No crooked table legs came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth

Our Saviour Subject to His Parents at Nazareth, by John Rogers Herbert

In nothing has the Church so lost Her hold on reality as in Her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation. She has allowed work and religion to become separate departments, and is astonished to find that, as a result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become irreligious, or at least, uninterested in religion.

But is it astonishing? How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life?  The church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.

Church by all means, and decent forms of amusement, certainly—but what use is all that if in the very center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry? No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. Nor, if they did, could anyone believe that they were made by the same hand that made Heaven and earth. No piety in the worker will compensate for work that is not true to itself; for any work that is untrue to its own technique is a living lie.

Dorothy L. Sayers, Creed or Chaos?, (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949), 56–57.  Quoted by Thomas B. Griffith in “How Do We Practice Our Religion While We Practice?”, Clark Memorandum, Fall, 2004, p. 15.
Image credit: “Our Saviour Subject to His Parents at Nazareth,” by John Rogers Herbert (1810-1890). BYU Museum of Art.

Having faith in the character of the Savior

  President Young observed that real faith requires faith in the Savior’s character, in His Atonement, and in the plan of salvation (in Journal of Discourses, 13:56). The Savior’s character necessarily underwrote His remarkable Atonement. Without His sublime character there could have been no sublime Atonement! His character is such that He went forth “suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” (Alma 7:11), yet He gave temptations “no heed” (D&C 20:22).

C. S. Lewis has said that only those who resist temptation really understand the power of temptation. Because Jesus resisted it perfectly, He understood temptation perfectly; hence He can help us. (See Mere Christianity [1952], 124–25.) The fact that He was dismissive of temptation and gave it “no heed” reveals His marvelous character, which we are to emulate (see 3 Ne. 12:48; 3 Ne. 27:27).

Jesus Christ, who by far suffered the most, has the most compassion—for all of us who suffer so much less. Moreover, He who suffered the most has no self-pity! Even as He endured the enormous suffering associated with the Atonement, He reached out to others in their much lesser suffering. Consider how, in Gethsemane, Jesus, who had just bled at every pore, nevertheless restored an assailant’s severed ear which, given Jesus’ own agony, He might not have noticed! (see Luke 22:50–51).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Enduring Well,” Liahona, Apr 1999, 10

Crossing the chasm that lies between individuals

The “man of Christ” knows that only truth radiant with love can cross the chasm that lies between some individuals who are light-years apart, even though they live under the same roof.

….He is conscious of the past and present injustices, but he knows that real remedies are to be found in contemporary Christian compassion, and not in compensatory justice.

He knows that in leadership cleverness is not as important as content, that charisma and dash are not as vital as character and doctrine.

Neal A. Maxwell, “The Man of Christ,” Ensign, May 1975, 101

Take the scaffolding away and character is what is left

Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s great talk on character, given at the 2002 BYU Women’s Conference and reprinted in the April 2004 Ensign, contains these great thoughts (emphasis added):

Building on His firm foundation requires us to emulate Christ’s character. There is no joy nor is there any security in giving Him mere lip service. Emulating Him is the key, and our emerging character is the refined structure of our souls. After all the circumstantial scaffolding comes down, character is what is left.

Whatever the remaining distance between us and Him, it is ours to travel. The beckoning stepping-stones are there. You have come thus far by faith in Him, though you have “miles to go before [you] sleep,” and your faith will take you even farther.

Righteous character is what you are becoming

Richard G. ScottGod uses your faith to mold your character. Character is the manifestation of what you are becoming. Strong moral character results from consistent correct choices in the trials and testing of life. Your faith can guide you to those correct choices. Clearly, it is what you do and what you think about that determine what you are and what you will become. Therefore, the choices you make need to be inspired by the Lord. Others can encourage you to make the right decisions, but those choices must not be prescribed by them. You need to ponder, pray, and exercise faith to willingly make choices consistent with the teachings of the Master. Such choices are made with trust in things that are believed and when acted upon will be confirmed. Only enough guidance is given to lead you aright and not to weaken your growing character. That guidance will solidify your trust in Heavenly Father and the Savior.

Faith will forge strength of character available to you in times of urgent need. Such character is not developed in moments of great challenge or temptation. That is when it is used. Character is woven patiently from threads of principle, doctrine, and obedience. In James we read: “The trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” The bedrock of character is integrity. Worthy character will strengthen your capacity to obediently respond to the direction of the Spirit. Righteous character is what you are becoming. It is more important than what you own, what you have learned, or what goals you have accomplished. It allows you to be trusted. Righteous character provides the foundation of spiritual strength. It enables you in times of trial and testing to make difficult, extremely important decisions correctly even when they seem overpowering. I testify that neither Satan nor any other power can weaken or destroy your growing character. Only you could do that through disobedience.

Richard G. Scott, “The Sustaining Power of Faith in Times of Uncertainty and Testing,” Ensign, May 2003, 75

Permissiveness never produced greatness

gordon-b-hinckley-1973.jpg “Permissiveness never produced greatness. Integrity, loyalty, and strength are virtues whose sinews are developed through the struggles that go on within as we practice self-discipline under the demands of divinely spoken truth.”

Gordon B. Hinckley, “The True Strength of the Church,” Ensign, Jul 1973, 48; repeated in “‘It’s True, Isn’t It?’,” Ensign, Jul 1993, 2.