Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How To Actually Repent: The 12 Steps of Repentance

Repentance is re-aligning yourself with God.

Sometimes we look at repentance as simply wiping out a sin. A quick "I'm sorry" to God will do. But repentance can be so much more than that. Repentance is using our agency to align ourselves with God. Because we are flawed mortal beings we need constant re-alignment. The repentance process is less about a quick "I'm sorry" to God and more about seeking to better ourselves on our eternal quest to seek after God. 

One of the most important things we can do in our lives is to learn how to truly repent and teach it to others. True repentance is powerful. It provides any willing heart the power to access the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and truly change for the better. 

I hope you will indulge me as I share what I have come to know as the 12 steps to repentance, based on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program as well as the LDS version in the Addiction Recovery Program. As you will see, these steps apply to every individual who seeks to reconcile themselves with God and align their lives to His will.

Step 1: Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless and imperfect.

This step involves humbling ourselves and admitting that we have numerous flaws and imperfections that keep us from God. This isn't about any specific sin or circumstance, but rather a general humbling where we are willing to figure out where we are weak and where we need improvement.

Step 2: Come to know that the power of God and the Atonement of Jesus Christ can change you and restore you to complete spiritual health.

Study the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Learn about His mission, His life, and His ability to help you heal and change you. You can't have faith in something you don't know about. Sometimes we need to renew our knowledge and faith.

I love this quote from Elder James E. Faust because it teaches us that no matter where you are in your knowledge and testimony of the Atonement, there is still more to learn.
"My reason for wanting to learn all I can about the Atonement is partly selfish: Our salvation depends on believing in and accepting the Atonement. 1Such acceptance requires a continual effort to understand it more fully. The Atonement advances our mortal course of learning by making it possible for our natures to become perfect. All of us have sinned and need to repent to fully pay our part of the debt. When we sincerely repent, the Savior’s magnificent Atonement pays the rest of that debt. Any increase in our understanding of His atoning sacrifice draws us closer to Him. Literally, the Atonement means to be “at one” with Him." 
               - James E Faust Nov 2001 “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope”)
Step 3: Decide to turn your will over to God and His son, Jesus Christ. 

This sounds so simple, and yet it is so hard to actually put into action. It takes a conscious effort to makes the changes needed in our lives to truly repent and align ourselves with God. This is your moment to make that conscious effort and truly ready yourself to turn your will over to God. As you repeat these steps over and over in your life this step will have more and deeper meaning as each time you more fully give your will to God. Our agency is the only thing that is truly ours. To give that back to God is the greatest gift we can give. 

Step 4: Make an inventory of the things in your life that are keeping you from God. 

Here is where you list out your sins and shortcomings. I like to think of this as cleaning out your attic. When you first start there are a bunch of boxes and dirt up in your attic. So, you organize them, get rid of some stuff, and sweep the floor, and feel proud of all you've accomplished. As you repeat the steps of repentance over and over you keep coming back to the attic and seeing there is more you can do. With each cleaning you see more you can get rid of and more you can clean. Even once it is empty you find that, as with all attics, dust and cobwebs accumulate and must be swept out and taken care of on a regular basis. As we repeat the steps of repentance over and over in our lives we will one day end up with a sparkling clean attic that we've spent a lifetime cleaning. This is much better than simply accumulating a lifetime's worth of junk up there. We will use this attic analogy in some of the other steps. 

Step 5: Admit to Heavenly Father the exact nature of your wrongs. 

This is the moment where you humbly kneel before your maker and confess all those things from your inventory. If necessary, you also confess those sins to someone else like appropriate Priesthood Authority. Priesthood Authority is necessary when a sin is so serious that guidance is needed to work through the issue. Think of this as a box in the attic that is too heavy to carry alone. 

Step 6: Become ready to have God remove your weaknesses.

Once again, this is easier said than done. There are a lot of weaknesses, sins, and shortcomings in our life that we like to hold on to. Are you really ready to let them go? Think about those boxes in the attic. Even though we know the boxes are doing us no good in there, it can still be hard to get rid of them. This is entirely a mental exercise, but a necessary to step that can take some time. As we repeat these steps we can see the improvements in our life that have come from giving up these weaknesses and it can become easier to let go of the weaknesses we carry with us. 

Step 7: Ask God to remove your weaknesses and make up for your shortcomings.

We've already found in Step 1 that we are nothing compared to God. No matter how hard we try, we all fall short of the glory of God. We need his help. A humble prayer of supplication for God's help in our lives is all that is necessary here, but it can be a powerful moment in our lives as we connect with our Father in Heaven. 

Step 8: Make a list of people you have harmed, or steps you need to take to reconcile yourself.

Just like our inventory in Step 4, it's time to make a list of the people we've harmed. Perhaps you have harmed no one and simply need to take corrective measures in your life. It's time to list them out and figure out exactly where you need to go from here. If you've been gossiping about someone, the person you've gossiped about should be on the list as well as all those you've told the gossip to. If you've been neglecting personal scripture study this would be the time where you list out a plan of action to make daily scripture study a part of your life. 

Step 9: Make restitution to those you have harmed or take action to correct your wrongs. 

Now is the time to take that list from Step 8 and do something about it. This is where you get to right your wrongs and take the necessary steps to improve your life and re-align yourself with God. This step requires complete humility. You cannot repent without this step. This is where you change and strive to be better.

Step 10: Continue to take inventory of your life, and when you are wrong promptly admit it. 

Repentance is a constant process in our lives. These steps should be repeated continually. If we want forward progression on our eternal journey then we better start walking. These steps propel us forward. 

Step 11: Seek through prayer to know the will of God for your life and to have the power to carry it out. 

If we want to align ourselves with God then we need to stay in contact with him. At this point, you've cleaned up some of the problems in your life. You are closer to the spirit and have your eye on God. Now is the time to ask Him how He wants you to move forward and what He wants you to do in life. Keep in contact.  

Step 12: Bear witness of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 

This step is special. I believe it is a requirement of true repentance. After experiencing true change in our life and seeing the power of the Atonement in action, we need to share it with others. This step is perhaps the easiest of them all. After experiencing such power in your life, it is nearly impossible to keep it to yourself. You will find yourself naturally testifying of the Savior and His miraculous ability to save. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

5 Things to Stop Doing When Teaching About The Law of Chastity

1. Stop Shaming

The design of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to invite people to repentance. Shame is already so devastating and prevalent in the world of sexual sin that we don't need to pile anymore on. Shame is a powerful tool used by Satan to keep people from repenting. Lessons on the Law of Chastity should focus on hope and change through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 

Examples of shaming include focusing on how bad sexual sin is instead of teaching how to repent from it. Emphasizing the negative impacts of sexual sin creates an environment of shame. Teaching someone why they should do something with threats of consequences isn't a great teaching method. You can certainly mention the negative effects of sin, but the focus should always be on repentance and the Atonement. Hopeful lessons point others to Jesus Christ. Shaming lessons focused on threats and negativity point people the opposite way. 

2. Don't Make Assumptions

Assuming that no one in the room has a problem is a problem in and of itself. Guess what? The Law of Chastity applies to everyone equally to men and women, young and old. Everyone has room for improvement, and a significant majority percentage of church members have active struggle with pornography, masturbation, body shame, sexual temptations, lusting, inappropriate thoughts, adultery, and a whole host of other issues that fall under the category of the Law of Chastity. 

Often people avoid talking about difficult subjects by talking about teaching it to their children rather than talking about how to apply it for themselves. If we are not keeping the Law of Chastity ourselves how can we ever hope to deal with the extremely difficult challenges they face? You have to stop assuming that no one is struggling because statistics, Bishops, and Stake Presidents can all tell you that the problem is at plague-like levels. Repentance is for everyone in the room!

3. Stop Making Lists

I'm making a list right now so I see the irony here.  Making lists of dos and don'ts, blessings and curses is ridiculous. Yes, we need to explain what is appropriate and inappropriate, but if it becomes the focus of the lesson then we have a problem. You can have sex with your one and only and live a chaste and virtuous life and still end up on the "curse" list with an STD due to a struggling spouse. The lists hurt people. They see themselves on the wrong side and are filled with shame. Is that how you want people to feel during your lesson? We have all made mistakes. Bringing it up over and over isn't how God works. Repent and He will remember the sin no more. Lists make us look at ourselves in terms of black and white, good and bad. The Law of Chastity is black and white, yes, but we as human beings are mold-able, changeable, and are working towards bettering ourselves. We have to stop defining ourselves by lists and rather let us define ourselves by who we seek to become. The purpose of the Law of Chastity is to bring us joy. 

4. Stop Avoiding the Word Sex 

It's cute that you know a dozen words to describe sex that you think are more appropriate for church like "intimacy" and "relations." Call it exactly what it is and stop dancing around the issue. It is called sex and it is wonderful and beautiful. Learn the difference between sex and intimacy. It's not the same thing! We need to call things exactly what they are. Sex is sex. I give you permission to use the word masturbation too. If you have to stand in front of the mirror and say the words out loud a hundred times before you teach the lesson, then do it! Sex, masturbation, pornography, penis, vagina, breasts, naked, fallopian tube....okay, so maybe you won't use the last few in a lesson on the Law of Chastity, but let's get real here. Be brave. Use the big girl words. 

5. Stop Using Chastity as a Word for Sex

Sex should not be used synonymously with the word chastity. The Law of Chastity involves a whole lot more than just sex. You can live a chaste life and have sex every day. You can have sex every day and never experience intimacy. You can never have sex with someone in your life and still be breaking the Law of Chastity. If we keep mixing up the word chastity and sex then we are sending a horrible message. You need to keep the Law of Chastity which means don't have sex so then what happens when you do have sex? Guilt? Shame? Ahhhhh! The Law of Chastity is so much more than just not having sex. It is about learning to master the natural urges of our bodies. It is about keeping sacred covenants with another person. It is about the sacredness of the sexual experience. Sex is something that is good, pure, and holy. The Law of Chastity helps us find something special in the sexual experience and empowers us as creators and partners in an eternal journey. The Law of Chastity brings us joy. 

Hopefully at some point lessons on the Law of Chastity will be as open and freely discussed as any other lesson. I'm tired of women skipping church or leaving the room when there is a lesson on chastity because they fear what hurtful things people will say. Women should not feel pain in Relief Society. They should feel relief! We are a sisterhood, and a powerful one at that. We should stand united on the Law of Chastity, helping those that stand in need of help, comforting those that stand in need of comfort, and inviting all to experience the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Just imagine what a powerful force we could be!

You may also like these articles:

How to Actually Repent: The 12 Steps of Repentance

4 Things You Can Do Right Now to Battle Pornography In Your Home

50 Shades of Shame: LDS Women and Their Pornography

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What Does It Mean To Live Within Your Means?

LDS congregations have been counseled numerous times to not live beyond their means.

What does that even mean?

Based on how many people fail to follow this counsel, it might be great to have a little review as to what that means.

Credit Cards

If you cannot pay off your credit card in full every month then you are living beyond your means. Credit cards can be great to earn cash back, airline miles, or other rewards, but if you can't pay it off every single month, then you are hurting yourself. You are literally spending money that you do not have. If you can't earn the rewards responsibly, then say goodbye to the cards.


Just because the lender says you can afford it doesn't mean you can. They tell you the maximum you can afford each month while doing nothing else. They also don't take tithing into account. Who cares if so and so has a 9 bedroom house with hand-scraped hard wood floors, a gourmet kitchen, and a theater room! Figure out what you need and see if you can fit it into a 15 year loan (or less!). You'll be much happier in the long run and it lowers the risk that you will owe more than your home is worth, even if the market takes a dive. Living beyond your means = buying at the top of the range the bank said you can afford. Jumbo loans can also indicate a problem. Is your house for showing off or is it for housing your family?


A brand new car immediately depreciates as soon as it is driven off the lot. If you only pay the minimum down payment you are immediately in debt for thousands more than the car is worth. A new car is a luxury item. If you can't pay for it in cash, consider a used car that you CAN afford.


If you can't comfortably pay for your vacation in cash, then you shouldn't be going on it. I'm not saying you have to use actual cash, I'm saying that if there is any kind of loan or use of credit (that you aren't going to be able to immediately pay off) involved, that's a vacation you shouldn't be taking. I don't care how great of a deal the airline tickets were, or how much you really want to take your kids to see Halloween at Disneyland. If you don't have the money to pay for it, you shouldn't be going.

Emergency Funds

Do you have an emergency fund set up? Does it have any money in it? You should have an emergency fund for things like that trip to the ER, the blown radiator on the car, the A/C that went out, and the dishwasher that flooded the kitchen. If you don't have an emergency fund that can cover these things, you'll end up going into debt to pay for them. If you can't afford to have an emergency fund, you may be living beyond your means.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Julie Rowe, Prophetess, and the Mormon Doomsdayers : WHY?

Perhaps you've heard or perhaps you are wondering who this Julie Rowe character is. Even the Salt Lake Tribune has caught wind of her. 

Julie Rowe is an active LDS Church member who claims to have had a near death experience in which she had a vision where she saw the end of the world. She has decided to sell her alleged vision for money in two separate books available for purchase on Amazon. Her followers have a secret Facebook group called Among LDS Friends where they discuss their preparations for the end of the world which will supposedly come in September 2015. Many of her followers are liquidating their assets (including retirement accounts), hoarding mass amounts of food and weapons, and are preparing to evacuate urban populations to live in tent cities. 

The LDS Church's only refute to the so-called Prophetess was in a letter to Church Education System  noting that the book(s) are not endorsed by the Church and should not be recommended to students or used as a resource in teaching them. This letter also includes a number of other LDS urban legends, misquotes, and false doctrine. The Church lumped Julie Rowe and her followers in the same category as alleged mission calls to China and other easily discredited rumors. 

I do not know Julie Rowe or what her intentions are. This is not the first LDS Doomsdayer to gain a following, nor will it be the last. I have followed Julie Rowe from afar and am fairly well versed in her teachings. I have not believed them even for a second. Julie Rowe sells her alleged vision for money. This alone is enough to convince me that something is very wrong here. I am quite certain that Julie Rowe and the Among LDS Friends followers have been deceived. 

The big question here is why?

Why has this doomsday movement been so successful? How does one woman convince thousands of people to liquidate retirement accounts at massive losses, sell their homes, and purchase aluminum handcarts? 

Mormon Elite-ism

I have written before about the Mormon Elitist problem. Mormons like to think they are special. It is fairly easy to spot in any LDS ward with individual members claiming exception to certain common rules or church teachings. They even go far as to ask for exceptions from leaders. Just ask any female Temple worker assigned to work with brides. The doctrine of the LDS Church proclaims personal revelation. Combine the sense of Elite-ism with personal revelation and you have a recipe for disaster. People want to feel special by having visions or having a special knowledge of future events. They attribute it to their spirituality, spiritual awareness, and personal righteousness. They read books like Julie Rowe's and it feeds their desire to be among the Mormon elite. They want to experience for themselves what Julie Rowe has experienced. You might even say they seek after signs.  Ordinary dreams suddenly have hidden meanings. Every world event becomes a confirmation of your new-found beliefs. A friend of a friend heard from an undisclosed source that Apostles are preparing their families. Suddenly you are among the "in" crowd. You are one of the people who "know." You are special. 

Social Media

This particular Doomsday group has utilized social media to feed the movement. They created a secret Facebook group. You cannot find this group on a search as it is secret and hidden. You can only be added to it through a vetting process to ensure that you are a true believer. Once in the group, people are free to share personal alleged visions, quotes, and second or third hand information with nothing to back up their claims. Anyone can gain a following on Social Media these days. There are websites dedicated to followers of Julie Rowe where they publish certain information in regards to their doomsday belief. Julie Rowe has done traveling speaking tours and has even utilized group phone calls for which you can pay to participate and hear witness straight from the Prophetess herself. 

Twisting Scripture and Doctrine

These doomsdayers prey on scriptures and quotes used out of context. In fact, some quotes are so old or out of context that they can't even be verified. I have taken some of their quotes and tried to verify them without success. That's pretty scary. Yet, the followers take it at face value. They choose to ignore most quotes and scriptural references in lieu of ones that support their claims. And because of personal revelation anything that can't be supported by scripture or Prophetic quotes is simply attributed to special knowledge. 

The Biggest Deceit of All

Julie Rowe and her followers constantly proclaim that they support and sustain the Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Julie Rowe would be quietly outraged at anyone calling her a Prophetess. According to her, she is merely a vessel to deliver a message of preparedness. That's where she gets people. She isn't claiming to be a fringe group. She isn't going "against the Prophet." She reiterates over and over again her faithfulness to the Church. That's where she gets people. This is the key to her true success. "She's just one of us." I believe in some cultures they call this a wolf in sheep's clothing. 

I feel badly for the doomsdayers who get caught up in things like this. There will be many people over the next few months or maybe even years who realize that they have been deceived. Some will be in a horrible financial state because of it. Some will have lost friends, or alienated family members over it. They may feel foolish, They may feel angry. They may loose faith. They do not deserved to be mocked or chastised for being deceived. There are already plenty of people out there that are mocking them. What they will need is love and compassion. Will you be able to give it to them? 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

When the Temple Isn't A Great Experience

Most of the time when people speak of the temple, they speak of strong feelings of peace, or spirituality, or sacredness. It builds an expectation that your temple experience should be some sort of supernatural spiritual transcendence beyond mortal life.

But what if it's not?

Can you even admit that to someone?

Are you a weirdo? 

Is something wrong with you?

Are you just not spiritual enough?

You may not find it discussed in most Sunday School classes or Relief Society, but there is a large population of LDS endowed members who have had bad experiences in the temple. There are people with personal circumstances in their life that make it emotionally painful to go to the temple. There are people who were weirded out by their first experience in the temple and have never gone back. There are people who just don't like it. There are lots of reasons, but the common thread is that the temple isn't always a great experience. 

I know many of these people.

They are good people.

There's nothing wrong with them.

I think if we were more willing to talk about our negative experiences in the temple, maybe we could resolve some of the underlying issues. There shouldn't be a stigma or shame in saying you simply didn't find or don't currently find the temple to be enjoyable. 

I wish I could tell you something magical to make it all better. But I'm not going to. Instead, I choose to validate how you feel and offer some suggestions you are free to take or ignore.

If your underlying issues stem from ceremonial issues, maybe a way to confront the issue is to discuss your concerns with knowledgeable people who can help share insight and historical context to the ceremony. It may or may not resolve your concerns. And that's okay! It doesn't make you a bad person or make you less worthy of God's love. There is some really interesting information out there about temples throughout history. I went to a presentation once about the history of women and veils. It was eye opening and fascinating. You never know, someone may offer some insight that will change how you see things. 

If your underlying issues stem from personal circumstances and emotional pain, I highly recommend finding a temporary alternative. Where can you find peace and feel God's love? The mountains? The beach? A quiet park? A bubble bath? Set aside a regular time to go there and contemplate your relationship with God. The temple can bring up painful feelings for those experiencing marital problems, a faith crisis, loneliness, or a myriad of other difficult personal situations. I can't tell someone to go to the temple knowing full well it will make them feel pain. That's not the intention of the temple. Don't go just to go and make yourself feel worse. Do something else to help you feel God's love. Work on it. Go back when you feel you might be ready.  

Perhaps you go out of duty and simply don't always have any special feeling or experience. That's okay too. Sometimes we just make something a habit and it just becomes an every day part of life. Having the temple be a habit isn't a bad thing. 

You may have thought the temple was disappointing. There aren't any mind blowing secrets there.  You don't go and rub shoulders with angels or have your mind opened up to visions all the time. That's not what the temple is for. 

I don't have all the answers to make the temple a better experience. That's not really the point of this article. If you take anything from having read this, simply remember that it isn't always a great experience for everyone and that's okay. If you haven't had a great experience, you are not alone. God still loves you. It's even okay to talk about it. If someone reacts poorly and doesn't think it's okay to talk about....well, they are the ones with the real problem. 

Your feelings may never change. God's love for you will never change. The latter statement is what matters most.