Likely each of us has daily routines that provide a sense of direction and purpose in our lives. Some are so imbedded as part of daily living that we might feel out of balance if distractions or unexpected things keep us from our patterns and practices. Perhaps you, as I have, realize sometime during any given day you can’t remember praying that morning. That tends to make me feel a bit uncomfortable, even ungrateful, to have forgotten something so important. Or perhaps as our head falls on the pillow at night, we remember we haven’t read scriptures that day. We tell ourselves we will do better tomorrow.
When we need food for strength and growth, our body prompts us to eat. We might feel pangs in our stomach as it reminds us we are hungry. This is quite evident on Fast Sundays when often is heard: “I’m so hungry.” Our longing for food is a reminder of the need for continual nourishment to body. Our spirit also longs for continual nourishment. The need to nourish the body is understood daily. The need to nourish our spirit daily is perhaps not as recognizable, even though just as necessary.
Growing up our family kept a yard stick in the broom closet to measure our growth by marks on the kitchen door jam. We were always anxious to see how much we had grown since the previous measurement, sometimes only the day before. That type of growth is measured by inches and a yard stick. Looking back, was there also a way to measure spiritual my growth? What type of tool could I have used to measure it?
Today, I no longer get the yard stick out. I think I stopped getting taller a long time ago. I could measure the decline in height, but I am not as anxious to do that. On the other hand, I think I have experience in measuring my spiritual growth. Paraphrasing Elder Boyd K. Packer (after not being able to find the exact quote): “I was given the Gift of the Holy Ghost when I was eight. Years later its promptings are still the same. I have learned how to listen better and the signal is much clearer now.”
“God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son.” (John 3:16) His love for us draws us to Him. The Savior’s Atonement gives us enabling power beyond our own capacity and comprehension. This is much better understood when our heart is softened and humble so that we can see our circumstances thru the Lord’s wisdom. Let me share an example from my own life from just a couple of years ago.
Something happened that brought me a new perspective. This was first brought to my attention by someone else; I didn’t come up with this on my own. Had I thought of this myself it would have been okay. But, I was taken aback, maybe even a bit annoyed by someone else bringing this to my attention. Things were now being pointed out as flaws in my actions and character. And I was taking it personally. All of a sudden I felt less and I wasn’t sure what to do.
At first, I simply wanted to justify my actions, at least in my own mind. As I continued to struggle with this and ponder in my mind, I finally opened my heart to what was being said. As I opened my heart, I felt a need to change, not just to say I am going to change, but to honestly change. I began to pray with real intent as to what I should do to make things better.
A few days later, while reading some Book of Mormon scriptures I had previously underlined, I read this part of one of Nephi’s experiences: “…having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” (1 Ne 2:16) At that moment, I felt the Lord’s guidance as I read that scripture over and over. I knew He had helped soften my heart so I would believe and understand and not rebel against the promptings of something I needed to change.
We may wait and look too long for manifestations to do great and important things and therefore overlook and not recognize the daily whisperings of the Spirit prompting us. The Holy Ghost ministers to us and to others in simple ways. Six years ago in 2014, a situation of great difficulty arose in our family and I wanted to know, then, the eventual outcome. But the Lord, in His wisdom and plan, did not reveal that to me. Instead, He let me know how to take one day at a time to get to a better place. Now, six years later we are at a better place, but still don’t know the final outcome. I have learned that is okay.
I try to ask myself each day: “Are the things I am pursuing today drawing me closer to the Savior?”
In James we read: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves…. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:22, 27)
As I related the topic for my talk to a friend of mine, he said: “I think people like to be contacted (via text or phone) [to] let them know you care about them and ask about any needs they may have.”
I have individuals and families to whom I am assigned to minister. Do I pray by name for them each day? Is there more I can do?
A few months ago, I was wanting to move ahead with my life—to follow the plans I had mapped out before. I wanted to take charge again and accomplish important things. So I began prayer that day with this feeling in my head and heart. Immediately, as I began my prayer, words came into my mind, unexpected and unsought: “You are not in charge,” then a short pause, “if you want to be of most worth in My service.” I then paused to listen.
As I receive promptings to go about doing good, I must be careful not to push them away or pretend I didn’t hear or say to myself “I will do that later.” I must continue to look for and recognize the Lord’s hand in my life. And as I see prophecy unfold before me, I must remember that I gain a confirming testimony, a revealing of truth to me, of only the commandments I choose to obey and make part of my routine.
The Savior’s love draws us to Him. Our love for Him enables us to recognize the hope He offers us in all we do, in all we experience, in all we fear and suffer.
Pres. Russell M. Nelson said: “Our ultimate quest in life is to prepare to meet our Maker. We do this by striving daily to become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. (3 Ne 27:27) And we do that as we repent daily and receive His cleansing, healing, and strengthening power. Then we can feel enduring peace and joy, even during turbulent times. This is exactly why the Lord has implored us to stand in holy places and ‘be not moved.’” (D&C 87:8) (Ensign, May 2020, 6-7, Pres. Russell M. Nelson)
“Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again….But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” (Ensign, May 2018, 96, Pres. Russell M. Nelson)
“Though [recent] restrictions relate to a virulent virus, life’s personal trials stretch far beyond this pandemic. Future trials could result from an accident, a natural disaster, or an unexpected personal heartache.
“How can we endure such trials? The Lord has told us that ‘if we are prepared ye shall not fear.’ (D&C 38:30) Of course, we can store our own reserves of food, water, and savings. But equally crucial is our need to fill our personal spiritual storehouses with faith, truth, and testimony. (Ensign, May 2020, 6-7, Pres. Russell M. Nelson)
“Our Father knows that when we are surrounded by uncertainty and fear, what will help us the very most is to hear His Son.” (Ensign, May 2020, 89, Pres. Russell M. Nelson)
The Savior waits upon us to seek Him in our daily routines so that He can comfort and lift us.
As Elder Renlund said: “I do not think that God is insulted when we forget Him. Rather, I think He is deeply disappointed. He knows that we have deprived ourselves of the opportunity to draw closer to Him by remembering Him and His goodness.
“Remember that the Savior loves to restore what you cannot restore; He loves to heal wounds you cannot heal; He loves to fix what has been irreparably broken; He compensates for any unfairness inflicted on you; (Rev 21:4) and He loves to permanently mend even shattered hearts.” (Ensign, May 2020, 44, Elder Dale G. Renlund)
Our life’s purpose is all about the Savior, Jesus Christ, and how willingly we follow Him and learn to trust His promises. How do we connect with the Savior, Jesus Christ, and develop a beneficial relationship with Him? We learn to know the Savior by spending time with Him: in His scriptures, in prayer, in His temple, in our daily routines, in our gratitude, in His service to others.
When the Savior came to the temple for the last time, before Gethsemane and
Calvary, He cleansed it and healed the sick. He then asked the chief priests and elders and others present, “But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not; but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first.” (Matthew 21:28-31)
This is a scripture about promises made, kept and not kept. We get practice when we are young about making and keeping promises. What we learn prepares us to later make and keep covenants, which are sacred agreements with God. “God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions. When we choose not to keep covenants, we cannot receive the blessings, and in some instances we suffer a penalty as a consequence of our disobedience.” (True to the Faith, 44)
Learning to keep promises in our daily routines can be difficult at times. Satan and his minions prompt us with lies about keeping promises with each other, to ourselves and covenants with Heavenly Father. We are tempted to rationalize promises we have made. We seem to hear in our head, while our heart beats faster,
“No one will know.”
“Just this once won’t matter.” (and then again the next time around “just this once won’t matter”)
“You can get away with it.”
“Just blame someone else.”
As a child do I keep my promises? Is this my routine, even in tight spots? When we are right in the middle of something important to us personally, we may hear dad or mom ask a question that requires a response. “Did you do your chores?” “Is your homework done?” In ONE second, as it seems, our mind goes thru optional responses:
“No.” But I will need to stop this important thing I am doing for a while and I don’t want to.
“Yes.” I can get away with fibbing this once—they will never know.
And so we give a response. Or, maybe act like we didn’t even hear the question.
The more we knowingly fib (aka lie—a convenient learned method to get off the hook), the easier that becomes, especially when it seems to work so well and keeps us out of trouble for the moment. A great self-deception.
When we get older, it is someone else asking similar questions, which can also require difficult answers. A temple recommend question is appropriately asked of us all. “Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowman?” A characteristic of a disciple of Christ is to stand by promises, responsibilities, duties and commitments made. As an adult do I keep my promises?
My mother had a very large kettle she kept in a cupboard in which treats for lunches and dinners were often hidden underneath reused plastic bags. We all knew the secret hiding place. I had an older brother who HAD a sweet tooth. I do, too; perhaps its genetic. One evening, Mom pulled the kettle out to prepare the next day’s lunches. Guess what? There were no treats to be found. Immediately a question to her children. “Who ate the cookies?”
I thought quickly, “did I snitch one or two.?” I couldn’t recall so I continued the silent mode. After a few more seconds of silence, Mom turned to my sweet-tooth brother and said “now there are no treats for dinner and lunch tomorrow.” Not having a treat was a huge disappointment to each of us! Now, however, my brother was almost in tears and blurted out with some emotion he had not eaten any—THIS time. “I know I have snitched before. But not this time.”
Just then, a brave and next older brother, with head bowed, said, “I ate them. I ate all of them. Mark didn’t do it!” All Mom said was “thank you for telling the truth” and life moved on.
This story remains with me 60 years later as part of my learning about trust, promises, lies, being honest all the time, consequences and mercy.
It is good we have opportunities over and over again to change, to do better. Learning to keep promises is vital in learning to keep sacred covenants with Heavenly Father.
As we continue in or return to the covenants and ordinances of eternal life, we choose faith. We decide to be obedient. We choose covenants. We choose to serve others, which was a chief characteristic of the life of Jesus Christ. Genuine service to others lifts both them and ourselves and brings glory to Heavenly Father by honoring the example and commandments of His Son. Come follow me, is His repeated invitation to each of us.
What can we do today and this week to be a bit better in keeping the covenants that we make when we partake of the sacrament in remembrance of the loving sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ so that can also be said of us “[they] went about doing good.” (Act 10:38)
At the end of our time in mortality, a question will be asked? Did we strive to keep the covenants we made with God? He knows we will make mistakes; therefore, did we choose repentance each day and each week and the grace of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to become a true daughter/son of God?
When we sin or make poor choices, it can feel like the Savior has moved away from us. I have found thru years of experience (my own and of others) that He hasn’t moved at all. But we have. By our choices we have moved away from Him. As we learn to surrender to and share with Him all of the struggles, obstacles and temptations we encounter, we will feel Him woven within the fabric of our lives. As we do this daily, we find He is nearer to us each day. (Hymn: Nearer My Got to Thee) Sometimes we decide that in all things we must take care of ourselves and be completely self-reliant, but we cannot forget our greatest reliance must be on the Lord. In this process of turning to Him in all our daily tasks, duties and disappointments we move towards Him a step at a time.
The small, simple, good things we do individually and in our families each day and week build the firm foundation upon which the rest of our life depends. The most important thing for each of us is to figure out what God wants us to do and then do it. Most directions we receive from God do not come with accolades. That is what parenting is—simple, plain, hard work. And so much about revelation occurs when we are in motion.
There was difficult news, again, a few years ago from two of our children. We felt numb as we watched them face new and additional obstacles in their lives. Just because our children are grown and gone, doesn’t mean we forget their difficulties. We feel them deeply. There is a saying “a mother is no happier than her saddest child.” Often at such times we fast and pray and petition God for help. At times like this, Sister Strong sometimes asks me for a priesthood blessing for comfort…just to get thru the day and continue putting one foot in front of the other. In such blessings, I gain insights myself from the impressions that are verbalized and felt. I felt numb with this new and difficult news and all the texting back and forth. As I prayed, these words came as a feeling to my heart and mind to help me get thru another day: “Go about doing your work, especially your assignments to help and lift others. What is going on in your children’s lives, their difficulties, are beyond your ability to fix by yourself. You do your work. I am aware of your children for they are my children, too, and I will watch over and direct affairs in their lives for their good.”
The Savior’s arms are open to welcome us back, to lift us, to give us hope wherever we may be on our journey, even if we have lost our way and even if we feel stalled and in neutral gear. This I know.
“And, behold, a woman, which was diseased…came behind him, and touched his garment; For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Matthew 9:20-22)
May each of us have such faith and frequently remember to say to ourselves “If I but follow Him, I, too, shall be made whole.” I know this was the very purpose of His mortal ministry.
He waits for us to Hear Him and follow Him that He may lead us home. May we heed His invitation to “Come follow Me” so that we may rejoice in the hope of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And may the measurements on our spiritual door jams always be increasing. In His Sacred and Holy Name, Jesus Christ, Amen.