(This paper not yet finished. Please check back later for revisions and additions.)
(The co-author who helped me write this asked to remain anonymous to allow a more personal openness in opinions and feelings expressed)
A. YOU ARE WORTH EVERYTHING!
1. God loves you
2. Men are that they might have joy
3. Basic Principles are the "How to" from God
Start with the End in mind
Immortality verses eternal life
Godís plan includes temptation
4. Rules: Basic Principles and ordinances of the Gospel
Gift of Holy Ghost
Keeping the Commandments
Enduring faithfully to the end
B. DO YOU FEEL WORTHY?
1. Feelings of despair, unworthiness, unhappiness are caused...
By our point of view
C. IS ONE STILL IN THE STRAIT AND NARROW PATH?
1. Having the influence of the Holy Ghost
2. What the Holy Ghost does
3. How to qualify for the influence of the Holy Ghost
4. If one doesnít have the spirit
If we donít KNOW if we have the spirit
5. How to regain the spirit
D. THE NEED FOR REPENTANCE
1. The Atonement
2. The wicked versus the righteous
3. Who are the righteous?
E. THE STEPS OF REPENTANCE
6. Receive (the blessings)
In explaining a little as to how and why Iím writing this, I hope that no one will be offended. Iím often called a "know it all", and I donít by any means, know it all. However, it has been my relying on my own wisdom that has led me to find the need to learn about repentance. Many times, we hear someone speak from the pulpit, and as they use the pronoun YOU, it sounds as if they are telling me, in the audience that I should do this, or I should do that. In the "olden days" children learned in school, to use the singular form of "one" instead of "you". One should do this, or one should do that. So in this paper, I am going to use impersonal pronouns, and not talk to YOU, but use "one" or "we" or in cases where it deals with my own experience, to use I. Sometimes, I will use I, just to avoid using the word YOU. We learn best from our own experience, but we can learn vicariously from the experiences of others, so hopefully you may benefit from some of my experiences, learning and research. Having "been there and done that", I hope this will assist you. Other than the first paragraph, I choose to be slightly impersonal, otherwise it sounds as if I am preaching to you. My purpose is to "Come unto Jesus" and hopefully bring others with me.
YOU ARE WORTH EVERYTHING!
God loves you!! Thereís nothing you can do about that! His love is perfect, he cannot fail. He is truthful and will not lie, so when He says He loves you, if you exercise faith, you can believe that. Perhaps because of the feelings you are experiencing you cannot accept that God truly loves you.
"Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God."
This does not say in your sight, or your judgment, nor in your spouseís judgment, or even in your Bishopís judgment. It says in the sight of God.
"For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
If I have feelings of unworthiness, hopelessness, unfulfillment, emptiness, or anger, then I
am not thinking thoughts that are in harmony with Godís thoughts about me. These thoughts and judgments I am feeling, come from the Telestial world. Our worth is great in the sight of God.
Now if you are still having feelings of despair and unworthiness, and emptiness, then this paper is for you, because it will show you a process whereby you might raise the level of your thoughts and feelings to those that ARE in harmony with Godís thoughts about you. HE never changes.
We read and hear "self-help" books and thoughts that give ideas on "becoming better" and we try first this one and then that one, and they all seem like bandaids that just cover over the problem, not really addressing the CAUSE and eliminating it. A bandaid put over a sliver will still hurt and soon begin to fester and can cause serious illness and problems. It seems self-evident that the way to handle this is to pull the sliver out, because that is the CAUSE of the pain.
Many times we experience pain and suffering in our lives, but we are unable to locate the cause. People ask us what is wrong, and we truly do not know, so we just grab the first thought that comes into our mind--something that someone else is doing to us that upsets us. So we say, "this is what is wrong". If we really stop and think about it, we realize that isnít what the real cause is, so we choose something else that isnít going the way we want it to, and say "this is whatís wrong." Or we say, "Iíd be happy, if only she/he would do this." But thatís really not the cause of our unhappiness. We canít find the cause, we just know that we are experiencing pain, grief and suffering in our lives.
MEN ARE THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE JOY
"Adam fell that men might be; and men [and women] are that they might have joy."
(2 Nephi 2:25)
The purpose of this paper is to help us find the feelings of true happiness, joy and fulfillment in our life. The purpose of mankind is to have joy. Thatís how God wants it. We all do, but many do not know the road to take to achieve the goal. Often we do the things we think weíre supposed to do, and still we do not experience the anticipated joy and fulfillment.
Moroni wrote about God's love for us. Charity is the love that God has FOR us, not just the reverse.
"And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father."
"We love Him, because He first loved us."
It is not Godís will that we feel sad, or unworthy, or hopeless or full of despair. He has not made us feel that way. He does allow it however, because we learn from pain, and seek another way to get rid of the pain. Less pain without more wisdom, defeats our purpose.
The worth of souls is great. We have already accomplished a great deal and qualified for several gifts and blessings just by coming into this life. We kept our first estate and have received these blessings:
1) The opportunity to come into mortality
2) Gain a physical body
3) We have the privledge to live in a Land of Promise where we have freedom of religon
4) We are here during the Fullness of Times (all the prophets, scriptures, ordinances and saving keys are on the earth)
5) When we were born every person was given the Light of Christ to guide us to the truth.
6) When we are a baptized and become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost, then we are within the strait and narrow way and can start down the path.
BASIC PRINCIPLES ARE THE "HOW TO" FROM GOD
"...For this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life..."
God has given us all the steps we need to take to return to live with Him which will ensure our happiness and joy and fulfillment. He has promised many blessings, and they are all possible to every man, woman and child. The Fourth Article of Faith gives us the "How to" in a nutshell--Faith--Repentance--Baptism--Gift of the Holy Ghost.
If you have taken these four steps, and are still feeling despair, hopelessness, and a wounded heart, then letís go back and review each step again and see if we can find something that is amiss and may be the CAUSE of pain and suffering in your life.
But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Faith is the first principle of the gospel and is the very power of God himself. The Prophet Joseph, in Lectures on Faith (1:10& 1:18)states
" ...it is the moving cause of all action. It is the first great governing principle, which has power, dominion and authority over all things."
Mankind plants seeds because of their faith that they will grow. We study, believing that we can obtain knowledge, wisdom and intelligence. We use faith in all things. So does God. Without the faith that God has, the worlds would never have been created. Without faith life would not be. Our faith in God comes from learning about Him, about His attributes and His ways. We learn little by little, a little here, and a little there, until we can say our faith is stronger, and we can believe Him when He promises something. It is important to remember that "he is a REWARDER OF THEM THAT DILIGENTLY SEEK HIM." (Heb 11:6) God keeps his promises.
"And I remember that thou has said that thou hast prepared a house for man, yea, even among the mansions of thy Father, in which man might have a more excellent hope; wherefore, may must hope, or he cannot receive an inheritance in the place which thou has prepared."
(Ether 12:32 )
If you canít see that you can be there, at least hope for it.
"And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise."
"Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh and anchor to the souls of men which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God."
We must be able to see the goal, or we canít create the desire for it within our minds. Feelings of unworthiness, despair and hopelessness take away the light of obtaining the goal. These are Satanís tools for keeping us from the light. The lies he puts out are designed to make us feel unworthy so we donít want to pray. He knows that God wants us to ask, wants us to pray, and is waiting for our petition to grant us help and forgiveness.
START WITH THE END IN MIND
Faith: Being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you donít see.
--Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
"If ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true."
"...the real design which the God of heaven had in view in making the human family acquainted with his attributes, was, that they through the ideas of the existence of his attributes, might be enabled to exercise faith in him, and through the exercise of faith in him, might obtain eternal life. The God of heaven understanding most perfectly the constitution of human nature, and the weakness of man, knew what was necessary to be revealed, and what ideas must be planted in their minds in order that they might be enabled to exercise faith in him unto eternal life."
Prophet Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith (4:2)
God does love us unconditionally. His love never stops. Thereís nothing we can do about it. He loves us whether we sin or not. He has prepared his plan whereby we might experience great joy and happiness and return to live eternally in his presence. He has given us our freedom of choice as to whether we will choose the only true way to return to him. He has given us consequences to our choices that brings suffering, to get us to look at the causes of the pain, and to make different choices. He has promised us the end happiness if we obey and follow his rules.
This is what Jesus means when he says:
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
( Matt 11:29)
Knowing the rules is what makes the game easier. The rules are very easy. Children can know them.
"...Except ye become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
It is adult mankind that have made the rules confusing and complicated. So letís start with the end in mind, and look at the goal, and decide that is what we want, then we will learn the rules to achieve what we want.
If we were going to play the game "Iím going to lose weight", we will look at the goal, a slim, trim figure. That is the picture we would hold in our mind, as that is our goal. If we constantly hold the picture of "I am fat", how can the heart take hold of the seed of slim/trim? The thought is the seed, the holding it in the mind is planting it until it takes root in the heart. Exercising is doing repetitions of something. Holding a thought in our minds and repeating it many times a day will make that thought manifest because it takes root in the heart and emotions.
Now, the rules of the game are many, exercise more, eat less, eat the right foods, diet, eat one specific food for two weeks, we see rules in any womenís magazine we pick up. Unfortunately, many of the rules are temporal as well as temporary. I know many whoíve experienced losing weight, only to regain it back again and then some. I know this also from personal experience. If I play by the rules that are spiritually as well as temporally true, then my goal will be reached and I will maintain that goal. If I play by TRUE rules, then I will have the faith sufficient unto accomplishment. Those are the rules that no one really likes to hear: increase exercise, eat a balanced diet and eliminate most fats and sweets.
It is exercising faith in a true set of rules that will accomplish oneís goal and maintain it permanently. So it is with Godís love for us, and His promise of exaltation.
IMMORTALITY VERSES ETERNAL LIFE
"For behold, this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man"
This is Godís work, this is his purpose, this is his goal. What is ours?
The plan of salvation is Godís plan for saving His spirit children. The means is by the creation, the fall and the atonement. These are done on behalf of man, we donít really have any say in the matter. Man canít do anything to change it.
The plan of salvation in the lives of men which is the gospel -- (faith, repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, obedience to the laws and ordinances and enduring faithfully to the end) -- is carried out by manís belief and obedience.
Godís goal of immortality and eternal life are two different things. Immortality is to live forever in a resurrected state with a body of flesh and bones. That will happen to all mankind, both wicked and righteous. Immortality is the release from temporal death. Sometimes this is also called Eternal Life.
Exaltation is the name of the kind of life possessed by the Eternal Father. It is reserved for immortal beings who gain an inheritance in the highest heaven of the celestial realm. Exaltation is for those who believe and obey the whole law of the whole gospel. Exaltation is the release from spiritual death.
Both come by the grace of God. Immortality or Eternal Life is a free gift. But Exaltation is given as God's greatest gift to those who are obedient to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. The whole purpose of the plan of salvation is to provide this immortality for all men, and then in addition to make Exaltation available for anyone who overcomes the world and qualify themselves to live in Gos's presence again. Exaltation is available to all, for God is no respecter of persons, and is offered as the greatest of all blessings from God to anyone and every one who is willing to pay the price in service, in obedience and in personal righteousness to gain so great a gift.
GODíS PLAN INCLUDES TEMPTATION
God ordained it and made it part of His plan that we should be tempted.
"Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other."
(2 Nephi 2:16)
God knew beforehand that we would make mistakes. We usually learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. Itís all part of the plan. But God did not leave us without guidance or a way to overcome.
"God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will...make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
The Lord "will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations."
The gospel of Jesus Christ is Godís pattern for righteous living. Part of his pattern is to allow us to use our free agency to choose behavior that is NOT in harmony with his will. However, there are rules set up for happiness.
"And behold, it must be done according to the pattern which I have given unto you."
There is no other way.
"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."
God allows us to make our own choices, and we can choose wrong, but there is only one way of obtaining the goal of joy, happiness and fulfillment. If we choose behavior that is not in harmony with revealed patterns, then we must take the consequences. Our freedom to choose our conduct does not give us freedom from the consequences of our conduct. One of the consequences of choosing behavior contrary to His will is the feeling of despair. Itís not caused by God, but He allows it, for it is a very good teaching tool.
"And if you have no hope ye must be in despair and despair cometh because of iniquity."
Iniquity can be on various levels of seriousness--from not asking for and seeking the spirit, to serious sins that definitely need repentance. Iniquity can be seen as a lack of inner quiet. The peace is not there. A feeling of emptiness is present. Agitation may be present--we feel like we want to stand up, but standing up does not help, we want to sit down, but sitting down does not help. We feel we need to change, but we donít even know what it is that we need to change. No matter what we do this feeling in the pit of our heart does not go away. Consequences for wrong choices is Godís way of helping us to seek relief from the pain, the sorrow and the suffering. When the pain eventually gets tough enough, we finally give up and ask for the Fatherís help. This is the "broken heart and a contrite spirit."
"...when ye shall call upon the Father in my name with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then ye shall know that the Father hath remembered the covenant..."
The Lord could not have taken us from our premortal existence, given us a body and then exalted us with out trial and error or the exercise of our free agency. That was Satan's plan. We were not at all like him. We were immature, inexperienced, and unrefined. We understood nothing of faith--how could we, we lived with God, we didnít have to learn faith. We knew nothing of pain, physical suffering, birth, death, disease, hunger, and temptation of a hundred other things. It is opposition which molds and shapes the soul, builds character and turns our hearts to God for guidance.
Temptation is an opportunity for the soul to learn to evolve directly through conscious choice. It is an opportunity to challenge those parts of oneís self that are resistant to the light.
So letís look at the Rules of this game called mortality and see how we can make it easier.
RULES: BASIC PRINCIPLES AND ORDINANCES OF THE GOSPEL
FAITH IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
Faith is the first principle of the gospel because it is the foundation of all spiritual truths and the place at which progress begins.
Repentance is only possible because of the atonement of Christ and therefore subject to his approval. Repentance must be done his way to be acceptable.
Baptism is the initiatory ordinance into the Church of Jesus Christ and the gateway into the celestial kingdom. A person may enter any other kingdom without baptism, but the celestial kingdom is reserved for only those who were baptized by one with proper authority.
GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST
The priesthood ordinance of conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost prepares the way for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost allows a person greater access to the Holy Spirit, as he learns to obey its promptings. This increase in guidance by the Holy Spirit makes it possible to eventually receive the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost through rebirth. The Holy Spirit is the light of Christ administered by the Holy Ghost. The actual reception of the Holy Ghost is reserved until the rebirth, or "born of the spirit" and adds a powerful dimension of revelation and other greater spiritual gifts which the Holy Spirit does not bestow. After receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost we receive a greater endowment of the Holy Spirit which continues to guide and direct us as the still small voice. If we pay heed, our spiritual power grows quickly.
"The gift of the Holy Ghost is the right to have the constant companionship of the spirit, the actual enjoyment of the gift, the actual receipt of the companionship of the Spirit, is based on personal righteousness; it does not come unless and until the person is worthy to receive it. The Spirit will not dwell in an unclean tabernacle...Those who actually enjoy the gift or presentation of the Holy Ghost are the ones who are born again, who have become new creatures of the Holy Ghost."
Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 313.
KEEPING THE COMMANDMENTS
The key to spiritual growth is obedience to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Until each person learns this single lesson, he will falter and stumble. How many commandments are there? Almost as many as were written down for the Israelites. Listen to the voice of the Lord and He will direct one. President Kimball, when asked what the most important commandment was, answered, "the one youíre having trouble with." God promises that if we will yield to the enticing of the Holy Spirit, He will work a mighty change in us which will remove our disposition to do evil. This mighty change was so significant King Benjaminís people were:
"Willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do His will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days..."
ENDURING FAITHFULLY TO THE END
To endure is to press forward. To endure means to continue with a level of obedience and valiance that produces more spiritual progression.
DO YOU FEEL WORTHY?
When we have low feelings of self-worth it is a real barrier to prayer, feeling Godís love, expressing love to others, finding satisfaction in our activities and most things we do in life. Self worth is a perception and an evaluation that we place on ourselves. It may or may not be true. It may be based on the worldís ideas or it may be based on Godís ideas.
Godís value of you is what is truth.
"Remember, the worth of souls is great in the sight of God"
His value of you is not dependent on what you do or not do.
Abraham had this to say:
"Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good and he stood in the midst of them and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born."
Who are these "noble and great ones"? Hartman Rector, Jr., in the Spokane Washington East Stake conference on January 1, 1976, said that the "noble and great ones" are the Latter-day Saints.
Elder Bruce R. Mcconkie said
"All those who receive the Melchizedek Priesthood in this life...were among the noble and great in that premortal sphere."
(Bruce R. Mcconkie Conference Report, April 1974 page 102)
Joseph Smith said,
"Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the word was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was."
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith P 365)
President Harold B. Lee expressed his feelings of our need to feel self worth when he said:
"What a difference it would make if we really sensed our divine relationship to God, our Heavenly Father, our relationship to Jesus Christ, our Savior and our elder brother, and our relationship to each other."
(Presiden Harold B. Lee Conference Report, Oct. 1973 p 9.)
There should be no doubt as to our worth to our Heavenly Father. His value of us is true. If I donít feel that love and that value, then it has to be something I am doing or not doing, and letís give part of the blame to Satan, because he usually is behind all suffering, pain and unhappiness. But then, I am doing the choosing as to whom I will "listen to obey".
"For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey, and this according to the words of the spirit of prophecy; therefore let it be according to the truth."
"...and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell. And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them."
We were all obedient to Godís laws in heaven before this world was created. We were tested and tried before we came to earth, and we were successful.
"And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads forever and ever."
President Kimball tells us of our value to our Hevenly Father.
"God is your Father. He loves you. He and your mother in heaven value you beyond any measure. They gave your eternal intelligence spirit form, just as your earthly mother and father have given you a mortal body. You are unique, one of a kind, made of the eternal intelligence which give you claim upon eternal life. Let there be no question in your mind about your value as an individual. The whole intent of the gospel plan is to provide an opportunity for each of you to reach your fullest potential, which is eternal progression and the possibility of godhood."
(Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign Nov 1978, p. 105)
If we base our feelings of self-worth upon the truth, we find life easier to stumble through, knowing that when trials come our way, when we make mistakes, our Father in Heaven still loves us and values us. But some people base their feelings of self-worth upon the worldly ideas--that of acceptance of others or what I DO equals who I am. If one is not feeling accepted by others it can be devastating. If one is not feeling his performance in his workplace, his home, or his church is not up to his (or othersí) expectations, then he/she does not feel good about them self. Their self-esteem goes down when they havenít as much financially as others, or they are embarrassed if they are not called to higher positions in the church. Comparisons with others almost always adds to low self-esteem feelings. Even if one comes out ahead, in comparison, it doesnít last, and causes low self-esteem.
If I donít feel worthy, I am not likely to pray. Many people think because they have done something wrong, that God no longer loves them, and would not want to hear their prayers. This is a lie. This is Satan putting lies in their minds to keep them from the light; it gives him great power if he can discourage us. If they do still pray, they may feel that their prayers are bouncing off the ceiling and not even going through and being heard. It adds to the despair and unworthy feelings that one has. We know that something has to change, but we arenít even aware of what it is. We still havenít found a CAUSE.
FEELINGS OF DESPAIR, UNWORTHINESS, UNHAPPINESS...ARE CAUSED BY:
These bad feelings are caused by something. These feelings are an effect, and if we find the cause, then we can change the feelings. Letís look at some of the things that can cause painful feelings.
[You] can not do wrong and feel right - it is impossible.
(President Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson pg 281)
Many times the feelings of guilt, despair and unhappiness come from not doing what we know we should do. It comes from not keeping the commandments. When we are not obeying and keeping commandments, we lose the spirit of the Holy Ghost. When we havenít the still small voice to talk with us, other voices begin to become more prominent in our thoughts. Feelings of despair, guilt and unhappiness are the effect of loss of the Holy Ghost. It is Heavenly Fatherís way of warning us that the choices we are making are not in harmony with His one way that will return us to him, and make life easier. Weíre not playing by the rules.
"Jesus is the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world"
This is the light of Christ. It is our conscience. It teaches everyone what is right and wrong. The more one listens to that voice, it becomes easier to hear. After baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, a greater endowment of that light is given--we are able to know more concerning right and wrong, we receive a greater light. By listening to the still, small voice it becomes easier to hear. When we donít listen and obey, then the spirit withdraws and waits and it becomes harder to hear and we call it "searing our conscience." It doesnít feel good to hear Ďthatís wrongí, so we donít listen anymore. We begin to change our beliefs and values to match our actions. We begin to deny the bad feelings exist.
It is possible to become so callused and hard that we destroy the tender feelings of light and the Holy Ghost in us, that the feelings of guilt and despair just go away, in the sense that we no longer feel guilty. We accept that this is the way things are. We can change our belief system to the point that we have so compromised how we feel that we begin to believe that what we are doing is alright. If we persist in this long enough, the spirit of the Lord can be so totally driven from our lives that we no longer recognize the feeling of despair. They are still there. If we have lost the good feelings we contrast them to, then we donít recognize the bad ones. We justify and rationalize to ease our conscience and allow the feelings that were wrong to feel right. We accept some of Satanís lies, "itís not so bad -- others do it", "Iím only thinking about it -- I wonít really DO it", "how can this little thing really hurt?".
Non members of the church who do this, shut out the light of Christ from their lives. Members of the church who do this, shut off the promptings of the Holy Ghost. If done long enough with persistence, we will have seared our conscience until we begin to believe that what we are doing is alright or does not matter. When we do not listen to and obey the promptings of the Holy Ghost, he soon stops whispering to us, and stands back and waits. We have to be able to live with ourselves, so convincing ourselves that what we do or not do is not wrong, allows the feelings to go away, sears our conscience.
The story of Korihor
"But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown god. And he said unto me: There is no god; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I VERILY BELIEVED THAT THEY WERE TRUE; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me."
When we believe something long enough, our minds accept it as true, whether it is or not.
Sin can be of omission--not doing something right as well as of comission--doing something wrong. The loss of feelings of happiness, joy, fulfillment can be because of past sins, even long past, or wrong things that are taking place right now. Those painful feelings can also come from transgression that is hidden, from things that we are not even aware that we are doing something wrong. As members of the church, when we do things that are wrong, the Holy Ghost gives us a feeling to warn us. He will make us feel an empty feeling that is the opposite of joy, happiness and fulfillment. We may not even know why we are feeling it. We canít figure out the cause.
"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so...righteousness could not be brought to pass."
(2 Nephi 2:11)
"Wherefore the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by one or the other."
(2 Nephi 2:16)
Even for Christ, our exemplar, the path was through tremendous opposition.
"Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered."
The importance difference between Him and us, is that he simply learned obedience.
The law of opposition means that everything good we attempt will be opposed and is an ordained and essential part of the plan. Temptation is a necessity. Father has put temptation in as part of the plan. He knows we will make mistakes. Itís part of the plan. But living with the painful feelings of mistakes is not part of the plan. Thatís where the atonement of Jesus Christ comes in. But first, letís look at more causes of painful feelings.
PAINFUL FEELINGS CAUSED BY OUR POINT OF VIEW
Point of view is oneís perspective about the world around him. I first learned about perspective when I was a teenager, attending a BYU Education week, and Steven Covey was the speaker. He was speaking on how one sees things based on their previous experiences. He held up a picture of a young woman to one half of the classroom, and a picture of an old woman to the other half of the classroom. Then he held up a composite of both of them together, and most people on the "young" side of the room, only saw the young woman. Most of the people on the "old" side of the room, only saw the old woman. It took much talking, both from Brother Covey and the people around you, to help you see the other perspective. Some never could see the other side.
You may have experienced this yourself with the computer designed 3-D images, where you have to slightly unfocus your eyes in order to see the "hidden images". Some people, who cannot see the images, are very adamant that all those who can see the images are lying or crazy.
The mind likes to be right. It will go to great lengths to produce all kinds of evidence and justification that it IS right. Brother Covey explained that it was the initial experience of conditioning that one had of seeing only one side, that programmed their mind to see only that perspective. It is our individual experiences that program our minds and will significantly affect our feelings, our behaviors and our communications.
So your point of view will be based upon the experiences youíve had in the past. Do you realize that every person has had different experiences? How, therefore, can we expect each person to have the same viewpoint?
If you put 4 different people each on a corner, and then ask them to describe a crash scene happening there, involving several automobiles, each one will give a different perspective. Which one is right? All of them are, from their point of view.
Another way of explaining point of view and how each personís perspective is RIGHT is to consider everyone on a giant bicycle wheel laying on the ground. Every spoke is going towards the center, but when I look across at the guy directly opposite from me, "he must be doing it wrong, because itís opposite from the way I am doing it." Remember, the mind likes to be RIGHT, and if my mind came up with THIS is the most efficient, best, easiest, etc way of "doing it", then it must be the RIGHT way. But from the guy on the other side of the wheel, I must be doing it wrong, because from HIS POINT OF VIEW, HE IS RIGHT!
When one stands on oneís point of view, and can not see another perspective, it often causes hurt feelings and unhappiness, especially in the other person. And the other person, from their point of view is RIGHT, so unhappiness results, and the cause cannot be found, because each is RIGHT, from their point of view, based upon their own experiences, which of course are different from the otherís experiences, whether or not they are experienced together, as in a marriage.
"Those people and events which have left their mark, whether favorable or unfavorable are now behind us. What happened, even as recently as yesterday, is no longer of any consequence, unless we choose to allow it to be. What is of great importance is who and what it is that leaves its mark today, and each day thereafter. What we have been is an established and unchangeable fact. What we can yet become is an unlimited, boundless opportunity. Therefore, do not allow your awareness of past difficulty or failures to adversely affect your current and future possibilities. The greatest value of the past is how wisely we invest it in the future. Let the past be a servant for making the future both more enjoyable and profitable."
(Jim Rohn Seasons of Life page ???)
BAD FEELINGS CAN ALSO BE CAUSED BY SELF-TALK
The telestial world teaches us that our worth is determined by our performance. This is one of Satanís best lies. We canít escape it . We learn it in school, in the home, in our workplaces. It is a very integral part of the temporal world.
Our mind is always talking to us, comparing our performance to expectations of others, and to our own expectations. If I make judgments of myself, I will always come up short. I will never quite measure up. I am using temporal world thought patterns.
"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and ....becometh as a child, submissive , meek, humble, patient, full of love..."
It isnít natural for any person to be submissive, meek, humble and patient, but it is spiritual.
The things that my mind talks to me about all day long determine my feelings. It has been proven in psychology that if one believes a thing long enough, he will believe it to be true, whether it is true or not. Usually self-talk is not true. Remember we define truth as that given from Godís perspective.
"For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ."
Our daily life is within the temporal world. We donít have to do anything to be there except open our eyes in the morning. As we go about our day, the temporal world descends upon us until we almost collapse from its burdens. We form our perspectives and points of view based upon our experiences in the temporal world. The temporal world says that performance determines your worth. So our mind picks up on all the mistakes, all the insufficiencies, and inadequacies and continues telling us about them, trying to get us to make a change. HA! Does it work? Not usually. Our feelings are created by our thoughts. Have our thoughts been uplifting, enjoyable and spiritually focused. Not usually. The temporal world doesnít allow for that. We have to make a choice to focus spiritually, put forth some effort to place our thoughts in the spiritual realm. How do we do that? Prayer opens up a conduit to the spiritual realm. Hymns open up the spiritual realm. Remember the advice, to sing a hymn or recite a memorized scripture when temptation comes near? One canít think two things at once.
President Ezra Taft Benson said,
"The mind has been compared to a stage on which only one act at a time can be performed. From one side of the wings the Lord, who loves you, is trying to put on the stage of your mind, that which will bless you. From the other side of the wings the devil, who hates you, is trying to put on the stage of your mind that which will curse you.
"You are the stage manager--you are the one who decides which thoughts will occupy the stage. Remember, the Lord wants you to have a fulness of joy like His. The devil wants all men to be miserable like him. You are the one who must decide which thoughts you will accept. You are free to choose--but you are not free to alter the results of those choices. You will be what you think about--what you consistently allow to occupy the stage of your mind."
(Ezra Taft Benson, Think on Christ, Ensign, March 1989, pg 2-3)
Much self-talk is condemnation. It moves one quickly into darkness and one loses the spirit of the Holy Ghost. Why? The Holy Ghost is a witness to truth, and if what I am saying to myself is not true, he will withdraw, because I have a choice of the thoughts I will think, and the Holy Ghost will not witness to falsehoods..
Alma said that even our thoughts would condemn us.
"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 12:14)
It takes much effort to be aware of our thoughts all the time. But it is possible. Youíve heard of positive thinking, and affirmations--sayings that people put on cards and look at or think about during the day. The idea is to program in the things that one wants instead of just letting the old negative thought patterns continue causing unpleasant feelings.
Alma used the same idea with his planting of the seed, to take root in our heart.
"Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves--It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
"Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
"But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
"And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
"Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
"And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
"O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?
"Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.
"And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
"But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.
Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof."
Almaís seed is the word, to be planted to see if it is good (true). So if we want to know if a new thought pattern, or positive self-talk is true and good, or we truly want to believe it, then we can plant it in our minds --keep thinking about it, until it takes hold in our heart where then it causes a feeling. The feelings caused, if it is true and good, will as Alma relates, begin to swell, enlarge our souls, enlighten our understanding and become delicious to us.
Do you see how we use the same process with bad thoughts that cause feelings of unhappiness, pain, sorrow, anger and unfulfillment? We hold a thought in our minds until it takes root within our heart--where it causes a feeling. It doesnít matter whether the thoughts are true or not. They cause feelings if held in the mind long enough. Emotions wrapped around thoughts give them that much more power, and cause feelings faster. I donít want to wrap my emotions around negative thoughts or sins or a problem. If I do, I enter the darkness area, Satanís realm where he uses discouragement and feelings of hopelessness to keep me from the light.
The next time you feel upset or miserable, notice what you are thinking. Your emotions are created by your thoughts. Taking your negative thoughts seriously simply means you have forgotten you created them in the first place. They are only thoughts. But they do have power.
Our feelings are like a compass. When we feel good, we are on the right course in our thoughts, to find happiness and peace of mind. When we feel bad, we are off course in our thought system. It is impossible to have negative feelings without thoughts from your thought system. Thus negative feelings are the compass that lets us know we are thinking from negative thought system. Negative feelings tell us it is time to dismiss negative thoughts.
It is oneís own responsibility to create feelings (which are caused by thoughts held long enough) of self-worth. Other people can tell me that I am good, or talented or compliment my performance (whatever I did), but I will not accept it, no matter how many times they tell me, or put their arm around me, if my inner thoughts and feelings are based on lies of low self worth. I must base my value of myself on the truth as God judges me. Sinning is a type of performance. It has nothing to do with our value and worth. God and Christ judge us with perfect love. They value us and hold us of great worth regardless of our performance good or bad. We must see ourselves as Christ sees us. We must use self-talk that is truth. Not as WE may perceive truth, but as God sees truth.
HOW DOES ONE DO THAT?
By following Almaís experiment--holding the truthful thought in his mind and thinking it many, many times a day. He may need a reminder--the card on his mirror, or a red dot on the back of his hand. Each time one sees the reminder, he thinks the new self-talk --truthful thought, until it takes root in his heart, or becomes part of his belief system. If by "experimenting on the word, to plant the seed until it takes root", then his new belief about oneself will affect his self-esteem, will be a part of his perspective or point of view, and he will not be devastated by othersí opinions of his performance, because he knows how God values him. Then he would go on to the next idea he wants to incorporate into his belief system.
IS ONE STILL IN THE STRAIT AND NARROW PATH?
"...for the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate..."
(2 Nephi 31:17-18)
"One sure way we can determine whether we are on the strait and narrow path is that we will possess the spirit of the Lord in our lives. Having the Holy Ghost brings forth certain fruits. The Apostle Paul said that Ďthe fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.í (Gal 5:22-23) The most important thing in our lives is the Spirit."
(President Ezra T. Benson, Seeking the Spirit, Ensign Apr 1988 Pg 3)
One canít have the spirit of the Holy Ghost to be with him unless he is in the strait and narrow path. A person CAN have the light of Christ, and everyone does. Promptings also come by this means. One doesnít have to be perfect to walk in the strait and narrow path. If I have the influence of the Holy Ghost, and I walk daily by the power of the Holy Ghost, it means I am in the strait and narrow path.
WHAT THE HOLY GHOST DOES
The Holy Spirit almost always prompts us to do something other than what we were planning. It begins as the voice of the conscience.
"Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God;...that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, everything which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God."
The Holy Ghost has the power and authority to:
1. Absolve us from sin (Moroni 6:4)"...and after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost...
(Mosiah 4:3) ..."the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins..."
(2 Nephi 31:17) "...and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost."
2. Pronounce us clean and forgiven (Moroni 6:4) "...and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost."
3. Free us from guilt (Enos 1:6) "And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie, werefore, my guilt was swept away."
(Alma 24:10) "...and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts..."
(D&C 11:13)"...I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your souls with joy."
4. Justify us coming into the presence of God (Moses 6:60) "For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified..."
(Mosiah 3:19) "For the natural man is an enemy to God...unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit...."
(D&C 67:11) "For no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Sprit of God."
5. Sanctify us and make us Holy (3Nephi 27:20) "...that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day."
(Alma 5:54) "...who humble themselves and do walk after the holy order of God, wherewith they have been brought into this church, having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit..."
6. Perfect us in Christ (Moroni 10:32) "Yea, come unto Christ and be perfected in him,...that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ..."
HOW TO QUALIFY FOR THE HOLY GHOST
1. Faith in Christ
2. Repent of sins
3. Seek for it
4. Ask the Father
5. Believe you shall receive
6. Meekness and lowliness of heart
7. Be baptized and confirmed by proper authority
...Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you..."
(I Cor 6:19)
"And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man..."
"Ask the Father in my name, in faith, believing that you shall receive, and you shall have the Holy Ghost, which manifesteth all things which are expedient unto the children of men."
"...By the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him,...."
(1 Nephi 10:17)
"..the Lord God prepareth the way that men who have faith in Christ may have the Holy Ghost..."
"...because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost...
"A man may receive the Holy ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him"
"The Lord bestows the gift of the Holy Ghost on those who are confirmed in church"
"Every soul who is baptized shall receive the Holy Ghost"
INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY GHOST
"By the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things."
IF ONE DOESNíT HAVE THE SPIRIT...
The only requirement for hearing the still small voice is oneís willingness. There is an inner voice that comes from God which speaks to us. Being open to direction is required for guidance. If one is not aware of guidance, one doesnot desire it. So letís change this section to:
IF WE DONíT KNOW IF WE HAVE THE SPIRIT...
"And the spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world, and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit."
The light of Christ is a gift to everyone that is born into this world, and serves as a guide, a teacher and is commonly called oneís conscience. It is constant, unerring and persistent. It can be extinguished by neglect and disobedience. The only requirement for hearing the still small voice is willingness.
The Holy Ghost is the means whereby Jesus Christ communicates all truth to mankind. The light of Christ is the agency through which the Holy Ghost operates. ( See Moroni 10; Mormon Doctrine p. 314)
The truths communicated to us by our conscience come from Jesus Christ, are administered by the Holy Ghost and are considered words from the mouth of God. We all use the light of Christ within us to some degreenot living all that we know causes its light to dim within us, and most of the people of the earth in this day and age realize its full potential. Those people who are not baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have the light of Christ directing them. They can progress to the extent that they listen and obey. When one becomes baptized by proper authority and given the gift of the Holy Ghost, they are then able to receive the greater light. It is conditional, based on willingness to listen, obey, and to be repentant. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost allows a person greater access to the Holy Spirit, as he learns to obey its promptings. This increase in guidance by the Holy Spirit makes it possible to eventually receive the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.
The spirit of the Lord will not dwell in unholy temples. (see Alma 34:36, Helaman 4:24)
"And there were no gifts from the Lord, and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of their wickedness and unbelief."
Who are the wicked?
"And the whole world lieth in sin and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin. And by this you may know they are under the bondage of sin, because they come not unto me. And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me. And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked..."
The only requirement for hearing the still small voice is oneís willingness. We must first learn to listen to the voice of the Spirit before we can go on to greater things. Perhaps the spirit may whisper to pick up my socks. Hearing and obeying the voice of my conscience/ Holy Spirit is the most important and powerful step I can take. The promptings are not limited to church subjects.
"...the Holy Ghost that knoweth all things."
"God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit..."
Anything that will move one closer to God, which will bless him or those around him may be the subject of promptings by the Holy Spirit. A person may be prompted to pack up his tent and go into the wilderness, or to pick up his socks. Why would the Lord tell someone to pick up his socks? If his spiritual hearing is so dim that He canít direct him to pick up his socks and he will not obey, how can he ever direct him to pack up his family and go into the wilderness? We must be obedient in small things first, because we learn line upon line, precept upon precept until our faith becomes stronger and we are given more. (see Isaiah 28:10; D&C 128:21)
The biggest problem is learning to hear. The biggest challenge is learning to obey. Every prompting is an opportunity. Each has a purpose and a promise and it requires faith to obey. As we obey the still small voice in one thing, we begin to recognize that it WAS the spirit. The next time we hear the prompting, and donít listen, we recognize that we WERE prompted, and hopefully learn to listen better and obey the next time. The Lord is patient with us. We learn slowly. We learn best through pain. Less pain without more wisdom defeats our purpose.
We do not have to be overwhelmed by the spirit, like having the Tabernacle choir singing in our ears. It is a still small voice. There are times when we are asked to walk by faith, not by sight. The spirit is always with one when he is in the strait and narrow path. Sometimes the spirit asks a person to walk with the light that he has. The Savior felt the withdrawal of the Spirit, when he asked "Why hast thou forsaken me?" When the spirit withdraws and one doesnít feel it, it doesnít mean he has lost the Holy Ghost, it means he must walk by his own light for a time.
The Lord works in many ways. Our answers come in all forms. Helps is everywhere. When we become quiet and put away our "busy problem solver mind" we find answers coming in many forms. It is in music, poetry, the newspaper, a TV program, from our loving friends, from our "enemies", strangers or even billboards or bumper stickers. Our inner voice is with us everywhere we go, but we can only hear it when we are willing.
We are bombarded by thousands of messages every moment, all saying the answer to our problems, but in different forms. If we have set our receptor to "off", we wonít recognize the answers. If we choose to open our minds to an answer, we could choose "any channel" and get the answer. Any channel could be any form: music, poetry, newspaper, billboards, etc. We must be able to accept the fact that the answer will be given to us in any kind of form. Once I accept an answer in one form, I will see it repeated again and again in other forms, until I wonder how I could not have seen it before.
We only hear when we have the desire to. The voice becomes more easily heard when we obey what it says for us to do. If we wonít respond to the prompting to drive within the speed limit, then we have stopped our progress at that level where we donít obey the prompting, no matter how insignificant the promptings seem.
We have been trained since we were children, to look outside ourselves for answers--our parents, our teachers, books, the prophet-- all in the world around us. We have to TRAIN ourselves to look within.
One step is to realize that we cannot solve, nor even identify our problems with our natural mind--the conscious mind that we so often identify as being us.
Secondly, we must know that we have the power within us to solve the problem. This is faith. We can strengthen this faith to the point where we are willing to let go all our "natural man" efforts to find the solution and only be guided by the Spirit.
Thirdly, we must take the final step and DO IT. We must calm our conscious mind of all its busy worry, all its attempts to find solutions and go deep within the quiet realm, and ASK.
Success comes when we feel the calm peaceful feeling come over us. We are now in contact with the spirit. The purpose for attaining this sense of peace is to realize that we are safe, taken care of in all things. If something needs to be done by us, we will be told what to do. Now we can proceed calmly. We donít need to be in a hurry, search or change things. We can step back and be guided and cared for.
Trials do occur because of disobedience, but often it is because we do not recognize or ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit. By not hearing or not obeying, we blunder into painful obstacles. How many times have you said, "I knew that was going to happen."? Guess how you knew!
It is impossible to grow spiritually beyond the level of our obedience. If we refuse to respond to a prompting to help our spouse with the dishes or the finances, then our progress is stopped until the Lord calls the next time and we are willing to obey his voice. If Jesus called you on the telephone and said for you to help with the dishes, would you go back to watching TV?
HOW TO REGAIN THE SPIRIT
Now this may be the light of Christ, or it may be the Holy Ghost that one is seeking to regain. The light of Christ is with us always. One canít lose it, but one can be unaware of it. Thatís called searing our conscience by neglect or refusing to listen. If one develops the desire to hear the still small voice, and quiets his busy mind, and asks, he will hear it. It will sound just like thoughts in your head, like youíve always had. As you begin to obey when it prompts you to do something, it will become easier to hear and distinguish it.
There are actually three voice in our heads. We must learn to distinguish between them. One is the voice of your own mind. It is usually unsure, not usually decisive and often questions things. Another is from Satanís realm, the temporal world. It usually jumps in with reasons why one shouldnít do or needs to do the first prompting he received. Picture specialized devils that sit on our shoulders, those who are expert in drugs, adulter, gossip, criticism. They whisper exactly the right reasons to lead us away from the light or truth. They greatly value our inability to see them, and know of their existence. They can tell when a temptation excites or repels us. One of their weaknesses is that they canít keep still, they wonít tell just one lie. They want to give us several reasons why we should do this, or why itís okay to not do that.
The Holy Spirit generally prompts us just once. This is actually a way of discerning between the voices. The tempters give many reasons and excuses. It depends on our own spiritual growth as to which voice we hear first, that of your own mind, or that of the Holy Spirit. The tempters usually jump in loudly afterwards, unless one has become sensitive to their promptings, when they whisper first.
If one, because of sin has had the Holy Ghost withdraw from them, or because of excommunication from the church, had that privilege taken away, the light of Christ is still there to assist. The voice of oneís conscience is still available as the still small voice to guide and direct. One must again become sensitive to it, and learn to obey.
Repentance is the pathway to regaining the greater light. The purpose of the light of Christ is to lead one to repentance, baptism and then the gift of the Holy Ghost. The greatest gift one can give to oneself, whether he feels worthy of a gift or not, is to live so as to have the influence of the Holy Ghost. This paper is about repentance--so that one can have that influence, daily. If it is not there, then the next most important step for one to take, is to do whatever is necessary for one to have the Holy Ghostís influence.
"For behold, again 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 you should do."
Neither the Prophet, nor the Bishop can take the responsibility for being guide in oneís life. They can assist with counsel, but the Holy Ghost must be the teacher and guide. One must qualify oneself for his presence and influence and learn to listen and obey his promptings.
Reading the scriptures or listening to the words of living prophets are excellent tools for bringing the Sprit back into oneís life. The Holy Ghost cannot teach us when we are focused on things of the temporal world. When I am condemning myself and putting myself down, the Holy Ghost has to stand aside because he can only bear witness of truth. I am not teaching truth in my "temple". I lose the influence of the Holy Ghost when I begin to feel guilty. The purpose of the past is to get me to learn wisdom from now on. The Holy Ghost dwells within the spiritual realm. One must put forth effort to enter the spiritual dimension in order to feel the Holy Ghost. That can be accomplished by reading the scriptures, prayer, seeking enlightenment. One cannot be overwhelmed when one is spiritually focused.
Make your inner world a sacred place--a temple where only truth is taught. This means you must see yourself as Christ sees you. You must use self-talk that is truth. Not as YOU perceive it, but as Christ sees it.
"I will give unto you a pattern in all things that ye may not be deceived for Satan is abroad in the land and he goeth forth deceiving."
"And behold it must be done according to the pattern which I have given unto you."
There is no other way.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is Godís pattern for righteous living. Part of his pattern is to help us use our free agency to choose a behavior that is in accordance with His will. If we use our agency to choose behavior that is contrary to revealed patterns, we must take the consequences. Our freedom to choose our conduct does not give us freedom from the consequences of our choices.
When we are down and out and trying to repent, Satan will continue to recommend patterns that allow us to destroy our self respect. He does not want us to turn towards the light.
THE NEED FOR REPENTANCE
The gospel of Jesus Christ is Godís pattern for righteous living. If when using a pattern to construct a part, a dress, a building, one does not follow the pattern exactly, the results will not be what was expected. Do you remember when you could plug in an electrical plug either way into a socket? Both prongs were the same size. With further testing and research, they found that there was a directional flow to electricity and that one way was better, so now plugs are made with one prong larger than the other, and one can only insert a plug ONE WAY! In the latter days, further revelation has given us the pattern for attaining eternal life in the presence of God and his Christ, and there is only ONE WAY!
"Behold, now I say unto you that he commandeth you to repent; and except ye repent, ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God."
Do we want to inherit the kingdom of God? Do we want to live with God eternally, or are we satisfied with a lesser estate? Students would never think of going to college, attend classes and just assume that some day they will graduate. They make a plan and have a goal, and then take the classes that will accomplish their objectives.
Repentance is an on going process, sometimes one needs to repent several times a day, of thoughts that are not worthy of allowing the influence of the Holy Ghost; of deeds that seem insignificant, but still the Holy Ghost withdraws; of sins that are barriers to spiritual progression. Repentance has many levels, just as spirituality has many levels. If one has the influence of the Holy Ghost in oneís life, then one is clean and forgiven, one is in the strait and narrow pathway that leads to eternal life. It does not mean one is perfect. There was only one perfect man, Jesus Christ.
"And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts."
Since the Holy Ghost will teach us all things that we should do, this is the main reason for repentance, since the Holy Ghost will not dwell in unholy temples. As we have the Holy Ghost in our lives, we can then be taught all else we need to do.
The creation, the fall and the atonement are the divine and eternal events through which the purposes of God are accomplished.
Amulek said that Christ would
"come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins." (Helaman 5:10)
And Alma said,
"he cometh to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance through faith on His name."
"And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name, this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice and encircles them in the arms of safety, while the whole law of the demands of justice, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption."
"But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and excuteth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God."
In other words, there is a law given and the punishment attached if the law is broken. However, because God is merciful he allows repentance. But justice must also be satisfied, because the law was broken. Christ paid the punishment so justice could be satisfied. But if the "law breaker" or sinner will not repent, then Christ says he must pay for the sin and suffer the punishment himself.
In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord said,
"Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him, saying, Father, behold the suffering and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou was well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; wherefore, Father spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have eternal life."
We qualified for these blessings. We will be resurrected and forgiven because of the atonement of Christ. We are truly loved by God whether we sin or not. Christís ministry was one of reconciling sinful man with sinless Father. He was the mediator between God and man, so fallen man might regain his sinless state. He intercedes for repentant souls before the Father. This is the rationale of the atonement. Each man must choose for himself whether to accept or reject the offered blessings.
THE WICKED VERSUS THE RIGHTEOUS
"And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice and is not of me. And by this (that they obey His voice) you may know the righteous from the wicked and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now."
Wicked--the dictionary defines it as: having or resulting from bad moral character; evil; depraved; synonym of bad. Now we think wicked people are pretty bad. Yet from the Lordís viewpoint, those who donít listen to the voice of the Lord (the still small voice, conscience) are considered wicked and under sin and darkness. To a temporal mind, that is a pretty small "sin" to be accounted wicked. Yet from Christís point of view, having suffered the agony of every sin that can be committed, and having bled from every pore, perhaps for a person to not be willing to listen to his voice, to come unto him, to learn how to accept the offered blessings would indeed be considered a sin and wicked.
This also includes everyone who will not receive and obey His voice (the still small voice--the light of Christ--the Holy Ghost.) These will be counted among the unrighteous--regardless of whether they belong to his true church or not. If anyone refuses to obey the voice of Christ, they are counted as wicked and under sin and darkness.
"For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God. For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ."
As long as we are acting natural, we are being a natural man, and thus an enemy to God. We donít have to exert any effort to be in the temporal world. It just comes naturally, but the objective of this life is to overcome the natural in favor of the spiritual, and that does take effort.
WHO ARE THE RIGHTEOUS?
"And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom..." (see 3Nephi 27:19; Hel 8:25; Alma 7:21; 11:37; Moses 6:57; D&C 94:8) His kingdom is the Celestial Kingdom. If we are seeking to be in His kingdom, then we must be clean to be able to enter. It doesnít say we must be perfect. That comes in time. That is a day by day process over time, and through the millenium. How will we know we are clean? How will we know we are forgiven of our sins? How will we know if we are counted among the righteous? Because we have the influence of the Holy Ghost to be with us.
President Harold B. Lee commented on the statement in Moses 6:60--"...by the Spirit ye are justified..." he said,
"now Iíve struggled with that statement, and I have found a definition that seems to indicate to me what Iím sure the Lord intended to convey. The definition that I think is significant says: "Justify means to pronounce free from guilt or blame, or to absolve." Now if the spirit, the Holy Ghost is to pronounce one free from guilt, or blame, or to absolve, then we begin to see something of the office of the Holy Ghost that relates to the subject of being born of the spirit."
(President Harold B. Lee, "Justification and Sanctification," Relief Society Personal Study Guide 1989 Pg 63)
In the Book of Mormon in Mosiah it says that we must be be born again and be redeemed in order to be changed from our carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness.
"For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.
And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;"
Also in the Doctrine and Covenants says that we can know the righteous from the wicked for the wicked come not unto Christ and therefore are still under the bondage of sin.
"And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin.
"And by this you may know they are under the bondage of sin, because they come not unto me.
"For whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin.
And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me.
"And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now."
Because of Christ one can be numbered among the righteous. When one is in the strait and narrow path, one can qualify for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost which will witness to one that his sins are forgiven.
STEPS OF REPENTANCE
6. Receive the blessings
STEPS OF REPENTANCE
1. Recognition The first step of repentance is to recognize that there is a need for repentance. Elder James E. Faust says, "Perhaps worse than sin, is the denial of sin. If we deny we are sinners, how can we ever be forgiven? How can the atonement of Jesus work in our lives if there is no repentance?" (Ensign, Conference Reports, May 1991)
Rationalization is the most used tool to excuse what we did, or did not do. We color it "not so bad", "others do it", or "I didnít know it was bad", or "no one was hurt". Rationalizing and justifying what we did, is just long words for excuses. These are all lies inspired by Satan to keep us from turning to the light and repenting. His lies are very subtle, he has been at this a long time, and knows that an outright lie would be rejected, so he inspires lies that sound like truth. He can even quote scripture to us, slightly leaving out an important part, or changing it slightly, so that it fits the scenario we are trying to justify.
Sometimes reinforcement by others helps our rationalizing. We listen to their rationalizations and very soon we start thinking, "Well, you know, theyíre right. It isnít that serious."
Yet here we have to re-examine our motives. Do we want to be right in our rationale, or do we want to be happy? Do we want to be washed spotless or do we want to pretend the red sock in the laundry didnít color the whites slightly pink? Do we choose to "by the power of the Holy Ghost to be able to know the truth of all things" (Moroni 10:5) or have we seared our conscioence beyond hearing"?
"If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me; if I say I am perfect it shall also prove me perverse." (Job 9:20)
Can I truly say "I didnít know it was wrong?" The teachings of Primary, home, Sunday School, MIA, scriptures, all these teach the same thing--"The Lord cannot look on sin with the least degree of allowance." (D&C 1:31) That means NONE--"No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God" (Moses 6:57) I am entitled to baptism, to the guidance of the Holy ghost and he whispers--my conscience tells me--until I drive it beyond hearing by CHOOSING not to listen or not to obey. No one ever did something wrong without several warnings from the spirit first.
"I did not know it was wrong" is a rationalization for choosing to not listen way back when it was just a thought. Itís not sin to have a bad thought, the sin comes by dwelling on it and thinking about it again and allowing it to remain there and feel the feelings it give us.
"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Proverbs 23:7)
"Our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us;...and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God..." (Alma 12:14)
How do we recognize that we have sinned? Looking at our feelings is a good way to recognize sin. How do I feel? Am I happy? Do I want to pray? Do I feel guilty? Do I feel comfortable around priesthood leaders? Do I enjoy going to church? Looking at our fruits is another good way to recognize. Am I magnifying my calling? What are the results in my life? Am I prospering? What are the causes of the problems in my life?
"Therefore, inasmuch as you are found transgressors; you cannot escape my wrath in your lives." (D&C 104:8)
It is not God punishing me, but my transgression, my thoughts, my actions, my attitudes bringing it upon myself. Satan wants me to feel guilty for my wrong doings to keep me from the light. God wants me to feel guilty for my actions in order to turn to the light and repent, and find happiness again. My weaknesses have caused me to lose the spirit of the Holy Ghost. THAT is why I must repent, to regain that influence.
"And now I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if you should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord; that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdomís paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved. I say unto you; that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples." (Mosiah 2:36-37)
"And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit." (D&C 84:46-47)
"And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice and is not of me. And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked..." (D&C 84:52-53)
We have been told to read the scriptures; we have been told to listen to the voice of the prophets, (which would be conference talks ) How do I know what the prophets have said, if I donít read their words? Not doing something is called a sin of omission. It is going "contrary to that which has been spoken." To say that "I didnít know it was a sin, is to say that "I have sinned because i didnít do the reading, studying, pondering and listening I should have." Church members believe that God communicates with the prophet, and thus it eliminates the responsibility of the people from hearing or receiving Godís messages to them. If they just "follow the prophet" then they donít even have to think. They can interpret commandments any way they choose. They donít have to be exacting in their keeping them.
Members of the Church who think in their minds that they can go to a certian point and no further and still be ble to answer the question pertaining to temple recommend correctly--"they have not committed adultry"--are deceiving themselves. The Sprit of God will not dwell in an unclean tabernacle, and God will not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. (D&C 1:31) Is one so caught up in what one does that he is "past feeling"? (1 Nephi 17:45)
There are no circumstances that make immorality right. ĎYou cannot do wrong and feel right.í That is why we have so much emotional sickness in our society today. People are trying to do wrong and then cry because they do not feel right. People eventually have to face up to the fact that what they are doing needs to be repented of. Forgiveness cannot come if we will not admit that what we are doing is wrong. But people sya, "itís all in how you look at it. A cup can be half full or half empty." But half full or half empty are both still NOT FULL! Do I want to be right or do I want to be forgiven and happy? I will always still have my free agency. I will always be able to make my own choices and do what I want to do, but itís best to reconsider what it is that I really want to do. President Ezra Taft Benson said:
"One of Satanís most frequently used deceptions is the notion that the commandments of God are meant to restrict freedom and limit happiness. Young people especially sometimes feel that the standards of the Lord are like fences and chains, blocking them from those activities that seem most enjoyable in life. But exactly the opposite is true. The gospel plan is the plan by which men are brought to a fulness of joy. This is the first concept I wish to stress: The gospel principlies are the steps and guidelines that will help us find true happiness and joy.
A second concept that is important to our understanding is the relationship of repentance to the principle of faith. Repentance is the second fundamental principle of the gospel. The first is that we must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is this so? Why must faith in the Lord precede true repentance?
To answer this question, we must understand something about the atoning sacrifice of the Master. Lehi taught that "no flesh...can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah." (2 Nephi 2:8) Even the most just and upright man cannot save himself solely on his own merits, for, as the Apostle paul tells us, Ďall have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.í (Rom 3:23)
Therefore, repentance means more than simply a reformation of behavior. Many men and women in the world demonstrate great willpower and self-discipline in overcoming bad habits and the weaknesses of the flesh. Yet at the same time they give no thought to the Master, sometimes even openly rejecting Him. Such changes of behavior, even in a positive direction, do not constitute true repentance.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which sincere and meaningful repentance must be built. If we truly seek to put away sin, we must first look to Him who is the author of our salvation." (A Mighty Change of Heart, by President Ezra Taft Benson, The Ensign, Oct 1989 p 2)
Remorse is defined as a deep, torturing sense of guilt felt for oneís actions; regret. Often people think that they have received forgiveness when all that they have done is to be sorry for an act committed. Otfen sorry is because
they got caught, or because they cannot do it again. This is worldly sorrow. Paul in his letter to the Corinthian Saints says: "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance; for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death." (2 Cor 7:9-10)
Godly sorrow is sorrow that changes and transforms. Onesí conscience must be stirred enough to motivate one to make some real decisions and actions. One who is truly repentant is sorry before he even gets caught, or if he never gets caught. Worldly sorrow is being very sorry because he got caught and has to pay a heavy consequence. He is not repentant. Worldly sorrow is being sorry, but just because I didnít get caught doesnít mean I am forgiven.
Remorse is not just sorrow. There must be an inner conviction; much more than just a verbal acknowledgment. President Spencer W. Kimball in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness says, "There must be a washing, a purgine, a changing of attitudes, a correcting of appraisals, a strengthening of self-mastery. There will be many prayers, volums of tears".
Alma the younger tells of his conviction of his guilt: "But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. 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...and the very thought ofcoming into the presence of my God did rack my sould with inexpressible horror. 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. And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul." (Alma 36:12-16) Rack is defined as to torment mentally or physically.
Alma had been taught in his youth, the commandments of God. His father was the "President of the church". He was openly rebelling against his father and the commandments of God.
Remorse is not just sorrow. Remorse should bring with it a sense of humility--"a broken heart and a contrite spirit." With remorse we would have a respect and reverence to God and desire to follow Him, and love Him more and to develop a desire to please Him and serve Him and eventually become like Him. Remorse brings about a reversal and a reform.
Elder Theodore M. Burton of the First Quorum of the Seventy was assigned to be the conduit to the First Presidency for those members who had sinned and lost their church privileges. He says:
"As a General Authority, I have prepared information for the First Presidency to use in considering applications to readmit repentant transgressors into the Church and to restore priesthood and temple blessings.
Many times a bishop will write: ĎI feel he has suffered enough.í But suffering is not repentance. Suffering comes from lack of complete repentance.
A stake president will write ĎI feel he has been punished enough.í But punishment is not repentance. Punishment follows disobedience and precedes repentance.
A husband will write, ĎMy wife has confessed everything.í But confession is not repentance. Confession is an admission of guilt that occurs as repentance begins.
A wife will write, ĎMy husband is filled with remorse.í But remorse is not repentance. Remorse and sorrow continue because a person has not yet fully repented.
Suffering, punishment, confession, remorse, and sorrow may sometimes accompany repentance, but they are not repentance. What, then is repentance?"
The meaning of repentance is not that people be punished, but rather that they cnage their lives so that God can help them escape eternal punishment and enter into his rest with joy and rejoicing. If we have this understanding, our anxiety and fears will be relieved. Repentance will become a welcome and treasured word in our religious vocabulary." (Theodore M. Burton, Repentance, The Ensign, Aug. 1988, p 7)
These ideas were also taken from Elder Burtonís article on Repentance, The Ensign Aug 1988.
A. Old testament originally written in Hebrew.
Shube used to refer to the concept of repentance. Means to turn back and live (Ezek 33:8-11) To leave unhappiness, sorrow regret, and despair behind.
B. The New testament was written in Greek
Metaneoeo used to refer to concept of repentance. Means a change of mind, thought, or thinking so powerful that it changes oneís very way of life.
C. Confusion came when the New Testament was translated into Latin. The Greek word metaneoeo was unfortunately translated into the Latin word poenitere.
Poen same root as our English words punish, penance, penitent, and repentance.
D. The beautiful meaning of repentance in Hebrew and Greek was thus changed in Latin to a meaning that denoted:
hurting, cutting, starving, punishment, mutilating, torturing, whipping, disfiguring.
E. Therefore, to some repentance means repeated or enending punishment.
F. "The real meaning of repentance is not that people be punished, but rather that they change their lives so that God can help them escape eternal punishment and enter into his rest with joy and rejoicing."
Sin punishes us in this way: 1) The Spirit withdraws; 2) Blessings are withheld; 3) Grace is not available and 4) We are left unto our own strength and wisdom.
Continuing Elder Burtonís words: "The more serious the sin, the greater the effort it takes to repent, but if we work daily at turning completely to the Lord, we can stand blameless before the Savior. The key is to allow the Lord to complete the healing process without reopening the wound. Just as it takes time for a wound of the body to heal, so it takes time for a wound of the soul to heal.
If I cut myself, for example, the wound will gradually heal. But as it heals, it may begin to itch, and if I scratch it, it may open up again and take longer to heal; but there is a greater danger. If I scratch the wound, it may become infected from the bacteria on my fingers. I may poison the wound and lose that part of my body or even my life.
We must allow injuries to follow their prescribed healing course. If they are serious, we must see a doctor for skilled help. So it is with injuries to the soul. Allow the injury to follow its prescribed healing course without scratching it through vain regrets.
If the transgression requires ecclesiastical confession, go to your bishop and get spiritual help. It may hurt as he disinfects the wound and sews it back together, but it will heal properly that way.
As you undergo the process of repentance, be patient. Be active with positive, righteous thoughts, and deeds so that you can become happy and productive again.
As long as we dwell on sin or eveil and refuse to forgive ourselves, we will be subject to return again to our sins. But if we turn from our problems and sins and put them behind us in both thought and action, we can concentrate on good and positive things, as we become fully engaged in good causes, sin will no longer be such a gret temptation for us. "
(Theodore M Burton, Repentance, The Ensign, Aug 1988, p 9)
If I have truly repented, I am willing to submit to the Bishop and let him even take disciplinary action if he feels impressed to do so by revelation to help me forsake the problem. Sometimes that is the only way that we can truly be sorry for having sinned. It is having the Lord help us see how serious it is by taking away our membership or some of our privileges in the church for awhile. The purpose of that discipline is not to punish us. God never punishes us. It is help us see that what we are doing has DISQUALIFIED us from the celestial kingdom already. The discipline is to let us see NOW, what it would be like in the next life after judgment day, when the discipline is PERMANENT. It is to give us the opportunity to see if we really want to be outside the Celestial Kingdom in this life, before it is too late to change and repent for the next life.
I was given a story of a man who was paying for his wrongdoings, with a prison sentence. As he was helped by a family member to come back to Christ, to read his scriptures, and truly repent, he realized just what it meant to be cut off. He, by being in prison, was cut off from the world, from his family, from everything he loved. His prison sentence had an end to it. Eventually he would be able to return to join his family. As he learned about the plan of salvation, and opened his heart to the Lord, he realized that to be denied the Celestial Kingdom was a life sentence. He already knew what that was like, and he knew that eventually he would get out of prison, but he definitely did not want to be cut off throughout eternity.
This man will make a difference in his life. He will change his behavior. Often prison life only serves to make one sorry they got caught, and doesnít lead to godly sorrow which will cause a change of heart and behavior. True repentance takes time. One proves his repentance by his behavior AFTER the repentance process.
Alma said, "Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this, for the same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world." (Alma 34:34 Italics added)
If we can not...will not change the way we live in this life...we will not have any more power to do it in the next life. In fact, it will be more difficult, because we will not have our physical body to help us overcome its weaknesses.
There is one crucial test of repentance. This is abandonment of sin in all its forms, thoughts, words, deeds, and "anything like unto it." This is not manís criteria, it was set by the Lord.
"By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins--behold he will confess them and forsake them."
What does it mean to FORSAKE? The dictionary says to give up, renounce, to leave, desert, abandon. It means much more than just "quit doing it." Strength and struggle go together. It is by the struggling that we strengthen our muscles, minds, resolve, and determination. There must be NO turning back--not even to think about it again. The adversary knows the weak spots and will most certainly tempt one again, in those same weak spots. The thought allowed to stay, creates certain feelings, which create certain desires. The conditions, people and circumstances surrounding the sin area must be avoided. All things associated with it must be eliminated. All things which remind must be disposed of. It takes constant vigilance to keep the thoughts out of oneís mind. Forsake is more than just not doing it again.
Things that are done and taken care of by the repentance process are done, and there is no need to ever talk about them again, ever, to anyone; if they are DONE. Are they DONE? Have the feelings gone away now? Totally? Are they totally done or has one just quit doing it, because one knows it is wrong? Would one choose to do it again? Is sorrow because of the consequences one has to pay, or because one canít ever do it again? Worldly sorrow is being sorry one got caught. We know it is not right and we stop doing it....but deep, down in our hearts, if we could figure out a way to make it right, we would do it again. This is rationalzing again, creating in our mind a way to justify what we want to do that id immoral and get away with it.
Elder F. Burton Howard in The Ensign, May 1991 pg 13, conference reports discusses this very theme: "Some seek to justify their actions by quoting scripture. They often cite Nephiís killing of Laban as an example of the need to violate a law to acomplish a greater good and to prevent a nation from dwindling in unbelief. But they forget that Nephi twice refused to follow the promptings of the Spirit. In the end, he agrees to break the commandment only when he was convinced that "the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes" (1 Nephi 4;13 italics added) And also (I believe) when he knew that the penalty for shedding blood had been lifted, in that one exceptional case, by Him whose right it is to fix and waive penalties."
People choose to sear their conscience and sin and then feel that it is sanctioned. Perhaps we quite doing something, and even go talk to the Bishop about it...but we are not sorry we did it, only sorry we can not do it any more. The feelings linger, and eventually some fall back into what they had done, because it was not truly over. Forgiveness can only come when we can finally get to the point of Godly sorrow; sorry that we wanted to do it. When we are sorry that we wanted to do it, we build a steel gate that cannot be penetrated by Satanís temptations, for they WILL come. If proper repenting and receiving forgiveness was not done, the desire will still remain, and people carry around the baggage in thier hearts. One cannot just stop doing it. This is why excommunication or disciplinary actions are such a blessing in peopleís lives, because it helps them stop carrying around the baggage. It brings the event to a close. The punishment is so severe, that it canges the being sorry I got caught, to sorry I even did it. When the event is brought to a conclusion, totally finished, then one need never mention it to anyone ever again. That is why one of the questions asked by the Bishop is: Is there anything that has not been taken care of in your life?
"Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord remember them no more." (D&C 58:42)
And if He remembers them no more, neither should we. But if the feelings keep lingering, one does keep remembering, it may suggest one has not fully repented. Satan will keep putting the thought back in my mind, but itís my choice as to whether or not I will continue to think about it, or wish I could do it again.
"By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins--behold he will confess them and FORSAKE them." (D&C 58:43)
Forsake them---this is the hook on that scripture. Never to do it again, never to think about it, never to wish to do it again.
"And now , verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your way and sin no more, but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God." (D&C 82:7)
Am I pure in heart? The Lord says SHOW ME!
Moroni says that "Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." (Ether 12:6)
The trial of your faith has to do with demonstrating to the Lord over a long period of time the consistent behavior of keeping the commandments. The longer we are able to keep the commandments in spite of the temptations and still stay strong, the more our faith is built. Trial is time tested. When we say we have repented, it is over, the Lord says, "SHOW ME" Then when one is tested, again and again, and show Him, and show ourself, then spiritual character is built in us--faith, unwavering faith. One cannot totally repent as a prisoner in a penitentiary. He may wish to change his life and have determined that he will do so, but without the time and opportunity and testing to see if he actually has FORSAKEN his sins, he has not truly repented.
Not forsaking, is like putting away a loaded gun. Accidents happen every day with guns that were put away loaded. Time goes by and the owner forgets that it was loaded, and while cleaning or handling, it goes off and kills someone. How do we "unload the gun?" How can we put it away "empty"?
Forsaking means to prove your repentance by your righteousness. Forsaking gives us the power to remember no more. If we do not allow the thought to come back and remain there, even if Satan puts it there, if we refuse to allow it in, if we refuse to dwell on the thought, eventually the adversary gives up and stops putting the thought in our mind, and we then remember them no more.
The Savior wants me to forgive myself as he has forgiven me. He wants me to leave the darkness and come to the light and feel his love. He has forgiven me--but he doesnít remove the consequences of my mistake, and I canít overcome the consequences without his help. With his help, the consequences are part of godly sorrow and they have value in helping me grow spiritually. If I try to pay the consequences without his help all I end up doing is staying in spiritual darkness and end up with more consequences.
Being off the straight and narrow path, in the mud can actually become a blessing to us, so that we know we never want to be there again. We can change our behavior, our thoughts and our mistakes therefore will help us grow spiritually. Repentance is not just a change of actions. The actions change forever after the heart changes. As one embraces change in life with gratitude, one is easily able to let go of things that no longer serve him. Sacrifice is giving up something one thinks he wants. When it no longer serves him to keep it, he can let it go and it is no longer perceived as a sacrifice.
"....I, the Lord, forgive sins, and am merciful unto those who confess their sins with humble hearts." (D&C 61:2)
"By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins--behold he will CONFESS them and forsake them." (D&C 58:43)
FromThe Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball p. 177,178:
Elders Ezra Taft Benson and Mark E. Petersen of the Council of the Twelve, in a study made for the Brethren, expressed themselves as follows with regard to confession:
It seems to be clearly set forth in the New Testament and in modern scriptures that acknowledgement of sin is an important condition to receiving forgiveness and making restitution. The Apostle James admonished the saints to "confess your fautlts one to another, and pray for one another." (James 5:16) The apostle Paul conseled the Romans as follows: "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Rom 10:10) Several of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants refer to the obligations of those who have sinned, to confess their evil deeds. In Section 59, in which the Lord gives counsel regarding the keeping of the Sabbath day holy, he mentions the offering of oblations and sacraments "unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord." D&C 59:12) However, Section 42 seems to carry the fullest instruction on this matter found in the holy writ. In this revelation men are not only commanded to love their wives and "cleave unto her and none else," but are condemned for looking "upon a woman to lust after her." The sins of adultery and fornication are emphasized and the principles of confession and forgiveness set forth."
"And him that repenteth not of his sins, and confesseth them not, ye shall bring before the church, and do with him as the scripture saith unto you, either by commandment or by revelation. (D&C 64:12)
"And whosoever repented of their sins and did confess them, he (Alma) did number among the people of the church; and those that would not confess their sins and repent of their iniquity, the same were not numbered among the people of the church, and their names were blotted out. ( Mosiah 26:35-36)
"And they were strict to observe that there should be no iniquity among them; and who so was found to commit iniquity, and three witnesses of the church did condemn them before the elders, and if they repented not, and confessed not, their names were blotted out, and they were not numbered among the people of Christ. (Moroni 6:7)
President Spencer Kimball said,
"The confession of major sins to the proper authority of the church, is one of the requirements the Lord has set forth for true repentance. These sins include adultery, fornication, other sexual transgressions, and other sins of comparable seriousness. This procedure of confession assures proper controls and protection for the Church and its people and sets the feet of the transgressor on the path of true repentance. Many offenders in their shame and pride have satisfied their consciences, trmporarily at least with a few silent prayers to the Lord and rationalized that this was sufficient confession of their sins. "But I have confessed my sin to my Heavenly Father", they will insist, "and that is all that is necessary". This is not true where a major sin is involved. Then two sets of forgiveness are required to bring peace to the transgressor--one from the proper authorities of the Lordís Church, and one from the Lord himself. This is brought out in the Lordís clarification of Church administration as he gave it to Alma:
"Therefore I say unto you, go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also. (Mosiah 26:29)
From this, and from the Lordís word to modern Israel, "....confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord" (D&C 59:12)--it is plain that there are two confessions to make: one to the Lord and the other to "the brethren" meaning the proper ecclesiastical officers. President Spencer W. Kimball The Miracle of Forgiveness pg 179-180.
Abraham gave us a KEY to unlocking the secret as to how to live here on earth:
"...and we will make an earth wheron these may dwell. And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them." (Abr 3:24-25)
Am I here to do what I want to do, or am I here to grow spiritually in order to return to live with the Father? In order to return to live with Father, must I do whatsoever he commands? I have my free agency, it was one of Fatherís greatest gifts to me. I can live as I choose, canít I?
When a cell in a personís body begins to have a mind of its own, and chooses to do its own thing, and not live in harmony with the rest of the cells of that organ, we call it CANCER.
Is my pride more important than my peace? Is it more important than my eternal salvation? Do I really desire to live eternally in the presence of the Lord, or is the Terrestrial Realm good enough for me?
Confession is hard. It hurts, and it ought to. There may be heavy penalties required, including loss of temple privileges, loss of priesthood, loss of church positions and other opportunities for service and growth. Some sins render the person unworthy to give leadership and receive blessings in Godís kingdom. Loss of these things retards us in our growth and eternal progress. We can postpone as long as we like, but there will come a day, when it is "everlastingly too late". These things we bring upon ourselves by the choices we make.
Excommunication is the same as being cast out or cut off or having names blotted out. It is total severance from the church. The person here, will have lost the influence of the Holy Ghost.
"Inasmuch as ye are cut off for transgression, ye cannot escape the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption. And now I give unto you the power from this very hour, that if any man among you...is found a transgressor and repenteth not of the evil, that ye shall deliver him over unto the buffetings of Satan." (D&C 104:9-10)
THIS IS THE REASON FOR REPENTANCE--we lose the companionship of the Holy Ghost. If the Holy Ghost indeed can "show unto you all things what ye should do." (2Nephi 32:3-5), then the most important thing we can do after confessing to the proper authority, is whatever it takes to regain the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Confessing is a very difficult thing to do. One doesnít EVER want to have to do it again. Writing down every thing and getting it ALL out will unload the gun totally, so it can be put away unloaded, forever. Relying on the bishopís inspiration from the Lord, to know how best to discipline one is the remedy that relieves the pain.
Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone in a talk to LDS psychologists and church social service counselors, has this to say:
"A critical time is after the confession and adjustment comes. For example, we need to teach cross the church, and as counselors you need to know, that the presiding authority, the ecclesiastical leader, the bishop or stake president, has the right to close that particular case forever on behalf of the Church, and it need not be opened again during a normal worthiness interview. Many priesthood leaders do not say that, and then the member doesnít really know that the incident is closed. We need to teach our members that if they transgress again, then all of the former sins return, and then they would need to be confessed also. (D&C 82:7) After true repentance, it can be closed forever and need never be opened again under normal circumstances." AMCAP, 1975, Volume 16, Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone, p. 11
6. Receive the blessings
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