“The first step on the path of discipleship begins in the exact place where we stand! We do not have to pre qualify to take that first step. It doesn’t matter if we are rich or poor. There is no requirement to be educated, eloquent, or intellectual. We do not have to be perfect or well-spoken or even well-mannered. You and I can walk in the path of discipleship today.”
All of us have the opportunity to walk on the pathway of discipleship, it is not reserved for any certain people. Some may be confused on how to start along this pathway! I have come up with a list of certain qualities that all Disciples of Christ should have. The first being Faith.
Too often we find ourselves forgetting a very important aspect of faith. Action is required where faith exists. I remember at the last general conference when I was listening to Elder Holland speak. He was speaking on the occasion where Peter was approached by the Savior after his resurrection. The Lord proceeded to ask Peter “Do you love me?”. Of course Peter responded “Lord, thou know-est that I love thee”. I began to put myself in Peter’s shoes, and really try to imagine what reaction I would have had to the Lord’s questioning. I figured I would be able to tell the Lord that I loved him, but would my previous actions in life dictate that same response? Was the actions that had taken place, and the actions going to take place in the future aligned with that response I would give to the Lord? That is one thing I love about discipleship, is it requires ACTION! We must learn to be doers of the word, and not hearers only.
There are many examples of faith in the Book of Mormon, and one of my favorites is found in Ether. In Ether 12: 13-18 it reads:
13. Behold it was the faith of Alma and Amulek that caused the prison to tumble to the earth.
14. Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
15. Behold, it was the faith of Ammon and his brethren which wrought so great a miracle among the Lamanites.
16. Yea, and even all they who wrought miracles wrought them by faith, even those who were before Christ and also those who were after.
17. And it was by faith that the three disciples obtained a promise that they should not taste of death; and the obtained not the promise until after their faith.
18. And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God.
It truly is amazing to see the power that faith can bring in our lives! We see faith bringing down prisons, converting, and overcoming death. It is important to note, however,
that miracles come AFTER faith. In Moroni 7:37 it reads:
37. Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.
There are many instances I can recall of hearing people around me complaining along the lines of “Why should I believe in a God that doesn’t help, or bless me?!”. Sadly they misunderstand the concept! The Lord can only show miracles in our life AFTER we show faith unto Him!
A couple summers ago I was visiting Florida with my family. For some reason or another my mother and sister did not want to attend “Gatorland” with my father and I. It really was a cool experience though! I found myself surrounded, at any certain time, by over 1700 alligators/crocodiles!! I remember a specific instance in which we were feeding this crocodiles. I couldn’t help but get the picture of Daniel walking into the Lion’s Den, out of my mind! My whole life I had thought that I had enough faith to get by, and did not need to have my faith grow. Boy was I wrong! I imagined being told, one way or another, to jump in this water with the crocodiles/alligators. My first reaction was fear, and I couldn’t picture myself doing it! I realized at that time that my faith had LOTS of room to grow!
In summary, Faith will always require action, we will not see miracles until AFTER showing our faith, and there will always be room for our faith to grow!
Sincere Selfless Service
One of the best ways I learn, is by example. There is no better example of Sincere Selfless Service than our Savior Jesus Christ. Although there are many examples of his Service in His mortal ministry, I will only have enough time to review a few of them!
The first example is found after Christ has fasted for forty days, and has been tempted by Satan three times. After this experience, I could imagine he was somewhat physically, and spiritually drained. In the Bible we learn that Jesus called down angels to minister unto him, and comfort him. My whole life I have been okay with that. I never found anything selfish in the fact that he called down angels to comfort Him after this ordeal! But we learn something very interesting in the Joseph Smith Translation. In Joseph Smith Translation – Matthew 4:11 it reads:
11. …and now Jesus knew that John was cast into prison, and he sent angels, and, behold, they came and ministered unto him. (John)
We learn that the Lord knew of the hard time John was going through in prison! Although John was probably having a hard time in Jail, I can’t imagine it was as hard of a time as the Savior was going through! Yet the Lord sent those angels to comfort John, in stead of Himself. It truly shows Christ’s character.
On a separate occasion, we find Christ before he is going to be captured and crucified. He is found kneeling in prayer for His apostles, not himself, even knowing His immediate anguish! I do not think anyone would have found him at fault for saying a prayer for himself at that time, but alas that is not the true character of Christ!
After Judas approaches the Savior, and betrays him, His apostles are mad! I can imagine they did not want the Lord to leave just yet, and wanted Him to stay with them for a longer period of time! One of His apostles is mad enough to cut off the ear of a servant trying to capture Jesus. Immediately following this even, the Savior approaches this servant to heal and comfort him. Knowing full well that this man is part of the men trying to eventually lead Him to death!
As Christ is on the cross waiting to pass from this world, He has only one concern! He is worried about His mother. We find Him instructing His apostles to take care of His mother after he has died.
Although we may never be able to provide the same service that the Savior has, it is important we learn from His wonderful example! I can truly testify that as we participate in sincere selfless service we can live happier lives!
When I want to understand a term or concept better I try to define it! So I looked up the definition of humility, and it reads as follows:
To be humble is to recognize gratefully our dependence on the Lord—to understand that we have constant need for His support. Humility is an acknowledgment that our talents and abilities are gifts from God. It is not a sign of weakness, timidity, or fear; it is an indication that we know where our true strength lies. We can be both humble and fearless. We can be both humble and courageous.
I love the line saying “it is an indication that we know where our true strength lies”. It is so true! We are not being weak, or timid, but showing to others that our strength is in God! I came across a quote given by Benjamin Franklin saying, “there is perhaps no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as prides, even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility”.
I know how true that can be! I find myself struggling with having too much pride every single day! It can be a challenge to humble ourselves, but it can be rewarding! One of the prerequisites before the Lord can help us is becoming humble. I read this story about two missionaries: They were teaching a married couple about the word of wisdom. They both had been smokers for quite a while. When the missionaries asked them to quit, they agreed! They figured that if the Lord, and the Lord’s church, wanted them to quite smoking they would! The husband didn’t think he would have too hard of a time with it, because he had quite smoking a couple times before and started again after he knew he could quit. He was worried about his wife. Not surprisingly enough, he ended up having a harder time with it! There was a specific night where he felt the urge to smoke so badly, he felt as if there was nothing else he could do to prevent it. His wife suggested prayer! He responded along the lines of “I can do this by myself!”. But after a few more hours found himself on his knees, humbling himself before the Lord! After he did that, he never had a desire to smoke again for the rest of his LIFE.
Often times I hear of people asking the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?”. Sometimes it is meant to be a humbling experience for us! The Lord WANTS to help us, but can not do it unless we are humbled.
I love the topic of adversity, mainly because everyone can relate to it! I have come up with a metaphor relating to the topic of adversity. I want you to imagine that you bought a gym pass. Typically when someone goes to a gym, they start out with lighter weights and work their way up. After weeks of working out, and adding more weight, they become stronger and able to do more! Now imagine that week after week you only lifted five pound dumbbells. At the end of a year, which pattern of working out would help you become stronger and able to do more? This is just like life! If we went through life without any resistance or adversity, we would never see that growth or progression. Adversity is crucial to our lives on earth as it helps us progress.
I love the saying, “a smooth sea, never made a skillful sailor”. We have to remember that adversity can be a BLESSING if we allow it to be! One of the things that has helped me as I have gone through adversity is to remember why I am doing it. It is important to keep the right motivation so we can never forget what we are fighting for!
I remember in 9th grade I attended a leadership conference. The guy in charge started off telling us about a “cost-benefit analysis”. He began asking us to picture a balloon arch on the first day of school. Thousands of balloons, right at the front of our Jr High for all of the kids to walk under! We all were excited about this idea, as it sounded awesome! The teacher stopped us before we got too excited, and explained the “cost” part of our analysis. He asked us what the cost of this activity would be. As we were thinking he listed off some of the things we would have to do. We would have to wake up really early, blow up thousands of balloons, find a way to protect those balloons, etc. The benefit would be having kids walk under some balloons… And after further analysis we came to the conclusion that it would not be worth it.
I use this analysis a lot in my life! You can use it for essentially anything. For instance if someone wanted to quit drinking coffee. All you have to do is chart it out. The cost of quitting could be being groggy, and having less energy as you adjust. The benefit would include having the spirit with us, blessings from heaven, saving money, etc. After further analysis we can come to the conclusion that it is obviously worth it! This method has helped me keep the right motivation as I go through adversity!
In Alma 36: 3 we read “And now, O my son Helaman, behold, thou art in thy youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day”.
Alma is giving advice to his son here. No offense to my parents, but sometimes when parents counsel their children it goes in one ear and out the other. Alma uses a useful method as he gives examples from his life to support his counseling in later verses, saying, “And I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me”.
God will bless, and deliver us from afflictions as we “put our trust in him”.
I came across a really good quote from Elder Holland saying,
“Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead.” Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ,they come. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.
We have to keep that attitude with us! The attitude of “Come what may, and love it”. We will experience hardships in our lives, and it is up to us how we view those hardships. I learned a valuable life lesson from my friend Skyler Smith. One early morning we were at the school to practice for a school assembly. It was probably six in the morning, and as you can imagine I was not in a good mood. I wanted to go back to bed, but most of all I didn’t want to be at Mountain View. Of course Skyler came skipping through the door with his happy attitude. He kept saying this saying, “If you act enthusiastic you will be enthusiastic”!! The first couple times I heard that I was annoyed, thinking to myself why can’t you just stop talking! It is too early! But very quickly I got up and was saying it with him! My attitude quickly changed and that experience went from a dreadful one to a enjoyable experience!
President Uchtdorf says, “It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop”. I truly learned my lesson that morning!
As I was preparing this talk a thought came into my head. I thought to myself “What side will you be on?”. At one point in our lives we will all have to make a decision. Some postpone this decision by saying things along the lines of, “Well if I need the church, I will figure it out later in life”. What these people don’t realize, is that they have already made their decision! By not acting, they have chosen against the pathway of discipleship. You cannot serve two Gods. I can testify that by taking action, your lives will be blessed by our Lord!
I have gotten a lot of questions from different people around me about, “Why are you going on a mission?”. I relate to them an experience I had a few years ago. I was driving with my father and I asked him that same question! He told me that he knew at one point in his life he would need something from the Lord, and he could not rightfully ask Him for anything if he denied his call to serve at the age of 19. That really hit me! If ten years from now I need something from the Lord, could I pray to him after showing blatant disregard to Him? I could not. That is one of the driving factors of my mission!
Another reason I want to go is to spread this happiness. I have never felt happier than when this gospel has been in my life! The best time in my life is when the Lord is proud of me, and the worst have been when I knew he wasn’t proud of my decisions. I know that the people of New York need happiness, and I want to show them the truth! I know I can help the Lord change people’s lives, and I will start with the people of New York!
I am privileged to be able to say I am like a Stripling Warrior! I have been raised by the best mother out there, and will be forever grateful for what she has done for me! She is the absolute best, and I love her!
In closing I would like to share with you the scripture that will be on my missionary plaque:
3 Nephi 5: 13 “Behold I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.”