When we live to be worthy, as President Nelson counsels, we might need to give up some of the worldly things we embraced while on our struggling journey. There may be friends, clothes, Word of Wisdom choices, language, entertainment, and more that we’ll have to put on the altar. See it as an offering you’re giving, to show God you’re serious. Really mean it. Consecrate your time and study with earnest effort. Your sincerity will not be ignored. You will get answers.
Look at what this master of packaging has done. He has convinced us that peace is wealth and comfort, peace is amusement park fun, peace is good health, peace is everyone agreeing with us. He convinces us that peace is finally getting that car/house/degree/kids or whatever other goal he can dangle before us. Peace is looking good. Peace is being popular. Peace is being treated fairly. Peace is a vacation without snags. Peace is a marriage without bumps. Peace is all your relatives being nice. Peace is scholarships and favorite callings and chocolate pie at the end of the day. Are you laughing, yet?
To others, peace may look like the absence of trials. To us, peace is the presence of God. So how can we attain the real deal? Sometimes we ignore the “Sunday School Answers,” but that doesn’t diminish their value. To get closer to Christ we have to follow his formula. And it isn’t a secret recipe; he repeated it over and over. We are to love God. We’re to exercise faith that he knows and loves us, that he hears our prayers. We should love one another, and really practice that. We must pray earnestly, forget about trite phrases, and bare our hearts to our Father in Heaven.
When we allow for others to be open about the ways in which they are different the entire group benefits. And the converse is true: If peer pressure makes us feel we have to conform to a set way of presenting ourselves, the entire group suffers. Those who feel they must live falsely can feel unworthy, unwelcome, even ashamed. Some buckle under this pressure to conform, and emotional problems can result.
God has always made it clear that he cares about minutia. Consider his familiar directives: “…out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” (D&C 64:33) and “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6). Our lives contain both monumental issues and seemingly small matters. We err when we only come to Heavenly Father with huge problems (in fact, sometimes these may have grown because we neglected the incremental path that got us into this difficulty).
What I loved most was discovering that weird can be wonderful and even essential. How awful it would be if we really were homogenized into a boring sameness with identical interests, personalities, abilities, and challenges. Our differences make us richer, more interesting, more blessed.
How can we get to that point, to be able to pray and receive revelation? Our dear prophet, President Russell M. Nelson offers the remedy. He says, “Plead with the Lord for the gift of discernment. Then live and work to be worthy to receive that gift so that when confusing events arise in the world, you will know exactly what is true and what is not.”
As a former journalist (I don’t know… do you ever stop being one?) I see a huge shift from an attempt to remain neutral and to verify every story, to what we have today: Pravda-esque unproven propaganda, biased reporting, outright lies, and no accountability (and both sides feel this way about the other side.) No wonder people don’t believe what they’re being spoon-fed.
When you next see your life tumbling into disarray, pull back and realize that it’s the adversary who wants you to feel peace through simplicity. He’s the one telling you to wish your worries away and feel settled only when life has fallen neatly into place (which it never will, which he knows, and which pleases him).
Just as with waiting until it’s a true emergency to get a Priesthood blessing, sometimes we only approach God with major crises, as if there’s a finite barrel of blessings and we don’t want to drain it too quickly. But both of these gifts—Priesthood blessings and prayers—should be utilized more. And if something matters to us—whether it’s a lost toy, wanting a wedding to go well (as Mary did when Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine), or simply to help us solve a daily problem, we should remember that God loves us and is ready to help us when we ask him.
Involving God in the details of our lives is also evidence that we have a real relationship with him, and know him as the loving Father he is. Only approaching God about gigantic calamities keeps him in the great, unknowable category, like Oz, or a tyrannical ruler of some kind, with whom you must request an audience and then come cowering forward. The adversary would love us to see God this way, as a misty being who shouldn’t be bothered with your trivial concerns.
Your temple recommend is a badge of honor like no other. It certifies so many faith-filled choices you have made. To carry this tiny document in your wallet is to affirm your love of the Lord, your honesty, your commitments, sacrifices you have made, and so much more. It says you have stood up to temptation, you have repented when you’ve tripped up, you continue to renew your covenants with God, you are a good citizen, you are actually a formidable force in the struggle against Lucifer. You are on the right path.
But many of us hoard something else—not physical items, but hurts we’ve accumulated over our lifetime. Our brains and hearts are crammed so full of injustices and cruelties that we can scarcely find room for the uplifting, positive things of life. We fail to see blessings and we can miss out on spiritual growth.
Eager to share what we hold dear, we often race to do so before we’ve established genuine friendship and trust. Instead, we should simply be friends of the highest order: People who step up and help, neighbors who exemplify Christian compassion. We can make huge spiritual strides with temporal service. As we serve, we love our neighbors more and they sense it.
In last October’s General Conference, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a talk called “Daily Restoration” and spoke of a study done at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. To test the theory that people who are lost walk in circles, they took test participants to a thick forest and told them to walk in a straight line. GPS data showed that, despite thinking they had walked in a straight line, they had actually made loops, some as small as 20 meters in diameter. “Without reliable landmarks,” he said, “we drift off course.” It would be interesting to see if their pace increased as well.