Editor's note: Our bi-weekly Friday column, “Found in the footnotes,” explores some of the footnotes from remarks given by General Authorities and General Officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Whenever there’s a question asked during general conference, there’s a part of me that gets excited. I know that when I go back to study that talk, I’ll have a guided pondering prompt—a prompt that typically leads me to inspiration or revelation.
During October 2020 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson asked six questions in a row in his talk “Let God Prevail,” and my list of potential pondering prompts grew rapidly:
Are you willing to let God prevail in your life? Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life? Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day? Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other? Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition? Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His?
I’ve spent some time thinking about each of these questions individually. I even incorporated them into daily prompts in the latest LDS Living Countdown to Conference to give me another chance to think about them.
One takeaway I’ve had as I’ve pondered these questions is the idea that they are all focused on one thing: what we are willing to do. And aligning our will with God’s will isn’t necessarily easy. In a footnote following these questions, President Nelson shares these words:
Being of Israel is not for the faint of heart. To receive all the blessings that God has in store for Abraham’s seed, we can each expect to be given our own unique “Abrahamic test.” God will test us, as the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, by wrenching our very heartstrings.
If you’re like me, maybe you find that footnote both exciting and terrifying. I think about the “Abrahamic test” that Abraham himself was asked to endure to prove his willingness to have God prevail in his life. He had to show he was willing to sacrifice his son, the son that he and his wife had prayed for. When I looked up the teaching from the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Nelson’s statement became even more powerful to me:
John Taylor, the third President of the Church, said: “I heard the Prophet Joseph say, in speaking to the Twelve on one occasion: ‘You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God, and (said he) God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.’”
Surely when Abraham passed through his own “Abrahamic test” God was wrenching his very heart strings. But we know that Abraham passed that test, and we know he received has now been exalted (Doctrine and Covenants 132:29). In the October 1995 general conference, Elder Neal A. Maxwell reflected on Joseph Smith’s teaching that we must be tried in our mortal life. I love this teaching from Elder Maxwell on how that change is a slow process:
If our hearts are set too much upon the things of this world, they may need to be wrenched, or broken, or undergo a mighty change (see Alma 5:12).
Consecration is thus both a principle and a process, and it is not tied to a single moment. Instead, it is freely given, drop by drop, until the cup of consecration brims and finally runs over.
Being of Israel might not always be easy. As President Nelson said in his talk:
It takes both faith and courage to let God prevail. It takes persistent, rigorous spiritual work to repent and to put off the natural man through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It takes consistent, daily effort to develop personal habits to study the gospel, to learn more about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and to seek and respond to personal revelation.
Each time we put forth that consistent, daily effort, we put a drop in our cup of consecration. And each time we choose to let God prevail, we take one step forward. We show God we are willing to give Him our hearts.
As I’ve studied some of the blessings the Lord has promised to covenant Israel, I have found something to be true—the challenge to be of Israel isn’t for the faint of heart, but the promised blessings make it worth it.
As we let God prevail, the promise is sure that these blessings can be ours. And as President Nelson said, “as you choose to let God prevail in your lives, you will experience for yourselves that our God is ‘a God of miracles.’”