(April 2005. Started as a FHE lesson, April 24, 2005. Written more fully for an e-mail to Jenna Miller.)
This entry discusses “the courage of our convictions”, setting our minds to do something and then achieving that, and the confidence that comes from doing so.
I Set My Face Like A Flint
Isaiah chapter 50, verses 6 and 7 talk about the Savior, and the crucifixion. Here is verse 6.
I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
Verse 7 is one of my favorite verses in the scriptures.
For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
I love that image of setting a face like a flint. It is so descriptive. Today we might say “setting one’s jaw” to describe that sort of determination. The Savior could not be swayed from what was the right, even though it might be difficult.
II President Kimball’s Scripture Study
I like the following story about President Kimball’s scripture study. After finishing reading the Bible, “The experience built his confidence. He had learned he could count on his own resolution.”
III Teaching Seminary
I had a similar experience one year when I was called to teach seminary. I was not well prepared to teach seminary. I am afraid the students were getting the best of me. I didn’t know how to discipline teenagers. I hadn’t learned the Laban principle, that it is better that one student should perish than that a class should dwindle and perish in unbelief (1 Nephi 4:13).
At the end of October, after two rough months of trying to teach, I attended a regional conference where President Hinckley, then 1st Councilor in the First Presidency spoke. I remember looking at him, and thinking, “You know, he is just a man. And he is an old man at that. If the people in this room decided en mass to harm him, short of divine intervention, he could not withstand them. And as an old man, he would find teaching my seminary students challenging. They might be respectful of him for a few days, but that would wear off, and he would find it difficult.
“But you know the difference is he would find a way to be successful. He would be determined to teach those students, and would find a way to engage them. He would not be deterred from his purpose. His life is a testimony of that fact.”
Having that realization, I set my mind to overcome. I recorded in my journal:
I finally prayed the other day that I did not want to be released from my calling. I want to do well at it. I want to go through it, not around…. I want those kids to win with me. (Journal entry, October 24, 1994, page 2260)
On June 5, 1995, after Seminary had ended, I wrote the following:
On the last day, I told each one of the students something that I had learned from them. One of them, who had been antagonistic at times, said “You are a good teacher.” That was all he said. He said it really quickly, but it made a difference for me.
I bore my testimony yesterday. After I did, two other students bore theirs. One said “I am thankful to be out of seminary.” Everyone laughed. He then said I could make a gospel application out of almost anything. The second one talked about how I told each one something that I had learned from them, and how nice she thought that was. She then said, “And I learned from Brother Twitchell to keep going, no matter how hard it gets.” (Journal entry, June 5, 1995, page 2313)
IV Confidence Waxes Strong
That reminds me of another scripture. After the Lord tells people in authority what they must do to exercise that authority righteously, he says one of the blessings is “…thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God….” (D&C 121:45). If we do what we should be doing, we have greater confidence in our abilities to do more, to be more righteous.
Sometimes we hear about the “courage of our convictions.” Sometimes we simply have to make resolutions to do what is right, no matter what the cost is. Having done so, we are blessed with courage to do those things that we did not think we could do, simply because we are not worried about the cost any longer. We have courage because of our convictions or resolutions.
If doing something is the right thing to do, if there is no doubt that it is the right thing to do, then we should set our minds to do it. Once we achieve it, we will have greater confidence in our ability to do something more difficult. Our confidence will wax stronger.
V Dews of Heaven
Does this happen in a day? No, I think it takes much longer. It is a process we can follow throughout our lives. The next line from Doctrine and Covenants 121 describes this process: “…and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.” (D&C 121:45) If you have ever slept out at night, you know what it means to be covered with dew. But you cannot point to the time when you begin to get wet. It happens almost imperceptibly. But when you awake, you are most certainly wet. As we follow this pattern of setting our minds to do something, and then doing it with the Lord’s help, we gain more confidence, until we are able to do great and marvelous things.