I spoke on Sunday and gave this message relating to spiritual sloths and eagles. Which one are you? Or are you like me and switch between both at different stages of your life? I hope that we (myself included) will strive to fly like eagles after reading this.
We live in the last days. In a talk by Henry B. Eyring given in 2006, he said:
God’s prophets have seen these times for millennia. They saw that wonderful things were to happen. There was to be a restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The true Church was to be brought back with prophets and apostles. The gospel was to be taken to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Most marvelous of all, the true Church and its members were to become worthy for the coming of the Savior to His Church and to His purified disciples.
But the true prophets also saw that in the last days Satan would rage. There would be wars and rumors of wars, which would inspire fear. The courage of many would fail. There would be great wickedness. Satan would deceive many. Yet, happily, many would not be overcome. And many would not be deceived. My purpose is to teach you how you can reach that happy and glorious goal.
Elder Eyring goes on to say in his talk that the Holy Ghost is the key to not being overcome by the Adversary. As members of the Church, we believe that we are given this precious gift by priesthood authority at baptism. This is the most precious spiritual gift we can receive, because it is the foundation of all other spiritual gifts we can claim in this life. Pres. Eyring said:
The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of truth. You feel peace, hope, and joy when He speaks to your heart and mind that something is true. Almost always I have also felt a sensation of light. Any feeling I may have had of darkness is dispelled, and my desire to do right grows.
I know this is true. When I seek earnestly to have the Holy Ghost in my life by keeping the commandments, remembering my Savior, and taking Christ’s name upon me in all that I do, I gain balance, even if there are stressful or painful circumstances going on. The Holy Ghost provides peace so that I know everything will work out okay, and I feel as if I’m flying like an eagle to great spiritual heights.
Conversely, when I don’t put the Lord first…when I allow other matters to steal my focus so that I’m only giving trite observance to prayer and token time to the scriptures and worshiping the Lord, life becomes conflicted—even if circumstances are flowing smoothly. That conflict comes from the absence of the Holy Ghost.
I become a spiritual sloth, and am not willing to help others. I don’t feel repentant, because I’m too lazy to look inside and discover what I lack. That takes work. I justify that I’m doing fine, even as my spirit writhes with indigestion. Sloths move only when necessary, and then very slowly. Because of their limited movement, a single sloth may be home to moths, beetles, cockroaches, fungi, and algae. That is plain DISGUSTING!
When I mimic a sloth instead of an eagle, I do NOT move closer to God. The sins and temptations of the world, like moths, beetles, and cockroaches, can make their home in my life and cause me to feel icky. Elder Eyring tells how the Holy Ghost lifts us from this spiritual sloth state to the heights and freedom of an eagle:
Of all the things to which the Holy Ghost testifies, none is more precious than that Jesus is the Christ, the living Son of God. And nothing is so likely to make us feel light, hope, and joy. It is not surprising that when we feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, we also can feel that our natures are being changed because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We feel an increased desire to keep His commandments, to do good, and to deal justly.
The difference between having the Holy Ghost with us and not having it may be hard to describe to others, but it is just as tangible to our spirits as the distance a sloth covers compared to an eagle. We feel the absence of light when we don’t put God first. We feel the nasty influences of spiritual beetles and cockroaches crawling inside our minds. When the Holy Ghost is our partner though, our hearts, minds & souls become open to other spiritual gifts that make our lives (and that of others) more fulfilling.
Spiritual Gifts are blessings or abilities given by the power of the Holy Ghost. We can all have them. God gives us these gifts so we can serve others and help build His kingdom. The more we use these gifts, the more gifts God will bless us with. If we hoard them, we’ll lose them as surely as the sloth has lost muscle tone due to his sedentary lifestyle. God has commanded us to diligently seek out and develop our spiritual gifts to that we don’t become spiritual sloths and become deceived.
Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given. Doctrine & Covenants 46:8
Why are spiritual gifts given? In the next verse, this question is answered.
For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts. Doctrine & Covenants 46:9
Elder Bednar in his talk Quick to Observe, discussed some less conspicuous spiritual gifts we might not have considered. Among these are:
the gifts of asking; of listening; of hearing and using a still, small voice; of being able to weep; of avoiding contention; of being agreeable; of avoiding vain repetition; of seeking that which is righteous; of looking to God for guidance; of being a disciple; of caring for others; of being able to ponder; of bearing mighty testimony; and of receiving the Holy Ghost.
He goes on to discuss the gift of being quick to observe. Right away, you know this isn’t a sloth action, because it uses the word QUICK. The prophet Mormon had this gift.
And now I, Mormon, make a record of the things which I have both seen & heard, & call it the BOM. And about the time that Ammaron hid up the records unto the Lord, he came unto me, (I being about 10 yrs of age, and I began to be learned somewhat after the manner of the learning of my people) & Ammaron said unto me: I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe; Therefore, when ye are about 24 years old I would that ye should remember the things that ye have observed concerning this people; and when ye are of that age go to the land Antum, unto a hill which shall be called Shim; and there have I deposited unto the Lord all the sacred engravings concerning this people. And behold, ye shall take the plates of Nephi unto yourself…& ye shall engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people. Mormon 1:1-4
Observe, as used in the scriptures, has two primary uses.
1) it denotes “to look” or “to see” or “to notice”
2) it suggests “to obey” or “to keep”
When we are quick to observe, we promptly look and obey. Both these elements are essential to being quick to observe. Mormon definitely wasn’t a spiritual sloth. He’s a great example to emulate.
If we seek to have the gift of being quick to observe, that will lead to receiving another spiritual gift, discernment. Elder Bednar says about this:
The gift of discernment operates basically in four major ways.
First, discernment helps us detect hidden error and evil in others.
Second, and more important, it helps us detect hidden errors & evil in ourselves.
Thus the spiritual gift of discernment is not exclusively about discerning other people & situations, but also about discerning things as they really are within us.
Remember, how I said that when I become slothful, I don’t see the need to repent. This is why. I don’t have the gift of discernment when I am being lazy.
The gift of discernment is vital to repentance
If we find ourselves feeling slothful in repenting of our sins and weaknesses (Which we all have), it is time to pray mightily until we feel the Holy Ghost providing us spiritual wings to repent and soar like an eagle.
Here are the 3rd and 4th ways discernment helps us do:
Third, it helps us find & bring forth the good that may be concealed in others.
And fourth, it helps us find & bring forth the good that may be concealed in us.
I love these last two ways the gift of discernment works. Spiritual discernment not only helps us spot evil, but good in others and ourselves. It’s so easy to be judgmental of others and ourselves. Especially as women, we tend to focus on the latter—the pimples on our face, that curling iron scar on our forehead, our big nose, straight hair, our body that doesn’t look like the models who’ve been airbrushed & photoshopped to perfection. The natural man focuses on flaws. But spiritual discernment from God helps us see with new eyes, and that vision allows us to see the whole, beautiful picture full of blessings, opportunities and possibilities.
Discernment is a light of protection & direction in a world that grows increasingly dark. You & I can press forward safely & successfully through the mist of darkness & have a clear sense of spiritual direction. Discernment is so much more than recognizing right from wrong. It helps us distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant, the important from the unimportant, & the necessary from that which is merely nice. The gift of discernment opens to us vistas that stretch far beyond what can be seen with natural eyes or heard with natural ears. Discerning is seeing with spiritual eyes & feeling w/the heart—seeing & feeling the falsehood of an idea or the goodness in another person. Discerning is hearing w/spiritual ears & feeling w/the heart—hearing & feeling the unspoken concern in a statement or the truthfulness of a testimony or doctrine. -Elder Bednar
Elder Eyring listed 3 steps we must do to be worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost—who will then help us be quick to observe and be discerning.
- Have Faith in God—this is the first principle of the gospel. Every Primary child knows this one. Elder Eyring said: Vibrant faith in God comes best from serving Him regularly.
- Be Clean—The Holy Ghost cannot dwell in unclean temples. In the Book of Mormon, the Nephites found this out when they fell into slothful behavior & their spiritual muscles became weak.
And because of their iniquity the church had begun to dwindle; and they began to disbelieve in the spirit of prophecy and in the spirit of revelation; and the judgments of God did stare them in the face. And they saw that they had become weak, like unto their brethren, the Lamanites, and that the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them because the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples. Repentance is the key to this step.- Helaman 4:23-24
- Have Pure Motives—Elder Eyring tells us that If you want to receive the gifts of the Spirit, you have to want them for the right reasons. Your purposes must be the Lord’s purposes.
Who of us has not prayed for help on a test? The Holy Ghost knows all the answers, and could tell them to us. But God would rather have us learn to pay a price in study and effort than treat us like sloths. We may want straight A’s in our classes, but God may prefer that we learn how to work hard in the service of others instead. We may want a job because it pays well or has prestige, but God might want us to work somewhere else to bless the life of someone we don’t even know yet. When we pray, we need to search our desires to make sure they are pure and not selfish.
The gifts of the Spirit are many. I’ve only focused on a few. But I hope that we will do those 3 things Elder Eyring discussed to be worthy of the Holy Ghost:
- Have Faith
- Be Clean
- Have pure motives.
I pray that we will be quick to observe, like Mormon, and seek the gift of discernment…so we may detect the evil in others and ourselves, and also discover the good in others and ourselves. Repentance is the key to having the gift of the Holy Ghost with us.
I hope we will put off the slothful natural man and seek after the wings of the Spirit to help us soar and experience peace and joy like an eagle. I bear testimony that it is not only possible, but vital to our salvation.