As I think about my own life, I have many reasons to rejoice:  I am blessed with a knowledge of Heavenly Father’s perfect plan, I have a wonderful family, and we have an abundance of blessings.  I can’t think of anyone with greater reason to be joyful.  And yet, even though I wouldn’t consider myself depressed, I feel as though I am far from the level of joy that I could and should experience.

There are probably several reasons for my lack of rejoicing- perhaps I fail to truly recognize the significance of all of the blessings that I have been given (gratitude will probably be a topic for a future post).  Perhaps my expectations for joy are unrealistic- after all, even those who strive to keep the commandments are not exempt from weaknesses or trials.  Perhaps I suffer from the “grass is greener” syndrome where I compare myself with others that seem to be so much more happy than me, although I really have no way of knowing what they really experience.  There are other contributing factors to my situation, but the one I want to focus on here is my heart.

For as long as I can remember, I have always made a conscious effort to do what is right.  But, as I think about it (and I don’t think I’m much different than anyone else), whether it was going to church, participating in service projects, trying to be obedient, serving in various ways, etc., I believe that my main motivation was often (and still is to some extent) a desire to please my parents, to comply, to obey for the sake of obeying, and perhaps to “look good” to others.

I suppose it is better (although even that is questionable based on Moroni 7: 6-9) to do what is right even with less than pure motives than it is to not do what is right, but I’m beginning to learn that our motives and desires are often more important than our actions.

I like this quote from Elder Oaks:  “From such teachings we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”

So, what are your ideas?  How do we learn to not just do the right things, but to do them for the right reasons- out of love?  How do we become truly converted?  How do we purify our hearts?

I think part of my frustration is because I’m “results driven” and want to see some kind of progress, but perhaps this process of change is so gradual that I am not even aware that I am changing.  This quote from President Benson has the answer:  “…we must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair.”

“But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. 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 Ne. 9:20; italics added.)”

“We must not lose hope. Hope is an anchor to the souls of men. Satan would have us cast away that anchor. In this way he can bring discouragement and surrender. But we must not lose hope. The Lord is pleased with every effort, even the tiny, daily ones in which we strive to be more like Him. Though we may see that we have far to go on the road to perfection, we must not give up hope.”

So, I guess the simple gospel really is the answer:  we have faith in Christ and trust in his redeeming blood; we repent, which literally is a change of heart and mind; we make covenants and strive to keep them; we seek the blessings of the Holy Ghost in our lives; we endure to the end.