Nearly a decade ago I was a missionary, serving for three weeks in the Provo MTC before moving on to a smaller MTC in Latin America for the remainder of my Spanish language training. While I was in Provo, Sister Cheiko Okazaki (1926-2011), the former first counselor of the Relief Society General Presidency, came and spoke to the Sister missionaries. (I was sad, after hearing her, that the Elders had not been invited as well.)
I have always loved Sister Okazaki’s thoughts. In her books and public speaking, she quotes often from the Bible. Her advice that day in the MTC was both practical and inspiring, a discussion of dealing with feelings of inadequacy and hypocrisy, of “putting on Christ,” and of navigating the need to forgive ourselves and others on our journey. It was filled with metaphors from scripture about clothing and Christian discipleship.
Here are a few of her words, reconstructed from the hastily-scribbled notes in my mission journal:
[Referencing Adam and Eve]: There are ways in which we remain children morally instead of developing adult faith and maturity if we don’t break some rules.
Jesus could denounce the pharisees as hypocrites because He was Divine. We are not, so we cannot.
Hypocrisy starts on the outside and stays there. Goodness can start either way. Doing our duty, even with a grudging heart, can still teach us.
Jesus is not as concerned with the details of our behavior as he is with our hearts. Therefore, if being good is more important than doing good, how can we not be hypocrites if we act good but don’t feel good?
The answer: You are not your feelings. Your feelings are not you. What do you do with feelings? Give them to God, and do your duty.
It is not hypocrisy to act cheerful if you feel badly – as long as you don’t mistake the way you feel for who you are. However, depression and abuse are exceptions to this general rule. In both cases, seek professional help and help from the Savior.
In Ephesians 6:11 we are told to ‘put on the whole armor of God.’ Job 29:14 states ‘I put on righteousness and it clothed me; I was robed with judgment as a diadem.’ Garments are symbolic. Clothing signifies affiliation, protects our modesty, and enables us to do work. We are not different without our clothing. Armor gives us strength and protections. Is it hypocritical? No, it is wise.
‘Let us walk honestly as in the day … Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Romans 13:13-14). Let us live the right way. Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Remember, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek … there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.’ (Galatians 3:28)
Are we hypocrites in our attempts to ‘put on righteousness,’ even if we stumble on the hem in a few steps? No! Because part of who we are is the desire to be better.
He loves all of you. He loves you even if your past has been sorrowful and painful. Not just in your moments of strength and joy, but also in your times of despair and self-loathing.
Remember Colossians 3:14-15: ‘And above all these things put on charity …And let the peace of God rule in your hearts.’
Merry Christmas, my friends!