Over the last few weeks, I have not only been teaching seminary, but I have also substituted in Relief Society and taught the youth Sunday school class twice. After I have finished teaching, I thought "Darn it!! I did not leave them with a specific invitation to ACT!!"
|copyright Karen Larsen photography|
This really bothered me because what good is the knowledge of the gospel if we don't ACT on the information. Acting on the information, exercising our faith, applying those doctrines--that is where the real learning takes place and testimony becomes conversion. Without the exercise of our faith--the acting--we leave out a necessary ingredient in the recipe of conversion. We leave out the piece that allows the Holy Ghost to testify to the truth of our behavior and sink those doctrines deep into our hearts.
Luckily for me, the Spirit corrected me and reminded me of several places in the last few lessons where I did invite my students to act. I invited them to bring questions to conference, to read their scriptures, to thank our Father in Heaven for the Prophet Joseph Smith and all of the doctrines restored through him, to search 'homosexuality' on LDS.ORG and read what the prophets have said on the matter, and many other things. I just didn't invite them to act at the end of the lesson.
Years ago, I taught a lesson in Relief Society on the temple. Because of the dynamics of that ward, I expected to TEACH those sisters about the temple. When I actually taught the lesson, they knew all the answers. They had the information! I was dumb-founded. I knew from my experiences with them that they were not applying those doctrines. My assumption in teaching them was that their lack of application was due to a lack of knowledge. My assumption was completely incorrect! I spent the next several weeks studying how we can know something and still not do it. What is the motivating factor?
As I pondered more deeply on the subject, I realized that we all do that to one degree or another, in one area or another. I know what kind of a visiting or home teacher I should be, but do I do it? I know I shouldn't eat so much sugar and should eat more green things, but do I? I know I should exercise to drop weight, but do I? As regularly as I should? I know I shouldn't get angry at.....fill in the blank, but do I choose to control my emotions? So in all of these areas temporal, spiritual, emotional, financial, and more, I know information that I do not act on.
|copyright Karen Larsen photography|
The real question becomes how do we motivate ourselves and others to act on information that we know is good and do something with it? This is a much longer conversation than this blog post, but a few doctrinal principles apply.
To answer the first question, I realized the major motivating factor for bringing our behavior in line with the knowledge of the gospel, is our feelings about and understanding of the atonement. This could be a post completely on its own. In fact, it is encompassed in several books written by the prophets. If you are feeling less than motivated to apply the doctrines in your life, study the atonement of Jesus Christ, His life and His teachings. Enough said. (Well, not really, but like I said, BOOKS about the subject.)
My personal favorite patter of conversion is laid out by Mormon in Moroni 8:25-26.
25 And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins;
26 And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.
I know I have used this scripture before, but I thought I laid the cycle out somewhere, however I cannot find it. Ugh (as Spike would say)! Guess I will save that blog for later. Just recognize the pattern: the first sign of repentance is a person's willingness to be baptized, to act. This presupposes that the person believes the information and understands why repentance is necessary. As a person chooses to be obedient to the information and knowledge they receive, by exercising their faith unto repentance, they are granted a remission of their sins. As their sins are remitted, their hearts soften which allows the Holy Ghost to enter. What does the Holy Ghost bring? Hope and perfect love (charity) and though not mentioned in this scripture, the Holy Ghost also brings revelation. The love and hope that we feel from the Holy Ghost and the revelation that we receive, gives us new places and strength to exercise our faith by acting on the new information we receive (repenting again) and the entire cycle is kept in place by diligence unto prayer. So start the process!! Be obedient where you can, pray for faith, strength, courage, motivation and a change of heart where you are struggling. Remember we are all struggling somewhere so be patient with yourself--but also make goals and strive for improvement where you are struggling.
|copyright Karen Larsen photography|
Here is my personal example.
I need to drop weight. I make plans and effort to do so. I recognize my feelings (about many different things) interfere in my ability and willingness to act. I pray for strength and help to do so. I have so much going on right now that my emotions have been a bit overwhelming (boys home from college, a boy coming home from a mission--tomorrow by the way!, the death of a dear friend, anniversary of another friend's death, Tams leaving for Utah, drama at Drew's work, end of the year school projects and graduation stuff, rearranging the house for people, conversations with extended family and their drama--just a lot of stuff going on in my life right now). Because there is so much going on and has been, in my weight loss goals, I gave myself permission to just hang out at this weight for four weeks---no effort at loss, no beating myself up because of overeating, or eating the wrong things--just simple maintenance of where I am. Patience with myself. In a few weeks, when things settle down emotionally, I will re-evaluate and make different goals and continue my weight loss. At this point, my prayers and faith are focusing on helping me to manage my emotions and learn different coping mechanisms than the ones which got me fat :-) all of which will eventually contribute to further weight loss.
Can you see how my willingness to try my faith (experiment upon the word) to repent (change) and be obedient (drop the weight), brings me forgiveness (of myself and others for past choices) which brings meekness and lowliness of heart, allowing the Holy Ghost to bring me revelation (which heals my heart and my body) and fills me with hope (to continue my weight loss journey and that I will eventually succeed) and love (for the Savior and my fellow man)? And I keep that cycle going by diligence unto prayer, which strengthens my faith and motivation and tells me when to adjust my expectations? Isn't that awesome??
Elder David A. Bednar, in his book 'Act in Doctrine,' lays out the pattern to conversion using Helaman 15:7-8.
7 And behold, ye do know of yourselves, for ye have witnessed it, that as many of them as are brought to the knowledge of the truth, and to know of the wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers, and are led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them—
8 Therefore, as many as have come to this, ye know of yourselves are firm and steadfast in the faith, and in the thing wherewith they have been made free.
Elder Bednar then says:
"Please notice the specific steps identified in these verses: (1) belief in the teachings and prophecies of the holy prophets as recorded in the scriptures fosters (2) faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in the Savior leads to (3) repentance. Faith in Christ and repentance bring about (4) the mighty change of heart. Therefore, as many as have diligently and faithfully followed these steps are (5) firm and steadfast in the faith. This is the pathway of conversion unto the Lord."
I LOVE this book! It is laid out like a workbook with writing spaces for you to use and take personal notes as you contemplate how to apply the doctrine in your own life.
This post is getting super long! And I have a ton to do! Scuff arrives home from his mission tomorrow. He should be about ready to board his plane in just a few hours and then fly all night to see us tomorrow afternoon! Pray for a safe flight. I will try to remember to post photos. I have been so bad about that lately. I am just so glad they are home that I do not even think about preserving the moment in film (that tells you how old I am :-)
Just remember whenever you teach, invite your students to act!! Have a great weekend!