In my previous post, I mentioned the fact that I recently gave a talk in Church on the topic of consecration. Some people expressed an interest in reading it, so here it is.
Beware, it is rather long … I was asked to speak for 15 minutes. If you don’t want to read all of it, maybe skim the quotes I used, mainly from President Uchtdorf and Elder Maxwell. They are powerful.
When the Bishop emailed me and asked if I could speak on the topic of consecration, I thought, me? Address the ward congregation about consecration? I felt and still feel wholly inadequate in this. I am praying the Spirit will be with me as I share the thoughts I have prepared and that the Spirit will be with you as you listen to my message so you might be able to glean something of value which you can then apply to your own personal life.
The topic of consecration can be overwhelming, at least for me it can be. It is a heavy topic, a topic that can be difficult to understand as you try to wrap your head around all the principles and doctrines it encompasses. Pondering it can cause your mind, heart and soul to stretch in dimensions that might be uncomfortable. After all, the thought of living a fully consecrated life can be daunting. This in turn can lead us to feel frightened and guilty that we aren’t living our life the way we should. It can make us begin to wonder and question, am I even up to such a task? Am I worthy? Am I capable? These questions can then leave us feeling uneasy and can cause us to squirm in our seat. Then perhaps after feelings like this, we might succumb to despair, one of Satan’s favorite tools.
But thankfully we have the gospel in our life and “the gospel is the good news of Christ.” As President Uchtdorf described it in his most recent general conference address entitled “The Way of the Disciple,” the gospel is “a pearl beyond price, the grand key of knowledge that once understood and applied, unlocks a life of happiness, peace and fulfillment.” President Uchtdorf then continued, “The gospel is the way of discipleship. As we walk in that way, we can experience confidence and joy – even during times of peril, sorrow, and uncertainty.”
What a powerful blessing that is. If we choose the gospel, that means we are choosing the way of discipleship. And if we choose and live the way of discipleship that means the Lord will bestow upon us confidence, personal revelation and joy, even during, or should I say especially during, the times in our life when we are walking through the refiners fire.
When we think about the gospel in this simplified manner, it is probably relatively easy for all of us to at least desire to lead this kind of life so we can partake of these immense blessings. By having such a desire, even if it is as tiny as can be, we can learn to become disciples of Christ and therefore learn how to consecrate the life we live fully to Him.
Our desire is the key beginning point. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell eloquently states:
Everything depends—initially and finally—on our desires. These shape our thought patterns. Our desires thus precede our deeds and lie at the very cores of our souls, tilting us toward or away from God. God can “educate our desires.” Others seek to manipulate our desires. But it is we who form the desires, the “thoughts and intents of [our] hearts.”
President Uchtdorf reiterates this theme when he exclaims:
The first step on the path of discipleship begins, luckily enough, in the exact place where we stand! We do not have to prequalify to take that first step. It doesn’t matter if we are rich or poor. There is no requirement to be educated, eloquent, or intellectual. We do not have to be perfect or well-spoken or even well-mannered. You and I can walk in the path of discipleship today.
Each of us can possess this desire to become a disciple of Christ, and as we do so, we will begin our journey, a “race of endurance,” not a sprint, of consecrating our life to Him.
In 1992, Elder Neal A. Maxwell gave a general conference address entitled, “Settle This In Your Hearts.” It is a poignant and powerful talk that discusses discipleship and consecration in a very comprehensive manner. He begins his remarks with the following:
Eighteen years ago from this same pulpit, I pled with those who stood indecisively on the “porch” of the Church to come fully inside. Today my plea is to those members already inside but whose discipleship is casual, individuals whom we love, whose gifts and talents are much needed in building the kingdom!
Any call for greater consecration is, of course, really a call to all of us. But these remarks are not primarily for those who are steadily striving and who genuinely seek to keep God’s commandments and yet sometimes fall short. Nor is this primarily for those few in deliberate noncompliance. Instead, these comments are for the essentially “honorable” members who are skimming over the surface instead of deepening their discipleship and who are casually engaged rather than “anxiously engaged.” Though nominal in their participation, their reservations and hesitations inevitably show through. They may even pass through our holy temples, but, alas, they do not let the holy temples pass through them.
What a firm, yet gentle and encouraging reproach of the way we should be patterning our lives. We all have room to grow. We all have more we can do to cultivate our seeds of discipleship and consecration. Not one of us is exempt. We are all imperfect beings, but if we choose to fully accept the gift and grace of the atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives, we can embark on a partnership and journey with the Lord that will lead us to an honest and pure offering of discipleship and consecration, and that will eventually lead us to eternal exaltation.
So once we have found and planted our sincere desire, how then can we do as Elder Maxwell advised? How can we “deepen” our discipleship and become more “anxiously engaged” as opposed to “casually engaged?” There are a myriad of answers to this question, but today I would like to focus on three broad and general principles. My hope is that we can each find a way to personally apply these points and thus transform our own lives so we may continually be able to “sing the song of redeeming love.”
My first suggestion on how we can deepen our discipleship and thus in turn our offering of consecration to the Lord is to adhere to the first principles and ordinances of the gospel as outlined in the fourth Article of Faith. Moroni 8:25-26 additionally illustrates these powerful, yet basic steps of doctrine:
And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins; And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.
President Uchtdorf further articulates the beautiful simplicity and formula of the fourth Article of Faith when he explains:
When we hear the transcendent truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, hope and faith begin to blossom inside of us. The more we fill our hearts and minds with the message of the risen Christ, the greater our desire is to follow Him and live His teachings. This, in turn, causes our faith to grow and allows the light of Christ to illuminate our hearts. As it does, we recognize the imperfections in our lives, and we desire to be cleansed of the depressing burdens of sin. We yearn for freedom from guilt, and this inspires us to repent. Faith and repentance lead to the purifying waters of baptism, where we covenant to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ and walk in His footsteps.
To uphold us in the desire to lead a purified and holy life, we are endowed with the baptism of fire—the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, a heavenly Comforter who accompanies and guides us as we walk in the path of righteousness. The more we are filled with the Spirit of God, the more we extend ourselves to others. We become peacemakers in our homes and families, we help our fellowmen everywhere, and we reach out in merciful acts of kindness, forgiveness, grace, and long-suffering patience. These are the first steps along the true way of life and fulfillment. This is the peaceable way of the follower of Jesus Christ.
Consequently, as we learn to literally “fill our hearts and minds with the message of the risen Christ,” we will naturally want to become better disciples of Him. We will want to be more obedient. We will want to more fully keep the commandments of God and therefore we will begin to lead a more consecrated life. It is like a chain reaction, a domino effect. We make good choices, we become better disciples. But we must daily strive to make choices that point us in the right direction, the direction where we can keep our hearts and minds focused on the eternal perspective. And when, not if, we make mistakes, we shall not fear, for we have been given the glorious gift of repentance, which gives us “beauty for ashes.”
The second suggestion I offer on how we can deepen our discipleship is we must constantly remember and abide by the covenant we made when we entered the waters of baptism. This covenant can be found in Mosiah 18:9-10:
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
We partake of the sacrament on a weekly basis to remind us of this very covenant we made. We need to consistently remember this desire we had to be baptized, or this seed that has been planted within us. We need to keep it at the forefront of our hearts and minds. We need to act on it daily. We need to “nourish” this seed with “great care, that it may get root” so it can grow and sprout and produce fruit, fruit that will enable us to consecrate our life to the Lord. And as we learned from Elder David A. Bednar’s address this last general conference, one of the key fruits that will sprout from this baptismal seed is the desire to enter into the Holy Temple of the Lord where we will make even more sacred covenants that will further enable us to live a life of consecration.
My third and final suggestion on how we can deepen our discipleship to the Lord is to follow the words beautifully penned in 2 Nephi 31:20:
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
Increased consecration means to press forward with steadfastness in Christ. That means we need to offer our full heart, our whole heart. Elder Maxwell cautions us to not hold anything back. He states:
Some would never sell Jesus for thirty pieces, but they would not give Him their all either! Unfortunately, we tend to think of consecration only in terms of property and money. But there are so many ways of keeping back part.
Elder Maxwell also remarks that:
Jesus pressed forward sublimely. He did not shrink, such as by going only 60 percent of the distance toward the full atonement. Instead, He “finished [His] preparations” for all mankind, bringing a universal resurrection—not one in which 40 percent of us would have been left out.
Pressing forward with steadfastness is a personal journey which requires personal introspection and personal revelation. In order for us to receive such one-on-one revelation, we must be living an obedient life, a life where we diligently keep the commandments of God to the best of our ability so our hearts and minds can continually be receptive to the whisperings of the Spirit. For we never know when these whisperings will present themselves.
I would like to share a personal story about pressing “forward with a steadfastness in Christ.” Some of you know that when Cory was a little over a year old we had some scares with his cognitive development. He wasn’t speaking, he wasn’t pointing at things and his receptive listening skills were non-existent. For several months we did not know what this all indicated. We didn’t know if he had some developmental delays that would affect him his entire life. It wasn’t until later that we learned he was just a late bloomer who likes to do things on his own terms and only when he is ready.
This whole experience, though, shook me to the core. I couldn’t help but feel that for some reason this experience I went through with Cory was merely preparatory, preparatory in dealing with a future child of mine that might have severe special needs. However, I didn’t know if I had the capability and strength to raise such a sacred child of God. Because of this fear, I believed I was done having kids. Two was plenty. But deep down in my heart I knew this conviction I had founded in fear was incorrect.
One day while I was studying the February 2007 Ensign, I read an article called “Ten Axioms To Guide Your Life” written by Elder Robert D. Hales. He explained:
Consider, for a moment, that you are the engineer of a train. As your locomotive races down the tracks, you look out the window. In the distance you see a great pile of debris blocking your way. What do you do? Radio ahead for help? Stop the train and take care of the problem yourself? Pour coal into the engine and plow on through?
Like the engineer, we can call for help. By prayer, fasting, and diligent study, we can obtain the assistance of our Heavenly Father. He will comfort us, strengthen us, and enlighten us by His Holy Spirit. Often He will give us inspired counsel through parents and priesthood leaders. Sometimes He will smooth our path by removing the obstacle. Sometimes, like a switchman, He will help us get on a different track. But from time to time, the only way to clear debris from the track is to stop the train and remove the problem.
[Occasionally, though], there are times when Heavenly Father directs us to pour on the spiritual coal of faith and hope and plow ahead. Or, to use the more scriptural phrase, “press forward.”
What a remarkable image this seared in my brain. That is what it means to “press forward.” I had read this scripture on numerous prior occasions, but never before had I truly grasped the depth of what it signified. Immediately I was enveloped with a peaceful and warm feeling and I knew then that it was time. It was time to set aside my fears on having more children. It was time “to pour on the spiritual coal of faith and hope and plow ahead” full steam with a firm and abiding trust in my Savior and Father in Heaven that I could accomplish all They asked of me.
On this occasion the Holy Ghost was whispering to me. He was whispering to me personal revelation on how I could become a better disciple of the Lord. The Spirit was teaching me how I could further consecrate my life.
It is my hope and prayer that each of us can find and follow our personal pathway of discipleship so we can all lead a more valiant life of consecration that is pleasing to our Redeemer. We must remember to not allow Satan to get a hold of our hearts. Otherwise we will become overwhelmed and discouraged by all we must do.
Elder Maxwell has proclaimed:
We “cannot bear all things now,” but the Lord “will lead [us] along,” as we “give place” in our thoughts and schedules and “give away” our sins, which are the only ways we can begin to make room to receive all that God can give us.
Increased consecration is not so much a demand for more hours of Church work as it is for more awareness of whose work this really is! For now, consecration may not require giving up worldly possessions so much as being less possessed by them. Only when things begin to come into focus “with an eye single” do we see “things as they really are”! What a view awaits!
We are not meant to walk along this journey of discipleship alone. The Lord is here to aid us. He has told us to, “Fear not, little children, for you are mine.” Let us enter into a partnership with Him and journey along the path that He knows is best for us.
We must also keep in mind President Uchtdorf’s counsel, “discipleship is not a spectator sport.” With personal revelation and through regular scripture study, sincere prayer and church and temple attendance the Spirit will tell us how we can best consecrate our life to Him, whether it be through service to our families within the walls of our own home, or hours put into our church callings which includes our home and visiting teaching, or other community efforts.
Discipleship is a process, a process that for most of us will take our entire life. But we can do it, especially since we are supposed to progress line upon line, precept upon precept. This is the true gospel of wisdom and order.
The Lord loves us and He is holding each of us up and cheering each of us on. He is patiently waiting on the other side of the veil with his arms wide open to encircle each of us once we are finished here with our earthly mission. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught us this principle with “clarity” when he said:
Oh, it is wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us—even with all our flaws! His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will. “We [might] see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today. Our Heavenly Father sees us in terms of forever. . . . “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and women for the eternities.
I am grateful we have a loving Father in Heaven. I am grateful we have a loving Savior who so freely gave each of us the gift of the Atonement. I am grateful we have been given the plan of salvation and I am grateful for the direction this plan gives us.
I know if each of us chooses to become a true disciple of the Lord by sincerely taking His name upon us, we will indeed live a life of consecration that is pleasing unto Him. Consecration isn’t just about pain and sacrifice, it is about faith, hope and charity. It is about receiving blessings, joy, inspiration and revelation. The Lord will surely bless us with innumerable tender mercies if we decide to journey in a partnership with Him. I hope and pray we will all choose the correct path.