Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cleansing the Inner Vessel

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Cleansing the Inner Vessel, by Boyd K. Packer
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I've been trying to be more healthy (and lose weight). Despite the successes I've seen, I'm still tempted to overeat or have too many desserts. It's so persistent, in fact, that when I hear others say that they're no longer tempted to indulge, I cannot believe them.

My goal of healthy living—or rather the temptation to not eat healthy things—seems closely related to the temptation to sin. There is likely a big difference in that I don't expect that Satan is tempting me to eat that cookie, whereas I do think he's all for sinning. Despite this difference, it's in the exercise of my agency (the choices I make) that makes all the difference:

The old saying “The Lord is voting for me, and Lucifer is voting against me, but it is my vote that counts” describes a doctrinal certainty that our agency is more powerful than the adversary’s will. Agency is precious. We can foolishly, blindly give it away, but it cannot be forcibly taken from us.

We all have temptations that we do or should struggle with. In his talk, President Packer spoke of life-giving powers and the full expression of love. It seems that whenever Church leaders even hint at marriage and love, many people automatically assume they're coming out with fire against homosexuality. This just isn't the case; consider the following, noting the use of the word "any":

We teach a standard of moral conduct that will protect us from Satan’s many substitutes or counterfeits for marriage. We must understand that any persuasion to enter into any relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the gospel must be wrong. From the Book of Mormon we learn that “wickedness never was happiness."

Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Remember, God is our Heavenly Father.

BYU and its honor code have entered the news stories because of something to do with a player on the basketball team. While I don't know much about athletics, I do know about the honor code. In fact, my colleagues and I discussed it at length at lunch today. There is a section on "Homosexual Behavior" in the honor code where homosexuality (same-gender attraction) is stated as strictly not being forbidden. The distinction lies in the action, as it does with every other temptation (see full honor code here).

BYU can make these regulations—regardless of how others may perceive them to be archaic—because it is a private school. Taking it up a step, the Church likewise teaches the same. In his talk, President Packer reminded that there are moral and physical laws from which we cannot escape the consequences, regardless of changing legal status:

History demonstrates over and over again that moral standards cannot be changed by battle and cannot be changed by ballot. To legalize that which is basically wrong or evil will not prevent the pain and penalties that will follow as surely as night follows day.

Regardless of the opposition, we are determined to stay on course. We will hold to the principles and laws and ordinances of the gospel. If they are misunderstood either innocently or willfully, so be it. We cannot change; we will not change the moral standard. We quickly lose our way when we disobey the laws of God. If we do not protect and foster the family, civilization and our liberties must needs perish.

Whenever rules or commandments are discussed, there is a need to emphasize the role of Christ's Atonement in providing a way to return. I liked President Packer's comparison of repentance to a detergent: "Even ground-in stains of sin will come out."

I'm grateful for the understanding I have of agency and consequences. In big decisions (e.g. morality) and small (e.g. cookies), I can know what will happen—good or bad—based on my decisions. When I do make mistakes, there is a way back through the detergent of repentance. As with weight loss, mistakes can be overcome, but it will take some work, and the temptation may remain, but I know that with perseverance and trust in the Lord, I can overcome mistakes of the past and triumphantly march toward the future!

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