What Satan Doesn’t Want You To Know About Sin

climbing-1512132_1280The journey back to our Father in Heaven is much like climbing a mountain. God is the perfect mountain climber. He knows how to conquer the mountain and lead us safely back home to Him. We are down on earth to become like our Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:48).  When we are born we start at the bottom of the mountain and our goal is to learn to become like Him as we conquer and climb this mountain before us.

Our Heavenly Father has not left us alone in our journey up the mountain. He knew it would be difficult. He knew there would be obstacles, frustrations, sadness, and even pain. But he knew the vital, transformational life’s lessons we came down to earth to learn were to be best learned on the mountain – not in the meadow down below.  Heavenly Father has given us mountain guides – prophets – who have traversed the mountain and conquered it. He had them write down their journey (we have a guide book!) and had them build sign posts to warn us of dangers.

God knew we wouldn’t learn how to be perfect mountain climbers in a day. He never expected us to race up the mountain in record time with a perfect score. He knew we’d mess up. He knew we wouldn’t be able to do it on our own. That is why He sent the Savior to atone for the mistakes we would make.

We are going to fall down as we climb – sometimes we’re going to skid half a mile down the mountain!  It doesn’t matter how many times we fall. Heavenly Father is not keeping track of our failures! When we get to the top, He isn’t going to say, “Well, my daughter, you messed up 1,543,678 times. There’s no way I’m letting you in to heaven! Sally only messed up 876,393 times so I’m letting her in instead!”

Our challenge is not just to follow the rules and go through the motions of climbing up a mountain (and try to make the least mistakes we can!), but to BECOME a master climber and to help others on their way up the mountain. The final judgment won’t be a weighing of our good deeds on one side and our bad deeds on the other. I used to think that. I used to just hope I did more good than bad and that the scale would be heavier on the good side!  No, the challenge of this life is not just to do good, but to BECOME good. Dallin H. Oaks put it best when he said:

“The Apostle Paul taught that the Lord’s teachings and teachers were given that we may all attain “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). This process requires far more than acquiring knowledge. It is not even enough for us to be convinced of the gospel; we must act and think so that we are converted by it. In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something.

Many Bible and modern scriptures speak of a final judgment at which all persons will be rewarded according to their deeds or works or the desires of their hearts. But other scriptures enlarge upon this by referring to our being judged by the condition we have achieved.

A parable illustrates this understanding. A wealthy father knew that if he were to bestow his wealth upon a child who had not yet developed the needed wisdom and stature, the inheritance would probably be wasted. The father said to his child:

“’All that I have I desire to give you—not only my wealth, but also my position and standing among men. That which I have I can easily give you, but that which I am you must obtain for yourself. You will qualify for your inheritance by learning what I have learned and by living as I have lived. I will give you the laws and principles by which I have acquired my wisdom and stature. Follow my example, mastering as I have mastered, and you will become as I am, and all that I have will be yours.’”

–Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” General Conference October 2000

Heavenly Father doesn’t care how many times we fall down – He only cares about what we do after we mess up. Do we learn from it? Become better because of it? Make less mistakes in the future because of it?

We can’t change the fact that we fell down. That is in the past. The only question now is, “What are we going to do about it?” The only productive thing you can do from the past is learn from it. Once we learn from it (and fix anything we can) we need to move on. We can’t allow ourselves to dwell on past mistakes. That will ruin our future.

FAITH, HOPE, and CHARITY

Paul teaches us 3 key ingredients that are crucial to our success in climbing up the mountain: faith, hope, and charity.

The greatest act of charity ever performed on the earth was the Atonement of Jesus Christ. There was no greater, more unselfish, more loving act ever done. Satan did everything in his power to prevent Christ from following through with the Atonement, but he failed. The Atonement is real and available to all of God’s children. Satan knows that. He knows he can’t destroy the Atonement – so what does he do instead? He attacks our hope in the Atonement.

When we fall down, Satan whispers:

  • “See? You fell again. You’ll never make it to the top. You’re not mountain climber material.”
  • “You’re a failure.”
  • “What’s the point of all this? You’re just going to fall again. Give up.”
  • “Why don’t you just go play in the meadow down below? It will be more fun down there.”
  • “Look at everyone way up there. They think you’re dumb. You’ll never be as good as they are.”
  • “God will never forgive you now. You’ve fallen way too many times.”

Boyd K. Packer taught, “The discouraging idea that a mistake (or even a series of them) makes it everlastingly too late, does not come from the Lord.” (General Conference April 1989)

plane-50893_1920Dieter F. Ucthdorf shares his experience of being an airline captain and a lesson it taught him about sin and the Atonement of Jesus Christ:

During my training to become an airline captain, I had to learn how to navigate an airplane over long distances. Flights over huge oceans, crossing extensive deserts, and connecting continents need careful planning to ensure a safe arrival at the planned destination. Some of these nonstop flights can last up to 14 hours and cover almost 9,000 miles.

There is an important decision point during such long flights commonly known as the point of safe return. Up to this point the aircraft has enough fuel to turn around and return safely to the airport of departure. Having passed the point of safe return, the captain has lost this option and has to continue on. That is why this point is often referred to as the point of no return.

Satan, “the father of all lies…” uses the forces of evil to convince us that this concept applies whenever we have sinned….Satan wants us to think that when we have sinned we have gone past a “point of no return”—that it is too late to change our course.

Christ came to save us. If we have taken a wrong course, the Atonement of Jesus Christ can give us the assurance that sin is not a point of no return. A safe return is possible if we will follow God’s plan for our salvation.

–Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Point of Safe Return,” General Conference April 2007

How Satan wants us to react after we have sinned is completely opposite of how the Lord wants us to react. Satan wants us to beat ourselves up, dwell on the past, and make us feel like a terrible, awful person who is damned and has no hope. God whispers encouragement to us. He whispers, “I love you. You can do this. You can change. I will help you.” He wants us to feel godly sorrow for the sin and repent, but He doesn’t want us to hate ourselves and lose hope. We need to be extremely careful about whose voice we are listening to after we have sinned. If we feel deep shame, want to give up, feel damned, despairing, and hated of God, that voice is not from God! It is from Satan!

“We need to remember that Satan seeks to discourage us and dissuade us from righteousness every chance he gets.  Feelings of discouragement never come from God: they are always of the devil.  President Brigham Young once remarked:  ‘Serve God according to the best knowledge you have,…and when the Devil comes along and says, ‘You are not a very good Saint, you might enjoy greater blessings and more of the power of God, and have the vision of your mind opened, if you would live up to your privileges,’ tell him to leave; that you have long ago forsaken his ranks and enlisted in the army of Jesus, who is your captain, and that you want no more of the Devil’” (Discourses, 82) (Odds Are You’re Going to Be Exalted, Alonzo L. Gaskill, page 144)

On one occasion, the prophet Joseph Smith told Elder George A. Smith “Never be discouraged…If I were sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled on me, I would hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I would come out on top.”

Nowhere, in all of scripture does God tell any one of His children that they have messed up too many times and that He doesn’t love them anymore. His message is the exact opposite!

  • “Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right….None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.” (Ezekiel 33:14, 16)
  • “Yea, as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.” (Mosiah 26:30) There is no limit to how many times God will forgive you!
  • “And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” (Luke 17:4) Look at Christ’s counsel to his disciples. Surely, he wouldn’t have a lower standard for Himself!

It is NEVER too late to repent. You have never sinned too much or too often that you are beyond Christ’s reach or His love.

yellow-flower-cloud-sun“…however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.”

–Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Laborers in the Vineyard,” General Conference April 2012

Christ loves you. He is standing there, with open arms, waiting to help you. But sometimes we stubbornly refuse to reach up our hand. We sit, miserable and hurt, down in the dirt, with our arms folded across our chest and our head hung down. If we would only look up, we would see Him there with His hand stretched out to us, waiting for us to grab it. He won’t force us to stand up, but He will help us EVERY time ask.

Satan knows THE ONLY way to stop us from getting to the top of the mountain is for us to give up. But he can’t MAKE us give up. He can put obstacles in our way, whisper discouraging thoughts, and try to make the climb more miserable, but he cannot stop us. He doesn’t have the power. He can’t bind us with ropes or break our legs. All he can do is tempt us to give up.

person-1245959_1280On the other hand, God will not force us to the top. We need to understand our own power. We are THE ONLY ones who can prevent ourselves from reaching the top of the mountain! We make the trip seem so complicated, but the key to success lies in ONE fact and it is SIMPLE: If we never give up, we will eventually reach the top of the mountain! Think about that. That is powerful. No matter how many times we fall, if get up each time and refuse to quit, we WILL conquer the mountain! It is guaranteed!

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: “Nobody becomes perfect in this life. . . . Becoming perfect in Christ is a process. We begin to keep the commandments today, and we keep more of them tomorrow. . . . We can become perfect in some minor things. . . .If we chart a course of becoming perfect, and, step by step and phase by phase, are perfecting our souls by overcoming the world, then it is absolutely guaranteed—there is no question whatever about it—we shall gain eternal life. . . . If we chart a course and follow it to the best of our ability in this life, then when we go out of this life we’ll continue in exactly that same course.

“All faithful Latter-day Saints – those who chart their course toward eternal life, receive the ordinances of salvation, and strive with all their hearts to be true to their covenants – will gain eternal life. Even though they are certainly not perfect when they die, if they have sought to stay on course, in covenant, in harmony with the mind and will of God, they will be saved in the highest heaven….We ought to have hope, [and] we [need] to be positive and optimistic about attaining that glory.”

–Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Odds Are You’re Going to Be Exalted, by Alonzo L. Gaskill, page 20

Sometimes we make life so complicated. We think the list of commandments is so long: we need to pray, study the scriptures, go to church, serve others, be honest, not swear, control our thoughts, etc. But it just boils down to this: those who will make it back to God are those who refused to give up. They are those who kept going no matter how hot it was, how tired they got, how impossible it seemed, or how many times they fell.

This life is not so much a test of how many commandments we can keep. It is a test of our determination and loyalty. Will we be loyal to the Savior no matter what storm or obstacle comes our way on the mountain? Will we utterly refuse to give up no matter how difficult the way?

D.H. Groberg wrote a poem that beautifully depicts the race of life, our role, and our Father’s encouraging role. Every time I feel discouraged, I re-read this poem and rekindle my hope.

The Race

attributed to Dr. D.H. “Dee” Groberg

Whenever I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
my downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
A children’s race, young boys, young men; how I remember well,
excitement sure, but also fear, it wasn’t hard to tell.
They all lined up so full of hope, each thought to win that race
or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
Their parents watched from off the side, each cheering for their son,
and each boy hoped to show his folks that he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they flew, like chariots of fire,
to win, to be the hero there, was each young boy’s desire.
One boy in particular, whose dad was in the crowd,
was running in the lead and thought “My dad will be so proud.”
But as he speeded down the field and crossed a shallow dip,
the little boy who thought he’d win, lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his arms flew everyplace,
and midst the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face.
As he fell, his hope fell too; he couldn’t win it now.
Humiliated, he just wished to disappear somehow.

But as he fell his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,
which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win that race!”
He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit that’s all,
and ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
his mind went faster than his legs. He slipped and fell again.
He wished that he had quit before with only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”

But through the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face
with a steady look that said again, “Get up and win that race!”
So he jumped up to try again, ten yards behind the last.
“If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought, “I’ve got to run real fast!”
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight, then ten…
but trying hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeat! He lay there silently. A tear dropped from his eye.
“There’s no sense running anymore! Three strikes I’m out! Why try?
I’ve lost, so what’s the use?” he thought. “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.

“Get up,” an echo sounded low, “you haven’t lost at all,
for all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
Get up!” the echo urged him on, “Get up and take your place!
You were not meant for failure here! Get up and win that race!”
So, up he rose to run once more, refusing to forfeit,
and he resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,
still he gave it all he had and ran like he could win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he rose again.
Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.

They cheered another boy who crossed the line and won first place,
head high and proud and happy — no falling, no disgrace.
But, when the fallen youngster crossed the line, in last place,
the crowd gave him a greater cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproud,
you would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
“To me, you won,” his father said. “You rose each time you fell.”

And now when things seem dark and bleak and difficult to face,
the memory of that little boy helps me in my own race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
And when depression and despair shout loudly in my face,
another voice within me says, “Get up and win that race!”

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4 Purposes Of The Atonement – Part 2

cameroon-104485_640“Some years ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley told something of a parable about a one room school house in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough no teacher had been able to handle them.

Then one day an inexperienced young teacher applied. He was told that every teacher had received an awful beating, but the teacher accepted the risk. The first day of school the teacher asked the boys to establish their own rules and the penalty for breaking the rules. The class came up with 10 rules, which were written on the blackboard. Then the teacher asked, ‘What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?’

‘Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,’ came the response.

A day or so later, … the lunch of a big student, named Tom, was stolen. The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old.

As Little Jim came up to take his licking, he pleaded to keep his coat on. ‘Take your coat off,’ the teacher said. ‘You helped make the rules!’

The boy took off the coat. He had no shirt and revealed a bony little crippled body. As the teacher hesitated with the rod, Big Tom jumped to his feet and volunteered to take the boy’s licking.

‘Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?’ the teacher asked.

After five strokes across Tom’s back, the rod broke. The class was sobbing. ‘Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. ‘Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!’”
–James E. Faust, “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope, General Conference, October 2001

Jesus Christ took our beating for us. We deserved the beating. We are the ones who sinned, but he volunteered to take the punishment. How I love my Savior, Jesus Christ!  Isaiah explains Christ’s gift beautifully. I like to substitute the words “my” and “I” in place of “our” and “we” in these verses:

 “Surely he hath borne my griefs, and carried my sorrows…
…He was wounded for my transgressions, he was bruised for my iniquities: the chastisement of my peace was upon him; and with his stripes I am healed.”
(Isaiah 53:3-5)

Why do we need to cleansed from sin?

 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
(Romans 3:23)

No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God. All of us have sinned and, therefore, none of us could live with God again if it weren’t for the Atonement. Christ can make us clean from sin.

Quicksand

Sin is like quicksand. It’s as if we are walking along, trying to get back to God, but along the way, we make a few wrong turns, and end up in quicksand! No matter how hard we struggle, we can’t get out. We are trapped. We look around and notice there are a lot of other people in the quicksand, but no matter how hard we try to work together, we realize it is no use. We are stuck deep with no power to free ourselves. Along walks Jesus Christ, the only person who has ever lived who has never ended up in quicksand. Because He is outside the quicksand, He can get us out.

Satan wants us to believe that we can’t get out. That there’s a point of no return – a point where you have sunk too far to be forgiven by the Savior. That is simply not true.

“For a number of years I found relaxation in carving and painting songbirds, at times spending a full year on a single carving….Once, I had a newly finished carving on the back seat of a car driven by Elder A. Theodore Tuttle. He hit the brakes suddenly and the carving was thrown to the floor and damaged.

Elder Tuttle felt terrible, supposing he had ruined a year’s work. When I waved aside his apologies, he said, ‘You sure don’t seem to be upset about it.’

To reassure him I said, “Don’t worry. I made it; I can fix it.” Actually, it had been broken and fixed many times while I was working on it.

Later, Brother Tuttle likened that experience to people with lives broken or badly damaged – supposedly ruined with no hope of repair – who do not know that there is a Maker, a Creator, who can fix any of his creations no matter how hopelessly broken they seem to be.”
–Pres. Boyd K. Packer, The Plan and the Plan, 6-7

Soap

pool-778207_640The Atonement is like the ultimate soap. It can clean any sort of grime or dirt, but soap is useless unless you USE it! The Savior reaches out His hand to us, holding the soap, but we have to stretch out our hand and take it. He won’t start scrubbing us against our will! He simply offers us His gift. Although the soap is a free gift, we must do our part and scrub ourselves clean. Repentance is work! Repentance is CHANGE! But repentance leaves us sparkling clean and feeling like we can conquer the world!

Returning to our cliff analogy from 4 Purposes of the Atonement – Part 1, there are 2 cliffs (obstacles) we must overcome to return to live with God. The first obstacle is physical death. The second obstacle is spiritual death or sin. Christ overcame sin through the Atonement, but it is up to build the bridge. He built the first bridge for us (the Resurrection), but we must build, repair, and fortify the second bridge throughout our lives. Again, Christ conquered sin (brought us soap), but we must use it (build the second bridge).

Gospel of Jesus Christ complete

How Do We Build The Second Bridge?

“And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end [enduring to the end].

Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church…”
(3 Nephi 27:19-21, emphasis added)

Faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end in keeping the commandments are the five key components in building the bridge. These five things make up the gospel of Jesus Christ (see also Preach My Gospel, lesson 3). It is a continual process. We must constantly build our faith, practice repentance, keep our baptismal covenants, follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and stand “steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God.” (Alma 1:25)

Cliff Hanger

mountains-718420_640We can’t be fully grateful for the Atonement unless we realize the absolutely desperate situation we would be in without it. Going along with our cliff analogy, Jeffrey R. Holland relates a sobering, touching story illustrating just how desperately we need our Savior. He tells the story of two brothers, Jimmy (age 14) and John (age 19) who went rock climbing without any safety equipment – no ropes, harnesses, or climbing gear of any kind. As they reached the top, they came to a protruding ledge that was impossible to climb over. They were stuck – they couldn’t climb up and they couldn’t get back down. Fortunately, John was able to find enough of a foothold to hoist his younger brother up to safety.

John desperately tried to find enough finger and toe holds to be able to climb up and over, but the more he moved around, the more his muscles began to cramp. He realized he couldn’t hold on much longer and that his only option would be to jump and try to grab the top of the overhanging ledge.

In his own words, he said:

“Prior to my jump I told Jimmy to go search for a tree branch strong enough to extend down to me, although I knew there was nothing of the kind on this rocky summit. It was only a desperate ruse. If my jump failed, the least I could do was make certain my little brother did not see me falling to my death.

“Giving him enough time to be out of sight, I said my last prayer—that I wanted my family to know I loved them and that Jimmy could make it home safely on his own—then I leapt. There was enough adrenaline in my spring that the jump extended my arms above the ledge almost to my elbows. But as I slapped my hands down on the surface, I felt nothing but loose sand on flat stone. I can still remember the gritty sensation of hanging there with nothing to hold on to—no lip, no ridge, nothing to grab or grasp. I felt my fingers begin to recede slowly over the sandy surface. I knew my life was over.

“But then suddenly, like a lightning strike in a summer storm, two hands shot out from somewhere above the edge of the cliff, grabbing my wrists with a strength and determination that belied their size. My faithful little brother had not gone looking for any fictitious tree branch. Guessing exactly what I was planning to do, he had never moved an inch. He had simply waited—silently, almost breathlessly—knowing full well I would be foolish enough to try to make that jump. When I did, he grabbed me, held me, and refused to let me fall. Those strong brotherly arms saved my life that day as I dangled helplessly above what would surely have been certain death.”
–Jeffrey R. Holland, “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet,” General Conference April 2015

Just as physical death is a separation (a separation of our spirits from our bodies), spiritual death is also a separation (sin separates us from God). Without the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the ability to repent and become clean of all of our sins, we would be cut off from the presence of God forever. Our brother, Jesus Christ, saved us from certain death and made eternal life with God possible. This is what Paul was talking about when he said, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Elder Holland then compared our plight to that of John’s:

“What a plight! The entire human race in free fall—every man, woman, and child in it physically tumbling toward permanent death, spiritually plunging toward eternal anguish. Is that what life was meant to be? Is this the grand finale of the human experience? Are we all just hanging in a cold canyon somewhere in an indifferent universe, each of us searching for a toehold, each of us seeking for something to grip—with nothing but the feeling of sand sliding under our fingers, nothing to save us, nothing to hold on to, much less anything to hold on to us? Is our only purpose in life an empty existential exercise—simply to leap as high as we can, hang on for our prescribed three score years and ten, then fail and fall, and keep falling forever?”
–Jeffrey R. Holland, “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet,” General Conference April 2015

How grateful I am for a Savior who loved me enough to die for me! He saved me from an awful death and suffered so that I won’t have to if I will simply repent. He wipes away my tears when I am sad. He finds me when I feel lost. He gives me courage when I’m afraid. He gives me strength when I’m at the end of my rope. Truly, he is called the Savior because he SAVES.

3 Ways To Ruin Your Self-esteem

bank-1238320_1280I held up a fresh-from-the-bank, clean, crisp $20 bill and asked my students, “Who wants this?” Every hand shot up into the air. Then I crumpled it in my hands and asked, “Who still wants it?” Every hand was still up. I threw it on the floor, stomped on it, ground it into the carpet for a bit and said, “I hope I didn’t step in any doggy doo doo on the way here….Who still wants this?” A few hands went down, but most of them were still up. I spit on the $20 bill and most of the hands were still up in the air. Gross! These youth must really want to see the new movie this weekend! “What if I threw up on it?” I asked, “Would you still want it?” There was some hesitation, but there were still hands in the air! One of my students told me, “I’ll just wash it off! It’s still worth $20!”

Then I pulled out a second $20 bill. It was crisp, clean, and looked freshly pressed! “Which $20 bill is worth more?” I inquired. The students immediately responded, “They’re worth the same!”

“No, no,” I protested, “look at this dirty, crumpled up $20 bill. It can’t be worth nearly as much. It’s no good any more.” My students objected, “They are worth the same!”

“They can’t be,” I said in disbelief, “This $20 bill is totally ruined. A worthless piece of junk!” We argued back and forth for a bit and then I finally gave in. “Of course you are right. We can’t buy more candy with the crisp, clean $20 bill. The dirty $20 bill is worth just as much as the clean one. I want you to remember that: they are worth the same!”

Self Worth vs. Self-esteem

Then we had a powerful discussion. We are all $20 bills. We were born $20 bills and we will NEVER be worth less. Our worth is our potential to become like our Heavenly Father. We are His children and we are worth the full 20 bucks.  Satan knows we are worth $20. He can’t ever change that so what does he do?  He tries to make us feel like we are worth less.  He has that dirty $20 bill look at the clean one and whispers, “You’re not worth 20 anymore – you’re dirty – you’re only worth 19.” If they keep listening, pretty soon they feel they are only worth $10, then $5, then $1 and then, sadly, $0. The poor $20 has been told so many times that he’s worth $0 that he actually begins to believe it.

“We cannot get more worth.  A larger house, a better salary, and an impressive investment portfolio may give us more net worth, but our self-worth remains constant.  Getting a new job or not getting a new job, driving an expensive car or driving a used car, wearing new clothes or putting on old clothes will not affect our self-worth, either positively or negatively.  While our self-esteem fluctuates, our self-worth never changes.  Our feelings of self-worth (or the degree to which an understanding of our self-worth is deeply internalized) will vary; but unlike self-esteem, our self-worth is unaffected by the ups and downs of life.  It is a constant power and comfort in our lives.  We change as we recognize – and act upon – this inherent gift, this endowment from God.  But our self-worth is always the same.  The more we realize our intrinsic worth, the less our self-esteem fluctuates, the more we are empowered to change our lives and build our self-esteem.”

–Lloyd D. Newell, The Divine Connection: Understanding Your Inherent Worth [1992], 11

Self worth and self esteem are two very different things.  Self worth never changes – it was set when we were born (it was set to our POTENTIAL, not our starting point).  Our goal in life is to get our self-esteem (how we personally feel about our self worth) to be up as high as our self worth.  It’s not enough to be a $20 bill. We need to feel  like we’re worth $20.

So, how does Satan get us to feel like we are less than we are? Let’s examine three of his methods.

3 Ways to Ruin Your Self Esteem

The Comparison Epidemic

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
–Theodore Roosevelt

By comparing yourself to others and dwelling too much on what they think of you, you are giving away your happiness to other people and letting them control YOUR happiness.  Your self-esteem will go up and down like a bumpy roller-coaster.  One day you’ll be on the top of the world because everyone thinks you’re great – you scored the most goals, you got the highest grade on the test, or you looked the cutest, but the next day you’ll be on the bottom because you said something dumb.  You will never be truly happy if you compare yourself to others.  You will always find someone better which will make you feel worse.

“Have you ever thought: ‘I’m not very important so what I say or do will never really be noticed? What can I offer that will make any difference? What can I do that will truly help others, cause their lives to be different, to be better? Do I actually have any worthwhile talents? Is there anything I can do to reach another in need? I’m not that special. If I don’t help, someone else will come along and do a better job than I can do.’

One of the greatest challenges is to overcome the feeling that we are unimportant, that we are not special and unique. Do you think for a moment that Heavenly Father would have sent one of His children to this earth by accident, without the possibility of a significant work to perform?

My dear friends, you are a royal generation. You were preserved to come to the earth in this time for a special purpose. Not just a few of you, but all of you. There are things for each of you to do that no one else can do as well as you. If you do not prepare to do them, they will not be done. Your mission is unique and distinctive for you. Please don’t make another have to take your place. He or she can’t do it as well as you can. If you will let Him, I testify that our Father in Heaven will walk with you through the journey of life and inspire you to know your special purpose here.”
–H. Burke Peterson, “Your Life Has a Purpose,” New Era, May 1979, 4

God made all of us different on purpose. Each of us has unique talents, abilities, and personal missions He needs us to fulfill. We are not here by accident! God has a great work for each of us to perform. We have things to say, share, do, and people to help that no one else can help as well as we can. Instead of looking around at all the wonderful things people around us are doing, it’s time to look inside of us and figure out what God-given gifts we have that we should be sharing!

“By comparing yourself to others, you limit yourself to being only as excellent as they may be and in so doing, prevent yourself from achieving a higher level of accomplishment that you never knew possible. Let others be guides, not goals!”
–Stephanie Trevino

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Wouldn’t it be tragic if God made an oak tree, and instead of the oak tree rising to the great heights apple-693971_1280it was meant to attain and sheltering the animals it was meant to protect, it spent its whole life trying to become like an apple tree? The oak tree would die hunched over and feeling like a failure its whole life!

Albert Einstein taught this same principle only he used a fish instead of a tree.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Developing Higher Self-esteem

An incredible book that we treasure at my house is You Are Special by Max Lucado. It’s a story about a village of wooden people called Wemmicks. Every day they go around and give each other gray dots or golden stars. You get a golden star if you can do amazing things and you get gray dots if you mess up, look funny, or don’t measure up. The main character, Punchinello, gets a lot of gray dots. One day he meets a Wemmick who has no dots or stars. He wants to be like her. Luckily, she shares her secret with him. Every day, she goes to see the Woodcarver (their creator).

Punchinello musters up the courage to go and see him too and it is a touching, beautiful story of God’s love and the power of realizing our self worth. Punchinello is worried that the Woodcarver will be disappointed with all the gray dots he has accumulated, but the woodcarver tenderly explains that he doesn’t care what the other Wemmicks think and that Punchinello shouldn’t either. “Who are they to give dots or stars? They are Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn’t matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special.”

Punchinello goes on to ask him why the gray dots or stars won’t stick to Lucia. The woodcarver explains, “Because she has decided that what I think is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them….The stickers only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers.”

Now, I was super impressed that the gray dots wouldn’t stick to Lucia. It wasn’t that the Wemmicks didn’t try to give her gray dots; they just wouldn’t stick to her! That proves that we have control over our reactions. We can choose not to be offended.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
–Eleanor Roosevelt

But why didn’t the golden stars stick to her? Aren’t stars a good thing? Shouldn’t we give stars to people? I finally realized that the stars didn’t stick to her because she didn’t NEED them to feel good about herself. It’s not that we should reject every compliment and thank you card we get – those are very much appreciated, but we shouldn’t need them to feel of worth.

Great danger awaits those whose self esteem is so low that they rely on outside sources to feel good about themselves. These people will do anything to get a star. I taught high school and I loved my teenagers, but my heart ached for those who started drinking or smoking or doing other things they knew to be wrong in order to get a star.

The secret to our self-esteem matching the level of our self worth (feeling like 20 bucks =) is coming to know for ourselves that God loves us and that He thinks we are awesome. If someone comes along and tells us we are stupid, we can respond, “I am a child of God and He thinks I’m smart. Which voices are we going to believe? Other people who have lived 10-100 years or an all-powerful, eternal being?

Nephi, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, was not a carpenter, but he was commanded to build a ship. His brothers mocked him and said he couldn’t do it, but God had told him he could. Who was Nephi going to believe – God or his brothers? He chose God. Nephi performed miracles because he knew who he was.

Romans chapter 8 is basically Paul trying to prove to the Romans how much God loves them! Look at these incredible verses

16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

We are God’s children. The Holy Ghost testifies of this powerful truth to us!

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God

God is always doing what’s best for us. If He wasn’t, He wouldn’t be God. Even “bad” things can turn into glorious things when we place our trust in Him and patiently wait. 

31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

All things are possible with God’s help. He is more powerful than any of our enemies or trails.

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

God delights in blessing us and granting the righteous desires of our hearts.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

Once we truly understand we are a child of God, we begin to see other people differently. They are also children of God and how hurt He must feel if we are mean to one of them! We were sent here to help each other up, not tear each other down.

We can’t control whether people like us or not or what they think about us. We can’t MAKE anyone like us. We can try to influence it by being kind, but ultimately, whether they like us or not is THEIR decision. It is foolish to base our happiness off of someone else’s choices.

We can’t control how much someone loves us, but we can control how much we love them. Forget about if other people love you or not. Focus on loving them – whether they deserve it or not. As you develop this gift of charity, to love as Christ loves, you will become more forgiving, understanding, patient, compassionate, sympathetic, and judge less. Life will be infinitely better because YOU have become a better person whether people around you have changed or not.

“Be one who nurtures and who builds. Be one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart, who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them. If we could look in to each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently.”
–Marvin J. Ashton

We never know what trials and heartaches another person is facing, so it is so unfair to judge them. Assume that everyone is doing their absolute best and be ready to lend a helping hand, especially if someone is unkind. If they are unkind, it’s a sign that their cup of sadness is overflowing and they need, more than ever, someone to be kind to them. Be so worried about improving yourself that you don’t have time to criticize other people. And remember that the only person you should compare yourself to is yourself.

 “If you continuously compete with others, you become bitter, but if you continuously compete with yourself, you become better.”

SIN

How does Satan want us to react when we have sinned? He whispers, “Give up. You know you’re just going to mess up again so why keep trying? There’s no way God can love you any more. You’ve messed up way too many times…” These negative, despairing thoughts never come from God.

“The discouraging idea that a mistake (or even a series of them) makes it everlastingly too late, does not come from the Lord. He has said that if we will repent, not only will He forgive us our transgressions, but He will forget them and remember our sins no more.” (See Isa. 43:25; Heb. 8:12; Heb. 10:17; D&C 58:42; Alma 36:19.)
–Elder Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 1989

How does God want us to react after we’ve sinned? He wants us to feel godly sorrow – be sad that we’ve sinned, but be determined to do better. God wants us to repent, learn from our mistakes, and move on! We shouldn’t dwell on our mistakes and beat ourselves up for what a rotten, terrible person we are. That is what Satan wants us to do! God motivates us to feel,  “I can do better! I want to do better! I will do better!” It is a positive feeling. Don’t dwell on the sin – dwell on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness and healing that will come to you as you fully repent, learn, and progress. Never give in to Satan’s lie that you have sinned too often and too much for God to love you.

…however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines… there is nothing that you have done that cannot be undone. There is no problem which you cannot overcome. There is no dream that in the unfolding of time and eternity cannot yet be realized. Even if you feel you are the lost and last laborer of the eleventh hour, the Lord of the vineyard still stands beckoning. “Come boldly [to] the throne of grace,” and fall at the feet of the Holy One of Israel. Come and feast “without money and without price” at the table of the Lord.
–Elder Holland, “The Laborers in the Vineyard,” Ensign, May 2012

Negative Self Talk

What if you got up every morning and told yourself, “I am stupid.” How would you feel after four weeks? I bet you would feel pretty stupid. What if you got up every morning and said, “I am gifted at coming up with solutions to problems.” I bet you would feel pretty smart after four weeks.

The Wemmicks were constantly giving gray dots to each other, but sometimes we don’t even need a gray dot from someone else to feel crappy because we give so many to ourselves! We would never go up to someone and say, “You are ugly” but we don’t even hesitate to say that to ourselves.

How do we stop the negative self talk? One powerful tool is affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements that help shape our beliefs of who we are or who we want to become. I had my teenage students fold a paper in half. On one side, I had them list 5 negative things they said to themselves. On the other side, I had them change these negative statements into positive statements. Here are a few examples:

I have no friendspositive-954797_1920 -> I am a friendly person who reaches out to others

I am ugly -> I am a beautiful daughter of God with a light that shines

I am worthless -> I am a child of God with infinite worth

I have a temper -> I am a patient person who listens and understands before speaking

Recipe for Self-esteem

Scripture Pancake #1: Ezra Taft Benson gave us the key ingredients we need to have a healthy, high self-esteem: “If we loveGod, do his will, and fear His judgment more than men’s, we will have self-esteem.”

Scripture Pancake #2: “The more we realize our intrinsic worth, the less our self-esteem fluctuates, the more we are empowered to change our lives and build our self-esteem.” (Lloyd D. Newell)

What are some things you’ve done (or some things you have taught to your children) that have built up your (or their) self-esteem? Comment below!