Monday, 14 May 2012

How Do We Gain The Vision Necessary To Do Those Things That Will Bring Us Closer To The Saviour?

(This post is very religious in nature - specifically my religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - but is my opinion only and is not indicative of official doctrine of the Church.)

Yesterday I gave a talk in church. It was like pulling teeth to get this talk together, so I was glad it was well received! Several people told me they enjoyed it afterwards; not a necessary reaction to a talk, but a nice one.

I wanted to share it here, because there was a lot of good stuff I found and thought it might be interesting or helpful to others. I also want to talk about how I structure my talks, and why it works well for me. I'll save that post for tomorrow!

(This is an uber long blog post; it took me about 15 minutes to read aloud.)

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As we journey through this life, we are often surrounded by voices that try to convince us of our lack of ability. We are tempted to look around at other people and compare our weaknesses to their strengths, and are convinced that we will always come up short.

But this is not how the Saviour sees us. He knows our true potential, our Godly heritage and our divine worth. Elder O. Vincent Haleck of the Seventy said:
The Savior saw more in those humble fishermen whom He called to follow Him than they initially saw in themselves; He saw a vision of who they could become. He knew of their goodness and potential, and He acted to call them. They were not experienced at first, but as they followed, they saw His example, felt His teachings, and became His disciples. 

How can we, like the Saviour, see a vision of who we can become? How can we look around us, and instead of comparing, contrasting, belittling or begrudging, see our own and everyone else's goodness and potential? Like the disciples of old, in spite of our relative inexperience, we can gain a knowledge of the Saviours love by following His example, incorporating His teachings into our lives, and exercising faith.

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SEE OURSELVES AS THE SAVIOUR SEES US

I am a child of God
And so my needs are great
Help me to understand His words
Before it grows too late

This principle of our divine heritage is taught to the smallest child and the wisest adult. In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Paul taught us another facet of this doctrine:
16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
 17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

We are children of God. Our bodies are His temples. We can become like Him one day. This is a foundational tenet of our faith, and one that transcends our mortal existence with such majesty and beauty that it almost defies description and understanding.

Third President of the Church, John Taylor, did a great job of explaining our full potential.

What is [man]? He had his being in the eternal worlds; he existed before he came here. He is not only the son of man, but he is the son of God also. He is a God in embryo, and possesses within him a spark of that eternal flame which was struck from the blaze of God’s eternal fire in the eternal world, and is placed here upon the earth that he may possess true intelligence, true light, true knowledge,—that he may know himself—that he may know God—that he may know something about what he was before he came here—that he may know something about what he is destined to enjoy in the eternal worlds.

All human beings, male and female, are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.

One of my favourite General Conference talks this past April was by Elder Holland. In it, he warns us to flee from the sin of envy - of not comparing our lot to someone else's, but trusting in the Lord to see our true potential and worth.

When we see ourselves (and others) as the Saviour sees us, our capacity to love and serve is infinitely expanded. We not only catch the vision of our potential, but we ACT upon that potential and thus grow into the person the Lord sees within us.

To paraphrase Sheri L Dew, a counsellor in the General Relief Society Presidency several years ago, "Am I the person I think I am, the person I want to be? More importantly, am I the person the Saviour needs me to be?"

So what do we do to act upon our potential and grow into the person the Saviour needs us to be?

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OBEY COMMANDMENTS AND ACT UPON PROMPTINGS

The church website has a great section entitled "Study by Topic". Under the section labelled Holy Ghost, I found this definition:

Through the power of the Holy Ghost, we are sanctified as we repent, receive the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, and remain true to our covenants.

3 Nephi 27:20 says, "Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day."

Spotless. Faultless. Perfect. Is this even possible? Not without the Atonement. Not without Christ, and His teachings.

However, it is often worthwhile delving into the meaning of words, and their origins. The term "perfect" was translated from the Greek word "teleios." This means "complete" and is derived from the word "telos" which means "end." Russell M Nelson explained, "the word does not imply 'freedom from error'; it implies 'achieving a distant objective.'"

I am heartened by this perspective. Instead of getting overwhelmed by all I must do, I feel as if I can cope with achieving a distant objective, piece by piece, little by little.

Acting upon the promptings of the Holy Ghost is key. As a busy mother of four young children, I often struggle to be consistent with my scripture study. I recently made a renewed commitment to feast upon the words of Christ, but in the end I think I bit off more than I could chew! I bought special study journals, and began by delving into deep study every night after the kids went to bed. It was wonderful, enlightening, interesting, and completely unsustainable at this point in my life. I wanted to carry on, but I simply could not manage an hour each evening devoted to scripture study. My responsibilities weighed heavy on my heart, and my expectations loomed in front of me, like an impossible mountain. As I prayed about this situation, I was reminded that I just needed to read my scriptures. I did not need to become a scriptorian overnight, all I had to do was read. This may seem completely obvious, but I have a knack for not being able to see the forest for the trees. The Spirit enlightened my mind and answered my question.

In order for us to have a deeper understanding of the Saviour's vision of us, we need to exercise our faith, obey the commandments and ACT upon any promptings we receive. How do we do this? Any missionary or primary child could remind us of the 4th Article of Faith:

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are first, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

I would also add that we need that mighty change of heart - that doesn't happen overnight - and to endure to the end.

I am a list maker. It makes sense of the jumble in my brain and helps to create order out of chaos! One way I've found to seek out promptings of the Spirit: (Fasting can strengthen our resolve and draw us closer to the Spirit as we seek it.)

1. Search and Study: scriptures, general conference, talks, testimonies, lessons, keeping a church journal to record the teachings
2. Have a goal or question in mind
3. Ponder the messages received; allow them to inspire you
4. Act upon your inspiriation - do it promptly. Don't delay.

John 14:26 teaches us about following the promptings of the Spirit:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Elder Haleck said,

This is the same Holy Ghost who can empower and motivate us to do the things that the Savior and our modern-day prophets and apostles teach.
As we put into action the teachings of our leaders, we gain a deeper understanding of our Savior’s vision for us. Throughout this conference we have received inspired counsel from prophets and apostles. Study their teachings and ponder them in your hearts while seeking the Spirit of the Holy Ghost to help you catch a vision of these teachings in your life. With that vision, exercise your faith in acting upon their counsel.
Search and study the scriptures with a mind to receiving further light and knowledge of their message to you. Ponder them in your heart and allow them to inspire you. Then act on your inspiration.

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MISSIONARY WORK

President Monson said,

We are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness.... We are the Lord's hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us.

In October 1936, George Albert Smith said,

Our eternal happiness will be in proportion to the way that we devote ourselves to helping others.

My parents joined the Church before they met and were married. I was baptised at age 8. All my life, I've been taught about missionary work. I have been encouraged to share the gospel with anyone I came into contact with. I served a 6-week mini mission when I was 19 years old. As newlyweds, my husband and I served as ward mission leader and ward missionary. I always thought I understood what member missionary work meant, but recently I found that my idea of it was quite limited in scope. Spencer W Kimball's quote made me stop and think:

The cultivation of Christlike qualities is a demanding and relentless task - it is not for the seasonal worker or for those who will not stretch themselves, again and again.

If I truly want to do the things that will bring me closer to the Saviour, I won't necessarily have a comfortable existence!

Service in all its forms - from a purchase of the Big Issue, to a Stake-wide Helping Hands day, to Visiting and Home Teaching, Family Home Evening (regardless of our family size, age and composition) - can all impact a person's life more deeply than we may ever realise.

Once, many years ago when I only had two tiny children, my toddler was having a very loud tantrum in Tesco. Perhaps it was the stress of the moment, but it seemed like her screams echoed especially loudly that day! In the midst of my attempts to calm her, a woman came up to me, touched my shoulder and said, "You are doing a wonderful job." And then she walked away.

The service that stranger bestowed upon me not only bouyed me up in that moment, but helped me resolve to always uplift others whenever I can. The power of kindness can have effects that last a lifetime.

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.

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EXERCISE FAITH

I return to the words of Elder Haleck:

How do we, amidst the challenges of our lives, gain the vision necessary to do those things that will bring us closer to the Savior? Speaking of vision, the book of Proverbs teaches this truth: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). If we are to prosper rather than perish, we must gain a vision of ourselves as the Savior sees us.

Charity is defined as the pure love of Christ. If we are to emulate the Saviour to become like Him, Charity towards all is the way forward.

But let's be honest here; we all have challenges in our lives. Time is limited, as are resources. How do we lift others amdist our own trials?

The scriptures are full of examples of charity, as are many General Conference talks. Today, I would like to share a story from Daughters in my Kingdom:

Hedwig Biereichel, a sister in East Germany, provided food for starving Russian prisoners of war, even though she and her family could have been imprisoned or shot for such an act of charity.26 Years later, she was interviewed about her experiences, as were several others who had endured similar trials during World War II. At the end of each interview, the interviewer asked, “How did you keep a testimony during all these trials?” The interviewer summarized all the responses she received with this statement: “I didn’t keep a testimony through those times—the testimony kept me.”

Sister Biereichel's simple testimony of the power of exercising faith is a powerful witness of how any of us can overcome the hard things in our lives.

Elder Haleck explains:

When we study the life of our Savior and His teachings, we see Him amongst the people teaching, praying, lifting, and healing. When we emulate Him and do the things we see Him do, we begin to see a vision of who we can become. You will be blessed with insight through the help of the Holy Ghost to do more good. Changes will begin to come, and you will bring a different order to your life that will bless you and your family. During His ministry among the Nephites, the Savior asked, “What manner of men ought ye to be?” He replied, “Even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27). We need His help to become like Him, and He has shown us the way: “Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened”

Alma gives us an excellent formula for how to live, in Alma 7:23-24

23 And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.
 24 And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works.
Losing ourselves in the service of others brings us closer to Christ. We will be filled with His love for our brothers and sisters and consequently we will then see ourselves as the Saviour sees us.

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IN CLOSING

I love Elder Halecks final words in his General Conference address:

I bear you my witness of the Savior and His desire for us to return to Him. To do that, we must have the faith to do—to follow Him and become like Him. Throughout various times of our lives, He holds out His hand and invites us:
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29–30).
Just as the Savior saw great potential in His early disciples, He also sees the same in us. Let us see ourselves as the Savior sees us. I pray that we will have that vision with the faith and courage to do

Exercising faith in the Lord, serving others through missionary work of all types, acting on promptings of the Holy Ghost and obeying the commandments will give us the vision of great potential that the Saviour sees in us.

As I look back on the incidents in my life, I know this to be true.

I, too, pray that we all can catch the vision of the Saviour's love for us. Let us press forward with courage, love and hope.


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