Elder Hales wove a beautiful portrait of what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ:
What does it mean to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ? A disciple is one who has been baptized and is willing to take upon him or her the name of the Savior and follow Him. A disciple strives to become as He is by keeping His commandments in mortality, much the same as an apprentice seeks to become like his or her master.
Many people hear the word disciple and think it means only “follower.” But genuine discipleship is a state of being. This suggests more than studying and applying a list of individual attributes. Disciples live so that the characteristics of Christ are woven into the fiber of their beings, as into a spiritual tapestry.
Discipleship is so much more than being a follower. Instead, discipleship is a process of transformation whereby we strive to emulate and become more like the savior. We learn of him, apply his teachings in our life, and in time are elevated and changed.
That process is a gradual refining fire. Because of that gradualness, it can be difficult to know when we are making progress. At times, we may feel that we are moving backwards. We may feel our hold on the Rod of Iron slipping. Yet, as long as we keep moving forward with steadfast faith in Christ, we can have confidence that we will make it back to our father in Heaven.
That process is an integrated one where our efforts to develop more Christlike character build off each other:
The attributes of the Savior, as we perceive them, are not a script to be followed or list to be checked off. They are interwoven characteristics, added one to another, which develop in us in interactive ways. In other words, we cannot obtain one Christlike characteristic without also obtaining and influencing others. As one characteristic becomes strong, so do many more.
Hence, Paul’s description of the pathway of the disciple relies on interwoven Christlike traits that grow together:
“Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
“And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
“And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”
I’m grateful for Christ’s example and for the ability to follow him. I fall so short and yet I am grateful for a savior who believes in second and third and seventy times seven chances.