“And this I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me.” – Ether 1:43
“And this I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me.” – Ether 1:43
There is a sure way to absolute misery:
Feel sorry for yourself.
Here’s how you do it:
Remember all the inconsiderate or even rude things your spouse or family members or co-workers have done to you, and continuously rely on those memories to nurse your feelings of hurt, disappointment, or sadness. Bask in the injustice of the malice, scorn, or persecution others have unfairly heaped upon you. Do any or all of these things and you build for yourself the perfect prison cell of perpetual grief and unhappiness. Satan’s great trick is to convince us we have been wronged by somebody else. Self sorrow invites enmity into your life; and enmity allows Satan to have influence over you. If you are unhappy and believe others are to blame, YOU ARE REALLY THE ONLY ONE CAUSING YOUR UNHAPPINESS.
There is, of course, another way. That way, as with all goodness available to us in this life, comes through Jesus. Only when we TRULY let go of all self sorrow–not holding onto even one little ounce of it for any reason–can we be made whole through Christ. Are you willing to give away all your sins to know God? Self sorrow is a big sin. There can be no place in our hearts for self sorrow if we are to accept and come unto the Lord. That’s why of us it is required to forgive all men–because it’s the only way we can be happy. Ask Father to help you give away all your hurt feelings to the Savior. He can and will take them away. He can make you whole.
As carefully as we guard against the introduction of immoral thoughts and feelings into our minds and hearts, we should also vigilantly guard against allowing any self sorrow to have place within us.
At some point, for all true believers in Christ, the most pressing religious question that emerges is whether or not one’s spiritual or religious efforts are acceptable to God. It seems, also, that those having fallen prey to false and vain religious practices consistently develop an answer to that question which relies on their own assessment of their efforts, rather than pressing forward for a more objective, meaningful response from God.
A couple of weeks ago in Church, our Priesthood instructor asked if it was fair to assume that we were all headed to the celestial kingdom even though none of us had gone through trials anything like what other known recipients of exaltation (like Abraham or Joseph Smith, for example) had been required to pass through. The reaction was strong and indignant. One brother postulated that we had not been called to pass through such hardships, while others had, because others (like Abraham and Joseph Smith) had needed to go through such trials, while we do not. This orientation hearkens back to the Gospel of Blessings, which is linked closely to the Gospel of Cushiness, in which the ease of a soft life is desired above all (i.e. prayed for, hoped for, and even expected among the devout), and generally seen as a sign of God’s validation among the religiously ineffective.
That’s why Mormon’s words at the end of the Book of Mormon are so valuable:
“it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.” (Moroni 7:37; see verses 35-38)
Angels serve as a clear, objective way to know whether one’s religion is active or inert. If there are angels involved in your life, your religion is working. If there are no angels, there is no faith, your religion is broken, and you are deluding yourself to believe otherwise. That’s why this blog carries the name it does. If we as Latter-day Saints are so dang holy then how come there are no angels showing up any more? I am not a holy person. My religion is, so far, vain and ineffective. But at least I recognize it. At least I hope and long for more. At least I recognize my nothingness before God and hope and pray that one day He will help me overcome my faithlessness.
There is a way out. It was made clear under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Lectures on Faith:
“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. … It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they, in like manner, offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain a knowledge that they are accepted of him…From the days of righteous Able to the present time, the knowledge that men have that they are accepted in the sight of God is obtained by offering sacrifice…Those, then, who make this sacrifice, will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God; and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and through the knowledge thus obtained their faith became sufficiently strong to lay hold upon the promise of eternal life, and to endure as seeing him who is invisible;…But those who have not made this sacrifice to God do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty to their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty are there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time. (see Lectures, Sixth Lecture, paragraphs 7-12, pp. 58-59).
A couple of months ago, while walking, I noticed a work of art depicting two people fighting. How sad, I reflected, that our society would exalt violence and strife to the point of enshrining it in a solid mural, displayed for all to see from a public sidewalk.
Intrigued, I stepped closer.
At some point, only after getting close enough to notice some ambiguity in the facial expressions of the “fighters,” did I begin to realize that my initial assessment had been wrong.
These people weren’t fighting, they were old friends engaging in an embrace of friendship.
How beautiful, I reflected, that our society would exalt reunion and reconciliation to the point of enshrining it in a solid mural, displayed for all to see from a public sidewalk.
“And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.” (Genesis 33:4)
What if the desire to be good is a diversion from what really matters most, which is what one wants?
In my attempt to be a good person, I grab onto some act or accumulation of good works from the past as justification of my goodness. In so doing, I ignore the continuous passage of time (the continuous series of instantaneous “now” moments) and focus on whatever thing or things I did in the past, attempting to determine my current status with God as a result or function of my previous activities. By thus defining myself as good, I may assign a status to my current self that ignores my ongoing (and most importantly current) relationship with God. I may have had good desires in the past. But any attempt to use those previous instances of wanting God or what He offers to tell myself I am good, especially when the desires of my heart are not oriented toward God in the present moment, lay a quick and easy foundation for apostasy and self deception.
That’s why the only question that really seems to matter is: What are the desires of my heart right now–at this very moment? If they are not drawn to God and His offer of freely and always-available love, then does it really matter if I can revert to a checklist of seemingly righteous behavior from the past to lull myself into a sense of carnal security and self righteousness? If the only question that matters is what I really, truly want at this exact moment, then would I not be better off to completely dispose of the concept of trying to be good, and focus only on wanting God right now in this very moment? Would not turning to God and living be just that? Such an existence becomes more clear; either I desire God or I desire what this world has to offer. That makes things much easier to understand. Either I turn to God and live (which is repentance), or not. Those are my two real, mutually exclusive choices.
“Revelation no longer comes by vision, but in the ‘still, small voice,’ like that heard by Elijah.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley in The Washington Times, Dec. 3, 1996, page A8.