Rubik’s Life Lessons III: Sincerity of Heart

Lesson Three

Don’t allow the repentance process to become a memorized routine. This is, in a way, the opposite of Lesson One. Most often Satan would have us believe that changing is too difficult and therefore isn’t worth the attempt. Other times he tries to convince us that it is an easy process, and he lulls us into making it into something that can be done and over with in a very short period of time.

Since the day I learned how to solve a Rubik’s cube to the present day, I can’t count the number of times I’ve matched up all six colors. There were days when I probably solved it around fifty times in between walking from house to house. Thefirst fifty times I solved the puzzle it was a slow process. I had to keep looking at the cube and reminding myself of the correct twists. Now I can glance at it briefly and then look up at someone and have a conversation while my muscle memory performs the move.

This is not how repentance should become. Once we establish the method and have done it many times, it’s easy for us to slip into the habit of simply going through the process without any real sincerity or thought. I’m certainly guilty of this more than once. We must offer up ourselves, not by rote pattern, but out of an honest desire to love God and obey His commandments.

Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name. (Heleman 3:27)

The Savior Himself had some things to say on the sincerity of our hearts.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

Every time we solve the cube, it must be a unique, individual experience. We must give our full attention to it and not just glance at it briefly while our muscle memory does the rest. We must be sincere. The Lord accepts nothing less.

 

 

Rubik’s Life Lessons II: Solving Takes Scrambling

Lesson Two

Even when you’re starting to become solved, you still have to get scrambled along the way. In order to place each piece of the cube where it needs to be, you need to twist some of the pieces out of place and then restore them to complete the move. Going through the repentance process, or any mode of change, will often require us to do this. Even after we’ve made some changes and see our colors matching up, we’ll still need to twist ourselves into some uncomfortable circumstances to continue making progress.

We will need to exercise patience and understand that we can’t just match up one side, then do another and anther until we finish the sixth side. In terms of the actual Rubik’s cube, it’s physically impossible. You can try, but eventually you’ll need to mix up the colors for a second in order to place other colors where they need to be.

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: (Romans 5:3-4)

We learn through these twists how to be patient in our repentance process. This patience helps us gain experience for future times when we’ll need to solve our Rubik’s cube again and again, and in turn this experience brings us hope that solving the cube is possible.

It’s not always fun. Before I understood a correct method, I would try and solve each side, one after another. Often I would get to the point where I knew I had to mix up a side already solved if I wanted to progress on another side. This is where I’d get stuck. I didn’t want to unscramble a side already solved. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to solve it again, or that I would just screw up the whole cube in general.

The end result of repentance is always a relief. There is no greater feeling than knowing that your Heavenly Father has forgiven you of sin(s). During repentance, however, it may not always be pleasant. It’s not meant to be fun. The feelings of guilt and shame are an inevitable consequence of mistakes, and they are something that must simply be experienced, but…

…My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? (Hebrews 12:5-7)

Being chastened, or rebuked, by God is not something He does because he wants us to feel terrible, or because He wants to bully us. God rebukes when we mess up because He loves us. He wants us to do better and He knows that sometimes a little tough love is in order.

I know that through the love of God and the grace of Christ, we can change. It might put us out of our comfort zone every now and then, but that’s just a necessary part of the process. A few twists and turns here and there and before you know it, your Rubik’s cube is solved!

Rubik’s Life Lessons I: Easier Than It Looks

So, not too long ago some other missionaries serving near me taught me how to solve a Rubik’s cube. They had a Rubik’s cube in their apartment and, in frustration, I would watch them solve it over and over again. It got to the point that I had to be able to do it too. I had always wanted to be able to solve those stupid little obnoxious boxes. So I made them teach me their method and in a few minutes I found myself with a solved Rubik’s cube in my hands.

Strangely enough, there are a lot of life lessons that can be learned from this ingenious little toy. And so, this is the beginning of a series of short lessons that I’ve learned (and am still trying to correctly apply) in my life. I hope you enjoy them.

Lesson One

We are going to liken a Rubik’s cube to repentance, and for the sake of the analogy, let’s say that the Rubik’s cube in this lesson is an extension of yourself. Your spirit, your soul, your conscience, whatever term you would like to use. We come into this life with our Rubik’s cube solved. It’s perfect, but as we grow older some twists are applied to the cube and eventually we find ourselves all scrambled up. The colors are no longer in the right places and now we see that we need to solve our cube.

If you’re like me, you’ve seen someone solve one of these toys and thought “How in the world do they do that?” It just seems impossible. At least to me it appeared to be a task I would never accomplish. That’s often how we feel about repentance, and about coming to God to ask for forgiveness and then going out into the world to be a better person. We may feel that we will simply never be solved. We will forever be scrambled up and never experience the joy of having all our colors where they need to be.

You know what I realized after I finally got the solving method down? I realized it was so easy. I’m not saying that I understand the ins and outs of solving a Rubik’s cube, but I know a method, I apply it, and I solve the puzzle. I was amazed at how simple it was to solve it. When I solve it in front of people, they often express frustration at how difficult it appears and how they can’t figure out how I do it. I just tell them that I know a really easy method and I use it.

The same goes for repentance and change. It seems daunting, like an infinitely high mountain that we simply can’t climb over, but that’s only Satan trying to tell us not to try. Our Savior Jesus Christ is there telling us that we can climb that mountain. We just need to rely on Him and press forward, using the correct method: repentance. We recognize our mistakes and weaknesses. We acknowledge them to God and confess them to Him. If we have wronged another, we confess our mistake to that individual. We ask for forgiveness from God, relying upon the Atonement of Jesus Christ and having faith in Him. We right our wrong. Give back what was stolen. Replace the lie with truth. Etc. Then we forsake the sin andstrive to never commit it again.

This is the method of change. It truly is simple, and that is the beauty of it. I know that repentance is a gift given to us from God, made possible through our Savior Jesus Christ. God wants us to change and put off the carnal man within us. He would not make the method too difficult to follow. It takes courage, faith, and perseverance, but it is simple and easier than we think if we rely on Christ.

Articles of Faith IV: Gospel of Christ

Here we go, number four:

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

You could say that these are the steps to becoming a disciple of Christ. To be His follower, one must of course obey His gospel. We believe that the first step is to exercise faith in Jesus Christ. We must believe He is our Savior, otherwise there isn’t any point to anything else we do. Our faith in Christ is the foundation of our testimony in Him and His gospel.

The second step is repentance. Faith and repentance go together. We can’t repent of our sins if we don’t believe Christ is the Savior and that He suffered and died for our sins. We must apply His atonement and ask Heavenly Father’s forgiveness of our sins, made possible through Christ.

And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:11)

Faith and repentance are daily things, however. We must exercise faith each day and daily repent of our sins. In this way we can always keep Christ in remembrance, which will deliver us from the power of Satan.

Preach unto them repentance, and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ; teach them to humble themselves and to be meek and lowly in heart; teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. (Alma 37:33)

Faith and repentance are the first principles. The first ordinances are baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Baptism is essential. Christ taught that without it, one cannot enter into the kingdom of God. And it must be done by the correct authority. The same goes for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

In the Acts we find an example of this ordinance being performed by Peter and John.

Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 18:15-17)

This is the basic doctrine of Jesus Christ that Latter-day Saints believe in. I know they are true. Stay tuned for more Articles of Faith! HOW EXCITING!

 

Burdens… Braces… Bacon.

Getting braces is not fun. Of course, they’re good for you in the long run, but having them can be a nightmare for a lot of kids… and adults. From the first day you get them on, they’re a nuisance. My teeth hurt so bad that first day I couldn’t eat my bacon at dinner (my dad took the liberty of eating it for me).

Sure, you may get used to having them after a while, but you never forget about them. They’re always there, feeling uncomfortable, cutting up your lip… whatever else. I was a bit self-conscious when I had mine; I definitely don’t recall smiling too often.

So all in all, braces aren’t a pleasant experience. They’re restrictive, uncomfortable, and definitely not the prettiest thing to look at. If  you had them, and you’re anything like me, your confidence level probably took a bit of a hit. But when that day comes that they finally come off… holy cow. It was an awesome feeling! I felt like I was on top of the world… at least for the next couple days.

Sin is a lot like this; it restricts us and makes us uncomfortable. The guilt can make us self-conscious and our confidence can be shot. The initial sin can often feel painful. Over time we may become accustomed to carrying this burden, but the burden is never eased, and we long for the day when the burden can be eased.

Getting the braces off is repentance. Confessing our sins before God, coming unto Christ to be healed by His atonement, and forsaking our sins removes this burden. And the feeling is awesome! We feel like a new person when that load is removed from us. This is the joy that comes from repentance. This is the joy that comes when we turn to Jesus Christ and let His atonement work within us.

And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

(Alma 36:17-20)

As Daylight Dies

Contest the lies
We cannot be so blind
Hear their cries
Don’t wait till daylight dies.

Daylight Dies“, by Killswitch Engage

So I got a new companion; I picked him up in Great Falls. We stayed there for a couple days before driving back up to our place. When we arrived at our place he unpacked and then went downstairs to do laundry. Thirty seconds went by and he rushed back up the stairs.

“You better come down and see this,” he said to me.

I followed him down to find half the basement flooded with about an inch of water. Turns out, the water heater was leaking. Boxes and clothing belonging to the owners of the house were soaked. We ran to the neighbors and they brought over a shopvac to suck up all the water. We spent most of this morning moving clothes and boxes and vaccuming up more water. We’ll definitely need a new water heater.

The problem was simple. The water heater was about sixteen years old and had rusted on the bottom until it simply could no longer hold the water.

This water heater is a lot like our own problems. When a situation arises, we need to be sure to take care of it right away. It may be a wrongdoing, a sin that we’re covering up. It may be a problem we have with an individual that we put off and allow to fester. Whatever the circumstances, it never works out when we allow it to grow and escalate. The water heater should’ve been replaced years ago. Just the same, we may have problems that we should’ve dealt with a long time ago, but instead have been left to rust.

If we don’t deal with them, eventually they’ll leak out, often spoiling the lives of loved ones and others in the process.

Amulek, in the Book of Mormon taught,

And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. (Alma 34:33)

Whether it is a sin or not, we can’t afford to procrastinate the day of our repentance or our resolving. Work while it is still day.

No Giving Up

So your scars fade away
You soaked up the pain
A better person ’cause you lived through those days
And now you know what it’s like to prove
You can overcome anything that gets to you
Well it’s alright
We’re sayin’ our goodbyes
To the past and everything that ain’t right
We won’t waste another day
With all these silly things in our way

There’s no giving up now!
Do you really want to give this all away?
Can’t you ever see things in a different way
Somedays?
No giving up now!
Such a beautiful thing to throw away
You should think things through
Over and over again

No Giving Up“, by Crossfade

We’ve all had times when we’ve felt like giving up. Hard times come and go. Such is life. When those hard times do come, we should always desire to be the optimist. Look at the beauty in life. Look at the blessings we’ve been given. We alway have so much to be thankful for. When Christ came to the Americas after His resurrection, He taught many of the same things that He taught those back in the “old country.” And of course He would; it’s the same Gospel after all.

Enduring to the end is a common phrase among Latter-day Saints. It refers to living our lives in harmony with Christ’s gospel, to the best of our abilities. It involves having faith in Jesus Christ, turning to Him in all walks of life, repenting daily of our sins, and keeping God’s commandments. It is the day to day things, the little things, that add up over time.

3 Nephi 15:9

Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.

With enduring to the end, there is no giving up, now or ever. Live each day at a time. We must not dwell on the past, but instead look steadfastly unto Christ. It is through Him and only Him that we can receive eternal life.

Existence and Repentance

The walls of a church don’t make it holy.
It’s what’s authentic that completes the sum of its parts.
Don’t excuse yourself from life today on the pretense of your past.

You’re hurt. You’re broken. That’s alright.
This might be what it takes to wake you up.

“Existence”, by August Burns Red

Making mistakes is inevitable. God does not expect us to be perfect. That is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to Atone for our sins, allowing us to repent. A negative connotation is often placed upon repentance. Sometimes it’s viewed as a punishment, but this is not so. The original Hebrew word that was later translated into what we now know as “repentance” included the root verb shuv, which means “to return”.

Repentance is not at all punishment, but is a process of turning one’s self around and coming back to God. Of course, it does include sorrow, but that sorrow should be godly sorrow. Paul, as usual, gives us some good insights…

Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (1 Corinthians 7:9-10)

Paul says that godly sorrow worketh repentance, which leads to salvation. Being broken down, being hurt, being grieved, are actually good things, when we take them in the right light. Feeling sorry for yourself, or feeling sorry because you got caught, etc., are not ways in which we feel godly sorrow. Godly sorrow involves having a desire to change ourselves, to turn ourselves around, change our ways, change our mindset, and change our hearts.

Through these ways, repentance is not a punishment, but is a joyous opportunity to come closer to God and to our Savior.

In the Book of Mormon, there was a young man named Alma, who went about trying to destroy Christ’s church, spreading lies in order to get people to sin. He was struck down by an angel and for three days seemed to be dead. When he regained his strength, he proclaimed that he had been forgiven of his sins. It was a difficult process, because of the evils that he had done, but repentance brought him indescribable joy. I invite you to read his account that he gave to his son,

Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. (Alma 36: 18-21)

I know that daily repentance is necessary if we desire to become close with God and Jesus Christ. But it is not punishment. It is not a chore. I am grateful that I can repent. I know that repentance is a blessing to us. If you’re hurt, if you’re broken, that’s alright. That’s often what it takes to wake us up.

Erasers and Jesus Christ

If you’re an artist that’s into drawing, you know what a kneaded eraser is. They’re a lot of fun and can help make some really cool art if you know how to use them. Personally, I’m more into inking, so I honestly can’t say that I’ve mastered the use of these erasers, but they’re still fun. Kneaded erasers are unique in that they are self-cleaning. When it gets dirtied up with graphite, all you have to do to clean it is stretch it and pull it apart, then knead it back together. In my art classes I probably used them more for making fun little sculptures than actual erasers.

Now, what does this have to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Good question, and the answer is easy. The fact is, we’re all a bunch of kneaded erasers. We come into this life brand new. As a baby, we’re pure, innocent, undefiled, just waiting to be molded into something. As we take our journey through life, we get dirtied up. Sins and other mistakes start to darken our once bright countenance.

We can never once again be perfect, at least in this life, but we can certainly clean ourselves up. Just like the eraser can clean itself, we have been given the power and agency to choose to repent of our sins. Jesus Christ and His Atonement are the hands that can knead us, cleansing us from our sin. It’s often not an easy process, and it’s not in an instant. We’ll need to stretch ourselves. Sometimes we may even become torn. Torn between choices, torn away from desires, friends, or family. Torn within ourselves. But Jesus Christ always puts us back together, and we come out clean once again.

Just like the eraser, we will inevitably become soiled and darkened again. But repentance through Christ’s Atonement is always available for us to become clean again as well. I know this to be true. I know the Atonement of Jesus Christ can clean us of all sin and heal us of all damage from them.

The Arm of Mercy

I was thus studying this fine morning on the topics of repentance and forgiveness (The two are practically synonymous), when I came across this particular scripture in 3 Nephi, chapter 9:

12 And many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people, because of their wickedness and their abominations.

13 O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?

14 Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.

In life we often find ourselves spared of the destruction that comes upon this world. Is it because we are more righteous? At times… no, and at times… yes. If we are more righteous, it is only because of the mercy of God, that he has given us knowledge that others are not as fortunate to have. I am blessed to have a knowledge and comprehension of Christ’s gospel. The commandments we are given keep us safe. Through the Word of Wisdom, we are saved from the destruction of our physical bodies, which in turn strengthens our spirits. Through the Law of Chastity, we are saved from the destruction of our spirits and the heartache and mistrust that has entered so many homes. Through the Law of Tithing our faith is strengthened, and we are saved from the destruction of doubt and fear.

Obedience to God’s commandments spares us from the spiritual tremors that so often shake the world, but that does not make us perfect. “Will ye not now return unto me…?” Christ asks. Even though we are spared, we must always turn unto Christ and repent. His arm of mercy is extended. He desires to heal us. After we are spared from the destruction of the world, will we forget by what power and mercy we were spared, or will we turn to our Savior and repent so that He may heal us?