Thursday, April 16, 2015

Alma 38:10-12 -- On Diligence, Temperance, and Choice

"And now, as ye have begun to teach the word even so I would that ye should continue to teach; and I would that ye would be diligent and temperate in all things.
See that ye are not lifted up unto pride; yea, see that ye do not boast in your own wisdom, nor of your much strength.
Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness."
Alma 38:10-12

I thought this was interesting today in terms of things that the Lord teaches us.  Alma is instructing his son Shiblon in this chapter, and he mentions some gospel principles that are directly applicable to our lives.  Diligence and temperance are very important things.  Diligence is basically learning to work and to be dedicated and follow through on things.  That matters in almost everything that we do.  And temperance, which is self-restraint, is massively important in almost everything as well.  Alma goes on to discuss some examples.  He talks about pride and boastfulness as examples of overdoing it.  This I think applies to both diligence *and* temperance.
With diligence, I think sometimes we get it into our heads that intelligence and talent is all inborn, and whether we are good or bad at something is going to stay the same throughout our lives.  And so it often is in society, when we believe that, we make it happen.  But as in everything else, God shows us a more excellent way.  Some types of intelligence and talent may be inborn, sure... but our willingness to keep trying and our openness to learning new things can matter much more than that inborn capacity in actual practice.  Just because something is harder for us than something else doesn't mean we should give up and stop learning it.  It just means that we need to work harder and try a little bit more.  We all have strengths and weaknesses, but that shouldn't stop us from making our own choices about what we want to learn and do.  With God and some effort, we can make weaknesses into strengths.
With temperance, I think we start with some of the same misconceptions.  We think that our urges and desires control us... that our emotions just happen and we can't do anything about it.  In fact sometimes we think that expressing them (often "at" other people) is a healthy way to release tension.  But again, God shows us a more excellent way.  Alma explains in these verses that we should be bold.  We should have opinions and be willing to share and express them.  But we shouldn't take it too far.  We need to not be overbearing and restrict other people's ability to express themselves.  Expressing ourselves and respecting and listening to others when *they* do so are both good things.  We need to bridle our passions.  And yes, sure, some instincts and desires are inborn, just as intelligence and talent can be.  But those things don't have to, and most of the time should not, control us.  We still, with God's help, have the opportunity to control (or bridle) those things and be who we want to be, not just turn into the result of each instinctual response.  Just as we teach children how to have some patience or sit still, we can teach ourselves similar restraint in whatever emotion or desire we encounter in our lives.  Alma tells us that controlling our emotions and desires in this way leaves room for us to be filled with love.
Alma's final admonition to refrain from idleness probably applies to both diligence and temperance.  If we have something to accomplish, we probably should get to it, and if we are working to combat an undesired emotion, often engaging in a distracting activity (like that thing we should accomplish) will help us get our minds on something else.  Today, let's work on not being controlled by our perception of our inborn traits that we wear like a straitjacket.  Let's choose who we want to be, and remember that we *can* change our minds, hearts, talents, and emotions with God's help and some work. :)

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