A while ago, when I was teaching Sunday school, I mentioned that we all tend to have what I like to refer to as “pet topics”. The things we choose to think about when we don’t really have to think about anything.
Like when we’re called on to give a comment on something in church, and we think, “Well I don’t know much about that, but I have quite a lot to say on this other topic ‘cause I think about it all the time.”
For me that topic is encompassed in forgiveness, repentance, and the Atonement. All of those thoughts meshed into one.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we learn a lot about forgiveness. In classes and talks we’re taught that we should love our neighbor. And while, yeah, there may be times when it is difficult to forgive others for what they’ve done, I would say that the majority of the time it’s easier for us to forgive those we care about when they desire to change than it is for us to forgive ourselves when we desire to change.
We see the change that other people go through during their repentance process, but we refuse to see the change in ourselves during our own.
We congratulate them for the person they have become, yet beat ourselves up for the person we once were.
But, why? After all, the commandment is to love thy neighbor as thyself.
In the gospel according to Denver that scripture would say “love thy neighbor as well as thyself”
Don’t just love your neighbor, and don’t just love yourself. Love thy neighbor…as thyself.
The purpose for writing this is to help us understand the value we have, regardless of the mistakes we’ve made. We waste too much time looking down on ourselves.
Something you should know about me is that I have a hard time liking myself. It’s easy for me to pick things from my appearance and my personality that make me less than everybody else. This attitude makes it incredibly hard to let go of my past. No matter how far away I get from my mistakes, I’ll bring them back up and remind myself why nobody will ever think I’m good enough.
However, even though I do feel this way, I know it’s not true.
Nothing I do will ever limit my eternal potential if I repent, and my eternal potential is to become as God is. Even though I make mistakes, and my decisions aren’t always the best, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ I have the same opportunity I’ve always had to become like God.
Now, here’s a random little secret for you…I kind of hate Captain Moroni a little bit (not really, but you know…)
For those who don’t know who I’m talking about, Captain Moroni is a character in the Book of Mormon. A lot of the references I’m going to make are from the Book of Mormon, so you’re welcome to reach out to me if you have questions.
Anyway, I don’t feel this way because he’s a bad person. He’s a great person. But I feel like he’s the Superman of the Book of Mormon, and I do hate Superman because he has everything. He’s this perfect little alien boy, and it makes me sick.
Moroni is a wonderful man, and I value the example he set, but I can’t ever relate to him because he always seems so perfect.
In case you need an example, here’s what Alma 48:17 says, “Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.”
For me that feels like Mom being like “Why can’t you just be like your brother?”
Side note: my mother has never said those words, but I imagine that’s about what it would feel like.
Because of my mistakes it sometimes feels like, “Ok, good for you Moroni, you can shake hell with your righteousness, but I kind of suck at life right now.”
But the next verse says, “Behold, he was a man like unto Ammon, the son of Mosiah, yea, and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God.”
These guys are my heroes.
Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah weren’t the “perfect little perfect” boys.
In Alma 36:6 Alma says, “For I went about with the sons of Mosiah, seeking to destroy the church of God…”
Verse 13 “…I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of Hell…”
Verse 14 “…so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.”
In Mosiah 28:13 it says “…for they were the very vilest of sinners …”
Alma the younger and the sons of mosiah weren’t just guys being guys. They were into some serious crap, and what they were doing was apparently bad enough to classify them as “the very vilest of sinners.”
One of the sons of Alma the younger, who it mentions above as being like unto Moroni, is Corianton. In Alma chapter 39, Alma is talking to Corianton and says, “Thou didst go on unto boasting in thy strength and thy wisdom…thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel…Know ye not, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord.”
Corianton was not the poster child, nor was he the poster missionary. When you’re a missionary don’t go after harlots. I mean, you shouldn’t be going after harlots anyway…
Yet, these men are my heroes.
Even though they had gone down the wrong path many times, their eternal potential was not less than Moroni’s. Even though their sins had at one time classified them as “the very vilest of sinners”, through Christ they became like unto Moroni, which means Alma 48:17 applies to them as well.
“Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto (Ammon, the son of Mosiah, yea, and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons) behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.”
Their worth was not defined by their mistakes.
Your worth is not defined by your mistakes.
“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.” (Doctrine & Covenants 18:10-11)
Now, I don’t want somebody to read this and feel that they are “justified in committing a little sin”, or that you can “eat, drink, and be merry” and God will give you a slap on the wrist and call it good. (see 2 Nephi 28:8)
Repentance is about change, and if you feel you can sin now – repent later you clearly haven’t changed. However, if you recognize that what you have done is wrong, forsake it, and really change…that is why “the Lord [our] redeemer suffered death in the flesh”.
So, if our eternal potential is not limited as long as we repent, it then becomes our responsibility to recognize our mistakes and to repent.
Relating this back to myself, this sounds easy enough. But I’ve realized that I sometimes make repentance harder than it needs to be.
I’ve read about Alma being “tormented with the pains of hell” for his sins, and I trained myself to think that unless I felt the same thing I hadn’t repented. (see Alma 36:13)
Every time I made a mistake, and wanted to repent, I would put myself down, get as depressed as possible, and completely destroy my self worth. I guess I thought that this was a necessary step in repentance; bring myself as low as possible in order to be forgiven.
I’d heard the term “godly sorrow”, but I misunderstood what it meant. I thought, “If sorrow means sad, then godly sorrow must mean super sad.” So I would make myself as sad as possible about my mistakes, and my self worth would plummet.
But I was wrong. Godly sorrow isn’t sadness on steroids. Godly sorrow simply means understanding that whatever you are doing is taking you away from God. What you are doing is against the commandments of God.
Being miserable is not a part of it.
Alma was only “racked, even with the pains of a damned soul” until he reached out to Jesus for help. Jesus wasn’t the one tormenting Alma with the memory of his sins. Alma was doing that himself, and the wonderful change we read about only happened when he asked Jesus to have mercy on him. (see Alma 36:13-22)
Recognizing that what you are doing is taking you away from God can be a wake up call. It can be a little frightening that you’ve put yourself in this position, and you’ll probably want to get out of that position as soon as possible.
But the longer you choose to beat yourself up, the longer it’s going to take to feel the “joy and marvelous light” that comes from reaching out to Jesus. (see Alma 36:20)
Our value to Jesus is not less when we make a mistake. He is there with us, and when we reach out to him he can comfort us and let us know it’s going to be alright.
Nothing you do will ever change the way Jesus sees you. He loves you. He doesn’t want you to suffer. He suffered for your sins so you wouldn’t have to if you repent. How do you think He feels when you beat yourself up for your mistakes, knowing that He was already beat up for them?
It’s like He bought you a house so you wouldn’t have to pay, and then you went to the bank and took out a loan of your own. Jesus is like, “What in the actual heck, bro! I already bought it for you. Stop paying for this house!”
Stop beating yourself up. You’re doing better than you think.