Come Follow Me

Episode 21.  June 19, 2016.  First of all, I want to say Happy Father’s Day to all of the Dads out there.  What a great blessing Fatherhood is!  I especially want to give a shout out to three of my four sons who are now fathers.  Tyson, Weston and Garen.  You make me proud to see the way you honor your wife and children.  Keep up the great work!

Today I want to talk about what it means to come and follow the Savior.

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I suspect most of us know the words to the oft-sung hymn number 116 that is the title for today’s znukcast. Say the words with me as I repeat the first verse.come-follow-me

Come Follow Me, the Savior said.
Then let us in his footsteps tread,
For thus alone can we be one
With God’s own loved, begotten Son.
This is the great invitation of the restored gospel. To come and follow the Savior and become like him. By virtue of our presence here today, I think it is fair to say that we either have already or want to accept this invitation to follow Him. And yet, if you are like me, perhaps there is more that we need to do than we are currently doing to fully accept the invitation. This is the subject of my comments today.

On the day before the children of Israel were to cross the Jordan river under Joshua’s leadership, the prophet counseled the people to prepare themselves. In Joshua 3:5 we read: “And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” Joshua was referring to ritual washings performed as the people prepared themselves to be a part of the miracle that would see them cross the river on dry ground. Today, the call to sanctify ourselves is not about ritual washings, but about more fully invoking the power of the atonement in our lives.

When God spoke to Adam as recorded in Moses 6:60 he said, in foreshadowing the atonement of Christ: “For by the water ye keep the commandment (baptism); by the Spirit ye are justified (Holy Ghost), and by the blood ye are sanctified (the atonement);”

In the Doctrine and Covenants, this is reinforced in our dispensation:

“And we know also, that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds and strength.” D&C 20:31

So what is this sanctification and how can we attain it? Sanctification has as its root in the Latin words sanctus which means HOLY or SACRED also from the Latin word sanctificare which means to CONSECRATE. So perhaps we could say that sanctification is the sacred process of becoming holy through consecration.

This call to sanctify ourselves took on a new meaning for me a couple of years ago. I was talking with a good friend and he made mention of counsel contained in “Preach My Gospel” that we need to repent daily. I have to say that I was a bit taken back by his comment. I told him that as a student at BYU, I had a religion professor that taught us that The Prophet Joseph said that the Lord is not pleased if we are doing things that are requiring us to repent every day [which he did]. I interpreted that to mean if I am having to repent every day, then I am not keeping the commandments. Therefore, the concept of daily repentance was something I had already dismissed. Besides, I wasn’t even aware of what I needed to repent of. I mean I was doing the basics and trying to be good and do good.

Later that day this same friend sent me the references to daily repentance in Preach My Gospel. For those interested, it occurs three times, all on page 62. I looked up the page and read the references he had pointed out. Here is the main quote:

“Even after we have accepted Christ and repented of our sins, we may fall short and sin again. We should continually try to correct these transgressions. In addition, we should continually improve – to develop Christ-like qualities, to grow in knowledge, and to serve more effectively. As we learn more about what the Savior expects of us, we will want to show our love by obeying Him. Thus, as we repent daily, we will find that our lives will change and improve. Our hearts and our behavior will become more Christ-like. We will come to feel great joy in repenting daily.”

You see repenting everyday is mostly about developing Christ-like qualities – growing in knowledge and serving more effectively. I think my friend saw my “deer in the headlight look” when we spoke about this and suggested that perhaps asking Heavenly Father what I needed to change might be a way to get started.Tennis_TakeNotes_01_300x350

So I placed a pen and notebook by my bedside and each evening as I prayed, I asked Heavenly Father what subtle things I was doing that I needed to change. I will not bore you with the details of all the things I need to repent of, but I will share with you the 10 main
categories that were brought to my attention in hopes they might be helpful to you as well:

  1. Identify, acknowledge and act on spiritual promptings
  2. Better spiritual preparation in relation to FHE
  3. More sensitivity to the importance others place on personal interaction
  4. More focus at work to get things done sooner
  5. Prioritize more and procrastinate less (or better yet, never)
  6. Eliminate even unspoken thoughts of selfishness
  7. More service to family members by helping them – without being asked
  8. Controlling physical appetites – eating less and being healthier
  9. Being more careful with counsel…speak less and listen more
  10. Being more decisive when a decision needs to be made

As I pondered on these opportunities for improvement, it caused me to think about a 2005 BYU Devotional by Elder Bednar titled: “Quick to Observe”. In this talk he says that being “quick to observe” is a spiritual gift and a prerequisite and preparation to receive the gift of discernment. He went on to quote Elder Stephen L. Richards: “Every member in the restored Church of Christ could have this gift [of discernment] if he willed to do so.” Elder Richards continued: Possessing and exercising this gift they will not allow any evil influence to enter into their hearts or to prompt them in their thoughts, their words or their acts.” “Now, the gift of discerning of spirits not only gives men and women who have it the power to discern the spirit with which others may be possessed or influenced, but it gives them the power to discern the spirit which influences themselves.”   He went on to explain that this gift gives men and women the ability to discern things as they really are within us. Elder Bednar reiterated this concept by saying that the gift of discernment helps us detect hidden errors and evil in ourselves.

Is not this what we need as we pursue the path of discipleship on the road to sanctification?

What I have personally found through this process is an increased awareness of my own thoughts, words and actions – essentially my own hidden errors. I find myself not wanting to kneel before Heavenly Father and hear him tell me that I am doing the same things over and over that are keeping me from becoming a consecrated disciple. Its causing me to think about how to avoid these hidden errors before they occur.   I hope in some small way this process is slowly making me better. It feels to me that I am making some progress.

In Philippians 3: 7 we read:– whatever counts as gain for us counts as a loss for Christ. This I feel is one of the key reasons we need to be constantly evaluating our lives and repenting daily as it gets at the heart of issue. Are our thoughts, words and actions focused on our own gain (this I believe is the ultimate description of why the natural man is an enemy to God) or does it count as a gain for Christ?

images.jpegIn President Kimball’s book, the Miracle of Forgiveness (p.32) he said: “There is never a day in any man’s life when repentance is not essential to his well being and eternal progress”. I know women are just naturally better than men, but I really think he was speaking to both men and women.

Elder Neal A Maxwell counseled us to frequently and regularly repent to retain a remission of sins: “Much emphasis was given by King Benjamin to retaining a remission of our sins (see Mosiah 4:26). We do not ponder that concept very much in the church. We ought to think of it a lot more. Retention clearly depends on the regularity of our repentance. In the church we worry, and should, over the retention of new members, but the retention of our remissions is cause for even deeper concern” ) King Benjamin’s Sermon: A Manual for Discipleship” in John W. Welch and Stephen D Ricks, eds., King Benjamin’s Speech: That ye may learn Wisdom 91998).

Elder Wilford W. Anderson said “We all desire that our sins be forgiven, but as we strive for righteousness, we also long for something more. We, like Nephi, long for a heart that “shakes at the appearance of sin” (2 Ne 4:31) and that not only submits to God’s will but also desires His will. We long for a cleansing and sanctification of our hearts, which changes our desire.”

I believe it is through this process that we can turn to the Lord to purify our desires and change our very natures. The scripture in D&C 50:24 fits well in this discussion: That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

I would like to close with two things. First a scripture that I think sums this whole topic up nicely

D&C 88:68: Therefore, Sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.

And second, the final verse to the Hymn I started with:

For thrones, dominions, kingdoms, pow’rs,
And glory great and bliss are ours,
If we, throughout eternity,
Obey his words “Come, Follow Me.”

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