One unique thing about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that there is no paid clergy and the members are often invited to speak to the congregation. My wife and I spoke to our congregation yesterday for about 15 minutes each. Here’s the text from my talk.
Today I’ll be focusing on today is How to Keep the Savior In Our Everyday Lives. While there are countless ways to draw nearer to the Savior, I’ll be focusing on 6 practices that will help us keep Him in our everyday lives:
- Pray to Heavenly Father
- Study the scriptures
- Serve others
- Express gratitude
- Make and keep covenants, and
- Wait on the Lord
As I share these practices, I invite you to reflect on your life and ask yourself what you can do–or stop doing–to draw nearer to the Savior.
1) Pray to Heavenly Father
I quote from True to the Faith:
“Your Heavenly Father loves you and knows your needs, and He wants you to communicate with Him through prayer. As you make a habit of approaching God in prayer, you will come to know Him and draw ever nearer to Him. Your desires will become more like His. You will be able to secure for yourself, and for others, blessings that He is ready to give if you will but ask in faith.”
Doctrine and Covenants 8:2 teaches us how we receive answers to prayers. “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.”
When I was in grad school I was debating between two job offers, one in the Bay Area, where we’d lived before grad school, and one in the Midwest. We prayed and prayed to know what we should do. They were both great opportunities but I agonized over the decision, wanting to do what was right. Being the overanalytical person that I am, I made countless pros and cons lists. As the decision deadline drew near, we were no closer to making the decision.
Finally, a few days before the deadline, the answer came. I had a powerful feeling, deep in my heart that we should take the job in the Bay Area. The undeniable answer trumped any list of pros and cons, and the answer to that prayer gave me the confidence to push forward. I’m grateful for the power of prayer.
2) Study the scriptures
I’ll touch lighter on this one because my wife Whitney did a great job explaining how the scriptures–particularly the Book of Mormon–can bring us closer to the Savior.
A few months back I felt a desire to become more charitable. I went to Moroni 7 where there are several scriptures on this topic. Verse 45 stood out. It gives a list of what charity is: “And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”
I then dedicated my scripture study to each definition of charity: one day I studied how charity suffereth long, or is patient. Another day I studied how charity is kind. Diving deep into the topic of charity — which is the pure love of Christ — filled me with the Spirit and gave me an increased desire to be more like the Savior.
Daily, meaningful scripture study will help us be receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. It builds our faith, fortifies us against temptation, and helps us draw near to our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son.
3) Serve others
While studying the scriptures is a critical step to drawing nearer to the Savior, it’s equally important to serve others. Knowing isn’t enough, we must take action. We must do.
I mentioned earlier that in my scripture study I was seeking to learn how to be more charitable. In the middle of this period, our family moved to Walnut Creek. Anyone who’s moved recently knows how much effort goes into a move. For weeks we organized, cleaned, made numerous trips to the DI trailer and packed and taped boxes. Finally, the day of the move came. I pulled up to our new house at around 3:30pm and started unloading the moving van.
I hoped to make some progress before the Elders Quorum from this ward was scheduled to arrive at 6. At 4pm, two hours early, a man arrived. He was not the youngest of men, but he strapped on a weight belt and started unloading boxes. His pace was relentless. Several times I told him he could take off as he’d done more than his fair share, but he insisted on staying. By the time 6pm rolled around we had unloaded almost 2/3rds of the truck. Not only was he the first one to arrive, but he was also the last one to leave, staying late to help assemble one of the beds. The acts of kindness from the ward, particularly the kindness of this man, was so appreciated in our time of need.
That day I learned more about charity than I did the entire month I had studied the topic. For several days I couldn’t think about his act of kindness, his act of charity, without getting teary-eyed.
There are countless opportunities to serve others, many of them in our ward and stake. These planned acts of service are essential and needed. In addition to these scheduled opportunities, I encourage us to look for ways we can serve in our day to day life. Acts of service don’t have to be large. They can include: smiling at someone who looks sad, giving someone your seat on BART, letting a fellow driver merge into your lane, or putting away a neighbor’s trash can. Simply giving someone your full attention and genuinely listening is an act of service. These little things have a big impact.
I love the parable of the Good Samaritan and it’s worth a refresher on how it starts and ends. “A certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Jesus, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? The Savior replies that he should love God and love his neighbor. To which, the lawyer asks, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus proceeds to tell him the story of the Good Samaritan. How a man traveling to Jericho was severely beaten and left for dead. After a Levite and Priest passed by him, it was a Samaritan who stopped to help. The Samaritan had compassion on him, bound up his wounds, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
Following his telling of the Good Samaritan, the Savior turned to the lawyer and asked: Which now of these three was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
The Samaritan didn’t set out that day to be a hero. He saw someone in need and he took action. We would do well to follow the Savior’s counsel: Go, and do thou likewise.
4) Express gratitude
Alma 34:38 teaches us that we should “live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.” The Lord has promised, “He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious” (Doctrine and Covenants 78:19).
Several years ago I had a particularly bad day. I’m still not sure why. Things at work were good, and everyone in my family was doing well. There was nothing tangibly wrong, but something was nagging at me.
The next day, I continued reading a book called The Happiness Equation. The author discussed how expressing gratitude consistently leads to greater happiness. Later that day I listened to several general conference talks centered on finding greater peace and happiness, and the practice of giving thanks was referenced in each. The message hit me loud and clear—I need to be more grateful for all I have.
A few days later I kicked off what I dubbed the 30-Day Gratitude Challenge. Every single day, for 30 days, I would write a blog post sharing something I was grateful for. Here are four lessons I learned while completing the challenge.
A) Consistently giving thanks leads to increased happiness. Yes, the experiment worked. The simple act of writing down something I was grateful for made me happier and giving thanks on a daily basis left me constantly reflecting on the good in my life, even when I’d already written my blog post for the day.
B) Writing about gratitude made me more likely to thank others. Halfway through the experiment, I did something I probably don’t do enough. I sent an email to a colleague, outlining why I thought she was great at her job and how I appreciated her work. My email couldn’t have been more than five sentences in total. She followed up with a much longer message, explaining some challenges she was facing and how my note was the highlight of her week. Writing down what I was grateful for helped me be happier, which made me more likely to express gratitude to others.
C). There’s a silver lining in almost everything. When I did the 30-day challenge, I had a longer commute than anyone in my circle of friends. It came up a lot in conversation as people wanted to know how I was handling it. While reflecting one night, I thought about the positive aspects of the long commute. Commuting by train had given me time to read, reflect, and get a head start on the day’s work. By the time I walked into the office, I was in a better mindset and prepared to face challenges head-on.
D) Expressing gratitude can help, even when you feel you have nothing to be grateful for. A few weeks into the experiment I had a pretty bad day. I didn’t want to write about anything. It took a little time to find something I was genuinely grateful for, but I did it anyway. My day didn’t instantly turn around, but I did notice a difference.
The benefits of this gratitude challenge were so powerful that after the 30 days ended I made a commitment to continue the habit of writing down one thing each day that I’m grateful for. It’s now been almost three years since I kicked off the experiment (I’m on day 1,012) and this habit continues to enrich my life. As we take time to remember our blessings, we will recognize how much our Heavenly Father has done for us.
5) Make and keep covenants.
The topic of making and keeping covenants has been front and center for the leaders of our church. In fact, during the October 2019 general conference, three apostles–Elders Renlund, Gong and Rasband–focused their talks on covenants.
In his talk, Elder Rasband taught what a covenant is:
“A covenant is a two-way promise between us and the Lord. As members of the Church, we covenant at baptism to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, to live as He lived. Like those baptized at the Waters of Mormon, we covenant to become His people, “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; … to mourn with those that mourn; … 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.”
When we partake of the sacrament, we renew our baptismal covenants. We not only make covenants at baptism but also in the temple. Temple worship allows us to regularly renew these covenants.
Societal trends may not jibe with living a life of commitment and covenant-keeping, but such a life is central to keeping the Savior with us always. President Nelson has taught: “We increase the Savior’s power in our lives when we make sacred covenants and keep those covenants with precision. Our covenants bind us to Him and give us godly power.”
6) Wait on the Lord
The final practice for keeping the Savior in our everyday lives is to wait on the Lord.
But what does it mean to wait upon the Lord? In the scriptures, the word “wait” means to hope, to anticipate, and to trust. To hope and trust in the Lord requires faith, patience, humility, meekness, long-suffering, keeping the commandments, and enduring to the end.
For me, waiting on the Lord may be the hardest of the 6 practices discussed. I like things to happen in my time. When I pray, I want an answer right now. When there’s a challenge in my life, I want it to be fixed immediately. But we’ve been taught that “tribulation worketh patience” (Romans 5:3) and we must learn to “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13). Waiting on the Lord requires an attitude of “Thy will be done, O Lord, and not ours.”
I’d like to share a personal story of a time I learned to wait on the Lord.
Shortly after graduating college, I took a job with Lehman Brothers, a Wall Street investment bank. I had worked like crazy to get the job and was crushed when the firm went bankrupt just a few weeks after I joined. Lehman’s bankruptcy was the largest in US history and fueled the 2008 financial crisis. Companies worldwide were cutting costs by laying off employees, and the job market was awful. Now, just a few months after completing my undergrad, I was out of work. Despite the odds, I was optimistic, but soon reality kicked in. Weeks went by. Months went by. And despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find a job.
I was doing everything I had been taught to do when you need the Lord’s help. I was praying. I was reading my scriptures. I was going to the temple. I was striving to serve others. But it didn’t seem to be working. I felt forgotten. I felt alone.
My wife and I went to church one Sunday like we did every week. I was particularly depressed that day and couldn’t be around others. I went home after Sacrament. I sat alone in our apartment before getting on my knees and praying. I felt prompted to turn on a movie, Finding Faith in Christ. As I watched the Savior heal, as I watched him serve, as I watched Him suffer for my sins in the Garden of Gethsemane and overcome death through His resurrection, I felt deeply of the love he had for me.
I knew that everything would work out. There wasn’t an immediate solve, but in time I found a job and bounced back. In hindsight, those setbacks were not only valuable but essential to my career growth and spiritual growth. I am grateful I had to wait on the Lord.
There are times in our lives where we are all tested. Times where we may feel a lessening of the Spirit for a season. We may feel like we’re doing everything we should be doing but don’t feel like our prayers are being answered. It’s critical that we trust in the Lord and keep pressing forward.
In the words of Elder Holland, “Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.” The Lord is bound when we do what he says but we must wait on Him.
To recap, we can keep the Savior in our everyday lives by:
- Praying to Heavenly Father
- Studying the scriptures
- Serving others
- Expressing gratitude
- Making and keeping covenants, and
- Waiting on the Lord
As you reflect on these six practices, I invite you to set a goal, one goal, for how you can keep the Savior in your everyday life. Maybe it’s being more diligent in your prayers, making more time for scripture study or striving to express gratitude for all you’ve been blessed us with.
I want to close with my testimony. I know that we have a loving Heavenly Father. I know that his son, Jesus Christ, lived a perfect life and atoned for our sins. I promise that as we seek the Lord, we will find him. He stands at the door knocking. All we need to do is let him in. We can have His power with us every single day.