As some parts of the world start to come out of the worldwide pandemic, Sister Michelle D. Craig said she has heard some Church members express that they are not sure they want to come back when restrictions are lifted. It’s easier to take a vacation from church.
With this in mind, Sister Craig issued a challenge: “Let’s do the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s be where we are supposed to be, when we are supposed to be there, and be all in.
“As we do this, I bear testimony that our faith in Jesus Christ and our joy in His gospel will increase.”
Sister Craig, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency, issued the challenge as part of her remarks during the weekly BYU–Hawaii campus devotional on Tuesday, June 8.
Speaking from the Cannon Activities Center on the BYU–Hawaii campus in Laie, Sister Craig offered five ways that individuals can protect themselves against “the lurking danger of spiritual complacency.”
1. Know the enemy
To preface her first two suggestions, Sister Craig shared a quote from the ancient text “The Art of War” by the military general-strategist Sun Tzu: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
“If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
“If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Sister Craig quoted President Russell M. Nelson who said, “We must realize we are at war. The war began before the world was and will continue.”
In response, Sister Craig said, “If you and I are at war, we must know our enemy.”
One of the most important things to know about the enemy is how he works, Sister Craig continued.
She then listed some of the ways in which Satan’s tactics contrast with how Jesus Christ works.
- Satan wants to drag individuals down and for them to be miserable and alone. Christ wants to lift individuals and for them to feel joy and belonging.
- Satan wants individuals to forget who they are and why they are here. Christ wants them to remember.
- Satan wants individuals to seek approval from the world and listen to the noisy voices of the world. Christ wants individuals to seek approval from heaven and for them to listen to the Holy Ghost.
- Satan wants individuals to be confused, to follow false prophets and to carry burdens on their own. Christ wants individuals to be certain, to follow His prophet and to let God prevail, Sister Craig said.
2. Know yourself
Each individual is a beloved daughter or son of heavenly parents, Sister Craig said. “You have been reserved to come to earth now at this specific time in history for a purpose; there is a great work for each of you to do.”
God knows this and Satan knows it, Sister Craig said. Satan is unleashing his power “in an attempt to curb yours. His tactics are both sly and terrifyingly bold. But there is hope — we know the final outcome of this raging battle: God will prevail.”
The Lord has given touchstones to help individuals learn and remember who they are, Sister Craig explained.
Among other things, Sister Craig told listeners to draw close to the words of the Savior in the scriptures, listen to and study the words of the living Prophet, reflect on their patriarchal blessings, pray to their Heavenly Father and then listen, and to serve and ponder in the temple.
“Over time, all these things will help you learn and remember who you are and keep you grounded in your true identity as a child of God,” Sister Craig said.
3. ‘Remember, we need each other’
In some ways, it’s taken less sacrifice to be a member of the Church during the pandemic, Sister Craig noted.
“It’s taken less time and less effort — temples have been closed, church has been at home, no showing up to teach a class each week. I can even turn off my camera in Zoom meetings and lay back.”
Sister Craig said she has heard some say that it’s nice living the gospel within the walls of their own homes and they do not need organized religion to grow spiritually.
“Even if it’s been easier for some to take a vacation from church, I can assure you that Satan has not been taking a vacation,” Sister Craig declared.
Satan wants to convince individuals to opt out of formal worship and service with others, convincing them they can get more meaning from spiritual activities at home or in nature. “We don’t have to choose just one or the other — we need both,” Sister Craig said.
Individuals should prayerfully ponder how they can give. “Brothers and sisters, how we need each other! There are those in your circles who need your company and your conversation. They need to hear the comments you make in a class; they need a hug in the hallway; they need the strength that comes through service, covenant-keeping and covenant-belonging.
“We need the chance to serve and to bless, to listen and to learn, to prepare lessons and to minister.”
All need growth that cannot come in isolation, Sister Craig said, adding that members also need a real connection to the Lord’s prophet.
“Satan wants to create a wedge between you and the living prophet, to use any means or issue to undermine confidence in Him and thereby deprive us of the peace and power that comes from following His counsel,” she said.
4. ‘Be wholehearted in your discipleship’
Like many others, Sister Craig has participated in her share of Zoom meetings over the past year. “Maybe you are better at this than I am, but when my camera is not on and my microphone is muted — I find it easy to get distracted,” Sister Craig said. “I believe that distraction is one of the ways that Satan lulls us into thinking ‘all is well in Zion.’”
She then shared from Colossians chapter 3, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily.”
“I feel so strongly that Heavenly Father needs us to be wholehearted and intentional in our discipleship,” Sister Craig said. “He wants us, not only to be where we are supposed to be, but to be there in a way that will allow us to do and to feel what He wants us to do and to feel while we are there.”
In the parable of the ten virgins, which represents covenant members of the Church, all were where they were supposed to be, Sister Craig explained. But only half of them had prepared in a way that allowed them to receive the blessings of being there.
“When we find ourselves in holy places — be that in Sunday meetings, the temple, around the dinner table or even with other people — if we are constantly checking social media, texting and tweeting — if our minds are somewhere else — we are reducing, perhaps even stopping, the ability of the Holy Ghost to communicate with us.”
She encouraged listeners to be present and allow the Spirit to teach.
“There is a desperate need in the world for your wholehearted enthusiastic discipleship,” Sister Craig noted. “There are bridges to build, friends to be made, testimonies to share and Zion to build. You can reach out to those in the margins and make the world a better place as you help prepare the world for the return of Jesus Christ.”
Those who have come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ, know who they are and how Heavenly Father feels about them, know their purpose and are intentional about seeking direction from the Lord, will be led to repent, Sister Craig said.
In Alma 37:9, Alma teaches his son Helaman, “Yea, these records and their words brought them unto repentance; that is, they brought them to the knowledge of the Lord their God, and to rejoice in Jesus Christ their Redeemer.”
“Repentance is joyful,” Sister Craig declared. “When my heart and my actions are turned to God, I am repenting. When I pray with real intent, when I speak of Christ, when I spend time in the scriptures, when I study talks given in general conference, I am turning to God; I am repenting. This kind of behavior is not apathetic or complacent.”
She then quoted President Nelson, who said: “We need to get up off the couch, put down the remote and wake up from our spiritual slumber. It is time to put on the full armor of God so we can engage in the most important work on earth. It is time to ‘thrust in our sickles, and reap with all our might, mind and strength.’ The forces of evil have never raged more forcefully than they do today. As servants of the Lord, we cannot be asleep while this battle rages.”
In conclusion, Sister Craig reminded listeners that they were not sent to earth to fail. “Please do not let down your guard and spiritually coast. … You and your wholehearted discipleship are needed to build the kingdom and to be part of the gathering in these last days. That is a cause worth celebrating and working for.”