. . . they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever.2 Nephi 9:18
Don’t let the shame others place on believing in God deter you from keeping your faith.
I have lived in many places around the world and everywhere I have lived I have seen opposition in some form or fashion to living a life of faith. This opposition takes many different forms. Sometimes it’s mockery. Sometimes it’s antagonism and deliberate attempts to undermine faith. Sometimes it’s apathy. And others have been a general encouragement to act contrary to standards outlined in our faith. In each case shame is a distinct element of that opposition – primarily the shame of time and effort misspent. If we are not aware it can be quite effective and quite powerful at pulling us away from staying true to our Heavenly Father.
I have learned that a key aspect to maintaining faith and ignoring the shame placed on faithful living by the rest of the world rests in remembering: remembering the past and what God has done in your life along with the sacred experiences you have had. Nothing and no one can change what you have already experienced – and in the words of Joseph Smith, “[you know] it and [you know] that God [knows] it,” (see Joseph Smith History 1:25) and staying true to what you know and have experienced brings abundant blessings in our lives. The more we practice this the easier it becomes to ignore the shame – and in fact not even be aware it’s there at all!
In writing this post I realized that even as I am aware of the shame placed on living faithfully by others and on occasion feel the temptation to step aside from doing so, I have come to a point where remembering past sacred experiences and ignoring that shame and temptation is mostly second nature. As I consider recent experiences with colleagues and friends who in passing conversation made light of living true to one’s faith and religion, I realize I didn’t even notice the shame associated with doing so that was underlying their comments. I didn’t think of it in the moment, but as I write this I now realize that after a lifetime of ignoring the shame of believing in and following Jesus Christ it is simply part of my existence to do so – and this brings me peace.
And I speak unto you for your sakes, that ye may learn and glorify the name of your God.2 Nephi 6:4
Learn and glorify the name of Jesus Christ.
This is a precept I am beginning to understand and believe in more than I ever have before. The concept of glorifying the name of God is sort of foreign to us in the Church. We just don’t talk about it the same way other Christian churches do.
I was watching videos of faith promoting music recently and stumbled across one in particular from an Evangelical church in which there weren’t a whole lot of words or concepts – just the of praising Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior repeatedly over a period of several minutes, waxing and waning as the desire to do so grew more powerful or more reverent, until the musicians felt it was time to be done. I find a beauty in the simplicity of praising Jesus in this way – and a power in the humility it creates.
I realize now that I have done this in my own way. In recent years I decided that as part of my morning prayer I would call upon Heavenly Father, acknowledge that He is God, that He knows everything, and that I can hide nothing from Him. I then confessed the same thing regarding the Savior, Jesus Christ. In the weeks and months after beginning this practice I felt the power and peace of God grow stronger and stronger within my soul. It was a beautiful and edifying experience to acknowledge before my Maker each and every day of my life that He is the great, all knowing, and all powerful Creator of my soul and all else that exists.
I believe this precept of glorifying Jesus Christ as God and the all powerful Creator of heaven and earth to be a key element of building and developing faith in Jesus Christ and humility before Him. It is tough to try and elevate yourself in your own mind above someone who you are constantly giving glory and honor to on a daily basis for the little and big miracles which take place in your life. And it gives you strength to rely on His power and wisdom more than you do your own – another key precept encouraged in the scriptures.
. . . they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still . . .2 Nephi 9:16
This one is a much harder process than I thought it would be. It sounds simple – and conceptually it is – but it’s the kind of thing which is easy in the first steps when big progress is possible in quick and easy ways, but once you make it to a certain point the constant refinement process can be long, tedious, difficult, and prone to more and more mistakes.
It’s actually a lot like learning an instrument. At first it’s easy to learn how to make it make sound – the right sounds. Then you have to learn how to make those sounds at the right time and with the right rhythm. Then you have to learn how to be in tune with the other musicians around you. Compounded with ever more challenging rhythms at increasingly challenging speeds this is where things start getting more and more difficult. Making significant improvements happens at a much slower rate than it did before and requires a lot more iterations (a.k.a. as practice) to achieve perfection. At this stage of progression it can be very tempting to give up because you keep making the same mistakes over and over and over again.
Those who stick with it despite the difficulties eventually come to realize that learning to play more intricate and difficult rhythms at various speeds while blending with those around you is a constant refinement process. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an awful musician. It just means you’re at a place in your progression where making progress requires more deliberate, more intensive, and more intentional work than the early progressions of making the instrument make sound required. Getting to this point of progression will come at a different time for each individual depending on their natural abilities, but the reality is that anyone can become an amazing musician if they are willing to put in the work required to get there.
I am finding the same is true with righteousness. When we first embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ as a way of life, entering in by the way and shedding many of our less than righteous habits may seem easy. We know where we were and we’ve made simple, easy progress in a very immediate and very fulfilling way.
But once we begin to understand righteousness as described in Righteousness – A Talk we realize that righteousness is the constant process of aligning our thoughts, opinions, and decision making to be perfectly in line with Jesus – and that requires a constant refining process that is much like learning complex rhythms while playing in tune with other musicians. It takes time and deliberate, intentional practice, and can be a very difficult and painful process, but once we measure up to the “stature of the fulness of Christ” (see Ephesians 4:13 and The Measuring Stick) the peace and freedom and happiness is all worth it!
Having said this I don’t want anyone to think that I think I’m nearly perfect. This I am certainly not. The thing I continue to learn the more I try to improve my righteousness is just how far I have to go. Every day I see another issue to work on and the stack of things I need to improve on keeps getting longer and longer, bigger and bigger. If it weren’t for the Lord and His promise that in Him all things are it possible I would feel impossibly buried under it all and just want to give up. But I don’t. Eventually I get right back up and try again, hoping this time I’ll be just a little more in tune than I was before.
I am grateful to know that God lives, that Jesus is my Savior and Redeemer. Because I know this I know I can press forward with a steadfastness in Him (see 2 Nephi 31:20) that will eventually empower me to align all that I am and do to match His state of perfection and His perfect will. Without Him it is impossible and I am nothing. With Him all things are possible and I can rise above all that is presently keeping me down.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.
Embrace and accept the will of God for your life above your own. Consider following it to be more important than anything else.
Years ago I dated a girl who subsequently broke up with me. She said she had prayed about it and the answer was, “I have to let you go.” Needless to say this wasn’t exactly what I wanted.
Over the course of the next month I prayed and I fasted and I went to the temple and pleaded with the Lord for the answer – her answer and His answer – to change. Several times He tried getting my attention to whisper His answer to me, but it wasn’t until one particular day while performing ordinances in the temple that He clearly – and somewhat forcefully – said, “Let it go.”
As I drove home that day I thought, “Wait. God created the universe. He has all wisdom and power. He has power to give me whatever blessings He wants to give! What if the blessings He wants to give me are greater and better than the ones I would give myself? How can I – why should I – deny Him the opportunity to bless me the way He wants to?”
After arriving home, and with that thought still in my mind, I knelt and told the Lord, “This is what I want – but more than what I want for me I want what you want for me.” After 2 weeks of offering those same ideas to the Lord in nearly every prayer I offered it was finally the truth.
This perspective has been a blessing to me many times in the years since that difficult learning experience – and I have had to use it a lot. I’m not always good at it. When I consider my career over the last few years I realize that in some ways I have completely set it aside and need to get back on track with it. Now more than ever – with all that is going on in the world – it is critical to be seeking for God’s blessings more than for the blessings I would give myself. He is after all God. He sees all. He knows all. And He has a much better perspective of what is most important for me and my growth – and the growth of those directly impacted by my decisions – than I do.
Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.2 Nephi 10:23
Choose to be happy.
There are two elements to the choice to be happy. The first is simply choosing happiness regardless of circumstance and is focused on one’s feelings and personal mindset.
The second is the choice to allow following God’s instructions to bring happiness to your life. My wife has frequently pointed out that God gave us commandments for our own happiness, which suggests also that when we choose to not give them heed we will inevitably find ourselves unhappy, perhaps even miserable.
As I struggle through a time of self discovery in attempting to establish positive feelings of self-worth I realize how crucial both of these things are. One can choose to be happy and one can make decisions which will bring happiness. Both are necessary for lasting peace and happiness in this life and eternal joy in the life to come. And both are necessary for one choosing a life of faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Enjoyed this post? Read the original post defining the Abiding Precepts project.