Some years ago I had a conversation with a good man who was losing his testimony, who wanted clear and close benchmarks in life like in his youth, not a marathon with no end. Life felt like driving through a Midwest state with nothing new in it. Maybe we feel like that, or burnt out, or new and overwhelmed, or young and bored, or just realize there are more blessings out there. A lot of us might be in the same spot, looking for landmarks to encourage us and help us along the way.
This brings to mind any number of scriptural phrases: endure to the end; endure it well; press forward with faith; find joy in the journey, among others. They all basically mean the same thing. Let’s just call today’s talk, “Endure Forward Well With Joy.”
I wanted a list of three items, all based on quotes from general conference, and all focused on the Savior. We all came here today looking to be filled with the Spirit and lifted up spiritually, and I hope that there’s something in here for each of us to benefit from.
Landmark #1: Ordinances
In leadership councils of the church, one way ministering is planned is by asking, “Who needs an ordinance?”, making the answer a goal, and planning how to reach that goal.
Now, for some, that may be easy: we might need to go to the temple for the first time, men might need a priesthood ordination, we might even just need to start by being baptized. These are natural and obvious landmarks in our lives, and as we set our sights on them and reach them, we’ll find that life is fuller and sweeter, because we will always know that we’ve been doing the best things with our time.
In the April 2015 General Conference, David A. Bednar taught:
Ordinances and covenants are the building blocks we use to construct our lives upon the foundation of Christ and His Atonement. We are connected securely to and with the Savior as we worthily receive ordinances and enter into covenants, faithfully remember and honor those sacred commitments, and do our best to live in accordance with the obligations we have accepted. And that bond is the source of spiritual strength and stability in all of the seasons of our lives.
We can be blessed to hush our fears as we firmly establish our desires and deeds upon the sure foundation of the Savior through our ordinances and covenants.
Of course, the sacrament itself is a profound ordinance—it’s a renewal of the baptismal covenant. As such, it could serve as a significant landmark along our path—something we can always look to, just a little bit ahead, where we know refreshment waits.
In fact, the Sabbath day itself is a beautiful landmark. I don’t know about you, but during the grind of the work week, I often look forward to Friday, and even more, Saturday. How great would it be for us if we also looked forward to Sunday? We could tell ourselves, “Hang in there. Only three more days till Sunday. Then I get to take the sacrament, and talk about the Lord more, and focus on the gospel all day.”
If we have all the major saving ordinances for ourselves, another landmark could be helping others get theirs, for the living and for those who’ve passed on. Doing missionary work, ministering, and temple work all provide chances to look ahead and see great things coming up in our lives.
Speaking of temple work, I was recently called as a family history consultant, and while I’m up here, I’d like to extend an invitation to anyone who has any questions or would like any help with their family history work to please give me a call.
Landmark #2: Callings
In our search for spiritual landmarks to help us along our way, I hope we don’t ignore one already in our lives.
We can make magnifying our current calling a focus for joy and growth today, and a way to split up our long journey of discipleship into smaller parts that we can handle. After all, think about how many callings have we ever had? How many callings are still left ahead of us? Landmarks, all of them.
In the October 2002 General Conference, we heard these inspiring words from President Henry B. Eyring:
The person who called you did not issue the call simply because he learned by interviewing you that you were worthy and willing to serve. He prayed to know the Lord’s will for you. It was prayer and revelation to those authorized of the Lord which brought you here. Your call is an example of a source of power unique to the Lord’s Church. Men and women are called of God by prophecy and by the laying on of hands by those God has authorized.
You are called to represent the Savior. Your voice to testify becomes the same as His voice, your hands to lift the same as His hands. His work is to bless His Father’s spirit children with the opportunity to choose eternal life. So, your calling is to bless lives. That will be true even in the most ordinary tasks you are assigned and in moments when you might be doing something not apparently connected to your call. Just the way you smile or the way you offer to help someone can build their faith.
You see, there are no small callings to represent the Lord. Your call carries grave responsibility. But you need not fear, because with your call come great promises.
Just as God called you and will guide you, He will magnify you. You will need that magnification.…You are in the Master’s service. You are His representative. Eternal lives depend on you.
Speaking of temple work, I was recently called as a family history consultant, and while I’m up here…
[flip through notes, say that I must have copied this paragraph and put it in here twice, reiterate that it’s still valid.]
[Yes, friends in my ward, this joke was scripted. Hope you liked it.]
Landmark #3: Holidays and holy days
[anecdote about meeting Elder Perry]
Elder L. Tom Perry, October 1987 General Conference:
Celebrations of Christmas and Easter, our annual Pioneer Day observance, events commemorating the restoration of the Aaronic and the Melchizedek priesthoods, the Relief Society birthday parties, and pageants—all cause us to remember our spiritual heritage and increase our gratitude to the Lord for all He does for us.
Celebrations that commemorate important events in our native lands should receive our support and attention.
We should be familiar with the history, heritage, and laws of the lands that govern us. In those countries that allow us the right to participate in the affairs of government, we should use our free agency and be actively engaged in supporting and defending the principles of truth, right, and freedom.
Let us build in our families, communities, and nations, traditions of a lasting nature that will consistently remind us of the Lord’s eternal truths and of our forebears who preserved them for our day.
God grant that we may ever keep alive the rich heritage which is ours, especially by building family traditions as constant reminders of our standards and our values.
How could each of us apply this right now? We just had a great stake conference last weekend, but General Conference is only about a month away—can we make that a priority now by planning to see as much as possible and get as much from it as we can? Between General Conferences, stake conferences, and ward conference, that’s five more landmarks every year. Truly, our lives are actually filled with significant landmarks all around us to fill us and lift us up all along this road of life.
Finally, you might be out there thinking to yourself, Isn’t this just another list of more things to do? Good news—yes it is! Hasn’t life taught all of us—young and old—that nothing truly good or worthwhile happens without doing something more to nurture it? [Einstein quote: definition of insanity] Today is an opportunity to feel the zeal of the convert who’s prayer for faith has just been answered, the huge relief that comes to one whose repentance has become full and finished and their life is once again flooded by the Spirit, and the warm glow that radiates from any of us when we help make a real difference in someone else’s life.
President Monson said in the October 2008 General Conference:
This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.
I pray that all of us will reflect gratitude for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
He taught us how to pray. He taught us how to serve. He taught us how to live. His life is a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved.
He is our Master. He is our Savior. He is the Son of God. He is the Author of our Salvation. He beckons, “Follow me.” He instructs, “Go, and do thou likewise.” He pleads, “Keep my commandments.”
Let us follow Him. Let us emulate His example. Let us obey His word. By so doing, we give to Him the divine gift of gratitude.