Friday, March 22, 2013

"Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be"

                Dale DeCoursey Sacrement Talk in 2012,
due to the amount of request for a copy of this talk, I have posted in on the blog, and sent a copy to our missionaries. 
“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”
            The world lost a great man this year.  This man was an American basketball coach. He was a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (inducted in 1961) and as a coach (inducted in 1973). He was the first person ever enshrined in both categories. His ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period while at UCLA are unmatched by any other college basketball coach. I am of course speaking of the legendary John Robert Wooden (October 14, 1910 – June 4, 2010).  Although he may be mostly remembered for his athletic accomplishments, I am even more impressed with the man he was outside the world of sports.  John Wooden was first and foremost a family man and a devoted Christian.
            John Wooden was a Christian for many years and his beliefs were more important to him than basketball, "I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior."  Wooden's faith strongly influenced his life. He read the Bible daily and attended church regularly.  He said that he hopes his faith is apparent to others, "If I were ever prosecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me."
            Coach Wooden’s convictions carried over into all aspects of his life, including coaching and those convictions have inspired many people on and off the court.  He has offered many inspirational thoughts and quotations as part of his coaching and teaching.
One of his quotes that I have adopted in my own life, in fact, it has become my personal life theme, is “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be”.  Today I would like to break it down and discuss what this means to me.
“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” 
What is failure? Failure is defined as:
  1. The condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends: the failure of an experiment.
  2. The condition or fact of being insufficient or falling short: a crop failure.
  3. Nonperformance of what is requested or expected; omission: failure to report a change of address.
In the world of college sports, the goal of every team is to win games with a desired end to each season of winning the national championship.  Falling short of this desired end is commonly viewed as “failure” as we have just defined.  What stops a team from achieving this goal; lack of discipline, lack of commitment, making mistakes, and not working together.
“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”
What is fatality? Fatal is defined as:
      1.  leading to deathcausing or capable of causing death
          "a fatal car crash"
      2.  ruinouscausing destruction, disaster, or ruin
          "a fatal mistake in calculations"
If a team loses a game is their season ruined?  Is all hope lost?  Is loosing a game fatal?  Not according to Coach Wooden.  In fact, 6 out of the 10 years that UCLA won a national championship under Coach Wooden were not perfect seasons.   They had lost at least one game.
“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”
What is change? Change is defined as:
       1.  Making or becoming differentalteration, variation, or modification "There's been       
            a change of plan."
       2.  exchange or replacementan exchange, substitution, or replacement of something  
            or somebody
       3.  variance from routinea variance from a routine or pattern
If a team learns from their failures, if a team learns from their mistakes and makes the necessary changes, success, or attaining their ultimate goal is still possible.  But if a team doesn’t learn from their mistakes and fails to make the necessary changes, then fatality is eminent.
“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”
            How about in our own personal worlds, what is our desired end?  What do you and I hope to achieve at the end of our “season”?  It is life eternal.  What stops us from achieving this goal; lack of discipline, lack of commitment, making mistakes also know as sin, and not working together, trying to make it on our own?  Sound familiar?
In our sojourn in life, if a person makes a mistake, is all hope lost?  Is their season ruined?  Is sinning fatal?  No it’s not.  If we learn from our mistakes and make the necessary changes, or in other words, if we repent all is not lost.  Alma was taught by the Lord (Mosiah 26: 29-30)
 29 Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also.
  30 Yea, and  as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.
I am not really sure how this happened, but I grew up in the church with the understanding that I had to be perfect.  We read in Matt. 5:48;
48 Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.
I grew up thinking that if I was not perfect then I was a failure; if I sinned, if I made mistakes then I failed and all was lost.  That is so false.  Just because we may “lose a game” the “season” is not lost.  How can the Lord expect a mortal to be perfect?  By nature, a mortal being is an imperfect being.  Amulek exclaimed, “…Yea all are hardened; yea all are fallen and are lost…”(Alma 34:9)  How are we then to become perfect?  Moroni solved that dilemma when he taught; (Moroni 10:32)
“ 32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
“Failure is not fatal but failure to change might be.”
One of the best examples I can think of is the story of Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah.  We read about this account in Alma 36 when Alma is recalling his conversion to his son Helaman.
6 For I went about with the sons of Mosiah, seeking to destroy the church of God; but behold, God sent his holy angel to stop us by the way.
13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.
  14 Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.
  15 Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.
  16 And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.
  17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
  18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
  19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
  20 And oh, what  joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
  21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.
I testify that we can have the same exquisite feeling of sweet joy as did Alma, if we come unto Christ and allow ourselves to be perfected in Him, if we come unto Christ and repent of our sins. 
“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”
I also think that I grew up feeling that repentance and the atonement were for other people.  That the atonement was more like a global phenomenon.  That the Atonement was an act of love for all mankind as a whole and not for each individual let alone for me personally.  I didn’t really understand that the atonement is actually a personal and intimate relationship with the Savior.  Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “The irony of the Atonement is that it is infinite and eternal, yet it is applied individually, one person at a time.”  Nephi explained; (2Nephi 33:6)
 6 I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.
I also somehow grew up with the belief that if I needed to change than I had to be strong and do it on my own.  If I needed to repent that I had to do it myself.  If I didn’t handle things on my own then I was weak and unworthy.  Again, this is so wrong.
We are not alone.  We have each other, we have family, we have friends, and we have our leaders but most of all, we the Lord on our side.  We don’t have to be martyrs. Brothers and Sisters, I testify that the gift of repentance through the atonement is indeed personal and individual.  I testify that Christ is my Savior, He is your Savior and that He is the only way to God.  He is our advocate with the Father.  I testify that if I alone had stumbled, if I alone had strayed, if I alone had wandered from the straight and narrow way.  If I alone bore guilt for which my all could not atone, He would have come for me; He would have come for you.  He did come for me.  He did come for you.  We need to share what’s going on in our lives.  We all have sins that we struggle with.  No one is exempt from this.  If you think you are exempt or you think that others are exempt, than you are only fooling yourself.  Let us talk to each other.  Children and youth talk to your parents or leaders.  Husbands, talk to your wives, wives talk to your husbands, talk to the Lord, talk to the Bishop.  Let’s make the necessary changes in our lives so we can experience this sweet joy as did Alma.
“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”
 I bear testimony that these things are true and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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