In my last post, I addressed our common mismanagement of guilt. Today I’d like to offer the solution as outlined in the scriptures.
We’re trying to find the balance between two extremes: complacency and overstress. On the one hand, there are those who settle in their complacency, believing that Christ has abolished the necessity to actually follow him; on the other hand, there are those who live in a constant state of stress, worried that there’s always something more they should be doing (as a side note, it’s my observation that men typically err on the former, whereas women, the latter). These are factors that play a role in managing guilt properly. The Savior prescribes a simple yet beautiful pass down the middle.
There is, in all reality, only ever one thing you have to worry about at a time. When you train a young baseball player to hit baseballs, you do not start by correcting his hands, shoulders, wrists, elbows, foot position, stride, upper body loading, torque at the mid-body, counter-rotation, release, contact, and follow through in one lesson. If you do, you are neither a good teacher nor will the batter develop any skill. There is too much going on for anything to actually improve. You teach complicated or intricate skills one step at a time. There should be in the mind of the student only one thing to do. There is always only one thing to do. There is never more than the single thing to be addressed. It is the thing most wrong at the moment. Once that is addressed and corrected, then you can move on to the next thing, where again there is only one thing to do—and it is the next thing in the sequence. When the next skill is acquired, then there is still only one thing to do.
The same principle applies to living the gospel. There is only one thing for you to do. The Spirit will tell you what you need to do within the context of your own life, and it will always be the thing that most hinders you which requires your immediate attention.
Learn to hear his voice from hour to hour. Go where he prompts you to go, say what he gives you to say, and do what he asks you to do. He, whose ways are higher than our own, will guide you through your life with perfect precision. He will tell you when, where, and how to act.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4).
Consider what it means to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. What would that look like in your own life?
3 …Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do (2 Nephi 32).
Most of our anxieties in life come as a result of our plans not being aligned with God’s. When we have a million options laid out before us, we need only be concerned with the one God wants us to take at that moment.
Sometimes we sense our own weakness when considering all that we need to do. God has a solution for this dilemma as well:
7 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them (1 Nephi 3).
Again, there’s only ever one variable we have to worry about: is God commanding you to do it? If he is, then your own capability doesn’t matter. Nephi and his brothers had no idea how they’d get the plates from Laban when they left for Jerusalem; they just trusted the Lord would prepare a way. If it’s not God’s will, then it either doesn’t matter enough in the grand scheme of things, or there’s something else he’d rather you do.
We know that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). When we consider that those who love God are those who keep his commandments (John 14:15), and keeping his commandments involves living by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, we understand how by controlling this one variable, he will cause every external variable to work for our eventual benefit.
There is only ever one thing at a time God asks of you. Learning to take life one step at a time, obeying every prompting he gives you, will bring your life in perfect harmony with his will. When you’re aligned with God, nothing else matters.
It is possible to be be completely reconciled to him. Not while you’re carrying a load of sins that trouble you and worry you and distract you, but that’s what the Lord will remove from you. He can take all of that away, but it is entirely up to you to choose, then, to do follow obey his voice. That kind of faith will bring you the blessings King Benjamin’s people received:
3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them (Mosiah 4).
Consider the experience of this Book of Mormon writer’s experience:
4 And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
5 And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
6 And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.
7 And I said: Lord, how is it done?
8 And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen… (Enos 1).
What made Enos’ experience real and authentic? How was it that he actually felt his guilt swept away?
Trusting God is not something we learn to do all at once. It comes gradually. The more we trust him, the more we’ll obey him. The more we obey him, the more we learn to trust him. As we learn to trust him, our faith will grow to the point that, like Enos’, our own guilt will be swept away. These things are all connected.
Alma the younger had a powerful conversion experience over the course of a few days. Note the distinction here between his pains and his memories,
17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! (Alma 36.)
Alma doesn’t say that he could remember his sins no more. He said he could remember his pains no more. He wasn’t “harrowed up” by the memory of his sins. He still remembered them, and I’m sure reflected on them with some amount of regret. I’m sure he wished he would have rather not done those things. He was totally forgiven in God’s eyes, but likely had remorse for his past. It’s my opinion that that serves as a protection to keep us from repeating our errors. It’s among the spiritual intelligence that we gain in this life.
The remedy to all of this is faith in Christ. Not mere belief, but an actual abiding trust in him.
Eternal life is to know God (John 17:3). Until we know God, we’ve come short of eternal life. There are two things that consistently keep us from knowing God: sin and false tradition. These two barriers each their respective antidote; one is heed (obedience), the other is diligence (searching for further truth). Consequently, the two most important things that can be preached are repentance and the tearing down of false traditions. These will invariably bring us closer to God.
With that as a prelude, I’d like to address one false tradition that’s crept its way into every corner of the world today. This false belief manifests itself in a variety of ways, including safe spaces, trigger warnings, persistent validation, participation medals, unconditional approval, and the constant reassurance that no matter what you do, you’re “good” with God. These, and many others, are all attempts to create counterfeit peace.
To be clear, God’s love is unchanging. He will always love you unconditionally; that cannot change. But because He loves you, He desires to fix you, and set you right. In truth, we long for His love and healing. Our souls’ deepest yearnings are to be set right, at peace with ourselves. The Lord knows there is only one way this can be achieved: by becoming one with Him. On our own, we are broken and incomplete. We must be infused with His Spirit in order to experience true peace.
The pervading false belief of our day seeks to destroy that peace by offering a quick-fix counterfeit. Like many of Satan’s counterfeits, it offers immediate gratification; and like many of Satan’s counterfeits, the solution is only surface-level.
Satan creates and promotes his counterfeit blessings in an attempt to prevent us from actually getting nearer to God. That’s his ultimate motivation. One key to detecting if something comes from him is if it encourages us to stay the same. If he keeps us the same, he keeps us miserable. His sleight of hand is that he sells peace of mind on the surface.
Naturally, when someone is fearful, we want to calm them; when someone is sad, we want to cheer them up; when someone is hopeless, we want to give them hope. Things swing too far, however, when we become more focused on feeling good than doing good. We live in a world that’s beginning to see any bad feeling or negative expression as the enemy in and of itself. Instead of teaching that we remedy these feelings by doing good, the world is currently trying to put bandaids on every negative emotion.
According to the most basic tenets of psychology, helping people with anxiety disorders avoid things they fear is misguided. However, this is exactly the approach we take when we create safe spaces and trigger warnings. One of the most sound forms of therapy we have for anxiety disorders is what’s called “exposure therapy.” This entails gradually exposing a patient to past stressors, allowing them to form new associations–ones that don’t reinforce the fear. This is how the amygdala can get rewired again to associate a previously feared situation with safety or normalcy. The solution isn’t avoiding the stressor, it’s confronting it. After all, we can’t always control the world around us. The short-term avoidant solution is an illusion, because the moment the ground shifts beneath you, everything turns to sand.
We do a similar thing with guilt. Naturally, violating our conscience has an effect on us. In tune with the world’s song, we tend to treat that feeling like it’s something that should be avoided. We put bandaids on guilt by reassuring people they’re being too hard on themselves, God only wants them to make an effort, or that their eternal life or standing before God isn’t contingent on their behavior. We say these things because we don’t want the anxiety of imperfection to be so demotivating that they give up hope all together. We assure them that they don’t need to live their lives in worry because their salvation is secure.
This is the spiritual equivalent to a participation medal.
The issue with participation medals is they make you feel good superficially, but something deep in your own psyche starts to feel like being rewarded for simply “being” cheapens the prize. It feels hollow and meaningless. Nothing looks wrong, but something feels wrong. On the surface, you feel good, but that feeling stays surface level. Underneath, it eats away at you.
Another way of thinking about it is imagining the stress you feel after getting in your car and seeing the “check engine” light come on. If our goal was to avoid stress at all costs, we might consider finding a way to hack the car’s computer and turn the light off. On the surface, our stressor falls out of sight, out of mind. Under the hood, however, something is going to go terribly wrong. The issue eats away at your engine.
The prophet Alma found himself teaching against this philosophy throughout his ministry. His own life experience specially qualified him to teach against this belief. At the beginning of the book of Alma, one Anti-Christ named Nehor appears on the scene. Even though his story ends at the end of chapter one, his influence carries for years and years. He taught that
… all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life (Alma 1:4).
Lift up your heads! Rejoice! This sounds like a positive message, so what’s the problem? What Nehor was selling was counterfeit peace. And yet, something about this rhymes with the consolation we offer others and ourselves. It feels nice on the surface but doesn’t address the problem underneath.
What does Alma know about this? Well, after living in a way not congruent with God, an angel appeared and made him aware of how God felt about his choices. Alma fell unconscious for a few days and described his experience thus:
12 But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.
13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.
14 Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.
15 Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds (Alma 36).
This wasn’t a pleasant experience until he turned his life around by reconciling himself to God. The insight this experience gave him allowed him to testify that in order to even want to be with God, we have to turn from our sins.
18 Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God? (Alma 5.)
14 For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence (Alma 12).
“…hide us from his presence.” Remember that this was the first thing Adam and Eve wanted to do after they ate the fruit. They chose to be apart from him.
Alma eventually has a son who loses sight on what’s important. He makes some poor decisions, and so Alma sits him down to give him some fatherly counsel towards the end of his life. He notes that he’d rather not point out his mistakes, but that it serves a purpose:
7 And now, my son, I would to God that ye had not been guilty of so great a crime. I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good.
8 But behold, ye cannot hide your crimes from God; and except ye repent they will stand as a testimony against you at the last day (Alma 39).
Consider the role of Old Testament prophets, who came warning the people that they needed to repent or they’d be destroyed. Do you think they understood the importance guilt’s role in leading us back to God? We either let a portion of his light convict us of our sins now, or face all of it when we stand before him to be judged. Have you ever wondered why God’s glory and hell are both depicted as fire? They’re the same fire! What will be the glory of God to some will be hell to others:
3… Do ye suppose that ye shall dwell with him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws?
4 Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.
5 For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flameof unquenchable fire upon you (Mormon 9).
Guilt isn’t inherently bad; it serves a purpose. What you’re mistaking as a tool of the adversary may actually be God pricking your heart, letting you know you need to repent to dwell with him (Acts 2:37). It may be the “check engine” light in your car informing you of some repairs that need to be made to ensure everything is running smoothly.
P.S. The purpose of this post was to expose a false tradition that prevents us from getting closer to God. The next post will offer a solution to properly addressing the guilt and anxiety that comes from our imperfection.
This isn’t a fun question to hear in Sunday School, because the answer seems so straightforward and obvious. There are usually a few scriptures cited to define faith. Paul said in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Another is found in Alma 32:21, which says: “And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”
As it turns out, these scriptures describe properties of faith, but don’t necessarily give a definition. To make a comparison, Charity is described as being longsuffering, kind, not envious, not prideful, selfless, etc. These are properties of charity, though a truer definition might be “the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47). These properties can be used to see if you have faith, but don’t quite tell you how to get it in the first place.
So, what is faith? Here’s a definition straight out of the dictionary: “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” This happens to fit very well when we’re talking about faith in God. In the Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith describes faith as “the principle of action in all intelligent beings.” In a general sense, faith is what motivates you to act. You reap because you have faith you will sow. You take medicine because you have trust it will help you get better. You set an alarm clock because you trust that it will wake you up the next morning. Every action you take is motivated by faith–by trust or belief–even when it is so second nature that you don’t think twice about it.
What does it mean, then, to have faith in God? If faith leads us to action, what action does faith in God lead us to? According to our dictionary definition, it means to have complete trust or confidence in Him. How should/does this affect the way we live?
How do I actually “Follow Christ?”
God is the greatest good in the universe. He’s characterized by perfection. As mentioned previously, His goal is to provide all of us with the means and opportunity to become like Him. He told Moses: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Because this is His purpose–His work and His glory–He is constantly trying to reach us. He told Joseph Smith:
“This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
“And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
“Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
“The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things” (D&C 88:7,11-13).
God’s light shines upon us at all times, similar to how the sun shines in the day time. It’s always being broadcasted. The prophet Mormon describes the Light, or “Spirit” of Christ, as being the agent whereby men may know good from evil. Outside of the gospel, this little agent is referred to as our “conscience.” This light is given to every person born into the world. Whenever we act on it, it grows brighter. Whenever we ignore it, or act contrary to it, it grows dimmer. Author John Pontius wrote:
“The light of Christ is many things. It is the power that keeps the sun burning, keeps the planets in their orbits, and gives life to all living creatures. It is the order of the universe, that which we call nature, and the power by which God governs (D&C 88:7-13). It is a free gift to His children. But most importantly for our purposes, it is the light of our understanding, and the source of our conscience.
“Every person born into this world receives a birthday gift from his or her loving Heavenly Father. Through the Atonement of Christ, Father gives each child a precious gift of Light. This light serves as a guide, a teacher, and a voice of truth. It is commonly called the conscience, and is felt by everyone. It is constant, unerring, and persistent. It can only be extinguished by repeated abuse, but it can be extinguished. Most important of all, it is revelation.
Christ Speaks to You
“The conscience of man constitutes our first and most important contact with the divine.
“The Holy Ghost is the means by which Jesus Christ communicates all truth to mankind. The light of Christ emanates from Christ and is disseminated to us through the Holy Ghost. This function of the third member of the Godhead is commonly referred to as the Holy Spirit (as an example, see Mosiah 3:19). It is also appropriately called the light of truth, the voice of Christ, the voice of truth, the spirit of truth, the word(s) of Christ, His voice, my voice, the voice of the good shepherd, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, and the light of Christ.
“The Holy Spirit, which begins as our conscience, is a free gift to all mankind. It has power to warn, entice, enlighten, and urge to obedience. It will expand its mission to become a teacher of great eloquence as we give heed to its guiding voice. Prior to the ordinance of bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit is limited in its mission. It can only expand to a given level, and therefore, a person must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost in order to progress further …
“Even in its most powerful role, the Holy Spirit remains a still small voice. It rarely exceeds a quiet whisper, and even profound truths come silently and require faith to hear and obey. It requires much experience and righteous obedience to develop faith in the still small voice of the Spirit.
“It would be easy to get confused if we assume all ‘promptings’ have language, words, or audible voices. Promptings generally lack an actual voice, and most often do not employ language. The phrase ‘still, small voice’ labels it as inaudible. ‘Still’ means without sound, subdued, hushed. ‘Small’ describes something tiny, in no great amount, of minor weight or consequence, easy to overlook. …
“Consider the impact of this truth. Your conscience is revelation to you as surely as if the Lord sent an angel to your bedroom with a flaming sword.
“The truths communicated to you by your conscience come from Jesus Christ, are administered by the Holy Ghost, and are revelation.
“No longer may we brush aside the still small voice and go our own way without knowing we are disobeying revelation from Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ called you on the phone and asked you to go help your spouse with the dishes, wouldn’t you immediately go from the phone to the sink? Or would you return to your TV show and shrug it off with little or no thought? If a telephone call from Jesus Christ would impress you, then why not His voice in your spiritual ear, whispers from the eternal realms? Are we more impressed with electronics than we are with revelation?
The Voice Gets Louder
“Consider again the words just quoted above:
‘And everyone that hearkeneth to voice of the Spirit [which begins as the conscience], cometh unto God, even the Father. (D&C 84:47.)
“The Spirit of the Lord is talking to us constantly, and we have only to lift our heads from the confusion of the world to hear him and be inspired and led. This promise is profound. If we learn to hearken to His voice, we will be guided back into the presence of God.
Bruce R. McConkie records:
“The conscience has three primary tasks: first, to give every person the knowledge that God exists; second, to instill the concept of right and wrong in the soul; and, third, and perhaps most important, to guide each person the to gospel of Jesus Christ, where he or she can receive the Holy Ghost and thus continue his or her journey home.
It makes no difference where we start in life; if we’ll learn to be obedient to this voice, it will get louder. Eventually, it will lead us to more truth, which will bring us closer to God. It may eventually lead you to the restoration, being baptized, and qualifying to receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, where God will pour out His Spirit to you in a way previously unknown. He will endow you with the necessary knowledge to finish your journey home.
One way to conceptualize this is to imagine you’re downtown, and you start to smell a distant, but powerful aroma. As you do your best to find out where it’s coming from, it gets stronger. After persistent pursuit, the source of the wonderful aroma is visible. If you’re determined to partake, you might cross the street and go inside. Inside, you’ll be greeted by those who can provide you with the food you’ve been in search of, and among others who are currently eating. After following the correct procedure, paying its price, and waiting, you’ll be presented with the food you’ve been in search of. You’ll see, taste, and experience it firsthand. It will become more powerful every step of the way, and unequivocally real once you partake for yourself.
John Pontius continues:
“Each prompting becomes an eternal stepping stone; each revealed direction constitutes a celestial boost heavenward; each truth building on the last, lifting with loving care. Each prompting obeyed qualifies the obedient for more and greater revelations. Each prompting disobeyed causes the disobedient to plateau and then sink.
“The only thing that can stop a person endowed with continuous revelation is an unwillingness to obey. A person stalled on a spiritual platea must analyze his life and consider what it is he is unwilling to do. It will usually be amazingly small, yet soul stretching. It may be an unwillingness to tell your wife that you are sorry… Perhaps it is your tendency to stretch truth or push the wrong buttons on the cash register. Perhaps it is never-acted-upon feelings of lust or mismanagement of your body. It may be as simple as an unwillingness to turn off the TV, as urgent as going on a mission, or as dangerous as adultery.
“Satan often attempts to use logic to negate the promptings of the Spirit and consequently cheat us out of blessings. If we obey Satan’s promptings, we counsel the Lord out of a tremendous opportunity, and our disobedience shuts the heavens for a time.”
This, of course, isn’t to imply that logic is on the side of the adversary, as every prompting has a greater “why.” However, immediately following many promptings, Satan will begin to sow seeds of doubt or disbelief in our minds. This is one hallmark of true revelation. We may have thoughts like “I shouldn’t say that, it will just make this person upset,” or, “I don’t need to do anything differently, that’s never happened before” or, “I’m a competent human being, I’m not going to let that happen.” It’s important to recognize that these are all attempts from the adversary to prevent us from obeying Christ.
“Perhaps the hardest things to learn about personal revelation is that it begins as the voice of the conscience. Every person knows what it is like to be prompted by their conscience to not do something. Fewer ever recognize the promptings to do something. It is the positive promptings that the beginnings, the seeds of revelation. Just like the conscience, they come without fanfare or heralding trumpets. No angel’s songs, no glorious lights from heaven, no burning in the bosom, or visions of eternity occur; just a still small voice. The only way you know it is actually revelation is that it prompts you to do something good, such as to say your prayers, to do some kindness, to share, to give, to expand and grow.
“Hearing and obeying the voice of the conscience/Holy Spirit is the most important and powerful step you can take toward beginning your spiritual journey in earnest.
“Little progress can be made without it. These promptings are not limited to church subjects. They prompt us to do correctly in all aspects of our lives which bear upon our growth. Anything that will move you closer to God, that will bless you and those around you, that will build faith in the Lord’s voice may be the subject of these revelations. You may be prompted to pack up your tents and depart into the wilderness or to pick up your socks. You may be prompted to help you wife with the dishes or to stop at the scene of an accident and give a priesthood blessing.
“Why would the Lord send you a revelation to pick up your socks? It is because even in something this small there is a right decision and a wrong outcome. If our spiritual hearing is so dim that we cannot be directed in very small things, how will He ever direct us to pick up our tents and save our families, as he did Lehi? We must first be obedient in small things–greater things come later. He will not elevate us to the profound until we advance beyond elementary obedience.
Joseph Smith taught:
“We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, til he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped up in the power and glory of his Maker, and is caught up to dwell with Him.”
This seems to echo a sentiment revealed by the Lord:
“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24).
Measuring Your Faith
Every prompting is an opportunity. Each has a purpose and a promise, and it requires faith to obey. Obedience to God’s daily and personal commandments is what faith in God leads us to do. Therefore, our faith can be measured by how obedient we are. Whenever we choose to disobey a prompting, we show God where we don’t trust Him. We demonstrate that we trust our own judgment more than His; that whatever we have in mind will be of more benefit to us than what He does.
Do we trust God? In this new context, it’s an interesting question to consider. The degree to which we keep His commandments and act on spiritual promptings reveals how much we do. Keeping the commandments and doing what He asks is a matter of faith/trust, not willpower. Our only job is to learn to recognize His voice, and trust it enough to act on it. The scriptures say we’re saved by faith, and that is true enough. But merely proclaiming a belief in Christ does not constitute the amount of faith necessary to live eternal life. Joseph Smith taught:
“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation…” (Lectures on Faith 6:7).
Sacrifice produces faith. Specifically, sacrificing our will for God’s will, because as Neal A. Maxwell said,
“…the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we ‘give,’ brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!”
And again, how do we learn His will, so that we know what and when to sacrifice? Paul taught that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). We obtain the word of God in a few different places. The most obvious form is His written word, as contained in the scriptures. Peter taught that men wrote as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:21). Another place we can obtain His word is through living servants who speak according to the Holy Ghost (D&C 1:38, D&C 68:4). The common denominator in both of these, however, is the original source from which they flow: the Holy Ghost!
God will speak to you as readily as He’ll speak to anyone who will listen. The most important way to obtain Christ’s word will be through direct revelation, because your life and your circumstances will require a specific set of instructions that only God can give. As Nephi taught,
“… feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do…I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.” (2 Nephi 32:3).
One of Christ’s many titles is the “Word.” This is true because in one sense, He embodies the word and will of God. God says it, He does it. He’s characterized by His strict obedience. In another sense, any communication that comes from God comes from Him. The message is delivered by the Holy Ghost, but they are His words. As we strive to hear the Spirit and be guided by its influence in our lives, we’re striving to hear His voice and follow Him.