Be 100 Percent Responsible | Elder Lynn G. Robbins
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Be 100 Percent Responsible | Elder Lynn G. Robbins

Brothers and Sisters,
I am grateful to be with you in this opening session of
the 2017 BYU Education week. This year’s theme comes from
Doctrine and Covenants 50:24, with special emphasis
on these words: “…And he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light;…” I’m going to take
a different approach on this theme
than might be expected, by exposing and illustrating
some very cunning and effective ways
that the “wicked one” prevents people from progressing
and receiving more light. Many gospel principles
come in pairs, meaning one is incomplete
without the other. I want to refer to three
of these doctrinal pairs today: The first, agency and responsibility. Mercy and justice. Faith and works. When Satan is successful
in dividing doctrinal pairs, he begins to wreak havoc
upon mankind. It is one of his most cunning
strategies to keep people from growing in the light. You already know
that faith without works really isn’t faith. My primary focus will be on the
other two doctrinal pairs: first, to illustrate how avoiding
responsibility affects agency, and second,
how “denying justice,” as it is referred to
in the Book of Mormon, affects mercy. The Book of Mormon teaches us
that we are agents to “act, and not be acted
upon”- or to be “free to act for ourselves.” This freedom of choice was
not a gift of partial agency, but complete and total
100% agency. It was absolute in the sense
that the one perfect parent never forces his children. He shows us the way,
and may even command us, but “nevertheless, thou mayest
choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee.” Assuming responsibility
and being accountable for our choices are agency’s
complementary principles. Responsibility is
to recognize ourselves as being the cause for the
effects or results of our
choices- good or bad. On the negative side,
it is to always own up to the consequences of poor
choices. Except for those held innocent,
such as little children and the intellectually disabled,
gospel doctrine teaches us that each person is responsible
for the use of their agency and will be “punished
for their own sins.” It isn’t just a
heavenly principle, but a law of nature-
we reap what we sow. Logically then,
complete and total agency comes with complete
and total responsibility. “And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.” One of Satan’s most crafty
strategies to gain control of our agency isn’t
a frontal attack on agency, but a sneaky backdoor assault
on responsibility. Without responsibility,
every good gift from God could be misused
for evil purposes. Freedom of speech
without responsibility can be used to create and
protect pornography, The rights of a woman
can be twisted to justify an unnecessary abortion. When the world separates choice
from accountability, it leads to anarchy
and a war of wills or survival of the fittest. We could call agency
without responsibility the Korihor principle,
as we read in the Book of Alma, “…that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime.” With negative consequences
removed you now have agency unbridled,
as if there were no day of reckoning. If Satan is not successful
in fully separating agency from responsibility,
one of his backup schemes is to dull or minimize feelings
of responsibility- what we could call
the Nehor principle, also found in the Book of Alma, “that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble…for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.” What an attractive offer
for those who seek happiness in wickedness! The Nehor principle depends
entirely on mercy and denies justice,
or a separation of the second doctrinal pair
aforementioned. Denying justice is a twin
of avoiding responsibility. They are essentially
the same thing. A common strategy of each
Book of Mormon anti-Christ was to separate agency
from responsibility. “Eat, drink, and be merry;
nevertheless, fear God- he will justify in
committing a little sin.” Faith without works;
mercy without justice; and agency
without responsibility are all different verses of the
same seductive and damning song. With each, the natural man
rejects accountability in an attempt
to sedate his conscience. It is similar to the
early 16th century practice of paying for indulgences,
but much easier- this way it is free! No wonder the broad path
is filled with so many- it parades a guilt-free journey
to salvation, but is, in reality,
a cleverly disguised detour to destruction. Agency without responsibility
is one of the foremost
anti-Christ doctrines, very cunning in its nature and very destructive
in its results. To illustrate,
I want to share a list of things that Satan tempts people
to either say or do to avoid being responsible. This list isn’t all inclusive,
but I believe it covers his most common tactics. I begin with:
Blaming others, such as when Saul disobediently
took of the spoils of war from the Amalekites,
and then when confronted by Samuel,
blamed the people. Number two: Saul then
rationalized or justified his disobedience, stating that the saved livestock
was “to sacrifice unto the Lord.” Third on the list are excuses,
which come in a thousand varieties,
such as this one from Laman and Lemuel:
“How is it possible that the Lord will deliver
Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man,
and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty;
then why not us?” Next is to minimize
or trivialize sin, which is exactly what
Nehor advocated. To hide is
a common avoidance technique, a tactic Satan used with Adam
and Eve after they partook of the forbidden fruit. Closely associated with hide
is to cover up, which David attempted to do
to conceal his affair with Bathsheba. Next is to flee
from responsibility- something Jonah tried to do. To abandon responsibility
is similar, such as when Corianton
forsook his ministry in pursuit of the harlot Isabel. Next on the list is
to deny or lie. “And Saul said,
I have performed the commandment of the Lord. And Samuel said,
What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep
in mine ears?” To rebel-
Samuel then rebukes Saul, “For rebellion and because
thou hast rejected the word of the Lord,
he hath also rejected thee from being king.” One who rebels also complains
and murmurs. “And all the children of Israel
murmured against Moses and said,
Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt!” Find fault and get angry are
closely associated. “And it came to pass
that Laman was angry with me, and also with my father;
and also was Lemuel.” That leads to making demands
and entitlements: “We will not
that our younger brother shall be a ruler over us. And it came to pass
that Laman and Lemuel did take me
and bind me with cords, and they did treat me
with much harshness.” Next is to begin doubting,
losing hope, giving up, and quitting. “‘Our brother is a fool,’
for they did not believe that I could build a ship.” Self-pity and
the victim mentality are very common:
“Behold, these many years we have suffered
in the wilderness, which time
we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land
of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy.” Next is indecision,
or being in a spiritual stupor. The irony with indecision is
“if you don’t make decisions in time, time will make
the decision for you.” And a twin of indecision is
is to procrastinate- “But behold,
your days of probation are past;
ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until
it is everlastingly too late.” Fear is one related to hide-
“And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent
in the earth. His lord answered
and said unto him, Thou wicked and
slothful servant.” And the final one I’m going
to mention here is to enable, or helping others
to avoid responsibility, such as when Eli failed
to discipline his sons for their grievous sins
and was rebuked by the Lord – “Wherefore kick ye at my
sacrifice and honourest thy
sons above me?” When you consider this list with Laman and Lemuel in mind,
they were guilty of nearly everything
on the list. It is this list
that destroyed them. It is an extremely
dangerous list. When reading 1 Nephi
and 2 Nephi, we can only try to imagine
how difficult it was for the members of Lehi’s family
to leave their home; to obtain the brass plates;
to camp out for eight years in the wilderness; and to build a large
ocean-going vessel. The responsibility
that faced the family was indeed, formidable. Yet, as difficult as
a responsibility may be, “difficulty is the one excuse
that history never accepts,” as so graphically illustrated
in the case of Laman and Lemuel. Difficult situations are the
test of one’s faith, to see if we will go forward
with either a believing heart or a doubting heart,
if at all. A difficult situation reveals
a person’s character and either strengthens it,
as with Nephi, or weakens and corrupts it,
as with Laman and Lemuel, who epitomize what it means
to be irresponsible. It is important to recognize that excuses never
equal results. In the case of Laman and Lemuel,
all the excuses in the world could never get those plates. The reason Nephi
obtained the plates and Laman and Lemuel didn’t is
because Nephi never went to the anti-responsibility list. He was a champion, and champions
don’t turn to the list. As Elder David B. Haight of
the Quorum of the Twelve stated, “A determined man finds a way;
the other man finds an excuse.” If the anti-responsibility
list is so dangerous, why do so many people
frequently turn to it? Because the natural man
is irresponsible by nature, he goes to the list as a
defense mechanism to avoid shame and
embarrassment, stress and anxiety, and the pain and negative
consequences of mistakes and sin. Rather than repent
to eliminate guilt, he sedates it with excuses. It gives him a false sense
that his environment or someone else is to blame and therefore he has no
need to repent. The anti-responsibility list
could also be called the anti-faith list because it halts progress dead
in its tracks. When Satan tempts a person to
avoid responsibility, they subtly surrender
their agency, because the person is no longer
in control or “acting;” rather, they become objects
who are being acted upon, and Satan cleverly begins to
control their life. It is important to note that
everyone occasionally fails in their attempts at success,
just as Nephi did with his brothers in their first
two trips to Jerusalem trying to obtain the plates. But the valiant accept
responsibility for their mistakes and sins. They repent,
get back on their feet, and continue moving forward
in faith. They may give an explanation
or a reason for their lack of success, but not an excuse. At first glance it may
appear that Adam is blaming Eve when he said,
” The woman thou gavest me.” However,
when Adam subsequently adds, “and I did eat,”
we are given to understand that he accepted responsibility
for his actions and was giving an explanation,
not blaming Eve. And Eve in turn also said,
“and I did eat.” Turning to the
anti-responsibility list is an act of self-betrayal. It is to give up on oneself
and sometimes others. As I share
the following stories, I hope you will observe
how going to the anti-responsibility list
is counterproductive, even if you are right. Story number one: the
Distribution Center. In 1983,
a few partners and I started a new company which taught
time-management seminars and created and
sold Day-Planners. For corporate seminars,
we sent our consultants to the client’s headquarters,
where they taught at the corporate
training facilities. Prior to the seminar,
two employees in our distribution center would
prepare and ship several boxes of
training materials such as the Day-Planner,
binders and forms. Included was a participant’s
seminar guide book of around a hundred pages with quotes, fill-in-the blanks,
graphs and illustrations. The two distribution center
employees would normally send the seminar shipment 10 days
before the seminar. At the time the following
incident occurred, we were teaching around 250
seminars each month. With so many seminar shipments, these two employees
would often commit errors such as not shipping
sufficient quantities, or omitting certain materials,
or not shipping on time. This became an irritating, and often embarrassing,
frustration for the consultants. When these problems occurred,
the seminar division would file a complaint with me, as the distribution center was
one of my responsibilities. When I spoke with these two
employees about errors and system improvements, they never wanted to accept
responsibility for the errors. They would blame others,
saying things like, “It’s not our fault–
the seminar division filled out the Seminar Supplies Request
form incorrectly and we sent the shipment exactly according
to their specifications. It’s their fault. You can’t blame us!” Or they might say, “We shipped it on time,
but the freight company delivered it late. You can’t blame us!” Another excuse was “The binder subsidiary packaged
the individual seminar kits with errors, and we shipped
the kits as they were given to us –
it’s their fault.” It seemed these two employees
were never responsible for the errors
and so the errors continued. Then something
critical happened. The Director of Training for a large multi-national
corporation attended one of our seminars and was so thrilled with it
that she invited us to teach a pilot seminar to its fifty
or so top executives. On the day of the seminar,
our consultant arrived and opened the boxes of
materials and discovered that the seminar guidebooks
were missing. Without the seminar guidebook, how would the participants
follow along and take notes? Their training director
was panic-stricken. Our consultant did the best
he could by making sure each participant was given a pad
of paper on which to take notes throughout the day
and the seminar turned out reasonably well
even without the guidebook. Extremely embarrassed and angry,
their training director called our seminar division
and said, “You will never
teach here again! How could you have made
such an embarrassing and inexcusable error
with our pilot seminar?!” An upset Sr. Vice President of
our seminar division called me: “This is the last straw —
we are just about to lose a million dollar account
because of the distribution
center’s errors. We simply can’t tolerate
any more errors!” As one of the owners
of the company, I couldn’t tolerate
such errors either. At the same time,
I did not want to see these two breadwinners fired. After pondering
possible solutions, I decided to implement
an incentive system to motivate these two men
to be more careful. For each seminar shipped
correctly they would receive one additional dollar,
or a possibility of an extra $250 each month –
hopefully enough to focus their attention on quality. However, if they made one error,
a $1.00 penalty wasn’t much of a loss. I therefore decided to also
include two $100.00 bonuses for no errors. With the first error,
they not only lost one dollar, but the first $100 bonus. If they made a second error,
they lost the second $100 bonus. I also told them,
“If there is an error, you will lose your bonus,
regardless of where that error originates. You are 100% responsible
for the shipment.” “That’s not fair,”
they responded. “What happens if the seminar
division fills out the Seminar Supply Request form
incorrectly and, not knowing, we send the shipment
with ‘their’ errors?” I said,
“You will lose your bonus. You are 100% responsible for
that shipment’s success.” “That’s not fair! What happens if we send
the shipment on time, but the freight company
delivers it late?” “You will lose your bonus. You are 100% responsible.” “That’s not fair! What happens if the binder
division commits errors in pre-packaging
the individual seminar kits? You can’t blame us
for their mistakes!” “You will lose your bonus,”
I once again responded. “You are 100% responsible
for that shipment’s success – do you understand?” “THAT ISN’T FAIR!” “Well, it may not seem fair,
but that’s life – you will lose your bonus.” What I did was to eliminate
the anti-responsibility list as an option for them. They now understood that they
could no longer blame, make excuses or justify errors –
even when they were right and it was someone else’s fault! What happened next was
fascinating to observe. When they would receive an
order from the seminar division, they would call the seminar
division to review the form item by item. They took responsibility
for correcting any errors committed by the seminar
division. They began to read the
freight company’s documents to make sure the correct
delivery date was entered. They began to mark the
cardboard shipping boxes “1 of 7” “2 of 7,” etc.
with the box’s contents written on the outside of the box. They began sending shipments
3 or 4 days earlier than their previous routine. A few days before the seminar,
they would call the client company to verify receipt of
the shipment and the contents. If they somehow omitted
any materials, they had 3 or 4 extra days to
send missing items by express shipment. Errors finally stopped
and they began to earn their bonus month after month. It was a life-changing
experience for them to learn firsthand the power,
control, and reward of being 100% responsible. What these two employees learned
is that when they blamed someone else,
they were surrendering control of the shipment’s
success to others- the seminar division,
or the freight company, etc. They learned that excuses
keep you from taking control of your life. They learned
that it is self-defeating to blame, make excuses,
or justify mistakes, even when you are right! The moment you do any of
these self-defeating things you lose control over the
positive outcomes you are seeking. Story number two: putting my marriage before my pride. I quote: “Like any couple,
my husband and I have had disagreements
during our marriage. But one incident stands out
in my mind. I no longer recall the reason
for our disagreement, but we ended up
not speaking at all, and I remember feeling
that it was all my husband’s fault. I felt I had done absolutely
nothing for which I needed
to apologize. As the day went by,
I waited for my husband to say he was sorry. Surely he could see
how wrong he was. It must be obvious how much
he had hurt my feelings. I felt I had to stand up
for myself; it was the principle
that mattered. As the day was drawing
to a close, I started to realize
that I was waiting in vain, so I went to the Lord in prayer. I prayed that my husband
would realize what he had done and how it was hurting
our marriage. I prayed that he would be
inspired to apologize so we could end our disagreement. As I was praying,
I felt a strong impression that I should go to my
husband and apologize to him. I was a bit shocked by this
impression and immediately pointed out in my prayer
that I had done nothing wrong and therefore should not
have to say I was sorry. A thought came strongly
to my mind: ‘Do you want to be right,
or do you want to be married?’ As I considered this question,
I realized that I could hold on to my pride and not give in
until he apologized, but how long would that take? Days? I was miserable while we
weren’t speaking to each other. I understood that while this
incident itself wouldn’t be the end of our marriage,
if I were always unyielding, that might cause serious
damage over the years. I decided it was more
important to have a happy,
loving marriage than to keep
my pride intact over something that would later seem trivial. I went to my husband and
apologized for upsetting him. He also apologized,
and soon we were happy and united again in love. Since that time there have
been occasions when I have needed to ask
myself that question again: ‘Do you want to be right,
or do you want to be married?’ How grateful I am for the
great lesson I learned the first time I faced
that question. It has always helped me
realign my perspective and put my husband
and my marriage before my own pride.” In this story,
the sister learned that even if she may
have been right and it was her husband’s fault, blaming him
was counterproductive, causing her to lose control
over positive outcomes. She also discovered
there is power and control in the expression “I’m sorry”
when used with love unfeigned and empathy,
not merely to excuse ourselves. In a marriage,
a 50% attitude on both parts may seem logical,
but only a 100% attitude on both parts closes the door
to the anti-responsibility list. A final lesson
this sister learned is that you cannot control
the agency of another person- only your own. A loving mother once gave
the following wise counsel to her daughter,
who was unhappy with a struggling marriage. She had the daughter
draw a vertical line down the middle of a sheet of paper
and write down on the left side all the things her husband did
that bothered her. Then on the right side
she had her write down her response to each offense. The mother then had her cut
the paper in half separating the two lists. “Now throw the paper with
your husband’s faults “in the garbage. “If you want to be happy
and improve your marriage, “stop focusing
on your husband’s faults “and focus instead
on your own behavior. “Examine the way
you are responding “to the things that bother you
and see if you can respond in a different, more
positive way.” This mother understood
the power and wisdom of 100% responsibility. The Savior was the most
responsible person in the history of the world. Even in His moments of
excruciating pain and anguish, He showed no self-pity,
one of the dysfunctional items on the list. He was always thinking outward
with his ever-selfless care and concern for others;
restoring a soldier’s ear in Gethsemane and later,
on the cross praying for those who despitefully used
him in fulfillment of his own commandment to do so: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” The more we are like
Jesus Christ, the less likely we are
to judge unrighteously, to give up on someone,
or to quit a worthy cause. Even though we sometimes
give up on ourselves, the Savior never gives up on us,
because He is perfect in His long-suffering-
“Notwithstanding their sins, my bowels are filled
with compassion towards them.” He did not come to find fault,
criticize, or blame. He came to build up, edify,
and save. However, His compassion
doesn’t nullify His expectation that we be fully responsible
and never try to minimize or justify sin. “For I the Lord cannot look
upon sin with the least degree
of allowance.” If the Lord cannot look upon sin
with even the least degree of allowance,
what law of the gospel demands complete and full
responsibility for sin? That would be the law
of justice. “What, do ye suppose that mercy
can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay;
not one whit. If so, God would cease
to be God.” Not in the “least degree” and
not “one whit” are other ways of saying that God holds
His children 100% responsible for the use of their agency. The danger of the
anti-responsibility list consists in the fact
that it blinds its victims to the need for repentance. Laman and Lemuel, for example,
didn’t see a need to repent because it was all Nephi’s
fault. “If it’s not my fault,
why should I repent?” The one blinded can’t even
take the first step in the repentance process,
which is to recognize the need for repentance. Alma understood very well
how excuses keep us from repenting,
as we discover in this verse where he counsels
his wayward son, Corianton: “What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God…O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.” As we learn from this verse,
those who use excuses are “denying justice,”
the Nehor principle, and believe that
the law of justice doesn’t apply to them. Alma is pleading with his son
not to go to the list. “Do not endeavor to excuse
yourself in the least point .” He was teaching his son
to be 100% responsible. To deny God’s justice,
or to say we are not accountable for sin, is to also deny His
justification in the forgiveness of that sin: “…the Lord surely should come to redeem his people but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.” Satan successfully divides
the complementary principles of mercy and justice
when a person succumbs to the temptation to deny
the Lord’s justice. Denying the Lord’s justice
comes in at least two forms. The first, already mentioned,
is to deny the law of justice in regards to one’s own sins,
something both Korihor and
Nehor advocated. A second,
and equally damaging denial, is not trusting
in the Lord’s justice or His wisdom in dealing with
the injustices of others perpetrated against us. In the masterfully written
classic, The Count of Monte Cristo
by Alexandre Dumas, Edmond Dantès, the protagonist,
is an honest and loving man who turns bitter and vengeful
after three covetous men bear false witness against him
and frame him in a treasonous plot. When a corrupt public prosecutor
becomes complicit, Dantès is arrested on the
very day he is to be married to his beautiful fiancée,
Mercedes. At age 19 he is given
a life sentence in the infamous island prison
of the Chateau d’If for a crime he did not commit. After many tortuous years
in solitary confinement, he finally meets
another prisoner, the elderly Abbe Faria,
who in his search for freedom has miscalculated
and tunneled his way to Dantes’ cell rather than
to an outside wall and freedom. With a tunnel connecting
their cells, and nothing but time
on their hands, Faria begins to teach Dantès
history, science, philosophy, and languages,
turning him into a well-educated man. Faria also bequeaths to Dantès
a treasure of vast wealth hidden on the uninhabited
island of Monte Cristo, and tells him how to find it
should he ever escape. Knowing that vengeance could
consume and destroy Dantès, the Abbe Faria teaches him
a final lesson before he dies: to not deny the Lord’s justice. “Do not commit the crime for
which you now serve the sentence. God said,
‘Vengeance is mine.'” “I don’t believe in God,”
Dantès responds. “It doesn’t matter. He believes in you.” Dantès remains unconvinced. Upon the death of Faria,
Dantès devises a clever plan by hiding himself
in the death shroud of Faria, and is finally able to escape
his fourteen years of torment from the Chateau d’If. After securing the treasure
he becomes extremely wealthy, and assumes a new identity
as the Count of Monte Cristo. For the evil men
who conspired against him, he devises an elaborate plan
of revenge with a painful and prolonged
punishment, a just recompense for the fourteen years he barely
survived in the dungeon to which they unjustly sent him. With precision,
Dantès sets in motion his plan and his enemies suffer
the punishment which he has carefully devised
for each of them. When we read the book,
or watch the movie version of The Count of Monte Cristo ,
there is something in us that wants to see justice served against those cruel
and conspiring men who inflicted
so much pain on an innocent man. There is a sense of fairness
and desire in each of us that good must prevail over
evil, that things lost
must be restored, and that broken hearts
must be mended. Until these things happen,
there is an injustice gap that is hard for us
to reconcile in our minds, even more so in our hearts,
leaving us troubled, and finding it difficult
to move on. People try to reconcile this
injustice gap in many ways: through revenge;
justifying their anger and bitterness;
or seeking legal redress and imposed consequences. We ultimately discover
that the Lord’s way is the only way for true
and complete reconciliation. The error of Dantès was
not necessarily seeking redress and justice according to
the law of the land, and bringing devious facts
to light with appropriate penalties for the guilty,
but in letting his desire for justice turn to hatred
and anger, self-pity, self-justification and other
disabling behaviors on our not-responsible list. He essentially descended
to his enemies’ level of ungodliness and used
deception, lies, and fraud to entrap them,
all outside the lawful process, just as they had done to him
and just as the Abbe Faria had prophesied. By relying on the law of Moses, an eye for an eye and a
tooth for a tooth, rather than on the
law of the gospel, including forgiving
and “praying for one’s enemies,” Dantès imposed a
life sentence of misery and bitterness
upon himself. In denying the Lord’s justice
for others, he unwittingly denied
the Lord’s mercy for himself, and chose to serve the sentence
that Christ had already served in his behalf. It robbed him
of a life of happiness that could have been his,
but for the want of revenge. Having faith in Jesus Christ
is to trust that because of His atoning sacrifice
He will correct all injustices, restore all things lost,
and mend all things broken, including hearts. He will make all things right, not leaving any
detail unattended. Therefore,
“ye ought to say in your hearts, let God judge between me
and thee, and reward thee according
to thy deeds.” Like Edmond Dantès,
many victims have been so cruelly injured,
such as in abuse cases, with no apparent justice
forthcoming, that they felt like the Lord
was requiring the impossible in asking them to forgive. As hard as forgiving
may be in such situations, not forgiving is even harder
over the long run because it puts a person on the disabling
anti-responsible list. Not forgiving is a synonym
with blaming, anger, self-justifying,
and self-pity, all things on the list. When Satan taps into any
of these negative emotions, he begins exercising control
over their life. Even if they’re right. One of the most difficult
times to forgive is in the case of spouse abuse,
with the anguish and pain of betrayal and cruelty. There is a common pattern
with abuse cases- the abuser nearly always
blames the victim, just as Laman and Lemuel
blamed Nephi for their abuse of him. To protect himself
and his family, the Lord inspired Nephi
to separate his family from his brothers
and their wicked intentions. Let’s assume that a woman
who has been cruelly abused receives similar revelation, and she separates from her
extremely abusive husband. Even though the abused woman
is now free from the abusive environment,
she is finding it hard to forgive him for the sustained
and escalating cruelty. It seems unjust to ask her
to forgive his brutality when he is unrepentant. It doesn’t seem fair for her,
the innocent one, to be suffering while he,
the guilty one, appears to get off scot-free. Is there peace to be found
without justice? Like Edmond Dantès, until the abused wife learns to
forgive, she is also denying (or not trusting in)
the justice of God and His ability to judge wisely. “Justice,” we read in the
Guide to the Scriptures, “is an eternal law that requires a penalty each time a law of God is broken. The sinner must pay the penalty if he does not repent. If he does repent, the Savior pays the penalty through the Atonement, invoking mercy. If the former husband does not repent, he will pay the penalty,
“how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not,
yea, how hard to bear you know not.” She will know
if he truly repents, because his restitution will
include humbly and sincerely asking for her forgiveness
and striving to make amends. Even though she may
understand the law of justice, what she is feeling is the
need for justice now. Elder Neal A. Maxwell
wisely taught that… “Faith in God includes faith in His purposes as well as in His timing. We cannot fully accept Him while rejecting His schedule.” “The Gospel guarantees ultimate, not proximate, justice.” “Behold, mine eyes see
and know all their works, and I have in reserve
a swift judgment in the season thereof,
for them all.” The law of justice and
trusting in the Lord’s timing allows her not to worry
about justice anymore, but places judgment
in God’s hands. “Behold what the scripture says-
man shall not smite, neither shall he judge;
for judgment is mine, saith the Lord,
and vengeance is mine also, and I will repay.” Elder Jeffery R. Holland
shares this helpful insight: “Please don’t ask if it is fair…When it comes to our own sins, we don’t ask for justice. What we plead for is mercy-and that is what we must be willing to give…Can we see the tragic irony of not granting to others what we need so badly ourselves?” Those who have experienced
permanent damage, or prolonged suffering
or loss from an offense, face a far more difficult
challenge in forgiving and turning justice over
to the Lord. Hopefully they can find
comfort in something the
Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “What can these misfortunes do? Nothing. All your losses
will be made up to you in the resurrection,
provided you continue faithful.” Until the abused woman can
turn justice over to the Lord, she will likely continue
to experience feelings of anger, which is a form
of negative devotion towards her abuser and this
traps her in a recurring nightmare. President George Albert Smith
referred to it as “cherishing an
improper influence.” Having hurt her so deeply,
why would she allow him to continue victimizing her
by haunting her thoughts? Hasn’t she suffered enough? Not forgiving her abuser
allows him to mentally torment her
over and over and over. Forgiving him
doesn’t set him free, it sets her free. Part of understanding
forgiveness is to understand what it is not. Forgiving her abusive husband
does not excuse or condone his cruelty. It doesn’t mean
forgetting his brutality. You can’t un-remember
or erase a memory so traumatic. It doesn’t mean that
justice is being denied, because mercy
cannot rob justice. It doesn’t erase the injury
he has caused, but does begin to heal
the wound and ease the pain. It doesn’t mean trusting him
and giving him yet another chance
to abuse her and the children. While forgiving
is a commandment, trust, trust has to
be earned and evidenced by good behavior
over time, which he clearly
has not demonstrated. And it doesn’t mean
forgiveness of his sins. Only the Lord can do that,
based upon sincere repentance. Those are the things
it doesn’t mean. What it does mean is to
forgive his foolishness in succumbing to the impulses
of the natural man, while hoping he will yet
“yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.” It doesn’t mean giving him
another chance to abuse, but does mean giving him
another chance at the Plan of Salvation. It is also helpful if she
understands that men are “punished as much by their
sins as for them.” She then recognizes that her
abuser has inflicted far more eternal damage upon himself
than temporal damage upon her. And even in the present,
his true happiness and joy diminish in inverse proportion
to his increased wickedness, because “wickedness never
was happiness.” He is to be pitied for the sorrowful and precarious
situation he is in. Knowing that he is sinking
in spiritual quicksand might begin to change her desire
for justice, which is already occurring,
to a hope that he will repent before it’s too late. With this understanding she
might even pray for the one who has despitefully abused her. This Christlike change
in her heart helps her forgive and brings about the healing
she so desperately wants and deserves. The Savior knows exactly
how to heal her because He precisely
knows her pain having lived
it vicariously. In this scenario of the
abused wife, we have two parties:
the abusive husband and the victim-wife,
both of whom need divine help. Alma chapter 7 teaches us that the Savior
suffered for both: for the sins of the man, and for the anguish, heartache,
and pain of the woman. To access the Savior’s grace
and the healing power of His Atonement,
the Savior requires something from both of them. The husband’s key to access
the Lord’s grace is repentance . If he doesn’t repent,
he cannot be forgiven by the Lord. Her key to access
the Lord’s grace and allow Him to heal her is to forgive. Until she is able to forgive,
she is choosing to suffer the anguish and pain which He has already suffered
in her behalf. By not forgiving,
she unwittingly denies His mercy and healing. In a sense, she fulfills the scripture, “I, God, have suffered these things…that they might not suffer…But if they would not repent (or forgive) they must suffer even as I.” In summary,
being 100% responsible is accepting yourself
as the person in control of your life. If others are at fault and
need to change before further progress is made, then you are at their mercy and they are in control
over the positive outcomes or desired results in your life. Agency and responsibility
are inseparably connected. You cannot avoid responsibility
without also diminishing agency. Mercy and justice
are also inseparable: you cannot deny
the Lord’s justice without also impeding His mercy. Oh, how Satan loves to divide
complementary principles and laugh at the resulting
devastation! I invite each of you
to eliminate the anti-responsibility
or anti-faith list from your life,
even when you are right! It is an anti-happy
and an anti-success list even when you are right. It is not a list for the
valiant sons and daughters of God who are
seeking to become more like Him. It is one of Satan’s
foremost tools in controlling and
destroying lives. The day a person eliminates
the list from their life is the day they regain control
over positive outcomes from that point on,
and they begin moving forward in the light at an
accelerated pace. I bear my certain witness of
the name of Jesus Christ and the power and happiness
that the fullness of His gospel affords us. He is the Life and the Light
of the World. The principles that I’ve shared
today are His. I so testify in the name
of Jesus Christ, amen.

About James Carlton

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1 thought on “Be 100 Percent Responsible | Elder Lynn G. Robbins

  1. I been less active for the 3 years since my mission (served a great mission but fell off when I came home) depression warped my sense of reality and satan got a hold of me for a while. Now I'm making my way back, I set up a meeting with bishop this week, being obedient to the commandments, been clean from drugs for the last 2 months, but my goodness, the natural man is so strong! I get so overwhelmed and very bad anxiety but I know I cant be sad about it, this pain from sin I feel is the consequence of forgetting Him. I felt close to the edge and was about to take my own life but Im not going down without a "wrestle".

    I own this pain, I own the loved ones I lost on the way, I own the bad reputation I've gained. I want this so bad and no matter what my friends, family and mission peers may say about me. I will not give up until I'm reunited with God in that Holy Temple again!! Pray for me brothers and sisters. If your struggling let me know and we'll do this together. God bless you all and dont be deceived by the devil. Theres a reason why he's called "cunning".

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