"Human tendency [is] to make gospel experience less labor intensive, to routinize it...The mind needs to be engaged spiritually in order to stay with spiritual development....The mind must not only be fed but filled with the things of God in order to withstand the crowding tactics of the Adversary (pp. vii, ix)."
How do we do that? How do we exert our minds spiritually so that we can crowd out the Adversary's distractions? How do we keep ourselves from routinizing the gospel, and is a routine really that bad?
In our discussion these are some thoughts we came up with in answer to the questions above.
Routine is important. Making a habit of daily study, for instance, is important in order to be sure to study every day. God is a God of order. However, we need to be sure we're not just checking it off our list so to speak. It's the intent in our heart that needs to be checked to see where we are on the path of true discipleship.
Why do we not exert ourselves spiritually?
It's hard! It's overwhelming to think of becoming like Christ. That is a seemingly impossible goal to reach. Sometimes we also, however, use "I can't become perfect in this life" as an excuse for not becoming who we need to become.
We also don't take the time to become spiritually minded. Our culture is such that we are busy. We're afraid of becoming idle. It's essential that we learn the art of being still. But, we don't want to be still because then we might learn things about ourselves we don't really want to know!
We must, however, attune ourselves with the mind of Christ by truly giving of ourselves in prayer and scripture study daily. This requires a proper use of agency.
A frequently asked question in the Church is, "How do I know if it's me or the Spirit?" Or, in another way, "How do I know if it's my will or the Lord's?"
Sometimes I think we put agency in human terms rather than God's terms. M. Catherine Thomas talks about the "language of the Spirit" and how our human language serves as a barrier against spiritual things. We see things through mortal eyes rather than spiritual. I believe agency is less about the mortal choice we make (i.e. turn right or turn left) and more about the one question we know about in the premortal existence: will I follow Christ or will I give in to the Adversary?
President Monson has recently said, "The Lord is involved in the details of our lives." That means more to me than He is following me and will comfort me when I fall. He is guiding our footsteps, placing in our paths the needed people, places, experiences, trials and moments that will purify us and lead us to becoming true disciples. Agency is about our WILL. The fact that the Lord is creating a pathway for each of us individually does not take away our agency because we are still choosing what we make of ourselves.
How much light can we withstand in this mortal existence?
"The antidote to the problems of language, then, is personal spiritual experience, because without that, spiritual teachings remain theories and hearsay, lending themselves to distortion and misunderstanding. That is, whatever we think we know likely has some degree of distortion in it until we actually 'gaze into Heaven,' whatever form that experience may take (vii)."
I love that phrase, "gaze into heaven." We have the opportunity to gaze into heaven every day. Our scripture study can be a glimpse into heaven. Our prayers. Literally gazing into the heavens as we watch a sunset or look up at the stars can lead us to spiritual thoughts. Our minds can be continually turned heavenward, leading to better choices of discipleship and light.
We need to be aware of the brightness of our light. Some days it may be dimmer than others. Some days there may be more light that we can even fathom pouring into our souls! Sometimes the light is fleeting glimpses into heaven. Either way, we can check ourselves throughout the day to see how bright is our light.
One friend expressed a simple guage we can use to see how well we're doing. She said, "Pay attention to how you feel when you walk in the door of your home after attending the temple. How stark is the difference? If it's a slap in the face back to reality, maybe there's something that needs to be fixed."
"When [Christ came] among men to fulfill the ends of His ministry with them, he first [took] care of physical distractions and temporal needs...Once the physical needs and the spiritual preparations are attended to, as Hugh Nibley says, 'That is where the gospel begins; that is where other activities end...then the teaching begins' (p.10)."
What can we do to become more spiritually minded? What distractions can we get rid of in our lives to be more focused on discipleship? How can we allow ourselves more opportunities to gaze into heaven? Share your thoughts with us.
Join us Next Month:
Oct. 28th, Chapters 2 & 3