for Latter-day Saints
by Lowell Bennion
from an article which explores
the good to be found in other religions around the world
There is no reason for us not to enjoy the daily pleasures and comforts of life - as long as they are not the things that matter most and as long as we receive them with gratitude as gifts from a loving Father, not as our prey.
The Bhagavad-Gita expresses the primacy of the inner life by stating that we should abandon attachment to the fruit of our actions but should get our satisfaction from the action itself.
To further express that, we should act with no thought of personal reward, either in this life or the hereafter, but only because we believe in the intrinsic rightness of our actions. Our satisfaction should lie wholly in doing, in acting from the integrity of our souls. To act in the hope of praise from others is to put ourselves at their mercy.
A particular temptation, I feel, for Latter-day Saints lies in our strong sense of connection and community. We want, at the very least, to be understood by our fellow believers and we hope to be approved of. From babyhood we are taught to do things - and usually they are very good things - because we "should." However, listening exclusively to voices from outside ourselves can only lead to confusion.
Until we can hear the voice of our own conscience, with its iron imperative, we cannot really act with integrity. "Words don't convey meanings," President David O. McKay told me in a private conversation during the 1950s when I was a young Institute teacher. "They call them forth."
I understand better now than I did then that I must speak and act out of the context of my experience; others must hear me and see me in the context of their own. It is quite impossible for them to fully understand my thinking or action - and it is equally impossible for me to understand theirs.
When I act out of concern for the "fruits" of my action, I risk serving two incompatible masters, my own conscience and the reactions of those around me.
A basketball player is less effective when he or she has one ear cocked for applause from the grandstand. A speaker loses concentration on the speech when he or she worries about how the speech is being received.
When I act out of concern for the rightness of my action, I will keep my integrity. I am not distracted. I act with singleness of purpose, with my whole being in unison. And I have found that I am more effective.
This way of living frees us from the narrowness and frustrations of being centered on achieving personal satisfactions.
It's true that obedience to law brings rewards. But many Latter-day Saints obey in order to gain the blessings. If I love my neighbor in order to gain the celestial kingdom, my motive may be a distraction from truly loving my neighbor.
The motivation of rewards or blessings, honorable though it may be, still puts us in the position of serving two masters: the principle of truth and the enticement of reward. It is not a bad thing to be reminded of the need for integrity.
(edited by David Van Alstyne)
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