Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Let Your Heart Expand - Sylvia H. Allred - General Relief Society Meeting

Speaking to the sisters, the Prophet Joseph said, “Don’t be limited in your views with regard to your neighbor’s virtues. You must enlarge your souls toward others if you [would] do like Jesus. As you increase in innocence and virtue, as you increase in goodness, let your hearts expand—let them be enlarged towards others—you must be longsuffering and bear with the faults and errors of mankind. How precious are the souls of men!” 
The scriptural declaration “Charity never faileth” became the motto of Relief Society because it embraces these teachings and the charge that the Prophet Joseph Smith had given the Relief Society sisters to “relieve the poor” and to “save souls.” 
These foundational principles have been embraced by Relief Society sisters throughout the world, for such is the nature of the work of Relief Society.
—Sister Silvia H. Allred

I'm quoting the General Relief Society Meeting again. It was such a good meeting!

This quote got me thinking about something I've thought about several times this summer. An easy trap to fall into is judging others. The more practiced we become at keeping the commandments, the easier and more tempting it is to judge others when they aren't keeping the commandments. This is probably where Satan knows he's likely to trip us up.

Having grown up in Utah, it was easy to judge others. In my mind I thought, "Everyone knows what they're supposed to do, so if anyone isn't doing the right things they are blatantly sinning." And this led me to feel like I was worth more than they were somehow, because I was keeping the baseline commandments and trying to go the extra mile in some areas. Everything about that train of thought is wrong though.

On my mission things changed without me really thinking about it too hard. I noticed that I wasn't judging people nearly as much. The harder someone's life seemed to be, the happier I was to be talking to them, because I knew I had something that could help, if they were willing to listen and accept it. Drugs and alcohol? You must be going through a really hard time, or you were insecure when you were younger and tried it to fit in, and now you're somewhat stuck. Not going to church? You must work hard during the week, and love spending time with your family on the weekend. Tattoos? You enjoy expressing yourself, and have things you feel are worth saying. Sexual sins? Perhaps you feel lonely, and just want to feel loved. Even though I know that not everyone's motives are like the ones I listed, I would treat everyone like their intentions were innocent, unless or until I found out otherwise.

Another way to say it is that I looked at them as a person who has been hurt by life and choices and just needs help, help that I can give, by sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and by being a friend. I grew accustomed to thinking this way, and then it would shock me when various ward members would talk about someone we had brought to church and say "Well, they have a smoking problem, so I don't think it's going to work out" or "Maybe they can actually wear clothes next time" or "Why can't you bring someone that fits in better with the rest of us?" I looked at these people, and I saw goodness. Suppressed or hidden or disguised goodness sometimes, but it was there, and really wasn't that hard to find. Mistakes and challenges were to be worked through, not something that were cause for being discounted or turned away.

In other words, I saw people for their divine worth, and for their potential - who they could become. No matter how much of a hooligan or a rebel they looked like, I knew that their potential was astounding. I could imagine all the amazing ways they could help others in the future, and the light they could be for good. Many of them didn't accept what we had to share - but some of them did, and I'm excited to find out all they will do in the future, and who they will become.

I returned to Utah, and started to fall back into my old ways. Then, earlier this summer the Spirit told me strongly that one of the main reasons the Lord asked me to go on a mission was for me to learn how to see people for who they are and who they can be, instead of "looking on the outward appearance." Or in other words, hooligans are not problems, they're people. (I know hooligans is an odd word, but it makes sense to me!)

I will never accept sin as okay. I will not give in and redefine the commandments of God. But I will strive to love and care for others, and with longsuffering, bear the faults and errors of mankind. That is my goal. I want my heart to expand, and I want others to know they are loved and that their potential is divine.

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