One of the criticisms that I have heard about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the “intense pressure” that members endure, pushing them to try to be perfect. I’m sure that some experience it that way: I used to!
However, by hanging in there, exercising faith, and taking baby step after baby step, I have learned that commandments and calls to serve are gifts of love, and rather than feeling pressure to avoid an angry God, I hold to my standards because of my love for my Heavenly Father.
There are many wonderful things to experience in life, and many worthy goals. We are surrounded by amazing people, and usually most of them do not share our faith. Even as an adult, I have felt the desire to fit in, belong, and just be liked by the people around me. Knowing that God is loving and forgiving, it can be easy to think that I could just “compartmentalize” my life a little bit, lower my standards some, and maybe make my religion a little more “palatable” for the people around me.
Sadly, I have tried living my life in this way from time to time, and it doesn’t work well. Very few people feel a need for a religion that doesn’t offer much that is different from what they have now. I also found that I left myself open to being subject to more pressures to lower my standards further — by leaving the gospel behind, even for a moment, I left the protections available to me through the gospel and the Atonement.
Jeffrey R. Holland gave a wonderful talk, “Israel, Israel, God is Calling” that examines these ideas in detail. Here’s about 15 minutes of it:
Members of a Royal Army
I am learning how important it is to remember who I truly am every moment of every day, and to take the time to pray, study, and listen in order to live to the fullest of my divine potential. I am reminded of a story I have heard a few times: A young soldier was sitting off to the side during an evening of camaraderie and merriment, looking a bit uncomfortable. When asked if he was planning to join in, he replied, “I cannot. I am a member of the royal household of England.”
The story has made a huge impression in my heart and mind. I often think to myself “I am a member of the royal household of God.” It’s life-changing for me. In one simple thought, I find the courage to be who I was born to be. I find the courage and strength to continue trying to improve and live up to my divine potential. I find the ability to stand true to my beliefs without any desire to be confrontational or “in someone’s face” about it.
There are many paths through life, and our goal is to choose the best one. That means that I live my religion on more than just Sunday, and that I have the burden to do what it takes to receive and grow my own testimony. All it takes is a series of small baby steps. That’s the beauty of having a loving Heavenly Father.