When the Gospel Doesn’t Bring You Peace

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when the gospel doesn't bring you peace

The scriptures say that the gospel should bring us peace:

Romans 14:17: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Galatians 5:22, 23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Colossians 3:15: And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

John 14:27: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

If you are not feeling the peace of which Christ speaks, there could be several reasons. Maybe these suggestions can help.

You are in the Midst of a Terrible Trial

One of the most difficult things about times of adversity is that although trials may be financial, medical, emotional or otherwise, they usually cause times of spiritual confusion, which makes everything worse.

The usual questions — Why is this happening? This doesn’t jibe with the promises I’ve received, why? How will I survive this? How will I pay for this? Where should I go? What should I do? — usually have to do with trying to figure out how to cope and rebuild lost hopes and dreams according to a different scenario.

They say trials can make you bitter or better. The way to get better is to seek guidance from above. Pray more, read more scriptures, listen to the prophets. Trials can last for a very long time and seem more than we can bear, but constantly seeking Christ can eventually bring peace, even before the trial ends. Struggle upward, overcome anger, be humble.

You are Frazzled

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Running here and there trying to satisfy the requirements of family, work, callings, and hobbies creates stress so profound that when we have a moment of stillness, we want to use it to sleep. Constant stress of this sort, especially when we use stimulants (put down that diet coke) to keep us going, usually lead to a crash. Suddenly, we can’t do anything.

But before we get to that point, it’s go, go, go. Family prayer drops out, Family Home Evening drops out, family dinners around the table drop out, and if you are single, quiet moments with the Spirit drop out. Well, even if you are married, it happens.

Suddenly, you are spiritually empty, beholden to a huge group of needy time-grabbers demanding attention. The Church talks about service, but you’ve set yourself up for slavery.

I’m one of those lucky ones who has never been strong enough physically to fully engage with the rat race. I’ve always had to say no. I’ve learned over time that pacing yourself is both possible and wise. Prioritize your responsibilities and say no to the ones at the bottom of the list.

This is difficult! Prioritizing and saying no may keep you from moving up the ladder in your career, or mean you have to take your kids out of sports. Those things are a really big deal, but you’ve got to do it. Nurturing your spiritual side (and your family’s), following the admonition to BE STILL (and know that I am God), will make everything worth it in the end.

Eliza R. Snow taught that the best way to resist the busy-ness of life or service slavery is the Holy Ghost’s companionship.

“The Holy Ghost satisfies and fills up every longing of the human heart, and fills up every vacuum. When I am filled with that Spirit, my soul is satisfied, and I can say in good earnest, that the trifling things of the day do not seem to stand in my way at all. But just let me lose my hold of that spirit and power of the Gospel, and partake of the spirit of the world, in the slightest degree, …and trouble comes; there is something wrong. I am tried, and what will comfort me? You cannot impart comfort to me that will satisfy the immortal mind, but that which comes from the Fountain above. And is it not our privilege to so live that we can have this constantly flowing into our souls?”

Someday you will be old (if you make it that long). Many of the things you spent your strength on will have gone by. Relationships and your connection with deity will be your main satisfaction, but not if you neglect them when you are younger.

Your Behavior Doesn’t Match Your Beliefs

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It’s very difficult to feel the peace the Savior promises if you are acting in a way not compatible with your ideals and beliefs.

No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon (3 Nephi 13:24).

This sounds like a religious message, but it is also a model in psychology. Trying to honor two opposing things causes cognitive dissonance (conflict in the mind) that is extremely trying and eventually makes us have to choose one and reject the other, just to get rid of the guilt and stress. Serving God and Mammon puts us in a state of conflict that has to be solved at some point.

Here, a choice must be made. Drop the Church to get rid of our guilt and follow that other lifestyle, or repent and get rid of our sin. This choice is usually very difficult; we can waver back and forth — repent and fall, repent and fall. Or we can just struggle with the choice over a long period of time while our guilt piles up. This accruing guilt makes us short-tempered with our loved ones and our leaders.

Loving or enjoying our sins can also tilt us away from repentance. Once we begin to tilt away from the Church, pride can push us all the way out.

Feeling worthless and unlovable by the Lord can keep us from repenting and cause us to walk away from Him. One very important lesson, especially for women, is that self-deprecation is not the same as humility! True humility opens our minds and hearts to be filled by heavenly knowledge, spirit, and peace. Self-deprecation stops our progress.

Or, you might not need to repent, but just change your focus. How many women in the Church, especially in the U.S. and especially in Utah, are trying to live up to three sets of standards — the Lord’s, the perceived church culture’s, and the world’s? When we do that, we set impossible expectations and shatter our peace.

Your Pride is Making you Find Fault with the Church, its Leaders, its Members

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via inspower.com

We know this is happening when we become angry. Pride is the father of anger. Look at this quote from Thomas Marsh, who was the President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles under Joseph Smith, but whose pride led him to apostasy. It took 18 years for him to humble himself and return, penitent and with greater understanding, to the fold.

I have sought diligently to know the Spirit of Christ since I turned my face Zionward, and I believe I have obtained it. I have frequently wanted to know how my apostacy began, and I have come to the conclusion that I must have lost the Spirit of the Lord out of my heart.

The next question is, “How and when did you lose the Spirit?” I became jealous of the Prophet, and then I saw double, and overlooked everything that was right, and spent all my time in looking for the evil; and then, when the Devil began to lead me, it was easy for the carnal mind to rise up, which is anger, jealousy, and wrath. I could feel it within me; I felt angry and wrathful; and the Spirit of the Lord being gone, as the Scriptures say, I was blinded, and I thought I saw a beam in brother Joseph’s eye, but it was nothing but a mote, and my own eye was filled with the beam; but I thought I saw a beam in his, and I wanted to get it out; and, as brother Heber says, I got mad, and I wanted everybody else to be mad. I talked with Brother Brigham and Brother Heber, and I wanted them to be mad like myself; and I saw they were not mad, and I got madder still because they were not. Brother Brigham, with a cautious look, said, “Are you the leader of the Church, brother Thomas?” I answered, “No.” “Well then,” said he, “Why do you not let that alone?”

Well, this is about the amount of my hypocrisy–I meddled with that which was not my business. But let me tell you, my brethren and friends, if you do not want to suffer in body and mind, as I have done,–if there are any of you that have the seeds of apostacy in you, do not let them make their appearance, but nip that spirit in the bud; for it is misery and affliction in this world, and destruction in the world to come (BYU.edu).

We can be members in good standing, but if anger sets in, peace flees. We can’t avail ourselves of the peace Christ offers if we are prideful.

We Misunderstand Doctrine

man ponderingI have met a number of Latter-day Saints who are tied in knots over some doctrine or another. If we are tied in knots, we are not still nor are we peaceful. If we have ultimate trust in the Lord, that He’s in charge, has all power, and truly loves us (all), then we can relax when we misunderstand until we gain the knowledge we seek, but some of us are not that patient.

Allen Wyatt, writing for Mormon Interpreter, reviewed Carol Lynn Pearson’s book about plural marriage. He cited a anecdotal story she used, one of many, to criticize the doctrine of plural marriage:

My current husband and his first wife were married in the temple and were active Latter-day Saints for years. His wife slept with another man and got pregnant. They divorced before the baby was born. This ex-wife then slept with a different man and got pregnant again. Both of these children are sealed to my husband, even though they are not his children. They were “born in the covenant,” with him and that’s the way it will stay.

When he and I got married, we talked about getting sealed to each other. As I looked into it, I realized that if I got sealed to my husband, I would be signing on to live in plural marriage in the eternities, since he would then be sealed to two women.

So now, on this earth, I need to make a terrible decision. Do I want to give up my husband in the eternities, or do I want to keep him and live in eternal polygamy? As of today I am not willing to commit to eternal polygamy, so we remain “unsealed.” It is very sad for me, because my husband is my other half. He is a wonderful, delightful, kind, loving, and caring man. But according to church doctrine, unless I choose to be sealed into polygamy, he will be with his first wife forever (just like the songs say!) instead of me.

These people are truly suffering in mind and spirit, yet they are doing so because they misunderstand doctrine. Says Wyatt:

“According to multiple recitations in D&C 132, the entire basis of establishing an eternal marriage is based upon three things:

  1. A willing man and woman
  2. Performance of the sealing ordinance by one holding the proper keys
  3. Confirmation of the ordinance by the Holy Spirit of Promise

“In the case of Brother Johnson and his first wife, only one of these conditions remains satisfied — the performance of the sealing ordinance by one holding the proper keys. The other two conditions have not been satisfied. Neither party is any longer willing to participate in an eternal marriage with each other, nor has the Holy Spirit of Promise confirmed the ordinance.”

Thus, these people are suffering needlessly, because they misunderstand their situation according to true doctrine. When we are bothered by some point of doctrine and policy, we should question our perception of that doctrine and policy, pray, study, find the answers, and meanwhile, trust God. This, again, takes patience and trust and faith. Be still.

What helps you find the peace Christ promises? Let us know in the comments below.

Gale Boyd is the copy editor for More Good Foundation. She is a Jewish convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has lived all over the world. She has raised 6 Third Culture Kids and is always homesick for somewhere.