Discussing Spiritual Differences- Revelation 3:19-20, Ezekiel 18:32

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

COMMENTARY

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten
The first and most important thing to understand when giving moral reproof is that it should only ever be an act of love. And the first and most important thing to understand when receiving moral reproof is that love can exist in a painful experience.
Everyone who has sought out God will know what it is to be chastened. Everyone who has become a true follower will have felt the reproof of their maker. When someone I know to be a genuine disciple of Christ has called me to repentance I have been greatly helped by the knowledge that they have sat in my seat, too, being called to repentance themselves.
For as the verse above says, there are none whom God loves that He has not chastened. And there are none that God does not love.

I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, wherefore turn yourselves, and live
I believe it is easy to take offense when called to repentance because we confuse the intentions behind it with the world’s use of reproof. The world criticizes those that are wrong in order to condemn them, to justify cutting them off, to argue that they should die socially, perhaps even literally!
But unlike the world, God takes no pleasure in death, or condemnation, or the loss of any child. He does not call us out on our sins to say “so you see, this is why I have no reason to love you.” If God is chastising us it only means that we are still within reach and He is trying to save us. True condemnation from God would not be words of fury, it would be silence.
If you feel moved to call out another on their follies, then you should pause to consider whether your own motivations are similarly pure. Are you driven by the worldly form of reproof or the divine call to repentance? Is your desire to make them feel your displeasure or to awaken them to God’s love? Are you doing this to rid yourself of their sins or to sow a brighter future? Are you trying to damn them or to save them? If it is the latter, then carry on as that same spirit guides you. If it is the former, then they are absolutely right to reject you and take offense.

Optimism in a Falling World- Luke 15:3-7, Doctrine and Covenants 18:15

And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

COMMENTARY

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine, and go after that which is lost
At the start of this study I considered Abraham pleading for Sodom and Gomorrah to be spared if even a few righteous people could be found therein. That same mentality is present in this parable from Jesus, where a shepherd will venture out to find even one lost sheep, leaving the masses to focus on the individual.
And I believe that this same mentality greatly helps when trying to maintain hope in a conflicted world. It is easier to despair over a vaguely defined group than over an individual with a face and a name. It is easy to label an entire faction as purely evil, but when we look into the eyes of a child of God we can’t help but see that even among their flaws they still have their divine potential. I might struggle at times to see the good in all people, but I can always find it in a person. Thus if you are finding it hard to have faith in the world perhaps you could start focusing on “the one” instead.


I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth
If you bring one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
For even if our worst fears were confirmed and the whole world spiraled down to hell, it would still behoove us to save what souls we could along the way. Our mentality should be like that of firefighters, who do not only enter the burning building when they can save a full 100% of the occupants. They will charge to the rescue even when they can only save a few, or even when they can save only one…and so should we.
Thus if you haven’t figured out how to save the entire world, that’s perfectly alright, none of us have. Only God can worry about salvation on that scale! For you and I, we just save the ones we can.

Influence and Persuasion- Luke 15:18, 20, Hosea 3:4-5

I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim:
Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.

COMMENTARY

I have sinned against heaven, and before thee
The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a sacrifice

I have just recounted how God is committed to preserving our agency, and because of that has given us the very power with which we all abandon Him. And at times I find that very incredulous. Of course we will go astray if given so much freedom! The scriptures are full of stories of people that did exactly this: Adam and Eve, Cain, Judas, King David, and Samson to name a few. Each of these people used their agency to depart from God. Each of them were near to him, but then they chose to leave.
And this pattern is inevitable. So long as we have no reason to stray we will stay, but all of us do have reasons to turn faithless at some point or another. And then we have verses like the above. Verses of people lost and far from their God.

And he arose, and came to his father
Afterward shall the children of Israel return

But it is shortsighted to suggest that that is the end of the story. For every tale of departure is open to a sequel of return. And while some will not come back, many do. And so the scriptures also have stories about Jonah, Peter, Saul turned Paul, Alma the Elder, Alma the Younger, and the Israelites when they rebuilt the temple and committed to follow the Lord anew.
And when people come back to God, they do it with that same freedom that they used to leave Him in the first place. The freedom that is given and preserved by God. They do not return because He made them do it, they do it because they chose to. And this was His intention all along.
When I feel cynical that all the world will forever abandon God I realize that He has greater faith in humanity than I do! Where I hold doubt in my brothers and my sisters and myself He believes. Where I believe that one who is lost is lost forever He says, “let us wait and see.”

Dealing With Failure- Personal Example #1

I want to explain a little more of my personal experiences, and the two conundrums that inspired this particular topic of study. The first of these deals with the steps of repentance I was taught to follow as a child.

I understood that to repent I must sincerely feel sorrow for what I had done wrong, confess my wrongs to God and anyone else I had harmed, make restitution as possible, and then not do that behavior anymore.

Now I actually think this description for repentance is fine, when understood as a process, and not a singular event, particularly in regards to that last step. I do believe that there are times that you can swear off a certain behavior forever, but far more common is that even when I feel genuine sorrow for my wrongs and wish to never do them again…I probably will at some point.

Thus there were times that I was told I needed to repent of a misdeed, and if I did it again, was asked why I hadn’t really repented, as I was still showing the same wrong behavior. And this was quite disheartening, and eroded my confidence in my ability to repent and become a better person.

Yes, at times, I needed to be more sincere in my efforts to improve, but also there were times when I actually was improving, I simply had not attained perfection yet. In those moments I believe I would have been greatly helped by an understanding that sometimes repentance means not repeating the wrong behavior…eventually. It means we try again and again, recommitting after each slip, doing the wrong thing less and less, soldiering on through the process of letting God change our hearts, until finally we no longer are subject to that sin.

Worthy Vessels- 2 Timothy 2:21, 1 Corinthians 3:16

If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

COMMENTARY

If a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, meet for the master’s use
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
As we have examined, we are the vessel only, and God is the goodness that pours forth. But this does not remove all responsibility from us. For if God is going to use us in His work, then He needs us to be clean. When we do try to do good while living in sin, it is like pouring water out of a pot whose inside is lined with rotting meat.
I have tried to live a double life in my past, making a great fuss about helping others while also nursing addictions on the side. It just didn’t work. My heart couldn’t be in it, and none of my efforts ever brought the Spirit of God into the moment. I would do polite things, and the recipient would politely thank me, but all we felt was a spiritual vacuum.
Bad habits need to be changed, lingering addictions need to be fought, harm to others need to have restitution made. We need to scrub off what we can, and let Him scrub off what we can’t. Obviously God is not expecting you to achieve perfection before He starts using you as His vessel, but He is waiting for you to take the steps of repentance. Then, even if you are still not perfect in all things you can still be perfectly clean, washed by the atonement of His son.

Divided from God- James 4:8, Doctrine and Covenants 67:12

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Neither can any natural man abide the presence of God, neither after the carnal mind.

COMMENTARY

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you
Neither can any natural man abide the presence of God

We have examined how we feel a divide from God, one that can confuse us and even frustrate us. We have also considered how this separation is appointed to us by divine wisdom, to aid us in developing godlike attributes like faith and patience.
However, I cannot claim that all separation from God is according to His divine plan. Because if I’m being honest, most of the times that I have felt a lack of God’s presence, it was because I was living a life where His spirit could not abide. I actively made choices to keep him at bay. I didn’t want Him to get too near because of my shame.
Absolutely I believe that God is willing to work with the sinner…but the sinner also has to be willing to work with Him. You don’t have to be perfect to hold God’s hand, but you do need to be reaching. If ever you feel that God isn’t as available as you wish, you might consider whether you feel right in your conscience.