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Our life as Continual Renewal

Our life as Continual Renewal

It is my pleasure to stand before you this day at the start of a New Year. It is a time of renewal in many of our lives and I hope the spirit of the words I say today may influence many of you for the better.

At the start of a New Year our minds are drawn to New Year’s resolutions and in preparing ourselves for these commitments I believe it important to review the Gospel Principles around the value of bettering ourselves or eliminating things from our lives.

The very heart of the Gospel is the ‘layout’ so to speak of our Mortal experience, what we refer to as the Plan of Salvation. It’s very easy for many of us to present the layout of that plan. We existed in some form before we came to earth, We passed through a veil to come to this earth, we go through our mortal experience, Faith, Repentance, Baptism, HG and Endure to the End, Resurrection, Judgement, and Kingdom… a

Elder Oaks, from the October 2000 General Conference said,

“…we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts-what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts-what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”

It is this principle ‘On Becoming what our Heavenly Father desires us to become’ that I wish to speak. Theologically it has some definitions, what we refer to as Exaltation, but known in Christian circles as Theosis, Human Divinization, or Deification. The scriptures also speak of Partaking of the Divine Nature, or in other words,

How do we qualify for the Celestial Kingdom.

Mosiah 1:39 reads,

“For this is my work and my Glory to bring to pass the immortality and Eternal Life of Man.”

Romans 8: 16-19 reads,

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God and Joint-Heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the suferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

From the very beginnings of the Christian Churches the centrality of Christ has been recognized; he is the one who makes Exaltation-Deification-a possibility. Two classic texts which come from the early centuries of the Church clearly demonstrate this belief. St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130-c. 202)-who had known St. Polycarp, who had known the Apostles5-wrote, “the Word of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, who because of his immeasurable love became what we are in order to make us what he is.”6 St. Athanasius of Alexandria (295-373) also explained that “God became man, so that we might be made gods.”7 Thus, at the root and core of the doctrine of theosis was not only a belief in the centrality of Christ but also the belief that he makes theosis possible precisely because he is both God and human.

So it is this the very life of Christ and the Gospel he taught that paved the way that is marked by the Iron Rod.

It’s fitting that we are studying from the OT this year because, from the Creation-Drama of Adam and Eve we learn many things, one that has touched my heart is the symbolism of the differing scenes. We first meet them in a garden, or a beginning period, a place where sin has no hold on them. After their choice to take on mortality they enter the lone and dreary world a change of scenery introduces a beginning or a preparatory law (or covenant) with which Adam and Eve follow but often times don’t understand the reasons why. After a time, they are invited to participate in a higher Covenant which ultimately will enable their transition into the Celestial existence with Father. Now I see a similar pattern at a MACRO level being played out in the nation of Israel as a whole (as we read in the OT), but also at a micro level in our own lives.

– Much like our own lives. We all go through a period of ‘innocence’ in which our actions don’t count against us, after our baptisms we are under a covenant to follow the gospel, but are still in our homes where parents influence much of what we do or how we follow the commandments (much like an Iron Rod). As we grow we take on further commitments of the Gospel and are left to our own choices for Faith and obedience (much like the Liahona).

So, where are we on this path? Are we proceeding forward? Are we stagnant? Have we retraced our steps backwards because we felt safer back there? Are we too tied up in the things of this world that we only do an adequate job in the gospel while excelling at work or school or computer games or crafts or sports or whatever else we may choose to spend a large portion of our time?

Here is the Key from the scriptures, I believe,

2 Peter 1:4-8 reads,

4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Delbert L. Stapley in October Conference of 1974 said,

One of the best habits to be cultivated is that of reading the scriptures to become knowledgeable of our responsibilities. By learning God’s commandments and keeping them, we develop the ways of righteousness that are an expression of our faith. With good habits we prepare ourselves for excellence.

We need to ask ourselves, “Are my usual thoughts and present actions worthy of eternal life? Am I setting my sights on eternal goals and working to obtain them?” Anything short of our best isn’t good enough, especially in the service of the Lord.

The Lord has counseled us to repent and walk uprightly before him. Uprightly implies a strict adherence to moral principles and honesty of purpose. We are instructed to make our home an abode of righteousness and honor. Honor is almost an old-fashioned word in today’s world. It encompasses duty, responsibility, and respect for the eternal values. It also suggests a firm holding to codes of right behavior and the guidance of a high sense of stewardship.

Let us dare to be different from the ways of the world when its ways are not the ways of God. In a world troubled with selfish greed, dishonesty, and dishonor, let us set ourselves on a higher path, striving to develop and strengthen the qualities of unselfish service with wholehearted effort, dependability, honesty, morality, and every other good attribute that would lead us to integrity of character. We begin, then, with our thoughts and end with our eternal destiny. Our destiny is determined by our character, and our character is the sum and expression of our habits. Character is won by hard work.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught,

“Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 255-56).

I will conclude with a repeat of an earlier statement from Elder Oaks:

“…we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts-what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts-what we have become”

Testimony