Vertically Connected Blog
This past weekend, we were blessed again with incredible messages and clarifying doctrines from the Lord’s chosen servants that will enrich and bless our lives for years to come.
As you listened to and learned from General Conference, did impressions come to your mind of something you need to improve on?
Were you inspired to change something in your life?
Or were you motivated to simplify an aspect of your life?
I have found that personal revelation often flows when we place ourselves in settings where the heavens are open and God is pouring down knowledge from them (D&C 121:33). Conference definitely seems to be one of those places.
And what a joyous place to find ourselves in.
I have also noticed that sometimes after I've been truly enlightened or motivated to increase the level of my discipleship, I find myself feeling unsure I really can do what I've been inspired to do. I often know the impression is right, I just don't know how it will work.
And I've wondered:
Why would I struggle with this?
Why would I doubt this can work?
Why would I doubt I can do this?
I am a faithful person who loves the Lord and truly desires to be obedient.
In seeking to understand why this sometimes happens, I have found there is at least one possible cause of my lack of confidence, fear, or insecurity. And it has nothing to do with my faith or obedience or willingness.
It has to do with the negative beliefs or false perceptions I often don't even know I have.
Let me explain what I mean with a story from the scriptures.
In the Old Testament, we learn about a man named Jonah who was instructed by the Lord to go to Nineveh to warn the people of their imminent destruction if they did not repent. But instead of being obedient, Jonah ran as fast as he could to the coastal city of Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish, and sailed as far away from his responsibility as possible. (Some scholars even believe that Tarshish was geographically probably one of the farthest places Jonah could realistically go from Nineveh at that time.)
Have you ever wondered why he did that?
At first, we might think that Jonah was afraid or disobedient or even unfaithful.
Yet, it seems it was much more than that.
Jonah had somewhat of a history with the Ninevites. They were a powerful, idolatrous, and barbaric people who had enslaved, tortured, and killed Jonah’s people over a long period of time. It might be safe to say that Jonah probably didn’t like them.
And so, when that revelation came to reach out in mercy and compassion towards them and give them a chance to repent, Jonah really didn't want to.
That revelation had filtered through some pretty strong opinions of the Ninevites, which not only affected his attitude towards that revelation, but also his obedience to it.
Later in Jonah’s story when the whale spit him out on the shore and the Lord told him a second time to go to Nineveh, Jonah was compelled to obey.
But it doesn’t seem like he had changed what he believed about the Ninevites.
He preached unto them and then sat down and waited for them to be destroyed, even though they had turned “every one from his evil way, and from the violence that [was] in their hands,” and began to believe in God (Jonah 3:5, 8).
When the Ninevites weren’t destroyed, Jonah was angry that God hadn’t done what He originally said He was going to do. He believed the Ninevites deserved to be destroyed even though they had started to repent.
It is interesting to point out, however, that it wasn’t the revelation for Jonah to minister among the Ninevites that was the problem, nor how God willing the Lord was to forgive them of their rebellion and wickedness. It was Jonah’s belief about the Ninevites that inhibited his faith and obedience.
Now, we probably won’t receive a revelation to go to Nineveh.
However, we might receive an impression, “Forgive your dad.” That revelation might immediately filter through the belief, “But my dad doesn’t deserve forgiveness” or “I could never forgive my dad” or “Forgiveness means forgetting or condoning what happened.” And then we might become angry that God would ask us to do something like that and run, like Jonah, as far away from the revelation as we can.
Again, the revelation itself isn’t the problem in this situation, even if it feels like it. The fear or anger or discouragement we might feel could instead be caused by a negative, unhealthy, or false belief.
We interpret our struggle or unwillingness or doubt as a lack of faith, when, in reality, that could not be farther from the truth!
Many years ago, I met two young people who were obviously in love. Yet as I sat and talked with them one day in my office, the young woman told me, “I want to marry Jake with everything in me. I love him. I’ve fasted about it and I took my decision to the Lord. And I’ve got my answer. The problem is . . . he won’t marry me.”
I was rather surprised by that last statement. And so I asked Jake, “Do you love Katelyn?”
“Yes, I do. She’s the most amazing person in the world.”
“Do you want to marry her?”
“Yes, I do,” he said, and then he hesitated, “. . . but I won’t.”
Jake then explained to me, “When I was younger, I had a problem with pornography. I put my life in order and became worthy to serve a mission. After I got home, I had a couple struggles with it, but I am doing well now and feel there’s been a lot of progress. But I just don’t think it’s fair for her to marry someone like me. I still have to fight to keep my thoughts pure. I just don’t want to put her through this. She is such a wonderful girl, and so I just can’t marry her.”
As we talked for the next hour, I shared with the two of them the doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the power He has to heal and change us so that we're not in bondage to our past. We looked at the definition of the word “atonement,” and talked about how it actually means “to cover” or to make “at-one” again (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “The Atonement,” Ensign, November 1996).
We studied what Isaiah teaches about the Atonement, and how Christ has the ability to exchange our ashes (or lack of faith, or heavy burden, or serious sin, or whatever it is) and give us beauty and praise and righteousness and glory.
I respected Jake’s willingness to be accountable and responsible, and my intent wasn’t to convince him he should marry Katelyn. I just wanted to make sure he understood the power the Savior had not only to forgive him, but also to heal him and actually change him into “a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Near the end of our conversation, I could see some hope in both of their eyes. However, when I asked Jake how he felt, he said he was still struggling with the idea that he wasn’t ever going to be worthy enough to marry her; he believed she deserved someone better than him.
After they left, I realized that perhaps the only way those two were ever going to be able to move forward in their relationship was if Jake figured out what he really believed about Jesus Christ, His Atonement, and what becomes of not only our worthiness but our worth to Him when we sin. I felt he also needed to sort out why he didn't believe that redemption through Christ was also offered to him and that it could actually help and heal him.
I knew Jake had a knowledge of the principles and doctrines about repentance, forgiveness, and divine worth. However, I also knew that he was struggling — not only to find peace through recovery, but also to receive a confirmation about making one of the most important decisions of his life. And it was largely because of the misconception that he would never be worthy to marry such an incredible young woman because of past sin.
So, if you find yourself struggling to have faith in or be obedient to something the Lord has revealed to you or asked you to do, consider first that it might simply be because that revelation filtered through an unhealthy, unrealistic, destructive, or false idea that is skewing your ability to consider it, follow it, or believe in it.
And if so, it is that false idea that needs to first be re-examined, not the revelation!
As we identify and remove the untrue ideas, assumptions or perceptions that often hide somewhere in the backstage of our minds, the truth is allowed to fill our hearts and minds and souls with the light and love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
And then acting in faith on that truth is so much easier.
Stephen & Michelle Hunsaker
Stephen teaches at the Logan Institute of Religion for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been teaching for over 26 years.
Michelle is a full-time mom who enjoys reading, writing, teaching, and anything and everything to do with musicals.
They are the parents of ten children and authors of the book : Boxing the Lord In and Other Ways We Hinder Revelation.
Their hope is that each week through the thoughts and ideas they share in this blog, you can become more "vertically connected" in your lives. They seek to see and share "things as they really are" and "as they really will be" (Jacob 4:13) by learning how to build more and more on the sure foundation of the Savior, Jesus Christ and the doctrines and principles of His gospel.