NEW YORK CITY
Christ is the key to living an abundant life, Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy said on Sept. 13 during the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults.
The live event, originating from the Lincoln Square Chapel in New York City, was translated and broadcast to young adults throughout the world. Elder Clayton and his wife, Sister Kathy Kipp Clayton, spoke and the New York New York Young Adult Choir performed special musical numbers at the event.
Titling his remarks, “Like a watered garden,” Elder Clayton focused on important things people must do to deepen their faith in Jesus Christ.
Drawing from the Savior’s life, Elder Clayton discussed the words of Pontius Pilate, who, after ordering that Jesus be scourged, said to the people, “Behold the man!”
“Although Jesus’ physical appearance at that moment was marred, there never had been until then, and has not been since, any man or woman who more richly deserved to be ‘beheld,’ ” Elder Clayton said. “His life was perfect. He was without peer. No one had ever lived as He did. No one ever would.”
As a perfect example of how to think and act, the Savior — with His perfect understanding — is the “embodiment of the abundant life,” the Church leader said.
“With those three words, ‘Behold the man,’ Pilate unknowingly and unintentionally expressed the simple formula for achieving the highest purposes of life,” Elder Clayton said. “When he asked the Jews to behold Him, Pilate pointed them and us toward the One, the only one, who can make our lives abundant and our ‘salvation perfect.’ ”
Elder Clayton shared two examples of what people can do to “behold Him.”
First, he shared the example of scrub oak trees that grow by his home. The trees — although not tall or big like other oak trees that grow in other parts of the world — are hardy and beautiful.
Elder Clayton spoke of when some of the seedlings of the scrub oak trees had started to grow in one of the large flowerpots near the front of his home.
“When I pulled, the tender seedlings quickly came up out of the loose soil,” he said. “To my surprise, the seedlings already had roots that were much longer than the seedlings themselves were. The roots were three or four times longer than the visible part of the seedlings above the surface. Nature had designed the scrub oak seeds to expend almost all of their energy putting down roots.”
The deep roots help the seedlings thrive — in hot summers and cold, windy winters — allowing more exposed roots to draw moisture and nutrients from the soil. They also help anchor the trees in the wind.
“We can take a lesson from the scrub oak,” the Church leader said. “We should enjoy the beautiful spring and fall but always remember that harsher weather will soon arrive. Hot summer days inevitably follow the spring, and chilly winter days trail the fall. That is the pattern of nature. It is also the pattern of our lives. While we enjoy seasons of ease, comfort and happiness, we should be prepared for the trials of life that lie ahead.”
Although a person can’t fully predict the future or foretell what will happen, they can choose — and deliberately develop — the spiritual root structure for their lives.
“We decide where to set our roots down and how deeply to sink them into the soil,” he said. “Daily decisions make tiny, almost imperceptible differences in the roots of our faith, the effect of which becomes foundational. Because we don’t know when or how our own challenges will come, or how long our personal seasons of winter or summer will last, we should set down our roots as deeply as we can, into the only true source of nourishment for our souls, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Through study and prayer, proper Sabbath day observance, keeping the commandments, heeding the counsel of living prophets and apostles, serving others and emulating Him, individuals are able to build strength to help them weather the storms they will face in life.
Even opposition strengthens roots, Elder Clayton taught.
“If we don’t experience some personal storms and some drought our roots never have the chance to become strong,” he said. “They don’t mature if everything is easy. Ironically, smooth sailing is its own test, and a difficult one. The absence of problems can soften us if we aren’t careful.”
But that doesn’t mean people should run around looking for trials and troubles, he said.
“Life has a way of bringing distress to all of us even when we are doing our best,” he said. “Unless we make terrible choices, which always results in tragedy, we usually don’t choose when or how the problems of life will knock on our doors. But we surely do decide each day how we will prepare for them.”
There is no better pattern of life anywhere, no surer way to find peace and the pathway forward, than by following the Lord Jesus Christ, Elder Clayton said.
“Our souls should be so deeply rooted in Christ that we will be able to endure any challenge, triumph over any affliction, withstand any attack on our faith, and become like oak trees — firm, immovable and steadfast, regardless of the heat of the day or the strength of the storm. That kind of rootedness transcends time and outlasts every enemy, even the most subtle invisible and insidious ones.”
The second example Elder Clayton shared was the story behind Butchart Gardens located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.
Robert and Jennie Butchart moved to the area in 1904 to quarry limestone. They built a beautiful home on the land and ran a limestone quarry. Over time, the limestone deposits became exhausted, and the quarry was no longer in use.
“What remained was a large, unsightly hole in the ground filled with broken, jagged pieces of rock,” Elder Clayton said. “Seeing what was happening, Jennie Butchart decided to turn that rocky hole in the ground into a garden.”
She had topsoil brought to the quarry and began to plant flowers in the area. Over time, they were able to create a garden incorporating flowers from around the world. The now-famous “Sunken Garden” covers more than 50 acres and is a National Historic Site of Canada.
“They are a delightful product of years of patient and thoughtful work,” said Elder Clayton. “Likewise, they are a testimony to what can be done when someone has the vision to see how beauty can be created from an eyesore. There is a little bit of a limestone quarry inside all of us.”
Whether it is sin, inadequacies or missed opportunities, Elder Clayton said “the abundant life offered by the Savior provides a remedy for all the limestone quarries of our souls.”
“No matter how rough the rock and unattractive the deficits in our souls may be, no matter how unappealing our interiors are, we can be healed and beautified. Astonishingly, we can be healed, we can become something of beauty and value. We are promised that we can become our own personal interior version of Butchart Gardens.”
Elder Clayton asked listeners, “What are you going to plant today to beautify that garden of your soul?” He then invited them to share their answer via social media using the hashtag #ldsdevo.
“The process of growth in the attributes of Christ is the spiritual equivalent of adding trees, shrubs and flowers one at a time to a garden and then nurturing them to maturity,” he said. “The immediate effect of planting any particular virtue in our souls may not be startling. But if we continue to plant and nurture in faith, then gradually, over time, the garden of our soul grows in beauty. Our lives begin to be abundant in every righteous sense.”
Sister Clayton encouraged listeners to recognize their “regal identity."
“Sometimes I fear that we are the ones least able to recognize our own worth and, even when we do, it’s hard to live equal to it,” she said. “And sadly, the distorted view we have of ourselves is more often too small rather than inflated.”
Sister Clayton spoke of things that get in the way — a lack of confidence, imperfect or incomplete knowledge, and carelessness or inattention.
“Behave as the regal children of God that you are,” she said. “That is your birthright. If your behavior doesn’t currently match the level of your regal identity, make changes. With the help of heaven, you can do it. Your divine identity is lasting.”
[email protected] @marianne_holman