There are a lot of decisions that are made everyday. Some are bigger and more lasting than others, obviously, but even the small, seemingly insignificant decisions impact our overall direction in life and happiness, just like the slightest variation in degrees can deroute a ship. As a mother, I find myself faced with decisions often that are wrapped up in my shortcomings and weaknesses: deciding to continue in patience when I want to be frustrated, choosing to be industrious when I feel mentally tired or lazy, picking to put the needs of my family above my own loud needs. It is because of these moments that I am so grateful I understand what I do about faith and repentance. I don’t know what I would do or who I would be if I didn’t know how faith and repentance apply in my daily grind. A Book of Mormon Prophet Alma once instructed that nothing should be preached “save it were repentance and faith on the Lord” (Mosiah 18:20). I want to let my mind bleed a little bit and wander through some thoughts and truths about these two vital principles.
First lets talk about what the definition of faith really is. This has been a real challenge for me to wrap my mind around and has taken a LOT of study and application to get where I am with it. The Apostle Paul described faith as “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). The Prophet Moroni explained it this way: “I would show unto the world that 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” (Ether 12:6). Both of these descriptions have to do with a lack of seeing, yet the presence of assurance that what you cannot see is true. These are definitions I have been surrounded by my whole life. But how do you use them? How do they apply to daily living?
The first thing that was crucial for me to understand is that faith has to be centered in Jesus Christ (Preach My Gospel, Ch. 3, Lesson 3). Christ came to earth, lived, suffered, died, and was resurrected all so that I might be able to return to live with God again. However, “no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God” (1 Nephi 10:21). Uncleanliness, my sins and shortcomings that keep me from perfection, was why Christ’s life and sacrifice is necessary. But as taught in 2 Nephi, my efforts to do all I can are what activate the saving power of Christ’s Atonement for my cause (25:23). In other words, just because Christ atoned for each of us to open the way for our return to God, unless we do our part, we cannot return. What is our part? Our part is to keep the commandments which Christ teaches us and to become even as Christ is (3 Nephi 27:27), meaning we change our characters to become like Christ. What would Jesus do is actually an essential question to keep in mind.
In summary, faith in Christ is to believe in his reality, in his mission, and his gospel (all of which I haven’t seen, but I can receive an assurance of through the Holy Spirit). When we have testimony or even a desire to believe these things, we have a desire to follow Him, to do as He teaches us to do. This is the connection between faith and repentance.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “[faith is] the principle of action in all intelligent beings” (Lectures on Faith, Lecture First, Verse 9). Therefore, if we have faith, our faith motivates us to act or to do something. Preach My Gospel (PMG) says, “Faith in Christ leads to action. It leads to sincere and lasting repentance. Having faith causes us to try as hard as we can to learn about and become more like our Savior. We want to learn what His commandments are and then obey them” (Ch.3, Lesson 3). Or in other words, “Faith leads to action, including repentance, obedience, and dedicated service” (PMG, Ch. 6, “Faith”). This is why we teach that the second principle of the gospel is repentance (PMG, Ch. 3, Lesson 3). If we have faith in Christ, which is the first principle of the gospel, then we want to change according to how He teaches us to be and act. I love how PMG defines repentance. It says, “Our faith in Christ and our love for Him lead us to repent, or to change our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that are not in harmony with His will. Repentance includes forming a fresh view of God, ourselves, and the world” (Ch. 3, Lesson 3). Change is at the core of repentance, whether it be our thoughts or behaviors or views. I love that! Moroni calls it “denying ourselves of all (ALL) ungodliness” (Moroni 10:32, emphasis added). I used to think that repentance just meant to say sorry for the big things we mess up on, like if we stole something, or if we broke the law of chastity, or if we lied, etc. But repentance is so much more than that. Repentance is what Alma demonstrated when he asked, “Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” (Alma 5:14). It isn’t enough in this life to just be good people. People can be good people without even hearing about Jesus Christ. We must become saints. We are children of God, learning to become more like Him (Romans 8:16-17; 2 Peter 1:4; Mosiah 3:19). In other words, faith and repentance means seeking to become more Christlike.
This understanding of what faith is and what repentance is and how these principles are to drive us to become more Christlike give me the perspective each day that helps me face my challenges. Like I said in the beginning, motherhood, more than anything I have ever endeavored to do before, has me vis-à-vis with my shortcomings and weaknesses. My imperfections seem to get in the way almost all the time. But I’m grateful to know to look to God for instruction on how I might change, or repent, in order to find solutions.
Let me give an example. Like I said, this can be a lot to wrap the mind around, especially when it comes to daily application. I struggle putting my daughter Thea to bed, right? If you’ve followed my blog, you’ve read about it. It improved for a while. We had a routine that worked flawlessly for months. But with the addition of baby Rose, we’ve had to change that routine, and it requires for Thea to be more independent at putting herself to sleep than previously asked of her, and for the last couple of weeks, the struggle is real. Mainly, I lose my patience watching Thea act like Sid the Sloth on Ice Age trying to “relax”, especially when she throws a temper tantrum if I even try to leave when she appears to be asleep. The other night, with my husband at work, bedtime went on for two hours. And with a newborn, two hours means hungry, screeching baby. So bouncing back and forth between the two babies without being able to get the one to stay asleep without the other waking up was ripping my hair out. In the end, it resulted in two babies screaming while I lay in the bathroom, screaming to God, “I can’t do this!”
I’ve tried to work on my lack of patience before, with legit experiences with grace stepping in and extending my patience where my patience was lacking. But this night, I was even impatient with grace! Nothing was working, and I couldn’t fight off my impatience. I felt helpless against my weakness. It was ugly. Praying for answers to understand what I needed to do differently, the thought which kept coming and which I kept shooing away was: you’re being selfish. I kept yelling back, I know! You already taught me being selfish is at the root of my impatience. But that’s not helping!
That night, I did eventually get those girls to sleep. In the morning, around 4:00 when Rose woke up hungry, I had a quick minute to read my scriptures. I read, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25). I was touched and I knew this was my answer. At this point, I was struggling with a lot more than just putting babies to bed. I was struggling with being happy at home. I didn’t know what to do with the girls when they were awake; we had been watching way too many movies because of it. I’d run unnecessary errands all day just to be away from the house. I didn’t like that I had to feed horses when my husband was gone because it was too inconvenient with two babies. I was tired of not having a clean house and not knowing what to make for dinner. Etc., etc., etc. Everything was such an effort and nothing was satisfactory. My Heavenly Father taught me then that I was trying to live each day to make me happy, not to make my girls or my husband happy or anyone else happy. And living each day for myself was the cancer. I realized that I was only wanting Thea and Rose to go to bed so I, me, myself could sleep. I wasn’t concerned with what they needed. And as I acted on my faith in this truth from God, I changed. My view of myself and the situation changed. My motivation changed. And my character is beginning to make an oh so necessary change. And I have been so incredibly and progressively happy these last two days, it’s insane.
Alma wrote describing true joy, “Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness” (Alma 27:18). When we are penitent, we inevitably have faith. Seeking to repent and to be obedient is the essence of living the gospel. Living the gospel is not simply going to church or fulfilling your calling or paying your tithing. Those things are necessary, but living the gospel is first to have faith in Christ and second to act in repentance, obedience, and discipleship to Him. It is to learn and live “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4) or his prophets (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38) a little better every day. That is the gospel. That is how we move forward in His plan for us. And I could not do without it as a mother, or any other of my many roles I have and do fill.