Think of the last time you received a gift that you had REALLY been wanting but had to wait a long time to receive. I remember when I was eight years old, I first became aware of American Girl Dolls. Now these aren’t your average, run of the mill dolls. These are 18 inch, posable, stand-alone dolls that came with beautiful wavy, wig-style hair, detailed historical clothing and accessories. They also happen to be fairly expensive for a doll and as the fifth of eight children it wasn’t something my parents could just go out and buy at the drop of a hat. I would longingly hold my friends’ dolls, and flip through the pages of the American Girl catalogue. Two years later, my parents surprised me on my birthday with an American Doll of today that looked just like me and I felt like life could not be any more perfect.
While most of you have not longed for a doll, I am fairly certain you can relate to the feeling of longing and desire for a material object or experience—a toy, a phone, a trip to an exotic location or perhaps the newest edition of a computer game. How did you feel when you finally received the item? How long did the feeling last? I adored my doll and took very good care of it but within a few years it was put in a box along with many childhood memories. Was the same true for the object you wanted? How long before your desired object was set aside, broken, forgotten and your attention focused on the next latest and greatest possession that would fulfill your every dream?
As humans we are all somewhat a bit fickle and temperamental. We want things but often enjoy the wanting and receiving more than we enjoy the keeping and maintaining. This doesn’t just happen with temporal possessions but things of a spiritual nature as well.
The scriptures are full of examples like this, and Laman and Lemuel are a prime example. Over and over again they saw angels, or had undeniable spiritual experiences that helped them have a change of heart for a time and they would do what is right. Unfortunately, they soon forgot those experiences in their desire for pleasure or physical comforts in the moment. Their pride and desire for birth rights, inheritances, and what was left behind led them to forget; but more than anything their inability to understand the spiritual teachings and guidance of their father (the prophet) and the dislike of their more righteous brother led them to slowly (and sometimes quickly) forget their testimonies and lose the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
Now, I want you to think about why you are here at church today. I want you to think about your conversion process and your introduction to the gospel. Do you remember how you felt on the day of your baptism? Remember the fire of your testimony when you learned of a new doctrine? Or the burning in your heart when you searched for truth or guidance and found an answer through prayer or scripture study, or perhaps it came through the words of another member during a talk or lesson. Remember a time when you felt committed to doing what was right and being your best.
In the Book of Mormon, Alma the Younger queries “If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26)
I want each of you to think about that question for just a minute. Have you (insert your name) experienced a change of heart? Have you (insert name) felt to sing the song of redeeming love? Ok, so you probably haven’t ever wanted to break out and sing a song like a Broadway musical but have you felt excited about the gospel and following Jesus Christ? I’m guessing most of us have felt this way before and that is why Alma’s follow up question is so poignant, “Can you (insert name) feel so now?”
Quentin L. Cook said in his 2012 General Conference talk, “This question, “Can ye feel so now?” rings across the centuries. With all that we have received in this dispensation—including the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the outpouring of spiritual gifts, and the indisputable blessings of heaven—Alma’s challenge has never been more important.”, “This question, “Can ye feel so now?” rings across the centuries. With all that we have received in this dispensation—including the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of , the outpouring of spiritual gifts, and the indisputable blessings of heaven—Alma’s challenge has never been more important.”
If you answered that question “Can you feel so now” with an emphatic “YES! I do feel that same motivation and desire. I’m still fully converted and doing my best to follow my Savior!” Then wonderful! Keep up the good work! Keep doing what you are doing and help those around you along!
But I’m guessing that if your ‘yes’ is a little less certain, or perhaps you are uncertain as to your answer, then we need to stop and examine why that is.
Elder Cook says, “It is not surprising that some in the Church believe they can’t answer Alma’s question with a resounding yes. They do not “feel so now.” They feel they are in a spiritual drought. Others are angry, hurt, or disillusioned. If these descriptions apply to you, it is important to evaluate why you cannot “feel so now.”“It is not surprising that some in the Church believe they can’t answer Alma’s question with a resounding yes. They do not “feel so now.” They feel they are in a spiritual drought. Others are angry, hurt, or disillusioned. If these descriptions apply to you, it is important to evaluate why you cannot “feel so now.”
Many who are in a spiritual drought and lack commitment have not necessarily been involved in major sins or transgressions, but they have made unwise choices. Some are casual in their observance of sacred covenants. Others spend most of their time giving first-class devotion to lesser causes. Some allow intense cultural or political views to weaken their allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some have immersed themselves in internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed.”Many who are in a spiritual drought and lack commitment have not necessarily been involved in major sins or transgressions, but they have made unwise choices. Some are casual in their observance of sacred covenants. Others spend most of their time giving first-class devotion to lesser causes. Some allow intense cultural or political views to weaken their allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some have immersed themselves in internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed.”
This is so true and I think often we feel less commitment simply because life is hard, we are tired, and we don’t want to put it in the work. I think we all desire to return to our Heavenly Father and receive of his blessings. I can’t imagine anyone NOT wanting that but ALL good things in this life that are spiritually lasting come at the price of hard work, commitment and endurance.
It’s so easy to want something but another thing to put in the work to achieve it. As a young girl of 15 I set a goal to run a sub six-mile (1.6 km in less than 6 min) That may not seem like much when the fastest man has run it in 3:43 and woman in 4:12, but for someone like me who is only 157 cm tall and only a mediocre runner it is a challenging goal. My husband Dixon has known about that goal for years and in the last few months he realized I will never achieve it on my own if I continue to run my comfortable pace of 8-9 minute/mile runs. He took it upon himself to join my goal, researched methods and training schedules and has become my trainer. We have been training for three months now and after a lot of hard work, we have gotten down to 6:35. I used to love to run. Now I absolutely hate it! Every single run—regardless if it is speed or endurance training—is excruciating and something I force myself to do it. I am pushing my body out of what is comfortable and have even questioned my desire for this goal and whether it is REALLY something I want or even need to do. But you know what? I have kept at it and I am stronger. I am slowly seeing improvements and while I still have at least another three months of training before we reach the goal, I know we will get there. It might take longer than our training schedule and there may be unexpected delays along the way, but if I stay determined and focused and continue to put in the work, I will reach my goal and that is really exciting.
With this experience I have come to realize that half the battle is a mental game. Finding the motivation in my MIND (not my muscles) to keep going, keep trying and not to give up. To find the faith in myself to finish, to willingly except my limitations and listen to my body so that I am able to avoid injury and make slow and steady improvements.
I have learned that the mental battle is not just important for physical goals and challenges, it is vital for spiritual growth as well. It is continuing to fight when you are burnt out and exhausted and simply want to give up. It is believing you are not only capable, but worth fighting for. It is realizing that your example of perseverance and faith is strengthening those who surround you.
I always thought the “enduring to the end” part of the church’s mission was the easiest portion—almost an after thought. The hard part was making the commitments (being baptized, receiving your endowment, being sealed) and serving others. Enduring to the end just meant continuing what you were already doing—what is so difficult about that? As I age, I am starting to realize that the importance of enduring to the end IS the hard part. We need to make those vital saving covenants but it is all for nothing if we do not make it to the end of our race.
Moroni reminds us that when we were baptized we promised to take upon us “the name of Christ, having [the] determination to serve him to the end.” It takes commitment to be baptized but we MUST be DETERMINED to serve him to the end. That is a serious covenant and it will require courageous effort, commitment, and integrity if we want to continue to “sing the song of redeeming love” and stay truly converted. It is not going to be a cake walk, if it was, we would not have any trials and temptations. But as Isaiah remind us “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). We CAN do it. It will be a lot of work but we can fight the good fight. We can finish the race and we can keep the faith. (2 Tim 4:7)CAN
In closing I echo Elder Cook when he says, “My sincere prayer is that each of us will take any necessary action to feel the Spirit now so we can sing the song of redeeming love with all our hearts.”now can
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Sister Chelsea Grant