25 July 2011

MTC--Week 4

Today, my companions and I are beginning to speak solely in Portuguese. I've not done a very good job of it so far, but my dictionary isn't here so the only thing I can really do from memory is testify or teach a rudimentary lesson. I've been focusing a lot of my language study on conjugation in preparation for today, and I can see the blessings of the Lord in my life helping me to recall what I've studied so I'm able to speak properly.



It has been my blessing to see how the gift of tongues works in the life of a missionary. If you can imagine being able to recall something after you've studied it once, and being able to use it without difficulty--that is essentially what my experience with the gift of tongues has been. I've studied Hebrew and French in my life, and I've never had an easier time with a language that I'm having right now, and I know it has absolutely nothing to do with any skill of mine. My ability to speak is limited only by what I have studied and what words I make the effort to use on a regular basis. The thought of what else I could be accomplishing with such a capacity boggles the mind.

In my time in the MTC, I've heard a great deal about obedience. That's pretty standard, and it became much more understandable to me when I realized that there are new missionaries coming in on a regular basis who need the same instruction on the subject that I needed as a new missionary. But as I've taken the time to think about obedience in its proper context, alongside the grace and mercy of God, I've learned great lessons on how the Lord accomplishes His purposes.

Something that illustrates my point is in Lehi's dream. A lot of times we focus on and emphasize the symbols of the dream--the iron rode, the great and spacious building, the mocking crowds, and of course the tree. What we don't focus on is the beginning of the dream. Around verse 8, we see Lehi wandering for hours, as he describes it, in darkness and despair. The thing he does to instigate the dream--the spark to the whole experience--is when he prays to receive the mercy of the Lord, (see 1 Nephi 8: 8.)

The only way that Lehi could understand the great love that God has for him, his family, and for all of humankind, is through the mercies of the Lord. If Lehi had never called for those mercies to come down uponhis head, he enver would've had that vision. He never would've become the man God intended him to be, the gospel head of two nations in a new land. Without mercy, there can be no love--and certainly no understanding of the love of God. Without mercy, there is no hope--no hope of redemption, no life. Lehi would've remained in the darkness he described in his dream.

That is exactly the life we live when we rely on the law to save us. Lehi was brought to and understanding of his standing before God, and it was hopeless and helplessly dark because he did not yet know or understand the mercies of the Lord. Everything that happened to his family after this vision is because of one prayer--a prayer for mercy which only the Atonement of Jesus Christ has extended to the entire human family. Nothing else has provided for that redemption.

We sometimes think that we need to be obedient because through obedience we have greater merit in the sight of God, and that is what allows us to perform greater miracles, or to have greater faith. This, however, is false. In the sermon of King Benjamin, specifically from Mosiah 2, we learn in powerful word the truth of the relationship between mercy and obedience. If we served God with everything we have to give, giving all of ourselves according the laws God has set, we will still be unprofitable servants because our contribution is still miniscule in comparison to the great and eternal gifts God has given to us. We couldn't earn our happiness even if we tried. We certainly could never pay back the great debt we have to God for our very lives and all the great blessings we have received.



But deserving our blessings was never the point. That's not why they were given to us, and that's not what we should be doing with them. We have the ability, even in our imperfect state to share those blessings--to magnify their influence in the lives of others. Through the mercy of God, our efforts are complete, no matter how imperfect. I'm convinced that the greatest blessings no more automatically belong to those who blindly and unwillingly follow the requirements of laws than to anyone else. That is not what obedience and mercy are about.

Mercy and obedience together create within us a deep love and gratitude for what the Lord has done for us. Those who embrace this appreciation with sincerity are better off than the blind and grudging obedience of one who hopes to get something out of acting a part instead of changing himself/
herself. Obedience for obedience's sake is a lie and an act, and must be carefully rooted out of the heart of every disciple who truly wants to serve God and keep His commandments.

That is why the first two commandments are and always will be to love the Lord with all our hearts and to love each other. Breaking those commandments bring the greatest condemnation under the law, and nothing else we do can justify us if we lack that love in our hearts.

I know that God lives, and I know His love and mercy is the purpose for everything we do. As we increase in obedience, our love for others and for God must also increase. That is the testimony and experience of my life, and I bear that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

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