Written by Emilia Julian
Our Heavenly Father provided us all with guidelines and directions which, if followed carefully, will see us safely through this sometimes challenging mortal journey.
I love to study the scriptures. Not just merely read them, but truly study them. It wasn’t until I actually took some thoughtful time to learn the words which I was reading that I realized how many gems of knowledge I had missed, or misunderstood. Often times, it can take me an hour to study just a couple of verses, and that may be it for the day, but those verses will have uplifted me, strengthened me, encouraged me, and empowered me.
During my regular studies today, I came upon a verse in Helaman 4:10 that caught my attention. Since my fundamental goal is to strive to live my life in such a way that I can draw closer to the Saviour and to some day receive the complete joy that has been promised in the celestial kingdom, this verse was worthy to be given all the time I required to understand it and live it accordingly. I am currently reading the war chapters in the Book of Mormon and at this time Nephi is feeling discouraged and saddened by the division being displayed between the people, leaving Nephi feeling alone. With a heavy heart, Nephi pondered about the wickedness of the people when he heard the voice of the Lord. It was what the Lord had told Nephi at this time, in this short verse, that gave me a wealth of information about the things I must do that will lead me and all people to exaltation.
Let’s break this down to 5 simple points:
- “Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done“. Nephi had great faith and trust in God and he accompanied that faith and trust with ACTION. Faith must be accompanied by action; else it has no life (see James 2:17). By eliminating the action, faith alone will not allow us to gain the power to change.
Several years ago my bishop issued me a call to serve as the Gospel Doctrine teacher in my new ward. I have never declined a call to serve, but I have never served in that particular calling before and I was terrified. For the first time, declining a call was a consideration I had never contemplated before. I wasn’t very knowledgeable in the history of the Church, and that year we were studying the Doctrine and Covenants. I knew that we had members in our ward who were very knowledgeable in that topic, and I did almost everything to try to convince my dear bishop that maybe he has the wrong person. He assured me that I was the one that the Lord called, and knowing that I was feeling overwhelmed and inadequate, he reminded me of what President Monson promised; namely, that “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.” Then he allowed me some time (a week actually) to ponder and pray before I made my final decision. I went home feeling anxious, and I couldn’t think of anything else but what Bishop Beitz and I had discussed that day in his office. I had faith in the words he shared with me, and he had faith in me. After much thought and prayer, I knew there was nothing stopping me from accepting this calling except for my own insecurities, so I took the faith I had and put it to action. I accepted the call to serve and was teaching the Doctrine and Covenants. To this day, I’m not sure why I was the one chosen to teach at that time, but I do know this; the knowledge that I gained while studying and teaching about Joseph Smith and Church history strengthened my testimony to the point that it had made a huge impact and created many wonderful changes in my life. Although I had already been a member for about 15 years at that point, I felt renewed in the gospel again. I felt that I was converted all over again and experienced a fundamental and permanent change to my very nature took place in my heart. Teaching that class turned out to be a pivotal point in my membership in the church and had opened the door to more wonderful things that were yet to come. It was true; the Lord did qualify me, and at the same time, strengthened me, prepared me, and blessed me. My relationship with my Father in heaven was growing more and more, and my thoughts became focused more on eternal matters.
Had I declined the call to serve, had I not acted upon my faith, not only would I have missed out on the wonderful opportunities and blessings that came as a result of taking action, but I may never have known or experienced the joy of serving in such capacity. It was one of the most rewarding experiences to date.
2. “For I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word”. Nephi was a very dedicated and faithful servant of God. Even at the lowest points of despair, he would be steadfast in his service and was very dependable. The Lord could count on him to get the job done. To move toward exaltation, we must follow the example of Nephi and be continuously diligent in keeping the commandments of God. We must become deeply devoted to the Lord and His teachings and remain consistently faithful to the point that our hearts have a mighty change.
3. “And thou hast not feared them“. Which way are we facing? Nephi was always only concerned more with the will of God, not of those around him. He didn’t allow himself to fear man. I learned that this is what is expected of me…of all of us. Peer pressure can become a major stumbling block for us if we allow others to tempt us to put God aside and follow them instead. A great example of this is Lehi’s dream when, from the great and spacious building, the fingers of mockery were being pointed to those who were striving to walk toward the tree of life (see 1 Nephi 8:25-28 ). If those individuals had kept themselves facing the tree of life, they would never have seen or felt the shame and temptation by those that were in the great and spacious building. They became more concerned about what the people thought about them, than what the Lord thought of them. The result of this is that they had lost sight of the eternal matters, and were baited and lured to join the matters of the world instead, to do that which is an abomination in God’s eyes, and which ultimately separated them from Him.
Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy, makes a great point. He said, “Trying to please others before pleasing God is inverting the first and second great commandments (see Matthew 22:37-39 ). It is forgetting which way we face. And yet, we have all made that mistake because of the fear of men. In Isaiah the Lord warns us, “Fear ye not the reproach of men”. Then Elder Robbins continues by saying, “Decisions of character are made by remembering the right order of the first and second great commandments.”
So with this I ask myself, “Which way am I facing?” and “Whom do I fear more?”
4. “And hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will.” This point is closely tied to point #3. I’m sure there may have been times when Nephi would have rather spent time on more enjoyable activities. Surely it was a burden for him to have to constantly deal with unfaithful and stiffnecked people. But Nephi knew his place and what his duties to God were, and he was very loyal to that and to God. One of the greatest tasks of this life is to learn what the will of the Lord is and then go and do it.
There is an often-rehearsed scripture that comes to my mind. It is found in 1 Nephi 3:7 and reads, I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
There have been many times in my life where I had to choose between my friendships and relationships. One such time was when I had made the decision to be baptized. I was still only a teenager at the time and had experienced very unpleasant and threatening opposition against me, both by some family and friends alike. After a while, I had reached the point that perhaps this wasn’t the time for me to be doing this. I will never forget the day that I had said that to myself. It was the day I was to be baptized, and that morning I had gone horseback riding with friends from school and had time to ponder my thoughts about my baptism. Many times I had closed my eyes and said a silent prayer that if it be God’s will for me to “go through with this”, to please soften the heart of my father (whom I was worried most about), or I wasn’t sure if I could go through with my baptism. I didn’t hear a voice, but yet I felt it. Everything around me seemed to have silenced for a moment, and yet I knew that it wasn’t possible. This great peace came over me…a warmth…an encouraging embrace…and I knew for certain that the Saviour was right there with me, and that all will be well. I knew it was God’s will for me to be baptized and I just couldn’t deny it. Who was I to ignore this incredible feeling I felt for the first time in my life, and deny the will of my God? I went home still fearing what might have materialized from my decision to be baptized, but it didn’t matter. I knew what I was important, and I had faith that God will look after the rest.
What did I learn from this? I learned that if I have my heart is set on striving for exaltation, God’s will must come before our own pleasures and desires. This means to strive to follow ALL of His commandments, not just the ones that are convenient for us to follow at the time. One of my husbands favourite sayings as a bishop is that this is not a church of convenience.
5. “Keep my commandments”. A couple of years ago, President Thomas S. Monson said that, “He who created us and who loves us perfectly knows just how we need to live our lives in order to obtain the greatest happiness possible.” If I have my heart set on exaltation, then I must trust that my Father in heaven will know what I need in my life to be able to achieve this eternal goal. There have been times in my life when following the commandments perfectly is too difficult or restricting in many ways. The scriptures have taught me otherwise and I am so thankful for that.
My husband and I took a family trip to Nauvoo with our two teenage boys a few years ago. We drove several hours, following the map that was given to us very carefully so not to get lost. For the first 10 hours of the trip, it seemed to be quite easy and straight forward. However, we arrived at a point where the map took us off the highway and on to a very narrow and winding road for several miles. It seemed like there was no evidence of human life anywhere around. No houses or commercial buildings. We were certain that we were lost and considered turning around several times, but decided to drive a few more miles because we both kept getting the feeling that despite the desolate surroundings, we were on the right track. What a blessing it was to have finally seen the sign that said Nauvoo Ahead. We were filled with gratitude that we followed the map closely and because we did that, we were directed safely to our destination.
The commandments are much like that. Our Heavenly Father provided us all with guidelines and directions which, if followed carefully, will see us safely through this sometimes challenging mortal journey.
So, there you have it. Why did it take me so long to studying just one verse? Because the verse is filled with so many remarkable, encouraging, and promising guidelines and directions that are in line with my goals to reach exaltation. It’s never a race for me to finish reading the scriptures. Rather, it’s more like a treasure hunt. What treasure can I find in the scriptures today that will draw me even closer to my Father in heaven, and to my Saviour, Jesus Christ.