Mr. Brooksby stood in the doorway to the supply room and stared at me. Then he blurted, “I have just the kit for you.” He turned and rummaged around among some boxes.
As part of a class in high school electronics, we students were required to assemble a radio from an assortment of parts. But there was an additional challenge. Each kit contained several faulty parts—failed resistors, broken capacitors, or imperfect tubes. We had to test the parts to identify which ones were faulty and then replace them. Otherwise we would not end up with a functioning radio.
Mr. Brooksby returned with a box and a smile: “This one has the most faulty parts.” Apparently he wanted to challenge me. I wasn’t sure I was glad for the opportunity.
In the course of the quarter I found several faulty parts and took them to Mr. Brooksby. Each time I turned in a flawed part he laughed, checked it off his list, and handed me a working replacement.
When the radio was fully assembled, I wondered if I had missed any of the faulty parts; I wondered if my radio would work. With so many interdependent parts, it seemed impossible that it would work on the first try. I turned it on. I was fairly surprised that it worked perfectly.
Radios and Mortality
Recently I was wrestling with the pain of persistent faults in my character. Sometimes I question if I’m just fundamentally flawed; maybe there is no hope that I can become like Jesus. Maybe I’m just too broken to reach the level of discipleship I long for.
In the midst of despairing thoughts, I wondered if my electronics lab had some parallels to mortal life. Maybe when Heavenly Father hands us fallen mortality, He deliberately includes some faulty parts in our character kits.
Jesus surprises us when He says: “I give unto men weakness” (Ether 12:27). We hardly expect that the Father of holiness would fill His cherished charges with faults, weaknesses, and inadequacies. But He has a plan: “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble.” Apparently it is terribly important to Him that we be humble. Allowing us to wrestle with weaknesses is His way of aiding us in achieving humility. If we were not challenged by our weaknesses, our human natures would likely be tempted towards pride and self-sufficiency. Wrestling with our faults and frailties makes it more likely we will recognize our dependence upon Him.
All of us share at least one weakness. All of us listen too much to the flesh and not enough to the Spirit. Our happiness and progress depend on learning to privilege the quiet voice of the Spirit.
I suspect that we all have customized weaknesses as well. Many times those customized weaknesses are connected to our individual strengths. For example, I have a dear friend who possesses a keen mind and the ability to think through situations with insight. Generally a keen mind is a great blessing. However, the flip side of that strength is that she frequently over-analyzes life decisions which results in her struggling to make important choices necessary for her well-being and progression. Heavenly Father granted her a customized strength, yet at the same time, it can become a weakness which reminds her to continually turn to Him as she ponders important life choices.
Some of our customized faults and frailties are not tied to our strengths. But they can certainly counterbalance our strengths and cause us to realize we do not “work perfectly” if left to our own devices.
Options for Dealing with Our Weaknesses
So how do we react to our weaknesses and flaws?
One option is to ignore them and do nothing. We might resist pondering or acknowledging our own shortcomings. We might offer excuses to ourselves—“I’m only doing the best I can!” or “There were reasons why I acted that way!” We might blame our weaknesses on our backgrounds, life circumstances or other people. But to return to the radio analogy, this option will cause us to continue operating through life with “flawed parts” and we will never become what we were designed to become.
A second option is to go to the opposite extreme. We work as hard as we can to try to fix our weaknesses and flaws. But then, as we continue to struggle with those same or new-found weaknesses over time, we can become discouraged and hopeless. We can end up feeling broken due to our “flawed parts”.
But there is a better way. The best option is to notice our weaknesses and draw on the power of Heaven to make us whole.
The Great Discovery
Growing up and as a younger adult, I was very hard on myself and sometimes despaired that I would never become the person and disciple I wanted to be. There was a key lesson for spiritual progress that was so obvious that I entirely missed it through childhood and most of adulthood. Whenever I failed, I resolved to try harder and be better. That’s a good strategy for improving one’s manners but not for changing one’s heart.
Only after decades of failure did I start to discover the great truth: Jesus is the one who changes our natures. He is the one who gives us a new heart and renews within us a right spirit. When I lean on my own character for improvement, my progress is wholly inadequate. When I throw myself on the merits, mercy, and grace of Him who is mighty to save, I start to make real progress.
So, I learned to declare with Ammon: “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things;” (Alma 26:12).
I learned to cry out with Alma: “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me” (Alma 36:18).
I studied the Psalm of Nephi (2 Nephi 4), King Benjamin’s great, final instructions (Mosiah 3-4), Alma’s great sermon (Alma 5), Lehi’s benedictory (2 Nephi 2), and the amazing atonement chapters in latter-day revelation (2 Nephi 9, Alma 34, 42, 3 Nephi 27, Ether 3, D&C 19).
I look for opportunities to invite God and His Son into my everyday life to help me in the process of exchanging my flawed parts for holier ones. Rather than let my mind wander during the sacrament, I have a face-to-face conversation with Jesus.. Instead of excusing myself when I am less than I should be, I beg for heavenly help. I apply my best effort, but when I fall short, I draw upon the Atonement and accept the testimony of Elder Boyd K. Packer: “there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ” (October 1995, The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness).
I am grateful for the continuing gifts of repentance. I throw myself on His mercy and He changes my heart little by little.
“Although it seems counterintuitive, weakness is given to help us become strong in the only way that matters in time and eternity; that is, through the Savior and His Atonement. The Savior’s grace—His enabling power—will flow to us only to the degree we are humble before Him and exercise faith in Him… If we hold to that humility and exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, He will make us strong.” (Marcus B. Nash)
You can buy a copy of Brother Goddard’s newest book, Bringing Up Our Children in Light and Truth, at Deseret Book. You may also be interested in some of his other books such as The Soft-Spoken Parent, Between Parent and Child, or Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage.