Consecration and our Eternal Inheritance

Elder Bruce R. McConkie spoke about the laws of sacrifice and consecration. He laid down a powerful challenge that should cause each of us deep introspection to the core:

“We are not always called upon to live the whole law of consecration and give all of our time, talents, and means to the building up of the Lord’s earthly kingdom. Few of us are called upon to sacrifice much of what we possess, and at the moment there is only an occasional martyr in the cause of revealed religion.

      But what the scriptural account means is that to gain celestial salvation we must be able to live these laws to the full if we are called upon to do so. Implicit in this is the reality that we must in fact live them to the extent we are called upon so to do.”

If we are not living the Gospel and giving of our time and energy to the Kingdom of God now, then we will not be able to endure celestial law. We will not be able to live in the presence of our father again. We must be ready to give our all and give up everything to defend and build God’s kingdom. But so many of our efforts are directed elsewhere. If not actively building up Satan’s kingdom, we are nevertheless deeply plugged in to his economy. 

Sometimes a big sacrifice such as a martyrs death is actually easier than the small daily sacrifices we are asked to take on. Being a martyr is a way to go out in a burst of fame and glory. Being a Saint on the other hand requires patience and perseverance even when our actions do not instantly bear fruit.

Elder McConkie told a story that reminded me of one particularly memorable experience on my mission:

“As a young man, serving at the direction of my bishop, I called upon a rich man and invited him to contribute a thousand dollars to a building fund. He declined. But he did say he wanted to help, and if we would have a ward dinner and charge $5 per plate, he would take two tickets. About ten days later this man died unexpectedly of a heart attack, and I have wondered ever since about the fate of his eternal soul.”

In one area, we had two investigators who were simultaneously progressing towards baptism. The one, a relatively affluent man who worked as a tour guide. The other, an elderly widow who had no wealth and lived alone in a tiny apartment. As we prepared to teach them the law of tithing, I worried about her reaction. How could we ask her to give up her widow’s mite. But I was surprised to see that she responded with great faith to the invitation to pay a tithe.

On the other hand, the man responded with derision. He could not understand why God would ask him to pay a tithe. And he rationalized and made excuses based on his need for the money to enjoy certain comforts such as vacations. While he kept coming to Church for a while, he stopped progressing and eventually stopped coming. 

I sorrowed for this wonderful man. He had a desire to know God. He had felt the spirit and felt called to be baptized. Yet, when asked to sacrifice for the Kingdom of God he was unable and unwilling to do so. And so he was not able to receive the blessings of membership in the Church and of the promise of eternal life. We must be able to sacrifice if needed all things in order to inherit God’s kingdom.

True and Faithful: D&C 9 (You Feared)

For the second day in a row, I’m going to quote Elder Holland’s moving words on the topic of fear and receiving and acting upon revelation.

I do have one additional thought on verse 12, however.

“12 For, do you not behold that I have given unto my servant Joseph sufficient strength, whereby it is made up? And neither of you have I condemned.”

I love how even though Oliver lost a privilege because of fear, the Lord emphasizes to him that he is not condemned and that the Lord has found a way to complete his work. The Lord knows we will occasionally fall short of our potential and will take care of us.

“Lesson number two is closely related. It is that in the process of revelation and making important decisions, fear plays a destructive, sometimes paralyzing role. To Oliver Cowdery, who missed the opportunity of a lifetime because he didn’t seize it in the lifetime of the opportunity, the Lord said, “You did not continue as you commenced.” Does that sound familiar to those who have been illuminated and then knuckled under to second thoughts and returning doubts? “It is not expedient that you should translate now,” the Lord said in language that must have been very hard for Oliver to hear. “Behold, it was expedient when you commenced; but you feared, and the time is past, and it is not expedient now.”

    Everyone runs the risk of fear. For a moment in Moses’ confrontation with the adversary, “Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell.” That’s when you see it–when you are afraid.

    That is exactly the problem that beset the children of Israel at the edge of the Red Sea, and it has everything to do with holding fast to your earlier illumination. The record says, “And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid.” Some (just like those Paul described earlier) said words to this effect: “Let’s go back. This isn’t worth it. We must have been wrong. That probably wasn’t the right spirit telling us to leave Egypt.” What they actually said to Moses was: “Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? … It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.” And I have to say, “What about that which has already happened? What about the miracles that got you here? What about the frogs and the lice? What about the rod and the serpent, the river and the blood? What about the hail, the locusts, the fire, the firstborn sons?

    How soon we forget. It would not have been better to stay and serve the Egyptians, and it is not better to remain outside the Church, nor to put off marriage, nor to reject a mission call or other Church service, and so on and so on forever. Of course our faith will be tested as we fight through these self-doubts and second thoughts. Some days we will be miraculously led out of Egypt–seemingly free, seemingly on our way–only to come to yet another confrontation, like all that water lying before us. At those times we must resist the temptation to panic and give up. At those times fear will be the strongest of the adversary’s weapons against us.

    ‘And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. … The Lord shall fight for you.’ In confirmation the great Jehovah said to Moses, ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.’

    That is the second lesson of the spirit of revelation. After you have gotten the message, after you have paid the price to feel His love and hear the word of the Lord, go forward. Don’t fear, don’t vacillate, don’t quibble, don’t whine. You may, like Alma going to Ammonihah, have to find a route that leads an unusual way, but that is exactly what the Lord is doing here for the children of Israel. Nobody had ever crossed the Red Sea this way, but so what? There’s always a first time. With the spirit of revelation, dismiss your fears and wade in with both feet. In the words of Joseph Smith, “Brethren [and sisters], shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!'”

True and Faithful: D&C 8 (The Spirit of Revelation)

3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.

I love Elder Holland’s explanation of why the Lord analogies the spirit of revelation to the experience of Moses in crossing the Red Sea. It’s pretty incredible and I don’t have much to add to it:
“Why would the Lord use the example of crossing the Red Sea as the classic example of “the spirit of revelation”? Why didn’t He use the First Vision? Or the example from the book of Moses we just used? Or the vision of the brother of Jared? Well, He could have used any of these, but He didn’t. Here He had another purpose in mind.

    Usually we think of revelation as a downpour of information. But this is too narrow a concept of revelation. May I suggest how section 8 broadens our understanding, particularly in light of these “fights of affliction” we have been discussing.   

   Questions Often Precede Revelation

    First of all, revelation almost always comes in response to a question, usually an urgent question–not always, but usually. In that sense it does provide information, but it is urgently needed information, special information. Moses’ challenge was how to get himself and the children of Israel out of this horrible predicament they were in. There were chariots behind them, sand dunes on every side, and a lot of water immediately ahead. He needed information to know what to do, but it wasn’t a casual thing he was asking. In this case it was literally a matter of life and death.

    You will need information too, but in matters of great consequence it is not likely to come unless you want it urgently, faithfully, humbly. Moroni calls it seeking “with real intent.” If you can seek that way and stay in that mode, not much that the adversary can counter with will dissuade you from a righteous path. You can hang on, whatever the assault and affliction, because you have paid the price for real conviction.

    Like Moses in that vision, there may come after the fact some competing doubts and confusion, but it will pale when you measure it against the real thing. Remember the real thing. Remember how urgently you have needed help in earlier times and you got it. The Red Sea will open to the honest seeker of revelation. The adversary has power to hedge up the way, to marshal Pharaoh’s forces and dog our escape right to the water’s edge, but he can’t produce the real thing. He cannot conquer if we will it otherwise. Exerting all our powers, the light will again come, the darkness will again retreat, the safety will be sure. That is lesson number one about crossing the Red Sea by the spirit of revelation.”

True and Faithful: D&C 7 (That Which Ye Have Desired)

“8 Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired.”

This is a great principle. God ultimately will give us the desire of our hearts. If we want to serve him, then he will give us the opportunity. John and Peter had different desires. It appears to me that Peter wanted more than anything else an opportunity at redemption. He wanted to be able to show that he was willing to stay with the savior until the end and even unto death. His martyrdom was a fulfillment of a longing that he had. On the other hand, John longed to remain on the earth and to be able to reach the maximum amount of people. He sacrificed a short term dramatic impact for a long term more passive influence. And he sacrificed rest in the presence of God, for perpetual labor. Yet those sacrifices were also according to his desires and brought him great joy.

True and Faithful: D&C 6 (Fear Not)

33 Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.34 Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.

35 Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you.

36 Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.

37 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. Amen.

These words are probably my favorite verses of comfort in all the scriptures. I love the Lord’s promise that if we are faithful and built upon his rock, we will not be overcome. I love the invitation to fear not in doing good. I love the reminder that God does not blame or condemn us in our imperfections. In short, I love everything about these verses.

I was introduced to these verses by my MTC companion. He had previously been in the MTC but had gone home in order to repent of previous transgressions. He had repented and had come back to serve a mission. He told me the story of how he left the MTC in the first place. After a devotional address by an apostle (it was either Elder Scott or Nelson), he felt impressed that he had to confess his past sins no matter the cost. And when he did, the branch president at the MTC shared these verses with him. For my companion, the promise that the Lord would not condemn him meant the world. These verses gave him the courage and strength to proceed onward and overcome Satan’s efforts to sow guilt and despair.

The Blessing of Birth

Elder Sterling W. Sill spoke about an unusual topic during the April 1975 conference – birth. He talked about the blessings of being alive on this Earth, and also abut the opportunity to be born again. What stood out to me, however, was his focus on how desperately we longed for life on this earth.

“Henry David Thoreau, an early American philosopher, once said that we should thank God every day of our lives for the privilege of having been born. And then he went on to speculate on the rather unique supposition of what it might have been like if we had not been born. Just suppose that you had never been born or that your parents or your brothers and sisters or your children or your friends had never been born. Just think of all the excitement and blessings that we would have missed as a consequence. But what Mr. Thoreau may not have known was that one-third of all the children of God never were born and never can be born because they failed to pass the requirements of their first estate.

We remember the unembodied spirits who appeared to Jesus in his day who preferred the bodies of swine rather than to have no bodies at all. (See Matt. 8:28–32; Mark 5:11–13.) And I am very sure that if we could go today while we walk by faith and stand where we once stood when we walked by sight that we would be willing to crawl on our hands and knees through life for this tremendous opportunity which we presently enjoy.”

Sometimes, we become bitter about our circumstances. We think that our trials are beyond what we can bear. But Elder Sill points out that the very opportunity to live is an unparalleled blessing.

It also seems to me that remembering how we got here will help us to love and have faith in everyone. By being born, we have all showed great faith to Christ in the premortal life. We have fought against Satan. We have a divine DNA as spiritual warriors. And that means that each of us has a divine spark waiting to be reawakened.

Elder Sill underscored this point in a pretty unique way:

“The greatest accomplishment of my life is that I was successful in getting myself born, and I am just awfully pleased about that. There just isn’t anything that I would rather have had happen to me than to have been born.”

I concur and am so grateful to be living on this earth at this time. There is nothing I’d rather be doing than being alive today.

True and Faithful: D&C 6 (Cast Your Mind)

14 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.15 Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth;

16 Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart.

17 I tell thee these things as a witness unto thee–that the words or the work which thou hast been writing are true.
22 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.

23 Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?
24 And now, behold, you have received a witness; for if I have told you things which no man knoweth have you not received a witness?
Oliver Cowdry like many of the early leaders of the Church begin inquiring into the “gold bible” and the Prophet Joseph Smith out of pure curiosity. At some point, he received a revelation that changed the course of his life. Yet, like many of us, Oliver began to have doubts about what he had heard. He wondered whether the sacrifice asked of him was truly required of the Lord. He likely felt overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility ahead of him.

And so, he turned to the Lord and asked him for further insight. 

I love the Lord’s response for several reasons.

First, there is no condemnation in his voice, only counsel and encouragement. God knows that we will doubt and second guess ourselves sometimes. He will not rebuke us, but instead will simply encourage us to greater faithfulness.

Second, the Lord reminds Oliver that he is in control and directs our lives. He has brought us to our current place in life for a reason. Wherever we are, we can start where we stand and act according to the light we are given.

Third, the Lord reminds Oliver to remember his past experiences and not to doubt them. We to have all had incredible spiritual experiences. We must likewise cast our mind back to our experiences and remember how we felt.

Fourth, the Lord reminds Oliver that the spirit teaches truth to our mind and also brings peace to our heart. He encourages Oliver to trust that feeling. We to can trust the feelings of the spirit that we receive.