. The atonement is all about love. The atonement of Jesus Christ came about by the love of God, Our Father, and the love of Christ (St. John 3:16). The love of God casts out all fear through overcoming spiritual death (separation from God) and physical death (all physical, mental, emotional, and psychological infirmity, deformity, and death).

Thus, the best answer for overcoming any fear is an increase in love: love of God, love of family, love of ourselves. Ultimately, we must come to love more than we fear. Our desire to love and our efforts to love must override any other struggles or fears. And ultimately, we must come to understand that if we love God, and try to love Him in return, there is nothing man can do (2 Nephi 12:22, Doctrine and Covenants 3:7-8), nor this world either, that hasn’t already been paid for and fixed eternally. Nothing that can happen to us will ever be permanent, except the state of our spirituality which is directly related to our free will and how we choose to exercise it.

The scriptures teach that “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18, Moroni 8:16).

How do you increase your capacity to love? The answer to that is in the scriptures and prophetic counsel. Visit scriptures.lds.org and search “love” and study what you find. God will teach you how to increase your love.

Prove God and Yourself through Experimenting

If trust is your issue, then I can say that there is no way to gain evidence for God’s trustability (or your own, if that’s your fear) without putting yourself and Him to the test. “Prove Him” to see whether or not He will keep His word (Malachi 3:10) despite your fears. Prove Him to see whether or not you can trust Him. “Prove yourself” to see whether or not you can keep your covenant. Then, if you can, act in faith on that slow and tentative trust. “Nourish the seed” that has so far been good (Alma 32:26-43). Do not let your fear send you running. Don’t abandon the tiny plant you’ve cultivated so delicately. Do not abandon ship simply because a storm arises and you’re afraid it will sink. It’s far more dangerous in the tumultuous waters than in a boat that you’ve been promised will withstand the storm. Don’t let fear distort your perception of spiritual reality. Stay in the boat. Continue in faith and pray for God to “help your unbelief” and struggling faith (Mark 9:24).

It would be nice if I could promise each and every one of you that you’ll have an overnight rebirth. That after a few tries trusting God and seeing Him keep His word that you’ll be cured of your fear. But, I’m afraid it simply isn’t that easy. For your trust in yourself and in God to continue to grow, it will have to be tested. And, at some point you’ll have to give your heart and commit even though you don’t know how the future will turn out. That’s how relationships work. You’ll have to decide to be faithful to your relationship with Him despite your fears, trusting (or at least hoping) that He’ll give you the power to get through these faith/trust-testing experiences. You will never get to see the end from your current spot on the road to God. You’ll only get the assurance of His support as you walk with Him, learn of Him, and practice trusting Him (and yourself). The path will only build up more trust and love as you continue to walk it. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is no simple gift. It is the gift that God gives you to constantly communicate His love and His reassurance as you wait, patiently, for all His promises to be fulfilled.

Seek Godly Power through Ordinances and Covenants

If your intent is sincere, then I have good news for those whose greatest fears are regarding their own deficiencies and inabilities to rise to the level of spirituality they dream about. Something very few Christians understand is that God’s power is freely given through His ordinances and covenants. All of God’s power isn’t given at baptism. Even the Gift of the Holy Ghost gets “major updates” and increased strength to work with us as we continue to receive more ordinances and to make and try to keep more covenants. In fact, the types of things the Holy Spirit teaches us and prompts us to do increases in frequency and scope with every covenant and ordinance we accept. The power, confidence, love, and certainty we feel increases exponentially with every ordinance embraced and every covenant committed to with a sincere heart. You can’t imagine what the power feels like until you accept the ordinance and make the covenant. Power, guidance, spiritual gifts, and more await us with each level of spirituality we embrace with a sincere heart.

If you need more power and confidence, then making and keeping covenants is how you get it. In fact, it will never work the other way around. We don’t get the power we desire before making and keeping a covenant. We don’t get the proof and the reassurance before committing ourselves. We get it after making and trying sincerely for a while to keep the covenant (Ether 12:6-7). We take the leap of faith and God increases our trust in Him and strengthens our faith to become godly after we make commitments to Him. This is how He proves Himself and helps us prove ourselves to ourselves.

Avoid Spiritual Infidelity

When we are afraid or disappointed in a relationship, we tend to go running to others to gossip about our frustrations and to get our egos built up. We look for validation for our fears and justification to sever the relationship. We want to get out before we get hurt. Because when we feel hurt, our instincts tell us to run. Yet, with few exceptions, this is damaging to any relationship.

Thus, if we have a problem with ourselves or with God, we’ve got to have those difficult conversations with Him. If we have doubts. We need to address them to Him. If we don’t know how to fulfill our end of the covenant, we need to go to God. We need to ponder, reason, and talk with our own mind. We need to keep our covenants and look for ways to overcome our fears and save the relationship rather than to jump to conclusions and let fear send us running yet again. A long path of abandoned people, relationships, and covenants will not make us happier than gaining accord and security within an imperfect, ultimately good, but struggling one (with a few exceptions, of course to be noted later on).

Years back, when I went through a heart-wrenching divorce, I had a lot of questions about God, women, and covenants. I had thought I understood love. I had thought I understood the atonement. I had thought I understood how God saw and loved women. But, all those beliefs were tested heavily against the fears that broke upon me. I was eventually called to teach early morning seminary during these difficult years in the aftermath of my divorce, and I was forced to visit all of these topics, and other difficult, faith-testing topics one-by-one. I had to search them out, talk with God, and strengthen my relationship with Him.

In the darkest, most fearful years of my life, I took my concerns about God to Him. I searched and sought and talked to Him about all my anger, my fears, and my complaints. With hope mixed with fear I followed His prescriptions for finding reliable answers. I asked why and He answered—every time. And, He led me every step of the way to understand my fears and to silence them. Yes, it took time. But real healing does. He taught me about Him. And, as I learned about Him and gained increased faith in my relationship to Him, all of my fears were quenched. I gained a confidence I had never had, a certainty. I gained strength beyond what I’d ever experienced before. I had never felt so confident in God’s plan, His love, and my place within it. I had never felt so willing to leap into the unknown because I KNEW, no matter what, God had it covered. My unshakeable faith in Him, my love for Him, silenced all my fears. He allowed me to let go of so much while simultaneously gaining love, power, and trust in inordinate amounts.

Get Counseling

Some fears are severe and caused (as noted above) by horrible, traumatic experiences. While God can overcome all, He has often provided many tools for us to use in order to help us along until that future day when they will be healed in perpetuity. He won’t usually fix something with only a simple prayer that we can work to fix—to an extent—by seeking professional help. God won’t completely restore an amputated leg (in this life) any more than he will completely restore a severely injured psyche. But, He can provide spiritual, emotional, and mental prosthetics that will get us through and help us to function, even to thrive, almost normally, until a complete future healing takes place (the resurrection).

In other words, don’t expect only your desire to be healed to be sufficient. Prayers are critical. But they cannot be our only outlet for healing. God has blessed our modern society with nearly all the tools sufficient to strengthen our weaknesses until He can fix them eternally. He has revealed these tools in anticipation of our needs. They are as much from Him as the comfort and power we receive through prayer. He expects us to make use of them.

Within our means and reasonable research, we should (without any doubt) seek out well-qualified and trusted professionals who specialize in our specific mental and emotional struggles. Then, combined with prayer and pondering, we should use these professionals to help us conquer our trauma that the rest of our efforts can be successful and effective—as God would have them be.

Conclusion

I wish I had all the answers. I don’t. But, God does. If we can push through our fears (whatever they may be and however they came into being) and find ways to increase our ability to love ourselves and God, we will see progress—more than we’d expect or believe. If we will take yet another leap of faith, accept ordinances and make and try to keep covenants, God will prove us and Himself. Our trust in Him (and ourselves) will grow. He will grant us more power after we take these leaps and we will recognize it and feel it. We will gain confidence because we will know He is with us.

If we will avoid running at the first sign of possible, or perceived, trouble. If we will give our heart and our commitment to Him and ride out the storms, we will gain the evidence and proof we need to continue forward to discover the perfection and reliability of God and our relationship with Him. If we will avoid seeking out others to fix our spiritual relationship troubles, and instead go to the source—God—He will help us get to know Him and to strengthen our relationship with Him in ways we can’t now imagine. If we will do what it takes to learn about Him we will not be disappointed in what we find.

As a final note, it’s important not to compare our relationship with God to the relationship God has to others. We are each so very unique and different. God knows us better than we could ever know ourselves. Some people will get things from God differently than we will get them. God will talk to others differently than He talks to us. The certainty is that He loves us all and will talk to, teach, guide, forgive, and bless all of us. The sooner we stop comparing and come to understand the ways in which God works with us, the happier, more peaceful, and less afraid we will be.

BT

Doctrine: God may know our hearts, but we can’t know our own hearts or the true extent of our spiritual devotion without outward action and ritual. Such ritual creates mental, emotional, and spiritual landmarks, memories, and grooves that change us fundamentally. Passive, inward, devotion alone cannot produce the faith and power necessary for us to lay hold upon the full measure of God’s grace and glory.

We live in a time where people shun organized religion and ritual. To them the ritual of attending meetings and doing prayers and other formal outward acts of devotion are outdated and unnecessary. They may even consider them ridiculous and empty. Their defense against such things is that God (if there is a God) knows their heart and therefore doesn’t need such things. And, I cannot disagree with that.

However, I can promise these people that while God knows their heart, they, themselves do not know it. They think they do. But, they don’t. I can also promise that while God doesn’t need their rituals, they do, and that they cannot be true Christians without it.

Ritual Teaches Us About Us

Those who profess to know God and to follow Him without ritual and organized religion do not know the extent of their devotion to Christ, the depth of their feelings about Him, or the breadth of their capacity to follow Him. To put it bluntly, they don’t know anything about their spiritual power and capability. They don’t really know if they want to live with God forever. They don’t really know if they want to live like God forever. They can’t know these things without such devotion being tested. Ritual illustrates, tests, and teaches us about the level of our spiritual devotion and desires.

My Mother-in-law has what she calls a “God Box.” When she bumps into something in her life that she cannot control or change and she is struggling to let go and give it over to God, she writes it down on a piece of paper and puts it in her God Box.

“What good is that?” a skeptic may ask. She can just tell herself in her head and heart that she will let it go. Why then go through the hassle of writing it down and putting it in some random box?

But let me suggest that by going through the ritual (however small) of putting those things in her God Box, my Mother-in-law has created a spiritual groove in her soul, and also a mental and emotional groove in her heart and mind. The very act of doing something ritualistic and outward creates a powerful memory. It becomes personal evidence. Then, when she is tempted to stress about it, try to control it, or try to carry it, her spirit, mind, and heart trip on those grooves. She is then reminded, and knows for herself, that she has given this burden over to God. It then becomes easier and easier to let it go. Going through the ritual has the power to create unshakable knowledge and thereby unshakable faith.

Note the principle: by ritualistically writing something down and putting it in the box she has a clear memory of giving the burden over to God. She knows, perfectly, without a doubt, that she has given it away to Him. Because of this perfect knowledge because of her ritual, she also knows perfectly that God knows she has given it away. Thus, she can trust Him completely to carry it.

The ritual is an outward signification that marks, and shows to herself, her inner desires to accomplish or do something. It sounds simple, but by going through the ritual, she makes it nearly impossible to go back on her desires and intent.

Let’s now ask, “If she hadn’t gone through the ritual, what would she have lost out on?” She would have lost out on the chance to give meaning to her individual devotion and resolve. She would have lost out on the chance to know the extent of her intent to give such burdens to the Lord. By doing she gained a testimony of her own ability to act on her intent. She would have also lost out on receiving the power that comes from making an outward commitment to herself and God. By making it physical and outward, she made it real. She gave her desire life and to go back on it would be destructive to her spiritually and emotionally. That’s how powerful ritual is.

Ritual is the Evidence of Faith and Gives Our Faith Power

It is one thing to believe in Christ. It is another thing to act on that belief. Without the action, there is no evidence of our belief, it is only potential belief, or dormant belief. We can say we believe in Christ but there is no evidence or proof that we can offer, especially to ourselves. On the other hand, it is possible to go through the motions of belief and not actually believe, but it exceedingly rare and usually temporary. If such a course is pursued in a cursory way, it will in time transform and unbeliever into a true believer if they continue. That is the nature and power of righteous action.

Thus, we cannot say we have faith unless we also have works. Faith without works is dead (James 2:20, 26). Let me explain fully what that means.

Abraham, in the Old Testament, is asked by Jehovah to sacrifice his only covenant son, Isaac. Abraham could have said all day and night in his mind and to his relations, “I will do whatever God asks of me, withholding nothing.” And, God knew that Abraham would do anything he was asked to do. But, saying it was not sufficient for Abraham to know for himself that he really would. It wasn’t until Abraham was about to put a knife to Isaac that the Lord provided a ram in the thicket. It was in that moment, in what was sure to be the most godly trial any mortal man has ever had to carry, that Abraham knew, for himself, the depth of his love of God and his devotion to the Almighty Jehovah (President Hugh B. Brown in Truman G. Madsen, The Highest in Us [1978], 49). And Abraham could not have known it without the physical ritual.

beautiful retro chest with open lid on wooden background with pl

So, why do works? Why get married if it could end in divorce? Why get baptized? Why repent openly and before authorized representatives and judges of God? Why get married or enter into covenants accompanied by outward ritual? Why pray out loud? Why get on your knees? Why pay your tithing and offerings? Why sacrifice the things of the world for the things of a better? Why go to church? Why partake of the sacrament? Why, why, why…

It’s for us. It is all for us. And doing it has everything to do with us and what we know about our own souls. For without doing we can only suppose or guess about our love of God and devotion to Him. But, with the doing we then come to know about our love and devotion to Him.

God doesn’t need our sacrifices (1 Samuel 15:22). We need them. God doesn’t need our prayers. We need them. God doesn’t need our money. We need to offer it for our own knowledge and understanding of our willingness to sacrifice and obey God, no matter the outcome (though God’s blessings are absolutely, universally, and eternally guaranteed for the sacrifices we make to do His will: Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21; 82:10).

The whole Gospel of Jesus Christ is set up for us to learn about the depth of our spiritual commitment, desires, and goals and to grant us power to be saved.

In Lectures on Faith we learn that in order to have faith in God, one of the critical components is a “an actual knowledge that the course of life which one is pursuing is according to His will (Lecture Third).” That means that we know, for ourselves, without a doubt, that the course of our life is as God would have it be. It means we know we are sincerely trying to do what God wants us to do. It doesn’t mean we’re perfect, but it means we know we are sincerely trying and that we never stop trying—even when we continually mess up.

In order to exercise the full power of faith; the kind of faith that precedes miracles; the kind of faith that moves mountains and compels martyrs to die for Christ; the kind of faith that can save us; we must know we are on the right track for ourselves. And, we can’t know that for ourselves without outward ritual and organized religion. We need that outward ritual and devotion as evidence for ourselves—not for God.

Christ said (Matthew 7:21):

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Why do we have to DO God’s will in conjunction with our inward devotion?

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life. (Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6, italics added)

Our faith in Christ’s grace and offer of salvation is dead without our efforts at the accompanying works. Faith without works cannot save us and it certainly cannot exalt us.

When we KNOW, without a doubt, the extent of our spiritual devotion (and we can know it without a doubt by the evidence we give to ourselves through ritual and outward devotion), we have confidence before God—the kind of confidence that can call down miracles from heaven and bear life-changing testimony to those we meet. And this is because this confidence in our own righteousness (not pride) and heart removes all fear. It creates in us a well of grace that simply cannot go dry (St. John 4:13-15) on our own behalf or others—if we maintain it.

Lack of Ritual Decreases our Spiritual Power

Just as people gain godly power from proper ritual and outward devotion, so also many lose power the moment they cease such efforts. “Well, I got baptized, served a mission, and got married in the temple, so I’m good.” BEEP. Wrong. “I went to Seminary for a couple years, so I’m good.” BEEP. Wrong. Etc. That’s like saying you’ve worked hard for several years to get to the peak of your physical capacity and now that you’ve reached it your body will simply stay at that peak of fitness. BEEP. Wrong.

All of us know that mundane physical exercises and stretches must be performed by even the most fit of individuals, and that those mundane exercises and stretches are the foundation of their fitness. Thus, the same applies spiritually. The small acts of devotion and ritual that we do to become spiritual to begin with are the very things that help us maintain our power to remain so. We may build upon them from time to time, but those minimal acts should never cease if we expect to maintain our knowledge of our faithfulness and our power to continue faithful.

It’s strange, the moment I get out of shape, I suddenly start to believe that I’ll never get in shape again. It happens long before I’m actually totally out of shape. That’s because I’ve lost momentum. And, getting that momentum going again is difficult. We all know what it’s like to “suck air” for a week or so of running until we build up our lungs and muscle endurance again.

The moment we realize we’ve gained some weight, we suddenly start to believe that we’ll be overweight forever. We see others who are in shape and we mourn. Yet, there is no evidence that our silly depressed emotions are true. There is, in fact, only evidence that we have complete power over our ability to lose weight and get fit. So, why do we start believing something so false? Because we have stopped doing, we are no longer certain about ourselves any longer.

Without outward action, devotion, and ritual we can never have any certainty about spiritual selves. And, so it is a lie to think that one can be devoted to God without it.

We all need a God Box. We all need ritual.

BT

Doctrine: We can worship anywhere. We don’t need organized religion to be good. But, God’s power is not absolute: it is bound by covenant. So, if we want to attain unto His power, glory, and attributes, we must also submit to be bound by covenant. Such covenants are accompanied by ordinances, commandments, and personal sacrifice, which bring about the “full” power of grace on our account.

Good people literally cover the face of the planet earth. Sure, we all have some flaws and weaknesses, but in general, with a few exceptions, most people are basically good.

So, if most people are basically good, then what’s the purpose of religion? Why get baptized into any church? Why conform to any commandments? Religious people can sometimes be the most unforgiving, unkind, bigoted, prejudiced, and judgmental people. They have all these rules and if you don’t keep them, then you are suddenly a bad person. Right?

I hear people say all the time that religion doesn’t have to be in a church. And, they’re right. It doesn’t. Religion is: the belief and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God (or gods).

We can believe in and worship God anywhere. This is a fundamental truth that God Himself preaches. In Alma 32:10-11 we read:

Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only?

And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week?

As well, much (though certainly not all) of our Christlike service and prayers are to be personal, and in secret…or in other words, not publicly broadcast or touted (Alma 33:7; 1 Nephi 13:6; Matthew 6:6).

So, if God Himself is okay with worship outside a church, why then do we go to church? Why do we get baptized, partake of the sacrament (communion), and receive temple ordinances and covenants? Is it just to get some perceived blessing of eternal families? Is that all ordinances, covenants, and Sabbath worship are for?

I could say, “Yes,” and for some, that would be enough. But, let me get to the doctrine.

People outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints get antsy and uncomfortable when we talk about our beliefs of “becoming like God.” When they think of God, they think of absolute power. And, in the hands of a man, we are all fairly certain that absolute power corrupts absolutely. It does.

Idea of Earth creation
Human hand touching with finger Earth planet. Elements of this image are furnished by NASA

But, what if I said that God’s power is not absolute? Yes, God’s power is not absolute. Why? Because God can’t do whatever He wants with His power. His power cannot be used for selfish gain, to gratify His pride, to exercise compulsion or unrighteous dominion… (Doctrine and Covenants 121:37). God’s power is protected and preserved by His own covenants and eternal law (Doctrine and Covenants 88:34).

Does not God say to us, “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say…”? (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10). That means if we keep God’s commandments He HAS TO bless us. He can’t not bless us…or He would lose His power. He can’t wield His power without law and covenant. Indeed, His work and His glory is to use His power to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life (Moses 1:39).

God Himself said, “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). Then, He calls Himself “the greatest of all” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18; 29:1; 38:1, 39:1; Exodus 3:14).

So, why get baptized? Why partake of the sacrament? Why receive temple covenants?

Covenants are how God dispenses His power. We don’t go to church just to be good. We are, most of us, basically good. So, going to church is not only about being good, it’s about making and keeping covenants that we might progress in our journey to become like God.

What is God like?

  • God is immortal = He has a perfected, glorified, resurrected body and so He can’t die, or get sick…
  • God has eternal family = God has an eternal wife and children who are bound to Him for eternity. Plus, He has begotten us spiritually and so we are His literal spirit children.
  • God is perfectly loving, just, merciful, etc…
  • God has a perfect knowledge of everything…there is not anything save He knows it.

God became God, and achieved these perfections, by binding Himself to covenants!

So, we can become better a little at a time and remain basically good by worshipping anywhere—at home or in our hearts. We can serve and love and give of ourselves. And, we will be blessed by God for so doing. But, if we want to become godly. If we want to remove every mote and beam in our lives. If we want power to become greater for eternity, then we need godly power.

To access godly power, we must make and keep covenants.

The baptismal covenant includes the ordinance (or sacrament) of baptism. A physical rite that we go through, symbolic of the death and resurrection of Christ. We emulate Him by so doing and symbolically give ourselves to Him and to His service by letting the “old us,” which was not bound by covenant, go, and coming forth a “new us,” bound by covenant.

For binding ourselves in this way, both publicly and personally, God grants unto us not only forgiveness of sin which cleanses us, and a new beginning, but a gift of the companionship of a member of the godhead: the Holy Ghost. This constant trickle of truth and power refines us in a godly way. It gives us the capability—if we honor the conditions for having His presence—to not only be good, but to change our very natures—over time—into something godly: perfectly loving, just merciful, etc…

We can be good without covenants. But, we can’t become godly without the gift of the Holy Ghost. He is the baptism of fire which can purify and remove all dross from us. He is the great sanctifier—and can make us holy—in time—whether now or in the eternities. This is something we can’t achieve without making a covenant.

The sacrament is a weekly covenant which helps us to remember and renew our baptismal covenant. It helps us to review our lives and see what we’ve done better and what we need to do better. It helps us weekly to report and be re-cleansed. To renew our relationship with the Holy Ghost. To renew our access to this godly power.

Temple covenants, like baptism, help us bind ourselves closer to God and to His will. Thus, enabling Him to grant us more of His power.

When we enter the sealing covenant, we are granted access to the godly powers of procreation both now and in eternity. We can exercise these powers outside of covenant. But, when we do so without God’s sanction, no matter how good our intentions, our power is limited to mortality only. It cannot last forever (Doctrine and Covenants 132:15-18).

The power of eternal family is God’s power. It comes with covenant and responsibility. Those who do not enter this covenant cannot have this power to remain united or to continue to procreate after this life has ended; “till death do they part…”

So, God’s power is “all-powerful.” But, it is not absolute. He cannot wield it outside of covenant or He would “cease to be god” (Mormon 9:19; Alma 42:13, 22, 25).

So, also, we cannot become godly without binding ourselves to ordinances and covenants. We cannot reach beyond a certain level of goodness without it. We can worship God without brick or mortar. We can do good and serve and be blessed without organized religion. But, we can’t attain unto perfection and godhood without ordinance and without covenant.five fingers tied together as a team holding the weight of the globe. Isolated on white.

Going to church isn’t about the perfection of the people in the building. It isn’t about perfect sermons. It isn’t about perfect leadership and administration. It is about ordinances and covenants. It is about becoming “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

So, if you are cool with being pretty good. Then that is well. You can do that without organized religion. But, if you want to be godly, then the ordinances and covenants of God are necessary to the dispensing of His power and grace that you might become as He is.

BT