Imagine that someone approaches you and asks what you believe in as a member of the church. What would you say?
You may respond with some of the articles of Faith.
We believe in God the Eternal Father, and his Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost.
We believe that the first Principle and Ordinances of the Gospel are First Faith, second repentance, third baptism by immersion, fourth the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
You may share some experience you have had with Family History.
You may remember your food storage and talk about how the church has encouraged members to be prepared for emergencies.
You may share some of the basic concepts learned in primary.
Love my neighbor. Read my scriptures. Pray. Don't smoke or drink. Be Kind. Serve others. Be sealed in the temple one day. Don't hit my neighbor.
Those answers are all correct.
Now let's say you ask yourself the following question. Do my actions, both public and private, match what I believe? Do my choices reflect my beliefs? Or am I, in fact, living two different lives where I believe one thing but my words and/or actions don't align? Am I in a constant state of conflict where these two sides battle?
We all have, in one way or another, aspects of our lives that do not align with our beliefs.
Living a life of principle means to live in such a way as to make decisions that align with what we believe to be true and right.
In a talk given at BYU Ardeth G. Kapp talks about living lives of principle.
I believe the most destructive threat of our day is not nuclear war, not famine, not economic disaster, but rather the despair, the discouragement, the despondency, the defeat caused by the discrepancy between what we believe to be right and how we live our lives. Much of the emotional and social illness of our day is caused when people think one way and act another. The turmoil inside is destructive to the Spirit and to the emotional well-being of one who tries to live without clearly defined principles, values, standards, and goals.
Principles are different from values in that they are universal truths. Values change from one person to the next but principles do not. One person may choose to not believe a principle but that does not change the truthfulness of it.
Here are some simples examples of true principles.
- Honesty is the best policy
- To be trusted I must be trustworthy
- To have health I must live a healthy lifestyle
- Principles of Financially stability
- Pay tithing
- Spend less than you earn
- Save for a rainy day
- Exercising Faith in Jesus Christ leads to a change of heart, conversion, and happiness (D&C 104:15)
In Proverbs 3:5–6, we read this counsel:
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Isn't that a difficult principle to live by? We may not always know the why or the how in life. We will not always have the answers but the Lord will direct our paths if we trust him and lean not on our own biased and incomplete understanding.
There is another way of describing a principle based living. In the Doctrine and Covenants we find the following:
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
What are some of these laws or principles?
- Substance abuse leads to addiction and loss of agency
- Lying leads to heartache and pain
- Spending too much time in the suns leads to a sunburn
We can try to live our own way. We all do this at times. Every teenager "knows" that they understand life better than their elders.
Alma 5:26 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?
As imperfect individuals we make mistakes and take actions that go against true principles. Part of life is learning what these principles are and aligning our actions with them. We are here on this earth with the agency to choose our own path.
Jean Valjean, the main character in Les Miserables, experiences a moment in his life where he must chose to live according to what he knows is right or to continue down the path of hate and ugliness he was on. Valjean is welcomed by a priest, fed, and given a place to sleep. Because of the darkness he still has inside, he steals some silverware from the church and leaves during the night.
Valjean is captured by the police to whom he tells that the priest had given him the silverware. They take him to the church to confirm the story.
Rather than reveal the theft, the priest tells the policemen that he had given the items to Valjean. Looking at Valjean, he says "but I gave you the candlestick also. Would you leave the best behind?".
At this point in the story, Valjean is faced with a dilemma.
A voice whispered in his ear that he had just passed through the decisive hour of his destiny, that there was no longer a middle course for him, that if, thereafter, he should not be the best of men, he would be the worst. That he must, for now climb higher than the bishop or fall further than a criminal."
Valjean's situation is extreme, perhaps, but we all come to a point where we must decide to live according to that which we know is right or turn from the truth and continue to make mistakes.
Love Others and Ourselves
There are two principles that I would like to highlight.
The first is love.
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”
Love is a feeling of deep devotion, concern, and affection. The greatest example of God's love for His children is found in the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ. Love for God and fellow men is a characteristic of disciples of Jesus Christ.
I ask you another question. Have you recognized the love of God in your life?
Do we take the time to recognize all that God does for us because he loves us? Do we recognize the influences of the Holy Ghost? When in even our day to day tasks we are guided if we will only listen. Do we recognize that this world is filled with wonders that help us.
Do we recognize that the very commandments that we are given are out of love? Some see the guiding principle of the church as restrictions. Don't drink! Don't Smoke! They may hear these commandments as if spoken by a harsh heartless dictator who cares only for power and obedience. I prefer to hear these voices as if spoken by a soft caring grandfather to his grandchildren.
Don't drink. Trust me, I know what will happen.
Love your enemies - they are also my children
Be kind to others
We manifest our love for Heavenly Father by keeping His commandments and serving His children. Our expressions of love for others may include being kind to them, listening to them, mourning with them, comforting them, serving them, praying for them, sharing the gospel with them, and being their friend.Our love for those around us increases when we remember that we are all children of God—that we are spirit brothers and sisters. The love that results from this realization has the power to transcend all boundaries of nation, creed, and color.
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
But how shall we show that we love God and that we love our fellowmen?
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
Love is often shown as appreciation for those things that our Father in Heaven has created, including ourselves.
C.S. Lewis' book, The Screwtape letters, is a series of letters written by a fictional Under-Devil named Screwtape. These letters are written to his nephew, Wormwood, who is an inexperienced and, somewhat incompetent, tempter responsible for one human's demise. Screwtape gives him advice on how to better lure his "patient" away from the right path.
In one of the letters, Screwtape discusses humility and how to mislead the human in believing Humility is something it is not. He suggests that the human should be made to believe rather in an "opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and characters".
We are made to believe that to be humble means to have a low opinion of ourselves
The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth, thus introducing an element of dishonesty and make-believe into the hearth of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue. By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. And since what they are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it and we have the chance of keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the impossible…
The "Enemy" wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more(or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another…. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things.
Serve Our Fellowmen
The second principle I would like to suggest we follow is that of Service.
Earlier in the story of Valjean, we learn how the priest loves and serves his fellow man.
Priest: "This door doesn't ask him who enters if he has a name, but if he has a pain. You suffer; you are hungry and thirsty; you are welcome here… Why do I need to know what to call you? Besides, before you tell it to me, you have one that I know.
The man opened his eyes, astonished. "Really? You knew what to call me?
"Yes," responded the bishop, "you are my brother."
We also have examples from the scriptures. Alma the younger and a group of other youth fought against the church.
They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.
And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened
They actively sought to destroy the church.
An angel visited them. Alma the Younger was completely knocked out and had to be carried to his father who "rejoiced, for he knew that it was the power of God" and called the people to come and see. What an embarrassing father he was.
We know that Alma the younger and the others were converted.
"...they traveled throughout all the land of Zarahemla, and among all the people who were under the reign of king Mosiah, zealously striving to repair all the injuries which they had done to the church, confessing all their sins, and publishing all the things which they had seen, and explaining the prophecies and the scriptures to all who desired to hear them.
They asked King Mosiah if they could go teach the Lamanites.
2 That perhaps they might bring them to the knowledge of the Lord their God, and convince them of the iniquity of their fathers; and that perhaps they might cure them of their hatred towards the Nephites, that they might also be brought to rejoice in the Lord their God, that they might become friendly to one another, and that there should be no more contentions in all the land which the Lord their God had given them.
3 Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.
They kept asking if they could go. This was not an easy thing for Mosiah to approve. They had years of fighting between the Nephites and the Lamanites. He had to fear what would happen if they went.
6 And king Mosiah went and inquired of the Lord if he should let his sons go up among the Lamanites to preach the word.
7 And the Lord said unto Mosiah: Let them go up, for many shall believe on their words, and they shall have eternal life; and I will deliver thy sons out of the hands of the Lamanites.
How reassuring this must have been.
So they go. Many of you know this story of Ammon. How he went to the people of Lamoni and simply asked to be his servant saying "I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die."
He understood the great missionary principle that you cannot change someone's heart if they do not trust the messenger.
He served diligently. He was sent to watch the sheep. The others came to chase them off. Those he was with wept because they were afraid they would be killed like their brethren. What a risky job!
Ammon rallies them and they gather the sheep, only to have the Lamanites stand to scatter them again. He tells the others to circle around the flock to prevent them from being scattered and goes to content with the bullies. He used sling to take down a few of them and cut off the arms of every person who stood to fight him and they were "not a few".
The arms of these men are taken to the King while Ammon continues to do his duty, preparing the king's horses and chariots.
We know that through these actions, Ammon gained the trust and confidence of the King and many were converted.
The moral of this story is not to serve so that our neighbors will be converted. Rather, it is that our neighbors will not be converted if we do not serve them sincerely.
The words of the well-known hymn remind us of our duty to serve those around us.
Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?
Brothers and Sisters. I have felt of the Love that our Father in Heaven has for each of us. He wants us to progress and learn to be like him. He knows what it takes and lovingly asks that we do these things by our own choice.
May we all work to overcome our mistakes and grow closer to our Father in Heaven. May we live according to righteous principles that bring happiness to us and those we love.