Staying Worthy

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Randy Bott

It would seem obvious that a missionary is worthy to serve, but you may not be prepared for the adversary's clever attempts to destroy you. Satan and his evil forces will constantly attack you because you are a missionary.

As you begin to fulfill your call to "hold up your light that it may shine unto the world" (3 Nephi 18:24) and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others, you will find that your weaknesses become more apparent.

Unresolved issues from your past may come back to haunt you, while other things that you hadn't even considered wrong may start to weigh on your mind.

The adversary wants you to believe that because you are not yet perfect, you really shouldn't serve a mission. This is just another of his lies, because Satan is "the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning" (D&C 93:25).

The Lord uses the sanctifying process of personal revelation—line upon line and precept upon precept. Remember that the Spirit leaves for two reasons: because the Lord is coaxing you to move ahead, or because you are sinning.

If the Lord were to show us, all at once, everything we need to do to qualify for the celestial kingdom, we would probably become discouraged and quit. But a mission represents a unique opportunity.

Never before in your life have you focused with such intensity on personal worthiness. As you do this, it becomes painfully evident that you are not the kind of a person you should be. In other words, as you hold up the light to lead others to Christ, it illuminates every flaw in your armor.

Prepare yourself for this to happen. How will you handle those feelings of hypocrisy? It is very simple. You should not regard yourself as someone who has "arrived." You still struggle, as does the rest of humanity.

When you invite others to follow your example, you are merely saying, "Follow me as I am trying to follow the Savior. When I stumble, help me to get up; don't criticize me for being imperfect. I'm doing the best I can. You help me and I'I1 help you, and together we'll both become better people.

There is a fine line between being too hard on yourself and being too lenient. Only the presence of the Spirit can tell you when you are on the right course.

If you begin to tell yourself you can never do anything right, you need to reevaluate. If you never select areas for improvement, you also need to reconsider. No missionary is totally bad or totally good. We are all on the journey of life toward perfection.

When you do slip and break a rule, don't stay down. Repent immediately and ask your Heavenly Father for forgiveness. He will let you know that your repentance has been accepted when the Spirit returns.

He is willing then to shift the responsibility for payment for your sins onto the Savior. If you happen to break a bigger rule or commandment, one that might jeopardize your worthiness to serve, immediately contact the mission president. To leave the problem unresolved will only result in greater condemnation because you will be serving unworthily.

When you contact the mission president, be honest and to the point. Tell him exactly what happened. To speak in generalities doesn't help anyone. In order to make a correct judgment, the mission president needs to know all the facts. Unless the transgression is really very serious, you will not be sent home. If you are, it will be for your eternal welfare.

How do you know when to involve the mission president? Basically, if you cannot (being totally honest with yourself) get the Spirit back after you have confessed to the Lord, you probably need to talk to the president. Remember, your Heavenly Father is very eager to have you serve an honorable mission. Therefore, he considers a missionary's past, present, and future as one eternal "now." Your eternal well-being is more important to him than your temporary embarrassment.

Whatever the Spirit prompts you to do, do it. The reason you are talking to the mission president is because the keys of judgment have been given to him. He can make an objective judgment, as well as feel genuine concern for your plight. He will seem more like a loving father than a harsh judge. Whatever his decision, it will be the best for you.

The adversary wants you to be preoccupied with being sent home. He may even urge you to tell the president about your past, even though you cleared it up with your home bishop and stake president. Usually there is no need to uncover these pardoned transgressions. If you think the bishop or stake president perhaps made a mistake or didn't get all the information he needed, let the mistake lie with the bishop or stake president.

Frequently, the adversary confuses a righteous missionary by planting doubts about his or her repentance process. Then he suggests that maybe you'd better confess again. So after you talk to the mission president, everything is fine for a couple of days. But you think of one more twist that you forgot to tell him. Satan will suggest that you'd better make a special appointment and get rid of everything.

Another special interview with the mission president helps you relax for awhile. However, the cycle repeats itself until you realize, or the mission president identifies, what the adversary is doing. The disease is called "confessionitis." It is not common, but if you have it, you need to conquer the problem. During an interview, explain to the president that you want to be totally clean from the past. You are willing to empty the bucket of former sins once and for all. After you have finished the confession, ask the Lord if there is anything else that needs to be discussed. Explain that you are more than willing to do whatever he requires, but it should be revealed now rather than every other week. Ask the Lord, in his infinite wisdom, what he would have you do. When the feelings of "what to do next" are gone, you may assume you have completed the process and should move on with your life.

The next time the adversary tries to dredge up the past, command him to leave. Explain that you don't have five minutes to waste on his lies. You have exaltation to gain. Move forward positively and optimistically. Those feelings of despair will leave, and you will progress toward your eternal goal. Will you still remember past transgressions? Yes. Will you still regret having committed them? Yes, definitely. Will you still have that gut-wrenching fear of being in the presence of the Lord? No, that will be gone forever.

In the words of one who knows and is willing to describe it for us, Alma says, "Behold, when I thought this [about the Savior and his atonement], I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!" (Alma 36:19-20.) Alma does not say he did not remember having sinned, but he did say that the pain was gone, and he was not continually "harrowed up" by the memory of his past transgressions. We can and should enjoy the same blessings concerning our past transgressions.

Enos, who prayed all day long and into the night before he received a remission of his past sins, described it this way: "I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away" (Enos 1:6). The people who listened to aged King Benjamin had one of those "forgiving experiences."

It is recorded like this: "And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words (asking for the atoning blood of Christ to cleanse them) the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience" (Mosiah 4:3). Neither Enos nor the people of King Benjamin claimed to have forgotten their past sins, but both described a relief from guilt and a peace of conscience that accompanied the remission of their sins.

Perhaps we have been fooled again by Satan to expect a false set of conditions to indicate a remission of our sins. You are worthy to serve when you have the Spirit. You are worthy to serve when your mission president, knowing all he needs to know about your past, says you are worthy to serve.

There is a certain irony in the way Satan works. He tells you that you are totally worthless, yet he doubles his efforts against your influence, talent, and potential. This approach doesn't seem appropriate if he really considers you a loser. Either you pose a real threat to him and his kingdom or you do not. Satan can't have it both ways.

I have found that the "zoom out" tactic is very beneficial. Step back from your situation and consider the big picture. Of all the commandments the Lord has given, how many do you live? Probably 95 to 99 percent. In fact, probably only a couple of commandments cause you to struggle.

If you got 99 percent or even 95 percent on a test, would you consider yourself a total failure? Of course not. No, you are not trying to excuse less-than-perfect performance, but neither are you ready to give up because you missed one small part of the test. Before you retried the test, you would probably look to see which questions you missed so you could correct them. Your attitude toward weaknesses should be the same.

Years ago, I was thinning sugar beets for a farmer. The rows were long and the hoe handle was short. It required that I bend over for hours at a time. I remember looking at the end of the row and thinking I would never make it.

I must have looked discouraged, because the farmer brought me a bottle of warm water. He was not a man of many words, but he did say, "Look how far you've come!" When I looked back, I was surprised. I had come a long way. Several times during the following hours, I looked back to see how far I had come. Occasionally, we need to give ourselves credit for how far we've come so that we gain added strength to continue the battle.

If you serve honorably you will foil the evil programs used by the adversary. Because of your faithfulness, he will do all he can to convince you that you cannot serve because you are not yet perfect. Listen to the Good Shepherd and his chosen leaders, not to the "liar from the beginning" (D&C 93:25).

Taken from the book: Serve With Honor, by Randy Bott, 1995.