Champion Character

champions

In my family, we have a three-part motto:

  1. Dream Big
  2. Work Hard
  3. Be Humble

I think these three things go together, each one building on the previous. We first need to have a vision, a big vision, for how we want to use our unique talents and gifts and passions to serve the world. Then, we need to put in the work to prepare ourselves to accomplish that big dream. Hard work is a prerequisite to success in any endeavor. But it could all be for naught if we lose our anchor, if we detach from reality and get big-headed and hard-hearted.

Grace has a gift for the middle platitude. She works fantastically hard, no complaints. She is physically and mentally strong as a result. She has chosen the big dream of working with horses — ideally, owning her own ranch. This is where I come in, as her mentor. I excel at dreaming big. I encourage her to always think bigger. If she ends up with her own successful ranch, I’m sure I will be encouraging her to franchise, or to give travelling clinics, or something I can’t foresee at this point. Dreaming big comes easily for me.

It also comes easy for Noah. He wants to be part of the liberty movement that will keep the world free and prosperous. He wants to create wealth so he can leverage it. He wants to be a successful husband and father. Yes, he thinks about all these things, even though he is still 13. He wants to Be Somebody.

I’ve noticed something. Those who dream big have a tougher time with the second two steps. Those who have the second two need help with the first.

Elias, for example, has no idea what his big dream should be, but he works hard every day on anything you ask. He also thinks very little about his own self. He has confidence but not vanity, nor pride. He is a “team player” and enjoys others’ successes.

This is why it’s great to have two (or more) mentors for the youth phase of learning. I mentor the children about discovering their big dream, and Steve mentors them on working hard. He is also the better example of being humble, but life has humbled me some, as well. 🙂

Grace created the artwork above, and I thought it was fitting for this post. Our youths, and us ourselves, are in the hours, weeks, and months of building champion character. We need to establish broadly the right mottos, attributes, attitudes, habits that will help us be successful in life. And what is success? To live, to love, to serve, to experience joy and share it with all around us.

We aren’t preparing for a particular performance (getting the right job, making a bundle of cash, snagging the perfect mate, etc.) but rather building a character that will enable us to contribute and enjoy what life brings. It’s not that Champions have no challenges, it’s that they have the character to overcome. This is the time our children have, when they are in our homes, where they can build it. And so can we.

I love the 90’s show Lois and Clark, a Superman show. In the “UltraWoman” episode, through a fluke circumstance, Lois gains superpowers and Clark loses his. Because the world still needs a superhero, Clark’s mother comes over to make a costume for Lois so she can fill the role. Lois is uncomfortable with supermanwhat Clark will think, knowing that it can’t make him  feel good seeing her do the job he was born for.

But to paraphrase Clark’s father, “Lois, Clark is strong. And I’m not talking about how much he can bench press. He’s strong where it counts, when it counts.” What makes Superman the greatest superhero is not that he can throw nuclear bombs out into space. It’s that he is unfailingly good.* He has Champion character, and the great news about that is: character is not a superpower. We can all build that. We can help our families build that. And the world needs it, when the performance moment comes.

Live & Learn

 

* Although the comics have at times messed with Clark’s goodness. The Lois & Clark show really plays Superman well. He’s not all-knowing, but he is well-intentioned. The comic writers have sometimes sacrificed character for drama, always a mistake.

NT On Joy…

JoyThis is the end of my semester studying the second half of the New Testament. My understanding of the principles I studied these past few months has boiled down to one word: joy. As I applied each of the principles, I found greater joy in living them. Here are some examples:

If I practice faith as a principle of action, I will have joy. (week 9)

Through faith…the worlds were framed. (Hebrews 11:3)

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Hebrew Saints clarified faith as more than mere belief, but as a principle of action. The power of faith as a tool, like a hammer, is inspiring. It asks to be used to build something wonderful.

I worked this semester at using my faith to build a new life for my family. Not an entirely new life, but one that transitions from life as a family of young children that necessarily has an inward focus and a stay-at-home lifestyle, to one with older youths that desires to be out sharing the light of the gospel with the world (or at least with our small community). I used faith to support my daughter in volunteering 40+ hours per week at a local horse stables, knowing that even outside my care the Lord is watching over her. I used it to support my son in taking on a missionary responsibility as president of his Deacon’s Quorum in reaching out to the many names on his roles. I used it to help my younger son join a learning program where he’ll be able to widen his social circle and thereby have more opportunities to share gospel truths with new friends.

And, most significantly, I used it to unify my husband and me on an issue we have struggled to be united on for a long time. It took faith to let go of the issue and trust that the best outcome will happen, with the Lord’s help. Interestingly, the moment I let go of what I wanted to see happen, the more opportunities presented themselves and things started to move instead of being stuck.

Faith is the foundation upon which all our spiritual lives rest. It should be the most important resource of our lives. (Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin)

The other day, I took a bike ride with my family. The trail was set along a gorgeous lake but was narrow, rocky, and root-strewn. The faster I went to keep up with my energetic boys, the more important it became for me to ride loosely and not try to control the bike’s every movement. If I gripped the handlebars too tightly and leaned forward, every bump hurt, and I nearly flew over the front when there was a big dip in the track. The same is true in life. You just have to ride through the bumps by keeping a light touch. As life gets more swift and complicated, if I keep trying to control everything, run it all myself, I am just going to biff it. Faith helps me let go a bit and float through the frantic bumps of life. God will keep me right as I ride along.

If I walk in truth, I will have joy. (week 11)

My favorite scripture of the semester came from John:

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (3 John 1:4)

At first, this principle rang true for me as a mother. When I see my children be kind to one another, when I see their compassion for a friend or grandparent, when I see them studying and memorizing scripture verses, I feel great joy. How much greater, though, is my Father in Heaven’s joy when I also walk in truth daily? My commitment to truth pleases God, and that in turn gives me great joy. Relationships are like that — the best kind, the considerate kind — where one gives joy to the other and it is returned. This semester I increased my commitment to live true, and I have felt an increase of joy as I have clarified and simplified my focus in this area.

After all, to try to live according to both truth and lies is confusing. It saps your energy to create stories about why something is okay to think, do or say, when it really isn’t. The more I responded to the Spirit’s nudge about how I should act or think, the more I felt my choices simplify. It became clear what priorities mattered and therefore my behavior flowed from those truths. The behavior that I sought from my children – genuine, authentic kindness and goodness – I found flowing from me, effortlessly. And, by the way, this increased my children’s ability to respond in the same way and life more truthfully, too.

Therefore, I learned that our commitment to live true increases the ability of everyone around us to do the same.

If I endure trials patiently to fulfill God’s will for me, I will have joy. (wk 6)

Even following the other two principles, I found that life is not perfect. Trials still come. They are a condition of mortality. As I have studied Paul’s life and writings this semester, I am amazed at Paul’s unfailing commitment to do God’s will, especially as he marched toward the end of his life and stayed true through persecution and imprisonment. What courage. When he was called to serve the Lord, the God said:

For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. (Acts 9:16)

Ouch! Paul did suffer, but he never wavered. He kept diligently, joyfully proclaiming the good news, even to mobs that sought him harm.

It makes me ask:

What am I willing to endure in order to fulfill the Lord’s will concerning me?

I will probably not be asked to die to accomplish God’s will. But I can show my commitment by my willingness to do the things that please Him.

Men changed for Christ will be captained by Christ…Their will is swallowed up in His will. They do always those things that please the Lord. Not only would they die for the Lord, but more important they want to live for Him. (President Ezra Taft Benson)

May I, like Paul, allow my will to be swallowed up by God’s will, to live for him. If I do, I believe my joy will increase no matter the circumstance, even in hard times, because I am aligning myself with the source of all joy.

NT Walk in Truth

The Apostle John wrote some epistles at a time when apostasy was threatening the Church. Even though it had been only a few decades since the death of Jesus Christ, false teachers were offering a different doctrine from that offered by the Apostles.

In 3 John, John writes to to Gaius, commending him for walking in truth and for having charity on both the Christians and on strangers. Clearly, Gaius had unselfish devotion to good.

In contrast, John berates Diotrephes, who loves to have preeminence among the saints, but “receiveth us not” but instead lifts himself up above the congregations of the Lord (footnote leading to Numbers 16:3). Diotrephes was a local leader who refused to recognize John’s authority.

I think John’s words can inspire modern-day Saints who remain faithful to Apostolic authority despite opposition.

In verse 11, John reminds them to:

“follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.”

This sentiment is echoed at the end of The Book of Mormon, when the final writer Moroni says

“Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.

“But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.” Moroni 7:12-13

Pretty straightforward, yes? I think that deep down we each know what is good and what is not.

But are there gray areas? Of course, and we don’t always have the wisdom to see the effects of different choices. Thankfully, like in John’s day, we have Apostles that clarify truth. I’m super thankful for both the ancient scriptures and modern communication to help us in our search for truth and good and right. President James E. Faust said:

“There is a certain arrogance in thinking that any of us may be more spiritually intelligent, more learned, or more righteous than the councils called [by God himself] to preside over us. Those councils [of modern Apostles] are more in tune with the Lord than any individual person they preside over.”

So let’s not be Diotrephes and think we can reject Apostolic revelation because we are smarter or cooler or whatever. Let’s be like Gaius and have charity to all while walking in truth.

My favorite thing about this letter is that in it we see John’s love for others and the joy he felt for those who were choosing a life of obedience and adherence to truth. I get this. When I see people seeking truth, accepting it, and sacrificing for it, I’m inspired. People every day change their lives for the better and turn away from false traditions or beliefs. It’s very courageous. We live in a world with great contrasts, and I want with this post to honor those countless souls who are courageous in following truth. My kids are among them, and I feel as John wrote:

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” 3 John 1:4

This is a good time to honor one of my favorite Apostles who walked in truth and took joy in teaching it all his life, Elder Packer. He was reassigned last week and will surely continue his mission in heaven.

Live True

How to build a habitable planet

astronomy

Noah took astronomy this past semester with Williamsburg Academy, and was inspired about the heavens and everything out there. Now, to back up a bit, Noah was age 12 at the time of the class, and it was a high school level course, so it was an experiment whether he could keep up with the workload and understand the concepts. Especially given that I was a full-time student and didn’t have time to help him much.

But, as a scholar, he had the opportunity to try. In reflecting on the experience, we decided that some things were easy:

  • attending class twice a week (plus live telescope sessions on occasion) – because the teacher was fantastic, thanks to Mr. Rees!
  • taking pictures and sightings of the day and night skies – this was fun and got the whole family more interested in celestial bodies.
  • using the online learning system (Canvas) since Noah had already been a student for several years with Williamsburg Intermediate.

Some things that were more difficult for Noah:

  • Keeping up with the weekly study guides. He found that he needed to read and research for these, and it was a stretch. At times, he felt overwhelmed. I think he may not have turned every one in. Or a few may have been late.
  • Taking weekly mastery assessments and a mid-term and final exam. He had to study the weekly guides to prepare for these. He found that he needed to pray before studying and then take the exam right after reviewing his notes. When he did that, he was most successful. At times, he had to leave an answer blank because he didn’t know it at all. All questions were short answer, no guessing possible.
  • Managing the overall workload was a stretch. There were ongoing projects like tracking solar shift and moon phases, as well as random telescope viewing reports and observation reports. He sometimes asked for me to spend time helping him organize the list of things to do or catching up on assignments.

Overall, I thought the things that were fun and the things that were a challenge both made this a fantastic semester for Noah. He knew that the class would “count” for his admission to college, so he cared about doing well, and caring is everything for Noah. If you’ve got a sweet youth that you’d like to see stretch a bit and do more proactive learning, classes from Williamsburg Academy are perfect, you might give them a try.

Here is a screencast of Noah’s final project in the class, which he did using the Universe Sandbox program to experiment with How to Build a Habitable Planet. (note that screencast doesn’t buffer as nicely as youtube, so it may hang up a bit.)


Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

http://www.screencast.com/t/BDD3V0VI

Live & Learn

* photo credit: aeirmid @deviantart.com

NT Building a forever house

aba-nigeria-temple-lds-273999-tabletMy husband is a builder, even though he doesn’t do it for a living right now. He is a builder at heart. I know whenever he is priming to build something new, because the first thing that comes out is the grid paper. He draws countless floorplans and elevations, considering the details and building it in his mind to solve avoidable problems. But if that was all he did, we wouldn’t have the home we have to live in, or the shop, or even the chicken coop (aka the chicken castle).

Imagining and planning is not enough, there must at some point be action. The reverse is also true: jumping in to build without the vision would be a disaster.

I think this is what the New Testament teaches in trying to help the early Christians understand about the relationship between faith and works. Between belief and acting on that belief. One does not exist without the other.

My husband couldn’t call himself a builder if all he did was draw pictures of what he wanted to build. In the same way, Matthew teaches us that:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

See? We can’t be a builder of the kingdom if all we do is study the Word at Sunday School. One cool way the Apostle Paul put it is that we are joint builders when we become Christians, joined with the master builder:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

Much later, John the Revelator saw in vision a time of judgement that affirms that we really have to have something to show for all our time on earth, faith notwithstanding:

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. Revelation 20:12-13

So basically, there comes a time when the Client does a final walk-through to see if we build a good house. At this point, the grid paper drawings that were so essential at the beginning are no longer needed. Of course, on the next project, we’ll begin the same way. The process, the principles, are true and solid.

The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi wrote about the importance of this joint building process in this way:

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. 2 Nephi 25:23

We build our eternal character by faith, by working our little hearts out, and by joining ourselves to the Master Builder and partaking of his grace to get the job done. This is a long-term project, a lifelong project, but it is the best way, the only way, if we want great neighbors, the best:

In my Father’s house are many mansions…And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2-3)

Live True

NT The Answers to all of Life’s Problems

One of my favorite things about scripture is the way it answers modern-day questions and situations. The word of God is just as relevant today as when it was written. Today I’ll be using the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians to answer some scenarios that modern-day Christians experience.

nt2-wk7b

Pettiness

I teach the weekly Gospel Doctrine class to a wonderful group of (mostly) very experienced church members, who have amazing testimonies and understanding of truth. So this happens but rarely, but we’ve all been in a class where the topic gets derailed by a squabble over a small detail. This small, petty matter can take over the weightier matter that is supposed to be discussed, and can cause contention to enter in and the Spirit of God to leave.

Be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, or one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (Phil.2:2-3)

In other words, it is much more important that we think of others in the conversation than that we vainly make sure our own point is driven home. Isn’t this the key to all relationships?

Standing on your own testimony

When kids are young, and youth as well, they often rely on the testimony of their parents and/or church leaders. Paul dealt with this in his “young” converts, yet he knew they had to grow to stand on their own when he left them alone. His letter encouraged them thus:

As ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Phil 2:12-13)

It is God that helps both our will (our desires) and our actions. A person’s relationship should be first and foremost with God, not with any man. We must teach our children to seek their own witness of truth, “that ye may be blameless and harmless…in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Phil. 2:15)

Don’t look back

It is hard to join a new faith, to leave behind cultural and family traditions. It was hard for Steve to do so when he joined the LDS church. He was lucky to have me to accept and encourage his new self. 🙂 But it is hard to make any life change, certainly one that is so complete and all-encompassing as a new faith. That’s why becoming Christian is characterized as a rebirth!

Paul has great (and funny) advice on entering this new life:

I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung! (Okay, I added the exclamation point.)… this one thing I do [keep focused on Christ], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. (Phil. 3:8,13)

And what is before him? “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14) His faith is so awesome and a great example to us: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil 4:13)

This, from the man who held the coats of those who stoned Christians, before his conversion. If he can let go of the past and focus on Christ, so can we. What a hopeful message. Let the baggage go. God doesn’t want us to be chained to earth but to learn to grow heavenly wings.

2 Nephi 32:3 wraps up this post, and I share its call. May we use this technique when we are trying to figure out how to handle any challenge or situation in life:

“Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Nephi 32:3)

Live TRUE

NT Paul’s Courage and Conviction

Acts 21-28

nt2-wk6aAfter three successful missionary journeys that took him into many lands, the Apostle Paul returned to Jerusalem even though he knew it was dangerous.

In fact, the events recorded in Acts chapters 21-28 show similarities with the conclusion of Christ’s mortal ministry:

Both Paul and Jesus Christ traveled to Jerusalem; on the way, both foretold hardships that would come upon them in Jerusalem; both faced a plot by certain Jews in Jerusalem; both were arrested and handed over to Gentile authorities; both were tried before the Jewish council and a Roman governor. (New Testament Student Manual for Institute)

Paul used the opportunities where he had to defend himself against unjust charges to bear testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ…an action that he must have known would surely make his situation worse.

[Paul will] bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. (Acts 9:15)

In Acts 21:10-14, Paul meets a prophetic person named Agabus, who says that the Jews at Jerusalem will bind Paul and deliver him to the Gentiles (Romans). But Paul answered:

I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

Paul understood what the consequences were if he followed the Holy Spirit’s direction to go to Jerusalem. He was willing, anyway.

When he does go into the city, he is mobbed at the temple, beaten and yelled at by thousands of Jews and finally cuffed and taken by the Roman chief captain. On the way to the castle to be questioned, he requests that he may turn and speak to the mob. So, on the steps of the castle, he turns to the mob who just beat him and have been yelling after him, and there is silence. What should he say into that silence?

Well, like any good missionary, he recognizes the opportunity to testify. He shares his own conversion story.

As I have studied Paul’s life and writings, I’ve been impressed with his willingness to change when he saw that he was wrong (as when he converted). I’ve also been impressed with his willingness to share the gospel (through extensive journeys to preach the good news). I’ve also been impressed with his endless patience and concern for the saints in all the letters he wrote to help the early Christians. He penned the bulk of the New Testament by writing these letters!

But most of all, as Paul’s life journey begins to march toward its end, I am amazed at his unfailing commitment to do God’s will. That kind of courage makes me admire Paul even more. It makes me ask:

What am I willing to endure in order to fulfill the Lord’s will concerning me?

I, or you, will probably not be asked to die to accomplish God’s will. But we can show our commitment by our willingness to do the things that please Him.

Men changed for Christ will be captained by Christ…Their will is swallowed up in His will. They do always those things that please the Lord. Not only would they die for the Lord, but more important they want to live for Him. (President Ezra Taft Benson, “Born of God” Oct 1985.)

nt2-wk6bMay we also allow our will to be swallowed up by His will, and live for Him. If we do, I believe our Joy will increase no matter the circumstance, even in hard times, because we are aligning ourselves with the source of all joy.

Live True

photos: lds.org

When you see someone pursue their passion…

IMGP0226It has been a year and a half since Grace made the difficult phone call to ask the director of our local horse stables if she could volunteer there once a week. She was thirteen, and agonized over the call, partly for fear of talking to a stranger, but mostly for fear of being turned down.

But she did it, and to her surprise, the director said yes on the spot, without meeting her first. Since then, Grace has spent every week at the farm, now going 3-4 days every week, and it has been a fantastic experience for her.

I have allergies, so I just do the driving. Actually, the allergies are my excuse. I also don’t get involved because horses are not part of MY life mission. But mostly, I stay out of it so that Grace can practice leadership in this endeavor. And, it’s working. According to recent mentor meetings with Grace (personal weekly interviews and goal-setting sessions), she feels that working at the farm has given her great confidence in her ability to do hard things and work with people of all ages and types.

In addition, she is even more convinced that horses are a significant part of her life mission, and she is more motivated to study and learn and gain skills that will help her be successful in all aspects of working with her equine friends.

So, does it work, to mentor a young person, to help her find her passion, and then “let go the reins” and see where it leads? For this wonderful young woman, the answer is: YES.

Is this what your intuition is telling you your child needs? Well, I’m here to tell you I don’t regret a thing about letting her self-educate and use her agency to see what she can do in the world.

Here she is, riding while a friend captured it:

Now, just to be clear, our family gives Grace $0.00 for the horsey endeavor, she doesn’t own a horse, and in fact, the horse she’s riding she has worked with for months because he is naughty and likes to buck people off. She is training him to be safe for younger riders. Grace doesn’t have advantages here, she has determination.

There is something exciting about watching someone take steps toward their life mission. Watching someone who is passionately engaged in a good cause, it’s wonderful to see. We all benefit when this happens, and we should quit standing in the way of it. It makes the world a brighter place.

Live & Learn

NT Being unashamed of Christ

In Romans 1:3-4, the Apostle Paul tells the Romans that Jesus is both heir to the king (David) and to God. How is this, and why is it important?

Well, Jesus had Davidic lineage, fulfilling a major Jewish prophecy that the messiah would come through David’s line and thus be royal heir, worthy to “save” the Jews as a warrior king to lead them in battle and throw off their oppressors. 1 Samuel 7:13 prophesies that the Lord will “[e]stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.” So Jesus fulfilled that prophecy, God keeping His promises to the covenant people (even though they broke the covenant in so many ways). But of course to save the world from death and sin took Godly power, complete and perfect, thus requiring Jesus to be the Son of God, the heir in the priestly sense.
In fact, we learn in John 10:17-18 that it is because Jesus was mortal that he could lay down his life, and because he was immortal he could take it up again, be resurrected. Both parts of his nature were essential.

So the Christ is both man and God, and his gospel is for men who want to be glorified as joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). The Apostle Paul, once awakened to the error of stoning Christians while traveling the road to Damascus, converted completely and was never ashamed of being Christ’s loyal follower (Romans 1:16). He was never afraid and preached tirelessly through personal missions and impassioned letters to the new Christian saints, whether of Jewish or Greek heritage.

We should all be like Paul, and never be ashamed of being Christians, of following the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is never admirable for people to be wormy and slither behind a rock when challenged on their beliefs, but even more so to be so weak in the defence of Christ’s gospel. Jesus Christ didn’t shrink from his (much harder) life mission, so how can we? I think Paul felt that way.

I think that we show we are not ashamed to be Christ’s disciple by living his truths, his commandments with JOY. When we joyfully go to sabbath worship instead of taking the motorboat for a spin, we show we are not ashamed, but committed. When we work hard to have a joyous marriage, we show we are not ashamed of the law of chastity and fidelity. When we offer our time, our talents and our tithes to help and serve others, we show we are not ashamed to live as servants for Christ. We are confident in our commitment to follow Him.

Romans 1:21–32 gives a pretty comprehensive list of the people’s sins of the day:

  • ungrateful, vain, proud, boasting, unmerciful
  • without understanding (without wisdom), foolish
  • lustful, dishonorable to their bodies, fornication, had vile affections, against nature
  • had reprobate minds
  • malice, backbiting, full of envy, covetousness
  • changed truth to lies, deceitful, covenant-breaking
  • hating God, despiteful
  • inventors of evil things
  • disobedient to parents
  • murder
  • dethroned God, made Him an idol, worshipped the creature rather than the Creator
  • basically, all unrighteousness, wickedness

Are these things any different from the problems of our day? How much more have we slid toward these things, as a people? And then, how much more important is it for us to be like Paul and be unashamed of living the right way, Christ’s way?

Elder Dieter F. Uchtorf had great advice on how we can be more unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ:

The most effective way to preach the gospel is through example. If we live according to our beliefs, people will notice. If the countenance of Jesus Christ shines in our lives, if we are joyful and at peace with the world, people will want to know why. One of the greatest sermons ever pronounced on missionary work is this simple thought attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” Opportunities to do so are all around us. Do not miss them by waiting too long…
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/waiting-on-the-road-to-damascus?lang=eng

preachgospelmeme

I really admire Paul and his passion for living and sharing the good news. So hey, maybe I’ll blog about it… 🙂

Live True

photo credit: ryanslds @ tumblr

NT Fleshy tables of the heart

The Apostle Paul gives a wonderful contrasting image in 2 Corinthians 3:1-3 when he compares the writing of something with ink or on stone tablets to writing things in one’s own heart. He says that the Spirit of the living God writes upon the “fleshy tables of the heart,” inferring that there stands a record in one’s soul of one’s commitment to God, His principles and commandments.

Is this true, figuratively? Are our beliefs and commitments etched in our hearts? And if so, how do others see what is written in our hearts?

I once heard a wonderful talk by a man named Hyrum Smith, who was a co-founder of the Franklin Covey company. It was about a model that drives human behavior, and he called it “The Belief Model.” I’m going to share it with you, as I think it answers this question.

belief-model

The idea is pretty simple. When you look at someone’s behavior (the end of the model) you can pretty much run it backward and tell what belief is on her belief window, and what need is driving that belief (hence the circle, or wheel, representing human needs, such as the drive to love and be loved, to live, to feel valued, and variety). How do people see what is written on our hearts? By our actions. They can see what we really believe, what we think will best meet our needs, by looking and our behavior. There is a real link between belief and behavior.

The exciting part about the model is the two end caps. If we are willing to measure the results of our behavior and evaluate whether the actions we take are meeting our needs (over time, since results take time to measure) we can find out if we have true principles on our belief window.

So, for example, one principle that is written on my heart is the belief that God is in the business of blessing me, not in cursing me. He is a “good” God. Because of this, even when I face a trial or challenge, I find myself looking for how this is meant to be a blessing, either directly or indirectly. I look for what growth I’m meant to have from the experience… and if it is particularly unpleasant, I try to learn that lesson REALLY FAST.

How did I get this belief written on my belief window? How did this belief get etched on my heart? It is through observing experiences in my life, and looking back, I see a pattern wherein all things have worked together for my overall good, and of those around my whom I love. I have looked at the results, the fruits, of this belief and find it to be a true principle.

This is the way John advises to know the truth of any doctrine or principle:

John 7: 17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

There is another way, that works together nicely with the empirical method. It is to pray to have the doctrines of God written on our hearts, to have correct principles on our belief windows (or, to have the strength and discernment to “repent” by casting aside incorrect principles, erasing them from our hearts). This works well when the results of our principles don’t seem to be meeting our needs. In other words, when the results take a lot of time to measure — maybe even a whole lifetime. Prayer gives us conviction that things will work out…eventually. 🙂

Moroni 7: 48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.

So what are some things you believe so deeply that it is as though they are etched upon your heart?

Related Scriptures:

2 Cor 3:1-3

1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or lettersof commendation from you?

2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:

3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the  heart. 

Psalm 40:8

7 Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,

8 I delight to  do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.

9 I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest.

10 I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy loving kindness and thy truth from the great congregation.

Mosiah 12:27

27 Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise. Therefore, what teach ye this people?

Mosiah 13:11

11 And now I read unto you the remainder of the commandments of God, for I perceive that they are not written in your hearts; I perceive that ye have studied and taught iniquity the most part of your lives.

Jeremiah 31:33

(In the last days…) 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Live True