“Now, this was what Ammon desired, for he knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God—” (Alma 19:6)
What we are working on here is exactly this – overcoming this condition/state/frame/veil/etc., that separates us from God. This may be one of the more difficult lessons I post on this blog, but if you take it seriously, this one exercise alone can change your life drastically for the better – the way it did mine.
Years ago I was living in the depths of hell with my ex-husband. It doesn’t matter that I was a victim of daily abuse, lies, rape, and infidelity, I still had lots of work to do on myself and was no more perfect than this man who abused me. I was no stronger spiritually than he was, and my “garbage” simply manifested differently than his (I CHOSE to be his victim after all, when I married him).
My marriage had reached a point where I went to the Lord for direction and asked if I should divorce this man. I was offered a choice (the Lord respects our agency in any circumstance), and I was told this: “If you leave, you will be 100% justified and I will not condemn you. But if you stay and do all you can to repair your marriage, you will receive more blessings than you could ever comprehend.”
I chose the latter and spent the next three years doing all I understood at that point that I could and needed to, in attempt to save my marriage and help us have a happy home. All I did, did not save my marriage; I have no control over the other person’s agency, no matter how involved they are in a situation. However, what I did utterly and completely changed ME – and made me stronger.
I began learning to look at myself in a different way and I learned that (though it doesn’t always feel this way), I have 100% responsibility for my life and my actions. Regardless of what someone else does, I have 100% decision making ability in every action I take, no matter the circumstances.
Outside of my parents’ house, there is a particular tree I feel drawn to. I don’t know why, maybe just because it has pretty flowers on it in the spring. But I’ve spent many many hours praying under this particular tree. That tree knows more about the depths of my soul and has listened to me cry unto the Lord, more than most humans.
One night I stood under this tree and prayed. I noticed (I don’t know why I noticed, but I did,) that I preferred to face a certain side of the tree. It felt more comfortable to me, and seemed “lighter”, even though I often stood under that tree in the dark. After I noticed the “lighter” side of the tree, I felt compelled to turn around and face the other side of the tree (again, I don’t know why, I just did). I couldn’t understand why I did not want to do this – It was just a tree. I literally struggled with facing that side of the tree as I was being told to. I finally turned and stared at that side of the tree, and I saw it in the shadows created by the moon above us, and I felt a new portion of the spirit of that tree and I saw a “dark side” of it that I wasn’t familiar with. It literally disturbed me to see and feel it the way I did. I did not want to believe I was seeing a side of THAT tree; I wanted to be wrong.
I was told that ALL of us are like this tree. There is a side of us we fear facing and that we prefer to hide in the shadows – in the darkness. I was told that all of us are created in a way that allows us to fully choose light or dark through the scenarios and events we encounter in our lives.
We are given a truly fair and equal opportunity to choose – which means we must understand and see both sides of the choice. We have to choose which side to strengthen, and which side to overcome, but we ALL have this “dark side” to overcome – even that beautiful, harmless tree that just stands there in the yard, and provides shade, and makes such beautiful flowers, and that listened to so many of my prayers.
We are all very familiar with characters like Satan and Lucifer. We are aware of the roles these characters play in our existence – enticing us to do things that are anti-love, anti-light, or anti-God. What we might not fully realize is that God and Satan not only are much more progressed and intelligent beings than us – who are both trying to get us to grow to be like each of them – which they do by connecting with those portions of our own soul that will relate to them, but they are also symbolic of US INDIVIDUALLY.
If God wants to communicate with us, He will do so by connecting spiritually with those portions of us that are most like HIM; He will persuade us using love, light, peace, joy, and by the pure intelligence that is communicated by the Holy Ghost. If Satan wants to communicate with us, he will do so by connecting with those portions of us that are most like HIM; he will persuade us using fear, confusion, doubt, insecurity, irrationality, etc. In other words, for God or Satan to communicate with us, we have to be partly LIKE them. If you overcome the parts of YOURSELF that are most like Satan, he will be less able to connect and communicate with you. If you strengthen the parts of yourself that are most like God, you will be more able to connect with and communicate with Him.
This might be a good time to revisit Moses chapter 1, and read it in a different light this time. Re-read this chapter as if Moses is not talking to two characters outside of himself; read it as if he is working through an INNER turmoil and deciding WITHIN HIMSELF, which God he would choose to follow – whether he would entertain and foster the darkness within himself that tempted him with fear and confusion and earthly power, or whether he would entertain those things within himself that brought him peace, and love for all the souls he saw, and opened up pure intelligence.
As I said, if you take this assignment seriously, it will not be easy. For the first part of this, you’ll need a notebook and a pen. Take some time when you can be alone and have some privacy. (Spouses, you do NOT get to “help” each other with this one 😉 .)
Now turn and face that dark side of you, and start writing all the things you do “wrong”. Be as completely, painfully, and utterly honest as you can be with yourself. Write down ALL the things you do that impose pain, fear, unhappiness, discomfort, etc. to YOURSELF, or to OTHERS. If you are impatient, write it down. If you are impatient at certain times of day, write it down. If you are impatient only to certain people, write it down. If you struggle with porn and that hurts you or others, write it down. If you watch too much TV and your family misses you, write it down.
Now think of all the things you didn’t write down because in your mind, you justify your behavior. If your husband looks at porn and it hurts you and you scream at him, write it down – you still scream at your husband. If your kids keep disobeying the same rule and you get angry every time they disobey you, write it down – you are still getting angry at your kids. If you flip people off who are crazy drivers and cut you off, write it down – you lash out at complete strangers. It does not matter what others do to stir those emotions and actions in you, if you CHOOSE to react to them in a way that is harmful to you or others, write it down.
Now think of all the “sins of omission” you commit. If you know you are supposed to keep sugar out of your diet and you neglect to eliminate it from your diet and then it makes you irritable, write it down. If you know you are not doing something you know would help another person because it would be inconvenient for you and you’d rather watch TV, write it down. If you spend time hiding and playing video games and you know your mom could use help with dinner or babysitting, write it down. If you spend surplus money on a new boat when you know your neighbor is losing their home, write it down.
This IS a very difficult homework assignment and the object is not to make you feel horrible after examining how much there is to “fix” in yourself. In fact, some of us struggle a LOT with feeling inadequate, or insecure (write those down…). DO NOT CAST JUDGMENT UPON YOURSELF. We all have “stuff” on our list.
The object is to teach that we cannot simply blame others for our struggles and weaknesses. THEY ARE OUR OWN. I cannot control the choices of my ex-husband, but I DID have the opportunity to choose how I behaved and responded to him. The way I behaved before, literally brought me into those life circumstances. The way I behaved during the marriage and during his abuse, made it worse – for both of us, and made me more of a victim.
I had to learn the skills I have now in order to make deliberate choices and decide if I wanted to remain in that life and accept his behavior, or do something different. It FELT like Satan and all his minions were attacking every part of me with every bit of power they had. But in REALITY, Satan sent others to tempt me to stay in that darkness, by targeting MY OWN “darkness” (weaknesses, fears, etc.) I had to overcome my own “stuff” so I was strong enough to deal with others in a healthy way, who choose to follow a different God than I do.
The Lord became who He is BY overcoming the EXACT SAME THINGS we struggle with. He showed us by example that it’s possible, and He has offered to teach us what He learned. (Why, after all, would we trust someone who hasn’t gone through the same things as us, and who understands us on a level so personal, that we could not even express it?) He’s told us where to start:
“… for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21
When I wrote up “my list” the first time, it was six-pages long, double sided, single spaced. (Don’t feel bad if you come up with eight or ten or twenty pages – I probably could have written a LOT more.) That was about 8 years ago.
At the time – as I attempted to save my marriage, I worked on overcoming every one of the items I wrote on that list. When I mastered and overcame one of them, I crossed it off and worked on another one. Eight years later, I’m still working on mastering everything on the list – and I’ve added a few new ones. But I’ve knocked out a LOT of the things I wrote down on that list, that I wanted to improve about myself, and overcome.
DO NOT BECOME DISCOURAGED!!!
This is an exercise we all have to go through in this life. We can drag it out for 90 years or we can rip the band-aid off quickly and get it done so the life you have yet to live, will be more awesome for you and for those around you. And if we overcome our own darkness and strengthen our own light, we can better communicate with God – as we will become more like Him, and we’ll become a person that Satan has no power over. (The process of being “quickened”.)
This exercise is not to show you how bad you suck, it is to teach you to become like God. You were GIVEN these struggles so you could learn from them and I’m teaching using the formula God already gave us to learn from:
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27)
The glory of God is intelligence. Take this opportunity to learn more about yourself and allow God to teach you using those portions of yourself you don’t like to face. And allow Him to help you overcome those, and be like Him!