Thursday, September 4, 2008

Developing Christlike Attributes

Jan. 1, 2006

I want to begin by reviewing what we already know about baptism. It is an ordinance, which is a sacred rite by which we make covenants with God. We know a covenant is a solemn agreement between God and His children, and those covenants bring us blessings. We are baptized by immersion for the remission of sins. When we are baptized, we begin a new life of commitment to Christ. Baptism must be performed by one holding priesthood authority. And we renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament weekly.
We know Jesus Christ was baptized by immersion by one having authority. We know Christ is our Savior and our Redeemer. He is also our Exemplar. When we are baptized, we not only enter the gate necessary for eternal life, we begin to follow Christ. He led the way. We need to look to Him as a pattern for living our lives.
At the beginning of His mortal ministry, Jesus Christ walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and called out to two fishermen, Peter and Andrew. “Follow me,” He said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” The invitation to follow Christ is an invitation to follow His example and to become like Him.
The restored gospel enables you to become like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The Savior has shown the way. He has set the perfect example, and He commands us to become as He is. Learn of Him and seek to incorporate His attributes into your life. Through the power of His Atonement, you can achieve this goal and lead others to achieve it also.
Christlike attributes are gifts from God. They come as you use your agency righteously. Ask your Heavenly Father to bless you with these attributes; you cannot develop them with His help. With a desire to please God, recognize your weaknesses and be willing and anxious to improve.
Moroni 8: 25-26 teaches us the relationship between the first principles of the gospel and Christlike attributes. “And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins; And the remission of sins bringeth meekness and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.”
I will outline briefly nine Christlike attributes we can develop, not all at once, of course. However it is possible to work on each individually through study and prayer.
The first is faith in Jesus Christ. Ether 12:6 states, “faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” A great blessing that comes from faith is clearly put forth by Christ himself in the gospel of John. “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Hope is a second attribute and is an abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to you. It is manifested in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance. When you have hope, you work through your trials and difficulties with the confidence and assurance that all things will work together for your good. Hope helps you conquer discouragement. Pres. James E. Faust taught, “Hope is the anchor of our souls. Hope is the trust in God’s promises, faith that if we act now, the desired blessings will be fulfilled in the future.”
A third attribute is appropriately virtue, which originates in our innermost thoughts and desires. Since the Holy Ghost does not dwell in unclean tabernacles, virtue is prerequisite to receiving the Spirit’s guidance. Virtuous people are clean and pure spiritually. They focus on righteous, uplifting thoughts and put unworthy thoughts that lead to inappropriate actions out of their minds. They obey God’s commandments and follow the counsel of Church leaders. They pray for strength to resist temptation and do what is right.
Another important Christlike attribute is knowledge. Very wise counsel is found in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 32:3 “feast upon the words of Christ, for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” The Lord commands us to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” He also warned, “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” Study the scriptures everyday; seek help for specific questions and challenges. You can also gain knowledge by watching and listening to others, especially church leaders. Nephi said, “My soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them. Behold my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.”
Next I’ll discuss an attribute which most people say they struggle with greatly: patience. Mosiah 23:21 warns, “Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.” Patience is the capacity to endure delay, trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated or anxious. It is the ability to do God’s will and accept His timing.
Of course, an imperative attribute is humility. Ammon understood humility. He recognized his nothingness and weakness. He did not boast of himself, but of God. He knew it is through Christ’s strength many mighty miracles have been performed. We must understand, though, that humility is not weakness, it is a spiritual strength. When you humbly trust Him and acknowledge His power and mercy, you can have the assurance that His commandments are for your good.
Diligence may be an oft forgotten Christlike attribute. It is a steady, consistent, earnest, and energetic effort in doing the Lord’s work. Mormon wrote to his son, Moroni this counsel on diligence in Moroni 9:6. “And now, by beloved son, not withstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.”
Everyone may be waiting for this next attribute because of its significance and that is obedience. Elder L. Tom Perry gives a great reason for obedience. He states, “The discipline contained in daily obedience and clean living and wholesome lives builds an armor around you of protection and safety from the temptations that beset you as you proceed through mortality.” As you obey, you increase in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom.
I have saved the best for last. I will use Mormon’s immortal words on this topic as found in Moroni 7:45-48. “And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons [and daughters] of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.
I can promise you as you begin to be filled with this love, your love for all people will increase. You will come to feel a sincere concern for the eternal welfare and happiness of other people. You will see them as children of God with the potential of becoming like our Heavenly Father. You will avoid negative feelings such as anger, envy, lust, or covetousness. Charity, like faith, leads to action.
I want to bear testimony that these things are possible. Just have patience with yourself, and know you can learn these things line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. Make changes as you are ready and your life will be full beyond measure and you will have great joy.

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