Sunday, March 16, 2014


Charity is explained in the scriptures as "the pure love of Christ." I would compare it to the love that most humans share with other humans as the way a drop of water compares to the ocean.

One might ask, you love this person, but would you die for them? This question demonstrates a small piece of the difference between basic love and charity, but it is only a beginning. There are people I would give my life for in a heartbeat, but they are people who love me in return and bring me great personal joy. I could and would suffer many things for them; however, this doesn't really compare with what Christ did for us. He gave His life for all, including those whom He knows will never repent. He gave His life for those that would crucify Him; He gave His life those that would conspire against Him. He gave His life for everyone, no matter how recalcitrant and unworthy. No dividing lines were drawn.

Pondering such acts of love is almost stupefying; I at least cannot comprehend such purity and devotion. I think that the most noble things I do are at best vaguely similar this kind of love. Emphasis on vaguely.

The scriptures teach us that we are nothing if we do not have charity. At the same time, honest reflection likely points out that we do few to no things which equal the love evident in our Lord's redeeming sacrifice, or in other words, we have a long way to go to meet this commandment. Teachings such as this can serve as powerful reminders of our own need to rely on Christ, no matter how strong/smart/attractive/powerful/rich/whatever else we think we are.

For me, brushes with charity serve as an additional reminder. I know that charity is real because I have felt it, even if for fleeting moments. I have felt Christ's love for others only in moments of service, and in those moments it has been very obvious that it was not my love I felt. In an instant I contemplated a person's many faults and shortcomings, simultaneously feeling nothing but the desire to wrap them in my arms and stop all pain, reassure all self-doubts, and buoy up their spirits in every way. Some feelings defy the constraints inherent in language, but I pray that the Holy Ghost can carry the meaning to you.

Nothing is more real than the love that our Father and our Redeemer have for us. They love us completely and want to be intimately involved in our lives. Of this I am certain.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Self-Control Works Exactly How It Sounds

He who takes offense when offense was not intended is a fool, yet he who takes offense when offense was intended is an even greater fool for he has succumbed to the will of his adversary.
This quote is commonly attributed to Brigham Young. For me, there's obvious wisdom here: if I allow myself to be offended I'm giving up some control over myself to someone else. (Obviously, accepting this quote requires admitting that we're all foolish sometimes, but that's ok to me.) Its important to remember that I can ultimately decide how I feel; the more I develop self-control the more I can enjoy mastery over my own feelings.

The splendor of this idea is made obvious when we contrast this idea with the era of political-correctness; some in our society seem to believe that feeling offended is a righteous pursuit. I have heard many people suggest that you have no choice except to feel victimized if someone does certain things or says certain things. Freedom of choice is bestowed on all of us by God, and no one can take it from you if you don't let them.

Just like any discipline, this takes practice. We can start out small. Let's say: no one who is rude to me today means anything by it. Its probably something in his or her personal life. Often times, this is actually even a correct statement. Little by little, I develop more and more ability to be happy, despite how others may treat me.

As I work to develop more self-control there is a power beyond my own will available to me. Our Common Father blesses us with opportunities to develop self-control and helps us through them. I know because He helps me, despite my many short-comings. I know that He wants our freedom; He wants all of us to have the strength to choose, even if it is something we must work towards.

I believe in repentance. If someone offends me and I won't let it go, then in that moment I'm not showing much faith in repentance. If I can find the faith to leave it in the Lord's hands and not take offense, then my self-control will become a gift that keeps on giving; I gain more control of who I am and who I am becoming. This is the opposite of easy, and, like all Gospel ideals, is something we all need to improve.

I testify that God wants us to control our thoughts, our emotions, and our bodies. Through self-control, we can. We can eventually become free from all of the ills of the world, little by little, line upon line, precept upon precept.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Strength Through Humility

I've been thinking about how strong people who are truly humble become, or how we can all be strong in moments of humility. I think that in pretty much any circumstance we're better off being humble than being prideful, so let me present two brief case studies.

Case 1: I'm 90% sure I'm right about something.
- Humility: consider reasonable objections. If I'm right or if I'm wrong, considering these things appropriately will probably make me understand the idea better by the time I'm done.
- Pride: rule out other ideas. My 90% is better than most people's 110%, so why waste my time?

Case 2: I've reached my conclusion, but I am confronted with a challenge to my conclusion.

- Pride: discount all evidence to the contrary, and if eventually I can't deny it any more then I'll pretend I didn't really think that in the first place and claim people misunderstood.
- Humility: consider if there's merit to the challenge. If there is, think it through and decide whether or not to change your mind. Doing this with humility, when wrong, will help you change your mind.

   - What if you're right? Does humility require you to endlessly ponder being wrong? In my opinion you can accept certain things as proven and remain humble. This is why I say consider if there's a merit to the challenge.

Obviously these are very abstract case studies, but I think that being humble is more practical in almost all cases, if your objective is reaching the truth. These simple examples are backup for what President Benson eloquently taught: "Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression." I know these are hardly exhaustive examples, but I think that in just about any situation a humble person is likely to progress faster than a proud one.

However, we haven't yet discussed the strength from humbling ourselves before God. What if you knew that something you were doing was something God meant for you to do? Wouldn't it help you stick to it and help uplift you through difficult times? How could you gain that conviction? In my estimation, only someone who has humbled themselves and asked Heavenly Father can truly gain this conviction.

I remember a decision I had to make a few years ago. Essentially, I needed to decide whether or not I was willing to accept some additional responsibility. It was a situation where no one would've blamed me if I'd said no, which is what I fully intended to do. Fortunately, I received the inspiration to pray about it. When I did, the answer was unmistakeable: I needed to accept. It wasn't easy to carry out; the reasons I was going to say no were all obstacles that still had to be overcome, but knowing that it was what I was supposed to be doing sustained me. Eventually, I was able to measure up to the task. Looking back, accepting the responsibility has blessed me tremendously; it is among the best decisions I've ever made.

I wish I could sustain that decision-making ability always, but I have a very long way to go. I can say that when I look at my life with perspective I see that humility has blessed me and uplifted me, while pride has damned me, just as the prophet taught.