On April 26, 2016, I received this message from one of my friends. “On Sunday we are going to talk about fear and then tie it back in with the concept of love taught last week. Come prepared to share any insights you have regarding fear.”
I had been struggling with the pain of my mistakes that week. I felt like running away, crying, and giving up. I don't like causing pain for anyone, yet I seem to do things I regret. When asked to think about fear, I realized I am afraid of my mistakes. I do everything I can to avoid making mistakes, yet my mistakes keep rolling forth as I live life.
These lessons on love and fear came at a perfect time in my life. The Monday after our Sunday discussion, I kept hearing the Lord say, “Who gave you your weakness?” A scripture came to mind, but I had to look it up to make sure I was remembering it correctly.
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Ether 12:27
There it is! God gave me my weakness. So, if God gave me my weakness, it must be a gift.
An picture came to mind. I saw a new baby, born into the world in weakness. At first, the baby is helpless. This baby is meant to run someday, but today she just sleeps without much movement. If I were to judge the baby in her weakness, I would think she is lazy, useless, and unambitious. I would say things like, “Why don't you get up? Is that all you're going to do? You're meant to run not just lie around.” Still the baby sleeps.
Months pass and the baby starts kicking her legs. In my judgment I might say things like, “Do you think that's going to do you any good? What use is it to kick your legs? You're not going to go very far doing that.”
Time passes and the baby begins to roll and crawl. Continuing in judgment, I could say, “You might be getting around, but that's a dirty way to do it. It would be so much easier if you walked on your feet instead of rolling in the dirt.”
The baby continues to develop and begins to use furniture and walls to pull herself to her feet. In my ignorance, I accuse the baby, “You're cheating. When you walk you're suppose to do it on your own. Using props is the way of a cheater.”
The baby takes a few steps and does not make an attempt for weeks. I say, “Is that all you're going to do? Get up! Don't be a quitter.”
Between the ages of 6-18 months almost all babies learn to walk. As a mother of 11 children, I've seen this process over and over. It would seem foolish to judge my babies in such a way. Born in weakness, they've all learned to walk and run.
After seeing these images of a baby developing, I heard God say, “Now, apply what you've learned about a baby's development to every other weakness you see in yourself and others: addictions (drug, alcohol, pornography, etc.), gossip, backbiting, judging, lying, idolatry, laziness, hypocrisy, obesity, pride, procrastination, perfectionism, dishonesty, thieving, anger, lust, and the list goes on and on.”
A wise and loving God sees all the stages in the development of man. In our ignorance, we judge wrongfully. If I were to label the baby as a non-walker because he is lying on the bed, only kicking his legs, rolling around the floor, or using furniture to assist him, I would do so foolishly.
If God gave me my weakness, how can it be sin to be weak? How can it be sin to learn, grow, and develop? I then asked the Lord, “If acting in my weakness is not sin, then what is sin?” Another scripture came to mind.
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40
There really are only two commandments, and the second one includes loving ourselves. Love God, love others, and love yourself. Love of self is included because often people have the hardest time forgiving and loving themselves. This is not arrogance but peace that comes in being reconciled with God.
Our weakness and struggle are given to teach us to love God, others, and self. Sin isn't in the "mistakes" we make but in the love we lack. My weakness is given to me to bring me to my knees and encourage me to develop a relationship with God. It also teaches me to have compassion on myself and others.
We still feel the consequences of our weakness just as a baby feels the effects of gravity as she learns to walk. She still bumps and bruises her head, falls down, and scrapes her knee. She is helpless and not capable of taking care of herself. She struggles against gravity as she learns to walk.
So it is with all of our weakness, we feel the consequences and pain of our weakness, but it is a gift from God, given for our growth and development.
You've heard it said, “What you resist, persists.” I have been resisting my weakness and have been viewing it as a “bad thing”. I have been resisting my gift from God. I have not received ALL of God's gifts with gratitude.
“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” Ephesians 5:20
“For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” D&C 88:33
In my weakness, I judge others and am prone to perfectionism. I see where many times I play the part of the Pharisee.
Throughout the New Testament I see the Lord showing compassion on “sinners” while the Pharisees received His greatest rebuke. Why? Do the religious see righteousness as a list of dos and don'ts? Can they even see their weakness?
“And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
“This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest,even unto the last: and
“Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” John 8:3-11
It is interesting Jesus does not define the sin. Many might assume the sin is adultery.
“But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:30-32
Was Jesus calling the scribes and pharisees righteous? Do we assume it was the harlots and publicans that were living in sin. Who is being called to repentance? Here's what our Lord has to say to the scribes and Pharisees:
“Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
“But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
“Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
“Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.36
“Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Matthew 23:1-39
Does the Lord have any such words for those who struggle in their weakness but don't point the accusing finger at others?
“But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
“And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.” Matthew 21:28-32
Why do the publicans and harlots enter the kingdom of God before scribes and Pharisees? Look at the difference between the Pharisee and the publican:
“And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke 18:7-14
What brings peace and joy? Is it our adherence to rules and commandments? Or is it love for God, others, and self?
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” 1 Corithians 13:1-3
I am reminded of a parable.
The Great Competition
There was a King who loved his people. He also loved the competition of games. He called his advisory council together and asked them how he might improve the health and vigor of his people. They considered the matter and decided upon a great plan.
The King called his city together and told them of a great competition he and his council had devised. “All the city would compete,” he announced. They would proceed in turns to go into the coliseum and compete on the field. Al were welcome to watch before or after they participated. But all would have to compete. The competition would test the citizen's loyalty, while also improving the lives of the citizens.
“I haven't the strength to compete. I am old and past my day and cannot hope to win in competition with younger men,” said one.
The King responded, “Not all the competition will be of strength, some will be of intellect, some of patience, some of music. It will develop the skill of each individual from my kingdom and will improve every citizen.”
“I refuse,” said the one. He and those who agreed with him departed in anger.
The day arrived and the competition began. Men, women and children all entered in turns into to coliseum. Some sang, some threw spears, some lifted heavy weights, and some recited poetic works of beauty and wisdom. The people not competing at any given time would watch from the seats. They gained as much from watching as they did competing.
Many were reluctant or afraid entering the competition, but found when they competed their fears were unfounded. Some believed it would be fun to compete. However upon entering the competition failed to do as they hoped, and regretted their poor efforts.
After the days of the competition ended, a great feast was called. For the feast, the King invited not only those citizens who participated in the games, but also those who had fled the city rather than participate. Those who had remained loyal and participated in the games were troubled by this.
“Why are those who rejected your plan allowed to be among us?” they inquired.
“For a wise purpose,” said the King.
Many of those who participated resented the presence of those who had fled. Some who fled returned in anger, urging those who stayed to join them in their anger at the King. Some who did not do well were persuaded by the arguments of the returning dissidents.
The great feast turned into a great argument among the residents who stayed and those who had fled. Eventually the people divided themselves into two groups. In one, the King was beloved and his plan was held in esteem. In the other, the King was resented, or worse, hated. They found fault with the King, with his plan, and with the uproar caused among the citizens by the King's great folly.
When the body was divided, the King addressed them all with these words, “I have been working for some time to determine who I can trust among our people and who I cannot trust. Using wise counsel I have adopted this great plan to decide the matter.
“I knew when the competition was devised it would divide the people. I knew, too, that some would flee rather than participate. I also knew if I invited back to a feast all of he citizens, both those who stayed and those who fled, that it would result in a great division. This was my purpose all along.
“We are faced with many challenges. Some are in forms which you do not understand. They will test all of us. I must know before we confront the coming challenges who I can trust to remain loyal in my kingdom. Today I know.
“All those who have been loyal have been identified. They will remain in my kingdom. All those who have rejected my plan, or spoken against me in hatred, will be removed from my kingdom. Those who leave are free to follow their own course. However, they cannot be among my people any longer, for they have been tested and failed in their loyalty.”
It required a battle to remove those who were to be exiled. Many argued they had endured all the King had asked and only spoken ill of him when the disaffected exiles returned. They claimed it was unfair to have been put through this final test of loyalty after allowing the return of the exiles. They argued a feast that included those who refused the King's request was unfair. It rewarded all alike; the loyal and the disloyal. They claimed their final disloyalty came only as a result of their original loyalty later proving to be of no value, since even the exiles came to the final feast.
Others complained that the King was mad. His whole course was destructive of a people who had once lived in harmony and peace. They claimed it was the King who should be thrown in exile; not the citizens who were discomforted by the King disturbing their peace.
Still others complained the King was never honest with them. Had they known this was to be the result, they would have been loyal throughout. They thought it unfair he kept his counsel to himself and thereby lulled them into disfavor.
Yet others complained the King gave them too hard a test. It was unfair. Although they had passed the test, they had family members and friends who failed and if these whom they loved had failed they would refuse for their loved ones' sake to remain with the King.
Some even said that the original test was supposed to improve the citizen's “health and vigor” and not their loyalty. It was unfair to claim to test for one virtue when actually testing for another.
And finally, some claimed there could be no future test coming for which this test of the citizens would prepare; that the only thing this great plan tested was the patience of the citizens. If there is some great future test coming, then the King ought, in fairness, to share that information with them rather than to hide it and make claims which cannot be proven.
All the arguments were unavailing. The King expelled them all. When the kingdom was set, and none but the loyal remained, the King again called a great assembly of his people. To all those who remained the King announced, “I discovered long ago the power to make my kingdom last forever. I am now prepared to share the secrets of all I know with my people. From this day forward you will no longer be citizens in my kingdom, but you will be kings and queens, sharing with me in life which will never end.
“Before making you all kings and queens with me, I needed to have a people who would live in peace together. Immortality without peace among us would be a great punishment and not a great prize.
“All of us who remain in this kingdom have lost friends, family members and others whom we love. However, all who remain will be able to live in peace, forever.”
The King did as he planned from the beginning, He and his counselors were able to find those who could live in peace, and for whom life would endure in peace forever.
There is not now, and never has been, a kingdom more stable, more happy, more at peace, and more enduring than this King's. Though he ceased to reign as a king, he continued to be loved above all others. For he was the one who brought to life the happiest people of all. Chapter 9, Ten Parables
What did the citizens think was being tested? What was actually being tested? Was the test how well the citizens performed or was it the love they had for the King and each other? What brings peace and happiness?
Born in weakness raised in strength. In this life we are sown and grown in our weakness. This is all designed to make us strong.
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown incorruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
It was the thoughts of weakness, grace, charity, and love that occupied Joseph Smith's attention as he went to Carthage.
“When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said: “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me—he was murdered in cold blood.”—The same morning, after Hyrum had made ready to go—shall it be said to the slaughter? yes, for so it was—he read the following paragraph, near the close of the twelfth chapter of Ether, in the Book of Mormon, and turned down the leaf upon it:
“And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity. And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness, thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. And now I … bid farewell unto the Gentiles; yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood. The testators are now dead, and their testament is in force. D&C 135:4-5
Our Lord overcame through patience and love.
The prophet Alma taught and understood our Lord’s sufferings as he wrote:
“And he shall go 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 will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take 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.)
He can bring peace to any soul. He can help those who will come to Him love their fellow man. He alone is the Perfect Teacher because He alone has the knowledge each of us lack to return to being whole and at peace with the God and Father of us all after our transgression of His will. He is wise to what is required for each man’s salvation. . .
Christ taught His followers to forgive, that they may in turn merit forgiveness. He said: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6: 14–15.) He taught this because of the atoning power of forgiving others. As a result of the things He suffered, He understood that men must forgive others in order to be able to obtain forgiveness. There are many things men do that they lack the capacity to make amends. The price they must pay for their own transgressions are paid by forgiving all others of their offenses. . .
To enter into the kingdom of heaven, all men must lay down their sins. But this they cannot do when they claim the right to restitution for any offense from their brother. All claims must be set aside, the greater and more difficult being the righteous claim against another for their deliberate offense. Yet in asking for justice for yourself, you always require justice be answered in turn for all of your offenses A man will not be given mercy if he is not merciful. Alma taught this plainly to his son, Corianton, so he might be redeemed. Mormon preserved this teaching that all men who read the Book of Mormon may be redeemed and have claim on mercy: . . .
Do not depart this life while still harboring resentment against any person. It does not matter how just the claim may be, we must surrender our claims for justice to merit mercy. Find a way to forgive all those who transgress against you before leaving mortality and, by showing mercy to them, you will find mercy for yourself. As Joseph Smith put it:
I charged the Saints not to follow the example of the adversary in accusing the brethren, and said, “If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven, and if you will follow the revelations and instructions which God gives you through me, I will take you into heaven as my back load. If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you. If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours-for charity covereth a multitude of sins.” (TPJS p. 193.)
This path to knowing God’s goodness has been made known to every people in every generation. It can be felt whenever any man has shown mercy to his fellowman. Christ taught this, but the light of Christ leads all those who seek wisdom to find this truth. God is no respecter of persons. Blessed are the merciful, for they will always obtain mercy. More blessed are those who love, for God is love. Excerpts from Chapter 12 of Come, Let Us Adore Him
Forgive and love, then forgive again and increase in love. When I see my weakness as a gift, I can forgive and love myself with all my falling and tripping. When I see others with their gift of weakness, it becomes natural and instinctive to forgive and love them. Sometimes our weaknesses intercept and collide. At these distressing times, we are given another opportunity to grow and develop and increase in love.
I thank a loving God for teaching me these things and bringing peace to my soul.