Week 01 is scheduled for study Dec. 26-Jan. 1, 2023. Whether we choose to learn about God and His lifestyle is up to us. We just need to remember that we are accountable for our choices of behavior in this life. Accountability is key here. I can’t hold someone else responsible for my choices.
The day after I wrote part 1 of this topic, I sat down to continue writing for the Come, Follow Me lessons for this week, and ended up writing another version of what I wrote yesterday. Both articles have good material in them, but I don’t want to combine them. Rather I would prefer they each stand in their own way on their own. There is some quoting from yesterday’s article in today’s article, but there is much that is new.
The topic for today is one of those things that is both totally obvious and a no brainer, as well as completely elusive. An equivalent statement might be, “I am responsible for my own weight management.” In both scenarios it is obvious that no one else can do it for me. No one else can make me participate. I have to be the one to be proactive and figure out how to find joy in that process. I am totally on board with my learning, but the weight management, not so much.
This concept that we are in charge of what we learn and when we do it is filled with complications. For example, I know I should read my scriptures daily. I have known that since I was a young adult. So why didn’t I do it until I started writing articles about the gospel almost 10 years ago when I was already in my mid 50’s? I don’t know the answer to that. For some reason, as an important activity, it just never ranked high on my priority list. Reading the scriptures, though important, hadn’t begun to produce the fruits for me that would make reading them a higher priority. I hadn’t learned to fall in love with them yet.
I can’t honestly say when I began to fall in love with the scriptures. Nor can I tell you what triggered the process. My guess is that falling in love with the scriptures is one of those “change of heart” experiences that comes because we have petitioned the Lord repeatedly for it, and have become faithful about reading the scriptures, even when we didn’t feel like it. Faithfulness in duty appears to rank high on the Lord’s requirements-for-blessings list. I suggest you read that last sentence a few more times and let it sink in. I had to, and I wrote it.
Has the Church shirked its duties?
Growing up most everyone had the idea that it was the Church’s job to teach us the scriptures. There weren’t very many who read their scriptures outside of Church with any consistency, because we spent multiple hours each Sunday dealing with scriptures in our lessons. Only the diehards read their scriptures faithfully outside of the Church meetings. That was the general assumption many Church members made. This idea doesn’t hold up any more. The Church was never supposed to be in charge of our spiritual education, as odd as that may sound. The purpose of the Church is to support what happens in our own personal life and in our family, if we have one. The phrase that is used today is “home centered, Church supported.”
As I said earlier this week, “The gospel of Christ was never meant to be a road map. It is meant to be a character map.” One of the lessons most of the Church still has to learn is that the plan of salvation was never meant to show us the individual steps on the path back to God. The gospel was designed for each of us to exercise our faith in God and learn to seek the path back to our Father. The gospel isn’t a checklist program, for each person’s needs are different. Outside of the essentials, like baptism and temple covenants, every person’s journey back to God is a custom-built plan. I need to learn things that come easily for you. You need to learn some things that may come easily for me. This is partly why we need to be patient with each other. None of us are in the same spiritual or physical place in life. But all of us need to be better than we are.
Reading the scriptures is not about learning history, though that is important. It isn’t about memorizing stories, though that is also important. Reading the scriptures is meant to help us learn how to become more than we currently are. Christ’s teachings, for example, weren’t about processes and procedures nearly as much as they were about repentance and character development. Our goal in reading the scriptures, once we have some context from history, and we are learning to remember particular stories, is to see how those things help to build a Christlike character. If the gospel doesn’t change who we are, change our character, then what is the point of it? Only a change in our character will help us feel comfortable living among celestial people. Our goal has to be the elevation of our current character traits to a more celestial character.
No one can search my scriptures and learn beneficial things that will change how I live, except me. If my wife studies the scriptures and learns much from them, she becomes the better person, not me. I have to be willing to commit to my own study of the gospel of Christ. Only through reading, pondering, and looking for ways to connect the dots in life, can I learn to see the scriptures in a whole new light each time I read them. Unless I approach spiritual advancement with a wholly personal investment, scripture reading will amount to little more than a recitation or a rehashing of stories or doctrine. Those things have their place, yes. But the most important thing we glean from scripture study is when we suddenly see that what we understood this morning when we awoke, and have always believed, is suddenly new and different. Out of the blue dots are being connected that we didn’t even see yesterday. Yesterday there were questions or confusion, but today there is some clarity that opens new opportunities for becoming happier tomorrow than I am today.
If I may give a personal example. In yesterday’s lesson I expressed my frustration with Christ’s gospel. Why doesn’t it give us the steps we need to take to do what is needed to return to God. The gospel may tell us we need to make covenants, but there is a lot of life still left to live after we make those covenants. What about all the daily decisions I need to make to become more Christlike? Where are my directions for those? This is where the light finally went on for me.
Suddenly I realized that giving us step by step instructions was Satan’s plan all along. He makes the decisions and we just have to do as he says. This is the basis for socialism and communism. We get “saved,” but he gets all the glory. Our Father’s plan for our salvation is designed to make gods of those who want to return to live with Him. To do this we must learn to think, act, and feel like God and Christ. Our Father gave us the gift of the Holy Ghost so we can learn to follow Christ in ways that will change our character to be more like Christ’s character. After the covenants, that seeking for a change of character is what the plan of salvation is all about.
For the first time in my life I realized that my frustration over not having step by step instructions was a waist of energy. I can’t afford to have that kind of agency stealing issue in my life. I need to search the scriptures for what I want to work to improve in my life. This puts me squarely in the driver’s seat when it comes to learning to be more Christlike. If I am studying topic A and discover that topic B is a greater weakness in me, I may want to change over and begin studying that new insight into my character. Studying the gospel of Christ is an exciting process, but only if we are excited for change and improvement in our life.
The world tells us that we are just fine the way we are. We should accept others where they are in life and support them in their endeavors. When did you ever hear such a sentiment from Christ? He never told anyone they were just fine the way they were. Nor did he support them in their efforts to find happiness where they were spiritually, socially, or physically. He always encouraged repentance, because that is how we all come to realize we have to rely on Christ in all things. He also constantly encourages us to become better than we are. That has never changed. He knows that when we advance in our spirituality we also advance in our ability to find joy in life. We become worthier of the joy he offers us.
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