Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Merciful Obtain Mercy

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Merciful Obtain Mercy, by Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor in the First Presidency

My wife went to a meeting last weekend where a fun object lesson was used. Everyone was given a blindfold and a sheet of dot stickers. After putting on the blindfold, the teacher asked a series of questions, and if you could answer "yes" to a question, you were to put a dot sticker somewhere on your face. The questions were varied and included both flaws and strengths. Examples include: "do you sometimes struggle to calmly deal with your children," "do you try to love others despite their flaws," "are you unhappy with your body and the way it looks," "do you like the smell of fresh-cut grass," and "do you have a testimony of Jesus Christ?"

After a series of questions, blindfolds were removed and participants were asked to look around the room. Smiles and laughter came at seeing how silly everyone looked, but the point of the lesson was made clear when the instructor said, "Now you see that we all have something in common!"

Since I wasn't in this meeting—it was for women only—I don't know exactly what the message was supposed to be, but I do know what it reminded me of: President Uchtdorf's talk and the message of a bumper sticker he cited: "Don't judge me because I sin differently than you."


Funny, interesting, poignant, or ridiculous as the bumper sticker's message may seem to you, my first thought was to judge. You see, I don't usually like bumper stickers. Sure, some are funny, but too many seem either pointless or offensive. As a result, I catch myself judging drivers by the stickers they put on their cars.

I wonder if I'm alone in my dislike for bumper stickers.

I admit that there are some that I've enjoyed. When I was in high school, I would sometimes see stickers of scenes from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip on cars' windows.

I had this one (but never did put it on my car)

These made me smile until someone changed the frivolity by having Calvin urinate on various things. Then I saw Calvin kneeling in prayer at a cross, but these disappointed me, too because it seemed an over-correction (or probably just because I'm a terrible person).

Recently I've seen interesting variations on the family make-up on back windows. Whereas once I would see simple stick-figures depicting mother, father, children, and possibly pets, now I'm seeing personalized renditions of each family member: aliens, superheroes, zombies, even Star Wars!

I'm conflicted by some stickers I see, though. Political bumper stickers both delight and detest me. The more vitriolic they are, the more they make me laugh and wonder why/how people get so worked up. In our church parking lot in Texas I would often see anti-Bush-pro-Obama stickers on one car and anti-Obama stickers on another. I would wonder if the drivers of these cars could come together in loving service within the walls of the church—if they even were aware of how diametrically opposed their political viewpoints are!

I was often tempted to find bumper stickers of opposing views and put them on each car and see how long it would take for them to be removed, but I wasn't brave enough. (Imagine the confusion of car with multiple anti-Obama stickers also having a Democratic Party sticker.)

I was reminded of these political stickers as I read a particular paragraph in President Uchtdorf's talk:

I imagine that every person on earth has been affected in some way by the destructive spirit of contention, resentment, and revenge. Perhaps there are even times when we recognize this spirit in ourselves. 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.

What should I take from this message of bumper stickers, dot stickers, and blindfolds? I think President Uchtdorf summarized it nicely:

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. Because God loves us so much, we too must love and forgive each other.

In brief: stop judging and start loving.

And while you're at it, don't judge me for being a hypocrite in having stickers on my own car despite claiming to dislike them. My stickers aren't political and don't outline my family make-up—they show my appreciation for BYU!

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