[I spoke in front of my church congregation yesterday, and I think it went over well. Below is a transcript of my talk.]
The words of Amulek to the poor and humble among the Zoramites: “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed” (Alma 34:32-33).
As members of Christ’s restored church, we possess the knowledge of eternally significant truths: that our loving Father in Heaven provided us each with a mortal body, endowed us with moral agency, and placed us on Earth with a veil of forgetfulness that we might demonstrate our love for, and faith in, Him. Mortality is thus a test. Lehi to his family taught that, “men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil… Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life… or to choose captivity and death” (2 Ne. 2:5,27).
Eternal life is the goal we seek. But we each fall short of perfection, and “no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven” (Alma 11:37). We also know that we cannot save ourselves. Thus, God “gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Indeed, “it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23), and it is “all we [can] do… to repent sufficiently before God that he… take away our stain” (Alma 24:11). In spite of our shortcomings, our pride, our inconstancy, God loves us and has promised that “as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me” (Mos. 26:30).
Are we therefore free to commit sin? Wrote Paul to the Hebrews, “[I]f we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin” (Heb. 10:26). Indeed, “there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God” (D&C 20:32).
Lehi saw such in vision, those who ate of the fruit of the Tree of Life and became ashamed because of the mockery of the world, “[falling] away into forbidden paths” (1 Ne. 8:28). He also saw those who left the safety of the iron rod, wandering into the mists of darkness. Christ, too, prophesied to his disciples of wicked men in the last days who “shall deceive [even] the very elect” (JS-M 1:22).
Thus King Benjamin warned his people that, “if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith… of our Lord… ye must perish” (Mos. 4:30).
The truly penitent seek to “have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mos. 5:2). The challenge of mortality is therefore not merely to act in accordance to God’s word, but to become the kind of person who actively seeks the Lord’s will, the kind of person who obeys His will by their nature, that we may become like Christ.
If we are to become like the Savior, we must know His will concerning us. Today, as in millennia past, God speaks to His children by way of prophets. Declares He, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken… whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:32) and “what I say unto one I say unto all” (D&C 82:5).
What, then, have we been commanded? What shall the penitent child of God do that he may become a heritor of eternal life? “[F]east upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Ne. 32:3). “[H]earken unto these words and believe in Christ” (2 Ne. 33:10). “Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son… [and] receive the Holy Ghost… [P]ress forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men” (2 Ne. 31:11,13,20).
In April 2004 General Conference, then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke concerning preparing to meet God. Said he, “What if the day of His coming were tomorrow? If we knew that we would meet the Lord tomorrow—through our premature death or through His unexpected coming—what would we do today? What confessions would we make? What practices would we discontinue? What accounts would we settle? What forgivenesses would we extend? What testimonies would we bear? If we would do those things then, why not now? Why not seek peace while peace can be obtained?”
He continued, “Are we following the Lord’s command, “Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly”? (D&C 87:8). What are those “holy places”? Surely they include the temple and its covenants faithfully kept. Surely they include a home where children are treasured and parents are respected. Surely the holy places include our posts of duty assigned by priesthood authority, including missions and callings faithfully fulfilled in branches, wards, and stakes.”
Conversion to the gospel of Christ is dependent upon our agency. However, the gospel is as much outward-facing as it is inward-facing. As we have been commanded to perfect ourselves in Christ, we have likewise been commanded to help others. Commanded the Savior, “[W]hen thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32).
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in April 2018 General Conference, spoke of such duties to our fellows. Said Elder Cook, “We can know what our divinely appointed responsibilities are by reviewing the sacred keys restored in the Kirtland Temple…. On that wonderful Easter day in the Kirtland Temple, three keys were restored:
“First,” continued Elder Cook, “Moses appeared and committed the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth…
“Second, Elias appeared and committed the keys of the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham… to prepare members for the kingdom of God….
“Third, Elijah appeared and committed the keys of the sealing power in this dispensation… enabling salvation for the living and the dead.”
This is the threefold mission of the church: to spread the gospel, to perfect the saints, and to redeem the dead. I’m far from perfect in performing these duties—family history work, especially—but in my talk this morning I have tried to take the opportunity to improve myself in at least two of these areas. In that spirit I conclude with the following invitation: if you have unresolved sins, if you have lingering doubts, if you have struggles of any and all kinds, turn to God in prayer and feast upon His words. Seek guidance and aid as necessary from our priesthood leaders, especially the bishop. Hold on to what you do know and have faith that you will know more as you persist in your efforts to become like Christ.
The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is eternal in scope and infinite in importance. No other consideration, no other concern, can be allowed to displace it, for to do so is to surrender eternal life, the greatest of all gifts of God.
Finally, I bear my witness that the Book of Mormon, and the church that espouses it, are true. I bear my testimony that Christ directs His work in these latter days by the means of a living prophet. I testify that Jesus Christ is the Savior of mankind, and that His atonement provides both remission of sin and relief of physical and emotional suffering. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.