This is the outline for the talk I gave in Sacrament meeting on Sunday, April 28, 2013.
Back in the winter I drove into the driveway of a member of our ward. At the entrance was a large tree. As it was winter, the branches of the tree were bare. I could see the skeleton of the tree.
Upon the branches I saw a few clumps of a different kind of growth. A dark green bunch of leaves – mistletoe. Mistletoe is a type of parasitic plant that attaches to a host plant and then obtains its nutrients from that host.
I drove up that same driveway just the other day, and the mistletoe was gone – ah, but was it? The leaves of the tree had all come back for the spring. I looked closely at the tree and could just make out the darker patches, but I had to know what I was looking for. The mistletoe was nicely camouflaged by the leaves.
In the spring/summer the mistletoe is hidden underneath all of the beautiful leaves of the tree, hardly discernible by the passerby. Only upon close inspection is the mistletoe visible.
As I looked at this tree it dawned on me, how often we as people hide the things we are trying to cover up in our lives.
While at BYU, the Mrs. and I grew to enjoy James Christensen’s work. We have a few of his prints that hang in our living room. Here is one of them:
you can purchase this print HERE. (not an affiliate link)
In a number of his pieces he depicts people in everyday life – the Everyman. But the person looks a little odd. He has a large hump on his back. James Christensen says the hump represents the troubles we carry in life. The people with the humps on their backs have covered their humps with clothes. They have decorated them, adorned them, done everything they can to cover the humps up and make them look beautiful.
There are many things we do that with in life. We cover up our issues, adorn them with beautiful clothing, and a little lipstick. We do all this to hide it from everyone around us, and maybe even ourselves.
The biggest troubles we face in life, are usually self inflicted. Problems we bring upon ourselves. Selfishness, pride, anger, hatred, weakness.
As a Bishop I’ll often meet with people and speak to them about removing the extra weight they are carrying – the brick they’ve placed in their backpacks.
There is a way to remove the mistletoe from the trees of our life. A way to remove the humps from our backs. A way to remove the bricks we place in our own backpacks of life.
That way is called repentance.
Let’s face it: We all want to be at peace.
We all want to be able to look ourselves in the mirror and know we are on the path our Heavenly Father wants us to be on. If we’re carrying the burden of guilt, looking yourself in the eye is a hard, hard thing.
I’d like to now review the steps of repentance.
1. Feel Godly sorrow –
First you need to feel bad about what you have done. If you’ve been caught, you probably don’t have Godly sorrow, at least initially. I’ve found Godly sorrow is the kind of sorrow that drives you to take action to fix the wrongs you have committed – no matter what the consequences.
When people have been carrying a heavy burden of guilt and are truly ready to get rid of that weight, they will do whatever is necessary to fix it:
– even if it means speaking to their Bishop
– saying sorry to the person they have wronged
– working with a group to get out of an addiction
– going to a counselor to help in overcoming problems
When they are at this point, that’s when I can tell – they are ready.
2. Confess to God –
The way to do this is through prayer.
When we’ve made a mistake, it’s usually hard to humble ourselves and get on our knees to pray. We don’t even want to admit to ourselves, let alone God, that we’ve made a mistake. We think if we don’t talk about it, maybe it never happened. But just as a parent knows who broke the vase in the living room, God knows all our thoughts and actions.
We must confess to God.
Sometimes you need to Confess to your Bishop.
I think sometimes this can be harder than confessing to God. Confessing to someone you know, a live person, can be terrifying and incredibly humbling.
No one enjoys these conversations – but to get back on the path, if the sin was large enough, you should come and speak to your Bishop. Regardless of how uncomfortable the conversation is, it is necessary.
What are those sins you should talk to the Bishop about?
— If you’ve broken the law of chastity
— If you’ve broken the word of wisdom
— If you’re having problems with addiction; pornography, alcohol/drugs, gambling
— If you’ve not been honest with your fellow man
— If you are abusive to your spouse or children
— Or simply if there’s something you’ve done and you can’t shake the guilty feelings in your heart, – please – come and talk.
3. Ask for forgiveness:
There are at least two people you need to seek forgiveness from, and sometimes more.
What’s great about this step is that you can’t truly ask for forgiveness unless you are sincere – because if you’re not, both you and God will know it. I believe this step shows our Heavenly Father that you truly are having a Change of Heart. As your Bishop, this is what I’m looking for, the change in yourself that shows you are growing away from that person you used to be. You are leaving those desires and lusts behind you.
You may have done harm to others and you need to ask for their forgiveness. Again, humbling.
I believe this step is also important because you need to ask forgiveness of yourself.
We are our worst critics. We berate ourselves far more than anyone else. We know our weaknesses and usually carry our mistakes far longer than I believe the Savior would want us to.
Elder Uchtdorf said, “For our own good, we need the moral courage to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Never is the soul nobler and more courageous than when we forgive. This includes forgiving ourselves.” LINK
A common concern I’ve talked to people about is that even though they have walked through the repentance process they still feel guilty. I ask them a few simple questions:
– Do you believe the Savior died for our sins?
They always reply, ‘Yes.’
– Do you believe the Savior’s sacrifice was big enough, strong enough, so that even people like King Lamoni,
who was once a murderer, could be forgiven?
They reply, ‘Yes.’
– If that’s the case, then why don’t you think the Savior’s sacrifice is strong enough to pay the price for your own sin?
When in this light, they typically are able to understand it is not the Savior that is holding them back, it’s their own unwillingness to forgive themselves.
4. Rectify problems caused by sins:
If we’ve hurt someone else due to sin, we need to work to fix that.
You need to make things right, if at all possible.
5. Forsake sin:
We must forsake the sin and promise our Heavenly Father that we won’t do it again. Sometimes the only proof of this, to Him and ourselves, is time.
6. Receive forgiveness:
When we’ve walked through all these steps, and had a true change of heart, you will feel lighter. You will feel at peace.
You will be able to look yourself in the mirror again and know you are doing all our Heavenly Father wants of you.
You know you have taken all the necessary steps.
You can have faith again in your own life and your prayers can be filled with the knowledge that you stand right with God.
How to avoid the problems in the first place:
I think the most important decision we make, every day, is whether we choose to put on the armor of God. Are we choosing to have the protection of the Spirit or are we choosing to be on our own?
D&C 82:10 I the lord am bound when ye do what I say, and when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.
Work to put on the armor of God. Work so that when the storms come, you will have the Spiritual depth to deal with the fierce winds of the adversary.
I’ve discovered making just a little change in your life can make all the difference.
– Prayer –
Are you saying daily prayers?
Are you praying with your family?
Are you giving your children the opportunity to hear you pray?
– Do they know what you are worried about, what you want God to help you with? Praying in the morning as a family gives you the opportunity to let your spouse and children hear you ask God to help them. What a great way to say I love you.
Pray in the morning, pray throughout the day and pray at night.
As you’ve heard me say before, pray like a missionary – at least once an hour.
Strip your life of the things that pull you away from the Spirit.
We all know what they are:
Books, TV, movies, music, even people, that push the Spirit away.
Having the Spirit with you is a choice. If you are participating in bad things, then you’ve made the choice to be on your own.
Listening to a conference talk.
Recently I’ve started listening to a conference talk every day. I’ve simply added a small change to my routine. When I step out of the shower, my iPhone is all loaded up with the conference talks, I just push play while I finish getting ready.
Think about it. Do you have 10-15 minutes every day when you are driving, waiting, shaving? That’s how I do it. The church has made it incredibly easy to download all of the conference talks.
I can testify that just making this little change in my day has helped me. It’s helped keep the Spirit closer to me. Helped me be strong when life has gotten hard.
Read the For Strength of Youth pamphlet with your children.
A 12 year old’s needs are much different than an 18 year olds. READ THROUGH IT OFTEN. Walk through the For Strength of Youth and make sure your children know how you feel about:
The music of today.
What dressing modestly means to you
What it means to be a good friend to others
How you apply the Word of Wisdom in your own life. Are energy drinks OK with you?
What about language? What is good or bad?
What about sex? What does ‘living the law of chastity’ mean? The For Strength of Youth pamphlet is a great help here, Use it.
Believe me, these are things your children are thinking about, if you aren’t talking to them about it, their friends in middle school and high school are. Help your children come to their own understanding and testimony of these principles.
If you are a new member, this is a great reference for you to review. Ask a member of the Bishopric to get you a copy.
Everyone must walk through these steps of repentance.
As I’ve taken these steps in my own life I’ve found my load lighter, I’ve stripped the mistletoe from the branches of my life, I’ve worked on my troubles – realized what they were and faced them directly.
Through the help from the Spirit and the atonement of our Savior I’ve gotten back on the path, and I know you can as well. I know these principles are true and I leave these thoughts with you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.