This is something I’ve wanted to write about for some time. I hope I can properly convey the power and importance of this, and somebody will find it helpful.
An Offering of Will
Previously, I wrote about how the “tithes and offerings” mentioned in Malachi have more to do with offering ourselves as an offering on the altars of the temple, than paying money to the Church. In Oct. Conference, 1995, Elder Neal A. Maxwell gave a watershed talk entitled Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father, wherein he thoroughly explained the concepts of personal sacrifice, consecration, and agency.
The basic teaching of the talk is that the only way we can truly become like Jesus and gain entry in the Celestial Kingdom, is to give our will to our Heavenly Father. When we pay tithing, there’s not much true sacrifice involved—at least not in the money itself—because we’re only giving the Lord something that is already His. However, His will (what he wants) is for us to give the 1/10th that he has asked. Thus, if we desire to pay tithing, because we know God wants us to, and we then pay it, we have exercised our agency to do His will. Because of agency our will is truly ours to give to the Lord, or to Satan. When we pay tithing—or do anything that the Lord want’s us to—because He wants us to, we are exercising our agency by choosing to do His will. Each of us individually must choose to follow Christ by submitting our will to the Father, by learning His will and acting according to it, or else we give our will to Satan by default.
So many of us are kept from eventual consecration because we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God, we lose our individuality (see Mosiah 15:7). What we are really worried about, of course, is not giving up self, but selfish things—like our roles, our time, our preeminence, and our possessions. No wonder we are instructed by the Savior to lose ourselves (see Luke 9:24). He is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new self. It is not a question of one’s losing identity but of finding his true identity! Ironically, so many people already lose themselves anyway in their consuming hobbies and preoccupations but with far, far lesser things.
State of Being
Five years later, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, gave an equally monumental talk entitled The Challenge to Become. Elder Oaks dissected the concept of conversion. When something is converted, its typically changed into something different than it was before. It usually continues to contain some essence that makes it still uniquely itself, but conversion makes it into something different than before. For example both rectifiers and inverters (generically known as “power converters”) convert an alternating-current (ac) into a direct-current (dc) or vice-versa. In either case, its still power flow, but the flow of electricity, and therefore the ways in which it can be used, has been completely changed.
We’re the same way: we retain our spirit and our body, but the final differences between a Godly woman or man, vs that of an ungodly one, will be so pronounced that self judgement will be easy at resurrection. In his talk, Elder Oaks returned the word “conversion,” to its original meaning: a process that begins at baptism, rather than one that ends at it. Conversion is a process of becoming like God, not just the initial faith it takes to believe and follow Him.
From such teachings we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.
(Dallin H. Oaks, The Challenge to Become)
In both cases it is the Atonement of Jesus Christ that enables us to become a Godlike person who easily submits his/her will to Heavenly Father. Its the enabling power of the Atonement that helps us rise above the distractions of the world, overcome obstacles we could never overcome on our own, and finally become converted into a person who is worthy of Godhood. This happens when we have become a person who will completely align their thoughts, desires, and actions with that of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. That is the key to becoming like God: changing our will—our very nature—to be like theirs. That is because Gods can only be Gods if their goals, intents, and purposes are all the same as that of our Heavenly Father and Jesus (who are one in their will, among other things). As Elder Maxwell pointed out, we are not lost when we become united with them, but rather converted into a new, and much better, person.
Harbinger of Peace
A final concept, that is really just another way of understanding these same concepts, is having what has been labeled “a heart at peace” by the Arbinger Institute. Now before you go saying “what can a consulting firm possibly have to add to the words of Apostles?” Please stick with me for a little bit. The Arbinger Institute is one of the products of extensive philosophical, psychological, and doctrinal work done by Dr. Terry Warner (long time Philosophy professor at BYU) and a handful of other people. His inspired “discovery” of a concept he labeled “having a heart at peace” was a huge breakthrough not only for the world in general, but especially for members of the LDS church. It helps us understand a whole new aspect of being Christlike, or in other words giving our will to the Savior and becoming converted into a person like Christ.
Seeing People as Objects
The quote, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” is attributed to Einstein. This statement points at the center of self-deception as good as any that I know. The concept is simple: in dealing with people, we often do the same things over, and repeat the same thought-patterns and approaches, but expect different results. We berate and overreact to our teenager’s continued experimentation with drugs, alcohol, or sex, even though we did that the last 50 times we found out about their latest choices. We repeatedly needle our spouse, supposedly trying to get them to put the toilet seat down, or get in shape, or work harder to find a job, in spite of the fact that they only seem to get worse the more we do it.
Einstein also said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” The problem here is one we all share: we very often see people as objects, rather than people. “If my teenager would just stop making bad decisions, then I’d stop treating them that way.” “If my spouse would just put the toilet seat down (or lose weight, or get a job), then I would be happy with them.” You’ll notice the same motivation runs through both statements: “I”. We’ve stopped being concerned about the other person. It’s all about “me” and what would make my life better. They’ve simply become an object, blocking our way to the idealized life we’re seeking for ourself. Your reaction might be: “but I didn’t ‘create’ these problems as Einstein’s quote suggests.” You may be right, you may not have, but by repeating the same behavior and attitude, you’re contributing to making them worse. We all do this. We deceive ourselves by believing that our behavior is right, even though it has failed to produce results time and again. Perhaps more important than our behavior, is our attitude, or “way of being.” The attitude behind the behavior can make it produce very different results. If we see that person as a person (heart at peace), someone whom we truly care about and believe that their opinions and approach to life are at least as valid as our own, we will act completely different than if we see them as an object: something preventing us from a hassle-free, midnight trip to the bathroom; or having the hottest wife on the block.
A Heart at Peace
Bro. Warner and the Arbinger Institute have labeled these two states having a “heart at war” or a “heart at peace.” Christ was the great, perfect, example of having a heart at peace. They spat upon him, whipped him, and illegally tried and executed him, yet his response was “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Through those darkest hours in the history of this world, he refused to see the Jews as his “accusers” or “liars” or anything other than people. Pleople still worthy of His love, and of His atoning sacrifice. He does this for each of us, almost without exception, no matter how much we might reject and turn against him at times. This is what is meant by having a heart at peace. We still see people around us as people, instead of objects that a quick label will turn them into: liar, harlot, jerk, shy, pushy, mean, lazy, uneducated, too smart for their own good, white-trash, homeless, bossy, and the list could go on and on. When we label, we stop seeing people as people, and they become an object to be maneuvered around, instead of a person to be helped, cared about, and understood.
Where to Start
If you feel like you’ve followed what I’ve said, I recommend watching or listening to this great BYU-Idaho Devotional by CES Area Director Kenneth L . Southwick, called “The Great Measure of Discipleship.” It gives a doctrinal approach to what I’ve just tried to explain. If you feel like you didn’t quite follow what I’ve written, then scroll below Brother Southwick’s devotional and start with the videos from James Ferrell, the President of Arbinger, and also the author of “The Peacegiver” and “The Holy Secret.” Then take time to listen to Bro. Southwick’s talk. Finally, the very best resource for learning more about how to really change your life in this way, and become more Christlike, is the Arbinger Institute’s book “The Anatomy of Peace.”
Then if you want to get a more doctrine-based approach, read “The Peacegiver.” I have to warn you. It’s not easy. I’ve studied on-and-off for 5+ years now, and I’m still not very good at it. Bro. Warner even admits he still has to work at it on regular basis (though I’m sure on a much higher level than myself). But I can absolutely promise you that its worth it. My marriage, business, personal happiness, and relationship with God, are never better than when my heart is at peace toward people. This is because this may be the key to truly being Christlike. The most difficult battle between the natural man and our potential godliness. It’s the true test of conversion and giving up our will to God. If you don’t believe me, try it out. Learn more, practice it, and you’ll soon see that it makes almost every aspect of your life better, richer, fuller, but it’s not easy, just worth it.
The Great Measure of Discipleship
UPDATE: For some reason it appears that BYU TV has pulled this devotional from their website. Strange coincidence that I just embedded it in this article, shortly before they pulled it. You’ll have to read or listen with the links below.
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