Virtue + Charity = Power – Trying to Be like Jesus in Deed and in Thought

I just got a new calling as a team teacher for the missionary prep class in our stake.  I taught my first lesson yesterday, and then saw this message today.   It’s so inspiring.  I am impressed today about the importance that virtue plays in doing the Lord’s work.

When the Savior was touched by the woman who was plagued with an “issue of blood”, the Lord knew that someone had touched Him because, as the scripture states,  he immediately [knew] in himself that virtue had gone out of him, Mark 5:25-34.  Virtue, or the power that flows freely from virtue was part of the Savior, because He was the perfect being, the Lamb without blemish, one without sin (see also Doctrine and Covenants 121:45-46 – note that virtue and love are so vital to this scripture, and I am speaking about Christlike love, not lust, here.).

If we want to be effective leaders, teachers, mentors, spouses, parents, friends, etc. then it behooves us to follow the Master’s example on this point.  To quote from the talk that the video was taken from (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, We are all Enlisted, Gen. Conf. October 2011) –

Well, the Lord has drawn lines of worthiness for those called to labor with Him in this work. No missionary can be unrepentant of sexual transgression or profane language or pornographic indulgence and then expect to challenge others to repent of those very things! You can’t do that. The Spirit will not be with you, and the words will choke in your throat as you speak them. You cannot travel down what Lehi called “forbidden paths”5 and expect to guide others to the “strait and narrow”6 one—it can’t be done.

I also have a calling as the Primary Chorister.  This month, our song is I’m trying to be like Jesus.  I scoured the internet for ideas and found some great ones on Sugardoodle.  I quoted the scripture, Alma 5:14 –  Have ye received his image in your countenance.  We discussed what that meant, and I  took a mirror and a picture of the Savior and asked the children how their image was like the Savior’s (head, hair, eyes, etc.) and then we talked about the fact that as we spend time with people, we begin to behave and act, and sometimes look, like the people that we spend time with (I joked here about pegging my pants in High School – if you are reading this and went to school in the 90’s you’ll know what I’m talking about :). )

We began to discuss the scripture, 2 Nephi 9:9, which states that if we had not had a Savior, that we would have become like Satan, And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; and then we talked about the song , line by line –

I’m trying to be like Jesus,
I’m following in His ways.
I’m trying to love as He did
In all that I do and say.
At times I am tempted
To make a wrong choice,
But I try to listen
As the still small voice whispers:

CHORUS  – Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught.

I’m trying to love my neighbor.
I’m learning to serve my friends.
I watch for that day of gladness
When Jesus will come again.

I try to remember the lessons he taught,
And the holy spirit enters into my thoughts, saying:

CHORUS

Note that the whole song is about kindness, and gentleness, and being loving, and listening to the Holy Spirit.  I talked to the kids about a friend of mine, who, one day when his child had made a mistake, got angry and yelled, “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?”  Well, for one thing, He probably wouldn’t have yelled.  He probably would have  taken the child aside to sit down and discuss the problem, and then, would have shown forth love and expressed faith that the child would make a better choice in the future.

Finally, we talked about Moroni 7:47-48, which talks about charity, the pure love of Christ, and that, if we ask, and are filled with this love, when he shall appear we shall be like him – what an amazing thought!  That by spending time with the Savior (through scripture study, worship, and following the Spirit), and by acting as He would act – acts of love and virtue,  we will become like Him.   If we become like Him, then we will have power to do His works (see John 15: 1-7 and John 14:12).  I can’t imagine that we would sit back and expect the Savior to “tow the line” and live virtuously, and then, conversely not expect  Him to have requirements for us to follow.  We use and appreciate the Grace that He provided through His infinite atonement, and then to not try to be virtuous and loving  in our daily walk – it just doesn’t make sense.

We just finished watching the London 2012 Olympics – how inspiring to watch those men and women who had worked for four years to become something great.  How wonderful is our Coach, who accepts us, yes, but then invites us to become something better.  Who sees our divine potential to become great, to do great things in this world, to be more than the man or woman sitting on the couch, eating doughnuts, and watching T.V.  He wants so much more for each of us, and the way that we start on the path is to begin to “try to be like Jesus.”

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A Young Man Prepared

 

One Sunday I had the privilege of sitting by my nephew in Sacrament meeting.  I told him that he would soon be passing the sacrament and he got really excited.  I don’t know if he had realized it before, but for the rest of the Sacrament portion of the meeting, he sat alert and reverent.  When the bread and water came, he practiced getting ready by carefully passing the sacrament to everybody on our bench.  His face magnified the responsibility that he would one day hold.

I told my cousin about the experience and she told me that she had taught her son the words today primary song,  A Young Man Prepared (see this link ).  She and her son had printed it out and drawn simple pictures over the paper that would help him remember the words.  It was so sweet to see this little guy singing that beautiful song.

There is a line that I absolutely love – If I prepare and live clean, in every thought, word, and deed, I will be worthy to hold the sacred Priesthood of God (A Young Man Prepared, Music and Lyrics by Daniel Lyman Carter).

I think often about the scripture in Isaiah –  Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord (Isaiah 52:11, see also Doc.& Cov.133:5).

Can we get our little young boys ready and prepared to hold and exercise the power of the priesthood?  Can we teach them at a young age of the importance of working on being virtuous?

Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever (Doc. & Cov.121:45-46).

Can we teach our girls that will be the future friends and girlfriends of these sweet boys that they need to help the young men be strong?  There is a quote that I always think about when I try to teach my girls about dressing appropriately – And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you  (Dallin H. Oaks, “Pornography,” Ensign, May 2005, 87. See the full talk here).

These are very hard concepts to teach when we are mocked for living them.  But Father in Heaven didn’t send us here to fail.  The Priesthood of God has been restored.

The same authority that [Joseph Smith] had has been conferred upon your sons, and they will be required by our Father in heaven to minister in the ordinances of the Gospel. The responsibility that came to Joseph Smith has not been lost by his departure, it has fallen upon other shoulders. Our Father in heaven has raised up from time to time those who have had the authority to speak in His name, to administer in the ordinances of the Gospel, and to bless the children of men. They have shared that honor with you and with your children (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, 2010, see link for full chapter).

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?

How Women Can Gain Power: A Response to “Why Standard’s Night is Sub-Standard – teaching sexuality to young women”

I just read a very fascinating article by Kathryn Soper, entitled – Why Standards Night Is Substandard: Teaching Sexuality to the Young Women.

She talked about a young girl’s need to feel love, quoting an article by President Benson:

I recognize that most people fall into sexual sin in a misguided attempt to fulfill basic human needs. We all have a need to feel loved and worthwhile. We all seek to have joy and happiness in our lives. Knowing this, Satan often lures people into immorality by playing on their basic needs. He promises pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment (The Message: The Law of Chastity, New Era, January 1988).

She states – To put it simply, thirteen-, fourteen-, and fifteen-year-old girls don’t have sex because they desperately want sex. They have sex because they desperately want something else. President Benson points out several psychological necessities we mistakenly seek through illicit sex — love, joy, fulfillment… .

Then she  names another reason that young girls begin to harness their own sexuality – the thrill of power that  she finds when she learns that she is becoming a woman and can capture the attention of men.

To tell you the truth, I knew exactly what she meant as she talked about the first time she wore mascara to a dance when she was a young woman.  I remembered the moments in my life when I felt that power.

There was a poignant moment when she discussed a mother, desperately worried about her daughter’s intimate relationship, and she (the author) asked if the daughter [had] power in her life.

Then she said that the mother, looked uneasy, and I didn’t blame her. Power is not a commodity we associate with Mormon girls and women. To our ears the very concept of power sounds worldly and corrupt, unless we’re talking about priesthood power, which we qualify as exclusively masculine. But I wasn’t talking about priesthood power, and I wasn’t talking about the steel-fisted power of a political dictator or corporate mogul, either.

I tried to explain. “What I mean is, does Amy sense that she’s in control of her own life? That she has the right and the ability and the opportunity to get what she wants and what she needs?”

Finally she discussed the problem with that kind of power –

She knows the power of sexual attraction, but she doesn’t need a man’s approving gaze or hungry touch to feel strong… All of humanity suffers every time a woman, young or not, uses her body not to express herself, but to secure a self; not to feel pleasure, but to gratify another’s; not to share love, but to barter for it.

While I agreed with most of her arguments and enjoyed her writing style, I felt frustrated that she didn’t take it a step further and talk about HOW to gain power in other ways, or offer suggestions to young women leaders and mothers about HOW to teach Standard’s Night.

May I submit that women need to find avenues to channel their powers, and places to turn to find confidence and self-esteem.  One of those places is in creation.

I read an article several years ago about a young teenage girl who was involved in self-mutilation (cutting).  The mother knew that her daughter loved to do art.  So she took her to an art store and bought her girl some expensive supplies to “keep her hands busy” when she felt the urge to do damage to herself.

Not only does that give the girl an outlet, it helps build the confidence and self-esteem that the girl needs.  Then wise parents and friends will reach out and give her the attention then she is crying out for, but if they don’t she can find it in other ways.

At an early age, I wanted the good opinion of others (I still do at times.  I think that is part of the human package) but I learned that the only way to get the attention and love that my soul craved was through the feelings of the Holy Spirit, telling me that I was unique, special, loved and approved of.

How much more satisfying it is when we receive the praise of God, knowing that it is fully justified and that His love and respect for us will persist, when usually the praise of men is fleeting and most disappointing (President N. Eldon Tanner, Ensign, Nov. 1975, p.76).

So there is power to be found in the act of creation, whether it be creating a healthy body, a work of culture, a work of kindness.  There is power to be found in developing our unique gifts and talents.

But the power that will be the most satisfying is the power that comes when the Soul (meaning the Spirit and Body together) gain strength.  This is what we must teach at Standards Night.  There was a reason that the Savior had the ability to perform his mighty miracles.

Remember the story of the woman that had an issue of blood? For twelve years, she  looked for a cure but was unable to find it.  Then she heard of Jesus and thought within herself – If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.

She went through a large group of people and touched the hem of his garment  – And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.

That story is miraculous, but our discussion is centered around what comes next – And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that avirtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?

His power and strength came from his virtue.  That power went out of Him, and He felt it leave.

The disciples then said to Him, “what are you talking about, look at all of these people that are surrounding you, they’re all touching you.”

But He knew, that an individual in that crowded mass needed His power, healing and His recognition to make herself whole.

When the author of the above article stated “we’re talking about priesthood power, which we qualify as exclusively masculine” she failed to mention Whose Priesthood power the men of the Church hold.  In ancient days, the Priesthood was called  – the aHoly Priesthood, after the bOrder of the Son of God (Doc. & Cov. 107:2-4) and regardless of who administers the power, it belongs to the Savior and it is available to all who have the need of it for strength, healing, love, forgiveness, guidance and power.

This is what we should be teaching at Standard’s Night.  That the way to feel His power when we need it is to reach out and touch Him, even the hem of His garment if that’s all that you can reach.  We should show the girls that the way to reach Him is through preparation, repentance, and by using the WORD of God in our talks and lessons and daily lives.

Then we should teach how to channel our own power as Creative beings and as Spiritual beings.

Let bvirtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thycconfidence wax strong in the dpresence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the edews from heaven. Doc & Cov 121:45.
These are things that everyone can do, at any time, regardless of who we are or what we’ve done.  These are things that, if instilled in our young daughters, will raise a generation of women who [refuse] to be objectified and sexualized … [refuse] to be consumers of those things which subtly undermine … divine identity and … moral character.  … The blessings of virtuous women who keep their covenants are so vast and so grand they are almost incomprehensible. (Elaine Dalton, Arise and Shine Forth: A Return to Virtue, April 29, BYU Women’s Conference).

These women would be powerful, because they would know how to gain the Divine power and the respect of God. Then they would be taught by the Holy Ghost.  They would learn to be creators and always feel fulfilled and nourished, with the ability to strengthen and nourish others.