Ahh how sweet it is!!

Ahh how sweet it is!! That is how I tend to sum up my life in a few words. Plain and simple, life is wonderful! This site will give you just a sneak peak at my thoughts throughout my life. Love, Mel

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Location: Bountiful, Utah, United States

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reason---January 28, 2005


While walking the hills of Bountiful this morning, I listened to the Diane Rhem show, sans Diane, and heard the guest, Dr. Temple Grandin, discuss the following: quote: “Humans have long wondered what goes on inside the minds of animals. Now the mysteries of autism may provide clues. A scientist explains how her own experience as a person with autism helps her translate "animal talk." Something Dr. Grandin said struck me. It was that in training animals one needs to attempt to see what the animal sees (she elaborates) and to know what motivates the animal. Animals motivated by fear will behave quite differently than those motivated by kindness or acceptance. She noted that some men sometimes think a dog or cat, for instance, enjoys a friendly roughing up when, in fact, it may frighten the animal and cause it not to behave as the trainer would like, and it may take years to “unlearn” the undesirable behavior. This started me thinking about motivation: Why do I do the things I do? And more worrisome, why don’t I do the things I know I should do? Do I sometimes do the right thing but for the wrong reason? How can I ensure that I do the right thing and for the right reason?

In contemplating the above questions, I believe it is important to consider some hypotheses, if not truths, about motivation. By definition motivation means “action to achieve motive.” In other words we are motivated to satisfy, through our actions, some need that exists. E.g., we eat to satisfy hunger. But we may steal food to eat to satisfy our hunger (wrong thing for the right reason), or grow food to satisfy hunger (right thing for the right reason). Finally, we may steal food to sell for drugs to feed our habit (wrong thing for wrong reason). In searching to understand motivation, I have found the following three-question paradigm to be helpful: (Hint - it works best in conjunction with the question: “How can I motivate myself or others to do blank—?” fill it in).

Question no. 1: If I do “A” will “B” result?
Question no. 2: Do I value “B”?
Question no. 3: Can I do “A”?

Applying this to a typical issue that many face, we may say: If I exercise and lower my fat intake (A) will I lose weight and be more attractive (B)? If we think the answer is yes, we go on to question two: Do I value (B), losing weight, etc.? If the answer is yes, we go on to question three. Can I do (A), that is, exercise and eat less fat? Theoretically, if the answer is “yes” to all three questions, an individual should have the motivation to achieve the goal or solve the problem. Of course we all know it rarely works out that way, not because the paradigm is flawed, but because we are not truthful or kid ourselves about the answers to the questions. This is illustrated more dramatically by the true experience I had with a man who pooh-poohed the paradigm based on his own experience. Briefly, he avowed that wanted to lose weight and had lost weight and could answer yes to all three questions, but that he could not maintain the weight loss. Invariably he would eat too much and not be careful in his food selection and gain wait; therefore, he maintained that the paradigm did not work. I pointed out that the cause of his problem was lack of commitment and, in fact, he really did not want to pay the price of achieving the weight loss (a key factor that is part of question three). Note, an important truth: ability does not equal motivation. Most of us need not look far to find someone with sufficient ability that nevertheless failed to attain their stated objectives. The fact is THEY DIDN’T WANT TO! If you have any doubt that the issue is commitment and not ability for someone who says the paradigm doesn’t work, just try the following test: Have them write out the goal they want to achieve in specific terms. Make sure it is realistic and attainable. Have them set their own date for completion. Have them write out a check to you for one thousand dollars. Tell them you will check back with them on the specified completion date and ask if they have achieved their goal (honor system). If the answer is “yes” you will rip up the check. If the answer is “no” you will cash it. I can pretty much guarantee that you will not get rich using this method, but they will achieve their goals.

This same model applies to spiritual as well as temporal goals. However, it does get a little sticky because the means of measurement are not so clear nor do the “B’s” follow the “A’s” quite as quickly as they might in temporal situations.

I have sometimes observed—tongue in cheek, but with more seriousness than listeners may be aware—that I already know how to be a better person, i.e., more like Christ, than I am. In other words (as I seek to teach others who haven’t a clue as to the inner turmoil than goes on in the life of an NF-Idealist) trying to become a better person (disciple) is often not a problem of having sufficient knowledge, though study is important, or understanding, though the value of pondering and prayer can’t be minimized. It almost certainly lies in the absence of sufficient commitment preceded by incomplete internal agreement as to tenets, principles and doctrine governing the behavior. In simple words—I don’t want to become a better person, badly enough. On the surface, that indictment sounds pitiful. Why on earth would one not want to improve one’s standing before God by becoming “better” when one knows God exists; understands His character, attributes and perfections; knows the great blessings that are in store for one who loves Him and does his will; and who wants to become like Him? If I were to answer my own question, I would say it is due to the mortal condition. From a motivational perspective mature adults are on the opposite side of the continuum from the child who is promised cake if he eats his carrots. Immediately after the carrots are eaten, the cake is served. But even with God-fearing adults, we are told we must eat a lifetime of carrots before expecting any cake. In fact, it may not come until we are in heaven. To top it off, not only must we endure, but also we must endure it “well.” Also in spite of our meritorious endurance, some not only do not receive cake, rather they receive a severe chastisement at the hands of men. Remember Paul, Abinadi, Daniel, Shadrack, Joseph, Joseph Smith and the Savior. In addition, we have our fallen brother who presents a lavish table of goodies in front of us constantly and bids us partake regardless of our behavior. Is it any wonder I, and others, choose to sample just a little from Satan’s table before we get serious about the carrots?

We know there is nothing new here. The requirement to overcome the world and endure well is precisely why we are here in mortality. The Lord knows it won’t be easy; it is a test. Actually knowing that this life is a test helps me with my motivational problem. Why? Well, tests are not really a reflection of reality. They are sort of like being in a simulator like pilots use for training. Even though everything appears as real as can be, the pilot knows if he crashes he won’t be killed. (In a sense the analogy may fail here because it really is possible for us to botch things up so badly here on earth that we will experience spiritual death or even fall short of our goal. (For Latter-Day-Saints salvation without exaltation is damnation). Nevertheless, to continue, we know that the real lasting reality is spirit life, in some kingdom of glory, and not mortality. Mortality is temporary. It’s like an extended management assessment center, and if we perform really well we could be tapped as the new C.E.O. My point is that knowing the temporary nature of mortality, regardless of the conditions, and having some idea of heaven, it ought to make it a bit easier to endure it well. You know—I’m feeling better already about becoming better!

Now, more to the point of the title of these reflections. Let’s say I’ve answered yes to the three questions and I begin a list of things I can change to become better. As they say, the Devil is in the details. This is certainly true with self-improvement programs designed to become more like Christ. It is not enough for me to choose worthy goals such as: daily prayer and scripture study; eliminate anger, road rage and sarcasm; increase tithes and offerings; and visit the sick and imprisoned. No one could argue that these things are right to do, but the Lord indicates they count for nothing if they are not done for the right reason. Even the greatest service to mankind if not done with charity (the pure love of Christ) is worthless (I Cor. 13:1-3).

The scriptures and writings of the brethren provide a number of insights on the importance of doing the right things for the right reason:

1. Wicked people, that is, those whose actions are intended to exalt themselves and not God cannot do right things. (Moroni 7:7-12.) For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing. For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness. For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God. And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such. Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift. For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil. Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.

2. To do otherwise is hypocritical: I remembered what the Prophet Joseph Smith was told. In the first visitation from the Father and the Son when, speaking of the world in which we live the Lord said, "They draw near me with their lips but their hearts are far from me." As I put that opposite these two other statements, I find a clearer meaning of the Lord's words. It meant that they were not doing the right things for the right reasons when they are merely drawing near with their lips but their hearts were far from him. One of the most severe words the Master used all through his ministry was the word "hypocrite." "Wo unto you hypocrites," which I am sure is described by this statement, "they draw near me with their lips but their hearts are far from me." (Harold B. Lee April 19, 1961, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1961 1.)

3. We have to want to. Doing something for the right reason is doing it not only because it is what God would want us to do, but also because it is what we want to do. Consequently, work will demonstrate a love of God and be a service to humanity. It will further God's work of bringing "to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39.) It will be inspired of God. (Moro. 7:13.) (Kent P. Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 8: Alma 30 to Moroni [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988], 294.)

4. Again, ya gotta wanta. Becoming righteously self-governing means doing the right thing for the right reason, particularly when faced with opposition. The person who is righteously self-governing is motivated by neither duty nor "shoulds" nor compliance with the will or wishes of others. Rather, the spiritual self responds to the challenges of mortality as a righteous child of God.

Righteous self-government is based on acknowledging to ourselves and the Lord any unrighteousness and then striving to overcome it. Making that acknowledgment is an act of choosing that allows us to break free from our mortal foibles instead of denying their existence while we painfully suppress them. We can grit our teeth and by sheer willpower restrain ourselves from un-Christlike actions, but that is a far cry from the change of heart that roots out all evil and makes us like Christ (see Alma 5:14). (Richard L. Bednar and Scott R. Peterson, Doing the Right Things for the Right Reasons [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 15 - 16.)

Righteous self-government suggests that a person's goodness is defined by something more than behavior alone. Good conduct is important, but good conduct that is a genuine expression of spiritual substance is infinitely more important. The scriptures regularly instruct us to seek the Spirit, and then good works will follow naturally. For example, Alma states, "And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works" (Alma 7:24). (Bednar and Peterson, 17.)

Righteous behavior is inherently motivating notwithstanding outcome. Righteously self-governed individuals act to maintain harmony between personal goodness within and good works without. That is enough reward. No public success can ever eclipse the personal contentment of harmony between self and God. (Bednar and Peterson, 21-22)

Many times we are willing to adjust ourselves to current conditions in a bid to reduce our own discomfort. By acting, talking, and even dressing a certain way, we hope to increase our chances of winning acceptance or at least to reduce our chances of drawing negative attention to ourselves. The Lord never compromised principle and therefore never compromised himself in order to be found more acceptable to others. (Bednar and Peterson, 21)

5. Don’t forget intentions. Although observable behavior provides many good clues to the quality of a person, it is the intent of the behavior that counts the most. . . . Good works born of a good heart matter the most.
(Bednar and Peterson, 19.)

6. Love is the answer. Medieval author Thomas `a Kempis said, "Without love, the outward work is of no value; but whatever is done out of love, be it never so little, is wholly fruitful. For God regards the greatness of the love that prompts a man, rather than the greatness of his achievement" (in John S. Tanner, "Not a Mind without a Soul," BYU Today, Mar. 1991, 27). (Bednar and Peterson, 17)

7. We all need reminders. “. . . human nature is such that all of us need constant reminding of our responsibilities or we are likely to lapse into some indifference. The need of constant prayer and concentration of our thoughts on the things of the kingdom, and sincere attention to duty, is apparent with most of us, lest we slip. How frequently the Lord has had to caution his people against the weaknesses of the flesh!
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 1: 136.)


It is interesting what one can learn from someone who understands animals and how that learning can lead one’s thoughts into paths uncharted. I liked Kirby and he liked me. I think we both knew that; that’s why we got along.

I’ve always known it was important to do the right thing. Now, I’m going to give more attention to doing things for the right reason—out of the pure love of Christ.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on this subject.

Love, Dad.


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