THE TRUE MEASURE OF A CHRISTLIKE PERSON
Have your family try to guess what goes in this blank :
The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is _______. (Elder Marvin J. Ashton, former member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles)
You may get a variety of answers from scripture study to church attendance. What is the real answer?
“The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people.”
Hopefully, all the great things we DO (read our scriptures, say our prayers, go to church, serve, etc) are causing us to BECOME as Christ is – to put on his character and attributes.
We are challenged to move through a process of conversion toward that status and condition called eternal life. This is achieved not just by doing what is right, but by doing it for the right reason—for the pure love of Christ. The Apostle Paul illustrated this in his famous teaching about the importance of charity (see 1 Cor. 13). The reason charity never fails and the reason charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness he cited is that charity, “the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47), is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become, Ensign, Nov. 2000)
The attributes of Charity (charity suffereth long, is kind, envieth not, etc) are really attributes of Christ – it is a description of His character and what we should try to emulate. And how closely a person is emulating Christ is easily discovered by how he treats other people.
Elder Ashton goes on to say:
Would you consider this idea for a moment – that the way we treat the members of our families, our friends, those with whom we work each day is as important as are some of the more noticeable gospel principles we sometimes emphasize…
Imagine what could happen in today’s world – or in our own wards, or families, or priesthood quorums and auxiliaries – if each of us would vow to cherish, watch over, and comfort one another. Imagine the possibilities!…
If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care.
If the adversary can influence us to pick on each other, to find fault, bash, and undermine, to judge or humiliate or taunt, half his battle is won. Why? Because though this sort of conduct may not equate with succumbing to grievous sin, it nevertheless neutralizes us spiritually. The Spirit of the Lord cannot dwell where there is bickering, judging, contention, or any kind of bashing…
Once again may I emphasize this principle that when we truly become converted to Jesus Christ, committed to Him, an interesting thing happens: our attention turns to the welfare of our fellowman, and the way we treat others becomes increasingly filled with patience, kindness, a gently acceptance, and a desire to play a positive role in their lives. This is the beginning of true conversion.
Let us open our arms to each other, accept each other for who we are, assume everyone is doing the best he or she can, and look for ways to help leave quiet messages of love and encouragement instead of being destructive with bashing.
-Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign, May 1992
HOW CAN WE BECOME KINDER? WATCH YOUR TONGUE!!!
If the most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people, what is one step we can take to treat people better? Watch our tongue.
For in many things we offend all. [But] if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” (James 3:2)
James continues his sermon and gives us this warning and admonition:
Continuing the imagery of the bridle, he writes: “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
Behold also … ships, which though they be … great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm.”
Then James makes his point: “The tongue is [also] a little member. … [But] behold, how great a [forest (Greek)] a little fire [can burn].
… So is the tongue [a fire] among our members, … it defileth the whole body, … it is set on fire of hell.
For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, … hath been tamed of mankind:
But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:2-10)
Elder Holland’s explanation of this passage in The Tongue of Angels is insightful:
Well, that is pretty straightforward! Obviously James doesn’t mean our tongues are always iniquitous, nor that everything we say is “full of deadly poison.” But he clearly means that at least some things we say can be destructive, even venomous—and that is a chilling indictment for a Latter-day Saint! The voice that bears profound testimony, utters fervent prayer, and sings the hymns of Zion can be the same voice that berates and criticizes, embarrasses and demeans, inflicts pain and destroys the spirit of oneself and of others in the process. “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing,” James grieves. “My brethren [and sisters], these things ought not so to be.”
Elder Holland concludes his talk with these words: In his deeply moving final testimony, Nephi calls us to “follow the Son [of God], with full purpose of heart,” promising that “after ye have … received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, [ye] can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels. … And … how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.”
So, brothers and sisters, in this long eternal quest to be more like our Savior, may we try to be “perfect” men and women in at least this one way now—by offending not in word, or more positively put, by speaking with a new tongue, the tongue of angels. Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today. With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail.”
24 HOUR CHALLENGE
The challenge is simple: for 24 hours you may not say anything negative to ANYONE (that includes yourself). This includes your tone. You may not criticize, gossip, yell, be sarcastic, make fun of someone (even in joking), or do anything like unto it =) If you catch yourself saying something negative (or saying it with an unkind tone), you must start the 24 hours over again. If you THINK something negative about someone, you do not have to start over as long as you push that thought aside. If you dwell on it for a long period of time, you must start over. One other rule if you are doing this challenge with other people: you may not tell somebody else they need to start over otherwise YOU have to start over. The only person who decides whether she has to start over is herself. (This idea comes from Brother John L. Lund)
When I did this challenge with some teenagers, the results were amazing. Everyone came back saying, “Wow, I never realized how negative I was…” or “I didn’t realize how much I gossiped” or “I didn’t realize how mean I was to my brother…” It really helped them focus on what was coming out of their mouths. And that is an important step to conquering our thoughts:
Check Your Words-If you first gain power to check your words, you will then begin to have power to check your judgment, and at length actually gain power to check your thoughts and reflections (Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 6:98).
The motto for the next 24 hours is “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” (you can even watch the clip of Bambi where Thumper is reminded of this important lesson).
This challenge also helped heal some broken relationships. My teenagers reported that their friends and families liked them a lot better. Anger can sour a relationship quickly. I am teaching my children that it is okay to feel angry (you are human – you are going to feel anger), but it’s not okay to hit, yell, throw things, or ACT angry. I am trying to give them coping strategies to deal with their anger – run around the house, beat a drum, leave the room, go to your bedroom to be by yourself for a while, etc. When we use negative coping strategies to deal with anger (yelling, saying mean things, etc), we drive away the Spirit, damage relationships, and often become even more angry, frustrated, and upset (especially if we’ve now spurred someone else to be angry and they are reacting negatively towards us). Learning to control our words (and our tone) is a very important step in learning to deal with angry emotions.
Anger doesn’t solve anything. It builds nothing, but it can destroy everything….To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can MAKE us angry. It is our choice. If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry. I testify that such is possible. (Pres. Monson, “School thy feelings, O my brother,” Ensign, Nov. 2009)
FOR THE STRENGTH OF YOUTH
Before I gave this challenge to my teenagers, I would ask, “What is the very first thing the prophets are going to say about our language in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet?” They answered, “Don’t swear!” It always surprised them to learn that’s NOT the first thing the prophets warn us about.
How you speak says much about who you are. Clean and intelligent language is evidence of a bright and wholesome mind. Use language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others. Do not insult others or put them down, even in joking. Speak kindly and positively about others so you can fulfill the Lord’s commandments to love one another. When you use good language, you invite the Spirit to be with you.
Always use the names of God and Jesus Christ with reverence and respect. Misuisng their names is a sin…