Sunday, August 10, 2014

What Manner of Man Out Ye To Be?

Last week I shared three parables of things that were lost and then found again. I ended with the parable of the prodigal son. One aspect of that parable was the reaction of the dutiful son. He resented the attention that the younger prodigal son was getting. The older son said:

29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

 30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. (Luke 15:29-30)

The older son felt cheated; he had stayed and labored everyday with his father, he did not squander his inheritance like his younger brother. He was jealous that his father was so accepting and forgiving of his younger brother. Elder Richard Anderson spoke of the dangers of allowing feelings of jealousy and self-righteousness to fill our lives:

“What does the ending of the parable signify for the dutiful son? Perhaps he is like those of us who fill our assignments and attend our meetings, but fail to learn charity—that unconditional love the Father has for all his children and which he commands us to obtain and exercise. (See Moro. 7:33–48.) For those of us whose lives are similar to that of the dutiful elder brother, the challenge is to learn to welcome God’s repentant sons and daughters—our brothers and sisters—with godly love.

“Self-righteousness is a form of egotism that breeds intolerance and impatience. Lack of empathy is its major symptom. Since self-righteousness is an unhealthy inner pride, the cure for it is honest humility. Jesus, the most righteous of all, was the perfect example of humility. He said, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” (Matt. 11:29.) (“Parables of Mercy”, Ensign, February1987)

So what are we to do? How do we choose to live a life of obedience and still remain humble? How can we develop an attitude of acceptance of those that repent and come back? At one point in the Savior’s ministry here in the Americas Jesus asked those he taught: “What manner of men ought ye to be?” And then he gave the answer: “Verily I say unto you even as I am.” (3 Nephi 27:27). A few verses earlier he taught:

  20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

 21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do; (3 Nephi 27:20-21)

If we are to be like him, he commands us to repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost and then we are to do the thing that he did. What was it that he did? He was there to do the Father’s will:

The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. (John 5:19)

President Howard W. Hunter spoke of how we can be like the Savior:

“Let us follow the Son of God in all ways and in all walks of life. Let us make him our exemplar and our guide. We should at every opportunity ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” and then be more courageous to act upon the answer. We must follow Christ, in the best sense of that word. We must be about his work as he was about his Father’s. We should try to be like him, even as the Primary children sing, “Try, try, try” (Children’s Songbook, p. 55). To the extent that our mortal powers permit, we should make every effort to become like Christ—the one perfect and sinless example this world has ever seen.” (“What Manner of Ne Ought Ye to Be?”, Howard W. Hunter, General Conference, April 1994).

One of the things that will help us do the things that the Savior did is to not become distracted by all the things that the world would have us do. Bishop H. David Burton talks about a lesson he learned from Arnold Palmer about focusing on the things that are important. Mr. Palmer’s caddy was giving him information on what was on the right and left of the fairway and Mr. Palmer told the caddy:

“Please don’t clutter my mind with what is out on the right, and I’m not terribly interested in what is on the left. The only piece of information that I require from you is the exact distance from this ball to the flag on the green.”

“My, that was a powerful learning experience for me. I suddenly realized the criticality of focusing on what is important and not being distracted by what may be on the left or what might be on the right. Focus is so essential in achieving our goals. Too many of us are concerned about what’s on the right and what’s on the left, and we fail to adequately focus on the principal objective that is right down the middle. When we fail to focus on the right things, it is difficult to become the manner of men and women that we desperately want to be. In this endeavor, remember that the Lord has promised: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88). (“What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”, H. David Burton, CES Fireside, November, 2, 2008)

Not only should we not be distracted by worldly things, but we should recognize that there are many good people all around us that are good people; people that are trying to live Christ-like lives. Chad Lewis, who played in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles, and is now the associate athletic director at BYU spoke of one person that was a great example to him of someone that was not afraid to tell the world of his faith in God. Emmitt Thomas, the defensive coordinator for the Eagles was inducted in the football hall of fame and at the end of his acceptance speech he said:

As I go to my seat I’d like to leave you with these final thoughts. Our talent is God’s gift to us. How we use that talent is our gift to him. My sincere hope and prayer is that God finds my gift back to him a worthy one. May God bless you, keep you and continue the good fight of faith. [Emmitt Thomas’ enshrinement speech, Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium, 2 August 2008,] (“The World Needs to See and Feel YourLight”, Chad W. Lewis, BYU Devotional, March 25, 2014)

Chad also spoke to the students about the importance of sharing gospel principles and stories with those you associate with. He said:

“The people you work with and associate with out in the world will be drawn to you because of your desire to be like the Savior. Let your love for Him shine from your eyes. Let there be no doubt that He is who you follow. You have an understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that the world needs to see and feel. 

“People will love to hear your stories. Don’t be afraid to reach out and share them. Your stories did not just happen for you; they are meant to be shared. Sharing them is a great way for you to let your light shine for others.” (“The World Needs to See and Feel Your Light”, Chad W. Lewis, BYU Devotional, March 25, 2014)

One of the hardest things to do is to stand up against the accepted standards and practices of the world and defend gospel principles even when those principles are seen as not politically correct or even illegal. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary spoke to the students at Brigham Young University about the importance of standing together in defense of religion and God’s commandments. He said:

“At the center of human society stands the most important of those structures — the human family. At the center of the family stands marriage. Every other structure, from government to schools to corporations to volunteer organizations stands upon the foundation of marriage and the family, and no structure can fully replace what is absent if the family fails or if marriage is not fully respected.

“The task of those now living is to defend these truths in a time of danger — and defend them we must and we will. But we are not called merely to defend them, but to fulfill them and to receive them and to find our joy in them. This means that our task is not only to defend marriage, but to live that commitment before the watching world. Our task is not only to point to the dignity due every member of the human family at every stage of development, but to defend the defenseless and to work for the affirmation of this dignity in everyone — from the elderly to the infirm to the child with Down syndrome. We are not only called to defend human rights but to contend for them, and to insist that these rights are non-negotiable only because our Creator endowed us with these rights, and allows no negotiation.

“This is why our conversation is really important, and why we need to stand together on so many urgent concerns. Most importantly, we are now called to defend religious liberty for each other, so that when they come for you, we are there, and so that when they come for us, you are there. We are learning anew what the affirmation of religious liberty will demand of us in this dangerous age.” (“Strengthen the Things that Remain: HumanDignity, Human Rights, and Human Flourishing in a Dangerous Age — An Address at Brigham Young University, Albert Mohler,

The Savior, Jesus Christ is the perfect example of how the dutiful son should have reacted in the parable of the prodigal son. He was completely obedient to the Father and he spent his life in service to the Father’s sinful children helping them come back. He never murmured or was resentful, he was forgiving and accepting of everyone who repented and wanted to come back to him and all that the Father has is now his. He stands with the Father in their work and glory to bring to pass the eternal life and exaltation of man (Moses 1:39).

I hope that the type of person I can be is to be like the Savior, always doing the Father’s will and if I do I know that one day I will hear him say: “Well done thou good and faithful servant….enter into the joy of the Lord” (Matthew 25:21) and I will be as the Savior is - like the Father.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

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