03781_000_007Contains questions of general gospel interest, answered for guidance and not as official statements of Church policy.
How can the Savior be a personal counselor to me?
Brother , Area Director of the Utah-Salt Lake Area of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion.
The question suggests a belief in a wonderful relationship with the Savior where one senses his nearness, his love, and his guidance. In this kind of relationship men can counsel with the Lord and receive direction from his influence.
The question that is often asked is how can this happen—especially to me? The scriptures teach us about the counseling relationship one can have with the Savior. One needs to understand that there is an influence or Spirit that comes from Christ to every individual. It is often called the Light of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, or sometimes even the word of the Lord. (D&C 84:44–45.) This influence is one of guidance and enlightenment.
The Lord instructed Joseph Smith that “the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.” (D&C 84:46.) Some refer to the Light of Christ as one’s true conscience. That is, there is something within each person that is of Christ; it is a true light or true conscience. As one hearkens to the true voice or feeling within him, the promise of the Lord is that there will occur a spiritual enlightenment or, in other words, an increase of light. One’s understanding of what is right will increase, and he will come to know more the will of Christ.
Often when an individual tries to solve a problem, he relies heavily on his ability to think, to consider alternatives, and to weigh the consequences of possible choices. This is a valuable process but it is incomplete by itself. He needs also to search and listen to the truest feelings within himself, which feelings are the light of Christ. There can be many voices that speak to an individual, but there is one true light within each one of us that is of Christ. Let me illustrate this idea with three examples.
A returned missionary came to see me one day for some advice about whether he should join a particular group at the University at this point in his life. When asked what he thought about it, he suggested several ideas that seemed to point to one course of action. When asked what he really felt inside about it, at first he looked puzzled then he smiled as he recognized that the feeling was different from what most of his reasons suggested.
One day a boy stopped at my office and for several moments talked very negatively and critically about the Church, suggesting several reasons why the Church just couldn’t be the Lord’s Church. When asked to search deeply within himself, to examine his conscience concerning the matter as to whether or not the Church was the Lord’s, he replied after some reflective thought, “I feel it is the Lord’s Church.”
Another individual was advocating the new morality, suggesting that a boy and girl are free to choose the way they will show their affection for each other based on the circumstances, without fear of law or punishment, neither of which he felt existed. He was confronted with God’s standard of morality and the truth that there is something within each person that comes from the Lord to assist him in distinguishing between good and evil. When he was challenged to look within himself to see which of the two conflicting approaches to morality was really right, he replied, after some pause, I feel God’s standard of morality is right, which is different from what I have been saying.
Mormon wrote that “the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil …” (Moro. 7:16.) He further said that the true way to judge is to be able to discern one’s feelings, “… for every thing which inviteth to do good … is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ …” (Moro. 7:16.)
The reflective thought within a person must be sincere and done with real intent. Many times an individual will lay aside the influence of the Lord in favor of what seems appealing or rational at the moment. Such an individual may fluctuate back and forth in his feelings. If the negative feelings are a true source of inspiration, they will continue to be felt if one really wants to know what he should do.
On one occasion a girl was trying to decide whether or not to marry a certain young man and was confused because at times she felt doubt and uncertainty and at other times was certain she wanted to marry him. When they were together it seemed right, but when she was alone or away from him, there was much doubt and uncertainty. We talked about many things: the kind of person she wanted to marry, the element of trust in marriage, possible reasons for her doubt, and why at times it seemed all right. Toward the end of the conversation she was asked to consider what she really felt was the right thing to do. After a few moments she said that she had really known all along it wasn’t right but had just put aside those feelings. One must follow the counsel of Mormon and “search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil …” He then promised, “… if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.” (Moro. 7:19.)
In developing a counseling relationship with Christ, follow these three simple steps: (1) recognize and believe that there is a feeling within you that comes from Christ; (2) consider the alternatives; and (3) listen to your honest feelings. If one is in doubt, then it is usually wise not to proceed. When one follows his true conscience, there will be an attendant joy and peace. The old adage of “listen to your conscience” is very true and applicable in learning to discern and follow the counsel of the Savior.