Take up our cross

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Matt. 16:24.)

"And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments." (JST Matt. 16:26)Before making the long walk from Pilate's court to Golgotha, where He would be crucified, the Savior was stripped of His clothes, made to wear a scarlet robe and a crown of thorns.

He was then dressed again in His own clothes and made, quite literally, according the gospel of John, to bear His own cross as He passed throngs of lamenting people. As the Savior suffered emotional humiliation and physical fatigue far greater than a mortal could bear, a Cyrenian named Simon bore the cross for Him.

Any of the onlookers remotely familiar with Jesus' teachings should have immediately recognized great symbolism in what Simon had just done. He had taken the Savior's cross and followed after Him.

Whether compelled or of his own volition, Simon offered to the falsely accused Lord a brief, albeit partial, respite from the burdens inflicted upon him.

The Lord was, no doubt, deeply thankful to Simon for what he did.

How much more, however, does the Lord desire that we, those who have no opportunity to literally bear His cross, take up our cross, follow Him and help bring salvation to His children?

For Simon, bearing the cross was difficult. But knowing how to to bear the cross was relatively easy. He simply picked up the wooden structure and carried it.

For us, however, knowing how to bear the cross can be a little more challenging.

Certainly we are taking up our cross as we deny all ungodliness and earnestly strive to follow the Lord's teachings.

In fact, Moroni taught that denying ungodliness was a major step in becoming sanctified. (Moroni 10:32-33.)

Since this life is given to prepare to live with God, we, of course, should do all we can to become like God.

But oftimes, our biggest challenges come in determining what specific things we should do to deny ungodliness.

If, however, we live worthy of the Holy Spirit's constant companionship we are certainly entitled to that guidance. As an exercise in inviting the Holy Spirit to provide some guidance, one might consider this question: "Which of the Savior's admonitions do you find most challenging?"

The answer, quite possibly, is the cross that you most need to bear - and often it requires refining and honing current practices, rather than huge lifestyle changes.

Since the Spirit can more easily help if we ask, here are some ideas that might help with that refinement:

Are the books, literature and entertainment that come into our homes representative of our morals, values and ideals? (See D&C 88:118.)

Are you risking eternal life because you just don't get around to searching the scriptures? (See John 5:39.)

Faced with the press of employment, community and other temporal responsibilities, do you "pray always"? Did you enter your "closet" today and pour out your soul to the Lord in secret? (See Matt. 6:6.)

Do you honor and revere your spouse as your most trusted, and eternal, companion? Are you doing all you can to strengthen that relationship? (See Eph. 5:22-25.)

Have you devoted the time, faith, prayer and all else necessary to help a less-active family enjoy the fruits of gospel living? (See John 21:15-17.)

Each of us has many crosses to bear, or, rather, things we need to learn and do. Some crosses are heavy; some are not so heavy. All require our best efforts.

As the Book of Mormon Prophet Jacob so insightfully explained, bearing those crosses brings a marvelous eternal blessing.

"But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever." (2 Nephi 9:18.)

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