I recently contemplated again the creation of the earth and the whole series of orderly and planned events that were a part of that divine activity. As I dwelt on the subject, I reviewed how that process of creation was a perfect model for reaching a goal or a desired result.
The overall task was divided, assignments were made a portion at a time with an example to use as a model, and a time for reporting was set. In general, it was a planned and a deliberate process. It was thought out in advance—even spiritually created before it was physically created.
Many things in our lives are created “spiritually before physically,” or in other words, are thought out and planned before they are actually done. Take sin for example; it fits into this mold. Reread the story of Joseph in Egypt and note especially how Potiphar’s wife planned to ensnare Joseph in her wickedness. The movie Camelot provides another example. Guinevere contemplated and planned her sins from the very first; it was she who sang, “Where Are the Simple Joys of Maidenhood?” and “The Lusty Month of May.” Numerous other examples can be recalled with ease.
The obvious question that presents itself is, “Why don’t we plan our spirituality?” A rehearsing of each of our lives would probably indicate that we drift along from one happenstance spiritual experience to another. We don’t plan their arrival, nor do we know or control when they are coming. We simply catch them when we can and try to profit by them. They strengthen us for a while and then pass on.
Again the question, “Why shouldn’t spirituality, or spiritual experiences, or spiritual strength—why shouldn’t these things be planned and deliberate processes? The answer must be, “They should be planned and deliberate processes.” The serious accomplishment of any important goal must be planned out and systematically pursued if results are expected. Every successful businessman operates this way in order to realize his increases—he plans and executes a deliberate approach to achieve his goal. So also must we plan our spiritual lives.
Our overall goal, of course, is to return to our Heavenly Father and live with him in exaltation. We have an understanding of many of the steps necessary to accomplish this—Church activity, abstaining from major sin, payment of tithing—but we seldom systematically pursue the requirements of spiritual power. Granted, a certain amount of spirituality is awarded to him who keeps the laws mentioned above. But to be eligible for exaltation, a person must grow in spiritual power and be sanctified to the point that he develops a powerful and personal relationship with the Savior. This is a requirement of spiritual strength far above our normal level. Many Church members live in ignorance of this disparity and the need to acquire spiritual power. The solution requires new perspectives and new behavior on our part.
Our best sources for examples of how to gain spiritual strength are the life of our Savior and the accounts of the lives of our great spiritual leaders. The prime example is the Savior’s 40 days and nights of fasting in the wilderness. It was a planned, deliberate process to gain the strength and power he needed to begin his ministry. I’m quite sure he meditated, he committed, he prayed, he fasted, and he studied the scriptures during this time. Maybe these are the elements of the pattern we need to follow.
A second example is John the Baptist and the process he underwent in preparing for his mission—again a period of fasting and prayer. Alma the Younger provides a third example in Alma 5:46: “Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself.” A similar statement was made by Nephi when he desired to receive for himself the dream of the tree of life. Many other examples exist of instances where man has sought strength, answers, revelation, knowledge, and guidance. In each case a resultant blessing was desired and the person involved followed certain steps to achieve the results or the blessing.
In our lives we are often brought to our knees by circumstances or need. We find ourselves at the point where there is no other way to turn but to the Lord. Alma proclaims that they who are compelled to be humble are blessed, but that they “who truly humble themselves” (Alma 32:14) are more blessed. It appears then that there is greater worth in assessing our needs and humbling ourselves in a planned process to gain strength, answers, direction, or comfort.
What are the steps of such a process? If we were to bring together various scriptures and statements of latter-day prophets, we might synthesize the following steps:
1. Meditate. Review with the Lord in quiet meditation your present situation and how you stand with him. Review in detail the covenants you’ve made and the stewardships you hold. This is a process of intensive analysis. It may last for a long period of time.
2. Resolve. Mentally compile your conclusions and your intent. Make a promise to take action. This is a process of commitment.
3. Plan. Translate your intentions into plans that are specific and tangible. It is of great worth to write them down.
4. Pray. Pray mightily for the strength or results you desire. This is a process of requesting, of humbling, of cleansing, and of refining. It is the key to the entire process.
5. Fast. Join with prayer 24-hour periods of fasting. The law of the fast is extremely interesting. Physiologically you can’t explain exactly why fasting brings the results it does, but theologically you can. It is simply a key the Lord has given us—a key with a promise that it will bring us closer to God.
6. Study. Study the word of the Lord in the scriptures on a daily basis—at least a chapter each day. Often our answer will be found in the scriptures. At other times, this study will enlarge our vision and humility to the point that prayer can bring our answer.
7. Serve others. The Lord has said that we find ourselves by losing ourselves in the service of others.
8. Thank. Express gratitude to the Lord for the strength and answers that he gives.
If at first you fail to gain what you seek, continue with the above until it is granted. The Lord in his wisdom may withhold granting your request for a season so that you will stretch your efforts further and thereby gain more strength in the process. The process itself sometimes brings about the result.
Each individual needs a spiritual experience from time to time in order to remain strong, carry on his duties, and resist temptation. The intent, of course, is to increase the frequency of these spiritual experiences, even to achieve a high, continuous spiritual plane. The pattern then changes from one of spiritual heights and depressing lows to one of spiritual peaks and intermediate foothills, and finally to a constant high plateau. But it must be a planned process rather than the chance happening.
The experience Enos had in the forest did not come about by chance, for he stayed there and kept praying (even all day and into the night) until it became a reality. Maybe he had been feeling a spiritual low and set out to correct his situation.
Spiritual lows must not be allowed to remain in our lives. We have the ability to correct them. May we muster together our faith and knowledge and systematically bring more spiritual strength into our lives.