Sunday, June 13, 2010

In Your Patience Possess Ye Your Souls

"Patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means actively waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can- working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!
-Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I used to think I was a patient person. My mother would always laugh when I told her this, and I didn't understand why she thought it was so funny. I suppose it's harder to see our own faults, even when they're right in front of our face. Years later, I finally realized why my mother laughed at me.. I had been thinking about the talk Elder Uchtdorf gave in General Conference this last May- the one about patience. My thought went something like this, "Well I wish the Lord would just hurry up and let me learn that lesson so I can get on with something else." Right as the thought crossed my mind I finally figured it out- patience is definitely Not one of my inherent virtues :)

Since then I've decided to take the challenge to learn more about patience. In Luke 21:19 the Savior tells is apostles "In your patiece possess ye your souls." I've thought a lot about that. What is it about patience that makes us possess our souls? What does that even mean? I glanced down at the footnotes and saw that possess in this scripture meant "to preseve, win mastery over." So as we have patience we can both preserve our souls and win mastery over them. What a promise- I can be the master of my own soul. It might not sound like much, but it's everything. It is God's plan. Father in Heaven wants us to have agency- to be the masters of our own souls.

In the council in Heaven, before we came to earth, there were 2 plans presented. We read about these plans in Moses and Abraham. Satan wanted to make all the choices for us, and force us to return to Heavenly Father. Christ wanted us to be able to choose. He would be our Redeemer if we repented, but not everyone would make it back. So why would we choose Christ's plan? Lucifer wanted us all to come back- he said it would be a sure thing. But by choosing Christ's plan, we choose choice. Through His plan, though it would be harder, we would grow. We would have agency. We would be the masters of our own souls. But it would require patience.

Think about a great master. An artist like Da Vinci or Bernini. A composer like Chopin or Liszt. A writer like Emerson or Frost. Did these people wake up one day and decide to be the best in their chosen pursuits? Did their talent appear magically? I'll admit that, with some, they were blessed with gifts that made them great, but they still had to work to develop their talents to the fullest extent. They still had to have patience in order to be a master. We are no different. We too must have patience in order to grow.

One of the most poignant examples to me of patience, outside of Christ, is Joseph Smith Jr. He endured tribulations and persecutions for most of his life. From the time he saw the first vision in the sacred grove at age 14 until his death at age 38, he was mocked and ridiculed. Evil men sought his life. He, his family, and all who followed him were driven from home to home, state to state, in an attempt to practice their religion in peace. After Joseph was thrown into Liberty Jail and the saints driven from Missouri in the middle of winter, he prayed to God. He asked, "O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?...stretch forth thy hand...remember thy sufffering saints..." (D&C 121:1-6) Joseph, who had endured so much, was asking how much more patience God expected of him. How long were he and the saints to endure?

The Lord's answer is full of love, but also a gentle reminder of patience. He says, "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment. And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high...For there is a time appointed for every man, according as his works shall be...If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if [long list of every bad thing happening to you that you could ever imagine]; if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? Therefore, hold on thy way...fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever." (D&C 121: 7-8, 25; D&C 122:5-9)

That's not always the answer we want to hear- be patient. When we're suffering, we want healing. We want it now. But Christ is saying that even He had to be patient and endure those trials in life that allowed Him to overcome physical and spiritual death to bring Redemption to all mankind. Patience is not a virtue we learn and then check our lists; patience is a way of life. It is the only way to eternal life. It is the only way we can truly be the masters of our souls. James wrote, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into many afflictions. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:3-4) When patience has her perfect work- when patience rules our choices- then we become the masters of our souls. We can then use this agency to continue in faith and good works, and ultimately gain eternal life.

Further Reading:
Alma 23-24 This is the story of the people of Alma the Elder. They fled from the wicked King Noah and established themselves in the wilderness, until they were found by the remainder of the priests of Noah and the Lamanites.

God's Plan of Agency