Elder Scott Hits Me a Week Later

BCC friend and guest-blogger-at-large Kyle M returns with a post that reads like a journal entry from EFY. Enjoy!

Man, the Spirit always speaks to me when I least expect it. I was sitting in Elders’ Quorum on Sunday, just like I do every Sunday, and a member of the EQ presidency was in charge of the lesson, just like on most Sundays. The quorum was split into small groups, and we were discussing different conference talks, with the expectation that each group would later give a synopsis to the whole quorum.

It was set up to be a typical EQ meeting, and I was expecting another half-hearted or, at best, light-hearted conversation with my buddies. But for some reason, this chat was different. We were talking about Richard G. Scott’s talk from the Saturday morning session. You probably remember it as the semi-annual “Pornography Talk” that Elder Scott seems to always be tasked with delivering. But we were talking about the first half of the address, in which Elder Scott talks about the struggle and the effort it takes to learn how to be led by the Spirit.

As is usual, there were some discussion questions below the reading selection, the first of which was “How do we draw a balance between spiritual self-reliance and relying on the Spirit?”

It was as if a finger from heaven had written a message on the wall of the classroom: “ur doing it wrong!”

As soon as I read the question to myself, I knew that I had been answering it incorrectly my whole life. I had placed way too much stock in the former to the neglect of the latter.

Here’s how I would have answered the discussion question on Saturday:

God put us on Earth to learn and to grow, and we do that best when we aren’t being helped along. You’ll never learn to walk if someone’s always supporting you. We need to fall sometimes, trial and error, and all that stuff. My life has been great up until this point, and for the most part, I’ve made good decisions, which have led me here. So let’s see if I can continue on without the help. Frontier spirit, ho!

There is a little truth and a lot of pride in that answer, and it’s at least partly informed by the fact that billions of people go through life without the clear guidance of the Spirit. Lots of them make intelligent decisions and lead happy lives. Am I weaker than them, that I need divine help to do the same?

Richard G. Scott’s conference address turns that idea on its head: It’s not easier to follow the guidance of the Spirit; it’s harder.

“I am convinced that there is no simple formula or technique that would immediately allow you to master the ability to be guided by the voice of the Spirit. … Were you to receive inspired guidance just for the asking, you would become weak and ever more dependent…”

I’m not being courageous and independent by striking out on my own; it’s possible I’m just too lazy to put in the effort to learn to be led by the Spirit. There’s a bitter truth in that.

And then an even worse thought: I did fine on my own, but what could I be? That’s a thought trail I’m not interested in following, because it’s hypothetical and counterproductive. But I hope that the existence of such a possibility—the possibility of myself as the Spirit would lead me to be—will inform my decision-making process in the future more than it has in the past.

Billions of people go through life without the knowledge and guidance of the Spirit. How ungrateful have I been, then, to put my own self-reliance ahead of the gift that I’ve been given?


Elder Scott Hits Me a Week Later


  1. Wow! I miised the beginning of Elder Scott’s talk and it appears I may have missed one of the most important parts of Conference.

  2. Steve Evans says:

    Thanks to John Bytheway for this guest post!

    Isn’t self-reliance supposed to be an illusory concept, akin to trusting in the arm of flesh?

  3. Yeah! Stoopid Emerson.

  4. Love this. I also am loving all the other conference talk posts at BCC lately.

  5. Thanks. I got a similar sense from his talk, and that feeling of whoa — there is a lot of untapped amazing life waiting for me if I learn how to rely on the Spirit more.

    Elder Scott has given some other excellent talks on this subject…he even addresses some of the ‘what if I don’t get an answer — then what?” kinds of questions that can bring in some of the ‘balance’ issues.

  6. Good stuff.

  7. Thanks for bringing this out Kyle. It’s funny what you miss the first time.

  8. My wife and I sat through a whole lesson on “spiritual self-reliance” in Gospel Doctrine class this past Sunday. I have always felt that the term is totally oxymoronic. So, it was good to read your post. Thanks. (BTW, I didn’t find it to be too EFY-like, but next time, add a little sarcasm and ur good.)

  9. Stephanie says:

    I think the true test of our mortality is using our moral agency to choose to completely submit ourselves to the Lord’s will.

  10. Weird – I just blogged about this 10 minutes ago!

  11. Not EFY-ish at all. I was expecting to read about how you feel the spirit best in your elbow or something.

    Thanks I need to go reread Elder Scott’s talk now.

  12. “How do we draw a balance between spiritual self-reliance and relying on the Spirit?”

    I was confused when I read this question, because it didn’t make any sense with what I have understood spiritual self-reliance to be. I have understood it to mean that we are not relying on other mortals for our spiritual well-being, but are rather receiving spiritual nourishment on our own. We are “working out [our] own salvation,” not relying on Paul or church leaders to hold our hand every step of the way.

    If understood this way, there is no need to balance spiritual self-reliance and relying on the spirit, because they are one and the same (or at least one incorporates the other.

    If I understand the post correctly, however, it sounds like spiritual self-reliance was referring to moving forward in matters (perhaps spiritual) through our own efforts when spiritual direction is not being received. Is this correct?

  13. Thanks, Kyle! I’ll have to reread that talk. By the way, when I was ages 14-16, my secret aspiration was to be an EFY speaker…

  14. re: I’m not being courageous and independent by striking out on my own; it’s possible I’m just too lazy to put in the effort to learn to be led by the Spirit.

    I think it’s also true that striking out on your own could be the spirit guiding you….

  15. Antonio Parr says:

    I know that this is not my blog, and I know that participation in the dialogue that takes place on this blog is a privilege and not a right . . . but that being said, is it really necessary to be so mean-spirited when challenging someone on this blog?

    A prior post in this thread is so aggressive and demeaning that it seems calculated to make the recipient feel as awful about himself as possible. Given the extraordinary intellectual prowess of so many on this board, why not accept the challenge to walk the high road and disagree in a way that makes the point without needlessly wounding the feelings of another? (Pretend that the person on the other end of a post is a real person, with a name and a family and a face and feelings, and pretend that they are across the table from you making eye contact before going on the attack.)

    Genuine best regards to all — peace on earth, good will towards men, etc.

  16. I love you all, even Jared. Let me build on what I wrote in the post, and perhaps clarify. Here’s how I’ve lived my life thus far:

    I pray, frequently
    When a big issue comes up, I work it out in my own mind
    I take my best decision to the Lord in prayer
    If I don’t hear back, I take that as approval

    I hardly ever hear back, so I’ve always assumed that I’m doing pretty well on my own. Elder Scott’s talk seems to say that, far from being independent and self-reliant, this approach is lazy and I’m not trying hard enough. After 2 seconds of reflection and an ear-boxing from heaven, I completely agree. My normal prayer of “I’m going to go do things THIS way, and if that’s wrong, please let me know” is not sufficient and I need to do more.

    Does that explain things? Does that approach sound familiar?

  17. I’ve deleted the entire subthread, as Jared has said he misread so it was all moot anyway. Carry on, carry on.

  18. Antonio Parr says:


    Your formula:

    I pray, frequently
    When a big issue comes up, I work it out in my own mind
    I take my best decision to the Lord in prayer
    If I don’t hear back, I take that as approval

    . . . sounds great to me. When we are operating under a time table, and the heavens are silent (as they often are), what else can we do but do our best? You’ve studied it out in your mind, as counseled in the D&C. You are praying always, which is what the D&C says we need to do to come off conquerer.

    Since you have had an “ear-boxing from heaven”, perhaps you have come up with a method of more consistently accessing heaven. But, for what it is worth, if your fallback position is the one you have outlined above, then you are a man of God, IMHO.

  19. Thanks Antonio. I haven’t come up with a method, but I’m working on it now. I’ll post the PowerPoint brief when I’m done with it. ;-)

  20. Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that formula per se. For me, actually praying sincerely and waiting some period of time for reflection and possible answer is often the best I can do. But there is, or should be, more to it, especialy when the decision is a big one. There are times when we just should not move on until we get some guidance. Sometimes it shows great faith if we just stop in our tracks and let everything wait on the Lord. I think that’s what happened in 1978. If we want great results we can’t be satisfied with small efforts.

  21. Kyle–

    I appreciate your post and additional clarification.

    One of the reasons I commented on your post is because Elder Scott’s talk about obtaining spiritual guidance was one of my favorite.

    I’d appreciate it if you would let me know if my comments came across as an insult to you. I meant them to be to the point, but not insulting, or demeaning.

    Please let me know your thoughts.

  22. Thanks Jared. I think they misinterpreted my point a bit, but I didn’t take it personally.

  23. Kyle–

    Thanks for replying.

    Cynthia L. —

    For what its worth–I’d like to see all the comments remain– censoring none.

  24. Kyle: Your post has piqued my curiosity so that I will definitely investigate more of his talk. Although I listened to it, I have to admit I was visiting a bit with my aging parents and so I didn’t catch it all, and then I tuned out the second half of the talk as being repetitive on the pornography aspect.

    However, your last paragraph grated on my nerves, to put it frankly. “Billions of people go through life without the knowledge and guidance of the Spirit”. That just doesn’t ring true with me. I think too many LDS people have this somewhat arrogant attitude that the rest of the world is blindly walking around. I would state it just the opposite, that billions, in fact most, of the world’s population uses the guidance of their God-given endowment of the Spirit to help them in their life, and so I should step up my supposed full-time gift of the Spirit by . . . or something to that effect.

  25. ummquestion says:

    Kevin R-

    Just an FYI…

    Having the “light of Christ” or “Spirit of truth” is something all human beings are born with. It is not the same “spirit” as the “Holy Ghost”. The Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit with a specific purpose/mission on earth. The “Spirit of Christ” is given to all in order that they might know right from wrong, good from evil. It is the light that is within all things and that “giveth life to all things”.

    The Holy Ghost can bear witness of Christ to non-members when they seek the truth of Him, but the God-given endowment of “spirit” that leads others to do “good” during mortality is not the Holy Ghost. It is the Light of Christ.

  26. Antonio Parr says:


    How can you or any of us even begin to discern the level of interaction that the Holy Ghost has with another?

  27. Antonio,

    Does John 14:17 answer your question?

    “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

  28. Antonio,

    You’re right, and you’re wrong. We clearly believe that the Holy Ghost is the spirit of truth (as Dan Weston points out), and that it can make known to us _all_ things if it be appropriate. In this sense, I have no doubt whatsoever that, if God desires it on a case by case basis, the Spirit can help me discern whether or not another’s actions are inspired by the Holy Ghost.

    However, you’re totally right–it’s both dangerous and obnoxious to assume that we know much of anything about how the Spirit interacts with others. However, I don’t think Kyle meant this in his OP, though this thread (and the 18-20 comments that have been moderated out) is certainly a testament to our collective inability to understand what the crap Kyle is talking about.

  29. daveonline says:

    At least one person (Alvin), seems to have “made it” into the celestial kingdom without having the prior full time gift of the Holy Ghost, so perhaps maybe a few other of the billions in darkness may also qualify.
    Section 84: 45-46 says: For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
    And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.
    I suspect that the challenge of living by the Spirit as stated by Elder Scott can be gained outside the gospel, just as married couples can attain a sealing of the Spirit prior to the actual ordinance. The humility to do so can be just as rare (or plentiful) inside the tent as outside the tent.

  30. Terrakota says:

    El. Scott mentioned that spiritual promptings he received during the lessons came in answer to his prolonged, prayerful efforts to learn.

    Like Enos (and many others from the scriptures), who cried unto God all the day and night long before he received an answer (dividing 24 hours by how many minutes I pray per day equals…. hmmmm…. many days).

  31. Thomas Parkin says:


    Good answer. :)


    Awesome post. Very reaffirming for me. ~

  32. Antonio Parr says:

    26. Dan

    Dan, the scripture you quoted does and doesn’t answer my question.

    Earlier in John, Jesus says that the Spirit is like the wind. Who are we to dictate or say where it blows? I would never dream of judging the working of the Holy Ghost in another. I personally have seen its effects on protestants and catholics. Something holy certainly appeared to be moving Mother Theresa to do her works of love. Thus, although the ordinance of the gift of the Holy Ghost effectuates the opportunity for a more constant companionship for those who remember Christ always and obey His commandments, I would not dare say that others about God’s business are somehow part of the “world” identified by Jesus in John 14:7. Given the power of their works, it would seem that Jesus still claims them as His own.

  33. Steve Evans says:

    You what else is like the wind? The girl Patrick Swayze was singing about.

  34. Antonio Parr says:


    When you aren’t being cruel, you are one damn funny guy!

  35. Antonio Parr says:

    (I withdraw the above caveat, and will repeate that Steve Evans is one funny guy. Can’t stop chuckling about that girl Swayze was singing about . . . )

  36. I think it’s important to remember that members receive the ordinance of baptism so we can be eligible to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    Receiving this gift doesn’t happen automatically. The Book of Mormon is a handbook on how to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and a remission of sins by fire and the Holy Ghost–two separate events for most members.

    Our baptism covenant isn’t complete until we’ve received the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.

  37. Yeah, KevinR, I was aware of the snobbery that might come off as I was writing that last paragraph. I certainly don’t want to be the one to deny the influence of the Holy Ghost on the billions of people that have lived and died without the gospel. I like to think that everyone has had a chance to feel the influence of the Spirit in their lives.

    That said, I doubt the second part of your statement is true: “that most of the world’s population uses the guidance of their God-given endowment of the Spirit to help them in their life.” That’s not a statement I’d agree with. Both sides of this debate have scriptures to back them up, but here’s mine: D&C 93:38 and 39:

    “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again in their infant state, innocent before God. And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.”

  38. “How do we draw a balance between spiritual self-reliance and relying on the Spirit?”

    Fwiw, I think the instructive word in this question is “balance”. This wording emphasizes the need for relying on the Spirit AND being spiritually self-reliant – i.e., being able to work things out without direct input from the Spirit and being able to be instructed by the Spirit.

    I think if we function only when we are prompted in an obvious manner OR we function only on our own without obvious prompting we are missing the balance addressed in the question – and the point of Elder Scott’s talk. I think it’s so easy to do things unless the Lord stops us that we sometimes end up forgetting to ask and wait on the Lord – to end up doing exactly what we want to do because we aren’t willing to wait to be told no – to slow down and exhibit our willingness to NOT act until we experience the Spirit in an undeniable way. I really do think this requires a balance, since we are told that those who are commanded in ALL things are slothful servants.

    I really love the concept of “Be still, and know that I am God.” We can’t do that if we won’t wait and struggle sometimes for a discernible answer one way or the other.

  39. I thought spiritual self reliance was relying on the Spirit ourselves rather than expecting our leaders to tell us all things that we must do. I have never heard it explained as relying on our own judgement without divine guidance. When did this change?

  40. As far as I’ve been able to learn there are three ways to understand the the term “the Spirit”.

    1. The light of Christ
    Everyone is given the light of Christ. I’d assume the majority of mankind accesses this dimension of the Spirit at one time or another. Our conscience is one way to refer to it.

    2. The Holy Ghost
    Many, in the restored church, and in other religions have experience with the Holy Ghost. Especially those who pray and seek the Lord.

    3. The gift of the Holy Ghost
    Reserved for those who receive the ordinance of baptism by those having authority to confer the gift. This gift isn’t enjoyed in its fullness until the receiptant is baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost.

    It may be that even in the restored church few members put themselves in a position where they receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. If that is true, then many members of the church experience the Spirit as described in #1 and #2.

  41. Thanks for that, Ray. Great thoughts.

  42. It may be that even in the restored church few members put themselves in a position where they receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    Indeed. I am one of them, and I recognize my brethren, because we make sure to incorporate the spirit into our travel and entertainment.

  43. #48 Scott B–

    I consider this an important topic. I like a good sense of humor, but this topic deserves reverence.

    I think the following quote is worth while. What are your thoughts?

    As for me, I am doing everything I can to qualify for the Spirit. The Lord in His kindness and mercy has taken notice, and has given me some powerful manifestations.
    However, it is my judgment that there are many members of this Church who have been baptized for the remission of their sins, who have had hands laid upon their heads for the gift of the Holy Ghost, who have never received that gift, that is, the manifestations of it. Why? Because they have never put themselves in order to receive these manifestations. They have never humbled themselves. They have never taken the steps that would prepare them for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Therefore they go through life without that knowledge, and they have not the understanding.

    Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, October 1958, p.21 – p.22

  44. Steve Evans says:

    Jared, a little bird told me that you most likely do not, in fact, like a good sense of humor. Lightening up a little might give your powerful manifestations even more juice.

  45. #50 Steve Evans–

    As you know, a sense of humor can be refreshing, and even uplifting, but it can also be mean spirited, and demeaning.

    Antonio Parr in #14 said it well when he wrote referring to your sense of humor:

    “A prior post in this thread is so aggressive and demeaning that it seems calculated to make the recipient feel as awful about himself as possible.”

    So please forgive me if I take you comment as grain of salt

  46. See what I mean? Jared, nobody, however righteous, can feel the Spirit of God when they are a sad-sack.

  47. I am highly refreshed by your sense of humor Steve.

    Reading your amusing comments is akin to drinking a refreshing Fresca to me.

    Yes, they are THAT refreshing amigo.

  48. Wow, the three amigo’s: scott, steve, and geoff.

    Out of respect to BCC I not going to participate in the amigo’s snark-off. So I’ll leave you three to entertain yourselves.

  49. Jared, I like your style. Do you have a brother?

  50. To the three amigos:

    Before I leave I’ll recommend an song that expresses some uplifting thoughts:

    I predict we’ll be friends before this is over

  51. Jared,
    While I do appreciate listing me first, I wholeheartedly resent being lumped in with hacks like Steve and Geoff.

  52. Also, regarding songs for amigos, I prefer this sort.

    All those in favor of re-naming Steve “El Guapo,” please right-click your mouse.

  53. As a practical matter, I do not understand–where the rubber hits the road–what the difference is between being “guided by the Holy Ghost” (for those who have been told to “receive the Holy Ghost” by the laying on of hands) and being “guided by the Light of Christ”. Is one more clear or more precise in telling us what is right and wrong–i.e., what we should do? How can one discern whether an answer has come through the Light of Christ or the Holy Ghost? What difference does it make?

    Nor do I understand how being told, by the laying on of hands, to “receive the Holy Ghost” allows us to feel the Holy Ghost more frequently that asking God for God’s witness of whatever it is. The passage that Joseph relied on, that God would give to those who sought wisdom from Him was not restricted to those who had been baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. To me, a thrust of Elder Scott’s talk, is that receiving spiritual guidance is tough–and I do not know that it is any easier with the gift of the Holy Ghost than without it.

    I know many people who seek God’s guidance and spirit, and receive it, and who are not part of the LDS Church (including those who have currently had revoked, for a time, their ordinances). I might add, those friends from outside the Church include people who are not Christians or who are not part of an organized faith tradition at all.

    I know, I know. Those people may think they are receiving guidance from the Holy Ghost, but either they are deceived and it is not from God at all, or they are receiving the inferior guidance of the Light of Christ.

  54. Again, a misleading title. I was hoping for less spirituality, more fisticuffs.

  55. I agree that, “My thoughts are not your thoughts.”

    I think we tend to forget that sometimes in our efforts to understand Him.

    I appreciate the efforts and think they are necessary for real spiritual growth – and I believe strongly that we are not separated from Him by an uncrossable chasm – and the idea that we should strive to know God, the Father, and Jesus Christ enough to experience life eternal to a degree in the here and now is one of the beauties of Mormonism for me, but I think we tend to forget how puny our view is when all is said and done.

  56. This is the one and only real El Guapo:


  57. #50 David H.–

    Great questions. I’ve pondered them as well–over forty years now. Still trying to understand–just as you are. I’ll attempt to share a few things I’ve come up with.

    Regarding the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost:
    Elder McConkie gives some answers in his last book, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith. On page 714 of the index are some listings that will help with your questions.

    Regarding the Holy Ghost, the gift of the Holy Ghost and the laying on of hands:
    The Holy Ghost is a revelator and is available to all who seek God regardless of ordinances and church affiliation (very general answer). However, when one is baptized and then confirmed (laying on of hands) they become eligible for the gift of the Holy Ghost. To actually receive this gift requires diligent seeking on the part of the one receiving the ordinances. The manifestations of the Holy Ghost at this level are sanctifying (fire and the Holy Ghost).

    It is satisfying to have some understanding of these things, but the rubber meets the road when there experienced.

    As you have probably noticed at testimony meeting, words fail when those who have experienced these things attempt to relate them (ineffable).

    I hope you will keeping questioning, seeking, and doing. I’ve done so and have found the Lord will see your efforts and provide answers, help, and give you experience.

  58. Peter LLC says:

    MCQ speaks the truth.
    The rest can go and play, you can’t touch this.

  59. Kyle M: I don’t have a scripture to back up my statement right now. The feeling I was trying to express was the pride that seems to have overtaken us Mormons in assuming the billions of people on the earth live in utter darkness. The older I get, the more I realize how wrong that is. I look all around me at non-members who live good lives and who follow what amounts to promptings of the Spirit to help others, often in those small ways we ourselves talk about; promptings, too, that make their families better and that show depth of feelings for neighbors. I feel we Mormons don’t acknowledge that great Spirit that guides our brothers and sisters back to God, even if these brothers and sisters never touch a Book of Mormon. And yes, I’ve been raised in the church and am well versed in the “pat” answers differentiating between the Spirit and the Light of Christ, but frankly, I agree with several commenters that we Mormons must start acknowledging that we don’t know all the answers and can’t know all the workings of the Spirit amongst all the children of men.

  60. Glenn Smith says:

    On Sunday, Oct 11, a Bishop’s councilor cornered me and issued a call to teach Sunday School to the combined youth class (12-18). Small ward. After stake conference last week, I will be teaching lesson 38 “In Mine Own Way”. The following quote from the lesson manual may be of interest to this discussion:
    Developing spiritual self-reliance
    D&C 38:30
    “””I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear. “”””

    What does it mean to be self-reliant in spiritual things? (We should strive to develop spiritual strength that will enable us to resolve difficult problems in our lives and strengthen others in their times of spiritual need.) Why is it important to be spiritually self-reliant?

    Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve said:
    “We have been taught to store a year’s supply of food,
    clothing, and, if possible, fuel—at home. … Can we not
    see that the same principle applies to inspiration and
    revelation, the solving of problems, to counsel, and to
    guidance? We need to have a source of it stored in every
    home. …
    “If we lose our emotional and spiritual independence, our
    self-reliance, we can be weakened quite as much,
    perhaps even more, than when we become dependent
    materially” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 136–37; or
    Ensign, May 1978, 91–92).
    The previous posts are very intriguing and will add to the direction of our class discussion.