Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

A House of God

            C. S. Lewis wrote a story about a living house as a metaphor of how God is changing us as mere humans into follows of Christ. I think that it is most appropriate and applicable.

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

            All who have given their lives to Christ understand how this living house feels. The first repairs are minor and not to painful. However, when He starts taking out walls and adding more stories, it is a bit painful. We must remember that God knows our potential much better than we do. He also gives us prophets and apostles to help us understand what is happening to us. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke about a God’s blueprint for us, and he said that it means for us to believe in Christ, to love as He loves, and to do the works that He does. 

            Elder Uchtdorf begins his talk by stating that “hope is found in the transformative power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and in the Savior’s redemptive power to heal us of our soul-sickness.” Jesus declared, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Elder Uchtdorf explains that we “achieve that abundant life … by becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ – by following in His ways and engaging in His work. We find the abundant life by forgetting ourselves and engaging in the great cause of Christ.” He continues by explaining that the cause of Christ “is to believe in Him, love as He loved, and do as He did.”

            We are told that the gospel of Jesus Christ makes bad men good and good men better. Elder Uchtdorf says that the gospel of Jesus Christ is “a blueprint for happiness and meaning in this life and a way to experience eternal joy in the halls of glory in the life to come.” This blueprint is to help us to become like Christ by believing in Him, loving as He loved, and doing as He did.

            We first must believe in Him. Elder Uchdorf: “In my experience, belief is not so much like a painting we look at and admire and about which we discuss and theorize. It is more like a plow that we take into the fields and, by the sweat of our brow, create furrows in the earth that accept seeds and bear fruit that shall remain.” What should we believe?

            We should believe in the power of His Atonement. Bishop Merrill J. Bateman, while serving as the Presiding Bishop, said the following:

“The Savior’s atonement in the garden and on the cross is intimate as well as infinite. Infinite in that it spans the eternities. Intimate in that the Savior felt each person’s pains, sufferings, and sicknesses. Consequently, he knows how to carry our sorrows and relieve our burdens that we might be healed form within, made whole persons, and receive everlasting joy in his kingdom.”
(“The Power to Heal from Within,” Ensign, May 1995, 13-14). 

            We should believe that God is still in control and that He has a plan for us. He knows how things are going to turn out and has told us to put our trust in Him. The following quote has been attributed to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and was supposedly given in a devotional at BYU. It could have originated in an email from Elder Holland to John Bytheway, 1 June 2004.

The future of [the] world has long been declared; the final outcome between good and evil is already known. There is absolutely no question…because the victory has already been posted on the scoreboard. The only really strange thing in all of this is that we are still down here on the [playing] field deciding whose jersey we’re going to put on.
            We should believe that we can be happy even in the darkest of times IF we wear the Lord’s jersey. There were extensive wars, death, and corruption in high places during the time of Captain Moroni. Yet the scriptures tell us that it was a happy time. “But behold there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi, since the days of Nephi, than in the days of Moroni, yea, even at this time, in the twenty and first year of the reign of the judges” (Alma 50:23).
            The next requirement is that we must love as He loves. Elder Uchtdorf says:
The scriptures reveal that the more we love God and His children, the happier we become…. The love God speaks of is the kind that enters our hearts when we awake in the morning, stays with us throughout the day, and swells in our hearts as we give voice to our prayers of gratitude at evening’s end.

            As a parent and grandparent, I am particularly grateful for those people who love and serve my children and grandchildren. I feel confident that Heavenly Father feels the same way to those who serve His children. In fact, when we truly love the Father, we will love His children. King Benjamin explains to his people that he has given his life in their service, but in reality that had “only been in the service of God” (Mosiah 2:16-17, 19). So, service is a way that we can develop love for God and our neighbors. President Thomas S. Monson says: 

An attitude of love characterized the mission of the Master. He gave sight to the blind, legs to the lame, and life to the dead. Perhaps when we make face-to-face contact with our Maker, we will not be asked, “How many positions did you hold?” but rather, “How many people did you help?” In reality, you can never love the Lord until you serve Him by serving His people (“Great Expectations,” BYU Devotional, Jan. 11, 2009).

            We must do the works that He does. Elder Uchtdorf says:

In the Savior’s work, it is often by small and simple means that `great things [are] brought to pass’ [Alma 37:6].

We know that it requires repetitive practice to become good at anything. Whether it’s playing the clarinet, kicking a ball into a net, repairing a car, or even flying an airplane, it is through practicing that we may become better and better.

The organization our Savior created on earth – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – helps us to do just that. It offers a place to practice living the way He taught and blessing others the way He did.

As Church members, we are given callings, responsibilities, and opportunities to reach out in compassion and minister to others.

            We are asked to minister to each other and to people in our community, but our first responsibility is in our homes. We are all needed in the building up of the kingdom of God even in our imperfections. Girls ages 8-11 were invited to the Women Session of General Conference as a way to strengthen them against the evils of the world. However, it was quickly learned that the women and teenagers need the younger girls – for their faith, testimonies, and personal revelation – in this battle against evil. There is much work to be accomplished before the world will be ready to welcome the Savior. We need everyone because everyone has at least one talent that would further the work of the Lord.

            Elder Uchtdorf says that we need to remember to welcome everyone to the work and then show love and support to them. “But they do have this in common – they want to improve and draw closer to the Lord, our Savior, even Jesus Christ. They are trying to get it right. They believe. They love. They do. They want to become less selfish, more compassionate, more refined, more like Jesus.”

            Elder Uchtdorf closes by acknowledging that we all go through hard times and bouts of despair and discouragement. “But the gospel of Jesus Christ offers hope.” We can get through the hard times if we will continue to believe, love, and do.

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