When I was younger, I remember getting the idea (whether or not it was actually verbally taught to me that way) that if I kept God’s commandments, life would go fairly smoothly, according to plan, and that I’d have little trouble. I’m quite certain that in some way, some church leader or other said to me, “If you get married in the temple, everything will work out great,” and other such generalizations, when what they likely meant was, “If you keep the commandments, you’ll have the comfort and peace you need to get through all of life’s struggles.” But that’s not how I interpreted whatever it was they did say. I do not fault them. But twenty+ years ago, gospel generalizations were exceedingly common, and they are still more common than they should be today.

Now, realistically, if I’d taken the time to listen to my parents (who I’m fairly certain never taught me any such generalizations), paid closer attention to the examples all around me, measured what I’d heard to my experiences in reading the stories in the scriptures, I would never have allowed such a ridiculous notion to take root in my brain. Does not the story of Job clearly illustrate that the most righteous often suffer the most trial and struggles? To say nothing of Christ. Yet, somehow I failed to grasp the incongruous nature of something I was beginning to believe (and expect) versus what I was actually being exposed to. I was creating a belief framework that wasn’t accurate.

Despite the evidence all around me, I think my youth and youthful blindness allowed me to create an expectation for life and religion based on very cursory, and certainly not realistic, sentiments.

Common Faulty Religious Beliefs and Expectations

Many other such false expectations/beliefs plague many a religious soul. Though we are taught the scriptures and read them, in part, we somehow also fail to miss the fact that everyone the Lord calls to help Him is flawed, often has to repent, and often makes mistakes. We get the idea that God’s people, or at least minimally the leadership, are flawless and know and understand everything. We may also get the idea that since God has all the answers He will give them to us (and to church leadership) without any effort or seeking on our part (or their part). We believe, incorrectly, that we are entitled to all of God’s knowledge simply because He has it.

We may get the idea that the people that go to church and sit so neatly dressed in the pews never have problems. We may assume that those who seem to be most spiritually and doctrinally in tune have never made grave mistakes. We may form the incorrect notion that at a certain age doctrinal wisdom and ease of keeping the commandments will simply happen to us. We may form the silly idea that after a certain amount of time or trials that we will arrive spiritually and not have to work at it anymore. We may assume that studying the scriptures is something we have done (past tense) and that moving forward we will retain all the power and doctrine it once imparted to us. We may think that serving a mission will ensure we never fall away from the truth. We may assume that getting married in the temple will ensure we never divorce. We may think…and expect…many incorrect and false things that never have been true and never will be. But, for a time, we feel they are.

Coping Frameworks

When we have an expectation we then often naturally form a psychological coping framework. This framework is a system of relating to our environment that we lean upon. We use it to make sense of our world. It defines how we relate to our family, friends, acquaintances, members, non-members, kids, co-workers, etc. It defines how we approach, plan, and execute our lives. We expect things to happen a certain way or to exist in a specific way. And thus we define our lives around these expectations (whether false or true).

The foundation of our coping framework is the expectation or belief. This foundation may or may not be solid (or true). If our expectation or belief is untrue, and ultimately weak or unstable, then it will eventually crumble. It cannot stand because it is not true.

For example, when we get married we make the assumption that our spouse has committed to us and therefore will remain faithful to us. We may expect some troubles, but that covenant and commitment creates a safety net around our fears. We stop worrying that we may lose someone. We begin to form even more specified frameworks around the larger one. We begin to develop natural ways of communicating with our committed spouse. We learn how to compromise and live with this other individual. We develop a framework for juggling work, hobbies, and other pursuits in relation to this larger marriage framework. And, we base our framework on a fixed picture of our life. It does not usually have a lot of room for change. When changes happen, we have to break down pieces of our coping frameworks and replace them with new ones.

Imagine now that your spouse cheats on you and/or asks for an unexpected divorce when you thought everything was reasonably okay, or at least workable. This causes a complete demolition of your main coping framework. Your belief that marriage would ensure a commitment, that you wouldn’t lose this person from your life, has been completely demolished (from the foundation). Nothing in your life is left standing (or at least that’s how it feels), because you developed all of your other coping frameworks on top of and around this main one. It changes how you relate to your friends and family. It changes how you relate to romantic relationships. It changes (or has the potential to change) every other framework, because it is such a fundamental one.

When a framework is demolished, we lose the ability to trust ourselves, our environment, and others. Everything we thought we once knew (about ourselves, love, relationships, marriage, and this other person) is thrown into question. “Did he/she ever love me?” “Am I lovable?” “What did I do to make them stop loving me?” “Where did I go wrong?” “Is love a real thing?” “Is what I thought was love actually something else?”

The list of questions is endless. The reality is that very little has actually changed, but because our foundational expectations have been thrown out the window…expectations built upon false ideas…we begin to think everything is false. We begin to doubt everything because something we thought was true, or expected to be true, has ended up to not be true. This, is how a crisis of faith begins. Our false expectations and beliefs are NOT sufficient to withstand the drastic change because they were never correct to begin with.

When our foundational expectations and beliefs are true, drastic changes will certainly impact us deeply, and we’ll have struggles; but rarely does it result in a crisis of faith because our entire framework has not crumbled. Only some pieces of it waver, but not the solid, strong, bottom foundation.

Asian man and woman playing wood jenga game.

Crisis of Faith

A crisis of faith happens when something we thought was true appears to not be true for a time, or fails to be true, thus throwing into question our coping frameworks. And religious frameworks are incredibly foundational to personal identity, morality, goals, etc. When they seem to falter, we lose trust in past true experiences. We lose trust in our ability to tell what is true and what is false. We lose trust in others who may have influenced our beliefs, and so forth. We may often get angry at, denounce, or lose trust in God.

Religion, which is such a powerful, fundamental feeling and belief system, is particularly prone to what we call crises of faith. But, it usually has little to do with the actual religion itself and its doctrines, and far more with our incorrect perceptions, beliefs, and expectations formed in previous years or passed onto us incorrectly by other church-goers whom we have trusted. The doctrine itself is usually not the actual culprit. Sadly, it’s us. We have formed an incorrect expectation or belief in our minds and when it proves incorrect, and our coping framework crumbles, we no longer know what to do. We no longer know how to cope or relate to our world.

Crises of faith can also be caused by our own actions, or by mortality and mortal weakness itself. We stray morally and end up in a situation we never saw ourselves in. Our framework hadn’t planned for it. A natural disaster wipes out our home or brings death into our family. Another person(s) who we have had absolute trust and vulnerability with betrays us. We may begin to struggle with desires and inclinations that we never planned on having that have crumbled our spiritual/life “plans.” Suddenly, life is turned on its head and we, in spiritual vertigo, can’t seem to find right-side-up.

How to Get Through a Crisis of Faith

I wouldn’t have said this twenty years ago. But, now, I can. A crisis of faith is a good thing. Yes, a good thing. Why? Because it gives us a chance to correct our fundamental beliefs and expectations. It helps us to fix what is actually preventing us from spiritual progression. If we never come to a crisis, then we will never have the impetus to learn what we need to get straightened out so that we can become more like God and to understand His plan better. If we never came to a crisis, then we could never create a solid foundation upon which to endure all that life throws at us. We would simply continue to struggle, suffer, and drop into despair. We need such a crisis to fix our foundation.

We need not feel sheepish, ashamed, or even guilty at having a crisis of faith. We should own our crisis. “Hey, I’m in a crisis of faith right now!” We need to tell God about it. Not because He doesn’t already know, but because when we approach Him with it, He can comfort us, give us peace, and help us to feel loved even as we are still trying to put ourselves back together.

Once we own our crisis, we need to figure out what fundamental expectations/beliefs we have that have been turned on their head. What did we believe about God that has proven temporarily, or most certainly, to be untrue—or minimally that we have failed to understand correctly? What did we believe about members of the church that has proven temporarily, or certainly, to be untrue—or that we have failed to understand correctly? Church leadership? A certain prophet? The scriptures? Our family? A particular person in our lives? Temple covenants? Our weakness? Etc. ( I certainly cannot list them all.)

Remember, the crisis of faith serves a purpose. Its purpose is for you to correct, ultimately change, and strengthen your coping framework. Its purpose is to help you find the truth that you’re missing that’s ultimately preventing you from becoming like God, from spiritually progressing. It is a necessary piece of your spiritual journey. It is a spiritual mountain you have to climb before you can press onward.

After you identify the expectation/beliefs that have contributed to this crumbling of your critical coping framework, you can at last begin the healing process—the process of putting yourself back together—and creating a solid, firm, foundation. Seeking God, and using His process of finding truth, you can begin to re-evaluate your expectations and beliefs. You can heal what has previously alluded you and weakened your coping frameworks. You can assess the truth you’ve always known that’s still true and replace what you falsely believed with the correct knowledge. Truth is light and light chases away darkness (Doctrine and Covenants 50:23-25). I know it’s cliché, but the truth will set you free.

Don’t Abandon Anything Until You Know What to Abandon

Now, when we’re afraid and our life appears to be in complete disarray, there is a tendency to want to abandon everything and rebuild from scratch. With few exceptions, this is an incredibly unwise thing to do. If it’s only the plumbing infrastructure on your house that needs revamping, it makes little sense to take a wrecking ball to the entire edifice. The mental, emotional, spiritual, and mental cost does not heal the crisis damage, and will likely only make it worse. If it’s only one relationship that needs salvation or pruning, it makes little sense to burn the bridges all around you to everyone else. If it’s only one truth that you twisted, it makes little sense to discard all truth, simply because you’re afraid an in panic. Rash actions nearly always create more pain than peace.

Spiritual suicide is hardly more practical than physical suicide. To metaphorically slit your wrists and spiritually die in a dramatic display will no more help you than actual death. And trust me, I know how it feels to wish you could die—literally. But, the reality is, that feeling passes. You feel like you want to die only because you’ve put your trust and faith in false doctrines and you feel stupid, foolish. None of us like to feel the fool. But remember, your life is in shambles not because you’ve failed, but because at last you’ve come to a crossroads and a loving God wants you to build with a solid foundation.

You don’t need to divorce everything in your life in order to rebuild anew. You need to visit each piece of your life and belief systems, one at a time, and carefully educate yourself on where the incorrect expectations and beliefs are. Many of our false religious beliefs/expectations are interconnected with other very true ones. We must carefully extract the “spiritual tumors” from the very good spiritual tissue.

The reality is that most of what we feel to be true and have focused our life on is true. We need to realize that. If a few misunderstandings and false beliefs led us to places and problems we now feel ridiculous about or concerned about, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up. We should be grateful that this crossroads has finally come. We finally get to set ourselves straight and have a greater capacity to have joy, happiness, and peace in the future ahead of us.

So, here are the steps to getting through your crisis of faith:

  1. Own your crisis of faith
  2. Take your crisis of faith to God
  3. Remember the purpose of a crisis of faith is to replace false beliefs/expectations with true ones
  4. Identify the false beliefs/expectations that led to your crisis of faith
  5. Don’t abandon anything until you have carefully found the “spiritual tumors” and know what to let go
  6. Use God’s process for truth seeking to replace your false beliefs/expectations with true ones

Conclusion

God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Mormon 9:9). His truths never change. His doctrines never change. The only change is in us, or in the way we hear, learn, or interpret His truths. Others may unwittingly lead us astray. We may fail to give heed and to truly listen or observe truth. In the end, it matters very little where the inconsistencies, misbeliefs, and incorrect expectations originated. What truly matters, in the end, is if we use our crisis of faith to build a coping framework whose foundations are unshakeable. We do that by building upon true doctrine, true beliefs, and accurate expectations.

A crisis of faith is a good thing. It’s the beginning of a new day, a stronger foundation, and a life full of peace and joy.

 

Doctrine: Spiritual temper tantrums are all about getting God’s attention for unresolved issues and attempting to control a situation. Spiritual tantrums are the temporary absence of spiritual coping skills. Spiritual tantrums are the opposite of submitting to God’s will. Tantrums are a form of manipulation and unrighteous dominion. Satan is the father of spiritual tantrums.

Google it. Whether you’re a toddler or an adult, temper tantrums are all about:

  1. Getting attention for unresolved problems, and
  2. Attempting to control a situation in a negative, non-productive way.

It’s what people (whether young or old) do when they think they can’t process something, understand something, or endure something anymore. Tantrums and meltdowns are often triggered by a person who lacks (usually temporarily) the following skills:

  • Impulse control
  • Problem solving
  • Delaying gratification
  • Negotiating
  • Communicating wishes and needs
  • Knowing what’s appropriate or expected in a given situation
  • Self-soothing

So, what’s a spiritual tantrum or meltdown? You could call it a crisis of faith. But, after having my own spiritual tantrum recently, I realized that it often gets labeled a crisis of faith, but I think fundamentally it comes back to a temporary lack of spiritual coping skills. It comes back to unmet expectations. It comes back to spiritual doubts, fears, and misunderstandings. It is in fact our incredible faith (not the lack of it) that has the potential to bring us to such a crisis or tantrum if we stop using tried and true spiritual coping mechanisms.

For most of us, these above coping skills leave us, temporarily, when we reach a spiritual, emotional, and mental limit. It could be triggered by many things, but ultimately we throw a fit because we want to control our life and get God’s attention so He’ll cow to our demands or show His hand.

Maybe you’re not feeling as fulfilled and happy as you want. Keep the commandments, you’ll be happy, right? But you’re not happy.

Maybe you have an expectation for your life, talents, or career that seems to continually allude you despite your dogged faithfulness, perseverance, and prayers.

Maybe you ticked all the righteous boxes but are still waiting for blessings that you feel are long, long, long overdue. Maybe you feel things in God’s plan for you, His gospel, or the Church He heads up, don’t add up and you feel it’s long past time God gave you answers, recourse, or recompense.

No matter what the frustration, you may have reached what you feel is a spiritual limit. You have an overwhelming desire to exercise some control upon your situation. You want resolution. You want results! You feel, spiritually, emotionally, and physically that you can’t go on without a crumb to hang your usually strong (yet now teetering) faith on. You’re so worked up that your spiritual coping mechanisms either get tossed to the side as foolish or you can’t even remember most of them because your level of anxiety is through the roof.

So, what is your response? What has been your response in these crisis moments?

What was my recent response? To throw a fit. To throw a spiritual tantrum. To try and get attention from the Almighty. To try to force His hand. To attempt to find a way to exert control upon this aspect of my life and spiritual struggle so that I can understand it, resolve it and have peace. What I wanted was peace. What we all want is peace.

While psychologists preach that tantrums and meltdowns are normal and can lead us to peace, they are only partially correct. Tantrums and meltdowns can lead us to peace, but only if we seek to understand what is driving them. Otherwise they are completely unproductive.

What triggers the tantrum is rarely the thing that actually has caused it. Usually, the underlying cause of a tantrum is deeper…doctrinal…fundamental. We are triggered to throw a fit by related, consequential, or problems surrounding the cause; but if you think about it, those triggers don’t carry sufficient weight, alone, to be the true cause of a tantrum. They may be annoying enough to incite them, but are not likely the cause.

In my experience, spiritual tantrums are caused by a combination of two fundamental, foundational, eternal things:

  1. Our relationship with God, and our understanding of Him and how He works
  2. Our understanding of ourselves, knowing our deepest desires and most ignored (or unrecognized) weaknesses and sins

If you have an expectation for how God works/is and it goes unsubstantiated beyond what you consider a reasonable period of time, you’re prime for a spiritual tantrum. You have based your faith in Him on a specific understanding or belief and when God acts (or doesn’t act) in a way you have not absorbed into your belief framework, you panic. You freak.

It’s no joke then that God bases the gift of eternal life on a knowledge of Him and a relationship with Him (St. John 17:3). How can you be one with Him if you don’t know Him and understand how He works?

If you have an expectation for yourself and your life and despite your best efforts your expectation/or perceived idea of the results of what you seek seem continually beyond your reach, you may be prime for a spiritual tantrum. You feel you are ticking off all the commandment boxes to keep God happy with you. You have documented your hours of service, temple attendance, calling fulfillment, food storage accumulation, etc., and yet, He still isn’t letting you do the rest of life your way. You even feel like He might even be purposely giving you road blocks which feels totally unfair to you.

Or, are they roadblocks? Or are they instead detours back to the path He knows is best for you? Your misunderstanding of how God works and your skewed expectation has the ability to lead you to a spiritual temper tantrum.

If you see yourself differently than God sees you, and you expect Him to change His view of you to match yours, you will have a spiritual tantrum—it’s inevitable. Until you are willing to see yourself as you are, and He sees you, you will consistently butt heads with the Almighty. And, if you don’t take the time to figure out why God isn’t cowing to your tantrums, to your attempts to change Him and control His plan, then you are going to be forever kicking against the pricks (Acts 9:5, Doctrine and Covenants 121:38).

Want to throw a tantrum about plural marriage? You can do it. But your real issue is your trust in God’s promises. Your real issue is your knowledge of God and your relationship with Him. If you believe His promises and know Him well enough to know that He will keep them, then mortal sacrifices and Abrahamic requests are but a chance for you to find out for yourself the extent of your own faith.

Want to throw a tantrum about the imperfections of all of God’s prophets and leaders both now and in the past? You can do it. But your real issue is your expectation that prophets, apostles, and other lay leadership are supposed to be flawless. That they shouldn’t be working out their salvation at the same time you are. Your real issue is that you expect God to control, minimally, the children He enlists to guide His church—which is contrary to His plan which requires moral agency. Your real issue is that you want grace for yourself, but you want perfection, efficiency, and politically correct church leadership.

Want to throw a tantrum about the sins of others and how they keep you from being as good and as happy as you can be? You can do it. But your real issue, and the cause of your misery, isn’t the sins of others. It’s actually your unwillingness to own your own actions and responses and to control them independently of the actions of others. Your real problem is your unwillingness to see yourself as you really are.

Just last night, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, in his address to the women of the church, talked about three sisters. He said:

The second sister was angry at the world. Like her sad sister, she felt that the problems in her life were all caused by someone else. She blamed her family, her friends, her boss, her coworkers, the police, her neighbors, Church leaders, current fashion trends, even the intensity of solar flares and plain bad luck. And she lashed out to all of them. She didn’t think of herself as a mean person. To the contrary, she felt that she was only sticking up for herself. Everyone else, she believed, was motivated by selfishness, pettiness, and hate. She on the other hand was motivated by good intentions, justice, integrity, and love.

What did the Savior teach. ‘I say unto you love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you…’ (Matthew 5:44). This is the Savior’s way.

‘Yes,’ you might say, ‘I would be willing to love my enemies if only they were willing to do the same.’ But that doesn’t really matter, does it? We are responsible for our own discipleship. And it has little, if anything, to do with the way that others treat us. We obviously hope that they will be understanding and charitable in return. But our love for them is independent of their feelings toward us. Perhaps our effort to love our enemies will soften their hearts and influence them for good. Perhaps it will not. But that does not change our commitment to follow Jesus Christ. So, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we will love our enemies. We will overcome anger or hate. We will fill our hearts with love for all of God’s children. We will reach out to bless others and minister to them, even those who might despitefully use us and persecute us.

Want to have a spiritual meltdown to try to force God to give you what you want right now? You can do it. And on and on and on. But your real issue is that you want to bend God to your will when you’re supposed to be bending your will to His.

“But I have been bending my will to His and I’m not happy!” You exclaim.

Then, from personal experience, I suggest you read Mosiah 3:19.

Submission to God is not empty and emotionless (you cannot be a spiritual zombie…) It is not resentful. It is not ungrateful. Submission is not angry. It is not jealous or covetous. It is not hateful. Submission is not afraid of what others think. It is not doubtful. It is not a dare.

Submission to the Almighty God, our Father in Heaven, is done by submitting to the enticing of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost tries to attract us to the positive impact of certain traits. Including, meekness, humility, patience, love, and being childlike. The Holy Ghost tries to entice us to trust God as a toddler trusts a parent who can see a better way. We have to be willing to be a spiritual toddler (in a manner of speaking).

When we fight the enticing of the Holy Spirit; when we fight submission to God, we become (using scriptural terminology) an enemy to God. We are technically, warring against Him. We become, in no uncertain terms, a type of Satan. Let me explain. This is the epiphany I got out of pondering this post.

toddlerinhysterics-[Converted]

People of all religions and beliefs throw spiritual tantrums all the time. These tantrums and meltdowns often happen in people we once thought were pious believers with unshakable faith. Then, suddenly they are removing their names from the church, going in active, committing serious sins, giving way to horrific addictions, divorcing spouses, getting back in with old unsavory acquaintances, or becoming sympathetic with groups that actually fight against their previous religion and beliefs.

These people dissent, or apostatize, many times as a sort of spiritual tantrum or meltdown. They’ve temporarily lost the spiritual skills they need to ride out a storm, a doubt, a question, a struggle, or a trial. Thus, they try to get God’s attention or exert control upon their lives, and especially His will, by acting out in such ways. Notice again, they are trying to get God’s attention in a negative way and control His will.

I’ve finally come to understand that this temptation, or negative enticement, to throw a fit and “stick it to God,” is from the adversary. Satan (Lucifer) is the king of tantrums and meltdowns. He’s the king of throwing a fit and trying to force the hand of God. He threatened (and succeeded) in throwing such a convincing fit that he led away many of God’s spirit children (Moses 4:1-4, Doctrine and Covenants 29). And Satan threw this fit and led others away in an attempt to force God’s hand—to make the Almighty cow to his damning demands. When Christ wouldn’t succumb to Satan’s temptations during His 40 days of fasting, Satan threw a fit and left (Matthew 4:2-11). When Moses wouldn’t worship Satan, Satan threw a fit and left (Moses 1:18-22). Satan throws fits in a selfish and childish attempt to manipulate God, Christ, and Moses to do things his way. Satan never takes ownership of his actions—they are always someone else’s fault.

God is God. We can’t bend Him to our will. If we try to control Him the way Satan does, we will be as Satan is—miserable (2 Nephi 2:27). But, if we let go and simply decide to be the person we want to be and do not base our actions upon forcing God’s hand, or getting a specific blessing or answer, then we will find peace and joy. Why? Because we are choosing to take spiritual control of ourselves, to spiritually cope, in the only way that is productive.

I admit to very recently having a spiritual temper tantrum. It involved becoming selfish, defensive, and entitled. I was mad for a few days. I wanted answers, explanations from the Almighty about things in my life I just couldn’t make sense of. I saw everything through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12). Everyone around me was attacking me. Their flaws became beams. I justified being unkind, impatient, and angry. After all, everyone needed to know that was unhappy. I wanted them to pander to my requests, take notice of my plight, and offer comfort (because I wasn’t about to ask for it). I wanted to control my environment, exerting unrighteous dominion upon it. It was such an ugly few days.

Then, one morning, I got up. Several days of melting down and throwing spiritual tantrums had not increased my happiness, peace, or brought me any of the answers I was attempting to demand from God. “Tell me what I want to know God or this is how I’m gonna be!” I’d thought a few times. I knew, in my gut, I needed to be kinder to my loved ones. So, I exerted just a bit of effort one morning to do so. And, suddenly light flooded in. Happiness flooded in. Peace came.

It suddenly occurred to me, when the spiritual lights came on, that I might never get the answers or blessings from God that I was seeking. Or, perhaps His plan was so far above my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9) that though He might want to communicate them to me, I simply wasn’t equipped to understand. But, no matter which, I had certainly not been happy throwing a fit. Throwing a tantrum and altering my way of life and living drastically to get attention had not gotten me anywhere but to misery. My tantrum was not working how I wanted it to. It wasn’t working, because that’s not the way to get answers, happiness, or peace. It’s Satan’s way and his way never works.

In my attempt to exercise control upon God and get His attention I had lost all spiritual coping skills. I was temporarily unable to control angry, resentful, and selfish impulses. I was so blinded by my selfish agenda that I couldn’t problem-solve or get revelation from the Holy Ghost. I was so determined to get the gratification and information I wanted that I became temporarily unable to wait for anything positive in my life—so I went about demanding it from everyone and everything. Negotiate? Nah. I was not in the mood to make more covenants with God. I did try to communicate my wishes and needs to God, but because they weren’t in my lap after the first day, I simply assumed He wasn’t listening. And, I lost all of sense of what I could appropriately expect from God and my loved ones. I did try to soothe myself, and this did keep me from a total meltdown, but it was tough—herculean even—to go through those motions because I had so little faith in them during these days.

After giving my all (which was very little at the time) to be kind to my family, listen to them, focus on them, and try to serve them for just a few minutes in the morning; I remember this thought coming clearly to my mind, “I may not get the answers I want. But, I do know the kind of person I want to be. And it’s not the kind of person I have been. I want to be Christlike. I know that whether I get what I want or not, that I will be far happier trying to be Christlike than throwing a fit like I have the last several days.”

My whole day brightened immensely. My whole life seemed to clear. The smoke of misery blew slowly away. I could remember how to cope again. It wasn’t a big pillar of light, but it was huge! Why? Because I found the way to control my life. I had to choose to be what I wanted to be even if I didn’t get what I thought I wanted or deserved. Throwing a fit didn’t give me any control. Deciding what kind of person I wanted and would be did.

So, when was your last spiritual temper tantrum? Did you turn it into a journey to peace? Or are you still trying to get God’s attention with drastic actions or life changes? Are you still hell bent (pun intended) on getting God to do things your way? Are you still determined to blame others instead of taking control of your own behavior and eternal identity? Are you still determined to rip apart the perfect and complete puzzle of the Gospel that you had and rearrange it, forcing pieces together, just to show God it can work your way?

On the other hand, when was your last spiritual epiphany? Can you remember taking a small step toward something good and rising out of your tantrum into the light of enlightenment, perspective, and hope? Can you remember a time when you saw yourself more clearly? When was the last time you owned your own actions despite the actions of others and it brought you a sense of empowerment and peace?

If you’d like to avoid future spiritual tantrums and crises of faith, the two solutions are to eliminate the two primary problems. Get to know God. Develop your relationship with Him. Study His words and take notes on how He works and deals with His people. Next, get to know yourself. Take off your rose-colored glasses and take responsibility for who you are and the actions that are required for who you want to be—independent of the actions of others.

Finally, be willing to submit to God’s plan and will for you without resentment, anger, daring, ingratitude, distrust, pride, covetousness, and entitlement (Mosiah 3:19). Sacrifice the natural man. Sacrifice the world and it’s teaching—no matter how appealing or logical they sound. Don’t make war against God, or others.

It all sounds so unfair—to give in. To let God take you in a direction other than the one you want to demand. But it will bring you back to peace and happiness faster than you ever believed or suspected. Tantrums will only drop you in a pit of misery and darkness. You will be at war not only with God, but everyone around you—except perhaps fellow commiserators (thank you C.S. Lewis for this imagery adapted from Mere Christianity). Being at war with God…never smart. Even if you don’t like His ways. Because, spoiler alert…He wins.

BT

Doctrine: Like a seed is planted in the darkness of dirt where it can best take root and germinate, so also is true faith sewn/born in darkness. Exercising faith in darkness (or dark times), lighting a mere candle, is what eventually brings us out into the glorious light of Christ. Christ is the light that disperses darkness.

Depression is real. Anxiety is real. Mental disorders and conditions are real. To what extent, to what duration, and to what level we experience these mental and psychological struggles is different for each of us. Some depression and mental disorders are clinical—meaning they are semi-permanent, or permanent. They may come and go, or they may never go at all. Some depression and anxiety is circumstantial based on hurtful life experiences and temporary struggles—and it passes with time.

No matter what extent we suffer any of these issues, they are difficult. And, these are often the times we struggle the most to feel a connection to God. Indeed, we may struggle to feel anything at all. Or, conversely, we may feel so much that connecting spiritually with God is nearly impossible.

Though we may not realize it, strong feelings, of any kind, can be more than a sufficient blocker to feeling the Spirit. But, simply because we can’t feel the Spirit doesn’t mean we are evil or that we have done something wrong. It’s simply difficult to connect when we are in the throes of any kind of extreme emotion; whether it be anger, infatuation, pride, selfishness, exhaustion, despair, intense grief, intense emptiness, and so forth.

Richard G. Scott (April 2012) taught: “…yielding to emotions such as anger or hurt or defensiveness will drive away the Holy Ghost. Those emotions must be eliminated, or our chance for receiving revelation is slight. (Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life)”

C.S. Lewis says in A Grief Observed, that:

You can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears. You can’t, in most things, get what you want if you want it too desperately; anyway, you can’t get the best out of it. ‘Now! Let’s have a real good talk’ reduces everyone to silence. ‘I must get a good sleep tonight’ ushers in hours of wakefulness. Delicious drinks are wasted on a really ravenous thirst. Is it similarly the very intensity of the longing that draws the iron curtain, that makes us feel we are staring into a vacuum when we think about our dead?

…and so, perhaps, with God. I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can’t give it: [because] you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.

On the other hand, ‘Knock and it shall be opened.’ But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac? And there’s also ‘To him that hath shall be given.’ After all, you must have a capacity to receive, or even omnipotence can’t give. Perhaps your own passion temporarily destroys the capacity.

C.S. Lewis goes on to describe grief/depression/despair like both fear and suspense. And, I think depression, anxiety, and other mental struggles often feel similar.

If you are empty, you fear you may never feel again. Then, you experience the suspense of waiting till the moment feeling returns. You may even try to initiate, or take charge of, the return of feeling by resorting to actions that bring on anger, lust, despair, and guilt. I use these because for some reason when we are in such depths we rarely (unless we have trained ourselves) naturally (Mosiah 3:19) resort to those actions that bring on forgiveness, love, hope, and peace. We seem to naturally choose to excite negative feelings. Maybe that’s because those Christ-like actions seem more impossible when one feels nothing at all.

Or, on the other hand, you may feel so much, an excess of emotion, that you fear you may never bet back to normal levels. Then, you experience the suspense of waiting for blessed normalcy and equilibrium in your emotions and feelings to return. You may, again, try to initiate the return of normal feeling by taking unhealthy actions; simply because in this excessive emotional stimulation healthy actions are not natural (Mosiah 3:19) and seem to require heroic effort, while negative ones “seem” to not require as much.

Again, I want to emphasize that having feelings that temporarily block our ability to feel and comprehend God’s hand on our shoulder during these mental struggles does not make us evil. It also doesn’t mean He isn’t there. In fact, He is there, but our ability to tune into that presence is often difficult because we are wearing emotional and psychological sunglasses in an already dark room.

Lest anyone think I don’t know what it feels like to be in any of these throes or to struggle with anxiety, emptiness, excess emotion, or the like; I can only venture to say I have experienced them all in several ways and to extents I have not the room to explain. And, unfortunately, I continue to experience them. However, over years of practice, I have learned how to get out of these “dark ruts.” It is for exactly this reason that when I was asked to blog on this topic that I had sufficient doctrine fodder to present—because I have pondered it extensively.

So, how can we stay spiritual if our mental, emotional, and psychological illnesses are akin to the wall of China between us and our ability to sense the presence, love, guidance, comfort, and Spirit of God in our lives?

I have two answers to this. Both came to me while listening to well-prepared talks at church.

#1

The first came a year or so back. I don’t remember what the talk was, but I had a jolt of insight about light.

So often, when we feel we are sitting in a void unable to reach God or to feel His presence, we are in a metaphorical darkness. Of such darkness, Elder Uchtdorf (April 2014) taught:

Spiritual light rarely comes to those who merely sit in darkness waiting for someone to flip a switch. It takes an act of faith to open our eyes to the Light of Christ. Spiritual light cannot be discerned by carnal eyes. Jesus Christ Himself taught, “I am the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

This quote talks about how when we are in darkness, we need to make an effort to feel light. When we are in darkness it is hard for us to comprehend the light that very well may be present. However, Elder Uchtdorf compares it to flicking a switch. Yet, while I was sitting in Sacrament meeting one day, a more applicable illustration came to my mind. Because as we all know, flipping a switch from darkness to light simply isn’t that easy.

So, in my mind, instead of a switch, I saw a candle. When we are in darkness and we light a candle, there is still darkness. The small light, while better than ultimate darkness, still casts shadows creating fearful images and it leaves much of a room, or space, still hidden from us. Yet, we can use that candle to make our way, little by little to the light switch. We navigate with anxiety past certain shadows and dark patches that once we are past we see they aren’t as frightening as we thought. Then, at last we reach the light switch. Because it is the light switch which is able to disperse all the darkness and leave very little, if any, of the room (or God) obscured.

Candle, flame.

So, when we feel that our ability to feel the Spirit and God’s presence in our lives is inhibited by our weaknesses and struggles, we do have to take a leap of faith and light a small candle. We have to reach out to the Lord even though in that moment we feel that He couldn’t be farther from us, that He doesn’t care about our struggles, or that perhaps He doesn’t exist at all. If we can light that small candle and protect it, it will give us sufficient light to creep closer and closer to the light switch. That small candle light—though not sufficient to disperse all fear and darkness—by slow and steady progress, will lead us across the “dark room” of our current struggle to the switch. Then the Light of the World will make Himself known unto us and enable us to continue forward through each and every dark room that follows until one day, all the lights are on: “and I say it unto you that you may know the truth, that you may chase the darkness from among you (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24-25).

Would you like an example of lighting a candle? Well, in my past I had at least 2.5 years of depression, sadness, and hurt that was quite intense at the beginning and then slowly ebbed (going up and down) over the course of those 2.5 years. During that time, I told myself that when I felt down in that dark pit of feeling sorry for myself or of feeling empty and abandoned, that I would text my three visiting teaching sisters. I would say something nice to them and ask how they were.

It was that simple. That was my candle. And, believe it or not, it was extremely difficult to do even that, to strike that match and light a stubborn wick with a shaky hand. But, I always had my phone on me and those numbers were programmed in. So, every time I was down in that pit I texted those ladies. They didn’t know that was why I texted. They never knew. But I knew that thinking about someone other than myself for the 30 seconds it took to text could make a difference.

And, you know what…that candle helped me climb out of the pit—every time. Every time I did it, I would think, “It’s not going to work; not this time.” And, that candle would flicker, but somehow it was always enough. It enabled me to change my course of thoughts, to stand up, to move, to go and do something that brought the light flowing back into my mind and heart.

(See also my blog post Knowledge versus Intelligence on acting on truth even when we don’t “feel” like it)

#2

The second answer, came to me at a recent Stake Conference that I attended. One of the ladies who spoke had me riveted for her entire talk—which I sadly admit doesn’t happen very often. The reason she had me riveted is because she said something that was like pure truth being injected into my head and heart. And yet, it was something so simple I couldn’t believe I hadn’t ever discovered it myself.

This woman had spent years, and I mean literally years upon years, battling a life and death and yet entirely unknown and never before treated brain stem issue/tumor (I believe). She talked about being in constant darkness. She consistently struggled to “tune in.” Yet, there were many times she did feel the Lord’s help, comfort, and guidance despite the fact that He did not remove or easily fix her problem. She entered many experimental surgeries never knowing if she would come out alive. And, even as she spoke to us she wore a unique neck brace and could hardly move her head. So, she wasn’t out of the darkness, completely—not yet.

Then came the injection of truth. She said quite simply that during these dark times, she often felt she lacked faith in God. She struggled to find her faith. She was in “darkness.” Then, she quoted several lines from Alma 32 (the noted chapter on “faith is like a seed”). She said:

It occurred to me one day that when we plant a seed that it goes down into the darkness of the dirt. Then, as it is watered and nurtured, it is still in darkness as it takes root, sprouts and begins to grow. It isn’t until it has been nurtured with great care that it begins to break the surface of the darkness of the dirt and burst forth into the light. So, it would seem that all faith must be born in darkness if it is to grow at all. And it is only when we nurture our faith despite the darkness that it will eventually bring us out into the light.

I remember sitting there, stunned. How had this simple truth about faith totally escaped me?

I mean, I may have experienced such a phenomena, but no one had ever explained why before. No one had ever put it before me so plainly. I wondered how I ever thought true faith came in any other way (Doctrine and Covenants 101:4).

In the parable of the sower, did not seeds that fell upon the soil and remained out in the light get eaten by the birds? Did not the seeds that did not sink down into the dirt and “take root” in darkness fail to properly germinate and thrive? How did I miss this beautiful doctrine all these years?

Light Switch - On

So, my second answer is this: If you feel that you are often, or nearly always in mental, emotional, or psychological darkness, remember that you have the capacity to grow and produce a deeper, stronger faith than many others will ever have. I don’t say this is “on the surface” something to celebrate. But, certainly it is without a doubt a spiritual gift that if grasped will lead you straight to the throne of God.

So, like a seed must be planted underneath the soil to take root and to germinate properly into a plant with the potential to grow up and produce true fruit; so also, must our faith be born in darkness. It must be tried before it can thrive.

But, when we are in these dark moments, we need only light a tiny candle. That candle won’t disperse the darkness immediately. But, it will give us enough light to proceed forward until we can reach the light switch and then be showered with the glorious light of the Master.

BT

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

Training Neuroscience Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Abraham 3:19 we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feelings

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

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

Business Technology

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

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

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

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

Brain Radiates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Ether 12:27 we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BT

Doctrine: The Light of Christ is our basic conscience, but it can be dulled or altered. The Power of the Holy Ghost is a momentary burst or intense “glow of truth” that is temporary so that we can choose to act upon it, but not be compelled. However, the GIFT of the Holy Ghost is an endowment of POWER that makes our imperfect efforts and sincere righteous desires effective in actually changing us into a godly beings.

For many Christians, there is a clear deficit in understanding the role of the GIFT of the Holy Ghost. I think this is because there are so many ways in which the Holy Spirit functions that most of us fail to see the distinctions between His several functions AND how we are supposed to take advantage of those functions for our own journey back to God. In fact, most people don’t understand and can’t differentiate between the Light of Christ, the Power of the Holy Ghost, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

The Light of Christ is something that comes with us when we are born into this world (Doctrine and Covenants 93:2; St. John 1:9). It is in our flesh, blood and spirit. In fact, it cannot be separated from us because it is tied directly to the power by which we were organized and made. Christ created the earth. Every particle of it is under His command and is given life and purpose by His divine influence. God, our Heavenly Father organized our spirits. Therefore, the innate goodness and godliness from which we originate has been preserved in our very nature. It is a part of who we are, eternally. Which, is why every person that comes into this world has a basic understanding of right and wrong and a sense of guilt. The Light of Christ is our basic conscience.

However, the Light of Christ is not sufficient to perfect us. It is an innate sense but not an active source for help. It can be warped or altered by our environment and life experiences as we actively choose to override it. Alone it is insufficient to help us become like God.

Unlike the Light of Christ, the Holy Spirit is an active source of guidance. The Holy Ghost is a member of the godhead. He is omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly loving, perfectly just, and so forth. He is exactly like God the Father and Jesus Christ. The only difference between Him and Them is that the Holy Ghost does not have a body of flesh and bone (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22-23). This bodily difference is necessary so that He can communicate directly with our spirits.

So, how is the Power of the Holy Ghost different from the Light of Christ?

Before we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost through confirmation (after the ordinance of baptism), the Power of the Holy Ghost can descend upon us and give us what I like to call an intense “glow of truth.” This glow may be an injection of pure reason or logic that connects some spiritual and intellectual dots for our life. It can be a feeling of comfort or peace that something we have been taught or that we have read is true. It can be an unmistakable feeling of love or assurance that God is with us. But, the key to all of these things is that they are significant moments. We know during this intense “glow of truth” that something is God’s will, or that something is true, or that we need to make a little, significant, or a big change in our life.

But, while the glow is intense and something we are infinitely sure of while we feel it, it doesn’t stay with us. Why not? We’d certainly like it to, wouldn’t we? Because often when the glow is gone we doubt or lose sight of what we felt. But, the glow can’t be permanent. This is because once we know something God isn’t going to attach strings to our arms and legs and make us act on that knowledge. And, having a permanent intense “glow of truth” is akin to doing just that. No matter how great it feels when we feel it, to make the glow remain with us at that intensity is an act of compulsion.

Once the Holy Ghost has given us a clear witness, He has to step back to allow us to use our free will to follow it. The glow was an obvious and blatant invite to recognize and follow God’s truth and will. But, after the invitation has been delivered, we have to be free to choose (2 Nephi 2:27). God will not act upon us (2 Nephi 2:14-16).

So, what about the Gift of the Holy Ghost? If the Power of the Holy Ghost teaches us truth with an intense glow, what does the Gift of the Holy Ghost do?

Both before and after confirmation by the laying on of hands (see 4th Article of Faith), we experience the Power of the Holy Ghost (the glow) which is like a shot of veritaserum for our mind and heart (pardon the Harry Potter reference). But, it doesn’t last. However, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is a much more subtle experience. Rather than a sporadic shot it is a consistent, subtle flow of direction.

For those who want the “constant glow,” they can get something even better through the Gift of the Holy Ghost by accepting the covenant of baptism and being confirmed by the laying on of hands (see 4th Article of Faith). This is because they have exercised their agency/free will to enter into a covenant to serve God and keep His commandments. Covenants are how God protects and dispenses His power (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33-36). Meaning, we can’t get access to certain aspects of His power without making a covenant with Him. Therefore, a condition of the baptismal covenant—wherein we agree to give our will to God and keep His commandments and take His name upon us—is that God provides us with the constant guidance (not compulsion) we want.

However, this constant guidance isn’t a gigantic glow. It is more like a trickle of constant truth that will aid us in our designs to become godly. It also doesn’t compel us to be godly. But, it puts forth subtle invitations that alter our path a little at a time toward a godly end. This trickle is meted out to us in greater or lesser degrees as we continue to exercise our agency in keeping commandments, seeking for more knowledge and understanding, becoming Christlike, and receiving and entering into more covenants. If we don’t keep our end of the covenants the trickle is slowed to an occasional drop and eventually will leave us if we fail to repent and keep trying. We don’t have to be perfect to have the guidance of the Holy Ghost. We only have to be sincerely trying.

So, what good is a constant trickle of truth? How do we use it? What does it do?

Now, I don’t wish to diminish the experiences of those who claim to have been preserved physically by the Holy Ghost’s promptings. And yet, the fact is that those inexperienced with the Gift of the Holy Ghost often seem to preach about such physical-saving experiences as if this is the most common and important purpose the Holy Ghost serves. It is not. In fact, if indeed the Holy Ghost prompts us to take an action that will preserve us physically (which He can and has done at times but certainly doesn’t do often), it is the least important function to hope for. And, if we are not preserved from physical accidents and calamities, it rarely has anything to do with our ability to listen to the Holy Ghost.

Consider this, Christ overcame death with His Atonement for all of us, regardless of how we choose to live in this life. Therefore, no matter what happens to our physical bodies, they are guaranteed to become perfected and resurrected. However, though Christ overcame sin for all of us with His Atonement, access to that portion of grace is guarded and protected by covenants and conditions, like all the rest of God’s power. We can’t be forgiven without sincere action on our part. To offer it otherwise would be a grand mockery of the sacrifice Christ gave. Therefore, in order to receive the spiritually perfecting power of the Atonement we have to use our agency to choose to repent, keep God’s commands, and follow the nudges we get from the Holy Ghost.

The Gift of the Holy Ghost differs from the Light of Christ and the Power of the Holy Ghost in that the Gift of the Holy Ghost has POWER to enact permanent changes in our very emotional, mental, spiritual, and psychological selves. This is what Christ was referring to when He said that we must be born, not only of water, but of the Spirit (St. John 3:5). Baptism is an ordinance and takes place in a moment. But, being slowly changed by the Holy Ghost over time is baptism by fire.

For example, if we have a temper problem but we desire to be better and exercise our agency to try to be slower to anger and more quick to listen and love; over time, the POWER of the GIFT of the Holy Ghost can take our sincere intent and make it powerful enough to actually change our innate nature. If we take any temptation or weakness and exercise our agency to change it or overcome it, the GIFT of the Holy Ghost has the POWER to help us to actually overcome and change.

It doesn’t matter if we have a very debilitating psychological or physical addiction. It doesn’t matter if we are encountered with something that isn’t very tempting to us at all. The amount of temptation or the level of the weakness doesn’t matter. In order to be released from that temptation or addiction we must exercise our agency to overcome it. That act, combined with the POWER of the GIFT of the Holy Ghost, is what gives us the power to change and overcome. It may take one time of saying no and steering away from a temptation. It may take thousands of attempts to say no and steer away from a temptation. Depending on who we are different struggles and temptations will be harder for us. But, a sincere effort, over time, combined with the Gift of the Holy Ghost is what actually purifies and SANCTIFIES us and helps us become more like our Father in Heaven.

This is the amazing role of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. And, combined with our basic conscience and occasional glowing bursts of the Power of the Holy Ghost, each of us is capable of using our agency to become like God. However, without the Gift of the Holy Ghost, even the Power of the Holy Ghost testifying of truth cannot make us godly. We need the POWER of the GIFT to enact real spiritual change in our very beings.

Because of the sacredness and the power of the GIFT of the Holy Ghost, it is guarded by covenant. So, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is not a power to trifle with. He is a member of the godhead. We can’t take His companionship and help for granted.

So, the Light of Christ is basic and beneficial. But, it can’t change our very beings. The occasional bursts and intense glows of truth we get from the Power of the Holy Ghost can help us know God’s will for us and help us recognize His truths. But this burst of truth is an isolated experience that abates in time so that we can exercise our agency to accept or reject it. But, the GIFT of the Holy Ghost is a gift of POWER to become better, until someday we can become perfect. This GIFT is the power by which we become sanctified and holy. And, it is guarded by sacred covenant and only dispensed to those who try to keep that covenant.

BT

Doctrine: 1) We don’t have to be perfect to receive blessings from God and guidance from the Holy Spirit. Our righteous desires and intent validate our imperfect efforts. 2) Guidance from the Holy Spirit will always be recognizable.

So, life’s in general pretty good. But, perhaps today, or the last several days, weeks, or months, you feel as though you are in a spiritual limbo. Or, maybe you’re in the middle of a mentally and emotionally taxing trial, and now it’s getting to you spiritually. Or, maybe you feel like you’re spiritually okay, but you’ve been seeking an answer or guidance in something and it seems to be elusive. You’re not really wondering if there’s an end, but when. You’re not really wondering if God’s going to help you out, but when…and what your role is in getting there.

There are many kinds of spiritual dilemmas, and I can’t list them all here. But, for the anxiously engaged Latter-day Saint, I find there is a common dilemma.

So, what’s this dilemma? It’s placed firmly between the rock of agency and the hard place of God’s grace. It’s the constant struggle to be anxiously engaged in righteousness while still turning our entire life over the will of God. It’s trying to do your part to get blessings without forgetting to submit to God’s plan for you. It’s trying to figure out when to let go and just let God handle it, or when to take more responsibility in the exercise of your agency to arrive at the righteous desires of your heart. It’s the rock and the hard place many good Christians find themselves between when blessings and guidance seem prolonged or well beyond the horizon.

Between a rock and a hard place
A paperclip figure standing between paving stone and a marble stone

We who have slid down into this dilemma often start over-self-examining our lives, our prayers, our Christian service, our past sins, our current weaknesses. Often we ask ourselves ridiculous questions…but they don’t seem ridiculous to us.

  • Have I forgotten to pray for the right thing? Did I get the wording wrong?

  • Have I failed to look in the “right place” for the right job, the needed information, or the answer?

  • Did I stop being anxiously engaged and so the blessing is being withheld?

  • Has God said no, or wait, and I simply missed the signal?

  • Did I respond to my own feelings and not a real prompting, because I thought it was a prompting, but now I’m not seeing any effect?

The list could go on for eternity. I know, I’ve made several such lists.

The problem, however, with such over-zealous self-examination and question lists is that we are ignoring, unaware of, or have forgotten two clear doctrines when it comes to how God works in our lives.

#1: The first doctrine that is misunderstood or misapplied is of our ability to earn blessings and grace. Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 teaches us that there is an eternal law “upon which all blessings are predicated. And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” God has also said, “I the Lord and bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10). Again, we also read, “But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with a doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned [or stopped in progress]” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:29).

The anxiously engaged Latter-day Saint often takes these scriptures to mean that if a blessing isn’t coming, then they must have failed to cross a “t” or dot an “I” somewhere in their commandment keeping; that somehow they have been “unknowingly” slothful; that their “unintentional” weaknesses are keeping them from God’s grace, answers, peace, comfort, and blessings.

The big deception here is that God expects us to be perfect commandment keepers before we can receive blessings and grace. This, is 100% untrue. We don’t have to be perfect. We only have to try to keep the commandments, and to do it with the right intent. “For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (Doctrine and Covenants 137:9).

Note, that God does say that our works matter, but that they are given validity (despite our inability to do them perfect) by the intent and the desire behind it. Our intent is like a seal of approval on a University Diploma or a watermark on a check: it validates that our efforts are not counterfeit or fake. Intent and desire for good validate good actions offered imperfectly. Jeffrey R. Holland said in this year’s April (2016) conference:

“With the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the strength of heaven to help us, we can improve, and the great thing about the gospel is we get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed…

I love that doctrine! It says again and again that we are going to be blessed for our desire to be good, even as we actually strive to be so…” (Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You).

In Moroni 7 we learn that if our intent and desire is righteous then we can only give a good gift. On the other hand, we also learn that we can go through motions of goodness, but that if our intent and desire aren’t righteous, then those pretend motions of goodness don’t count in our favor. They’re fake, or counterfeit.

So, here’s the deal. If you are trying God isn’t going to hide some mysterious phrase from you that if you only used in your prayer, He would bless you. God doesn’t have a big labyrinth full of actions that only if you find and complete each and every one, He would bless you. God, our Heavenly Father, “delights to own and bless us, as we strive to do what’s right” (LDS Hymns 96, Dearest Children, God Is Near You).

#2: The second doctrine we often either have not yet come to understand or study is that promptings and inspiration from the Holy Ghost, while still and small, are NOT wisps of smoke that we can easily ignore or miss. They will carry significant emotional, spiritual, and mental weight; for God will tell us in our mind AND our heart—both (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3). Inspiration and promptings are not hidden under layers of odd images and symbols. God “doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men” (2 Nephi 2:26). (There are some more references to this “weight” further down.)

In other words, God doesn’t play games with any part of our life whether small or great. He doesn’t hide messages from us. He sets very basic conditions upon receiving such messages. If there is something important we need to know or do, the Holy Ghost will make sure we “feel” the weight of such a prompting if we are meeting the conditions for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Now, if you miss a day of scripture study due to sickness or sheer exhaustion; or if you by accident forget a morning prayer, or you were lax in your visiting or home teaching this month, you have not forfeited your right to guidance from the Spirit. Such thinking is rooted in issues mentioned in the first doctrine. You have to openly rebel against God, on purpose, and with evil intent to completely block your reception to the Holy Ghost.

However, if you want to get detailed, then let’s do so. The scriptures teach us that the mysteries of God are kept hidden and are only revealed unto us according to the heed and diligence we give unto that which is revealed to us (Alma 12:9). So, the more in tune our lives are to the Holy Ghost, then the more delicate promptings we can receive. So, there are differing levels of spiritual reception and guidance, but God has given very clearly such conditions: if we listen to and heed a prompting, we will receive more and more until our knowledge and righteous grow brighter and brighter, until the perfect day (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24).

While there are differing levels of spiritual instruction (based upon our heed and diligence) we’ll never be uncertain whether something IS a prompting. It won’t be that elusive. Think about it. We have to know we’ve been prompted or we can’t be accountable for not following the prompting. If we aren’t sure, we can’t be held accountable. Therefore, if you’ve received guidance, you will know.

Now, I don’t know how everyone feels the Spirit. But, most of the scriptural descriptions of the feelings of the Holy Ghost imply a significant “weight of feeling” that is unmistakable. It’s not always a burning in the bosom. Enos said, “…and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, SUNK DEEP INTO MY HEART.” Joseph smith said of James 1:5, “Never did any passage of scripture come with more POWER TO THE HEART of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to ENTER WITH GREAT FORCE into every feeling of my heart.” Joseph F. Smith said of the first epistle of Peter, as he read prior to his vision recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 138, “…and as I read I was GREATLY IMPRESSED, MORE THAN I HAD EVER BEEN BEFORE…”

Sometimes, our natural righteous inclinations lead us to do God’s will without Him having to reinforce it with a big feeling. An idea may just “sit right” with us. God doesn’t have to prompt us to do every good thing (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-27).

Recently, of my own accord I felt the desire—based on my knowledge of her situation and struggles—to write a letter to a dear friend. I agonized over the letter for a few days, but worked hard to write it by the Spirit. Then, I put it in an envelope and put it in the mailbox. I certainly felt a little bit of trepidation about what was in the letter, but never at any time did I feel constrained not to send it. It “sat right” with me to send it, like the two opposing ends of magnets snapping together. I didn’t have to force the idea upon myself, or force myself to ignore any feelings of confusion or spiritual discomfort, like forcing the two same poles of two magnets together—without force they will push apart.

I didn’t feel remorse or guilt for writing the letter. And, I knew the testimony I had borne in the letter was true. Two days later, the very day this friend was receiving my letter, I received a letter from her asking the very questions I had answered in the letter I sent. It was then that I felt an immense weight of relief, joy, and confirmation that my righteous actions—taken without a big prompting—were inspired. Not because God had compelled me to send the letter, but because I had been anxiously engaged in doing something I desired which was right; and because I had sought to do it by the Spirit. As well, God didn’t have to compel me to write the letter, because if I hadn’t sent it, I would have received my friend’s letter eventually and been able to respond. So, it wasn’t a one-time-chance pass/fail thing either. God doesn’t work like that.

Consider, if it was so hard to know what God wanted or expected of us, then choice and accountability would be shot, as well as agency. What confidence could we have in the Holy Ghost if we believed He always spoke so small and still that we had to be perfect, and in perfect silence in the middle of a desert to hear him?

Do we need to live in a such a way to be open and receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and to receive the blessings we desire? Yes. But, if we’re making a consistent effort, not just token offerings, then we don’t have to destroy ourselves with guilt and misery that somehow we missed a light that flashed while we were accidentally blinking.

So, you don’t have to worry that God is playing games with your blessings, help, or answers. His promptings and guidance are clear and recognizable EVERY TIME. If you want deeper promptings and information, live a little closer to the Spirit and heed whatever guidance you receive. And, sometimes you just have to wait for your blessings and answers a little longer. Usually, when you are patient enough they end up being well worth the wait. At least, that has been my experience.

“Therefore, dearly beloved brethren [and sisters], let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power [with righteous desire and intent]; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (Doctrine and Covenants 123:17).

BT

Doctrine(s): Sadness is necessary to comprehending Joy. Opposition in emotion can also lead us to knowledge and understanding. Feeling sad is not evil or sinful, it is natural and necessary. All of our emotions, when properly utilized and controlled, act on our behalf to lead us to Joy. We should not allow Sadness (or any other emotion) to become a fixed state; it should be a stepping stone back to Joy.

I’m not sure how many of you have seen the Disney Movie “Inside Out”. But, owing to the fact that I have a young toddler at home who absolutely loves the movie and can watch it start to finish without blinking, I get to see it a lot. Strangely, it’s not one of those movies that’s easy to get tired of. Let me tell you why.

Each and every time I watch the movie Inside Out I see more and more subtle truths being revealed in grand splendor. To me they are like little nuggets of “real life doctrine” that teach important, yet simple, truths that help us understand life and get through it just a bit better.

The first doctrine seems to be the main plot of the movie. That is that sadness is necessary in life, it’s okay to feel sad, and that sadness is necessary often times to arrive at pure joy and happiness. There needs to be an opposition in all things (2 Nephi 2:11) and indeed, even the omniscient, omnipotent God of heaven still experiences sorrow and weeps (Moses 7:28-33). That’s how important it is.

When the movie begins, Joy doesn’t understand the purpose of sadness. And, in her lack of understanding, she tries to save Riley from Sadness. Sadness is the initial enemy. Even though Riley has been subjected to a major, life-changing event (moving), Joy seems determined that Riley (the character) can proceed forward with life without any emotional impact.

At the beginning of the movie, after Riley has moved to her new house, Sadness begins feeling compelled by the difficult impact of the move to touch memories, fix things, and take control of the console. This compulsion, as Riley reacts to the move and change, is natural. But Joy doesn’t understand that. Indeed, she and the other emotions are sort of in a panic. Then, Riley’s first day of school produces the first ever sad core memory. Joy is so upset by this change she does everything she can to stop the sad core memory from becoming part of Riley’s islands of personality.

Joy, who doesn’t understand the need for Sadness, tries to prevent Riley from it. Because of Joy’s panic, and in her attempts to stop the sad core memory from being put in the core memory slot, she causes both she and Sadness, and all the core memories, to be sucked up into the tube that takes memories to Long Term Memory. Once they’re stranded down there, Joy blames Sadness for their descent from headquarters, but it was actually Joy who was to blame. Joy was so adamant that Riley (the character) not have Sadness in her life that she caused the whole malfunction.

Now, I don’t mean to be hard on Joy. But, the reality is that we all do what she does. We try to have Joy without Sadness. We often try to ignore Sadness or prolong it affecting us. We try to push Sadness to a corner and hope to avoid it. And yet, just like the movie, by not letting Sadness have its place in our lives we cause the opposite of our true desires: significant lack of Joy and a great deal of mental, emotional, and psychological malfunction.

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteous could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11).

 Here’s another interesting doctrine the movie teaches. If Joy were not balanced with Sadness then we would also remain ignorant and be kept from greater happiness. This is illustrated by Joy as she tries to occupy Sadness with mind manuals to get Sadness out of the way, so she (Joy) can keep Riley happy. Then, when the two of them finally do get stranded down in Long Term Memory, Joy doesn’t know anything about where to go or what to do, how to get back to headquarters, what dangers to avoid, or anything. She’s clearly never read the mind manuals herself; likely this is because it wasn’t fun, or because of her positive outlook she kept planning to get around to it eventually. She’s so uninformed that she misses the fact that the mind workers send a memory up to headquarters through a recall tube and yet she doesn’t think to send the core memories she’s carrying up that way. Or, it may also be that her natural selfish bent to “I can fix everything and keep Riley happy” throughout the movie may have blinded her to the idea of not being present to present the core memories and fix Riley herself. So, instead of sending them up to headquarters without her, she plunges onward.

Joy, alone, can often be selfish. Joy, by itself, often procrastinates the necessary drudgeries of life that when embraced lead to greater amounts of Joy. But Joy tends to live for the moment; which is the type of thing that often leads to more sorrow, not more Joy.

The next instance we see Joy’s ignorance is in her inability to comfort Bing Bong after he loses his wagon. Joy wants to ignore his pain and disappointment. She tries to make him laugh, or play a fake game to get him to do what she wants. She sees no point in taking time to be sad so she tries to bypass it. This makes Joy seem a bit insensitive and unkind, which Joy can be when not balanced with other emotions. Then again, we see Joy’s inability to succeed in waking Riley up from sleep with happy dreams because she thinks that only happiness can solve problems.

Thankfully, this continued struggle is slowed when Joy begins to trust Sadness. Sadness helps them get into the subconscious. Sadness helps Joy to see that scaring Riley was the only way to wake her up. But, then, yet again, when Joy thinks she’s found a way back to headquarters through a larger recall tube, she won’t let Sadness come too because Sadness’s presence is turning the core memories sad. This return to thinking Sadness is bad for Riley is Joy’s final downfall. She ends up in The Dump.

Joy only begins to understand Sadness’s true purpose while in The Dump. She realizes that Riley’s sadness is what allowed people to come to her aid in the past. She also sees that Sadness was also the precursor to one of Riley’s happiest moments! At last Joy understands.

So often, each of us thinks that Sadness is an evil thing. That we should never feel sad. That we should feel bad about ourselves if we can’t feel super happy each day. Even when life’s is throwing big things at us like: job changes, moves, financial struggles, relationship issues, crises of faith, and more; we think there is something wrong with us if we can’t paste on a smile.

I’m not saying that people don’t suffer with anxiety or depression that doesn’t need to be treated. Modern medicines are so helpful and often necessary. But I am saying that as Latter-day Saints, we often misinterpret, “…and if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high…” to mean that we have to pretend to be happy in difficult times and avoid the natural dips into sadness (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8). Being at peace is a form of happiness and joy. But, it does not mean we can’t have days where we feel sad, sorrowful, or depressed when the weight of life is upon us. It doesn’t mean we don’t pray for, cry for, and hope for the end of some struggles and transitions. It does mean that we don’t lose faith and that we press on with or without a smile. But, though we should try to remember our blessings, to count them, and to serve others, it doesn’t mean that being sad is wrong or bad.

Sadness leads us to seek help from God when we are down. Sadness is a precursor to humility and seeking knowledge and comfort. Guilt for sin—a form of regret and sadness—leads us to seek repentance. Sorrow from the consequences of unwise choices leads us to make wiser choices. And so on.

In fact, it is those depths of sadness and sorrow to which we sink which make rising out of them into glorious blessings, relief, forgiveness, and answers so sharp, beautiful, clear, fresh, and transcendent. Well did Eve say, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth to all the obedient” (Moses 5:11). If it were not for the lows, the highs would not feel so high. “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).

 Having been down to plenty of sad lows myself, I can testify that the joys are far more rich than they ever could have been had the lows never come. Contrast is a true teacher.

The rest of the doctrines in the movie Inside Out are much more subtle. For instance, one time that I was watching Inside Out, I was struck by the fact that the other emotions (aside from Joy) didn’t seem to resent the fact that Joy did most of the driving. She was acknowledged and accepted as the PRIMARY DRIVER. Indeed, the other emotions only came into play when they wanted to return Riley to a happy state. Disgust drove when she wanted to keep Riley from eating broccoli. But, when the vegetable was avoided, Disgust stepped aside and let Joy resume driving. When Riley was threatened with losing her dessert Anger stepped in to provide the impetus for Riley to complain so that her happiness could be restored by getting dessert. Fear stepped in only to keep Riley from hurting herself, then immediately stepped aside. On Riley’s first day of school, when Joy suggested that she drive the console all day, not one of the other emotions seemed to feel shafted or left out. Why? Because, it occurred to me, that the purpose of all the emotions is to help Riley to be happy. Anger, Sadness, Fear, and Disgust play their roles to help Riley have Joy. It is not a matter of equality in time driving or in importance.

The doctrine: all of our emotions, when properly understood, utilized, and controlled, play a necessary part in helping us achieve Joy.

Now, when the other emotions were left to drive without Joy and Sadness, the excess of Anger, Fear, and Disgust put Riley’s life into crisis. She made poor decisions that while they led her to action, that action was not going to lead to actual happiness. So, though our emotions try to protect our happiness they must be trained to understand what true happiness is. Losing out on dessert can teach us to eat healthy which in the long run will lead to greater happiness, etc.

The doctrine: when our emotions/passions are not properly understood and controlled, they try to bring us happiness, but their excessive responses can lead us to more Fear, Anger, and Disgust.

So, all in all, it’s amazing how much doctrine one cartoon can contain. You wouldn’t think you’d read a blog article telling you it’s okay to be sad. But it is okay. It is not bad. It is not a sin.

Yet, while I do encourage the notion that Sadness is necessary and most certainly okay. We must all still exercise our agency and not allow Sadness to engulf us. Sadness has a place. It is meant to help us get help. It is meant to help us comprehend true Joy and feel true gratitude. It is meant to lead us to self-evaluate and act to climb back up to Joy. To let Sadness overwhelm us is just as ineffective as letting any other emotion mindless control.

BT

(P.S. Sadness is my favorite character!)