Decide to Determine Your Change

Easter chickMy daughter was just singing a song with the lyric, “I’m never gonna change.”

That made me think.  What a stupid thing to say, and yet so many songs are filled with a variation of that lyric.  Why do I think it’s a dumb concept? Because, like it or not, we are all changing (just look at yourself in the mirror and see how many wrinkles have been appearing lately).   Now perhaps you feel that the lyric is noble – that it is about holding strong to an ideal.  It’s not.  Listen to the rest of the song.  It’s usually just hot air.

When my husband and I were talking about marriage, he said to me, “Laryssa, I hope that you are not one of those women who think that you can change your husband, because I am not going to change in our marriage, what you see is what you get!”

That actually almost made me call off the wedding.  I told him that if he wasn’t planning on changing in our marriage that there was no point in our being together.  Why would a person not want to change?  Not want to be better? Be content with sitting in the entropy that is life as we get older, fatter, lazier?  If that was his idea of our future, then I wanted no part of it.  If, however, he was willing to allow God to change him, then I was willing to marry him.  I wasn’t expecting perfection, nor was I planning on giving him a laundry list of what he should and shouldn’t do.  I was expecting him to go to the Lord and ask for direction, help, and advice and then work on the answers that he received from the Lord through prayer and study.

Change can be one of the great glories of mortality, if we control the change.  Education, repentance, health, patience, meekness, kindness, charity – all within the scope of our agency, if we would just start baby stepping in the right direction!

Every so often, I see a friend post on Facebook a triumph.  “I have been sober for ___ amount of time.”  “I have been drug free for ___ years.”  That is AMAZING!!! What a testimony to change (and in most cases because of AA, a change with God).

I cannot understand why our media (literature especially) is replete with examples of weakness without redemption.  What a small way to view mankind!  And what’s the point? So that we realize that we are all mortal? Gee, that’s motivating!

It’s the part of immortality inside of us – the spiritual chromosomes given to us by our Heavenly Father that I’m interested in.  Otherwise, why did the Savior make His exquisite sacrifice – so that we could be content to sit on the couch after a big meal and watch the world through our TV? No! He wants us to BECOME something great – better than we can imagine, but it all begins with the decision to control the changes that we have the ability to control.

So use your agency, and sing out “I am going to change, and I thank the Lord that I can!”

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Elections and Agency

To begin with, I need to give full disclosure. I voted for Mitt Romney last Tuesday. That probably isn’t a shock for those that know me well. It wasn’t simply because Mitt Romney is LDS, though it helped me identify with him more. Much of the reason that I, and many Americans, were voting for him were because we are facing a fiscal problem, the likes of which are staggering to think about and a problem that Mitt’s personal history and experience made him absolutely the right man for the office. I won’t go into all of the particulars, as this is a religious blog rather than a political one. (Though I urge all readers to go and do some reading, especially on both sides of the political spectrum, and yes, that does mean that you republicans should read a few articles from MSNBC – who amazingly enough have now stopped talking about Big Bird and are now talking about the fiscal cliff – and for you democrats, read some articles from **shock** dare I say it – FOX News.)

The reason I bring politics into the fray today is because I was absolutely shocked at the results of the election. So much so, that I was very restless on Tuesday night and lay in bed thinking and praying a lot. I know that many people prayed for a win for the country, for our future, for some ability to face and fight the financial crisis that is looming. I know good people of many different faiths did as well. I mulled over the question and other similar issues deeply for a very long time. Finally, when I was in desperation, wondering why the Lord wouldn’t intervene in such an important question, when so many righteous were asking for it, I felt a jolt, as if someone were shaking me and the thought that came to mind was – “AGENCY!!!”

Agency, moral agency, the power to choose, is the most vital part of our earth life experience.

Let me cite a few examples, (see AGENCY, in the topical guide for a better run-down):

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself (2 Nephi 2:27).

Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life (2 Nephi 10:23).

That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment (Doc & Cov 101:78).

And finally, probably the one that pulls at my heartstrings the most. Enoch is talking to the Lord, who is crying as he surveys the wickedness of the world. Enoch is shocked, wondering why the God of the Universe would weep. Here’s the answer:

The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood (Moses 7:32-33);

That line “that they should choose me, their Father” just makes me want to weep. The God of the Universe, our Father is asking for us to use our moral agency to choose Him, His ways, His path, His Son, His gospel. Not through force or coercion, but because of love for Him. He will not force us to give Him that love.

So, I don’t know why I am so surprised. I’ve read the revelations. I’ve studied history. I know how things will go when people stop thinking about big issues like Bengazi, $16 trillion in national debt, self-reliance, and God’s will on social issues, and start looking at small things – like Big Bird, birth control, and a host of other small issues that I like to call – bread and circuses.

There is one consolation, that’s the revelations. I don’t mean the Book of Revelation, though that’s part of it. I mean the revelations of the prophets for our time. People may laugh and scorn me for saying it, but it’s amazing to me that prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel, the Apostles, and Nephi (to name a few) have come to pass (just pick up a history book) and are so very relevant today. I have been amazed at how many scriptures have flooded my mind in the past two days.  How much makes beautiful, logical, sense. Perhaps in this paragraph, I’m being cryptic – maybe it’s to give you a chance to go to the revelations yourself.

Perhaps the revelations are more natural so that we will continue to have to use our agency to “choose God”. I mean, this earth life is a test, is it not – And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3: 25).

Agency, moral agency, and the right to direct it is fundamental to our lives. However, the consequences of those choices are not ours to decide. Remember the story of the little girl who wanted to pick and choose choices AND consequences:

Our grandchildren are learning that when they make a choice, they also choose its consequences. Recently one of our three-year-old granddaughters refused to eat her dinner. Her mother explained, “It’s almost bedtime. If you choose to eat dinner, you are choosing ice cream for dessert. If you choose not to eat dinner, you are choosing to go to bed now, without ice cream.” Our granddaughter considered her two choices and then stated emphatically, “I want this choice—to play and eat only ice cream and not go to bed.”

Brothers and sisters, do we wish we could play, eat only ice cream, never go to bed, and somehow avoid consequences like malnutrition and exhaustion?

In reality we have only two eternal choices, each with eternal consequences: choose to follow the Savior of the world and thus choose eternal life with our Heavenly Father or choose to follow the world and thus choose to separate ourselves from Heavenly Father eternally (Choose Eternal Life, Randall K. Bennett, Gen Conf – October 2011).

In the end, Agency matters to our God. Using it matters to Him and to our Eternities. What will happen as a result of this election? Well, I will continue to pray for the country I love. I hope that things will get better, though just days after the election, the stock market has gone down and massive layoffs and business closures are on the horizon. It might get better, but I’m trimming the oil for my lamp just in case the divide on the country of almost 50-50 isn’t just about politics but has a much deeper, and much more important Spiritual message for those who have “ears to hear“.

*This page has been changed from the original. Previously it listed two revelations and gave some interpretation. 

Grace: The price has been paid, the opportunity has been opened.

I had a wonderful Sunday School lesson today.  At the beginning, the teacher decided to stray from the lesson momentarily and share an excerpt from a talk that he had come across.  I am so thankful that he did.  It was worth the trip to Colorado to learn (of course road trips and visiting with family and friends is fantastic as well).  I think that acquiring gospel knowledge is like putting together a gigantic puzzle.  There are parts that you are working on, and then you get that one piece that illuminates the area that you had been focused on.  Today, I got one of those pieces.

It was from a talk by Brad Wilcox, BYU Professor and Sunday School General Board member, given at a BYU Devotional, 12 July 2011.  The  talk is entitled,  His Grace Is Sufficient and the full transcript can be found here.

He began by discussing a conversation that he had with a female student about grace.  I quote from the talk here (excerpts of the talk will be in italics) –

Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Cover Us

She said, “I know I need to do my best and then Jesus does the rest, but I can’t even do my best.”

She then went on to tell me all the things she should be doing because she’s a Mormon that she wasn’t doing.

She continued, “I know that I have to do my part and then Jesus makes up the difference and fills the gap that stands between my part and perfection. But who fills the gap that stands between where I am now and my part?”

He went on to draw on a paper two dots – one that represented God, and the other her, and asked if she would draw a line to God that represented how much was her part.  She drew a line just over her dot to which he answered, “Wrong.”   He said the following:

“The truth is, there is no line. Jesus filled the whole space. He paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a
few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.”

She said, “Right! Like I don’t have to do anything?”

“Oh no,” I said, “you have plenty to do, but it is not to fill that gap. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we
plan to stay there.”

Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His. Justice requires immediate perfection or a punishment when we fall short. Because Jesus took that punishment, He can offer us the chance for ultimate perfection (see Matthew 5:48, 3 Nephi 12:48) and help us reach that goal. He can forgive what justice never could, and He can turn to us now with His own set of requirements (see 3 Nephi 28:35).

“So what’s the difference?” the girl asked. “Whether our efforts are required by justice or by Jesus, they are still required.”

“True,” I said, “but they are required for a different purpose. Fulfilling Christ’s requirements is like paying a mortgage instead of rent or like making deposits in a savings account instead of paying off debt. You still have to hand it over every month, but it is for a totally different reason.”

Then he went on to provide a fantastic analogy, one that really resonated with me –

Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Transform Us

Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. … Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.

If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing (“Gosh, Mom, why do I need to practice? None of the other kids have to practice! I’m just going to be a professional baseball player anyway!”), perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane.

In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), “Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask (“Gosh! None of the other Christians have to pay tithing! None of the other Christians have to go on missions, serve in callings, and do temple work!”), maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The great Mediator asks for our repentance not because we must ‘repay’ him in exchange forhis paying our debt to justice, but because repentance initiates a developmental process that, with the Savior’s help, leads us along the path to a saintly character” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], 149; emphasis in original).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, referring to President Spencer W. Kimball’s explanation, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change” (The Lord’s Way [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991], 223; emphasis in original). Let’s put that in terms of our analogy: The child must practice the piano, but this practice has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change.

I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven.”

I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it (see D&C 78:7). We are practicing for it.”

They ask me, “Have you been saved by grace?”

I answer, “Yes. Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully—yes!”

Then I ask them a question that perhaps they have not fully considered: “Have you been changed by grace?” They are so excited about being saved that maybe they are not thinking enough about what comes next. They are so happy the debt is paid that they may not have considered why the debt existed in the first place. Latter-day Saints know not only what Jesus has saved us from but also what He has saved us for. As my friend Brett Sanders puts it, “A life impacted by grace eventually begins to look like Christ’s life.” As my friend Omar Canals puts it, “While many Christians view Christ’s suffering as only a huge favor He did for us, Latter-day Saints also recognize it as a huge investment He made in us.” As Moroni puts it, grace isn’t just about being saved. It is also about becoming like the Savior (see Moroni 7:48).

The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can live after we die but that we can live more abundantly (see John 10:10). The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed (see Romans 8). Scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God (see Alma 40:26), but, brothers and sisters, no unchanged thing will even want to. …

The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—miraculously—we can feel at home there. If Christ did not require faith and repentance, then there would be no desire to change. Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin. If Jesus did not require covenants and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, then there would be no way to change. We would be left forever with only willpower, with no access to His power. If Jesus did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic rather than sinking inside us and becoming part of us — part of who we are. Put simply, if Jesus didn’t require practice, then we would never become pianists.

Think about the difference between a person who has just started practicing the piano, and someone who has been playing for years.  What’s the difference?  Practice.  What’s the difference between someone who has just started to learn a language and someone who has been speaking it for years?  Practice.  But remember that the more effort you put into the task, the better you will become.  Can you imagine what a lifetime of someone trying to put the teachings of Jesus into practice would be like?  Brother Wilcox then began a section that I think is so important to understand because we all live in the world.  The world (as Elder Neal A. Maxwell put it) is a laboratory for learning to be Christlike.  And it can be a very harsh lab, very real, and very difficult –

Christ’s Grace Is Sufficient to Help Us

“But Brother Wilcox, don’t you realize how hard it is to practice?  I’m just not very good at the piano. I hit a lot of wrong notes. It takes me forever to get it right.” Now wait. Isn’t that all part of the learning process? When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven?

Too many are giving up on the Church because they are tired of constantly feeling like they are falling short. They have tried in the past, but they always feel like they are just not good enough. They don’t understand grace.

There are young women who know they are daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves them, and they love Him. Then they <graduate from high school, and the values they memorized are put to the test. They slip up. They let things go too far, and suddenly they think it is all over. These young women don’t understand grace.

There are young men who grow up their whole lives singing, “I hope they call me on a mission,” and then they do actually grow a foot or two and flake out completely. They get their Eagles, graduate from high school, and go away to college. Then suddenly these young men find out how easy it is to not be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, or reverent. They mess up. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “I’ll never do it again,” and then they do it. They say, “This is stupid. I will never do it again.” And then they do it. The guilt is almost unbearable. They don’t dare talk to a bishop. Instead, they hide. They say, “I can’t do this Mormon thing. I’ve tried, and the expectations are just way too high.” So they quit. These young men don’t understand grace.

I know returned missionaries who come home and slip back into bad habits they thought were over. They break promises made before God, angels, and witnesses, and they are convinced there is no hope for them now. They say, “Well, I’ve blown it. There is no use in even trying any more.” Seriously? These young people have spent entire missions teaching people about Jesus Christ and His Atonement, and now they think there is no hope for them? These returned missionaries don’t understand grace.

I know young married couples who find out after the sealing ceremony is over that marriage requires adjustments. The pressures of life mount, and stress starts taking its toll financially, spiritually, and even sexually. Mistakes are made. Walls go up. And pretty soon these husbands and wives are talking with divorce lawyers rather than talking with each other. These couples don’t understand grace.

In all of these cases there should never be just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13). …

As dark as our trials, sins, and mistakes may appear, we can always have confidence in the grace of Jesus
Christ. Do we earn a sunrise? No. Do we have to be worthy of a chance to begin again? No. We just have to accept these blessings and take advantage of them. As sure as each brand-new day, grace—the enabling power of Jesus Christ—is constant. … The task ahead of [us is] never as great as the power behind [us].

Now, doesn’t that make you fell more confident in your ability to become something great with the opportunity that has been so greatly given.  It does for me.

Jesus the Perfect Leader

A friend of mine sent a talk over for me to read.  It was entitled, Jesus the Perfect Leader by President Spencer W. Kimball to the Young Presidents organization, Sun Valley, Idaho, 15 January 1977.  It was so timely for me to read these very amazing thoughts.  I wanted to share a few here.  A full copy of the talk can be found here, the whole thing is worth a read.

President Kimball began by saying that if we wanted to be good leaders and examples we should follow that of the Savior, whose “attributes and skills he demonstrated so perfectly. These same skills and qualities are important for us all if we wish to succeed as leaders in any lasting way.”  By leaders, I think that roles as parents can be counted even as importantly as those leadership opportunities over vast congregations or employees.

He went on to say the following:

  • Jesus kept himself virtuous, and thus, when his closeness to the people permitted them to touch the hem of his garment, virtue could flow from him. (See Mark 5:24–34.)

I want to study the relationship between virtue and power.

The other day, I watched a show about people who hoard things, usually so much that it makes living in the home virtually impossible.   A woman on this particular episode had mountains of clothes and shoes in her home.  And I mean mountains – floor to ceiling with barely a hallway in-between to get to the next room of clothes.  She said that she was “high maintenance” and loved to have “lots of choices.”  The therapist on the show said something to the effect of, “haven’t you noticed that having too many choices, in reality, takes away all of your choices.”

It’s such an interesting (and seemingly opposite) idea that if you put limits on things, it actually gives you more power, more choices, more freedom.

So the connection between the Savior’s virtue and His ability to have that virtue flow out of Him that effectively heals others –  still working on that.  Any thoughts?  If that is true, then what conclusions can be drawn about a virtuous priesthood holder?

Another idea that I loved from the talk:

  • Jesus had perspective about problems and people. He was able to calculate carefully at long range the effect and impact of utterances, not only on those who were to hear them at the moment, but on those who would read them 2,000 years later. So often, secular leaders rush in to solve problems by seeking to stop the present pain, and thereby create even greater difficulty and pain later on.

I say way too much.  I need to calculate the impact of my utterances more – with my students, friends, family, spouse, and especially with my children.

There was a section on Responsibility, which I could spend hours on, but here’s the jist:

  • Jesus knew how to involve his disciples in the process of life. He gave them important and specific things to do for their development. Other leaders have sought to be so omnicompetent that they have tried to do everything themselves, which produces little growth in others. 
  • Jesus trusts his followers enough to share his work with them so that they can grow. That is one of the greatest lessons of his leadership. If we brush other people aside in order to see a task done more quickly and effectively, the task may get done all right, but without the growth and development in followers that is so important. Because Jesus knows that this life is purposeful and that we have been placed on this planet in order to perform and grow, growth then becomes one of the great ends of life as well as a means. We can give corrective feedback to others in a loving and helpful way when mistakes are made.
  • Jesus let people know that he believed in them and in their possibilities, and thus he was free to help them stretch their souls in fresh achievement.
  •  Jesus believed in his followers, not alone for what they were, but for what they had the possibilities to become. While others would have seen Peter as a fisherman, Jesus could see him as a powerful religious leader—courageous, strong—who would leave his mark upon much of mankind. In loving others, we can help them to grow by making reasonable but real demands of them.

I think that giving others responsibility is such a powerful idea, and can be life-changing – both mine and others.

Accountability was another section:

  •  A good leader will remember he is accountable to God as well as to those he leads. By demanding accountability of himself, he is in a better position, therefore, to see that others are accountable for their behavior and their performance. People tend to perform at a standard set by their leaders.

Taking honest responsibility for our actions, without blaming others or situations for our reactions is powerful.  Even better is training ourselves to react in more appropriate ways when life throws a curve ball.  For example, instead of swearing when your child knocks over a drink, perhaps comfort and a helping hand will go a long way to give the child a secure environment and a pattern to follow.

There is a section on the wise use of time, having time for leisure and structuring time without being “frantic or officious”:

  • Time cannot be recycled. When a moment has gone, it is really gone. The tyranny of trivia consists of its driving out the people and moments that really matter. Minutia holds momentous things hostage, and we let the tyranny continue all too often. Wise time management is really the wise management of ourselves.

I just keep reading and re-reading this last.  How can I train my children to understand this?  How can I teach myself to do this?

My final thought from this talk is so encouraging, it makes we want to be better, to do better:

  • One of the great teachings of the Man of Galilee, the Lord Jesus Christ, was that you and I carry within us immense possibilities. In urging us to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect, Jesus was not taunting us or teasing us. He was telling us a powerful truth about our possibilities and about our potential. It is a truth almost too stunning to contemplate. Jesus, who could not lie, sought to beckon us to move further along the pathway to perfection.
That just gives me so much hope and courage about my life and abilities.  I’m going to go out and have a wonderful day – you?

Gifts – Both Good and Evil

Gifts - Good and Evil

I’ve always been fascinated by the scripture that states, “touch not the evil gift” ( Moroni 10:30). It seems to imply that the Devil gives gifts, just as the Lord does.

We know that the Lord gives gifts, both physical and spiritual, in fact, we are told to “covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31) and to “lay hold upon every good gift” ( Moroni 10:30).  There are many, many scriptures that touch on the Gifts of the Spirit, their importance in our work here on the earth, and the ability that is ours to reach out to Father in Heaven and literally ask for the gifts that we stand in need of.

George Q Cannon (First Counselor in the First Presidency from 1880 -1901) stated this about Spiritual gifts, and  it is exquisite –

If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect.  Have I imperfections?  I am full of them.  What is my duty? To pray to God to give me the gifts that will correct these imperfections … They are intended for this purpose.  No man ought to say, “Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.”  He is not justified in it, for [that reason] God has promised to give strength to correct these things and to give gifts that will eradicate them … (Nov. 26, 1893, Deseret Weekly 48:34-5).

The Lord has said in a revelation to the Church that the Saints should “seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given; for verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments” (Doctrine and Covenants 46:8-9).  How many Latter-day Saints are there who supplicate the Lord for the gifts that they need?  …

Every defect in the human character can be corrected through the exercise of faith and pleading with the Lord for the gifts that He has said He will give unto those who believe and obey His commandments (Oct. 1, 1896, Juvenile Instructor 31:572).

I’ve pondered these thoughts for a while, but recently had an experience which made all the ideas come together in a new and interesting way for me.  I can be such a lazy woman at times.  It’s terrible!  Ugh, to admit it to you makes me shudder, but there it is.  So, I’ve been asking in prayer to stop being lazy.  But the laziness continued…

Then it occurred to me that instead of asking for something to be taken away, I should ask for a gift that would replace the bad habit.  What’s the opposite of laziness?  I began to ask for the gift of industry.  It was amazing to see my focus shift, my will strengthen, and my desire and ability to do the mountain of tasks ahead of me, increase.

I began to think of the scripture (mentioned above), “touch not the evil gift.” Laziness, apathy, hatred, insecurity, sloth, etc.  all are gifts that Satan is more than willing to give us.  God, on the other hand, doesn’t even deal with those attributes – not even to take them away, as was my foolish prayer.  He focuses on “the fruit of the Spirit … love, joy, peace, longsufferring, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance”  etc. (see Galatians 5:16 -23).

He’s told us to ask for “whatsoever thing [we] are in need of,” (there are too many references to this one – just look up the word “ask” in the scriptures and see how many times the Lord has asked us to ask, I make it 405 – give or take).

Our future, our ability, our capacity, our abundance is truly in our own hands as we decide which gifts we will accept and which we will ask for.

Rejection – *heavy sigh!*

The Fallen Snowman

I have been working to get published for a while now.  I just received another rejection letter.  It was one of those rejections from a publishing company that I had a really good feeling about.  Bitter agony!  Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but rejection is tough.  For example,

When I try something, but my heart isn’t in it, the rejection is frustrating.

When I try something and my heart is in it, the rejection is painful.

When I try something and  heart is in it, and it’s coupled with hope, the rejection is devastating.

My sister called that last one a miscarriage of a dream (relationship, job, whatever the case may be).  After having a physical miscarriage myself, I think she may be on to something with that analogy.

Now, after that, onto something a little bit more inspiring…

I found an article by Elder Paul V. Johnson that was featured in the January Ensign 2011.  It is entitled, Make Yours a Great Life and was adapted from a commencement address given at LDS Business College on April 9, 2009.  I read it several weeks before my recent rejection, but found it again during the brouhaha.  Each time, the message has electrified me, and helped me to “get back in the saddle,” creating new plans and a new direction.

I will quote a large section, simply because I think that it applies to the conversation –

Your future is not determined by the conditions around you. It is determined by your faith, your choices, and your efforts. Yes, you live in challenging times, but so did Mary, Moroni, and Joseph Smith. You don’t have to be carried along in the current of the times. The Lord can and will help you set your own course. The challenges you face will serve to strengthen you as you move forward with your life. Each of you has a bright future, a future you cannot now fully comprehend.

How will you face your challenges? Some people complain and blame circumstances or other people for their problems. They won’t let go of bad feelings. They portray themselves as victims and become bitter. They seem to spend so much time and energy justifying themselves and pushing off responsibility to others that there is no energy left to go forward with their lives.

Others seem to live in the past and dwell on how things used to be. They are so unwilling to leave the past that they don’t turn around to face a future that would be bright if they approached it properly.

Some people dream about the future but don’t do much to move into it with power. They don’t realize that what they do—or don’t do—now will profoundly affect their future.

People who go to work with faith, knowing the Lord will bless them if they do what’s right, are the ones with a bright future. The title of the last conference address given by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve, (1917–2008) explained how these people handle challenges: “Come What May, and Love It.” Elder Wirthlin said: “If we approach adversities wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead toward times of greatest happiness.” 1

Your individual future is either bright or cloudy, depending on you.

Now, it’s  time to get to work, pick that snowman up and rebuild a better one. 🙂

Agency and the Plan of Salvation

I just overheard a professor of philosophy discussing God and agency with his class.  Since I am not able to walk into his class and give my opinion, I will write it here to you.

His main argument was that God knows everything that we will do and therefore we don’t have true agency.   (A very common argument, meant to place the blame for our lives on God and not ourselves.)

My rebuttal is this.  God is omniscient, he does know everything.  But,we don’t.  We have no knowledge in this mortal state of what our individual future will hold.  We have only the knowledge of the present moment and the past here on earth.  Thus our agency is in absolute full force.

We can decide for ourselves, “I will make it to live with God again, no matter what.”  If we act appropriately, following the guidelines prescribed by God to make it to the Celestial Kingdom, there is nothing that says, “oh, sorry, you’re slated for the Telestial Kingdom, too bad!”

Therefore, my ignorance of God’s knowledge of my future makes me innocent enough to believe that I can have all that He’s promised me.  I have the choice and the ability here and now, to make that come to pass.  Or I can decide I don’t want it.  That’s my choice.  My lack of knowledge makes it so.