Sunday, August 24, 2014

And another church talk

One of my favorite movies as a kid was the 1968 version of Heidi. In the beginning there’s a scene when Heidi’s grandfather is having a conversation with the local clergyman about why he wouldn’t take care of orphaned Heidi. No matter what the clergyman said to convince him of his responsibility the grandfather adamantly refused. Frustrated the clergyman belts out, “Why are you so stubborn?!” The grandfather grunts and mumbles, “It’s my nature.”

What’s your nature? What is my nature? What does the world teach us about our nature? How often is “our nature” used as an excuse for our actions like Heidi’s grandfather? “I can’t help it, that’s just the way I am.”

From the time that I was twelve, until I graduated high school I was constantly being taught by my Young Women leaders that I had a divine nature. It was reiterated every Sunday as we recited the Young Women’s theme since Divine nature was second of the 7 Young Women values (although now it’s 8 values-overachievers). It was associated with the color blue. There’s even a song written by Janice Kapp Perry that we learned called “My Nature Is Divine”.  I particularly like the second verse which says,

“Why is it when I touch a fevered brow, I know that I must give relief somehow? Why is it when I see someone with less I’m urged within to share my goods and bless? Why is it when I see a soul in sin I long to share the light I have within? Why is it that a joy beyond compare distills upon me when I kneel in prayer? Could it be, oh could it be a sign that deep within this simple soul of mine I sense by some miraculous design my nature is divine? Could it be? I ask in prayerful hours. The spirit speaks with gentle power saying  Yes, your nature is divine, for you my child are mine.”

Even before I made it to Young Women’s, I was still being taught about where I came from. How many of us could sing “I am a child of God” before we could even read the words ourselves?
Our nature is Divine. It is divine because we are children of God. We come from God, and have the ability to one day return to and be just like Him. Our nature is the same as His. In order to know ourselves and what our potential is, we should have an understanding of what God’s nature is.

God is Eternal
17 By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting, the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them; 
 18 And that he created man, male and female, after his own image and in his own likeness, created he them;
 19 And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship.

God has a perfected living body
Joseph Smith had seen God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ in an experience we know as the first vision. His described what he saw as, “a pillar of light…above the brightness of the sun… two Personages whose brightness and glory defy all description” JosephSmith History 1:16-17

“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as a man’s…”
We are patterned after Him as His children just like we are patterned after our earthly parents. Our bodies are not yet glorified, but will be through the resurrection.

God is omniscient
God knows everything. He knows us, our names, what we need, the mystery behind the missing sock from the dryer, why the sky is blue, and how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie roll tootsie pop.

41 “He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.

We learn from Abraham that God isn’t shy about his knowledge either and he wants us to know that even if we think we’re pretty smart, he can still outsmart us.

19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.

Knowledge is a godly attribute (it’s also a young women’s value- it was the color green). We should all be striving to learn and increase our knowledge. Spiritual knowledge is important, but secular knowledge will also be a benefit to us. President Hinckley is known for encouraging us to gain as much education as possible. He said, “You must get all of the education that you possibly can. Life has become so complex and competitive. You cannot assume that you have entitlements due you. You will be expected to put forth great effort and to use your best talents to make your way to the most wonderful future of which you are capable.  Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world. That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field (Words of the Prophet: Seek Learning).

Not only will we benefit from education in this world only, but also the next. Doctrine and Covenants section130 vs 18-19 promises:

18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
 19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

God is omnipotent
God can do whatever he wants. Not only is there nobody to tell him what to do, he can manipulate, create, or destroy anything or anyone at any time.Just because he can, doesn’t always mean he will. Nephi reminds us that faith is required if we are going to call upon God for help when he says
12 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him (1Nephi 7:12).

And sometimes, no matter how much faith we pull forth there are some things and trials we or loved ones experience that only God knows why they happen, but we can know that God loves us and we will be stronger through our hard experiences.

God is Kind
Despite these hard experiences that some of us or our friends may be going through that seem like God is inflicting unjust punishment, he really does love us. Doctrine and Covenants 122:7 says,

7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

How could we gain knowledge or experience without trials? Our trials give us experience to know how to help others. It gives us perspective and allows us to better appreciate and develop gratitude for the good in our lives. They prepare us to be as God is.

God loves us. He wants us to become the best possible versions of ourselves we can be. I think we’re all familiar with the story of the “refiner’s fire” where a silver smith refines- or purifies- silver by holding it in a fire. If left in too long it would be ruined. It needs to be watched carefully throughout the refining process. When the refiner can see his image in the silver reflected back, the refining process is complete.  God wants us to become like Him and in order to achieve this we need to be held in a fire, our trials, but we are being closely watched. We couldn’t grow without some form of resistance. We couldn’t prove ourselves without a challenge. This world is one ginormous challenge, but hopefully we can find some happier ways that God shows his love as we travel our paths.

Hymn 87 (God is Love) does a nice job illustrating some ways we can see God’s love in our lives:

1. Earth, with her ten thousand flow'rs,
Air, with all its beams and show'rs,
Heaven's infinite expanse,
Sea's resplendent countenance—
All around and all above
Bear this record: God is love.

2. Sounds among the vales and hills,
In the woods and by the rills,
Of the breeze and of the bird,
By the gentle murmur stirred—
Sacred songs, beneath, above,
Have one chorus: God is love.

3. All the hopes that sweetly start
From the fountain of the heart,
All the bliss that ever comes
To our earthly human homes,
All the voices from above
Sweetly whisper: God is love.

One of the greatest acts of love and kindness God has given us is the atonement. He wants us to return to him and so provided a way for us through his great plan of Happiness, or the Plan of Salvation (which is an entirely different talk so I’m just going to skip to the next highlight of God’s nature- and the last one so don’t worry even though God is eternal, this talk is not).

God is Perfect
The nature of God covers a lot of attributes and there isn’t enough time in the world to cover everything, but it could be summed up in about 2 seconds with the word: perfect.
In Matthew 5:48 we are charged to:

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Perfection seems to be continuously out of reach, but if we embrace our divine nature and continuously apply the atonement in our lives and strive to develop our godly attributes that are within us someday we will return to our heavenly father and become just as he is.

So we really shouldn’t blame our faults, or excuse our imperfections because “it’s our nature” the way Heidi’s grandfather did. Instead, next time someone compliments you for achieving something great or doing something nice you can grunt and mumble, “It’s my nature.”

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen