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The Two Things That Will Give You Confidence to Meet God

The Two Things That Will Give You Confidence to Meet God

As I thought I was approaching death, I realized with stunning clarity that there are two things that will give you confidence to meet God and two things only: (1) charity for all and (2) virtue. “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men … and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; THEN shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God.” (D&C 121:45.) This comes from a text recorded in 1839.

There are two things that will give you confidence to meet God and two things only: (1) charity for all and (2) virtue.

You are worth loving.

What did the word “virtue” mean at that time? While I am still trying to crystalize its meaning in my mind, one thing of which I am certain is that “virtue” did not have the primary meaning we assign to it today—the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice. That was only a tertiary meaning. “Virtue” meant something quite different. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary entry for virtue gives, as its primary meaning, “1. Strength; that substance or quality of physical bodies, by which they act and produce effects on other bodies.”

The Latin root from which the word derives—virtus—”was a specific virtue in Ancient Rome. It carries connotations of valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character, and worth ….”  As I put these concepts together it seems that in 1839 “virtue” meant something more akin to the modern usage of the word “integrity.”

Your very consciousness is garnished or adorned with an abiding commitment to genuineness.

Under this view, the meaning of the text is that confidence comes from (1) feeling charity for others (to the extent that it fills our innermost parts) and (2) having integrity, which requires us to be genuine.  Consequenlty, to let virtue garnish your thoughts unceasingly does not mean to endlessly think about ways to avoid vice. Rather it suggests that your very consciousness is garnished or adorned with an abiding commitment to genuineness.

That our confidence before God depends upon our ability to love and be genuine makes sense to me because God’s essence is love (1 John 4:8) and truth (John 14:6).  Jesus detested phonies.  He couldn’t stand being around pretentious and pious fakes.  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.  Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”  (Matthew 23:27-28.)

Jesus detested phonies.

He was more comfortable around “the publican, standing afar off,” in the temple, who “would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner,” than the temple-attending, tithe-paying church member who “stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers ….”  (Luke 18:10-14.)

The self-awareness, confessional honesty and raw unpretentiousness of the publican is much more righteous to God than stodgy observance. Piousness swells the head, shrinks the heart and fosters self-deception and alienation from God. We draw near to him with our actions, but our hearts are far from him. (Matthew 15:8.)

To reject yourself is to reject God.

You must learn to love and accept yourself.

Simply put, resist the temptation to measure your righteousness by conformity, orthodoxy and obedience to the observable and measurable. If you want to be confident in this life and comfortable around God, be a loving and genuine person.  To do that, you must learn to love and accept yourself.

In order to love others, you must esteem and value yourself as much as you are told to esteem and value others.  This “self”-esteem is not grounded in a false, grandiose or unrealistic self-concept.  Instead, it is seeing yourself like God asks you to see others—as his child, of infinite worth and worth dying for.  True self-esteem is not grounded in your own merits.  After all, as Jesus Christ said, “without me ye can do nothing.”  (John 15:5.)  Instead, true self-esteem is grounded in God’s love and mercy toward you, his creation.  God created you.  You are worth loving.  You are worthy of giving love.  You were created in God’s image.  To reject yourself is to reject God.  You must first embrace your weakness before you can embrace God.

This may come as a surprise to you, but God already knows your faults and weaknesses. And chances are everyone around you is already aware of them, as well. There’s no use masking them.  Be more like the publican and less like the Pharisee.  Just be who you are, don’t be fake, acknowledge your faults, and do your best to love.

Letting virtue garnish your thoughts is a call to avoid self-deception.  It’s an invitation to self-awareness, self-acceptance and complete honesty.  Filter everything through that filter and you will become confident in the presence of God.  You will see that God loves you no matter what.  And then, when you are filled with that love and acceptance from God, you will be grounded enough to love as you ought.

Are You Living Your Religion?

Are You Living Your Religion?

Live-your-days-MEMEAre you living your religion?  The answer is not as obvious as you would think.  If you were to ask your children, your friends and neighbors, or even yourself, to write on a piece paper the five things you must do to live your religion, what would those five things be?  Are we confusing the means with the ends?  Where is our focus?

There once was a man who thought he was a golfer.  He studied and read from the USGA rules of golf every day.  He knew every rule of golf, inside and out.  He religiously went to the golf course on a regular basis.  He bought the best equipment.  He dressed like a PGA professional.  When he played, he meticulously followed all of the rules.  He never cheated.  Yet, he was a terrible golfer.  He couldn’t drive.  He couldn’t putt.  He kept all of the USGA rules.  He went to all of the country club and men’s association meetings.  He looked the part.  He dressed the part.  He played the part.  But, in the end, he was a horrible golfer.  There was another man with an incomplete set of clubs, no golf shoes, no golf glove, used golf balls and no fancy golf clothes.  Yet he could golf; and he always scored better than the man with all the equipment and all the rules.

There once was a woman who thought she was a cook.  She acquired all of the best recipes—the “true” recipes.  She bought all of the very best equipment.  When she cooked, she used all of the freshest and best ingredients—the “true” ingredients.  She followed each recipe meticulously.  She looked like a chef.  She sounded like a chef.  But her soufflés wouldn’t puff.  Her bread wouldn’t rise.  Her cakes sagged in the middle.  Her eggs were tough and chewy.  In the end, although, she followed the formula, she was a horrible cook.  Even though she had the “true” recipes, the “true” ingredients and the “true” equipment, she failed to produce anything appetizing or appealing.  There was another woman with a small kitchen, dollar-store equipment, missing measuring cups and spoons and only moderate quality ingredients.  Yet her kitchen produced wonderful cakes, rolls and soufflés that fed and delighted her entire neighborhood.

What does it mean to “live” your religion?  Is it possible that, like the golfer or the cook, you are focusing on the rules, rather than the art, of living?  Is it possible that you could attend your meetings, be active in your religious associations, dress the part of a religious person, read and study the scriptures, “do” all of your observances, go to the right meetings, go to the right places, believe the right things, say the rights things and, all the while, entirely miss the point?

Learning and scrupulously observing all of the USGA rules of golf does not make you Arnold Palmer.  Having all of the right recipes, all of the right equipment and ingredients, and meticulously following the recipes does not make you Wolfgang Puck.  There is more to it.  There is an art to being.

There is an art to living and loving well.  And, unfortunately, for many that I talk to, religion seems to be only giving people the rule books and the recipes.

Religion has done a fine job of giving us the ingredients and teaching us what’s in bounds and out of bounds.  But has it done a good job of showing us how to become better, how to thrive at the game, and how to be excellent in the kitchen of life, so to speak?  How far do creeds and dogmas, rote traditions get us?  To excel and thrive; to truly enjoy the art and mystery of living do we need more?  If so, where do you get it?  How do you find it?

Getting back to one of my earlier questions, if you were to ask your children, your friends and neighbors, or even yourself, to write on a piece paper the five things you must do to live your religion, what five things would show up on the list?

I would hope these things would be among the first on the list:

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction ….”  (James 1:27.)  “Jesus of Nazareth … went about doing good ….”  (Acts 10:38.)  He ate with publicans and sinners.  (Matthew 9:10.)  For Jesus, healing and helping trumped observance; relationships mattered more than rules.  (See Mark 3:1-6.)

I fear, however, that our lists might reflect a different set of priorities.  What do you think?


Be The Reflection of God’s Goodness

Be The Reflection of God’s Goodness

Be the Reflection of God's Goodness

Be the Reflection of God’s Goodness

Whether or not you believe the doctrine of the incarnation, one thing it clearly teaches us is that when God wants to perform his greatest miracles he does so through the instrumentality of human flesh.  This should ever remind us that we are God’s hands.  Ordinary men and women matter.  They can make a difference.  They can be instruments of kindness and generosity.  They can be the modern-day incarnation of God as they reveal his loving and abiding presence to others through their empathic kindness and thoughtful acts of service.  They can remind the world that God still exists, that there is still goodness in this world and that miracles continue to happen.

Your goodness to others reminds others that there is a God.  Be the reflection of God’s goodness.

Look someone in the eye today and tell them how much they mean to you.  Tell them why and how they have made a difference in your life.  And then say, “Thank you.”