My lesson today is based on a talk given by Carole M Stephens, first counselor in the RS General Presidency in last year’s General RS Meeting. The talk is entitled “Wide Awake to our Duties.”
She quotes Sister Dina D Young, who was the third General RS President. She said, “Sisters, it is for us to be wide awake to our duties.”
Sister Stephens didn’t quote the next part that Sister Young said, but I thought it was profound: “The kingdom will roll on, and we have nothing to fear but our own imperfections.”
To connect the two thoughts, there are certain duties we must perform in our journey to achieve perfection.
In general the duties we have as members of the church come from covenants we make with our Heavenly Father.
Sister Stephens quotes Robert D Hales who said, “When we make and keep covenants, we are coming out of the world and into the kingdom of God.”
The first covenant we make is that of baptism.
Sister Stephens quotes Alma the Elder in Mosiah 18:8-10. As you listen to this scripture being read, listen for the sacred duties Alma mentioned for those who enter into a covenant with God:
Quote 1: “And now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places. …
“Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
“And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.”3
What do we promise when we are baptized?
Take up on ourselves Christ’s name
Always remember him
Keep His commandments
Serve Him throughout our lives by serving others
How do we renew this covenant? By partaking of the Sacrament worthily each week.
Any thoughts on what it means to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places?
Sister Stephens says that as a result of making this baptismal covenant: “We are changed. We look different, and we act different. The things we listen to and read and say are different, and what we wear is different because we become daughters of God bound to Him by covenant.”
Holy Ghost and Change of Heart
Sister Stephens goes on to talk about receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost:
“When we are confirmed, we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, the right to have the constant influence of a member of the Godhead to guide us, to comfort us, and to protect us. He warns us when we are tempted to walk away from our covenants and back into the world. President Boyd K. Packer teaches that none of us “will ever make a serious mistake without first being warned by the promptings of the Holy Ghost.”5
To receive this gift and always have the Spirit with us, we must be worthy and vigilant about checking the condition of our hearts. Is our heart soft? Do we have a humble heart, a teachable heart, a gentle heart? Or have our hearts become gradually hardened as we have allowed too much of the noise of the world to distract us from the gentle promptings that have surely come from the Spirit?
When we were baptized, our hearts were changed and awakened to God. While on our mortal journey, we need to regularly ask ourselves, “If [I] have experienced a change of heart, … can [I] feel so now?”6
So, two other duties we share are to listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and to have a soft heart, which is the only way to hear the promptings.
Listen to Mosiah’s counsel to his people in Mosiah 3:19:
Quote 2: For the anatural bman is an cenemy to God, and has been from the dfall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he eyields to the enticings of the fHoly Spirit, and gputteth off the hnatural man and becometh a isaint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a jchild, ksubmissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
Wilford W Andersen of the 70 provided further elaboration on how to have the Spirit with us:
… to renew the blessing of the constant companionship of the Spirit promised in the sacrament prayers, we continue the ongoing process of developing and exercising faith in Christ, repenting of our sins, and partaking of the sacrament with a determination to keep the commandments.
If we thoughtlessly partake of the sacrament, we can lose the blessings of the Spirit, which we need in order to experience again a mighty change of heart and receive and retain a remission of sins.
How do we make sure we are thoughtfully partaking of the Sacrament?
Another duty we have as LDS is to make and keep temple covenants.
In this month’s VT message, President Monson said: “The saving ordinances received in the temple that permit us to someday return to our Heavenly Father in an eternal family relationship and to be endowed with blessings and power from on high are worth every sacrifice and every effort.”15
Sister Stephens spoke about the early Saints in Nauvoo and how they went “to the temple all day and long into the night” to receive ordinances and make covenants before they began their journey westward. She went on to quote Sara Rich, a RS sister in Nauvoo, who said: “Many were the blessings we had received in the house of the Lord, which has caused us joy and comfort in the midst of all our sorrows and enabled us to have faith in God, knowing He would guide us and sustain us in the unknown journey that lay before us.”9
In this month’s VT message, President Monson promised, “As we remember the covenants we make within [the temple], we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation.”3
One of the ordinances we performed in the temple is that of the endowment. Elder James E. Talmage spoke about the covenants we make in the endowment:
“The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King,—the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions” (The House of the Lord, rev. ed. , 84).
Elder John A. Widtsoe said:
“Temple work must be done first by each person for himself or herself; then it may be done for one’s dead ancestors or friends as frequently as circumstances will allow. This service will open the doors of salvation for the dead and will also help fix upon the mind of the living the nature, meaning, and obligations of the endowment. By keeping the endowment fresh in mind, we shall be better able to perform our duties in life under the influence of eternal blessings” (“Looking toward the Temple,” Ensign, Jan. 1972, p. 58).
President Ezra Taft Benson further promised that “with increased attendance in the temples of our God, you shall receive increased personal revelation to bless your life as you bless those who have died”
It’s amazing what great blessings we can receive by going to the temple and doing work for ourselves and others:
Receive more personal revelation
Return to live with Heavenly Father again
Does anyone want to share an experience of how attending the temple has blessed their lives?
Armour of Light
Another scripture Sister Stephens received insight from was Romans 13:11-12. I also want to add on vs 14:
“It is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer. …
“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: … let us put on the armour of light.” Romans 13:11-122
To me, verse 14 helps clarify what the armour of light is, and that is Jesus Christ. We have a duty to follow Christ our whole lives.
Robert D Hales, when talking to the Youth of the church, said:
The Lord is our light and, literally, our salvation.15 Like the sacred fire that encircled the children in 3 Nephi,16 His light will form a protective shield between you and the darkness of the adversary as you live worthy of it. You need that light. We need that light. Carefully study the scriptures and For the Strength of Youth and listen to the teachings of your parents and leaders. Then, by obedience to wise counsel, learn to claim the protective light of the gospel as your own.
You may wonder, “How can I do that?” There is only one way: you must learn to generate that light each day by believing on Jesus Christ and following His commandments.
He says that every day we must believe and follow Christ’s commandments.
He goes on further to say:
The generation of spiritual light comes from daily spiritual pedaling. It comes from praying, studying the scriptures, fasting, and serving—from living the gospel and obeying the commandments. “He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light,”18 said the Lord, “and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”19 My brothers and sisters, that perfect day will be when we will stand in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ.
Sometimes people ask, “Why do I have to go to sacrament meeting?” or “Why do I have to live the Word of Wisdom, pay tithing? Why can’t I have one foot in Babylon?” May I tell you why? Because spiritual pedaling takes both feet! Unless you are fully engaged in living the gospel—living it with all of your “heart, might, mind and strength”20—you cannot generate enough spiritual light to push back the darkness.
Do any of us ever resist keeping certain commandments? How can we change our hearts so we can generate more spiritual light?
Help of Atonement
We spoke about many duties we have as Latter-day Saints. Sometimes life will be difficult and we will have to make sacrifices for our good. Sister Stephens spoke of the early Saints leaving Nauvoo:
“With hearts changed through faith in the Savior, they relied on the power of His Atonement. They were awakened to act. They knew deep in their hearts that there was one—the Savior—who understood their personal adversity because He suffered it for them in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. He felt their fear, their doubt, their pain, and their loneliness. He suffered their sorrows, their persecution, their hunger, their fatigue, and their loss. And because He suffered all these things, He could say to them, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”10
Sister Stephens said, “ It isn’t enough to just be on the journey; we must be awake to our duty and continue with faith as we draw upon the comforting, strengthening, enabling, and healing power of the Atonement.”
David A Bednar spoke of this enabling power of the atonement:
We may mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves, through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities.
The gospel of the Savior is not simply about avoiding bad in our lives; it also is essentially about doing and becoming good. And the Atonement provides help for us to overcome and avoid bad and to do and become good. Help from the Savior is available for the entire journey of mortality—from bad to good to better and to change our very nature.”
It is so comforting to me that we don’t have to do through this journey of life alone. We do have many duties as baptized members of the church, but these duties bring countless blessings if we do them.
I’d like to read verses 2-4 of “The Time is Far Spent.” Feel free to follow along in your hymn book, page 266.
- Shrink not from your duty, however unpleasant,
But follow the Savior, your pattern and friend.
Our little afflictions, tho painful at present,
Ere long, with the righteous, in glory will end,
Ere long, with the righteous, in glory will end.
- What, tho, if the favor of Ahman possessing,
This world’s bitter hate you are called to endure?
The angels are waiting to crown you with blessings!
Go forward, be faithful, the promise is sure.
Go forward, be faithful, the promise is sure.
- Be fixed in your purpose, for Satan will try you;
The weight of your calling he perfectly knows.
Your path may be thorny, but Jesus is nigh you;
His arm is sufficient, tho demons oppose.
His arm is sufficient, tho demons oppose.
Does anyone receive any message from this song?
Sister Stephens ends her talk by saying:
“Sisters, I love you. I don’t know many of you personally, but I do know who you are! We are covenant-keeping daughters in His kingdom, and endowed with power through our covenants, we are prepared to do our duty.
Relief Society prepares women for the blessings of eternal life by awakening us spiritually to increase in faith and personal righteousness. Let us begin with ourselves. Let us begin where we are. Let us begin today. When we are spiritually awake, we will be better able to strengthen families and homes and help others.
This is a work of salvation, and the strengthening and enabling power of the atonement makes it possible. Awake to who we are. Awaken to our duty. We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us. “