Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Becoming a Disciple of Jesus Christ Talk

I gave this talk a few Sundays ago, my husband is the Ward Executive Secretary and he couldn't get anyone to say yes for this talk (Memorial Day Weekend, you get the picture) anyway so I said I would do it for him.

This talk is based on the conference talk “Becoming a Disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” By Elder Robert D. Hales.

Elder Hales says, “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.  Listen to the Apostle Peter’s invitation to become a disciple of the Savior:  ‘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.’  As you can see, weaving the spiritual tapestry of personal discipleship requires more than a single thread.”

I read this and thought, “oh, perfect, here is a list to follow, I love lists and checking them off, then I read on and Elder Hales said this:

“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.”

Well, so much for my list to check off, and how did he know that is exactly where my thoughts would go?  This all reminded me of a book Sister Simmons recently lent me called “Better Than You Think You Are” by Ardeth G. Kapp.  In the book she talks a lot about notes, notes of encouragement and also, she says, “The Lord sends us precious notes to teach us the things we need to know to value ourselves as God values us.”  I believe and have experienced it in my own life, that He sends us these notes to help us with whatever Christlike attribute we need to work on at that particular time in our lives.  In Peter’s quote he lists attributes that lead from one to the next one, line upon line, precept upon precept and as Elder Hales says, we create our own tapestry.  One person may begin with knowledge, another faith and yet another may begin with kindness.  Little by little we begin our own tapestry as one may begin with a different color, we each begin with a different attribute, so no wonder there isn’t a checklist, our tapestry would look just like the next person’s.

In an April 2011 General Conference talk entitled, “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye To Be” by Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy, he said:

“Many of us create to do lists to remind us of things we want to accomplish. But people rarely have to be lists. Why? To do’s are activities or events that can be checked off the list when done. To be, however, is never done. You can’t earn checkmarks with to be’s. I can take my wife out for a lovely evening this Friday, which is a to do. But being a good husband is not an event; it needs to be part of my nature—my character, or who I am….  Christlike to be’s cannot be seen, but they are the motivating force behind what we do, which can be seen.

So where do you begin or what attribute is the one you should be working on in your own life, it might be the one you struggle with the most or it might be the one that is easiest, only you can answer that for yourself, or as Sister Kapp said, watch for the notes from God to guide you.  Elder Hales does touch a little on each attribute and I will follow suit and do the same.

FAITH -- As for faith, Elder Hales says, “We measure our faith by what it leads us to do—by our obedience.”  I love this quote from Sister Kapp’s book:

“Remember the story in the Bible of Christ feeding the five thousand?  His disciples asked a lad to give up his food--some fish and barley loaves--to feed the multitude.  How do you think the lad felt about that?  ‘You want my small lunch to feed five thousand people?’  But Christ took the fishes and loaves and blessed them and there were several baskets left over.  There was ‘enough and to spare.’  The miracle started when the boy gave all he had.  When we give all we have there is ‘enough and to spare.’  We come with enough, and if we do our very best the Lord will make up the difference.”

I think that story fits so many of the Christlike attributes, the lad had faith, he was obedient, it fits kindness, charity and godliness.

VIRTUE -- In regards to virtue, I love what Elder Hales says, “By our virtuous living, we make the journey from ‘I believe’ to the glorious destination of ‘I know.’”  In her Ensign article, “A Virtuous Life--Step By Step,” Mary N. Cook, 1st Counselor in the Young Women’s General Presidency said:

“For many of you, the day you were blessed was a first step on your journey of a virtuous life. Your choice to be baptized, confirmed, and given the gift of the Holy Ghost and your efforts to worthily partake of the sacrament and renew your baptismal covenant each week are critical forward steps in living a life of virtue.  Your next step on this journey is to prepare yourself to be worthy to enter the temple, where you will make additional sacred covenants and receive sacred temple ordinances, including that of celestial marriage. This will require you to be virtuous….  What will help you to press forward and continually hold fast to the iron rod? Center your life on the Savior and develop daily habits of righteous living.”

I love that part, “daily habits of righteous living!”  As some of you may know, I love to organize and help other people organize and one of my number one tips in organization is a daily clutter commitment otherwise all that lovely work we did will go down the drain if you don’t consistently put forth some time each day.  If we don’t consistently put forth righteous living every day, all that lovely effort you put in towards a virtuous life will slowly go down the drain.

KNOWLEDGE -- I love this quote by President Marion G. Romney about knowledge:

“Since knowledge is an ‘acquaintance with, or clear perception of, facts;’ and wisdom is ‘the capacity of judging soundly and dealing broadly with facts; especially in their practical’ application ‘to life and conduct,’ it follows that wisdom is a product of, and is dependent upon knowledge.  The Book of Mormon specifically relates God’s wisdom to his knowledge. Speaking of God’s plan for the salvation of men, Lehi says: ‘All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.’ (2 Ne. 2:24.) Thus, as God’s perfect wisdom is a product of His knowledge of all things, so man’s wisdom is dependent upon his knowledge. But since man does not know all things, it is possible, as already indicated, for him to be knowledgeable about many things and still be short on wisdom.’”

Sister Kapp says, “We must take time to study the test if we are to prepare to pass the test.  When we ponder the scriptures, it helps to have specific questions in mind, looking for specific answers.  Then many, many scriptures will become ours in answer to our prayers and our earnest inquiry.”

TEMPERANCE -- I love what Elder Hales has to say in regards to temperance, he says:

“As temperate disciples, we live the gospel in a balanced and steady way. We do not ‘run faster than [we have] strength.’ Day by day we move forward, undeterred by the refining challenges of mortality.  Being temperate in this way, we develop patience and trust in the Lord. We are able to rely on His design for our lives, even though we cannot see it with our own natural eyes. Therefore, we can ‘be still and know that [He is] God.’ When faced with the storms of tribulation, we ask, ‘What wouldst Thou have me learn from this experience?’ With His plan and purposes in our hearts, we move forward not only enduring all things but also enduring them patiently and well.”

PATIENCE -- Boy have I struggled with patience during my life.  When I was younger, I wanted to know exactly where I was going and when.  Recently, I have been working with the difference between being feeling out of control of my life and over controlling things in my life, what I should do and when, in what order, and so on.  I was pondering all of these things when I was reading Sister Kapp’s book and she pointed out the scripture in Alma 37:36-37 which says:

“36 Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.
37 Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good ; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up in the last day.”
I knew then what my answer was, to not be so impatient with how my day should go, but be more concerned that in each step I counsel with the Lord which I have been doing and what a blessing this has been for me.

GODLINESS -- Elder Hales says, “From temperance to patience and from patience to godliness, our natures change. We gain the brotherly kindness that is a hallmark of all true disciples. Like the Good Samaritan, we cross the road to minister to whoever is in need, even if they are not within the circle of our friends.”

KINDNESS -- In his Ensign article, “Becoming Men and Women of God,” Elder Craig A. Cardon talks about each of the attributes that Peter lays out, he said:  “To give these attributes greater contextual meaning, have you ever attempted to associate an individual with each attribute? Thinking about an individual who struggled with the vicissitudes of life but managed to develop a divine attribute in his or her life provides a powerful example that may assist us in our efforts to do the same. Consider the following examples…”  He goes on to list examples, I would like to share his example for kindness, he says, “For brotherly kindness, there could be no greater example than Nephi, whose older brothers bound him ‘with cords, for they sought to take away [his] life.’ Through his exercise of faith, the cords were loosed from his hands and feet. His brothers eventually became ‘sorrowful, because of their wickedness.’ Evidencing great brotherly kindness, Nephi simply records, ‘I did frankly forgive them’ (see 1 Nephi 7:16–21).”

CHARITY -- Lastly, we have Charity, the Bible Dictionary defines it as this:  “Charity is ‘the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection; the pure love of Christ.’”  President Monson said in his Women’s Conference address in October of 2010, “True charity is love in action....  Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others....  In a hundred small ways, all of you wear the mantle of charity. Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.”  

I also believe it is important to be charitable with ourselves, in her book Sister Kapp repeatedly says how we are better than we think we are, I particularly liked it when she said, “We are not good judges of ourselves as we reach for goals that may actually belong to another season of our lives.”

The state of being a disciple Elder Hales mentions in the beginning of his talk is what we are all aiming for and again, from Brother Robbins talk, he says:

“To be, or not to be” is actually a very good question. The Savior posed the question in a far more profound way, making it a vital doctrinal question for each of us: “What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27; emphasis added). The first-person present tense of the verb be is I Am. He invites us to take upon us His name and His nature.  To become as He is, we must also do the things He did: ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do’ (3 Nephi 27:21; emphasis added).  To be and to do are inseparable. As interdependent doctrines they reinforce and promote each other. Faith inspires one to pray, for example, and prayer in turn strengthens one’s faith.

So maybe we shouldn’t be checking off each item as we add them to our tapestry, but in order for our tapestry to be complete and wonderful and like our Savior’s own, we need to have each of these attributes written upon our own hearts.  In closing I would like to quote Elder Hales one final time:

“Brothers and sisters, now more than ever, we cannot be a ‘part-time disciple’! We cannot be a disciple on just one point of doctrine or another. …  As we earnestly strive to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, these characteristics will be interwoven, added upon, and interactively strengthened in us. There will be no disparity between the kindness we show our enemies and the kindness we bestow on our friends. We will be as honest when no one is looking as when others are watching. We will be as devoted to God in the public square as we are in our private closet.”

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