Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Step 4 Truth

KEY PRINCIPLE: Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of yourself.

I don't have much to offer about this step beyond what is said in the book.

"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).
Addiction crippled our ability to reflect honestly about our lives. It limited our ability to understand the damage and havoc—the liabilities—it caused in all our relationships. Before we could confidently rely on the Savior, we needed a framework through which He could help us sort out our past honestly. Step 4 provided that framework; it was the “vigorous and painstaking effort to discover what these liabilities in each of us have been, and are” ( Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 42).
The inventory was also a step in helping us align our lives with the will of God. Through this inventory, we identified negative thoughts, emotions, and actions that ruled our lives. By discovering those destructive elements in our lives, we took the first step toward correcting them. Doing an inventory was difficult, but this step opened the door to the additional faith and hope we needed to continue our recoveries and overcome addiction."

I'll turn in my 'man-card' and admit I cried during this process and it is intimidating. This was my third time sitting down and saying I am going to do this. Personally I just made a list of all the things that came to mind that happened in my life good and bad, from Graduating High School to serving a mission to encounters with my addiction. After making a list I wrote what I felt during those times. After I looked at my lists and noticed some correlations between things I did and when I really felt happy and made a list of all of the sorts of things that happened in my life that made me feel happy. I then made a list of what lead me to make mistakes whether it be succumbing to my addiction or trying to hide it from others. I then decided to make a mission statement. I used this site to help me brainstorm and it does ask a lot of good questions to get the juices flowing, from that I added, cut, and reworded things to create something unique and my own.

I am a son of God and as such I have a limitless potential, but like a child I am not perfect.
I will use my talents for the benefit of others.
I will show others the reason for my hope.
I will be like the shepherd who seeks out the lost, hurt and downtrodden.
I will have the pure love of Christ for all people.
I will give time, an open heart and listening ear to all those who ask.
I will embrace God's plans for my life through the development of persistence, courage and faith.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Step 3 Trust in God

KEY PRINCIPLE: Decide to turn your will and
your life over to the care of God the Eternal
Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Step 3 in conversion. To become more strongly converted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and better understand His atonement and His plan for us. For me this means that I need to make sure I'm doing all the little things correctly like reading my scriptures daily, praying many times a day, being present physically, mentally and spiritually at Church. It's interesting how I've never faltered with 'the big stuff' (namely this addiction) first, it has always been that I stop reading my scriptures or get out of the habit of praying or I don't focus on having the spirit with me at church and then the big stuff comes and I'm not adequately prepared. It's the gateway sins that lead on into bigger sins.

On the plus side the atonement is real. Christ did pay everything, we just need to show our gratitude by striving to live the best we can. These past few weeks have been interesting for me, because as I have strived to come closer to Christ and more closely abide by His teachings my inactive father (been inactive for almost 3.5 years, and probably would have been longer had his kids not gone to church or if he hadn't felt socially obligated to do so) was meeting with the missionaries and following through on some commitments he was given essentially gave God a chance to 'prove himself'. I've hoped for and prayed for something like this to happen to him all my mission and the hope and chance was finally there but sadly he didn't receive or didn't recognize his answer. This normally would bother me and shake my faith, but there have been too many miracles in my life to ever be able to deny His existence but I now understand through this experience and this process that timing truly is everything. That He knows when we are ready to learn and grow and act upon his answers. He's responded to me when I've and real intent and without it my prayers aren't quite the same. I love Him and He loves us and always has our best interests in mind even though we may not see it in the moment things will work out for the better as we trust in Him.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Be whole of thy plague

There is a Voices of Virtue group on Facebook, and every once in a while a person asks a question and it gets posted anonymously for others to answer and respond to. This question was posted today ( I responded to it there) and something about it struck me and so I feel that I should give a detailed answer here. The question was this:

I am an 18 year old girl. I am leaving for school this summer and I need to get some things cleared up before I head off on my own. I have had a problem with reading pornographic books since I was about 12. In the past year, it has escalated to viewing pornography online. When it was just reading, I would justify it and make excuses. I now know that I have done some irreversible things and I am ashamed. I have repented and asked for help to stop. This has worked for periods of time, but I have relapsed time and again. I am too scared to go to my bishop or my parents. I don't want them to know how much I have let them down. My bishop is a family friend, and I just can't bring myself to do it. I want to serve a mission, get married, and have a family. I just can't see myself on that path right now though. I'm afraid of where I'm headed. Can I go through the complete repentance process between just the lord and I? Or do I have to involve my parents and bishop? Is there someone else I can talk to who doesn't know me as well?

A Seriously Worried Saint

1) The Lord is the only one who can forgive you of your sins, ultimately it'll between you and Him in regards to when you feel forgiven for your sins.

2) As an 18 year old I am going to assume that you have done baptisms for the dead and in doing so have had an interview for a temporary recommend. If you are doing anything that breaks the commandments brought up in the interview you should speak with a priesthood leader.

I'm going to say that you should talk to your bishop as soon as possible. (1) Your Bishop has keys to receive revelation to know how to help you in your case, he is the Lord's representative in your ward and as such is called to guide you back to the Lord and (2) if you were injured in some way and you begin to feel sick you would go to a Doctor right away instead of letting the bacteria continue to grow in the wound, regardless of how quickly the wound was getting worse; your Bishop is that doctor.

Talking to your Bishop may hurt may open up the wounds a little more as you both look and figure out what the problem is and receive revelation on how to fix it, but once you are healed you feel wonderful and as Alma put it you can "sing the song of Redeeming love." 

Having personally been in and out of the Bishops office many times at different points in my life the first humbling meeting doesn't get any easier. For me every time I go in I'm thinking to myself "I should have done better, I was doing so well. I can't believe that I screwed up like that again. etc." This feeling of disappointment in myself and the thoughts that other people would be disappointed in me as well creates a very large barrier for me to cross, but at the end of the process that release of forgiveness and being born again makes it worth every minute.

As far as what to expect with your first meeting: tears lots of them, the struggle to humble yourself and confess your sins, the struggle to confess everything not just a half confession, and love. If your Bishop doesn't start the meeting with a prayer ask for one. Be open and honest about everything, what happened, how often, where, when, how you feel about it all, etc. Then listen for Love. If he feels that you have repented and done your part he'll set up a plan with you to help keep you safe, usually the 12 step program or something similar. If he feels you are unrepentant and/or you did something really really bad you will probably be excommunicated, I'm not certain though haven't found that line and hopefully I never will. If he feels you need time to work things out then you will be put on disciplinary probation.

The doctrine behind disciplinary probation :
And now behold, this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it; For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him.

What it means to you is that for a short period of time you will be instructed to not: (1) partake of the sacrament, (2) give talks, (3) offer prayers in church and (4) fulfill other callings and church responsibilities. This is where I messed up the first time, I was told all this and felt rejected and like I was less than all the other members of the ward. Probation by legal definition is this: The status of a convicted (repentant) person who is given some freedom (to participate in classes and come to church) on the condition that for a specified period he or she act in a manner approved by a special officer (Bishop and the Lord) to whom the person must report. (Legal-Dictionary). What happens if someone on probation fails to live those conditions? Their freedoms are taken away. Before we get into a tizzy and ask "but doesn't this make me 'lesser'?" lets think for a second. (1) How many of us reading this are in Heaven? (I know I'm not) (2) How many of us have to give an accounting for our actions through prayer (or priesthood leaders) to the Lord? (I know I do) (3) What happens if we don't live by the conditions (commandments) we have been given by our 'Parole Officer' (the Lord)?

Lets take a Mission President for example: Is he in heaven? Nope, not yet. Does he have to give an accounting to the Lord? (page 150 of PMG) Yes he does. He has to give a daily accounting of what he did to inspire the missionaries to follow their purpose, the actions and decisions he took as a father, a husband, a son, a priesthood holder, a missionary, a disciple of Christ, and for whatever roles and responsibilities he has. What happens if he stops? Ultimately he loses the Spirit, which means he cannot be successful doing the Lords work (D&C 42:27). Is he on Probation? You can bet your life savings he is. Isn't it interesting how life is called a 'probationary period'? So no you are no less than any other member of the church, Christ has decided He wants to spend some more close personal time with you, to help you out because He loves you (John 3:16) Just remember to listen for Love in that meeting you have with your Bishop that it is out of Charity, the pure love of Christ, that they say what they say and do what they do. (Notes: You aren't alone, I've noticed many people over the years not take the sacrament. When asked to offer a prayer you can always say 'no' or if that idea bothers you, you can always got to the teacher beforehand and say something along the lines of 'I have some stuff I need to work out so please don't ask me to offer a prayer'. When I left the MTC (9 days in) I would tell people 'I had some stuff I need to take care of' (family, school etc they don't know unless you tell them) If you ever feel like it's too hard or you don't feel the love anymore get on your knees and ask for help and I promise you, because I know from experience, that the Lord will answer your prayer.) Don't worry it'll all work out in the end.

Focusing in on a different part of her question specifically:

I now know that I have done some irreversible things and I am ashamed. I have repented and asked for help to stop. This has worked for periods of time, but I have relapsed time and again. I am too scared to go to my bishop or my parents. I don't want them to know how much I have let them down. My bishop is a family friend, and I just can't bring myself to do it. I want to serve a mission, get married, and have a family. I just can't see myself on that path right now though. I'm afraid of where I'm headed.

I'm jealous of the Young Women of the Church. I after hearing of the Gold Tie Challenge (do the Virtue Value of Personal Progress and get a Gold Tie) I thought to myself why stop at Virtue? Why not do Individual Worth, and Integrity, and Divine Nature and all the other Values and reward myself with Red, Purple and Blue ties. So I did it the last 9 months of my mission I started and finished my Personal Progress (even got it signed by YW leaders). The Young Women's theme states:

We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:
Faith • Divine NatureIndividual Worth • Knowledge • Choice and Accountability • Good Works • Integrity • and Virtue
We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.
(Bold added for emphasis)

Adding on to the talk I posted yesterday we need to know our Identity and our Destiny. These Young Women basically get it handed to them on a silver platter ( I have no idea what I learned as a young man other than to respect the priesthood and that it could only be used to serve others). Even in Primary we were taught this. I AM A CHILD OF GOD! and so are you! and the guy who lives next door to you! We are all children of the greatest being in existence. That means I'm pretty important to God regardless of how many times I fall down or mess up He still loves me, He still created this world for me, He gave me another day to live, and He still continues to bless me and help me grow and progress. It's not only me that He cares about either, it's you and that guy down the street and your friends and everyone. You all are important to Him regardless of where you come from (Individual Worth). As a child you can become as your parents. As a child we can become as God. We have a Divine Nature to one day become like him and "that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure" (Moroni 7:48) So think about that. We in our imperfect forms are Children of God, we mean everything to Him and we are destined to become as He is. It's truly marvelous. 

The best part is that after the repentance process is over we needn't look back on our lives and think that we're battered or bent or broken or less than others because we made mistakes. God remembers our sins no more (D&C 58:42-43) and through the Atonement of the Great Mediator Jehovah we are made whole. For example look at the story of the woman with the issue of blood (Matthew 5:25-34). We aren't certain what it was she was dealing with so we can put whatever problem we're dealing with in its place. We can also notice how her desire isn't to hug Jesus or sit down at supper with Him but rather just touch the hem of His garment, get just a little bit closer, feel a little bit of the Redeeming power of the Atonement. What does Christ do in return? He stops, he then starts to look around for that Daughter (or Son) of God to show them a little more love and appreciation for the good things that they do. Then He says some of the most powerful words that can be said to a repentant heart: "Daughter (Son), thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague." You aren't dinged up, scratched, bent, bruised, broken or anything like that through the Atonement you are 'made whole' and as long as you strive to do the best that you can the lord will work miracles through you. Alma the Younger is a great example of this, Noah running away from his call, Moses asking "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" God took a lot of relatively insignificant people (Joseph Smith), even criminals (Moses), or persecutors of the faith (Alma, Paul/Saul) and through them worked miracles that blessed countless lives. There is no limit to the Atonement, the price has been paid, we have been purchased and redeemed with the greatest blood this world has ever seen. You are great, and you are destined for greatness. No worries if the stars aligned themselves in such a way that we met and fell in love I would still marry you because every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a Child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others." Marianne Williamson

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Identity and Destiny" and "Broken Things to Mend"

These past few weeks have been super tough for me. I don't have much to say but I was reccomended by my mission president to find, read, and analyze "Our Identity and Our Destiny" and while searching for it I found the latter talk by Elder Holland.
Our Identity and
Our Destiny

Tad R. Callister

Tad R. Callister was a member of the Presidency of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was delivered on 14 August 2012 during Campus Education Week.

In keeping with the theme of this week, I would like to discuss with you a vision of who we are and what we may become. At a recent training session for General Authorities, the question was asked: “How can we help those struggling with pornography?”
Elder Russell M. Nelson stood and replied, “Teach them their identity and their purpose.”

That answer resonated with me, not only as a response to that specific question but as an appropriate response to most of the challenges we face in life. And so today I speak of the true nature of our identity and a correct vision of our divine destiny.

First, our identity. There is a sentiment among many in the world that we are the spirit creations of God, just as a building is the creation of its architect or a painting the creation of its painter or an invention the creation of its inventor. The scriptures teach, however, a much different doctrine. They teach that we are more than creations of God; they teach that we are the literal spirit offspring or children of God our Father.1 What difference does this doctrinal distinction make? The difference is monumental in its consequence because our identity determines in large measure our destiny. For example, can a mere creation ever become like its creator? Can a building ever become an architect? A painting a painter? Or an invention an inventor? If not, then those who believe we are creations of God, rather than His spirit offspring, reach the inevitable conclusion that we do not have the capacity to become like our creator, God. In essence, their doctrine of identity has defined and dictated a diminished destiny.

On the other hand, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that we are the spirit offspring of God with inherited spiritual traits that give us the divine potential to become like our parent, God the Father. As to this identity, President Packer has written:

You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!2
It is this doctrine of identity that defines our potential destiny of godhood. If one does not correctly understand his divine identity, then he will never correctly understand his divine destiny. They are, in truth, inseparable partners.

What, then, has God revealed to us about our destiny? He has spoken clearly and frequently and forthrightly on this subject from the very beginning. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they lived in a state of innocence—meaning they only had a limited knowledge of good and evil. Lehi described their condition as follows: “Wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin” (2 Nephi 2:23).

Suppose for a moment my wife and I invited one of you good Saints from California to drive to our home in Utah. Further suppose I asked you to drive in neutral.

You might smile and respond, “That’s not possible.”

What if I further replied, “Just push the accelerator all the way to the floor—you know, as they say, ‘Push the pedal to the metal.’”

You might respond, “That would make no difference. I cannot reach your destination until I put my car in gear.”

So it was with Adam and Eve. They were in a state of spiritual neutral and could not progress toward their divine destiny until they were cast out of the garden and thus put in spiritual gear.

When Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, they traded their innocence, meaning a lack of knowledge of good and evil, for the prospect of perfection—that was the deal. Innocence and perfection are not the same. An infant may be innocent but certainly not perfect in the sense that he or she has acquired all the attributes of godliness. Once Adam and Eve were cast from the garden, we read in the book of Genesis that God Himself said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us [meaning like the gods]” (Genesis 3:22; emphasis added). How could that be? God then tells us why this new destiny was possible—because men now “know good and evil.” Being immersed in a world of good and evil, having the capacity to choose, and being able to draw upon the powers of the Atonement resulted in man having unlimited opportunities to progress toward his destiny of godhood.

We learn a great doctrinal truth in these series of events surrounding the Garden of Eden: unfallen man would have remained in a state of innocence—safe, but restricted in his progress. On the other hand, fallen man ventured into a heightened arena of risk, but, blessed with the Atonement of Jesus Christ, he gained access to unlimited possibilities and powers and potential. Speaking of the effect of the Atonement on fallen man, C. S. Lewis remarked:

For God is not merely mending, not simply restoring a status quo. Redeemed humanity is to be something more glorious than unfallen humanity would have been, more glorious than any unfallen race now is. . . . And this super-added glory will, with true vicariousness, exalt all creatures.3
Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, God can exalt all His children—meaning empower them to become like Him.

But one might ask, “Why does God want us to become like Him?” In order to answer that question, one must first understand why man exists. Lehi gave the short and simple answer: “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). President David O. McKay confirmed that fundamental doctrinal truth: “Happiness is the purpose and design of existence.”4 If I were to ask you who is the happiest being in all the universe—the one with the most joy—you would no doubt respond, “God.” Accordingly, God wants us to become perfect like Him so we can experience His quality of joy and thus best fulfill the measure of our existence. That is why His plan for us is sometimes called “the plan of happiness” (see Alma 42:8, 16).

Our Quest for Godhood
In spite of God’s altruistic aims on our behalf, perhaps no doctrine, no teaching, no philosophy has stirred such controversy as has this: that man may become a god. It is espoused by some as blasphemous, by others as absurd. Such a concept, they challenge, lowers God to the status of man and thus deprives God of both His dignity and divinity. Others claim this teaching to be devoid of scriptural support. It is but a fantasy, they say, of a young, uneducated schoolboy, Joseph Smith. Certainly no God-fearing, right-thinking, Bible-oriented person would subscribe to such a philosophy as this.5 While some of these advocates are hardened critics, others are honest and bright men who simply disagree with us on this doctrine. So wherein lies the truth? Hopefully the following will invite the Holy Ghost to whisper the quiet but certain truth to all those who honestly seek it.

For our search of truth, we will turn to five witnesses—first and foremost to the testimony of the scriptures; second, to the witness of the early Christian writers; third, to the wisdom of those poets and authors who drink from the divine well; fourth, to the power of logic; and fifth, to the voice of history.

First, the scriptures. Did not an angel appear unto Abraham and extend to him this heavenly mandate: “Walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1)?

“That is true,” interjects the critic. “Perfect as compared to other men, other mortals—certainly not perfect as compared to God. The word was used in its relative, not absolute sense.”

“Is that so?” comes the reply. “Let us then pursue the use of the word perfect as used by the Savior Himself.”

It was in the Sermon on the Mount when the Savior declared, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48; emphasis added).6 Was the Savior inviting men to be perfect as compared to other men—other mortals—or as compared to God Himself? This command was consistent with the Savior’s high priestly prayer. Speaking of the believers, He petitioned the Father:

That they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one. [John 17:22–23]

In accord with that request for perfection, Paul taught that a critical purpose of the Church was “for the perfecting of the saints . . . till we all come . . . unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12–13; emphasis added). Note the measuring rod: not man, not some form of mini-Christ or quasi-God, but rather that we should become “a perfect man, [and then he gives us the standard we should strive for] unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Does that sound relative to you?

The critic is momentarily quiet. Sheepishly he responds, “Certainly those scriptures must mean something else.”

The scriptures supporting this doctrine, however, continue to roll forth with repeated and powerful testimony. At one point the Savior was about to be stoned by the Jews for blasphemy. He reminded them of His good works and then asked, “For which of those works do ye stone me?”

They replied that they were not stoning him for good works “but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.”
To this He readily acknowledged that He was and declared that they should be likewise: “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (John 10:32–34; emphasis added). In other words, He said not only am I a god, but all of you are potential gods. He was referring to His own Old Testament declaration, with which the Jews should have been familiar: “Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Psalm 82:6). The Savior was merely reaffirming a basic gospel teaching that all men are children of God, and thus all might become like Him.

Paul understood this principle, for, when speaking to the men of Athens, he said: “Certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). Paul knew the consequences of being the offspring of God, for, while speaking to the Romans, he declared:

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. [Romans 8:16–17; emphasis added; see also 1 Corinthians 3:21–23 and Revelation 21:7]

Not subordinate heirs, not junior, not contingent, but joint, equal heirs with Christ Himself, to share in all that He shall share. After all, is not that the same promise made by the Lord to the Apostle John? “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21).

Is it any wonder that Paul should write to the Saints of Philippi, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Paul, who understood so very well our destiny, was striving for the reward of godhood. Peter, who also understood this doctrine, pled with the Saints that they might become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), meaning recipients of godhood. That is exactly what Jesus ordered when speaking to the Book of Mormon Saints: “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27; see also 1 John 3:2). And it is exactly what the Savior promised in this dispensation for all faithful Saints: “Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them” (D&C 132:20; see also verse 19; see also D&C 76:58–60).

The critic, still shaking his head, responds, “But such a concept lowers God to the status of man and thus robs Him of His divinity.”

“Or, to the contrary,” comes the reply, “does it elevate man in his divine-like potential?”

Paul well knew this argument of the critic and silenced it once and for all ages ago. Speaking to the Saints of Philippi, he said:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. [Philippians 2:5–6; emphasis added]

The Savior knew that for Him to be a god and for us to be thus minded would not rob God of His divinity. That makes good sense. After all, who is greater: that being who limits or that being who enhances man’s eternal progress?

One might ask, Who can give greater honor and glory to God—a creature of lower or more exalted status? Can an animal offer the same honor or worship with the same passion and intensity as a human? Can a mere mortal express the empyreal feelings or exercise the spiritual fervency of a potential god? One’s capacity to honor and worship is magnified with one’s intellectual, emotional, cultural, and spiritual enlightenment. Accordingly, the more we become like God, the greater our ability to pay Him homage. In that process of lifting men heavenward, God simultaneously multiplies His own honor and glory and thus is glorified more, not less.

Brigham Young addressed this issue:

[Man’s godhood] will not detract anything from the glory and might of our heavenly Father, for he will still remain our Father, and we shall still be subject to him, and as we progress, in glory and power it the more enhances the glory and power of our heavenly Father.7
That is the irony of the critic’s argument—godhood for man does not diminish God’s status; to the contrary, it elevates it by producing more intelligent, more passionate, more spiritual Saints who have enlarged capacities to understand, honor, and worship Him.

The Savior’s soul-stirring and thought-provoking injunction to “be ye therefore perfect” was more than the sounding of brass or tinkling of cymbals (see 1 Corinthians 13:1). It was a divine-like invitation to rise up to our full potential and become like God our Father. C. S. Lewis, as a rampant advocate of this simple but glorious truth, wrote:

The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. . . . The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.8
Could it be any clearer?

Early Christian Writers
Second, early Christian writers likewise wrote of our divine destiny.9 As early as the second century, Irenaeus (A.D. 115–202) noted: “We have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods.”10 On another occasion Irenaeus clarified that exalted man would not be relegated to some type of glorified angel but literally become a god: “Passing beyond the angels, and be made after the image and likeness of God.”11
Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 160–200), a contemporary of Irenaeus, spoke of the reward of godhood that followed long preparation: “Being destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first put in their places by the Saviour.”12 This same Clement of Alexandria then added this unequivocal statement about the man who lives a righteous life: “Knowing God, he will be made like God. . . . And that man becomes God, since God so wills.”13
Hippolytus (A.D. 170–236), bridging the second and third centuries, spoke of the unlimited potential of faithful Saints in this life: “And thou shalt be a companion of the Deity, and a co-heir with Christ. . . . For thou hast become God: . . . thou hast been deified, and begotten unto immortality.”14
Cyprian (A.D. 200–258), a well-known Christian leader of the third century, reaffirmed that men can become like Christ: “What Christ is, we Christians shall be, if we imitate Christ.”15
Origen (A.D. 185–255), also of the third century, wrote: “The true God [referring to the Father], then, is ‘The God,’ and those who are formed after Him are gods, images, as it were, of Him the prototype.”16
And in the fourth century St. Athanasius of Alexandria (A.D. 295–373) explained that “[God] was made flesh in order that we might be enabled to be made gods.”17
For several centuries this doctrinal truth survived, but eventually the Apostasy took its toll, and this doctrine in its purity and expansiveness was lost. The doctrine of man’s potential for godhood as taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith was not his invention—not his creation, not conjured up by some fertile mind. It was simply and solely a restoration of a glorious truth that had been taught in the scriptures and by many early Christian writers of the primitive Church.

Poets and Authors
The third witness—inspired poets and authors. We may look to the wisdom of selected poets and authors who are men of integrity and spiritual insight. It was C. S. Lewis who again and again reaffirmed this divine proposition:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which . . . you would be strongly tempted to worship. . . . There are no ordinary people.18
How right he was. There are no ordinary people, only potential gods and goddesses in our midst.

It was Victor Hugo, that masterful author, who said, “The thirst for the infinite proves infinity.”19 What a powerful and sublime thought. Perhaps the thirst for godhood likewise proves godhood. Would the God you and I know plant the vision and desire for godhood within a man’s soul and then frustrate him in his ability to attain it? Shakespeare had a flash of this insight, for, when speaking through the lips of Hamlet, he said:

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god!20
Robert Browning’s vision that so often pierced the mortal veil did so once again in these lines from his poem Rabbi Ben Ezra:
Life’s struggle having so far reached its term.
Thence shall I pass, approved
A man, for aye removedFrom the developed brute—a god, though in the germ.21
This insightful poet saw the seeds and germ of godhood in every man.

The fourth witness is the power of logic. Do not the laws of science teach us that like begets like, each after its kind? Science has taught us that a complex genetic code transferred from parent to child is responsible for the child attaining the physical attributes of his parents. If this be so, is it illogical to assume that spirit offspring receive a spiritual code giving to them the divine characteristics and potential of their parent—God—thus making them gods in embryo? No, it is but a fulfillment of the law that like begets like. This is the same truth taught by the prophet Lorenzo Snow:

We were born in the image of God our Father; He begat us like unto Himself. There is the nature of Deity in the composition of our spiritual organization. In our spiritual birth, our Father transmitted to us the capabilities, powers and faculties which He possessed, as much so as the child on its mother’s bosom possesses, although in an undeveloped state, the faculties, powers and susceptibilities of its parent.22
President Boyd K. Packer told of coming home one day and helping his children gather new chicks in the barn. As his little four-year-old daughter held a baby chick in her hands, he said something like, “Won’t that be a beautiful dog when it grows up?”

His daughter looked at him in surprise.

And then he said something like, “Or perhaps it will be a cat or even a cow.”

His little daughter wrinkled her nose, as if to say, “Daddy, don’t you know anything? It will grow up exactly like its parents.”

Then he observed how this little four-year-old girl knew, almost instinctively, that the chick would grow up to follow the pattern of its parentage.23
The Gospel of Philip, an apocryphal book, makes this simple statement of logic: “A horse sires a horse, a man begets man, a god brings forth a god.”24 The difference between man and God is significant—but it is one of degree, not kind. It is the difference between an acorn and an oak tree, a rosebud and a rose, a son and a father. In truth, every man is a potential god in embryo, in fulfillment of that eternal law that like begets like.

Voice of History
Fifth, and finally, the voice of history will likewise verify this truth. I recall the story of the large milk truck that drove past the pasture of cows. Written on the side of the vehicle in large letters were the words “Homogenized, Pasteurized, Vitamins A and D Added.”

One cow looked at the sign, turned to the other, and said, “Makes you feel kind of inadequate, doesn’t it?”

I admit that is how I feel when I look at the distance between God and me, but I take comfort when I contemplate what is accomplished in the short space of a mortal life. I paraphrase these thoughts of B. H. Roberts: From the cradle have risen orators, generals, artists, and workers to perform the wonders of our age. From a helpless babe may arise a Demosthenes or Lincoln to direct the destinies of nations. From such a babe may come a Michelangelo to fill the world with beauty. From such a beginning may come a Mozart, a Beethoven to call from silence the powers and serenity of music. From such a helpless babe may arise a Joseph Smith to give light in a world of darkness.25
Contemplate for a moment what can be accomplished in the short space of a mortal life. Suppose now that you were to remove from man the barriers of death and grant him immortality and God for his guide. What limits would you then want to ascribe to his mental, moral, or spiritual achievements? Perhaps B. H. Roberts expressed it best when he said:

If within the short space of mortal life there are men who rise up out of infancy and become masters of the elements of fire and water and earth and air, so that they well-nigh rule them as Gods, what may it not be possible for them to do in a few hundreds or thousands of millions of years?26
A glimpse beyond the veil tells us that the records of history do not end at death but continue to mark man’s unlimited achievements. Victor Hugo, with an almost spiritual X-ray, saw the possibilities after death:

The nearer I approach the end, the plainer I hear around me the immortal symphonies of the worlds which invite me. . . . For half a century I have been writing my thoughts in prose and verse; history. . . . I have tried all. But I feel I have not said a thousandth part of what is in me. When I go down to the grave, I can say, like so many others, “I have finished my day’s work,” but I can not say, “I have finished my life.” My day’s work will begin again the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. . . . My work is only beginning.27
Perfection is a quest on both sides of the veil. The scriptures remind us, “Wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected” (D&C 67:13).

The Divine Possibility Becomes a Divine Reality
The scriptures, early Christian writers, poetry, logic, and history testify not only of the divine possibility but of the divine reality that man may become as God. The Doctrine and Covenants refers to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, declaring, “And because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, . . . and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods” (D&C 132:37). For these men the divine possibility became the divine reality. This does not mean they became gods who replaced our Father in Heaven but rather exalted men who have enlarged capabilities to honor and glorify Him. Our Father in Heaven will forever stand supreme as our God, whom we will love and revere and worship, worlds without end.

But how is it possible that you and I, with all our faults and weaknesses and shortcomings, could ever become a god? Fortunately, a loving Heavenly Father has given us resources to lift us above our mortal restraints and propel us to divine heights. I mention but two such resources, both made possible because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, whose crowning aim is to assist us in our pursuit of godhood—so that we might be “at one”—not only with Him but also “at one” like Him. First, I mention the saving ordinances of the kingdom.

Joseph Smith received a revelation that explained the relationship between ordinances and godhood:

Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh. [D&C 84:20–21]

In other words, participation in the saving ordinances unlocks and unleashes certain powers of godliness in our lives that are not available in any other way. These powers help refine us and perfect us. The five saving ordinances and the corresponding powers of godliness are as follows:

First, baptism by immersion (and the corollary ordinance of the sacrament). Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, this ordinance cleanses us from our sins and helps make us holy, thus aligning our life more closely with the Savior’s.

Second, the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift helps us know “the will of the Lord [and] the mind of the Lord” (D&C 68:4) and thus makes possible our acquisition of a more godlike mind.

Third, the priesthood. This ordinance transfers to a mere mortal the power to act for God on earth as though He Himself were present. In essence, it is a spiritual power of attorney to be God’s agent and to invoke His power, thus helping us learn how to exercise divine powers in righteousness.

Fourth, the endowment. This ordinance is a gift of knowledge from God as to how we might become more like Him, accompanied by covenants to inspire us in that endeavor. There is an old saying, “Knowledge is power.” Accordingly, the righteous use of this knowledge received in the endowment ordinance results in more godly power in our own lives. That is why the Doctrine and Covenants says, “I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high” (D&C 95:8).

Fifth, the sealing ordinances. Death, with all its mighty power, cannot destroy those relationships sealed in a temple—which relationships can now continue beyond the grave and allow us, like God, to have eternal increase.

The saving ordinances are much more than a checklist of actions we must satisfy to gain entrance to the celestial kingdom—they are the keys that open the doors to heavenly powers that can lift us above our mortal limitations.

The second resource to assist us in our pursuit of godhood is the gifts of the Spirit. What are the gifts of the Spirit? We know them as love, patience, knowledge, testimony, and so on.28 In essence, each gift of the Spirit represents an attribute of godliness. Accordingly, each time we acquire a gift of the Spirit, we acquire a potential attribute of godliness. In this regard Orson Pratt taught:

One object [of the Church] is declared to be “For the perfecting of the Saints.” . . . The . . . plan . . . for the accomplishment of this great object, is through the medium of the spiritual gifts. When the supernatural gifts of the Spirit cease, the Saints cease to be perfected, therefore they can have no hopes of obtaining a perfect salvation. . . .
. . . In every nation and age, where believers exist, there the gifts must exist to perfect them.29
No wonder the Lord commands us to “covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31); “seek ye earnestly the best gifts” (D&C 46:8); and to “lay hold upon every good gift” (Moroni 10:30).

President George Q. Cannon spoke of man’s shortcomings and the divine solution. Recognizing the link between spiritual gifts and godhood, he fervently pleaded with the Saints to overcome each manifested weakness through the acquisition of a countermanding gift of strength known as the gift of the Spirit. He spoke as follows:

If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. . . . No man ought to say, “Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.” He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them. . . . He wants His Saints to be perfected in the truth. For this purpose He gives these gifts, and bestows them upon those who seek after them, in order that they may be a perfect people upon the face of the earth, notwithstanding their many weaknesses, because God has promised to give the gifts that are necessary for their perfection.30
What was the Lord’s response to Solomon’s prayerful request for the gift of an understanding heart? The scriptures record, “The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing,” and then the Lord noted, “Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart” (1 Kings 3:10, 12).

When was the last time we prayed for a gift of the Spirit that would lift us above our mortal weakness and further our pursuit of godhood? Again and again the Lord has both invited and promised, “Ask, and it shall be given you” (Matthew 7:7).

Why is it so critical to have a correct vision of this divine destiny of godliness of which the scriptures and other witnesses so clearly testify? Because with increased vision comes increased motivation. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “No doctrine is more basic, no doctrine embraces a greater incentive to personal righteousness . . . as does the wondrous concept that man can be as his Maker.”31 And why not possible? Do not all Christian churches advocate Christlike behavior? Is that not what the Sermon on the Mount is all about? If it is blasphemous to think we can become as God, then at what point is it not blasphemous to become like God—90 percent, 50 percent, 1 percent? Is it more Christian to seek partial godhood than total godhood? Are we invited to walk the path of godhood—to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”—with no possibility of ever reaching the destination?

As we better understand our potential destiny, our level of self-worth and confidence and motivation is greatly heightened. Youth will understand that it is shortsighted at best to take easy classes and easy teachers rather than ones that will stretch them toward godhood. They will catch the vision that it is godhood, not grades, for which they are striving.

And what of our more elderly members? They will understand there is no such thing as a retirement farm, no day when the work is done. Like Victor Hugo, they know their work has only begun. There are yet thousands of books to read and write, paintings to enjoy, music to score, and service to render. They understand the Lord’s revelation to the Prophet Joseph: “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection” (D&C 130:18).

What about those of us who feel weaknesses in our life? We can take renewed hope in the words of the Lord to Moroni: “For if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

And what about those who believe they have sinned beyond Christ’s redeeming grace? They can take comfort in His promise: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Or perhaps there are some who believe their lives are shattered beyond repair. Can they not have renewed hope in these words of the Savior: “[I will] give unto them beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3)? There is no problem, no obstacle to our divine destiny, for which the Savior’s Atonement does not have a remedy of superior healing and lifting power. That is why Mormon said, “Ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ” (Moroni 7:41).

How could we not have increased faith in God and in ourselves if we knew He had planted within our souls the seeds of godhood and endowed us with access to the powers of the Atonement? “Godhood?” If not, the critic must answer, “Why not?”

Perhaps we could suggest three answers for the critic’s consideration: Maybe man cannot become like God because God does not have the power to create a divine-like offspring. It is beyond his present level of comprehension and intelligence.

“Blasphemous,” responds the critic. “He has all knowledge and all power.”

Perhaps then He has created a lesser offspring because He does not love us.

“Ridiculous, absurd,” is his reply. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16).

Well, perhaps God has not planted within us the divine spark because He wants to retain godhood for Himself; He is threatened by our progress. He can only retain His superiority by asserting man’s inferiority.

“No, no,” laments the critic. “Have you ever known a loving, kindly father who didn’t want his children to become all that he is and more?”

And so it is with God, our Father.

I testify there are no ordinary people, no ciphers, no zeros—only potential gods and goddesses in our midst. While many witnesses testify of this truth, the most powerful of all are the quiet whisperings of the Spirit that confirm both to my mind and to my heart the grandeur and truth of this glorious doctrine. As Jacob so taught, “The Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be” (Jacob 4:13).

I pray we will recognize our true identity as literal sons and daughters of God and grasp a vision of our divine destiny as it really may be. I pray we will be grateful to a loving Father and Son who made it so. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Broken Things to Mend

Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Jeffrey R. Holland
When He says to the poor in spirit, “Come unto me,” He means He knows the way out and He knows the way up.
The first words Jesus spoke in His majestic Sermon on the Mount were to the troubled, the discouraged and downhearted. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” He said, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 1 Whether you are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or among the tens of thousands listening this morning who are not of our faith, I speak to those who are facing personal trials and family struggles, those who endure conflicts fought in the lonely foxholes of the heart, those trying to hold back floodwaters of despair that sometimes wash over us like a tsunami of the soul. I wish to speak particularly to you who feel your lives are broken, seemingly beyond repair.
To all such I offer the surest and sweetest remedy that I know. It is found in the clarion call the Savior of the world Himself gave. He said it in the beginning of His ministry, and He said it in the end. He said it to believers, and He said it to those who were not so sure. He said to everyone, whatever their personal problems might be:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” 2
In this promise, that introductory phrase, “come unto me,” is crucial. It is the key to the peace and rest we seek. Indeed, when the resurrected Savior gave His sermon at the temple to the Nephites in the New World, He began, “Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 3
When Andrew and John first heard Christ speak, they were so moved they followed Him as He walked away from the crowd. Sensing He was being pursued, Jesus turned and asked the two men, “What seek ye?” They answered, “Where dwellest thou?” And Christ said, “Come and see.” The next day He found another disciple, Philip, and said to him, “Follow me.” 4 Just a short time later He formally called Peter and others of the new Apostles with the same spirit of invitation. Come, “follow me,” 5 He said.
It seems clear that the essence of our duty and the fundamental requirement of our mortal life is captured in these brief phrases from any number of scenes in the Savior’s mortal ministry. He is saying to us, “Trust me, learn of me, do what I do. Then, when you walk where I am going,” He says, “we can talk about where you are going, and the problems you face and the troubles you have. If you will follow me, I will lead you out of darkness,” He promises. “I will give you answers to your prayers. I will give you rest to your souls.”
My beloved friends, I know of no other way for us to succeed or to be safe amid life’s many pitfalls and problems. I know of no other way for us to carry our burdens or find what Jacob in the Book of Mormon called “that happiness which is prepared for the saints.” 6
So how does one “come unto Christ” in response to this constant invitation? The scriptures give scores of examples and avenues. You are well acquainted with the most basic ones. The easiest and the earliest comes simply with the desire of our heart, the most basic form of faith that we know. “If ye can no more than desire to believe,” Alma says, exercising just “a particle of faith,” giving even a small place for the promises of God to find a home—that is enough to begin. 7 Just believing, just having a “molecule” of faith—simply hoping for things which are not yet seen in our lives, but which are nevertheless truly there to be bestowed 8 —that simple step, when focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, has ever been and always will be the first principle of His eternal gospel, the first step out of despair.
Second, we must change anything we can change that may be part of the problem. In short we must repent, perhaps the most hopeful and encouraging word in the Christian vocabulary. We thank our Father in Heaven we are allowed to change, we thank Jesus we can change, and ultimately we do so only with Their divine assistance. Certainly not everything we struggle with is a result of our actions. Often it is the result of the actions of others or just the mortal events of life. But anything we can change we should change, and we must forgive the rest. In this way our access to the Savior’s Atonement becomes as unimpeded as we, with our imperfections, can make it. He will take it from there.
Third, in as many ways as possible we try to take upon us His identity, and we begin by taking upon us His name. That name is formally bestowed by covenant in the saving ordinances of the gospel. These start with baptism and conclude with temple covenants, with many others, such as partaking of the sacrament, laced throughout our lives as additional blessings and reminders. Teaching the people of his day the message we give this morning, Nephi said: “Follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, … with real intent, … take upon you the name of Christ. … Do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer [will] do.” 9
Following these most basic teachings, a splendor of connections to Christ opens up to us in multitudinous ways: prayer and fasting and meditation upon His purposes, savoring the scriptures, giving service to others, “succor[ing] the weak, lift[ing] up the hands which hang down, … strengthen[ing] the feeble knees.” 10 Above all else, loving with “the pure love of Christ,” that gift that “never faileth,” that gift that “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, [and] endureth all things.” 11 Soon, with that kind of love, we realize our days hold scores of thoroughfares leading to the Master and that every time we reach out, however feebly, for Him, we discover He has been anxiously trying to reach us. So we step, we strive, we seek, and we never yield. 12
My desire today is for all of us—not just those who are “poor in spirit” but all of us—to have more straightforward personal experience with the Savior’s example. Sometimes we seek heaven too obliquely, focusing on programs or history or the experience of others. Those are important but not as important as personal experience, true discipleship, and the strength that comes from experiencing firsthand the majesty of His touch.
Are you battling a demon of addiction—tobacco or drugs or gambling, or the pernicious contemporary plague of pornography? Is your marriage in trouble or your child in danger? Are you confused with gender identity or searching for self-esteem? Do you—or someone you love—face disease or depression or death? Whatever other steps you may need to take to resolve these concerns, come first to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Trust in heaven’s promises. In that regard Alma’s testimony is my testimony: “I do know,” he says, “that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions.” 13
This reliance upon the merciful nature of God is at the very center of the gospel Christ taught. I testify that the Savior’s Atonement lifts from us not only the burden of our sins but also the burden of our disappointments and sorrows, our heartaches and our despair. 14 From the beginning, trust in such help was to give us both a reason and a way to improve, an incentive to lay down our burdens and take up our salvation. There can and will be plenty of difficulties in life. Nevertheless, the soul that comes unto Christ, who knows His voice and strives to do as He did, finds a strength, as the hymn says, “beyond [his] own.” 15 The Savior reminds us that He has “graven [us] upon the palms of [His] hands.” 16 Considering the incomprehensible cost of the Crucifixion and Atonement, I promise you He is not going to turn His back on us now. When He says to the poor in spirit, “Come unto me,” He means He knows the way out and He knows the way up. He knows it because He has walked it. He knows the way because He is the way.
Brothers and sisters, whatever your distress, please don’t give up and please don’t yield to fear. I have always been touched that as his son was departing for his mission to England, Brother Bryant S. Hinckley gave young Gordon a farewell embrace and then slipped him a handwritten note with just five words taken from the fifth chapter of Mark: “Be not afraid, only believe.” 17 I think also of that night when Christ rushed to the aid of His frightened disciples, walking as He did on the water to get to them, calling out, “It is I; be not afraid.” Peter exclaimed, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Christ’s answer to him was as it always is every time: “Come,” He said. Instantly, as was his nature, Peter sprang over the vessel’s side and into the troubled waters. While his eyes were fixed upon the Lord, the wind could toss his hair and the spray could drench his robes, but all was well—he was coming to Christ. It was only when his faith wavered and fear took control, only when he removed his glance from the Master to look at the furious waves and the ominous black gulf beneath, only then did he begin to sink into the sea. In newer terror he cried out, “Lord, save me.”
Undoubtedly with some sadness, the Master over every problem and fear, He who is the solution to every discouragement and disappointment, stretched out His hand and grasped the drowning disciple with the gentle rebuke, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” 18
If you are lonely, please know you can find comfort. If you are discouraged, please know you can find hope. If you are poor in spirit, please know you can be strengthened. If you feel you are broken, please know you can be mended.
In Nazareth, the narrow road,
That tires the feet and steals the breath,
Passes the place where once abode
The Carpenter of Nazareth.
And up and down the dusty way
The village folk would often wend;
And on the bench, beside Him, lay
Their broken things for Him to mend.
The maiden with the doll she broke,
The woman with the broken chair,
The man with broken plough, or yoke,
Said, “Can you mend it, Carpenter?”
And each received the thing he sought,
In yoke, or plough, or chair, or doll;
The broken thing which each had brought
Returned again a perfect whole.
So, up the hill the long years through,
With heavy step and wistful eye,
The burdened souls their way pursue,
Uttering each the plaintive cry:
“O Carpenter of Nazareth,
This heart, that’s broken past repair,
This life, that’s shattered nigh to death,
Oh, can You mend them, Carpenter?”
And by His kind and ready hand,
His own sweet life is woven through
Our broken lives, until they stand
A New Creation—“all things new.”
“The shattered [substance] of [the] heart,
Desire, ambition, hope, and faith,
Mould Thou into the perfect part,
O, Carpenter of Nazareth!” 19
May we all, especially the poor in spirit, come unto Him and be made whole, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, amen.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Les Miserables

Happy conference weekend everyone! I enjoy conference very much to think it was in the priesthood session of conference 3 years ago (which I slept through most of) that I received a special witness that Thomas S. Monson was a Prophet of God and so regardless of how unlikely the rest of the theology seemed Thomas S. Monson was a Prophet and as such he had to have received keys in an unbroken line, which means Joseph Smith truly did have the First Vision and truly did translate the Book of Mormon.
This time around it was something else. I'm grateful for the atonement of Christ and the role it has played in my life and conference this time around reminded me of that, it was a very loving "you made a mistake now work on it so it doesn't happen again" and at the same time. I thought of the woman that I harmed and betrayed and I hoped that she feels that her pain  isn't something she has to deal with alone, that Christ has felt it, suffered through it and that ultimately He'll be there every step of the way to help her. This is truly a humbling experience. I want to do everything possible to help her heal to take away the pain but the only thing I can do to help her is choose inaction to avoid her to avoid the pain and bringing up the situation again. Because of this I have to rely wholly upon Christ to work His miracles (not that it's different to how we should normally think).

Les Miserables is one of my favorite musicals, it has great music and evokes strong emotions. I spent most of my life growing up like Javert with the overdeveloped sense of justice and crime and punishment. In the song "Stars" we are shown the belief that justice is always required:
"And so it has been and so it is written
On the doorway to paradise
That those who falter and those who fall
Must pay the price!"
This for me is very easy to understand a set in stone you commit a crime, make a mistake 'falter' you receive a punishment equal to your crime. Later in the musical Valjean (an escaped convict) and Javert have another encounter but this time Javert is in Valjean's mercy and Valjean (1) forgives him for what he's done and (2) lets him go. This then begins to tear at the very fibers of Javert's being in "Javert's Suicide":
"He gave me my life. He gave me freedom.
I should have perished by his hand
It was his right.
It was my right to die as well
Instead I live... but live in hell.

And my thoughts fly apart
And must I now begin to doubt,
Who never doubted all these years?
My heart is stone and still it trembles
The world I have known is lost in shadow.
Is he from heaven or from hell?
And does he know
That granting me my life today
This man has killed me even so?

I am reaching, but I fall
And the stars are black and cold
As I stare into the void
Of a world that cannot hold
I'll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean.
There is nowhere I can turn
There is no way to go on...." (Javert then commits suicide)

This whole situation tears me apart. I feel that I can't "pay the price" or fix what happened or anything like that and so like Javert I'm torn apart by this mercy. I understand that Christ payed for everything or that we are judged by our actions and the desires of our hearts and my desires to make it right have softened the blow but I feel as though she is suffering and going through a lot more pain and trouble than I am and that isn't fair that isn't just. I unlike Javert will not take the option of suicide other such outlets because if she ever found out it'd probably tear her apart as well and she deserves better than that.

As brought up in conference today Valjean was also put in a similar situation he had stolen silver plates from this priest who had welcomed him in and gave him food to eat and a place to rest. When taken and brought back before the priest instead of enacting justice the priest said:

"But my friend you left so early
Surley something slipped your mind.
You forgot I gave these also.
Would you leave the best behind?
So, Messieurs, you may release him
For this man has spoken true.
I commend you for your duty
And God's blessing go with you.
(to VALJEAN)But remember this, my brother
See in this some higher plan.
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man.
By the witness of the martyrs
By the Passion and the Blood
God has raised you out of darkness
I have bought your soul for God!"
In response to this act of mercy Valjean has a "introspective breakdown" much like Javert in Valjean's soliloquy:
 "One word from him and I'd be back, beneath the lash upon the rack
Instead he offers me my freedom
I feel my shame inside me like a knife
He told me that I had a soul. How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life? Is there another way to go?

I am reaching but I fall, and the night is closing in
As I stare into the void, to the whirlpool of my sin
I'll escape now from the world, from the world of Jean Valjean"
Valjean then turns around and becomes a great benefactor and hero for other people. Ultimately it's a decision that I must make, like in "His Grace is Sufficient" that I posted a few weeks ago I cannot at this point 'make up' the mercy I received both from Christ and from this woman and her family but I can choose to act, like Valjean, and use this as an opportunity to show my gratitude and do a greater good.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Step 2 Hope

KEY PRINCIPLE: Come to believe that the power
of God can restore you to complete spiritual
Step two is comes down to having faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and having an understanding and Hope that you can recover. 
“However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.”

Jeffrey R. Holland

At this point in my recovery process I still have breakdowns, I still make mistakes, some days I just wonder to myself when will it all work out. I don't know when, if ever in this lifetime, I'll be able to rebuild that bridge of trust, but I do know that through the infinite atonement I will (1) be forgiven, (2) be able to forgive myself, (3) be healed from this addiction. With Easter recently behind us I'm very greatful for His sacrifice. It won't be an easy road we were never told it would be easy but rather that we'd have opportunities to grow and progress.

 And if thou shouldst be cast into the apit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

"Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end." –unknown

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

In light of the commemoration of Christ's sacrifice I have decided to add this wonderful talk that I was shown on my mission and is a great explination of grace and the role of the atonement in our lives and the plan of salvation.

His Grace Is Sufficient

Brad Wilcox

How does God’s grace really work?
A young woman once came to me and asked if we could talk. I said, “Of course. How can I help you?”
She said, “I just don’t get grace.”
I responded, “What is it that you don’t understand?”
She said, “I know I need to do my best, and then Jesus does the rest, but I can’t even do my best.”
I said, “The truth is, Jesus 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?”
We are saved through the grace of Christ, who paid the price of our sins.

“Oh, no,” I said, “you have plenty to do, but it is not to pay that debt. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence to be judged. What is left to be determined by our obedience is how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and what degree of glory we plan on receiving.”
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).

Grace Transforms 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, 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 Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “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 [1991], 223; emphasis in original). Let’s put that in terms of the child pianist: The child must practice the piano, but this practice has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change.
Our works, such as repentance and keeping the commandments, do not save us, but they are requirements set by the Savior to help transform us.
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 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 Heavenly Father and His Son 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 the Father and the Son 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 Heavenly Father and His Son 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 Saints.

Grace Helps Us

“But 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 continually feel like they are just not good enough. They don’t understand grace.
God’s grace is divine power to help us with all of our shortcomings and is available to us at all times.
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).
Grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now.

Grace Is Sufficient

The grace of Christ is sufficient (see Ether 12:27; D&C 17:8)—sufficient to cover our debt, sufficient to transform us, and sufficient to help us as long as that transformation process takes. The Book of Mormon teaches us to rely solely on “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). As we do, we do not discover—as some Christians believe—that Christ requires nothing of us. Rather, we discover the reason He requires so much and the strength to do all He asks (see Philippians 4:13). Grace is not the absence of God’s high expectations. Grace is the presence of God’s power (see Luke 1:37).
God’s grace is sufficient. Jesus’s grace is sufficient. It is enough. It is all we need. Don’t quit. Keep trying. Don’t look for escapes and excuses. Look for the Lord and His perfect strength. Don’t search for someone to blame. Search for someone to help you. Seek Christ, and, as you do, you will feel the enabling power and divine help we call His amazing grace.