Dec 19 2010

Faith, Character, and Integrity

The Transforming Power of Faith and Character
Elder Richard G. Scott
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I really liked this talk. Elder Scott discusses what faith is, why it is important, and how to build it. The reason this is so important? Elder Scott explains:

“When faith is properly understood and used, it has dramatically far-reaching effects. Such faith can transform an individual’s life from maudlin, common everyday activities to a symphony of joy and happiness.”

We want a life of happiness and joy. Many times, people are too quick to assume that is found through material things or even stations in life. Elder Scott teaches the correct source:

“Material things do not of themselves produce happiness and satisfaction and the joy of attainment on earth. Nor do they lead us to exaltation. It is nobility of character, that fabric of inner strength and conviction woven from countless righteous decisions, that gives life its direction. A consistent, righteous life produces an inner power and strength that can be permanently resistant to the eroding influence of sin and transgression.”

What I thought was so fascinating with this talk is how he built everything around this idea of ‘character’. I have always heard it defined in a more secular way; character means you can trust someone to do what they say, whether they are in public or in private. If a person is of good character, they are honest, etc. I hadn’t ever heard this is a spiritual sense though, although after reading it, it makes sense.

Elder Scott explains:

“Faith and character are intimately related. Faith in the power of obedience to the commandments of God will forge strength of character available to you in times of urgent need. Such character is not developed in moments of great challenge or temptation. That is when it is intended to be used. Your exercise of faith in true principles builds character; fortified character expands your capacity to exercise more faith. As a result, your capacity and confidence to conquer the trials of life is enhanced. The more your character is fortified, the more enabled you are to benefit from exercising the power of faith. You will discover how faith and character interact to strengthen one another. Character is woven patiently from threads of applied principle, doctrine, and obedience.”

Those that are baptized and those that have taken on additional covenants in the temple have made promises to live their lives in a certain way. Character is built by adhering to these promises that have been voluntarily made, just as if you made a promise to another person. If we take this in a business sense, you build character in the workplace as you complete assignments handed to you. The more you do and the more you stay good to your word, the more your boss trusts you. This may result in promotions, pay raises, a free day off, etc. But, the second at he finds out you’ve been lying about something, all your other work will come crashing down around you.

The relationship with the Lord is no different, with the exception that the blessings of the Lord for out weight anything a boss can give you.

Of course, when mistakes are made and character and integrity are shattered, it can be rebuilt. This occurs through repentance. The process begins again and you are able to build up your character and integrity once again.

The whole of this talk was fascinating. I encourage you to read it yourself and think about where you sit within the principles taught.

In the end, Elder Scott shares 4 principles that brought the deepest peace and happiness to his life:

” * Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His program to acquire the power to achieve.
* Repentance to rectify the consequences of mistakes of omission or commission.
* Obedience to the commandments of the Lord to provide strength and direction in our lives.
* Selfless service to enrich the lives of others.”

He also cautions that as we strive to take this journey, we be careful to not get discouraged. There is an expectation that we strive to be perfect, but we won’t attain it in the life. So, one of the key traits of good character is admitting your sins when appropriate and not hiding them. We will sin through this life, but one thing we can do perfectly is confess the sin to the appropriate party. That shows integrity and builds character. That strengthens faith in Christ. That will weaken the adversary. That will bring us closer to the Savior and strengthen our relationship with him.

Dec 6 2010

Giving Everything

Talk: Reflections on a Consecrated Life
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I’ve been trying to get this post out for some time now.  I’ve read the talk 3 or 4 times since I started prepping for this post.  I love this talk.  It is so beautifully simplistic, yet hits on a subject that is so seemingly difficult to master: the Law of Consecration.

In this talk, Elder Christofferson does not attempt to discuss the economic implications of the law of consecration, but instead chooses to discuss how we can consecrate our life to the Lord.  The former type of consecration (economic) will be easy to live if we master the latter (a consecrated life).

He proposes five “elements” in our life that will make it consecrated:

  1. purity
  2. work
  3. respect for one’s physical body
  4. service
  5. integrity

In discussing purity, it is important to remember that we will fall short of perfection in this life.  Though that is our goal, we cannot get discouraged when we fall short.  For this reason, repentance plays a huge role in a consecrated life; Elder Christofferson actually links a consecrated life to a life of repentance.  I’ve posted several times before on what repentance means, I won’t rehash it here, except to say that true repentance is a process whereby we obtain the will of God and toss out ours and we find ourselves moving towards him, daily.

His second element is one I struggle with: work.  Not that I don’t mind it, but I find that I don’t leap at the chance to work.  I remember a few months back, I was in California visiting my favorite uncle out there (I’m talking about you, Jim :) ).  He had a service project that he had planned on participating in while I was there.  I wasn’t exactly thrilled about that, but thought the time spent with him would be good.  The project?  Cleaning out mustard weed on this small hillside.  Ugh.  That was my first thought when we got there.  That looks like a lot of work.  My second thought.  I had hardly developed this element of work in my quest for a consecrated life.  But, I went to work.  Minutes in, something happened: I was enjoying myself.  The same thing happened at a Stake Farm assignment I went.  I became lost in the work.  Did this work preclude me from talking with people and enjoying myself?  No.  I talked with lots of people I had never met, learned some new things (did you know mustard weed actually produces the mustard seed that makes mustard and it is not native to California?  I didn’t).

The reason work is such an important part of a life of consecration is because it pushes into situations that require effort, mental and physical exertion.  It reduces that temptation attack surface that Satan can use against us.  Think about: the last time you sinned, were you hard at work or were you more in a state of leisure?

This idea of work, plays into the fourth element (I’ll come back to number 3): service.  Service is work, you just don’t plan on any kind of compensation.  My earlier story plays an equally valid part in making this point.  If you find yourself shying away from service, don’t fret.  Just force yourself to do it.  The more you do it, the more you’ll like it.  Soon, you won’t shy away from service.  Remember, the natural man is lazy and looks towards self first.  It is the spiritual man that looks towards others and enjoys work.  This is something we need to cultivate within ourselves on a consistent basis.

So, number three: respecting one’s physical body.  It shouldn’t be any surprise that as we’ve now consecrated our spiritual bodies through purity and integrity (I’ll hit on that in a second), our time through work and service, we need to also consecrate the physical vessel that is required to do all of this: our bodies.

Elder Christofferson’s point is simple: don’t defile your body through modifications, such as tattoos and piercings; don’t damage it through drugs, alcohol, a poor diet, and sexual impropriety; and don’t cloud your brain with trash, like pornography.  As we keep the vessel clean and pure, we enable God to work miracles through it.  It becomes a clearer way for him to talk to us.  We are able to work and serve better.

The final element of integrity is important to tie all of this together.  If our outward lives reflect elements mentioned above, by our secret lives are filled with darkness, the life is not consecrated.  In a world where people and governments are notorious for back deals, lies, and backtracking on promises, it is even more important that we strive to live a life of integrity.

When I think of integrity, I like to think of the Sermon on the Mount: Christ said that we are not to swear by the heavens anymore.  We just need to say “Yes” and that should be sufficient.  What did he mean by that?  It means we don’t need to go through great lengths to verbally tell someone that our word means something.  A person that says, “I’ll take care of it.” and can be left to take care of it has proven they live a life of integrity.

As we turn to God and ask for his help in mastering these elements, we will see our lives change for the better.  He’ll be able to do more and more to bless us in our lives.  As we give a consecrated life, we will be, in a very small way, following the example of our Savior, whose entire life was a life of consecration.