Since returning home from my mission, I have started to understand more about what the scripture Mosiah 3:19 says:
“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 a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”
What I’ve begun to learn and will continue to learn about is that the natural man – we in our bodies – truly are enemies to God. Our bodies and our minds are not who we are because they are vulnerable to temptations, sins and mistakes. The more we give in to those temptations, the more our spirits retreat into ourselves and, eventually, our minds and bodies are stronger than our spirits. However, because our spirits are who we really are, we can’t stamp it out of us. We can never do anything too horrible, too far off the path of God to be completely lost in our bodies and minds forever – in other words, the Atonement of Jesus Christ is not limited to those of us who have never done anything too horribly wrong. It is for every single one of us whether all we’ve ever done in life is steal a cookie from the cookie jar or commit sins like murder or adultery. The catch with the Atonement is that WE have to be the ones to choose to apply it in our lives. We have to recognize when our bodies and minds are taking over and then we have to “put off the natural man and become a saint” with the help of our Savior Jesus Christ in order to realign our spirits with God’s.
I’ve also learned that it takes work, alertness and awareness, preparation, diligence, obedience, and love to stay true to who we are – children of our Father in Heaven who want to return Home to Him. Life isn’t a journey in which we’re just along for the ride. It’s hard WORK. We can’t just walk through looking at all the pretty flowers and enjoying the nice gentle breeze and smell the fresh mountain air 24/7. There will be days where we have to cross all sorts of terrain – steep, rocky mountains with barely any shrubs and just enough air to keep you alive. Deserts with no breeze and temperatures of 120+ degrees with sudden sand storms blowing every which way around you. Oceans that seem impossible to cross, particularly when you can see a hurricane with wind gusts of up to 150 miles per hour coming straight for you. The list of natural disasters and occurrences goes on and on, much like the list of temptations, trials and sins. But in each one, it takes a certain amount of discipline, fortitude, faith and courage to continue moving forward, one step at a time. We have to set goals to make it to the next rock, the next dune, the next wave. We have to think what to do in each moment with an eternal perspective and an idea of how to accomplish our ultimate goals. Many of us would constantly be thinking about how tired we were, how thirsty the heat was making us, how scared we were that we’d be dumped in the ocean and drowned. We’d complain that we haven’t even gotten very far and the rest of the way would just be so hard and take forever to reach the end. Our complaints would be the only thing we uttered. Does that really help us achieve our goal of making it through the trial stronger and better than before? NO! If we recognize our wrongdoings, whether sins or mistakes, and work to turn again towards the Lord, what would your attitude be then? We might take a moment to recognize the beauty in the rocky mountains and the majestic view you have when you reach the top. You might see the great power in the sand storm or hurricane and take a minute to enjoy the terrible yet awe-inspiring beauty they have. Instead of complaints, your thoughts are filled with things to be grateful for and you remember Christ and all He has done for you. Your goals become possible as you think about what you CAN do rather than what you can’t. They start to become within your reach when you turn your thoughts to the Savior and think “I can do this. I’m not alone and I can enjoy this because I’m not alone” or even something I might think (seriously, these are some of my exact thoughts from when I’ve been walking around in the mountains or just walking in general) “ooooh my tummy is so rumbly! Rumbly in my tumbly! Hey, look at that rock. That would definitely hurt if I fell on that. Good thing I’ve got some help here so if I do fall, I’ll get back up. Oh my, that bush just scratched me! OW! Hmmm, oh well, it’s not that bad, I’ll just be more careful from now on.” Even though those are some of my thoughts in a physical experience (yeah, I know I’m weird), they’re similar to how I think in spiritual trials as well. There is always good to be found among the bad. And no matter how great and terrible your trials and storms in life might seem in the moment, there is always something to be learned and appreciated from each one of them. I tend to look at trials and weakness and sin as moments where I can learn what I need to improve on, and I ponder about it and set small goals to achieve my ultimate goal of becoming like my Father. Our Savior helps us to recognize those things and He helps us to be able to look back and see how far we’ve come as well as the beauty of where we’re at. The goal of where we need to be is not overwhelming or unattainable when our Brother is standing beside us. Instead, the path to achieving that goal is clearer and possible.
This weekend, I had the great opportunity of going to a young single adult (YSA) conference in the Denver area. Dr. Matt Townsend, an expert in communication and relationships, was there and gave a fireside the first night and taught one of the workshops the next day. It was so inspiring to me and helped me to recognize my progress and what I can do to continue in that progress. He discussed basically the difference between being spiritually minded and being carnally minded (worldly). Which reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures:
“…Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal” (2 Nephi 9:39). Spiritually Minded Is Life Eternal = SMILE!
Dr. Townsend said that our bodies and our minds are what keep us from progressing and that we need to constantly, on a minute by minute basis, need to stay aware of ourselves and if we are listening to our mind, body or spirit.
For example: if we’re in the middle of church on a fast Sunday and all we can think about is how hungry we are and what we’ll eat when we get home, that’s our body taking over. Or maybe we think “oh my goodness, I can’t believe she wore THAT to church!” That would be our mind taking charge. But if we’re focused on what is being taught in church and think “wow! I think I need to change that about myself. It seems like Heavenly Father needs me to be better in that area so I can help others”, then that’s our spirits dominating. Which of the three sounds like the best “voice” to listen to? For me, definitely the spiritual. If you notice, our body and mind keep us constantly thinking of ourselves. It’s a selfish lifestyle where if we listen to our spirits, we learn to think more about others, how we can serve them, and what we can do to serve Heavenly Father. AKA Selflessness!
I believe in what’s called the Pre-Mortal Existence. This answers the question of “where did we come from?” and explains why we tend to feel better when we choose to follow God versus when we don’t – because we came from His presence! Not only that, but He is a part of us, literally! He is our FATHER and we inherited character traits and spiritual traits from Him and our Heavenly Mother, just as we inherit character and physical traits from our earthly, physical parents here on Earth. I testify that it’s really as simple as that. Our spirits are divine entities and so when we do things that aren’t so divine (sin), it doesn’t feel good. A physical example of that would be if you’re riding a bike and try to go with no hands, then as a result you fall and scrape your knee. That doesn’t feel good does it? Not really. Do we want to do it again? No! Because it doesn’t feel good. But sometimes we fall again anyway, over and over. Sometimes we might just give up and say “why bother? I just keep falling, so I might as well just stop trying” (mind) or we might keep trying to do what we want to do with the bike (no hands, body) rather than what we’re supposed to do with it (keep our hands firmly around the handlebars). Neither of those choices feels good because riding a bike is fun, especially when we go with no hands despite the warning of how dangerous that can be, but we don’t like it when we scrape up our hands and knees. What we should really do is be obedient to what will keep us safe and happy (spirit).
Now I want to share something I’ve come to know without a doubt – as we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and do our best to be obedient to His laws, we will be happy. Our spirits will be in tune with His and we will have clarity of mind, sureness of where to go and a joy that is eternal as long as we continue to be spiritually minded. If we listen to our bodies telling us to just do what we want (eat, sleep, watch TV, etc) or our minds telling us we’re not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough or what have you, then we will NEVER be happy. Whatever we do to appease our minds and bodies might feel “good” for just a minute or two, maybe even a few months or years, (like riding a bike for a minute or two with no hands) but that good feeling won’t last for eternity (like when we fall on our bike because we went with no hands) if it isn’t something that’s in line with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of our spiritual nature, generally we will have a nagging feeling that we need to stop doing what we’re doing and change in order to find true happiness. We know we need to ride the bike with both hands on the handlebars because we know we can go faster and longer, we can make sharper turns and adjust to bumps in the road as they come and as we do those things, we are made stronger, our mind is clearer because it leaves us free to focus on what really matters rather than the little bumps and turns that come along, and we really just have a greater joy!
The Gospel is designed to help us stay true to who we really are – spirit children of our Heavenly Father. If we continue DAILY in the steps of Faith, Repentance, Baptism/Sacrament, receiving the Holy Ghost (yes that’s a daily thing!) and enduring to the end, then we will always have the companionship of the Spirit which brings our spiritual nature out and helps us to see with heaven’s eyes – with the eyes of a divine Being.
I testify to you that the more we listen to our spirits, the less our bodies and minds will take over and the less we’ll get into trouble and find misery and be enemies to our Father. As we allow our true identity – our spirit – to shine through all the evil and sin and temptations and false doctrine in the world, we will become more and more like our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. It’s not easy, but it’s completely worth it and possible if we learn to listen to our spirits and allow family, friends and the Lord to strengthen and guide us.
Remember to SMILE! 🙂