“I have come to believe that the Lord’s barometer of righteousness is the heart. No matter the depth of our knowledge, the efficiency of our administration, the charisma with which we influence and lead people — no matter how well we do what we do, of much greater significance in the eternal scheme of things is who we are and what we feel toward our fellowman. It is so easy to be distracted from what matters most, to focus on things — on goals, on excellence programs, on statistics — when in reality it is people that count. I am convinced that people are more important than private or corporate endeavors. People are more important than the attainment of some form of success. God is in the business of people. And so must we be. (Robert L. Millet, The Power of the Word, 246)
If you ever see someone standing on top of a mountain you can be sure that he did not fall there. — Anonymous
In regarding some of the characteristics of sin we readily can determine for ourselves that we “like sheep,” “…have all gone our own way.” We all have and do sin. The responsibility to always keep his commandments and always remember him can grind our hopes for exaltation to a halt. Fortunately for us, the gospel truly is “good news.” I am personally so grateful to know that, because of one who did not sin, we can yet be reconciled to God.
“…God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.” (Alma 42:23)
In the end, it will be shown through the desires of our hearts what our resolve and resolutions are regarding overcoming sin. If we will strive to go forward and consistently try our best not to sin — not to disobey external principles, not to rationalize bad choices or pervert eternal truths, not to fight against laws and principles that cannot be changed, or waste our limited personal resources on things of lesser worth – we can sever the ties that may have presently bound us to a state of unhappiness. Jesus Christ makes this possible.
It is obedience to eternal truths that will bring us eternal rewards — and joy. Obedience frees us from sin; it removes perverse misconceptions of true principles; it helps us to stop being premature or perilous with our choices; and, happily, it makes the most of our brief sojourn here on this telestial sphere.
Alma (and I) concludes his heartfelt instruction to Corianton with these timeless words:
“…I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God, but do let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart…” (Alma 42:30)
That we may be and live humbly, repentant, and obedient is the charge. It will bring about the demise of sin and the blessed state of happiness. That we may fight sin and live happily is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ.
It is correct to say that sin is waste. The consecration of our “time, talents and everything with which the Lord has blessed us” represents our determination not to waste our precious mortal probation. To fritter away our relatively short time on this earth in search of vain and selfish desires is sin, indeed. Any prompting that disobeys, ignores, refutes, fights, or wastes those principles designed to bring about our eternal happiness and eternal association with God is a thought or prompting that we should resolve in turn to disobey, ignore, refute, fight, or let wither out of our personal reach.
Loss of virtue is waste of trust. Failure to nourish relationships is waste of learning about love. Failure to serve is wasted opportunity to grow. The list is long…. Suffice it to say that refusing to abide by the principle will bring waste to our lives.
[Classic “good gone bad” is an age-old story in our world. Sin….can be a resulting perversion of….laws and principles that manifests itself through the desires of our hearts.]
Should we choose to disbelieve this or strike out on our own we will come to realize that we are just “kicking against the pricks.” The imagery of kicking against thorns is quite vivid to me. The thorns of a rose, for instance, are very much there – in abundance. To ignore them in attempting to obtain the rose can be “prickly” painful. There is only one way to possess such a beautiful flower – do not touch the thorns! Yet we find ourselves prematurely grabbing only to be hurt. More often than we would like we may find that the pain exceeds the perceived joy.
We have been instructed by knowing prophets that there is only one way to bring about immortality and eternal life – true joy — to man. That is through the atonement of Jesus Christ and keeping the commandments, laws, if you will. The full effect of the atonement can only be brought about through our choosing to accept its precepts. We cannot force anyone to heaven, neither can we legislate righteousness. We must freely see the wisdom and love and then show a commitment to abide by the principles that will lead us to the joy we so desperately seek. It is through our choosing to accept the Bearer of the atonement and he who sent him that will free us from the effects of sin. This way, indeed, we can “have it all” — that is, all that is worth having.
When we fail to align our lives with eternal principles – temporal or spiritual – we eventually will resort to unsound reasoning and subsequent sinful action. We begin to feel that there must be “some other way” to achieve our deep-rooted yearning for happiness. The feeling is real and deeply rooted; it is a condition and emotion which we experienced previously to this mortal stage of our lives. There are times on this earth where we experience a profound desire to be somewhere else, someone else, where we “just know” that something is missing and, moreover, that we will not be happy without it.
Sin is nothing less than wanting something good but wanting it in a way that violates the very principle(s) that brings happiness about. A prime example of this is given to us in Moses 4, where the good desire of “salvation for all” was offered by Lucifer who simultaneously stated that the loss of agency was the required price to pay to bring such salvation to pass. Another pertinent example is evidenced in sexual relations outside of marriage. The urge to be with someone is very strong in us. “It is not good for man to be alone.” Yet, we see all around us that physical intimacy void of familial responsibility ultimately leads to misery.
Both of these examples are nothing short of man wanting something good but not wanting to obey the laws that bring the desired fruit of living in harmony with such laws into our lives. Classic “good gone bad” is an age-old story in our world. Sin, then, can be a resulting perversion of those laws and principles that manifests itself through the desires of our hearts.
Since the earliest of times man has been discovering immutable laws. No one need tell us what gravity is all about. There are many such laws – eternal truths – regarding this earth in its current state. Indeed, many such laws are still being discovered and many are yet to be discovered. There appears to be no end to learning the “facts of life.”
To deny the existence of gravity, the properties of electricity, or the need for oxygen can prove to be fatal. Yet there are a multitude of “lesser” laws that such denial may result “only” in minor accidents or inconveniences. That these laws, when ignored, may result in less painful consequences than those of being fatal to us does not diminish the fact that less than total adherence and observation of the laws brings us less than optimal results. That we were “only” shocked when we abused a principle of electricity as opposed to being electrocuted, for instance, nevertheless indicates a violation of an eternal law. That it was less of an offense “by degree” is true; nevertheless, it remains a violation.
I believe that most people do not find much to contest in the aforementioned paragraphs. Where we probably part company, however, is readily made manifest when such statements and observations are applied to what the world would classify as “non-temporal” precepts – the spiritual. I, for one, do not see the difference. I say this because our Heavenly Father clearly states:
“”Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.” (D&C 29:34)
Our Lord further underscores the fact that:
“There is a law irrevocably decreed in the heavens before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated –
“And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21)
Because so many of us do not readily and whole-heartedly accept temporal and spiritual truths we are prone to do what is called “sin.” Adherence to physical laws leads to safety, utility, productivity, comfort and tranquility. Choosing to bind ourselves to spiritual laws brings these same results (blessings) and more; they bring a state of happiness.
It is ideal to live happily. Many feel it is a right to be happy. Further, many of us “believers” wish and pray to God for him to make us happy. We erroneously apply the “seek, knock, and ask” scriptural admonitions to be invitations by God himself to endow us freely with happiness. Yet, we are wisely counseled that happiness is realized only through our choices to abide by those laws that bring such a state. Anything short of living the required principles results in being in a state “contrary to happiness.” C.S. Lewis provides this keen insight:
“…it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There’s no such thing.” (Mere Christianity, pg. 54).
…Destruction, we should naturally assume, means the unmaking, or cessation, of the destroyed. And people often talk as if the ‘annihilation’ of a soul were intrinsically possible. In all our experience, however, the destruction of one thing means the emergence of something else. Burn a log, and you have gases, heat and ash. To have been a log means now being those three things. If souls can be destroyed, must there not be a state of having been a human soul? And is not that, perhaps, the state which is equally well described as torment, destruction, and privation? (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pg. 127)
…how can a few brief years spent here, born to trouble as we are, have a significant impact on [our] eternal existence?…This life, Lehi tells us, is only a probation, only a test (1 Nephi 10:21; 2 Nephi 2:21; Alma 34:32). A test, to be searching and definitive, need last only a few seconds…The test for this life is not for knowledge; it is not for intelligence, or for courage, or for anything like that…As Alma said, we are only to be tested on one thing — the desires of our heart (Alma 43:3); that is what we are really after. (Hugh Nibley, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol. 9, Ch. 10, p. 300)
Like Jesus, a lot of prophets were put to death for testifying of the truth. What is it about the truth that so provokes a society that it starts killing people? My answer is that a particular truth caused this violent reaction — for Jesus and the prophets alike. It wasn’t just the everyday little truths that teach you to be good. Rather, the truth which Jesus and the prophets testified ran completely counter to the teachings of the day — religious teachings, that is.
People get fanatical over religion. When evils in society cause the lights to go out, religion inevitably changes into a superficial version of the truth once it is promoted. Its perception of God becomes virtually that of a false god, and people, unaware of this mutation, are offended by the real thing….
…It is no wonder, then, that tensions should arise between….those who may be living side by side in the same world but who have completely different philosophies of life. Babylon deals with this tension by tormenting and persecuting those higher than itself, attempting to justify itself in the face of its own inherent failings. In that way, it momentarily alleviates feelings of guilt and paranoia… (Avraham Gileadi, Isaiah Decoded, pp. 1, 71-72)
Now let us suppose a modern-day case. Suppose we have the scriptures, the gospel, the priesthood, the Church, the ordinances, the organization, even the keys of the kingdom — everything that now is down to the last jot and tittle — and yet there is no atonement of Christ. What then? Can we be saved? Will all our good works save us? Will we be rewarded for all our righteousness?
Most assuredly we will not. We are not saved by works alone, no matter how good; we are saved because God sent his Son to shed his blood in Gethsemane and on Calvary that all through him might ransomed be. We are saved by the blood of Christ.
To paraphrase Abinadi: “Salvation doth not come by the Church alone: and were it not for the atonement, given by the grace of God as a free gift, all men must unavoidably perish, and this notwithstanding the Church and all that pertains to it.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Promised Messiah, p. 416)