“Strengthening the Inner Self,” Ensign, Feb. 2003, 2–7
The Apostle Paul’s wish for the Ephesian Saints was that the Lord would grant unto them “to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16). In like manner, the basic program of the Church today is to strengthen the inner self. Our objective is to have everyone feel the security, love, and warm embrace of the gospel. The divine Redeemer gave us the pattern for achieving this when He commanded: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. … Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:37, 39).
We seek to build inner moral strength and character in the members of the Church in complete harmony with the following statements of modern prophets and apostles: “Our primary purpose [is to establish] … independence, industry, thrift and self respect.”1 Our “long term objective … is the building of character in the members of the Church, … rescuing all that is finest down deep inside of them, and bringing to flower and fruitage the latent richness of the spirit, which after all is the mission and purpose and reason for being of this Church.”2
In order to build this inner strength, there might need to be some reordering of priorities in the planning and activities of the local programs of the Church. We will accomplish the Lord’s business better if our guiding stars are revealed principles rather than specified activities.
As we plan to reach, involve, and serve the one, the principles to be kept before us on a panoramic screen in heroic size are the two great injunctions of the Savior to all of His children: love and serve God and love and serve our fellowmen. The planning must begin by relating the activities to the spiritual needs of the members, including providing opportunities for members to be involved in meaningful service and, by their choice, in appropriate cultural, educational, recreational, and social activities approved by priesthood leaders. We should bear in mind that the success of a given activity cannot always be judged by its size. Rather, it must be judged by its effect on the lives of those participating. There must be a clear understanding that principles are more important than programs and that people are more important than organizations. We are trying to teach principles and guidelines more than to promote programs, as we seek to strengthen the inner person with the Spirit of God.
Our effectiveness can be judged best by the way we translate inner strength into action. What our religion really is can best be judged by our lives. Thomas Carlyle reminds us that “conviction … is worthless till it convert itself into conduct.”3 For us to be strengthened by God, by His Spirit, President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) counseled that membership in the Church “must mean more than just being a ‘card carrying’ member of the Church with a tithing receipt, a membership card, a temple recommend, etc. It means to overcome the tendencies to criticize and to strive continually to improve inward weaknesses and not merely the outward appearances.”4
We recognize that many of the adult single members of the Church may not have all the blessings they desire at this time. They are, however, on equal footing with all the Saints in their ability to keep the two great commandments and be abundantly blessed and strengthened thereby. The quality of their spirituality and devotion to the Master can be as fulfilling for them as for anyone. The quality of their goodness toward others can likewise be as meaningful and rewarding as the service given by anyone. Certainly spiritual understanding and testimony are available to all who earnestly seek them.
The strengthening of the inner self must come about as Saints are strengthened spiritually. The admonition to the Galatians was, “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:8). Problems will yield to a spiritual solution, for the higher laws involve the spiritual. The Lord said, “All things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal” (D&C 29:34). But invoking these higher laws and then putting them into operation do not involve the claiming of higher rights; rather they require the performance of higher duties.
Often we feel that we need help beyond our own natural gifts and abilities in finding our way in a complex, challenging, and difficult world. The prophet Alma made clear the source of his understanding in many matters: “They are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God” (Alma 5:46). Many in this world now walk the streets and byways in fear of their lives, but if they had an inner strength and security, there would be no need for concern. The Savior said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28).
The healing that we all so often need is the healing of our souls and spirits. This can come through a transfusion of the spiritual into our lives. The seventh article of faith states that, among other spiritual gifts, we believe in the gift of healing [A of F 1:7]. To me, this gift extends to the healing of both the body and the spirit. The Holy Spirit speaks peace to the soul, and this spiritual solace comes by invoking spiritual gifts, which are claimed and manifested in many ways. They are rich, full, and abundant in the Church today. They flow from the humble and proper use of a testimony. Christ is the Great Physician who rose from the dead “with healing in his wings” (2 Ne. 25:13), and the Comforter is the agent of healing.
If we are to further strengthen the inner person, the inner self must be purged and cleansed of transgression. Companionship with evil causes our whole being to die spiritually. The spiritual tap in our lives will not turn on until all transgressions, particularly those involving moral turpitude, are purged. I refer not only to sexual sins but also to all forms of wrongdoing, including lying, cheating, stealing, and consciously or recklessly inflicting injury upon others.
An important part of the spiritual being within all of us is the quiet and sacred part from which we may feel a sanctification in our lives. It is that part of us wherein no other soul may intrude. It is that part that permits us to come close to the divine, both in and out of this world. This portion of our beings is reserved only for ourselves and our Creator. We open the portals thereof when we pray. It is here where we may retreat and meditate. It is possible for the Holy Ghost to abide in this special part of us. It is a place of special communion. It is the master cell of our spiritual battery. But this great energizer becomes dead when we allow sin to creep stealthily into our lives. The Romans were reminded, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).
As we undertake to strengthen the inner soul, we move beyond concern for things that we can hold and possess. A wise man said, “The wealth of a soul is measured by how much it can feel; its poverty, by how little.”5
The inner soul, with all that it has stored within it, is what continues beyond this life. A thoughtful author reminds us, “Everything here, but the soul of man, is a passing shadow. The only enduring substance is within.”6
We are comforted by the knowledge that those who strengthen their inner selves shall see the face of God. The Lord Himself said, “It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am” (D&C 93:1). Edna St. Vincent Millay reminds us,
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.7
For the inner self to be strengthened, a great humility must come into the inner being. Gideon said of himself, “My family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judg. 6:15). Gideon went on to become the hero who delivered Israel from oppression by the Midianites.
The Old Testament says, “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). Moses was one of the greatest prophets who ever lived and was the author of five books in the Old Testament.
In my own search for inner strength, I express my respect, appreciation, and gratitude for the example of the First Presidency, other General Authorities, and a host of other good men and women of this Church throughout the world who stand steadfastly against the ill winds that blow and the forces of insecurity, doubt, and destruction all about us. They, through the Spirit of God, recognize the falsity of the dulcet voices and the siren songs of deceit among us that advocate instant gratification, offering no lasting relationships in life and teaching that there is little responsibility for wrongdoing. With steadfast hands and holy hearts, these stalwart souls stand as trumpeters upon the watchtowers of righteousness, hope, and inner peace.
The oppressive fog that beclouds the tortuous lanes and passages of your lives will disappear in the spiritual sunlight that comes only from God. This spiritual sunlight will not shine unless we diligently and humbly seek to enjoy His Spirit, for “the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34).
The Spirit of the Lord can ever be with us, even in the overheated ovens of life into which we may be cast, so that those who behold us will always see that we have a holy companion. Nebuchadnezzar experienced this when he looked into the fiery furnace and noted: “Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? … Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Dan. 3:24–25).
May there be found in our thoughts and actions the manifestation of an inward, spiritual peace and strength. May we have an absolute faith that all things are possible to God and hold in our remembrance that through our obedience all things may be made known to us by His Holy Spirit. “He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:8).
And in sowing to our spirits, may we be strengthened in our inner selves with might by His Spirit, for spirituality is like sunlight: it passes into the unclean and is not tainted. May our lives be such that the spiritual within us may ascend up through the common, the sordid, and the evil and sanctify our souls.
After you prayerfully prepare, share this message using a method that encourages the participation of those you teach. A few examples follow:
Ask family members what a person can do to strengthen his or her physical body, such as exercising, eating a proper diet, and getting sufficient rest. Then have them identify ideas in President Faust’s message for building inner moral strength. Share your testimony of how some of these ideas have helped you withstand insecurity, doubt, and temptation.
Show family members a battery and review how a battery works. How is our spirituality like a battery? Read the section “Our Spiritual Feelings,” and discuss ways we can recharge our spiritual batteries.
Invite family members to discuss the benefits we receive from the sun. Read with them the section “Spiritual Sunlight.” Discuss ways spirituality is like sunlight and sin is like an oppressive fog. What are some ways President Faust said we can increase spiritual sunlight in our lives?