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.
If I want to learn how to change the oil in my car, I won’t seek the answer from a medical doctor. If I want to learn how to play rugby, I won’t ask an organist. It’s obvious that when we have questions, we seek out the experts in that particular field. After teaching the people, Jesus Christ instructed them to: “Go ye and learn what that meaneth” (Matthew 9:13). The Lord likewise wants me to research out answers to my questions and ponderings. But not all resources are alike in accuracy and authenticity. If I want answers to gospel questions, for example, I will go to the official Church website (lds.org) and study what prophets and apostles have to say about my question. I will also go to my scriptures. I will check the topical guide to direct me to verses which will clarify points of doctrine. As I research, ponder, and pray for help, the Holy Ghost will verify truth to my soul. Parts and pieces will slip into place as with a jigsaw puzzle. It will be an epiphany of light and knowledge. I must exert effort and desire in order to activate God’s power. I will advance in knowledge and refinement as I research accurate sources of information to solve my questions.
Righteous routines and holy habits are those little things I should regularly do and feel to draw close to the Savior—who gives me the enabling power to resist temptation and deception, stay true to my covenants, and find joy. This is my personal list:
Things to do daily:
- Pray morning and night.
- Study scriptures.
- Exercise and make healthy eating choices.
- Offer kindly service to someone.
Things to do weekly:
- Attend church and partake of the sacrament.
- Plan family time together.
- Record insights, special moments, and gratitude in my journal.
- Attend the temple and pay tithing.
Attitudes to feel continually:
- Demonstrate an attitude of gratitude.
- Be teachable and eager to learn.
- Smile and reflect joy in each new day.
- Learn to see and celebrate the best in others.
What have I left out? What is on your list of righteous routines and holy habits?
Where to dump unwanted feelings?
There was a day when my feelings were wounded by a person’s careless, perhaps unintentional words. Some pain is compatible with the Spirit, but this was not. It consumed my thoughts and furrowed my brow. I wanted to get rid of these feelings, but didn’t know how. As if holding a huge bag of trash, I frantically looked for a place to discretely discard my load. I prayed for help and reached for my scriptures. They fell open and my eyes landed directly on these verses: “Sue for peace…Lift up an ensign of peace…make a proclamation of peace…make proposals of peace…unto those who have smitten you, according to the voice of the Spirit which is in you, and all things shall work together for your good. Therefore, be faithful, and behold and lo, I am with you even unto the end” (D&C 105:38-41). I leaned back and closed my eyes, letting the words fill my soul. There were four references to peace, each with a different action verb, something I could do. I could request, summon, exemplify, stand up, speak and invite peace. It was all about peace. These words soothed me like loving arms. My silent prayer had been heard. The process of healing had begun.
Broken Fences Require Immediate Attention
Do your “fences” need mending? During fence inspections on our ranch I noticed well-worn trails adjacent to the fence indicating that our animals had walked along this fence looking for any weak areas where they might escape. Interestingly, on the other side of the fence a similar trail had been created by our neighbors’ animals looking for opportunities to come onto our property. Both saw the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. In my life I need constant reminding of the purpose and value of the fences. I should not look longingly for something that appears to be “greener on the other side.” It has been said that we should learn to appreciate what you have, before time makes you appreciate what you had. What fences are needed in my life? I want to protect my faith in Jesus Christ from outside, destructive influences. I do this by studying my scriptures daily, praying, weekly church attendance, serving others, and setting worthy goals to improve. When repaired properly, my fences assure I will conduct my life within a boundary of safety, keeping me closer to the Lord. What do you do to keep your fences in good repair?
I bolted out of bed to grab a pen while reading a line from Elizabeth Gaskell’s book, Cousin Phillis. A farmer, who was also a minister, prayed for his sick cow, but neglected one day to feed it the extra nourishment which would have given it a better chance of survival. After his prayer, the farmer chastised himself saying, “I was asking for blessing while neglecting the means.” I immediately applied this gem of insight to myself when requesting a particular blessing without doing all I can to bring about the desired result. I know Heavenly Father hears my prayers and desires to bless me. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11). But merely asking isn’t enough. I shouldn’t sit back passively and wait for blessings to drop into my lap, expecting God to do all the work. So I tried a little experiment. On one side of a page I made a list of blessings I had asked for in prayer that day, and on the other side wrote corresponding, specific actions I could take to bring about the desired result. I was astounded at how much more I could do in every case.