Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Only "You" Can Change You

Free agency is an amazing gift from God. No one can change for us; we are the only ones that can make lasting changes in our lives.

James E Talmage teaches us in his book The Great Apostasy about free agency: “The father of souls has endowed His children with the divine birthright of free agency; He does not and will not control them by arbitrary force; He impels no man toward sin; He compels none to righteousness. Unto man has been given freedom to act for himself; and, associated with this independence, is the fact of strict responsibility and the assurance of individual accountability.

In 2 Nephi 2:26 we learn about the gift of free agency.

“And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.”

Lastly, Joseph Smith sheds greater light on the roll that free agency plays in our eternal salvation:

“Every man lives for himself…except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. This eternal truth settles the question of all men's religion. A man may be saved, after the judgment, in the terrestrial kingdom, or in the telestial kingdom, but he can never see the celestial kingdom of God, without being born of water and the Spirit. He may receive a glory like unto the moon, [i.e., of which the light of the moon is typical], or a star, [i.e., of which the light of the stars is typical], but he can never come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, unless he becomes as a little child, and is taught by the Spirit of God… It is your privilege to purify yourselves and come up to the same glory, and see for yourselves, and know for yourselves. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith).

Ten years ago President Gordon B. Hinckley made the below statement and then in this last conference referred to again.

"Now, my brethren and sisters, the time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a season to be strong. It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission. It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow. It is a time to be found keeping the commandments. It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain. It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships. In other words, to become more Christlike" ("This Is the Work of the Master," Ensign, May 1995, 71).

Where do you stand; have you heeded the words of the Lord spoken to us by our living Prophet? If not, then there is no better time than today to begin following the counsel of our living prophet. I would like to break down his counsel in more digestible pieces. By analyzing little sections at a time, we can gain a greater understanding of the breadth of our mission both temporally and spiritually.

The time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” What is the grand millennial mission of the Church?

Daniel 2:44-45

44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

Lets go now to D&C 65:1-2 to learn more about this stone:

1 HEARKEN, and lo, a voice as of one sent down from on high, who is mighty and powerful, whose going forth is unto the ends of the earth, yea, whose voice is unto men—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

2 The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.

I know that for me, I want to be a part of this great work. There is no greater desire within my body or soul than to assist anyway that I can. I know that going forward I will stand a little taller; I will lift my eyes and stretch my mind to a greater comprehension and understanding of grand millennial mission of this Church. I am going to also turn to my Savior in prayer and receive my errand or commission in this work. The stone will roll forward with or without me, and I WILL NOT be left behind, and so I consecrate my whole soul unto God.

Cindy, our missionary in Canada, in her last letter had the following experience:

My most spiritual and hardest experience I have had yet was earlier this week. We were visiting a lady and she kept asking lots of questions and it was really getting to me for some reason. When we left my companion and I continued to talk about it and it was really bothering me and I had no idea why. I just kept praying and praying to know why I was having a hard time and I just wanted to be able to talk to my parents about it. Then when we were having companionship prayer I received my answer. It wasn’t the easiest answer to receive but I was really glad I had this experience. I had always thought for sure I had a REALLY STRONG testimony and that it was MY TESTIMONY. I realized that yes I have a strong testimony but it is not strong enough on my own. I realized that it was based a lot off of my parents testimony, which is probably why I just wanted to discuss the questions with them. I kept thinking if I could only talk to them they would have the answer. Im glad I recognized this and what I have to work on because it forces me to really study the gospel and gain that base on my own. That is so important for me before I start a family of my own someday. Even for that reason alone I feel so blessed to be here.

Our parents regardless of how hard they tried could not give or build Cindy’s testimony. They definitely assisted her in laying a foundation, but the testimony that will withstand the storm must be created individually, and built upon a rock.

Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall (Helaman 5:12).

This is a season to be strong. It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission.

The Savior himself taught us many times what the breadth, and the importance of our mission is.

Matt. 10: 38

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

Matt. 16: 24

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Mark 10: 21

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Joseph Smith Jr. said, "Scripture is replete with the admonition that disciples of Christ must “take up their cross,” yielding themselves in humility to their Heavenly Father (D&C 56:2, 14-16; 112:14-15), releasing themselves from the ties of worldliness (3 Ne. 12:20), and submitting themselves to persecution and even martyrdom for the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Ne. 9:18; Jacob 1:8)." (Teachings of Joseph Smith)

This quote is filled with action words for us, as disciples, must follow; take up our cross, yielding ourselves in humility, releasing ourselves from the ties of worldliness, and submitting ourselves to persecution and even martyrdom. Let us start today to take up, yield, release, and submit ourselves to our Savior and his work.

Robert D. Hales in Conference Oct 2000 shows us how to be “strong and to move forward without hesitation.”

"The scriptures confirm that the truly converted do more than just forsake the enticements of the world. They love God and their fellowmen. Their minds and hearts are centered on the Savior's atoning sacrifice. From the moment of their respective conversions, Enos, Alma the Younger, Paul, and others turned wholeheartedly to the task of bringing themselves and their fellowmen to God. Worldly power and possessions lost their former significance. The sons of Mosiah refused an earthly kingdom and risked their lives for the sake of others. These faithful sons were driven by the hope that they might be able to help save even one soul--thus winning for themselves and their brethren a place in God's eternal kingdom.

We are all familiar with the story of the three pioneer boys that carried every member of the handcart company across the freezing water. All three lost their lives because of being exposed to such freezing temperatures for so long, but Jesus taught us many times in the scriptures such as: Matt. 16: 25, Mark 8: 35, Luke 9: 24, Luke 17: 33, which all say the same thing:

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

I know that if I was faced with that feat, it would be difficult to accomplish such task, but my prayer is that one day I will have the opportunity of carrying those that I love across the freezing water of life and that I will be “strong” and be first to volunteer and to “move forward without hesitation.”

“It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain. It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships. In other words, to become more Christlike"

We must follow our Savior and bring souls unto him that they too may be saved in the Kingdom of Heaven, and obtain the joy that the Gospel brings into their lives here on the earth and to come. We have all the prophets now, past, and ancient to look to as examples and to pattern our lives after, but that are not all, we have the only begotten of the Father as the perfect example. We truly are left without excuse.

“Our hope concerning the future is great and our faith is strong. We know that we have scarcely scratched the surface of that which will come to pass in the years that lie ahead.

Our foundation is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The authority of the holy priesthood is here, restored under the hands of those who received it directly from our Lord. The curtains have been parted, and the God of heaven and His Beloved Son have spoken to the boy prophet Joseph in opening this last and final dispensation.

Our burden in going forward is tremendous. But our opportunity is glorious.

I now repeat what I said 10 years ago, let us "stand a little taller, . . . lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference 2005).”

I have a testimony of this great work and leave you my testimony with those spoken by our dear Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Written by Craig Conover on 7/12/05.

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