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.

The Need for Law- Alma 11:37, Helaman 5:10-11

And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.

COMMENTARY

And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins.
The Lord should come to redeem his people, but not to redeem them in their sins.
It is important to note that the gift of Christ’s law, which rescues us from the condemnation of divine law, does not give us free license to sin and carouse about without a care for the welfare of our soul.
We often make the mistake of thinking of law as simply being a set of punishable rules, but really it is a guide for living a purposeful life. We obey the laws of our nation not only to avoid being thrown into prison, but also that we may establish a community that is nurturing and safe. Imagine if we could break the laws and steal and cheat and kill without punishment. Yes, we would avoid imprisonment, but also our societies would disintegrate into utter chaos.

Not to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not merely cosmetic. It does not take sinners, who remain sinners, who indulge in sinful thoughts and actions as a way of life, and then stamp them with a “fit for heaven” label that doesn’t belong. Rather it takes sinners, and it teaches them how to live purely.
Obviously there is a delicate line here. Because even those who are sincerely trying to follow the gospel are going to make wrong choices along the way. And I don’t just mean ignorant mistakes, I mean that they will willfully and intentionally do something that they know is wrong. And for these sincere-hearted, but imperfect souls, there does need to be grace. There does need to be some degree of understanding and pardoning of guilt.
To what degree? Well, that isn’t for me to judge. That falls under the purview of Christ himself, and he alone can tell us how aligned we are in his eyes.
What I do know, though, is that he intends for us to repent when we have these shortcomings. Even knowing that we are sure to slip again, he does expect us to keep moving. And when we do commit to try again, he gives us a purer heart that wants all the less to sin. He is saving us from our sins, slowly moving them apart from us until we have no more desire for them.

The Way That Things Are- Question

One of the fundamental claims of the gospel is that it teaches “truths.” There are those that view the gospel as nothing more than a suggested way to live life, or as a wishful description of how things ought to be. But the gospel does not state that it is either of those. Its clear and bold proclamation is that it defines things exactly the way that they are. It does not purport to be a way, it insists that it is the way.

Whether the gospel is effective depends entirely on whether that claim is true or not. We are told not to perform sinful actions, because those behaviors are inherently wrong. That is just the way that they are. And are they? If not, then the gospel has lied to us and has nothing of value to offer. If so, then we truly ought to abstain from them for our very own benefit.

My personal experience is that the gospel is correct in its claims, and if anyone wished to dispute my faith, they would have to illustrate why the truths proclaimed in the gospel are not actually truths.

With this study I would like to further establish how the gospel is bold in defining universal truths, and in dividing right from wrong. I wish to find examples that reinforce the notion that the gospel is the source of truth. I will also consider the folly of treating any of its precepts as mere “suggestions.”

In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you have come to view the gospel as a source of truth in your life. Have you ever had to overcome a tendency to view its teachings as recommendations? What truths of the gospel ring the most true to you? Did that faithful belief come naturally, or was it something you had to cultivate over time?

The Family of God- Matthew 18:20-22

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

COMMENTARY

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them
Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Before today I was already quite familiar with both of these accounts: the one where Jesus promises to be in the midst of a group gathered in his name, and the other where Peter wonders how many times he is expected to forgive another. But until now I had never contemplated that these moments are placed one immediately after the another.
It makes for a fascinating contrast, one where Christ is calling for unity, and then we have Peter trying to find out when he is allowed to create a division. It is as if Peter is asking “at what point can I not be expected to gather with a particular other?”
And Jesus’s answer is, essentially, never. We must not forget that Christ made his own company among sinners. Not only repentant sinners either, remember that he did some of his most beautiful work shoulder-to-shoulder with the man that would ultimately betray him. The world around him was rotten at times, but he still stayed a part of it.
In the end, we are all we have. God isn’t giving you a backup planet with new brothers and sisters if you can’t work things out with the current set. As such, we should stop looking for opportunities to write off a particular brother or sister as a lost cause, and instead start gathering together.

The Resurrecting and Enabling Power of Jesus- John 9:1-3, 6-7; John 5:5-6, 8-9, 14

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked…
Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

COMMENTARY

Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.
Jesus is not confined to only healing the innocent, Jesus is not limited to only rescuing the sinner. When we are made the victim of circumstance or another’s cruelty it might be easy to assume this is just our lot in life and we have to bear it. When our suffering is due to our own guilty actions it might be easy to assume we have forfeited the right to be healed.
The simple truth is that no one is outside of the healing power of the Savior. The reasons for your anguish do not matter, the depth of that anguish does not matter. The Savior is not the Savior of some, he is the Savior of all.

He saw a man which was blind from his birth.
And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
When reading of so many miracles it can be easy to feel forgotten when we have endured our own afflictions without relief. Perhaps we have even asked for healing and still it has not come.
Perhaps it is that lack of healing that has leads us to those thoughts of “well I deserve this punishment” or “this is just my cross to bear.” It is helpful in these moments to remember that those Jesus healed had often been oppressed for a very long while, too. It does seem that God lets us bear our burdens for a time, lets us experience the natural consequences of our actions for a time.
But that doesn’t mean the Savior is either unwilling or unable to heal us. Indeed, we know that in the Resurrection every remaining burden will be unfettered by his miraculous resurrecting and healing power.
One of my favorite scriptures is one full of remarkable pathos, and it beautifully attests to exactly this. From Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Commandments and Personal Revelation- Mosiah 4:29, Isaiah 42:21, Doctrine and Covenants 58:25-26

And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.

The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.

They shall counsel between themselves and me. For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things;

COMMENTARY

For there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them
It is not meet that I should command in all things
The simple truth is that there are too many permutations of possible actions for a written law to ever encapsulate the entirety of all forbidden behavior. Even the same action can be considered both right or wrong, depending on its context.
Those that seek loopholes in any law will always be able to find them, no matter how far the law bloats itself to try to and thwart their mischief.

They shall counsel between themselves and me
He will magnify the law, and make it honourable

If I am to have any hope of truly following the commandments I am going to need some sort of constant and living guidance. A pastor will never be available enough to guide me in every life situation, and two different pastors might even give me conflicting advice.
The only solution, then, is to have personal revelation. Or as these above scriptures describe it: to counsel with God and learn from Him how we should magnify the law in our individual circumstances. By communing with Him and receiving instruction perfectly fitted to our need in that moment, we are finally able to dispel any ambiguity and act with full confidence.