One of the ways in which we can stay on the covenant path is by getting to know the Savior and living our lives in a manner similar to His. In “Drawing Closer to the Savior“, Elder Neil L. Andersen gives us ways to do this.
Nearer My God to Thee
In the hymn “Nearer My God to Thee“, we sing the following:
There let the way appear,
Steps unto heaven;
All that thou sendest me,
In mercy given;
Angels to beckon me
Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!Hymns #100
We know that Christ is the way and that He has provided the steps needed to reach heaven. He has sent us His gospel and has given us the gift of the Holy Ghost. All this He has done because He is filled with mercy towards us. I also believe that those that have gone on before us are pleading that we take those steps leading back to God.
Eyes that See and Ears that Hear
Knowing that we have been given the way back to Heavenly Father, it is imperative that we open our eyes and ears in order to follow the path laid out for us. Elder Andersen states “In the [April 2022] general conference, I listened very closely to the words of President Henry B. Eyring: ‘Each of us,’ he said, ‘wherever we are, knows that we live in increasingly perilous times. … Anyone with eyes to see the signs of the times and ears to hear the words of prophets knows that is true. The Savior commended His valiant disciples: ‘Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.’ May this blessing be ours as we listen closely to the words of the Lord through His prophets and others in this conference.”
How does having “eyes that see and ears that hear” draw us closer to the Lord? I believe that we do this by coming to know Jesus Christ. In order to know Him, however, we must do more than read His words. We must understand what they mean. Here is where the living prophets are vital in our lives. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)
The prophets are given God’s secrets. They are the ones who can properly expound on the words in the scriptures. It is through them that we receive knowledge of the gospel plan for Heavenly Father’s children.
There is one other piece to this. We are told by God to also get a confirmation of what the prophets say by asking Him in prayer. It’s not as simple though as getting on our knees and asking “Father, is what the prophet said correct?” I believe we must also follow the counsel given to Oliver Cowdery in Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-8:
7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-8
God wants us to use our eyes and ears to study His words and then come to Him to find out their veracity. For the honest seeker, He will give the answer as to whether or not truth has been taught.
Not a One-Time Event
Getting to know Jesus Christ is not a one-time event. For instance, in 2023, Come Follow Me will focus on the New Testament. This is a perfect time to get to know Christ through studying His mortal ministry and the ministry of the apostles after Jesus’ death and resurrection. However, we should not think that we will fully know Christ after this year of study.
It is similar to marriage. When Cheryl and I were dating we began to know each other. We discussed our likes, and what we had in common, became friends, and eventually fell in love. But did we completely know each other? No! We found that out as we started our lives together, and even today, after 27 years of marriage, we still don’t know each other completely. It is wonderful to find out new things about each other and to learn how to incorporate those things into our marriage. My love for Cheryl continues to grow as I come to know her better.
The same goes for coming to know Jesus Christ. We cannot possibly completely know Him in this life. His majesty, mission, mercy, love, and friendship are infinite. This means that we must, just as in a marriage, continue to explore and find new things we don’t know about Him. Our life experiences help us to get to know Him. Studying His words lets us understand Him better. Following His example helps us feel love and mercy as He feels it. This is a lifetime journey of discovery that we should all feel excited about.
Rooted, Grounded, and Settled
Elder Andersen states “The Apostle Paul counseled us to be rooted, grounded, and settled in our love for the Savior and our determination to follow Him. Today and the days ahead require more focused and concentrated effort, guarding against diversions and carelessness.” What ways help us to achieve this rooting, grounding, and settling?
Above I discussed getting to know the Savior, and that is one of the ways to root ourselves in love for Him. Sister Browning in her address “Seeing More of Jesus Christ in Our Lives” gives us another way. She states “the Savior invites us to see our lives through Him in order to see more of Him in our lives.” Being able to see our lives through Jesus Christ means that we are fixing our direction on Him, this in turn allows us to see His influence more fully in our lives. When we see “more of Him in our lives” we can draw closer to Him in ways that studying the scriptures cannot.
The last way I want to address rooting, grounding, and settling ourselves is by strengthening our testimony. Just as coming to know Jesus is not a one-time event, neither is gaining a testimony. After our initial conversion to the gospel, we must find ways to strengthen the testimony received. There are diversions in the world and sometimes we are careless. In order to guard against this, our testimony must continually grow stronger. We must build our foundation on the rock of Jesus Christ (Helaman 5:12). Notice it says “build”, this means continuous construction.
My father built the home where I was raised in 1970/71. It is now over 50 years old and time has worn down some of it. Over the years dad has maintained the house and updates have been made. It still stands strong and part of that is because of the solid foundation on which he built it. Even so, that foundation has needed repairs from time to time. Without the maintenance and update, the house would not be as strong as it is.
So it is with our testimonies, we must continually maintain and update our house. There may even be times when we need to seal cracks in its foundation when diversions and our carelessness allow doubts and fears to creep in. Maintaining and strengthening our testimony will bring us nearer to Christ.
How Can I Know Him Better?
The question now becomes, “How can I know Him better?” Elder Andersen gives us four ways:
- Immerse Ourselves in the Life of Jesus Christ
- Make Covenants with the Lord
- Safeguard the Gift of the Holy Ghost
- Choose to Be Different from the World
Immerse Ourselves in the Life of Jesus Christ
The first way to know Christ better is by immersing ourselves in His life. As mentioned, next year’s Come Follow Me is in the New Testament. This is a great time to immerse ourselves in the mortal ministry of Jesus Christ. I have already gotten some tools to help me with this. They are:
- Journal Edition of the New Testament – This version of the New Testament has wide margins that allow for note-taking right next to the scriptures.
- Don’t Miss This – New Testament 2023 Journal – This is a daily guide to help with studying the New Testament including prompts for writing.
- Don’t Miss This – Tip-Ins for the New Testament – These “tip-ins” are pieces of paper that can be put right in the scriptures to help remember what the specific topic of discussion is in that section.
Another way that I will be immersing myself in the life of Christ is by studying the words of our prophets, seers, revelators, and leaders. Conference talks and other devotionals are a great way to hear the words of Christ and to understand what He wants us to do.
Make Covenants with the Lord
The second way is to make covenants with the Lord. For me, I have been through the temple and have made the covenants of baptism, endowment, and sealing. But just as I discussed with our testimonies, we must maintain and strengthen our covenants. Elder Andersen tells us that “we confirm these promises and others as we repent daily, ask forgiveness, and eagerly anticipate receiving the sacrament each week.”
Making covenants with the Lord is not a guarantee that we will follow the covenant path back to God. We must keep our covenants and maintain them. Quoting Elder Andersen, “As we enter the temple, we are freed for a time from the worldly influences crowding against us as we learn our purpose in life and the eternal gifts offered us through our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Freedom from the distractions of the world, even for a short time, allows us to focus on the Savior and come to know Him better. I know that when I’m attentive to the ordinances and ceremonies in the temple, I gain a better understanding of the gospel as well as a better understanding of Christ’s central role. This understanding in turn draws me nearer to Him and allows me to know Him better.
Safeguard the Gift of the Holy Ghost
“In this sacred quest, we treasure, protect, defend, and safeguard the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Elder Andersen states this and then follows it up with the message of our prophet President Nelson. “It will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”
To safeguard is a “a measure taken to protect someone or something or to prevent something undesirable.” In order to “safeguard the gift of the Holy Ghost” means to take measures that would prevent us from losing His influence. We have to look at our lives and ensure we aren’t doing things that detract from or repel the Holy Ghost. The previous two sections are excellent ways of ensuring we don’t lose the Holy Ghost. We can also take these measures:
- Study Come Follow Me – Learning the lessons from our study of Come Follow Me will help invite the Holy Ghost in
- Magnifying our callings – When we magnify our calling we are serving others and in serving others we naturally include the Holy Ghost
- Follow promptings when received – By following promptings given to us by the Holy Ghost, we demonstrate our use of this gift and show that we are willing to heed the inspiration and revelation Heavenly Father wishes us to have
Choose to Be Different from the World
Elder Andersen received hundreds of responses on social media when he asked people “to share choices they had made that required them to be different from the world.” As I pondered this question, two examples came to mind.
When I was a missionary, I had a certain zeal for the gospel. If you’ve read my blog before you know that only my mom, siblings and one cousin joined the church. I, therefore, had the opportunity to share my missionary zeal with other members of my family through letters. I once sent a letter to my maternal grandfather, Sam Gilmore. In it I relayed some of what I was doing and asked certain questions of him desiring to know what he thought. One of the topics was eternal marriage and being sealed to his wife Dorothy who had passed away several years before. Grandpa Sam taught me an important lesson about being different from the world. In his response he warned me against being “over zealous” in my missionary efforts. He didn’t say it outright, but he was warning me that there are ways to bring up gospel topics that would mirror the Savior’s love and ways which would seem judgemental. I understood immediately that my letter was written in the latter. I sent him a response thanking him for teaching me this important lesson. From then on I have shared the gospel in a loving way and not in a judgemental one. This has served me well throughout my career as people have seen me not drinking coffee or alcohol. When they ask, I can state the reasons why and some of them have been curious to know why I believe what I believe. It is then that I can share the gospel as Christ would and show them the love they deserve.
The second was a few years after my mission. I was working for IBM in their K-12 education division when an opportunity to go to South Africa emerged to help some schools their with their systems. I went for a week, but one experience stands out. We had finished our first day of work and went to dinner and a bar afterwards. I have always been willing to go out with coworkers after work and so this was not an uncommon experience. None of these coworkers had worked with me before and really knew nothing of me. As we sat around the table, they each ordered drinks. When the server got to me, I ordered a coke. Everyone looked at me as if I had sprouted a second head. It never occurred to them that I didn’t drink. After a minute or two, the server explained that they only had 6 ounce cans of diet coke. I ordered two of them and we went on with our conversations. I was able to explain that I didn’t drink alcohol as part of my religion and my coworkers accepted that explanation. They didn’t ask me anything else, but they respected my decisions.
In order to be nearer to Christ, we must come to know Him. We must be rooted, grounded, and settled in His love and determined to follow Him. We can know Him better by immersing ourselves in His life, making and keeping covenants, taking measures that safeguard the gift of the Holy Ghost, and choosing to be different than the world. All of this will allow us to be fortified against the distractions and “fiery darts” of Satan. It will lead us to a happier life. We can confidently walk the covenant path and follow the steps to heaven that lead us to a life with God and Christ.
If you are teaching on this topic, here are some tips you might consider:
- Discuss how we come to know someone? Do we really know everything there is to know about someone? How can we continue to get to know someone?
- Ask how members of the class draw closer to Christ. What are ways in which they come to know Him?
- Discuss what it means to safeguard something. Ask how members of the class can safeguard the gift of the Holy Ghost.
- Ask members of the class to share experiences they have had where they chose to be different from the world.