I ended the blog and then my son had to go and write an incredible mission letter about a profound lesson he learned from his dad. I had to include an excerpt.
I have never been one for gospel sports analogies, but something came to me from my childhood wrestling days that almost sums it all up… In acquiring any sport or skill, we often hear the phrase, “practice makes perfect.” Even more often, however, I would hear my father, a wrestling coach, correct the notion. He would say, “Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.” It had occurred to me many times to apply this in life. If we practice the principles of the gospel when it’s easy, it will be easier to live them when the going gets tough. However, this week, the Spirit expanded this analogy to a much more eternal scale.
Until this point, I had considered our life on earth to be a test, much like tests in school. We were to come here, try to live to the impossible standard of Jesus Christ, and if we really tried, He would forgive us of the points we didn’t earn, and transform us somehow into perfect beings like Himself. This analogy changed my perspective.
This life is much more like a wrestling practice than an exam. The commandment was given, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect,” or in other words, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” If we perform perfectly in this life, we will undoubtedly be perfect in the life to come. Now, I was very young, and perhaps I just don’t remember, but I don’t think I ever saw a perfect wrestling practice. I surely haven’t witnessed a perfect life on Earth. However, these two statements are true. So how will any of us ever, ever become like our Father in Heaven?
Luckily, the Savior is much more like a coach, than a professor. He doesn’t simply grade our exam, then wave a magic wand and make our wrong answers right. He stands alongside us as we try to practice perfectly, and corrects us as we go. If we heed His gentle instruction, we will slowly but surely become increasingly perfect. However, if we justify, and slack, and give less than our best effort in practice, not only will we miss out on opportunities to learn, we will take that same attitude with us to the tournament.
You see, if we allow anything less than perfection, saying, “well it’s okay, nobody is perfect,” how could we expect that attitude to magically change when the day of judgement comes? We will be as Alma the Younger, when he felt the “pains of a damned soul.” Damnation is not the wrath of God falling upon us because we didn’t score high enough on our exam. Damnation is what happens when we have put a limit on what we are willing to give to become like our Heavenly Father, and therefore put a limit on how far we are able to progress. Even though the Savior has paid the price of our sins in full, the shame of sin would keep the unrepentant sinner from even wanting to enter the kingdom of Heaven.
However, if we do strive for perfect practice, we will learn day by day how to be what God wants us to be. There is no greater joy than the joy of progress. There is no greater sense of fulfillment, than what comes from taking the correction of the Lord, and becoming more like Him.
I love you all! –Elder Abplanalp