What instruction do you think we received when leaving our heavenly home before beginning our sojourn here on earth? I would like to think we had specific instruction about the role agency would play in our earthly life. Even though we would not remember that instruction, due to the veil of forgetfulness, I believe it is easily recognized when asked what is agency? Agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves. Agency is essential in the plan of salvation. Without agency, we would not be able to learn or progress or follow the Savior. With it, we are “free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil” (2 Nephi 2:27). “Men and women receive their agency as a gift from God, but their liberty and, in turn, their eternal happiness come from obedience to His laws” (L Tom Perry). Does the phrase “obedience to law is liberty” ring true in all of us now? I hope that the choices we make in exercising our agency will lead us toward the Savior and His eternal happiness.
Why is it so hard to notice our own spiritual progress? The reason: The effects are gradual and difficult to observe from day to day. For example, if I look at a photo taken of myself many years ago, I would notice a big difference as compared to now. But when I look in the mirror each morning getting ready for the day, I can’t see the subtle changes taking place. They aren’t obvious in 24-hour increments. I think that’s how it is with spiritual change. As I strive to keep the commandments, such as making time for scripture study, church and temple worship, offering kindness and service to others, change is happening even when I’m not aware of it. One way to observe this transformation is to keep a journal describing goals, challenges, and victories along the way. It’s like a photograph which can be viewed and reviewed. As I read entries from the past, I can see little signs of improvement. Some things I once struggled with have been conquered, and goals set years ago have been reached. Change is still subtle, and of course there are occasional setbacks and relapses. But as I yield to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, the Lord helps me put off the “natural man” little by little, step by step. God is in the process of recreating my nature to become like Him. I can see it and feel it. I feel progress like wind in my hair. This is a Reason to Rejoice!
What does this scripture mean to you? “For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). We understand that thoughts are a constant part of our waking hours. Even though fleeting, they can influence us and will shape our character in some fashion. For those who are striving to improve their lives and follow the example of the Savior, here is a list of helpful tips from the New Era:
- Indulging in impure thoughts can lead to hard-to-break thought patterns. Reject a bad thought as soon as it comes into your mind, and it will be easier to do so the next time.
- Avoid watching, listening to, or reading any material that contains profanity, swearing, pornography, or other improper content.
- Make sure you choose your surroundings carefully and that your activities inspire good thoughts.
- Pray. The Lord can help you overcome any problem you have, including unclean thoughts.
- Your speech reflects your thoughts, so a pure mind will also help you to keep your language clean. Remove yourself from situations where people are gossiping or using profane or vulgar language.
- Keep your thoughts clean to help you stay morally clean. Unclean thoughts make giving in to temptation much easier.
During a road trip, my husband and I took turns discussing these 3 questions: (1) What lessons have we have learned from the past? (2) How we can prepare for the future? (3) How can we enjoy living today? It was a fascinating and unifying activity. Of course the lessons learned from the past were usually gleaned from trial experiences. Though everyone’s list will be different, I’ll share just a few ideas we came up with from each category.
- Learn from the past: In the strength of the Lord, we can do hard things; Joy is in God, not in circumstance; recognition of countless divine rescues and tender mercies; the need of a Savior in the eternal plan of happiness; learning what is really important.
- Prepare for the future: Seek learning, both sacred and secular; continue to budget and save; practice prudence and generosity; maintain habits of healthy eating and exercise; establish emergency plans and supplies; maintain and repair property and possessions; nourish strong family relationships; view life with optimism and cheer; have a positive attitude about aging.
- Enjoy today: Appreciate each moment as a gift from God; increase gratitude; perform acts of service each day; prioritize best options for use of time; cherish each other and strengthen our marriage; be actively engaged in good causes; smile more; be other-centered; learn balance and pacing of all good things.
Plan to have this discussion with your spouse. It will give you many Reasons to Rejoice!
Who are the unpaid volunteers who spend at least two days per week plus one full week of their vacation time each summer teaching boys to be prepared? Hats off to Boy Scout leaders who give a tremendous amount of time nurturing, teaching, and leading our impressionable young men. Our grandson is at camp this week with leaders who have sacrificed much in order to head into the hills with packs and supplies on their backs heavy enough for a mule—to train and tutor a group of energetic boys. These valiant leaders slog through mud and erect tents, sleep on rocky ground, and teach survival skills while exemplifying an upbeat and cheerful attitude. They train their scouts to perform a wide variety of skills. They model virtues of character. They responsibly protect their young charges. The boys look up to their leaders and want to be like them. As a father and grandfather of scouts, I place my beloved ones into their capable care. It is a comfort to know that these leaders are men of virtue and goodness. I never want this to change. As one who has been a Boy Scout, served as a leader, and supported the organization financially, I know something of the sacrifice and hard work that goes into making the scouting experience a benefit to young men. I have great appreciation for these unselfish leaders who teach and model what it means to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
“Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn” (Isaiah 51:1). What does this mean to you? When I think of the word, “hewn” I think of a statue emerging from a block of beautiful marble after the master artisan has laboriously chipped away with sharp tools to create a likeness. Along with all of God’s children, I am “hewn” from divine parentage as a beloved child of God. He is shaping me to be in His likeness. The word “Rock” is often used in the scriptures to represent the Savior Jesus Christ. He is what I strive to become. I have taken upon myself His holy name in covenant, and have pledged to always remember Him. In another respect, I am also “hewn” from beloved earthly parents and ancestors. I want to carry on their legacy of courage and faith. I live in a confused world when it comes to identity. Many people look to find themselves in the wrong places. The right place to find one’s real identity is from God, as His beloved child. Real identity comes from recognizing our divine heritage and purpose. These words from a favorite child’s hymn relate to adults as well: “I am a child of God, and He has sent me here. Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me; help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do, to live with Him someday.” Isaiah’s words, “Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn” remind me of who I am and whose I am.
Before lighthouses were built, legend claims that friends built large fires along the coastline to guide sailors safely to shore. In the dark of night, these signals warned of shallow water that might sink their ships if ventured too close. Jesus Christ is the light and life of the world. If we fix our gaze on Him and follow His teachings, we will be guided to the harbor of spiritual safety. The words of a favorite hymn further describe this beautiful metaphor: “Brightly beams our Father’s mercy, from His lighthouse evermore; but to us He gives the keeping, of the lights along the shore. Let the lower lights be burning; send a gleam across the wave. Some poor fainting, struggling seaman, you may rescue, you may save.” The Lord has provided a way back to Him through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. “Look for the lighthouse of the Lord. There is no fog so dense, no night so dark, no gale so strong, no mariner so lost but what its beacon light can rescue. It beckons through the storms of life. It calls: This way to safety. This way to home” (Thomas S. Monson). I am grateful for our Redeemer who rescues me as I follow His light.