Help. Hope. Healing.

What Shall It Profit?

Faith First

By Rex Goode

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The Sermon on the Mount

It is tempting, when trying to solve a difficult problem, to spend a lot of time thinking about its solution. Human beings have a tremendous capacity for thinking through a puzzle. Not only do we have our own powers of reason, but we also have the combined knowledge gained over our history as a species. We have science, philosophy, psychology, and even politics to shape and form the way we look at problems.

The temptation is to look to these things first and for some, that is all there is. They do not accept faith as a source of truth. Yet for many others, like me, faith is the first and foremost place I look when I encounter a problem.

For people who have struggled with very difficult feelings and behavior that is outside of the teachings of the Church, it can be frustrating to take those problems to a priesthood leader and be given the advice to pray and study the scriptures. For me, the frustrating part of this has been that I’m no stranger to prayer and certainly not unfamiliar with the scriptures. I’ve done these things, even during the worst times of my behavior. I’ve read many other accounts of people who have struggled like me who have said that the advice to pray and read the scriptures has been disappointing, because they had been doing those very things and still struggled mightily.

In my life, it was never that I thought it was bad advice. I’ve always felt that I needed something more from priesthood leaders than to tell me to do what I’ve been doing. I would also never say that doing those things was not efficacious. I don’t know where I’d be now without them. In every trial of my life, from moral to financial problems, the answers I’ve needed have come from my understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ through a study of it and prayer to know that the things I’ve studied are true.

I’ve also read many accounts of people who, upon feeling that prayer and study were not working, turned to the accumulated knowledge of man. As much as I would not advocate ignoring spirituality, I would also recommend that we also glean from worthy human disciplines the information that will lead us to make right choices. Science knows a great deal about things like neurochemistry and addiction. Philosophers have contributed greatly to human culture and teach deep truths about our experience.

Social research and psychology have produced useful information about how the mind works. In my work, I strive to operate on what I call evidence-based practice. This means that instead of just doing things because they’re my style, I look to see what social research tells us is the most likely way to succeed at helping people.

It is all well and good. Yet, another thing I keep in mind is the nature of research. Take a look someday at a scholarly paper about social work practices. You’ll find that for a comparison between different methods that one often stands out as more frequently effective than others. One method will show that 20% of clients improved and that 10% of clients were benefited by other practices. What of the other 70%? I would certain try the former practices first, but I would always bear in mind that even if I tried all practices, there are some people who will not benefit from any known practice.

To me, the least amount of usable answers come from the world of politics. I think of politics as the mindset of putting the goal first and adjusting the truth to match it. People of all political orientations do this. “What I want to happen is so important that all evidence must be presented in a way that will support my goal.”

I don’t reject science, philosophy, psychology, or politics. I think they have their place and I use them as tools in guiding my decisions, but all of them must take a back seat to my faith. Usually, these other things only confirm the choices my faith leads me to make, but when they don’t, faith is the decider.

The devotees to the ideas of man may think this is foolish, but no other way could work for me. These other ways of thinking can probably solve most problems in my life if the only thing I care about is my humanity. In fact, no other method than faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has the potential to save what is most precious to me, which is my soul, and so, it becomes most important to me.

Jesus asked:

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul (Mark 8:36)?

Even in venues like LDSR, that are based on the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we often see an emphasis in the approaches to help that are based on the philosophies of men. Over the years in forums for dealing with things like same-sex attraction and sexual addiction from a gospel perspective, the majority of discussions tend to be about psychology and self-help philosophies. Though giving a nod to faith, modes of therapy and politics tend to dominate the subject matter.

I often wonder how much more successful a person would be in following Christ if he held as fast to his faith as he does to his favorite psychological theory or political ideology. For as much as Jesus Christ has done for me, as one who believes in me, I could at least speak of him more than I do of the theories and ideas of man.

Regardless of anything else you might try, I affirm that it is the atonement of Jesus Christ that makes life’s problems bearable. Sincere and heartfelt prayer along with a study of the gospel in its simplicity will bring about this faith. It won’t happen the first time you crack open the scriptures or arise from your knees. It may take a lifetime. Compare that to other ideas that will merely last a lifetime. Though it may take a lifetime of enduring to the end to make faith work, it will last forever.

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