Well, it's been a while, yes? I've had this post stewing around in my mind for a few weeks, but now, as my sweet husband sleeps in the next room of our exotically humble beachside Mexican hotel, I had the strong desire to sit down and write.
Today is my birthday. It's been glorious! We went to church, and some wonderful friends sent Stephen with gifts from them so that I could open a small pile of presents this morning. I got married last week and am on my honeymoon. Life is definitely at a peak right now.
And I have to remind myself during these peaks that there are higher peaks to be found if you think to look up. It may be easy to plateau and snooze during these times of abundance, but I have been reminded today that there is a wonderful opportunity to progress even now, at what seems to be the height of my happiness.
I have been pondering on what is needed to make a good marriage—I've just entered into one, after all—and I've come to realize (on a much smaller scale than many who've been wedded much longer than me) that humility is a key aspect of any successful relationship. After all, you live with someone else now. There is no “privacy of a 'dressing room'” as Neal A. Maxwell says, “to be alone with ourselves, for the home gives us a great chance to align our public and private behavior, to reduce the hypocrisy in our lives, to be more congruent with Christ.” I have come to see more weaknesses in myself through the reflection of my spouse than most soul searching I do on my own. But this is the blessing of married life because, when presented with these weaknesses, we can either embrace the opportunities to learn, or we can turn away with pride and insist on staying the same, on foregoing the chiseling of our souls that can refine us into more perfect beings. This is something I will have to learn again and again as I face my weaknesses and—with the help of my Savior—turn them into strengths.
WE NEED TO DO IT
What I am speaking of is the whole point of life — to become like our Savior, Jesus Christ — and that seems impossible, doesn't it? Well, one seemingly simple aid to this process is what Elder F. Enzio Busche speaks of in his talk, “Unleashing the Dormant Spirit.” He tells us bluntly, “You want to be good and to do good. That is commendable. But the greatest achievement that can be reached in our lives is to be under the complete influence of the Holy Ghost. Then he will teach us what is really good and necessary to do.” Elder Busche acknowledges the impossibility of the refining process without divine help when he says:
We cannot have a successful mission [or marriage or life or etc.] until we learn how to behave or learn what to do so that the Spirit will endow us with power and all the other gifts. None of us can afford to be without them. None of us has enough wisdom, enough intelligence, enough knowledge, enough skills, or enough courage, by ourselves, to master our lives and even to succeed in life unless we learn what it means to surrender ourselves into the arms of the Lord and be filled with the Spirit. He wants to empower us with the gifts that he has promised to give to each of his disciples who has made sacred covenants with him.We need the Spirit. We need God's messenger—this beautiful gift we are given when we promise to follow Christ—in order to keep a check on ourselves, as it can be so easy to go off the path a little bit and find ourselves jaded and lacking motivation. This is why we need to be meek. We need to be honest with ourselves. Elder Busche notes that “When we can, in an honest reflection, say: ‘Yes, I am a disciple of Christ, I’m willing to sacrifice my own will, my habits, attitudes, and selfish desires, and endure the hurt and the pain that such reflections cause, and bring to him as a sacrifice a broken heart and a meek spirit,’ he will baptize us ‘with ﬁre and with the Holy Ghost,’ and we will not be deceived (see 3 Nephi 9:20).” We need to take the opportunities life gives us to see who we really are—our gifts and our faults—and use those opportunities to come to the Lord and sanctify ourselves. We need to sacrifice so that we can truly be happy.
WE CAN DO IT
It really does seem impossible, but WE CAN DO IT! That's why we have the Spirit in the first place! So that He may guide us through this life until we return to our Heavenly Father. The Spirit does more than tell us when we are about to get hit by a car or (for a select few) the correct answer on an exam. “This Spirit lets us develop the true potential of our intellectual capabilities and delivers even the motivation to use it... under the influence of the Spirit, all uncomfortable things—such as hard work… going the extra mile… overcoming flaws of character, and other things requiring sacrifice—are easy. It [becomes] clear that under the influence of the Spirit we act in wisdom. We see the complexity of a problem in its simple parts, and we see the possible solutions unfolding in front of our eyes—to our own surprise. In other words, our creativity is developed and multiplied. That which is a burden without it becomes a privilege when we are under the influence of the Holy Ghost” (F. Enzio Busche).
Isn't that wonderful to think about?! That which is a burden without it becomes a privilege when we are under the influence of the Holy Ghost! Do you ever feel that way? I know that sometimes, when I am not necessarily in the right frame of mind, going to church or reading my scriptures late at night or talking to someone who seems lonely all seem like drudgery. The repentance process can seem tiring. Developing a better relationship with God can seem difficult. But with the Spirit, it is a privilege!
HOW CAN WE DO IT?
So how can we begin to live life under the complete influence of the Holy Ghost?
First, we must possess a desire for His company. Our motivation is what will fuel us in any spiritual direction. If we do not desire it, it will not happen.
When we read the scriptures carefully, we can learn that the Lord, through his prophets, leads us to understand our need to look at our own desires. I have asked myself several times, Why would the author of our eternal existence, whom we are allowed to call reverently Heavenly Father, ask us, through his prophets, to look at our desires?… Desires are working in us. All of our life’s actions are the result of our desires. When we want to honor the great gift of the Spirit, which God has given us, we have to become aware of whether we are under its inﬂuence or not. When we are not satisﬁed with the world of our own feelings—when we are grouchy and unhappy or we are slothful or sloppy—we must know that we are not under the inﬂuence of the Holy Spirit. People who sin are not under his inﬂuence. They have not put on the armor of God. They are not in a state of, awakening.
The Spirit of Christ teaches us that we must pray, that we must ask for the things that we seek. As we read in 2 Nephi 32:8: “For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit . . . ye would know that ye must pray.” But before we can do this with focus, we have to become aware of a multitude of deﬁned or undeﬁned, conscious or subconscious desires. We have to learn to bring them to our awareness, to analyze them, to categorize them, and to bring them in to order according to priorities. When we do not do this, we will be condemned to remain, in our prayers, on a superﬁcial level, or even on the level of formality, where there are no answers or there are only imagined answers. But there are always hundreds of different desires ﬁghting for supremacy within us. The act of categorizing them is a very painful, but needful act to become, in the eyes of God, a mature person and to be taken seriously. So often we say things that we really don’t mean. Sometimes we want to be funny and, in reality, we chase the Spirit away. We cannot be lightminded and expect the Spirit to take us seriously. We need to be thorough and responsible for the Spirit to take notice. When we are not organized and focused, we may wish for things that are really irrelevant or even dangerous… Our physical body is mostly capable of reﬂecting the self-centered orientation of the foolishness of the ﬂesh. But the real part of us, or the real me, the spirit child of God, on the other hand, is the author of our righteous desires, of our hunger for salvation, and of our longing to eventually become reunited with our heavenly home. When the Light of Christ is able to penetrate our hearts, prompted by the enlightened testimony of truth by a focused teacher, it will cause in us a state of awakening, an awakening of the real me, the child of God, so that we can learn to channel our desires to focus on our true needs. (F. Enzio Busche)
What do we desire right now? When I read this, I resolved to make a list and focus on how to turn my desires toward the most important things.
Second, we need to have faith. And not just have faith, we need to use faith. We hear often that faith is an action, but Elder Busche puts it well when he says, “The ordinances and principles of the restored gospel are the vehicles to ﬁll us with the Holy Spirit, but serving without joyfulness, as we just heard, is an abomination in the eyes of God and will bear no fruit. We call the acts of righteously focused and magniﬁed desires faith, and upon the principle of faith are the powers of heaven moved, through the workings of the Holy Spirit.” Faith is not just belief. It is the demonstration of our actions. When we have the desire to act under the influence of the Holy Ghost, we must act on that desire and obey the commandments of God. That is how we receive more light and truth. We receive the presence of God's Spirit when we do what we know is right. And when we obey His commandments with the focused desires of perpetually acting under righteous influences, we are that much closer to achieving what we so diligently exercise our faith to obtain.
Sometimes we will fall off the map. We will lose our way or even just lose our desire. Elder Busche addresses this as well. He says, “When we are off target, we will not feel the conﬁdence and joy and power of the Holy Spirit, and, therefore, we will have to learn to direct our desires toward repentance—we must change to bring us back on target.” The Atonement of Christ is not just to cleanse ourselves of sins of commission, but also those of omission. We can be cleansed through the Atonement, and then, through the miracle of Christ's sacrifice, we can obtain the motivation to get back on track again and keep climbing up.
Elder Busche ends his talk addressing ways to fuel our motivation and desires. The printed version is here, but if you'd like to hear it, there's a beautiful video of it here on YouTube.
It is also obvious that without constant efforts, it will be very difﬁcult to always be focused on our most righteous desires. Therefore, I want to share with you a vehicle, an instrument, that I developed some time ago for myself and for my family. It can assist us to reach our focus as we read the suggested vision of true discipleship as a Latter-day Saint. It helps when, from time to time, we ponder and seek identiﬁcation with the following thoughts:
• Embrace this day with an enthusiastic welcome, no matter how it looks. The covenant with God to which you are true enables you to become enlightened by him, and nothing is impossible for you.
• When you are physically sick, tired, or in despair, steer your thoughts away from yourself and direct them, in gratitude and love, toward God.
• In your life there have to be challenges. They will either bring you closer to God and therefore make you stronger, or they can destroy you. But you make the decision of which road you take.
• First and foremost, you are a spirit child of God. If you neglect to feed your spirit, you will reap unhappiness. Don’t permit anything to detract you from this awareness.
• You cannot communicate with God unless you have ﬁrst sacriﬁced your self-oriented natural man and have brought yourself into the lower levels of meekness, to become acceptable for the Light of Christ.
• Put all frustrations, hurt feelings, and grumblings into the perspective of your eternal hope. Light will ﬂow into your soul.
• Pause to ponder the suffering Christ felt in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the awareness of the depth of gratitude for him, you appreciate every opportunity to show your love for him by diligently serving in his Church.
• God knows that you are not perfect. As you suffer about your imperfections, he will give you comfort and suggestions of where to improve.
• God knows better than you what you need. He always attempts to speak to you. Listen, and follow the uncomfortable suggestions that he makes to us—everything will fall into its place.
• Avoid any fear like your worst enemy, but magnify your fear about the consequences of sin.
• When you cannot love someone, look into that person’s eyes long enough to ﬁnd the hidden rudiments of the child of God in him.
• Never judge anyone. When you accept this, you will be freed. In the case of your own children or subordinates, where you have the responsibility to judge, help them to become their own judges.
• If someone hurts you so much that your feelings seem to choke you, forgive and you will be free again.
• Avoid at all cost any pessimistic, negative, or criticizing thoughts. If you cannot cut them out, they will do you harm. On the road toward salvation, let questions arise but never doubts. If something is wrong, God will give you clarity but never doubts.
• Avoid rush and haste and uncontrolled words. Divine light develops in places of peace and quiet. Be aware of that as you enter places of worship.
• Be not so much concerned about what you do, but do what you do with all your heart, might, and strength. In thoroughness is satisfaction.
• You want to be good and to do good. That is commendable. But the greatest achievement that can be reached in our lives is to be under the complete inﬂuence of the Holy Ghost. Then he will teach us what is really good and necessary to do.
• The pain of sacriﬁce lasts only one moment. It is the fear of the pain of sacriﬁce that makes you hesitate to do it.
• Be grateful for every opportunity to serve. It helps you more than those you serve.And ﬁnally, when you are compelled to give up something or when things that are dear to you are withdrawn from you, know that this is your lesson to be learned right now. But know also that, as you are learning this lesson, God wants to give you something better.Whew! I know this is a lot to take in. I guess that might be why I've waited so long to write this blog post. But I had to put it all down here because this is the path to Eternal Life. This is how we reach our Father in Heaven. Through the companionship of His Spirit. The path of discipleship is not the easiest path. It requires an active approach. We must always be on guard against potential distractions or habits that will take us away from the person we're trying to be. We cannot be passive. But I know we can receive help in this lifestyle if we sincerely ask for it. Just as no marriage can truly thrive without the help of God and the presence of His Spirit in the home, none of us can really progress without searching for God's presence to help us improve, little by little, until we are amazed at who we have become and how truly beautiful the entire process was.
So find that motivation inside of you. Grab hold of it. Then keep yourself humble so that you can hear where the Spirit is telling you to go. I promise, it's the best place to be.