What are we? Are we this tabernacle of clay composed of water, carbon, and a host of chemicals and bacteria? These atoms that existed long before our birth and will continue long after our death?
As I have pondered questions such as these, I have concluded that core substance of our being is our mind. Some call it consciousness or the soul, LDS scripture calls it “intelligence,” (see Intelligence, Guide to the Scriptures) but I will address it here as the mind.
Aside from immortality or mortality, when you peel back the layers of God or man, there is a mind at the heart of each.
Between God and man is a vast gap. One of the most noticeable differences is that God is immortal, and we are not. The resurrection is a gift from God that raises us to his level concerning physical death. With that aspect of the gap aside, what then remains?
At this point, I think the key differences between God and us lie in the realms of knowledge, understanding, and intelligence; in other words, the constitution of the mind.
Thus the purpose of our existence involves narrowing and eventually extinguishing the gap. The result is that two become one, but how is this accomplished?
It is as if we are all on a journey to a destination without a real knowledge of how long we have traveled and how much further still our destination is. Are we waiting on God, or is he waiting on us? We sense that there must be something we can do, but what about grace? Are we to walk or run, or stand completely still? All of our difficulties in life come from limitations of our knowledge, understanding, and intelligence. If we could see things as God sees them, we could see, understand, and act much differently.
The fall of Adam shattered the sphere of innocence and introduced the capacity to sin into the world. The apostle James explained, “for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin.” (James 4:17 NABRE) Sin is not a virus that infects the innocent; it is a state where we have consciously violated a law of God. Overcoming sin is not done through the strength of will, but happens through an enlightening of the understanding and an expansion of the mind. (Alma 32:34)
For example, nobody has to tell you repeatedly to stop eating filthy gum from underneath a table because you know what it is, where it came from, you understand the risks, and you act intelligently regarding it.
There is no difference in respect to overcoming sin. Proverbs 26:11 teaches that a fool returning to their folly is like a dog returning to its vomit. This graphic example illustrates how we, like the dog, engage in things that we would be disgusted by if we could only see and understand.
Seeing begins in the mind
Nephi understood this and asked God, “make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin.” (2 Nephi 4:31) The people of King Benjamin experienced a mighty change in their hearts and declared that they “have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” (Mosiah 5:2) Likewise, Nephite high priests expressed that they “could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence.” (Alma 13:12)
In the cases of King Benjamin’s people and the Nephite high priests, they mentioned that the catalyst for change involved “the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent” which wrought a mighty change and being “sanctified by the Holy Ghost” respectively.
How does the Spirit of God do this? In questions 13 and 14 of Lecture 5, we learn a vital truth:
“Do the Father and the Son possess the same mind? They do. […] What is this mind? The Holy Spirit.”
I’m not trying to redefine or contradict the idea that the third member of the Godhead is an individual being. In scripture, it is not uncommon to find the Holy Spirit spoken of as an ‘it’ rather than a being, consider Moses 6:60:
“Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.”
In this light, consider the words of Lecture 5 as they relate to the effects of the Holy Spirit or the Mind of God upon us:
“…which Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments: and all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all: being filled with the fulness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one.” (Lecture 5:2)
How important is it that we possess the Mind of God? Consider the following verse:
“And Satan […] knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world.” (Moses 4:6)
For his reasons, God has chosen not to reveal the identity or the mechanics of everything regarding the third member of the Godhead. Much is said, however, regarding the effects of the Spirit in our lives and what we can expect.
Understanding the Holy Spirit as the Mind of God, that which allows our minds to transcend the limited paradigms of mortality, is the key to becoming one with God and overcoming all things.
Repentance is understanding
Instead of repentance being about feeling bad and continually apologizing for failures, we can come to see it as pursuing enlightenment through the Spirit to obtain, “a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.” (LDS Bible Dictionary)
The brother of Jared, “having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil […] therefore the Lord could not withhold anything from him.” (Ether 3:20,26) The brother of Jared had obtained the Mind of God to the degree that he could see what God could see. Obtaining the Mind of God is what allows a seer to see, a prophet to prophesy, and a testator to testify.
The Lord has said, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.” (Ether 12:27) Where the world smugly cries, “blind faith!” the Book of Mormon teaches about an “eye of faith.” (Ether 12:19, Alma 32:40, Alma 5:15)
Humanity sins because they are “blind in their minds,” (3 Nephi 2:1) and do not see things as they are. Indeed, when the Spirit, the Mind of God, influences you, “your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.” (Alma 32:34)
President Boyd K. Packer was right when he said:
“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” (“Little Children,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).
When we have the Mind of God, we understand. Focusing on the behavior is the effect rather than the cause, but understanding doctrine is key. Elder David A. Bednar wrote:
“Thoughts and feelings put into our hearts by the Holy Ghost are a result of the spiritual gift of revelation. Understanding, then, is a revealed conclusion and a spiritual gift.” (Increase in Learning, p. 67)
We receive the ultimate realization of these blessings by way of the covenant of baptism. Moroni wrote: “And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ…” (Moroni 6:4)
With a clear vision of truth and error, we can fully act as agents and choose according to our desires and experience the joy that comes when we discover that our desires align with God’s.