What a wonderful day it is to consider together our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. I’m grateful to partake of the sacrament with you and to renew my covenant to remember him and to follow him. I’m not sure that I really understood the significance of that covenant when I first took it upon myself at age eight.
I’m still trying to understand what it means to really keep that covenant each day. Some days I do better than others. Sundays are a joy to me because I spend them in activities that are centered on the mission of the church – to invite all to come unto Christ. It’s during the week that I sometimes struggle to remember Him.
I suppose it’s a life-long pursuit, isn’t it? – To figure out how to really come unto Christ as we have been commanded to do. As Moroni taught, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness … love God with all your might, mind and strength …” – Moroni 10:32
Another Book of Mormon prophet taught, “And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him …” – That’s found in Omni 1:26.
I think I understand Moroni’s instruction to deny ourselves of all ungodliness. I get that. It means to resist temptation and to do all within our power to control ourselves. The Holy Ghost helps us with that task, by making it clear what is offensive to the Lord. To me, knowing what is displeasing to the Lord is half the battle.
The Gift of the Holy Ghost
Like me, I’ll bet you’ve experienced that feeling when the spirit impresses you with an understanding that something you just said or did was not an especially good idea. I’ve even caught myself saying, “Well, I’ll never do that again!” I then store those feelings somewhere where I’ll remember them in a similar situation.
I’ve always felt the Holy Ghost helping me with this growth process in my life. I can testify that he is real and that he really does help us. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is a treasure, one that I deeply appreciate and try to use each day. In fact, I like to think that the Holy Ghost and I are good friends since we talk so much.
We have running conversations at work. I tell God what I’m trying to accomplish and how I plan to go about doing it. Then when I get stuck on some part of my task, I exclaim, sometimes out loud, “Now that didn’t work right, did it? What should I do?” And you know, impressions come to me to try a different method.
I have no doubts about the revelatory process. It has become a very comfortable part of my daily life. After years of practice, it has become second nature to talk with the Lord and to listen for his answers. I don’t know if God has assigned a computer-savvy angel to work with me but I do know that someone is helping me.
I hope that you feel the same way and from conversations over the years I know many of you do. Isn’t that a wonderful gift – to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost? And it is because of the Sacrament that we are able to have that gift always. How I love the Sacrament and the promised blessings to be found therein.
Offer your whole soul
It’s that second scripture in Omni that I’ve been pondering lately and trying to understand. What does it mean to offer your whole soul as an offering unto the Lord? I’d like to consider that with you today as part of my assigned topic to come unto Christ. I’ll call upon Elder Bednar and President Eyring to help us along.
But first I’d like to share a story from Sister Nadauld who served as the Young Women General President a few years back. You may remember this. It touched me deeply at the time she related it and it still does each time I share it. Although it is simple, it is a powerful story that introduces our subject in a touching manner.
Sister Nadauld is the mother of seven sons. Two of them, Adam and Aaron are twins. When they were about five years old they were just learning to ride their bicycles. Can you think back to those days in your own life? I can, even though it was a very long time ago. Of course having home movies helps my memory now.
As their mother glanced out the window to watch her boys, she saw the twins speeding down the street on their bikes going very fast. “Perhaps they were going too fast for their level of ability because all of a sudden Adam had a terrible crash! She saw him tangled up in a wreck of handlebars and tires and arms and legs.
“His little twin brother, Aaron saw the whole thing happen and he immediately skidded to a stop and jumped off his bike. He threw it down and ran to the aid of his brother, whom he loved very much. These little twins truly were of one heart. If one hurt, so did the other. If one got tickled, they both laughed.
“If one started a sentence, the other could complete it. What one felt, the other did also. So it was painful for Aaron to see Adam crash! Adam was a mess. He had skinned knees, he was bleeding from a head wound, his pride was damaged, and he was crying.
“In a fairly gentle, five-year-old way, Aaron helped his brother get untangled from the crash, he checked out the wounds, and then,” related Sister Nadauld, “he did the dearest thing. He picked his brother up and carried him home. Or tried to. This wasn’t very easy because they were the same size, but he tried.
“And as he struggled and lifted and half-dragged, half-carried his brother along, they finally reached the front porch. By this time, Adam, the injured one, was no longer crying, but Aaron, the rescuer, was. When asked, “Why are you crying, Aaron?” he said simply, “Because Adam hurts.”
“And so he had brought him home to help, home to someone who knew what to do, to someone who could cleanse the wounds, bind them up, and make it better—home to love. Just as one twin helped his brother in need, so might we all be lifted, helped, even carried at times by our beloved Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
He feels what we feel
Sis Nadauld concluded her touching story by pointing our hearts toward the Savior. “He feels what we feel; He knows our heart. It was His mission to wipe away our tears, cleanse our wounds, and bless us with His healing power. He can carry us home to our Heavenly Father with the strength of His matchless love.”
From this story I have come to understand better one purpose of the Lord’s mission, which is to heal us. I have felt that healing power many times in my life, and again, it is activated most by my weekly participation in the ordinance of the Sacrament. I still suffer the pains of life, but feel strengthened by his love for me.
Through a lifetime of experience, I have also come to understand very clearly another important part of the Savior’s mission. He has cleansed me from the effects of my sins. Although repentance is an ongoing process that I will use the rest of my life, I have felt the cleansing power of the Savior free me from the devil’s grasp.
There is no doubt that the effects of sin are real. They have a very debilitating influence upon our spirits. Sin keeps us from feeling good about ourselves and keeps us from feeling the Lord’s love for us. He is also unable to bless us with the help that we need in this life when we participate in sin and do not completely repent.
I have long loved this statement from President Harold B. Lee that I first heard in my youth: “If the time comes when you have done all that you can to repent of your sins … then you will want that confirming answer as to whether or not the Lord has accepted of you.” I have felt this desire to know my standing before the Lord.
I can’t tell you how many times I sought an answer from the Lord to know if I had done enough to repent of my youthful rebellions. President Lee continued, “In your soul-searching, if you seek for and you find that peace of conscience, by that token you may know that the Lord has accepted of your repentance.” I love that!
I testify that we can have that promised peace of conscience that comes after doing all we can do to repent. It is a real experience.
Clean Hands and a Pure Heart
But it is from a powerful Fall 2007 General Conference address by Elder Bednar I learned something that opened my eyes to the need to do more than be cleansed from sin. He took my understanding of the repentance process to a different level. He introduced the idea by quoting one of my favorite scriptures from Psalm 24:
“Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity nor sworn deceitfully.” He then said, “Brothers and Sisters, it is possible for us to have clean hands but not have a pure heart.” I had never considered that.
Elder Bednar then taught us so clearly, “Let me suggest that hands are made clean through the process of putting off the natural man and by overcoming sin and the evil influences in our lives through the Savior’s Atonement. Hearts are purified as we receive His strengthening power to do good and become better.”
“All of our worthy desires and good works, as necessary as they are, can never produce clean hands and a pure heart. It is the Atonement of Jesus Christ that provides both a cleansing and redeeming power that helps us to overcome sin and a sanctifying and strengthening power that helps us to become better than we ever could by relying only upon our own strength. The infinite Atonement is for both the sinner and for the saint in each of us.”
Did you catch that last line? It was an “ah-ha” moment for me when I heard it. I knew the Lord could heal me and could cleanse me but I had not understood how the atonement makes me a saint.
I know that I am a child of God. I know that he loves me. I know that I can be and am happy when I repent and make efforts to put off the natural man. I feel at peace with God when I fully accept the love Jesus offers me in bridging the gap between my efforts to repent and what is required to be fully cleansed from my mistakes.
But it is the purifying of my heart that has long eluded me. I know I have a good heart because I am pained by sin and always want to do better, but the strength of the natural man is sometimes so great that it almost overcomes me. I cry out in my prayers that I just don’t see how I can be the man that I know God wants me to be.
That our Hearts May be Purified
Do you remember what the people in King Benjamin’s day said after they had heard the words of the angel that he shared with them? “… they all cried aloud with one voice saying: “O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified.”
I think most of us get it when we talk about receiving forgiveness. We know it comes through the atonement of Christ. But that’s not all that we can receive each week as we partake of the sacrament. We can also have our nature transformed and our hearts purified. Our desires to do good and to become a saint can be strengthened.
Do you ever find yourself full of the spirit on Sunday and saying, “I feel great! I feel so close to my Heavenly Father and my Savior. I know that they love me. I’ve been spiritually fed and uplifted at church today. I can do all those hard things that I know I should. I’m going to be so much better this week.” I have.
And then sometime during the week, after an exhausting day at work or an especially trying day with the kids or with the demands of others upon your time, you find yourself saying, “I just can’t do it anymore. I’ve had it. I just don’t want to do all the hard things that are asked of me. It’s too much. I can’t put up with all these difficult demands.” What happened to that Sunday determination?
Well, that’s what Elder Bednar was trying to teach us – how to have our very nature changed so that our desires to do good are strengthened. It is through the ordinance of the Sacrament that we come unto Christ, put off the natural man, and become a saint. We can have our hearts changed so that we no longer desire evil.
But, and this is my concluding thought, we must offer to the Lord our whole soul in exchange for the purifying of our hearts. For me, that means determining in my heart and mind before I partake of the sacrament that I am going to do whatever the Lord asks of me that week. Wow! That’s a scary thought, isn’t it? Can I do it?
Must I do everything that I feel prompted of the Lord to do? Yes, for me, that is what it means to offer my whole soul as an offering to him. The Tabernacle choir sings a hymn that illustrates this so beautifully for me. It’s called, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The line that describes this process goes like this:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.
May God take our offering and purify our hearts is my prayer.