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Spiritual self-reliance

Good morning brothers and sisters. For those of you that haven't heard, it’s been an exciting week for
our family - we officially closed on the house we are buying, I quit my job on Friday and start a new one
tomorrow. I’m excited for the opportunity to speak with you today, but also a bit nervous because the
topic I’ve been asked to speak on - spiritual self-reliance - is one that is deeply personal to me right now.
As some of you may be aware and some may not, over the last several months I’ve gone through what I
would consider an intense struggle with belief. I have doubted my doubts and I have doubted my faith -
and for now, I have chosen to stay.

I have prayerfully considered the best way to approach this topic. My hope is that in sharing my
personal experiences and insights that this may be helpful to someone in this congregation who is
currently struggling with faith and belief or that it can help us better communicate with a loved one who
is going through rough times. As a disclaimer, I have no intention of getting into the details of any
specific historical or cultural issue of the Church. If after hearing my story, you feel I can be a resource
for you or a loved one, please by all means reach out to me personally and I am willing to be a listening
ear to hear your perspectives and share mine, for what they are worth. I don’t pretend to have all the
answers, but I am familiar with a lot of the questions being asked.

I want to break my talk into three sections 1) What is spiritual self-reliance and why is it important? 2) I
want to share a part of my personal experiences over the last year and finally 3) I want to talk about
how true spiritual self-reliance is perhaps misunderstood - and what can we do as a community of saints
to help others in their trials of faith.

I. What is spiritual self-reliance?

Spiritual self-reliance, to me, is accepting personal accountability, responsibility and ownership over
your own spirituality. It is truly “owning” your religion. “Owning your religion” does not mean just
showing up on Sunday and going through the motions, as I’ve been all too guilty of doing at times. It
means truly reflecting on what ways your religion will influence your actions - how does your spiritual
identity influence your daily interactions with your family, friends, and others?

When taught about spiritual self-reliance as a child, I remember learning about how for a time it is
normal and acceptable to rely on your parents or others’ testimonies, but that it is necessary to gain
such knowledge and understanding for yourself.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught “ Latter-day Saints are not asked to blindly accept everything they
hear. We are encouraged to think and discover truth for ourselves. We are expected to ponder, to
search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to a personal knowledge of the truth.”

With regards to spiritual self-reliance, Brigham Young taught, “I am more afraid that this people have so
much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led
by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self security. Let every man and woman know, by
the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord
dictates, or not.”

This is not to infer that we should disregard the counsel of our leaders. Quite the opposite - we are to
take the counsel from our leaders to the Lord in prayer to receive confirmation on whether and how to
apply their teachings in our lives. And I feel like it’s also important to acknowledge that no matter how
well-intentioned, leaders can and will make mistakes. But as we strive to follow the spirit of God and
gain a witness for ourselves of the correct path to follow, we will be blessed.

LDS.org provides the following on spiritual self-reliance.

Spiritual self-reliance is essential to our eternal well-being. When we are spiritually self-reliant, our
testimonies do not depend on the testimonies of others. We seek our own spiritual experiences through
praying daily, studying the scriptures, and exercising faith in Jesus Christ. We turn to our Heavenly Father
for His help to resolve our own difficult problems. We are also able to strengthen others in their times of
spiritual need.

A wise leader of mine once taught that faith has a short shelf-life. It requires constant nourishment.
What exactly that nourishment will be may depend on where you are at in your own spiritual journey.
For some, it may be to improve on our communication with God through prayer, for others, reading the
stories of Jesus in the New Testament or faith-promoting stories in the Book of Mormon may provide
the needed sustenance. Some might need some time alone in nature to unwind and refresh. Other
might just need someone to talk to, someone willing to listen, someone there to hear their soul’s
complaint. Whatever it may be, we need to find what works for us personally.

Being spiritually self-reliant does not mean that you have to fit into the perfect Mormon mold - it
doesn’t mean being perfect or that you have to believe everything in the exact same way as others
around you. In fact, it is our differences that allow us to make unique contributions to help others see a
different perspective and to expand their view of the gospel, while having the humility to allow others to
strengthen our views and understanding.

In Doctrine and Covenants 58, we read,

27 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;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good
they shall in no wise lose their reward.

II. My story –

▪ As I alluded to in my introduction, this last year for me has been more of a challenge spiritually
than any other year - but it’s also been a year of spiritual growth. I’ve spent most of my free
time trying to navigate what some might call a “faith crisis.” But let me back up just a bit to
briefly share from my experiences and how I got to where I am today. My hope is that someone
today might benefit from my story and how I currently view spiritual self-reliance. Forgive me if
I am intentionally vague on certain aspects of my story as 1) parts of the story are not mine to
tell, and 2) I do not want to offend or make anyone feel uncomfortable.
▪ I’ve been a member of the church my entire life. On my dad’s side, I come from a long lineage of
faithful Latter-day Saints, the first of whom, Philo Dibble, joined the Church in October 1830, six
months after the Church was organized. My mom is a convert to the Church. I come from a
family of six kids. Growing up, we went to church every Sunday, I served a mission, held every
leadership position on the mission, got married in the temple to my beautiful wife, graduated
from BYU. I knew the Church was true and tried to live my life accordingly. I also knew there
were some challenging aspects of Church history but largely dismissed them or ignored them
because I had received a witness of the truthfulness of the Gospel in my life. In short, the
Church worked for me and for my family.
▪ Over the course of the last several years, my siblings each began to fall away from the Church –
First my oldest sister and her family decided to leave, the circumstances of which I still don’t
really know – then a few years later one of my younger brothers went off to college and decided
that the Church was not where he wanted to be for a number of reasons, and my youngest
brother followed. Ultimately, a little over a year ago, my parents decided to officially leave the
church. And for some reason, finding out that my parents left was so much harder on me than I
expected – I felt like I had a strong personal testimony, but the foundations of my faith had just
been pulled out from under me - my life was turned upside down. I was sad, confused, hurt,
angry. The phrase “families are forever” suddenly held a different meaning for me. I never
blamed my parents for leaving, but couldn’t understand why they would leave the Church they
had taught me to love.
▪ At first, I just carried on and let my frustrations and confusion silently fester within me. Then, at
some point I felt like I had to truly understand for myself whether the Church was true and why
they would leave. Over the last eight months or so, I’ve spent most of my free time actively
trying to navigate what some might call a “faith crisis.” I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of
podcasts from both a faithful and critical perspective, read numerous conference talks,
scriptures, apologetics, read two biographies of Joseph Smith, three on navigating through a
faith crisis from a faithful perspective, and actively participated in online support groups for
those struggling with faith and belief.
▪ I’d love to be able to report that all my questions were answered, my doubts relieved, and faith
perfectly restored - but that wouldn’t be entirely true. But what I have found is an increased
desire to own my personal spiritual journey, take personal responsibility for my beliefs and
actions, and an increased desire to live my beliefs. I have had some heartfelt, open
conversations with members of my family and have been able to strengthen my relationships
with them, despite our differences.
▪ I once heard of an analogy comparing one’s current beliefs or worldview to a vibrantly colored,
beautiful, but fragile glass ball. When confronted with a difficult scenario, a “faith crisis,” the
death of a loved one or any other difficult, unexpected challenge, the glass ball - the perfect
world as we once knew it - can seem to shatter into a thousand pieces. Initially, we might make
an attempt to pick up the pieces and put them neatly back together the way they once were,
but we quickly realize the pieces don’t fit the way they once did. But from the shards of broken
glass, perhaps we can take the rich, vibrant colors and form something new - perhaps an
intricate stained glass mosaic or a beautiful chandelier. There might still be pieces that we can’t
make fit and maybe that’s okay.
▪ I’ve learned that as much as I think I am self-reliant enough to find all the answers, I need the
help of others to help me reframe the question. Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons I’ve
learned, or am striving towards, is finding comfort in ambiguity - relishing in the well-framed
question rather than a perfectly defined answer.
III. Self-reliance is misunderstood

From my own experiences, and through listening to many others share their experiences in their faith
journey, I’ve found that it’s easy to feel alone and isolated. I’ve struggled at times in testimony meetings
thinking to myself, “but what if I don’t know that the Church is true and what does that phrase even
mean?” Is it sufficient to just believe? Or even to have hope that the Church is true or that it adds value
to my life, and live my life according to that hope that is within me?

<Pause>

So, do I have enough of a personal spiritual reserve to be truly self-reliant, to go it alone relying on my
own strength?

I think the short answer is no. I don’t.

No matter how introverted I may be or how stubborn I may be to admit that I need others’ help, I don’t
believe anyone has the ability to truly go it alone - and on our own - or by our own merits, we will not
and cannot return to the presence of God. We need God’s help. We need each other’s help.

In Romans 3:23 we learn, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

King Benjamin taught, “ if ye should aserve him who has created you from the beginning, and is
b
preserving you from day to day, by lending you cbreath, that ye may live and move and do according to
your own dwill, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him
with all your ewhole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”

In short, we need to rely on God. And God often relies on us to accomplish His works.

We’ve all heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child.” I would suggest that it also takes a village
to sustain him or her well into adulthood, and beyond into the eternities.

Put another way, our quest for eternal life is a team sport, not an individual event. It requires the
unique gifts, abilities and perspectives that we each bring to the table. We are all a part of the body of
Christ- a collective group of imperfect men and women using our individual talents and efforts to help
lift each other to heights that we cannot achieve on our own.

As the apostle Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 12:26-27


26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the
members rejoice with it.
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

And really, this to me what “ministering” is all about. It’s about people - mourning with those that
mourn, rejoicing in their successes - being there to be a support in the peaks and valleys of life - even if
that means they never come back to Church or believe the way that you do. It’s also important to allow
others to minister to us- being willing to be open and vulnerable - to allow others to mourn with us and
strengthen us in times of need.

It’s uncomfortable to let others know we are struggling, and there seems to be a particular stigma or
fear around those who struggle with belief, but we all need each other. To borrow from the beautiful
imagery of one of my favorite Hymns, in every quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see.

So, how do we help those who may be question their beliefs or may be facing any similar challenges? I
want to provide 5 quick ideas that were shared with me.
(https://mormondiscussionpodcast.org/2014/09/15-ways-to-help/)

o 1. Assume good intentions


▪ Please don’t assume that because someone struggles with belief that they are
lazy, trying to justify a desire for sin, were offended, or that they are not
praying, reading their scriptures enough, or trying hard enough
o 2. Encourage truth seeking, encourage questions - even difficult ones. Validate concerns
rather than minimize. And it’s ok to acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers.
President J Reuben Clark taught, “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed from
investigation…”
o 3. Focus on the path forward rather than back.
o 4. Focus on empathy and understanding. Going along with that - Listen - Listen to
understand rather than listening to come up with a response.
o 5. Allow faith, hope and belief to have as much room as “knowing”

And if you ignore everyone of those, most importantly, LOVE THEM - love them unconditionally as Christ
loves them. No one that I know of has ever regretted showing too much love, too much compassion or
too much understanding.

As President Thomas S. Monson shared recently, “Never let a problem to be solved become more
important than a person to be loved.”

Conclusion
We may not fully understand someone else’s journey and their decisions may at times break our heart.
We may want to lecture them to desperately try to convince them that our path is better. But let us all
seek first to understand and then to be understood - to listen rather than to be heard.

Let us all seek to be more than we currently are. More compassionate, more understanding, more
empathetic, more forgiving - in short, more like the Savior.

“What manner of men ought ye to be?” Jesus asked, “even as I AM.”


May we all strive to show more Christlike love and compassion for our neighbor is my humble prayer. In
the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
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