This semester at BYU I’m taking the class “Christian History in Light of the Restored Gospel.” While preparing for class, I was reading one of the textbooks, and one sentence in particular stuck out to me, speaking about Christianity becoming the state religion of Rome. It read, “Faith became easy, and sincerity suffered,” due to the newfound acceptance of Christianity. This sentence meant much more to me as a Latter-day Saint, thinking of the high standards of living that we are asked to live, as part of the same Church that the Savior established. I began pondering on what the Lord asks us to do, and why He does it.
First of all, why standards at all? Why does the Lord not accept us for what we want to do, without regards to what He wants? Why does He trust us with the gift of agency if He wants us to act in a certain way? The answer to this is found in the third chapter of the Book of Abraham:
21 I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all…
25 And [God and Christ] will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
So back to one of the primary answers to one of the primary questions: we are here to prove ourselves, that we may return to live with our Heavenly Father, our Savior, and our families. Doesn’t this make any endeavor that we are asked to go through worth it? The rewards are so great for the decisions that we make, that the expectations for blessing must be markedly higher. As President Henry B. Eyring taught:
“The Lord sets His standards [high] so that He can bless us. Think about those blessings: He promises those who meet the standards the help of the Holy Ghost. He promises personal peace. He promises the chance to receive holy ordinances in His house. And He promises those who endure in living His standards that they will have eternal life. They will live in families in the presence of our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son.”
This confirms what is taught to us by the Prophet Joseph Smith in D&C 130:
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
And by King Benjamin in Mosiah 2:22:
…he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
We don’t keep commandments to “pay back” Heavenly Father, or to earn the earthly acclaim of men. We keep the commandments because it is all He asks us to do. King Benjamin continued:
23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
We are not saved by works, but rather by the faith that performing works grows. Though it is the Atonement of Christ that ultimately saves us, we are saved by His grace after “all we can do.” That means that we are asked to do hard things. To do things that we don’t understand. To do things that may not make sense to us. But by doing these things, it means that we can return to live with our families in the presence of God.
Follow the Lord’s direction in John 7:17, that “if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” The only way to gain a testimony is to live the principles, and test them for themselves.
Joseph Smith once wrote:
Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly thingsWhen a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth's sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.
So why does the Lord require us to do hard things? Because He wants us to return to Him. Let us re-double our efforts to show our faith and sincerity, as we seek to serve the Lord and each other.