Monday, September 16, 2013

Commandments show us that God loves us

I had the opportunity to speak in sacrament meeting on Sunday. I was truly very grateful for the opportunity. I loved the topic I was given, and I loved the talk that I was to base my talk on. My topic was that God gives us commandments because he loves us, and I was asked to refer to President Uchtdorf's talk "Forget Me Not". I don't mind speaking in church or in public (in general) and I feel like I always learn so much from the opportunity to teach or speak, and it helps me to have my personal scripture/gospel study be very focussed and intent.

I felt the spirit as I was preparing the talk, and I hope others felt it as I was speaking. Here is my talk.
A few weeks ago, my 5 year old was quite upset with me due to the consequences she received for some misbehavior. She was whining that it wasn’t fair. I said that I was sorry she made those poor choices. She continued to complain. Then I said, “It must be hard to have such a mean mom.” She replied, “You’re nice, Mom. Just not the kind of nice I need.” Do we sometimes feel or act that way toward our Heavenly Father? When we have commandments to follow and we don’t understand why or when our trials feel hard or we just don’t have enough perspective, do we sometimes, at least in our minds, begin to complain and whine and feel like maybe God is good and kind, but not the kind of nice that we need? In many ways, we are still little children when it comes to spiritual things. Our Heavenly Father is a perfect parent…He is truly our Father, and He loves us infinitely. He forgives us and He is patient with us, and His love and mercy are infinite. He gives us commandments because He loves us. He wants us to be safe. In reality, He IS exactly the kind of Father that we need. He IS exactly the kind of nice that we need.

Satan lies and tries to deceive us so that he can lead us away from what is right. One of the ways he does this is he tries to confuse us about who we are and why we are here. He tries to get us to forget that we are children of God, and forget our purpose on this earth. He tells us that it is okay to sin and not keep the commandments. …In Nephi 28:3 we read, “Eat, drink and be merry; nevertheless, fear God--he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this,” Satan tries to convince us that there is no harm in sin, especially in sinning just a little bit. But then once we fall into his trap, he tells us when we do sin that we are no longer worthy to be loved or forgiven or to pray. He is the “father of all lies” and desires to lead us away from our Savior and Father. But there is always a way back.

The path is marked, and it requires obedience. Obedience is important because it provides safety and peace as Sister Crabtree and Brother Cannon spoke about so beautifully last Sunday. And it is a way for us to show our love to our Savior and our Heavenly Father. In John 14:15, Jesus taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Keeping the commandments shows our Savior and Father that we love them.

In his beautiful talk, “Forget Me Not”, Elder Uchtdorf said, “God wants to help us to eventually turn all of our weaknesses into strengths,1 but He knows that this is a long-term goal. He wants us to become perfect,2 and if we stay on the path of discipleship, one day we will. It’s OK that you’re not quite there yet. Keep working on it, but stop punishing yourself.”

A few months ago, I read a book by Gerald Lund entitled Hearing the Voice of the Lord. Several things he said stood out to me, but one in particular has echoed in my head and heart. He said that the Lord is easily pleased but not easily satisfied. In other words, the Lord is so very pleased with every step we take in the right direction. We came to church today….He is so pleased. If you’ve done your home or visiting teaching this month, He is so pleased. (If you haven’t, there’s still time!J) If you study your scriptures today and tomorrow and the next day, He will be so pleased. But He isn’t satisfied with the steps we’ve taken so far. To explain this Elder Lund compared it to us as parents with a young baby. The first time that baby stands and takes a couple of steps, we’ll be thrilled. We’ll be so pleased but we won’t be satisfied because we want him to walk, then run. My five year old knows the alphabet and is starting to sound out words. I’m so pleased, but I’m not satisfied. I want her to read better and better until the world opens to her through the words in books. I want her to be literate in English and Spanish. I am so very pleased with where she is now. But I’m not satisfied…there’s so much more room for her to learn and grow. So, too, the Lord is pleased with where you are right now, but He isn’t satisfied. He knows you. He knows that you are destined to become great. He knows that you are His child, a literal child of God and that you have the potential to become like Him. He won’t be fully satisfied until you have become perfected in Him. Sometimes we see where we are on the path and notice how much farther, we have to go and we become discouraged. But we really shouldn’t, as long as we are on the path and continuing to progress. And if we’ve gotten off the path and aren’t keeping the commandments, then we need to repent, hop back on the path and then forgive ourselves.

We really should adopt the old Nike slogan, “Just do it” when it comes to keeping the commandments. Our lives will be happier and full of more peace if we just do it when it comes to paying our tithing, studying the scriptures, praying sincerely and purposefully, completing our home and visiting teaching and so on. Just do it. Do it because you love your Savior and Father in Heaven. Do it because you love your fellow man. Just do it so that you can feel peace and joy. Just do it so you can return and live with them eternally.

As President Uchtdorf said, he doesn’t expect us to be perfect right now. President Uchtdorf said, “Many of you are endlessly compassionate and patient with the weaknesses of others. Please remember also to be compassionate and patient with yourself.
In the meantime, be thankful for all the small successes in your home, your family relationships, your education and livelihood, your Church participation and personal improvement. Like the forget-me-nots, these successes may seem tiny to you and they may go unnoticed by others, but God notices them and they are not small to Him. If you consider success to be only the most perfect rose or dazzling orchid, you may miss some of life’s sweetest experiences.”

I don’t want to miss life’s sweetest experiences because I’m not paying attention or I’m too busy finding fault with myself over my imperfections.

Elder Uchtdorf cautioned us to remember why we are on this path of obedience… He said, “the gospel of Jesus Christ is not an obligation; it is a pathway, marked by our loving Father in Heaven, leading to happiness and peace in this life and glory and inexpressible fulfillment in the life to come. The gospel is a light that penetrates mortality and illuminates the way before us.”

I love that image of the gospel being a light… it shows us the way to return home. See John 8:12. Our Savior is the light of the world and he that follows the Savior shall not walk in darkness. This reminds me of the lighthouses President Monson spoke about in his talk in Believe, Obey and Endure in the general young women meeting in 2012. He said,
“Is there a way to safety? Is there an escape from threatened destruction? The answer is a resounding yes! I counsel you to look to the lighthouse of the Lord. I have said it before; I will say it again: there is no fog so dense, no night so dark, no gale so strong, no mariner so lost but what the lighthouse of the Lord can rescue. It beckons through the storms of life. It calls, “This way to safety. This way to home.” It sends forth signals of light easily seen and never failing. If followed, those signals will guide you back to your heavenly home.”

President Uchtdorf said, “While understanding the “what” and the “how” of the gospel is necessary, the eternal fire and majesty of the gospel springs from the “why.” When we understand why our Heavenly Father has given us this pattern for living, when we remember why we committed to making it a foundational part of our lives, the gospel ceases to become a burden and, instead, becomes a joy and a delight. It becomes precious and sweet.”

If we are keeping the commandments out of fear or obligation, we are less likely to find the peace and joy that we all seek. But if we are keeping the commandments because we understand whose we are, because we understand what the future holds for us (“all that the Father hath”) and because we love our Father, then we will have peace and joy. Not every moment, because we are human. We forget, we sin, we get distracted, we buy into Satan’s lies at times. But as we strive to keep the commandments for the right reasons and we pray to have our heart filled with love for our Father and for our fellowmen, our joy and peace will increase.

President Uchtdorf said, “The “what” and “how” of obedience mark the way and keep us on the right path. The “why” of obedience sanctifies our actions, transforming the mundane into the majestic. It magnifies our small acts of obedience into holy acts of consecration.”

In other words, understanding WHY we keep the commandments, makes us more Godlike.

Jeremiah 31: 33 says, “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” I love this idea that his law, his commandments become written on our hearts. I find it so comforting that he promises to be our God, and will make us his people. What a great promise!

I feel strongly that our Father would like each of us to know who we truly are, a precious son or daughter of God, and to really know and feel, daily, that we are so loved. I want that for each of us… for my family, for the women, the children, the youth, the Priesthood. I know our Heavenly Father wants us to really know that we are children of God. To not just sing, “I am a Child of God“ with our children, but to really feel it in our hearts and to love Him back. . In perhaps my favorite conference quote ever, President Uchtdorf said this, “You are not forgotten. Sisters, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances may be, you are not forgotten. No matter how dark your days may seem, no matter how insignificant you may feel, no matter how overshadowed you think you may be, your Heavenly Father has not forgotten you. In fact, He loves you with an infinite love. Just think of it: You are known and remembered by the most majestic, powerful, and glorious Being in the universe! You are loved by the King of infinite space and everlasting time! He who created and knows the stars knows you and your name—you are the daughters of His kingdom.”

How powerful and majestic is that! You are literally a child of God. He asks you to be honest, to pray, to read scriptures, to serve, to pay tithing and to obey other commandments because He LOVES YOU! He does it to protect you from the power and influence of the adversary and to bring you safely home again. You are His son or His daughter. I can’t think of any truth or any part of the gospel of Jesus Christ that is more wonderful or powerful than that truth. He is your Father. The Savior is your Brother. They love you, and they love me. Our obedience shows them that we love them back.
May we each strive to show our love to them through our obedience.