For those who struggle to find and feel peace in life or are frustrated with a lack of contentment and struggle instead with feelings of failure, the Doctrine and Covenants provides perspective on how to determine what is true success or failure, said C. Max Caldwell Oct. 25 at the two-day Sidney B. Sperry Symposium.
"Scriptural declarations justify the conclusion that true success or failure is equated with either an acceptance or a condemnation of the Lord, he said.
Elder Caldwell, who served as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy from 1992 to 1997, opened the 37th annual Sperry symposium, with this year's theme being "The Doctrine and Covenants: Revelations in Context."
He gave his keynote address, titled "Acceptance of the Lord," in BYU's Joseph Smith Building auditorium. Sixteen other lectures and deliveries of papers were scheduled to be given later that night and Saturday morning. (In later issues, the Church News will publish excerpts from some of those addresses.)
He divided his talk into three concepts using sections of the Doctrine and Covenants to define true success and failure, understanding how to obtain acceptance of the Lord, and an example of acceptance from the life of Joseph Smith.
He listed a number of Doctrine and Covenants sections as keys for true success:
• Section 23 acceptance or condemnation.
• Sections 39 and 40 receiving Christ.
• Section 41 true discipleship.
• Section 38 unity and oneness.
• Section 46 pursuing the gifts of the Spirit.
• Section 52 becoming a Zion people.
• Section 57 patterns of actions and attributes acceptable to the Lord, including one who prays, one whose spirit is contrite, one who obeys the Lord's ordinances, one whose language is meek and edifying and one whose works and teachings reflect truths given by the Lord.
• Section 97 a willingness to sacrifice.
Acceptance by the Lord provides a greater measure of success, including the presence of peace, as one considers the criteria He uses for His judgment and acceptance, Brother Caldwell said.
In striving to obtain acceptance of the Lord, individuals make their best efforts to achieve a level of perfect performance, efforts he called "persistence towards perfect performance," preferring the word "continue" rather than "enduring to the end."
"We are taught to sincerely strive to attain unto His characteristics of character and make genuine efforts to follow His example of behavior in all situations," he said. "If our hearts are right and we are willing to do His will, we can and will be acceptable servants unto the Most High."
He cited examples even a pattern in the Doctrine and Covenants as Joseph Smith sought and obtained the acceptance of the Savior. He offered a half-dozen scriptural passages showing Joseph Smith's conditional or probationary status as he was proving himself worthy of a continuing acceptance.
Phrases included "if he shall be diligent" and "if he abide in me," conditional blessings awaiting the Prophet.
However, after several years of proving himself, Joseph Smith was given a certain knowledge of his ultimate state of acceptance, he said, adding that individuals can follow the same path in learning that "true success in mortal life is the obtaining of our God's approval and to be accepted of Him."
He added: "Eternal life, or exaltation, is the ultimate level of the Lord's acceptance. He provides no greater gift; it is bestowed upon all those who are accepted of Him, who then continue to maintain that status."
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