Monday, March 26, 2012

To Repent...

Patrick Page & Monica Bell play Macbeth & Lady Macbeth
Utah Shakespearean Festival 1989

This week I am teaching the twelve-year-old Sunday school class about Repentence. .. heavy stuff. For some reason, I keep thinking about the time when I was a laurel and my dad who was the bishop at the time allowed our group to skip Stake Girls Camp and attend the Utah Shakespearen Festival instead where we saw Macbeth. I have since learned that Macbeth can be played many different ways. Some people read the text and say that Macbeth has no regret for what he has done, he just regrets the consequences. But, Patrick Page played Macbeth differently.
He knelt on one knee as a single spotlight captured his tears that splashed upon the stage.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

I was sobbing as Macbeth came to realize he had wasted his short life strutting and fretting over nothing that really mattered at all. His great efforts had come to nothing but murder and sorrow. And now, at the last hour, it was too late to repent.

I have since wanted to live in such a way that it would never be too late for me. I love Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf's talk called A Matter of a Few Degrees where he references repentence in this way,
"Remember: the heavens will not be filled with those who never made mistakes but with those who recognized that they were off course and who corrected their ways to get back in the light of gospel truth.
The more we treasure the words of the prophets and apply them, the better we will recognize when we are drifting off course—even if only by a matter of a few degrees."

Macbeth was a war hero who had gloriously defended his king in battle. He was loved and respected for his valour. He had been honored by the king. What if he had corrected himself early on? Power and ambition are the sirens that destroy so many. It can be amazing how small the kingdoms are for which we are willing to sacrifice our souls. This is the reason George Washington is such a singular figure in all of history.

In Henry B. Eyring's book, To Draw Closer to God he explains that the word REPENTANCE comes from the Greek word, "to have a NEW mind". As I thought about that, I couldn't help but think of the ad campaign, "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs." Remember the egg and the fried egg?

According to , we don't have to use eggs anymore because now we have brain imaging which shows us what the brain looks like in control and using cocaine.. it's very different.

Brain imaging is now used to study the brain of compulsive gamblers, alcoholics, pornography addicts and those who suffer from any number of vices. This is your brain. This is you brain on sin.

Dr. Donald L. Hinton Jr. is a Neurologist who wrote a famous paper about the affects of pornography on the brain. His thesis.. addiction causes brain damage.

It’s the overuse of the dopamine reward system that causes addiction. When the pathways are used compulsively, a downgrading occurs that actually decreases the amount of dopamine in the pleasure areas available for use, and the dopamine cells themselves start to atrophy, or shrink. The reward cells in the nucleus accumbens are now starved for dopamine and exist in a state of dopamine craving, as a downgrading of dopamine receptors on the pleasure cells occurs as well. This resetting of the “pleasure thermostat” produces a “new normal.” In this addictive state, the person must act out in addiction to boost the dopamine to levels sufficient just to feel normal.
As the desensitization of the reward circuits continues, stronger and stronger stimuli are required to boost the dopamine. In the case of narcotic addiction, the addicted person must increase the amount of the drug to get the same high. In pornography addiction, progressively more shocking images are required to stimulate the person.
Frontal Lobe Damage
As a feedback of sorts, the frontal lobes also atrophy, or shrink. Think of it as a “wearing out of the brake pads.” This physical and functional decline in the judgment center of the brain causes the person to become impaired in his ability to process the consequences of acting out in addiction. Addiction scientists have called this condition hypofrontality, and have noted a similarity in the behavior of addicted persons to the behavior of patients with frontal brain damage. Read more.. HERE

I think any amount of sin, causes some amount of brain damage. Sometimes we don't even know we have brain damage, until we learn better. When we know better, we can do better. We can repent and we can be better.

How many scriptures are there that teach us about a new mind, a new heart, being born again?
THIS section of the Topical Guide contains some of the most beautiful, hopeful scripture we have.

What is a new mind? What is a new heart? What is a new spirit?

When I was little, I remember asking my dad if bad people could really become good. "YES!" Since then, I have seen many people take advantage of the Atonement in their lives. I have seen people change. I have seen some of them change dramatically... not all at once, but over time. I have seen broken people heal; I have seen average people become saints.

President Ezra Taft Benson said:

"For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the lord said, 'were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.' (3 Nephi 9:20)." Ezra Taft Benson, A Mighty Change of Heart, Ensign, October 1989, p.5

I know that our Heavenly Father has given us this process because he loves us. In the New Testament, my favorite story is one found in Luke. Jesus is followed about by throngs of people. He is teaching in a house, but the crowds are so thick that a man suffering a terrible palsy cannot reach the Savior carried by his friends on a stretcher. However, these friends are determined that their afflicted friend should see the Savior and so they push and pull their friend on to the top of the house where they Savior is teaching and dig their way through the roof tiles until there is a sufficient hole that they can pass their friend in to the Savior.

Luke Chapter 5:17-25

17 And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Jud├Ža, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.
 18 ¶And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.
 19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.
 20 And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.
 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?
 22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?
 23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?
 24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.
 25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.

I wonder if the Savior wasn't kind to heal the man's spirit first. Going back to Macbeth, there is another interesting speech. Lady Macbeth has descended into madness as she realizes her guilt. She is such a troubled soul that those around her fear for her. The second time Macbeth pleads with the physician to help his wife...

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas'd,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?
Therein the patient
Must minister to himself.

The third time Macbeth says:

If thou couldst, doctor, cast. The water of my land, find her disease. And purge it to a sound and pristine health .

Very sad.

True repentance takes time. It takes work and it may be painful. After all, we are correcting brain damage. We are changing not just our spirit, but our bodies.. our whole self. We are in the process of being born again.

What sacrifice does the Lord ask of us in order to be clean, new and reborn... only a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Elder Eyring says:
The Broken heart and contrite spirit that are the requirements for forgiveness are also its fruits. The very humility that is the sign of having been forgiven is protection against future sin. And it is by avoiding future sin that we retain a remission of the sins of the past. (Henry B. Eyring, To Draw Closer to God p.51)

I don't believe that once we truly repent that we have to wear our sins around like those forged by Ebonezer Scrooge and his friend Marley. What I mean is that I don't think you have to go through life being a "recovering addict." The Atonement provides the power for our sins to be swept completely away.

My friend Merrijane wrote this poem about holding a grudge but it can easily speak to harboring sin or even guilt that is painful to us.


Like a dragon,
I brood over my false hoard—
sharp, glittering chips
reflect my burning.

Though plated scales armor me,
shattered glass grinds
long, raw gashes
in my soft underbelly.

Guarded and guarding,
I crouch turned in on myself,
chew open old wounds
that should have healed by now.

When will I sweep my tail,
empty this cavern,
and rest on a bare floor
of fresh, clean peace?

Ether 12:27

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

His grace is sufficient. We don't have to be a recovering anything... we can be a new mind and a new heart.

When we commit sin, there are consequences; sometimes they are terrible. Sometimes even when we repent, we can't escape the consequences of our mistakes in this life. But, for those who truly repent there are many blessings.

Doctrine and Covenants 58:42

42 Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.

I used to think that was a nice thought. No one wants to make a mistake and have it constantly brought up again. "Let sleeping dogs lie." But, as I have studied the scriptures further; as I have learned about being reborn, about having a new spirit and a new heart.. I have realized something about this scripture... The Lord knows all things, if He remembers them no more then they literally didn't happen. The atonement is the power to change history. We are as clean and pure, innocent and new as if we had never made the mistake in the first place.

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Happy Easter.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.