A Moral Inventory


     After we put our trust in the Lord, we can actually start to make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of ourselves and those areas we need to improve in. This is step four in the LDS Family Service ARP Manual. In reading 1 Nephi 2:8-24 I was able to discover some patterns of behavior that are very helpful in this process.

     Lehi had two sons who really struggled. When their family moved to the wilderness, they became the classic victims. Lehi recognized the reason for their struggle when he spoke plainly to them.  He told Laman, “O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running in the fountain of all righteousness” and Lemual, “O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord.” These two expressions reach down to the bottom of every parents heart when it comes to a struggling child.  He longed for them to be stalwart and unyielding to the temptations of the adversary. One of the things I want to point out is that Lehi, in teaching his son’s, did so not out of anger or contention, not with insults, it states plainly that he was filled with the spirit and spoke with such power that it did confound them to the point that they didn’t dare speak. Again, a lesson in how to approach those struggling with addiction or other problems. Allow the spirit to be the teacher.

    We learn from these scriptures that Laman and Lemual were stiffnecked and always complaining.  This means they were stubborn and lacked humility to turn towards the Lord and they loved to blame their father for their state of unhappiness.  They called him a foolish man, a visionary man, and not only complained because of all they had to leave behind, but they also complained against and blamed God for their current situation. They were in such a state that they didn’t have the ability to be honest with themselves, they were filled with enmity (hatred towards God and family), they were constantly filled with despair and anger, leaving no room for hope to grow, and lacked the faith to trust in God.  This is why they couldn’t get to a place of being able to do a searching and moral inventory of themselves and get to a place where God would open the windows of heaven to them. They were stuck.

     Nephi, however, gives us the perfect examples of what we must do to get to this place of personal truth and the ability to receive inspiration. Let me share this pattern I discovered while studying the scriptures of what Nephi did that resulted in a completely different behavior.

  1. He had the desire to know.
  2. He prayed.
  3. The Lord Softened his Heart.
  4. He believed.
  5. He didn’t rebel.
  6. He bore his testimony.
  7. He shared his knowledge.
  8. He was a good influence.
  9. When his message was rejected he prayed for his brothers.
  10. He practiced submissiveness, faith, diligence and humility.
  11. He focused on keeping the commandments.
  12. He focused on the blessings he would receive for obedience.
  13. He accepted the Lord’s will.
  14. He journaled it.

    What I really love about the writings of Nephi is it is a searching and fearless written inventory about his brothers, his family and himself. It’s an honest look at what they and he were doing.  Nephi had to pray to have his heart softened to believe what his father had taught. Likewise, we can pray to have our hearts softened to truly look within and take a serious moral inventory about what is going on inside and in our lives.

Doing a fearless and thorough inventory of your life will not be easy. When we say fearless, we do not mean you will have no feelings of fear. You will likely experience many emotions as you survey your life, including embarrassment or shame or fear. Fearless means you will not let your fears stop you from being thorough in the inventory process. In step 4, it means you commit to rigorous honesty as you focus on events in your life, including your own weaknesses, and not on anyone else’s weaknesses.

In the past you probably justified bad behavior
and blamed other people, places, or things for the problems you had created. Now you will begin to take responsibility for past and current actions, even though you may need to acknowledge painful, embarrassing, or difficult events, thoughts, emotions, or actions. -LDS Family Services ARP Manual

If the thought of making a searching and fearless inventory of yourself feels overwhelming, know you are not alone. Our hearts go out to you. We remember our struggles to find the willingness to complete this step. Many of us wondered if we might skip step 4 entirely and still overcome our addictions. Eventually we had to believe the words of those who went before us: “Without a searching and fearless moral inventory, . . . the faith which really works in daily living is still out of reach” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions [1981], 43)

     Somewhere between the age of 14 and 16, I remember attending a fireside by our Stake President. He was definately called of God for our generation.  I remember bits and pieces of what he taught, but what was most life changing for me was when he invited us to read the Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball. My parents had a copy in their library and over the period of several weeks, I read from this book.  This is what caused me to take an honest look at myself at that time and to take a personal inventory.  It’s not an easy book to read, and I would admonish one to never read it part way through and just stop. You must read it all the way through, otherwise you will feel like all is lost. This book was pivotal in my personal recovery process. It really helped me take an honest look at where I was at in my personal life at that time.

     I invite you to go to step four and go through this process.  I would pick up a couple of journals for this process. You will need what I call a black journal. This journal is specifically for writing all your negative or angry expressions, accounts of personal transgressions, and any other sensative matters that should not be shared with others or passed down to future generations. Once you fill the journal and go through the steps of repentance, destroy it. It is symbolic of repentance, letting go, and the fact that the Lord has forgiven you and see’s your sins no more. We need to follow the example of an all loving Savior and Heavenly Father and forgive ourselves of our sins and forgive others of their sins as well.

  •      The other journal is for writing down personal spiritual experiences, personal revelation,  your personal strengths and counsel from leaders.  This is a heart wrenching, yet beautiful journey to go through. The journey is well worth the effort as you feel the stains of mortality lift from your heart. I truly believe this is a healthy practice for all. It’s a beautiful thing to humble oneself, be taught by the spirit and to be shown those things we need to work on. We all have things we can improve upon. 


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