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Sunday, September 8, 2013

BEING BETTER

So I have been slowly learning throughout the past year or so some things from my life experience about being better and I would like, before I start, to specify a few things first. My goal in all of this will be to focus on the being part as opposed to doing. Doing better is such a wonderful thing, but as I will explain here, being better not only includes doing better, it makes doing better easier and makes it a part of our nature. Keep in mind that my comments come from an active Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) perspective. My entries here are not officially endorsed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For anything official about that church, go here, or here. Also, I have mild to moderate aspergers, so keep that in mind too :D. I may just digress from time to time in this and future posts, for one reason or another. Having said that, I'll get started. What does it mean to be better? I think a good place to start in getting a solid, complete answer comes from a short story I have heard a number of times. It's from a talk by Dallin H Oaks titled "The Challenge to Become". The quote goes like this: " A wealthy father knew that if he were to bestow his wealth upon a child who had not yet developed the needed wisdom and stature, the inheritance would probably be wasted. The father said to his child:

'All that I have I desire to give you—not only my wealth, but also my position and standing among men. That which I have I can easily give you, but that which I am you must obtain for yourself. You will qualify for your inheritance by learning what I have learned and by living as I have lived. I will give you the laws and principles by which I have acquired my wisdom and stature. Follow my example, mastering as I have mastered, and you will become as I am, and all that I have will be yours.'

Lets take this a bit deeper. If we honestly take a look at ourselves and ask, 'Why do I do the things I do, say the things I say, go the places I go? (etc)' many people might answer with such responses as 'because I need to provide a living for my family', 'because I want to set a good example for others', or 'because that's the way my personality is'. The possible responses are probably limitless, but I'd like to focus on what I think is the real underlying reason why we do, say, think, or believe anything. Simply because we want to and because we believe, at least in the moment we do it, that it will bring us happiness (or at least make us less unhappy). Whether it's providing a living, being a good example, obeying our inborn personality type, or even just not getting ourselves into trouble of any kind, I am suggesting that reason behind it all is that, in each passing moment, we believe that, what we do/say/think/believe in that moment will result in our happiness in some way.

So with that, I think the next focus point should be based on those reasons and, instead of what they are, what they should be. Years ago, I remember seeing my mom holding a paper with a specially formatted message titled something close to "Family Mission Statement". I don't remember the entire text of it, though it was relatively short, but I remember at the end it mentioned that even though we all make mistakes and do wrong things, we should always get back up and continue on, doing the right things, and this was the key part, "for the right reasons". Since I am writing from and LDS perspective here, I'll point out that the right reasons are always determined by the Lord; and because one of the best places to find His standpoint is in the scriptures, I'll go there for a moment to illustrate what these 'right reasons' are.

image from ucsichristianfellowship.files.wordpress.com

I'll go first to the Pearl of Great Price, specifically Moses 1:39, where the Lord says, "For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." Wow! I don't know about you, but that makes me feel pretty good! God's entire focus and purpose in everything He thinks, says, does, or believes if for the sole reason of making our immortality and eternal life a reality! Similar to the example I used earlier about the wealthy father, though, He can't just make this happen instantly be snapping His fingers. He knows that only way we are ever going to have a life completely free of worldly cares is by following His example and living the way He did. This includes changing our motives to match His. Christ lived a life completely dedicated to His Father, without even a shadow of straying.  

Thanks, to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we have assurance that there's a way out, repentance whenever we do not live that way. I want to point out one more thing. Every human being that ever did, does or will live has the ability to make choices for themselves (agency). So the whole point I am trying to make here is I believe that what being better means is choosing the change the reason we do things, or in other words, choose to change what we want, to change our very desires. Stop wanting things you shouldn't want.  Is this hard? You bet it is! But, as Nephi said in the Book of Mormon, 'The Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.' So it is most definitely possible, and it is a must if we want to not just DO, but BE, better people.

In conclusion, just think of the question "Who are you?". The best answer to this, besides our personal names, would probably not be something like 'a banker', 'a web developer', 'a doctor', 'an astronaut' etc. Instead, maybe something like 'a father', 'a mother, 'a daughter', or maybe best of all 'a disciple of Christ' would be more fitting; Because the role we serve in our occupations doesn't necessarily require us do anything more than just go through the motions of the job description without regard to why we are doing it. To really be an effective disciple of Christ, however, we must choose to change our inner motives to things like 'because God has asked me to and even if I don't understand, He's knows better' or 'because I want to help this person regardless of who they are', or, possibly best of all, 'because I want to do what's right, for no other reason than the fact that it's just the right thing to do'. We need to choose to change our desires to be the same as His.