See here for overview.
A Source of Help and Inspiration
The Puritans believed that man was by nature weak and perverse and that most of the things people just wanted to do or would find pleasure in doing were wrong. They attempted to teach their children acceptable behavior by strict and stern control and punished them quite severely for showing any lack of respect for their elders or for the laws of the community. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” was the common attitude.
You have grown up in a much more lenient atmosphere for it has been learned that people who live with too much restraint frail to develop much initiative, or self-direction, much creativeness or gaiety.
Equally or even more damaging to personality development, however, would be the other extreme of too little guidance and supervision. There was a time when a few psychologists advanced the theory that since children are innocent little cherubs at birth they must acquire all their bad characteristics from those around them, and so should be let alone and allowed to express their impulses as they choose. Society soon had enough of that theory, for it was quickly demonstrated that lack of guidance leads to selfishness and irresponsibility.
We aren’t born either good or bad. None of us can know for sure whether we will develop an attractive or an irritating personality, whether we will make good use of our earth experiences or waste our opportunities. We are born with great possibilities. Whether or not we realize them depends on how we live.
We Need Principles and Rules to Guide Us
We are all governed by at least three sets of regulations:
(1) The laws of our land are the rules which the experience of society has taught us are necessary for group harmony. (2) The rules and procedures in our homes and at school give us the benefit of the experience of parents and teachers and insure fairness and opportunity for all. (3) our own convictions about what we should or shouldn’t do become some of the most effective guides for our own behavior.
But what is the basic source of all of these rules of living and of the information we have about what experiences are good for us, what goals and ideals are worth while, what is fair treatment of other people?
Surely our Father in Heaven knows far better than we can ever know what conditions and experiences in this life will do the most to help us develop our personalities and achieve our potentialities. So we can expect to find in the plan which he has given us to direct our earthly life, all the helps necessary for our growth and development, if we can but understand and make use of them. If we study the gospel, we can find in it the basis for all of our civil law, our family regulations and our personal standards.
Our Religion Gives us Emotional Security
We have referred repeatedly to the importance of our having a high regard and sincere appreciation for ourselves if we are to develop attractive personalities. What could do more to help us realize our own importance than the knowledge that we are the children of God?
We aren’t accidents of creation groping our way through an accidental world. We aren’t slaves of a tyrannical dictator. We needn’t plead for favor or ward off calamities by rites and sacrifice.
We are in truth the children of a loving, kind and gloriously intelligent Father. When the love and affection in our earthly homes is so significant to us, think how greatly this knowledge of our relationship to God can help provide the basic security we need. Even the smallest child has the privilege of addressing our Heavenly Father through prayer and can state in his own simple words, rather than in formal phrases written by someone else, the gratitude and the desires of his young heart. And just as our earthly parents teach us the way and constantly stand by to encourage and rejoice in our success, we know that our Heavenly Parents are watching our progress, are anxious to help and are pleased with our every effort to reach out toward them.
Since we are the children of God, each of us must have a spark of divinity that should surely inspire us to try to keep ourselves worthy to return to the presence of our Father and Creator. In addition, what should add more to our self respect than the knowledge of the immortality of our spirits. Since we believe we have lived before and we will continue to live, even after death ends this earthly mission, we see life as an opportunity for us to have experience that will promote our development here and lay the foundation for continued growth throughout eternity. If we all need to have purpose for living, our knowledge of this life as one phase of eternal progression certainly should help to meet this need.
Since the simple routines in our daily lives, and having order and regularity in our homes so we can know what to count on, contribute so much to our security, it is impossible to estimate the great amount of security we get from knowing that the entire universe is governed by Divine Law. The phenomena of nature, such as storms, sunshine, earthquakes, are all due to the workings of natural forces, not expressions of a Creator’s anger or caprice. We can count on the recurrence of the seasons, of night and day, of sunshine and rain. And in the same way, we can count on promised blessings to follow compliance with the laws on which they are predicated. Instructions for guiding our lives and actions have been clearly given. We are warned in advance of the consequences of our choosing to disregard them and we are also told in advance of the great joy and eternal opportunities in store for us if we comply.
“Whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye reap.” (Gal. 6-7.)
“When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (Doc. & Cov. 130:21.)
There are two sources of knowledge about this world and the people in it. Much has been revealed to prophets of God and has been recorded for us in ancient scripture which helps us see the magnitude and wonder of the great plan of this earth life. The additional information revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith in this dispensation and recorded for us in the sacred writings of our own Church adds greatly to our knowledge concerning this earth and also extends our understanding of the pre-existence and the life to come.
However, in his supreme wisdom, our Father in heaven has left much to be learned and discovered by his children here, as an incentive for work and study. In this effort, if we are willing to seek it, we can count on his guidance and inspiration, and as we gain more understanding and knowledge about the earth and as we learn to use the materials in it for our comfort and benefit, our own accomplishment becomes another source of self-confidence and personal security.
Our Religion Is a Guide to Good Relationships
Along with our need for self respect and confidence in ourselves, we have emphasized all along our need to respect and have confidence in others. It isn’t enough merely to be able to avoid friction and serious conflict, important as that is. Our goal is to make our association with other people contribute to our growth and happiness and to theirs.
The ideal toward which we are working is constructive and creative relationships, so that together we can do good things no one of us could accomplish alone. When we are able to contribute our enthusiasm, our ideas, our actual work to good group movements; when we are willing to do whatever we are able without worrying about whether or not it’s more than our share, only then will we have learned to live well with others. We have achieved a great deal already in this world toward interdependence with regard to production and have learned to share the products of invention and discovery for a better life; but we still have far to go before we apply these same principles effectively in human relationships. Whatever each one of us can contribute toward living creatively and constructively with others will help just that much in making the whole world a better place in which to live.
Our concept of the brotherhood of man helps to make us more tolerant and more interested in the welfare of all people.
The Ten commandments are a set of specific instructions for getting along with people. They defined rights and liberties for the children of Israel and are still the basic code of much of our civil law.
Much of the written word which has come down to us in the Bible and the Book of Mormon is instruction of inspired prophets and leaders to help people live together in harmony.
The teachings of the Savior place great emphasis on love and understanding in our dealings with others, and for this reason are on a more advanced level than the duty and rights, eye for eye code of Mosaic law.
What could be a more fundamental code for happy relationships with our fellows than the commandment,
”Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matt. 23:39.)
Or the golden rule,
“Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 7:12.)
And where could we find greater motivation for making a sincere effort to obey these injunctions than in the statement,
“Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40.)
Personal Value of Church Activity
Quite often when we think of our membership in our Church we think of our obligations, of what is expected of us, and what we do for the Church. We attend meetings, we pay our tithing, we do our welfare assignments and so on. But did you ever stop to think that the only reason the Church was established here on earth was because it could do so much for us.
Here are three specific ways our religious beliefs and our Church activities influence our personality development.
1. Our religion gives us our standard or pattern for personality.
There are many sources from which we gain our ideas of what is good or evil, what is beautiful or ugly, what is worthwhile or not. Our own observation, the instructions that have been given us in our homes and schools, the things we read, all play a part. We are encouraged to accept the good wherever we may find it. (Recall the thirteenth Article of Faith.)
Of all these sources, none is more important or effective in helping us acquire worthy standards than our religious instructions and experience. Whatever you want to do or be is determined by what you admire as we suggested in Chapter III and from your religious instruction and experiences you have acquired your ideals, you have learned the values of being kind, loving, honest, compassionate, fair, dependable, cooperative.
Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) Through Jesus Christ, the son, we know more than we otherwise would about the personality of the Father. As Christians, our goal is to develop Christ-like characters. So, particularly in the life of Jesus, but also in other great leaders and good people who have been influenced by these examples, we find the pattern for what we want to be.
2. Our religion gives us the motivation, desire, determination, and encouragement to live up to our own ideals.
Even after we have decided how we want to be it isn’t always easy to do what we feel we should. And yet, as we have said before, just having a standard or aim helps a great deal for then, whenever we have a choice or decision to make, we are more apt to do the thing which will help us achieve our goal. But in some matters we need very strong determination or motivation or we might choose to do what is easy and pleasant right now instead of the harder things that will help us to achieve what we want eventually.
A motive is a reason or need or emotion within a person which leads him to do some specific thing. Many of the things we do are because of one or the other of two very strong motives. One is our natural desire for a pleasant result or reward for our effort and the other is the equally normal wish to avoid unpleasant consequences or punishments. Because it teaches us of the sorrow and regret and suffering we might bring upon ourselves both here and now and hereafter if we choose the wrong path, and also of the wonderful joy and endless opportunities we can have if we live for them, our religion provides what is probably our greatest motivation to keep us growing toward our goal.
Then, too, association with other people with similar interests and aims helps to encourage us for there is strength in numbers. A very fine strand of wire can easily be broken, but a cable of many strands twisted together is very strong. So, groups of people banded together in a common cause give strength to each other.
3. Church activity provides experiences which develop our personalities.
It would be impossible to list all of the kinds of developmental experiences provided in our Church and these are so familiar to use we take them for granted but here are just a few illustrations:
We have encouragement to develop our talents. The service of every person is needed and appreciated. Ordinary folks, neither highly trained nor specialized can fill positions of leadership. Artists, scholars and scientists can contribute through their specialized abilities. Just stop and think for a minute of the great variety of talents that have been needed to carry on the activities of your own ward. The good cooks who make the reputation of your ward dinners, the good sewers who make the Relief Society quilts, the good farmers and manufacturers who supervise the welfare projects, the good teachers who meet all of the classes, the good executives who head the organizations, the musicians, the dancers, the speakers, the actors, the writers who instruct and entertain – to mention only a few.
Our Church program provides wholesome recreational activities where we can make friends and enjoy association with other people, where we can learn sportsmanship – to accept applause and rise above defeat – where we can find both relaxation and stimulation.
Our Church provides us with experiences in intellectual growth. We have many assignments and class discussions and thought-provoking talks that challenge us to study and learn. This effort is encouraged by the knowledge revealed through Joseph Smith that whatever wisdom and knowledge of truth we acquire will rise with us in the resurrection and be permanently ours.
True, we are asked to do some things that we find hard to do, but these do us good, too. For example paying our tithing, giving our time, keeping the commandments all help the Church as an organization but help us individually even more. It has been said that great people are developed out of adversity. We need to do some hard things to develop patience, generosity, integrity, courage, endurance and other such important qualities.
Our Church activities provide experiences that contribute to our spiritual growth. For well-rounded personalities we need to develop the skillful performance of our bodies, the efficient use of our minds, and wholesome expression of our social tendencies. But we must also care for and develop our souls. We have need for spiritual nourishment as well as physical food. Our Church activities include hours of worship, sacred experiences, comfort for our sorrows, enjoyment of beauty and thrilling moments of joy and exaltation and aspiration that all help to bring glimpses of heaven into our days on earth.
The Gospel Is for You
So you can see that religion is not just something to know about. It is not something to take out of the background of your life and dust off each Sunday. It is a force to feel every day in all you do. Since it is such an important source of your basic security, of the rules you live by, of your ideals and ideas about what you want for yourself and since it is such an effective help to you in realizing your desires, it can be the greatest source of help and inspiration to you as you are growing up to be that lovely girl of your dreams.