Monday, May 28, 2012

Forgiveness: A Talk I Gave in Sacrament April 29th, 2012

Do you know the story of the little tone deaf boy?  He wanted to sing with the choir.  He would come to all of the church choir rehearsals, and sing along, but sounded awful!  The other choir members would just look at him bewildered! Doesn’t he know he’s SCREWING UP THEIR BEAUTIFUL MUSIC!?!?!
Honestly, I’m one of those choir members, except, I do this at karaoke.  Here’s the thing, I LOVE to Karaoke.  Now, to give you a little back ground on me, I am a classically trained opera singer.  I started my college career at Indiana State University in the Fall of 1997 with the plans, hopes, and dreams to become a performer.  Well, then, life happened.  I found out in high school that I was going to need a kidney transplant at some point in my lifetime.  It was a matter of fact situation told to me by my doctor at Riley when I was seventeen years old.  Even though I knew this was in my future, I continued on in my life with the course of becoming a Vocal Performer.  I started college actually with a double major in Music Performance/Music Education.  My first three years, I ended up kind of progressing with my planned degrees, but other things were going on.  First, my nephrologist explained to me, I needed to take classes like underwater basket weaving because I would not be able to pass normal college courses. This is because, when you kidneys don’t filter the toxins out of your blood, the toxins float around your body and start clouding your brain.  When you’re a music major at ISU, you don’t get to choose to not take the hard classes, from semester one, the music student must take music theory, music history, and other music classes required to graduate with a music degree.  I basically failed my first semester of college.  My second semester, I got lucky and found awesome friends that were in my major that coached and tutored me in my music classes, and I accomplished a 3.9 GPA that semester.  Thank God for second chances in college!  Before my second year, I started dialysis, and in November of 1999, my third year of college, I received a kidney transplant!  This was truly a miracle!  Since I received a cadaver kidney, someone died to save life!
But life goes on!  I was told during the journey to transplant, I would have to get a “Real Job” with insurance.  Being a performer was not in my future!  A little part of me died that day.  After transplant, I promptly went back to school and changed my double major from Performance/Education to Music Business.  I now have a job in a sheet music store, with insurance, which is a complete blessing, and I perform karaoke. 
Here’s where I become one of the judgmental members of the choir.  I have a hard time listening to bad karaoke performers.  In fact, my friend and I would sit at a table where the performers couldn’t see our faces.  The more horrible the performer, the more faces he and I would make at each other!  We had a good time!  Now, this is where my sister comes in.  She loves to Karaoke also, in fact, all of my siblings can sing.  I believe that if we were born closer in age, we would have been the next Osmond family type group, but that’s another story.  My sister always says to me, “It’s the spirit of karaoke! It doesn’t matter if the singer is good or bad, as long as they’re having fun!”  My sister has the nicest, kindest, non-judgmental attitude when it comes to Karaoke!
Now, you’re probably saying, “WHERE IS SHE GOING WITH THIS TALK!?!?! GET ON WITH IT!”  OK, I will! I need to learn to be more forgiving when it comes to karaoke.  It doesn’t matter how much training I have paid thousands upon thousands of dollars for and how bad these people sing!  I need to be forgiving and let them enjoy themselves!
 How forgiving are you in your life?  There are all sorts of little things and major things that we all can become judgmental about in our lives.  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave the talk at conference: The Merciful Obtain Mercy.  In the talk, he gives what he calls a “Self Test.”
President Uchtdorf Says:
My dear brothers and sisters, consider the following questions as a self-test:
Do you harbor a grudge against someone else?
Well, do you?  Do you even remember what started that original grudge?  If you do, you must have a really good memory.  A lot of the time, people get so upset with the person, and hold a grudge, that they don’t remember what the original argument was about in the first place!  I on the other hand, tend to have a really good memory when it comes to an argument!  I just have to remember, was it worth fighting about in the first place? 
The next question he asks is: Do you gossip, even when what you say may be true?
Gossiping is a hard topic.  A friend may come to you in confidence and tell you something.  Sometimes it’s hard to NOT tell someone else.  Sometimes, if you can’t keep something to yourself, you might have to tell that friend, “Please don’t tell me.  I’m not ready to know.”  There other thinking is, If you wouldn’t say it with that person in the room, then, don’t say it.
Then, President Uchtdorf asks: Do you exclude, push away, or punish others because of something they have done?
This is an interesting thing for me.  I have a lot of friends out there that live alternative life styles.  I try my hardest to not exclude anyone for anything.  In fact, a lot of them look at me as an oxy-mormon. But I can also remember fights between other groups of friends.  Have you ever received or seen an invite to a party that says, “This guest list is private. Certain people are not on this list, because we don’t want any drama at this shindig!”  Well, then, people’s feelings are hurt that weren’t invited, when they find out about the party from people that were invited.  Then, in the end, you can’t keep straight who is and/or isn’t invited and not who to talk about it to and it becomes a big mess!  Anyway, I’ve seen this happen.  I try never to be this person!  
President Uchtdorf then says:  Do you secretly envy another?
You know that guy next to you in the office, whose life is perfect?  Well, honestly, his life isn’t. Or the woman next to you at the traffic light that’s driving your dream car?  Well, you don’t know how hard she’s worked to EARN that dream car.
He finally finishes his questions with: Do you wish to cause harm to someone?
Let’s all hope that the answer to this is NO.  But if it is yes, you should probably speak to Bishop Alcorn and/or turn yourself in to the police!  I’m only a little kidding on the second part of that…
President Uchtdorf then goes on to say:  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to apply the two-word sermon from earlier: stop it!
In a world of accusations and unfriendliness, it is easy to gather and cast stones. But before we do so, let us remember the words of the One who is our Master and model: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”12
Brothers and sisters, let us put down our stones.
Let us be kind.
Let us forgive.
Let us talk peacefully with each other.
Let the love of God fill our hearts.
“Let us do good unto all men.”13
The Savior promised: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over. … For with the same measure that [you use] it shall be measured to you again.”14
Shouldn’t this promise be enough to always focus our efforts on acts of kindness, forgiveness, and charity instead of on any negative behavior?
Let us, as disciples of Jesus Christ, return good for evil.15 Let us not seek revenge or allow our wrath to overcome us.
“For it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. …
“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”16
Remember: in the end, it is the merciful who obtain mercy.17
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wherever we may be, let us be known as a people who “have love one to another.”18
I love the line, Brothers and Sisters, let us put down our stones!
Think about that.  You could be holding a stone and not even realize it!  When you find out a person has committed a sin, do you turn your backs on them or do you show them kindness and love.  When you find out a follow member of the ward has committed a sin, do you judge them immediately?  Do you just sit there in shock in awe thinking, “There’s no way! They could never do that!”  Or do you turn to them with love and hugs? Doing this is showing these people, friends, fellow members is showing them the Love of Christ. 
Prophet Gordin B. Hinkley gave an address at the October 2005 General Conference called “Be More Forgiving.” 
In this talk, he reads the article of the incident of a woman who has a frozen turkey thrown through the windshield of her car.  A teenager did this.  After the incident, she endured six hours of surgery and had hardware put in her face to reconstruct it. 
 “… The victim, Victoria Ruvolo, … was more interested in salvaging the life of her 19-year-old assailant [attacker], Ryan Cushing, than in … revenge. … She insisted on offering him a plea deal. Cushing could serve six months in the county jail and be on probation for five years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.
As the 19 year old was leaving the court room, he leaned over and said, “I’m sorry for what I did to you.”
The victim said to him, as they hugged and wept, “It’s OK, I just want you to make your life the best it can be.”
Prophet Hinkley says: “The great Atonement was the supreme act of forgiveness. The suffering was so great, the agony so intense, that none of us can understand it when the Savior offered Himself as a ransom for the sins of all mankind. I know only that it happened and that it was for me and for you. It is through Him that we gain forgiveness. It is through Him that all mankind will be granted resurrection from the dead. It is through Him and His great sacrifice that we are offered the opportunity through obedience of eternal life.
May God help us to be a little kinder, to be more forgiving, to lay aside old grudges and nurture them no more.”
Think about this for a moment. This woman forgave a 19 year old man for what he had done to her.  Could you do this? 
What about the little things that happen in life?  One of the Primary lessons I read while preparing this talk gave this simple example. 
You are carrying a huge load of books and paper in your arms.  Some one hurrying by, bumps you and knocks the things out of your hands.  How do you react?   Do you instantly start screaming at that person?  HEY, WHY DID YOU DO THAT?
Do you pick everything up off the ground, grumbly and thinking, JERK, and keep thinking about that for the rest of the day, and just know, that person has completely ruined your DAY! 
Or do you just think, Oh, that person must really need to be somewhere.  They didn’t realize they knocked these out of my hands. That’s ok. I’ll just pick them up. 
Sometimes it’s hard to choose that last reaction.  I especially have a hard time with customer service professionals, because I am one.  Why don’t these people treat others with respect!?! But I have to constantly remember how I feel when I help customers, and I need to remember to treat them with respect.
There’s a Primary Hymn called “Help Me Dear Father.”
Help Me Dear Father To Freely Forgive
All who may seem unkind to me.
Help Me Each Day, Father I Pray.
Help Me Live Nearer, Nearer to thee.
Help me dear Father to Truly Repent.
Making things right,
and changing my ways.
Help Me Each Day, Father I Pray.
Help Me Live Nearer, Nearer to thee.
Spencer W. Kimball, Says in the Book The Miracle of Forgiveness,
“What Relief! What Comfort! What Joy! Those Laden with transgressions and sorrow and sin may be forgiven and cleansed and purified if they will return to their Lord, Learn of him, and keep his commandments.  And all of us needing to repent of day-to-day follies and weaknesses can likewise share this miracle!”  
I know that Christ has suffered and died for our sins.  He has given you and me that complete forgiveness.  Christ has made it so we can return to our Heavenly Father and be with our family members again.
Remember the little tone deaf boy that sang with the church choir? The story is, something happened to him and he died. Well, when he died, he came to heaven to sing with the angels!  And in the end, he sounded beautiful!

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