calling and election, Endure to the end, Jesus Christ, rending the veil, Tree of life, veil of unbelief
On Sunday, January 21, I spoke for fifteen minutes or so over the pulpit during sacrament meeting. The following is a transcript of what I shared with my congregation. To the best of my recollection, the words in parentheses are my personal commentary. I have received multiple requests to share a copy so I am sharing it here publicly:
THE STRENGTH TO ENDURE
(As I speak to you today, visualize the vision of the tree of life where you enter in at the gate, press forward along the iron rod, and come to the tree of life at the end of your journey).
“Our ability to endure to the end in righteousness will be in direct proportion to the strength of our testimony and the depth of our conversion. When our testimonies are strong and we are truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, our choices will be inspired by the Holy Ghost, they will be Christ-centered, and they will support our desire to endure in righteousness. If our testimonies are weak and our conversion superficial, the risk is much greater that we will be enticed by the false traditions of the world to make poor choices.”–Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy, October 2013
(I would like share with you my testimony about my strength to endure. Elder Maynes’ statement is the perfect summary of what 2 Nephi chapters 31 and 32 are about as well as 2 Peter chapter 1 and especially Ether 4, all of which, I will briefly quote.)
2 Nephi 31:16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.
17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.
18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.
Elder Bednar recently said, “The simplicity of this ordinance may cause us to overlook its significance. These four words—“Receive the Holy Ghost”—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply to be acted upon. The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed “receive the Holy Ghost” and its attendant spiritual gifts. “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift”
In 2 Peter 1, we read: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
(When we diligently assimilate the attributes, which the Apostle Peter describes above, we become more like our Savior. But when we lack these attributes and instead treat others unkindly and impatiently and uncharitably and so on, it is as if we have forgotten that we were baptized and “purged of our old sins” having been forgiven, having become blind to the tree of life that awaits us ahead. So what does it mean to be diligent in such things? What does it look like in our lives? Let me share an experience, which I recorded in my book of remembrance…)
Sunday, May 28, 2017: Yesterday, I went outside to the backyard to find my father-in-law and mother-in-law working in the garden, digging holes to plant tomatoes and other vegetables. As they are in their 80s and don’t get around easily, I approached them and asked if I could play. That’s how children do it, isn’t it when they visit with friends and neighbors? The just walk up and ask to join in. So I thought I’d use a little humor since they didn’t seem to be getting along at the moment. So I was given the shovel and I dug the holes and we all fell into a new formation, one of us digging holes, one of us planting, the other handing the plants and so on. When I finally planted the last squash, or maybe it was zucchini, my father-in-law had moved on to picking apricots off the lawn from under the tree. The apricots did not get big at all before they had all fallen down. So no apricots this year.
My father-in-law was using a telescoping grabber to pick them up from the ground since he can’t bend over so easily and putting them all in a plastic bag. Otherwise, left on the lawn, they would rot and make a mess. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law was now trying to work on watering all the vegetables we had just planted. So I went and connected the hose to the tap on the house and unrolled it all the way to the garden with the wand attachment and helped her get the right spray setting on the nozzle so not too much water pounded the little plants. After I reduced the spray, I handed her the wand and thought I would go back inside to tend to personal matters. I then noticed that my father-in-law was still plucking apricots off the lawn. He could only grab one at a time with his grabber and I knew he’d be out there a long time at the rate he was going. So I decided to join him. I quickly and easily bent down and grabbed a bunch in each hand and kept on grabbing more, dumping them in his bag while he continued picking up one. At. A. Time…
As I worked alongside my in-laws, the Lord taught me a profound lesson. During His mortal ministry, He taught and exemplified going the extra mile. He taught that when someone takes your coat, give him your cloak, too. When someone strikes you, turn the other cheek. When someone compels you to walk with him a mile, walk with him two. With the Law of Moses, one could potentially learn to love God. With the Law of the Gospel, however, one gets to learn to love his fellow man. Not only did Jesus teach us how to love one another, but how to love one another so utterly and completely, that nothing is left to give. While He hung on the cross after having already suffered more than any mortal could suffer without dying, He was mocked.
39 ¶ And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,
42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him…
At any point in time, Jesus could have called down legions of angels to fight for Him. He didn’t even need an army. The God of all creation, who by mere words could utter, “let there be light,” and bring forth light, or to walk on water or calm the storm or to raise the dead by merely speaking words. There was nothing to stop Him from uttering words and letting the nails simply slip out and fall to the ground while His body healed of all that had been inflicted upon Him before their very eyes. And what a glorious sight it would have been! What a terrible scene it would have been to all who mocked Him. But instead He suffered it. He endured it. He allowed it. The God of heaven and all the earth submitted to every last stripe and insult that humanity had the energy to inflict upon Him. When finally, after hanging six hours on the cross, knowing he was fully spent, and there was nothing left to give, He finally said, “it is finished.” And then He willingly gave up the ghost. No man took it from Him. He gave it all until there was nothing left to give.
All this was spoken to my mind as I helped my father-in-law pick up all the apricots. There is a vast difference between knowing such things in my brain and having them written in my heart. And this day, it was written in my heart. When he had finished, I asked him what else he wanted to do. He said he finished and he was leaving to take care of an errand. When I was satisfied that there was nothing more I could do to help in the backyard and that my in-laws were getting along again, I went back inside to tend to personal matters.
Anyone who considers himself or herself a disciple of Jesus Christ may learn by experience to give until there is nothing left to give. If you see a homeless person on the side of the road, you can give him your spare change if that is what he is asking for. You can then go on your way or you can ask yourself if there is more you can do. You can get to know him. You can introduce yourself. Ask him if he’d like to join you and eat out together. If you think you can do more, maybe bring him home and cook a meal for him instead. If you think you can do more, let him take a bath and spend the night. Only you know if you can spare enough change, or enough time, or enough space in your home.
One day, some years ago, for example, my family and I were visiting Salt Lake City, Utah. We had pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant where a man was holding a cardboard sign asking for change for food. We had gone inside and while waiting to be served, I walked outside and sat down with the man and began chatting with him. I asked him if he was hungry and invited him to come inside for a meal. He just stared off and said all he really wanted was a cigarette. I didn’t have any cigarettes or cash so I was not able to help him further. He declined the meal and I wished him well and went back inside with my family.
Now I have been accused of being an enabler by people who do not believe Jesus Christ’s teachings. I may have helped a bum get his latest fix or bottle of booze. But I say to them, who of us is not enabled by God every minute of every day while we go about our way walking in pride and vanity? Yet God enables each breath we take, including those moments we are most carnal and sinful. Do the angels accuse God of enabling us sinners who masquerade as Christians? There are opportunities to be helpful wherever we go. We can help a little or a lot, or whenever possible, help and give until there’s nothing left to give. That is what it means to love another as Jesus loved everyone. It is to love so willingly and utterly and so completely that there is nothing left to give. That is how I wish to leave this world. I want to leave knowing I have nothing left to give.
(In conclusion, I would like to read from Ether 4, which explains to us what the end is to which we endure, which is exemplified by the brother of Jared, who partook of the fruit, or in other words, drank from the living waters, from which when we drink, we never thirst again. The Lord is declaring that the things, which he saw will not be given to us until we repent according to the conditions the Lord has set…)
Ether 4:6…They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.
7 And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.
8 And he that will contend against the word of the Lord, let him be accursed; and he that shall deny these things, let him be accursed; for unto them will I show no greater things, saith Jesus Christ; for I am he who speaketh…
(Jesus Christ repeatedly declares that it is He that is speaking to us…)
10 And he that believeth not my words believeth not my disciples; and if it so be that I do not speak, judge ye; for ye shall know that it is I that speaketh, at the last day.
11 But he that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record. For because of my Spirit he shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good.
12 And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good; he that will not believe my words will not believe me—that I am; and he that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father, I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world.
(It is Jesus Christ who guides us along the path and leads us directly to Him…)
13 Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
14 Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.
15 Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel…
(This is the admonition and invitation that the Lord is giving to everybody here today. By addressing the Gentiles and the House of Israel, He exempts no one. It is the same invitation, which He has always given to His covenant people.)
To the ancient Israelites, Moses declared in:
Deurteronomy 4:29 But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
Again He gave the invitation to them just before their destruction by Babylon through the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 29:
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
The Lord personally made the same declaration during His mortal ministry:
John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
He clarified in D&C 130:3—The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse (John 14:23, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.
In D&C 93:1 Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.
2 Nephi 32:5 For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.
6 Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do.
(I am a disciple of Jesus Christ…I know the Book of Mormon is true…I know the scriptures, which I have shared today are true…)