As a child of God, my purpose on earth is to grow up in the Lord. “The purpose of life for man is growth, just as the purpose of life for trees and plants is growth. Trees and plants grow automatically and along fixed lines; man can grow as he will…Man is formed for growth, and he is under the necessity of growing” (Wallace D. Wattles). My ultimate goal is to attain the celestial kingdom of our Heavenly Father, and to receive His fullness and glory. But I cannot expect to inherit all that the Father has without paying the price. What is the price? It is: 1) Having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; 2) Repenting of sins and mistakes continually; 3) Following the example of the Savior by being baptized by immersion from one having priesthood authority; 4) Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost; 5) Keeping God’s commandments and enduring to the end in faithfulness to the covenants I have made. But making these initial choices is not enough. I must stay in covenant. I must choose on an ongoing basis to remain, which will be reflected in how much I love and what I seek on a daily basis. Being a faithful follower of Christ is a small price to pay for the unfathomable blessings He promises. He promises a fullness of joy. A fullness of joy means that I cannot possibly experience more joy. This is eternal life, or life as God lives—which is the greatest gift of God. This gives me the greatest Reasons to Rejoice!
What is a covenant and why is it an important concept of religion? In secular language, a covenant is an agreement between two or more individuals. In a religious context, a covenant is a two-way promise made with God. Heavenly Father fixes the terms of the contract as well as the blessings to be received as we strive to keep our promises. “When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:21). At baptism we covenant to serve the Lord and keep His commandments. When we partake weekly of the sacrament, we renew that covenant and declare our willingness to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ. We become His sons and daughters. We promise to always remember Him and to stay worthy, through repentance, of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. In return, God promises us eternal life—the greatest of all the gifts of God—which is to continue in progression to receive all that the Father has. God promises that we may become joint heirs to the blessings of an eternal family, as promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their posterity. Thus, celestial marriage is the covenant of exaltation, which is the highest kingdom of God. I find Reasons to Rejoice in my destiny as a son of God. With inexpressible gratitude, I renew my covenants with Him each week.
What would make the world a better place? Some might seek a political answer. But my answer would be GOOD PARENTING. “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world” (William Ross Wallace). This “hand” includes both parents. Children need mothers whose highest priority is to be in the home fulltime (if at all possible) to teach, train, and lovingly minister to their young ones. Children need fathers who assume their divine stewardship to provide the necessities of life and teach their children correct principles. As parents provide a loving home environment, children will thrive and grow. The Lord has commanded parents to “bring up [their] children in light and truth” (D&C 93:40). This includes teaching them to understand the doctrines of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live” (https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation?lang=eng).
Have you ever winced with regret at a poor choice—something you should not have said or something you should not have done? Or have you ever neglected to do something that impaired your spiritual growth and peace? Certainly we all have. The good news is that because of Jesus Christ’s infinite Atonement, He made it possible to follow the pathway of complete repentance. Repentance is essential to our temporal and eternal happiness. Repentance is more than just acknowledging wrongdoings; it is a change of heart and mind. It is turning to God. One of my favorite verses of scripture is the Lord’s promise that, “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is designed to nourish, sanctify, and heal the imperfect soul. The Church is filled with people who are trying to keep the commandments, but haven’t mastered them yet. “If you expect to find perfect people here, you will be disappointed. But if you seek the pure doctrine of Christ, the word of God ‘which healeth the wounded soul,’ and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost, then here you will find them. In this age of waning faith—in this age when so many feel distanced from heaven’s embrace, here you will find a people who yearn to know and draw closer to their Savior by serving God and fellowmen, just like you. Come, join with us” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf).
The word hope is sometimes misunderstood. In our everyday language, the word often has a hint of uncertainty. For example, we may say that we hope for a change in the weather or a visit from a friend. That kind of hope is merely a wish. But in the language of the gospel the word hope is sure unwavering and active. Prophets speak of having a “firm hope” and a “lively hope”. In this context “hope is the confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness.” The scriptures often speak of hope as anticipation of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. When we have hope, we trust God’s promises. We have a quiet assurance that if we do the works of righteousness, we “shall receive [our] reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23). This kind of hope puts a spring in my step and a smile on my face. This kind of hope makes me want to get up every day and try again. This kind of hope gives me great Reason to Rejoice.
Do you remember learning to ride a bike? There were probably steadying hands from one who loved you until you were confident to do it by yourself. When you mastered this skill and successfully navigated your solo journey down the driveway, you probably exclaimed, “Wow-ee—this is the greatest day ever!” We could not have learned to ride a bike by having someone merely explain how it’s done. It was essential for us to get on the bike and experience it for ourselves, even with wobbles and maybe a fall or two in the process. Similarly, although we were taught principles and doctrines in pre-mortal life, we needed to come to earth in order to learn lessons by experience. But we are not left alone. Heavenly Father has provided tools for our journey to insure a safe return. He provided a Savior to atone for our wobbles and spills along the way. He provided the Holy Ghost to guide our decisions and protect us from physical and spiritual dangers. He preserved the scriptures to teach truth and keep us on the path leading Home. He nestled us into families who love, teach, and protect us. He provided living prophets to chart the way toward our heavenly goal. I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who provides continued stability, comfort, and assurance as I strive to follow Him. I want to exclaim at the end of my life, “Wow-ee—this was the greatest experience ever!”
What instruction do you think we received when leaving our heavenly home before beginning our sojourn here on earth? I would like to think we had specific instruction about the role agency would play in our earthly life. Even though we would not remember that instruction, due to the veil of forgetfulness, I believe it is easily recognized when asked what is agency? Agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves. Agency is essential in the plan of salvation. Without agency, we would not be able to learn or progress or follow the Savior. With it, we are “free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil” (2 Nephi 2:27). “Men and women receive their agency as a gift from God, but their liberty and, in turn, their eternal happiness come from obedience to His laws” (L Tom Perry). Does the phrase “obedience to law is liberty” ring true in all of us now? I hope that the choices we make in exercising our agency will lead us toward the Savior and His eternal happiness.