Steadfast and Immovable: Today's Talk

Today I gave a talk in sacrament meeting; it was an interesting experience. I have not given a talk for a few years and I actually didn't really feel like it. Pregnancy hormones also leave me feeling kind of vulnerable and insecure and so I just didn't feel like public speaking. But I'm glad I did it because I learned a lot while writing and researching the talk. I was third on the program after two other women from the ward, both in the 'young mother' category like me. The first one immediately burst into tears and proceeded to cry off and on throughout the rest of her talk, the second one was also quite emotional during hers. I actually felt pretty self-conscious because not only did I not cry during my talk (yes pregnancy makes me weepy, but I try really hard not to be weepy in public because I get embarrassed by it), but I also took a more analytical, scripture-based approach to the topic. That's just the way I do things. I don't usually write out my entire talk word-for-word, but here are some of the parts I used:


Scriptural phrase: from Mosiah 5:15
“Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all”


What is the context of the scripture?

It is the final scripture in the chapter, the last words of King Benjamin to the people. Prior to this he has given his sermon, which we know a lot about already. In chapters two through four he bore testimony of the Savior and discussed how the people should behave when they have become saved through His name. The people all cried out that they had been converted and desired from that point forward to serve the Lord. The people had experienced a mighty change in their hearts and entered into a covenant with God to always remember him; this verse is King Benjamin’s final admonition to them of how and why to keep this covenant (read verse 13 about not knowing a master whom ye have not served)

We must remain steadfast and abound in good works in order to retain the ‘name’ that we have taken upon us, which is Christ’s. One thought—grace and works; Benjamin emphasizes that we are saved through the grace of Christ, but access to that comes through our works—our willingness to step up and receive Him; we must ‘retain’ our salvation and continue steadfast—just to be baptized and make covenants is not enough. We must make and keep our covenants. (Nephi reminds us of that in Second Nephi 31:19-20 )

How do we do that? What are some things that have been suggested in the scriptures?

1. Keep the commandments/live with integrity and a desire to be like Christ—work towards ‘becoming’
2. Remember what God has done for us, both individually and collectively (studying scriptures, keeping our own records, bearing testimony)
3. ‘Abound in good works’ (what does that mean? What are good works?)

1. We can become steadfast and immovable by working on ‘becoming’. Dallin H. Oaks has observed that “the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.” Like the people of King Benjamin, once we have become converted the challenge is to then remain steadfast. Yes, there does seem to be a sort of checklist of things we can ‘do’ (like fulfilling our callings, family prayer, scripture study), but once we have received the ordinances of baptism and the temple our main challenge is to remain steadfast. A lower law can give us a ‘checklist’ of things to do, but the higher law is deceptively easy. Sometimes when we think that things are no longer laid out for us it is an invitation to ‘coast’ or to do less; instead, it is a challenge to look inside ourselves and really find out what our personal mission is. What kind of a person does God want us to be? What should we be doing at each stage in our lives? What are the most important things we could be doing now to become like Christ? These days there are many options for our lives and many things that seek our time, but the real challenge is to choose those which are best for us at a given moment in our lives.

2. Two years ago in conference, president Eyring gave a talk about the importance of remembering what God has done in our lives. He shared a spiritual prompting that lead him to start writing in his journal, and noted that
“Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done. More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.”
I thought it interesting to note the two things that President Eyring learned from his experience; both gratitude for the good things that God has done in his life, and a stronger testimony of Heavenly Father’s love. It is a cycle; remembering and acknowledging the hand of God in our lives will draw us closer to Him, strengthening our testimony and giving us greater awareness of the Holy Ghost; the Holy Ghost can then touch our hearts and help us remember and acknowledge the hand of God in our lives; and so on.
I have also found significant the questions posed by Alma to the people of Zarahemla in chapter 5 of Alma. As you know, Alma had been both the High priest of the church and the chief judge, but gave up his judge position to spend more time with the church after its members begin to stray. We often look at the questions a little later in the chapter that he asks members to consider individually about receiving Christ (“have ye spiritually been born of God?”) But in the beginning of his talk he also reminds them of their deliverance as a people; Alma’s father, Alma the elder, heard the words of Abinadi and experienced a change of heart; not only did the Lord deliver the people from sin, but also literally from bondage. Chapter 5, verse 6 asks… This year as we have been studying Church history as well as the teachings of Joseph Smith, I have often pondered that question: “have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers?” It is important to remember the hand of God in our history, whether or not we are directly related to those it happened to. Family history, church history, and stories from the scriptures are all important means of remembering what God can do for people and for drawing strength from the example of people who have remained steadfast and immovable in their lives.

3. King Benjamin characterizes being ‘steadfast’ with ‘abounding’ in good works. What does it mean to ‘abound’ in good works? President Kimball wrote an article for the Ensign titled ‘The Abundant Life’, in which he notes that
“The abundant life noted in the scriptures is the spiritual sum that is arrived at by the multiplying of our service to others and by investing our talents in service to God and to man. Jesus said, you will recall, that on the first two commandments hang all the law and the prophets, and those two commandments involve developing our love of God, of self, of our neighbors, and of all men. There can be no real abundance in life that is not connected with the keeping and the carrying out of those two great commandments. Unless the way we live draws us closer to our Heavenly Father and to our fellowmen, there will be an enormous emptiness in our lives”

Everything is interconnected; when we focus on what we can do to become like Christ, we naturally desire to serve Him and those around us. As we reflect on the experiences we have in service, we feel the Holy Ghost more strongly, which will then lead us to 'do good'. I view this process as something like a spiral, coiling around and yet reaching upward at the same time. It also seems to be a paradox; we become 'steadfast' not by hiding in our homes doing nothing, but by motion and engaging with the world and others. I know that as we remember the covenants we have made and 'abound in good works' we can truly become like our Heavenly Father.

Comments

I really like the notes from your talk, thanks for sharing!

I'm the same way about crying- I always try not to and I actually listen better to people who don't cry during their talks.
Gina said…
Sounds like a really great talk, Jessie. Thank you for sharing these notes!!
Julie said…
That's how I always give talks too. I'm not a mushy story kind of person, lets talk real doctrine here people!!

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