Good morning! It’s strange to finally be giving this talk and to think that this day is here. I always thought I would serve a mission and as a little girl I used to imagine what things I would say when it was my turn to be the out-going missionary speaking in church. It’s too bad I didn’t write down all my good ideas throughout the years because preparing for this might have been a little easier.
Today I want to speak about discipleship – our journey to becoming like Christ. There are a few different aspects of discipleship that have been on my mind lately and I hope that I can convey the feelings of my heart and allow the spirit to be unrestrained as I speak this morning.
In a talk given by Brother Chauncey Riddle in General Conference, he defines the “word disciple [as coming] from the Latin discipulus, a learner. A disciple of Christ is one who is learning to be like Christ—learning to think, to feel, and to act as he does. To be a true disciple, to fulfill that learning task, is the most demanding regimen known to man. No other discipline compares with it in either requirements or rewards. It involves the total transformation of a person from the state of the natural man to that of the saint, one who loves the Lord and serves with all of his heart, might, mind, and strength.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “If we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are most difficult for us to do.”
Surely the tutorial is not easy. It requires our very souls. But I believe that the purpose of our life here on earth is to come unto Christ, to learn how to become one with Him, and to help those within our spheres of influence to do the same. This is true discipleship and it will bring us the greatest joy we can imagine, in this life and in the life to come.
So where do I sign up? This discipleship thing sounds pretty good and I’m ready to give it a go. Elder Deiter F. Uchtdorf says that “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.”
Becoming a disciple of Christ begins with our willingness to take His name upon us. We covenant to do this each week as we partake of the sacrament. But what exactly are we promising to do? One way to take Christ’s name upon us is to try our best to do as He would do, to be His representatives, or as Alma put it, “to stand as a witness of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places.”
A few weeks ago I was able to travel to Peru with an engineering group from BYU and work in two small villages. We spent two weeks implementing projects to help with basic sanitation and water heating. It was exciting to be there under the name of BYU Engineering to put my education to use and hopefully make a difference in the living conditions of these people. But as we worked day after day, I started thinking about another name I was representing. The things I was doing as an engineer were important but perhaps more important were the things I was doing as a disciple of Christ. I started thinking of better ways I could share Christ’s love with the people, to let my hands be as His hands and my voice the same as His voice. I tried harder to reach out and use the little Spanish I know to communicate and get to know those around me. I took time to play with the kids and share my lunch. I worked harder when I was hot and tired because I remembered my other name.
“We also take upon us the name of Jesus Christ whenever we publicly proclaim our belief in him.” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “ Each of us has many opportunities to proclaim our belief to friends and neighbors, fellow workers, and casual acquaintances. As the Apostle Peter taught the Saints of his day, we should ‘sanctify the Lord God in [our] hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh [us] a reason of the hope that is in [us].’”
I love that idea of sanctifying the Lord in our hearts and being ready at all times to give the reason of the hope that is in us, that reason being Jesus Christ. As we share our testimonies of Christ, His name will be engraven deeper and deeper into our hearts and our desire for discipleship will grow.
The people of King Benjamin had this desire grow in their hearts as they listened to the testimony of their king. “And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually…” “And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days.”
Because of their desire for discipleship and willingness to follow Christ, King Benjamin goes on to exhort his people to take upon themselves the name of Christ: “And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters… And there is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ.”
Here, King Benjamin gives us perhaps the most significant meaning of taking Christ’s name upon us. He speaks of discipleship, of obedience to the end of our lives and eternal life with our Father in Heaven.
Elder Oaks also emphasizes this profound meaning, “When we witness our willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, we are signifying our commitment to do all that we can to achieve eternal life in the kingdom of our Father. We are expressing our candidacy – our determination to strive for – exaltation in the celestial kingdom. This is the ultimate significance of taking upon us the name of Jesus Christ.”
Another aspect of discipleship is faith in Christ, to guide and tutor us along our journey of discipleship through personal revelation.
Elder Maxwell said, “In the churn of crises and the sinister swirl of global events, true disciples will maintain faith in a revealing, loving God and in His plan for redeeming His children, which plan is the why of all that God does! Furthermore, God’s character, as revealed to us, tells us that He has the cosmic capacity to ensure that He really is “able” to do His immense work.”
The Lord seeks a personal relationship with each of us. He wants so dearly to be with us, to be one with us, working together through the trials of life. He is the source of all truth, the answer to our every care, and the healer of our hearts. And the amazing thing is that He wants to teach us individually.
Elder Maxwell continues, “Yet some still settle for an inconsistent or incapable god. Laman and Lemual, for instance, were aware of ancient Israel’s miraculous rescue form Pharaoh’s mighty armies, but they murmured and were intimidated by a mere, local Laban. We can be so provincial and so self-concerned. God, who oversees the interlacings of galaxies, stars, and worlds, asks us to confess His hand in our personal lives, too. Have we not been reassured about the fall of one sparrow and that the very hairs of our heads are numbered? God is in the details! Just as the Lord knows all of His vast creations, He also knows and loves each in any crowd – indeed, He knows and loves each and all mankind!”
Elder Uchtdorf described the majority of people in the world when he said, “We live in a time when many worry about their livelihood. They are concerned about the future and doubt their ability to resolve the challenges that confront them. Many have experienced personal misfortune and sadness. They hunger for meaning and purpose in life. Because there is such great interest in these issues, the world is not bashful in offering numerous new answers to every problem we face. People run from one new idea to the next, hoping to find something that will answer the burning questions of their souls. They attend seminars and buy books, CDs, and other products. They get caught up in the excitement of looking for something new. But inevitably, the flame of each new theory fades, only to be replaced by another “new and improved” solution that promises to do what the others before could not.”
I have done this myself, looking in every place but the right one for answers, thinking that temporary and material things will satisfy and make me happy. But I have also had times in my life where my patience and faith were strong and I sought the council of the Lord for direction. One of those times was about 8 months ago. I was feeling lost and alone, lacking purpose and direction. My school work wasn’t interesting me and friends seemed few. I didn’t know what I was missing, but I wasn’t happy.
However, I knew where to look and I turned to the Lord. I started earnestly searching for meaning and direction in my life. I prayed, on my knees and out loud when I could, before my scripture study each morning, and asked Heavenly Father to teach me what I needed to learn and show me what I needed to do. Then I let the spirit guide as I opened my scriptures and I wrote down the things that I was taught. It was amazing. Each time I asked, Heavenly Father blessed me with insight, peace and especially His love. I started desiring more knowledge, more light. My thirst for the things of the spirit grew and grew. I began to feel happier and more at peace. I was grateful for the things the Lord was teaching me, but I still felt a lack of direction. It was a strange few months. I kind of felt like it was the calm before the storm, like something big was coming and that I was being prepared but I still didn’t know what it was or what I was supposed to do. But I persisted in my search with the Lord and He continued to bless me with peace and patience.
My thoughts and desires began to be directed to the temple. I wanted more knowledge of my Savior and I wanted to be more committed to living the gospel. I wanted to reach a new level of discipleship, and as these desires grew, I started to think more seriously about serving a mission again. I had a lot of concerns, mostly about school and my ability to finish a rigorous major after such a long break. But as I continued to pray about the decision, I knew that the time was right and that I wanted to go more than anything else. It seemed a little crazy to me and even weeks after I knew I was going to go, I would only hint about the idea to friends and family. “Wouldn’t it be crazy if I just left school and went on a mission?” I’d ask, while secretly I was picking up my BYU deferment form and looking at the missionary papers online.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “It seems clear that the essence of our duty and the fundamental requirement of our mortal life is captured in these brief phrases from any number of scenes in the Savior’s mortal ministry. He is saying to us, ‘Trust me, learn of me, do what I do. Then, when you walk where I am going,’ he says, ‘we can talk about where you are going, and the problems you face and the troubles you have. If you will follow me, I will lead you out of darkness,’ he promises. ‘I will give you answers to your prayers. I will give you rest to your souls.’”
The Lord doesn’t have a vague idea of who we are or what we’re about. He knows our hearts at every minute as we change from day to day. He knew the desire of my heart to go to the temple and serve a mission at this point in my life long before I knew it. And he guided me patiently until I discovered my answer.
Elder Holland continues, “My desire today is for all of us—not just those who are “poor in spirit” but all of us—to have more straightforward personal experience with the Savior’s example. Sometimes we seek heaven too obliquely, focusing on programs or history or the experience of others. Those are important but not as important as personal experience, true discipleship, and the strength that comes from experiencing firsthand the majesty of His touch.”
The prophet Joseph Smith said, “Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.”
There is absolutely no substitute for personal experience with the Savior on the road to discipleship. We must come to know Him so well “that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (Moroni 7:48)
President James E. Faust said, “Our true claim as disciples comes when we can say with certainty that His ways have become our ways.”
Elder Maxwell said, “The mighty change required by discipleship may seem roller-coaster like, as soaring revelations bring the gravity of humbling perspective. It was so with Moses, who “fell unto the earth” and exclaimed, “Man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” (Moses 1:9-10). Then came, however, the divine, reassuring disclosure: “For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Mighty changing, however, is mighty hard work, a labor made more difficult by heeding the unflattering urges of the natural man. Too often our possibilities have been muted by the mundane. We are scarcely ready for the vaulting revelations. Imagine – a spirit portion of each of us is actually eternal and that we were with God in the beginning!”
In John, the Savior says, “I can of mine own self do nothing…because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30)
When we are willing to accept that there is so much more for us than what we have planned for ourselves, when we can start trusting in the Lord enough to allow our will to be swallowed up in His, just as He allowed His will to be swallowed up in the Father’s, our true discipleship will really begin.
Elder Maxwell gives us a good measuring tool for our discipleship, “We can tell much by what we have already willingly discarded along the pathway of discipleship. It is the only pathway where littering is permissible, even encouraged. In the early stages, the debris left behind includes the grosser sins of commission. Later debris differs; things begin to be discarded which have caused the misuse or underuse of our time and talent.”
And this littering of sins is only made possible through our Savior, which brings me to the last aspect of discipleship I want to talk about today: Using the atonement to heal and enable us throughout our journey of discipleship as we learn to become as Christ is.
Without the priceless blessing of the atonement, how could we ever expect to come unto Christ and be one with Him?
Elder Holland said, “This reliance upon the merciful nature of God is at the very center of the gospel Christ taught. I testify that the Savior’s Atonement lifts from us not only the burden of our sins but also the burden of our disappointments and sorrows, our heartaches and our despair. From the beginning, trust in such help was to give us both a reason and a way to improve, an incentive to lay down our burdens and take up our salvation. There can and will be plenty of difficulties in life. Nevertheless, the soul that comes unto Christ, who knows His voice and strives to do as He did, finds a strength, as the hymn says, “beyond [his] own.” The Savior reminds us that He has “graven [us] upon the palms of [His] hands.” Considering the incomprehensible cost of the Crucifixion and Atonement, I promise you He is not going to turn His back on us now. When He says to the poor in spirit, “Come unto me,” He means He knows the way out and He knows the way up. He knows it because He has walked it. He knows the way because He is the way.
In Nazareth, the narrow road,
That tires the feet and steals the breath,
Passes the place where once abode
The Carpenter of Nazareth.
And up and down the dusty way
The village folk would often wend;
And on the bench, beside Him, lay
Their broken things for Him to mend.
The maiden with the doll she broke,
The woman with the broken chair,
The man with broken plough, or yoke,
Said, “Can you mend it, Carpenter?”
And each received the thing he sought,
In yoke, or plough, or chair, or doll;
The broken thing which each had brought
Returned again a perfect whole.
So, up the hill the long years through,
With heavy step and wistful eye,
The burdened souls their way pursue,
Uttering each the plaintive cry:
“O Carpenter of Nazareth,
This heart, that’s broken past repair,
This life, that’s shattered nigh to death,
Oh, can You mend them, Carpenter?”
And by His kind and ready hand,
His own sweet life is woven through
Our broken lives, until they stand
A New Creation—“all things new.”
“The shattered [substance] of [the] heart,
Desire, ambition, hope, and faith,
Mould Thou into the perfect part,
O, Carpenter of Nazareth!”
“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.” (Elder Joseph B. Worthlin)
I know the road to discipleship will not always be easy. But I know that it will be the greatest and most rewarding work of our lives, and that if we can willing take Christ’s name upon us, trust in Him to lead us through personal revelation, and use the atonement every day, we will be transformed in to men and women for the eternities.