Have you ever winced with regret at a poor choice—something you should not have said or something you should not have done? Or have you ever neglected to do something that impaired your spiritual growth and peace? Certainly we all have. The good news is that because of Jesus Christ’s infinite Atonement, He made it possible to follow the pathway of complete repentance. Repentance is essential to our temporal and eternal happiness. Repentance is more than just acknowledging wrongdoings; it is a change of heart and mind. It is turning to God. One of my favorite verses of scripture is the Lord’s promise that, “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is designed to nourish, sanctify, and heal the imperfect soul. The Church is filled with people who are trying to keep the commandments, but haven’t mastered them yet. “If you expect to find perfect people here, you will be disappointed. But if you seek the pure doctrine of Christ, the word of God ‘which healeth the wounded soul,’ and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost, then here you will find them. In this age of waning faith—in this age when so many feel distanced from heaven’s embrace, here you will find a people who yearn to know and draw closer to their Savior by serving God and fellowmen, just like you. Come, join with us” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf).
How was your day today? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? When asked this question, what goes through your mind? Is it the number of new jobs obtained, contracts signed, sales completed, a raise in salary, or the bestowal of high marks on performance? Is it zipping along a wreck-free commute on the highway in record time? Although these things surely can bring satisfaction, they are short-lived. An LDS hymn asks these poignant questions: “Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need? Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad? If not, I have failed indeed.” Too often we focus on self rather than looking outward to another’s need as a measure of success. Robert Lewis Stevenson said, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.” We can move closer to Christ by shifting our perspective to reflect altruistic behaviors to help others as the best metric of accomplishment. When I’m tempted to use material measures to ascertain a day well spent, I will reflect on the questions listed in the hymn above. These behaviors will result in lasting and deeply fulfilling Reasons to Rejoice.
Here’s a good question to ask yourself: What sacrifices have I been asked to make in my religion? I believe that a religion that does not require effort and sacrifice—doesn’t produce faith, refinement, and spiritual growth in its members. We understand this principle in other areas. For example, if I work hard and save money to pay for my college tuition, I will apply myself with greater diligence and appreciation. And how absurd it would be to ask a physical trainer to help me develop bulging biceps and total body fitness without performing strenuous exercise? The principle of sacrifice and reward has application in every dimension of our lives. It applies to religion too. If it doesn’t pinch, it isn’t a sacrifice. Here are some sacrifices I’m striving to make. I am imperfect, but I will never give up trying.
- Resist forbidden things.
- Study scriptures daily.
- Pray morning and night (and in between).
- Obey commandments.
- Minister and serve others, even when it’s inconvenient.
- Prioritize marriage and family as number one—to love, teach and minister.
- Cherish the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Fast and pay tithing.
- Repent when I make mistakes and strive to improve.
- Stand as a witness for truth.
- Treat others kindly even when mistreated. Forgive freely.
- Learn to love with compassion and courtesy.
Note the ACTION WORDS: Resist, study, pray, obey, minister, serve, prioritize, cherish, repent, stand, learn, love, forgive.
“Oh, she’s so judgmental!” This common claim is against anyone looking down on another with sharp criticism. Of course that is wrong. Every soul is of great worth and should be treated respectfully. But sadly, some think that we must accept any moral perversion as acceptable behavior in order to be non-judgmental. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, clarified this issue in Matthew 7:1 [JST]. He said, “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment.” We must make judgments constantly to differentiate between right and wrong. But this kind of judgment is not punitive; rather, it is merciful. We love the person, not necessarily the behavior. How we disagree is a measure of who we are and whether we truly follow the Savior. I can extend compassion without embracing the worldly philosophy that anything goes. “[Being non-judgmental] is a very good quality if it doesn’t mean confounding good with bad, and thinking nothing matters” (Mrs. Oliphant, The Marriage of Elinor). So, how do I make righteous judgments? Dallin H. Oaks offers these helpful guidelines:
- Seek the guidance of the Spirit in our decisions.
- Limit our judgments to our own stewardships.
- Refrain from judging people until we have an adequate knowledge of the facts.
- As far as possible, judge circumstances rather than people.
- Apply righteous standards.
- Remember the commandment to forgive.
We were driving in a blizzard on icy Colorado roads. “Can you see anything?” I asked my wife, for my own vision was grossly impaired. Each time a car passed, an opaque spray from their tires obliterated my windshield until it could finally be partially cleared by our wipers. My lack of clear vision in dangerous road conditions had a huge impact on our progress. When the danger subsided, I began thinking of the parallel of this situation to our spiritual life. We live in a dangerous world, where spiritual vision is easily clouded by disturbing external influences. Unfortunately, many slide off the path and over-turn. Following the teachings and example of Jesus Christ can illuminate our precarious path while we sojourn on earth. We can be confident that we are staying in the safe lanes of the straight and narrow path. We can’t prevent the storms from buffeting us on every side, but we can know of a surety that we will arrive safely to our Heavenly Home if we follow the Savior and apply His Atonement. The scriptures promise: “This is the way, and there is none other way nor name” (2 Nephi 31:21).
As a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Just as seeds grow into plants, our thoughts flower into actions and behaviors. It is my responsibility to school my thinking, to replace negative thoughts with positive, uplifting ones. I can’t help an occasional negative thought entering my mind, but I can shoo it away as if it were a bird landing on my head; I don’t need to let it build a nest there. Bad thoughts can be replaced by many forms of positive self-talk. If your bad thoughts involve another, be an advocate for that person. Try to see the problem through another’s eyes or from a different point of view. Busy yourself (quickly) in some type of positive activity. Look up, not down. Pray. Express gratitude. “A noble and Godlike character is not a thing of favor or chance, but is the natural result of continued effort in right thinking, the effect of long-cherished association with Godlike thoughts. An ignoble and bestial character, by the same process, is the result of the continued harboring of groveling thoughts” (James Allen).
When I have unused items, I have to remind myself that it is better to sort and discard rather than accumulate piles of clutter. I have found that if I regularly rid myself of undesirables, my life is more manageable and I have peace of mind. It’s easier to maintain order day by day than to tackle a daunting stockpile. This principle has a spiritual counterpart: REPENTANCE. The key is to regularly repent of mistakes day by day rather than letting them build up into a huge job to perform. Long standing habits make repentance more difficult. Repentance is not an incidental or casual thing. In ancient times, wise King Benjamin taught his people the principle of “retaining a remission of your sins from day to day” (Mosiah 4:26). There is merit in keeping spiritually clean from day to day. Repentance and forgiveness need to occur in a regular pattern of daily orderliness. My goal is to implement these principles in my spiritual as well as temporal life.
What ways have you found to de-clutter your life?