What it Really Means to Live the Gospel

Jeff Spectorinter-faith, LDS, love, Mormon, Mormons, spiritual progression 54 Comments

I think if you did a survey of LDS Church members and asked the question:  “What does it really mean to live the gospel?” You’d get a variety of answers. You get many who would give what I would call the standard answers, which I will list below.  But you also get some very thoughtful answers which I hope this is one.

So, the standard answers to living the gospel might look like this:

  • Individual Prayer, both morning and night
  • Study and ponder the scriptures
  • Hold regular Family Home Evening
  • Have daily Family Prayer
  • Have daily family scripture study
  • Have prayer with your spouse, if applicable
  • Attend the Temple often, preferable at least one a month
  • Give meaningful service
  • Teach the gospel to your children and set a good example
  • Be a good example to others.
  • Share the gospel with family, friends and those you meet
  • Have meals with your family
  • Serve well in your callings

The list goes on. I am sure you can add to it easily. In fact, I remember a sister gave a Sacrament Meeting talk on all the things we need to do as members and her list was about 12 feet long!

I also think about those great answers from the Savior about the two greatest commandments:

But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.  Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:34 – 40).

Certainly that list above follows those two great commandments.  But I often wonder if we fall into a pharisaic-like pattern with making sure that we try to do all those things as regularly as we can, without attention to the QUALITY of what we do to live the gospel.

Two examples.

Example 1 – Regular Temple Attendance – Sometimes in our hectic lives, it is hard to attend the Temple each and every month, especially if you are not close by. So, is it better to have a few truly meaningful experiences in the Temple in a year, where you are fully prepared to give the time and attention necessary to learn and partake of the spirit than 12 attendances where getting to some is an extreme hardship and one is not prepared to be there? Seems like a simple answer to me. But how would a Pharisee respond to that question?

Example 2 – Giving service to others. I realize that any service to others is good, but some is better than others. Church members love to clean up! (Except for their own chapel, but that’s another story). Clean up parks, empty lots, streets, etc. and it gets written up in the Church News. But, isn’t it better to do something like visit a hospice or senior citizens home, help build houses for those who need them, visit a homeless shelter, volunteer at a children’s shelter, etc.  Actually do what the Savior preached, “Comfort those who stand in need of comfort.”

Please don’t misunderstand me. Plenty of members give generously of their time and do those things that I have suggested. But, I think we could all be doing more because giving Christ-like service is what living the gospel is all about.  Also, I am not in any way, downplaying the work that members do to respond to natural disasters. They are incredible! That is exactly what I am talking about. But just not waiting for a disaster to happen.

On another note, truly living the gospel also means accepting people the way they are. It does not mean we have to accept their actions, but we are required to honor all of God’s creations. (My wife and daughter would say, “except for bugs!” 🙂 )

What do you think it means to truly live the gospel? BTW, this certainly does not apply just to LDS members. It is just as applicable to all those that call themselves Christians.

PS.  I will do a later post on the Pharisees and Sadducees, the most misunderstood groups in the bible!

Comments 54

  1. I wish we, as a church, were more engaged in our communities. We have such awesome organizational skills and super people. We give tons of service within our own tight little church group — helping with moves, taking care of elderly and widow’s yardwork, feeding the poor (if they are members), and other great stuff.

    Why don’t we run soup kitchens? I’m just using that as a cliche example, but why not? I think this would do a LOT more missionary work and build goodwill and tolerance than awkwardly, cold-call style, trying to invite your neighbors over for missionary discussions.

    What does it mean to live the Gospel? To me it means weaving the teachings and truths into the whole of our lives. Everything we do, even if mundane daily life tasks, can have a spiritual angle.

  2. I believe that the gospel is the process of becoming like Heavenly Father. If what we are doing, whatever it is, does not achieve that goal, it is wrong, and either the activity or our attitude must be reassessed. If any activity furthers that goal, it should be continued. The gospel thus becomes an intensely individual pursuit. I’ve summed up that philosophy of mine at home in “A corn of wheat”. This is why people, not programs, and relationships, not rules, are the root of the gospel.

  3. I agree with Valoel. Imagine if we took all of the time money and resources we spend on the dead and used it to uplift and strengthen the living.

    Imagine if we learn to derive our spiritual experiances from service and not ritual.

  4. #4 – We would miss out on SO much if we made it an either/or – choosing between the living and the dead. I think Jeff is correct to not throw the standard baby out with the bathwater.

    My take is pretty simple, and it’s been said already:

    1) Do everything I can to develop the characteristics of godliness outlined in the Sermon on the Mount and other scriptural passages.

    2) Develop true charity – not “just” some ambiguous “pure love of Christ”, but rather a true understanding of others inherent worth and having genuine compassion toward them – truly treating them as fellow children of God regardless of their beliefs.

    3) Do whatever I can to share of my all with those who need it. (That centers on eliminating “excess” – getting rid of debt so I can share of my financial means, simplifying my commitments so I can share of my time, finding emotional balance so I can share of my spirit, maintaining some semblance of physical health so I can share of my energy, etc.)

    4) Serve within the Church in some capacity. I don’t care where, just that we do serve somewhere.

    Fwiw, I believe the biggest fallacy to which we have succumbed might be that we can have it all – and that it’s ok to pursue it all. Often our pursuit of “obtaining” the good leaves us unable to “DO” the best.

  5. Post

    Ray beat me to it. Our obligation to the dead is still important. I do wish we did more in the community, some units do a lot. Here in Colorado Springs, I think we may be afraid to wake up the evangelicals so we are pretty low key.

  6. Fwiw, I believe the biggest fallacy to which we have succumbed might be that we can have it all – and that it’s ok to pursue it all. Often our pursuit of “obtaining” the good leaves us unable to “DO” the best.

    I agree, Ray. However, I think there is a bit of a cultural problem in our church in that when people look at their list and start slimming it down to the essentials (once they have decided its OK not to do it all) the priorities don’t always seem to match the life of Jesus. For example, you say simply, serve in the church in some capacity. That is certainly deeply embedded into our culture. There is the idea that the counselor in the sunday school pres. who is asked to do nothing more than pass out roll sheets and bug kids in the hall to go to class… that he is somehow doing real service.

    There are a lot of folks who are not all that comfortable “religiousizing”, like you might do in a leadership or teaching calling. Those people are often filed away to callings like librarian and bulletin coordinator. Yet there are very few wards that have a Homeless Shelter Liaison, etc. I’ll admit that kind of thing could easily be initiated at very local levels, but it would just be cool if we could use the organizational and man-power of the church to do more of that kind of thing.

  7. Post

    On the other hand Clay, folks need not look to the Church organization to provide service to others. The ward might not need a “homeless shelter liaison” if individuals and families just did it on their own.

  8. Clay, the Church structure itself has that capacity and organization. Many local units simply don’t utilize it – which might be exactly what you are saying. 🙂

    I am over the Public Affairs in our area, so I am intimately involved right now in the discussion here. We just called a Stake Public Affairs Director, explaining to him that we anticipate this being a 3-5 year calling. His responsibilities are two-fold: media relations and public service. Ideally, he will have Public Affairs reps in each ward, at least, networking directly in the communities to find out what is needed therein. (We have one ward that has done a phenomenal job in this approach, but the other units are not there yet.) If that is not possible right away, the Stake PA Director will be responsible for identifying opportunities and informing the wards and branches about them.

    My effort is to help the Bishops and Relief Society Presidents see that this doesn’t require extensive additional commitments for the membership. If we rethought FHE to include regular visits to nursing homes and shelters, did the same with Priesthood activities and RS Enrichment activities, etc. the structure is there to accommodate more individual and community service and less “generic ward bonding”. We are trying to move toward that in our corner of the vineyard, but it’s a process of breaking traditions and initiating new ones – and that’s rarely an easy accomplishment.

  9. Good point, Jeff.

    There is a homeless shelter for families with children about 5 miles from my home. We gather good, clean things we no longer use or need (and a few things we do use regularly in order to teach our kids that it’s not ok just to give others “leftovers”) on a fairly regular basis and take them to this shelter. It can and should be done on an individual level, but unit organization helps those who simply aren’t thinking about it at the moment.

  10. And yet, Jeff, the older I get, the more I see that as the Church reaches out to the community, the better Church members seem to feel about their in-house Church service. I saw this in my stake in California as a teenager when our stake became part of interfaith service efforts. The result was that people were energized by their Church-sponsored community service and Church attendance actually improved.

    Besides, I tend to look at callings as growth opportunities for individuals, and wonder why we don’t have homeless shelter liaisons, especially hearing from President Hinckley that every member needs a calling. It says something strange about our institutional priorities that we must have a panoply of fully staffed stake Sunday School presidencies, anong many other callings, when those folks could be serving in their wards in community service callings like the one Clay mentioned. My BYU stake had a regular commitment to serve in the Provo soup kitchen and it was a wonderful outlet for the energies of the young people, with some folks actually called to arrange for groups of us to serve a shift each week. I never missed not having a stake Sunday School presidency in that stake for some reason…

  11. Post


    I agree with you 100%. As Ray pointed out, when I served as a DPA, I tried hard to use the opportunity to give service to the community and raise the positive visibility of the Church at the same time. But I found that members are not always receptive to doing the service. We always have/had a core group of folks who always helped, but much like what you see in the ward in general, many simply are not interested in service of any kind outside of the three hour block.

    The Public Affairs callings do give that opportunity to work outside the church structure, if a person/persons in that calling chooses to do it. Much of the time, it is a title without real effort behind it.

  12. The ward might not need a “homeless shelter liaison” if individuals and families just did it on their own.

    I’m not so sure poverty is such an easily solvable issue. The problem is that our culture tells us that our righteousness is measured by our activity in the church. How much free time does a Mormon actually have to add non-church charity work onto the demands of church service (for themselves and family members, since you often have to babysit while a spouse does their calling work)? The community of the church is important. If families just did charity service on their own because the church was not giving them enough opportunities, those families end up moving *away* from the church community rather than *towards* and *with*. Plus, as Valoel mentioned, the LDS church might be the most efficiently and effectively organized religion in the US. Think of the good that could be accomplished if that could be harnessed for more humanitarian work.

    Speaking as a liberal semi-believer, I feel uncomfortable about a lot of potential callings in today’s church (especially the one I have right now – ward missionary). While I can’t totally connect with the community on common beliefs, I would love to connect with them in simple service, which does not involve proclaiming anything. There are lots of us who *want* to be part of this community and if we had more of these real humanitarian type charity programs I think you would see a lot of inactive folks willing to use them as a way to be “active” again without having to conform to the orthodoxy side of it. I know that isn’t the ideal from a TBM perspective, but think of the good that could be accomplished.

  13. Jeff,

    Great post. I’ve been thinking a lot about these issues recently, mostly because I’ve been feeling guilty about not checking enough boxes on “the list.” Except for my 2-year sojourn in the wilds of Guatemala, I’ve never been particularly good at consistent daily scripture study or personal prayer. But I have come to the conclusion that it’s not about whether I hit the mark all the time, but whether I am consistently trying to do my best. That, in my view, is the point of rules, commandments, callings, etc. — they provide us opportunities to better ourselves by serving God and our fellow men.

  14. Clay,

    Speaking of inactive folks, there are a few I know who willingly involve themselves in ONLY the most arduous of church activities, such as our stake’s pioneer trek to Martin’s Cove, Wyoming. There are those whose talents and predilections are best suited for real tangible service of this kind, and who feel uncomfortable just being dressed up for church. One of the guys I’m thinking of used to be a trucker, and was also one of the Church’s last labor missionaries in the 1960s. Heart of gold type but he doesn’t go around the meetinghouse much except to do the really hard physical labor, which he gets fulfillment out of. And the guy really believes!

    I’ve often wished we had callings for folks like this, maybe as meetinghouse guards or as latter-day Porter Rockwells “using up” people trying to go to California 😉 Really, in the old days, one’s calling was to be the best blacksmith in Blanding, it’s too bad we have gotten away from that more organic style of service to the community to handing out roll sheets…

  15. What does it mean to really live the gospel? One word for me: discipleship (in Christ). The goal is to become a willing servant in what God wills for us. That involves doing. And that involves some shared goals and values. But it is also very personal and individual.

    There is not a one-size-fits-all formula for fully becoming what God would have for us. It is often easier to focus on assumed or shared actions — to make “to do” lists. I don’t think this is bad, per se. But it can result in us mistaking His will for our will, His work for our work, His judgment for our judgment, His purposes for our purposes, His righteousness for our righteousness, His church for our church. I don’t want to say that what are ours is always opposed to His. The challenge is that they can be opposed, and, when so, don’t always look opposed on the surface. They especially are prone to be when we place trust in that which we control instead of trusting in Him. It is really hard to trust that His work in everyone who is His is not ours to judge on behalf of others. Yet we must judge for ourselves.

    Crazy paradoxes!

  16. Well said, BFAM. That paradoxical core is the power and weakness of Christian discipleship.

    Clay, Have you ever told your Bishop (as the local Mission President) that you would LOVE to serve in your ward missionary calling as a community service liaison? Personally, I am trying to structure much of our Public Affairs service work within the organizational structure of our Ward Missions – since “sharing the Gospel” is much more comprehensive than “verbally preaching the principles of the Restored Church”.

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    I think that God’s will for us as His children is clearly spelled in the scriptures and the revelations. I wouldn’t subscribe to a individualized “plan” for each person. After all, God gave us a brain and our own will to act as we see fit for ourselves. I agree with the concept of being a willing servant. We have a duty to understand what God wants for us and then pursue it. On the other hand, I also think He let us make most of the decisions. He may in fact, just ratify what we decide. I think that He only intervenes in the most extreme circumstances.

    Now, did I just threadjack my own post???

  18. Service in soup kitchens and in the temple both qualify as service to the living. The beneficiaries are just in different places. I like a balance of both. Service to those here in mortality uplifts my spirit and gives me the instant gratification of the joy of charitable sharing of my time, talents and resources. Service in the temple teaches me that I am not a stand-alone self-contained unit that should focus solely on self, but rather I am one link in a long chain, one knot in a vast fabric of love and life and family that spreads out on all sides, back into the past and forward into the future, and that I belong to and with others and thus have obligations to those who went before (and whom I’ll meet someday) and those who come after, whose paths I must do my best to improve. Both types of service teach me to focus less on myself and more on the welfare of others, which, along with gratitude, I’ve found from experience are the key to a happy life.

  19. What a good post. You all have wonderful, insightful thoughts. I would have to say that for me service and loving and accepting everyone is a big part of what the gospel means to me. As far as service goes, a few years ago I had to give a talk and we had a monthly scripture at the time which really made me think. It was D&C 58:27. “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness”. I also liked the verses right before and after it.

    D&C 58:26-29
    “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
    Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
    For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
    But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.”

    After I read that it really hit me that I needed to be aware of the opportunities that were out there to do good and not wait for a calling. I don’t mean to sound preachy, but just to relate that this scripture really helped me look at things differently.

    I also think it would be a great idea to have community service callings. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would feel more needed and a part of the ward and community if they were given an opportunity to serve in this respect.

  20. When I was in high school, I took a class in semantics. One of the most useful things I learned is that for abstract generalities to be meaningful, they have to be broken down into specifics.
    Later I was a freshman at BYU, being from Phoenix, Arizona, I was unprepared for sub-freezing fall and winter temperatures. I was relying on a government grant which wouldn’t come until the end of the semester, had no savings, a full load of classes, was walking 18 blocks to campus, and was having no luck landing on-campus jobs. I didn’t have a proper coat and I was freezing. Some members of my student branch got together and bought me a warm coat, around Christmas. It was a practical, useful gift, something I badly needed.
    I learned that year that the standard list at the beginning in the original post was not at the heart of the gospel. Instead, I began to appreciate the great commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God”, and “Love thy neighbor as thyself”.
    “Love thy meighbor”, broken down into specifics, has what I’m calling an A list and a B list, not that either is more important than the other.
    On the A list includes Feed the humgry, clothe the naked, shelter the homless, visit the lonely, the sick, and the prisoners, relieve the burdended and suffering, and so forth. All this gets compressed into “one line, “Give meaningful service”, so it looks far less important than it really is.
    The B) list includes being longsuffering, kind, not envious, humble, unselfish, not easily provoked, refraining from faultfinding and gossip, and believing, hoping, and enduring instead of doubtful, despairing, and complaining, and so forth.
    I’m sometimes afraid I must be one of the greatest hypocrites in che church because I know how important the A-list is and make excuses for not doing those things. For instance, “When I can afford it”, as if having more money would somehow make me more willing to do what I’m not willing to do without it?
    I work on the B-list rather more diligently. I’ve also learned that it’s hopeless to expect the Church to do what the individual members aren’t willing to do. The member of the church I have most influence with is…myself? Uh-oh.

  21. I try to boil things down to the first two commandments as much as I can. Basically, I hate checklists. I just can’t live my life like that. But I do like a higher level framework such as the 2 great commandments or the 3-fold mission of the church to give me a strategic framework for thinking about how to live the gospel. Then mix in their some gooshy stuff like reading scriptures, talking with you fine folks, and even just noticing what’s inspiring in normal everyday life pursuits, and that works for me. Checklists are more “touchstones” than requirements, IMO, and they work well for people who like lists and details.

    Did Christ read his scriptures every day (obviously He knew them very well)? Did Adam & Eve hold FHE? Did Mary & Joseph have family prayer in the home? Maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t. These checklists are a pretty modern invention. I’d rather feel guilty about sins of commission than omission.

  22. Post


    “I’d rather feel guilty about sins of commission than omission.” hold that thought. It is the subject (sort of) of my next post.

  23. “I’ve also learned that it’s hopeless to expect the Church to do what the individual members aren’t willing to do.”

    *Expect*… no. Its really just a hope. Yet, the church organizes service projects all the time like painting houses, weeding gardens, helping ward members move in and out of homes, etc. Based on how hard it is to get more than the STP (same ten people) to do those things, I’d say the church is already do things the individual members aren’t willing to do.

    While there is a certain aspect of this that involves the church using its pressure and influence to *nudge* members into service, that’s not the whole point. There is also the aspect, which has already been pointed out and seemingly ignored, that the church has an extraordinary system of organization and coordination. Surely, when a project gets into the hands of Mormons on official church business, things get done quicker and more efficiently than the same effort by individual families.

    Sorry for the soapboxing. I’ve been reading Shane Claiborne lately, and he’s all up in my conscience.

  24. It’s also interesting how hard the Church BEGS retired couples to go on service missions. They are much more numerous than most members realize.

  25. And now a word from a doctrinal fundamentalist….

    At one point in my life, I used the term ‘gospel’ to represent all knowledge and understand contained in the church. This made it easy to simply lump all the good stuff together. It was OK as long as you didn’t get things confused with topics like resurrection which Alma defined as a mystery of God (Alma 40:3). And, of course, there is Paul warning the Galatians that if “we or angel in heaven preach another gospel than that which has been preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8).

    That brought the question clearly to me, how important is it to explicitly define what the term ‘gospel’ means. I have come to the conclusion that it is extremely important. However, much to my chagrin, nobody else seems to care. Well, I will rant anyway.

    Here is my favorite quote relative to the gospel from 3rd Nephi, chapter 27:

    “19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
    20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
    21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;”

    So what does it mean to me to live the gospel? It means learning how to accomplish the four steps Christ outlined in the above scripture:

    1. Repent
    2. Come unto Christ
    3. Be baptized
    4. Be sanctified

    After we have taken the four steps above, we then follow the example of Christ.

    If this is how Christ defined the gospel, why are we talking about everything but the process Christ outlined in his sermon to the Nephites? Could this be called another gospel that is being preached today?

    Rant off.

  26. Spektator, I think it’s a bit simplistic to say, “After we have taken the four steps above, we then follow the example of Christ.” Your #1 and #2 could encompass what most of us have been saying. “Repent” means “change” – which is a lifelong process; “come unto Christ” can mean become what He asks us to become – which includes doing what He asks us to do. I believe those things are the very definition of following the example of Christ, so I personally don’t see how I can do them *before* following His example.

    I agree completely that the Gospel is encapsulated within the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel (as you have outlined), and I often quote that exact same passage when I define “the Gospel”, but I also believe that there is much more to those four things than many people understand.

  27. #27 “1. Repent”

    This is my favorite part of living the gospel. And, I think you have hit it right on the head. We MUST repent. Everyone must repent. That’s an automatic. We aren’t very good as individuals, no matter what we do, we are still sinners, and therefore we must repent.

    This alone, I think, is the key to the entire concept of “living the gospel.”


  28. Post

    Here’s a slight twist on what you folks have been saying in the last few posts. You must repent. I agree. We sin. That is a given. But we must focus our lives on doing good, not just in asking forgiveness for doing bad. Sound strange? We should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, with an occasional slip up that requires repentance, not just going from sin to sin.

    Also, Spektator, when I read your quotes, I saw “faithfulness to the end.” to me, that encompasses the concept of living the gospel and following Christ’s example. In my mind, the concept of sanctification comes not just from an absence of sin but also from truly patterning our lives after the Savior.

  29. Ray,
    I agree there is much more that the simplistic bullet item list. It is at least a place to start. I think that is also much more to the meaning of “come unto me.” If Christ is indeed who baptizes us with fire and the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 12:1) then this action of coming to Him implies in it receiving a remission of our sins. I think this ties together well with King Benjamin’s guidance on how to RETAIN a remission of our sins; directing us to care for the needy and the sick, ete.

    I believe sanctification comes from receiving a remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Our service and actions towards our family and others then help us to retain a remission of our sins. King Benjamin said it better.

  30. #27 Spektator

    I agree with what you’ve said. The “gospel” is very simple to understand. You’ve laid it out like Nephi does in 2 Nephi 31.

    I think many members misunderstand these simple points, and by this they look beyond the mark. As members of the church, meaning we have fulfilled the 4th article of faith, we need to fulfill our baptism covenant and receive the gift Holy Ghost–this is the most important thing we can do. However, I think many members feel this is done my being active in the church and fulfilling our church callings. Doing these things is essential, but insufficient. In addition we need to diligently seek the Holy Ghost. This is done by prayer, a special kind of prayer-mighty prayer (3 Nephi 12:6, Enos 1:4, 3 Nephi 19:9, Moroni 8:26).

    The gift of the Holy Ghost is just that, a gift. We don’t earn a gift.

    There are various manifestations of the gift Holy Ghost, the one we need most is to receive fire and the Holy Ghost where our sins are forgiven. At this point we enter the gate and are on the narrow path and we have access to Heavenly Father in a greater degree.

    I like the scripture in 1st John (JST)

    9 Whosoever is born of God doth not continue in sin; for the Spirit of God remaineth in him; and he cannot continue in sin, because he is born of God, having received that holy Spirit of promise.

    I not talking theory when I speak of these things, I know by experience they are true. Now that will get some people upset. I’m sorry if this is the case. I suggest instead of getting upset, study the subject carefully and prayer about it.

  31. #30 Jeff wrote: “But we must focus our lives on doing good, not just in asking forgiveness for doing bad.”

    This might seem like a hair-splitting question, but one I’ve often thought about is this, “If we focus our life on doing good, but we don’t do as much ‘good’ as we could, do we have to repent for doing good?” Or maybe phrased slightly clearer here: “Do we have to repent for NOT doing the ‘good’ that we could (and should) have done?”

    I know we must repent, but sometimes it seems like an awful burden to repent when you don’t have a clear, unambiguous idea of what you need to repent for. (I know some folks like “paradoxes” in the gospel, but they mostly just seem like ambiguities to me. And, in my life, the ambiguities always seem to work “against” me.

    I’m wondering if “Living the Gospel” is different for every single person on earth. And, if it is different for everyone, and the principles to be applied are situational and varied, I wonder how the “accountability” aspect of living the gospel works.

  32. Post


    I will address that very issue in my next post next week, but let me say that we will probably have more remorse for what good could have done, but didn’t, rather than the sins we committed.

    Spektator, #31 (which BTW, was one of my nicknames in school). I would agree with you that sanctification comes in that way, but as King Benjamin’s people stated in chapter 5, “they had no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” So, I think, perhaps we are both right in that case.

  33. #35 Jeff Spector–“they had no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually”

    My understanding of this subject is that the “disposition”, as described in this verse, was like all things spiritual for mortals–when it was initially received they felt that way, but as time went by, and the trials of life had to be dealt with, this “disposition” wasn’t always at the same intensity. They experienced temptation and difficulties and had to work to maintain a remission of their sins, but they had been born again and had the opportunity to draw closer to the Lord than they were able to prior to this experience.

    Jeff-I enjoyed this post and the comments-thanks. I get excited about this subject and hope all of us will know this subject better than any other subject.

  34. Being sanctified is not a one-time event, with following Christ as something we do afterwards. It is the very process of becoming like Christ. It involves obedience, getting rid of sins through repentance, acquiring virtues by diligent practice, enduring opposition and remaining faithful, and the continuing cleansing, enlightening, heart-changing power of the Holy Ghost.

    It is described in:
    Moroni (10:32-33)
    2 Ne 31:19-20
    Alma 13:10-12
    D&C 76:51-53
    and probably other places I am not as familiar with.

  35. Confutus,
    The baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost as contained in 2 Nephi 31:17-18 is as real an event as baptism by water. Once we have received a remission of our sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, King Benjamin instructed us on how to retain that blessing beginning in Mosiah 4:12. That is where ‘endure to the end’ comes in.

    Again, baptism by fire is the gate to the strait and narrow path to eternal life. What is a gate other than an entry point, a place of transition? We are then a changed creature. This is the whole essence of the gospel in my opinion. Enos, the people of King Benjamin, Alma, the 300 Lamanites were all recipients explicitly of this second baptism. Once one receives this life changing experience, there is no long a disposition to do evil.

    If you believe that you can go through life and have the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost imperceptibly change you over time, you will have missed one of the most glorious experiences of your mortal existence. I would hasten to say that without the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, you are not living the gospel (D&C 39:6)

  36. Spektator; I once thought as you seem to, that there was one common universal pattern that all true conversions had to follow. But I was much younger then, and my understanding was more theoretical than practical. Now, after I have read, studied, and pondered the scriptures, struggled and wrestled and fasted and prayed, often with what felt like only the very faintest whisperings of the Holy Spirit, gone through a little corner of true hell and by God’s grace come out the other side, my understanding of that pattern has broadened somewhat. There is wisdom, if you will hear it, in Jesus’s declaration that the Lamanites at the time of their conversion “were baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost and they knew it not.” (3 Me 9:20). In my years in the Church, I have heard thousands of testimonies, hundreds of conversion stories, watched many people grow in the gospel and many others drift away. To my observation, the gifts and manifestations and workings of the Spirit are many and diverse, and very highly individualized. I hope you will not hasten to judge whether or not someone is living the gospel by what spiritual experiences he has or has not felt or recognized at what point in his conversion.

  37. Confutus,
    I am not the one who will be judging. I understand why many people arrive at the same conclusion as you do. If you are basing your perspective on the scripture in 3rd Nephi 9:20, consider this. Before the 1981 issue of the triple combination, there was a footnote on the verse pointing back to Helaman 5:45. It has been removed but there is still a footnote in Helaman 5:45 pointing to 3rd Nephi 9:20. This is the experience of the 300 lamanites who were baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost when Lehi and Nephi were miraculously released from prison.

    At the time, they didn’t understand what was happening to them but the Lord assisted through a disaffected Nephite named Aminadab who explained what was happening to them. Given this reference, it is clear to me that the lamanites were clearly participating in a mighty experience but didn’t understand what it was. Amainadab’s guidance brought them through the baptism of fire. This is clearly different from proposing that the baptism of fire was an imperceptible event. Just as Alma, they were filled with unspeakable joy.

    Speaking of Alma, here is what he had to say about his experience: “… behold I am born of the Spirit. And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people must be born again; yea, born of God…”

    That doesn’t leave many people out of the equation. Alma declares everyone must be born again as he was. I agree that it is not an easy task. Enos had to pray well into the night to receive a remission of his sins. What are we willing to do?

  38. Spektator, I respect your perspective, and I am sure you are sincere in it, but there are apostles and prophets who have disagreed as to its universality. I am with Confutus on this one; there is no common, universal pattern of complete, instantaneous conversion that includes the cessation of sin.

    I also would add that the “people of King Benjamin” expressed that they no longer had any disposition to do evil – but that evil did, in fact, happen among them after this statement. That alone is instructive, imo.

  39. Ray,
    Yes, you can say that I am sincere, and very serious. As I stated earlier, I believe that the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is included in the core gospel. There are four places in the scriptures where the gospel is defined; two include baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost (D&C 33:11-13, D&C 39:6) and two include sanctification (3rd Nephi 27:20-21, D&C 76:40-42). If, as Alma states, all men must be born again, implying that it is a similar experience to his, what is the outcome if the church rejects the notion of a literal baptism by fire?

    In 3rd Nephi 16:14-11, we find that Lord warning us (as Gentiles) that we, in this day, are in danger of rejecting the fulness of the gospel. What will happen if we do? The gospel will be taken from us and given to the house of Israel. Is that prophecy worthy of serious consideration? IF the gospel as defined in the scriptures requires a literal baptism of fire and we dismiss it, we will fulfill this prophecy.

    As to the people of King Benjamin, yes, they had no disposition to do evil. I would suggest that you read starting in Mosiah 4:12 regarding RETAINING a remission of our sins. King Benjamin was very clear what we must do as we endure to the end in order to continue to receive a remission of our sins. It is possible to lapse back after such an event. I assume this is what happened in the case of the people of King Benjamin. Not all of them were able to stay on the strait and narrow path to eternal life.

    An example of the type of lapse is found in the person of Joseph Smith. Consider the following from D^C 20:

    “5 After it was truly manifested unto this first elder that he had received a remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world;
    6 But after repenting, and humbling himself sincerely, through faith, God ministered unto him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all other whiteness;”

    So here is Joseph Smith ‘sinning’ after receiving a remission of his sins. It took repentance, humility, and faith to get him back on track. And, in so doing, received another dose of the heavenly medicine.

    So there is hope for the rest of us…

  40. Spektator
    I’ll concede your point: that was probably not the best illustration. It was one of the less common, more miraculous appearing kind of experiences. But I’ve said my piece, so I’m not going to press mine. You may possibly come to see what I mean, in time.

  41. Spektator, I never said that the baptism of water and fire are not a core part of the Gospel. I believe that completely. I think we might be talking differing semantics to a large degree, since it appeared that you were implying that ONLY one who has a recognizable and overpowering manifestation of the Spirit has “come unto Christ” and received a remission of their sins. If that is what you are saying, then it’s more than just semantics.

    I happen to believe that many who receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost as children truly have been immersed in the Spirit and “come unto Christ” without the type of experience you might classify as the baptism of the Spirit, for example. I know that more than one Prophet has described their own journey in that general way. I also believe that many who convert later in life are coming unto Christ without the type of experience you describe, and I am very wary of making distinctions that appear to denigrate those journeys. I see that as an example of things that are true but not always useful. After all, “to some is given the gift to believe on those who know” – and appearing to challenge the faith of those whose journeys differ from ours is not somewhere I personally want to go – especially when I know very faithful, dedicated, wonderful members (including apostles and Prophets) have not experienced life the way you describe.

    Otoh, if you classify this baptism of fire as any spiritual experience that is so intense that it fills you with joy and love (and that can occur multiple times), I think our differences really are semantic – as I accept that without reservation.

  42. Post

    There are some, Joseph Smith included, who have said that the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost accompanies Baptism by Water and the two events are not as separate. But I am with Ray that I think we can have multiple experiences of the Baptism by Fire.

  43. Confutus,
    Perhaps we should count gray hairs to declare a winner…

    I would hope it is just semantics. At this point in my journey, I find much more credibility in the scriptures than I can find in the various and, at times, conflicting words of apostles and prophets, living and dead. The exception, of course, is when the preface their remarks with ‘Thus saith the Lord.’

  44. I hope so, Spektator.

    However, I do have to point out the irony of the following statement:

    “I find much more credibility in the scriptures than I can find in the various and, at times, conflicting words of apostles and prophets, living and dead.”


  45. I would like to add this to the discussion.

    Helen Mae Andrus, Hyrum L. Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, 51. Daniel Tyler

    The Prophet Joseph Smith was a great reconciler of discrepancies in passages of scripture which were or seemed to be in conflict with each other. Until I heard the great expounder of Bible doctrines explain the following passages I concluded there must be a wrong translation in one verse or the other. One werse read: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”—Matthew iii, 11.
    Here we have baptism with water, baptism with the Holy Ghost, and baptism with fire, three in number. The question naturally arises, how can this passage be reconciled with the following: “There is one . . . Lord, one faith, one baptism.”—Ephesians iv., 4-6.
    Joseph Smith reconciled these two scriptural passages. He said: “There is but one baptism; it takes the baptism of water, of the Holy Ghost, and of fire to constitute one full baptism.”

  46. Let’s get to the bottom line of this discussion on the Holy Ghost. As members of the church we are commanded to “Receive the Holy Ghost” when hands are laid upon our heads at our baptism confirmation (this fulfills the 4th article of faith). The most important item of business for a member of the church at this point is to obtain the gift of the Holy Ghost. There is nothing more important for a member to do. This is basic doctrine. I would like to hear from anyone who disputes this, please come with your quotes from the scriptures and from the latter day apostles and prophets if you dispute this statement.

    The question then needs to be asked: how do we know when we have fulfilled our baptism covenant and received the gift of the Holy Ghost?

  47. Jared,
    I like that. I have contemplated the two scriptures in the Doctrine and Covenants that speak of the gospel defined in terms of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Here they are:

    “11 Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.
    12 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and remember that they shall have faith in me or they can in nowise be saved;” D&C 33

    This one talks of the remission of sins that would, logically, come from the sins being burned from our hearts as if by fire.

    “6 And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.” D&C 39

    This one seems to align with the idea of the Holy Ghost being the bearer of wisdom and knowledge.

    Both parts, the sanctification by ‘fire’ and the access to the knowledge of God, are two good reasons to seek this baptism.

  48. Spektator–As you know the Holy Ghost is the first comforter, and entering back into the presence of God is the second comforter. This tells me that the ultimate purpose of the gift of the Holy Ghost, the first comforter, is to lead us to the second comforter.

  49. For those interested. Following are two statements from an apostle which helps us understand just how important receiving the gift Holy Ghost is.

    Men ought—above all things in this world—to seek for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing as important as having the companionship of the Holy Ghost…There is no price too high, no labor too onerous, no struggle too severe, no sacrifice too great, if out of it all we receive and enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost… Elder McConkie, New Witness for the Articles of Faith, P. 253

    The greatest gift that a person can have in mortality, without any exception, is the gift of the Holy Ghost, the actual guidance, the actual enjoyment of the companionship of that member of the Godhead. Those who have it have peace and solace and joy here. Then the greatest gift that a person can have in eternity is to have eternal life, which is to go where God is and have the kind of existence and kind of life that he has. Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, Page 350.

  50. I often think about this and wonder the same. As members we know so much but I believe we serve so little. I wish there would be ongoing programs to help serve the communities. And I think this would require a full time that the church would like us to have more quality times with our families.

  51. But the dead are such vital part of the gospel, it cannot be taken out of the gospel. We are talking about the salvation of millions!

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