Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Overcoming Unnecessary Guilt in a Gospel Context

How can we avoid the guilt that sometimes comes with the gospel? In other words, at times even when I am reading my scriptures and praying regularly I feel like I am not doing my part. I never feel like the Lord is happy with me.
            We know that guilt to the spirit is like pain to the body; it is an essential indication of the need to repent and better ourselves. It is not rare however for a saint to self-inflict themselves with guilt for one reason or another and this can be dangerous because it is depressing to put forth a valiant effort and still feel like you are coming up short, so how can this be avoided? How can we eliminate guilt that is the cause of our incorrect perception and not actually caused by sin? First we need to make sure we know that perfection is not a prerequisite to grace. In Doctrine and Covenants 39:4 Christ says, “…Even so will I give unto as many as will receive me power to become my sons.” This is so important that we get the order of events right. First we receive Christ and then we have power to become his sons, or become like He is. Often times we flip this concept and think that we need to become like He is by our own strength and then we can enter into his grace. That is a false and dangerous idea because we will never be good enough for Christ, but he is willing to accept us as we are, if we just allow him to.
            Another important thing that will help us remove some of our guilt is to be more liberal in our speech of Christ’s grace. We often say that thoughts lead to words, but I think it’s almost more powerful in reverse, words lead to thoughts. If we vocalize the gratitude we have for Christ and his atonement, we will start to think more on the grace he has given us and less on the criticism we give ourselves. God knows how important this is and so he has given us a commandment in Doctrine and Covenants 25:12-13 “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea a song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads. Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice…” The Lord has not only told us to praise Him, he has given us the very words. We should never underestimate the power of a hymn. Too often we see hymns as fluff. If we need to save time in a meeting we cut out the hymn, but I feel that hymns are essential in assuring that our focus is on Christ’s grace and mercy. 
            One more thing that we can do to remove some of the guilt we feel is found in Doctrine and Covenants 27:2 “…It mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory- remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.” If we partake of the Sacrament with an eye single to the glory of God then we will have a stark remembrance of the sacrifice that Christ made for us. If we have the perspective that Christ wants us to have we will realize that our lives are worth the life of a God. In his book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis wrote (from the perspective of a demon) “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” Satan isn’t necessarily telling us all the time that we’re worthless, he’s just fighting to make sure we don’t remember how much we’re really worth. Taking the sacrament with the right perspective will overcome that tactic of the enemy.

            As 2 Nephi 2:25 teaches, we were made to have joy. Just because perfect obedience amplifies that joy, it should not be a prerequisite to joy in general. We just have to learn how to see us from God’s perspective. 

Good, Better, Best... and Best?

We often hear about 'good, better, best' decisions. How do we choose between two seemingly 'best' options?

    The path to the Lord is straight and narrow, but it doesn’t mean that there is no room for variation. Not every person has to follow the exact same course of action to be able to successfully return to God’s presence. In fact, God wants us to learn how to act for ourselves as explained in Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-27, “For behold it is not meet that I should command in all things… Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” This might be a scary principle to apply in our lives because we may feel like God has a path for us, and even though these two decisions both seem good, how can I be sure that I didn’t miss out on some of the blessings by picking the wrong path. The Lord assures us that we can be confident in our decisions in Doctrine and Covenants 58:28, “…And inasmuch as men do good, they shall in nowise lose their reward.”

    Maybe in the past we have felt good about a decision and then it ended up not being the “best” like we thought it was. This shouldn’t make us afraid of continuing to act for ourselves in the future. Sometimes the Lord will wait for us to go down the wrong path before instructing us, as was the case with the elders traveling to Missouri. They asked God if they should travel by land or canoe and received the answer that it didn’t matter to the Lord. They chose to travel by canoe and then the dangers of the river forced them to the banks and they had to continue on foot. When the elders questioned why they were permitted at all to travel by water the Lord responded, “I suffered it that ye might bear record; behold, there are many dangers upon the waters, and more especially hereafter;” (Doctrine and Covenants 61:4). When the Lord doesn’t give us specific direction, and both options seem “best” we should proceed with faith and trust that if we go the wrong way, the Lord won’t let us get far without correcting our course.