Spiritual Thinking

“if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (1)

"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit"

Spiritual Thinking

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (1)

 “There is a spirit in man and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.”(2). President Russell M. Nelson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints explained how spiritual capacity grows. Man is born with attributes and then adds spiritual capacities. Man needs to develop the following spiritual capacities: Faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, and diligence. (3).

Spiritual thinking is a different process than critical, reflective, or creative thinking. Spiritual thinking pertains to how one views the world and themselves. Elder Oaks tells us viewing life experience in terms of eternity is the foundation of spiritual thinking. “As we draw farther from worldliness, we feel closer to our Father in Heaven and more able to listen and heed to his Spirit. We call this quality of life spirituality.” (4). “Spirituality is a lens through which we view life and a gauge by which we evaluate it.” (5). Christ is the great exemplar of life, “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done.”(6).

Self-assessment measures personal progress in developing spiritual capacities. Man’s purpose during life is to bless others. Man needs to know where he stands in his growth process before he can complete his mission of helping others. When man assesses his actions and growth, he does so with an eye single to God’s plan for man’s salvation. The other types of thinking help man solve problems and improve himself. Man focuses on Christ’s example while striving to increase his spiritual capacity. Human babies are born with tiny bodies and an undeveloped spiritual capacity. The body may grow to a large stature, but the spirit has a never-ending potential.

Spiritual development governs the way we evaluate the unseen world.  Spiritual thinking considers how the inner person-acts, feels, thinks, and measures progress from an eternal point of view. Spiritual thinking colors all thoughts. Thoughts come from the inner man and are not seen by the world until actions are created.

Spiritual thinking also impacts one’s emotional life. A person who believes in life after death and the rewards for earthly performance will demonstrate a lack of fear of death because they know what happens next. Sometimes people make mistakes and label their actions spiritual when they are the antithesis of God centered thought. An example of this conumdrum is the judging process. Christ advised people to judge righteously which entails not assessing and judging another’s actions or thoughts as incorrect or flawed. As soon as we label others we turn our back on spiritual thinking. We replace God in the position of eternal judge.

Self-evaluation and spiritual thinking impact daily thinking. Remember the story of Martha and Mary. Martha struggled to be a good hostess while Mary desired to know the Savior and what he taught. Jesus stated she had chosen better than Martha. “But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her”(7). 

Another viewpoint of daily life comes from the story of Christ’s crucifixion. The soldiers at the foot of the cross had no knowledge of the eternal importance of what was literally above their heads. They gambled away the few earthly belongings of the Savior who was forfeiting his life for their sins. The Lord forgave them because of their lack of knowledge. His sacrifice extends to all who desire to have their sins forgiven. Those who refuse to accept Him are not forced to accept His gifts. Man must want and ask for repentance, and forgiveness. They must follow in his footsteps of serving others with all their hearts, minds, and strengths just as the savior did for us. That man accepts, loves, and emulates our Savior.

People who lack the decision-making abilities of an 8 year old are not held accountable for their sins. These individuals may perform sinful acts but are not held accountable by the Lord. The rest of humanity may need to forgive them for their actions, but God does not hold them accountable.

Forgiveness is a gift for mankind. Everyone is commanded to forgive the most heinous crimes as demonstrated by the Lord on the cross. Christ paid for all sins and expects us to have a similar desire to forgive the few individuals we know. Mankind can honor the Savior’s sacrifice and feel the peace that comes with forgiveness.

Spiritual thinking impacts parenting as illustrated in a story Loren C. Dunn told of his Father, a stake president in Tooele, Utah. The busy man “gave his two young sons the responsibility of raising cows on the family farm. He gave the boys large latitude in what they could do, and they made mistakes. These were observed by an alert neighbor, who complained to their father about what the young cow-raisers were doing.

“Jim, you don’t understand,” President Dunn replied. “You see, I’m raising boys, not cows.” (8).  So often our children make mistakes while learning about life. Parents who  evaluate using eternal standards will find more peace in parenting than parents using temporal standards of perfection.

Spiritual Standards and Guidelines

Life requires men to make spiritual interpretations of all temporal actions. The scriptures provide standards and guidelines to aid in the development of spiritual capacity. According to the beliefs of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, various Indian Tribes and other populations, “the earth and all that is in it has a spirit and is of eternal worth”. Elder John A. Widtsoe taught that “there is a spiritual meaning of all human acts and earthly events. … It is the business of man to find the spiritual meaning of earthly things” (9).  One can only accomplish this by thinking spiritually.

Through the lens of spirituality, we can know “the things of God” by “the Spirit of God.” As the Apostle Paul taught, such things are “foolishness” to the “natural man.” He cannot see them “because they are spiritually discerned” (10). Man needs to learn to think and act spiritually in order to discern spiritual matters.

We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (11). This can also be said as thoughts, desires, attitudes, and feelings are not seen but actions can be viewed. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (12).

Just as man makes mistakes in temporal decision making, the spiritual thinking process does not guarantee correct solutions. One can use the spiritual thinking process incorrectly, interpret events incorrectly, or evaluate incorrectly. The thinking process provides an eternal perspective and is not a developmental perspective. Man can think of eternal principles incorrectly.

Spiritual Principles

Growth and development are spiritual matters. Man strives for holiness, to discipline his soul, purify his passions, and to control his will. This conquest of the inner person is basic to eternal life. The ancient apostles understood the spiritual principles of growth and development. They advised against making decisions based on worldly lusts, pride, and of trying to succeed using temporal principles. They urged the church to view life from an eternal perspective. “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.” (1 Pet. 1:24–25.) “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever”(13).

Another way to look at eternal life is, those who live up to spiritual standards are more likely to abide in God’s presence. Those who lust after the flesh and use pride as a principle for life’s decisions will not be able to abide in the presence of God or with those who strive to live like Him. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him”(14 ).

The ten commandments provide remedial guidelines for spiritual life. Christ introduced a higher law. The last dispensation before Christ’s second coming introduced even higher standards as the people are called on to serve their fellowman as Christ did with a love that exceeds their self-love.

The apostles taught people to overcome materialistic lifestyles. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (15). God will grant unto us all that we need. If that is the case, why can’t we give our “all” to those in need? Our needs are guaranteed to be met, why not give what we can? People are cursed for seeking more than is needed according the Samuel the Lamanite. “Because ye have set your hearts upon them (riches) and have not hearkened unto the words of him who gave them unto you.” (16). People who are materialistic often find they are unable to give freely, compare themselves to others’ wealth, and do not think of the poor and needy. Those who give are freed from the curse of envy, strife, and the worries that attend the fears of not having enough.

Seeking the kingdom of God first enables people to use their resources better than seeking riches first. People with the goal of serving God, find joy in giving and sharing and are less likely to judge others based on worldly wares. They find satisfaction in following God’s guidelines and in the support of the Holy Spirit. The critical difference between satisfaction and dissatisfaction while living is the amount of spirituality we exercise. Constant life management self-assessment enables us to progress using repentance and forgiveness.

Worshiping God, the Father and King of all creation, allows us to keep our priorities straight, to perceive the universe as everlasting and our experience as temporary and momentary. The atonement enables us to progress at our own rate. The spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit are understood with spiritual thinking as a momentary part of everlasting life. We can more easily tolerate adversity, weakness, mistakes and even death by interpreting life through a spiritual lens.

The tools for spiritual growth include faith, hope, charity, repentance, forgiveness, pure thoughts, making and keeping covenants, gratitude, righteous desires, hard work, reading/pondering scriptures, prayer, fasting, following the prophets, keeping the commandments and service.

The world knows these principles but exercising them sometimes proves a struggle. All spiritual gifts are given for the benefit of man so he can benefit others. Gifts are not for the benefit of the person receiving the spiritual gift. Why? Because man was already promised all things that are expedient for him. Even difficult and adverse experiences work for man’s benefit when managed correctly.

Living to benefit our eternal siblings is a spiritual principle. Serving others proves an individual’s faith and trust in God. The alternative to trust and faith is an increase in selfish perceptions, increased experiences of fear and spiritual loss. “And whosoever will lose his life in this world, for my sake, shall find it in the world to come. Therefore, forsake the world, and save your souls; for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (17). “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things. Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God” (18). 


1. Galatians 5:25

2. Job 32:8

3. Russell M. Nelson. 1991 These Were our Examples. General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

4. Dallin H. Oaks. Oct 1985 Spirituality. General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

5. Dallin H. Oaks. Oct 1985 Spirituality. General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

6. John 13:15

7. Luke 10:38–42.

8. Loren C. Dunn. 1982. “Our Spiritual Heritage,” in Brigham Young University 1981–82 Fireside and Devotional Speeches, Provo: Brigham Young University Press. p. 138.

9. John A. Widtsoe. 1922. Conference Report, Apr. 1922, pp. 96–97.

10. 1 Cor. 2:11,14

11. 2 Cor. 4:18

12. Rom. 8:5–6

13. 1 Jn. 2:15–17

14. 1John 2:15

15. 1 Tim. 6:17

16. Hel. 13:21; Hel. 6:17; Hel. 7:21

17. JST, Matt. 16:28–29

18. D&C 88:67–68