Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fighting Against Personal Rebellion

So with a wind chill of minus 15, and the surety of hypothermia and frostbite and death, I made the tough decision to stay home from church. I hate missing church, because every Sunday that I walk through the doors of that building and listen to the talks and lessons given, I come away a better person and fortified and strengthened for another week. With my baptismal covenants renewed by taking the bread and water, I am promised the guidance of the Holy Spirit to get me through the week. I come home clean and renewed.

As the wind roars, I did not make the decision lightly. And today I especially needed the cleansing power of the sacramental ordinance. Last night, I fell asleep with a heavy heart over issues that I constantly shove under the rug with the dust bunnies. But when charged with a specific task, I came up empty and realized, that once again, my denial has come back to haunt me.

I fought my demons all night. I had tortured dreams and promptings and restless legs. I suffered until I woke this morning, wanting blessed relief, but also knowing that I didn’t feel ready to go to 9 a.m. church and take those sacred emblems. Maybe it was with relief, and certainly with a bit dismay, that I looked out the window and looked at the thermostat.

I would have time.

Time to study and work through what I needed.

I was given the information, and found a fabulous talk by Elder David A. Bednar. The knowledge has been absorbed. But now the implementation. One thing I learned about gaining knowledge, you don’t truly learn it until you share it. So I am going to share it, and then every faucet will be ingrained in my head. That’s why teachers are the best students.

They learn more than their pupils.

Converted unto the Lord is the talk I used.

I have always had a strong testimony of my Savior Jesus Christ. No one could stand in front of me and tell me that he doesn’t exist in a way I would believe him. That foundation is firm. I am unshaken. I will not be moved. But what I struggle with is: I don’t want to do it. The, I am a whiny child, of which I am (a child of my Father in Heaven), and I just don’t want to do it. I want to be left alone. Pamper me. I am a baby. I want someone to change my diaper and feed me mashed baby food.

I struggle so much.

Life gets me run down, beaten up, torn to pieces. Give me serenity and just leave me to my own devices. I contemplated becoming so engrossed in my own fantasy world that the real world would just pass me by.

But do you know how much I would give up? Everything—except my selfish self.

So I laid out the facts: I have a testimony. But I don’t want to do anything because I’m lazy and selfish. I haven’t been able to get over certain hurdles that I don’t want to get into on this blog post. I don’t know if I have felt that change in my heart because if I felt that change in my heart, why would I feel so guilty and go to bed, after crying on my knees, feeling worthless.

Well, I know one thing. God heard every single one of my cries. He always does. How could I be such a lucky child and still be such a brat?

His love is amazing.

Elder Bednar’s talk walked me through the steps.

Number one: What is a testimony? “A testimony is personal knowledge of spiritual truth obtained by revelation.”

But once we have that testimony, then much is required. That is why it is so hard being a Latter-day Saint—being a Christian. We have now become accountable. “Testimony brings increased personal accountability and is a source of purpose, assurance, and joy.”

I’m not going to get into the steps of gaining a personal testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, but read the talk and it will explain everything.

Number two: What comes next? We are converted. “True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God (see Acts 3:19; 3 Nephi 9:20) and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ.”

This has me a bit worried because of my above mentioned issues. My feeling of a hardened heart for one. How conformed to the will of God am I with a seed of rebellion in my heart?

Last week I had an epiphany in relation to our agency. Rules make us want to rebel. As soon as your mother or father tells you: you can’t do that, you want to do it even more than ever. But we have rules for our safety. That’s why religion seems so restrictive. The “rules” (principles and ordinances and commandments) are for our spiritual safety. But in reality, they keep us free from the chains that Satan can bind us with. Scary, true stuff.

“Conversion is an enlarging, a deepening, and a broadening of the undergirding base of testimony. It is the result of revelation from God, accompanied by individual repentance, obedience, and diligence. Any honest seeker of truth can become converted by experiencing the mighty change of heart and being spiritually born of God (see Alma 5:12–14). As we honor the ordinances and covenants of salvation and exaltation (see D&C 20:25), “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20), and endure in faith to the end (see D&C 14:7), we become new creatures in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). Conversion is an offering of self, of love, and of loyalty we give to God in gratitude for the gift of testimony.”

“Knowing by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ is important and necessary. But earnestly coming unto Him and giving our whole souls as an offering requires much more than merely knowing. Conversion requires all of our heart, all of our might, and all of our mind and strength (see D&C 4:2).”

That’s Number three: Enduring to the end. Which entails A LOT! I’m exhausted all ready. Enduring to the end is BIG time responsibility. And why do we do it? Well, if you have a testimony, then you know we do it because of the eternal promise of hope that we can be saved and live with our Father in Heaven again. So we have got to get on the ball.

So I think that if I am truly converted, I shouldn't want to do bad things. And yes I know, we all have human frailties and carnal impulses, but I am talking about a deep down spiritual, I don’t want to, and not because I am physically incapable. Consider what happened to King Benjamin’s people in the Book of Mormon. After hearing his stirring sermon, this is what they had to say. “Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2).

Elder Bednar said of King Benjamin’s people, “Accepting the words spoken, gaining a testimony of their truthfulness, and exercising faith in Christ produced a mighty change of heart and a firm determination to improve and become better.”

If I accept the words of the scriptures and our prophet and apostles, have a sure testimony, and have faith in Jesus Christ, then why does my heart feel so hardened over some things? I do want to improve and become better. But I want to ignore that one major issue.

That’s a major stumbling block.

So to rub my guilt a little deeper, here’s what else Elder Bednar continued to say. “The key characteristics associated with conversion are experiencing a mighty change in our hearts, having a disposition to do good continually, going forward in the path of duty, walking circumspectly before God, keeping the commandments, and serving with unwearied diligence. Clearly, these faithful souls had become deeply devoted to the Lord and His teachings.”

I hang my head.

And fall to my knees.

Am I not deeply devoted?

I can’t do any of this on my own.

I kept reading, because Elder Bednar gives us hope and the how to.

“For many of us, conversion is an ongoing process and not a onetime event that results from a powerful or dramatic experience. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. Conversion unto the Lord requires both persistence and patience.”

Maybe the fact that I recognize my faults, and have a desire to change my stubborn nature is a good starting place.

“Testimony is the beginning of and a prerequisite to continuing conversion. Testimony is a point of departure; it is not an ultimate destination. Strong testimony is the foundation upon which conversion is established.”

I am glad that at least I have a strong foundation. But I still have a long way to go. Luckily conversion is a life long journey.

“Testimony alone is not and will not be enough to protect us in the latter-day storm of darkness and evil in which we are living. Testimony is important and necessary but not sufficient to provide the spiritual strength and protection we need. Some members of the Church with testimonies have wavered and fallen away. Their spiritual knowledge and commitment did not measure up to the challenges they faced.”

There is an example of a people in the Book of Mormon who buried their weapons of rebellion after they received a testimony and were converted. Here’s what Elder Bednar said about them.

They never did fall away and surrendered “the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more.” To set aside cherished “weapons of rebellion” such as selfishness, pride, and disobedience requires more than merely believing and knowing. Conviction, humility, repentance, and submissiveness precede the abandonment of our weapons of rebellion. Do you and I still possess weapons of rebellion that keep us from becoming converted unto the Lord? If so, then we need to repent now.

They set aside their weapons of rebellion—their pride, selfishness, and disobedience. We have to be humble to do this. And we have to repent.

And then we have to do everything we can to remain close to the spirit. If we looked at the example of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:4-9) we learn that the oil of conversion cannot be borrowed. It is acquired one drop at a time—“line upon line [and] precept upon precept” (2 Nephi 28:30), patiently and persistently. No shortcut is available; no last-minute flurry of preparation is possible.

“Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom” (D&C 33:17).

So what did I ultimately learn? My testimony is a sure foundation, but my conversion is ongoing. As long as I don’t stop fighting, as long as I make small incremental changes toward choosing the right and continuing to endure to the end, my heart will soften and change. I still might fight against the things I don’t want to do. But the atonement is there to relief us of our burdens, to wash away our guilt. I don’t need to feel guilty if I repent and try again. Tomorrow is always another day. God loves us, and he doesn't want us to fail in our attempts at enjoying life and being happy. And he wants us to return to him again.

I just feel so much better knowing that my testimony is a jumping off point. A new beginning. We were not meant to be perfect in this life. I am so glad that I can learn more every single day.

My stubborn nature can change.

My heart can soften.

As long as I keep trying.