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Self-Mastery


I have received permission to share the following interchange. I share it with the hope that it might stir some thinking and sharing.

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Dear Wally,

Here’s another notion we have in the Church that troubles me – Self Mastery. I suppose, like many things, it may be a matter of semantics. But I think that Self Mastery, like Self Esteem, is highly over-rated.

Week after week we have people show up at 12 Steps who want to get control of their lives. They seem to work on the premise that there are two choices; either get control of your life or lose control of it. The notion that what we really need and ultimately, what is required, is to give control of it to God. That third option is rarely addressed by anyone but me in these meetings. Even the missionaries called to provide the program repeatedly teach as though there were only the two options. I’ve approached them about it and by now, if you were to ask them, they’d say there were three options, but their words often betray the fact that they haven’t really internalized the third option.

I will not deny that taking control may be a precursor to giving control, just as attempting to keep the commandments is a precursor to surrendering our lives to God. Once we finally discover the impossibility of it, we must either surrender to Satan or surrender to God. It comes down to that every time in my opinion. Maybe, like you said the other day , this is just a concept that can’t be taught by anyone else but the Holy Ghost. Maybe it is just something a person must attain unto in the course of living and struggling. Maybe it’s like receiving your Calling and Election, something that just can’t be conveyed in a merit badge system that is explicable enough to
share from the pulpit.

We don’t seem to want to learn what Orson F. Whitney tried to teach us when he ansered William Ernest Henly’s Invictus with a poem of his own. What do you think?

Thanks,
Candleman

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Dear Candleman,

Your note made me think about C.S. Lewis who described himself as the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. He felt that he was draggedkicking and fighting to Truth.

That is also like Alma or Paul or . . . .

So I am not sure I would concede that we must conquer ourselves so we canthen turn ourselves over to God. That idea might be a concession to falsedoctrine–kinda like we must first get rich so we can really contribute tothe kingdom. What must happen is for us to recognize our total dependence onGod. Total. Dependence. What we turn over to Him will always be imperfect.The quality of our offering is not the question. The totality of our
offering is the issue.

I love how Ammon said it: Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength Iam weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God,for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles
we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.

I think that Satan always wants us to stir a little silliness into theTruth. I think that self-mastery–as commonly understood and taught–is adistraction. A better description is the Lord’s (He has a way with words!!)delivered through beloved Joseph:

Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that liein our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to seethe salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.

We do the little that we can. But the hinge point is to stand still with the utmost assurance. Then and only then will we see the power of God manifest–in our lives and in the world around us.

Blessings to you,
Wally

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8 Comments

  • Reply lindac May 31, 2008 at 12:03 am

    The key is “cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we STAND STILL…”
    I don’t think I ever stand still, especially in my mind. Most of the time I am thinking “too” much. It usually is covering my feelings of inadequacy. I hope and pray for the day that I will have the “assurance” that is spoken of so often in the Lord’s words.
    I love this website and thank you for continuing to write so that I might be lifted and edified anew.
    I learned a powerful, powerful lesson from my dear friend, Victor Brown. He said to me, “Linda, begin to notice how you feel when you are in the presence of others.”
    I always come away from the words here very filled, enlightened, and uplifted.

  • Reply Claudia June 2, 2008 at 12:55 am

    Dear Wally — First, thank you for starting this blog. I know it can be time-consuming, but I have enjoyed reading your articles for some time, and this forum provides an avenue for engaging in productive discussion as well as reading your words. I feel quite grateful and somewhat spoiled!

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that surrendering to God may not require quite the prerequisites we think it does. Relying on God is something that even a little child can understand. Isn’t that what the first principle of the gospel – faith – is all about? I feel, as a fortyish something year-old woman, that I am just beginning to understand the power of this kind of faith and surrendering. Why did this deepened understanding come to me when it did? I am not sure. Perhaps, many things in the world got in the way of my remembering this simple principle. (And believe me, I am still learning …). I also know that my family background contributed to my wanting to be in control most of the time. I found it difficult to truly trust my Heavenly Father and Savior, and that they were as loving as they said they were (I would refer any to Brother Robinson’s books here.) Don’t get me wrong — I believed in them and have been an active member of the church for over twenty years. But to truly surrender and realize my total dependence on them both — That is something that has only come with experience and maturity. I can still remember the moment this realization came to me. It has been life-changing. I feel I would do anything for my Heavenly Father and Jesus to show them my gratitude.

    I would have loved to have come to these realizations sooner, but living in a mode of thinking about ‘what if’ and ‘why didn’t I’ does not seem very productive. I came to a deeper level of faith and trust when I did, and my job now is to honor that faith however I can. We learn by experience, do we not? It would be nice if in learning these principles there were another way, but the only other way or plan I know that was presented was Satan’s, and I trust Heavenly Father that His way is best. I also trust the power of the Atonement to make up for any mistakes we make here as we are learning. Claudia

    PS. Thank you, Linda, for your insights. I understand greatly what it means to over-think, yet I never quite tied it to feelings of inadequacy. I termed it a function of perfectionism, but your comment helped me see that the two are closely linked. I also like to think that over-thinking is a mixed blessing that comes from having a creative mind ;-).

    I pray the Lord will bless you with that assurance we all desire.

    • Reply admin June 3, 2008 at 2:16 pm

      Thank you, Claudia for your kind note.

      Funny, isn’t it. Maybe we all expected to be further along than we are. When I was a child I used to think that adults had it all figured out. Now I know otherwise.

      Yet what a blessing! God is teaching me that I’m not going to have it figured out–but He does. So I show up in His classroom with paper, pencil, and a smile.

      Blessings to you.
      Wally

  • Reply Lee Rosenhan June 4, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    The untruth about the concept of “self-mastery” lies in the words themselves. Any pursuit of self leads to frustration and blame because the path does not exist. This is by design, from the Master of designs. Only when we ask to see others as God sees them, and by default forget about ourselves, do we get a sense of who we really are in all it’s glory. And this will not be seen by us directly, but will be seen in the reaction of others to us.

    We are not one, we are many. We are the good things we choose to see in others reflected back.

    • Reply admin June 5, 2008 at 7:51 pm

      Beautifully said, Lee!

      -Wally

  • Reply Mark Anderson June 4, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    As I consider your notes about self-mastery, I know that they hold some truth.

    The admonition that Jesus gave to his disciples about “consider the lilies of the field” has an application to our search for true humility.

    The vast majority of the terrestrial (land-based) plant kingdom never moves from where it is planted. I don’t want to delve into what degrees of glory are available to plants, but if we consider ourselves in our current place as a plant must do, we cannot change a thing. We must be grateful for the ground that we live upon, the water that falls upon us, the wind that strengthens, or destroys us, because it is obvious to a plant (or as an observer of a plant) that the plant itself has very little impact upon choosing its surroundings.

    A plant only has freedom in how it reacts to the environment in which it is placed. Why do some seeds flourish and others fail?

    The selflessness that this analogy encourages might be useful, just as your earlier article mentions we don’t build by tearing down others. The comparison needs to stop, not increase.

    I try to visualize the struggling prairie grass, the flourishing rain forest, the stunted, wind-blown shrub, and endless variety of situations present in this great Home made for us by Father. We can find analogs in each of our lives in many different situations, finding the point of view that matches our Father’s view will encourage us to accept and be enriched by his direction.

    There’s a place for every one of us in God’s kingdom, we don’t all have to be the stately figurehead, there’s need for us all to take our place and act our own part.

    If we try to place our self-visualization in that place, where we do not even ask why we are here, but only look to the Lord and say, “Father, here I am, I’m going to work, please help me do it your way”, there is extreme power. Look at Moses and how Aaron and Miriam thought they might be able to lead, but Moses was the most humble. (Numbers 12)

    Every challenge is a blessing in disguise, some disguises are better than others, and sometimes we limit our perceptions through hard-heartedness so that we cannot see the blessings.

    • Reply admin June 5, 2008 at 7:51 pm

      Good insights. Thank you, Mark.

      -Wally

  • Reply tk June 27, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    As a footnote to the final paragraph in Candleman’s original post at the top of this column…Both Henley’s ‘Invictus’ and Orson F. Whitney’s ‘The Soul’s Capitan’ poems can be read at http://www.meridianmagazine.com/newsandyou/010613.html

    -Cheers-

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