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Enjoyment / punishment decision

Recently, it was my stake conference weekend. Elder Steven C. Barlow, Area Seventy, was our visiting authority. Because of my current calling, I had the privilege to meet with him, my stake presidency, and the bishops of the stake. It was a wonderful hour. We spoke about a variety of issues facing church leaders. For example, while talking about repentance and forgiveness, Elder Barlow quoted Brother Tad R. Callister, a former member of the Presidency of the Seventy. Brother Callister said, ”If you have seen one case, you have seen one case.”

His statement rang true to me. No two cases are the same. No two people with their unique personalities, traits, experiences, faith and circumstances are the same. Christ never treats people the same way. During his mortal ministry, he worked with Peter differently than with Matthew. Christ was perfect at beholding people. The term “Behold” is used 1,298 times in the King James version of the Bible. The word is derived from the Greek word “eido.” The literal translation of eido is “Be sure to see.” What an excellent sermon on how we should interact with our brothers and sisters. With each interaction, we need to always “be sure to see” them with their beauty and warts, confidence and fears, happiness and sadness, good circumstances and struggles.

I think many in the Church, including myself at times, would love sameness. We would love to know that Y is the result when X happens. Stated another way, when we transgress or sin, we can open a large dusty book or click on a particular church website that tells us our punishment. For example, if I tell I lie, I look at the list, and it says I have to go to two welfare assignments. Then, if I lie again, I have to go to four welfare assignments and sing in the ward choir for six months (I know singing isn’t punishment, but I had to think of something). As I see it, there are at least two problems with such an approach.

The first is sinning becomes a business decision. A Latter-day Saint could weigh the evil action, which is somewhat desirable, against the assigned punishment. Maybe I would decide that cheating on a test hoping for an A is worth pulling weeds at the Church for a week. Or the worst scenario is a person chooses to break the law of Chasity because the enjoyment of sin appears to be of more value than the pain of the predefined punishment. However, we all know that repentance doesn’t work that way—the pain of sin tears at our hearts. Often there are unforeseeable consequences to our actions.

The second problem is related. If our behavior boils down to an enjoyment/punishment decision, there is no spiritual growth. There is no becoming Christlike or becoming like our Heavenly Father. We learn how much sin we want to commit versus how much punishment (pain) we can handle. We become no better than a dog who decides if taking a nap on the couch is worth the discipline when you get home (Yes, I think dogs think this way). Our hearts are not changed. We certainly are not clean before God. We focus on how much sin we can commit rather than how much love we have for Christ and our Father.

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"Men [and  women] are that they might have JOY..."

2 Nephi 2:25

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