Repentance isn’t what covers the sins — Christ covers the sins. We are trying to become something — like the Savior.
A note I took during church
I like to take notes while I listen to people speak in church. It helps me to focus and often I find myself learning something as I jot down notes of what comes to my mind as people speak. A few weeks ago, we had some excellent speakers talking on the topic of repentance. During one of the talks, I drew this kind of rough diagram in my notes
Often when we teach about repentance, we talk about repenting of our sins. That phrase, for me, automatically brings to mind a kind of check-list repentance (like in the top of my image above). In this somewhat inaccurate view of repentance, it is easy to think that we have to repent for each and every bad thing that we do in life. Perhaps we may assume that we need a literal list of all the bad things we do which we then have to review in prayer daily and try to repent of. This perspective, while helpful, may risk us misunderstanding the role of repentance. Our act of repenting of a sin, is not what has power in and of itself to result in our being cleansed from that sin. Repentance is the quest that Christ asks us to embark on — but it is Jesus Christ who erases the sin through his power and grace.
I believe that repentance is, therefore, much more than a daily checklist of actions to perform to keep ourselves right with God. Repentance is the process by which we become more like God. It is the way that we strive to focus ourselves on Christ and connect to His power. This connection allows that power to flow into us and change our natures.
God’s ultimate goal for us in this life is to become perfect as He is. This perfecting, or sanctifying, does indeed come through repentance; however, simply striving to check of a list of actions misses the broader goal. I love the following from Russell M. Nelson that teaches this principle.
Thus, when Jesus said “repent,” He asked us to change—to change our mind, knowledge, and spirit—even our breath….Yes, the Lord has commanded us to repent, to change our ways, to come unto Him, and be more like Him. . . . To repent fully is to convert completely to the Lord Jesus Christ and His holy work.
I hope this perspective is helpful for someone. I am still learning about these principles myself and there is a lot to learn. I have definitely learned that a focus on Jesus Christ brings other church and gospel topics into sharp focus.
If you’re interested, here are a few other talks from Russell M. Nelson and others that deal with repentance. They are all fantastic. I’ll include some of my favorite scriptures on the topic as well.
Brothers and Sisters, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am grateful for the wonderful family that we have here in this ward! Sarah and I are so thankful for all that you do to bless our family, to serve each other, to teach your families, and to serve in the church. As I share the message that I have prepared and as we listen to President Williams, I invite you to pay attention to the whisperings of the spirit. Write down what he tells you, and then act! I know that if you listen, he will teach you today.
Near the end of his ministry, the Apostle Paul wrote an epistle to Timothy who had been his companion in his travels and who had served faithfully in the church. As Paul reflected on his life and the hardships and trials he had experienced, he looked forward and saw our day. He told Timothy that “in the last days perilous times shall come.” Four-hundred and fifty years later, the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni also knew our doing. He saw a time when “there shall be heard of fires, and tempests, and vapors of smoke in foreign lands. And there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in diverse places. A day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations.” We see these prophecies fulfilled every day!
During these perilous times, the prophets have taught that we are to find joy! Does that surprise you? It certainly isn’t what the world would teach! So, the question for us is how do we not only survive but thrive and even find joy in the midst of hardship, trials, and wickedness all around us?
In primary we learn that we are supposed to be like the wise man and build our house on the rock. We we can find joy during perilous times when we “build upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the son of God…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 [us], it shall have no power over [us] to drag [us]u down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which [we] are built, … a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”
We build our lives upon the rock of our Redeemer by getting on and then staying on the covenant path. The covenant path has some major mile-markers along it: Baptism, Confirmation, Priesthood Ordination, The Temple Endowment and Sealing. These saving ordinances order and direct our lives by putting us into a covenant relationship with God. We should actively prepare to receive these ordinances and enter into these covenants. Because “the power of godliness is manifest” in these ordinances, receiving them for ourselves can be a defining spiritual experience – it is often an unforgettable one. When I look back on my experiences receiving these ordinances, I find strength in my daily striving.
Receiving the ordinances of the priesthood is one of the most important things we can do in this life. But, the ordinances themselves are short! Often, they last only minutes. So, how do we stay on the covenant path for the rest of our lives? The answer is simple. The principles that led us to enter the path in the first place are the same principles that sustain us as we continue to walk in it every day. These are the first principles of the gospel: faith in Jesus Christ and repentance. As we exercise faith in Christ and repent every day, we can be confident that we are striving to stay on the covenant path.
Everyone here in this meeting today has exercised faith! You got up this morning and decided to participate in partaking of the sacrament. You did that because you believe that Christ is real. Even if that belief feels weak, it is there inside you! President Nelson taught that we show our faith every day in the choices we make.
Do not minimize the faith you already have. It takes faith to join the Church and remain faithful. It takes faith to follow prophets rather than pundits and popular opinion. It takes faith to serve a mission during a pandemic. It takes faith to live a chaste life when the world shouts that God’s law of chastity is now outmoded. It takes faith to teach the gospel to children in a secular world. It takes faith to plead for the life of a loved one and even more faith to accept a disappointing answer.
The mountains in our lives do not always move how or when we would like. But our faith will always propel us forward. Faith always increases our access to godly power.
It is not always easy to have faith. It is not even always obvious that we even have faith! However, as long as we are doing anything to try to follow the Savior, we can know that we do have faith.
Every time we exercise our faith, we are choosing to repent! Over the last few years as I have studied repentance, I have come to understand that repentance is anything we do to change our lives in any way to become more like Jesus Christ. And there are a lot of ways to do that!
I love what President Nelson taught about repentance.
Does everyone need to repent?” The answer is yes.
Too many people consider repentance as punishment—something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances. But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us.
The word for repentance in the Greek New Testament is metanoeo. The prefix meta- means “change.” The suffix -noeo is related to Greek words that mean “mind,” “knowledge,” “spirit,” and “breath.”
Thus, when Jesus asks you and me to “repent,” He is inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe. He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies.
Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
In the perilous times that we live in, it is critically important that we have Faith in Jesus Christ and continually repent. What are some ways that you and I could repent today? Perhaps we can be more focused during our scripture study or teach our child in a new way. Maybe family prayer could use some improvement or we need to reach out to a friend or neighbor. Maybe we need to pray a bit more sincerely or index a batch of records for family history. Whatever it is that you have personally been prompted to do, act! Don’t wait! Act in faith and repent a little bit today.
I know that Christ lives. I know that He guides this church. I know that Russell M. Nelson talks to God and then tells us what God wants us to know. I know that Christ has the power to change us. That change doesn’t come all at once. It comes little by little – line upon line – as we daily exercise faith and repent. If we do this, we will find joy in this life even during perilous times.
The front room of our house looks like an ordinary front room that you may find in any number of homes. It has some moderately comfortable couches, a second hand piano that the kids practice on somewhat diligently, and some standard Ikea furniture. It was just another room in our home until a few weeks ago when life changed and we started staying at home because of the coronavirus. Since we have been at home, this seemingly ordinary room has transformed into a sacred place — a place where my family has felt the Spirit, worshiped Jesus Christ, sung hymns, and learned the gospel.
When we first viewed our home, our realtor jokingly referred to the front room as the “meet the preacher” room. Little did he know that this room would eventually become the nucleus of our home-centered worship. Since we have lived here we have held our weekly Family Home Evening lessons in this room. Even when there were no couches, piano, or Ikea furniture, we held our lessons in this room.
When members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were told that we would not be holding in-person church services because of COVID-19, the purpose of this little room changed. It was elevated in our minds from our family home evening room to our sacrament meeting room. We started spending careful time on Saturdays making sure it was clean. We dusted more often. We cleaned the windows. We made space for our family to partake of the sacrament.
On the first week that we gathered as a family to partake of the sacrament in our front room, we sang a song, had an opening prayer and then I administered the sacrament to my family. As I was blessing the emblems, I felt the cleansing, sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost come into that little front room. The children were still. The peace that attends sacred places was present in that room. Every week since, as I have knelt at our little sacrament table, I have felt that same spirit.
Our children have also sensed the change in our home. They have been prepared for our Sunday services. They have each, on separate occasions, found their way to the front room on Sunday morning to sit and be quiet. Sometimes they will sit with each other. I believe that their innocent spirits are sensitive to the Holy Ghost and enjoy being in places where He is.
I want to have that spirit in my home all of the time! How do I accomplish this? I believe the statement from the Bible Dictionary quoted earlier is true — the home compares with the temple in sacredness. So what steps can we take to make it that way all the time? Elder Gary E. Stevenson taught the following:
Imagine that you are opening your front door and walking inside your home. What do you see, and how do you feel? Is it a place of love, peace, and refuge from the world, as is the temple? Is it clean and orderly? As you walk through the rooms of your home, do you see uplifting images which include appropriate pictures of the temple and the Savior? Is your bedroom or sleeping area a place for personal prayer? Is your gathering area or kitchen a place where food is prepared and enjoyed together, allowing uplifting conversation and family time? Are scriptures found in a room where the family can study, pray, and learn together? Can you find your personal gospel study space? Does the music you hear or the entertainment you see, online or otherwise, offend the Spirit? Is the conversation uplifting and without contention?
All the things we put into our home, especially the activities we choose to engage in and the way we spend our time either invite or discourage the Spirit from being in our homes.
As we, individually and in our families, consistently point our attention to Jesus Christ, our homes can be sacred places. As we exercise our faith and continually repent, the Holy Ghost will be in our homes. Will they always be quiet and peaceful sacred places? No! They are sacred laboratories. Things sometimes go wrong in these sacred places. Sometimes they are loud! They are still inhabited by imperfect people. However, as we turn our eyes to the Savior and let His light fill us, we can allow the Spirit to sanctify our homes. They can become refuges from the storms of life. They can be filled with the Spirit of God.
My topic is “The Holy Ghost helps me feel love, joy and
peace.” In Galatians 5:22-23 it says, “But the fruit of the spirit is love,
joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith Meekness, temperance:
against such there is no law.”
This means that the Spirit brings these great things into our
I would like to share a story of something that happened
yesterday morning. Yesterday I realized I had two CTR rings and my brother James
didn’t have any. He asked me for one, but I said no. I decided I should be
Christlike. The Holy Ghost helped me feel love for James.
I decided to give a CTR ring to him. I made a treasure hunt
for him to find it. My brother James loved it. My heart felt so happy. I know
that feeling came from the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost told me I made the right
I’d like to bear my testimony that I know we can make right
choices and that the Holy Ghost can help us feel love, joy and peace.
From a talk given 14 Jul 2019 in the Pflugerville Ward
I had the opportunity to go on Trek this year. Bishop Arnesen and I went as a Ma and Pa for one of the families. The theme for our Trek was “Keep on the Covenant Path.” In essence, the covenant path is the path that leads us back to our Heavenly Father, and the path is marked with covenants and ordinances along the way, such as baptism, priesthood ordination, and temple ordinances. As we repent and partake of the sacrament worthily each week, we progress along the path. By keeping on the path, we are brought safely back to our heavenly home.
A member of our stake presidency mentioned several times that the real growth from Trek would happen as we reflected on the experience. I believe that is applicable in many of life’s poignant experiences, and I found it to be true in this case as well. Rather than give a report of my experiences on Trek, I’d like to mention gospel principles that I learned on Trek and in my reflection as well as relate these principles to the “Trek of Our Lives,” as we strive to keep on the covenant path. I encourage you all to listen closely to the Spirit as you read, and pay attention to any nudges He may give you. I’d like to discuss the gospel principles of preparation, work, play, prayer, ministering, endurance, and consecration.
First, preparation. Before I dive in, I should probably mention that my experience with preparing for Trek was different than it was for most. As a Ma and Pa, Bishop and I were given two packing lists—one for our personal gear, and one for our family gear. All of the family gear needed to be turned in the Saturday before Trek, which happened to be the same day that Bishop was flying home from a ten-day trip to China for work. Many of you know that Bishop is a very experienced scouter. As such, he knows what gear works best, things that are superfluous, and things that are vital. I, on the other hand, have only been camping a handful of times in Texas, and never during the summertime. I knew that if I tried to gather that family gear on my own while he was out of town, our family would not be nearly as prepared as we would be if he and I planned together. So, about a month before Trek we started discussing the family packing list, gathering items, buying what we needed, borrowing tents, packing everything in big containers, re-packing everything in different containers to fit better, and so on. We had everything together before Bishop left for China except for a few small things that were fairly easy for me to acquire. The day before our gear was due, we found out that we needed one more tent. I stressed out for a few minutes before the Spirit helped me remember that a family in our ward had said they had a small tent they were willing to lend out. After a quick phone call, we coordinated use of the tent, and I felt so grateful. The day that everything was due, I didn’t have to do any last minute packing or acquiring but was able to hand over our family gear with confidence. (As a side note, I am good at procrastinating packing, so this was a big deal to me.) The anxiety I had experienced for the months leading up to Trek had subsided, and I felt peace and excitement for the week to come. What a blessing that was!
Now, how does this all relate to us in the Trek of Our Lives? We all have things that we are preparing for. A wise institute instructor once told me, “There is no time to wait, only to prepare.” We are preparing for baptism, for receiving the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, for graduation, for college, for making covenants in the temple, for marriage, for parenthood, for jobs. We prepare for partaking of the sacrament, for lessons we give in Primary, Sunday School, and so on. We prepare for dentist and doctor appointments, for work presentations, for ministering visits.
Hopefully, we are all preparing for eternal
life. Alma said in the Book of Mormon that “this life is the time to prepare to
meet God” and counseled us, saying “Do not procrastinate the day of your
repentance until the end” (Alma 34:32, 33). Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed
with the things we need to prepare for, especially when we don’t have much (or
any) experience. But, just as I had access to a masterful scout in preparing
for Trek, we all have access to the Master Scout for the Trek of Our
Lives, who is Jesus Christ. He has literally experienced everything that we are
preparing for. He knows how to gain eternal life and how to help us gain
eternal life too. He knows exactly what tools work best, what is superfluous,
and what is vital. He knows what we need to pack in our spiritual containers
and how big they need to be. He knows who can help us out and lend us that
spiritual tent at the last minute. He has given us everything we need—He has
given us Himself. We have constant access to our Heavenly Father, we have the
words and experiences of the prophets in the scriptures, we have living
Prophets and Apostles who speak the Lord’s word for us today, we have the Gift
of the Holy Ghost, we have patriarchal blessings, we have Bishops and Stake
Presidents, we have ministering brothers and sisters, we have the opportunity
to renew our covenants during the sacrament each week, and we have so much more
to help us be prepared for all that lies ahead for us on the covenant path. I
know that if we will heed the Lord’s counsel for preparation and use all that
He has given us, we will be able to gain eternal life too—just like Him!! As we
continue to prepare, the Lord’s promise of “if ye are prepared, ye shall not
fear,” will be manifest in our lives, and we will be blessed with that peace
which passeth all understanding as we journey along the covenant path.
The second principle is work. There was obviously a lot of work involved on Trek. Those handcarts were heavy. Thankfully, the only daytime rain we had on Trek was a Texas-style ten-minute drizzle when we first got there and were loading up our handcarts. That little bit of rain, however, made for a muddy trail on the first day. The wheels were caked with and weighed down by mud and grass. Mud weighed down our boots, making it harder to walk. There were muddy puddles to push through. The heat of the sun made it so that we had to stop often to drink water. There will hills to push up and to brace ourselves on when going down. The trail was sometimes very rocky. There were times we had to push extra hard to get over a big rock. On the Women’s Pull, I was pushing from the back of the cart, and I remember one particular moment where I felt like I had literally exerted all of the energy in my muscles to push up, and yet the cart stood still and then started to roll backward. You better believe that extra strength was mustered from somewhere inside that told me I would die if I didn’t keep pushing even harder. Then there were the meals. Breakfasts and dinners were cooked in Dutch ovens over hot coals, and most people had very little experience cooking in Dutch ovens. Camp had to be set up and taken down every morning and night. There was just a lot of physical work, but we made it through. In our family, everyone pitched in as much as they could, and everyone seemed to have a willing attitude to help out. At the end of the day, we were tired but fulfilled. Every day, through diligent work, we reached our goal of making it to camp.
Work is an eternal principle. I love this quote by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “When our wagon gets stuck in the mud, God is much more likely to assist the man who gets out to push than the man who merely raises his voice in prayer—no matter how eloquent the oration. President Thomas S. Monson put it this way: ‘It is not enough to want to make the effort and to say we’ll make the effort. . . . It’s in the doing, not just the thinking, that we accomplish our goals. If we constantly put our goals off, we will never see them fulfilled.’” (Ensign, Nov. 2009, 55). There may be times in our lives where we feel exhausted thinking about all the things we need to do to keep on the covenant path. Sometimes we make it feel like a checklist: pay your tithing, go to the temple, go to church, magnify your calling, do service, fulfill your ministering assignments, share the gospel, read your scriptures, say your prayers. When I get stuck in a muddy checklist mindset, my wagon gets stuck. It usually means that I’ve lost sight of my eternal goal. Sometimes it means that I have become too casual in my devotion to God and that I need to be more careful in my discipleship. When I remember the reason that I want to do all those things—so that I can live again with my Heavenly Father, become as He is, and live with my family eternally—then I don’t get so lost in the checklist, but those things become part of my character. In essence, when I remember my “why,” then the “what” doesn’t weigh me down. I admit that I struggle with this at times—I am a person who loves checklists, after all—but I am continually trying. As Elder Uchtdorf also said, “Try and keep on trying until that which seems difficult becomes possible—and that which seems only possible becomes habit and a real part of you” (“The Love of God,” General Conference, October 2009). I know that as we seek the Lord’s help in our exhausted state and keep Him as our goal, we will be able to reach it.
Third, the principle of play. The youth and Trek parents found ways to enjoy pulling the handcarts. Many families sang hymns or camp songs. Several families had cheers that they repeated often. When we had a few minutes to sit after camp had been set up or before we had to take it down, families played games, sang silly songs, quoted silly movies, and so on. After the first full day of trekking, we had a few classes, dinner, and then a youth dance. I was amazed by the energy of youth! These youth, who had pulled on a difficult trail for much of the day, somehow had energy for the equivalent of an outdoor youth stake dance. The dance seemed to revitalize many of them, and they were ready for another day of trekking the next day. Playing helped us all to enjoy the experience even more.
Historically, we know that the early pioneers took time to dance and sing even while they were making their great migration to Utah. Brigham Young said, “Life is best enjoyed when time periods are evenly divided between labour, sleep and recreation. All men, women, and children should labour; all must sleep; and if mental and physical balance is to be maintained, all people should spend one-third of their time in recreation which is rebuilding, voluntary activity—never idleness. Eight hours work, eight hours sleep, and eight hours recreation” (Susa Young Gates and Leah D. Widtsoe, The Life Story of Brigham Young, p. 251). I love this principle. Yes, we want to work hard, but it is also okay to play! This is when relationships are strengthened, friendships are built, and trust is gained. Remember that “life is to be enjoyed, not just endured” (President Thomas S. Monson).
The next principle is prayer. Several of the youth in our family mentioned that we prayed a LOT on Trek—but we also had a lot of opportunities wherein we needed extra faith and help. We prayed over meals. We prayed before we left camp. We prayed as a family before retiring for the day. We prayed when one of the girls in our family got heat exhaustion. We prayed when one of the other girls in our family had one of her real-life younger sisters struggling with heat exhaustion in an unusual moment when there were no people with walkie talkies around. The girls in our family prayed before doing the Women’s Pull. We prayed when we were struggling and when we knew others were struggling. We trusted that our Heavenly Father could and would help us.
I love in the Book of Mormon where Alma teaches us to “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good” (Alma 37:37). There is literally nothing too overwhelming or complicated that Heavenly Father can’t handle it or doesn’t want to hear about, and there is nothing too small that, if important to us, is unimportant to Him. Our Heavenly Father wants to hear it all! The entry on Prayer in the Guide to the Scriptures states, “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that we must ask for in order to obtain.” What blessings are we withholding from ourselves because we are simply not asking our Omnipotent God, our deeply personal Heavenly Father, for help? Are we living beneath our privileges in this regard?
Relating this to the Trek of Our Lives,
when we are struggling along the way, do we ask Him for help, or do we just
allow ourselves to keep tripping? Prayer is such a gift. It is the way that we
are able to receive peace and strength, to unload all of our worries, to ask
for direction and guidance, to repent(!) of all our sins, to ask for help in
our weaknesses, to express our deepest desires and our most profound gratitude.
It is how we learn to make decisions like our Heavenly Father does. It is one
way that we strengthen our relationship with Him. As we pray, we humble
ourselves before our Maker, who amazingly, deeply desires that we address Him
and remember Him as our perfect, loving Father. Our Heavenly Father, whose number
one goal is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses
1:39); in essence, to bring us along that covenant path, to bring us home so
that we can live with Him and be like Him. That is why He sent His Son—for us.
I also hope that in our families we are establishing traditions of praying for each other. We did this so much on Trek, both for our Trek families and for our real families. While members of our Trek family mentioned that we prayed a lot, it didn’t feel unnatural to me because of the tradition of praying over everything that had been instilled in me as a youth. (President Henry B. Eyring spoke of this in the last general conference. He said, “Your praying as a family can play a crucial part in making home a sacred place. … When the prayer is clearly to God in behalf of the people kneeling and listening, faith grows in all of them. They can feel expressions of love for Heavenly Father and for the Savior. And when the person who prays mentions those who are kneeling in that circle who are in need, all can feel love for them and for each member of the family. Even when family members are not living in the home, prayer can build bonds of love. Prayer in the family can reach across the world” (“A Home Where the Spirit of the Lord Dwells,” General Conference, April 2019).) My life has been blessed countless times over by being able to send a text to any member of my family asking them to pray for me in a specific situation, as well as by opportunities to stop what I am doing and kneel and pray on behalf of someone in my family. What a beautiful gift from our Heavenly Father.
Next, ministering. Ministering was a constantly present principle on Trek. When our family would pull off to the side for a rest, passing families would always ask, “Are you guys all doing okay?” and stop if necessary. Our masterful scout, Pa, was fully prepared to help others, which sometimes meant that he would quickly run off to help someone tie down their cart better, lend them our shovel to scrape the mud from their wheels, give them an extra tarp to cover their belongings so they wouldn’t fall out of the cart, give another family our leftover coals that were still hot so they could finish cooking their food, provide first aid to a few that were starting to get heat exhaustion, teach skills to others, and I’m probably missing more ways that he ministered! He definitely wasn’t the only one, but I provide this as an example of what was happening all over the camp and all along the trail. In contrast, in moments when Pa was needed elsewhere, I held down the fort and ministered to our family. Sometimes ministering means going forth to serve, and sometimes it means supporting others in their service.
I also had other opportunities to minister to members of our Trek family. Two of the girls in our family had never been camping or hiking before they came on Trek. (Talk about a difficult first camping trip!) One of those girls, who I will call Susie, wore shoes that were a terrible style for hiking, and she had only purchased them a week or so before Trek, so they weren’t broken in either. Needless to say, parts of the trail were completely miserable for her. Susie did her best to keep up with the others in the family, but there were times when her sore feet and her inexperience made it so that she just needed to walk slower than the rest. This often put our family toward the back of the company, but that didn’t matter. While Pa helped to lead our family in the front of the cart, I walked in the back with Susie so she didn’t get left behind, signaling to Pa when we needed to stop and let her catch up and rest. I did my best to stay with Susie, which often meant we were isolated from the rest of the family in short distances. Her sister was also in our family, so she sometimes took turns walking with Susie as well.
On the second full day of trekking, one of
the other girls in our family, who I’ll call Mary, started to walk behind with
me. Mary started asking me questions, and we had some great conversations. As I
reflect on this experience, I realize that Mary was ministering to me just as I
had been ministering to Susie. I didn’t realize that I also needed mental
refreshment from the sometimes difficult service I was giving, but I did. This
is an example of what we do in real life: we all take care of each other through
ministering! When we are truly doing this, no one falls through the cracks or
is left behind. We are progressing together along the covenant path.
There were times I wanted to let the
medical truck pick up Susie and take her to the next camp site. Her feet were
so sore from blisters, she was struggling with heat, and it was just a grueling
first hike for her, but the Lord helped me see her through His eyes and develop
greater charity for her while encouraging her to press on. Isn’t this what the
Lord does for us as we minister to others? We can’t leave anyone behind! We may
not always know what they need help with, but we can show them His love by just
The Savior ministered one-on-one throughout His life. We are to minister in the same way. As we have studied His life for the past six months, we have seen numerous examples of the Savior helping individuals with their personal needs, doubts, desires, and problems. I love knowing that there was no person too impure or too lowly for His love. He ministered to those who were judged by the world, and He loved them! He forgave them, healed them, and made them whole. When we minister one-on-one as He did, we are following in His footsteps on the covenant path. We are becoming His hands on this earth and fulfilling the mandate to serve that He has given us. We are bringing others closer to Christ and coming to know Him better as well. As President Russell M. Nelson said, “A hallmark of the Lord’s true and living Church will always be an organized, directed effort to minister to individual children [of] God and their families. Because it is His Church, we as His servants will minister to the one, just as He did. We will minister in His name, with His power and authority, and with His loving-kindness.” I love that we have this opportunity to bring others closer to Christ. Ministering provides another opportunity for us to learn to become like Him.
Next, the principle of endurance. First, I’d like to give a nod to the Early Saints, for whom this lifestyle was the reality. This was their LIVES! Even though they were better equipped with skill sets for living outdoors that many of us are today, I can’t imagine living like this for months. That teaches me something about the depth of their conversion.
On the last day, Susie was really struggling. Everyone passed us. We were in the very back of the handcart company. We were getting close to the end, and Pa, who usually was able to look out and see that we were far behind, had joined with those pulling the handcart and didn’t notice that we had fallen very behind. There were four of us: Susie, her sister, Mary, and me. We couldn’t see anyone else on the trail. I was grateful for a clear path that was made from the handcarts because otherwise we would have been lost. At a moment when Susie didn’t think she could go any further, Pa and a member of our Trek family came back up the hill they had just descended and found us. They had made it to the valley where the buses would come to pick us up! And better yet—it was only about five minutes away. This was the bit of encouragement Susie needed to finish Trek. We were literally the last four people into the camp site, but it didn’t matter. We still made it.
There are several lessons here. First, when
you are enduring on the covenant path, it means keeping at it. Sometimes life
is really challenging. Sometimes we feel utterly alone and like no one really
understands, even when they’re right there with us, just like I didn’t fully
understand Susie’s pain. Sometimes we feel like we won’t ever overcome a
weakness or get through a trial. The Savior, however, truly understands the
path we are on. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated, “Because Jesus walked such a
long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey
brought great company for our little version of that path?—the
merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this
Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family
members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders,
friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal
journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His
gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be
left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the
Redeemer of us all said: “I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I
will come to you [and abide with you].”” We are never truly alone on this path
because Jesus Christ has already walked it for us.
Another lesson here is that it is worth it
to keep on the covenant path. That is the only real place for safety. When the
four of us were isolated from all others, if we had gotten lost and fallen off
the path, we would have been on dangerous ground. There were rocks, snakes, and
sharp speargrass and thorns. We had limited water and food and were walking in
the Texas heat. Our best chance for safely getting to camp was staying on the
path. Likewise, in the Trek of Our Lives, our best chance for gaining eternal life
is staying on the covenant path. Of course, if we stray from the path, there is
always the chance for course-correction, also called repentance. Repentance
doesn’t always mean a painful, terrible process. It can simply mean to change
the direction we are headed so that we are better aligned with Jesus Christ. We
are all in need of course corrections every day, and the Holy Ghost helps us
know when and how to make them.
I love this quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley as it relates to endurance. “It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It all works out in the end. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us. If we will put our trust in Him, if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of His blessings, He will hear our prayers.” Our job is to trust Him and rely on Him, and He will lead us safely along.
My last lesson here (and it relates back to ministering) is to look for those who need help. In the case of Bishop and our “daughter,” they had to come back and find us. We would not have made it as quickly without them coming back to encourage and help us! In our lives, we also need to seek for those who are separated or lost. The Savior asks us, “Will you not seek for MY lost ones off from my shelter astray?” (Hymns no. 221). This is what Christ does for us. He leaves the ninety and nine and comes back for us, walking with us when we allow Him to, and marking the way for us to best be able to return to live with Him. He employs us in His service. Will we choose to be part of His work?
Lastly, consecration. I loved Elder David A. Bednar’s distinction when he explained that consecration is not just giving something up but being dedicated TO something. It is the arrow that points us forward toward our goal. On Trek, we were dedicated to getting to camp every day, hopefully with everyone in good health and good spirits. That goal changed how we did things during the day. It wasn’t a race, we just knew we all wanted to get there. We took time to refresh ourselves and worked really hard at other times.
Likewise, living lives that are consecrated
to God changes how we do things. We know what our goal is and that we need to
stay on His covenant path to get there.
We do certain things, and we don’t do other certain things. President Ezra
Taft Benson put it this way: “When we put God first, all other things fall
into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will
govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we
pursue, and the order of our priorities.” I know that as we follow this
counsel and choose to be consecrated TO God, we will make it to our eternal
I hope that I’ve been able to give you a
fair illustration of what Trek can be like, and I hope that, as we learned
about preparation, work, play, prayer, ministering, endurance, and
consecration, you’ve been able to make
note of times the Spirit may have touched your heart. Remember those things
(write them down if needed) and act on them.
I bear my testimony that keeping on the
covenant path will help us all return to live with Heavenly Father. That path
only exists because of Jesus Christ. He paved it for us and made the ordinances
valid and binding for time and all eternity. As we partake of the sacrament
each week, we recommit to keeping on the covenant path.
I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that
He suffered for each of us. I’ve recently been struck with the realization
that, as the Son of God, He had the power to end His suffering. He could have
stopped it at any moment, but He didn’t. I don’t understand the amount of love
it must have taken, but I do know that He did it. I have felt His power change
my heart, my mind, and my life, and I’ve seen Him work the same miracles on
others. I know that as we follow Him and strictly heed to words of our living
prophet, we will be safe on the covenant path. In the name of Jesus Christ.
This morning I got to give a spiritual thought at the Activity Days Camp at church. This is the summer camp for 7-11 year old girls. Their theme was “Growing Toward the Son.”
There is an interesting phenomenon that happens in a lot of plants where they will actually change direction to grow toward the sun. This effect is called phototropism. In very young plants this effect can be observed plainly over a relatively short period of time as shown in this brief video. Notice how the plants react as they grow.
I love the plants in that video that are growing longer and longer and then suddenly topple over as they are straining to get to the light. They don’t ever give up. They don’t think that it’s over just because they’re in a darker place than their neighbors. They consistently push toward the light. Sometime they shake around a bit as if they are unsure, but their course is firmly toward the light — the source of their energy.
We should be like this in our relationship with Christ. We know that we are supposed to be steadfast in our facing toward and focusing on Christ. Christ invites us:
“Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.” – D&C 6:36-37
How are we do do this? What does it mean to look unto him in every thought? We need to read our scriptures regularly. We need to say our prayers. We need to partake of the sacrament. We need to learn the principles of the gospel — faith and repentance. We need to love our families.
“We are to ponder and apply the Book of Mormon and the words of prophets. Pray always. Be believing. Serve the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. We are to pray with all the energy of our hearts for the gift of charity, the pure love of Christ (see Moroni 7:47–48). And above all, we are to be consistent and persistent in following prophetic counsel.” (Henry B. Eyring, Fear Not to Do Good, October 2017)
I know that in doing these little, everyday, things that we can keep our lives focused on the savior. I know that as we do that, we will, eventually, feel the love of the savior. We may be like the plant that falters along the way, but don’t give up. Hold on the way and keep pushing toward the light. He is the light. He is real. He does love us.