A continuum of spiritual growth

Continuum: a sequence in which adjacent elements are imperceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct.

April 14, 2014

Chapter 1 of Handbook 2 confirms the all-important truth that we really are part of God's family and that the Church's purpose is to provide saving ordinances via the Priesthood.

The reason for these ordinances is to help us return to God. Of course, for that to happen we must be sanctified of sin and become the kind of people that feel comfortable, and desire to be in His presence. The first principles and ordinances of the gospel serve as a starting point on a spiritual continuum:

  1. Exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God.
  2. Turn to God through sincere repentance, having a change of heart and confessing and forsaking sins.
  3. Receive the saving ordinance of baptism for the remission of sins.1
  4. Be confirmed a member of the Church and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.2
  5. Endure to the end by keeping sacred covenants.3

Next comes the following densely packed paragraphs outlining what we might experience as we endure to that end (1.2.1):

...As we come to understand and believe these truths and gain a firm testimony of Jesus Christ, we strive to obey His commandments and want to share our blessings with our family and others (see 1 Nephi 8:9–37). With this secure foundation of testimony, other elements of Church activity follow naturally.

...As we live the gospel of Jesus Christ, we grow line upon line, becoming more like the Savior in loving and serving others.

Here's a more step-by-step rendering:

  1. Understand and believe the first principles and ordinances of the gospel
  2. Gain a firm testimony of Jesus Christ
  3. Strive to obey his commandments
  4. Desire to share our blessings:
    • with our family
    • with others
  5. Other elements of Church activity follow naturally
    • What such elements come to mind? What might be next for me?
  6. Become like the Savior in:
    • loving others
    • serving others

It's not hard after some reflection to identify where we are on this continuum of spiritual growth.

Even when we know where we are on the continuum, it's possible to feel stuck--not knowing how to advance to the next step, maybe even feeling bogged down with how far there is to go in relation to how much is already going on in our lives. So, how do we jump-start a spiritual growth spurt? What exactly will feed our spirit's growth? Again, from section 1.2:

Personal spiritual growth takes place as we draw close to God through prayer, scripture study, pondering, and obedience.

Draw closer to God. That's it. It seems obvious that prayer, scripture study, pondering, and obedience are the most effective ways to approach Him. The great thing about this is that everyone can choose to do these simple things.

And what about helping others in their growth? From section 1.2.2:

  1. Teach and testify of the pure doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. Strengthen individuals and families in their efforts to keep their sacred covenants.
  3. Provide counsel, support, and opportunities for service.

I've described spiritual growth as a continuum, a sequence of development that is so gradual we sometimes don't perceive our growth except when looking back over time. In what ways have you experienced spiritual growth recently?


1 Baptized members can substitute partaking of the sacrament for baptism.

2 When confirmed, the gift of the Holy Ghost is bestowed on members as the Priesthood holder acting as voice instructs the new member to "Receive the Holy Ghost". This counsel is to be heeded each day as we strive to invite the spirit by choosing the right.

3 Thanks to Nephi for clarifying that baptism is a beginning, not an ending.

-Michael Whatcott