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Gospel Study - The Merciful Obtain Mercy

In light of all that has happened in the world today, it was poetic that today’s talk fell on The Merciful Obtain Mercy by President Dieter f. Uchtdorf.  Truly, the Lord knows what we must face.  He inspires His Prophets to teach us the way before we need it most.  This "instant classic" is brilliant, and timely.

Most of us made “Stop it” part of our person arsenal of catch phrases.

Today “stop it” seemed to used all over the internet as people expressed their out rage of the deaths of so many at the hands of an obviously troubled human being.

Stop guns.

Stop crazy people.

Stop crime.

Stop bad guys.

Stop… Stop… Stop!

As I read this morning my heart hurt for those who lost.  My heart hurt for the troubles I face.  My heart ached for things I can’t fix.  President Uchtdorf reminded me that “the virtue of the word of God… has a more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than… anything else.”

I thought of the souls that hurt today in Connecticut, around the world, in homes and in families.  It is easy to judge.  It is easy to point fingers.  Plenty have been pointed today.  It’s like people have started swing Uchtdorf’s Hammer.  In our pain, disappointment and anguish friends turn on friends, family turns on family as we all swing the phrase, “Stop being so judgmental.”

It isn’t as easy to “Stop it.”

“Every person on earth has been affected in some way by the destructive spirit of contention, resentment, and revenge. When we feel hurt, angry, or envious, it is quite easy to judge other people, often assigning dark motives to their actions in order to justify our own feelings of resentment…” and entitlement.

It is my fear that we become so hypersensitive to an incorrect view of "judgment", that we limit our opportunities for sharing, learning and growth, and shy away from our own responsibility to “let go and let God”.

Let me clarify:  I think President Uchtdorf said it brilliantly.  I also think that many misunderstand what he said.   "This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges or wanting to cause harm — please apply the following: Stop it!

Stop what?  Stop it!  What is "it"?  "It" is defined as:

Holding grudges
Wanting to cause harm

I see a trend here. All of these words are negative, and motivated by sin. But all judgment does not fall into this category. Some judgment is essential. Righteous judgment is encouraged. These words serve as filters to help us differentiate bad judgment vs. good judgment. Hmmm. I like to think of it as discernment.

Judging is something we do every minute of every day. It is so important that the Lord has blessed us with the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost to help us excel at judging, in discerning. Judging is an essential part of our journey here on earth. We are supposed to become experts at judging, in discerning between what is from God and what is not.

I read once that the Sufis have a “wisdom saying” that our words must pass through three gates: Is it true? If it isn’t, don’t say it. If it is true, it must pass through two more gates before you speak it: Is it necessary to say? and Is it kind? If it is not necessary to say, don’t speak it. If it is necessary, find a way to say it in a kind way. Kind does not mean candy-coating the truth; it means saying what needs to be said in a way that leaves the dignity and worth of all parties intact.

I think this “wisdom saying” of the Sufis fits perfectly with President Uchtdorf’s talk. In fact, I would say that not only our words must pass through the three gates, but also our thoughts.

I tell my Seminary students:
Watch your thoughts, they become your words.
Watch your words, they become your actions.
Watch your actions, they become your habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

I loved how President Uchtdorf put it as he shared a bumper sticker saw, “Don’t judge me be because I sin differently than you.”

Seriously, which one of us is truly sinless?  I can think of no one.

So, today I believe more mercy is needed to heal all these broken hearts.

Those inflicting pain on others seemed to be holding onto pain themselves.

Forgiveness sets us free.  I don’t believe more regulations will set us free.  I don’t believe that more guns will set us free.  I don’t believe less guns will set us free.  I don’t believe that more or less jails, mental hospitals or police in schools will set us free.

Only the Savior can stop this madness.  Only His healing wings can calm troubled souls before they harm
themselves or others.  Only in the balm of the Savior’s infinite Atonement can we all find relief.

It is not easy.  “… it requires a major change in our attitude and way of thinking.”

Forgiveness is not erasing the wrong.  We don’t have the power to do that.  Only God does. 

Forgiveness is not a “laying down and taking it.”  Forgiveness is not giving someone else permission to harm us.

Forgiveness is letting go.

Take Tarzan, for example.

As you know, Tarzan lives in the jungle. His favorite mode of transportation is swinging through the trees. It is fast, efficient and exhilarating. He fluidly swings from vine to vine, never touching the ground.

Upon closer examination, you can see that as Tarzan reaches out and grabs the next vine, he releases the vine he had been riding on. This allows him to move forward, constantly grasping new vines to continue his journey.

Imagine what would happen if Tarzan grabbed the next vine, but refused to let go of the old vine? Exactly. He would stop dead - suspended in the air between two vines. To regain his momentum, he would eventually have to choose which vine to release. 

Everyone of us finds ourselves reaching towards the Savior, towards the atonement - reaching and searching for forgiveness. It is inevitable. It is part of the plan.

However, like Tarzan, if we are trying to grasp the atonement, and refuse to let go of the things we are hanging on to, we stop dead. We lose all spiritual momentum. We are damned.

The Lord said it better, and he didn’t even need to use Tarzan:  “Wherefore I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespassesstandeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.” Doctrine & Covenants 64:9

The greater sin? You are telling me that my refusal to let go of the things that have been done to me - the pains that I have had to endure - will cause me to lose the Lord’s forgiveness and the power of the atonement? Yes. Exactly. You get it.

If we are unwilling to forgive - unwilling to let go - we are condemned, and have denied the core principles of the very atonement we reach for. Seems a bit hypocritical doesn't it - to try to get something for ourselves that we deny others?

I have witnessed the toxic nature of an unforgiving heart. I have seen an unwillingness to forgive prevent couples and families from moving forward and regaining their spiritual momentum. Stalled. Damned.

I have witnessed people who cling to the old vines of anger, accusation and resentment until they are so cankered that they no longer reach for the Savior. Spiritually stuck between two vines. One offers hope and joy, the other condemnation and bitterness.  Personally, at times I have carried grudges far longer than I should, and I have felt those burdens immediately lift and drift away as I decide to release them. Immediately.

I have also seen those who labor to forgive find great peace and happiness as they free themselves from burdens they have been carrying for 10, 20 years, or 10 to 20 minutes. Forgiveness offers hope, peace and spiritual momentum.

Maybe the Beetles got one thing right.  “All you need is love.”  The Savior’s love.

“The more we allow the love of God to govern our minds and emotions – the more we allow our love for our Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts – the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ.”  This is the higher law.  “The pure love of Christ can remove the scales of resentment and wrath from our eyes, allowing us to see others the way our Heavenly Father sees us; as flawed and imperfect mortals who have potential and worth far beyond our capacity to imagine.”

Anyway, I couldn’t stop wondering if things would have been different if the tortured young man that went postal on small children if he had experiences forgiveness.  What would have happened if he had let go of grievances before today?

“… there is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.”

Today we don’t need more of anything except for more forgiveness, more mercy.

Today I will do better at letting go.  Today I will do better at extending forgiveness.  Today I will do better at extending mercy.


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