I am often on my knees asking for those things that I feel I need and want. I am often praying for guidance. I am often looking for peace, or inspiration. Aren’t we all? I am often on my knees because that’s where I’m supposed to be. I’m more frequently on my knees (these days) because I know nowhere else to go to get the power, comfort, peace and reassurance I need. Indeed, there is nowhere else to go…in my experience.

Efficiency is something I like. I’m great at cleaning and organizing quickly because I’m efficient. I know how to see all that needs to be done and find ways to organize and clean in an order that saves time while also accomplishing a great deal at a high quality. I can be detail oriented when I need to be, but I never get lost in details.

Prayer is something I have worked long and hard to be efficient at. Not efficient as in praying as fast as I can, in as few words, with the most impact, like I’m running a business, or organizing files. No, efficient as in getting the power and guidance out of prayer that I need. Getting out of my own way, so to speak. Praying in a way that works. Not simply spouting words or expecting God to read my mind (which I know He can do). And, by focusing on how to make my prayers matter TO ME, I find that I offer them better and with more effect, granting me expediency…or the ability to get those things I so desperately seek.

I hope I’m saying this right. There are many ways to accomplish things in life. But, there are better ways, and best ways. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to, metaphorically speaking, eliminate the fluff, and get to a point where my prayers hopefully have maximum efficiency in helping me to increase my relationship with God and my ability to call down the powers of heaven to gain peace, guidance, inspiration, and assurance on my path through this life.

One of the ways I have found that I’ve been able to improve upon this (because I’m in no way perfect at prayer) is to understand and utilize the power of expediency.

Expedient

Several times in the Doctrine and Covenants, an entire book of revelation given based on expediency, we see the word expedient used to define what should be asked for in prayer and/or what things will be manifested unto us by the Holy Ghost (Doctrine and Covenants 18:18; 88:64-65).

Expedient = what is advantageous, practical, beneficial, useful

The scriptures are full of counsel regarding prayer. There are some important elements: addressing God—the Father, expressing gratitude, seeking forgiveness of sins, praying over anything in our lives that we need help with, asking for grace, praying for others, etc., and closing in the name of Jesus Christ—our Mediator.

However, when it comes to getting specific answers from God to our prayers, there are guidelines that are given. However, it hasn’t been until very recently that I have begun to understand, to a better extent, all the guidelines and examples of expedient prayers given in the scriptures and what they mean for me. And, more importantly, how to use them to receive the answers I seek.

What NOT to Ask For

In the scriptures, God has told us in many ways expedientthings we are not supposed to ask for. We are to not ask for things that are not expedient (Doctrine and Covenants 88:5). We are not to ask for signs for proof, or to create faith or testimony (Doctrine and Covenants 63:7-12). We are commanded not to ask for things to consume upon our lusts (James 4:3). We are not to seek for revenge upon our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We are not to pray for riches, except that we may use what riches we receive to build up the kingdom of God (Jacob 2:19), etc.

So, we can talk to God about everything. But, we must take into consideration some important guidelines when it comes to what blessings we seek at God’s hand. Asking God to do a back flip just to satisfy our curiosity about his mobility is hardly a proper thing to ask of the Almighty. We must be mindful of what we pray for, ask for, and seek for from our Father in Heaven.

So, what are those guidelines for asking?

While there are many scriptures that point to these guidelines, I’m going to boil it down to a few.

James 1:5

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not and it shall be given him.

What are we commanded to ask for? Wisdom.

Note that God uses the word “wisdom.” He doesn’t say information. He doesn’t say fun facts. He says wisdom. Wisdom is far different than information and fun facts.

Wisdom = experience, knowledge, good judgment, intelligence, common sense; as well as the ability to apply such to our lives. Wisdom also refers to general societal knowledge and principles.

So, when God says, “If you lack wisdom,” He means that you don’t have the wisdom/intelligence you need to act wisely.

James 1:6

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering, for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

Note that God says to, “ask in faith, nothing wavering.” We also often receive the counsel from God to ask, “with real intent,” or in “sincerity of heart” or with “full purpose of heart” (Moroni 7:9; 10:4, 2 Nephi 31:13). I believe these are all similar in meaning, in that God means us to pray with the intent to listen and to follow. If we seek answers or instruction or guidance, He wants us to know He won’t give us wisdom if we have no intent to act upon it (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33; Matthew 7:6). He only gives light and truth to those who will receive it, act on it, and seek for more (Alma 12:9-11).Man praying

How are we commanded to ask for wisdom? With the sincere intent to act upon the wisdom we hope to receive.

Joseph Smith-History 1:18

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join.

Alma 22:18

O God Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.

In these two scriptures it’s important to pay attention to what the individuals are praying for. Joseph asks to know which church is true that he may know which to join. The King of the Lamanites wants to God to manifest unto him if He exists, that he may give away all his sins to know Him and live with Him.

Herein lies the answer to expediency. Both want simple answers that they may know how to act so that they may progress spiritually—for themselves.

We know that God’s work and glory is to bring about our immortality (living forever) and eternal life (life like God and with God) (Moses 1:39). If that is God’s most important and eternal work, then, it would seem that those things that are expedient for us are those endowments of knowledge and wisdom that will lead us (if we listen and follow it) to live with and become like God.

What wisdom are we supposed to seek? The wisdom that will lead us forward in God’s plan toward becoming like Him.

Doctrine and Covenants 9:6-10

Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.

Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right…

Now, if you have known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now.

This scripture was given for Oliver Cowdery who was told he could help translate the Book of Mormon. But, once he was told he could help he expected all the wisdom and guidance from the Spirit he needed would simply come. Poof. He took no thought for the effort required to receive the wisdom and guidance he needed.

A modern equivalent of the mistake Oliver Cowdery made is to get a calling to teach Sunday school at church. And then, simply because you were called and set apart you didn’t think it was necessary to prepare your lessons, pray for guidance before each lesson, and then to follow that guidance in preparing and delivering your lesson. The calling didn’t exempt you from the effort to do the calling the Lord called you to do.

It’s like getting the validation that God is okay with whom you choose to marry. But, simply because you got married in the temple you expect that everything will be celestial without actually living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ in your daily married life–simply because God said, OK. Nothing in this life, or in eternity, is simply handed to us without accompanying effort and responsibility to care for the gift received. All godly guidance requires effort to receive and effort to follow.

Woman hands praying with a bible in a dark over wooden table

How are we to seek for the wisdom we lack? We are to do our part to get what wisdom we can before going to the Lord for either validation or further guidance. We are never “done” getting personal revelation until we have become godly.

Now, let’s set forth the specific pattern we’ve identified for getting answers to our prayers.

Pattern #1: You’ve got to work

Brigham young taught, “It is only where experience fails that revelation is needed” (BY, 416). I might alter that to say, “where wisdom fails.”

If the information is reasonably available to us through sincere efforts of searching, seeking, discussion with wise friends and family members, and pondering, God isn’t going to give a separate answer. God is loving but I suspect a perfect being is also perfectly efficient and not prone to ridiculous acts simply because we come to Him crying. As well, when we put ourselves into a climate of seeking, pondering, discussing, and searching, there is no limit to the answers God can give us about many things. So, to just dispense one sentence phrases or even short paragraphs anytime we have a question is not only inefficient and contrary to God’s nature, it deprives us of the further light and knowledge God has for us on many topics. A truly loving God will choose the more helpful, expedient, and valuable of the two ways to answering our prayers.

Pattern #2: Expediency*

As God’s 24/7 goal (if you want to put it in mortal time constraints) is to save and exalt us and help us become godly (Moses 1:39). It would stand therefore, that though all questions are good, the best questions are those that are derived from the deepest, simplest desires of our hearts.

*I want to make a brief comment about lines of revelation. God has set up His church to have accepted lines of revelation so that we know when something is from God, or not. God is a god of order, and not confusion (Doctrine and Covenants 132:8). Revelation for the entire church comes through the prophet. Revelation for the region comes through the designated Seventy. Revelation for our stake comes through the Stake President. Revelation for our ward comes through the Bishop. Revelation for the Relief Society comes through the Relief Society President, etc.

Revelation for our lives comes to us. As well, in personal lives there are also smaller, but distinct lines of communication. Parents can only get so much guidance for their children. The older children become the less revelation a parent can receive on behalf of a child. A parent may receive inspiration to caution a child about something. But, if child receives a spiritual witness that a parent has not also received it means that the child is capable of getting his/her own revelation and that God doesn’t need to cycle that revelation through the parent. Etc.

So, expediency may also relate to questions we ask that are not for ourselves. Even if the wisdom will comfort us, but it is ultimately wisdom intended for a line of authority which we are not in; then we are not likely to get such wisdom, especially if we cannot act on it for our own, personal salvation.

Pattern #3: Real Intent

Finally, we must have the true intent to act upon the wisdom we receive. If we want facts to satisfy fears and doubts, but we have no intent to do anything based on the counsel or guidance that comes, we are very unlikely to get much, if anything.

Example of the Expedient Pattern:

If we look at Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in Joseph Smith-History; we learn that prior to going to the sacred grove to ask which church to join, Joseph attended all the several meetings of the many churches in his area. All focused on different points of doctrine. All interpreted the Bible differently. We know Joseph got to know many of the pastors well. We know he conversed with them and asked them questions on their varied doctrines. We also know Joseph studied the scriptures looking for guidance as to what church to join. He searched and pondered and studied. He did all the seeking he could. HE WORKED

Then, when the wisdom of society, the scriptures, and his own failed, then he went to ask of God.

JOSEPH ASKED AN EXPEDIENT QUESTION. Which church should I join?

JOSEPH ASKED WITH REAL INTENT. Joseph asked with the intent to join whatever church God told him to join. He simply wanted to know which one was God’s.

Note, he didn’t ask God, “Is the Methodist church better than the Presbyterian?” He didn’t ask, “Why are there so many churches?” He didn’t ask, “The Bible says there’s one faith and one baptism. Why then do all the churches have so many different ways of baptizing?” None of these are bad questions. They simply don’t have the greatest expediency.

Joseph’s question was expedient because the answer would allow Joseph to progress toward godliness and salvation.

Questions that are generally not expedient

Based on these patterns, let’s look at questions that are generally not expedient. These are unlikely to get answered because the answer doesn’t necessary lead to personal action or progression.

  • What color was the Liahona?
  • When will the second coming of Christ be?
  • How come you let the prophet put this new policy in place that seems so unlike you?
  • Why can’t women also officiate in the Priesthood?
  • Why did you let me lose my job?
  • Why did you let that terrible catastrophe happen?
  • Was the earth really created in five earth days or is what science says correct?
  • Did you use evolution to create all life?

Now, let’s look take these un-expedient questions down to their core. Let’s look at the deeper, simpler questions that are behind them that are expedient. The answers to these questions require pre-work and also will lead to personal action and progression.

Questions that are more expedient**

  • I have read the Book of Mormon and find much good in it. Is the Book of Mormon Woman Sitting Down in Prayer Silhouettetrue? Is it your word?
  • I’m trying to live a good life, but I know I’m not ready to see Christ. So, what is the most important thing I can be doing right now to prepare for the second coming of Christ?
  • I am trying to accept and follow the prophet’s counsel in all things. But I’m struggling with this most current policy. Can you please reassure me. Is <current prophet> a true prophet?
  • I’ve been studying the scriptures and have found several passages that indicate your love for all your children. But, I’m still struggling to feel peace about it in relation to how the church is set up. Can you reassure me? Can you help me to know that you love women as much as you do men?
  • I’ve lost my job. I’ve looked at several jobs and have applied to the ones I feel will best help me take care of my family. Is the course my life is taking according to Thy will? Will I be able to find the job you want me to have?
  • Science makes it seem like the earth coming into being was random and took eons (implies study). I don’t know how to reconcile that with what the Bible says (implies study). Perhaps there is much missing from both the scientific and the Bible accounts. So, can you please reassure me? Did you create the earth?
  • Am I really your literal spirit son or daughter? Or am I just a product of evolution? I need to know so that I can feel confident in the course of action I’m choosing for my life. If you’re real and I’m your child, then that will change the decision I make.

**Note that the answer to any of these questions requires previous personal action and study and that the answer will lead to continued personal action and eternal progression.

We can be upset or confused about many things in life. But, that which is of most value for us to do is to break down those frustrations we have to their core doctrine, their deepest simplest root, and then take that question to the Lord rather than the more complex and less expedient questions we often have.

It is important to note, however, that the Lord can answer any question we put to Him. There are occasions when He has answered what, according to the formula I have presented, are less expedient questions. When He has done so and why is beyond my ability to confer to you. But, from my own study and experience, I have felt that, in general, we are likely to get answers more quickly and more clearly if we seek to make our questions and requests expedient.

Why doesn’t God tell us everything? Why doesn’t He speak the answer to every issue and question we have in our minds and hearts? I don’t know. But, as I am confident in his “true love” for us, I believe that the problem is not His limitation in answering, but ours in desiring the best knowledge and understanding how to receive those expedient answers.

Our finite understanding, perspective, and capabilities make it impossible for us to converse with the Lord as we would likely wish. There is much the Lord can tell us if our hearts and minds are right and prepared. But, He has chosen to reveal only those things that are expedient for our eternal progression.

So, we can get upset that God doesn’t tell us everything. OR, we can follow the pattern He has set for getting answers to prayers.

BT

Doctrine: Expediency has everything to do with getting consistent answers to our prayers. The scriptures lay out a pattern for asking expedient questions and receiving answers. God is not limited in His ability to talk to us, but we are limited in our ability to hear His voice and understand His ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

While all of us may have some experiences and memories of times when we have received clear impressions and instructions from the Holy Ghost, it is rarely an ability that we master without time and significant, consistent effort. In fact, sometimes it seems that God gives us Holy Ghost nibbles and snacks and then makes it difficult to get the rest of the banquet. And, in my opinion, this is exactly what He does and for good reason.

The Holy Ghost is a Gift, not an Entitlement

Unlike any other gift that God gives us, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is the one gift that is essential to our eternal salvation and exaltation. The Holy Ghost is the baptism of fire. He is the Master Teacher. He is the one who, because of the Atonement, can take our righteous desires plus our imperfect actions and effect real and permanent changes in our very souls. This makes the Holy Ghost the great Sanctifier. Even with the Atonement of Christ, without the Gift of the Holy Ghost, we cannot become like God nor even aspire to.

A gift like this God WILL protect. It is not for the passive Christian or the doubting Thomas’s. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is also not a gift with only one educational certificate that you can master by attending church a few times. There aren’t only a couple levels of personal revelation. Just as a person must participate in a basic course of education to become a doctor in any philosophy or profession (whether they are brilliant enough to skip grades and/or CLEP out of college courses), so also, recognizing the Gift of the Holy Ghost has nearly unlimited steps and degrees that must be pursued one at a time and with diligent, consistent faith and effort.

Christ was the most intelligent of us all. Yet, He humbled Himself to progress according to God’s will. He received grace by grace until He received a fullness (Doctrine and Covenants 93:13). He was perfect and yet He still was baptized, and so forth, to “fulfill all righteousness,” and to do His Father’s will (St. John 6:38), not His own. And, He didn’t make a fuss over having to do it. So, if we think we are too smart, or righteous enough at present, to submit to a path of hard work, humility, and diligence, then God will not force us to do so, nor will He lightly part with His guidance. We can demand that He give us proof and guidance in “our own way” and we will get exactly what we want (Alma 29:4)…to our own condemnation (Doctrine and Covenants 63:7-12).

The more Christlike we become, the greater our ability to recognize God’s promptings and guidance through the Gift of the Holy Ghost. And, though a doctor may spend up to 18 years or more reaching his/her desired level of understanding and education in a specific field, it would be very unwise to assume that the level and degree of promptings you can receive from the Holy Ghost ends as quickly time-wise and can be achieved with even a third of the effort.

So, if you’re looking for a quick answer, this blog cannot offer you a blanket set of ideals which will solve your struggles. At best, it will prescribe a course of “spiritual education and effort,” that, IF pursued will lead you along a path to your desired goal. It’s a prescription for years of hard work, study, hope, faith, and practice (St. John 7:17; 17:3). The prescription is simple and will follow below.

So, how bad to you want it?

Note: This blog post is directed specifically at recognizing promptings from “the Gift of the Holy Ghost.” For a commentary on the difference between the Light of Christ, the Power of the Holy Ghost, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost, please click here to visit a previous blog.

Hands opening a red gift box with ribbon in shadow

God Purposefully Requires Diligent and Consistent Effort in order to Access to Increasing Guidance from the Holy Ghost

Why does God make it so hard to recognize the guidance of the Holy Ghost? Is it some game to Him? Doesn’t He realize we are trying to do His will?

God doesn’t give guidance to those who don’t want it, don’t appreciate it, are skeptical of it, and don’t plan to follow it. He will invite you to seek His guidance, but He won’t give it lightly, “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33).

As well, God says (Alma 12:9-10):

It is given to many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they [the mysteries] are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of the word…according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. (See also Doctrine and Covenants 50:24)

The Gift of the Holy Ghost is just that—a gift. It is intended to be given to us in increasing amounts as we use it for its designed purpose: to grow, learn, become more Christlike, more humble, more faithful, more loving…more like God. So, if we get into a “I’m good like I am,” rut, then we may begin to struggle to receive continued guidance beyond the current level we have received to date. This is because the guidance is meant to lead us upward, not to keep us on the same plane we’ve camped on. We can’t be complacent or satisfied with a minimal, or even what we consider a high, level of righteousness.

The Gift of the Holy Ghost isn’t something we can use when it’s convenient. We can’t go crying to the Lord for help and then expect guidance to come if we haven’t been actively seeking His will to improve over time. Or, if we only seek guidance from the Holy Ghost for what we consider big decisions and ignore the little promptings about things He would have us improve on, change, forsake, or repent of, then we may find the Heavens silent, or at least a little slow in responding.

You may ask, “Well, even if I have been a little reluctant or complacent, when I go to God at last, you think He’d answer, right?” “He wants me back, right?” Well, while God loves us unconditionally, His love is true love—tough love. The kind none of us particularly like. But, the kind we actually need. Sure, He wants us back. But, it is also His work and glory to help us become as much like Him as possible (Moses 1:39). So, if withholding answers and guidance for a moment will lead us to re-evaluate our lives and become better; then God will likely withhold and give us a chance to desire, more deeply, such a priceless gift as the Holy Ghost. He will wait until we desire it so much that we are willing to come closer to Him and further away from our own will. He does this so that when He does answer we are humble and willing to follow His counsel. So that we have a greater chance of not taking it for granted.

Why doesn’t He let you make that decision? Why doesn’t He give without using tough love to help you improve? Because, “for he who sins against the greater light receives the greater condemnation” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:3). If God gives miracles and guidance and blessings when we are not willing to accept them or follow them, then our condemnation for not accepting or following is greater. In other words, the more you receive the more eternal trouble you can get for deciding not to accept that which is given to you. It would be unfair for God to punish us for not accepting light and truth if we weren’t prepared to receive or follow it. By withholding He is showing mercy.

The Prescription for Better Recognizing the Guidance of the Holy Ghost

President Monson, who seems to have a particular gift for recognizing the promptings of the Holy Ghost, gave these simple steps in several recent conference addresses (see endnotes for sources):

  1. Communicate daily with Heavenly Father in sincere prayer. God has commanded, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:63).
  2. Be worthy to receive inspiration. God has said, “…seek me diligently…” (ibid)
  3. Trust inspiration when it comes. (Proverbs 3:5)
  4. Follow inspiration when it comes.

I might add:

  1. Pray less passively. Ask for ways to act, listen, feel, hear, and do; instead of praying with passive, generalized statements, like, “Please help me to…” or “Watch over me when…” An active statement in prayer might be, “Please show me how to ensure this journey is a safe one for our family,” or, “As I visit with my friend, please make bring things to my remembrance that I can share to help comfort him/her.” (Check out this address Ask In Faith by David Bednar as he teaches how to prayer with active prayer language, and this helps immensely in being led by the Holy Ghost)

So, that’s it. I might surmise that if you are having trouble getting the guidance you desire to receive, then you might try to: 1) pray more often and more sincerely and meaningfully (Ask In Faith), 2) become more worthy and seek God’s will more diligently, 3) be more trusting when inspiration comes, 4) follow more willingly and more quickly when inspiration does come.

Different Ways of Feeling or Receiving Promptings and Guidance

Now, if you’ve made it this far, then what I’d like to do is to talk a little bit about the different ways the Holy Ghost talks to and guides me. This won’t mean that He’ll talk to you the same way. But, by seeing how He talks to me in different situations, it might help you better ponder the possibilities for yourself. That’s all I can offer. The rest is up to you.

Reading the Scriptures

When I’m reading the scriptures and the Holy Ghost wants me to take note of something, I generally find that the verse subtly zooms out at me a bit and gives me pause making me want to reread it. Sometimes, that won’t happen, but I’ll read past the verse and then my mind will catch a certain word or phrase as a trigger and it takes me back to the verse. Then, on the second read it will often give me pause and I will see a direct correlation between a few words or a phrase in the verse and something in my life.

I don’t always feel a big weight or burning in my chest when this happens. But, often, when I reread the verse several times and ponder why it is giving me pause, thoughts will come to me or aspects of my life that seem to tie to these words or phrases. Then, there is another step, if I’m willing to take it. As I think about how I can apply these words or phrases to my life situation, when one of the things I think about and consider is right, then, I will often feel a strong mental weight on that action or idea. Often I’ll feel it is something I need to do now, or soon. Once the idea has been pressed upon me, it is not easily forgotten, and will continue to come to my mind as something that needs to be done—until I do it. If I ignore it long enough, it will go away, but I try not to do that.latter-day_saint_scripture_quadruple_combination

Other times, when reading my scriptures, I come across something that means something different to me than it did before. This is not a pillar-of-light kind of experience. But, it is enlightening. Usually, I review cross-references on the phrases that have a new meaning to me and find my mind carried away into aspects of a principle or truth I have never considered before. It’s a pleasant journey. It uplifts me. It’s exciting to learn something new. Then, if I continue to ponder how to apply it in my life (which is yet another step required), I will find ideas and inspiration coming to me. Not always in the moment. Sometimes it will come the next day, or days later. However, often, if I do not record these impressions, they are lost by the next day. Sometimes I can be reminded of them by revisiting the verses, but sometimes not. Then, I find that the more I record these types of minimal impressions, the more frequent they become and the new and deeper truths and doctrines I uncover.

These are two of the ways that the Spirit works with me when I’m studying my scriptures. It may be different for others. But, I can recognize when these moments come. And, they don’t come when I just read “to read.” They only come when I’m putting forth sincere effort.

Making Life Decisions

Learning to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost in life decisions is not an easy task. I believe that the level of study and effort required to access this personal understanding says something about how sacred it is. Things given to us without effort and hard work are nearly always taken for granted, misused, exploited, wasted, etc. Not everyone who wins the lottery blows all the money and ends up in more debt than before winning, but the percentage who do is considerable.

I know some people who seem to get promptings for their life as easily as going to the faucet with a cup for water. However, I am NOT one of those people. I find generally, that the Lord lets me bump into walls and bounce about until I make my way down the path He intends for me. I often run spiritual marathons before finding a drop of water on a leaf that hasn’t dried up from a recent rain. So, I’m not about to tell anyone anything that will lead them to believe it’s easy to get promptings. However, I do know, after much bumping and running, how the Spirit speaks to me. And, at least for me, He always does.

When it comes to decisions, I am usually already trying consistently to keep the commandments, live worthy of the Spirit, and seek the Lord’s will. Because of this, I make my pros and cons lists. I study it out in my mind. I ask all the suggested questions, like: “Will this choice help me serve the Lord better? Will this move, or this job change, help me and my family come closer together and to the Lord? Etc.” Then, instead of asking the Lord to tell me which decision to make based on my research, I have learned, that for me, the Lord expects me to make a decision first and start moving toward it. Only then does the Holy Ghost exert influence upon me in the form of validation or an icky feeling that makes me feel uncomfortable with my choice.

Many people often overlook the “studying it out.” But, even more forget to “make a decision” before asking “if it be right”(Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9). And, for me, I have to actually exert effort and time into pursuing a decision before the feelings of “yes this is good,” or “no, don’t do this,” comes.

Many people take the words from Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9 so literally, that if they don’t get an immediate “burning in the bosom,” while they are still on their knees in prayer, they get confused. Yet others take the words “stupor of thought” to mean that while they are on their knees in prayer they will completely forget what they were praying about. I don’t know if this actually happens to some people. If it does, then lucky they are. However, for me, the confirmation or stupor of thought happen a bit differently.

All of us are familiar with small magnets. If you put two of the same poles together they push away from each other. If they are small, you can exert sufficient force to hold them together, but the moment you stop exerting force, they push apart naturally. On the other hand, if you put two opposing poles near each other they pull together without any extra exertion from you.Red and Blue Horseshoe Magnet Isolated on White Background

This magnet example is how most (though not all) of my life decisions come to me. If it is a good thing or even the best choice, it just “sits right.” This doesn’t mean there aren’t ever any external barriers, but as far as my mind, logic and heart are concerned, the idea makes sense and attracts me to it. On the other hand, things that are not wise choices, or that are not the best choice God would have me make; while they might sound nice or seem logical, they simply don’t “sit well.” I have to sort of force the idea on myself since it sounds so nice. But, I’m never comfortable with it. And, if I stop trying to make myself consider this unwise or not best choice, I do sort of stop thinking about it. It falls to the side and becomes unimportant or pales in comparison to another option or idea that arises. This is my particular kind of “stupor of thought.”

Now, some life decisions I have felt a big “no” or “yes” on. But, they are not common for me and I can remember all of them. So, sometimes I have received a more significant “burning in the bosom” or a weight of impression that is unmistakable. But, I can also say, that the better I get at recognizing the magnet-promptings, the more clear and understandable all of my promptings are becoming. But, I’m nearly 40 and I’ve been working at this since I got a testimony of the gospel at age 14. So, 26 years of practice.

Being Inspired at Church

If I am making an earnest attempt to pay attention and participate at church, I find that it’s not really the lesson, or talk, itself that impacts me. But, often, a certain phrase spoken a certain way, or an experience someone shares, or some small piece of what they do or ask triggers an idea or memory in my mind and heart. The idea or memory that comes past that trigger is often unrelated to the general topic being taught or spoken on, though not always. This is often how I know it’s a prompting.

Now, when I say “unrelated” I mean that it is unlikely that I would ever have made the connection between this phrase from the talk/lesson and a certain idea or memory on my own. It’s not impossible. So, I suppose it could be justified away. But, it’s happened so many times in my life that either I’m stupendously brilliant in ways other people are not, OR, the Holy Ghost is bringing these ideas and memories to my remembrance (St. John 14:26).

Preparing a Lesson

As I have noted in my blog entry “Teaching BY the Spirit or Some Other Way,” the Holy Ghost works somewhat differently in the teaching environment. Teaching is a different situation than basic personal revelation. It’s different than just having the Holy Ghost with you. It’s even different than getting up to bear your testimony. Why? Because you are not doing it for yourself. You are acting as an instrument through which the Holy Ghost can work to accomplish His task as the Master Teacher to both you AND those whom you are called to teach.

If you want to understand how the Holy Ghost works in teaching, then I refer you to that blog entry.

Conclusion

Now, there are lots of different aspects of life and for each of us the Holy Ghost will work with us differently based on our personalities, emotional/psychological state, talents, and spiritual gifts. I don’t have the knowledge or the ability to tell each of you how to figure out how the Holy Ghost works for you. That’s your job and His job.

So, that’s it. If you really want to get better at recognizing the Spirit, then you’ve got to work at it using the steps given by President Monson. The gift of the Holy Ghost is the most valuable gift you will ever receive in this life. Thus, it’s the most difficult gift to make use of. It transcends all money, possessions, intellect, fame, glory, etc. The Holy Ghost is the second baptism, the baptism of fire. If you do not seek His guidance, if you do not allow Him to sanctify you through diligently seeking to follow His promptings, then what remains to you? There’s either “you + a member of the godhead,” or “just you.”

I don’t know about the rest of you. You are free to feel and think as you wish. But, for me, I have found this gift of guidance from the Holy Ghost to be worth all of my efforts—through times of doubt, times of trial, and times of peace. I know, for myself, that the Holy Ghost is real. And, I can confidently promise any who read this that if you follow the simple steps above, and exercise hope and faith, that in time you will come to recognize the promptings and guidance of the Holy Ghost well enough to live your life well, and with confidence in the Lord.

BT

Doctrine: The Holy Ghost is a gift, not an entitlement. God purposefully requires diligent and consistent effort in order to access increasing guidance from the Holy Ghost. There are 4 simple steps to coming to better recognize guidance from the Holy Ghost. There are lots of different possibilities and ways the Holy Ghost may try to communicate with you.

End Notes

Thomas S. Monson, “Consider the Blessings,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 86-69.

Thomas S. Monson, “Stand in Holy Places,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 82-86.

Thomas S. Monson, “Tabernacle Memories,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 41-42.

Doctrine: <Your super power> is the power by which God works! <Your super power> is evidence of the power and reality of your faith. <Your super power> reflects your testimony and understanding of who you are and who others are as children of God.

If you could have super power, what would it be? What would you use it for? Would it have limitations or rules for its use? Or, is the power to wield it absolute?

How would you use your super power to change your own life, the lives of others or the world?

Whether you realize it or not, if you are a human being, you already possess a super power—a very real, tangible, power that you use daily.

Consider the following quotes and see if you can guess what your super power is.

Dumbledore, Deathly Hallows: Word are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Proverbs 15:4 A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are…sweet to the soul and health to the bones.

James 3:2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.

Alma 31:5 …the preaching of the word…had a more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword or anything else, which had happened unto them.

Matthew 12:34 …for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

Matthew 12:36-37 But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Matthew 15:11 No that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Jeffrey R. Holland, The Tongue of Angels The stroke of the whip maketh marks in the flesh: but the stroke of the tongue breaketh the bones.

Jeffrey R. Holland, The Tongue of Angels A woman’s words can be more piercing than any dagger ever forged, and they can drive the people they love to retreat beyond a barrier more distant than anyone in the beginning of that exchange could ever have imagined.

Jeffrey R. Holland, The Tongue of Angels With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail.

Emily Dickinson I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word.

Pearl Strachan Hurd Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs

Anonymous Don’t mix your words with your mood, you can change your mood but you can’t take back your words.

Power.

I suspect that after skimming all of these quotes you’ve come to the conclusion that your super power is words, or the power of speech. But, before you brush it off as a “let down,” and are disappointed that it wasn’t something more amazing, let me enlighten you just powerful and critical the power of speech is.

First, ponder the question, “How could words be so powerful? What could possibly make them so powerful that they could be considered a super power?”

Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught:

The Prophet Joseph Smith deepened our understanding of the power of speech when he taught, “It is by words … [that] every being works when he works by faith. God said, ‘Let there be light: and there was light.’ Joshua spake, and the great lights which God had created stood still. Elijah commanded, and the heavens were stayed for the space of three years and six months, so that it did not rain. … All this was done by faith. … Faith, then, works by words; and with [words] its mightiest works have been, and will be, performed.

Wait a minute. Did you catch that? Speech is the power by which God works!

So, if we break that down, then we could say, to be a god one must have the power of speech. Meaning then, that because we, as humans, have the power of speech, that we are capable of becoming like God. And, in fact, if we didn’t have the power of speech (which I remind you is a super power) we couldn’t become like Him.

Elder Holland also implied (as well as several of the quotes/sources listed above) that the most powerful works of faith and individual authenticity are evidenced in our words. Our words can create and destroy both matter and people. Thus, words are the actual evidence of the power and reality of our faith.

Have you ever wondered how powerful your faith is? Have you ever doubted your faith? Well, then, how can you test its strength and power? Answer: review your daily speech.

If you want to know how powerful your faith is, review your speech to your family, friends, at work, at church or at school, over texts, and on your social media accounts. That will, without a doubt, reveal to you the current level and extent of your faith in God, His Son, and His plan.

Thus, if you want to increase your faith, you can do so by changing your daily speech. It’s that powerful.

In Matthew 25:40 we read:

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

We could replace the word “done” with “said.” Thus, inasmuch as we have said it unto one of the least of God’s children, we have said it unto Christ. Hmmmm, powerful, eh? But there’s more to this thought.

C.S. Lewis has a beautiful quote in The Weight of Glory:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

“All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations…” Meaning, we have the power to influence people toward godhood or what Lewis implies is some type of devilhood. We have the power to influence…

Granted, as potential gods and goddesses we are certainly in control of our own fates. We have the complete power of agency. But if fellow demigods are working against us, then it serves to reason that such powerful influence can be a major hurdle, even a major battle to overcome in such a process.

So, drawing from this scripture and quote it seems quite clear words are evidence of our understanding of who we are and who others are. If we want to know the depth of our testimony of our divine nature, of our possibility to become like God, then we merely have to review how we talk to ourselves and others. If we think we have a strong testimony that we are children of God but we talk to others as if they are something less…then perhaps our testimony is not truly what we thought it was.

It is one thing to know a truth. It is another thing to embody it. God doesn’t simply know truth, He embodies it. He is love. He is mercy. He is truth, etc. How we use our super, godly power of speech reflects directly on our ability to progress toward becoming like God.

We cannot become like God, ultimately, if we use our godly power of speech to demean ourselves or others. To do so is to literally fight against God and His children.

Now, this is quite a daunting revelation. But, don’t panic. Just begin today. Evaluate your words. Do they reflect what you believe to be the current level and extent of your faith? Do they reflect your testimony of your own divinity and the future divinity of others? Do you use your words to help others (and yourself) toward godhood? Or, do you use your super power to battle others, slowing them down on their upward journey?

Woman with Super Powers - shallow depth of field

Don’t just recognize where your super power is being used for ill. Sit down and ponder how you can begin the slow change toward using it for godly purposes. Make plans on how to implement what you are inspired to do. Practice. Evaluate when you fail and strengthen and adjust your plans. Keep trying.

The beautiful thing about this super power of speech is that you can begin immediately to use it well. Give a compliment. Offer encouragement. Apologize for a wrong. Share an uplifting quote on social media. Cease gossiping. Cease making light of others as a joke. Avoid sarcasm and demeaning intellectual forms of manipulation.

The super power of speech is so multifaceted and powerful. It can be used for good or ill in nearly every circumstance. Do not underestimate it. It is God’s reigning power. It is what gives you the potential to become like Him.

BT

Doctrine: There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. ~George MacDonald~

I have written before about “true love.” If you haven’t read those blogs you can certainly read this one and be fine without the others. But, if you’re interested in the prior, please click here.

True Love and How to Get It: Part Three

I was reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis this week (for probably the third or fourth time) and was particularly impacted, on this particular read-through by chapter 11. It might be easy to get confused by the title of this book without knowing what it’s about. The title however was chosen as an antithesis to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake. C.S. Lewis’s title is a play on Blake’s title and makes the point that no such marriage is possible. That in fact, at some point in all of our lives (and in God’s over-arching plan) there will be nothing less than a final great divorce between heaven and hell.

George MacDonald, Lewis’s primary inspiratory and muse said:

No, there is no escape. There is no heaven with a little of hell in it—no plan to retain this or that of the devil in our hearts or pockets. Out Satan must go, every hair and feather.

And, it is upon this that I will begin my thoughts.

True love IS heaven. God IS love. And, not only is He the definition of love and the embodiment of love, but He is the teacher, author, and example of perfect, true love. We cannot even begin to conceive of true love without loving its Author.

So, taking George MacDonald’s words, we might make any number of translations using the word love.

  • There is no true love with a little of selfishness in it…
  • There is no true love with a little lust in it…
  • There is no true love with a little illegality in it…
  • There is no true love with a little immorality in it…

And so on.

As selfishness, lust, criminality, and immorality (among other things) are all pieces of hell, we cannot ever expect to find true romantic love, true motherly love, true fatherly love, true friendship love, etc., if we are determined to arrive at and achieve such with a “little of hell,” in whatever type of form it may take in our particular lives.

Society would argue that all love is good. And, perhaps they might be right, in a manner of speaking. But, I would correct them by saying, “All love starts out good, but it may not end up good;” and George MacDonald and Lewis would, I believe, back me up. And my reasoning is that because God is the source of true enduring love (of all kinds), any exercise of love that does not lead us to love Him and convert us to follow Him, is essentially polluted. Polluted love is love that is attempting to be true while also fettered with a bit of hell. And as such, that polluted love cannot last. It cannot endure, and it will in fact eventually be shaken by some hellish variable. Polluted love cannot achieve a fullness because it loses power when is ceases to lead us to the source of true love—God. It ceases, in fact, to be love at all and begin to be a form of eventual hell.

Moroni 7:13-14 instructs us very clearly:

…that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every [love] which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.

Alma 41:10 reminds us that, “wickedness never was happiness.”

Doctrine and Covenants 132:5, 13-14

For all who will have a blessing, [or love], at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing [or love], and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.

And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.

For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed.

True love is, in other words, the only real love; and anything else becomes merely a temporary state of mind. Which, because of its temporary-ness and lack of “real-ness” is why it is eventually lost or corrupted and becomes hellish. This descent into hellishness may take minutes or years, but it will happen, if it is not real and true.

George MacDonald, as C.S. Lewis’s Teacher, in The Great Divorce says:

Hell is a state of mine-ye never said a truer word.  And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind-is in the end, Hell.  But Heaven is not a state of mind.  Heaven is a reality itself.  All that is fully real is Heavenly.  For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.

vintage image of a mother and daughter wearing rollers in their hair and having a good time

In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis observes a ghost who is visiting sort of a place between heaven and hell. It’s like a ghost on a “holiday from hell.” This ghost is a woman, who in her mortal life lost a son to death. And, her idea of motherly love (in both life and now in death) has ended up being an obsessive, selfish love. She, who believes she has loved truly, is deceived in her ideas of true love.

In this in-between place, a messenger of sorts, a Bright Person, comes to teach her so that if she is willing to re-educate herself on what true love is and accept it, she can go on to heaven and be with her son again.

ONE OF the most painful meetings we witnessed was between a woman’s Ghost and a Bright Spirit who had apparently been her brother. They must have met only a moment before we ran across them, for the Ghost was just saying in a tone of unconcealed disappointment, “Oh … Reginald! It’s you, is it?”

“Yes, dear,” said the Spirit. “I know you expected someone else. Can you … I hope you can be a little glad to see even me; for the present.”

“I did think Michael would have come,” said the Ghost; and then, almost fiercely, “He is here, of course?”

“He’s there-far up in the mountains.”

“Why hasn’t he come to meet me? Didn’t he know?”

“My dear (don’t worry, it will all come right presently) it wouldn’t have done. Not yet. He wouldn’t be able to see or hear you as you are at present. You’d be totally invisible to Michael. But we’ll soon build you up.”

“I should have thought if you can see me, my own son could!”

“It doesn’t always happen like that. You see, I have specialised in this sort of work.”

“Oh, it’s work, is it?” snapped the Ghost. Then, after a pause, “Well. When am I going to be allowed to see him?”

“There’s no question of being allowed, Pam. As soon as it’s possible for him to see you, of course he will. You need to be thickened up a bit.”

“How?” said the Ghost. The monosyllable was hard and a little threatening.

“I’m afraid the first step is a hard one,” said the Spirit. “But after that you’ll go on like a house on fire. You will become solid enough for Michael to perceive you when you learn to want someone else besides Michael. I don’t say ‘more than Michael,’ not as a beginning. That will come later. It’s only the little germ of a desire for God that we need to start the process.”

“Oh, you mean religion and all that sort of thing? This is hardly the moment… and from you, of all people. Well, never mind. I’ll do whatever’s necessary. What do you want me to do? Come on. The sooner I begin it, the sooner they’ll let me see my boy. I’m quite ready.”

“But, Pam, do think! Don’t you see you are not beginning at all as long as you are in that state of mind? You’re treating God only as a means to Michael. But the whole thickening treatment consists in learning to want God for His own sake.”

It’s interesting to note the point the Bright Person makes. Love for anyone should lead us to love God “for His own sake.” True love is not to love God as a means only to get to love the people we want to be with. True love is to love God first. Then, and only then, can our love for others become unselfish, chaste, legal (in both the mortal and eternal sense), and eternal.

We so often cast off our love of God in an attempt to save our relationships with others, only to find that they never flourish. Some relationships may die, initially, when we decide to love God first. But, we will find that in the long run, they will rekindle or transform into something far greater than the quality of relationship/love we initially tried to save—by casting God aside.

The account continues:

“You wouldn’t talk like that if you were a Mother.”

“You mean, if I were only a mother. But there is no such thing as being only a mother. You exist as Michael’s mother only because you first exist as God’s creature. That relation is older and closer. No, listen, Pam! He also loves. He also has suffered. He also has waited a long time.”

“If He loved me He’d let me see my boy. If He loved me why did He take away Michael from me? I wasn’t going to say anything about that. But it’s pretty hard to forgive, you know.”

“But He had to take Michael away. Partly for Michael’s sake. . . .”

“I’m sure I did my best to make Michael happy. I gave up my whole life….”

“Human beings can’t make one another really happy for long. And secondly, for your sake. He wanted your merely instinctive love for your child (tigresses share that, you know!) to turn into something better. He wanted you to love Michael as He understands love. You cannot love a fellow-creature fully till you love God. Sometimes this conversion can be done while the instinctive love is still gratified. But there was, it seems, no chance of that in your case. The instinct was uncontrolled and fierce and monomaniac. (Ask your daughter, or your husband. Ask your own mother. You haven’t once thought of her.) The only remedy was to take away its object. It was a case for surgery. When that first kind of love was thwarted, then there was just a chance that in the loneliness, in the silence, something else might begin to grow.”

“This is all nonsense-cruel and wicked nonsense. What right have you to say things like that about Mother-love? It is the highest and holiest feeling in human nature.”

Pam, Pam-no natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves. They are all holy when God’s hand is on the rein. They all go bad when they set up on their own and make themselves into false gods.

“My love for Michael would never have gone bad. Not if we’d lived together for millions of years.”

“You are mistaken. And you must know. Haven’t you met-down there-mothers who have their sons with them, in Hell? Does their love make them happy?”

“If you mean people like the Guthrie woman and her dreadful Bobby, of course not. I hope you’re not suggesting. … If I had Michael I’d be perfectly happy, even in that town. I wouldn’t be always talking about him till everyone hated the sound of his name, which is what Winifred Guthrie does about her brat. I wouldn’t quarrel with people for not taking enough notice of him and then be furiously jealous if they did. I wouldn’t go about whining and complaining that he wasn’t nice to me. Because, of course, he would be nice. Don’t you dare to suggest that Michael could ever become like the Guthrie boy. There are some things I won’t stand.”

What you have seen in the Guthries is what natural affection turns to in the end if it will not be converted.”

“It’s a lie. A wicked, cruel lie. How could anyone love their son more than I did? Haven’t I lived only for his memory all these years?”

“That was rather a mistake, Pam. In your heart of hearts you know it was.”

“What was a mistake?”

“All that ten years’ ritual of grief. Keeping his room exactly as he’d left it: keeping anniversaries: refusing to leave that house though Dick and Muriel were both wretched there.”

“Of course they didn’t care. I know that. I soon learned to expect no real sympathy from them.”

“You’re wrong. No man ever felt his son’s death more than Dick. Not many girls loved their brothers better than Muriel. It wasn’t against Michael they revolted: it was against you-against having their whole life dominated by the tyranny of the past: and not really even Michael’s past, but your past.”

“You are heartless. Everyone is heartless. The past was all I had.”

“It was all you chose to have. It was the wrong way to deal with a sorrow. It was Egyptian-like embalming a dead body.”

“Oh, of course. I’m wrong. Everything I say or do is wrong, according to you.”

“But of course!” said the Spirit, shining with love and mirth so that my eyes were dazzled. “That’s what we all find when we reach this country. We’ve all been wrong! That’s the great joke. There’s no need to go on pretending one was right! After that we begin living.”

It’s again interesting to see Pam trying to prove her true love by her obsessive actions. And yet, her actions showed her lack of love toward her husband and daughter. She obsessed about her lost son, Michael. Obsession is not love. It is destructive to both the obsessor and the object of the obsession. Both die under its influence. It leads a person to make an idol of the obsessed which they place before God and never reach Him, or the love of Him at all.

The account continues:

“How dare you laugh about it? Give me my boy. Do you hear? I don’t care about all your rules and regulations. I don’t believe in a God who keeps mother and son apart. I believe in a God of Love. No one has a right to come between me and my son. Not even God. Tell Him that to His face. I want my boy, and I mean to have him. He is mine, do you understand? Mine, mine, mine, for ever and ever.”

“He will be, Pam. Everything will be yours. God himself will be yours. But not that way. Nothing can be yours by nature.”

“What? Not my own son, born out of my own body?”

“And where is your own body now? Didn’t you know that Nature draws to an end? Look! The sun is coming, over the mountains there: it will be up any moment now.”

“Michael is mine.”

“How yours? You didn’t make him. Nature made him to grow in your body without your will. Even against your will . . . you sometimes forget that you didn’t intend to have a baby then at all. Michael was originally an Accident.”

“Who told you that?” said the Ghost: and then, recovering itself, “It’s a lie. It’s not true. And it’s no business of yours. I hate your religion and I hate and despise your God. I believe in a God of Love.”

“And yet, Pam, you have no love at this moment for your own mother or for me.”

“Oh, I see! That’s the trouble, is it? Really, Reginald! The idea of your being hurt because . . .”

“Lord love you!” said the Spirit with a great laugh. “You needn’t bother about that! Don’t you know that you can’t hurt anyone in this country?” The Ghost was silent and open-mouthed for a moment; more wilted, I thought, by this reassurance than by anything else that had been said.

Pam’s (the Ghost’s) next tactic is to make God the problem by saying He isn’t a god of love if He doesn’t let her have Michael on her terms. Because He’s IS love, she feels God shouldn’t have terms for the eternal relationship with her son that she so desires. She forgets of course that her kind of love is not true and thus would only continue to drive away those she so desires to have. Such love cannot, and will not ever be, a part of heaven. Only by submitting to God’s terms of love, true love, could Pam ever even begin to hope to have her loved ones, especially Michael, forever.

We so often do this in our lives. We demand God allow us to love whom and how we wish on our terms which may, or may not, be very close to His terms. Then, when such relationships struggle we either blame the other person or God. We rarely take the time to look at ourselves and evaluate the terms upon which we were trying to retain the love we sought. We rarely see where we were determined to keep a little hell in our heaven.

The account continues with Lewis having a discussion with his Teacher (George MacDonald) about this discussion between Pam (the Ghost) and her Bright Person (her brother Reginald):

“Come. We will go a bit further,” said my Teacher, laying his hand on my arm.

“Why did you bring me away, Sir?” said I when we had passed out of earshot of this unhappy Ghost.

“It might take a long while, that conversation,” said my Teacher. “And ye have heard enough to see what the choice is.”

“Is there any hope for her, Sir?”

“Aye, there’s some. What she calls her love for her son has turned into a poor, prickly, astringent sort of thing. But there’s still a wee spark of something that’s not just her self in it. That might be blown into a flame.”

“Then some natural feelings are really better than others-I mean, are a better starting-point for the real thing?”

“Better and worse. There’s something in natural affection which will lead it on to eternal love more easily than natural appetite could be led on. But there’s also something in it which makes it easier to stop at the natural level and mistake it for the heavenly. Brass is mistaken for gold more easily than clay is. And if it finally refuses conversion its corruption will be worse than the corruption of what ye call the lower passions. It is a stronger angel, and therefore, when it falls, a fiercer devil.

“I don’t know that I dare repeat this on Earth, Sir,” said I. “They’d say I was inhuman: they’d say I believed in total depravity: they’d say I was attacking the best and the holiest things. They’d call me . . .”

“It might do you no harm if they did,” said he with (I really thought) a twinkle in his eye.

“But could one dare-could one have the face-to go to a bereaved mother, in her misery -when one’s not bereaved oneself? . . .”

“No, no. Son, that’s no office of yours. You’re not a good enough man for that. When your own heart’s been broken it will be time for you to think of talking. But someone must say in general what’s been unsaid among you this many a vear: that love, as mortals understand the word, isn’t enough. Every natural love will rise again and live forever in this country: but none will rise again until it has been buried.”

“The saying is almost too hard for us.”

“Ah, but it’s cruel not to say it. They that know have grown afraid to speak. That is why sorrows that used to purify now only fester.”

“Keats was wrong, then, when he said he was certain of the holiness of the heart’s affections.”

“I doubt if he knew clearly what he meant. But you and I must be clear. There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. It’s not out of bad mice or bad fleas you make demons, but out of bad archangels. The false religion of lust is baser than the false religion of mother-love or patriotism or art: but lust is less likely to be made into a religion.

This part, where Lewis is pondering and evaluating what he saw (between Pam, the Ghost, and Reginald, her Bright Person) with help from his Teacher, is very interesting. Where we all might be want to condemn lust above misguided natural loves, MacDonald shows that, the higher a natural love the easier we find it to justify as true, or pure. How many people justify away their chastity by the high nature of being in love because it is, often, such a high level of natural affection. And yet, by itself is it not true or pure once it goes on for its own sake instead of for God’s sake.

MacDonald says, very clearly that it is difficult to justify lust and call it godly, or make a religion out of it. And, even today with lust being more acceptable, I don’t think anyone still dares call it “godly,” though they may worship it, to an extent. But, today we dare to call fornication (of all kinds and between all genders) and adultery forms of true love, as if following one’s heart or seemingly innate/natural attraction is what makes something pure or true. That we often feel high forms of love is certain, but ultimately, if we pursue them selfishly, illegally, lustfully, or immorally, they cannot be true, and they will not last. They will be shaken.

Pam (the Ghost) loved selfishly and obsessively. Thus, her “love,” which she felt was true, was not. And, it did not lead to peace, joy, or a love of God (much less an increased love for the rest of her family). Pam was miserable in life and her love never resembled charity, or even self-sacrifice. It was always obsession and resentful longing, and even, I suspect, manipulative pity or a spiritual temper tantrum. Thus, by its fruits, it was clear that it was not true love. And, it could not endure. Pam could not have Michael “forever,” if she insisted on persisting in that type of false love. The requirement to “have Michael,” was that she first learn to love God so that her love for Michael might be purified and perfected.

The same goes for all kinds of love: romantic, familial, friend, etc. If it does not lead us to love God first, then it ultimately will fail and will not endure. And, if we do not come to love God more than anyone else, then we will never be able to love those around us (in any type of relationship) as we could, and should, in the long run. And thus, it will not endure.

It is not coincidence then that the first and great commandment is to love God (Matthew 22:37-38); because then, and only then, can we learn to love our neighbor, spouse, father, mother, children, friends, and others as ourselves.

Note: I highly recommend reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Not only is it incredibly short, not only is it a religious classic, but it will open your eyes and provide ample opportunity for you to be taught from on high on more matters than true love.

BT

Forever Families is one of the few notable doctrines that Latter-day Saints preach about that sets them apart from all other Christian religions. And yet, I’m shocked at how few of them actually understand why we preach that and what it truly entails. They see in their minds that this ideal is all about true love and never being parted from your loved ones. But, beyond that, they misunderstand the ideal of eternal posterity and eternal family completely. Likely because they were never taught. Likely because they didn’t always listen or pay attention. Most certainly because they didn’t take the time to study it.

Many people are drawn to the doctrine of eternal marriage and eternal families and yet they struggle with the doctrine of godhood. However, the two doctrines are one and the same. There is no eternal family without godhood. There is no godhood without eternal parenthood. Godhood is nothing less than perfect eternal parenthood.

God, our Heavenly Father, is the God of our universe—worlds without end. He is sinless. He is perfectly just. He is perfectly merciful. He is love.

God is bound by covenant to our Heavenly Mother. She is also sinless, She is perfectly just. She is perfectly merciful. And She is love.

Our heavenly parents have glorified, resurrected, celestial bodies. Not only are their bodies free from corruption, are perfect, and cannot die; their (celestial) bodies can create, beget, and organize eternal spirit children—in the same manner that we beget mortal children. And, as perfect eternal parents, they spend all of their eternal time helping these spirit children become like them—to become eternal parents, or gods.

The whole plan of salvation is about nothing more than helping each and every one of us become eternal parents, like our heavenly parents. The whole plan of salvation is designed so that we can become sinless, perfectly just, perfectly merciful, and become the embodiment of love. The whole plan is set up so that we can, if we so choose, receive a glorified, resurrected, celestial body. For, this is the only type of body that can enjoy “eternal life, (Moses 1:39)” sexual relations, and continue to beget children (i.e. eternal family, forever family) beyond the veil of death. All other resurrections i.e. immortality (Moses 1:39) (terrestrial, telestial, etc.) will glorify and perfect a body, but will not enable those bodies to enjoy sexual relations and beget spirit children. Modern revelation is fairly clear that all resurrected bodies are not the same (see Doctrine and Covenants 76, 88 for further study).

Forever family, or eternal family, is not simply about coexisting with another being (or beings) for eternity. It’s not about having everybody in our current family under the same celestial roof. Just as in this life begotten children grow up, leave home, and create their own homes; so also it is in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. “The same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which we do not now enjoy” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:2). That we may associate together is certain. That our lives are focused around each other is unlikely. We will (if we as family members all choose to inherit celestial glory) far more likely work side-by-side in our work and glory of “bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life” of our spirit children.

In Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-4 and 132:19-21 we are taught that in order to become like God, each of us must enter into the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, an actual order of God’s Priesthood Power (i.e. sealing ordinance of the temple) and keep our covenants, in order to receive godhood, or in other words, eternal parenthood. God is, and always has been, very exact with how He dispenses Priesthood power, authority, and blessings.

God…has ordained that the highest order and class of beings that should exist in the eternal worlds should exist in the capacity of husbands and wives, and that they alone should have the privilege of propagating their species…Now it is wise, no doubt, in the Great Creator to thus limit this great and heavenly principle to those who have arrived or come to the highest state of exaltation…to dwell in His presence, that they by this means shall be prepared to bring up their spirit offspring in all pure and holy principles in the eternal worlds, in order that they may be happy. Consequently, He does not entrust this privilege of multiplying spirits with the terrestrial or telestial, or the lower order of beings there, nor with angels. But why not? Because they have not proved themselves worthy of this great privilege. (In Journal of Discourses 13:186) (Elder Orson Pratt, quoted by Douglas E. Brinley, The Keys of Marital Success—Part 2, Eternal Companions, pp. 90-91)

Brigham Young taught concerning the way we have children that “there is no other process of creation in heaven, on the earth,…or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is, that were, or that ever will be” (Journal of Discourses 11:122). It is clear that God’s plan requires sexual intimacy, but he didn’t create us with compliance built in biologically. Instead he gave us a body like his, with all of the possibilities that entails. Our physical bodies are thus gifts, not givens. (Emily M. Reynolds, Talking About Sexual Intimacy, Eternal Companions, p. 147)

I have blogged before about God’s power not being absolute. He, in order to hold the powers, priesthoods, and position He has, must be bound by eternal law and covenant. If He were to soften, side-step, or go against any of these binding eternal laws and covenants “He would cease to be God” (Alma 42:13, 22-23, 25-26). I have also blogged about what true Motherhood and Fatherhood are and how we become such—it is through covenant that we attain such titles, not merely by birthing children. Such birthing makes us temporary, mortal parents only.

In fact, we, as mortals, and even as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, take for granted our opportunity to gain a body, marry, and learn true parenthood. So much so that we engage in sexual relations lightly, selfishly, and lustfully. So much so that we marry, divorce, cohabitate, and indulge in sexual addictions as though we were entitled to the satisfaction and pleasure by simply being alive. We are not. Whether we are heterosexual or claim other gender identities matters little. We are not entitled to eternal family or eternal parenthood unless we are willing to become like God.

There is no discrimination from God in this. All of us are born with issues that make it difficult for us to desire and pursue godhood (eternal parenthood). It doesn’t matter if it’s our sexual orientation, genetic obesity, missing limbs, propensity for sexual addiction (of any kind), mental depression, propensity for anger addiction or alcoholism, etc., they all make it difficult (heroic, even Abrahamic, D&C 101:4) to desire and pursue godhood. And yet, because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can have these issues and still become like God if we try our best to accept and follow His will and commandments. It matters not the status of our progress in comparison to others; only that we continue to progress and try—and never give up. If we simply try with all our might, mind, heart, and strength, then His grace is sufficient (Moroni 10:32). If we simply do not give up and repent every time we fail. If we do what we can do in keeping God’s ordinances, covenants, and commandments; we will be healed of our weaknesses and issues and become godly because we met the conditions for His grace. Mortal weaknesses, inclinations, and struggles will, and can, be overcome through grace by our efforts in this life, or healed completely before our final judgment and resurrection. Not one of us is ultimately denied anything, certainly not godhood/eternal parenthood, because of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Thus God is both perfectly just and perfectly merciful (Alma 42) because of the atonement.

Eternal parenthood/godhood is not for the good or the better. It is only for the best (metaphorically speaking). Yet, if people decide to choose good or better, that does not diminish them. They will get what they want, ultimately, with some exceptions (Alma 41:10) wherein they want to find happiness in sin which simply cannot be had (now, or in the eternities). There is plenty of suffering in this life. More than we can bear. But, if we choose not to repent in this life we will be subject to the full weight of the law of justice. We will suffer for our own sins (Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19). This cleansing from sin will proceed the final resurrection and judgment. We cannot be assigned to a kingdom of glory (even if it is not the celestial kingdom), without confessing Jesus is the Christ, that God is just, and that we have sinned (Romans 14:11, Isaiah 45:23, Alma 12:15, Mosiah 16:1, Doctrine and Covenants 88:104).

It’s important to note that Satan, who showed himself unworthy to even try for godhood in his attempted coup of God’s throne and power (Moses 4:1-4), was cast out of heaven. He was not allowed to be born on this earth, to get a body, or to seek godhood. He was damned—literally. He is left without family and any eternal association forever (Isaiah 14:12-20). Family, we should all understand, is the crowning glory of life and most certainly of godhood. Other glories are available, but they do not include this crowning glory, and cannot. For those who inherit them, while good, are not godly and cannot be trusted with the powers of creation (see quotes above by Orson Pratt and Brigham Young).

templemarriage2

Many religions preach two eternal outcomes as locations. They are heaven or hell. The kingdoms, however, of which they preach are basically the terrestrial and the telestial. And, if one aspires to the ideals preached about these kingdoms, one will not be disappointed when this life is over—if that is one’s only aspiration. If our goal is simply to be basically happy. Then, that’s what we’ll get (Alma 29:4). If our goal is to bowl, play golf, chess, cards, Yahtzee, or other pursuits, forever, then that’s what we’ll get (though likely much better, as God knows how to give good gifts to His children, Luke 11:13).

On the other hand, if our goal is to enjoy the blessings of godhood, and eternal parenthood and family, which brings more happiness than we could possibly ever even imagine (1 Corinthians 2:9), then we cannot have the same expectations for our conduct in this life, nor in our eternal progression. And, it is possible to grasp this high goal and reach it, we will only trust God, have faith in Him, and believe it!

In Doctrine and Covenants 88 we read the following about the purpose of our souls and the differences in our resurrections based upon what eternal laws we are willing to abide.

14 Now, verily I say unto you, that through the redemption which is made for you is brought to pass the resurrection from the dead.

15 And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.

16 And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul (the spirit and the body).

17 And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.

18 Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;

19 For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;

20 That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it (the soul) made and created, and for this intent are they (souls) sanctified.

21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.

22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.

23 And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.

24 And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.

28 They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.

29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

32 And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.

33 For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

34 And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.

35 That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.

36 All kingdoms have a law given;

37 And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.

38 And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.

39 All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.

40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.

41 He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.

I hope you had the patience to study that long excerpt of scripture, because it is so powerful.

So, now let me address something very important.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is comprised of doctrines, principles, and commandments. Principles and commandments are subject to individual application and interpretation (many times) through the Holy Spirit because they are how we apply doctrines. However, doctrines (which are fundamental eternal truths) do not change and are not subject to interpretation or change. Principles can also dual as doctrines.

Now, the purpose of this blog is not to strain and gnats and swallow camels (Matthew 23:24) as in the tiny differences that can be talked about between doctrines and principles. The purpose of this blog is to point out a very important, fundamental point. Here it is.

While the personal, societal, historical, and cultural applications of the principles and commandments of God may vary, fundamental Gospel doctrines and universal truths do not change.

For example, the Israelites had a different word of wisdom than we do. We apply the principles behind this commandment differently based upon prophetic direction. We can eat pork. They couldn’t. And on and on. But the doctrine behind the word of wisdom is the same. It is: by adhering to a word of wisdom, as revealed by God, we mark ourselves as Christ’s, that when the time comes for the separating the wheat from the tares, the destroying angel will pass us by (Doctrine and Covenants 89:21). All other blessings and proposed purposes of the commandment are both spiritual and physical, but can side track us from its main doctrinal basis. It’s a law for the weakest saint to mark themselves as Christ’s (verse 3).

So, when it comes to marriage, family, and sex, it is clear that we are seeing both outside and inside the church, an incredible softening toward the unconventional family unit, and even unconventional sexual orientations and claimed genders. Genderless marriage has been approved by government and all around people are trying very hard to be tolerant of what historically have been unconventional and unaccepted forms of behavior and beliefs. These children of God have previously been treated unfairly and unkindly, even persecuted, exiled, imprisoned, and mistreated.

Many, inside and outside the church, are beginning to assume that this softening in treatment (or the increase of understanding how to love the sinner but not the sin) of such individuals, who are beloved children of God, means a future change in commandments…or an eventual change in doctrine and therefore policy. I think if they make this assumption, in this they will be verily disappointed.

To me, the big leap that is taking place is that the church (which God allows to be carried forward by His flawed children who must learn and be saved individually and collectively) is beginning to realize that treating more unconventional sinners as evil criminals is not only wrong and un-Christlike, but that it is ultimately unproductive in spreading the Gospel. Historically, the fire and brimstone preacher would have condemned all of these sinning souls to hell without any mercy. The unwed mother, the inmate, the interracial couple, etc. Gratefully, we are, if slowly, getting beyond that un-Christlike understanding and reasoning. But, I think it would be wrong to presuppose an eventual change in principle, doctrine, or policy regarding God’s plan for eternal families, eternal parenthood, and eternal marriage.

Here are two examples. First, addictions have also been incorrectly assessed and misunderstood over the years. Where once people were disfellowshipped, or even excommunicated, for struggling with an addiction (smoking, alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc.), they are now counseled, supported, maintained in fellowship, and even allowed to serve in some capacities as they willingly work through and try to work consistent recovery. However, that all of these issues are still sins, and prevent us from being happy and becoming godly, has not changed—and won’t change. Simply our understanding of how to love and support the sinner has improved. And God seems to be content with allowing us to learn as we go.

Second, while Latter-day Saint women have for years and years enjoyed greater rights and privileges than women in regular society, and even in other religions (and still do); recently the assumption was made that society’s attempts to finally catch up with this trend meant that God would eventually let women officiate in Priesthood Leadership positions within the church on the basis that women in other churches can become paid ministers and because women can do what men can do—it was just assumed. There are many fundamentally incorrect comparisons made to argue for women being ordained to the Priesthood, but it boils down to the fact that even “the men” don’t get paid, and that the Priesthood is God’s and He determines how it is utilized, dispensed, and officiated in.

Anyway, while overall, the church sought to self-evaluate and include women where-ever it was possible that it already had not; yet, it did not, and will not, change that fundamental doctrine. God has doctrinally established covenant roles within His plan and those will not change. Just as God, the Father, has a different role than Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost within the godhead (and doesn’t belly-ache about it and neither do the other members of the godhead); men and women have different roles in godhood, the Church, and eternal parenthood. God isn’t going to change that. It’s biological, spiritual, and doctrinal.

I can look all around me and I can see successful heterosexual marriages that may never be eternal because the couples have no desire to get baptized, live the commandments, and receive those ordinances necessary to achieve their exaltation. No matter if they are two peas in a pod. That they get along is great. But that alone is not sufficient to make them worthy of godhood (i.e. eternal parenthood). To be eternal parents, not just eternal lovers, we must submit to the conditions required for godhood. Why? Because that is the only way to also be eternal lovers.

The same applies to people who are in genderless relationships or marriages. That they are happy together is great. That they are also extremely wonderful and spiritual and kind is great. These traits and beautiful things about them are not diminished by their sexual inclinations. But just like all of us, they must still submit to God’s conditions IF they want to be like Him. And, if they don’t, they will still receive a kingdom of glory—which we often fail to preach. This is the doctrine! And it’s wonderful, and it’s beautiful. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about giving us the chance to become like God. God will not force it upon us. Neither will He hand it over lightly. Yet, the plan also provides for those who are good but also simply don’t want godhood on its universally required and unchangeable terms.

They are not the lowest of the low as society has (and we have) always been want to treat them. They are divine, amazing, spirit children of God with godly potential. They will be blessed, and are blessed, for all the good they do (Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21). But, they are also denied blessings (like any other) for not submitting to God’s laws and commandments. That’s the doctrine.

Together Forever… the question only now remains, “Is that what you truly want?”

BT

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: The Gospel will feel (and be) possible when we 1) think “progress, not perfection,” 2) willingly repent, and 3) get to know God better. That’s all it takes.

A couple of days ago I wrote a rather frank blog about my frustrations with people thinking the Gospel of Jesus Christ is impossible. It was a passionate entry for many good reasons. And, while everything I said I believe to be true, I realized yesterday that I hadn’t given any simple, clear steps to helping make the Gospel FEEL possible.

You see, the Gospel IS POSSIBLE whether we feel it is or not. However, Satan wants us to feel that the Gospel is impossible, because as long as we think/feel that, we won’t put forth any effort (which is, according to Satan’s plan, exactly what makes it impossible). So, if we don’t feel the Gospel is possible, it’s hard to change those feelings.

Let’s recap from my previous blog. We tend to feel the law of Christ is impossible based on:

  1. An incomplete or incorrect understanding of grace
  2. A half-hearted, surface, or cursory desire to become like God (i.e. have Eternal Life)
  3. An incomplete knowledge of and relationship with God
  4. A stronger knowledge/relationship, and/or a stronger preference for a false God
  5. An unwillingness to repent fully
  6. A selfish and lazy demand to have Eternal Life on our terms, not God’s

So, if those are many of the common reasons people feel the Gospel is impossible. Then, let me suggest three very simple things a person can do to make the Gospel feel possible—immediately.

Progress Not Perfection

The first thing all of us need to do is to update our understanding of grace as provided to us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Yes, God has commanded us to be perfect (Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 27:27). But, He has commanded us to do so “through Christ” by our sincere, imperfect efforts (Moroni 10:32).

This is critical! The command is to “Be perfect through/in Christ” NOT to “Be perfect to be perfect in Christ.”

Grace is what makes us perfect (over time) as we simply try to do God’s will. We don’t have to do God’s will perfectly. We just have to sincere desires behind our efforts (as per #’s 2, 5 & 6 above). Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “We get credit for trying even if we don’t always succeed” (Tomorrow the Lord Will do Wonders Among You, April 2016 General Conference). Trying is what turns on the #gracefactor. Grace is like a fiery forge. By simply sincerely trying to do God’s will (imperfectly) we enter the fiery forge of grace. Thus, our pounding, hammering efforts bend us “through the power of grace.” Thus, we become perfect because of our imperfect efforts through grace.

So, if you really, truly and sincerely, want to become like God but you know you’ve got a long way to go. That’s okay! Make your motto, “Progress not Perfection” (@SavedbyGraceCo in IG). Change your expectations for your actions to, “I’m going to always try sincerely, even if my efforts aren’t perfect,” rather than the impossible which is, “I’m going to live perfectly.”

The Gospel will FEEL possible if you understand that you can’t mess up by sincerely trying. You can only mess up by not sincerely trying. And you know for yourself what sincerity (proceeding from genuine feelings) is for you.

Repent

The Gospel is impossible to us as long as we try to live it on our own terms, not God’s. As long as our desires and ways are contrary to His, we will feel the impossibility of it. And, if we are unwilling to submit our will to God’s and continue to try to have things or do things our way, then, the Gospel IS impossible. So, we have to repent and submit to God’s will until the day comes that our will and His will is the same (Mosiah 3:19).

Christ’s atonement (pertaining to salvation) is not for everyone. It is for those who repent and submit to God’s will. Grace doesn’t make our wrongs right. It pays justice for the debt we incur for committing wrongs and make it possible for us to obtain mercy. We can’t just say, “Sorry God, now just let me do things my way and don’t expect me to change.”

The only thing the atonement buys for everyone is a resurrected, immortal body (see references below). But salvation (entrance into the lowest level of God’s Celestial Kingdom) is only received by those who repent, are baptized, receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, TRY to keep God’s commandments, and endure to the end (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7; Alma 11:37, 40-44). Mercy cannot rob Justice. Therefore, mercy is only extended unto those who meet the conditions for it (Alma 42:24-25).

Life like God, i.e. Eternal Life, requires that we make more covenants (beyond baptism) and bind our will so closely to God’s that we become like Him by our sincere efforts (Note: I didn’t say “perfect efforts” I merely said “sincere efforts.”). Thus, by TRYING to keep these covenants (however imperfectly) we learn to sacrifice, forgive, change, consecrate, endure, etc., by these additional covenants. And, unless we enter into these covenants and sincerely TRY to keep them, we cannot have Eternal Life.

That’s why we take the sacrament every week. We take it to take inventory of our lives. We make note of what we’ve done pretty well. We make note of what we can do better. We ask God to grant us POWER TO KEEP TRYING. And, by sincerely partaking of this sacrament, God allows us to maintain the Gift and sanctifying, perfecting, comforting, incredible power of the Holy Ghost.

Many people go to the temple because they feel that they walk out with renewed power. The same blessings can come to us as we worthily and sincerely partake of the sacrament. It is an ordinance that when understood can send us out of a church building clothed with power. It is, in a way, a lesser temple experience just as the Aaronic priesthood is the lesser priesthood. The temples, then, provide a full experience because they are governed by the Melchizedek priesthood (the higher priesthood).

So, 1) think progress, not perfection, and 2) repent!

Get to Know God Better

A lot of people find the commandments difficult because they see them in the wrong light. They simply think, “This is something I’m supposed to do,” which in turn creates an incorrect expectation that simply doing it is going to move mountains in your life. If you go to church because you’re supposed to then when it fails to inspire you, change you, uplift you, or even comfort you—immediately—you are going to think, “Well, this is a load of crap.”

God has commanded us to go to church not to check off an item on some trivial spiritual checklist. He does so because there (at church) we have two critical and powerful opportunities. 1) We have the chance to learn more about Him (how He works, how He lives, how He loves, how He sacrifices, etc.), and 2) By partaking of the sacrament, we have the chance to be more open and prepared to receive promptings from the Holy Ghost.

So, yes, church can often be boring. But, if you’ve got a rough/poor teacher or speaker, you can say a silent prayer and ask, “What can I learn about Thee, God, from this experience?” and I guarantee you, with that kind of attitude (if it’s sincere), you will be taught simple, peaceful truths from on high. If you’re tired and feel your mind is fuzzy, you can still be assured that in God’s house you are less fuzzy when it comes to receiving promptings from the Holy Spirit. So, no matter what is going on (in sacrament meeting or your current class), get out your scriptures and read, or say a prayer, and things will be clearer there. Why clearer there? Because that’s where God has commanded you to be! So your conscience before Him is, in that moment, perfect. You could read and pray at home, too, but because you know, fundamentally, that God has asked you to be elsewhere (at church), then subconsciously (or consciously) you will have a less clear path to His throne because you know your life isn’t in even attempted alignment with His will.

If you read your scriptures because you expect to always be enveloped by pillars of light and receive earth-shattering, novel revelations; then when it fails to be all fireworks and singing choirs of angels, you are going to think, “Well, this is a load of crap.” This is because you’ve missed the point.

We have been commanded to read the scriptures for two reasons. 1) We have the chance to learn more about Him (how He works, how He lives, how He loves, how He sacrifices, etc.), and 2) We have the chance to be more open and prepared to receive promptings from the Holy Ghost.

So, it doesn’t matter how much you read. It doesn’t matter where you read. It only matters that you are reading with the sincere desire to learn more about God, about yourself, and to be more open to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

For example, if you’re seeking an answer to a prayer, open your scriptures. Either open it up randomly (this works for some people), seek out a specific topic, or read it chronologically. It doesn’t matter. Go read the scriptures with the sincere intent to receive answers to your prayers and I guarantee you, you will be better able to get answers and you will get them faster. We’re talking days to weeks, instead of months to years. Or, if complete answers don’t come, critical guidance, comfort, and peace will—the kind you can’t get anywhere else than from God.

The scriptures also include General Conference addresses. Watch church produced scripture videos and messages from apostles and prophets! Mormon Messages these days are a great beginning step. If you find other scripture more tedious, begin with modern scripture and work your way up to ancient scripture. We need all of it because all of it teaches us about God and how He works, and who He is. We can’t get it all from a video. But, start small.

Experiment upon the word (Alma 32). After every attempt at ingesting some scripture ask yourself, “How do I feel? What does this make me want to do/feel inspired to do? What did I learn about God?” Do this, and you will get out of scripture reading what God intended.

If you pray because you’re supposed to or because you think God needs to hear from you then you are going to have unrealistic expectations about your prayers. Prayer is all about us, not God. And, we don’t do it because we are supposed to (though we are supposed to). We don’t do it to inform God. He’s perfectly informed. So, if it’s all about us, and not for God, why do it?

When you imagine yourself addressing God, what happens to your language? What happens to your thoughts about yourself and your life?

When you think about what you want to say in your prayers, what happens to your thoughts? Your focus? Your gratitude? What things are you reminded of?

When you really want something, and it seems it will take a miracle to get it, who do you turn to? Why is it we/you only turn to God when something seems impossible? Why is it that we think by suddenly praying that there is a chance that it will become possible?

Morning, night, while you’re running, in your car, at school, at work, before an important life event, etc., when we take the time to talk to God it is because by coming before Him we focus our minds (which are powerful beyond our understanding) long enough in the right direction to be re-aligned, to feel something higher than our day-to-day logic and feelings, to submit, to ask for, to plead, to hope, etc. By simply taking that moment or two to do that we learn about us and our relationship with God.

When I get on my knees to pray, I find out what is most important to me by what I take the time to ask for. It teaches me about myself. God already knows these things. But, by commanding me to take this time a few times a day to talk to Him, He is facilitating my ability to learn about myself, understand myself, and make conscious efforts to align my fundamental and underlying desires to His.

So, when it comes to keeping the commandments. Change the reason for why you do them. Don’t do them to “be perfect.” Don’t do them because you’re supposed to. Don’t do them to fulfill some obscure expectation you think God has. Do them because you want to get to know God and yourself better so that you can begin now to close the gap in your relationship with Him and your understanding of Him and how He works.

So, 1) think progress, not perfection, 2) repent, and 3) get to know God better.

Conclusion

That’s it. If you do these three things, then the Gospel will feel possible. It will feel doable. It will increase your hope for your life. It may change the course your life takes. It will increase your love of others. It will increase your ability to withstand your own struggles and the complexities of life. It will give you courage and certitude (especially as you embrace God’s covenants and ordinances) that no matter what life throws at you, if you simply keep trying, keep making progress, keep repenting, and keep getting to know God better, that you cannot fail. And, that is because IF YOU ARE DOING THESE THREE THINGS YOU CANNOT FAIL (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7; 82:10). It would be impossible. 😉

BT

 

 

Doctrine: The Gospel is only impossible to us inasmuch as we refuse to have faith in it, refuse to believe in it, and refuse to try to live it. What we believe will directly correlate to what we feel is possible. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most possible thing on earth.

impossible4

Climbing Mount Everest seems impossible to do. Yet, people have done it. And the people that did it desired to climb it, read about past people who tried to climb it (both those who succeeded and failed), prepared and trained to climb it, and then eventually, in time climbed it.

Running a marathon seems impossible to do. Yet, people do it every day. They desired to run a marathon, they read up on food and training, prepared and trained to run a marathon, and then eventually, they ran one.

Walking seems impossible to someone who has just been through knee surgery. I know. Because I’ve seen people go through it. So, how do they walk again? They desire to walk more than anything else. Thus, they are willing to stretch, ice, elevate, rest, and participate in physical therapy until they can walk again.

C.S. Lewis said:

Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in: aim at earth and you will get neither.

Alice in Wonderland believed six impossible things before breakfast, thus, fictionally, she was able to visit other worlds and accomplish great things, especially going against societal norms. The principle is similar. What we believe will directly correlate to what we feel is possible.

The point here is this, I’ve heard so many people say that they are leaving the church because God asks too much of them. They say it’s impossible to live the law of Christ. They say trying to become like God is impossible.

However, they fail to note (when they are saying this) that many people have succeeded in living the law of Christ. Many people have lived it, do live it, and are trying to live it every day. So, what makes it impossible? I’ll tell you.

People who think God’s plan is too difficult, that His expectations and commandments are too steep, and that the Gospel is impossible have a few common problems:

  • First, they don’t understand grace properly.
  • Second, their desires for eternal life (life “like” God) are likely surface desires only and not the true desires of their heart. Such an accomplishment seems like Mount Everest and they do not have sufficient desire to put in the hard work to climb it—though it is technically possible.
  • Third, they don’t know God well (because of a lack of faith, prayer, study, and at least attempts at keeping the commandments) and because they don’t know Him they don’t really understand what it is they are being asked to become; therefore, developing a strong desire to be like Him is difficult to do.
  • Fourth, perhaps they used to want eternal life but their current life and desires have superseded that original desire and so they have set it aside as a “nice thing” but no longer find it appealing—again, too much work. They truly believe that they will be happier living life their way and that belief guides their actions. They can’t trust God’s promises because they haven’t come to trust Him and they haven’t tried the experiment to see if He can be trusted.
  • Along with this, most people who think the gospel is impossible find that it is impossible to live when they aren’t willing to repent—and, it is, especially since repentance is the 2nd principle of the Gospel.
  • Finally, the Gospel is impossible to those who want salvation and exaltation on their terms, and not God’s. Since God is bound by law and covenant in order to have the exaltation that He enjoys—because that’s the only way to get it—then He can’t break those laws and covenants to give us exaltation or He would cease to be God (see blog post, God’s Power is Not Absolute).

If You Understand Grace, then the Gospel is Not Impossible

The purpose of Grace is to allow us to learn to become godly, and to give us the power to become godly, without being condemned by the learning and becoming process. God’s commandments, ordinances and covenants are not a list of things to do or to check off perfectly so that then we can become godly. They are things we enter into and do so that as we try to do and become them grace can make actual changes in us. Thus, it’s the trying that matters, not perfection in trying. But, we have to try. If we don’t try, then grace can’t function to make the changes necessary for godhood.

I have had piano students over the years who always got frustrated if they couldn’t play a song perfectly with only a few tries. These students would often quit lessons or at the least struggle with practicing as they should. However, when I could encourage them to practice, it would always surprise them that in time they could master the song. Thus, their parents (who paid for the lessons) didn’t pay for the lessons so that their child would play perfectly the first time every time. The parents paid for the lessons so that the child could learn to play well and love playing. They paid for the lessons so that their kid would learn to love music, appreciate it’s depth and intricacies, enjoy the spirit of the songs, and hopefully be able to serve in the future with the talent they had gained.

This is grace. Christ suffered for everything: sin, injustice, injury, physical infirmity, etc. so that we can take “becoming like God lessons” and learn to love Christ, God and the process of becoming like them. Grace pays for the lessons so that we can get good at aspects of godhood, learn to appreciate the depth and intricacy of what it takes to become like God, enjoy the Gift of the Holy Ghost as He teaches us more and more of God’s truth and light, and eventually learn to serve as a God—bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of others.

If you understand this basic principle about grace, then you can never say the Gospel is impossible or that the law of Christ is too hard. You can only say that you don’t understand it and haven’t taken the time to try.impossible possible

If You Truly Desire to Become Like God, then the Gospel Does Not Seem Impossible

I know a lot of people who say things like, “I wish I could play the piano like that,” or, “I wish I could teach like you,” or, “I wish I could sing like that,” or, “I wish I could become a doctor, lawyer, etc…” And yet, they don’t really wish it. What they like is the idea of it. They like the idea of something but not enough to put in the work for it.

The scriptures have records of people being saved and exalted, even translated. To say that it’s not possible indicates that there is a lack of true desire. It is possible. We have evidence of it. But, we also have evidence that you have to really want it in order to achieve it. Godhood is not something we achieve by a casual desire. And, would you really want a god that received godhood without having to work for it?

In Doctrine and Covenants 137:9, it says:

For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.

Note, God does NOT say “according to their works and the desire of their hearts.” People often read this verse and understand it that way, but that’s not actually what He says. He says, “according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” Meaning, that God judges us by the true desires of our hearts which are evident in our efforts (i.e. sincere actions, attempts at trying, true focus, etc.)

Do you want the salary of a self-made billionaire but you aren’t willing to do what that man/woman did to get it? Then, you don’t really want what they have. You only think you do. But, then, once you learn what they had to do to get it or how many times they failed before achieving it, then you lose the desire to have their enormous sums of money. Why? Because you don’t want that much money bad enough to go through what they went through to get it.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is in place to help us become like God, is only impossible to you if you think the end result isn’t worth the work. And, guess what, technically, that’s okay. That’s why there are multiple kingdoms of glory. And, whatever law you consider to be worthwhile and possible; the one you desire to live, that is the one that will govern the ultimate eternal kingdom you receive. But, you are also limited to the blessings of  that kingdom and you can’t choose otherwise once you get there (Doctrine and Covenants 88:36-40; 131:1-4).

So, it’s no use saying the Gospel is impossible simply because it seems hard to you. You only need to admit that you don’t have the desire to actually do the work it takes to live it.

If You Know Your God (and Christ) then the Gospel Doesn’t Seem Impossible

If you are asked to become like someone, but you don’t know anything about them, then initially, you’re going to consider such a request an impossible task. You may even ask, “Why would I want to become like God?” And, this is a great question.

Those of us who want to become like God want to because we want: 1) eternal family (or family with us forever and not just for this life), 2) a glorified, resurrected, celestial body, that has the ability to procreate and produce eternal offspring, 3) a perfect character (including perfect love, perfect justice, perfect mercy, etc.), 4) a perfect knowledge of the past, present, and future, and 5) the power to create worlds with the sole intent of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of others.

But, if you haven’t taken the time to get to know God by talking to Him, trying to emulate Him, and testing out His trustworthiness and promises, then you aren’t going to believe that He is what He says He is. You aren’t going to see the value in becoming like Him. You aren’t going to trust that it’s possible.

The prophet Lorenzo Snow taught:

As man now is, God once was
As God now is, man may become

So, if you think that becoming like God is impossible, it’s not because it isn’t. It is (Moroni 10:32-33) possible. But, you don’t think it is because you don’t know Him. And, unless you get to know Him, it will always be impossible to you (St. John 17:3).

If Becoming Like God is Your Primary Desire in this Life then the Gospel Doesn’t Seem Impossible

The second commandment is: Thou shalt have no other Gods before me (Exodus 20:3).

Thus, if we put a desire before the desire to become like God, then we have begun desiring or worshipping another God. And, the sad thing about this is that there is no other thing/person/situation that has the power to ultimately give us anything that we want. Everything that has it’s center in this life (and not in Eternal Life, i.e. life like God) is temporary and will end when we die. Only those things that are sanctioned by God, entered into by His guidelines and commandments, etc. will continue after this life (Doctrine and Covenants 132:7).

So, the Gospel is impossible to you if you have put something/someone in your life before your goal/desire to become like God. It is impossible because you have given your agency to a false god. Thus, that false god has no power to give you what you ultimately want. Thus, the Gospel is of no effect in your life, or only to the extent that you allow it.

So, to say the Gospel is impossible because you trust the power and authority of whatever false god you have chosen over Christ and God, the Father; then, of course it is impossible. But only because you are putting your trust in something/someone with “0” power. The moment you begin to put God first in your life again, your life will regain the power to bring you ultimate joy and happiness. The Gospel will then again become possible.

When You are Willing to Repent, the Gospel Doesn’t Seem Impossible

Salvation (and differing levels of grace and mercy) are disbursed on the conditions of repentance and faithfulness we give to God and His Gospel. When we aren’t willing to repent, change, and try to become godly, then the Gospel seems impossible. But that’s because as long as we aren’t willing to meet the conditions God has established for His grace and mercy (bought through the blood, example, and Atonement of Jesus Christ), then technically, the Gospel is impossible. God doesn’t forgive us without true repentance. We don’t get to become gods simply by being born into this life. The only thing we get for being born is an immortal, resurrected body.

Grace is spiritual money. God is the spiritual gazillionaire. We can’t demand His spiritual money on our own terms. We have to meet the conditions He has set. And, the conditions He has set are also those that will ultimately bring us more happiness and joy than we could ever imagine. Whatever you think you can imagine, God can do way better. But, of course, because you can’t imagine it, it’s hard to understand the scope of what He offers.

So, don’t say the Gospel is impossible simply because you are unwilling to repent fully. Admit to yourself that you have rendered the Gospel inoperable (and the fullness of the Atonement) by your own pride and unwillingness to submit to the will of God (Mosiah 3:19).

Mia Wasikowska is Alice in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Conclusion

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most possible thing on the earth. The only things that render it impossible we have complete control over: our desires, our willingness to act on those desires, our love of and desire to learn about and become like God, and our willingness to repent and submit to the conditions God has set upon His abundant and incredibly accessible grace.

Want steps to make the Gospel FEEL possible? Check out my next blog post.

BT

Doctrine: Tradition, in the church, leads us to summarize important gospel doctrines and principles into trite phrases (subject to misinterpretation) and high-level diagrams (that fail miserably as eternal cliff’s notes). Thus, the rising generation can’t understand the deep and essential truths of the gospel and are easily led astray because of “tradition.”

In the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 26:1, we read:

Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin…and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.

This scripture is so accurate in its description of why the rising generation could not understand the prophets words and why they did not believe “the tradition” of their fathers. Such misunderstandings were related to “tradition.” And it is happening again today.

Tradition, in the church, leads us to summarize important gospel doctrines and principles into trite phrases (subject to misinterpretation) and high-level diagrams (that fail miserably as eternal cliff’s notes). Thus, the rising generation can’t understand the deep and essential truths of the gospel and are easily led astray because of “tradition.”

It is of some of these trite phrases, high-level conversations and diagrams, and generalizations that I’m blogging about today; and for today it all relates to the subject of the pre-mortal life (i.e. scripturally called “the foundations of the earth”).

Pre-Mortality

Pre-mortality. We often completely summarize it by calling it the war in heaven. We often make it out to be this obvious black and white choice. And yet, a third of the hosts (our spiritual brothers and sisters) made a choice against what we consider to have been an easy, obvious, and very understandable choice—to follow Christ.

The problem with boiling down the pre-mortal life the way we consistently do is that so much clear, necessary, helpful, and eye-opening doctrine is lost. So, here are a few of the generalizations we use to teach about pre-mortality and what I consider to be the deeper doctrines that are completely lost.

#1 – pre-mortal life was life through Christ

As alluded to above, we often present the pre-mortal existence as if it was all a war in heaven and only a tiny moment before coming to this world. And, when you and I think “war” we think conflict, fighting, weapons, blood, death, injury, etc. We think about mortal warfare. Now, I’m not suggesting that we didn’t have all of these things—of a kind—in the pre-mortal world, but I am suggesting that they presented themselves differently than we tend to think.

Pre-mortal life was life. It was the only life we knew. We had friendships. We had brothers and sisters we liked and those we didn’t like. There were personalities we got along with better than others. We spent time learning and growing in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of many things. There was no mortal time crunch there. And, I suspect we didn’t have to worry about day-to-day survival when it came to eating and seeking a profession. We were free to pursue our interests and to become masters of whatever we chose. We know we had not yet achieved perfection—as God is perfected.

However, whilst in the midst of all this spiritual living, we attended church. Yes! Maybe it was called church, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was called Family Home Evening, maybe it wasn’t. But, we did in fact attend or were proselyted to, because we were all taught God’s eternal plan of salvation. It was The Plan. It was the only plan that had ever been and that ever would be. And, it was taught by Christ, Himself (JST of St. John 1:1). That plan, that gospel, was the center of our broad—yet spiritual—life. It was already “the light” of our lives.

Consider the Joseph Smith Translation of John 1:1-4

In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made which was made. In him was the gospel, and the gospel was the life, and the life was the light of men;

Just as we go about down here on earth with Christ as the light/power that quickens our existence, His light was integral to our pre-mortal existence. Just as Christ established His church and kingdom on this earth, He also established it in the pre-mortal world. Just as Christ preached the gospel here on earth, He also preached it to us in our pre-mortal existence.

Thus, we can see that from the beginning, from the moment we were organized (Abraham 3:22), Christ was already the center of our lives and God’s eternal plan. He didn’t just show up at The Council to stop Satan from implementing another plan. Christ had been The Plan all along.

#2 Satan’s plan was never “a plan” it was an attempted coup

When we summarize pre-mortality as a war between Christ and Satan, we get the false idea that Satan’s plan had a chance of being carried out. We get the idea that the war was a battle against two equal opponents. We get the idea that there was a chance that Satan might have won.

This, however, is a false idea (see #1 above). Satan’s plan was never a plan. It was an attempted coup. His sole desire was to dethrone the Almighty God, silence Christ’s preaching and power, and to have God’s power and glory in an absolute manner, which isn’t actually possible (Moses 4:1-4, Doctrine & Covenants 29:36). In fact, the war was not to decide which plan to follow, but to try to save those whom Satan led away “because of their agency.” God didn’t give up 1/3 of His children to maintain the “right plan.” One-third of His children—who had known all along what The Plan was—were cast out because they chose and attempted a fruitless coup on God, the Eternal Father.

Think about it. God won’t force us to accept His plan here on earth. And, He didn’t try to force us to accept His plan in the pre-mortal world. We can see that He is truly “the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (Mormon 9:9). We can also see that He is bound by law and covenant—which is critical to Him being God (Mormon 9: 15, 19; Alma 42:22-23).

Thus, Satan, in his pure arrogance, tried to manipulate God. “Not one soul will be lost,” (Moses 4:1) he said, IF you will “give me thine honor” (which is God’s power and glory).

Tradition progress future management assessment analysis company business concept businessman

#3 No souls are lost

We always talk about Satan’s plan like it was tempting because “not one soul will be lost” (Moses 4:1). We always talk about God’s/Christ’s plan as if souls will be lost. The problem with how we reference the two perspectives is terribly flawed for three reasons.

First, by attempting a coup, Satan led away a third of God’s children “because of their agency” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:36) and lost them their opportunity to become like God (the very thing he claimed to be protecting). So, that first third was the first evidence that Satan had no concern for the loss of any soul–to any degree.

Second, Satan’s idea of saving souls was coercion and unrighteous dominion. Think about life here on earth right now. What soul was ever saved (in any extent) by such leadership/relationship tactics? As well, no soul can be saved in ignorance (Doctrine and Covenants 131:6). That means that forcing us all to do right would not have saved our souls. Taking away our agency would not have saved our souls. It would have done the exact opposite. It would have damned every single one of us CONTRARY to Satan’s promise (and he knew that!). This is because salvation is extended to us based upon the true and sincere desires of our hearts which motivate our actions—NOT on perfect actions (Doctrine and Covenants 137:9). Likewise, eternal life (or life like God) is extended to us NOT because of what we do but because of WHAT WE BECOME as we try to do.

Without mistakes, sin, weakness, learning, experience, and opposition, we could not have been saved. It is quite clear that the atonement of Jesus Christ is the center of the plan because it allows us to learn from mistakes, weaknesses, and sin without being condemned by the learning process. We can’t become godly without fully understanding what it means to be otherwise. We can’t choose to become like God if we don’t understand what it means to be a god.

Third, in God’s plan (or Christ’s plan), none of us are lost. It’s the exact opposite of Satan’s lying proposal. Everyone who comes to this earth will receive, and inherit, a kingdom of glory, except sons of perdition. And, it is really, really hard to become perdition. Satan was perdition because He knew God the Father, He knew Christ, He knew the plan, and in the face of that perfect knowledge he rebelled. Cain was perdition for the same reasons. He walked and talked with God and knowingly set it aside (which he nearly almost did before being born onto the earth, Moses 5:25).

What Satan meant by “not one shall be lost” was that if God would give him His power, honor, and glory, he/Satan would give everyone godhood without them becoming godly first (which he couldn’t have done because even godhood is bound by law and covenant, but I suspect it was a lie anyway, as he was not the type to share power with anyone–so it was a lie within a lie). And yet “being lost” is exactly what would have happened had our agency been violated (by Satan) as he proposed. Thus, again, we can see it was a power play, a coup, and nothing more.

In this life, none of us lose the opportunity to become like God. It is presented to us daily. And, inasmuch as we submit to the enticing of the Holy Spirit (Mosiah 3:19) we become a little more Christlike, a little more like God, each and every day. It is only when we refuse to submit to God’s laws, ordinances, covenants, and to the Holy Spirit—because of our agency—that the “becoming-like-god” process is halted (Satan refused to submit and was therefore damned because of his own agency). And, by passing through this mortal life many determine that “becoming like god” is not actually what they truly want (because they’ve been presented with other options and found them more desirable). Thus, no one is lost. Everyone ends up exactly where they want to be, or, they receive as much godliness as they choose to receive (Doctrine and Covenants 88:15-40).

#4 Mortal life is as much about becoming like God (through grace) as it is discovering who we are

When we are young we all want to become doctors, lawyers, or anybody who makes a big paycheck. We think we want money more than we care to think about what we actually want to do to make that money. As we get older, however, we come to realize (through trial and error) that even large sums of money don’t bring us happiness. We also learn that what money can buy doesn’t necessarily bring us happiness. And, we learn that fundamentally, we are drawn to different types of careers, hobbies, activities, places, etc., and which we love to be a part of regardless of the amount of money we receive in consequence. We become far more occupied with spending our lives and our time in ways that bring us happiness and joy than we are about money.

Becoming like God is follows a similar principle, though I’m not actually comparing godhood to mortal money. Yet, like lots of money, I suspect that many of us thought we wanted godhood in the pre-mortal life. And yet, as we pass through The Plan here on this earth, I’ve no doubt that many of us discover that the laws, ordinances, covenants, responsibilities, and principles that accompany “life like God,” are a little above what we really want to do—for eternity. Do we really want to spend eternity “bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39)? Because, that’s what God does; and that’s what we’ll do when we become like Him. And, there is only one way to do that. It’s The Plan. The one we’ve been dissecting as part of the foundation of pre-mortal life.

I suspect the most merciful thing God has done for each one of us is to let us find out for ourselves if godhood is what we want–by passing through this life. And, not one soul is left out. If our part in this plan is such that we don’t have the opportunity to choose between godhood or the other options sufficiently, we will have our work done and the option given to us before the final resurrection and judgment through the vehicle of another part of The Plan, the spirit world. God’s plan is perfectly just and merciful because of the atonement offered by Jesus Christ. None of us will lose the opportunity for godhood. We must choose to let it pass by “because of [our] agency.”

Conclusion

Now, there are lots of doctrines tied to the pre-mortal world and life, but these are the ones I think people least ponder, consider, and understand. These are doctrines that we cannot be satisfied to shelter in church jargon and generalities. These are the doctrines that have the power to change behavior, increase understanding, and open our hearts to the inspiration, guidance, and promptings of the Holy Spirit. We all need this understanding.

It is not enough to suppose that there was a war in heaven. We must understand the fundamentals of why it took place and why it’s still a war that we are fighting today. We are still trying to help all of God’s children understand The Plan that has and will always be the only plan. We are still trying to help all of God’s children recognize who they are, what the purpose of life is, and to present them with the opportunity to choose godhood “because of their agency.” We are still fighting and trying to provide salvation in the only way it can be received. We are trying to offer exaltation in the only way it can be achieved.

BT

Doctrine: Modesty is not about keeping others from sinning, it’s about you keeping your covenants with God.

At baptism we covenant to:

  • Take upon us the name of Christ (to carry His name and be like Him)
  • To stand as a witness of God at all times, in all things, and in all places
  • To feed God’s sheep (i.e. share His gospel)
  • To be a light to the world (to set an example)
  • To help others, to comfort them, to guide them, to love them, to bear with their weaknesses and infirmities
  • Keep God’s commandments

So, what does modesty have to do with keeping your covenants? Answer: it may be one of the biggest things you do that gets in the way of your ability to keep your covenants because your personal appearance impacts your ability to do all of the things listed above.

So many people think how you dress has to do with how you feel about yourself, your self-confidence, etc. And, in so many ways it does. But, the “feeling about yourself” you are trying to project or feel may or may not be a completely righteous one. It may be blocking the name of Christ you have taken upon yourself.

As well, so many people complain that they should not have to be responsible for the sins others commit (or think about committing) in response to what they wear. And, they are right, they should not have to be responsible…and they aren’t. But, there’s so much more to it than that.

Imagine this, you covenanted to take upon you the name of Christ. Sure, it’s figurative and spiritual. But its real. And, if how you dress distracts others from seeing Christ in you, you’ve got a problem. If you speak in an immodest way that distracts others from hearing Christ in your conversation, you’ve got a problem. If you act in an immodest way that distracts others from recognizing you as a follower of Christ, you’ve got a problem.Portrait of a mysterious woman

Priestcraft is “setting yourself up as a light” instead of Christ, to get praise and gain (and we’re not talking about simply money here). Thus, immodesty in dress, thought, word, and deed is priestcraft.

Consider that you can be covered from neck to ankle, but if your actions are immodest, you are breaking your covenants. If you are covered from neck to ankle, but your speech is immodest, you are breaking your covenants. If you are covered from neck to ankle, but your clothing is sloppy, dirty, covered with irreverent slogans, etc., you are breaking your covenants. If you are covered from neck to ankle, but your clothing is so tight people are distracted from Christ, whom you represent, you are breaking your covenants.

Yes, your body is Christ’s. He bought it through the atonement. That alone is reason enough to respect it. Your voice was also bought, and your ability to move, etc. That alone is reason enough to be good and act right. But, modesty in word, thought, action, and dress transcends even that grand doctrine. If you are a follower of Christ then you have covenanted to be a witness of Him. And, if you do anything with your body, clothing, actions, and words to distract from your witness of Him, it is priestcraft and immodesty.

Just some food for thought for today.

BT