Michelle James, associate professor in German studies, addressed students on Tuesday at the June 21, 2016 devotional about balancing mortal and spiritual perceptions in order to fully understand the gospel of Jesus Christ.
She began her devotional with an anecdote of a Catholic nun named Sister Columba, who shared her profound love for Jesus Christ. James recalled that as she spoke, there was a powerful spiritual moment that touched the deepest part of her being.
James explored the difference between knowing the Savior with mortal perception, versus learning about Christ through spiritual perceptions.
“Mortal perception is the means of understanding which is provided by our physical body,” James said. “However, these mortal abilities are also limited, and at times faulty because they are just that–mortal.”
She explained spiritual perception contrasts mortal perceptions because they provide a direct connection with God through the medium of his spirit.
“Our spiritual mode of perception is not limited by our mortal senses or rationality, and therefore isn’t reducible to language, culture or personal baggage,” James said.
James explained how spiritual perception has no limits, save it for “the limits that we place on our own efforts to develop this aspect of our being.” Not only can the spiritual perception be limited by mortal understanding, but the two can commonly be mistaken for each other.
She also said this confusion makes it possible to know the scriptures without being touched by the spirit that testifies that the scriptures are true.
“This is why people can recite all that mortals know about Jesus Christ, without ever knowing Christ or being touched by his spirit,” James said.
In order to prevent this, James advised students to make sure their spiritual perceptions do not fade with mortality by having Jesus Christ become the center of their lives. When other things become more important than Christ, James said people begin to focus their lives on other worldly things. Whether or not they are good, they are mortal by nature and are limited and flawed.
“Mortal perception allows us to fall prey to misconceptions and hidden agendas,” James said.
Mortal perception also tricks people into believing that if an idea is liked by many people, then it must be right, according to James. However, if it does not receive the approval of God, then it is still mortal opinion.
James then advised students that the best way to nourish the spiritual perception is to immerse in church activities, temple attendance, scripture study and sincere personal prayer. If these items become habitual, then it is because they are being observed through mortal perception.
“Increasingly, as we develop our spiritual way of perceiving, we find that the truths of the gospel aren’t just concepts we know about. They are what we do,” James said.
James said people need both mortal and spiritual perceptions to become successful in life. She believes the best way to do that is to use both the mortal and spiritual perceptions to have a relationship with Christ.
“The most meaningful achievement in life, is to use all the combined powers of our mortal and spiritual perception, in order to center ourselves firmly on Jesus Christ and the infinite power of his Atonement, so that evert aspect of our lives will be charged and illuminated by the fire of the Lord,” James said.