In our challenges and trials, we experience a glimpse of Gethsemane. In the garden and in those days that followed, the Savior wrestled with our challenges, taking upon Himself all of that pain, and overcame all. His selfless sacrifice was for us that we might look to Him as our Exemplar, Savior, and Redeemer. When we draw upon the Atonement, we come to value Christ’s strength in light of our weakness. We feel a measure of peace, hoping someday to be worthy to stand in the presence of the Father.
In the Grand Council in Heaven we chose to accept our Father’s plan. It hinges on agency—the freedom to choose. Lehi taught his son Jacob, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). We “are free to choose liberty and eternal life, . . . or to choose captivity and death” (v. 27). Our everlasting welfare is dependent on living the laws of God. His commandments are fixed; they do not change except as directed by revelation.
We chose to come to earth and receive a body. We committed to live the commandments that we might be worthy of eternal life, the greatest of all God’s blessings. Central to our Father’s plan was the mission of Jesus Christ and His Atonement that makes it possible for us to repent, be path. When all around us is in commotion, the Lord counsels, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). To be still is to trust that He has the power to vanquish not only our mistakes but the pain we feel as well. The very name of Jesus Christ speaks of salvation for all mankind. He is the “Son of the most high God” (1 Nephi 11:6), our “Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel” (1 Nephi 20:17), the “Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). Yet, His work and His ministry were never about Him. He sought only “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). That is you and me.
Satan, on the other hand, presented his own plan that would have compelled us to live by his rules. His intent was to have us circle about him for his glory. Everyone who has lived or yet will live on this earth chose not to follow him. Satan has already lost more than we have right now. He does not have a body; he can never progress beyond where he is today; he can never be exalted. But still he continues to fight the war that he waged in heaven because he wants more than he has. He wants us to join him in his misery.
By divine design, we can become like Heavenly Father and receive all He has (see D&C 132:19–20). That promise means something on those days when things are not going right and we ask ourselves, “This is it?” Well, it is not. This is mortality, a stage of progression that guarantees for those who are righteous exaltation in the kingdom of God. Forever. You probably feel like forever is too abstract, too far away. You may not feel you can even deal with today, and you may be dragging around your mistakes of yesterday as well. Perhaps students may say, “Let me tell you, Elder Rasband, about this monster of a class I have, and the lab requirements, and also my girlfriend just dumped me, and I can’t figure out what I am good at so I don’t have a major.” Parents may lament that their children are rolling on the ground and pinching each other rather than quietly embracing Come, Follow Me on Sunday morning. Grandparents may find that quiet is harder to bear than children racing in and out of the back door with the dog. And those in care centers may face loneliness and boredom. Those overwhelmed with the state of their lives and the depression that consumes them may be thinking of suicide. And so it goes. Who is thinking about forever?
Well, brothers and sisters, you have the agency to look further than that. You have the capacity to become gods and goddesses in a realm that knows no sorrow and no defeat, that feels no pain and no rejection, that promises light and goodness and peace everlasting. You are “the children of light” (1 Thessalonians 5:5), and you must never let the darkness of today get in the way of your desire to be with God and become like Him.
With such uprightness comes joy. President Russell M. Nelson has said, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.
“When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation, . . . and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him” (“Joy and Spiritual Survival,” Ensign, Nov. 2016).
So, choose to feel joy because your Savior, Jesus Christ, has atoned for your sins and has felt your pain. For Him, the Atonement was a choice. He pled, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). At that crucial moment, He submitted His will, His precious agency, to the Father, that the plan of happiness might go forward.
Choose to feel joy in your very existence as a child of God. That is not just a catchphrase in the Church or a song sung in Primary. Being a child of God means being connected to the heavens while we journey in mortality. Being a child of God means there are expectations for us to make a difference in the Lord’s kingdom—right now. Again, you have to look further than today’s pleasures, disappointments, worldly accomplishments, or current trends to receive needed revelation from God. Do not be fooled; you are not of the world; you are divine.
My friends, you do not have to do this alone. The Holy Ghost, who is a member of the Godhead, will be your companion, guiding and directing you in quiet yet perfect ways. Take advantage of that counsel that reaches far beyond good ideas and worldly wisdom. Gain a testimony by the choices you make that the Holy Ghost “knoweth all things” (D&C 35:19) and shows “all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:5).
Inherent in agency is obedience to God’s commandments. As you strive for more serenity and joy—less fear and worry—will you follow one of the great themes of the Book of Mormon, that obedience brings great blessings?
In 2 Nephi, we read: “For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence” (2 Nephi 4:4). The Lord does not make that promise just once but time and again—in First, Second, Third, and Fourth Nephi, in Mosiah, Alma, Ether, Jarom, and Helaman. When King Benjamin counseled his sons in the first chapter of Mosiah, he spoke of them having the Lord’s “commandments always before [their] eyes” (Mosiah 1:5).
The Lord’s commandments do not change. What He asked of Mary and Martha, Lehi and Nephi, He asks of us. King Benjamin describes it as having “no more disposition to do evil” (Mosiah 5:2). The thirteenth article of faith lays out a Christlike life with this declaration: “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men.”
What the Lord makes clear is that we prosper when we live the commandments of God. There was a time when most people believed and understood that they would be held accountable by God for living the commandments. Not so anymore. Few people observe the Sabbath with the reverence t deserves as the Lord’s Day. Many consider charity, the pure love of Christ, to be simply a monetary donation. Others think nothing of taking God’s name in vain; many squander the gifts He has given them in search of self-satisfying pleasures rather than following the Lord’s pronouncement, “I came into the world to do the will of my Father” (3 Nephi 27:13). But as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are different and determined. We seek to establish His righteousness and to reflect the blessings—including peace, happiness, and prosperity—that come from loving God and His ways.
Never take casually your commitment to Jesus Christ and His commandments. Recognize that He is the “author and finisher of [your] faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus Christ will be with you as you fulfill your commitments as a disciple, a believer, a faithful follower of Him, “the Son of the living God” (D&C 68:6).
May you know and feel the importance of your life in the Lord’s kingdom here on earth. May you have the wisdom to make good choices and to keep the commandments, to think beyond the vagaries of today to the profound and eternal opportunities that await you, as you choose to follow the Son of God. As you do, may you receive the blessings of peace, joy, and prosperity, even amid the challenges of this mortal life.