The only measure of true greatness is how close a man can become like Jesus. That man is greatest who is most like Christ, and those who love Him most will be most like Him. How, then, does a man imitate God, follow His steps, and walk as He walked, which we are commanded to do? We must study the life of Christ, learn His commandments, and do them. God has promised that to follow this course will lead a man to an abundant life, a fullness of joy, and the peace and rest for which those who are heavy burdened long (Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, , 327-328).
In keeping this covenant [baptism] we promise that we will be called by his name and never do anything that would bring shame or reproach upon that name (President Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:344-45)
To follow Christ is to become more like Him. It is to learn from His character. As spirit children of our Heavenly Father, we do have the potential to incorporate Christlike attributes into our life and character. The Savior invites us to learn His gospel by living His teachings.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: “Nobody becomes perfect in this life. . . . Becoming perfect in Christ is a process. We begin to keep the commandments today, and we keep more of them tomorrow. . . . We can become perfect in some minor things. . . .If we chart a course of becoming perfect, and, step by step and phase by phase, are perfecting our souls by overcoming the world, then it is absolutely guaranteed—there is no question whatever about it—we shall gain eternal life. . . . If we chart a course and follow it to the best of our ability in this life, then when we go out of this life we’ll continue in exactly that same course.
The Atonement was an intimate, personal experience in which Jesus came to know how to help each of us. If Moses beheld every soul, then it seems reasonable that the Creator of the universe has the power to become intimately acquainted with each of us. He learned about your weaknesses and mine. He experienced your pain and sufferings. He experienced mine. I testify that He knows us. He understands the way in which we deal with temptations. He knows our weaknesses. But more than that, more than just knowing us, He knows how to help us if we come to Him in faith. (Elder Merill J. Bateman, “A Pattern for All,” Nov. 2005)
“Perhaps His [Christ’s] most significant work is in the ongoing labor with each of us individually to lift, to bless, to strengthen, to sustain, to guide, and to forgive us.” (Elder Kent F. Richards, “The Atonement Covers all Pain, May 2011)
“He wants us to come to him as we are. We do not have to be perfect to go to him. While Jesus was on the earth he associated with publicans and sinners and his disciples asked him why he associated with them, to which question Jesus gave a beautiful and simple answer: ‘They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick.’ (Mark 2:17.) The Lord does not ask us to heal ourselves of our imperfections before we approach him, but to come to him with those imperfections and he will assist us in overcoming them. The Lord loves us and wants us to overcome our sins and he will help us as we exercise our free agency. We must initiate the process of repentance and strive with all of our might to overcome our weaknesses” (Gospel Doctrine [A Course of Study for the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums, 1970–71], p. 57).
In ancient times the cry “Unclean!”
Would warn of lepers near.
“Unclean! Unclean!” the words rang out;
Then all drew back in fear,
Lest by the touch of lepers’ hands
They, too, would lepers be.
There was no cure in ancient times,
Just hopeless agony.
No soap, no balm, no medicine
Could stay disease or pain.
There was no salve, no cleansing bath,
To make them well again.
But there was One, the record shows,
Whose touch could make them pure;
Could ease their awful suffering,
Their rotting flesh restore.
His coming long had been foretold.
Signs would precede His birth.
A Son of God to woman born,
With power to cleanse the earth.
The day He made ten lepers whole,
The day He made them clean,
Well symbolized His ministry
And what His life would mean.
However great that miracle,
This was not why He came.
He came to rescue every soul
From death, from sin, from shame.
For greater miracles, He said,
His servants yet would do,
To rescue every living soul,
Not just heal up the few.
Though we’re redeemed from mortal death,
We still can’t enter in
Unless we’re clean, cleansed every whit,
From every mortal sin.
What must be done to make us clean
We cannot do alone.
The law, to be a law, requires
A pure one must atone.
He taught that justice will be stayed
Till mercy’s claim be heard
If we repent and are baptized
And live by every word. …
If we could only understand
All we have heard and seen,
We’d know there is no greater gift
Than those two words—“Washed clean!” 11
The Touch of the Master’s Hand
Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile:
“What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,
“Who’ll start the bidding for me?”
“A dollar, a dollar”; then, “Two!” “Only two?
Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?
Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
Going for three—” But no,
From the room, far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet
As a caroling angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said, “What am I bid for the old violin?”
And he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?
Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?
Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice,
And going, and gone!” said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
“We do not quite understand
What changed its worth.” Swift came the reply:
“The touch of a master’s hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
Much like the old violin.
A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine,
A game—and he travels on.
He’s “going” once, and “going” twice,
He’s “going” and almost “gone.”
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought
By the touch of the Master’s hand. 29
Repentance & Hope
There is an important decision point during such long flights commonly known as the point of safe return. Up to this point the aircraft has enough fuel to turn around and return safely to the airport of departure. Having passed the point of safe return, the captain has lost this option and has to continue on. That is why this point is often referred to as the point of no return. Christ came to save us. If we have taken a wrong course, the Atonement of Jesus Christ can give us the assurance that sin is not a point of no return. A safe return is possible if we will follow God’s plan for our salvation. (Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Point of Safe Return,” April 2007)
“The invitation to repent is rarely a voice of chastisement but rather a loving appeal to turn around and to “re-turn” toward God. It is the beckoning of a loving Father and His Only Begotten Son to be more than we are, to reach up to a higher way of life, to change, and to feel the happiness of keeping the commandments. Being disciples of Christ, we rejoice in the blessings of repenting and the joy of being forgiven. They become part of us, shaping that way we think and feel.” (Elder Neil L. Andersen, “Repent…That I May Heal You,” Nov. 2009)
“For most, repentance is more a journey than a one-time event. It is not easy. To change is difficult. It requires running into the wind, swimming upstream. Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” Repentance is turning away from some things, such as dishonesty, pride, anger, and impure thoughts, and turning toward other things, such as kindness, unselfishness, patience, and spirituality. (Elder Neil L. Andersen, “Repent…That I May Heal You,” Nov. 2009)
Sometimes in our repentance, in our daily efforts to become more Christlike, we find ourselves repeatedly struggling with the same difficulties. As if we were climbing a tree-covered mountain, at times we don’t see our progress until we get closer to the top and look back from the high ridges. Don’t be discouraged. If you are striving and working to repent, you are in the process of repenting. (Elder Neil L. Andersen, “Repent…That I May Heal You,” Nov. 2009)
Adam fell, but he got right back up!
Show me a man who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “fail,” and I’ll show you a man who ought to buy a dictionary. Albert Einstein
“My dear brothers and sisters, don’t get discouraged if you stumble at times. Don’t’ feel downcast or despair if you don’t feel worthy to be a disciple of Christ at all times…Try and keep on trying until that which seems difficult becomes possible – and that which seems only possible becomes habit and a real part of you.” (President Uchtdorf, “The Love of God,” Nov. 2009)
“There is no failure except in giving up. It is never too early or too late to begin. Do not worry about what has happened in the past.” (Elder Hales, May 2010)
God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you have been as where you are headed right NOW
“A person who sins is like a tree that bends easily in the wind. On a windy and rainy day the tree bends so deeply against the ground that the leaves become soiled with mud, like sin. If we only focus on cleaning the leaves, the weakness in the tree that allowed it to bend and soil its leaves may remain. Merely cleaning the leaves does not strengthen the tree. (Elder Oaks, “Sin and Suffering,” BYU seventeen-stake fireside, 5 August 1990).
Just because we have taken one step down a wrong road is no reason why we have to take two. (Richard L. Evans)
My beloved brothers and sisters, what happened in this story at 9:00 or noon or 3:00 is swept up in the grandeur of the universally generous payment at the end of the day. The formula of faith is to hold on, work on, see it through, and let the distress of earlier hours—real or imagined—fall away in the abundance of the final reward. Don’t dwell on old issues or grievances—not toward yourself nor your neighbor nor even, I might add, toward this true and living Church.
…however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines… there is nothing that you have done that cannot be undone. There is no problem which you cannot overcome. There is no dream that in the unfolding of time and eternity cannot yet be realized. Even if you feel you are the lost and last laborer of the eleventh hour, the Lord of the vineyard still stands beckoning. “Come boldly [to] the throne of grace,”3 and fall at the feet of the Holy One of Israel. Come and feast “without money and without price”4 at the table of the Lord. (Elder Holland, “The Laborers in the Vineyard,” Ensign, May 2012)
“Good and faithful members of the Church will be saved [by which I mean exalted] even though they are far from perfect in this life.” (Elder McConkie, Seven Deadly Heresies,” in a Charge to Religious Educators, 149. See also Odds Are You’re Going to Be Exalted, Alonzo L. Gaskill, page 21)
President Brigham Young taught, “God will save all who are determined to be saved.” (Young, Discourses, 86. See also Odds Are You’re Going to Be Exalted, Alonzo L. Gaskill, page 99)
“All faithful Latter-day Saints – those who chart their course toward eternal life, receive the ordinances of salvation, and strive with all their hearts to be true to their covenants – will gain eternal life. Even though they are certainly not perfect when they die, if they have sought to stay on course, in covenant, in harmony with the mind and will of God, they will be saved in the highest heaven….We ought to have hope, [and] we [need] to be positive and optimistic about attaining that glory.” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Odds Are You’re Going to Be Exalted, by Alonzo L. Gaskill, page 20)
I believe that our Heavenly Father wants to save every one of his children. I do not think he intends to shut any of us off because of some slight transgression, some slight failure to observe some rule or regulation. There are the great elementals that we must observe, but he is not going to be captious [inclination to make petty criticism or entrap or ensnare] about the lesser things. (President J. Reuben Clark Jr. of the First Presidency, in Conference report, Oct 1953, 84. See also Odds Are You’re Going to Be Exalted, Alonzo L. Gaskill, page 104).
We must be careful, as we seek to become more and more god-like, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant as it were. Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair (Ezra Taft Benson “A Mighty Change of Heart,” Ensign, Oct. 1989, 5).
We need to remember that Satan seeks to discourage us and dissuade us from righteousness every chance he gets. Feelings of discouragement never come from God: they are always of the devil. President Brigham Young once remarked: “Serve God according to the best knowledge you have,…and when the Devil comes along and says, ‘You are not a very good Saint, you might enjoy greater blessings and more of the power of God, and have the vision of your mind opened, if you would live up to your privileges,’ tell him to leave; that you have long ago forsaken his ranks and enlisted in the army of Jesus, who is your captain, and that you want no more of the Devil” (Discourses, 82) (Odds Are You’re Going to Be Exalted, Alonzo L. Gaskill, page 144)
As the showdown between good and evil approaches with its accompanying trials and tribulations, Satan is increasingly striving to overcome the Saints with despair, discouragement, despondency, and depression. (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1974, 90–91).
We must remember – and we must firmly believe – that the plan of salvation, the great plan of happiness, was designed to work. Indeed, it would not be called the eternal plan of salvation/happiness/redemption/mercy/deliverance/etc if it did not work – particularly if its primary effect was the damnation of the vast majority of God’s offspring….It intuitively goes against everything we know about the nature of God to suggest that He would create and institute a plan that would, by design, damn most of His children. Yes, agency must be preserved. But to design a plan that is so difficult to succeed at that most would fail does not preserve agency. (Odds Are You’re Going to Be Exalted, Alonzo L. Gaskill)
President Brigham Young once compared being offended to a poisonous snakebite. He said that “there are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake. One may, in anger, fear, or vengefulness, pursue the creature and kill it. Or he may make full haste to get the venom out of his system.” He said, “If we pursue the latter course we will likely survive, but if we attempt to follow the former, we may not be around long enough to finish it.”
Joseph Smith said: “Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive.” (Smith, Teachings, 257) I believe that his juridical concept of his dealings with his children could be expressed in this way: I believe that in his justice and mercy he will give us the maximum reward for our acts, give us all that he can give, and in the reverse, I believe that he will impose upon us the minimum penalty which it is possible for him to impose. (President J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference report, Oct 1953, 84. See also Odds Are You’re Going to Be Exalted, Alonzo L. Gaskill, page 101-102).
“And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” (Luke 17:4)