Friday, July 12, 2013

Christlike Part 4: Synergy

As his civilization was under attack and his people about to be completely wiped off from the face of the earth, Moroni, the last Nephite, spent his days running from the savage Lamanites and keeping a record. The record that he kept and preserved and eventually hid is one that has changed the world forever. His father Mormon compiled the great record and Moroni was given the charge of making sure they were safely deposited so that they could come forth in a later time.

Doing his best to not only preserve these records, but to add his own voice and his own teachings to them, the young prophet made some of the greatest contributions to the book, many of which are quoting from letters that his father had written to him. What would you write to your child if you were two of the last ones in your civilization? What would you write as you are on the brink of destruction and your enemies about to overtake everything you have ever known?

Would you begin your letter by stating how depressing your conditions are? Would you start by saying how scared you are for your life? What about starting by talking about how hard it is to continue to follow God when you are one of the very last ones doing so?

Or would you start off as Mormon did, saying "Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven"?

I know for me at least, that introduction would be very low on my list of possibilities. But then again, that is just one of the many many reasons why I am not a prophet and Mormon was. He was constantly looking out for other people. He was constantly looking towards the future. He knew that at this time, there were literally a handful of "peaceable followers of Christ" but he had been given a promise that there would be more. So what does he do? He doesn't focus on the dire circumstances in front of him, but rather he looks towards the fulfillment of that promise and teaches those people (aka us!) some of the life lessons that he learned.

And what exactly does he teach? Well, among other topics, he teaches the very things that I have been discussing in my last three blog posts: faith, hope, and charity! In a very detailed, powerful account, this prophet writes to those who are centuries away from being born and reaches through the years to teach us just how important these attributes of Christ are. Surrounded by people who are completely and entirely lacking in all three of these attributes, I can only imagine how much of an expert he must be when it comes to knowing the power of applying these in our lives.

My last three posts have talked about faith, hope, and charity individually, as distinct and separate attributes, but in this post I wish to share how unified and how closely related they truly are.

In this chapter, Mormon teaches "How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope? ...Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope. And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart. ...and if a man be meek and lowly in heart...he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing."

In a few steps of logic, Mormon teaches us that we cannot truly have faith unless we have hope and we cannot truly have hope if we don't have charity. Or in other words, our actions cannot be fully profitable and selfless if our attitude is not right, and our attitude cannot be truly optimistic if our intentions are not pure.

It is easy to see from this scripture that these three attributes form a complex relationship with each other, almost like a spring. When seen from just the right angle, it can look like nothing more than a circle and the logic appears to go nowhere: "How can I have faith if I first need hope and charity, but in order to have those I must first exercise my faith?" Around and around the circle goes.

But when viewed from a different angle, we can see that, yes, these attributes are closely related and yes, it does go in a circle, but with each revolution around the circle, it grows to a higher level. Increased hope yields higher faith and charity which, in turn, lead to greater hope and the cycle continues, always getting higher and closer to the Savior.

The power that I love from these three attributes isn't the power that comes from any one individual attribute, but that which comes from the combined application of all three. The title of this post is synergy which I think is a perfect word to describe this power. Simply put, synergy is the principle that teaches when things are combined, their net result is greater than a sum of their parts. Or in other words, with synergy, 2 plus 2 becomes 5, not 4.

In one of my favorite talks, President Henry B. Eyring teaches not only how inter-weaved these attributes are, but also what power that has in our own lives, even the power to overcome trials. "When hard trials come, the faith to endure them well will be there, built as you may now notice but may have not at the time that you acted on the pure love of Christ, serving and forgiving others as the Savior would have done You built a foundation of faith from loving as the Savior loved and serving for Him. Your faith in Him led to acts of charity that will brings you hope."

In our very rough and volatile lives, it is important for us to strive to develop each of these characteristics equally in our lives and in such a way that will produce the greatest results. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf describes faith, hope, and charity as being three legs to a stool. With each of these three legs intact, we have the balance necessary to last through whatever circumstances we face. As he teaches, "These three stabilize our lives regardless of the rough or uneven surfaces we might encounter at the time."

One leg of this stool would be great and very helpful when you are balanced perfectly, but when your balance is off just a little bit, you begin to fall and one leg is no longer useful. Even with two legs, the balance needs to be carefully watched or else chaos ensues. But with all three legs, properly and evenly placed, the balance is more sure and the effort required to not fall off is negligible.

In a more recent talk, President Uchtdorf again teaches the importance of applying all three of these attributes and developing them together. After sharing the story of how the gospel helped a woman turn her life away from the abusive atmosphere in which she was raised towards the Savior and to helping others, he says, "It was in the practical application of faith, hope, and charity that she not only transformed her own life but forever blessed the lives of many, many others."

That powerful change comes as we work on all three of these aspects, as we understand their relationship to each other and then build upon that and strive to increase all three simultaneously rather than focusing on one or the other. That is the power that comes from synergy,  a power that could not have come from applying each of those three attributes individually.

In Alma 7, we have a great example of these three Christlike attributes running together to produce amazing results. Closing his remarks to the people in Gideon, the prophet Alma invites the people--as well as us--to see that they "have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works."

I love the direct results that Alma teaches for applying all three of these attributes in our lives. If we have faith, hope, and charity--focusing on all three, not leaving out one of them--then, our works will naturally be good. In my last few posts I have mentioned the new ways that I have seen these attributes and what I realized they truly are. So to substitute those into this teaching, it seems to me that Alma is teaching each and every one of us that if our actions, our attitude, and our intentions are pure, then the natural result will be constant and continual good works.

When we have positive actions, attitudes, and intentions, we will be selfless, optimistic, and actively striving to make a change in the world and in the lives of those around us. And to top it all off, not only will we do these things, but we will always do them in a way that will point others to the Savior and help them drawn nearer to Him. What else could we ask for in our lives? What more could we want than to be the means by which someone has been drawn to the Savior as a result of your efforts to become like Him and develop His attributes?

That, to me, is what it is all about. That is what this gospel is all about: becoming more like the Savior and helping others come to know Him more fully in their own lives. And the great thing is that these attributes are meant to bless other people, but they also directly influence us and help us become more prepared. As Elder M. Russell Ballard teaches, "Working together, these three eternal principles will help give us the broad eternal perspective we need to face life's toughest challenges, including the prophesied ordeals of the last days. Real faith fosters hope for the future; it allows us to look beyond ourselves and our present cares. Fortified by hope, we are moved to demonstrate the pure love of Christ through daily acts of obedience and Christian service."

Clearly Mormon was the perfect one to teach the world about the application of these attributes. In his venomous and evil surroundings, he proved to overcome those tough challenges that Elder Ballard mentions. Personally, I see Mormon as one of the prime examples of overcoming challenges. In the last recorded letter to his son, he writes, "And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God."

This was a man who had proven the power that comes from faith, hope, and charity; someone who had seen first-hand what can be accomplished from a life of striving to follow the Savior. No matter if we are one of the last righteous people in our entire civilization or if we are the only ones in our places of employment keeping God's standards or even if life is just hard, the key to endure and to overcome lies in our ability to foster and apply the attributes that Jesus Christ so perfectly demonstrated, especially faith, hope, and charity.

1 comment:

  1. Your blogs are always so great. You were an excellent missionary!