Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Returning to the Father

(read the handbook here)

This section of the Church Handbook of Instruction explains the plan of salvation in pretty basic terms. Helping members follow the plan of salvation, plan of happiness, plan of redemption, or one of the other names it has, is the main purpose of Christ’s Church on earth today.

But just like knowing that we want to get from point A to point B is only helpful if we know which roads to take and where to turn, knowing that God’s plan is that we all return to live with Him again is only helpful if we know how to get back to Him.

“We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinance of the gospel.”

That’s a start. So what are the laws and ordinances of the gospel?

“We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are: first, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, repentance; third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

In addition to those first principles and ordinances of the gospel, we must also, “endure to the end by keeping sacred covenants.”

“As we come to understand and believe these truths and gain a firm testimony of Jesus Christ, we strive to obey His commandments and want to share our blessings with our family and others.” As we come to understand, and have a true, pure testimony of the plan of salvation, we will want to participate in the Church organization, because the purpose of the Church organization is to teach each other how to obtain eternal life, and help each other on that path. It’s like we’re all taking a road trip to the same place, and it makes a lot more sense for us to carpool or caravan, rather than all of us just take our own course. If we carpool and caravan, we can make sure we’re staying on the right path, and if someone breaks down, we can give them a lift.

The pioneers did it when they crossed the plains, and they were able to help and succor each other when family members lost loved ones, or when wagons broke or oxen died.

Working together, and helping each other, is definitely the Lord’s way – we will be safer on our journey back to Him.

“Each of us is accountable before God to learn and keep His commandments and to live the gospel. We will be judged according to our actions, the desires of our hearts, and the kind of people we have become.”

I love this part of the gospel plan – that we are each accountable for our own actions, and the desires of our hearts. Unfortunately I often do the complete opposite of what I want to do. I am working each day to be better, but sometimes it is really hard to do what I know is right, even when I really want to do what is right. “The natural man is an enemy to God.” And to us, as His children!

“As we live the gospel of Jesus Christ, we grow line upon line, becoming more like the Savior in loving and serving others.”

It’s also good to remember that learning and growth is a process. Nothing comes lightening fast. Even Alma the younger, who saw an angel, was basically in a coma for two days and two nights. And even after than, I’m sure his process was not finished. He just had a jump start. The distance between his first line and his second line was probably a lot farther apart than most of us, but even after his great conversion, he still grew in the gospel, line upon line, and precept on precept. It’s how the General Authorities learned, and it’s how we learn.

As members of the Church, it is our responsibility to:

“1. Teach and testify of the pure doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. Strengthen individuals and families in their efforts to keep their sacred covenants.

3. Provide counsel, support, and opportunities for service.”

I love the first point – especially that they specifically state “pure doctrines” of the gospel. We are not supposed to add our speculation, our opinions, or our personal issues. We are simply to “testify of the pure doctrines.” Elder M. Russell Ballard gave a wonderful talk on pure testimony several years ago in General Conference entitled just that – “Pure Testimony”.

He said, “Our testimony meetings need to be more centered on the Savior, the doctrines of the gospel, the blessings of the Restoration, and the teachings of the scriptures. We need to replace stories, travelogues, and lectures with pure testimonies. Those who are entrusted to speak and teach in our meetings need to do so with doctrinal power that will be both heard and felt, lifting the spirits and edifying our people.”

Of course, there are times for the personal conversations, the counseling together, the visiting with friends – and these are particularly important, and stated in the last two points.

I think that part of strengthening individuals and families in their efforts to keep their sacred covenants would be encouraging our friends to spend time with their families, attend the temple, and teach their children. We have been encouraging our friends to attend the temple by offering to watch their child while they serve in the temple. Such service blesses our lives, as well as their lives – and strengthens their family, helping them to keep their temple covenants.

What ways do you accomplish the three responsibilities listed here for members in God’s kingdom on earth? Do you feel a desire to share the gospel and your testimony with others when your testimony is strong? How do you support your friends and families in keeping their covenants?

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