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

Monday, March 06, 2006

Wasted Opportunity

Wasted Opportunity
(How I Thoroughly Trashed the Second Commandment)
March 2006

Yesterday I had a scary experience, most disconcerting, an epiphany of sorts, something that showed me who I am, or could be, but hope with all my heart not to be. When I am through explaining, some may scoff and call it trivial. I can see it large and far-reaching and potentially damning if not corrected. Happily, this trait—for so it is—can be altered and overcome with the Lord’s help. However, like so many human frailties, it will take effort—deliberate and calculated.

The day began when I arose at about 8:00 A.M., about par for me, but already feeling guilty, and slightly grumpy for having slept so late. (The D & C admonition to “retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated” nagged at me—as usual—but this is another long story). I had my morning prayer, and—also as usual—prayed that I might be prepared and prompted to provide whatever service may be needed by my fellow man. I attended the temple and returned home about the same time as Molly returned from WSU. I had just gotten ready to go on my exercise walk and the telephone rang. It was the full-time missionaries requesting a ride to their appointment. (Evidently, elders in the mission had been having far too many accidents and the Mission President grounded all of them for one day).

This is where the trouble began. Already I was carrying some negative baggage—in no way justified—from a similar experience three weeks previously. The missionaries had called for a ride (I had no idea how I got on their list—was this just to punish retired people? Don’t they think I have a life?). On picking them up, I found myself feeling somewhat unaccepting. Not only had they disturbed my day, they were both very large. Why couldn’t they lose some weight? I began some small talk. Where are you elders from, etc? They were quiet—no personality. What kind of impression would they make on people? With me, an introvert, doing 95% of the talking, we arrived at their appointment—Totally Eclipse. They had dragged me away from home to take them to get a haircut! And, to top it off, it was only five blocks away from where I picked them up. Why couldn’t they walk? If anyone needed exercise, these two did. The final insult was that when they exited the Taurus, they gave a weak “thanks” as, though this were my job, and they slammed the doors very hard—don’t they know a Ford can’t take that kind of beating? Feeling put out and miffed, I returned home. Such was my mindset yesterday when they called.

As I knew it would be—my perception and expectations were set in concrete—the whole experience was the very same (how could it not be?), with two exceptions: their appointment was with an investigator and it was about seven, not five, blocks from their home. This time, however, I decided to punish them. After saying hello and getting the directions, I didn’t say a word—just drove. We sat in silence the entire way. It was excruciating for me, but it didn’t faze them. They got out, slammed the doors, and I drove home feeling used.

Something funny happened when I got home. I thought I might relate my complaint to Molly, but as I reflected, I began having a gnawing feeling of dissonance come over me. Somehow there was a disconnect between my prayer, the temple experience and my “service” to the Lord’s anointed. I felt as though I had just slammed the door in the face of the stranger, who would be let in. The worst Pharisee could not have felt more hypocritical than I. Is this who I am? What I am? Is my life a sham and deception? Must the puniest of sacrifices be only extended on my terms? The words of two poems I am so diligently memorizing for the two-fold purpose of building character and staving off Alzheimer’s came into my mind:

“True worth is in being, not seeming-
In doing, each day that goes by,
Some little good-not in dreaming
Of great things to do by and by.”
Nobility—Alice Cary

“These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heart-strings of a friend
The Fools Prayer—Edward R. Sill

I was shocked at my unchristian behavior. I do want to serve. I believe in it. I’ve experienced the joy that comes from service. What is wrong with me? Is there a gap—a fatal flaw? How will I survive when real troubles come? How can I expect a call to march to Missouri if I balk at such a simple, minimal call as this? What about love for one’s neighbor? I need some therapy, maybe from others, but surely from me—self-administered. The words of Moroni seemed to be particularly applicable:

For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.

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.
(Moroni 7:5-9.)
One thing is clear. One of my “works” yesterday did not place me among the “good” nor did it profit me. Likewise, there are probably no points given here for “good intentions.” Spencer W. Kimball:

“But will one receive eternal life on the basis of his good intentions? Can one enter a country, receive a scholastic degree, and so on, on the strength of good intent unsupported by appropriate action? Samuel Johnson remarked that "hell is paved with good intentions." The Lord will not translate one's good hopes and desires and intentions into works. Each of us must do that for himself.
(Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness)

In “doing for” myself, my pondering has brought me to this conclusion:
1. I can work through this and repent—else what is this probationary period for? (“Though your sins be as scarlet…”).
2. True repentance will place me among the righteous. I like this observation by Hugh Nibley:

Ezekial 18: 21-22 defines a righteous man. Who is righteous? Anyone who is repenting. No matter how bad he has been, if he is repenting he is a righteous man. There is hope for him. And no matter how good he has been all his life, if he is not repenting, he is a wicked man. The difference is which way you are facing. The man on the top of the stairs facing down is much worse off than the man on the bottom step who is facing up. The direction we are facing, that is repentance; and that is what determines whether we are good or bad. (Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion, edited by Don E. Norton, 301 - 302.)… And as Ezekiel tells us, if a person has been righteous all his life but he's not repenting any more, he's wicked. Of course, he may have been wicked all of his life, and if he's repenting now, he's righteous. It makes no difference. So, always repent, always keep repenting. (Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon--Semester 1: Transcripts of Lectures Presented to an Honors Book of Mormon Class at Brigham Young University, 1988--1990 [Provo: Foundation for Ancient Re 227.)

And this by President Hinckley:

How much we have need of the application of this God-given principle, repentance. We see the need for it in the homes of the people, where tiny molehills of misunderstanding are fanned into mountains of argument. We see it among neighbors, where insignificant differences lead to undying bitterness (48)…If there be any who nurture in their hearts the poisonous brew of enmity toward another, I plead with you to ask the Lord for strength to forgive. This expression of desire will be of the very substance of your repentance. It may not be easy, and it may not come quickly. But if you will seek it with sincerity and cultivate it, it will come. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Be Thou an Example [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 50.)

3. I can follow my own advice (abundantly given to others) that no one can make me angry, peeved, frustrated (you fill in the blank) without my permission. But with this liberating thought there must be—I never thought I’d hear myself saying this—the practical awareness of reality. It’s true, I live in the past and future, but the truth is that pain, annoyance, discomfort, envy and the like occur in the present. Since I am mortal and Satan is diligent and subtle, I really don’t stand a chance unless I am constantly, ever minute, aware of my weaknesses and the fact that I am being tested. Quoting BYU Psychologist Allen Bergin, Niel Maxwell states:

"The ideal of self-control is supreme. This life is a test—is a test—is a test. You have not passed until you have endured to the end and are dead. You will be tried every day of your life, whether you know it or not. Today, we are all bombarded by stimuli toward the loosening of moral controls. The provocation is enormous. You must practice self-control and have a strong repertoire of such abilities, so that when stress comes, you can cope. Mercifully, the Lord permits us small doses of evil to practice our controls on before we are hit with real temptation, but then it comes." (Neal A. Maxwell “The Smallest Part, 24.)

4. I must not sabotage myself making me vulnerable to temptation. Like the fat person wanting to lose weight, figuratively, I must not walk by the doughnut counter when hungry. In other words, not forget to nurture myself spiritually (prayer, scripture study, temple attendance, daily acts of kindness, etc.) or physically (get sufficient rest, exercise, etc.).

5. Finally, I must ensure that my life directing paradigms are aligned. In leadership terms, “walk the talk.” It really comes down to reminding myself to mind myself; to follow what I know to be true principles; to plan for and carry out daily acts of service. Dr. Bergin admonishes us “to err…on the side of over control--that can be redeemed--but the excesses of under control can have fatal, irredeemable consequences. Therefore, stay close to the Church, follow its leaders, and seek the guidance of the spirit.” (Toward a Theory of Human Agency by Allen E. Bergin , BYU Studies, vol. 16 (1975-1976), Number 1 - Autumn 1975 183.)

There you have it. There is surely more. I would be most happy receive your counsel. Having mulled this over, I feel better already. I have great intentions.

P.S. The following are some thoughts relative to the subject:

*As simple as it sounds, rendering small acts of service is often as much a product of habit as anything else. We do what we condition ourselves to do, and even though routine, mechanical, or unfeeling service is inferior to what is done with the heart, there is nonetheless much benefit in becoming consistent and regular in our efforts to serve.
(Linda and Richard Eyre, Teaching Children Charity [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], 232.)

*Spencer W. Kimball said:

I have learned that it is by serving that we learn how to serve. When we are engaged in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves. . . .

God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom. . . . So often, our acts of service consist of simple encouragement or of giving mundane help with mundane tasks, but what glorious consequences can flow from mundane acts and from small but deliberate deeds! (Joseph B. Wirthlin, Finding Peace in Our Lives [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 64.)

And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. (2 Nephi 31:19-20)
(Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., Mosiah: Salvation Only through Christ [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1991], 237.)

*It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which . . . you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

—C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory fn