Jacob, the brother of Nephi and son of Lehi, gave a discourse on sin to his people and after explaining all the different ways a person can sin and thereby cut himself off from God he said, "O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal" (2 Nephi 9:39).
To be carnally-minded means to think on and do those things that appeal to the flesh and Jacob listed several of these things including setting our hearts on gaining riches, committing murder, and engaging in sexually immoral behavior. Other things that would constitute being carnally-minded include lying, especially to get gain, stealing, bearing false witness against others, holding grudges and other similar kinds of behavior.
Although it is easy to understand what it means to be carnally-minded, the real question we need to ponder is, what does it mean to be spiritually-minded? After all, if our goal is to gain eternal life and the way to do that is by being spiritually-minded, then it is important that we have a clear understanding of what that means.
The most natural conclusion for people to make is to assume that if we avoid doing those things that are carnal then we are being spiritual. In other words, to some people, being spiritual can be thought of as not being carnal. However, this is not the case. Being spiritual isn't the absence of carnal behavior. Just like we have to do something to be carnal, so also we have to do something to be spiritual.
We have been counseled that to increase our spirituality we must pray often, read our scriptures daily, attend our church meetings, be diligent in our callings, keep the commandments, and the list goes on and on. The five steps to salvation that the Church lists are to believe in Christ, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end in keeping the commandments. In the sacrament prayer we are told that if we keep God's commandments we will always have His Spirit to be with us.
However, the truth is that doing all of these things, in and of themselves, doesn't make us spiritual. Yet, at the same time we cannot become spiritual without doing them. So the question still remains: How do we become spiritually-minded?
To answer this question we have to have a clear understanding of what being spiritually-minded means. However, that is not hard to do because we already know the answer, but too often we confuse ourselves by focusing on the wrong things.
God, our Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ, are the epitome of spirituality, therefore to be spiritually-minded is to have the same mind, desires, attitudes, and behavior as God. It's having the kind of thoughts that will lead us back to God. When our mind is in harmony with that of Christ then we are truly being spiritually-minded. And it's when our mind is the same as God's that we are then worthy to inherit eternal life.
Yet, as simple and as easy as this answer is to understand, too many people find it hard to measure up to that ideal. Especially in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are constantly being reminded to say our prayers, read our scriptures, do this and do that, that we tend to think that it is in doing all these things that constitutes us being "spiritual."
This was the same problem that the ancient Jews had. After they had returned from their long Babylonian captivity, they were brow-beaten with the necessity of strictly keeping the Law of Moses that they began to believe that merely going through the motions of performing the various ordinances and rules of the Law that this is what made them pleasing in the sight of God. In the same way, there are those who have the idea that merely keeping a lot of the rules that the Church requires is what makes us spiritual.
But these are merely forms of godliness that appear to an outsider to be spiritual behavior, but by themselves they lack the actual substance of spirituality. For example, a person can read the scriptures everyday without it truly affecting the way they behave. There are some members of the LDS Church who come every Sunday and diligently serve in their callings, but to them church is more like a social club where they attend mostly for the fellowship and the friendships they make, or perhaps because it gives them a sense of belonging or a feeling of being needed.
Even though they may sit in a Sacrament Meeting every Sunday and listen to talks on how to become more like Christ, the words they hear do not penetrate into their heart. As a result, they leave church feeling not much different than when they came. Yet, outwardly, they give the appearance of being a spiritual person, when inwardly they are mostly carnally-minded. Worse yet, they themselves are lulled into the complacent feeling that they are a spiritually-minded person because they have done all the right "things."
Then there are those on the opposite side of this false coin, who think that because they aren't doing everything the Church requires of them that they are not a spiritual person. These are those who are constantly feeling like failures because they are not living up to every commandment the Lord has given. But this attitude comes from the same mistaken idea that our spirituality is defined by the things we do.
True spirituality is an attitude of the heart and it is our attitude that determines our actions and behavior. Thus, it is our attitude that determines our spirituality much more so than our actions. To illustrate this concept, let's look at two identical situations.
A person walking down the street sees someone drop their wallet on the ground. Bending down and picking it up they find it has quite a bit of money in it along with a credit card. Looking around they see that others have noticed their action and, feeling afraid that others will notice if they pocket the wallet, they run up to the person who accidently dropped it and return it to them.
Another person walking down the street sees someone drop their wallet on the ground, quickly picks it up and runs to return it to its owner. In both cases, the person picking up the wallet has returned it, but they have done so for two very different reasons. One has returned it only out of fear of being caught stealing while the other returns it out of concern for the person who lost it. Thus, one person was carnally-minded while the other person was spiritually-minded.
This same principle applies to keeping the commandments of God. For example, praying the same prayer over and over again without having much meaning to it is not really praying. It is merely giving the appearance of praying. Although they are going through the form of praying, there is no substance to what they are saying. But someone who prays with sincerity of heart, and who is actually trying to have a meaningful conversation with their Father in heaven has substance to what they are saying.
The same is true of reading the scriptures, or attending church, or doing genealogy, or even going to the temple. When someone just goes through the motions without a change occurring in their heart, they are being carnally-minded because their motive isn't to please God but to please themselves. It is when what we do is done for the same purpose and reason that Christ would have us do it that we are then being spiritually-minded.
But there is also the danger of people having the mistaken idea that they can make themselves spiritual by their own efforts. In other words, they feel that God expects them to do everything in their power to become like him but the truth is that in our present condition, we are incapable of becoming truly spiritual. That is why we need the Holy Ghost,
The key to becoming spiritually-minded is to properly understand the relationship between what God expects of us and what we should expect from the Holy Ghost. It's when we get that relationship out of balance that we have trouble becoming spiritual.
The Holy Ghost is a sanctifier, which means it is his responsibility to cleanse us of our sins and prepare us to be worthy to live in the celestial kingdom with God. No matter what we do, we cannot erase even the least of our sins, but the Holy Ghost has the ability to take away even our worst sins as though we had never committed them. It is his role to purify us, not simply by taking away our sins, but by bringing us to Christ and helping us to become perfected in Christ (Moroni 10:32).
If that is the role of the Holy Ghost, then what is our responsibility in becoming spiritually-minded? Since it is the role of the Holy Ghost to teach us, guide us, and walk beside us as we make our journey back to heaven then our responsibility is to stay close to the Spirit and to following his direction.
The Lord explained our responsibility to Joseph Smith when he said, "And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good-yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy" (D&C 11:12-13).
In one of our hymns we sing, "Let the Holy Spirit guide; let him teach us what is true. He will testify of Christ, light our mind with heaven's view. Let the Holy Spirit guard; let his whisper govern choice. He will lead us safely home if we listen to his voice" (LDS hymn #143).
Our duty is to let the Holy Spirit teach us truth, allow him to enlighten our minds by showing us how heaven views things. Our responsibility is to learn to listen to the Spirit's voice and follow his whisperings when making a choice. If we do these things then he will lead us safely home.
Therefore, our task is to do those things that will invite the Spirit into our heart and allow his presence to influence our mind. Each week when we partake of the sacrament we renew our commitment that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Christ and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given. And if we do those things then we are promised that we will always have his spirit to be with us.
The reason why we are asked to read the scriptures is not just for the sake of reading them but to help us gain a better understanding of God's character and attributes. After all, we can't become like him if we don't know him. And as we read with this intent the Spirit will open our eyes and help us see things from a heavenly perspective. As we read the scriptures with an attitude of wanting to learn how to become more like Christ, the Spirit will help strengthen our resolve to become better. We will find peace in our soul and discover that we are becoming more charitable towards others and having a greater desire to do good.
As we pray to our heavenly Father with a sincere heart we should seek to find out what he wants us to do. We should seek for his guidance, direction and instruction. If we are willing to submit our will to his the Holy Ghost will guide us in the decisions we make and we will find our desires becoming more and more righteous. As we pray with a heart that wants to follow the path of righteousness, the Holy Ghost will continually and safely guide us along our journey back to God.
Imagine someone going on a safari in Africa for the first time and being led by an experienced guide. How foolish it would be to leave the path he is on in order to go look at something interesting in a dangerous part of the jungle. This is our only chance to pass through mortality and there are many dangers all around us. The Holy Ghost is our experienced guide but when we refuse to listen to him and seek to go wandering off onto paths he will not go, then we are left on our own to suffer the consequences.
To be close to the Spirit we must be willing to serve the Lord with all of our heart, mind, and strength, That means when we receive a calling in the church, not matter how small or large its assignment may be, that we fulfill our duties with a desire to help build up Christ's kingdom here on the earth for that is what the Holy Ghost does. Thus, to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost we must be where he is, doing what he does.
When we pay our tithing, it should be an expression of gratitude to the Lord for all he has given us. When we partake of the sacrament, it should be a sacred time when we remember the great sacrifice Jesus made for us personally and to recommit ourselves to honor him by keeping his commandments out of our love for him. When we attend the temple, it should not only be to assist the Lord in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of those who willing came to earth at a time when the gospel was not available to them, but to deeply commune with God and seek for his inspiration and revelation in our lives.
To become spiritually-minded not only means to seek the guidance of the Spirit in all we do but it also means faithfully serving the Lord and helping him to accomplish his purposes. And the more we do this the more we will find ourselves becoming more and more spiritual without hardly any effort on our own. Jesus taught, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). How does the light of Christ shine forth in our works? It is our spirituality that glows from within us.
The prophet Alma asked the people of his day, "And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?" (Alma 5:14).
This kind of a change can only come through the Holy Ghost. As we stay close to him, trusting in him in all we do, our hearts, desires, and attitudes will begin to change and as they do our countenance will begin to more and more take on the appearance of Christ. This is how we become spiritually-minded.
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