Sunday, January 3, 2016

Turn Outward

I wanted to share some great spiritual knowledge and enlightenment I have learned over the last two months on my mission.

I'm just so overjoyed with the light of Christ and I want to share this light with as many people as I can, not just to the people of Washington.  Our Missionary purpose is to "invite others to come unto Christ" and so far, doing this has brought me so much joy.  Lately I have been learning and studying a lot about the Character of Christ.  It started with a talk I saw at the MTC from a devotional a few years ago by David A. Bednar.  It's called the "Character of Christ".  I watched it about three or four times because I love it so much and have about ten pages of notes about it in my study journal, because every time I see it, I learn new things.

So what is the definition of Character?  Character, in the words of Oxford English Dictionary is "The sum of the moral and mental qualities which distinguish an individual."  In the words of Elder Bednar, "Character is revealed in the power to discern the suffering of other people when we, ourselves are suffering."  In the words of my companion, Hermana LuĂ©vano, "Character is what you do when no one is looking."  Christ's character is this: He always looks and reaches outward when the natural and instinctive response is to be self-absorbed and inward.  The Savior is the perfect example of consistent charitable character.

One of the great examples of this that Elder Bednar pointed out was in John 14:25-27 during the last supper.  The night before He would perform the atonement (which was the single most selfless act in the history of ever), He speaks to His disciples about comfort and peace  Can we even comprehend this?  How could He reach outward?  Elder Bednar said it perfectly, "Jesus, who suffered most, has the most compassion for all of us who suffer so much less."  Then in Matthew 26:39 after He's already been disappointed by four of his disciples (three because they can't stay awake while He's in the Garden, and one because of betrayal), He says "O Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."  Where the natural man would turn inward selfishly thinking, "I don't want to do this!  No way!"  He turns outward in love and compassion or the entirety of mankind.  He continues going back all night to suffer for all the sins, pains, afflictions, illnesses, griefs, and sorrow for every person who ever walked the Earth.

Then (in Luke 22: 47-51) after Judas betrays him and the guards come to take him, Peter cuts off one of the guards' ear, and what does Christ do?  "His character activated a compassion that was perfect." (Elder Bednar) and He healed the guard.  Where the natural man would turn inward in selfishness because the ear was such a superficial and unimportant wound compared to what Christ just went through, bleeding from every pore.  (Luke 22:44 ; Mosiah 3:7).  Christ turns outward in love and compassion to a man who was just doing his job  Even during the crucifixion--during the actual action of being killed--He wasn't selfish.  He worried about the welfare of His mother, and made sure she would be taken care of.  He told the two thieves on the crosses with Him that they would be with him in paradise.  He even plead to the Father on the soldiers' behalf, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:24 ; John 19:26-27). He turned outward.  "The consistency of the Lord's character across multiple episodes is ultimately the most instructive and inspiring" (Elder Bednar).  Just imagine how many millions and billions of times better this world would be if we all turned outward in love and compassion towards each other!

Some other amazing examples of Christlike Character that Elder Bednar shared in his talk came from a series of experiences he had several years ago when he was a stake president (local church leader).  One day he got an urgent phone call from one of the sisters in the stake.  She told him that there had been a terrible car accident involving three of the young women in their stake.  At that point she knew that one girl had been pronounced officially dead, and the other two were at the hospital in critical condition.  She said she needed his help--she needed him to go down to the hospital and identify the bodies of all three girls.  As he was on the phone with her he realized that she was on the phone with somebody else at the same time.  She was using two handsets, one on each ear; one with President Bednar and the other was with an LDS nurse who worked at the hospital the three girls had been taken to.  As he listened tot his conversation with the nurse he found out two things.  First, that the sister who called him was actually the mother of one of the three girls, and second, he heard though the other phone the mother was holding--the voice of the nurse informing this mother that they had positively identified the deceased girl as her daughter.  Now get this--at this horrible moment, when the natural man would turn inward and fall into despair and grief, this woman turned outward in love and compassion for others.  The mother paused for a moment, but then the first words out of her mouth were these: "President Bednar, I need your help to tell the other moms what is going on.  They need to be with their daughters."  She thought of the other mothers  What a perfect example of the Character of Christ.

A couple of days later, the other two girls passed away.  One of them had been the only child to a single mother.  Right after Elder Bednar received news of this second girl's death, he got a phone call from her mother.  She said she knew her daughter's body had been badly mangled in the car accident, and that she was planning on a closed-casket funeral, but that the workers at the mortuary had done a really good job fixing her body up and made it look a lot better.  She then invited Elder Bednar to come see her daughter's body at the funeral home that evening before they closed the casket, so that his lasting memory wouldn't be the gruesome and disturbing scene he had seen at the hospital.  Where the natural man would have turned inward, losing herself in her grief, this mother exemplified the Character of Christ, turning outward in love and compassion for Elder Bednar.  She was worried about him, not herself.

The next day, this second mother, who was also the Relief Society President of her ward, received a phone call from a very whiny and entitled woman in the ward.  This sister began to chew the Relief Society President out, because she had a cold and nobody had brought her any meals yet.  It was the very morning of her only child's funeral, but instead of turning inward, the Relief Society President turned outward in love and compassion.  On her way to her daughter's funeral, she stopped by a  local bakery and took this whiny, entitled, "Natural man" sister some breakfast.

TURN OUTWARD.  Turn outward in love and compassion for others and you will be so blessed.  But not because you're seeking for blessings or trying to earn the blessings.  You will be blessed by being unselfish.  The biggest lesson I have learned on my mission so far is that it's not about me.  It's not about a mission helping me grow spiritually, or learning a second language, or being the best missionary ever.  Its about others.  It's about helping my brothers and sisters come back to Christ.  It's about finding those lost sheep and bringing them back to the fold.  It's about serving my companion and my roommates.  It's about serving Heavenly Father.

One thing that has been so encouraging and inspiring that someone pointed out to me the other day is that by going on a mission, each of us are changing the lives of thousands of people.  That doesn't necessarily mean I'll bring thousands of people to baptism, (although that would be sweet!).  I might only bring one or two, but then there are their kids and grandkids, and what if their kids and grandkids go on missions too?  And then the people they help have kids and grandkids and those kids and grandkids go on missions, too!  It's so crazy and cool to think about.  I am so grateful for Jesus Christ in my life as my perfect example, my Savior, and my brother.  I want so badly to be like Him.  I want to have the Character of Christ.  Pure love, true friendship.  I am so grateful for the knowledge I have because of His gospel.  I'm so grateful for His atonement and the knowledge that no matter what I'm going through, no matter how I'm feeling, or how alone I am, He is always there, He always understands, and He never stops giving us another chance.

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