This is a General Conference Odyssey post.
What does it really take to fully live the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Perhaps, more than any of us realize.
I remember my mother always telling me that Marion G. Romney was difficult to listen to during conference. His voice was monotone; he read his talk, so he always looked down at his papers, not at the congregation, and his talks were always very long and “boring.” However, she would also say that when the talks came in the next Ensign his were the first ones she read because there was always something important to learn from them.
Reading his talk, entitled “A Disciple of Christ,” gives me an idea what she meant. He talks about the difference between “lip service” and “complete dedication” to the Lord. This is something, I think, all of us battle.
Those of us who were born in the covenant went through a period of time where we thought we were better off than those who were converted later in life until we realized we too had to be converted in order to stand on our own two feet.
When life is comfortable, and perhaps even a little mundane, we tend to relax our vigilance and forget to pray and read our scriptures. Typically, those are the first two to go when someone thinks they’ve “woken up and now want to leave the church.”
Tests and trials are often viewed as an indicator of sin. “Oh, what did I do to deserve this!” But this is what we signed up for when we chose to come to earth. Pres. Monson taught us that we must have an “attitude of gratitude.” Why? Because hard times bring us closer to the Savior. We remember that we need Him desperately. And we remember that he demands obedience and sacrifice. And we need to be grateful for opportunities to demonstrate these Christ-like attributes.
Pres. Romney talks about those verses found in the New Testament (see Luke 9 and 14) where disciples were anxious to follow Jesus but they needed to plow the field first, or they needed to bury their father or see to the welfare of their families. Quoting James E. Talmage, he says,
“In these seemingly harsh statements, Jesus was not specifying ‘literal hatred toward one’s family … as a condition of discipleship.’ He was emphasizing ‘the preeminence of duty toward God over personal’ or worldly demands of those who would be his disciples.”
Of course, family comes first. Our church preaches that loud and clear. But obedience and sacrifice are eternal laws and we are here to prove ourselves.
One Christmas, I was hired by a department store to wrap presents. Sometimes we were very busy, but after a while, there was a lot of downtime. The manager asked a few of us to wander around the store and straighten things just so we weren’t standing around looking completely bored. Keep in mind I was a dumb teenager at the time. I wasn’t happy having to do something outside of what I was hired to do. I checked the shelves, straightened one or two things, and went back to the wrapping table as fast as I could so I could complain.
How stupid could I have been! Those who were obedient were hired permanently by the company. I was laid off after the season was over. This was a hard lesson for me to learn about discipleship, and it wasn’t even that dramatic of a lesson. It wasn’t like I had to experience Jackson County, Missouri, or crossing the Plains.
Recently, I have lost very close members of my family. Losing them within a short period of time almost makes it hard to breathe some days. But, from what I’ve learned, my attitude will determine my destiny. I have chosen to be strengthened in my despair, to look to God and plead with Him for strength. My scripture reading is consistent and my prayers are fervent and personal.
Instead of breaking me and causing anger and bitterness, I have called upon the Lord to sustain me and help me come unto Him. The gospel has come to mean more to me through these experiences, and most comforting of all, I have felt the Lord carry me through this dark time. I feel His love; His very arms around me.
If this is what it’s like to fully live the gospel then I say bring it on. It isn’t fun, but who said obedience and sacrifice would be? It’s the reward that comes from giving ourselves to the Lord that truly makes it worth any pain.
We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.
Oh, dearly, dearly has he loved!
And we must love him too,
And trust in his redeeming blood,
And try his works to do.
(Hymn #194, “There is a Green Hill Far Away.”)
The prayers of the saints Marilyn Nielson