All In

In the Saturday morning session of the October 2021 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Holland relates the story of the rich young ruler who didn’t follow Christ because of his many possessions. In relating this story, he remarks that it is “ultimately … about wholehearted, unreserved devotion to divine responsibility.” He goes on to say that “we are to declare ourselves ‘all in’.”

Bucket Carry at Spartan Super Race

The picture above is me during a Spartan Super race. The race is 10 kilometers and has 25 obstacles. The one above is called the bucket carry containing 75 pounds of gravel that you carry over a certain distance. I definitely felt that I had to be “all in” to complete such a race.

What does “all in” mean?

Every time I hear the phrase “all in” I ask myself, “what does that mean?” Does it mean that every moment I am not providing for my family I should be involved in spiritual matters? Is there no time to pursue hobbies of interest or entertainment?

In trying to answer these questions, I remember the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19 which states:

18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

The above-quoted scripture tells me that it is OK to pursue learning and hobbies that aren’t strictly gospel-based. One of my hobbies is learning about different subjects. I rely on the “DeMystified” series of books for subjects such as algebra, chemistry, physics, and calculus. My children are always calling me a geek when I do this, right up until they need help in those areas and I am right there able to provide it.

I also love to read science-fiction books. I’m a big fan of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, and Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive series. But am I really “all in” for loving and reading these? I have pondered this question and then I realize how many times there are passages in those books that are in alignment with the gospel, or make me think about things in a new way, or inspire me to be a better person. Because of those experiences, I have realized that I can love science-fiction and still be “all in”.

Sports have been a part of my life ever since I can remember. I was playing parent-pitch baseball at the age of four and soccer at the age of seven. There’s something about participating in sports that makes me happy and I find joy therein. So, am I “all in” if I participate in sports? To me, the answer is yes. This is partly because I see lessons in life that can be learned by playing sports and partly because of the strategies involved. Over on our Gracefull Parenting site, I have posted some of these experiences. An example is a post Taking the Time to Look Up and how our son Sam taught me a life lesson by the way he played soccer.

Being Selfish

When is something part of being “all in” and when is it “being selfish”? Being selfish to me is when I put my will ahead of the Lord’s will. A better explanation is that I choose to do the things I want to avoid the things I know the Lord wants me to be doing at that time. This is a natural part of life and recognizing when this happens is key to bringing our will in alignment with the Lord’s.

However, we must avoid falling into the trap of waiting to be told what to do every moment of our lives. We have been told:

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-28

What does it mean to be an agent unto yourself? For me, it means I can choose what I want to do and when I want to do it. For instance, most mornings I get up early and go on about a two-mile walk with our dog. It is a time when I can listen to anything I want. During the week, I usually listen to a science-fiction series. However, a couple of weeks ago I decided that on Sundays I would listen to something gospel related. My current choice is, surprise, surprise, conference talks. The key here is that I have the agency to make that choice. I didn’t have to wait for God to tell me what to listen to.

Are there times when we are prompted to do something? Yes, and we should heed those promptings. Promptings, however, do not come 24X7. This means that we have the ability to utilize our time in our own way while still being mindful of Heavenly Father’s influence to do something else.

Going “All In” Leads To…

When we go “all in” we are able to elevate the level of life we live. We are able to obtain a “higher and holier” life. We strive to more fully live the two great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbor. We understand our identity as a child of Christ.


Declaring ourselves “all in” requires us to make changes. It means that we give ourselves wholeheartedly to God. We can have other pursuits, but we need to look at them through the lens of progressing on the path leading back to God. The things we learn in this life go with us into the next and doesn’t equate to us not being “all in” in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What about you? What does being “all in” mean in your life?

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