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Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Thou Shalt" Commandments

Hello friends!

There have been a few things stirring in my brain these past few weeks, so I decided now was the time to type them out.

Recently, I've noticed a disturbing trend in my life. I'm in the middle of several situations at once that require a lot of time, studying, and focus, and I've made myself a rigid schedule to follow some deadlines. I've never felt so productive this entire summer and it delights me to see how many aspects of my life are successful and noteworthy. I feel like all the events that I have control over are going better than I could have ever planned and am extremely grateful to my Father in Heaven for blessing me with these academic and occupational opportunities. However, I've noticed a lag in my Christ-like interactions. I have this checklist of attributes from Neal A. Maxwell's talk, "In Him All Things Hold Together" and more and more, I find myself drifting away from many of these good qualities. It is so easy for me to become sarcastic, condescending, easily offended, tactless, easily irritated, and judgmental, and these qualities come without my knowing it. I've come home several times in the past few weeks thinking, "That wasn't a very nice comment I made to so-and-so tonight," or wondering "Why am I so irritated by so-and-so's actions toward me?" It's a terrible habit, and I need to stop.

Yesterday, I read Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl as one of the books on my reading list for my thesis defense. I'd read it years before, but I'd forgotten what an impact it had had on me at the time. The title character is a homeschooled girl who comes to a public school and completely changes everyone's perspective about life--for a while. She changes the narrator's perception for the rest of his life. By the end of the book, I was crying. I'd realized that life could be so much more beautiful if I looked for all the beauty. As Neal A. Maxwell says, if we emulate Christ's generosity, "we will be living abundantly and not just existing."


Speaking of Maxwell, he also mentions in this talk, "The Pathway of Discipleship," that we should pay more attention to our sins of omission. As Maxwell says, "It is very often the sins of omission that keep us from spiritual wholeness because we still lack certain things...Yes, the avoidance of wickedness remains ever important, but the sins of omission also represent a haunting failure. How often, may I ask you, do we speak about the need for repentance concerning our sins of omission? Or how often do we make personal confessions of them to God?"

I've listened to this talk recently and realized that I may not be idle or unchaste, but I'm failing to be meek, humble, gentle, long-suffering, merciful, and gracious, and it is not enough to merely follow the "thou shalt not" commandments. Maxwell goes on to say:
One way of looking at the "thou shalt not" commandments is that these prohibitions help us to avoid misery by turning us away from that which is enticing but harmful and wrong. However, once we are settled in terms of the direction of our discipleship and the gross sins are left firmly behind—"misery prevention," it might be called—then the major focus falls upon the "thou-shalt" commandments. It is the keeping of the thou-shalt commandments that brings even greater happiness. True, as the scripture says, "Wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10), but neither is lukewarmness full happiness. Failing to be valiant in Christian discipleship will leave us without significant happiness. Therefore, our active avoidance of wickedness must be followed by our active engagement in righteousness. Then we can come to know true joy—after all, man is that he "might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25).
This perfectly describes what I'm feeling right now! My life has been completely lukewarm. But I want to be living abundantly rather than simply existing. This life is not just to exist, it is to live!

So, I pray for guidance in all of my conversations. I pray that my love for the Lord will not just emanate in my personal scripture study, but in my actions, my conversations, my daily doings. As D&C 108:7 says, "Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings."

In every interaction, I pray for the Spirit of God to stay with me. I pray for the strength to not only think, but to act and react with the Holy Ghost. I've started some projects of my own to show some friends of mine how much they mean to me (in the ol' Stargirl fashion), but I hope this motivation will become much more than projects; I hope this will become a way of life. Abundant life.

Love to you all,
Whit

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