Monday, August 19, 2013

The Need to Fight Spiritual Complacency

Do I stay in this church simply because I am content to remain in the same state that I have always been? How do I know if I am really on the road to spiritual progression?

For me (and I think for all long-time members), these questions are important to ask. In my case, my family has been in this church for five generations, my immediate family members are all active members, and, to some extent, I find it almost impossible to separate my identity from my lifelong faith. I think that we all have a responsibility to counteract the drone-like attitude of "we-have-always-done-this-so-we-will-keep-doing-it." This is what I call "spiritual complacency." So what do we do?

Attending church and performing our church responsibilities are not enough. In fact, even enthusiasm for this gospel is not sufficient. In his essay,  "Zeal Without Knowledge," Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley discusses Mormons' effusive attitude toward the church, and while important, is ineffective--even dangerous--without knowledge. Rather, Nibley argues, every member has the responsibility to be an earnest spiritual seeker. If Mormons teach that we can someday be like God, it means that our minds one day have the capacity to be like his as well. If that is the case, it appears that we have a divine obligation to be lovers of knowledge.

So, what makes us forget this responsibility? I think a problem can arise when we, in typical "zeal-like" fashion, express our appreciation for our gratitude of the truths we have. While I am immensely grateful for gospel principles I have learned, I think that this enthusiasm can obstruct us from seeking even greater knowledge, which can be found through purposeful prayers and gospel study.  In short, we are so content with the truths that we already understand (or think we understand) that we don't probe and explore the gospel like we should. "True knowledge never shuts the door on more knowledge," says Nibley, "but zeal often does." I couldn't agree more. I think that being a truth seeker to the best of our abilities is an important antidote to spiritual complacency.

Being a prior recipient of important truths should be a door to perpetual exploring and searching upon additional truths. Our capacity for obtaining knowledge appears to be infinite: if we ask, we shall "receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge" (D&C 42:61). Part of the heart of Mormonism is (and should be) asking questions, as an inquiry is prerequisite to receiving a divine reply. Indeed, we would not be members of this church without a boy's simple question--who wasn't afraid to ask God for an answer.

Photo by Jo Naylor.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Loved it. Seeking truth and serving others is the only path to find God. Work/ Service without being paired with a quest for knowledge does not lead to understanding and wisdom. Our soul is a combination of mind and body--both sides of our natures must be nurtured and balanced to grow into spiritual maturity.

  3. Thanks so much for the reminder.

    I think sometimes we get so 'zealous' about the visible parts of the gospel, that we forget the basics that really bring us closer to the Lord. Your expression of that was beautiful.

  4. I've found that trials and challenges often cause me to re-examine those principles and truths that I have accepted more passively or complacently in the past. It's a scary thing to begin to question truths that I've always been so sure of, but I've found when I cling to my testimony - my desire to believe - and I continue to seek for understanding, ultimately my faith is enlarged and deepened.

  5. Thanks for the post and the other comments. I like hearing everyone's perspective on these topics, because it prompts me to ponder the important parts of life and enriches my own understanding.

    I find, the simplest way for me to fight spiritual complacency is to focus on the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and to treat Him as a wonderful friend. If we are close to the Holy Ghost the way we ought to be, then we never need worry that we are not learning something we should. He will be there to teach us what we need to know. He will be there to help understand what knowledge we must acquire. He will let us know when to forget an academic study of our faith and focus on the relationships around us. He will tell us when to hone our study on particular doctrine. He is our wonderful Guide who never leaves us, if we continually seek after Him. He wants us to feel close to our Father and wants us to come unto our Savior.

    "For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will ashow unto you all things what ye should do." - 2 Nephi 32:5