Monday, October 5, 2015

The Character of Christ

This week I've learned so much about the character of Christ and our mission to develop that character in ourselves. I'm only beginning to see why it is so important as a missionary to develop these attributes. In order to teach with the power and authority that we see in the scriptures from Alma and the sons of Mosiah, we can't just believe the things we teach. A testimony is great, but it is only a start. A testimony is our incentive and drive to be converted. We hear this word a lot, but I don't think I ever considered what the word literally means: to convert, or to change from one thing to another. The key word here is "change", and to me, this means repentance. To truly change from the more natural man to a more Christlike character requires constant repentance. Repentance requires the Atonement. Thus, the Atonement is not just there for us to use when we feel we have made a mistake. Though this is a great blessing it provides, the Atonement is really there for us to become like Christ - to change. I made a goal a few weeks ago to use the Atonement every day to progress in some aspect that I feel needs to be improved. I actually wondered a first if I could think of something every day that I would need to repent of. The answer to this has been a resounding "yes." One attribute in particular that I have focused on is humility. Humility is incredibly important because it enables and gives us the desire to change. Repentance, or changing/converting ourselves to become more like Christ, requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit. In other words, without humility, we cannot develop any of the other of the Christlike attributes. It is the channel through which we can use the Atonement to develop and progress. 

I have found humility is important when interacting with other missionaries, especially my companion. We are not the same person, and therefore don't agree on everything. It is so easy to get irritated or frustrated when I don't fully agree with the way he does things. Nobody is perfect, however. 3 Nephi 14:3-5 teaches us that we must first seek to cast off our own flaws and imperfections and forsake the natural man (to be converted unto Christ). After we have done this, we can seek to help others to cast off theirs. But, how do we know when we have sufficiently been humbled and cast off the natural man, so as to be able to help and care for others? I feel that 2 Peter 1:5-7 answers this question very well. Our conversion starts with faith. Then, we add to our faith, in this order: virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, then, finally, charity. It is very significant to me that the final Christlike attribute is charity. Charity, or the pure love of Christ, is an incredible gift. In Elder Bednar's "Character of Christ" talk, he tells us that charity is the character and natural tendency to turn outward in love and compassion during all our trials, rather than in to ourselves, as the natural man would do. When we have obtained this genuine charity, we can no longer fall away or be led astray. Thus, it is when we have obtained this love for others that we can seek to cast off their imperfections, because we are doing so out of love. The desire to teach, serve, and correct should come from Christlike charity. It is this attribute that allows miracles to occur, because we seek only to use the power and gifts of God to bless others. When we do nothing for ourselves or because of our own pride, the Spirit can powerfully manifest that love to those who speak to and serve.

 It is my hope and goal to develop at least a little of the love and charity that Christ manifests. I know I have so much to learn and do before I can do this, including improving in my diligence in obtaining knowledge, and especially in being patient. I am so thankful for the Atonement, which allows us to strive towards this goal, despite how quickly and easily I fall astray. I need Christ to show me my weaknesses and provide me with opportunities to be humbled, because I know on my own I am extremely prideful. I need Him to give me His word and guidance in order to see the path I must follow toward my goals, and to happiness. I need Him to help me stay on this path, and be with me every hour to pick me up when I fall down. It isn't easy, but it was unimaginably more difficult for Him; and, because He did suffer for all of our shortcomings, I know that if I only do all I can, I cannot fail. 

The last week had a lot of ups and downs. We met a man in the park who told us he wants to know why there are so many different churches and interpretations of the same scriptures. At first I though he would be a golden investigator, because he asked all the same questions as Joseph Smith, but it turned out that he didn't really want to believe anything we were teaching about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. He just wanted to talk about the Bible. We met lots of people randomly this week who also seem quite interested and willing to meet. The Lord places all kinds of people in our path, often when we aren't even looking for it. I just need to get better and talking to everyone and doing what I can, because the Lord can take care of the rest. Just yesterday a man called back that we had only given our card to on the street as he was running past, saying that he just "wants to believe." We don't really have any idea what we are doing out here. It's the Spirit that does 99% of the work. We just need to be there to provide the opportunity for someone to feel it. 

Thanks for all your messages and encouragement! I hope someday I will understand what someone says in Korean. It's a very deceptive language, because it is so easy to read. I thought for sure it would only be a matter of memorizing words, but the grammar is so different and weird. Most things, if not all things, when translated from Korean to English word for word would make absolutely no sense. It's improving, though, and I'm always praying and fasting for the Lord's help. We watch general conference next week, so I'm excited for that!

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