Sacrament Talk - Caution: Saint Crossing
I gave this talk in sacrament meeting today. My allotted time was very limited. I feel like it's worth stating that I didn't address the topic as thoroughly as I'd have liked, which means there are some gaping holes here. Perhaps I'll fill them later.
Good afternoon, everyone, and happy Mother’s Day. My name is Adam Figueira. Most of you know my mother, so I don’t have to tell you how wonderful she is, though I could, and would if I had the time. The same goes for my wife, from whom you’ll have the privilege of hearing as soon as I manage to get out of the way.
|Elder J. Golden Kimball|
To those of you with mothers in your lives to celebrate today: I hope you make the most of it. To those who are mothers: thank you for your courage and constant sacrifice. You lift us all. To those of you for whom this day is hard: I see you. I wish I knew how to help. Please know that today you are also remembered, and you are also loved.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak today, and I pray that I can have the spirit of God to guide me in my remarks. In April of 2018, President Nelson predicted that “in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” I don’t think he was just talking about speaking in church, but surely that’s included.
What did President Nelson mean by this statement, and how can we walk the covenant path closely enough to be assured of that constant heavenly help? To paraphrase the humorous but wise words of Elder J. Golden Kimball, we may not always walk the strait and narrow path, but we can try to cross it as often as possible. Isaiah (53:6) put it another way: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.”
In the increasingly busy and complex landscape of life, as we, like sheep, wander among the criss-crossing paths laid before us, considering and responding to the myriad voices crowding the air, how do we discern the still, small voice of the Good Shepherd? How do we find, not our own way, but the Way, the Truth, and the Life?
This is the question with which the prophets and apostles have been chiefly concerned since Adam and Eve first built an altar and offered prayer. The answers can be as specific and varied as the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and nothing I can say will fully suffice for anyone, let alone everyone, who hears me.
The unreliability of human voices is just one reason why developing our ability to hear the Master’s voice is so critical. He answers privately: reaches our individual reaching. He knows us and is mindful of every detail of our lives, though at times we feel less important than a lily of the field, or lone sparrow upon the housetop.
The worldly terrain is treacherous and uneven. We lose our footing. We fall. We struggle to rise again, sometimes supported, sometimes opposed by the unequal winds of this world. Fortunately for us, the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all, and it is in this atoning grace that we must find our hope.
In one of his addresses last month, President Nelson admonished us to repent daily, seeking to align our lives ever more closely to the pattern of the Messiah. This frequent repentance is the criss-crossing of the path referred to by Elder Kimball, and our need for it is as constant as his words imply. As unprofitable servants of our Master, we seem rarely to take more than a few steps at a time along the plain road before deviating in some way or another, or else realizing that our trajectory wasn’t as parallel to the iron rod as we had assumed.
To one lost in a perilous wilderness, seeking a path to safety is not a shame or a punishment, but the objective of existence. It is an all-consuming endeavor: the only thing that makes sense to do. Similarly, in these spiritually perilous times repentance should be our daily work, and in doing it we need not be ashamed.
As Alma taught, “there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God” (Alma 12:24). Repentance is the process of change to become more like God, and is the very purpose of this life. Without it, “the plan of redemption would have been frustrated, and the word of God would have been void, taking none effect” (verse 26).
Rather than see it as a thing to be avoided, we should follow the counsel of our prophet, and prayerfully seek to understand what stands in the way of our repentance. “Identify what stops you from repenting,” he said. “And then, change!”
If we would seek to see clearly, and discern between truth and error; if we long to hear the word of the Lord, and receive the covenant blessing of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost; we should eagerly, constantly, joyfully repent.
Knowing this, we should never use the need for repentance to heap shame upon the heads of our fellow-travelers, but remember the Savior’s counsel to those who accuse others of sin, and refrain from casting the first stone. Instead of stones, we should be casting our eyes upward to heaven, and our nets outward, where perhaps some fainting, struggling seafarer may grasp them, and with us, be brought to shore.
Though named “the comforter,” we should not expect the Holy Ghost to lead us only to comfortable places. In a plan designed to bring about our eventual perfection and exaltation, there may be less room for comfort than we would wish. We can expect to be challenged. We can expect to be stretched in every conceivable direction, and a few we couldn’t have conceived.
We can expect to be called upon to question everything we believe and think we know, so that through the process of seeking and receiving inspiration our knowledge may be made perfect. We can expect to be brought into contact with people who test our ability to love, so that we can become filled with the pure love that characterizes all who are the true followers of Jesus Christ.
As we strive to heed his voice, We can expect God to do things in our lives that we would never have expected, and we can have faith that as we repent, and spend as much time on the path — or at least crossing it —¢ as possible, God will “carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise” (Alma 37:45).
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.