Scripture Study

You Are Probably A Mormon Fundamentalist

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Have you ever said something like, "I believe all the words of the prophet." Or, "No matter what the Prophet says, I will do it or I will believe it." Or have you dismissed uncomfortable ideas or unfamiliar concepts from sound, faithful scholarship and defaulted to a comment similar to, "The prophet is silent on this; therefore, I don't need to know." Or even made a general statement of, "Always side with the prophet in intellectual and spiritual matters." 

If you have, you are most-likely a Mormon Fundamentalist. Interestingly, by making comments or believing this way you are in fact NOT believing the words of the prophet. Elder Harold B. Lee in quoting Brigham Young said the following:

“‘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 being led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give their leaders if they know for themselves by the revelations of Jesus Christ that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know by the whisperings of the Spirit of God to themselves whether their leaders are walking in the way the Lord dictates or not.’

To me, there is a tremendous truth. It is not alone sufficient for us as Latter-day Saints to follow our leaders and to accept their counsel, but we have the greater obligation to gain for ourselves the unshakable testimony of [1] the divine appointment of these men and [2] the witness that what they have told us is the will of our Heavenly Father.” —Quoted by Elder Harold B. Lee of the Quorum of the Twelve in Teachings of the Living Prophets (p. 47; Conference Report, Oct. 1950, pp. 129-130)

I've seen this happen too many times: men and women of profound faith attacked, condemned, judged and called to repentance for solid scholarship and sincere questions. Although I don't consider myself a scholar, I have also been on the receiving end of those who've been rebuked for doctrinal exploration. But I have also repeatedly seen brilliant individuals who are established scholars — whom the apostles refer to on their specialties — called out and condemned by Mormon fundamentalists. (Take for example Daniel A. Petersen, who was rebuked for not following the manual, of which he was the author/contributor.)

Because the scholars’ perspectives don't fit within narrow fundamentalist views, the fundamentalists feel they have to proclaim the prophetic view, as opposed to faithfully seeking out truth. 

What prompted this post was this exact exchange with one such scholar on Facebook: 

Today's encounter with unthinking LDS (non-polygamous) fundamentalism, directed at me.

"Wow. I cannot believe they are letting you teach the youth. Brother ---, all I can say to you is I wish you well. I will believe the words that come out of the prophet's mouth. I am one who would wear purple socks every Thursday if that is what he says to do. You can cite non-LDS sources. I'll stick to the church approved. My salvation isn't worth dabbling in the philosophies of men. Have a great life."

FWIW, I wasn't citing non-LDS sources or doing any of these other things, but this kind of worldview is very fragile and easily threatened.

In his insightful, faith-saving/strengthening book "Shaken Faith Syndrome," Michael Ash addresses this rigid perspective of fundamentalism:

"Having interacted — for over two decades — with people whose testimonies have been weakened or destroyed by something they have ‘discovered’ about the Church, I have generally found that those who are prone to fundamentalist ideology about certain facets of the gospel or early LDS historical events, are more likely to apostatize when they encounter challenging issues.

I use the term 'fundamentalist' in a way that may differ from other usages of the term. In LDS circles, for instance, the term 'fundamentalist' commonly denotes those who still practice polygamy. This is not how the term is used in this book.

Among many Christians, the term generally refers to conservative evangelicals who actively affirm what they see as fundamental Christian beliefs such as an inerrant Bible, which is literally interpreted and historically accurate despite any conflicting claims from science and modern scholarship. By association, the term 'fundamentalist' is also used to describe all those (of various religious beliefs) who take a very ridged, dogmatic, uncompromising, and unchanging approach to their ideologies (or belief systems). This definition more accurately depicts the way the term is used ..." (pg. 5)

Elder Hugh B. Brown in his book, “An Abundant Life” said the following:

“I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should of course respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent – if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression … This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.

With respect to people feeling that whatever the brethren say is gospel, this tends to undermine the proposition of freedom of speech and thought. As members of the church we are bound to sustain and support the brethren in the positions they occupy so long as their conduct entitles them to that. But we also have only to defend those doctrines of the church contained in the four standard works — the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Anything beyond that by anyone is his or her own opinion and not scripture. Although there are certain statements that whatever the brethren say becomes the word of God, this is a dangerous practice to apply to all leaders and all cases. The only way I know of by which the teachings of any person or group may become binding upon the church is if the teachings have been reviewed by all the brethren, submitted to the highest councils of the church, and then approved by the whole body of the church.

I do not doubt that the brethren have often spoken under inspiration and given new emphasis — perhaps even a new explanation or interpretation — of church doctrine, but that does not become binding upon the church unless and until it is submitted to the scrutiny of the rest of the brethren and later to the vote of the people.

And while all members should respect, support, and heed the teachings of the authorities of the church, no one should accept a statement and base his or her testimony upon it, no matter who makes it, until he or she has, under mature examination, found it to be true and worthwhile; then one's logical deductions may be confirmed by the spirit of revelation to his or her spirit, because real conversion must come from within." —Hugh B. Brown, A Final Testimony

Furthermore, Michael Ash points out the logical fallacy in clinging to prophet’s words.

"And why should we follow their counsel if they might be wrong?

The truth is that we already pick and choose when we follow the words of the prophets. We also pick and choose the counsel we follow from the scriptures, our boss, the law, health professionals, our parents, spouses, etc. Since we are not perfect and not robots, it always comes down to personal choice ..." (pg. 33)

We are commanded to seek further truth, to study from all good books, to even question concepts, traditions and doctrines. It is the very purpose of our agency; it is what builds our faith and testimony. Not questioning/exploring is a lack of faith.

One scholar, Ben Spackman, has posted these insightful words to his social media of Eugene England, quoting B.H. Roberts:

"I believe 'Mormonism' affords opportunity … for thoughtful disciples who will not be content with merely repeating some of its truths, but will develop its truths; and enlarge it by that development ... The disciples of ‘Mormonism,’ growing discontented with the necessarily primitive methods which have hitherto prevailed in sustaining the doctrine, will yet take profounder and broader views of the great doctrines committed to the Church; and, departing from mere repetition, will cast them in new formulas; cooperating in the works of the Spirit, until they help to give to the truths received a more forceful expression, and carry it beyond the earlier and cruder stages of its development.”

England then comments,

"President Roberts, of course, is not suggesting that the intellectual's task is to create new doctrine, but rather to take revealed doctrine and give it new formulations that will relate to the changing world we live in, that will enable us, for instance, to more effectively criticize our flawed social, political, artistic and intellectual environment by using the great germ-truths of the gospel." Dialogue 9:4 (Winter 1974), 47

I encourage you to seek out truth from all sources, to engage in meaningful dialog, to apply faith in your curiosity versus running to "safety" under a Prophetic blanket. We need more Saints who are well informed and can, as it says in Peter, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear [faith]." (1 Peter 3:15)

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Additional Supporting Quotes:

Encouraging all to read, study, research and learn, apostle Charles W. Penrose (who would later serve as counselor to President Smith) declared,

“President Wilford Woodruff is a man of wisdom and experience, and we respect him, but we do not believe his personal views or utterances are revelations from God; and when ‘Thus saith the Lord’, comes from him, the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill.” (Millennial Star 54:191)

“And none are required to tamely and blindly submit to a man because he has a portion of the priesthood. We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark, that they would do anything they were told to do by those who presided over them, if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God … would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without asking any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their minds to do wrong themselves.” (Millennial Star, vol.14 #38, pp. 593–95)

Brigham Young said:

“What a pity it would be, if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? 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, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken the influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.” (JD 9:150)

“How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the spirit yourselves.” (JD 4:368)

“I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied …Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, ‘If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are,’ this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.” (JD 3:45)

“Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the nfluences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will NEVER be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, [Gordon] or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory,immortality, and eternal lives; never can hold scepters of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer.” (JD 1:312)

“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel [see, for example, verses 9-10: ‘If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing … the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him.’] … said the Lord had declared by the Prophet [Ezekiel], that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church — that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls — applied it to the present state [1842] of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall — that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves …” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pp. 237-38)

George Q. Cannon, Counselor to three Church Presidents, expressed it thus: “Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone.” (Millennial Star 53:658-59, quoted in GospelTruth, 1:319)

Sunday School For The Noisy

If you have kids, a noisy husband or are a nursing mother, this Sunday School class is for you. For the last two years I have had the wonderful pleasure of teaching a Sunday School designed specifically for parents of toddlers. The class is open to everyone, and there is a handful of individuals and couples without kids, but it is structured specifically for those who have active children too young to attend nursery or primary. 

My hope in structuring the class is to provide a living room–type classroom experience. Parents are encouraged to let their kids roam and play. If kids become antsy or upset, parents can attend to their needs right there in class. Over the last two years, we have had many diaper changes, had crying babies and nursing mothers. All is welcome and encouraged. This is an environment where mothers and fathers never need to be concerned with a distracting child or that they are interrupting others' spiritual experience. We have proven reverence doesn't equal silence. 

This Sunday School has been a welcomed refuge for mothers and fathers with young children who have traditionally felt banished to walking the halls or hiding out in nursing rooms when their children have become inconsolable. There is never a need to leave this classroom. Everyone who attends knows what to expect from the environment. Parents never need to be concerned that their fussy baby or roaming child is a distraction to another. Now the foyer couches, hallways and nursing rooms are empty and the classroom is always full. By providing this open, comfortable — and in a lot of ways safe — environment, I have heard the thankful relief from the spiritually-craving mother who once felt torn from either being spiritually fed or feeding their baby. Now she feels she can do both. 

Additionally, class participation is never an issue. I have taught Sunday School on and off for over 15 years, and this is the first time I've actually never encouraged the class to bring or open their scriptures. You'll never need to feel concerned that you'll be caught unprepared or called on to read out of your scriptures. With a bottle in one hand and a baby in the other, my hope is that you will not feel you have to put down the bottle to reach for the scriptures. Therefore, I present every lesson on a screen. Each quote, scripture and video is easily seen by everyone. Even if your hands are full tending to your parental duties, you can follow along, read and not feel you lost your spot in the lesson while tending to your child's needs. 

How to have a successful, spiritual noisy Sunday School:

1. Seek the individual needs of the parents.

Pray over each family to understand their gospel needs and how it can be addressed in the lesson. 

2. Become comfortable with noise.

Learn how to talk through the noise. Avoid getting louder or waiting till the noise subsides. Getting louder or silencing can make parents feel they are disrupting the class. Do your best to stay on point and continue the lesson as though the noise was not present. 

3. Prepare and use PowerPoint, Google Presentation or slide presentation.

Use technology in a meaningful way, but keep it simple.

Refer to my Sunday School Class slides for an example of how to use media in the class.

4. Eliminate shame.

When the idea for the class was inspired, some perceived the class as a form of punishment, where the "Hallway Parents" were assigned to attend. It could potentially even reinforce the idea that parents with children don't belong in "normal" Sunday School class because it disrupts the Spirit. Fortunately, our bishop did a wonderful job at reminding the congregation each week in a loving way that there was this new class designed to meet the needs of those with toddlers. 

5. Eliminate shame in class.

Like number 4, continue that love and admiration of your ward family and bring it into the class each week. Be mindful to remind everyone the nature of the class: that they never need to leave with their child or feel bad that their child is noisy. 

6. Make the lesson applicable to their lives.

This point is essential for any class you teach, but I believe more so for a class of young parents who are distracted with children. They come for nourishment in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As tempting as it may be to lecture a scholarly presentation with PowerPoint or rattle the lesson off point by point as outlined, don't! I am not suggesting "dumbing down" the lesson. We have had amazing, profound discussions over the last couple years. But remember these are parents juggling kids, listening through the noise, thinking about the week full of activities.

Keep the slides simple but meaningful.

I have found it much more useful to present a thought-provoking 1-4 sentence quote rather than a 10-15 verse reading of the scriptures or detailing of historical events or scholarly perspectives.

7. Make sure you have more than enough room!

This is critical. After a year of a very successful Spirit-filled noisy Sunday School, our ward had a schedule change. We were moved from a large room that was packed each week to a room that was about half its size. We didn't lose half the class; we lost almost all the class. With the room change, if we were to set the class up like a traditional class we could fit everyone in. But doing so would not allow parents space to feel comfortable in letting their kids roam. Parents couldn't stand and soothe their crying kids without being in the way of other parents. As a result, families were again in the halls and nursing rooms. Fortunately, we were able to remedy the issue — the bishop assigned us a new, much larger room. 

This has been one of the most rewarding callings I have ever had. Our bishop was truly inspired when he identified the need for a Sunday School class like this. Over the last two years, we have had many visitors who deeply appreciated the class and wished they had one in their home ward. I hope that these ideas can be used to bring a successful Noisy Sunday School class to your ward. 

Spirit Guided Life

If there was one thing I could teach my children, it would be to listen and discern the Spirit within their lives, how to embrace that perfect teacher without fear, hesitation or resistance but with excitement, clarity and confidence. It’s one thing to teach them obedience, another to meaningfully understand the lessons of obedience. Commandments would be understood in power, and when commandments are not understood, faith would be embraced and trust in Father increased. They would be able to apply life lessons to all situations, identify falsehoods, recognize wisdom, and not fear the unknown.

Oh, how much time is spent on repeatably teaching what it means to be obedient in the home, at church, at school and at work, what it means to be loving in our relationships and human interactions. Although the teaching of obedience is essential in our spiritual growth, I wonder if we miss precious moments to enable our children and loved ones to learn through trial and error. Because we are in a rush or too busy in the moment, we demand obedience and for them to comply, as opposed to establishing a pattern of spiritual insight and learning.

If you have have a teenage son who is overly distracted, frustrated, tired and unable to focus on his homework. In the hope to teach obedience, responsibility and to just finish that assignment, you become the broken record of parenthood, which only seems to aggravate both child and parent without much success. This can even leading both to resentment hard feelings towards each other and feelings of failure. The Spirit is nowhere to be found.

Allow them to fail. Unfortunately, it seems to be one of the more difficult things to teach them.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)

In these difficult moments, we struggle with the thoughts and perceptions within ourselves of what it means to be a good father or mother. We may be concerned that our child's successes and failures are an indicator of our ability to parent or our own worthiness. Or we may be driven by the overwhelming feeling of teaching our child the lessons of being responsible at all cost. But I wonder if taking ourselves out of the equation might be the best and most effective approach of all. I learned this powerful lesson on my mission many times and many times again since then.

One of the mistakes I made in my mission was believing I had all the answers and that it was my responsibility to convert individuals. I loved the gospel of Jesus Christ and had a profound testimony of its teachings. It was an absolute joy and passion of mine to bring every investigator all that I had learned, teaching them into conversion. I had every answer and knew how best to present the gospel message to them. It was my calling and my responsibility. Of course I knew it was the Spirit that converted individuals. Nonetheless, I also believed my ability as a missionary reflected on my ability to bring individuals to the gospel. Fortunately the Savior’s atoning sacrifice covered me in this naïve and incorrect belief, and through that mercy I was taught a principle I was never to forget.

We were teaching a part-member family. Jeff, the husband and father was the only nonmember in the family. For years, missionaries had visited and taught him the lessons. Jeff was a good man with a heart of gold. By the time I met him, he had had the lessons so many times I am confident he could have taught us every lesson. Nonetheless, it was my duty to convert Jeff. I would teach him the discussion in a way that no other missionary had before. Needless to say, by the end of our discussions no commitment for baptism was made. I struggled with my companion in fasting and prayer. We retaught and retaught and retaught principles and concepts WE believed he needed to hear. Nothing.

Teaching the gospel to Jeff, I regret to admit, was getting frustrating to me. But we had one last brilliant idea. My companion and I had become familiar with a wonderful lecture series on Joseph Smith the Prophet by Truman G. Madsen. 

Surely no one could listen to this great scholar and not be converted. We brought these recordings to Jeff and used them in the structure of our lessons. One night, during a lecture we felt was moving and powerful, Jeff appeared distracted and uninterested. This was unlike Jeff. He was always interested and engaged. I believe he even asked for a break in the lessons. This was difficult for me, and I questioned my ability to bring him the gospel message.

It was at least a month later that Jeff invited us back, but not for a lesson. When we arrived, he and the family announced thet he was going to be baptized. He explained that earlier that week he escaped to the bathroom from the hustle and noise of the morning when his family was getting ready for work and school. There he felt a need to pray. As he prayed, the Spirit filled his heart and mind and taught him what he needed and, he knew it was time to be baptized. I was both thrilled and humbled. At that moment, he was telling me of his spiritual experience and I was realizing my prayers and fasts were being answered. But not in the way I was expecting.

My prayers and fasts were to find ways that I could convert Jeff. In that moment, it was clear I had nothing to do with his conversion. In fact, I might have been getting in the way of the spiritual lessons that needed to be taught to Jeff. My fear, my sense of responsibility as a missionary and the way I was measuring success were distracting from the spiritual lesson. Sometimes the most responsible thing to do is get out of the way. Jeff's conversion was deep and between the Lord and him. He has been a faithful member ever since and currently serves as a bishop in Arizona.

“The Prophet further directed Brigham Young as follows:Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it.

They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God.” (23 February 1847, Manuscript History of Brigham Young: 1846–1847, ed. Elden J. Watson (Salt Lake City: Elden Jay Watson, 1971), 529)

I wonder how often we get in the way of the spiritual lessons that our children need to learn. As a parent, it’s my duty to teach my children how to be successful. But it is equally important that after we have adequately instructed them to provide them an opportunity to struggle and even fail. It is better that their own experiences in their moments of failure be their guide then repetitive parental reminder. Additionally, there is great power in our children discovering that they can succeed on their own. Both in the failure and success we can lovingly remind them and provide an example of how to seek out the answers with the Spirit.

Seeking answers is a process and can even be time consuming. But like Jeff, I have learned the value of stepping out of the hustle and noise to seek peace and guidance from the Spirit. Additionally, instead of fasting and praying about how you can teach your children better, fast to find and recognize opportunities for your children to learn from the Spirit.

Spiritual WOD

Three to five times a week I engage in an intense physical fitness program, Crossfit. This program demands every ounce of mental and physical focus I possess. The 'Workouts of the Day' (WOD's) are usually not very long: 5 to 25 minutes long, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. But each WOD is different, constantly varied, functional movements at very high intensity. The results have been dramatic: significant (healthy) weight loss, impressive strength gains. And I have never before felt more fit, healthy and happy.

Interestingly, however, over the last couple months my performances has declined. This decline can be directly and clearly traced back to my diet and sleeping habits. As I have become more fit, it is immediately noticeable when I veer away from my healthy habits. In the past, I could go multiple nights on 4 hours sleep and carb load. I was in a state of maintaining my illness, with included occasions of severe cold, flu or sinus infections. I no longer get sick or am constantly fighting of a cold, the flu or anticipating that yearly sinus infection.

My healthy habits are a JOY to follow, never boring or feeling like I am missing out. Yes, I still enjoy my occasional apple fritter or other choice of “poison,” but after a few bites, I am completely satisfied. There is little to no desire to indulge beyond healthy portions. When I do, it’s because I allow habit to take over or am compensating for a lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation is an enemy to physical and emotional control. Caffeine and sugar are an artificial and immediate but poor and dangerous compensator for sleep too.

But before I diverge too far from the point, I have found a few parallels in my fitness and spiritual journey with the scriptures.

  1. It has been much more effective to have sort meaningful scripture study than long indulgent “scholar”-type readings. This could be seen as the “holiday fitness” approach; you know, the-day-after-Thanksgiving-or-Christmas-you-go-and-try-to-burn-off-all-the-calories approach to study. Fitness and scripture study don't work that way. It’s the constant meaningful, joyful and personal sessions with the scriptures that work, whether that means 5 minutes or 50 minutes.

  2. Like being healthy, I know immediately when I have neglected my meaningful scripture study. I long for it, crave it and find a way to incorporate it into my day. I feel and think clearly. However, if I neglect my studies too long, one more day doesn't seem to matter. I find my avoidance behavior increasing. Also, like working out, the longer I avoid my studies the more difficult it is to get back into it.

  3. I have found there are types of quick "fixes" for missing meaningful scripture study that I can become reliant on: music, motivational talks, inspirational quotes and the quick one verse to make sure you get your good thought in for the day. It’s just like caffeine and sugar, neither are bad, but if used as a substitute, they are habit forming and dangerous.

There is no substitute for frequent meaningful scripture study. You cannot “make up” for lost scripture study and spiritual fitness. Make a plan and track your progress. Realize it WILL be difficult starting or restarting a new way of life — that's right, a new life. Be careful to not view your spiritual progress like some unfortunately do with healthy living. Don't go on a diet; make a life change. Make a spiritual change.