Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me. (Alma 5)
This beautiful testimony points out that all testimony results from revelation through the Holy Spirit. “Through revelation, the Lord provides individual guidance for every person who seeks it and who has faith, repents, and is obedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (lds.org) A testimony is a beautiful combination of insight received through revelation and faith in things we don’t completely understand.
That is one reason it is difficult for detractors to understand how we can believe. To those outside of the realm of faith, belief in Jesus Christ seems foolish. (Alma 30:13) I feel very fortunate I’m taught God’s plan in a way that is simple and easy to comprehend. Millions have lived and died wondering whether God could save His children.
I like to consider what atheists have to offer. There is only one version of the ultimate destiny of mankind for those who don’t believe in God: annihilation. Whether through self-destruction or using up all available resources, the earth and its amazing creations end in death.
Belief in God offers a counter ending. God, who created and knows all things, made us for a purpose. He has enough foresight to make sure there is enough (and extra) for our grand experiment. Like a loving Father sending his young children out into the world to prove themselves, He created a laboratory where we could experiment and explore our potential. We prove ourselves in our daily actions, a lifelong test that is so much harder than any written or verbal examination.
I love that our church pushes each member to continually improve. There is no simple salvation for a trite pledge. We have to live what we believe. It only makes sense: God can’t be fooled by “cheating” on the test of life. He is wise enough to make succeeding questions adapted to our responses, showing us the holes in our logic. And he doesn’t close the examination until we’ve had time to revise our answers.
As time rolls on, God’s kingdom grows stronger in opposition to the expanding forces of Evil. “We will witness increasing evidence of Satan’s power as the kingdom of God grows stronger.” (Elder James E Faust) “The solution of the great world problems is here in the Church of Jesus Christ. Ample provision is made not only for the needs of individuals, but also for the nation and groups of nations. I realize that it is a great claim. … It is simply the application of God’s plan to the world problems.” (Elder L Tom Perry)
I want to share my own testimony. I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s kingdom on the earth. It contains all of the pieces of the gospel of Jesus Christ, gathered in completeness with authority to provide ordinances of salvation to all of God’s children. The good are being gathered together, as we participate in the final battle against darkness. I know Jesus Christ will come again at the culmination of this battle. Good will be rewarded and evil will be defeated. It is so simple, yet in thousands of years of earth’s history, men haven’t been able to come up with anything to compare with it. I know it’s true. Like Alma,
“God hath made it manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit.”
The future plans God has for us are more grand and glorious that anything we can imagine. They include mansions and thrones and power beyond belief. So when a child dies and our heart breaks for all the things unsaid and memories never made, we are crying because we can’t see. When everything seems lost, we must remember that Christ calmly gave up everything. His mission is to prepare us for the role we will play in his Heavenly Kingdom. Our job is to follow his direction and prepare even if life throws curve balls and we find ourselves being taught through suffering. There is a purpose to it all. We can’t see it, but He can. Every promise He has ever made will be fulfilled. We can count on that.
I wonder what God thinks of His children, us, sometimes. We know He thinks of us as children. He loves us and wants us to grow. In heaven, we were “nurtured near His side” (Eliza R Snow).
I look at my young children and laugh at the things they do as they’re learning and trying. I look at them with love and understanding and mercy. I love their innocence; their honesty. I know they will succeed eventually if they keep trying.
As my children grow, they will reach the period in their lives where they pull against me, testing out the limits of their freedom. They will have to take what I’ve taught them, evaluate it, and compare it to what they see in the world around them. Then in their hearts, they will choose what they believe. I fear for that time, because I know they could choose to walk a path that leads to heartache.
I think mortality is our spiritual adolescence. God taught us everything He possibly could, but there reached a point where we needed a place of freedom to test ourselves and find out what our hearts would choose. We couldn’t be tested in God’s presence, because who wouldn’t choose Him if they could see His glory and love all around? Life was devised as a Divine experiment, not for God, but for us.
We will succeed eventually if we keep trying, through the grace of God, our Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Someday, (not now–after our mortal life), we will see ourselves the way God sees us (1 Samuel 16:7, D&C 76:94). Our bias will fall away, we’ll know our own hearts, and we’ll confess that His plan was perfect.
I love LDS General Conference! It’s an amazing worldwide gathering of church members where our leaders speak on current gospel topics. Each leader picks their own subject matter, prayerfully asking for guidance. No two talks are alike, though sometimes multiple speakers choose similar themes.
In Sept 2011, Elder Bednar gave a message about preparing for General Conference. He said, “Members of the Church are entitled to personal revelation as they listen to and study the inspired words spoken at general conference.” He also stated, “The words spoken at general conference should be a compass that points the way for us during the coming months.”
After the October 2013 conference, I pieced various quotes together into a theme. I can’t do this after every conference, but this particular once was very powerful to me personally. The theme I discovered answered the question, “what is my mission in life?” While the interpretation is my own, I’m grateful for inspired leaders whose words help guide us in life.
Do I have a mission in life?
We believe that each person has a mission in life.
Abr 3:22-23 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and greatones; … and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thouwastchosenbeforethouwastborn.”
Moses 1:6, God says, “And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son;”
Alma 13:3 “And this is the mannerafterwhichthey were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works.”
Elder Russell M Nelson: “Your Heavenly Father has known you for a very long time. You, as His son or daughter, were chosen by Him to come to earth at this precise time, to be a leader in His
great work on earth. You were chosen not for your bodily characteristics but for your spiritual attributes, such as bravery, courage, integrity of heart, a thirst for truth, a hunger for wisdom, and a desire to serve others.”
Elder Robert D Hales: “To the young members of the Church, I promise that if you will listen, you will feel the Spirit well up within you. The Lord will tell you what He wants you to do with your life.”
Each person’s mission is unique, so you can’t just follow the actions of someone else.
As Henry B Eyering said, “Heavenly Father has made each of us unique. No two of us have exactly the same experiences. No two families are alike. So it is not surprising that advice about how to choose happiness in family life is hard to give. Yet a loving Heavenly Father has set the same path to happiness for all of His children. Whatever our personal characteristics or whatever will be our experiences, there is but one plan of happiness. That plan is to follow all the commandments of God.”
As I’ve thought, I’ve come up with 10 steps that are part of accomplishing our mission in life.
Step 1: Gain a mortal body
Family Proclamation: “In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward
perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.”
Elder Nelson: “With your body being such a vital part of God’s eternal plan, it is little wonder that the Apostle Paul described it as a “temple of God.” Each time you look in the mirror, see your body as your temple. That truth—refreshed gratefully each day—can positively influence your decisions about how you will care for your body and how you will use it.”
For the Strength of Youth counsels: Your body is a temple, a gift from God. You will be blessed as you care for your body. Choose to obey the Word of Wisdom.… To care for your body, eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Practice balance and moderation in all aspects of your physical health.
Step 2: Learn how to control your mortal body
“Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness.”
Mosiah 3: 19
“For the naturalman 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 naturalman and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.”
Elder Nelson“A pivotal spiritual attribute is that of self-mastery—the strength to place reason over appetite. Self-mastery builds a strong conscience. And your conscience determines your moral responses in difficult, tempting, and trying situations”
Ulisses Soares: “I believe, brothers and sisters, that only those who are humble are able to acknowledge and understand the Lord’s answers to their prayers. The humble are teachable, recognizing how dependent they are on God and desiring to be subject to His will. The humble are meek and have the ability to influence others to be the same. God’s promise to the humble is that He will lead them by the hand. I truly believe that we will avoid detours and sadness in our lives as long as we
walk hand in hand with the Lord.”
Step 3: Create families, develop relationships, and learn to love
Henry B Eyering: “Life in families will test us. That is one of God’s purposes in giving us the gift of mortality—to strengthen us by passing through tests. That will be especially true in family life, where we will find great joy and great sorrow and
challenges which may at times seem beyond our power to endure them.”
Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest … for that is thy portion in this life
Elder Nelson “As children of God, we should love Him with all our heart and soul, even more than we love our earthly parents. We should love our neighbors as brothers and sisters. No other commandments are greater than these.”
Step 4: Education—this has a few different parts
Temporal: includes learning how to work, father providing, mothers caring for the family, accountability for your stewardship
“And verily in this thing ye have done wisely, for it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity. For he who is faithful and wise in time is accounted worthy to inherit the mansions prepared for him of my Father.”
David O McKay taught: “God will have no interest in how you earned your living, but if you were honest in all your dealings.”
Line from a hymn: “Do your duty
with a heart full of song” – I’ve found this challenging at times when doing monotonous work puts me in a bad mood.
Spiritual: understand good vs evil, how to choose the right, faith, keeping the commandments
2 Ne. 2: 27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal
life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil. Ulisses Soares: “It is our duty to try to be perfect, … to improve each day, and look upon our course last week and do things better this week; do things better today than we did them yesterday.” Elder Scott: “The more closely you follow divine guidance, the greater will be your happiness here and for eternity—moreover, the more abundant your progress and capacity to serve.”
Learning ourselves vs Teaching others: especially our children
Elder Scott: “Make the spiritual development of your spouse and children a very high priority. Be attentive to the things you can do to help each one.” Mosiah 4:15, talking about children: But ye will teachthem to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teachthem to love one another, and to serve one another.
Step 5: Ordinances; complete the steps to exaltation
Carol Stephens taught, “To achieve [our] divine destiny, each son and daughter of God needs priesthood ordinances and covenants.” She listed baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, the temple endowment, the sealing ordinance, and the sacrament. “These priesthood ordinances and covenants provide access to the fulness of the blessings
promised to us by God, which are made possible by the Savior’s Atonement. They arm sons and daughters of God with power, God’s power, and provide us with the opportunity to receive eternal life”
Step 6: Share the blessings of the gospel
D&C 81: 81
Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh everyman who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.
Step 7: Repent, understand the atonement, become sanctified
Henry B Eyering: “Heavenly Father has perfect foresight, knows each of us, and knows our future. He knows what difficulties we will pass through. He sent His Son to suffer so that He would know how to succor us in all our trials.“We know that Heavenly Father has spirit children in this world who sometimes choose sin and great unhappiness. That is why He sent His Firstborn to be our Redeemer, the greatest act of love in all creation. That is
why we must expect that it will take the help of God and time to polish us for eternal life, to live with our Father.”
Step 8: Service, develop talents
D&C 46: 11
“For all have not every giftgiven unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.”
“Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result.”
Step 9: Endure trials, tribulation, to prove ourselves
President Monson: “My brothers and sisters, may we have a commitment to our Heavenly Father that does not ebb and flow with the years or the crises of our lives. We should not need to experience difficulties for us to remember Him, and we should not be driven to humility before giving Him our faith and trust.”
“This should be our purpose—to persevere and endure, yes, but also to become more spiritually refined as we make our way through sunshine and sorrow. Were it not for challenges to overcome and problems to solve, we would remain much as we are, with little or no progress toward our goal of eternal life.”
Psalm 11:5 The Lord trieth the righteous
John 16: 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shallhavetribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Step 10: Participate in specific events that we agreed to accomplish during our lives.
Those who have received a patriarchal blessing should read it humbly, prayerfully, and frequently. It contains personal revelation and instructions from Heavenly Father, who knows our strengths, weaknesses, and eternal potential. Patriarchal blessings may contain promises, admonitions, and warnings.While a patriarchal blessing contains inspired counsel and promises, it should not be expected to answer all of the recipient’s questions or to detail all that will happen in his or her life. Similarly, the recipient of the blessing should not assume that everything mentioned in it will be fulfilled in this life.
Elder Nelson: “One day each of us will stand before the Lord in judgment. We will each have a personal interview with Jesus Christ. We will account for decisions that we made about our bodies, our spiritual attributes, and how we honored God’s pattern for marriage and family.”
If this list feels a bit overwhelming, Elder Uchdorf said: “Some might say, ‘I don’t think I could live up to your standards.’ All the more reason to come! The Church is designed to nourish the imperfect, the struggling, and the exhausted. It is filled with people who desire with all their heart to keep the commandments, even if they haven’t mastered them yet.”
I believe that this life is the hardest thing we have ever been asked to accomplish. I know with the understanding from the gospel, we can complete our mission in life and return to live with God someday.