Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday Inspirations December 27, 2009

It's hard to believe this will be my last Sunday Inspiration post for 2009. To all those who have supported and loved me through reading these little insights of mine, words cannot begin to express my love and appreciation.

Yesterday morning I awoke with a talk coming to mind. You have no idea how relieved I was this happened, as my husband was to speak in church today and I'd yet to figure out how to put all the info he wanted into just one talk. I put in my earplugs to drown out most noisy distractions, came out into the living room, sat down at the amazingly empty computer desk, and less than an hour later I could not believe what the Lord had directed me to put together. Most of the talk is taken from the words of our Church leaders, but I am grateful to my Lord for helping me figure out how to best put everything together.

To my surprise this morning I felt a great need to open my scriptures. After flipping through a few pages I came upon Revelation 3:19-21.

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne."

We are taught through the footnotes that to 'chasten' is akin to being instructed and admonished. Thus, when the Lord chastens us, he is trying to teach us the right way. But we must be the ones to open the door to the Lord and let him in. Let this settle in the back of your mind as you read the talk my husband gave today.

It's been difficult trying to figure out what to speak to your about this day. As we end one year and prepare to begin another, I tried to think about what message Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior would have me give you. For many of us here it's been a challenging year. We've been given trials and temptations as never before. For others of us the strength of our faith has been tested to the breaking point. This has truly been a year of being put through a refiners fire.

Yet this was not what I felt inspired to speak to you about today. Two messages came repeatedly to my mind - messages that the Lord feels our ward needs to hear, to learn, and to put into practice. I feel the best way to teach is through the words of our Church leaders so most of my talk will be taken from them. Please listen carefully to the messages I was asked to share with you today, for we may be in strong need of them for the new year.

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: "I wish today to speak of forgiveness. I think it may be the greatest virtue on earth, and certainly the most needed. There is so much of meanness and abuse, of intolerance and hatred. There is so great a need for repentance and forgiveness. It is the great principle emphasized in all of scripture, both ancient and modern."

President Hinckley tells of the Pharisees who brought a woman before Christ who had been taken in adultery, hoping they might entrap Him. "But Jesus stopped 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."

In our day the Lord has said in revelation: "Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you is it required to forgive all men" (D&C 64:9-10).

The Lord has offered a marvelous promise. Said He, "He who has repented of his sings, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more" (D&C 58:42).

"There are so many in our day who are unwilling to forgive and forget. Children cry and wives weep because fathers and husbands continue to bring up little shortcomings that are really of no importance. And there also are many women who would make a mountain out of every little offending molehill of word or deed."

President Hinckley once clipped a column from the Deseret Morning News, written by Jay Evensen.

"How would you feel toward a teenager who decided to toss a 20-pound frozen turkey from a speeding car headlong into the windshield of the car you were driving? How would you feel after enduring six hours of surgery using metal plates and other hardware to piece your face together, and after, learning you still face years of therapy before returning to normal - and that you ought to feel lucky you didn't die or suffer permanent brain damage?

"And how would you feel after learning that your assailant and his buddies had the turkey in the first place because they had stolen a credit card and gone on a senseless shopping spree, just for kicks? ...

"The New York Times quoted the district attorney as saying this is the sort of crime for which victims feel no punishment is harsh enough. 'Death doesn't even satisfy them,' he said.

"Which is what makes what really happened so unusual. The victim, Victoria Ruvolo, a 44-year old former manager of a collections agency, was more interested in salvaging the life of her 19-year old assailant, Ryan Cushing, than in exacting any sort of revenge. She pestered the prosecutors for information about him, his life, how he was raised, etc. Then she insisted on offering him a plea deal. Cushing could serve six months in the county jail and be on probation for 5 years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.

"Had he been convicted of first-degree assault - the charge most fitting for the crime - he could have served 25 years in prison, finally thrown back into society as a middle-aged man with no skills or prospects.

"But this is only half the story. The rest of it, what happened the day this all played out in court, is the truly remarkable part.

"According to an account in the New York Post, Cushing carefully and tentatively made his way to where Ruvolo sat in the courtroom and tearfully whispered an apology. 'I'm so sorry for what I did to you.'

"Ruvolo then stood, and the victim and her assailant embraced, weeping. She stroked his head and patted his back as he sobbed, and witnesses, including a Times reporter, heard her say, 'It's OK. I just want you to make your life the best it can be.' According to accounts, hardened prosecutors, and even reporters, were choking back tears" ("Forgiveness Has Power to Change Future," Deseret Morning News, Aug. 21, 2005, p. AA3).

"What a great story that is, greater because it actually happened, and that it happened in tough old New York. Who can feel anything but admiration for this woman who forgave the young man who might have taken her life?"

President James E. Faust tells us: "Forgiveness is not always instantaneous. When innocent children have been molested or killed, most of us do not think first about forgiveness. Our natural response is anger. We may even feel justified in wanting to 'get even' with anyone who inflicts injury on us or our family.

"Dr. Sidney Simon, a recognized authority on values realization, has provided an excellent definition of forgiveness as is applies to human relationships: "Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves."

President Faust continues to counsel us by saying: "Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of these reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours. The folly of rehashing long-past hurts does not bring happiness.

"Some hold grudges for a lifetime, unaware that courageously forgiving those who have wronged us is wholesome and therapeutic.

"Forgiveness comes more readily when we have faith in God and trust in His word. Such faith 'enables people to withstand the worst of humanity. It also enables people to look beyond themselves. More importantly, it enables them to forgive.'

"All of us suffer some injuries from experiences that seem to have no rhyme or reason. We cannot understand them or explain them. We may never know why some things happen in this life. The reason for some of our suffering is known only to the Lord. But because it happens, it must be endured. President Howard W. Hunter said that 'God knows what we do not know and sees what we do not see.'

"President Brigham Young offered this profound insight that at least some of our suffering has a purpose when he said: 'Every calamity that can come upon mortal beings will be suffered to come upon the few, to prepare them to enjoy the presence of the Lord. ...Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation.'

"If we can find forgiveness in our hearts," President Faust continues, "for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being. Some recent studies show that people who are taught to forgive become 'less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious and less stressed,' which leads to greater physical well-being. Another of these studies concludes 'that forgiveness ... is a liberating gift [that] people can give to themselves.'"

But what happens when we are the ones needing forgiveness? None of us here are perfect. Regardless of how hard we work to stay on the straight and narrow path, each of us will slip along the way. Sometimes it'll be a slight stumble from which we can quickly recover, while other times we'll be thrown to the ground, taking out others around us, finding ourselves with spiritual scrapes, bruises, and perhaps a few broken bones both on ourselves as well as those we've hurt. We will need to ask for forgiveness of those around us, it is true. But first and foremost we need to seek help to heal ourselves.

Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Seventy gives us a most beautiful thought on how we can begin this road.

"I have though of the Lord's invitation to come unto Him and to spiritually be wrapped in His arms. He said, 'Behold, [my arms] of mercy [are] extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.'

"The scriptures speak of His arms being open, extended, stretched out, and encircling. They are described as mighty and holy, arms of mercy, arms of safety, arms of love, 'lengthened out all the day long.'

"We have each felt to some extent these spiritual arms around us. We have felt His forgiveness, His love and comfort. The Lord has said, 'I am he [who] comforteth you.'

"The Lord's desire that we come unto Him and be wrapped in His arms is often an invitation to repent. 'Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.'

"When we sin, we turn away from God. When we repent, we turn back toward God.

"The invitation to repent is rarely a voice of chastisement but rather a loving appeal to turn around and 're-turn' toward God. It is the beckoning of a loving Father and His Only Begotten Son to be more than we are, to reach up to a higher way of life, to change, and to feel the happiness of keeping the commandments. Being disciples of Christ, we rejoice in the blessing of repenting and the joy of being forgiven. They become part of us, shaping the way we think and feel."

Elder Anderson then relates: "Years ago, I was asked to meet with a man who, long before our visit, had had a period of riotous living. As a result of his bad choices, he lost his membership in the Church. He had long since returned to the Church and was faithfully keeping the commandments, but his previous actions haunted him. Meeting with him, I felt his shame and his deep remorse at having set his covenants aside. Following our interview, I placed my hands upon his head to give him a priesthood blessing. Before speaking a word, I felt an overpowering sense of the Savior's love and forgiveness for him. Following the blessing, we embraced and the man wept openly.

"I am amazed at the Savior's encircling arms of mercy and love for the repentant, no matter how selfish the forsaken sin. I testify that the Savior is able and eager to forgive our sins. Except for me the sins of those few who choose perdition after having known a fullness, there is no sin that cannot be forgiven. What a marvelous privilege for each of us to turn away from our sins and to come unto Christ. Divine forgiveness is one of the sweetest fruits of the gospel, removing guilt and pain from our hearts and replacing them with joy and peace of conscience. Jesus declares, 'Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?'

"For most, repentance ism ore a journey than a one-time event. It is not easy. To change is difficult. It requires running into the wind, swimming upstream. Jesus said, 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.' Repentance is turning away from some things, such as dishonesty, pride, anger, and impure thoughts, and turning toward other things, such as kindness, unselfishness, patience, and spirituality. It is 're-turning' toward God.

"How do we decide where our repentance should be focused? The best approach is to humbly petition the Lord: 'Father, what wouldst Thou have me do?' The answers come. We feel the changes we need to make. The Lord tells us in our mind and in our heart.

"We then are allowed to choose: will we repent, or will we pull the shades down over our open window into heaven?

"Alma warned, 'Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point.' When we 'pull the shades down,' we stop believing that spiritual voice inviting us to change. We pray but we listen less. Our prayers lack that faith that leads to repentance.

"At this very moment, someone is saying, 'you don't understand. You can't feel what I have felt. It is too difficult to change.'

"You are correct; I don't fully understand. But there is One who does. He knows. He has felt your pain. He has declared, 'I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.' The Savior is there, reaching out to each of us, begging us: 'Come unto me.' We can repent.

"Realizing where we need to change, we sorrow for the sadness we have caused. This leads to sincere and heartfelt confession to the Lord and, when needed, to others. When possible, we restore what we have wrongly harmed or taken.

"Repentance becomes part of our daily lives. Our weekly taking of the sacrament is so important - to come meekly, humbly before the Lord, acknowledging our dependence upon Him, asking Him to forgive and to renew us, and promising to always remember Him.

"Sometimes in our repentance, in our daily efforts to become more Christlike, we find ourselves repeatedly struggling with the same difficulties. As if we were climbing a tree-covered mountain, at times we don't see our progress until we get closer to the top and look back from the high ridges. Don't be discouraged. If you are striving and working to repent, you are in the process of repenting.

"Sometimes we wonder why we remember our sins long after we have forsaken them. Why does the sadness for our mistakes at times continue following our repentance?

"You might remember a tender story told by President James E. Faust. 'As a small boy on the farm ... , I remember my grandmother ... cooking our delicious meals on a hot wood stove. When the wood box next to the stove became empty, Grandmother would silently pick up the box, go out to refill it from the pile of cedar wood outside, and bring the heavily laden box back into the house.'

"President Faust's voice then filled with emotion as he continued: 'I was so insensitive ... I sat there and let my beloved grandmother refill the kitchen wood box. I feel ashamed of myself and have regretted my [sin of] omission for all of my life. I hope someday to ask for her forgiveness.'

"More than 65 years had passed. If President Faust still remembered and regretted not helping his grandmother after all those years, should we be surprised with some of the things we still remember and regret?

"The scriptures do not say that we will forget our forsaken sins in mortality. Rather, they declare that the Lord will forget.

"The forsaking of sins implies never returning. Forsaking requires time. To help us, the Lord at times allows the residue of our mistakes to rest in our memory. It is a vital part of our mortal learning.

"As we honestly confess our sins, restore what we can to the offended, and forsake our sins by keeping the commandments, we are in the process of receiving forgiveness. With time, we will feel the anguish of our sorrow subside, taking 'away the guilt from our hearts' and bringing 'peace of conscience.'

"For those who are truly repentant but seem unable to feel relief: continue keeping the commandments. I promise you, relief will come in the timetable of the Lord. Healing also requires time. If you are concerned, counsel with your bishop. A bishop has the power of discernment. He will help you.

"The scriptures warn us, 'Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance.' But, in this life, it is never too late to repent.

"Once I was asked to meet an older couple returning to the Church. They had been taught the gospel by their parents. After their marriage, they left the Church. Now, 50 years later, they were returning. I remember the husband coming into the office pulling an oxygen tank. They expressed regret at not having remained faithful. I told them of our happiness because of their return, assuring them of the Lord's welcoming arms to those who repent. The elderly man responded, 'We know this. But our sadness is that our children and grandchildren do not have the blessings of the gospel. We are back, but we are back alone.'

"They were not back alone. Repentance not only changes us, but it also blesses our families and those we love. With out righteous repentance, in the timetable of the Lord, the lengthened-out arms of the Savior will not only encircle us but will also extend into the lives of our children and posterity. Repentance always means that there is greater happiness ahead."

Don't let the chance to repent pass you by. Even the little things, when not dealt with, can build up and up until they press like a great weight on the soul. Seek to forgive others, even if they are not seeking that forgiveness.

If you seek to be happy, re-turn to the Lord. I can promise you His arms are open, eager for you to come unto Him. And in His arms there will be peace, rest, and happiness.

1 comment:

Gourmified said...

Beautiful. I'm so sad I missed it. I would have loved to hear Steven's as well. He gave me a "reader's digest" version of his talk...he's not as lucky as Dave is, to get my help anymore.