Sunday, August 25, 2013

There Were No Shortcuts.

We recently had Stake Conference. A sister who spoke during the Sunday session repeated a quote that really stood out to me. It is attributed to Boyd K. Packer. I haven't been able to find it since then. I've found many similar quotes (here and here), but not this exact one. Anyway, it goes like this:

If we want to be where God is, we have to be like Him, and there is no shortcut.

I know that the Atonement of Christ is key to lasting change. I've known that for a long time. However, this quote got me thinking about it much more than I previously had. The Atonement is infinite, it redeems us from spiritual bondage. It makes mercy, forgiveness, and progression with a hope for eternal joy possible.

But even the Savior of the World could not go through life casually doing whatever he wanted and then be expected to perform the greatest act of selflessness in history. Before the Atonement could be made, Christ underwent much preparation.
He was once a little infant who had to learn to walk and talk. He learned the value of hard work through Joseph's trade: carpentry. He participated in the appropriate rites and rituals of the time. One of the most well-known examples of this is when he was in the temple answering the questions of the doctors. This was a requirement of the law that all 12-year-old boys of the time (and today as well) participated in to see if their childhood training had adequately prepared them for manhood.

Before he began his ministry, he was baptized. It wasn't because he had anything to repent of, but because he was obedient to the Father, thus "[fulfilling] all righteousness." He was then tempted three times by Satan during his 40-day fast, but the devil did not succeed.

During his ministry, he called disciples, preached great sermons, taught by way of parable, fed thousands, performed other great miracles, and lived all that which he taught without deviation.

He was loved by many. He was hated by many more. But everything that he did and learned through his lifetime up to this point prepared him for what he was foreordained to do.

There were no shortcuts.

In the short time that followed, he was presented with the greatest trial anyone could ever endure. He made the great Intercessory Prayer at the Mount of Olives. He made amends for everything we do that keeps us from our Father in Heaven, no matter how big it may be or insignificant it may seem.

He atoned for our sadness, our anger, the occasional (or sometimes not-so-occasional) bad word that comes out of our mouths.

He atoned for our love of some worldly styles, preferred movies, biases, prejudices, and traditions that take priority over His teachings.

He atoned for our bad...and even just not-so-good...habits.

Many times, our pride gets in the way. Sure, we're not perfect, but doing everything just right--being a little "goody-two-shoes"--is a bit much, don't ya think?

He atoned for that, too.

Moments after, he was betrayed by Judas. Later, Peter denied knowing him three times. He was taken to Pilate, Herod, and then Pilate again while his earthly fate was determined. A notable prisoner was released in exchange for the Savior's earthly life. He was mocked, beaten, humiliated, and then lifted up on the cross at Calvary. Only then did he willingly choose to end his mortal existence.

There were no shortcuts.

And all He asks of us is to come unto Him; to take his yolk upon us; to learn of Him; to follow Him and no other. He asks us to rely on the ultimate sacrifice that he made so that we don't have to suffer as he did. He just wants us to obey his teachings. And many times, we do.

But many times, we don't. The concept of changing oneself to meet the Lord's standards as taught through the restored gospel has been a goal-in-progress of mine for the past few years, hence I write about it. Those who have been following my blog have most likely noticed this. I found a quote by Ezra Taft Benson one day as I was pondering the principle of following with exactness:
When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power.
It's true. Lasting obedience and true change comes only as we rely on the Atonement, which then becomes a conduit of great power. The closer we are to Him, the more light and blessings we are able to receive.

A few years ago, I never would have considered obedience to be "irritating," but really, what other excuse did I have for being disobedient other than "I can't stand it when people are that good," "That's not really my style," or "...seriously? One bad word isn't that big of a deal. Get over it." In other words, obedience--particularly in the little things--was more annoying than anything else.

Some things were a bit embarrassing to admit (to myself and the Lord) that I needed to work on; I had been taught and knew better. But once I ate that rather large piece of humble pie, it was easier to ask Him for help.

Working on it was more or less the same. A lot of humble pie; a lot of "Wow. I'm worse at this than I thought I was"; a lot of impatience with myself; even a lot of "I don't get why it's that important, but it has been revealed through His chosen servants, so I'll work on it."

And there were no shortcuts.
Three days after his death, Christ appeared multiple times to many different people and nations as a glorified, resurrected being.

He overcame physical death, thus enabling all of us to do the same.

He fulfilled every prophesy concerning him from the beginning of time.

He did what the Father sent him to do.

He is now where the Father is and enjoys every eternal blessing that the Father has promised.

As I've come to a greater understanding of the Atonement by relying on it, I have seen greater light and blessings come into my life than I had before. My life story is by no means the Savior's, but as I do my best to obey Him just as he obeyed the Father, I will bring myself that much closer to being like Him, enjoy more lasting happiness on this earth and, in the end, be a joint-heir with Him in our Father's kingdom...

...and there will be no shortcuts.

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