This post is basically a written out form of a talk I recently gave in church. As members of the LDS church we do not have a paid clergy, which means the members take turns being the “preachers.” We are usually assigned a topic and then it is up to us to put together a talk to then be given in church before the whole congregation. Luckily we are usually only called on to give a talk once every year or so depending on how many members are in your congregation. I have actually found that I enjoy giving talks because it gives me a reason to study a topic more in depth than I might otherwise.
This week while pondering what I should talk on I ran into Bishop at the town meeting place “Local Mexican Restaurant” and he said if you haven’t decided what to talk on consider this. What an example of bishop continually seeking to nourish his flock. Even out to lunch and he has us on his mind and in his heart, I hope that I can be directed by that same inspiration as I talk today and strive to convey this assigned message.
We have been counseled often to not judge, gossip, ridicule or anything of the such. In fact recently President Uchtdorf gave a memorable sermon on the topic that can be summed up in 2 words “Stop It!” Well as we all know we haven’t stopped it yet, it’s a tough habit to break. So today instead of focusing on the sinner I would like to focus on those who have been wounded.
While I was away this last week I attended a music teachers conference. One of the specific workshops I attended was titled “The Music Teacher Survival Kit” where they gave us a pamphlet full of materials to help with the day to day demands of being a music teacher. One of my biggest challenges is the very public nature of my job. I don’t know of too many other professions where 90% of what you do is preparing to put a product on a stage for the whole world to see and critique. Through my years as a choir teacher I have had quite a few times where people have let me know or I have heard through the grapevine that they did not like certain choices that I have made. Today I am going to share a few things I have learned about being able to handle these criticisms or judgments. And so if I were to title my talk I would call it “A Survival Kit For Living In A Critical World”
Survival KitFor Living In A Critical World
The first section of my “Survival Guide” would be titled:
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Just as we have all been hurt by gossip or being judged we have also all been guilty of being the ones casting stones. As President Uchdorf eloquently put it:
“when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in our case, we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt.”
Too often I demand mercy or patience for my sins but am unwilling to offer that same patience to those that offend me. The savior taught this in the parable of the unforgiving servant. 21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. 23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desirest me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
The second section would be titled:
You’re in Good Company
The scriptures are full of examples of righteous men and women who are judged and criticized for the choices they make. In fact we can’t get farther than the first chapter of 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon before Lehi is mocked by his people. 18 Therefore, I would that ye should know, that after the Lord had shown so many marvelous things unto my father, Lehi, yea, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, behold he went forth among the people, and began to prophesy and to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard. 19 And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them; I am convinced that as we move closer and closer to the last days we will be mocked for standing for the truth. President Thomas S. Monson taught 27 years ago:
“Let us have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval. Courage becomes a living and an attractive virtue when it is regarded not only as a willingness to die manfully, but as the determination to live decently. A moral coward is one who is afraid to do what he thinks is right because others will disapprove or laugh. Remember that all men have their fears, but those who face their fears with dignity have courage as well.”
Not long after this, Lehi’s own family turns on him. After leading his family into the wilderness he sends his sons back to Jerusalem to obtain the plates of brass from Laban. This leads one of the most revered women in the scriptures, Sariah to “complain against” her husband, calling him a “visionary man who leads them away from the land of their inheritance, lost their sons, and then leave them to perish in the wilderness.” Do I for a minute think that Sariah is a bad person? Not a chance. She was put to some hard tests and all things considered I am sure she bore her burdens much better than I have many times in my life. I am grateful for scriptures that show us the human side of our heroes. Not to be too light hearted but I am sure when Sariah found out that her husband and son left this part of the story in the scriptures she was not too happy, not unlike when I post what my wife thinks is an unflattering picture of her to Facebook. 🙂 Do you think she would be concerned today what others would think of her as she was asked to do such a hard thing. She was asked to pack up her homeland and camp in the wilderness for years to then build a ship and sail across what must have seemed like an endless ocean. Bearing children along the way then seeing them make bad choices and turn against one another, along with countless other challenges. Wouldn’t we expect her to “Complain against her husband?” As important as it is to see the human side of Sariah, what great wisdom we learn from Lehi as he comforts his wife. 4 And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying: I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren. 5 But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness. 6 And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us, while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews. 7 And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted. What patience he showed his wife. If I might put myself in Lehi’s shoes and hear his thoughts, he seems to be saying, I know, this sounds crazy and if I hadn’t seen it myself I might have a hard time believing it as well. But I know what I have seen has come from God and I must act. Which leads me to my next section, having confidence in our choices.
Choose The Right
When we are confident in our choices, that they are in harmony with the doctrines of the gospel, it won’t matter much what others think or even say about us. In the Doctrine and Covenants we are taught to “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men… then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God;” Our heavenly father has asked us to make hard choices in the world today, unpopular choices in many respects. This couldn’t be more evident than in the stand for family. But I have had to ask myself at times, would I rather offend God or Man? Elder Hales taught in the last April Conference:
“Sometimes we become the lightning rod, and we must “take the heat” for holding fast to God’s standards and doing His work. I testify that we need not be afraid if we are grounded in His doctrine. We may experience misunderstanding, criticism, and even false accusation, but we are never alone. Our Savior was “despised and rejected of men.” It is our sacred privilege to stand with Him!
In the end we have to be accountable to our Heavenly Father for the choices we have made. We will make mistakes but we can be assured that he has a perfect Love for us and will be merciful toward us to his fullest extent. We must simply strive always to make the right choice. The thing that has gotten me through most of the criticism I have faced as a music teacher is my confidence in the fact that every choice I have made was for what I believed to be the best for all the students involved. If I didn’t have the confidence of choosing the right I know the stress of criticism would have run me off years ago. I have told my wife on more than one occasion if I get fired for this choice, I am OK with that, because I believe it was the right choice and at least I can still live with myself.
The fourth section would be
Let Your Light So Shine
When we are offended many times the natural man wants to return offense in order to make ourselves feel better. Which is just another manifestation of Pride. In the words of C. S. Lewis:
“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.”
Light houses are put on a hill to help guide those ships that might be lost. We must strive to take the moral high ground at all times. We must strive to choose the better way to not get caught up in criticism of criticizing. The world looks to us as an example, they expect more from us. How often in the news will they lead with what religion someone is before the accompanying accusation. I see it often when they are quote unquote a Mormon. In the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling he poetically teaches:
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: … If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
This is only part of the poem click here to read the whole thing. It is one of my favorites.
The final section would be titled
Jesus Christ The Comforter
A couple of nights ago my wife and I went to the temple and as I was waiting to do some work I overheard a man talking to his friend. He said “I hope heavenly father is as merciful as they say he is because I could really use some slack.” Our Father in Heaven is perfect and in that perfection he is perfectly just. He can not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. He knew this from the beginning, it was an eternal law that even he God could not break. But being our Father he loved each of his children and knew there must be a way to allow his imperfect children to return to his presence. It is not an easy plan, it is not a free plan, but it is a perfect plan. Through his Son, our Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh paid our debt as only a God could. Christ made open a way for us to return to our Father in Heaven. The sting of hurt we feel when someone offends us many times can only be healed through the healing power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Have Faith in him and in his Love and Mercy.
In The Infinite Atonement Tad Callister explains:
“The Savior was a participant, a player, who not only understood our plight intellectually, but who felt our wounds because they became his wounds. He had firsthand, “in the trenches,” experience. He knew “according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” He could comfort with empathy, not just sympathy, all “those that are cast down.” That is why Peter invited each saint to cast his “care upon him; for he careth for you.” He was indeed what President Ezra Taft Benson called “the ultimate Comforter.” I pray that as we live our lives we will care more what our Heavenly Father thinks of our choices than anyone else. That we will have confidence to stand before him in that great day and hear the declaration “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”