With Steadfast Faith in Christ

I am a collector of quotes. At one point, I had notebooks full of wise and pithy sayings, sprinkled with the humourous and witty. Later in my life I began to collect the quotes on various word document files, but when a computer died, the quotes often died with them. Eventually I stopped recording all of them in one place and started sharing them on social media, usually using Facebook and attaching a hashtag of some sort to help me keep track of them. Now, it turns out that none of these systems are particularly effective in helping me remember, locate, and share quotes. However, I have been able to at least remember the gist of some of the ones that had the greatest impact on me at different times in my life. Here are a few of them:
Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the courage to make the right things happen.
~Reverend Peter Marshall (United States Senate Chaplain)
Right is right, even if everyone is against it; wrong is wrong, even if every is for it.
~Sir William Penn (founder of Pennsylvania colony)
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
~Marianne Williamson (author and social advocate)
If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him... We need not wait to see what others do.
~Mahatma Gandhi (Indian liberation activist)
I don’t think anyone would argue that living your life in accordance with the statements I just quoted would lead you to do anything unkind, cruel, or wicked. In fact, I would go so far as to say that these, and the thousands, if not millions, of statements like them could easily serve as an excellent guide in living a positive, healthy, moral, upright life. In 1903, Leo Tolstoy actually set about putting together just such a guide. After roughly seven year of work, he compiled what he called A Calendar of Wisdom (sometimes called “The Path of Life,” “A Cycle of Readings,” or “Wise Thoughts for Every Day”). Within it, Tolstoy shared quotes from all of the great religious and philosophical leaders from the history of the world, writing in the introduction, “I hope that the readers of this book may experience the same benevolent and elevating feeling which I have experienced when I was working on its creation, and which I experience again and again when I reread it every day, working on the enlargement and improvement of the previous edition."

As I think about the many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of quotes I have collected in my own lifetime and the influence they have had on me at different times, I have to ask myself: Is it enough to be a good person? Can I be satisfied with using the Scout Law as my personal guide, to live a life of trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, friendliness, courtesy, kindness, obedience, cheerfulness, thriftiness, bravery, and reverence? The answer is a resounding no. Being a good person is not enough, not when we take an eternal perspective. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we know that it is not enough to just be a good person because we know that this life is about so much more than, well, this life. Now, lest anyone misunderstands my point, we of course need to strive to be good people. The first and greatest commandment God has given His children is to love Him, love others, and love ourselves. So if being a good person, or trying to be a good person, is not enough, what else do we need to do?

Well, first, I suppose we should be asking, “enough for what?” If your goal in life is to be a good person, to leave this world better than you found it, well, in that case, yes, trying to be a good person is enough. But if your goal in life is to learn all you can, to do as much good for as many people as you can, for the purpose of becoming more like your Heavenly Father so that you can return to live with Him in His presence one day, then we have a much higher objective before us. We don’t strive just to be good; we strive to be perfect. We don’t want to leave this world better than we found it; we want to leave this world better than we were when we entered it. How do we do this? How do we become better than we are, how do we become perfect, how do we become more like our Father in Heaven, how do we, in short, attain exaltation?

To find our answer, let us turn to the Book of Mormon, Second Book of Nephi, thirty-first chapter, and thirteenth verse, in which Nephi tells us this:
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel. 
What does this mean, though? Do we just need to, as our first Article of Faith tells us, have faither in Christ, repent, be baptised, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and then, poof, we are on an irreversible path toward salvation and exaltation? Well, no, not quite. If we continue to read Nephi’s sermon, we find that he was asked the same thing. Listen carefully:
And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen. 
Did you catch the formula Nephi gave us? After we begin to exercise faith through repentance and baptism, we must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, loving God and loving all men (and women and children); we must feast upon the word of Christ and we must endure to the end. That’s a tall order and, to be quite frank, it would be impossible for us to do on our own because we are, every single one of us, imperfect beings. There is not a single person among us who is completely perfect, not even babies, for one very simple reason: being perfect is more than just being without sin. Adam and Eve were without sin when they were in the Garden of Eden but they were not perfect because they had not learned to press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, they had not learned to love God and all mankind, they had not learned to feast on the words of Christ, and they had not even begun the process of enduring to the end.

Even Jesus Christ Himself, the only one born on earth who was without sin, was not perfect at first. As Luke tells us in his testimony, Jesus had to grow in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and with man. As He grew, as He came to learn of His mission as the Messiah, as He taught, He gave us an example to follow. He showed us the way because He was the way. Correction: He is the way. In fact, Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is only and through Him that we may return to live with our Father in Heaven again.

As I was thinking about this, I found myself wondering, were the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth really that different from the religious teachings of other sects and faiths around the world? The answer I found was, honestly, no, not really. We can find similar messages of faith, of love, of service, of duty, and sacrifice throughout the world’s religions. Even the teachings of a Messiah, a saviour of mankind, are not unique to the story of Christ. So what makes Him different? While pondering this, I recalled the writings of James E. Talmage, a latter-day apostle who, in 1915, wrote Jesus the Christ under the direction of the First Presidency in 1905. (Yes, it took him a decade to complete the project, although the actually writing only took about seven months.) In the introduction, he tells us this:
Judged by the standard of human estimation, Jesus of Nazareth is supreme among men by reason of the excellence of His personal character, the simplicity, beauty, and genuine worth of His precepts, and the influence of His example and doctrines in the advancement of the race. To these distinguishing characteristics of surpassing greatness the devout Christian soul adds an attribute that far exceeds the sum of all the others—the divinity of Christ’s origin and the eternal reality of His status as Lord and God… It is the the divinity of Jesus Christ that sets Him apart from all other religious and philosophical leaders of the world. 
Jesus of Nazareth was not simply a great teacher, although a great teacher He surely was. He was not just a profound spiritual leader, although He was that, too. He was not just a man who preached a radical love of all mankind, decrying the xenophobia and tribalism of ancient, and dare I say even modern, civilisations, but He did that, too. Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who died and rose the third day, breaking the bands of physical death and securing salvation for every person born on this earth. He also took upon Himself the pain and agony of all our sins, a sinless sacrifice who paid the price so that we would not have to. In doing this, He broke the bands of spiritual death and made possible the gift of exaltation to all who would follow Him.

So now we know what to do and we know why we need to do it. The last question to consider is how. How do we press forward with a steadfastness in Christ? How do we love God and all mankind? How do we feast upon the word of Christ? How do we endure to the end. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer, no simple formula. There is no checklist of things to do that you can refer to each morning and night and say “Yep, I did all of those things, therefore I must be on the path to exaltation!” Sorry, friends, but nothing in life is that simple. In fact, the only real guidance I can offer is to learn to feel and recognise the promptings of the Holy Spirit and then act on them. In the eleventh section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord gave this counsel to His young prophet, Joseph Smith, in verses twelve through fourteen:
And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy; And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive. 
Remember Nephi? He wrote that he was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand what he should do (see 1 Nephi 4:6). In a later section of the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith counseled the brethren, “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85). As we study the scriptures and come to know our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we will seek to know God’s will for us. Perhaps we may be called upon to do some great act of service. So many of us in the Church proclaim that we would have gladly dropped everything and gone across the plains during an early winter storm to rescue the members of the ill-fated Martin handcart companies. What brother has not heard the story of the Sweetwater Rescue and said, ‘If only I lived at the time, I would have joined in helping carry the stranded Saints across the icy river!” My experience, however, has been that we are more often called to do small and simple things. For some, it will be a prompting to visit someone in the hospital or in an extended care facility. For others, it will be a desire to share a witness of the Saviour with a friend or a family member. Some of us may feel an urge to call someone we haven’t seen in a long time just to say we were thinking of them. Or maybe it is simply the prompting to read your scriptures a little more carefully, to pray with more sincere intent, or to really ponder the meaning of the Atonement as we partake of the Sacrament each Sabbath day.

Let us all commit ourselves more fully to trust following our Lord and Saviour. Let us be more diligent in talking of Christ, rejoicing in Christ, preaching of Christ, and testifying of Christ so that all we meet may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins (see 2 Nephi 25:26).


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