There are many things the gospel asks of us, which boiled down are something like: have faith, repent when we fall short, make and keep sacred covenants and ordinances that bring us to Jesus Christ, and endure to the end.
The church has many programs, activities and volunteers who work out their own salvation and strive to help others, including loved ones, come unto Christ. The church exists to deliver saving ordinances through the authority of the priesthood that provide the path for Heavenly Father’s children to return to His presence, and to live with him eternally.
In the church, we meet together often, to partake of the sacrament — emblems of the Savior and His atonement — to pray, fast, sing and speak with one another concerning eternal principles and the welfare of our souls (see Moroni 6).
Some could be outwardly active in the church without developing and treasuring an inner conviction of the reality of Jesus Christ and what He has made possible for us to receive and benefit from. They may believe in Him, yet, not truly believe Him.
There is one aspect of the gospel — the topic of my remarks today — that helps us with conversion, that results in an internalization of gospel conviction, and that keeps us on the strait and narrow path leading to eternal life.
Elder Maxwell spoke, as he always did, so eloquently on this topic at BYU in 1999:
I am going to preach a hard doctrine to you now. The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. It is a hard doctrine, but it is true. The many other things we give to God, however nice that may be of us, are actually things He has already given us, and He has loaned them to us. But when we begin to submit ourselves by letting our wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him. And that hard doctrine lies at the center of discipleship. There is a part of us that is ultimately sovereign, the mind and heart, where we really do decide which way to go and what to do. And when we submit to His will, then we’ve really given Him the one final thing He asks of us. And the other things are not very, very important. It is the only possession we have that we can give, and there is no lessening of our agency as a result. Instead, what we see is a flowering of our talents and more and more surges of joy (Insights from My Life).
This reminds me of the Savior’s admonition, given through the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1831:
“Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment, saying thus: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:5).
If we truly love the Lord, we’ve come a long way toward turning our heart to God. That love is, indeed, a prerequisite in order for us to seek to do the will of the Lord. It’s part of our undergraduate coursework, necessary prior to beginning our graduate studies.
We must be, as King Benjamin taught in the Book of Mormon, “willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict” upon us (Mosiah 3:19). Whenever we submit our will to the Lord, the Book of Mormon calls that being “swallowed up in the will of the Father” (Mosiah 15:7). That’s when we’re really on the road to discipleship. But, as Elder Maxwell noted, “that can’t happen with the sort of superficiality with which some approach discipleship” (Maxwell, Insights).
Sometimes, we become caught up in the thick of thin things. We feel like whatever’s happening in our lives at a given moment is so important that we lose sight of the eternal perspective.
When I was 18 — and with just those four words, you know that I knew it all — I was attending BYU in Provo and on a talent scholarship in the school’s well-known music dance theater program. I was auditioning for the musical theater review company, the Young Ambassadors, along with a few hundred other students, and had made it to final callbacks. I just knew I was going to be a Young Ambassador and get to travel and help make people happy through song and dance.
I prayed at night, petitioning Heavenly Father to help me do what needed to be done to find my name among the dozen men who would be on the final company list. And I made a deal. Even though I knew being a Young Ambassador was destined to be part of my life’s story, I agreed in my petitioning, albeit somewhat reluctantly, to go on a mission when I turned 19 if I didn’t make the group that year. And part of the deal was that I would hope to be accepted into the group when I returned to the Y in two years.
If any of you are gamblers and can run the odds on betting against what a prophet of God has asked young men to do, you can guess the outcome. That spring I opened a mission call to serve in the Utah Ogden Mission. I had a great mission, returned to BYU and then started performing and traveling with the Young Ambassadors in my sophomore year of college. Something I did, and really enjoyed, for three consecutive years, until I realized I’d better get a degree and move on with my life.
My will was to be among the few 19 year-old men who got to travel with the Young Ambassadors. But Heavenly Father’s will was that I experience preaching the gospel as a full-time missionary and help solidify my commitment to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. I’m so grateful for my mission experience, and that I went on a mission when I was asked to go.
Again, as Elder Maxwell taught: Yielding our hearts to God is our only true gift to Him. We must be willing to “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,” and “through the atonement of Christ…” become “as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love,” and “willing to submit to all things… even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
I’ve already mentioned the first principles and ordinances of the gospel: faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If you ponder repentance, you know that yielding our hearts and wills to God is exactly what repentance is all about.
When we sin and desire forgiveness, a broken heart and a contrite spirit mean to experience “godly sorrow [that] worketh repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10). This comes when our desire to be cleansed from sin is so consuming that our hearts ache with sorrow and we yearn to feel at peace with our Father in Heaven.
Those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit are willing to do anything and everything that God asks of them, without resistance, or resentment. We cease doing things our way, and instead, learn to do them God’s way.
In such a condition of submissiveness and meekness, the Atonement of Jesus Christ can take effect and true repentance can occur. The penitent will then experience the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost, which fills them with peace of conscience and the joy of reconciliation with God. You feel at-one with God and his purpose and plan for you.
Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all (Mosiah 5:15).
We were taught in October of 2007, by Elder Porter, that “when we yield our hearts to the Lord, the attractions of the world simply lose their luster” (A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit). Doesn’t that sound idyllic?
Now, back to the church, and what coming to church on Sunday does, or should do, for each us, from the Book of Mormon: “Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God” (Helaman 3:35).
To be sanctified, we must love God and yield our hearts to Him, accepting His will for us, for our families, for our path in life. We must yield our hearts to God in order to repent, to improve, to become more Christlike, and to endure faithfully to the end.
Elder Christofferson taught that as we endeavor day by day and week by week, and seek to follow the path of Christ, our spirit asserts its preeminence, the battle within subsides, and temptations cease to trouble. There is greater and greater harmony between the spiritual and the physical, until our physical bodies are transformed, in Paul’s words, from “instruments of unrighteousness unto sin” to “instruments of righteousness unto God” (see Romans 6:13). Have you felt that transformation? And if not, do you desire it? Then let that desire work in you until you feel that harmony, that peace and noble purpose.
Surely we will not be one with God and Christ until we make Their will and interest our focus — our greatest and strongest desire. Such submissiveness is not reached in a day, a week, a month, or even a year, but through the Holy Spirit, the Lord will tutor us, if we’re willing, until, through the process of time, it may accurately be said that He is in us as the Father is in Him (Elder Christofferson).
One of the very reasons we’re here — noble, royal children of a loving, omnipotent Heavenly Father, living in a fallen, mortal state — is to learn to yield our hearts to God. It’s a process that takes time, usually many decades, and consistent righteous choices. For many of us, it’s a process that’ll extend beyond this mortal existence.
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord…” (Mosiah 3:19).
Elder Holland has taught that when we pass from this life to the next, this might be the first and most important thing the Savior may ask of us: Did we obey, even if it was painful? Did we submit, even if the cup was bitter? Did we yield to a vision higher and holier than our own, even when we may have seen no vision in it at all (Elder Holland)?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).
When we open ourselves to the Spirit, we learn God’s way and feel His will.
Sister Neill Marriott of the Young Women General Presidency recently shared this with us: “When we offer our broken heart to Jesus Christ, He accepts our offering. He takes us back. No matter what losses, wounds, and rejection we have suffered, His grace and healing are mightier than all. Truly yoked to the Savior, we can say with confidence, ‘It will all work out.’”
We have such a powerful example of yielding our hearts to God in the Book of Mormon, in the final days of the prophet Abinadi. He had warned the people of King Noah about their wickedness, he had called them to repentance. He was captured, then released. Two years later the voice of the Lord came to Abinadi, commanding him to return to the people of King Noah and prophesy of their destruction if they failed to repent.
You know the story: Abinadi was captured again and taken to King Noah. He was thrown in prison and then allowed to address the king and his priests. They attempted to take him and put him to death but the power of God was upon him and they didn’t dare touch him.
Abinadi, who surely knew by this point that he would become a martyr, preached with enough power and authority to convince a young priest named Alma of the wickedness of King Noah and of his household and high priests. Abinadi’s influence was enough to teach and convert Alma, who was forced to flee from the guards of King Noah.
Abinadi sealed his testimony with his blood. His willingness to return to the people of King Noah and preach the gospel, allowing himself to be captured, tortured and ultimately killed by command of the King, was the ultimate sacrifice of one’s will. And in the act of fulfilling God’s will, Abinadi planted the seed of the gospel that grew until the coming of the Savior to the Americas. The story of the Book of Mormon could be very different without the prophet Abinadi.
Most of us will not be called upon to lose our life as a testimony of our conviction to the Savior and His gospel. But we are called upon to give of our time, our talents and all that we have. To give up our pride, our vain ambition and our natural, mortal nature to become something better. To see a higher vision. To submit to our Heavenly Father. To love Him. To trust Him. To do difficult things for Him.
Because after all, His Only Begotten Son, the Savior of the World, who lived perfectly and willingly gave His life to bring us back to heaven, even in the midst of doing the most difficult thing imaginable, and forgiving those who caused his death, said: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
What finer example is there of yielding our hearts to God?
May we find the courage and conviction to not only seek to know the Lord’s will, but to follow it, no matter the price.
May we be like the servant in the parable of the talents who does his or her part to the very best of their ability, relying wholly upon the merits of Him who is mighty to save, and finally hear: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21).
May we be more Christlike in every respect.
Yielding Our Hearts to God, LDS Viewpoint, Jan. 2016
Yielding Our Hearts to God, General Conference, Sister Neill Marriott, Nov. 2015
A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit, General Conference, Elder Porter, 2007
That They May Be One in Us, General Conference, Elder Christofferson, Nov. 2002
The Will of the Father, BYU Speeches, Elder Holland, Jan. 1989