FOREVER. ETERNITY. EVERLASTING. INFINITE.
These are heavy words we throw around lightly sometimes especially in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In a recent conversation with someone not of my faith I said that because of Christ we will “live forever.” The girl I was talking to stopped me abruptly and said…whoa whoa whoa that’s something I just can’t wrap my head around…FOREVER!? It surprised me that she would dwell on the word until I thought about it, she was right, it is wild to even try to think that we will exist forever!
As crazy as the idea might seem it is true, because Jesus lived, died on the cross and then rose three days later to conquer death, the entire human family will live FOREVER!!! 1 Cor 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Before coming to this earth we lived with God and Jesus Christ and we were good spirits. We chose to follow Jesus Christ and his plan to come to earth and get a body and PROGRESS. We are all born inherently as good people. The purpose of life then is for good men to become better!!! If for some reason we have turned bad then there is always a way back to becoming good. But we can’t stop there…and God doesn’t want us to either…he wants good men to always become better!
PROGRESSION is not always easy. We are often content with staying just the way we are. We are afraid and stubborn and CHANGE for the better is difficult. Especially as we get older and set in our ways, we feel we can get by with doing things the same way we have done them for years.
We would do well to embrace the principle of PROGRESSION and not to resist it because it is God’s way of doing things and it will lead us to happiness and to him. Like an earthly Father who wants to see their crawling son walk and their walking son run…our Heavenly Father sees us in all our potential and wants us to progress.
Does that mean that he doesn’t love us the way we are? NO not in the least. He loves us more than we could ever imagine because we are his. He just sees us differently than we see ourselves. He sees us in our full potential. If the whole goal of life is simply to just live with God why did we ever leave? We had to come to earth so that we could become like God. This is the potential he sees in us…to become as he is.
In order to reach our full potential Jesus Christ volunteered to sacrifice himself. Christ doesn’t just cleanse us from sin but he gives us power to become our best selves and live up to our full potential, to become perfect like him and to become like our Heavenly Father. This is called the “ennobling power of Christ” and I feel like Ether 12:27 best describes it,
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
Christ has power to change things that we think are impossible to change. Do we really believe this? When we fold our arms defiantly and say that this is just the way we are, that we don’t want to change and that we were just “born this way “we are denying the very miracle of Jesus Christ. When we resist change for the better we are shutting Christ out of our lives. We think we will be fine staying right where we are but we are deceiving ourselves.
Our spirits were divinely programmed to want to progress and if we aren’t progressing its impossible to be happy. We don’t find happiness in erasing Gods high expectations. We find happiness as we seek God’s help through the Savior to meet those high expectations.
No matter how many times we fail we need to find the resolve to try again…to believe in the power of miracles and change that one day you will break through. Often it seems as though our same weaknesses are exposed over and over and thrown in our face time and time again. We all have those sins or commandments or road blocks to progression that we hold on to. Should we get rid of any lofty goals or ideals then and give up? Never. The world really is black and white when it comes to this principle. Either we are progressing or we are not. There is only one destination after this life that will bring us eternal happiness and progression and that is living with God forever in the highest kingdom of heaven. For those who chose not to progress they will not want to live with God because they aren’t comfortable there. They are fine with staying the way they are. There will be a place reserved for these people as well but it will be a place where they are unable to progress. They aren’t comfortable with progression and hard things being thrown at them, so they stay the way they are…FOREVER!
If we are willing to accept PROGRESSION and use the power and love of the Savior to change in this life we will also get that opportunity in heaven. God will allow us to progress with a spouse and a family and to have spirit children of our own, possibly even create worlds and put our children on those worlds so that we can watch them become like us and have joy seeing them do that! Can you imagine that!? I want that happiness!!!
But this goal often seems all too far away. We are men and women with real human weakness and an idea like that seems ludicrous. People all around us are content with mediocrity. The philosophies of men are all around us… their words often appear well put together and wise.
They say things like, “I don’t need a religion to have a relationship with God…”, “The Mormon God just asks too much…(church 3 hours a week, 10 % tithing, missionary service, No coffee or tea?). My God doesn’t ask anything and I like this a lot better.” or lastly “You have your truth, I have my truth, we all must simply be true to our own truths.”
These ideas often get into the heads of members of the church even in lots of different ways. They see a God who is loving and forgiving but they don’t want a God who asks them to stretch themselves or sacrifice. What these people often fail to realize is that God is not a butler or a servant or even a therapist only there when we need him to make us feel better… just like our parents on earth He wants us to learn and grow and He requires our obedience, self-control, self-discipline and to make hard decisions and sacrifices. Ultimately He wants our time, our talents our possessions and even our very lives and hearts!!!
In Mosiah 7:33 God gives us a promise, “But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him in all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.” Whatever our personal “bondage” or source of unhappiness…it can be tossed aside through turning our whole lives to God. He has the power to do miracles, to change circumstances and to change us.
What we don’t see is that some of the worldly philosophies out there will damn up the way of eternal progression. They often encourage us to find happiness in focusing on ourselves or on letting go of any goals or expectations all together. There are people everywhere who want to change what God asks to meet their lifestyle instead of changing their lifestyle to meet what God asks. These people are at war with God. For example I saw this quote the other day and I thought it was the perfect example of a little bit of truth mixed with complete falsehood to seem appealing to our natures…
Life is not about getting tossed here and there with any or every opportunity that presents itself…We have prophets and apostles today who are far wiser than any philosopher who has ever lived because their knowledge comes straight from God. They have shown us that through the Savior there is a clear path and direction to happiness and that we should make our goals centered on that path.
We know that the road will get hard and we will fail. But we can press forward towards those goals with confidence because of the power and love of the Savior to pick us up again. We shouldn’t give up and throw away goals and plans and ideals because they are hard or seem out of reach. We simply need to put one foot in front of the other and enjoy this life’s journey of progression one day at a time.
I love to climb mountains. My favorite hike in the world is the mountain pictured above at Half Dome in Yosemite. I not only find satisfaction at the top of a mountain which comes from the sense of accomplishment in setting a goal and achieving it… but I also find joy in the views along the way. We can’t get so caught up in getting to the top that we forget to stop and notice the beauty around us…the company of those hiking with us, the flowers, the streams, the trees, the animals…etc. We know that if we slip and fall or if we stop and give up that we have our big Brother there to encourage us to press on…at times he may even put us on his back and carry us if he has to. He is there to help if we will let him. What a comfort that is!!!
None of us will reach the top of the progression mountain in this life…or ever…that is why we talk about FOREVER or ETERNITY. We are all simply striving to get to that next checkpoint… Whatever it may be we must not give up and keep our goals and the savior ever-present on our minds. We will find happiness as we choose to progress and move forward. No one wants to drink from stagnant waters. Bacteria, bugs and diseases accumulate in this kind of water. I would rather drink from the stream of running water. It is constantly being refreshed and it is clean and pure. Life happens fast and it is constantly pulling us in many directions. Lets all remember to constantly be progressing and growing and running!!!
Mosiah 4:27 Says that “it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength…” but it doesn’t ever say that a man should stop running altogether. We need to be patient with ourselves and take enough time to enjoy the journey but we should always be progressing onward and upward.
In my life right now this principle of progression has hit me especially hard. Dental school is very challenging and I am a mere infant when it come sot my knowledge of dentistry compared to what is out there. There are days when it all seems overwhelming and I want to give up or I even question my career choice altogether. What I have to remember is that I just need to be continuing to learn at a steady pace and that gradually I will go from being an infant to a child and then to a teenager and adult when it come sot dentistry. There is no need to freak out. Even after graduation from school I will not have “made it.” I will need a mentor and higher training to become proficient in all of the skills. Even my dad who is 50 and has been practicing over 25 years still needs to go to seminars and take continuing education courses. My journey in dentistry is thus a microcosm of life…i will be ever learning and progressing. This picture (below) might be me at 55!?
Another aspect of life that requires constant progression is within relationships that we chose to involve ourselves in…Whether it is dating or a friendship or marriage. If the relationship is progressing towards a future and both people are invested and committed 100 % to each other and to the gospel then this will most likely be a healthy relationship. It will not be free of hardship or trials or stress but both people will be happy because they will be moving forward in trust and honesty and communication. But if the relationship for some reason becomes stagnant or if either person begins to feel trapped or unable to move forward and become a better person then that relationship should be let go. It does more damage than good to hold onto and continue to invest time and emotion and passion into something that simply is not progressing. It gets especially hard when emotions and feelings of love and caring are involved. Letting go is often the hardest thing to do.
Lastly I want to talk about progression in the commandments. None of us are perfect yet we are commanded to be perfect (Mat 5:48). None of us are living the commandments 100 percent of the time. Sure we can be 100 % perfect in our tithing or fasting every fast sunday but where is our heart? Is our heart completely humble and broken before God as we make these sacrifices? When the Lord commanded us to not even to look upon a woman to lust after her or we have committed adultery in our hearts (Mat 5:28) do we believe that is even possible?
I will be the first to admit that there are certain weak areas in my life (such as the former) that I have been content with leaving them the way they are for quite some time. I’m a good a person I tell myself even if I commit these same errors from time to time. I tell myself “I was born that way” so that a specific commandment is harder for me to live and I shy away from doing the hard thing. I tell myself well I have failed over and over and I just can’t be perfect so I might as well just give up…God loves me the way I am even with this weakness right?
Right. God loves us no matter what and the Savior and his Atonement is ever available to me but he wants me to keep trying…to continue climbing my personal mountains and to buy into his eternal principle of progression.My Dad often comments about how his group of High priests who are all older men often discuss their continuing struggle with keeping pure thoughts or having to struggle to change the channel from an indecent program or things like that. Old men who still struggle with the same struggle I have? Surely the Lord meant for progression to last a lifetime.
The Lord looks on us crawling in certain commandments and would rather see us running and jumping, soaring to new heights. Does that mean he is judging us for where we are at? NO!!! Often we mistake a righteous desire or expectation or goal as a judgment…It is not that at all but an expression of love to be better. We need not get mad at those around us who would encourage us to be better. We shouldn’t chase these people out of our lives. We should appreciate their willingness to push us to be better.
I love the Lord and his principle of eternal progression and I recommit myself today to strive for change and improvement in all areas of my life. Let us all accept this principle of progression and turn to our Savior who will show us the more excellent way.