Monday, October 28, 2013

Becoming Christlike


My wife spoke this past Sunday in our main meeting at church. She did a great job and I enjoyed her talk so much that I thought I'd share it with you, with her permission, of course.

In his teachings to the Nephites, the Savior instructed: “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Nephi 27:27) How do we even begin on such a journey?

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has taught, “To follow Christ is to become more like Him. It is to learn from His character. As spirit children of our Heavenly Father, we do have the potential to incorporate Christlike attributes into our life and character. The Savior invites us to learn His gospel by living His teachings. To follow Him is to apply correct principles and then witness for ourselves the blessings that follow. This process is very complex and very simple at the same time. Ancient and modern prophets described it with three words: ‘Keep the commandments’—nothing more, nothing less.”

The scriptures list many of the attributes of Christ that we should also seek. The Apostle Peter said:

“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)

The characteristics Peter presents follow a logical progression. Faith is the first and essential element. We must have faith in Jesus Christ to begin following Him and to seek His help through the Atonement. Next is virtue, we must keep ourselves clean and upright. Third, knowledge - we must learn the gospel and the commandments so that we can actively strive to live it.

The fourth attribute Peter lists is temperance, and this is where I feel it really starts to get difficult. To develop temperance, or in more modern terms, self-mastery, requires control over our own thoughts, temper, passions, and emotions. The Savior exemplified temperance throughout his mortal ministry when he said:

“I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30)

And again as He suffered for us, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39)

Always Jesus sought to do His Father’s will. When we demonstrate righteous self-mastery, we align our will with Christ’s.

Nowhere is temperance more valuable than in our personal and family relationships. In having control over our emotions and temper we make a conscious effort to keep the Spirit in our home by keeping contention and the father of contention out. Satan would have us believe that we are justified in our anger when we have been wronged, but the Savior taught very clearly, “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

To express love for enemies, and blessings for those that curse us, to do good to those that hate us, and to pray for our persecutors requires great self-mastery. It is not easy for us to behave in such a godlike manner. But, we are not expected to do it alone. If we desire the attribute of temperance, we must pray for the Savior’s help.

A very related attribute also mentioned by Peter is brotherly kindness. When I think of brotherly kindness I think of several kinds of relationships. One is my relationship with my own sisters and the affection we share with each other. It is a kindness that translates in to thoughtfulness, compassion, and loyalty. I have three sisters and would go to great lengths to help them.

Another relationship I think of when I consider brotherly kindness is our ward family. You have each done so much for our family in the four years that we’ve been members of this ward.

The final relationship is my own relationship with my Savior and Brother, Jesus Christ. Nowhere is there a person who knows me and loves me more completely.

The Savior went forth, “suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

“And he [took] upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he [took] upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11-12)

Knowing my weaknesses and faults, the Savior forgives. Knowing my imperfections, He strengthens me. Knowing my pains, He comforts me. This is the love and kindness we ought to show one another. Kindness pardons others’ weaknesses; it is sympathetic and gentle. It offers compassion in place of cynicism.

How can we develop this kindness in ourselves? One of the keys, I feel is perspective taking. Assume that the other person is doing the best they can with the knowledge and experience that they have to work with. Seek to see them the way that the Savior sees them. Know that the love that you feel from the Savior is also given to them. Here is a simple and practical example of how brotherly kindness affects everyday actions:

I was once driving down a narrow little street with cars parked along both sides, allowing only one car to pass through at a time. You may be familiar with this street, it’s the one many of us live on. Anyway, I’d had a bad day and was almost home when someone pulled out in front of me, trying to go the opposite direction and completely cutting me off from my destination. I was there first and waited for her to notice and move out of the way. She didn’t. It soon became apparent that she wanted me to reverse up the street so she could get out. We both grew frustrated.

By the time I'd made it upstairs, I was quite irritated. The the Spirit whispered to me, "What if it had been Maile? Or any other of your dear ward member friends? What if it had been your own sister trying to drive up the street? Wouldn't you have cheerfully helped them without a second thought? Isn't that woman also your sister?"

This experience has been a very powerful lesson to me. Though the initial anger was very petty and would have soon been forgotten, many months later I still remember the gentle rebuke of the Spirit, reminding me that everyone is my brother or sister. Or, as Jesus taught in the parable of the Good Samaritan, everyone is our neighbor, and ought to be treated as such.

There are many ways each day that we can work to become more Christlike in our thoughts, words, and actions. The important thing is that we keep moving forward, little by little, each day moving closer to our Savior. President Uchtdorf counseled,

“Christlike attributes are gifts from God. They cannot be developed without His help. The one help we all need is given to us freely through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Having faith in Jesus Christ and in His Atonement means relying completely on Him—trusting in His infinite power, intelligence, and love. Christlike attributes come into our lives as we exercise our agency righteously. Faith in Jesus Christ leads to action. When we have faith in Christ, we trust the Lord enough to follow His commandments—even when we do not completely understand the reasons for them. In seeking to become more like the Savior, we need to reevaluate our lives regularly and rely, through the path of true repentance, upon the merits of Jesus Christ and the blessings of His Atonement.”

Taking steps on the path to becoming more Christlike is also taking steps towers eternal life. President Ezra Taft Benson taught,

"The Savior declared that life eternal is to know the only true God and His Son, Jesus Christ. If this true, and I bear you my solemn witness that it is true, then we must ask how we come to know God. The process of adding one godly attribute to another, as described by Peter, becomes the key to gaining this knowledge that leads to eternal life."

In closing, I'd like to read the words of the hymn, Come Follow Me:

Come, follow me, the Savior said
Then, let us in His footsteps tread.
For, thus alone can we be one,
With God's own loved, Begotten Son.

1 comment:

Shawn said...

Thanks for sharing this. I'm glad let you share this with us.