What lack I yet?
by Ron White, president of the La Verne California Stake, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Amid the tumult of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation designating April 30, 1863 as “a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer.” The last paragraph of the proclamation states:
“All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.”
What are our national sins today, 154 years after Lincoln’s proclamation? And how do we restore our nation’s unity and peace? The answers to those questions, of course, are in the eye of the beholder. Maybe, then, the discussion should start with another question.
Jesus asked, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” And what would it do for our unity and peace if we asked ourselves the question a disciple of Christ asked many years ago: What lack I yet?
Another time, Jesus taught a parable about two men praying at the temple. One, a Pharisee, who, like the other members of his sect, believed he was superior to others. The other man in the parable, a Publican, a tax collector, was counted among the deplorables of his day.
In considering the actions of the two men, it was the Publican who publicly confessed his sins, not the Pharisee, who trumpeted his own righteousness, who found favor in the sight of the God.
As human beings, we are all riddled with foibles, faults and frailties, so who are we to judge another? A leader in my church, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, recently emphasized the importance of not judging others by quoting a bumper sticker “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.” That is not to say that we should not strive to be the best version of ourselves, but it is a recognition that we all fall short of our ideals.
Of course, there are varying opinions, beliefs and practices in the world, so we will not see eye-to-eye on every issue. If we listened more and talked less, we may find the contrasts interesting and beautiful, like the morning light emerging from the long, dark night. Some mornings the sky is blue; other times it is bejeweled with pink and orange clouds. Sometimes the clouds blanket the sky, but the light comes through anyway, and sometimes the darkened clouds bring us needed rain. When it rains, we don’t complain that the sky is not always blue or pink or orange. We appreciate the moisture and wait for the storm to pass. Each morning may be different, but still we are thankful for each morning.
Unity and peace are the antidotes for the calamities around the world and the bitter discord within our nation. But no antidote is effective unless ingested. And divine intervention will not flow into supine vessels. Calling down the power of heaven to bless and change the world is a righteous exercise of faith. Calling down the power of heaven to change our own hearts is an act of humility and courage. Let us get on our knees and pray as if it all depended on God and rise up and take action as if it all depended on us.
Faith that propels us toward the better nature of our angels, to borrow another Lincoln-ism, is the real deal. That is when we decide to become what we criticize the other guy for not being. When we learn we cannot control the actions of others but we can control how we react to those actions, peace distills upon our hearts as the dews from heaven.
We choose to be positive. We choose not to be offended. We refuse to allow the words and actions of others—even presidents, rulers and kings not to mention despots, tyrants and terrorists—destroy our peace and afflict our souls.
When people of goodwill unite, they can stamp out evil, they can end hunger, they can find cures, they can build a world fit for their highest aspirations for their children and for the children of those with different points of view.
The desire for unity starts in our hearts. We model it in our homes, then we share it with our neighbors. Together, we bring it into our communities, and, eventually, it will cover our nation and fill the Earth.
Ron White is the president of the La Verne California Stake, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a lawyer and author of Headlong into Fury: A WWII Pilot’s Story of Rescue and Redemption.