It’s pretty much useless to read the scriptures unless you read them with the same spirit that inspired the authors to write them, namely the Holy Spirit. As a follower of Christ, it should be the goal of every Christian to have the Holy Spirit with them always. This is impossible to do unless you know how to tell if you have the Spirit. So how do you know? The easiest indicator is your feelings. Are you happy? Are you at peace?
“And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.”
If you are feeling anxious or angry or any other negative emotion, you most likely have lost the Spirit. So, how do you get it back?
“And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.”
(3 Nephi 9:20)
Having our hearts broken is the natural consequence of losing something we desire. This is what happened to the poor people who Alma met that were “cast out of the synagogues because of the coarseness of their apparel.” (Alma 32:2) Alma said something rather interesting to this group of people:
“And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved. And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?”
Here we see that it is possible to humble ourselves without being “compelled.” Alma tells us that those who do so are “more blessed” than those who don’t. Why do you suppose this is? Alma’s words seem fairly stern to a group of people who had lost everything. They were poor and destitute of wealth and had just lost the last thing that they loved: their place in the house of worship. While it’s obvious that Alma had sympathy on these people, he also let them know that if they had humbled themselves earlier, they would have been better off in the long run. The Christian writer C.S. Lewis put it this way:
“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
So why do we often wait to repent when we know that the sooner we turn to righteousness, the sooner God can bless us? If God is not blessing us, do we take our sorrows to him? And are we willing to accept the solution he offers, even if it doesn’t make sense? This is what it means to have a contrite spirit. It means you realize that you made a mistake and you’re willing to ask God what you should do to change. But not only do you ask him how you should change, but you actually attempt to change or repent.
If we have this humble attitude towards God, the Spirit will draw close to us and we will feel the peace and joy it brings. If we make a habit of running to the Lord when we’re feeling out of sorts and then implementing the changes he inspires us to make, the Spirit will attend to us more and more until at last we become holy as our Father in Heaven is holy.
I lost my father at the age of two. He died prematurely of a stroke. As a teenager I came to conclude that maybe fathers didn’t play all that important role in a family, after all I turned out ok without one, didn’t I? It wasn’t until my mid-20s when I realized how the lack of a father had negatively impacted my development into manhood. Even though, like a normal working-class teenager, I began working entry level jobs at the age of 16, I never found any job I could stay with for more than a year. It wasn’t that I wasn’t a hard worker. Probably every employer I had would tell you that I was. I just was easily bored and after I had mastered a job, I felt no inclination to continue and would bail at the earliest opportunity. Needless to say, this sort of job hopping didn’t lay a good foundation for a solid career later. So I drifted and drifted like a boat without an oar. In retrospect, I wonder how many years of my life could have been saved if I had a father to point out to me the shortsightedness of my thinking (these kind of “harsh” talks aren’t consistent with the role of mothers). But it wasn’t just my career that could have used a father, but my relationships as well. Even though I’d been taught by my mother to treat young ladies respectfully, I didn’t have a concrete example, having never seen any husband/wife interactions between my parents. Not having a role model to pattern my behavior after, I behaved awkwardly and often ungentlemanly towards several young ladies. Not that fathers would make all interactions between boys and girls go smoothly, but they do at least give the boys examples of how to behave, which is a lot more than what I had. Again, I was a boat without an oar. Maybe you can now see why I firmly believe that fathers are of the utmost importance in the development of sons (not having been a daughter, I cannot comment on that with any degree of experience).
Not having a father and aspiring to be one, I began looking for a role model. Naturally as a Christian, the first character I look to for guidance is Jesus, he being the perfect example for us all. Surely if “the family” is as important as the LDS church claims it to be, then Jesus would give us a perfect example of what it is to be a father. And yet if you search lds.org for any hint of how Jesus behaved towards his wife and children, you will find absolutely nothing. Why is this? Didn’t Jesus have a wife and children? If not, doesn’t this undermine the LDS claim that the family unit is central to eternal happiness? If Jesus didn’t have a need for a family, why do we? Very puzzling.
“Wisdom comes only when you stop looking for it and start living the life the Creator intended for you.“ (Hopi saying)
“Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it;”
(Joseph Smith, Jr., Documentary History of the Church, 5:134-5)
“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness.”
(2 Nephi 2:13)
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Man was designed to be happy. However, ”if there be no righteousness there be no happiness.” Therefore if man is ever to be happy, he must first learn to be righteous. Righteousness is a big word and what it entails is even bigger.
“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
You might get the impression that God allows us to pick and choose which laws we would like to obey and blesses us accordingly. However, what isn’t stated here is that there is also a cursing attached to every law for disobedience.
“And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”
Obviously willful disobedience will be more severely punished than ignorant disobedience, but even the ignorant receive some form of punishment. Remaining ignorant isn’t an option for those seeking happiness, because by not knowing the law they not only won’t be blessed, but they will be cursed to some degree as well. Throughout time, God has preserved his written law so that man would always have access to the laws and the blessings/cursings attached. If man chooses to remain ignorant of those laws, he bars himself from the happiness found in obedience.