“And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren,
if ye have experienced a change of heart, and
if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love,
I would ask, can ye feel so now?” Alma 5:26
We buried my father this week. One of my brothers was late for the funeral due to circumstances outside of his control. I didn’t want to start the service without him, so to try to keep those in attendance from awkwardness I spoke about my father and some of the many changes that he has gone through in his lifetime until my brother could get there. That got me to thinking about why people change. Some for good and some for bad.
How many times have you seen someone glowing from their recent baptism? Their whole being is different and they are excited about the new life ahead of them. Some go their whole lives with this glow and desire to love and serve their God. Others grow dull. For some it only takes a few months and they’ve disappeared. For others it is years later before they give up. What is the difference? Why do some endure to the end and others can’t endure through the month?
The passage above gives a glimpse of what it is like to experience the change that comes on those who make covenants with their God and Savior. How do those feelings get lost?
The verses that follow give some insight. Look at the questions it gives for self-reflection.
Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God?
There is a need for regular repentance. Keeping oneself spotless from the world takes work. It takes a willingness to think eternally instead of temporally. Now, no one is perfect, but let’s face it, if we were we wouldn’t need the atonement anyway. That its one of the wonderful things I love about the sacrament. Each week we get to renew our covenants in our hearts.
“Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that you have been sufficiently humble…”
Often, this is what keeps people from real repentance. We all like to be thought well of. It is hard admitting when we’ve failed. I recently had a friend that told me about a night that they blew it. This friend told me because they felt like a hypocrite not telling me. I was never more proud of my friend than when they came to me in humbleness and told me. This person also has the humility to take the appropriate steps and face the bishop. Despite the sin, I admire this person because they didn’t stay there. They didn’t try to hide it or make excuses for it. That is repentance. That is humility.
“…that your garments have been cleansed, made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem His people from their sins?”
This is a big one. Evangelicals often accuse Latter-day Saints (Mormons) of a works based righteousness. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are made perfect through Christ by placing our faith and covenants with Him. Sometimes, though we lose that faith. Maybe we been disenchanted because of some perceived wrong in our lives. Maybe we feel our Savior is ignoring our needs. Maybe we put our faith in ourselves and forget the need for His sacrifice. We feel like a failure and forget about the beauty of repentance. We forget we can be made whole, because we’re so caught up in our sin.
“Behold are ye stripped of pride?”
I know someone who needs to be worshipped. He’d never call it that. He’d call it being a righteous example. But, he derives his sense of worth from being looked up to and admired. This has hindered his repentance at times. He has a hard time forming healthy relationships, because he has to be completely respected. When they don’t admire him, he accuses them of being prideful and sometimes worse things.
It matters to everyone what others think, so in some ways I understand the internal struggle this man must go through. However, this is one of the most destructive forms of pride. It robs you of honesty. It robs you of accountability. And worst of all it robs you of real repentance.
We sometimes cause this problem in others with judgment. I love how President Uchtdorf once said it. We shouldn’t judge others because they sin differently than us. When we do this we make it difficult for others to repent. They need to feel a sense of love and acceptance. I’m not saying accept their sin. I’m saying accept that they are human and will struggle with things we don’t. Before we get too cocky, let’s remember we struggle with things they don’t too.
The next time you catch someone “blowing it” ask yourself how you would feel if someone saw you in the midst of failure. How would you want them to respond to you? Once you know, do that.
Be an example of righteousness and love people to repentance. Then, maybe, we can help the faltering saints gain the glow and joy of their salvation again. Then, maybe, their changes will be great ones.