As the Savior finished His Sermon on the Mount, He extended a “generous invitation” to His disciples: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).
Speaking to BYU–Hawaii students gathered in the Cannon Activities Center on the Laie, Hawaii, campus on Sunday, Jan. 29, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of the “compassionate pattern” set by the Savior in these verses that allows individuals to access information directly from heaven.
“Asking, seeking and knocking, so to speak, is one of the marvelous gifts the Lord offered us when we were sent to earth.”
Asking requires one to ask God with a sincere heart and real intent with faith in Jesus Christ (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8), Elder Soares explained. “Real intent means that one intends to follow the divine direction given. As far as seeking, it requires that one study the matter diligently,” while knocking is an act of faith produced by a desire of a believer in God.
“When we actively follow this pattern, the Lord opens the way before us, even if it is different from our own desires,” Elder Soares said.
In the spirit of this “compassionate pattern of asking, seeking and knocking set by the Savior,” students were invited months ago to submit a question to an Apostle. Elder Soares said he was “positively surprised” to receive hundreds of good, heartfelt questions.
“Reviewing them was indeed a real blessing because your questions gave me a better perspective of the issues you face daily.”
With the help of his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, Elder Soares spent the remainder of the meeting addressing some of the concerns conveyed in the students’ questions, which covered topics such as overcoming weakness and temptation, feeling God’s love even when unworthy, forgiving others, and increasing faith in Jesus Christ amid uncertainties, disappointments and doubt.
Standing for truth with compassion
The first topic addressed by Elder Soares involved how to help those who are struggling with their faith while also standing for truth.
“Your questions about this topic show me your sincere concern for being good disciples of Jesus Christ and influencing others for good,” Elder Soares commented.
During His earthly ministry, the Savior treated others with compassion. When Peter, for example, left the safety of the boat to go to the Savior but became afraid and began to sink, Jesus immediately and compassionately stretched forth His hand and caught Peter even though Peter was doubting.
“Like the Savior, we can immediately show that compassion and stretch forth our best efforts to help those who are sinking in their spiritual struggles,” Elder Soares said. “Reassure them of your love and respect and show them that struggling can help us to draw nearer to the Savior, as happened with Peter. Help them understand that their concerns can be resolved by trusting in the Lord and His steady and compassionate hand.”
Elder Soares cautioned listeners not to dismiss any sincere problem or question as unimportant, trivial, unhealthy or sinful. However, disciples of Christ should also not be afraid to live what they know is true.
“The apostle Paul taught us that we can be examples of the believers ‘in word, conversation, charity, spirit, faith, and purity’ (1 Timothy 4:12). As we do so, we will allow our light to shine before men, ‘that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven,’ (Matthew 5:16) as Jesus Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount,” he said.
Dealing with weakness and temptation
Sister Soares discussed the difference between sin and weakness. Sin, she explained, is to knowingly break God’s laws. “Sins have their roots in bad thoughts. When evil thoughts arise — stop. Think. Control your mind. Visualize a large exit sign in your mind’s eye. … If we learn how to control our thoughts we can avoid committing sins,” Sister Soares said.
Weakness, on the other hand, is the limitation of wisdom, power and holiness that comes as a result of being human, Sister Soares said, while temptations are a test of an individual’s desire to choose good over evil.
Faith in Jesus Christ will help individuals resist temptation but they must also repent and keep the commandments so that they can have the companionship and guidance of the Holy Ghost.
“There are places we can never go. There are websites we can never visit. There are thoughts we can never entertain. There are impure practices we can never be part of. Those things are not worthy of who we are,” Sister Soares said.
Every day “we have an individual battle to win.” Praying and reading the word of God every day act as “weapons against the adversary.”
The Atonement of Jesus Christ can cleanse sin and help individuals overcome weakness. “We don’t need to fight alone,” Sister Soares said and shared Doctrine and Covenants 62:1, ”Behold, and hearken, saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.”
Repentance and God’s love
Elder Soares assured listeners that God loves all of His children, even those deep in sin. “We are forgiven when we have humbled ourselves before God, counseled with appropriate Church leaders as needed, and repented and forsaken our sins. Taking these steps brings us closer to the Savior, who can ultimately free us from guilt, sorrow and spiritual and physical bondage.”
To those who wonder why they still feel guilt even after they have repented, Elder Soares encouraged them to talk to their Heavenly Father about it.
Elder Soares said he has memories of some of his past mistakes. As he has prayed about them, the Lord has reassured him that He has been forgiven but the memories act as a warning to not fall into those mistakes again. “I see them in my life as a demonstration of God’s love for me as He consistently warns me to avoid taking that route again.”
Elder Soares assured the students that as they continually strive to do their best, manifesting through their works the desire to cleanse the inner vessel, feelings of guilt and discouragement tend to go away. “In time, our experience can be like that of Alma, who testified that after repenting he could still remember his sins, but the memory of his sins no longer distressed and tortured him, because he knew he had been forgiven,” said Elder Soares.
Even though it can be difficult, forgiving others brings great spiritual blessings, Elder Soares said. “Perhaps the most important of these blessings is that as we forgive others, we can also be forgiven of our own sins.”
The courage to forgive comes to those who put their faith and trust in the Lord. “With His help, we can find the strength to forgive others, whether the wrongdoer has committed a serious sin or an unintended offense.”
It is important to remember, Elder Soares noted, that offering forgiveness does not mean pretending the offense never happened, allowing hurtful behavior to continue or that the offender will not be held accountable. “It means the Savior can help you let go.”
He then shared four suggestions to help in the process.
First, pray for humility. “According to our humility and faith, the Lord will help us become more like Him and truly forgive as He did.”
Second, express gratitude. “Expressing gratitude invites the Spirit more fully into our lives, which can soften and change our hearts.”
Third, be patient. “Forgiving when you’re in great pain may take time,” he said.
Fourth, leave the past behind. “Focus your energy on today,” Elder Soares advised. “For today, you have the power to choose to forgive.”
The Savior said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
The Lord can make burdens light, Elder Soares testified. “Truly, as we open our hearts to forgive others, we will be blessed with peace. I invite you to embrace the healing power of forgiveness.”
Increasing faith in Jesus Christ
The last topic discussed by Elder Soares was increasing faith in Jesus Christ amongst uncertainties, disappointments, discouragement or even apathy about the gospel.
“Developing faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we seek it, choose to believe, and hold onto it. It is the greatest power available to God’s children in this life,” Elder Soares declared.
“It is the source of living with divine purpose and eternal perspective. It is a practical principle that inspires diligence. It is a vital, living force manifested in our positive attitude and desire to do willingly everything God and Jesus Christ ask of us. When we truly have faith in Jesus Christ, we kneel down to implore our Heavenly Father for guidance and then arise and act with confidence to achieve things consistent with His will.”
Choosing to believe and develop faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of the disappointments and uncertainties of life, increases access to godly power, Elder Soares said.
Please remember that all things are possible to those who believe, he added.
Elder Soares explained that from the beginning of Christ’s ministry, He invited His followers to come unto Him, to come and see, to come and follow Him, and to go and do likewise.
These invitations were extended so His followers could discover for themselves the truths, power and love that the Savior offered. He extended these invitations because that is what learning really is, Elder Soares said. “It’s not just about listening or reading; it’s about changing, repenting, and progressing, which requires faith in Christ and diligent effort.”
Elder Soares promised the students that as they focus their lives on the Savior, they will find answers to their souls’ deep concerns. “I assure you that our confidence and faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ, will strengthen us to continue moving forward despite our challenges, weaknesses and sufferings.”