Self-Reflection and Its Uses

As I mentioned in a past post, I like to daydream and wonder about the universe and all the crazy stuff that’s in it. This often leads to thinking about something very important: Me! I really enjoy a good session of introspection and self-reflecting, especially at the end of the day when I am getting ready for bed. I talk to myself in the mirror, asking myself how my day went and what I could have done better. Usually this casual dialogue with my inner self becomes very serious and soul-searching. I think about my likes and dislikes, what kind of personality I have, and whether I am doing my best to improve myself as a person. I make plans to better myself, some of which I actually go through with. At the end of a session, I always feel better about myself, more satisfied with who I am and what it actually means to be me.

This might sound really goofy and weird, but I am a firm believer that a good bout of self-reflection can work wonders on the soul. I personally use self-reflection as a way to decompress, especially if I have been dissatisfied with life lately. It helps me to address the reasons for the issue and not just the issue itself. Does that make any sense? I guess another way to put it is that you need to get to the root of a problem, especially if you find that the problem stems from you! Sometimes self-reflection can lead you to places in your soul that you don’t really want to examine closely, but facing those dark thoughts and shadowy recesses can lead to a better sense of self-worth and allows us to address issues within ourselves that we might have never realized were there.

Now, why is self-reflection important from a Gospel perspective? Well, if we aren’t aware of ourselves and our own strengths and weaknesses, there is no way that we will be able to align our will to God’s and strive to follow his commandments. We have to be aware of the reasons behind our actions, whether they are because of something within ourselves or because of an outward stimulus. We can then change ourselves, or hopefully our surroundings, to alter what our actions are.

The other day, I heard someone talking about how they were easily angered and that they “just couldn’t help it.” I have a strong belief that anyone can change and that someone’s personality can be changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. God, as our loving Heavenly Father, wants us to become better people. This can only take place through change and change can only occur in our soul if we allow the Atonement of Christ to work through us. My invitation for everybody today is to do a little soul-searching and find something you can work on to turn your heart towards God and allow yourself to be changed a little by the Atonement. Become a better person by striving to change some part of yourself today! Pray to have opportunities to change and God will provide them.

On Preventing Inactivity

As a missionary, especially here in Utah, I have talked to many people who have gone inactive or less-active in the church for a variety of reasons. Like President Uchtdorf recently said in the October General Conference, the reasons for leaving the church are neither general nor simple. I won’t talk much about that talk, partly because I already talked about it (see: My Favorite Conference Talk) and partly because today I want to talk about what we as members can do to prevent our own inactivity in the Gospel.

Personally, I wish it was just as easy as saying, “I am always going to stay active in the church!” I wish that outward exclamation of will would be enough to prevent a possible falling away from the Church that I love, but having seen so many other people go inactive, I know that must not be enough. Even more disturbing to me is the fact that there are missionaries who serve honorable, full-time missions only to go inactive a year or two off their missions. I admit that I have been worried quite a bit lately about that possibility with myself. I really can’t see myself doing that, but what on Earth can I do to prevent such a thing from happening?

The answer (or rather, one of them) came to me during my personal study a few days ago. I was reading the October 1996 General Conference talks when I came across one by a nearly twenty-years younger Thomas S. Monson. The talk is titled “Be Thou an Example,” and it primarily talks about how we can receive blessings from following the Lord’s commandments and that our example can change the lives of those around us. As I was reading the wonderful discourse, I came across an entire paragraph devoted to missionaries and the council that he would give them. Here are the three things that he asked his missionaries to do when he was a Mission President in Canada:

  1. “Prepare well for your vocation, profession, or trade, and be the very best you can be at what you choose to do.
  2. Quoting Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “Marry the right person [at the right time], in the right place, [and] by the right authority.” Thus far, their responses were spontaneous and enthusiastic. Then I would counsel:
  3. Always be active in the Church. Some of the missionaries would look a little quizzical before responding, and I would say, “Let me put the matter another way. Three words provide the formula: Pay your tithing.” Each would affirm determination to do so. I truly believe that the payment of an honest tithing will go a long way to ensure continued activity in the Church.”

After reading the each of the first two points, I was nodding my heading and saying to myself, “Yes yes, this is very sound advice.” When I read the third point, I did a mental double-take. Was continued activity really as easy as paying tithing? I am not sure I even finished the talk at this point because I felt like I had been given a nugget of metal more precious than gold. Perhaps this was the answer I had been seeking the whole time.

Well, after thinking about it and pondering why exactly tithing would help with continued church activity, I realized that the solution was not as easy as I had first mentally exclaimed. I thought about my own struggles paying tithing over the years and how difficult it was to give up one tenth of a hard-earned paycheck. I thought about my parents who had been dirt-poor during college and the fact that they made a concentrated effort to pay their tithing every month. My mom still speaks with great reverence about the blessings they received during those years and how she attributes them to tithing. I realized that the tithing we pay blesses us more than anything else. While it is true that the Church uses tithing to fund building construction and other projects, the Church really doesn’t need the money. President Monson could tell the entire membership that there is no need to pay tithing anymore and he would be guided to some mountain to find an untapped gold vein or something in order to fund the Church. So if the Lord doesn’t need our tithing, why do we pay it? Why is it a commandment to pay one whole tenth of the money we make to a church that could get along just fine without it?

In Malachi 3:10-11 regarding the payment of tithing, it states,

“…prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.”

Honestly, I think the opportunity to receive a blessing “that there shall not be room enough to receive it” is a good enough reason to pay tithing, but the Lord explains even further that “[He] will rebuke the devourer for [our] sakes.” Satan himself will be rebuked and have no power over us. The “fruits of our ground” will be protected and will be given to us in the correct time. While in many cases this includes financial blessings, it often also means our spiritual fruits as well. I assume that tithing helps our church activity in this manner. If we are paying an honest tithe, we will be blessed with more spiritual sensitivity and a desire to attend church. We will be given an increased capacity to serve in the church and opportunities to grow and progress, which is the ultimate goal of this life.

My invitation to you today is to pay your tithing and see how generous God will be in blessing you. I can testify that tithing has kept my own family afloat during difficult times in our life and brought us closer together. A family that pays tithing together attends church together. If you are currently inactive in the Church, I urge you to come back and enjoy the blessings that the Lord has (and wants) for you. Our Father in Heaven wants to bless us, but we have to follow His provided commandments in order to do so.

Full Stomach or Full Spirit

We went to Winger’s for lunch today as a district. I love hot wings more than almost any other food I can thing of, so I naturally get the endless wings deal, Atomic Buffalo flavor. After four plates of wings and a numb mouth, I sit back, my stomach full to burst. Even a couple hours later, I still can’t decide whether the whole ordeal was worth it, but that’s what always happens when we eat a whole bunch of food. Even though it was so delicious, I can positively say that I will not be going back to Winger’s for quite some time…

Even though stuffing ourselves full of food is pretty dang fun, it really isn’t good for us and usually isn’t worth it. One thing that is always worth our time to stuff ourselves with is the Gospel. Studying the scriptures, prayer, and attending church are just a couple ways that we can give ourselves a spiritual feast, without all the unfortunate weight gain and sore bellies that gorging on hot wings gives us. We are instructed to “feast upon the words of Christ,” which means much more than just reading a few passages out of the New Testament every day. This command, similar to a feast of physical food, requires single-minded devotion and desire to the meal at hand. This means that we need to actually ponder and meditate on the scriptures and words of Christ.

As a missionary, I have an hour of personal study time every day. I can choose this time to read the scriptures, go over conference talks, and receive revelation about what my area needs to be taught. There are three questions I ask myself before I start my daily study:

  1. What questions of the soul do I have? (If I have these questions, my investigators will most likely have the same ones)
  2. What difficulties are my investigators going through that I can help them overcome? (The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ultimate solution to all problems)
  3. Is there a particular Christ-like attribute that I need to work on? (I always have room for improvement; patience with investigators who don’t progress quickly is certainly an area of improvement for me)

With these questions in mind, I always find myself full of spiritual food by the end of my studies. I feel more prepared for the day and ready to teach my fellow man the joyful message of the Restored Gospel. While not everybody is a full-time missionary who has an hour to study every day, everyone can feast upon the words of Christ. I invite everyone to set aside 15 minutes each morning or night to study the scriptures and use the three questions above to guide your own feasting on the words of Christ. You can change question 2 to something along the lines of how you can help your family members or friends with their own problems. Regardless, I hope this helps you in your spiritual feasting!

20 “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 31:20 (emphasis added)

3 “Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” 2 Nephi 32:3 (emphasis added)