Their teaching was personal, sincere, familiar. We simply felt that it was true. A few weeks later we were baptized and confirmed and were immediately embraced with friendship and kindness from members and leaders in our new Church family.
So began a gospel journey which has enriched and blessed every aspect of our lives, bringing a deep, abiding, calming sense of purpose and direction. In the hope that it may prove helpful to those new to Church membership, I will share today just three gospel fundamentals learned along the way.
First is the motivating, transforming power of faith in Jesus Christ. Such faith is like spiritual oxygen. As we allow faith to freely flow within us, it awakens and enlivens our spiritual senses. It breathes life into our very souls.
As faith flows, we become sensitively attuned to the whisperings of the Spirit. Our minds are enlightened, our spiritual pulse quickens, our hearts are touched.
Faith fuels hope. Our perspective changes; our vision becomes clearer. We begin to look for the best, not the worst, in life and in others. We gain a deeper sense of life's purpose and meaning. Despair gives way to joy.
Faith such as this is a heavenly gift, but it can be sought and cultivated. As our Bible Dictionary suggests, often "faith is kindled by hearing the testimony of those who have faith."1 Faith is then nurtured as we allow ourselves to believe. Like all other virtues, faith is strengthened as we practice it, as we live and act as if our faith were already deep. Faith is the product of righteous desire, belief, and obedience.
Thus the Book of Mormon example of the father of King Lamoni, who heard the testimony of Aaron and was willing to believe and to act so that he was led to say in humble prayer, "If there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee."2
So it can be for us as we allow ourselves to be touched by the spirit of testimony, as we exercise belief, as we desire, ponder, seek - as we cultivate our faith.
Second, as we serve we grow. President George Albert Smith taught, "It is not what we receive that enriches our lives, it is what we give."3
Selfless service is a wonderful antidote to the ills that flow from the worldwide epidemic of self-indulgence. Some grow bitter or anxious when it seems that not enough attention is being paid to them, when their lives would be so enriched if only they paid more attention to the needs of others.
The answer lies in helping to solve the problems of those around us rather than worrying about our own, living to lift burdens even when we ourselves feel weighed down, putting our shoulder to the wheel instead of complaining that the wagons of life seem to be passing us by.
Stretching our souls in service helps us to rise above our cares, concerns, and challenges. As we focus our energies on lifting the burdens of others, something miraculous happens. Our own burdens diminish. We become happier. There is more substance to our lives.
Third, discipleship does not guarantee freedom from the storms of life. Even as we are wending our way carefully and faithfully along the strait and narrow path, we encounter obstacle and challenge. There are days, perhaps even months and years, when life is just hard. We experience our fair share of adversity, heartache, loneliness, pain, grief - sometimes, it seems, more than our fair share.
What to do when adversity strikes? There is only one thing to do. Stand steady and see it through. Stay steadfast, constant, and true. The real tragedy in the whirlwinds of life comes only when we allow them to blow us off our true course.
At these moments of crisis and challenge, some choose to abandon faith just at the time when it most needs to be embraced. Prayer is ignored at the very hour when it needs to be intensified. Virtue is carelessly tossed aside when it needs to be cherished. God is forsaken in the all-too-human yet mistaken fear that He has forsaken us.
The truth is that our only safety, our only security, our only hope is to hold fast to that which is good. As the mists of darkness gather around us, we are only lost if we choose to let go of the iron rod, which is the word of God.
The Savior's parable of the wise man who built his house upon a rock has power precisely because it illustrates that life's challenges befell the wise man too. The rains fell, the winds blew, the floods rose up. Yet he survived it all because he had built upon a sure foundation and, crucially, he stayed there when the storm came.
In his description of a pilgrim's, or disciple's, progress, John Bunyan wrote:
Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither!
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather;
There's no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.4
The Apostle Paul urged the Colossians to "continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard."5
To the people of Corinth came this powerful testimony:
"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
"Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."6
What made such a perspective possible? Paul gave the reason: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."7
It is my witness that as we cultivate our faith, grow through service, and stay constant and true come what may, so we feel the Savior's love. We place ourselves in the position where we can access the breadth and depth of the blessings of the Atonement. Our membership is transformed into discipleship. We are strengthened, cleansed, refreshed, spiritually and emotionally healed.
Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
- Bible Dictionary, "Faith," 669.
- Alma 22:18.
- In Conference Report, Apr. 1935, 46.
- The Pilgrim's Progress (1997), 295.
- Colossians 1:23.
- 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.
- 2 Corinthians 4:6.