What Is “Real Intent”?

One of my favorite scriptures is found in the Book of Mormon, in the book called Moroni:

“But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.” – Moroni 6:8

I love this verse. It points out that as many times as we do stupid things (some of us more than others…), God will forgive us. All we have to do to “earn” forgiveness is to repent, seeking forgiveness with real intent. If we ask to be forgiven, and we have “real intent,” we’re forgiven. The question I asked myself today was, “What is ‘real intent’?”

The obvious answer to me is that I intend to do better. Real intent means I’m sorry, I ask forgiveness, and I intend to earn it as best I can. But, because I’m a visual kind of person, that wasn’t quite enough for me to wrap my head around it.

Naturally, my thoughts went next to water sports. (For those of you who thought my blog lacked decent segues, I assure you, it’s the same way inside my head.) Anyway, I thought back to my youth group going wake-boarding every summer. I biffed it a lot. I got a lot of water up my nose. But I kept trying until I could get out of the water. And every time I got in the water, my intent was to stand on the board and stay there as long as possible. It didn’t always happen that way – but that didn’t change my intent.

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Once I got pretty good at standing, I started branching out: holding the rope with one hand instead of clutching it with two, or crossing the wake, or switching the direction of my feet. I usually fell. But I always meant to stay up.

I don’t think repenting with “real intent” means that you’re only forgiven if you succeed the first time. Some sins, like bad habits or addictions, keep coming back. If I have a weakness for anger, I don’t think God will hold it over your head every time you repent. It’s not like He’s going to say, “What, so you didn’t really mean it last time, then?” He knows whether you’re still trying – and as long as you’re trying, He knows you’re still learning. ♦

Related Articles:

Celebrating Repentance

Repentance Is Real

Repentance Made Easier 

Is the Devil Afraid of Me?

godvsdevil

I was reading Jesus the Christ this morning, by James E. Talmage (which is super long, and might take me a long, looong time to finish), and something struck me that I’ve never really noticed before. Talmage is talking about Jesus enduring the devil’s temptations: Satan asks Jesus to prove His Godhood by turning stones into bread or by throwing Himself off of the temple and expecting His Father (God) to rescue Him. Jesus answers “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord, thy God.” And then Satan changes tactics, and offers Jesus power and glory:

8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceedingly high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

(Matthew 4:8-10)

So Satan shows Jesus the kingdoms of the world, and promises to give them to Him in exchange for worship. Now here’s what Talmage says about it:

“The effrontery of his offer was of itself diabolical. Christ, the Creator of heaven and earth, tabernacled as He then was in mortal flesh, may not have remembered His pre-existent state, nor the part He had taken in the great council of the Gods; while Satan, an unembodied spirit – he the disinherited, the rebellious and rejected son – seeking to tempt the Being through whom the world was created by promising Him part of what was wholly His, still may have had, as indeed he may yet have, a remembrance of those primeval scenes.”

Jesus tempted

So let’s break this down, because Talmage is rather – shall we say – verbose. Jesus created the world. Then He was born, forgot everything (as mortals are wont to do), and slowly learned He was the Messiah. So Satan came to tempt Him, offering Him the worlds…that He created. It would be like somebody stealing your bike and trying to sell it back to you. But on a much, much bigger scale.

And that’s where I really started thinking. If Jesus existed before He was physically born, it stands to reason that we all did, right? And if Satan used Jesus’s strengths – the things He already had – as temptations, why wouldn’t the devil use the same tactic on me? Let’s say, for example, that I was really good at music in a previous life. Now I’m here, and I’ve forgotten how great I was at music. But I’m still the same person, so I still care about music – so Satan tries to convince me that I’ll never succeed in the music industry unless I go all Miley Cyrus about it and throw all morality to the wind.

Are you following me? We don’t remember what happened before this life – that’s why this life is such a test of character – but Satan remembers, because he rebelled and opted out of the test (or rather, dropped out of school). And now he tries to use our strengths against us.

Now, this isn’t doctrine, as far as I’m aware. I’m speculating. But let’s just pretend for a second that I’m on to something. If I’m right, what does that say about the millions of women struggling with self-image? If the devil puts dark thoughts in your head that you’ll never be pretty enough, is that because he knows exactly how beautiful you already are? If he tells you you’re untalented, does he remember how invaluable you are to those around you? If he tries to convince you you’re stupid, is that because he’s jealous of your intellect? What if he tells you that nobody cares? That you’ll always just be a mindless follower?

What does the devil know about you that you don’t? What is he trying to hide from you?

And what does God know about you – that He desperately wants to remind you – that you’re not taking the time to remember?

Jesus loves you more than you know

I believe that if anybody knows our full potential, it’s God – our Creator. He remembers who we were before this life, and He knows who we are now, better than anyone. And He knows it, free of the screaming sounds of the media telling us what we should be buying and who we should be idolizing and why we’ll never be as good as [insert fabulous celebrity here]. He knows us. And I believe He’s willing to show us who we are, if we just spend enough time talking with Him to learn. But how will we ever learn if we won’t take the time to listen?

This week, I want to spend some time on my knees, just asking questions and quietly listening. I want to know what kind of person God knows I can be – what kind of person He knows I already am. ♥

The Opera Upstairs

So, one of the students who lives above us is apparently taking music lessons. Or so it would seem, at any rate. Every now and then, we hear a loud, rich baritone voice come singing clearly out of nowhere… for about one or two notes. For reasons known only to him (or possibly his voice teacher), we never actually hear him finish a phrase.

The other day, I was having a really rough, emotional day. Ethan holds the Priesthood, so I asked him to give me a blessing. He put his hands on my head and began a blessing. About a minute in, he paused to consider his words. “Truth is eternal,” he started again, when he paused – and was interrupted by an angelic voice from above, holding one clear, high note.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaah!”

And then the voice was gone.

A priesthood blessing is a very spiritual experience. That being said, it took us about five minutes to stop laughing and finish the blessing.

Clearly, God has a sense of humor. ♦

male-opera-singers

Thoughts on Courage

I’ve been studying the scriptures this morning, aided by the Preach My Gospel manual (which is awesome, by the way). Anyways, there’s a little scripture study box on page 32 with the question, “What is the nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ?” And I thought, “I know what God’s like already; I’ll skip it.” But then I didn’t. And I’m glad.

I came up with 17 adjectives – just the main ones that stuck out – that describe our Father in Heaven. I’m not going to list them all here (that can be homework, if you really want to find out) but I was struck by one I hadn’t thought of before: brave.

God is brave. Growing up, I thought of “brave” as being an absence of fear, almost a devil-may-care invincibility. Over time, I started to assume that I was a wuss, because there are a lot of things that scare me. But guess what? I just looked it up. Brave means “ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage”. Courage is defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one”. Bravery isn’t the absence of fear at all – it’s the ability to do scary things.

Now here are the scriptures that gave me that adjective.  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God knew His Son would be abused here. Jesus knew it, too. But both were willing to allow that pain, because it would allow us to have everlasting life – living with God again. 1 John 4:8-9 “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” God knew that Christ would go through hell down here: that was the point. If He went through Hell for us, He could show us the way out again.

Now, I don’t know how God felt about this. I have no doctrinal citation here, besides these scriptures. But this is His Son – and He loves His children – so I’m guessing that He was scared. But being brave doesn’t mean that you’re never scared; it means you do the right thing anyway. Father in Heaven was willing to let His Son endure pain, sickness, and all the problems of mortal life in order to give us someone to turn to when we realize we need help. That’s brave – and I’m glad. ♥

peaceful shore

The Devil Is A Drama Queen

bread-of-life

While I was a missionary, one of the most common questions I got from teenagers was about horror movies. The specifics varied (depending on which horror movie they had just watched,) but the conversation would usually go something like this: “So, I saw this movie, where this guy was all possessed, and then he went into the woods, and there was a burning cross, and he caught on fire, and his head came off, and his eyes went all weird, and then he ate a baby, and grew horns, and then … [insert whatever Hollywood wants to scare you with here. You get the idea.]  Could that actually happen?”

And, you know, when I really thought about it, some of it could. People do bad things. And when people invite evil spirits into their lives by the kind of lives they’re living, sometimes those spirits take the better of them. I would consider addiction to be a precursor to that kind of thing – especially if it’s an addiction to something that will really destroy your life, like pornography or meth or cocaine. And I do believe that evil spirits exist, and can do bad things if you let them. If you let them.

Because here’s the thing – and it’s what I told all those teenagers who came to me, terrified by the Halloween movie they’d watched the night before. The devil is real. Satan hates us, because he’s miserable and he’s bitter and God loves us and he hates that God loves us. But guess what – God loves us! And God is way, way more powerful than Satan will ever be. And Satan doesn’t have a body. He opted out of the whole mortal experience when he threw a tantrum and demanded God’s power. Which gives us one-up on him already: we have a body and a spirit; he only has a spirit.

Point number two: Satan knows us better than we know ourselves, because he remembers who we were before we were born – before we became mortal. That means he has an advantage, right? Wrong. Because God also remembers who we were, and He’s more than willing to help us remember and show us where we’re supposed to be going. So as long as we spend our time talking with God instead of  Satan, we’ll still have a pretty good advantage.

Point number three: Jesus Christ went through everything we will have to. That includes our sins, sicknesses, weaknesses, temptations, everything. And He paid for our sins. So if we slip up, we can repent. Team God: 3. Team Satan: 0. Also, the power of God will always be stronger than the power of Satan. That’s why Satan wanted to take God’s power. God: 4, Satan: still 0.

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Which leads me to this video from the life of Jesus. (Re-enactment. They didn’t have the technology back then, in case you wondered.) But here’s why I really like this adaptation. The whole clip is only just under 2 minutes long. A man is possessed. He’s a little scary. And the devils inside him start to rant and rave and carry on, when Jesus just says, “Hold thy peace, and come out of him.” And they have to. Because Jesus has way more authority than they ever will. Essentially, Jesus tells him to stop being such a drama queen, and leave the guy alone. And you know – they do. That’s why I’ve never really been scared of those over-the-top Hollywood scenes coming to life. The few times I’ve watched a movie with something like that in it, I’ve just stood there thinking, “Why don’t they just pray for help? Why don’t they go to God?” And Hollywood makes it look like that didn’t work – but it would, in real life. No matter what happens, God will always be stronger, and He will always help.

I recognize that some things require more than a simple prayer for help. We all have chronic problems or spiritual weaknesses or even flat-out addictions that require the help of a priesthood holder or some good friends or family members or even a professional therapist or recovery group. But the point is, if we’ve got Christ on our side, we will win in the end. It may take some time, and we may go through some hell on the way, but we’ll always come out on top if we’re on the same team as Jesus. And that’s where faith takes my fear away. ♥

Ask, and It Shall Be Given

I was reading the scriptures today, and read in Matthew 7:7-8:

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

This is hardly uncommon. In fact, Jesus said this pretty much every time He turned around. Which led me to wonder – why the redundancy? It just seems like a whole lot of words that say the same thing. So I thought about the words a little more. What exactly is the difference between asking, seeking, and knocking?

Now, I’m no theologian. And I can’t tell you what the Lord meant when He said it. But I can tell you what it means to me now. And being me (and not a theologian), I didn’t think about the original language of the text – I thought of sign language. As I tried to understand the scripture better, I tried putting it into sign. And what I found was that those three verbs are entirely different.

In sign language, the main difference between these verbs is the movement. When I ask God something, the movement is from me to God. When I seek, it’s for an object – I do the moving. When I knock, a door opens. And when I thought about the responses, I realized that the responses match the actions perfectly.When I ask from God, I receive from God. When I’m seeking an object, I find the object. And when I knock, the door opens – and I have to move through it, or it doesn’t have any purpose. In essence, Christ is asking me not just to expect an answer, but to ask God’s help in finding the answer, then to look for the answer myself. And when I’ve asked, sought, found, and received an answer, it’s then my responsibility to act on it – to knock, and then walk through that door. Whatever my answer is, it should bring me through an open door, closer to God. ◊

True Light

It’s really funny how much change a little light can make. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought a new shirt and then shuddered when I saw what color it was outside.  My hair is a really boring brown, but sometimes it just catches fire and turns all coppery in the sunshine. My junior high was known as the “vampire school,” because the lighting was so poor. We never noticed it until we stepped outside – but when you stepped back inside, it was like putting on a blindfold.

Photo: http://depositphotos.com/1332107/stock-photo-Camomile-and-bright-sunlight.html

Photo: http://depositphotos.com/1332107/stock-photo-Camomile-and-bright-sunlight.html

Sunlight, for me, is a drug. I mean, if you see me the first few times the sun comes out in the spring, it’s like watching somebody just freaking out of their mind. I love it. And no matter how many light bulbs I put in my apartment, it just never feels like sunshine.

I firmly believe that God put the sun in the sky to remind us of Him. It’s always there (even when it’s all dark and wintery – we just can’t see it through the clouds), and even at night, it’s still there; it’s just not shining directly on us. It’s on its way around. And, just like God, sometimes we forget it’s there or hide inside all day and then complain about how cold the air conditioning is. And meanwhile, it’s a bright, sunny day outside, and we forget to go outside and enjoy it!

In the Bible, Jesus Christ is described as “the light of men… the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (John 1:4-5,9) The light of Christ is how we learn about God, and how we learn about ourselves, and how we become more perfect people. Knowledge comes bit by bit, but we can’t forget to be open to the “true light” as well as artificial lighting. Nothing I’ve studied in school has affected me more than coming to know God, because that’s the overarching light that helps us as human beings to understand everything else. If you understand who God is, and who you are in relation to Him, then everything else makes more sense. It’s like walking out into the sunlight after a whole day in the “vampire” hallways of junior high. Yes, you can still see in there – but why would you take a fluorescent bulb over a sunny day?

The other thing about light: it scares away the darkness. Did you ever have a night-light? did you ever wonder why it still shone, even when it was so outnumbered by the darkness around it? Light is stronger than dark.

So, I’ve been reliving my childhood, and re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia. And here’s a snippet from the Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Caspian’s ship is stuck in a cloud of horrible darkness – the kind that scares you silly and makes you think of all the nightmares you’ve ever had in your life. And as Lucy cries out for help, this white albatross appears, and a light shines on the ship, and slowly guides the ship back out of the cloud and into daylight. After the darkness, the blue sky is a healing comfort – and what’s more, the cloud has completely disappeared behind them. The light actually killed the darkness.

Joseph Smith wrote:

“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day….

I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you…” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24-25)

I always catch the word “light” when I’m reading scripture, because I know no matter what the verse is about, I can relate to it. It’s the best visual representation of truth I’ve ever found – and a good tactile one, as well. I don’t know many things that feel better than sunshine on my face. God not only illuminates us, he chases away the darkness in our lives and in our minds. How often do we take the time to go outside and feel the sun on our faces and notice Him?