Learning Godly virtues

Mortality is a curious thing.

We're here to learn - and there's ample opportunity to do that. But we so often fight - or at least resist - that opportunity.A case in point:

A middle-aged man was driving on the freeway when, checking his rearview mirror, he noticed the car behind was following a little too close. Knowing that he was driving in the fast lane, the man checked his speedometer and determined he was, in fact, driving the allowed 65 miles per hour. The driver of the car behind him, who wanted to pass, hoped the man would move into a slower lane.

But the man held his ground. "Why," he rationalized to himself, "should I move over? I'm going fast enough."

Finally the second driver pulled into the right lane and passed the man. The two scowled at each other, each believing that he was justified in his actions.

Not long after that, the man, still traveling in the fast lane, noticed a car approaching. Before the car got too close, the man pulled into a slower lane, as a safe and courteous driver should, allowing the car to pass without incident.

Not surprisingly, the man felt much better about the second incident.

There is something inherent in our mortal existence - perhaps what King Benjamin called the natural man (see Mosiah 3:19) - that encourages us to fight, or at least resist, the Spirit. In the above story, the driver's problem was probably pride - a common result of resisting the Spirit and yielding to the natural man.

So daily we fight this battle: We try to do what we should, we want to do what's right, but life's ever-present challenges keep getting in the way.

Lest we think we're alone in this task, consider Nephi's experience, as explained in 2 Nephi 4. (By the way, if we've ever doubted that the Book of Mormon was written for our time, we should study the following verses.)

Beginning with verse 16, Nephi says that his soul delights in the things of the Lord and that he feels the great goodness of the Lord.

But, he also laments that he is a wretched man who is encompassed with temptation and easily beset with sin.

Reading these passages calls to mind the words of Joseph Smith who, when describing a similar frustration, said we shouldn't suppose him to be guilty of any great or malignant sin, for a disposition to commit such was never in his nature. (Joseph Smith History 1:28) We can certainly assume that that was also true with Nephi.

And it's probably true with most of us.

For the most part, we're not plagued by temptation to commit grievous sin. Rather, we deal with the day-in and day-out frustrations and trials of being mortal - the "little things," if you will, that keep us from becoming like God.

Overcoming those "little things" is a major purpose for our mortal existence.

Again, we can learn from Nephi's experience.

As Nephi ponders his "wretched state," he allows the Spirit to teach him to keep the problems of his mortal probation in their proper perspective. The Spirit reminds him that he trusts the Lord and that the Lord leads him through affliction, fills him with love, hears his cries, gives him knowledge and visits him (and all mankind) with His mercy. (See verses 19-26.)

So how did Nephi react to the Spirit's promptings? (He did not react like the above-mentioned driver on the freeway.)

Nephi accepted the Spirit's advice - and resolved to do better.

"Why," he asks, "should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow?" "Why should I yield to sin. . .?" "Why should I give way to temptations. . .?" "(Why should I let Satan) have place in my heart to destroy my peace?" (See verses 26-27.)

"Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul," Nephi exclaims. (Verse 28.)

There is no need to wallow in difficulty. We need only allow the Spirit to guide us.

The Spirit's promptings are rarely thunderous. Generally, they're just a heightened awareness of the need to do what we already know we ought to do.

But, being mortal, we too often fight - or at least resist - those promptings, thinking we know more than we really do. Why follow the promptings, we rationalize, when we've already got everything under control?

Yes, mortality is a curious thing. But, under the Spirit's watchful tutoring, we can learn essential godly virtues.

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