The Old Testament prophet Joshua is known for his great military accomplishments. He was one of 12 spies sent to survey the land of promise and when some reported fear of the giants they saw, he replied, “the Lord is with us: fear them not.” He led a seven-day siege of the wicked and idolatrous city Jericho, and on the seventh day, the Lord caused the walls to fall.
Known as “a man in whom is the spirit” (Numbers 27:18), Joshua lived in Egypt during the time when Israelites were in bondage, was one of those who saw the Lord on Mount Sinai and was a firsthand witness of God’s miracles such as parting the Red Sea.
“We see Joshua as the great military leader, but his cause was more than capturing the countryside,” Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said. “He was motivated by his love for God.”
Speaking Sunday night, Feb. 13, in the BYU–Idaho Center in Rexburg, Idaho, to the largest group of people he’d stood before since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Elder Rasband centered his CES devotional remarks on Joshua’s final counsel to the Israelites: “Take diligent heed … to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Joshua 22:5).
It was a fitting topic for the love-centered holiday celebrated the next day: Valentine’s Day.
Before the devotional, Elder Rasband and BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring gifted their wives — Sister Melanie Rasband and Sister Kelly Eyring — beautiful bouquets of flowers as early Valentine’s Day gifts.
“If you do nothing else in your life, marry well, as we did, and you will be blessed all your life,” Elder Rasband told the students. “I can testify that I certainly have been.”
The first and great commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37). It’s a commandment that has been repeated in this last dispensation to Joseph Smith (Doctrine and Covenants 59:5) and was underscored by Elder Rasband as an Apostle of Jesus Christ.
“You, too, can make the commitment now to love the Lord, thy God,” he said.
Joshua’s final counsel provides four ways each person can express love for God.
1. ‘Walk in all his ways’
People can walk in all His ways when they exercise humility, trust, faith, patience and courage like the Israelites who wandered for 40 years; care about things He cares about; and stay on the covenant path, Elder Rasband said.
When the Israelites were about to settle in the land promised to Abraham at the end of 40 years in the wilderness, they came to the river Jordan. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant, a representation of God, stepped into the water with faith. The river parted and the Israelites crossed on dry ground.
Each person will have to exercise faith and trust in the Lord as they face daunting obstacles and challenges, he said. “Remember, your love of God can call down miracles to bless you.”
Caring about what He cares about includes reaching out to those in need, valuing the words of God found in the scriptures, and acting on the counsel of apostles and prophets without murmuring.
Stay on the covenant path without taking short cuts or side streets, Elder Rasband counseled. “Placing covenants at the center of your lives will help you turn away from distraction, deceptions and even desensitization tugging at you, pulling you from God’s path and His loving arms.”
2. ‘Keep his commandments’
When the walls of Jericho fell, Joshua told his people to put all the precious items into the treasury of the house of the Lord. The soldiers were not to loot or take anything for their personal gain. However, a man named Achan took a beautiful Babylonian robe, 200 shekels of silver, and gold and buried them in his tent.
When the Israelites moved on to the city of Ai, an easy mark for their next conquest, their assault failed. Once they rooted out the disobedience, “the Lord was with them, and their next overture to overpower Ai was successful,” Elder Rasband said.
He quoted President Russell M. Nelson, who said in his 2019 BYU devotional address, “God’s laws are motivated entirely by His infinite love for us and His desire for us to become all we can become.”
3. ‘Cleave unto him’
One of the meanings of the word “cleave” means to stay very close to something. “So when you cleave unto God, you stay close to Him, you hear Him, and you hear revelation just for you,” Elder Rasband said. “Hearkening to His words, you are prepared to face whatever comes.”
Elder Rasband said that he hears the Lord most strongly when he reads the scriptures and draws close to the Lord and His promises. He even keeps a section titled “My Scripture Revelations” in his Gospel Library App.
Brothers and sisters, as we look to Jesus Christ, what’s not to love?
When his grandson Paxton was born with a rare genetic disorder, Elder Rasband and his family “knew Heavenly Father was blessing our family, my daughter and son-in-law in particular, with a divine opportunity. As his father and I put our fingers on his tiny head in the first of many priesthood blessings, the words came into my mind from the ninth chapter of John: ‘that the works of God should be made manifest in him’” (John 9:3).
Paxton lived only three years, spending a third of his life in the hospital undergoing 34 surgeries. And yet he embraced life and was full of light. The Rasband family learned from him “greater patience, humility, gratitude and resilience. We learned to trust the Lord and His ways,” Elder Rasband said.
“From Paxton we learned to cleave unto the Lord and accept His will.”
4. ‘Serve him with all your heart and with all your soul’
In the book of Matthew is found the account of a rich, young ruler who asked Jesus what else he should do to inherit eternal life after keeping all the commandments since his youth. Jesus told him to sell all his possessions, give to the poor and follow Him. The young ruler turned away because he had many possessions and didn’t want to give them up.
“He had an opportunity to serve Jesus Christ, to stand by Him, to learn from Him, to feel His strength and spirit, and he turned away,” Elder Rasband said.
He then asked the audience of BYU–Idaho students and faculty if they, like the young ruler, would go away, or if they would stand firm, stalwart and brave.
“When you encounter tough issues or when you have questions, do you seek your answers from the Lord and His servants? Or do you go to the internet? When criticism increases about the Church, its past and its doctrines at odds with today’s norms, where do you stand? Will you be of service to the Lord or will you waver? … If possessions and questions are not enough of a distraction, how about turmoil, trauma and the tensions in today’s world? How do you serve when all around you is in seeming commotion?”
The answer is to serve others. Accept callings and fulfill them with devotion to God. Consecrate one’s time, becoming less possessed by worldly pursuits by giving them up. Ponder sacred things in one’s heart, the things of the soul, and hold fast to them.
Elder Rasband said: “I am convinced, as I look back on my life, that service particularly to my family and to the Church has been one of the greatest blessings in shaping me. Without the gratitude, humility and perspective that service has provided to my very soul, the tug of the world and its treasures could have drawn me off. But in serving others, I was renewed by the great truth expressed by Joshua when he said, ‘Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’” (Joshua 24:15).
Loving God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength is life’s curriculum in becoming a true disciple, he said. “When your love of God consumes your service, interests, priorities and affections, you are blessed and joy attends those blessings.”
Elder Rasband left an apostolic blessing that the audience’s hearts would swell with love for the Savior and fill them with a desire to be true disciples. “I bless you that you will choose to walk in His ways, to follow His commandments, to cleave unto Him and to serve Him,” he said.
“I bless you to be forever grateful for the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and may you realize His great love for you. Brothers and sisters, as we look to Jesus Christ, what’s not to love?”
In her remarks, Sister Rasband shared a story from one of the missionaries who served in the New York New York North Mission while Elder Rasband presided over it.
Elder Powell had always wanted to get his shoes shined at one of the many shoe shining stations he’d spotted in subways and on street corners. Toward the end of his mission, while in the Bronx, he heard someone calling, “Shoeshine, shoeshine. Anyone want your shoes shined?”
Not having gotten his shoes shined yet, Elder Powell asked the man how much it would cost. “As much as you’re willing to pay,” was the reply.
To Elder Powell’s surprise, the man did not have a chair for him to sit. Instead, the shoe shiner knelt at his feet, took out a baby food jar with the polish and applied the black liquid with his fingers. He buffed Elder Powell’s shoes with one of the few clean spots on his own shirt and when that wasn’t enough, finished the job with his forearms, the polish leaving stains on his skin.
“As Elder Powell watched this selfless work being carried out, he thought of another who had descended below us all and took upon Him the stains of mankind that we in turn could walk away clean and unspotted from the stains of mortality and sin,” Sister Rasband said. “With such a scene before us, would we not turn to think of our risen Lord, once mocked and beaten, even bleeding from every pore in giving the ultimate and complete sacrifice to pay justice’s price for sin and eternal life?”
His shoe shine complete and his heart changed, Elder Powell reached into his pocket and gave the shoe shiner all the money that he had. “And then he reached into his companion’s pockets for all that he had,” Sister Rasband added.
“The Lord calls to us, ‘Soul shine, soul shine. Anyone want your soul shined?’ In our limited mortal selfishness, we quickly, all too quickly, ask without full knowledge of what we’re asking, ‘How much does it cost?’ Our Savior, meekly answers. ‘As much as you are willing to pay. For I have ransomed the rest.’”
The Savior performed His divine Atonement with an infinite and heavenly eternal quality of love, Sister Rasband said.
“At this time of year filled with hearts of paper, candy and chocolate, may we add our gift: a heart of commitment to the Lord to come unto Him, to follow Him, to be like Him, to serve as He served, to love Him and love others as He loved.”