Sunday, March 14, 2010

Is It Me or Is It the Spirit?

I watched an excellent devotional address by Elder David A. Bednar on the "me or the Spirit" question this week. In his introduction he commented that this was one of the most frequent questions members of the Church ask him worldwide. Certainly, there have been times in my own life where I have wondered that very thing and have hesitated to some degree in hopes of receiving that clarification before moving forward.

Elder Bednar's answer was a little bit of a surprise, but a comfort at the same time. His answer to this question was quit worrying about it! Stop fussing, stop analyzing and stop worrying about it. In doing this he corrected what he called a cultural departure from doctrine and went on to say that if we are good boys and girls, keep our covenants and keep the commandments, it doesn't matter if it is us or the spirit. Many times when it is the spirit, we won't recognize it at the time; and it is okay to be doing good without the prodding of spiritual promptings. The bulk of his talk was spent on three incredible stories illustrating these points.

The scripture that came to mind while listening to his talk were these from the Doctrine and Covenants:

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 a doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned. (D&C 58:26-29)

So we know this stuff. I've heard these verses several times in church classes, conference talks and seminary/religion classes. Why do so many of us hesitate, then? Elder Bednar commented that he has observed members and missionaries who were "paralyzed" by this question. Why? Why is this question one of the most frequently asked to Elder Bednar worldwide? Do we simply not have the faith to act on our own? Or are we misapplying scriptures like, "If ye have not the spirit, ye shall not teach"?

This was a timely reminder for me. My wife and I have been thinking and praying about moving to a new area to be closer to her family and give me the opportunity to go to graduate school. We have stood at the crossroads of this decision uncertain of what to do for a period of weeks. It felt almost liberating to hear again that God trusts us to make good decisions. The idea that we can decide and move forward, trusting that he won't allow us to go too far down a bad path unwarned, was comforting and exciting all at once. I know what I will choose to do!

Perhaps the more subtle point of Elder Bednar's talk was that often the spirit is guiding us without us realizing that the spirit is guiding us. While I puzzle at how I could have forgotten my agency in the first place, I take comfort in the knowledge that by pressing forward and making good choices, I will be led home to that God who is my Creator, the Father of my spirit and the architect of the Plan of Happiness.


  1. Great post, Dallin. I reminded me of a talk by Elder Scott a couple of years ago in which he suggested that if we don't get an answer to prayer, that's a good thing because it means the Lord trusts us to make the decision ourselves. (Ok, Elder Scott's talk was more complex than my postage-stamp summary, but I think I'm true to that part of his message.)

  2. Replies
    1. I'm not sure of the title anymore, Jeremy. The talk was given at the Provo MTC some time between January 2009 and March 2010. I don't think the transcript was released to the public (which probably explains why I didn't use any substantive quotes from the talk here), though Elder Bednar has made similar remarks in later talks. Sorry I can't be more helpful!

  3. Another good resource: