We have been commanded by Jesus Christ in 3 Nephi 12:48 to “be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” While it would be great if it were as easy to do as it is to say, there is so much to talk about it would be impossible to cover it all in a single Sacrament Meeting, let alone one talk. Instead, there is just one aspect of Christ's life that I wish to focus on today. In John chapter 6 we read about Jesus feeding the 5000 and the lesson he taught those people shortly thereafter. In verse 38 he tells the people “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”
If we are to follow Christ’s example, then we too must strive to live our lives in accordance with God’s will.
I like to think that obtaining and following God’s will for us is something sort of like an instruction manual for life. There are those of us that think “Instructions are for other people. I’ll be fine.” Were life as simple as putting together a bed stand from Ikea, then I’m sure those people would do great. However, the complexities of life and living in such a way that we can return to our Heavenly father are much more akin to that of building a mansion. By yourself. From scratch. Thankfully though, God realizes that traversing the trials and challenges of life by ourselves would be impossible and has in a place an instruction manual on how to get back to Him. All we have to do is ask.
As with most everything else, we need to actively seek out what our Father in Heaven wants us to do. We won’t be able to sit idly by and wait for this instruction manual to come out of the sky and fall in our laps. But one simple way of finding what He wants is through prayer. As we pray, we communicate directly with Heavenly Father, much in the way a child would talk with his real father. In that prayer, we can ask for guidance and direction in what He would have us do. If we read James 1:5, it says that “if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” In the footnotes, wisdom is tagged as Divine Guidance. If we replace wisdom with Divine Guidance and continue on with the verse, the scripture now reads “If any of you lack Divine Guidance, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” I personally find it very comforting to know that if I get down on my knees to pray and ask God for what I should do, He will answer me. And not just a little bit. He will answer me liberally. But it gets better. He won’t criticize us or think less of us no matter what we ask. We are all children of God, and as such, are still learning. Just as a parent wouldn’t think less of their child for asking a simple question like what does a lightbulb do, God is patient and is willing to answer any of our questions no matter how small. Personally, I know that this is true and it is wonderful being able to ask God for help in finding what He needs me to do without fear or trepidation.
Another thing we can do to learn God’s will is to take the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi’s example and turn to the scriptures. As Nephi was teaching his brothers in 1 Nephi 19, he says that he “did liken the scriptures unto [them], that it might be for [their] profit and learning.” The scriptures are quite possibly one of the greatest tools that we have at our disposal. Besides having some great stories like the Army of Helaman or the Jaredites crossing the ocean, the scriptures are truly an inspired tool that God has given us to help us in obtaining His plan for us. Reading from the scriptures can help to put us in a calmer mood that invites the Spirit into our lives. When we have the Holy Ghost as our companion, we can have clarity of thought and be able to better ponder what God would have us do.
This is especially useful when we visit the temple. Going through the temple provides a sense of peace and comfort that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. It provides the perfect opportunity to put away the cares of the world for a while, forget about the stresses of day to day life, and just focus on pondering what Heavenly Father wants us to do. If we combine temple visits with reading and pondering the scriptures beforehand, I can promise you that you will feel the Spirit and be able to understand and see what God has in store.
Now if we want to dive deeper than just the seminary answers like prayer and scripture study, we can turn to Mosiah 3:19, found in the Book of Mormon. This verse is part of King Benjamin’s farewell speech, where he tells his people that “the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam.” The natural man that King Benjamin tells us to be wary of is described in Doctrine and Covenants 121:37. It tells us that the natural man is inclined to “cover [his] sins, or to gratify [his] pride, [his] vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men.” If we fall victim and give into the temptations of this natural man, we lose the companionship of the Holy Ghost. And without the Holy Ghost, there is no way for God to communicate with us and tell us what He would have us do. Fortunately for us, however, if we revisit Mosiah 3:19 and read the rest of the verse, King Benjamin tells us how to overcome this natural man.
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”
Personally, I find the last part of this verse extremely interesting to think about. “Willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” At one point or another, each and every one of us will be put through trials that we just don’t want to go through, plain and simple. It is especially easy during these times to sucumb to the natural man in all of us, but King Benjamin tells us that we just need to become like a child. While I don’t think he means nap time at work followed by snack time, there is still a great example to be learned by following how children will listen to everything their father tells them and believe it to be true. All we have to do is ask.
Now because our lives are always changing and we don't know what is in store for us next, God can't give us the entire instruction manual on how to build our mansion of life. He gives it to us a chapter at a time. As we learn in Alma 36 verses 6-7, "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass [...] and The Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes." When we ask God what His plan for us is, He will only give it to us pertaining to what He needs at that time. Often times, He will ask us to do things that we think are worthless or don't mean much. But I can assure you, there is a purpose to it all, we just need to exercise a little faith. After Adam left the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam a new set of commandments which he should live by, one of which was to offer animal sacrifices. After several days an angel came to Adam and asked him why he was offering sacrifices. In Moses 5:6, Adam responds by saying "I know not, save The Lord commanded me." This is the kind of faith that The Lord asks of us. We may not always know why we do certain things, but The Lord just asks we that we trust in Him and what he wants us to do.
For example, up until sixth grade, my parents had forced me to take piano lessons. For a while I enjoyed them but as I got older the less and less important they seemed. Why practice? I’m not going to need this. Piano is lame. So on and so on. At the end of sixth grade, my mom caved in and said you can quit now if you want, but I really feel you should stick with lessons one more year. I prayed about it and decided that Heavenly Father wanted me to stay with piano lessons. I wasn't terribly excited about the idea but I knew that it was what I was supposed to do. Fast forward a couple of months to one day after school when my new friend John who happened to be the son of the instrumental director comes up to me and asks if I play the piano. I said I did and he told me the piano player in the schools jazz band had to drop and they desperately needed a replacement. I looked at the music and since I kept with my piano lessons, I was able to take the spot. At the time, I didn't think much of it. It was fun and I really enjoyed it, but I did not see how much of a blessing it was and how important it would be to me later on. Looking back, it was a defining moment of who I became and who I am now. It led me to marching band and the instrumental program in high school which has given me so many unbelievable experiences and memories. All because I kept with my piano lessons in the seventh grade. I now can see that it truly was God's will for me that I keep those lessons, and I can testify how important it is for each and every one of you to find out God's will for you, even if it’s something as small as keeping on with piano lessons, or as big as leaving on a mission for two years.
For those of you that don't know, when I leave on my mission Tuesday to Mexico City and then to Kennewick, Washington, I am leaving to become a full time ambassador for The Lord. For two years, I will be dedicating every waking moment I have to serving the people of Washington and through them The Lord. I have prayed about it and I know that this is what I am supposed to do. God has given me everything, and dedicating two years of my life are the least I can do to repay my immeasurable debt to Him. But I would not be here if it were not for the immeasurable support of my friends and family over the years, not to mention the support of my great teachers and leaders over the years, especially Brother Henderson, Bishop Scoville, and Brother Trebas who have really helped me get ready this past year in the final push before I leave. I know they are all truly inspired men of God and I will always be forever in their debt for what they've done for me.
I know this is the true Church of God, set up and restored just as it was when Christ was on the Earth through the prophet Joseph Smith. I know that these next two years will be some of the hardest years of my life, but ultimately will be the most rewarding. I know this is what I am supposed to do and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.