By Cordell and Janice Vail
22 June 2003
A weekly email gospel message for the descendents of Ammon and Winona Vail
Restrictions or Convictions
Restrictions or Convictions
I am often in teaching situations where the same thing comes up over and over. And after I see the pattern in it after several times, I finally learn these lessons of life as I like to call them. I learn so much when I teach other people. That is the main way I learn. Not from reading and studying, but teaching what I read and study to others. It is normally while I am trying to explain what I have learned to someone else that I finally understand it myself.c Some time ago I was teaching some one who likes to take off his garments and walk around the house naked (only when no one else is home of course). He often sleeps with his garments off as well. So I was trying to teach him that we are asked in the temple recommend question if we wear our garments NIGHT and DAY. But he said he did not feel that applied to times when he needed to feel free and unrestricted. Well it was some conversation...... It lasted several hours and we talked about many other things and he kept telling me that he felt the church was so restrictive and always telling him what he could not do.
One other very similar situation happened a several years ago when I was home and my daughter Anna was home from BYU too. She told me she had been trying to teach her roommate that it was not right to watch bad things on TV and that she should not go to wild dances that lasted most of the night. Then her roommate said to her “I WISH I WAS NOT A MORMON SO I COULD HAVE FUN”. Her roommate was very intelligent. She got all A’s in school and is always talking down to Anna and making her feel dumb. She told her that she knows this and knows that all the time. Anna pointed out to me that she knows her roommate KNOWS what is right but does not LIKE TO LIVE IT. She does things on Sunday she should not do. She is not very faithful in the church in general. She likes to go to bar type places to meet boys. That should tell you the rest of the story. Yet she knows the doctrine very well. Well then Anna said something to me that really stunned me. It was one of the "write down in your journal" moments when your children teach you as they so often do. She said, “Dad, I know that I am not as smart as her in school but I am smart in the right things aren't I?”. That is the most profound thing she has ever said to me. SHE IS SMART IN THE RIGHT THINGS. She not only knows the gospel but tries with all her heart to live it too.
So as I thought about my friend and his feeling the church is so restrictive, I saw a great similarity between him and Anna’s roommate. My friend is very active in the church. He is a very good teacher at church especially with the youth and gives wonderful talks. WHEN YOU SEE HIM AT CHURCH... you would never know that he feels the church is too restrictive. What he is doing is almost like living a double life. What he BELIEVES inside and what he LIVES outside are not the same. In my conversation with him, that is what I was trying to teach him.
Our Stake President in Salt Lake said that he had noticed that most people were really four different people. He worked in a big government missile plant and knew many members of his stake there at work. He said that he noticed that there were really four different people inside most of us. The way we act at work sometimes is very different from the way we act at home and the way we act at home sometimes is very different from the way we act at church. And all three of those ways of acting is often very different than how we act (or talk) when we are alone. He said that if we were truly CHRIST-LIKE, there would be no difference. We would act the same in the Temple as we act at work. We would talk to our kids at church the same way we talked to them at home. I feel that is a very important lesson for all of us to learn in our lives. SPIRITUAL CONSISTENCY. If we were truly Christ-like in all we do WE WOULD BE THE SAME EVERYWHERE. That is what I was trying to teach my friend.
So as I thought about what Anna’s roommate said and what my friend was saying, and thought about the many other times that I have met people who act that way or think this way, I could clearly see that the time will come in their lives when the temptations will be so great that they will discover that they actually have two sets of standards. One set they LIVE in a church situation (but honestly do not believe in their hearts), and a second set of standards that they LIVE in their hearts and act out ONLY WHEN THEY ARE ALONE or away from the church situation. I know that the time will come when they will find out that the actual convictions that they have, the ones that are in their secret life, will dominate. When the going gets tough, they will abandon the “IMPOSED CONVICTIONS” that they just act out in Church situations. They will find that if those convictions or standards were their convictions or standards BECAUSE THEY ARE IMPOSED OR FORCED UPON THEM, they were actually only RESTRICTIONS and not convictions at all. And restrictions are not convictions or standards They are just imposed rules that you live because you have to. It is the same action but done for a different reason. And as soon as they feel they are safe to NOT HAVE TO, or feel no one is watching, they abandon them. That is why they act different at work than at church. They think no one is watching. They feel they are safe to be the way the really want to be. Their true feelings come out in their actions.
We had a Bishop in our stake in Salt Lake who sort of said the same thing in a ward conference talk once. He said he had been just amazed over the years as he interviewed people and noticed that many of those people, when they had quit living the commandments, then started to change their beliefs to match what they were living rather than try to repent and change their living to match what they used to believe. He said he had seen that action divide the members of his ward into two very separate kinds of people. One group sought continually to repent and improve, trying to live what they believed and the other group were continually compromising and trying to justify what they were now living by changing what they believed to be right to match what they had started to live. The second group of course mostly fell away from the church (eventually).
I honestly believe that if you have convictions that you live only because you have to they are not convictions at all but only restrictions and eventually you will abandon them all together. And most people already do abandon them when they feel they are safe and no one will know (at least no one will know who imposes the restrictions upon them). And I believe that when they are sufficiently tempted or the going gets tough enough, then they will find out what they are really made of and they will do what they honestly believe in their heart is right for them and the things they WANT to do not the things they were MADE TO DO will prevail in their life. I also find it interesting that most of these friends of mine that think or feel this way have little or no concept that GOD CAN SEE ALL WE DO even what is in our hearts. They think they can hide their actions even from God.
With that life's lesson in mind, here is one of the most important conference talk quotes that I have ever heard in my life:
President Marion G. Romneyc
October 1949 page 43
We assume that because we are members of the church, we shall receive as a matter of course all the blessings of the gospel. I have heard people contend that they have a claim upon them because they have been through the temple, even though they are not careful to keep the covenants they there made. I do not think this will be the case (see D&C 132:26-27). We might take a lesson from an account given by the Prophet Joseph Smith of a vision of the resurrection, in which he records that one of the saddest things he had ever witnessed was the sorrow of the members of the church who came forth to a resurrection below that which they had taken for granted they would receive...
May we all find the courage to make our CONVICTIONS what we live because it is what we believe.