The Young Men and Young Women general presidencies have announced that 2 Nephi 31:20 is the Mutual theme for 2016. It is given to help us deepen our faith in Jesus Christ and our trust in His unfailing grace to take us home to the pure joy of Heavenly Father’s presence.
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (emphasis added).
What motivates us? When the Mutual theme for 2016 holds out the promise of eternal life, do we really know what that entails? 1 Corinthians 2:9 tells us, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” These godly, glorious ‘things’ await us if we do our best to press forward, feast on the words of Christ, and remain faithful to the end.
Why do we want eternal life? Have we had a foretaste of the divine glory, light, truth, spirit, love and purpose that is inherent in eternal life, which is God’s life? (See Delbert L. Stapley, “The Path to Eternal Life,” Ensign, October 1973.) On a human scale, we can remember times when we were lovingly brought, by the Holy Ghost, into a safe, reassuring realization of God’s love — perhaps this deep sense of soul-satisfying acceptance was experienced in a family setting, found in the words of a song or scripture or recognized in the temple. As we plumb the depths of this memory we can have a sense of what it would be like to live with God. He wants us, His children, back with Him, knowing that is where lasting happiness and eternal purpose is found.
2 Nephi 31:20 gives us the pattern for receiving that life with our Heavenly Father. The list of earthly actions along the road to God can sound, at first, exhausting! Our earthly experience is daunting, but we are not left to our own devices; we have divine help all along the way as we obey the commandments, make and keep sacred covenants and remain steadfastly faithful to our Savior.
It is impossible for even one of us human beings, each of whom is ‘nothing’ according to Alma (see Alma 26:12), to return to celestial glory and eternal life without our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. We do not have the power to return. We have a work to do. We must exert effort and press forward through the challenges of life, staying true to the gospel of Jesus Christ and His restored Church.
The Savior counsels us “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me” (Matthew 11:28-29). Are we not all heavy laden? Our Heavenly Father would have it this way; the beauty of His plan is that we develop strength, courage and faith in Jesus Christ here on earth through our trials. Thus we learn of Christ, His power and love. He promises to bring us back to Heavenly Father, to our heavenly home, if we have enough trust in Him to remain steadfast to His gospel (see 2 Nephi 31:14-21).
We are destined to work by the sweat of our brow while on this fallen earth and bring forth and guide our children with great labor. Our relief comes from the promise of Jesus Christ that we may yoke ourselves to Him and receive of His strength. The Mutual theme then gives us a key — we will be victorious over this life through Christ. There are many ways of expressing this truth, such as: build upon the Rock of our Salvation, abide in the Vine (see John 15:4,5), turn to God and come unto Christ.
Consider the myriad meanings in the word ‘steadfastness.’ Everyone who ‘always remembers’ (see Moroni 4:3, 5:2) Him steadfastly is blessed. The Mutual theme says that we must be steadfast. We are expected to be consistently truehearted in our baptismal and temple covenants. As we do so, we feel His love and goodness in our life and we grow in allegiance to Him and His teachings; we become steadfast in the gospel and rejoice in the power and forgiveness in His Atonement. Recognizing the priesthood power given to His church, we can “press forward with ... a perfect brightness of hope” — knowing that with Him we can do our earthly work and with Him we can stay the course, and with His grace we can someday run into the arms of our loving, Eternal Father — home again.