I was asked to give a talk in Church this week on “Recommitting to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The topic was chosen to kick off the new year and help people keep their resolutions. I figured I’d start by looking at my journals for old new year’s resolutions.
I’ve kept a journal since I was about 11. Like most journals, it’s painful to read. It has recaps of every school and church dance I attended, every awkward teenager conversation, and of course, what journal is complete without an analysis of why my life is just like The Legend of Zelda? And believe me, it is exactly like Legend of Zelda.
There are some really sweet things in there about Racheal and then some not so nice things in there after we broke up.
Throughout the journals, it’s pretty evident I was consistent on setting goals growing up. Riddled throughout my journal or sometimes at the end of the year, I’d write down my goals. I remember one year when I was going to become an expert snowboarder. I went up to the mountain once that year. One year I was determined to write in my journal every day. I only wrote for only a month after that commitment. Revisiting my journals this week, I found that the majority of my goals had something about improving my spirituality—scripture reading, consistent prayer, attributes to develop, etc.
Flipping through the pages, it was pretty discouraging. How many goals, resolutions and commitments have I made, but didn’t achieve?
But revisiting the title of this talk, I realized that we are talking about “recommitting” and not just “committing.”
It’s not about making a goal, a choice and decision once. “Recommitting” is about continually deciding to choose what you once chose.
Marriage is a great example. Was it enough on my wedding day to commit to my wife my fidelity, love and devotion? No. Since that moment, and for every moment after it, I must recommit myself to that promise to the woman I love.
The rest of this post I will direct my message to Christians who are looking for a way to recommit themselves to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have committed to follow His teachings and live by his Gospel. Our journey, every day, is to treat others as he would, adopt his attributes, and to keep his commandments.
But that decision likewise must be made again daily. I have failed at this time and time again. But this is the struggle, we must have with the “natural man.” The natural man represents all our evil desires, our disposition to commit sin, and to harm our brothers and sisters.
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (The Book of Mormon, Mosiah 3:19)
We will always fall short of becoming like Him. Yet, the command is to strive every day to do our very best. His Atonement (suffering and death) erases our sins and grants us the grace we need to overcome our weaknesses.
This struggle is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this purpose, we have come to earth.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ
First, we must acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer, the Messiah who came to save us all from sin. The Son of God who descended to the earth in a body of flesh and bone.
17 And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. (The Book of Mormon, Mosiah 3:17)
He suffered for the sins of all mankind. Willingly submitting himself to the will of the Father. He bled from every pore in the Garden of Gethsamene.
4 ¶Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Bible KJV, Old Testament, Isaiah 53:4-5)
We must believe that those drops of blood shed were for us. That He suffered the punishment for all of our sins and suffered through every affliction, sorrow, and pain we have. We cannot just believe this once, but must daily remember His sacrifice for each of us.
I’d like to talk about each specific step in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I’d like to suggest one specific way that we can all recommit for each of them.
Faith can very easily get overlooked once it’s first obtained. We assume sometimes that if we believed it once, it will always be there waiting for us, as pristine as when we first received it.
I love the teachings of Alma in The Book of Mormon when he does his discourse on comparing faith to a seed.
Just like a seedling, our faith can’t be left alone. Alma talks at length about what has to happen after the seed has started to grow.
36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.
37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.
39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.
40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.
41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst. (The Book of Mormon, Alma 32:36-42)
I have had many moments in my life where I have neglected that seedling. I’ve never stomped on it with my boot or taken a weed-whacker to it. But I have let my the soil of my heart become arid.
The Parable of the Sower illustrates the many ways I have made it hard for the seed of faith to grow. My own heart has cast seeds of truth to the wayside by not taking the time to understand and study the scriptures diligently. I have let it become stony ground, by listening and giving room to voices that mock my beliefs. I have let thorns of the cares of the world, riches and prosperity come in and choke out the seedling. How often have I found myself not relying on Jesus Christ, because I was comfortable?
So how do we overcome this? What can we recommit to increase our faith and nourish the seed until it becomes a towering tree?
“Let us not treat lightly [His word]. … [It is] one of the most valuable gifts He has given us. … Recommit … immerse yourselves in them daily. … Read them in your families and teach your children to love and treasure them. Then prayerfully and in counsel with others, seek every way possible to encourage the members of the Church to follow your example.” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1986, p. 82.)
Let’s all recommit to studying our scriptures in order to strengthen and grow our faith.
I had a Subaru in college that I loved. It worked like a dream for me all four years. I drove it everywhere, I even drove it coast to coast. I took good care of it. The car never really seemed to have any major issues. One day it blew out a spark plug. We had to do a lot of work on the car, but after that I felt like it would keep going forever. One major repair and the car was good to go.
After spending all that money on fixing one part of the car, I started to avoid buying the parts I needed to keep up on the car. I skipped buying brakes until the rotors were scored. I didn’t change out the spark plugs so it ran rough. Little problem stacked on top of little problem until the car was so damaged it couldn’t run.
Likewise, I find myself not always repenting for the little things. I can remember and recall the times I’ve prayed out in tears to be changed and to be forgiven of the huge mistakes I’ve made. However, I hardly remember to repent of the small things. The off-hand comment the other day. The frustration I had with that guys in the Jeep at the 4-way stop. The time I chose not to volunteer for that service project. These errors can be just as detrimental to our spiritual health if we don’t remedy them as they come up.
How grateful we are that our Heavenly Father has given us the gift of repentance. And how sad it is if we do not recognize that each day is the time for us to make needed improvements: “But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!” (2 Ne. 9:27.) (The Gospel of Repentance, President Spencer W. Kimball)
What’s the easiest way to remember to repent? Prayer. Find time every day to have sincere prayer with our Father in Heaven. Even if it’s only for a minute, we can review our day, think of the small things, and change them before they overtake us.
I do not remember my baptism. I have next to no memory of the event. I remember when I was a teenager, I had this sudden pang of sadness that I didn’t get to start fresh when I would have really appreciated it. I hadn’t really understood that the sacrament was a weekly baptism. That the same promises were available to me:
“Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
“And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” (The Book of Mormon, Mosiah 27:25–26)
Elder David B. Haight pointed out that:
“…the Son of God commenced His earthly ministry with an ordinance—baptism—and ended His ministry with an ordinance—the sacrament. Both bore record of His death, burial, and resurrection.” (Ensign, April 1988, Remembering the Savior’s Atonement)
The symbolism and the ritual are echoes of each other. They have the same effect on us as if we were baptized anew.
I love the Sacrament because it is one of the few elements of LDS weekly worship that includes ritual, symbols and has many layers of meaning. It is a sacred time and space, dedicated to reflecting on Jesus Christ, our state before God, and cleansing ourselves.
How do we recommit to the principle of baptism? We come to church every Sunday and we renew and recommit to our sacred covenants. We partake of the sacrament. We reflect on our temple covenants. We renew ourselves again as new creatures before God.
The Gift of the Holy Ghost
The Holy Ghost is a constant companion that gives us comfort and direction throughout our lives. We read in the scriptures that the Holy Ghost wants to dwell in holy places. Yet, how can we be holy when we live in a profane world?
For me, one of the solutions that has been most meaningful this year has been Sabbath Day observance. We can’t always make places holy or control the circumstances around us, but we can always make time holy. Separating ourselves from the profane one day of the week adds incredibly blessings.
What did the Savior mean when He said that “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath”?2 I believe He wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life and an opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal. God gave us this special day, not for amusement or daily labor but for a rest from duty, with physical and spiritual relief. (The Sabbath A Delight, Russell M. Nelson)
This holy time let’s us invite the Spirit into our life and catch a glimpse of what dwelling in the presence of God will feel like.
This year I read The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel. You can read my analysis of this book, but the book dramatically changed the way I thought about the Sabbath. This line in particular from Heschel was profound:
“Unless one learns how to relish the taste of Sabbath … one will be unable to enjoy the taste of eternity in the world to come.”
Endure To The End
Enduring to the end requires of us that we remain faithful our whole lives. There is no finish line for a disciple of Jesus Christ, just an eternal staircase that must be climbed.
In The Book of Mormon, one of my favorite passages is an account of Lehi’s dream. In his prophetic dream, he sees countless people making their way towards the tree of life. Countless people get lost on their way as there are distraction and temptations in a great and spacious building nearby. Many are swayed from the path except those who cling onto a rod of iron that guides them directly to the tree. One of the passages that is most relevant to us that are trying to endure to the end is the following:
24 And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.
25 And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.
26 And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.
27 And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.
28 And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.
Even after we have made the journey, partaken of the fruit of the tree, and arrived safely, we can be led astray. Think of David, who served the Lord valiantly until he gave into temptation when he saw Bethsheba on the roof. Solomon, who served the Lord in wisdom, eventually turned away from his God and began worshiping foreign gods. From The Book of Mormon, Laman and Lemuel who had every opportunity to believe in God and see His hand in their lives, chose to walk down the paths of darkness.
But these are all big mistakes and stark examples. In even more subtle ways, we can just get distracted from our journey to the tree. After Jesus had been resurrected, Peter and other apostles went back to their fishing business. They had moved on and had to be reminded by the Savior to exhaust their lives out following his command to “Feed my sheep.”
For me, my struggle is in not forgetting.
Elder Spencer W. Kimball, an LDS prophet, said:
“When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be ‘remember.’ Because all of [us] have made covenants … our greatest need is to remember. That is why everyone goes to sacrament meeting every Sabbath day—to take the sacrament and listen to the priests pray that [we] ‘… may always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given [us].’… ‘Remember’ is the word” (Circles of Exaltation [address to religious educators, Brigham Young University, 28 June 1968], 8).
In the journey to the end, the most practical thing we can do every day is to remember Jesus Christ.
Like A Fetter
I love the words of this hymn:
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above
My prayer is that we too may bind ourselves to Him through the small, daily actions we take. To take time to study His word, to pray, to partake of the sacrament, to keep the Sabbath day, and to remember Him.