Monday, March 28, 2011
An End to Guilt
Mormons, let me ask you a few questions: (1) When is the last time that you said your personal prayers? (2) When is the last time that you sat down with your family to have scripture study? (3) How many weeks has it been since you have held Family Home Evening? (4) Did you do your home or visiting teaching last month?
And now a final question: how many pangs of guilt did you feel when you read those four questions? If you're like most Mormons, the answer is probably 4. ;-)
The reason that I asked those questions was actually not to make you feel guilty. Rather, it was to lay the groundwork for pointing out that we do not need to feel guilty for failure to do these things. A much better attitude is to feel the catharsis of knowing that we have some things that we can improve on.
One of my favorite Hugh Nibley quotes is this: "Righteousness is a matter of direction." Now, look at the four questions above one more time. How might you have better responded to them? I suggest something like this: there is no better time than now to repent. It's that simple. No more of this feeling less than the dust of the earth because we're not perfect. We should rather, chuckle at the fact that we're not perfect--for two reasons: (1) because there's only one person who has ever been perfect on the earth--Jesus Christ, and (2) because item number 1 should bring many Mormons an immense sense of relief.
In the temple we learn that as we make covenants we will hopefully one day be able to stand before our God having been completely faithful to those covenants. It took me until just about a month ago, however, to figure out that we would not possibly ever be able to say that we had been completely faithful, had it not been for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which thankfully allows us a plethora of do-overs.
The Atonement is everywhere in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Atonement is everywhere in the ordinances of the temple as well. But we have a hard time seeing that because we are so busy thinking what great failures we are for not having yet reached perfection all by ourselves. Happily, it was actually never intended to be that way. Our Heavenly Parents want us to, at some future point in eternity, have and enjoy everything that they enjoy. The only catch is that we have to let them help us do this, through the sacrifice of their Son--our Elder Brother--Jesus Christ. The only thing we can offer is to want that help. Sure, there are sins we commit for which we must feel guilt and remorse, but in most cases, guilt for weaknesses only gets in the way and causes us to stop wanting the help that is the only way we can make it back to Them.
So the next time you realize that you haven't served in the temple for a while...don't feel stupid about it; rather, make a plan to go to the temple.
When you notice that you've been so pre-occupied that you haven't read your scriptures for a while...don't feel guilty; just pick up your scriptures and read them the next chance you get.
If it's been several weeks since your family has had Family Home Evening, that's okay. Just try to see if you can gradually get back in the habit of having Family Home Evening.
If it suddenly dawns on you that you haven't said your personal prayers for a while...you just might be in a place where you can mentally do a quick check-in with your Heavenly Father right now.
That's all it takes. Our Heavenly Father doesn't want us to look downward in faux guilt. He wants us to look upward in authentic optimism. Enough with all the unnecessary guilt already!