This problem was first brought to my attention by my awesome companion, Elder Ellsworth (side note, he has a great blog that you can view here). Apparently, the reason so many of my jokes have been falling flat all these years is that my eyebrows didn't move! Imagine that!
So, the wonderful Elder Ellsworth invited me to do something: he invited me to change. He has been coaching me in the last week or so by adding the word "eyebrows" to the ends of my sentences and giving me examples of good facial expressions. At first it was a little bit aggravating, because change is not easy. But I'm SLOWLY getting to the point where I don't need to think about it anymore, my eyebrows move on their own!
As missionaries, our role is to invite the people we meet and teach to make changes in their lives that will bring them closer to the Savior. Often times these changes are not easy, and they sometimes don't make a whole lot of sense. Many religions teach that we don't need to change our lifestyles, we only need to declare faith in Jesus Christ. From time to time the people we teach are confused about why they are being asked to change themselves.
So, after thinking about it, I'd like to share some thoughts about WHY we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, are asked to change our lifestyles.
It all starts with our purpose in life. I think the Book of Mormon character Amulek describes it best, in Alma 34:32:
This life is the time to prepare. This life is when we must perform our labors. What does that mean? How can we, imperfect mortal human beings, prepare to meet God, the perfect, eternal creator of the universe? How can we possibly be prepared for such a task? What does that even entail?
Well, although Christian religions differ in the specifics of the doctrine, almost all agree that, at some point after we die, we will all be held accountable before God. According to the Mormon tradition, we will be judged according to our "thoughts, actions, and desires". So what can we do to make sure that when we report to our Maker on ALL of our thoughts, actions, and desires, we won't be shaking in our boots and quivering in guilt?
Well, we can change. We use the word "repent". To repent means to feel sorry for our mistakes, correct our habits, and realign our will with God's will. God has repeatedly given us the AMAZING promise, throughout the Bible and the Book of Mormon, that if we repent of our sins, we will no longer be held accountable for them. They are wiped away, we are forgiven. It is one of the greatest blessings God has given to His children.
But why does God care what we do in this life? If He loves us, why can't He accept us the way we are? That is a good question. It has to do with the nature of God's commandments. The thing that is sometimes hard to realize is that God doesn't give us commandments just to make our lives harder. He isn't trying to STOP His children from making it to heaven by telling us what we should and shouldn't do. The commandments are there... TO MAKE US HAPPY! In my first post, I talked about how keeping the commandments leads us to a happier life. It isn't that God is rewarding us for keeping an arbitrary list of do's and don'ts. The commandments DIRECTLY affect our quality of life, the peace in our families, and our feelings of self-worth. Pretty neat, huh?
So why do you need to change your life because of the gospel? Well, you don't. But God has given you commandments, commandments meant to bless and enrich your life, and if you don't try to live them, you won't qualify to live with Him in Heaven. Notice that I said TRY. Because God is merciful, and knows that sometimes we don't succeed. But He wants us to do our very best.
I have gained a greater love for and appreciation of the rules that God has given us as I've lived them myself and taught them to those around me. I hope that my thoughts have made sense and that they have helped explain why the Lord sometimes asks us to make changes in our lives.
I would like to invite all of you, no matter what your religious affiliation might be, to study the teachings of Christ in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. Then seek to live your life in accordance with those teachings. Love your neighbor, live a clean and virtuous life, pay respect to God through prayer, and try to serve those around you. You will be blessed by your obedience to God, and then over time you will know for yourself that the teachings of Jesus Christ are true.
How has living the commandments blessed you in your life?
Let me know in the comments!