2015 was full. Full of challenges, trips, growth, fun, new experiences, and memories. I had a teacher at BYU who always answered the question, “How are you?” with “Best day yet!” I’d say 2015 was “best year yet” on several fronts.
I love the new year for the chance to review and reset. I was asked to speak in church last Sunday about Christ’s birth. I focused mostly on the need to be born again, born of God. I’ll post that talk below. Here are some of the highlights from 2015 for us …
Talk in Church on 12/27
Born of God
How was Christmas?!
Was this your best Christmas ever? Did you get everything you hoped for? Can you think of a more memorable Christmas?
I think my most memorable Christmas was my first one on my mission in Argentina. They celebrate Christmas very differently there. On Christmas Eve, at about 10:00pm they begin a huge feast. And, at midnight, they shoot off fireworks and guns and dance to music in the streets. Not exactly a silent night. But, that’s not what makes that first Christmas of my mission so memorable. It’s what happened the next day.
First Christmas in Argentina (Read Journal Entry about decision not to call home)
Christmas and New Year’s is the time that many take to redidicate our lives to Him. My prayer is that I may share something that will cause you to deliberately rededicate yourself to Christ in some way as we start the new year.
Several months after this spiritual milestone, I found myself in an interview with my mission president. He handed me one of my first weekly letters to the president I wrote him. It practically reeked with pure motives and unselfishness. I was proud of how I sounded. Then he handed me another letter I had written him only a couple weeks before that interview. There was a very subtle change in the tone to the letter. I had, unwittingly become more concerned with hitting numbers and goals. Pres. Coburn saw my pride — my desire to be viewed as a great missionary — was replacing my unselfish, pure motives to love the Lord and the people. He asked me a series of questions that I had no answers for. [Continue with story]
At this time remembering our Savior’s birth, I want to talk about being born of God …
“I have seen miracles in my time, my brothers and sisters. The greatest miracle of all, I believe, is the transformation that comes into the life of a man or a woman who accepts the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and tries to live it in his or her life.
Our Lord told Nicodemus that “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3.) Of these words President Spencer W. Kimball said, “This is the simple total answer to the weightiest of all questions. … To gain eternal life there must be a rebirth, a transformation.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1958, p. 14.)
President McKay said that Christ called for “an entire revolution” of Nicodemus’s “inner man.” “His manner of thinking, feeling, and acting with reference to spiritual things would have to undergo a fundamental and permanent change.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1960, p. 26.)
Before I left for Argentina my dad kept telling me that the mission would change my life. Finally, I said, “I hope not. I love my life.” He smiled and patiently replied, “David, you don’t have a clue, do you?” Once again … he was right.
Pres. Benson continued: “In addition to the physical ordinance of baptism and the laying on of hands, one must be spiritually born again to gain exaltation and eternal life.
Those who had been born of God after hearing King Benjamin’s address had a mighty change in their hearts. They had “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” (Mosiah 5:2; see also Mosiah 5:7.)
To me, King Benjamin has given us a spiritual Electrocardiogram or EKG that tests for problems in our hearts. Again, how much do we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually?
“Speaking frankly to the members of the Church who needed to get their lives back on the straight and narrow, Alma went all Pres. Coburn on them, “I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” (Alma 5:14.)
He continued, “If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26.)
My question is, “what if my answer is: not really?”
What if I’m wrestling with doubt?
What if the secret shame of sin keeps me from progressing?
What if my pride has convinced me that I just don’t need to try that hard any more?
There are as many answers to Alma’s question as there are people. If your answer is ‘no’ then the next question is what are you going to do about it? Why even bother with what at times seems to be a fools errand? We take two steps forward and sometimes one or two steps back in our spiritual journey.
I think we each must answer these questions for ourselves.
But, let me give us some food for thought …
10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. (Alma 7:10-12)
The atonement has been done. The degree of His grace, power, light, love, and revelation depends largely on our willingness to continuously repent and be born of Him. The one Christmas gift we can give Him is our will. Our heart. What He gives us in return is, as my children often say, “not fair.”
So, as we begin a new year, what do we need to do to experience the fruits of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection more fully in our lives?
Let’s consider the New Testament account of the rich young ruler. He was a righteous young man who was already keeping the Ten Commandments, but he wanted to become better. His goal was eternal life.
When he met the Savior, he asked, “What lack I yet?”
Jesus answered immediately, giving counsel that was intended specifically for the rich young man. “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and … come and follow me.”
The young man was stunned; he had never considered such a sacrifice. He was humble enough to ask the Lord but not faithful enough to follow the divine counsel he was given. We must be willing to act when we receive an answer …
Years ago I read in a Church magazine the story of a girl who was living away from home and going to college. She was behind in her classes, her social life was not what she had hoped for, and she was generally unhappy. Finally one day she fell to her knees and cried out, “What can I do to improve my life?” The Holy Ghost whispered, “Get up and clean your room.” This prompting came as a complete surprise, but it was just the start she needed. After taking time to organize and put things in order, she felt the Spirit fill her room and lift her heart.
The Holy Ghost doesn’t tell us to improve everything at once. If He did, we would become discouraged and give up. The Spirit works with us at our own speed, one step at a time, or as the Lord has taught, “line upon line, precept upon precept, … and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, … for unto him that receiveth I will give more.”
Elder Todd Christopherson shared the following about Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Anglican archbishop in South Africa. Bishop Tutu was interviewed about his book. During the interview the host asked a perceptive, inspired question of Bishop Tutu: “Have you found that your relationship to God has changed as you’ve grown older?”
Bishop Tutu paused and then said, “Yes. I am learning to shut up more in the presence of God.”
He recalled that when he prayed in his earlier years, he did so with a list of requests and solicitudes. He would approach heaven with what he called “a kind of shopping list.” But now, he said, “I think [I am] trying to grow in just being there. Like when you sit in front of a fire in winter, you are just there in front of the fire, and you don’t have to be smart or anything. The fire warms you.”
I think that is a lovely metaphor—just sit with the Lord and let Him warm you like a fire in winter. You don’t have to be perfect or the greatest person who ever graced the earth or the best of anything to be with Him.
If we take the time to sit with the Lord and listen, we might just hear Him say, “Where have you gone? I want you back.”
I pray that we will sit, listen, discover, and act on what we lack yet.