So, the awful confession I have to make is that I totally blew my “new” lifestyle over Christmas break. My husband and I had planned to travel and maybe see some of my family, but those plans were cancelled by weather issues. We then had a week off at home together, which we decided to spend eating out and watching movies together.
One of the movies we watched, because we both enjoyed it the first time, was “Kung Fu Panda.” It’s a cute movie to relax and laugh to, but it carries one theme that hit home this time: “There is no secret ingredient.”
Maybe it hit me hard because I had been having some long conversations about why I feel like I keep intimidating people when I’m really just being myself and trying to be a friend (talk about a social awkwardness complex!), and that we had decided that it has to do with the intensity of my personality. When I make up my mind to shoot for a goal, I’m committed and I’m on it. I’m kind of a “do, or die trying” person.
So, when people see my results, I guess it triggers negative feelings rather than the hope that I would much rather kindle.
In the end, there really is not “secret ingredient” to life. If you want to be thinner, you carefully pick a diet and exercise program that you can trust. You implement the program with exactness, and patiently follow the process. The results will come. If you fall down and get off the program, you get back up, get back on the program, and try again.
The same principles apply with athletic adventures, financial security, physical beauty, education and intelligence, and a host of other areas that we long to feel success in. Barring unusual tragedies, we can improve in any area of our life — even if we don’t quite make it to the air-brushed ideals that media pushes down our throats.
If you read my blog regularly, you might be scratching your head right now, because I haven’t said a thing about religion.
Don’t worry — that’s next.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we stress progress and growth. We believe that faith is active and requires study, prayer, and service to keep it alive and vibrant. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to “religious envy,” where we look at what others know and accomplish spiritually, scripturally, and even in service — and we feel like we are less because we can’t accomplish that much.
Again, I would say there is no secret ingredient. Those who have a real, living relationship with their Savior, Jesus Christ, have followed the same program that will work for you.
In Alma 32, the process is described using the metaphor of planting a seed, but it’s also described in tons of other ways throughout the scriptures. Here’s my rundown of the steps:
- Hearing the word: Without coming upon some form of knowledge, understanding, evaluating and applying ideas simply can’t happen. The trick is to carefully choose sources.
- Evaluating what you are reading and/or hearing: Even though it may sound like bad news, the good news is that Heavenly Father and Jesus want you to get to know them because they want to change you. Simply accepting what you read or hear doesn’t cut it. Throughout the scriptures and from the teachings of modern prophets, we have been counseled to ponder and think.
- Taking a leap of faith: The best part about a relationship with Jesus and with Heavenly Father is that they want us to “test it out.” Everything that we have been asked to do comes with promised blessings. If your investigation into the religious realm provides enough evidence, begin living the principles you have learned. See what difference they make in your life.
- Continue to do those things that will help you faith and new knowledge grow: Faith is a living entity, and it has to be fed. Without scripture study, prayer, church attendance, and obedience to God’s commandments, faith will weaken and die.
- Accept that you will not be perfect: Perfection happens after this life! In the meantime, you (like the rest of us) will make bad choices and mistakes, and you will be responsible for following God’s way of fixing those issues.
- Take comfort in knowing that you will always have access to help: To me, this is the best part of living the gospel! I can’t work my way to a condition good enough to return to live with Heavenly Father, and my good enough is not good enough to even begin to fill in the chasm that exists between who I am and who I need to be to return to God’s presences. The beauty is that we have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who loves us so dearly that He died to give us not just a second chance, but as many chances as we need as we truly seek to become like Him. Not only does His Atonement cover the debt we can’t pay, He sent a Comforter, the Holy Ghost, to help us.
- Repeat — every time you meet a new spiritual obstacle: The path to finding eternal truth is a repetitive process. This process applies to learning the basics of the gospel, and it applies with equal success to deeper levels of spiritual learning.
So let me close where I started:
The bad news is that there is no secret ingredient: there is no magical shortcut to eternal life. We all have to walk the path that God has set out for us. On the other hand, the BEST NEWS OF ALL is that there is no secret ingredient! That means that you can follow the process freely available, and if you are patient with the process, you, too can come to know God.
- If you are new to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or are just curious, I recommend reading about the Plan of Salvation at mormon.org. It’s a simple, quick read.
- In order of easy reads, here are some more of the church’s teachings about God’s plan of salvation:
- Finally, this may be my all-time favorite talk about the Atonement of Christ, what it means for us, and how we can actually apply it in our lives: Brad Wilcox, “His Grace is Sufficient.”