So my realization last Sunday was that I had the power to overcome these weaknesses that keeping popping up in myself. I can do hard things. This last week, I've been content. I've been happy and anxiety-free because I know that things will work out. My weaknesses aren't dark clouds of crap overpowering my life. They are stepping stones, and if I take them one at a time, I will become the person I need to be. It was a healing week for me.
I gave a talk on Sunday about getting up and reaching the potential in us, so that will be my post this week. As a sidenote, however, I'm realizing how dangerous it is to glide by in life and not pursue passions. I'm taking it easy right now with my thesis finished and I'm seeing that idleness can crop up when we don't actively look for ways to improve ourselves and uplift those around us. It should be a constant consciousness. That's my new thought for the post. I'm still munching on it so it's a little unformed, but here is my talk:
Today I wanted to speak on reaching our potential and becoming who God wants us to be. That’s why we’re here, but it can be so easy to forget in the ups and downs we experience every single day. President Uchtdorf put it well this General Conference when he said, “Our Heavenly Father sees our real potential. He knows things about us that we do not know ourselves. He prompts us during our lifetime to fulfill the measure of our creation, to live a good life, and to return to His presence. Why, then, do we devote so much of our time and energy to things that are so fleeting, so inconsequential, and so superficial?” Recently, I’ve been humbled in this realization. I feel like everybody knows the truths of this gospel. We know why we’re here. We know what we have the potential to become. Sometimes, though, we lose momentum. We get caught up in the trivial and we don’t feel the motivation to aspire higher. So, through my talk, while you won’t necessarily be learning anything new, I hope that your hearts will feel the power of this concept. Because it is when we feel the truth of the gospel that we actually live it.
Developing Christ-Like Attributes
Neal A. Maxwell says that, “For the serious disciple, the cardinal attributes exemplified by Jesus are not optional. These developmental milestones take the form of traits, traits that mark the trail to be traveled.” So our accomplishments and our progress are not necessarily measured by life events. Rather, our progress can be measured by the traits we’re developing that help us become more like our Savior. When I think of my life being measured by who I am, it makes me realize how I’m doing and where I’m going.
This is where I could talk for hours about the characteristics I need most in my life. But I felt like I should focus on one particular trait that I think will help us become more like Christ than any other pursuit. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” The idea of meekness is generally very quaint and nice, but not sought after. Yet it is Christ’s defining characteristic. It is the process of submitting our will to the Father’s and consecrating our performance unto Him. It is the ability to recognize our weaknesses and put them aside for something better. It is the essence of Christ’s love, power, and attitude. Meekness is a peace of mind. As Neal A. Maxwell says in his talk, “Meek and Lowly,” “The ‘rest’ promised by Jesus to the meek, though not including an absence of adversity or tutoring, does, therefore, give us the special peace that flows from ‘humbleness of mind.’” This humbleness of mind is the key to meekness and it is the key to overcoming challenges and progressing. When we are meek, we understand the role of God in our lives, and can thus use our experiences as stepping stones rather than burdens, so that we can become more like our Savior.
How to Change Part 1: Feeling Desire to Change
So how do we change? The first step in becoming more like God is being meek and humble enough to desire to change ourselves. Quentin L. Cook spoke about this in General Conference. He references Alma 5 when discussing the desire to be like God. Alma 5 Verse 9 says, “And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved.” Verse 26—”And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?”
How to Change Part 2: Exercising Agency
This is the feeling I mentioned earlier, when we feel the truth of the gospel, our souls can expand. Isn’t that an awesome way to describe it? Have you ever felt that expansion when you resolve to be better? Our minds comprehend more truth, our spirits seek more correction, and our hearts feel more love—both from our Heavenly Father and for those around us.
The second step in becoming more like our Heavenly Father is to exercise our agency and act! In Alma 5:33, it says, “Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.” By being meek and humble, we can feel the empowering effects of the Atonement to act—to change our attitudes and behavior and become more like God.
Application: How to Improve Ourselves
So what are some things we can do right now? First, like it says in Alma, we can use the Atonement. Elder David A. Bednar said, “I suspect that you and I are much more familiar with the nature of the redeeming power of the Atonement than we are with the enabling power of the Atonement. It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us. That is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us—not only to direct us but also to empower us.” A couple weeks ago, I felt like all of my discouragements were culminating into one big mess. I was so upset because I’d become a creature of circumstance rather than a creator of circumstance and I wasn’t anywhere near the person I wanted to be. So last week, I hit my low point. I didn’t know where to begin to improve myself because there is so much to do! I prayed hard for help and was reminded of this principle that we can use the Atonement simply to have the power to start acting on our improvements! So I started praying simply for the ability to change because I didn’t have that power in myself. And then, miraculously, my weaknesses didn’t seem like an overwhelming blob taking over my life, but more like small steps I needed to climb, line upon line, to come closer to my Heavenly Father. It was so encouraging, and this is how our Heavenly Father sees us. He motivates us by showing us who we can become. Brothers and sisters, the power of the Atonement can help us not only cleanse ourselves from sin, but it can put us in the mindset to manage ourselves. It can enable us to overcome our weaknesses one trait at a time.
Another important step to improving ourselves is to keep open our communication lines with God. When we pray and read the scriptures with full and searching hearts, we allow God’s spirit to be with us in the moments when we decide how to act. One way I’ve been able to gauge my spiritual progress is by recognizing when I’ve stopped looking for divine guidance every day. I promise you, brothers and sisters, when you look for promptings from God each day, you will find them. As Elder Maxwell said, “It is clear that [Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ] are giving away the secrets of the universe!” We have access to these sacred truths if we keep our eyes open and hearts prayerful, we’ll recognize them when they come and have the desire and the power to act!
Third, we need to attend the temple. All of us know the feeling after coming out of the temple where all of our temporal concerns seem so insignificant. The temple is a place that reminds us of our most important tasks. President David O. McKay said, “I believe there are few, even temple workers, who comprehend the full meaning of the power of the temple endowment. Seen for what it is, it is the step-by-step ascent into the Eternal Presence. If our young people could but glimpse it, it would be the most powerful spiritual motivation of their lives.” I know that if we keep the temple central in our lives, it will only be natural that we become more and more like our Savior.
Lastly, we need to keep it up and continue to build on this process of improvement. Elder Bruce C. Hafen said, “‘Endure to the end,’ we say, as if that means relaxing in some eternal rocking chair… But it’s not quite that simple. On the contrary, receiving the Holy Ghost marks the beginning of our real spiritual growth, not the end of it. Baptism and the Holy Ghost only let us enter ‘in by the gate.’ Then the Holy Ghost leads us along the ‘strait and narrow path’ of becoming sanctified disciples—not as passive spectators but by our straining every spiritual muscle, drinking in the power of temple ordinances, and feasting actively on Christ’s words to nourish us in becoming ever more holy. And the long-term goal of that journey is to become like Him.” Brothers and sisters, this discipleship is not a passive lifestyle. But how wonderful it is that even though we are so far from perfect, Christ invites us to be like Him. And just by inviting us, Christ is telling us that perfection is possible. I know we can become perfect, brothers and sisters; someday, we can be as our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. I invite you to search your heart and find traits you would most like to develop right now. Use the Atonement and continue to reignite that desire in you to be better. “Don’t ignore the impulses that come to you to rise above yourself into a higher and more beautiful world” (Eyring). I promise you that you will be amazed at the person you can become.
Have a wonderful week. Do something that stretches you, and know that God loves you and will help you reach your potential if you turn to Him with full purpose in your heart.
Love you all,