A disciple is a learner or pupil who is under the care of a teacher. Disciples of Jesus Christ, then, are students under the care of the Savior.
Elder Scott D. Whiting, General Authority Seventy, spoke about what it means to be a disciple of Christ and how to deepen one’s discipleship, speaking from an empty auditorium on the ground floor of the Church Office Building in the Dec. 8 BYU devotional broadcast.
As a learner, a disciple is someone who has not yet come to a full knowledge and understanding, but one who hopes to find answers as he or she continues to put in the effort to learn.
Some people desire all answers to life’s questions without putting in the required effort, patience and diligence and fall into what some call a crisis of faith.
But discipleship isn’t a linear path from point A to point B. Instead, the path of a disciples has high and low points as they learn line upon line, precept upon precept. “Instead of seeing the low points as crises, we can instead consider them as part of the journey that we all must travel,” Elder Whiting said.
A disciple of Jesus Christ must be “actively engaged, patient in the process, sufficiently humble, dedicated to the Savior and filled with faith that the Master Teacher is leading us in the right direction.”
While undergoing development, the most important thing a disciple can do is to not leave the care of the teacher.
In the Gospel of John, after many of Christ’s followers left him, the Savior asked his Twelve Disciples, “Will ye also go away?” (John 6:66-69).
This question “is a good one to ask ourselves,” Elder Whiting said. “In your low moments, will you also go away? … When a doubt — whether it be historical, doctrinal, social or otherwise — enters your mind, will you also go away?”
Jesus is the perfect example of staying on the path of discipleship. He was a pupil under Heavenly Father, the only one who could be the teacher of the Son of God. He submitted his will to His Father in all things.
Elder Whiting said that “in order to deepen our discipleship, we must be willing to let God prevail more fully in our lives. As Jesus teaches us so poignantly through His own discipleship to the Father, we must each exercise our agency and subordinate our will to the will of the Master Teacher.”
He then gave five ways to deepen one’s discipleship and submit one’s will to Heavenly Father.
Without obedience to the Teacher, one cannot be His disciple.
Obedience goes beyond focusing on the “big” commandments. In order to deepen discipleship, “we need to consider and be mindful of those commandments that are truly character-shaping and that bring us closer to the Master Teacher,” Elder Whiting said.
An example of discipleship-deepening obedience is the BYU honor code. BYU students have committed to follow it as a condition of enrollment. Fully understanding the reasons behind the honor code is not as important as being a man or woman who keeps his or her word.
Elder Whiting said, “Personal integrity, demonstrated by being a man or woman of your word, is an important element of the law of obedience and is a means of deepening your discipleship.”
Perseverance and endurance are required on the path of discipleship, Elder Whiting said. “We endure as we keep the covenants we have made with God.” That includes exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, being worthy to hold a temple recommend, accepting and fulfilling callings and assignments, and joining in public devotion.
Elder Whiting noted that when a young couple is sealed in the temple, they have completed all the necessary ordinances to return to God at a young age. What remains for them to do is to endure to the end. “So it seems that enduring is not an afterthought to the ordinances of the covenant path; it is the work of a lifetime,” he said.
3. Remember those in need
The Lord taught in Doctrine and Covenants 52:40, “And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple.”
Right now, students at BYU may be feeling that they are the ones in need of help as they struggle with the demands of school. They can still help ease the burdens of others through service and sacrifice, Elder Whiting said.
“It is not the amount that you contribute that matters; it is the sacrifice you give that invites the Lord’s blessings into your life,” he said.
4. Service and good works
Providing service and good works is one way to bear fruit in the gospel, Elder Whiting said. “Your generation excels in this area.”
Elder Whiting invited all to find a way to sustain or increase their service efforts during the Christmas season.
At this time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in wondering what gifts will be received. “Frankly, as we mature in life and the gospel and as we deepen our discipleship, our mindset should shift more toward ‘What can I give and to whom?’” Elder Whiting said. “This is how a disciple of the Master would view the season.”
As one focuses outwardly, he or she comes to know the Savior more fully.
5. Love one another
“Your efforts to love your fellowmen and women will be the hallmark of your efforts to deepen your discipleship,” Elder Whiting said.
The two great commandments are first to love God and second to love one’s neighbor. Elder Whiting cautioned against inverting the two laws.
“Some, in their efforts to love others, feel it necessary to abandon the teachings and commandments of God or to advocate for a change of His doctrine,” he said. “But to love God is to accept His teachings, commandments and doctrine.”
To guard against this spiritually fatal deception, Elder Whiting said that sometimes the best way to love one’s neighbor is to advocate for the teachings of the Master.
In closing, Elder Whiting said, “It is my sincere prayer that you will make efforts to deepen your discipleship as you reflect on your Master Teacher this time of year and always, and that you will resolve to continue on the path of discipleship even in your low moments.”