There is an ideology today that I hear quite often and it is poor in principle and flawed in doctrine. You may recognize this ideology as it appears in the following forms:
- “Live your truth”
- “Be who you really are”
- “Be your most authentic self”
What if “your truth” is that only the strong survive and that whatever you can take from the weak you should? What if you are an angry person, short-tempered, or enjoy lusting after the flesh? What if you look at yourself as you are now and realize that you are incredibly narcissistic and do not truly care about the people around you? These ideologies initially feel warm and fuzzy, but they require you to cut yourself off from the greater realities of life and truth.
This is where these principles fail because they turn us inward to search for truth as if somehow contained within us is something greater than what is outside of us in this vast universe. These principles have no doctrinal foundation and seem to fit better in the great and spacious building that hovers precariously in the air. These principles do not conceive of wise and loving heavenly parents who not only created us but seek to guide us to salvation and exaltation.
We will not find truth in the mirror.
Jesus commanded us to study Isaiah and Nephi, Abinadi, and Moroni also pointed us toward his words. Two verses from Isaiah resonate with these flawed ideologies:
“We all like sheep had gone astray, each of us headed his own way;” (Isaiah 50:6)
People will set aside God’s path and gifts and seek to find their own way, their own truth.
“But you are lighters of fires, all of you, who illuminate with mere sparks. Walk then by the light of your fires and by the sparks you have kindled. This shall you have from my hand: you shall lie down in agony.” (Isaiah 50:11)
There is no future trying to light our path with the tiny sparks we seek to generate. Why seek to navigate life in the most inefficient and fruitless way possible. Imagine taking out flint and steel and with each spark, trying to find your way through the woods. Now imagine you have a flashlight or a massive floodlight in your backpack, why would you not use it?
Here is the doctrine taught by Jesus Christ when he came to visit the Nephites after the great destructions:
“Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” (3 Nephi 12:28)
“Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Nephi 27:27)
King Benjamin famously taught:
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)
Note that we are not enemies to God, but our flesh or natural man is but only if he refuses to yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit. This is where our choices come into play, where the principle of sacrifice must have full sway in our hearts.
Remember that God gave us our weaknesses (Ether 12:27), he provides us a sacrifice, like he provided a ram for Abraham, that we can offer on the altars of our hearts.
The world tells us that we must not make such a sacrifice, that we are denying our “true” selves be retaining that which honors the natural man instead of God. Among Moroni’s last words and teachings was this plea:
“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.” (Moroni 10:32)
No, this is not easy at all; if it was, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice. Instead of the flawed principles that the world embraces, we will only find lasting peace as we hold fast to the rod of iron through those mists of darkness while the volume of the great and spacious building increases and the mocking intensifies.
I like to think that Jesus’ atonement was not fueled alone by the faith he had in the Father. In another time, long before this world was, we first had faith in him and I think that in turn, he has faith in us.
Hi Steve. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I agree with some of your words, but I disagree that the truth is not found within. Rather, I think the whole purpose and goal of the gospel is to help us discover that Truth that is at the core of our being, which is our divine nature in God.
I agree that many of the things being taught can be taken the wrong way, which only fuels the ego, selfishness, and narcissism. But those are misunderstandings and corruptions of the deeper truth, in my view. The truth is that what we are in our deepest nature a Child of God, a Son of God, and we can come to perceive this directly within ourselves through prayerful practices such as meditation and contemplation. When we come to know this, we come to find we are One in God, even as Jesus did, and which he prayed we would too (John 17). We realize the at-one-ment in ourself. This is theosis.
In order to see this Truth, however, we must put off the “natural man,” that ego which is our common state of consciousness, which sees only “I,” “me,” and “mine.” We must surrender it, submit our individual will, allow it to subside away, even pass away. Then we will see the Saint emerge from deep within us, which was always there but which was hidden and obscured by the veil of the ego, or “natural man,” as you quoted in Mosiah 3:19.
There are many scriptures which guide us towards this, such as 2 Corinthians 3:18. Seeing this deepest truth within us is very much like looking in a “mirror.”
“We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
When we come to see God within ourselves, God’s law (Truth) is written directly on our minds and hearts as noted in a couple scriptures in Hebrews 8:10, 10:16. We see this Truth within our Self, which is our being in God. This perceiving of God within ourselves is likewise spoken of in the Book of Mormon:
“And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?… I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?” (Alma 5:14, 19)
When we are born again in God, when we are purified of the ego-self, and are thus “converted” at a very deep interior level, we realize God’s image in our countenance, deeply in our own heart and being. That image of God is then found on and in our very Self, and we likewise see it in all others as well, all of Life and creation.
This is all part of the plan of becoming like Christ, as you noted. We come to see Christ in ourselves, to be “like Him.” And if Christ is in ourselves, then we know within ourselves what we should do. Our will becomes One with God’s will, in perfect harmony with Divine justice, mercy, and Love.
But again, this is only known when our ego passes away, the psychological “self” is seen through, when that ego is “crucified with Christ” as the Apostle Paul said, and we find that “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). The ego will often try to make itself into our head, into its own sovereign authority, taking the place of God in us (2 Thes. 2:4), and all its activities will be towards its prideful self-aggrandizement and self-protection, its ungodliness. That is not the authentic self, what we really are, but what is often called the “false self.” That is the self that must be sacrificed, as on an altar, or on a cross, in similitude of Jesus. The True Self is nothing other than Christ in us. And when this is truly realized, then we act as God in Love.
I agree that there is truth in the substance of our spiritual being. If that were all there was and if it was complete then there would be no reason to be here, but we are here, and divine external influences have provided a path that in necessary for us.
We would never discover we were children of God unless we were first told so. The idea has to come from somewhere and there is no atonement without the external influence of Jesus Christ and the internal rejection of those things that offend him.
The way certainly involves circles, things begin and end, they start and finish, especially here in mortality. Circles require motion and precision to create rather than remaining at a single point. What I am arguing against is the idea that your current state of being is complete and that you alone are the only source of truth that you need.
There are many today looking for meaning and morality independent of God and as they reject him, they also betray their inner being. We can’t see God within ourselves without first seeing God. That path to truth requires us first to travel outside of ourselves rather than worshipping the precepts of the natural man.
I don’t think we disagree ultimately, I understand what you are saying, I’m talking about it from a slightly different facet.
You touch upon important principles concerning our ultimate objective of becoming like Christ; however, there is at least one facet that could expand the argument of discovering and living truth to beyond a black-and-white dichotomy to a full-spectrum gradient that compliments gospel principles.
For one, truth is not synonymous with belief: “Your truth” does not have to imply your belief.
Moreover, searching inward does not have to imply that anything outward is inferior to what may be found inward. We are not to be commanded in all things but use our free/moral agency, study things out, make our own decisions, learn by experience, and correct our mistakes, or repent. There are myriad ways to learn about ourselves–and in certain contexts, a mirror can actually be one such way. Although the concern arguably regards spiritual principles more than physical facts, both relate because there is physical as well as non-physical truth.
While the sayings cited can be inferred to promote moral relativism, pride, or disobedience, and there are those who do advocate such, we clearly need not and should not follow this folly.
There are those whose usage of these sayings is benevolent. These terms can promote the discovery of and adaptation to one’s personality traits and unique needs. For instance, the Word of Wisdom: Who has the exact dietary needs as another? Spiritually, everyone has identical needs. Physically, everyone has identical needs but only relative to avoiding what’s detrimental. Relative to what’s physically beneficial, each has similarities and differences in needs and tolerances.
Each is a steward of a unique physical body that houses a unique personage. In addition to living gospel principles, it’s also important for us to discover “our truth” as it relates to our individual needs and personalize our choices accordingly. Those who so desire will seek truth wherever it may be found, including outward as well as inward.
I appreciate the expansion, my scope was fairly narrow here.
I am not against searching, after all, my blog is titled “one climbs” and implies a quest fraught with challenges, risk, and effort. Learning about oneself and the worship of oneself are two different matters and it is the latter that I had in mind.
I was indeed writing with “moral relativism, pride, or disobedience” in mind. While you could argue that the sayings I mentioned could be used in a positive context, I was addressing the underlying ideology itself that parades around clothed in those terms. Almost every time I hear those terms, I see the ideology reveal itself as the context widens.
I do recognized that the mortal paths we take in life will be different for each of us because we are all unique individuals in unique circumstances. I also agree that we all have the same spiritual needs.
Still, I would argue that the sayings are poor principles, because there are better ones that are less ambiguous. In keeping with the idea of using the specific, full name of the Church, I would argue that in the battle of ideas today, we should arm ourselves with better, more specific principles.
The goal of the adversary is to divide us from God and by extension, the divine within. The recurring ideology I see behind those parroting “live your truth” implies that it should be done at the expense of everything else including God.
Whatever you feel is the truth, regardless of what the doctrine says. I’m not saying that mirrors are bad either, I just used the example of a mirror in my lesson on Sunday as a way to observe growth.
My point is that the mirror only reflects back what is there. The mirror is not a source of truth, you may see food and water in a reflection but they do not come from the mirror. We will not discover salvation or ultimate truth within ourselves, we have to look higher, we have to get outside of ourselves.
Whatever part of us we may feel is terribly important, must be judged against a higher way and if it does not fit, we have to leave it behind to continue. I’m talking about sacrifice and repentance here.