Monday, February 13, 2012

Be Nice

I was grocery shopping with my sister a couple of months ago when a man approached me. He told me his wife had sent him to buy water chestnuts and asked me if I knew where (and what) they were. I replied that I did not, but I eventually found them by the Asian food (if you ever need to know) and soon after, the man found them too. As he grabbed a can off the shelf, he looked at me closer and said, "You look familiar. Do I know you?" I asked him what high school he went to. Not the same as me. I asked him his name and then BAM! It hit me! This is how the conversation went:
Me: "You were SO MEAN to me in 7th grade!"
Him: "Oh man. That was so long ago. Can you really hold it against me?"
Me: "One day I wore my hair in a ponytail. The next day I wore it down and you said my hair looked like a ski jump."
Him: "I'm so sorry. Really, but that was a long time ago."
Me: "Don't worry about it. How are you?"
We then had some awkward small talk and went our separate ways. I am not bitter towards him anymore. I am glad he is doing well. I even feel a little bad that I brought the past up. But the lesson remains: Think before you speak unkind words. The adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me" is not entirely true. I was vulnerable in 7th grade. I had just moved to a new area and had no friends at school. Add to that the insecurities that come with being a preteen and you get one extremely shy, self-conscious girl. The truth is, this boy's constant teasing in 7th grade made my life miserable. He and one other girl would team up to bully me daily in History and English class. The ski jump remark sounds funny now, but combined with the many other insults they dished out, it was not funny at all. 7th grade was so bad that I asked for a boundary waiver and changed schools. That was the beginning of a better life for me.
I recall a story I heard in a sacrament meeting talk. A father told his son to hammer some nails in a fence. He said that the nails are hurtful words we say to each other. He then instructed his son to remove the nails from the fence. That signifies saying "I'm sorry". Even though the nails were gone from the fence, the hole they left remained. The hurt from unkind words may still linger, because words once said cannot be undone. Jesus Christ taught us “that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). Of course, we should refuse to take offense and forgive people who are mean to us, but it is easier said than done. Deep wounds need time to heal.
The scriptures give us counsel concerning our speech with one another:
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good . . . be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4: 29, 32).
How can we follow this counsel to, as the hymn speaks, "Let us oft speak kind words to each other"? By developing charity, the pure love of Christ, for all mankind. We need to love one another. "The real challenge that we face in our communications with others is to condition our hearts to have Christlike feelings for all of Heavenly Father’s children. When we develop this concern for the condition of others, we then will communicate with them as the Savior would. We will then warm the hearts of those who may be suffering in silence. As we meet people with special needs along life’s way, we can then make their journey brighter by the things that we say" (Elder L. Lionel Kendrick, General Conference October 1988).
I will be more careful in the way I speak to God's children. I can be more kind, more patient, and more loving. I am glad I ran into my old middle school nemesis! My own experience reminded me how important it is to speak positively. A seminary teacher taught me that before I speak, I should review the following questions:
Is it kind?
Is it positive?
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Would the Savior say it?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Obedient Because We Can See

        I recently read an article by a former member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was full of bitterness and derogatory terms towards the church. It claimed that questioning LDS doctrine draws criticism and isolation from other member friends, and even rejection from family. I feel saddened that this was the experience the author had and hope it is not common. It is hard to believe that the church I belong to, and the church the author used to belong to, is one and the same. I do believe we are often too quick to criticize one another for differing opinions, and we should not judge one another's worthiness; however, I wondered how much of the article was truth and how much has been distorted with time and negativity.
        The author claimed that we honor "blind obedience more than critical thinking." I'd like to blend those together: we honor critical thinking followed by obedience. We are asked to sustain and support our leaders. But we are also told to pray for personal revelation, to find our own testimonies of gospel truths. When President Monson and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speak, I pay attention. Amos 3:7, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, until he revealeth his words unto his servants the prophets". The Holy Ghost witnesses to me that their words are true. Therefore, I follow my own witness, which falls in line with official doctrine of the church. For example, my brother is about to serve a two-year mission for the church. This is asked of young men when they turn 19 years old by our church leaders, but my brother received his own confirmation that he should serve a mission before he sent in his mission papers.
        President Boyd K. Packer addressed this topic: "Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God. … We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see" (Agency and Control, Ensign, May 1983, 66)".
        What is so wrong with following leaders who have been ordained of God? Absolutely nothing. Following God's prophet is an intelligent decision. We believe our doctrine is pure, meaning our truths are the same as Jesus Christ taught when he was on the earth. Our church is His church, restored again through the prophet Joseph Smith. Therefore, when our general authorities speak as Special Witnesses of Christ, they are saying what Christ wants us to hear. It's good to listen up!
        Jesus Christ taught, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27). If following the prophet makes me a sheep, then BAAAA!
        Obedience to our leaders and the gospel principles they espouse unites us as members of the church. Our unity makes us stronger together and is a key characteristic of a Godlike people. "And the Lord called His people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness..." (Moses 7:18).
        So much doctrine has been polluted over time by individual opinions. A woman recently argued that since not everything in the Bible is true, the verses that teach that homesexuality is a sin are not true. I completely agree that we should love everyone no matter their sexual orientation and would not shun or refuse to befriend someone based upon that, but I cannot agree with justifying a lifestyle that Jesus Christ taught was a sin. I support my leaders in accepting everyone into the fold who chooses to live gospel teachings; I also support them when they reiterate that that sexual relations should be saved for marriage, which is ordained of God between man and woman.
        When you pick and choose what doctrine to follow as you would food at a buffet, you are, in a way, creating your own church with a customized set of doctrines. This can distance you from the influence of the Holy Ghost. For many people, this has lead to leaving, and eventually even fighting, against the church, as the Amalekites and the Amulonites did to the Nephites and Anti-Nephi-Lehites in the Book of Mormon:
"And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things" (Alma 24: 30).
        I love The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I believe it is the only church on earth with a complete restoration of all truth. Therefore, I trust our prophet and do my best to follow him. I believe people can and do find happiness in other churches, and I respect that. We are all on the same team when we are following Jesus; in this day when morals are considered outdated and old-fashioned, we need all the allies we can get. I feel peace and happiness when I live my life in accordance to the teachings of Christ's church. I feel content knowing my life has a purpose and a plan put in place by a loving Father who knows me. For me, that peace cannot be found by following anything else.