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Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Means to An End

Recently I have been thinking a lot about hows and whys of life's more important things.  Every fast sunday I hear people say "I know this church is true" or "I know the Book of Mormon is true" or the same thing about the Plan of Salvation or modern Prophets or the Law of Chastity or any other number of principles of truth.  When people say this, it invites the Spirit of the Lord because of the truth behind these words.  These things, and many more that could be testified of, are true, good, important, even vital for our salvation.  But I'd like to ask a question that I don't think enough people ask themselves, let alone seek the answer to.  What is the purpose of all of this what is this all for?

With most of my entries so far I've built up to the end statement by providing arguments and referring to thoughts from experts about each topic.  But this time I'm going to get right to the answer and then talk about the how.  I will use a scripture to illustrate the answer though.  Moses 1:39 (a verse most of the active LDS population knows very well) "...This is My work and My glory to bring the pass the immortality and eternal life of man."  I'm going to put my own paraphrasing on that verse and replace the word "man" with "my children."  "...This is My work and My glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of [my children]."  I think God would have us interpret that verse that way because, as the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 proclaimed in 1973 in this statement "...of all the titles of respect and honor and admiration that are given to Deity, He has asked us to address Him as Father."  So the purpose for all of life, existence, time, space or anything that is real is for our benefit, for us to have a way to get back to our Father, to make us all a happy family again.  I'll probably end up restating this a different way in the end, but that's because of how important it is.
 

I emphasise the word 'family' for a reason.  The picture above is a depiction of a Grand Council in Heaven that we, as Latter-Day Saints, believe was held before this life where the Plan of Salvation was discussed and our Brother Jesus Christ was chosen as our Savior as well as the means to rescue our family, God's family, from the effects of mortality and bring us back to Him.  To illustrate how this happens, I want to list a few things we can do that our Eternal Father has told us will make it possible for us to return to Him.  They are principles that He already knew would create the ideal setting for a family.  After all, He had run a family of billions on these principles and more and, being perfect, He knows what He's doing.  I personally know that if we eventually do them 100% consistently and without hesitation, it will enable Christ's Atonement to save us from our sinful nature and from physical death; and these are all things I have personally seen work when applied with the right attitude.

FORM GOOD HABITS

 Every morning for my brothers and sister and I was generally the same, although there was some slight variation depending on whether or not it was school season, who was or wasn't going to early morning seminary and whether or not we were on vacation among other factors.  On a usual school day we would be woken up by an 'engraved' invitation to family scripture study, even before breakfast.  Then it was getting lunches, backpacks and other things together and ready and then family prayer before we left for the bus, or, in later years took off with my mom for everyone to be dropped off to school.  After school it was straight to homework if we had any.  To my memory we were never allowed any screen time, including the computer (unless we had homework that required the computer), video games (any gaming console was put away during the school year), etc and we figured out other good things to do with our time.  Actually, I think we were allowed one TV show or 1/2 hour of computer time per school night, IF we had homework done.  For me that included practicing piano most days, just jamming to music in my bedroom, playing legos, spending time with my siblings, playing around on our trampoline, spending time with family in other ways, etc.  I remember for a while during my high school years we did family scripture study around the dinner table when my parents would read to us and encourage discussion about what we were reading.

 My parents were VERY strict about rules regarding curfew, driving privileges, dating, media, work and chores and other controversial factors about family life.  I don't remember exactly, but I think my parents had set a curfew of 11pm or just sometime before midnight when we were going out with friends or if we were on a date; and they stuck to it.  I don't remember any of us ever breaking that because we knew if we did there would be what we in our kid/teenage minds considered very harsh consequences.  We were taught that Christ centered relationships were vital and that nothing less would be acceptable, so if we wanted to date someone mom and dad had to either already know who they were or had to meet them in person before the date and it always had to be group dates, NO MATTER WHAT.  If we wanted to date someone who wasn't a member of the church, one group date with them was acceptable but anything more of a relationship after that required that we consistently invite/bring them to church.  My parents, once in a while, did a personal review of all the music that we listened to to make sure it wasn't going to drive the Spirit out of our lives.  I remember them one time taking music and getting rid of it when they found something that was definitely not appropriate.

 I could go on for a long time about family home evening, parent child interviews, 'the talk', family policies about responsibility, jobs, work, resolving conflict, and more, but my main point here is, I think, pretty obvious. My parents were absolutely rigid about keeping up good habits and shunning bad habits.  None of us were ever perfect at this, but if there's one thing I remember more about my childhood than anything else my parents did or taught us, it was consistency in giving our best at living Christ-centered lives.  This was one thing that was vital in holding our family together.

 FORGIVE UNCONDITIONALLY

Whenever we got in fights as kids with each other or anyone else, our parents made sure that we understood the value of forgiveness and what it actually means to forgive.  I remember many times where my parents would sit two of us together and have us look at each other, apologize, hug and then forgive each other, right there on the spot.  Now I understand that many times it's just not quite that simple, but the idea they were trying to ingrain in our heads was that our job was to forgive quickly, sincerely, and unconditionally.  They did not tell us that it was okay to wait until the other person forgave us, or until they other person said "sorry."  The policy was just say you're sorry, what you're sorry for, mean it and forgive, now.  The only down fall on my part regarding that (not something they taught me), was that now I expect everyone to do that, to choose to just stop being angry with me the split second I apologize.  I do realize that everyone's way of dealing with hurt feelings is different, but, if nothing else, this example my parents set for became standard for me that I am still striving every day to measure up to.

REPENT DAILY

Whether in my childhood, teenage years or adulthood, I have always seen from personal experience the results of true and complete repentance.  Some might see this as strange, but one of the biggest blessings Father in Heaven ever gave me was a huge sense of guilt whenever I do something wrong.  Not the "I'm sorry because I got caught" kind of guilt, but the kind that says "I'm sorry because I know that what I did was wrong and I know that doing that thing will only make me and/or other people miserable."  So it's actually kind of a relief in a sense because I know that I feel the right kind of guilt right away, every time I do something wrong and, therefore, it becomes easier, if you could say that, for me to make sure my repentance process complete, that I really do have a full change of heart in the long run as I keep trying to change my bad habits into good ones.

So I can tell anyone from first hand experience that the more we repent, the right way, and seek more to do good, the more we will feel that seemingly incomprehensibly total, complete joy and happiness that comes from a completely clear conscience and a good, solid clear memory of what we have made of ourselves.

Speaking of memory, I can also say from experience that the more good we do, the more honest we are with others and ourselves, the more good we deliberately seek to do, the better our memories become.  I think this is because the clearer our conscience is, the easier it is to think clearly and remember things.  There are some things I have done that I know have affected my ability to remember all the little details of what happened.  Whether it's because I'm nervous talking about it or it just hurts to even think about it or something else, I can never think clearly enough when I'm upset, scared, angry, nervous or otherwise (which, by the way, is one reason why I am terrible performing in front of people). So, repentance daily will get you a long way, even if it means repenting of things we don't know we've done wrong.

DEVELOP YOUR ABILITIES/TALENTS

 Everyone has something good they can contribute to those around them.  God blessed everyone with some gift that would be a benefit to them and to everyone around them.  But that's the key part of it, using our gifts to bless those around us.  As President Monson said "...that which one willingly shares he keeps, while that which he selfishly keeps he loses..."  He did say this regarding testimonies, but I believe that the same applies to our gifts and talents.  If we don't develop them with the intent to grow in our gifts from God, to bless everyone around us, then what good are they?  As Albert Pine said "What we do for ourselves dies with us.  What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal."  What greater joy (besides eternal life) can we have than knowing that something we did, that a gift we shared, had an eternal impact for good on the lives of others?

GET TO KNOW HIM

Knowing about our Heavenly Father is such a wonderful, beautiful, life changing thing, except... well... actually knowing Him.  Understanding what kind of person He really is.  Getting to know Him as a person and becoming familiar with who He is, not just knowing information about Him.  It's similar to knowing about my earthly father as opposed to knowing him.  I could tell you a lot of information about my dad, but I could also tell you a lot of information about politics, pop culture and many other things and it wouldn't mean anything because, even if I know good information about good things,  it just isn't the same as going beyond the 'information' and really become familiar with someone.

Jesus Himself said, to and about the Father in John 17:3 "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."  Meaning, by extension, that anything else is NOT eternal life.  If we want to become eternal, perfect beings, we need to know someone who is, Himself, perfect and eternal.  Besides, what a better way to have our families, both mortal and eternal, be united than to really know each other.

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I have to say, the more I have thought about God as my Father and kept a familial perspective about everyone I know, the more I feel concern, love and gratitude for them, even if they aren't kind to me.  There's a reason we, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, refer to each other as brothers and sisters;

Because we are literally siblings, children of the same eternal, all-wise, all-knowing, all-loving, patient, kind Father.   We are all a part of the same family!

The whole purpose of the Plan of Salvation, of the Atonement, Prophets, Religion, Church, Commandments, Covenants, Repentance, Obedience, Faith and everything else that is good is plain and simple.

To exalt and glorify the human family, the family of God.