Sunday, June 8, 2014

THE LORD'S YARDSTICK By Ronda Hinrichsen

Have you ever said to yourself, “I wish I were as meek as he is?”  Or, “That gal gives up so much of her time and money. I’m going to do everything I can to give just as much as she does?”
I know I never have. In fact, rather than reaching upward to attain similar spiritual gifts, I too often compare myself to others in more physical ways—their homes, their bodies, their accomplishments—believing if I only had what they had or looked like they looked, I would be happy and successful. But the truth is real success has nothing to do with material wealth, honor or appearance.

In Gospel Doctrine, Joseph F. Smith states, “The great truth enunciated by the Savior seems very generally to be lost sight of in this generation, that it will profit a man nothing though he should gain the whole world, if he loses his own soul.
"The standard of success as declared by the word of God, is the salvation of the soul. The greatest gift of God is eternal life. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pg. 125).”
Such a standard is not easy—it requires constant vigilance—but that truth is the reality we should concentrate on, not on having a nice car or selling a lot of books (I’m an author, after all J). 
The Heart of the Matter 
Marvin J. Ashton wrote: “When the Lord measures an individual, He does not take a tape measure around the person’s head to determine his mental capacity, nor his chest to determine his manliness, but He measures the heart as an indicator of the person’s capacity and potential to bless others. 
“Why the heart? Because the heart is a synonym for one’s entire makeup (Ensign, November 1988).” 
In other words, the Lord will judge us by our characters. “Your character will be the yardstick that God will use to determine how well you have met your mortal probation,” Elder Richard G. Scott affirms. “Strong moral character results from consistent correct choices in the trials and testing of life. Such choices are made with trust in things that are believed and, when acted upon, will be confirmed as true. . . . . Satan and his troops have defined their character by resolute opposition to the will of our Father and consistent violation of His commandments. You solidify your character by consistent correct choices (Elder Richard G. Scott, Ensign, January 2007 ).”

Since correct choices are so vital to the development of our characters and thus our pathways to Eternal Life, perhaps that is the reason the Lord chose this message—the command to choose perfectly, to be perfect as He is—when he presented the Beatitudes to the Nephites shortly after His death and resurrection. Here are just a few of the character traits we must work for in our quest for Eternal Life:
      “And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
      “And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.
      “And blessed are the merciful . . .
      “And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (3 Nephi 12: 5-8).
      This character list of Christ-like perfection goes on and on, yet so do the Eternal blessings. Notice, not one of them pertains to nicer homes, expensive clothing, or worldly prestige.
When I began this article by mentioning that too often I compare myself to other’s achievements, I meant that literally. Especially in relation to writing success. For years, I felt jealousy when the fictitious Anne of Green Gables received her contract to have her book published. The same goes for Jo March in Little Women. I’ve had to fight jealous demons in relation to live people, too, but all the while I’ve known such feelings were wrong and I had to find a way to overcome them.

In time and after much study, I learned that at the root of jealousy is natural-man selfishness. Go figure. But I also discovered that three interconnected ways we can overcome that tendency is to develop patience, love and humility. In a talk by 
Elder Neal A. Maxwell, he said:

"The patient person assumes that what others have to say is worth listening to. A patient person is not so chronically eager to put forth his own ideas. In true humility, we do some waiting upon others. We value them for what they say and what they have to contribute. Patience and humility are special friends.

Since our competition in life . . . is solely with our old self, we ought to be free of the jealousies and anxieties of the world which go with interpersonal competition. Very importantly, it is patience, combined with love, which permits us “in process of time” to detoxify our disappointments. Patience and love take the radioactivity out of our resentments. These are neither small nor occasional needs in most of our lives!"
Once I heard that statement, I began to remind myself--whenever I felt jealousy rising within me--that any real competition I have is with me and my own progress. Conversely, everyone else also faces the same challenge and thereby deserves my encouragements and praises when they step closer toward their divine potential. We’re all on this pathway to perfection together, after all.
Final Testimony
Sometimes, in all this self-competing, we begin to see ourselves as less than we really are. We may even doubt our abilities to succeed, or worse, feel our quest for Eternal Life is a hopeless endeavor. This is wrong. Nephi said it perfectly: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” The Lord has commanded us to be meek, merciful, even perfect, so that means He will—and has—provided a way for us to accomplish them. Countless scriptures speak of His outstretched arms, His unending patience, His Eternal love and interest in our lives. He has not left us alone. He will guide us, perhaps even carry us, to the top of His yardstick.

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