Two years ago, on the 4th of July, I was boating with some friends. While on a wake board, I attempted the world’s smallest jump in the choppiest water. As I crossed the wake, the front of my board went under and I face planted hard. Do you understand the term scorpion? Where your body bends so much that your feet almost touch the back of your head? Yeah. That’s what I did. It really hurt. After I just laid in the water, limbs sprawled out, until the boat circled around and picked me up.
I remember taking off my board and climbing up the ladder to the boat, and that’s where things disappear. I had given myself a major concussion.
I was in a fog; walking, talking, buckling kids in car seats all while being completely oblivious. I am still learning things I did or said that I don’t and won’t ever remember. It was terrifying once I became aware enough to know that I wasn’t aware. If that makes any sense. All I could do was cry. I knew things weren’t right. I lost time and experience I will never have again.
Since that day, I have thought about how that incident relates to other aspects of life. I realized that a lot of times we are like this spiritually. We go through the motions; act, talk, listen, without really being aware. We are active in the church, and less active in the gospel. We have spiritual concussions.
Think about Laman and Lemuel. They are prime examples of those living with a spiritual concussion. They went into the wilderness with their father. They went back for the plates. They helped build a boat and crossed an ocean to the promised land. They did, overall, what was required of them. They went through the motions, and not easy ones. But they were “hard in their hearts” and did not “look unto the Lord as they ought” (1 Nephi 15:3), and eventually their lives ended outside the gospel and outside the full blessings of God.
Several years ago, Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained: “It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”
There is no tally in heaven comparing our good and bad deeds; seeing if one outweighs the other. God is more concerned with who we have become after all our efforts. Unfortunately for Laman and Lemuel, they became wicked.
But, how do we know if we have a spiritual concussion? How can we tell? Like an actual concussion the depth can vary from person to person. If you are unsure, here are a few questions you can ask yourself: Do you feel closer to God when you pray? Do you learn from your scripture study? Do you seek and receive revelation frequently? Is the Holy Ghost an active member in your life? Do you feel like you are progressing?
For me it’s usually a feeling that something is off, something is gone. My third year of college I felt that emptiness. I wasn’t really making any big mistakes, but I wasn’t focused on God either. I just knew something was missing from my life. So, I snuck into the back of a religion class one afternoon. After the class was over I made my way to the teacher. He didn’t know me. I wasn’t a regular student, but I asked him how to get ‘it’ back in my life. His answer was simple: be obedient.
That night I knelt on my bed and prayed. Like really prayed. For hours I poured my heart out to my father in heaven. There was lots of crying, some numbness in my legs, and a feeling so powerful that I will never forget it. But that was just the beginning. Little by little, step by step, I worked my way closer to God, to Christ, to the Holy Ghost. Several months later I left on a mission. Something I never, ever wanted to do. And I left knowing, in that moment, I was the person God wanted me to be. I felt His love present in my life, and I loved Him so much in return.
Christ taught that to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must be truly converted (Matt. 18:3). The challenge of conversion requires us to do and to become. Notice those words indicate action and change. “This is achieved not just by doing what is right, but by doing it for the right reason—for the pure love of Christ” (Dallin H. Oaks). True conversion is the key to overcoming spiritual concussions. We must learn of and then, with real intent, follow the Gospel of Christ. “Real intent means understanding the ‘why’ and being aware of the motives behind your actions.” (Randall L. Ridd)
At times it can feel hard or unattainable. There are a million reasons why you can’t do this now. I know, I’ve used a bunch of them. We all walk the tight rope of “do your best” and “you need to do more.” I have a habit of binge watching three too many Netflix episodes telling myself I need rest. As a mom to four small kids, I totally need rest. But even I know deep down that I’m milking it. I’m capable of more.
It can be scary to let go of bad habits. It can take time, and our ghosts may come back to haunt us. But, having been through both physical and spiritual concussions, I know there is light behind the fog. There is happiness. Every path comes with struggle, but only one leads to lasting joy. So, if you are going to struggle anyway, struggle with God.
Hanna is a wife and mother of four. She served a Spanish speaking mission in Washington DC. She graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in communication. Before deciding to stay at home with her kids full-time, Hanna was Editor-in-Chief of a small women’s magazine. She loves Mountain Dew and anything that combines chocolate and caramel. Recently, Hanna started a blog with the intent of sharing her experiences with God and the LDS church, mormom.wordpress.com.
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