Enduring Our Wilderness Trek
The children of Israel struggled as Moses brought them out of Egypt to the Promised Land. Many complained that life was easier for them as slaves to the Egyptians and longed to go back. Moses constantly had to remind them that they were better off with the Lord as their God and tried diligently to prepare them to be in God’s presence when they reached Mt. Sinai but they continued to long for Egypt instead of what Moses was preparing them for.
Because of their rebellion, Israel was forced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until all the adults died and a new people was raised up prepared to enter into the Promised Land.
Lehi had a similar experience with his family when the Lord commanded him to take his family and flee Jerusalem. Of his four sons, two of them, Lamen and Lemuel, complained that they were leaving their comfortable lives for the wilderness. Another son, Nephi, had the faith to go to the Lord for his own witness that his father had been commanded by the Lord to flee and he received that witness and followed his father willingly. The fourth son, Sam, did not put forth the effort to gain his own witness, but believed Nephi and so followed willingly.
Like the children of Israel and Lehi’s family we are also on our own wilderness trek. When we were born here in mortality we had to leave the comfort of our heavenly home and come here to be in the wilderness. How do we react to our wilderness challenges? Are we like the children of Israel and Lamen and Lemuel, constantly murmuring and complaining that life is hard and wishing for something better? Are we like Sam who went along with his brother and father, but not putting forth the effort to gain a personal witness of what the Lord would have you do? Or are you like Nephi that takes challenges you are given and says:
I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (1 Nephi 3:7)
Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke of this to the students of BYU when he said: “let us once and for all establish our residence in Zion and give up the summer cottage in Babylon” (“A Wonderful Flood of Light”, Neal A. Maxwell, BYU Devotional, March 26, 1989).
In Lehi’s dream of the Tree of Life, he described a great and spacious building full of people mocking those who were partaking of the fruit of the tree. Nephi tells us that many listened to those mocking and were ashamed and fell away others gave no head to the mocking and clung to the iron rod and made it to the tree. There are those that mock the church and our standards saying it is outdated and incorrect. We must not give in to them and heed them not.
What other habits or interests do we have that keep our focus on the great and spacious building? In a devotional address at BYU-Idaho Michael G. Clark asked:
“So now I ask, what are your individually tailored temptations that emanate from this great and spacious building? What is pulling you into or keeping you there? How good is your grip on the iron rod? If you are partaking of the precious fruit how well are you dealing with the fingers of scorn that are pointed in your direction? Very simply, we might ask, where do we currently find ourselves in Lehi’s dream? If, as President Packer suggested, you find yourself in that great and spacious building to one degree or another, you may want to develop an escape plan.” (“Making Your Escape from the Great and Spacious Building”, Michael G. Clark, BYU-Idaho Devotional, October 28, 2014)
I would like to suggest three things that will help us give up our cottage in Babylon, to break away from the great and spacious building and become true citizens of Zion.
1. Keep the Sabbath Day Holy
2. Gain own testimony of the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith
3. Use technology properly
First – Keep the Sabbath day holy. Sabbath observance has always been one of the distinguishing characteristics of true saints of God. The Lord has commanded:
And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;
And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full. (Doctrine & Covenants 59:9-13)
Elder Gillespie speaking in General Conference on a Sunday said:
“Today is the Sabbath. It does not end when we leave this session; it does not end if someone calls on the phone or knocks at our door inviting us to come out and play, go for a ride, to a ball game, or shopping; it does not end because we are on vacation or someone is visiting us, whether member or nonmember.
“The Sabbath lasts all day!
“The prophet Spencer W. Kimball counseled: “The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things. Abstinence from work and recreation is important but insufficient. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts, and if one merely lounges about doing nothing on the Sabbath, he is breaking it. To observe it, one will be on his knees in prayer, preparing lessons, studying the gospel, meditating, visiting the ill and distressed, sleeping, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day to which he is expected. [Failure] to do these proper things is a transgression on the omission side.” (“The Blessings of Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy”, H. Aldridge Gillespie, General Conference, October 2000)
The second thing we need to do to be citizens of Zion is to gain our own testimony of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Like Nephi when he wanted to know for himself if what his father was teaching was true, we must be willing to go to the tops of the mountains if needed to gain our own witness that Joseph Smith did see the first vision and was given the priesthood authority to restore the church again on the earth. We cannot live on the borrowed light of someone else’s testimony. On LDS.org in the youth section on testimony it says:
“You may have heard a testimony compared to a burning fire before, but think about how a fire is built.
“If you try to light a big log, it probably won’t catch fire. You have to have some sort of kindling, like smaller sticks or leaves, to get the fire going. Likewise, small experiences can kindle the fire of your testimony.
“Sometimes people may put lighter fluid on a log, which makes the flames become bright, but once the lighter fluid is burned, the fire dies back down because it was the lighter fluid and not the log burning. Your testimony may sometimes be flamed by a strong spiritual experience, but that may not be enough to maintain a constantly burning testimony.
“Even if you have a nice fire burning, it will eventually die if you don’t continue to put wood on it. In like manner, you must continue to feed the fire of your testimony so that it doesn’t smolder out.
“We can rely on the faith and testimony of others only so long. Eventually we must have our own strong and deeply placed foundation, or we will be unable to withstand the storms of life, which will come” (“Gaining and Keeping a Testimony”, Mindy Rae Friedman, LDS.org/youth)
Once we have a personal testimony, we must continue steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments by following our prophet and local leaders, accept and serve in church callings and follow the basics of scripture study, family and individual prayer, temple attendance and 100% home and visiting teaching. These are the fruits of someone that has a testimony.
The third principle in leaving the great and spacious building behind is to use technology properly and wisely. Elder Ridd in the April 2014 Priesthood Session of general conference told the brethren:
“Young men, you have probably heard before that you are a “chosen generation,” meaning that God chose and prepared you to come to earth at this time for a great purpose. I know this to be true. But this evening I would like to address you as the “choice generation” because never before in history have individuals been blessed with so many choices. More choices mean more opportunities; more opportunities mean more potential to do good and, unfortunately, evil. I believe that God sent you here at this time because He trusts you to successfully discern among the mind-boggling choices available.
“In 1974, President Spencer W. Kimball said, “I believe that the Lord is anxious to put into our hands inventions of which we laymen have hardly had a glimpse” (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Oct. 1974, 10).
“And He has! You are growing up with one of the greatest tools for good in the history of man: the Internet. With it comes an elaborate buffet of choices. The abundance of choice, however, carries with it an equal portion of accountability. It facilitates your access to both the very best and the very worst the world has to offer. With it you can accomplish great things in a short period of time, or you can get caught up in endless loops of triviality that waste your time and degrade your potential. With the click of a button, you can access whatever your heart desires. That’s the key—what does your heart desire? What do you gravitate toward? Where will your desires lead? (“The Choice Generation”, Elder Randall L. Ridd, General Conference, April 2014)
And just this past general conference Elder Cook said:
“A wonderful example of the need for moderation, balance, and wisdom is the use of the Internet. It can be used to do missionary outreach, to assist with priesthood responsibilities, to find precious ancestors for sacred temple ordinances, and much more. The potential for good is enormous. We also know that it can transmit much that is evil, including pornography, digital cruelty, and anonymous yakking. It can also perpetuate foolishness. As Brother Randall L. Ridd poignantly taught at the last general conference, speaking of the Internet, “You can get caught up in endless loops of triviality that waste your time and degrade your potential.”
“Distractions and opposition to righteousness are not just on the Internet; they are everywhere. They affect not just the youth but all of us. We live in a world that is literally in commotion. We are surrounded by obsessive portrayals of “fun and games” and immoral and dysfunctional lives. These are presented as normal conduct in much of the media.
“Elder David A. Bednar recently cautioned members to be authentic in the use of social media. A prominent thought leader, Arthur C. Brooks, has emphasized this point. He observes that when using social media, we tend to broadcast the smiling details of our lives but not the hard times at school or work. We portray an incomplete life—sometimes in a self-aggrandizing or fake way. We share this life, and then we consume the “almost exclusively … fake lives of [our] social media ‘friends.’” Brooks asserts, “How could it not make you feel worse to spend part of your time pretending to be happier than you are, and the other part of your time seeing how much happier others seem to be than you?” (“Choose Wisely”, Elder Quentin L. Cook, General Conference, October 2014)
Making the choices to use the technology wisely will help us focus on the things that matter most. We are able to be clean from the sins of this generation and worthy to have the Holy Ghost be with us. If we are worthy of the Holy Ghost to dwell with us, we are then able to have our prayers answered when we ask to know the truth concerning the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we can know for ourselves that it is true.
As we keep the commandment to obey the Sabbath, we also keep ourselves apart from Babylon and the mocking of those who are in the great and spacious building. If we do not heed their words and cling to the iron rod we will eventually be able to partake of the fruit of the tree of life, which is the most precious of all other fruits.
Then as saints of God, instead of murmuring about our problems, we are able to see the difficulties that we experience in this wilderness trek as opportunities to grow and prove ourselves worthy of being citizens of Zion and exaltation in the Kingdom of God.
Your comments and questions are welcome.