“The poorest shack in which love prevails over a united family is of far greater value to God and future humanity than any other riches. In such a home God can work miracles, and will work miracles. Pure hearts in a pure home are always in whispering distance of Heaven.”
David O. McKay Church News, Sept.7, 1968
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Being Diligent...the Promises are Sure

Angelle Anderson

For many years, when I would hear counsel to “just do your best,” feelings of inadequacy would trouble me. I seldom felt that I was doing my best. How could I be, when I was surrounded daily by evidence of my faults and mistakes? Any statement like the following could discourage me for weeks on end:

Do the best you can through these years…
  Jeffrey R. Holland, “Because She Is a Mother’” Ensign, May 1997

All we have to do is to be the very best we can.
  Joseph B. Wirthlin, “One Step after Another,” Ensign, Nov 2001

Do the best you can while on earth to have an ideal family.
                 Richard G. Scott, “First Things First,” Ensign, May 2001

These feelings led me to a quest to discover what “doing your best” really means, and how I could make a righteous judgment as to whether or not I was doing my best.  I began by looking up the word “best” in the topical guide.  I hoped to find clarification. I found that the word “best” was in the scriptures. In the topical guide, it is listed as an adjective - with five scriptural references to best gifts, best books, and best blood (of the nine-teenth century). I could find no references with the words “doing your best.”  As I prayed (and studied and fasted) for further direction, I was prompted to study my patriarchal blessing.  I knew that the phrase “do your best” was not there, but as I read for guidance, I made a discovery that has changed my life. I am counseled many times in my blessing to be “diligent.”  With each admonition, there is a promise attached. This pattern is replete in the scriptures. The word “diligence” (or some form of it) is found 123 times in the scriptures – oftimes with a promise for obedience attached.  For example:
.                        …seek me diligently and ye shall find me…” (D&C 88:63)
                         “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall   
                          work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the     
                          covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another.” (D&C 90:24)  

 “But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to
  grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking      
  forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a
  tree springing up unto everlasting life.
“Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your  
  diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring  
  forth fruit unto you” (Alma 32:41-43)

            “Teach ye diligently…and my grace shall attend you.”  (D&C 88:78.)
     “All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence,
                         faithfulness, and prayers of faith. (D&C 103: 36)

            “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not
 requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.  
 And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he  
 might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.”
 (Mosiah  4:27)
I found that definitions of “being diligent” include: having perseverance, working zealously, being conscientiousness, showing determination and carefulness, and putting forth steady, honest effort. I found that “diligence” was also defined as being tireless, indefatigable, unremitting, and steadfast. Digging deeper into the meaning of “diligence,” I discovered that it comes from Latin words that are defined as “to love,” and “to esteem.” For me, this knowledge shed a whole new light on the meaning of diligence.
                   “Diligo” means to choose, to esteem highly, to prize, and to love. 
“Diligere” and “ligi” are defined as  “approval, to read, to gather, to aspire to, to value, to appreciate, and to single out.”
The words “diligo, diligere, dilexi, and dilectus,” are described in this manner:
1. (milder than amo)
2. have special regard for
3. love, hold dear
4. value/esteem/favor
                                        Oxford Latin Dictionary  http://www.latin-dictionary.org/JM-Latin-English
So here is the inspiration I received – a discovery that has made all the difference in my perception of how I am doing and given me hope: “Doing your best” is another way of saying, “being diligent.”
By replacing the words “do your best,” with the scriptural words “be diligent,” I have been able to relieve a lot of guilt and worry in my life.  I have found a way to allow myself to continue in faith, unimpeded by a false concept of what is required of me. Simply put, I can love what I try to do and never stop trying to do it.  I can do that – I can be diligent! I can collect on all of those amazing and needed promises found in the scriptures. And I do – every day. That is what “doing my best” is all about.
Being a diligent mother has its challenges – no question. I don’t know of any other calling that demands a greater capacity to do all that is required.  I have found that miracles happen when I diligently try to “keep up” as a mom.  Somehow, my load is lightened or my capacity is increased as I press forward. King Benjamin’s counsel to “do all things in wisdom and order,” and to “not run faster than you have strength,” yet “be diligent” (see Mosiah 4:27) has new meaning for me in light of my discovery.  One reason is this promise made by Elder Maxwell:
“Happily, the Lord really does increase the capacity of the diligent…”
                               Neal A. Maxwell, “Wisdom and Order,” Ensign, Jun 1994, 41
Diligence does have many rewards! There are too many ways to even consider them all, and too many blessings and promises to comprehend as we put “diligence” into practice. Even so, the effects of our work are not always immediately seen.  More often than not, we wonder if our efforts are making a difference at all as we are raising our children. I appreciate the honesty with which Elder Bednar shared the following:
“As our sons were growing up, our family did what you have done and what you now do. We had regular family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening.  Now, I am sure what I am about to describe has never occurred in your home, but it did in ours.
Sometimes Sister Bednar and I wondered if our efforts to do these spiritually essential things were worthwhile. Now and then verses of scripture were read amid outbursts such as “He’s touching me!” “Make him stop looking at me!” “Mom, he’s breathing my air!” Sincere prayers occasionally were interrupted with giggling and poking. And with active, rambunctious boys, family home evening lessons did not always produce high levels of edification. At times Sister Bednar and I were exasperated because the righteous habits we worked so hard to foster did not seem to yield immediately the spiritual results we wanted and expected.
Today if you could ask our adult sons what they remember about family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening, I believe I know how they would answer. They likely would not identify a particular prayer or a specific instance of scripture study or an especially meaningful family home evening lesson as the defining moment in their spiritual development. What they would say they remember is that as a family we were consistent.” David A. Bednar, “More Diligent and Concerned at Home,” Ensign, Nov 2009
So comforting!  Diligent parents can look forward to “parental paydays” and have hope that they will come – even when they wonder and worry during those years when their children are “breathing each other’s air.”
On the eve of our oldest daughter’s marriage, my husband and I had an interview with her. She was not only our oldest daughter, but our oldest child. The next morning she would become the first of our seven children to marry and “leavethe nest.”
 “Jana, tomorrow you will be beginning a family of your own. How have we done in preparing you for this new life?”
She observed our concern, and with loving-kindness said, “Mom and Dad, we have had our challenges over the years, but I have always known that you loved me and you loved the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And that is what matters to me.”
I silently sifted through memories of the last two decades.  What came through was the fact that she was right – we had been diligent. Not perfect, but definitely diligent. Steady. Steadfast. Persevering. Putting forth constant, loving effort. Choosing to keep trying. Unremitting. Indefatigable and untiring (yet often tired and fatigued). There were many times we wondered if we had “gotten through” or made a difference. But, we loved being parents then and we love being parents now.  We love our family more than we have words to say.  We will never give up on our quest to rear our children in the love of the Lord and His gospel and to continue on in faith. This is what makes us imperfect, but “diligent” parents who are doing our best to follow the Savior on His path to perfection.  Elder Worthlin described this journey well:
           “…let us walk in the right direction, taking one step after another.
            That is easy enough. We don’t have to be perfect today. We don’t have to be  
            better than someone else. All we have to do is to be the very best we can.
Though you may feel weary, though you sometimes may not be able to see the way, know that your Father in Heaven will never forsake His righteous followers. He will not leave you comfortless. He will be at your side, yes, guiding you every step of the way.” Joseph B. Wirthlin, “One Step after Another,” Ensign, Nov 2001
In my studies, I found another insight into what Elder Worthlin stated, and into what Jana was telling us on the eve of her wedding, and the beginning of her new life. In the Bible dictionary, I found the word “best” in the definition of “grace.” Since there is peace in my mind concerning my “best efforts,” this definition of grace brings only gratitude for the Savior’s atoning sacrifice and His grace, and not the guilt and confusion I used to feel.  And it can do the same for you.

A word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.
It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by his atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life. It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best [diligent] efforts.
Divine grace is needed by every soul in consequence of the fall of Adam and also because of man’s weaknesses and shortcomings. However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient. Hence the explanation, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25: 23). It is truly the grace of Jesus Christ that makes salvation possible. This principle is expressed in Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches (John 15: 1-11). See also John 1: 12-17; Eph. 2: 8-9; Philip. 4: 13; D&C 93: 11-14.   Italics added.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught women in the Church an important spiritual pattern: “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6), during the Brigham Young University Women’s Conference on April 29, 2011. The scripture was also the theme for Women’s Conference.

“Many people in our contemporary world are drawn to promises of big results that occur quickly and all at once,” Elder Bednar said. “Consider, for example, all of the money spent on lottery tickets. Recall the claims of advertising messages you have received that pledge immediate weight loss, instant health, fast hair growth, and a more youthful appearance in just 14 days. We are bombarded constantly with messages from a multiplicity of sources promoting speedy supersizing, instant gratification, and outstanding performance that will impress our families and friends.”

The adversary made “impressive assertions about big results” in similar ways in premortality, Elder Bednar said, citing Moses 4:1, 3. In contrast to Satan’s method and the methods of the world, “the Lord typically ministers ‘one by one,’” (3 Nephi 11:15) Elder Bednar taught. “He enables us to learn ‘line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little’ (2 Nephi 28:30). And He accomplishes His work by bringing to pass great things through small and simple means.”

“I believe many, if not all, of the most satisfying and memorable accomplishments in our homes, in the Church, in our jobs and professions, and in our communities will be the product of this important spiritual pattern—of simple and small things,” Elder Bednar said. “Brothers and sisters, we should find great comfort in the fact that ordinary people who faithfully, diligently, and consistently do simple things that are right before God will bring forth extraordinary results.”


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