President Russell M. Nelson has invited all to come and experience for themselves the blessings found along the covenant path in the adventure of discipleship. Recently the prophet wrote a guest opinion piece for the Arizona Republic in which he stated, “It is my conviction that our Savior can strengthen and enable us to reach our highest highs and be able to cope with our lowest lows. As an ordained Apostle of Jesus Christ, I invite you to seek to know for yourself that He is the Master Healer.”
Such a witness from a living prophet should inspire each of us to accelerate our pace on that covenant path in the journey toward true discipleship. During his brief, but memorable time as our Heavenly Father’s prophet, President Howard W. Hunter provided a powerful roadmap for such a journey. In some of his very first comments to the world after being set apart as Prophet, Seer and Revelator, President Hunter urged members, we should live our lives "with ever more attention to the life and example of the Lord Jesus Christ."
He continued with a compelling challenge, “We must know Him better than we know Him; we must remember Him more often than we remember Him.”
And I would add that we must serve Him more valiantly than we serve Him so that those around us and those we love can come unto Him.
We must Know Him better than we Know Him
Many years ago I delivered a lecture on leadership to a group of some 2,000 business people in a large hall in San Diego, California. After a long day of speaking the session ended and I stood at the front of the auditorium shaking hands and answering questions from some of the participants. I settled into a routine as one participant would come up, shake my hand and ask their question. Then I would try to offer a quick answer and they would move on so the next person could come up.
As this continued I noticed an older gentlemen among the crowd. He waited patiently, then as it would near his turn he would step back and let others go ahead of him. Finally, all the other participants had left the room and the old man stepped forward for what I was excitedly hoping would be the last handshake and question of the day. I admit that as he extended his hand I tried to anticipate what he would ask. A question about leading his company strategy, how to communicate with his clients, or how to deal with a difficult employee seemed likely.
He gripped tightly and paused for a long moment. Then, looking me squarely in the eye asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” I was completely unprepared for such a question. My mind raced, searching for thoughts, words, ideas. Finally, I stammered, “Yes.” Then gaining confidence, “Yes sir. Yes I do!” The old man squeezed my hand, winked and smiled and softly said, “I thought you did.” With that he turned and walked away.
I sat down on the front of the stage, now all alone in the empty hall, so very thankful for my knowledge of our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. I committed to hasten my journey toward true discipleship while deepening my commitment to “know Him better than I know Him.”
We must remember Him more often than we remember Him
President Nelson wrote in the Arizona Republic, “the most profound thing I’ve witnessed is the unrivaled difference that belief in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, has in a person’s life. There is simply nothing to compare with the refining, ennobling strength and meaning that come into the life of a devoted believer and servant.”
Remembering the Savior brings strength and meaning to every day, especially for the difficult days and trying times.
Early in 1995 I was preparing for an extended 21-day business trip to England. The first 16 days of the trip were scheduled as a semi-death-march with each workday spent delivering 8-hours of leadership training for business executives followed by evening firesides for local youth and weekends filled with sacrament and youth meetings. Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy, a family friend, who was in the Area Presidency at the time, had asked if I would be willing to share my evenings and weekends for some meetings — he wasn’t kidding.
Adding to the degree of difficulty, I would not sleep in the same city two nights in a row. With that as a background, I made my preparation for the trip and spent my final moments before leaving for the airport engaged in one of my least favorite activities in the world — ironing my shirts. With the schedule I needed to iron 14 shirts to get me through until I would finally have a day to do laundry.
As I ironed, my daughter, Lindsay, who was about 4 at the time, begged me to let her help with the ironing. Any of you who has received help from a 4 year old knows that this kind of assistance is usually more work than help. I put Lindsay off, and told her I needed to do it myself. She persisted. Her begging turned to pleading. Finally, in desperation I came up with a plan.
I told Lindsay that once I had ironed the shirt I would place it on a hanger. Then if she would fasten the top button of the shirt so it would stay on the hanger, that would really help me out. She was thrilled! I congratulated myself on my brilliance and I pushed on until all 14 shirts were done. I tossed them into my suitcase and headed off to the airport.
After long flights and endless delays I finally made it to my first stop just outside of Liverpool. I arose in the morning and began to get ready for the day. As I went to put on my shirt I found I couldn’t do it because Lindsay had not only buttoned the top button, she had buttoned every button on the shirt. Somewhat irritated, I undid all of the buttons, put the shirt on, rebuttoned them and rushed on with my day.
The second day as I was getting ready, I discovered, to my great horror, that Lindsay had buttoned every button on every shirt. Each morning I began with a somewhat frustrating routine of unbuttoning and buttoning. This continued for several more days. On the morning of the sixth day, as I was going through the buttoning ritual, I found myself thinking about my Lindsay. With each button I was reflecting on her infectious smile, endless energy and dynamic spirit. I realized that all of those buttons where simply Lindsay’s way of making sure that I remembered her, while I was far away.
President Hunter, challenged us to remember the Savior more often than we remember Him. We have an extraordinary opportunity each week to pause, ponder, reflect and remember Jesus Christ during the sacrament. The word “remember” resounds in covenant-reinforcing words of the sacramental prayers. As we remember Him more often than we remember Him we will find that our thoughts will be led to Him and our souls will become increasingly more like Him.
We must serve Him more valiantly than we serve Him
By knowing Him and remembering Him we will become determined disciples who will be worthy and willing to valiantly serve Him. On the one hand, the world says that if you want to improve or be successful you have to watch out for number one, take care of yourself first and do only what is best for you. The Savior, on the other hand, teaches us that it is only when we lose ourselves in the service of others that we can truly find ourselves and realize our full potential.
President Gordon B. Hinckley learned this as a young missionary in England. Physically ill, homesick and discouraged with his lack of progress and success, President Hinckley wrote to his father that he felt he was wasting his time and his father’s money. His father’s reply was simple and straightforward, “Gordon, forget yourself and go to work.”
President Hinckley counted it as a critical moment of determination to valiantly serve. Years later he declared that everything good that came into his life could be traced back to that discipleship-turning moment of decision to valiantly serve the Savior. President Hinckley regularly challenged members and people around the world to stand a little taller, be a little better and do a little more to valiantly serve.
Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver reflects on what President Hinckley taught her in an interview where he asked — and answered — all the questions.
The Prophet Joseph Smith stated, “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”
Ministering represents valiant service to the Savior that requires selfless and specific action. The Savior marked the path and led the way by walking with and ministering to the needs of the one.
When Christ’s disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus, they shared with Him, while not yet realizing who He was, that certain women had received a visit from angels who told them that Jesus had risen. Interestingly, the women had received this visit while on their way to minister to the Savior. We can all receive such marvelous messages and heavenly help as we faithfully and humbly minister to our sisters and brothers.
As a new stake Relief Society president my wife, Debbie, wanted to understand and get to know the ward presidents and the needs of the sisters in the stake. She did so, not by calling a meeting, but by going on a walk.
Debbie walked the boundaries of each of the wards in the stake (something easily done in our Utah stake). She talked with each of the Relief Society presidents as they walked past the homes in their ward. There were homes being held together by single parents, homes with wayward children, homes of widows, homes of great faith, homes of exemplary discipleship. Few homes escaped significant challenges. Every home had a reason to receive Christlike ministry.
The road to Emmaus led through the neighborhoods in our stake and guided those willing to walk along that path to endless opportunities to valiantly serve.
President Nelson taught, “A hallmark of the Lord’s true and living Church will always be an organized, directed effort to minister to individual children of God and their families. Because it is His Church, we as His servants will minister to the one, just as He did. We will minister in His name, with His power and authority, and with His loving kindness.”
When the journey is finally complete we hope that our lives, our words and our deeds will carry in their wake a witness of the covenant path we valiantly chose to pursue. That by these, all men will know that we are His Disciples.
As we journey along the covenant path through our journey to discipleship we will come to the know the Savior better than we know Him. We will come to remember Him more often than we remember Him. We will begin to serve Him more valiantly than we serve Him. By so doing we, along with those we love and serve, will come unto Him.
Boyd Matheson is the opinion editor/head of strategic reach at Deseret News.