27 March 2015

It Isn't a Sin to Be Weak

This is one of the best church magazine articles I've read in a very long time:

'It Isn't a Sin to Be Weak' by Wendy Ulrich

I wish everyone knew and understood these principles, because knowing and understanding it myself has revolutionized my testimony of the Gospel and my relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ.

So READ IT. Ponder it. Pray about it. Practice it. And learn for yourself these eternal truths.

02 March 2015

"Lord, Is it I?"

This morning I studied another of President Uchtdorf's talks from the October 2014 General Conference. This one was given in Priesthood session, but it is applicable to everyone. And it invited me to continue the self-introspection that I've been engaged in the past week.

For a multitude of reasons that I don't fully understand, I've been feeling a lot more sensitive lately to the insensitivities of others. And at the end of the day, I'm more upset with myself for letting their words or actions get to me than I am about what they did in the first place. I grew up with 3 brothers. I'm supposed to have a thicker skin than this! So WHAT is my problem? I don't know.

But I DO know that God loves me and He is inviting me to take this opportunity to examine my own life and ask, "Lord, Is it I?"

...To which the answer will almost always be "Yes." There is always a better way than my way.

President Uchtdorf said:
"None of us likes to admit when we are drifting off the right course. Often we try to avoid looking deeply into our souls and confronting our weaknesses, limitations, and fears. Consequently, when we do examine our lives, we look through the filter of biases, excuses, and stories we tell ourselves in order to justify unworthy thoughts and actions.
But being able to see ourselves clearly is essential to our spiritual growth and well-being. If our weaknesses and shortcomings remain obscured in the shadows, then the redeeming power of the Savior cannot heal them and make them strengths. Ironically, our blindness toward our human weaknesses will also make us blind to the divine potential that our Father yearns to nurture within each of us. 
So how can we shine the pure light of God’s truth into our souls and see ourselves as He sees us?
May I suggest that the holy scriptures and the talks given at general conference are an effective mirror we can hold up for self-examination
As you hear or read the words of the ancient and modern prophets, refrain from thinking about how the words apply to someone else and ask the simple question: “Lord, is it I?” 
We must approach our Eternal Father with broken hearts and teachable minds. We must be willing to learn and to change. And, oh, how much we gain by committing to live the life our Heavenly Father intends for us. 
Those who do not wish to learn and change probably will not and most likely will begin to wonder whether the Church has anything to offer them. 
But those who want to improve and progress, those who learn of the Savior and desire to be like Him, those who humble themselves as a little child and seek to bring their thoughts and actions into harmony with our Father in Heaven—they will experience the miracle of the Savior’s Atonement. They will surely feel God’s resplendent Spirit. They will taste the indescribable joy that is the fruit of a meek and humble heart. They will be blessed with the desire and discipline to become true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Everything he says here is completely true! I've been reading the book Letters to a Young Mormon by Adam S. Miller, and he says something similar, but in a way that really enlightened my understanding of these truths. The following passages are taken from the letter about 'Sin':
"God's work in your life is bigger than the story you'd like that life to tell. His life is bigger than your plans, goals, or fears. To save your life, you'll have to lay down your stories and, minute by minute, day by day, give your life back to him. Preferring your stories to his life is sin." (p.17)
"Life is full of stories, but life is not a story. God doesn't love your story, he loves you." (p.18)
"Like most people, you'll lavish attention on this story until, almost unwittingly, it becomes your blueprint for how things ought to be. As you persist in measuring life against it, this Franken-bible of the self will become a substitute for God, an idol. This is sin. And this idolatrous story is all the more ironic when, as a true believer, you religiously assign God a starring role in your story as the one who, with some cajoling and obedience, can make things go the way you've plotted. But faith isn't about getting God to play a more and more central part in your story. Faith is about sacrificing your story on his altar." (p.19)
"Jesus is not asking you to tell a better story or live your story more successfully, he's asking you to lose that story. 'Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it' (Matthew 10:39 NRSV). Hell is when your story succeeds, not when it fails. Your suffocating story is the problem, not the solution. Surrender it and find your life. ...Let his life manifest itself in yours rather than trying to impose your story on the life he gives." (p.21)
"Keeping the law doesn't earn you heavenly merits and breaking the law doesn't earn you hellish demerits. Both merits and demerits are about you. The purpose of the law is to point you away from yourself, free you from the self-obsessed burden of your own story, and center you on Christ. You don't need to generate merit in order to be saved you need instead to come unto Christ and 'rely wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save' (2 Nephi 31:19). The law points wholly to Christ and his grace. Keeping the law is the work of relying on Christ's merit, not the work of generating your own. This is still hard work, but it is work of an *entirely different kind*." (p.22)

I'm still trying to come to grips with what exactly my story is so that I can more fully sacrifice it to make room for the much bigger life Heavenly Father has planned for me. But the best way I can figure that out right now is by heeding President Uchtdorf's counsel and ask, "Lord, is it I?"

One way or another, it most definitely IS ME who needs to change. As Brother Miller states, this is hard work, but only because I make it hard. Moroni testified,
"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. 
"And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot." (Moroni 10:32-33) 
I know that Christ's grace really IS sufficient for me. And I'm practicing relying wholly upon Him and His grace. If nothing else, this last week has reminded me to focus more upon this practice so that I can sacrifice my story and live the life He has for me.