At age 25, I walked out of the optometrist’s office wearing my first pair of glasses, and was startled to read distant street signs. Everything suddenly appeared with sharp edges and clear focus instead the normal blur. I didn’t know that putting on corrective lenses would transform my world so dramatically. I didn’t even know I needed glasses! There is a spiritual parallel here. My spiritual vision comes into clear focus with an understanding of Christ’s magnificent Plan of Salvation. It answers deep questions of the soul, such as: Where did I come from? Why I am here? What is life’s purpose? Where will I go after death? This Plan explains how I can be happy in this life as well as how to prepare to return to God and learn to become like Him. Without this understanding, life would be blurred and fuzzy. I would not know who I am, rather view my worth by the world’s faulty measure. Without this understanding, life would lack purpose. Without this understanding I would be lost, lonely, and frustrated. I would ask: Why do bad things happen to good people? Follow the link for answers to these questions: http://www.mormon.org/beliefs/plan-of-salvation
What is a covenant and why is it an important concept of religion? In secular language, a covenant is an agreement between two or more individuals. In a religious context, a covenant is a two-way promise made with God. Heavenly Father fixes the terms of the contract as well as the blessings to be received as we strive to keep our promises. “When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:21). At baptism we covenant to serve the Lord and keep His commandments. When we partake weekly of the sacrament, we renew that covenant and declare our willingness to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ. We become His sons and daughters. We promise to always remember Him and to stay worthy, through repentance, of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. In return, God promises us eternal life—the greatest of all the gifts of God—which is to continue in progression to receive all that the Father has. God promises that we may become joint heirs to the blessings of an eternal family, as promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their posterity. Thus, celestial marriage is the covenant of exaltation, which is the highest kingdom of God. I find Reasons to Rejoice in my destiny as a son of God. With inexpressible gratitude, I renew my covenants with Him each week.
The word hope is sometimes misunderstood. In our everyday language, the word often has a hint of uncertainty. For example, we may say that we hope for a change in the weather or a visit from a friend. That kind of hope is merely a wish. But in the language of the gospel the word hope is sure unwavering and active. Prophets speak of having a “firm hope” and a “lively hope”. In this context “hope is the confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness.” The scriptures often speak of hope as anticipation of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. When we have hope, we trust God’s promises. We have a quiet assurance that if we do the works of righteousness, we “shall receive [our] reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23). This kind of hope puts a spring in my step and a smile on my face. This kind of hope makes me want to get up every day and try again. This kind of hope gives me great Reason to Rejoice.
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.
How can I get out of a situation that doesn’t feel right to my soul? The answer can be really simple, especially if I decide beforehand how I will handle it. “If a TV show is indecent, turn it off. If a movie is crude, walk out. If an improper relationship is developing, sever it. Many of these influences, at least initially, may not technically be evil, but they can blunt our judgment, dull our spirituality, and lead to something that could be evil. An old proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step—so watch your step” (Jeffrey R. Holland). A wise leader once said that in her early teens she wrote a list of things that she would do in her life, and another list of things that she would never do. Over many years, she has remained true to that list. Deciding beforehand what actions I will take in a variety of circumstances will provide courage to make difficult choices in a moment of wavering. For example, I have already decided that while watching a film, if an inappropriate scene appears or crude language batters my ears, I will immediately switch channels or walk out of a theater. The decision is made in advance so that there is no need to weigh pros and cons in the moment.
Why does the media show so much violence and destruction, as opposed to acts of kindness and charity? One theory is that broadcasters want sensationalized stories to increase their audience. Is this really the case? Do people actually prefer violent messages more than uplifting ones? The appetite for violence is like a drug, demanding increased intensity to satisfy. Consider the gaming industry and films in theaters. Personally, I want to be aware of current news, but am disappointed when equal time isn’t given to stories of goodness. It’s like eating a steady diet of junk food. It may taste good going down, but will leave a person feeling sick afterward. Of course it is unhealthy. Shouldn’t we also consider what we feed our minds? If we continually feast on the violent diet provided by the media, which is focused on criminal acts, perversions, and travesties, we will develop a warped perspective of mankind. This unhealthy diet can also contribute to pessimism and depression. “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45). There is so much good happening in the world that the media misses. We can choose what we will watch or read. We can pursue decent films, uplifting channels, worthy articles and books. We can seek out and celebrate all worthy examples of charity and kindness, which will give us many Reasons to Rejoice daily.