Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Am I doing enough? Why focus on tempests & storms when so many days are filled with blue skies & sunshine? Men are that they might have joy!

Hi guys!

It has been an awesome week. We had lots and lots of meetings, so I was getting a little bit antsy by the end of the week, but the meetings were all wonderful, so it's alright. My favorite was our zone conference on Wednesday, in which I gave my last testimony in a zone conference (a tradition in our mission, not sure if it's worldwide). I never thought that moment would come; it terrified me. :P But we learned so much in that zone conference, especially about how important the Book of Mormon is in answering questions of the soul that we all have.

I was talking with Elder Valencia the other day during dinner about something random from before our missions, and somehow this little bit of the conversation happened and it made me laugh super hard so I just had to share.

Elder Valencia: "I gave a girl a Ring Pop and told her to marry me for the day."

Me: "How'd she take that?"

Elder Valencia: "She ate it."

Priceless. It was just one of those moments where you have to laugh. It also describes pretty well Elder Valencia's personality. :) Love that guy.

I learned something that was profound for me this past week. I have been studying about repentance and what it means to do one's best for a while now, and the question of "am I doing enough?" has been running through my mind for the past several weeks and months. I was on exchanges with another elder this week and we were talking about these questions, because I wanted his perspective on some of these topics. He talked about positivity and how he simply tries to always remain positive, focusing on what he is doing well rather than what he might have missed. This gave me another thought to chew on, and as I did so the next day in my personal study, I found myself in 2 Nephi 4, reading the words of Nephi as he thinks back on his own life and mission. I always was perplexed by this chapter, because there is a very large change in tone halfway through, and I have wondered for a long time what exactly changed, what this prophet came to understand that I need to understand myself. In verses 16-19, Nephi states: 

"Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins..."

This is a prophet of God! He is amazing! And yet he, like many of us, also spent time feeling guilty and inadequate because of his imperfections and mistakes. I know this to be a weakness of mine, and as I read, I identified very much with him. But then, halfway through verse 19, something changes. Verses 19-26 say (continuing from where I left off):

"...nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep. He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh. He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me. Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time. And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me. And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them. O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?"

So, what changed? What did Nephi understand? I think it was this.

I think he understood that happiness does not lie in achieving a perfect score in this life. Our hope, our trust, our joy, is in and through the redeeming power of Jesus Christ, accomplished by His infinite Atonement. If Jesus Christ gave so much for me to be happy, why should I let myself be weighed down by my mistakes and imperfections? Why should I look for and focus on past tempests and storms when so many days are filled with blue skies and sunshine? "... men are that they might have joy!" (2 Nephi 2:25)

My invitation for all of us is that, when those moments come that we begin to look back on what has been recognized and repented of, that we focus our gaze on the Savior, and trust His promises of forgiveness and succor which He has so readily given. Let us avoid the temptation to reject, whether by rebellious disobedience or by hopeless discouragement, the gift which He paid so very much to purchase for us. He lives! He loves us! And through Him, we can overcome all our past sins and mistakes, and throughout that process, He will help us to be happy if we let Him!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

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