'Becoming a work of art'
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"Our choices shape our souls," Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy said during a campus devotional at Brigham Young University on Nov. 5.
"Recognizing our dedication and perseverance, the Lord will give us what we are unable to obtain by ourselves," he said. "He will shape us with His hammer and chisel, because He sees our efforts to overcome our imperfections and human weaknesses."
"Michelangelo used basically two main tools to accomplish his works of art: a hammer and a chisel," he said. "It is truly incredible to imagine how someone could create such an enormous and beautiful work of art from a piece of raw marble using these two tools. ... When I think about the work he produced and the result he achieved, figuratively I think about the wonderful plan of love our Heavenly Father developed in consideration for each of us and for what He hoped we might become when He sent us here to earth."
Elder Soares said it is through properly using agency that individuals can turn their lives in the direction of God and become like Him, or they can be distracted by the world and fail to achieve their promised potential.
"We all have the potential to become beautiful works of art in the Lord's hands. ... If we allow the Lord to shape us the result will be wonderful," he said.
The world offers many distractions that can pull people away from Heavenly Father. Those detours prevent them from being transformed into a work of art.
"It is not easy to face temptation daily," he said. "We are all exposed to an environment that is hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a world that is deteriorating morally. Media and technology invite us to participate in destructive and life-shattering activities that are opposed to our beliefs and the values of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pressures from friends who do not share our principles, or who share our principles but are weak in their faith, push us to participate in degrading behaviors. On top of all this, we have to deal with the natural man that exists in each of us."
Using the teachings from President Thomas S. Monson, Elder Soares shared a simple formula that helps individuals avoid the distraction of temptation and keeps them moving in the right direction.
"'You can't be right by doing wrong; you can't be wrong by doing right.' President Monson's formula is simple and direct," said Elder Soares. "If we exercise faith and are diligent in obeying the commandments of the Lord, we will easily find the right way to go when we face daily small choices and challenges."
It is important for individuals to ask themselves, "Are my actions placing me in the Lord's territory or the enemy's territory?"
"Our Heavenly Father has given us the light of Christ," he said. "The light of Christ is the divine energy, power or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things. It helps a person choose between right and wrong. This wonderful gift, in conjunction with the companionship of the Holy Ghost, should help us to determine whether our manner of living is placing us in the territory of the Lord or that of the enemy. If our behavior is good, we are being inspired by God, for everything that is good comes from God. If our behavior is bad, we are being influenced by the enemy, for he persuades men to do what is wrong."
These two gifts — the light of Christ and the Holy Ghost — are available to those who hold onto the iron rod. Because sometimes individuals are deceived or confused by temptation and end up sinning, reconciliation with God through repentance is necessary.
"Repentance is a wonderful gift which is available to all who desire to return to God," he said. "It is available to those who have the desire to hold on to the iron rod and allow the Lord to mold their lives into a wonderful work of art. Repentance allows the Lord to use a hammer and chisel to shape our lives and make us into a beautiful work of art."
By using agency in righteousness and relying on the light of Christ and the Holy Ghost, individuals can use that guidance to make correct decisions, becoming admirable works of art.
"As we improve, we see life more clearly and feel the Holy Ghost working more strongly within us," he said. "For those who are truly repentant but seem unable to feel relief, continue keeping the commandments. I promise you, relief will come in the timetable of the Lord. Healing also requires time.
"My invitation today is for all of us to allow the Lord to mold and transform our lives into our potential, to that which our Heavenly Father planned for us."