Wednesday, February 15, 2012

suffereth long... and is kind!

The other day, my New Testament professor made a point about the attributes of charity that has completely changed how I plan to continue this blog. He was talking about how many of us suffer for a long time ("charity suffereth long"), but Christ (whose love charity truly is) both suffered long AND was kind amid that suffering. I'm beginning to realize that I can't just study one attribute of charity at a time, because they work together to create that Christlike love that we so desperately need to cultivate.

As I continue studying how charity "beareth all things" and "endureth all things," it is beginning to come clear that it is necessary that one "believeth all things" and "hopeth all things." Christ told us to "be of good cheer" despite our tribulations. And why? "I have overcome the world" is His powerful response (John 16:33).

So from now on, I'm going to mix and match these various attributes of charity in order to understand more fully how they work together, rather than trying to study each one independently. I imagine this will cause my study to go on much longer, since there are so many ways you can combine these attributes, but I'm sure I won't regret spending more time studying the pure love of Christ.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

being prepared for eternal life

Today, I continued reading the talk "Adversity" by President Henry B. Eyring. I've read this talk before, and I've heard a lot about why we face adversity, but I wanted the Lord to send His Spirit to teach me something that I need to learn right now. I believe that we can always learn something new, even if we think we can't, when the Spirit inspires our thoughts and we humbly listen to His counsel.

The thoughts that came to my mind come from Alma 32:6-8, which President Eyring references to illustrate the point of how our trials can prepare us to hear God's word. In this case, Alma hasn't had much success among the Zoramites because of their pride and false teachings. When a group of poor and outcast Zoramites comes to him seeking advice on how they can worship God despite being banned from their own synagogues, Alma rejoices because their sufferings had made them humble and prepared them to listen to his message.

Alma then goes on to say how much more blessed are those who humble themselves instead of being humbled by their circumstances. President Eyring talks about a friend of his who had done just that, and was prepared spiritually to remain faithful when he lost his job and could not support his family. He did more than simply preparing food storage or an emergency fund; he was prepared spiritually to have faith in the Lord and trust that things would work out.

I need to be more like the people Alma defines in verse 15:
Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed—yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty.
The phrase "endureth to the end" caught my eye this time reading that verse, since enduring is exactly what I'm trying to learn. It reminds me of D&C 14:7. It clarifies Alma's statement by saying that if we keep the commandments and endure to the end, we will be "more blessed" in that we will receive "eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God." So if we humble ourselves instead of being compelled to be humble, we start down a path of righteous living and faith that will bring us back to full fellowship with our Father in celestial glory!

I hope that, over the next week, I can find some concrete ways that I can humble myself before the Lord. I'm sure just the act of kneeling down in prayer and seeking His will through scripture study will help, but I also want to focus on gratitude and not complaining, no matter how difficult my circumstances may be. I also think it would be good to make sure I always put righteous works before less important things like games or TV. These really are all simple things, but it can be hard to stay focused on the Lord with so many distractions. As I put the Lord first and try my best to do His will before my own, I know that I will be happier and more content with my life, no matter how hard it may become.

Friday, February 10, 2012

why are we here?

To preface this post, I need to explain that it's a response I posted to a forum for my New Testament class (taught by Brother Griffin at BYU), where we got on a tangent talking about Moses 7:26-36, which discusses Enoch's vision of the Lord crying over His wicked children. It's kind of deep doctrine, so feel free to tune out this post if you feel uncomfortable. The point our teacher made in class was that when the Lord says that there was never so much wickedness as among Enoch's brethren, He's saying that this earth, among worlds without end that God has created, is the most wicked world of all. Christ came here because no other nation or planet would have been wicked enough to crucify their own God.

The point of all of this is that we came to this world instead of going to a less wicked one; this was not an accident. Here is what I wrote in response to this class:
As Brother Griffin talked about Enoch’s vision of the Lord crying for His children, and how we all came to this earth despite the wickedness of God’s children here, it made me think about why I’m here. Whether I chose to come here or simply accepted Heavenly Father’s call to serve on this earth, the whole reason I’m here is because I wanted to be among those who worked to bring about God’s eternal purposes on this earth and bring some of His most wicked children back into His fold. If that was my choice, then the best thing I could possibly do here on earth would be to “waste and wear out” (D&C 123:13) my life in serving others, sharing the gospel, and making myself a servant to the Lord. 
I also appreciated the reminder Brother Griffin gave that we shouldn’t let any of this go to our head, but to our shoulders. This, to me, is what the gospel is all about—he who is greatest shall be your servant. Christ, who was the only perfect being to ever live a mortal life on any of God’s worlds without number, took nothing for Himself, but gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin so that we might live again. If I have any sort of special calling or position in God’s plan, it doesn’t mean I’m better than anyone else; it only means that I have a greater responsibility to serve all of His children. If we can all understand this principle, pride will have no place in our soul because we realize that we gain nothing by having more than someone else. We only gain more by glorifying others, thereby glorifying the Father, who in turn, through Jesus Christ, glorifies us.
I felt like this goes along with some of the things I learned recently as I studied "charity... seeketh not her own." If my purpose here is to do the Lord's will, it just makes it that much more important to have charity and to seek His will instead of my own.

why do we endure?

While reading President Eyring's talk, "Adversity," a profound thought struck me that I knew I had to share or else I might forget what I had learned.

The fifth paragraph down states that:
The very opportunity for us to face adversity and affliction is part of the evidence of [Heavenly Father and the Savior's] infinite love. God gave us the gift of living in mortality so that we could be prepared to receive the greatest of all the gifts of God, which is eternal life.
While no one wants to go through suffering, it is a necessary part of our sojourn here on the earth. Without our trials, we would never know joy (see 2 Nephi 2:23). Without adversity, we would never learn good from evil or be able to become stronger because of our resistance to adversity (see 2 Nephi 2:11).

So when we are seeking to be humble and submit to God "as a child doth submit to his father" (Mosiah 3:19), we don't have to act in blind faith. Instead, we submit to the Father because we know He has only our best interests in mind. We know that His plan is a plan of happiness, not a plan of misery. Whatever suffering we must endure in this life, we know that He does not allow us to pass through trials just so that we will be miserable, but because our trials will "give [us] experience and be for [our] good" (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7).

My goal starting today will be to face my trials with an attitude of "thy will be done," with gratitude for the plan of salvation that God has created for me, and with faith that the Lord loves me and that His work and glory is truly to bring about my eternal happiness (see Moses 1:39).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

bearing and enduring

Because of life circumstances both for me and my wife, I feel like the best part of charity I can study for the next several weeks are the twin attributes of "charity... beareth all things... and endureth all things." It seems like everything has been thrown at us lately--physical, emotional, mental, social; illnesses, disappointments, failures. Sometimes it feels like there's no point in trying to become more charitable because I don't even have time to talk to people outside of work and school tasks! As I'm trying to stay afloat and support my wife through some of her personal trials, I think charity could help me understand why we are asked to pass through fiery trials and how I can learn from them.

Bearing and enduring seem to be almost the same thing. However, I think there is a significant point setting the two apart: bearing most often refers to the act of taking a heavy burden upon our shoulders, while enduring indicates action being taken despite our burdens. For example, when the sons of Mosiah went to teach the Lamanites, they faced the mockery of the Nephites and the rejection and hatred the Lamanites had developed from generations of false beliefs about the Nephites. They were full of faith, but they still began to lose hope, and as they were about to turn back, the Lord told them, "bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success" (Alma 26:27). Likewise, Alma's followers made a covenant at the waters of Mormon to "bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light" (Mosiah 18:8). From these scriptures, it appears that "bearing" is about allowing heavy loads to be placed upon us without losing hope or faith, or even helping others with their burdens so they can remain strong.

Enduring, on the other hand, is about perseverance. In fact, the Spanish translation used for the phrase "endure to the end" is "perseverar hasta el fin," which directly translates to "persevere until the end." You may also notice that "endure" comes from the same root as "duration," which indicates something that lasts for a long time and doesn't decay or buckle under pressure. This root, the Latin word durare, actually means "to harden," kind of like steeling yourself against a heavy burden.

So as I share what I learn about both bearing and enduring all things, I hope you will keep in mind that we need to not only allow trials to come upon us without complaining or losing faith, but we also need to keep moving forward as much as we can, remaining on the path that leads to the Father without any deviation. I hope I can be that strong as I seek to bear and endure all of the things that are going on in my life now.