Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Keeping Good Cheer Throughout the Year

There’s a magic to Christmas. It’s a season of giving. We gladly turn our hearts to the memory of our Lord’s birth, His life, and His sacrifices for us; and we gladly turn our hearts to our families and to our fellowmen. From Thanksgiving to New Year, we feel the presence of angels as we allow ourselves to be lifted up, to be a little better than we’ve remembered to be, to think a little more kindly, and to give of ourselves a little more freely.

For children, the magic may be found in anticipation, and in the quiet realization of the security of their parents’ love for them. They feel the excitement of traditions, the colors, the foods, and the presents. For adults, it can be found in the planning and preparations, in the searching and giving of gifts, and in the delight seen in and through the eyes of their children.

For the single, the lonely, the aged, it may be found returning home, in a shared meal, in a friendship renewed, and in forgiveness extended or received.

So many miracles happen at Christmas, and truly all year long; but, at Christmas, it may be that our senses are more keenly aware. It might be the music; it might be the Christmas story; it might be the shared traditions and the extended fellowship, service, and charity…of course, it’s all of these things. But maybe, it’s just even a little bit more.

Yes, it’s so much more. I believe, at Christmas, one of the greatest gifts is that we again feel our brotherhood. It’s renewed, just like it is every time we come together in tradition or tragedy. And during this time of connection, of renewal, hope in our own humanity is restored. Truly the Prince of Peace delivers peace to us, especially when we so willingly offer it to each other.

Maybe that’s why we are so keen on goal-setting for the New Year. Maybe it’s because we’ve felt the magic of Christmas and don’t want to lose it.

What is magical about Christmas for you? How do you feel it, and how does it make you feel? What makes you happy about Christmas, and what makes you sense happiness in others? Truly Christmas is a time of good cheer. Now what can we all do, what can you do individually to carry that good cheer with you throughout the New Year? What will you do to keep Christ’s Spirit with you?  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Are Good People Good?

I hear so many people defending other people by saying, "He's a good person," or "She's a good person." I'm not even sure what that means anymore.

Cain was probably a really "good person," too; other than, he chose his own way to serve and follow the Lord, instead of being obedient to the Lord and serving in the way he was commanded. Even this was a God-given right, because our Heavenly Father gave us the gift of agency.

So when Cain offered up a sacrifice to the Lord, which was his own choosing and not according to the Lord’s directions, by today’s standard, we could all say, “He was a good person.” Why? Because he still was trying to give a good gift, even if it was contrary to God’s specifications of an acceptable sacrifice or a good gift to God. 

It certainly does seem that when we are given light and knowledge from the Lord, and we stray from that in favor of our own whimsical thinking or the teachings of the world, that we are openly choosing to turn towards the darkness and follow after folly.

Yet we are all still children of God seeking after happiness and wanting to live the good life and to be good people.

So what happened to Cain? And does the same thing happen to good people today?

I believe that we have all had a Cain or a Judas experience to some degree; or, if not, that we will. What will we do in these circumstances? When we have made errors in judgment in following the Lord; and we know that we have, because the Spirit of the Lord is there to seek to reclaim us, how do we respond? How will we respond? Cain was warned, and Cain was given conditions of blessing and cursing. So was Paul. We have also received this same warning. Satan is waiting for our responses, because he seeks to own good people.

What are some of the mistakes that Cain made? First, Cain didn’t offer the sacrifice of the firstborn, which was a reminder of our Heavenly Father’s Son and His sacrifice for us. In what ways do we fall short of being the children of progress that our Father intends us to be? Are there things that we neglect or that we substitute which have been put into place to help us remember His Son and our covenants with Him?

Cain was reprimanded by the Lord. The Lord chastises us because He loves us and wants our ultimate happiness, not just for us to find immediate gratification in the use of our agency. But Cain made the mistake of letting his countenance fall. He became angry. How does it affect our spirits, our demeanor, our attitude, and our well-being when we become angry because we don’t feel validated in making wrong choices? This is another step in turning away from light and truth and entering into a darkened path. Have you ever experienced it? I know I have. But the Lord in great mercy wants to reclaim us, because He knows our potential if we choose light and truth.

Cain not only became angry because he couldn’t find happiness in his wrong choices; he became angry because his brother could find happiness in choosing the right. He let his jealousy over Abel and his possessions consume him, even until he was motivated to destroy Abel in hopes of obtaining what Abel had.

Are we envious of others’ gifts? How does that harm our own well-being? Do we understand that the Lord gives gifts severally to His children according to His will and His kindness, and that the blessings that we receive are to be used to glorify him in returning goodness to Him in obedience and service? Do we make sure that we do not fault others who are truly striving to be righteous?

It is true that most people we know are not murderers. We could even go on to say, “We are all ‘good people.’” But there is great danger in calling evil good and good evil. So it is best for us to analyze our position and to take inventory before and with the Lord, so that we know where we fall short and how we can improve in our own lives. (Alma Chapter 5 is a good reference for this.)

We should also make certain that we are aware of what is right and wrong in the world around us. Too many are confused on this point, thinking that way have no right to judge, but we must make righteous judgment as our progress and the progress of others is dependent upon it. (For greater understanding, please read the words of Mormon for in Moroni Chapter 7.)

I’m not writing this to say that I am a better person that others. But, if we know the truth, we should not want to settle for less either for ourselves or for those other people, those friends of ours whom we deem to be “good people.” If we think they are good people, shouldn’t we want to share with them those promises from God that are attainable through His love for us and our obedience to Him?

We all have the potential to be good. But true goodness comes from being humble enough to know that all that is good comes from God and that we need Him to progress and to obtain salvation. We cannot allow any substandard thwart us from our eternal goal of being members of the family of God. In Him and with Him, we will find goodness.