Thursday, August 3, 2017

How do I Distinguish the Holy Ghost from My Own Thoughts?

Q: How do I tell the difference between promptings from the Holy Ghost and my own thoughts?

A: For some reason, this is a question which preoccupies members of the church, especially the youth and young adults.  I have heard some variation of this question in countless settings throughout the church.  I have heard it in seminary and institute classes, I have heard it during ward youth activities, and during Sunday school and priesthood classes.  I also noticed that this question cropped up in every single face to face session the general authorities have held with the young adults in the church.  Clearly, there is a burning desire to learn the answer to this question!

I think it is a good sign that so many want to know how to better recognize that voice of the spirit.  It shows that people across the church are thinking about this question, and seeking to better know the Lord.  However, I do think it is a little strange that there should be so much confusion among members of the church.  Presumably, if they are members of the church, then they have been baptized and they have received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Since we are therefore entitled to the companionship of the Holy Ghost to guide, instruct, and direct us in our lives; surely Latter-day Saints must be experts when it comes to receiving and recognizing the spirit.

Why All the Confusion?

Given the particular facility the gift of the Holy Ghost ought to bestow upon members of the church, why is it (clearly) so difficult for us to tell the difference between the voice of the spirit and other influences?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

7 Mistakes Even Good Mormons Make

On the whole, Mormons are good people.  Most of us do our best to try to live the gospel. Most of us try to be Christ-like and obedient to the Lord.  Unfortunately, even the best of us tend to fall into traps of bad thinking without even being aware of it.  This flawed thinking can interfere with our ability to fully live the gospel. These mistakes can keep us from experiencing the full blessings and joy that come with gospel discipleship.  More often than not making these mistakes can actively make us miserable.  On my blog I answer gospel questions, and in real life I talk to people of all walks of life about religion, and I have noticed a few common problems that even the best of us may have to overcome in order to progress in the gospel.

I.                 Riding the Line
When I was a young man, I was taught a parable in my Aaronic priesthood Sunday classes about truck drivers and staying away from the line:

“A man was interviewing new drivers for his transportation company. The route was very dangerous and went along several steep cliffs through a mountain pass. The interviewer asked each man how close he could safely drive near the edge of the cliff. The first man responded, “I could drive within six inches of the edge.” The second man responded, “I could drive within two inches of the edge.” The third man responded, “I would stay as far away from the edge of the cliff as I possibly could.” (Aaronic Priesthood Manual, lds.org).

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Gospel is NOT a Checklist.


Q: I am a convert of 9 years, and in that time, I have noticed something that bothers me. In particular, I've seen this happen to a couple friends, to two of my own cousins, and even my husband.

They grow up totally devout Mormons, learning to go to primary, young men/women's, serve a mission, get married, go to the temple, etc. But then sometimes people hit a snag. The church says "you must do A,B,C,D and then you get to go to heaven.”  But I've seen some people get to "C" and because of something beyond their control, they can't do that thing. (For example, not qualifying to go on a mission for medical reasons)

For example, one person had a hard time finding a wife. He's only 27 and he acts like his life is over because he's not married yet. My cousin didn't go on her mission and the guy she was with left her, and now she's lost like she has no purpose.

It's like they suddenly don't know what to do with themselves. Like their life just ended. Like they had a map of what to do and the map is messed up so they fall into this really sad and really pathetic depression.

Personally, I don't want my kids exposed to that!  I don't want my son to be depressed and feel like a failure because he didn't follow the A,B,C,D plan to a T.  Watching what this stuff is doing to my friends and family is so sad. My cousin literally just sits in her room crying and feeling sorry for herself because she didn't qualify for a mission. AND ITS NOT EVEN HER FAULT! She's even becoming apostate over it!

I'm so close to pulling my kids out of church and just teaching them at home. I don't want my kids mentally screwed up because of this church and the ridiculous pressure and expectations put on these kids.

Am I wrong? Does anyone else see this?

A:  You are not wrong to be concerned and repelled when you see your friends and family suffering from feelings of inadequacy, depression, and guilt at what they perceive to be their failure to adequately live up to gospel requirements.

Your friends are not alone.  Many Mormons who are doing their best to follow God’s commandments can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight and number of things they have been asked to do as members of the church. Some, like your friends, may wrestle with feelings of inadequacy and failure when they don’t manage to measure up.

This is unfortunate, because your friends and many others like them don’t need to feel like failures.  They don’t have to feel like they are stuck, or like their life is over when something doesn’t happen the way they think it is supposed to happen.  Your friends are laboring under some misconceptions about how the gospel is meant to be lived, and this wrong thinking is making them miserable for nothing.  From where I’m standing, there are two problems: First, they (and you) seem to be proceeding from the assumption that there is a checklist (A, B, C…) that we have to follow to a tee if we are going to go to heaven.  Second, they also assume that getting into heaven is the whole point.  Also, as you may have noticed, the problem with this checklist mentality is that it almost immediately starts to fall apart when things in life don’t go according to plan.

Serving a mission, marrying in the temple, paying your tithing, and so forth are all important things, but none of these things is the ultimate goal of gospel discipleship.  Accordingly, the church does not teach that you have to follow a rote list of A, B, C, and D to get into heaven.  What the church does teach is simultaneously simpler and also more complex and elegant than that.
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