• Tiffany Miller

BLOG: (Feb 7-13) Genesis 12-17, Abraham 1-2, "To Be a Greater Follower of Righteousness"

Lately, I’ve been trying to be more intentional with my life. I realized that I’ve fallen back into my old patterns and habits of just reacting to what life throws at me. I feel like that’s always the case. I am super, ok maybe not super, but pretty intentional about my time and energy, then I fall back into old habits of just reacting to life and end up not having much brain space left over to be intentional. Rinse and repeat this cycle whilst trying to endure to the end and you’ve got a fairly accurate representation of my life (try not to be jealous).

I have strong desires to be more righteous and therefore more intentional (you can’t just accidentally be righteous right?), but my natural man gets in the way sooooo often! Darn it! It’s a classic case of “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” My weak flesh sure would rather sleep in, not exercise (it’s cold outside of my bed covers!), and read fluff novels a good portion of the day, not to mention the amount of excessively delicious and perhaps not super healthy food it wants to consume! Why does there have to be opposition in ALL things?! Just kidding, I know the answer to that one. 😉

These strong, aforementioned desires to be more righteous are also normal. They’re the longings of our spirit to be like our Heavenly Parents. Our desires play a powerful part in how our lives turn out. We first have to desire something, then we act on that desire; it influences our choices. Elder Anderson teaches us that we can educate our desires, and by doing so the right way, we become “what we want to become and what our Father in Heaven would want us to become.” How might we go about educating our desires? I would suggest that we do it through studying and learning. The more we study and learn, the more knowledge and wisdom we gain. With this knowledge and wisdom, we formulate desires that are more righteous. Think about it, what did you want to be when you were a little kid? One of my 5 year old twin’s desires out of life is to be a unicorn. Is this an unrighteous desire? No, but it’s an unrealistic one. As her older and hopefully wiser parent, I understand that. The knowledge and wisdom I’ve gained over the course of my 37 years is that the closer I am to the Lord, the happier I am and the greater capacity for joy I have. With this education, my desire has grown more refined and I desire to grow closer to Him, to be more like Him.

Abraham was a “follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness” (Abraham 1:2). We are similar in that regard. He didn’t have the best family life growing up; his dad literally tried to kill him. But his heart yearned for more; he knew where to look. He found “there was greater happiness and peace and rest for [him].” So what did he do? He “sought for the blessings of the fathers;” he searched the scriptures or their equivalent of it back in those days and learned a “more excellent way” than his father taught him (Abraham 1:2; Ether 12:11). He started out already being a follower of righteousness and possessing great knowledge, but he desired greater knowledge and to be a greater follower of righteousness. Starting from a place of some righteousness and eating of the fruits that came from it led him to want to be better. It’s the same with us! In the same verse, Abraham listed another desire; he desired to “receive instructions.” He wanted to “possess a greater knowledge.” Where do we receive these instructions that give us greater knowledge? From the word of the Lord. With greater knowledge comes greater understanding and perspective. Abraham knew God’s plan and what he could become. He desired to be like God; he had a vision for himself. From this vision came his desire to act and be different.

In his April 2011 conference address, then Elder Oaks, taught us this principle. He told about a man named Aron Ralston who was hiking in a remote canyon when an 800 pound (360 kg) rock shifted and trapped his right arm. Try as he might, for five lonely days, he couldn’t free himself. Then he saw a vision of himself with a young son and that son running to him and being picked up by Ralston with his left arm. This vision provided him with the desire and motivation to act differently. He broke the bones in his right arm and amputated it so he could save himself and make that vision a reality. Elder Oaks continues by teaching that “when we have a vision of what we can become, our desire and our power to act increase enormously. [...] If our righteous desires are sufficiently intense, they will motivate us to cut and carve ourselves free from addictions and other sinful pressures and priorities that prevent our eternal progress.” What a powerful story! Kinda puts things in perspective a little for me. If Ralston could amputate his own arm, without anesthesia, then I should be able to get up early and exercise, or I should be able to carve some time out and really study the scriptures. I don’t have any body parts stuck under ginormous rocks; the obstacles I fabricate for myself are mainly mental, but they’re real to me at the time. Greater knowledge and greater perspective help in that department.

We need to do likewise. First, we need to have a vision for ourselves. Second, comes the desire for us to reach that vision. Third, we go to work. Fourth, we have faith in the Lord to help us get there. Enos shows us this pattern. After many hours of pleading with the Lord, Enos was told that his sins were forgiven. He then “began to feel a desire for the welfare of [his] brethren” (Enos 1:9). He wrote, “And […] after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me: I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith” (verse 12). Earlier in the story, verse 3 to be precise, he shares his vision: "eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart." This vision drove him to desire it. That desire drove him to act - he expended effort to do his part to bring it to pass. Through these efforts he practiced his faith in the Lord.

So how do we create this vision for ourselves? Heavenly Father has given us His answer to that question; He actually spells it out quite clearly. “For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). That is His vision. He doesn’t and won’t force His vision on us though. He invites us to accept it and make it our own. We can break it down into more specific and concrete pieces, and the Holy Ghost will help with that. Writing it out will help solidify it in our minds, which helps increase our understanding.

Once we have this vision, or if you’re not quite there yet, whichever good, true, and beautiful vision you have for yourself, it’s natural for us to desire to reach it. We’ve learned some things, gained some knowledge, and applied them to understanding the vision and what it entails. Starting with a simple desire is enough for us mortals.

With this desire, if it's deep-seated enough, if it's a true desire of our hearts, our behavior and actions are affected and changed. Remember Enos? His vision and desire sunk deep into his heart. Because of this, he was motivated to act. He acted according to the knowledge he possessed. He put some effort in, effort he probably hadn't tried before. President Nelson teaches us that "the Lord loves effort" and that "unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures." To become different than we are now, we will have to act differently. What do we need to change? The answer to that question is different for everyone. The Spirit will guide us to the answer.

Our efforts aren't enough; we need Jesus Christ and His Atonement. We show our faith in Him through our efforts to be like Him and follow Him. There's a reason that faith in Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel. Without Him, all our efforts, the Plan, and everything will be for naught. We don't have to be perfect, we just have to try. Elder Holland taught us that "With the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the strength of heaven to help us, we can improve, and the great thing about the gospel is we get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed." Satan sure expends lots of effort trying to get us to believe the opposite, but we can trust in our Savior. The Adversary is no match for our elder brother.

The Lord wants us to improve, to be like Him. That’s pretty much the point of this life. We were created with weakness so we’d learn to lean on Him, so that we’d learn to trust in Him. This weakness in us is there so we can learn to overcome it, but we can’t do it alone. We weren’t meant to. His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are His ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8). He views the situations and circumstances we find ourselves in differently than we do. His ways of dealing with those situations and circumstances are different from ours, but He’s willing to teach us and show us His ways. He loves us, and is calling to us. So while we may struggle by falling back into our old ways, led there by our natural man tendencies, He’s there to lead us back towards the Covenant Path. One of His names is Righteousness. Through His grace, we can be like Abraham and be a “greater follower of [R]ighteousness.”

I'm Tiffany and I live in sunny Arizona (love me some sunshine!). I have 5 beautiful daughters. I know what you're thinking, that's A LOT of estrogen! and you'd be right, but we have some of the greatest times known to mankind through our adventures in learning (we homeschool), loving, playing, and growing together. In my spare time, I love to read (I own literally thousands of books) and hike in the beautiful mountains near my home.

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