I tend to shy away from discussing my religion in a public forum such as this one. My faith is very personal to me to the point that it is an intimate subject I rarely discuss or debate with anyone. But yesterday I came across a passage in preparation for my Sunday School lesson that really stuck with me.
To set the stage, Joseph Smith is discussing the different kinds of spirits that exist now and before the beginning of time.
"Now, in this world, mankind are naturally selfish, ambitious and striving to excel one above another; yet some are willing to build up others as well as themselves. So in the other world there are a variety of spirits. Some seek to excel. And this was the case with Lucifer when he fell. He sought for things which were unlawful. Hence he was sent down, and it is said he drew many away with him;"
What caught my attention the most was the part about building up others as well as ourselves. This idea kept bouncing around in my head and I found it hard to continue. Michael Jordan was an incredibly gifted athlete and during his early years he dominated the NBA. And much like the beginning passage above, he was ambitious and striving to excel. Nevertheless he never won an NBA title even though he was clearly in a league of his own. It wasn't until Jordan started to make those around him better, that he won his first title. It was only by building up others that he became successful.
So here's the deal. From the moment we leave the womb, we are completely self centered. As we mature, we learn to be a good child, a great brother or sister. We age a little more and become parents which means we give even less thought to self, and more thought outwards, to family for instance. Then we add another layer where we become willing to work on the behalf of others, such as a neighbor, or a community. And in extreme instances, we become willing to sacrifice all that we have, including our very lives for our faith and our country. As we age, the layers get larger and larger and further and further away from the womb. What I am learning here is that the further we get from "self" the greater our joy and the larger our reward.
Enter Satan and his determination to keep us self centered. With very few exceptions, almost every sin that we can commit is a return to "self." Drug and alcohol abuse are self centered activities as they satisfy only oneself. Stealing is taking from another to satisfy self. Adultery is completely self centered, murder is the removal of these outer most layers. If you consider civil laws as well as modern and ancient commandments, almost all crimes against God and society are those in which someone is harmed as a result of anothers quest to return unforgivingly back to self. So in a very simple way, sin is just about anything that returns us to back to our base selves.
It stands to reason then, that the greatest joy we can receive in this lifetime, or in the life to come is by traveling as far away from self as possible. I've decided that this isn't always easy for me. Even after discovering this I still want the money, and the cars, and the vacations. I have a long way to go in moving towards those outer bands of true greatness. And as I write this, I am just now realizing how many people in my life are awesome examples of moving away from self. On behalf of our family, I want you to know that we have been on the receiving end of many friends and family who have stepped away from self to bless and enrich our lives. I am grateful to you all and hope from your example I can be equal to the task of blessing your lives too.