Over the past few days I have experienced the beginning of a very deep spiritual awakening. I recently made a new friend I have come to have a very deep amount of respect for. She joined the LDS church about a year and a half ago, and since has experienced many things which have tried and tested her faith, and she, by overcoming them, has developed one of the most beautiful and firm testimonies I have ever experienced. As we talked a few nights ago I shared with her that I had a great desire to strengthen my testimony but wasn’t sure how. These past few days I have prayed and thought very hard on the topic, and have tried to find the way that would be the best for me to develop my testimony. Last night, as I thought back to my deployment to Africa, I remembered what it was that strengthened me so much while I was there. It was the scriptures. During my seven months in Africa I spent just about all the free time I had either studying the scriptures or playing music. I recalled the power I felt as I grew closer and closer to my Savior by studying His life and teachings. I determined that this was the course I need to take if I am going to begin once again to develop my testimony.
Today, I was looking at my scriptures and trying to decide where to begin my studies. The thought came to me that I should begin in “Self Mastery” in the Topical Guide. As I readthe scriptures listed, the first one that really stood out to me was in Matthew 16:24 which states: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (JST) And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments.”
As I read this verse over and over again it started to really sink in the kinds of changes I need to make in my life. I recalled this past Sunday when we watched the ending of “Testaments”, where the Savior is crucified and then comes to visit the people in America. It dawned on me then that every depiction I have ever seen of the Savior, He is always shown as the same person before and after His death and resurrection. He has the same traits and the same characteristics; He teaches and carries Himself in the same manner. It occurred to me that we truly are ourselves. I am ME. If I die today and move on, THIS is who I am going to be. WOW, what a powerful realization. As I stop and think about that, about the habits I have created, the manner in which I conduct myself, the conversations I hold with people, I can’t help but think that this is not who I would want to be as I move on into the next stage of my existence.
Here in this verse it states that we, as disciples of Christ, should deny ourselves of “ALL ungodliness”. A few Sundays ago in priesthood we discussed honesty, and I remember someone making the comment that he had shared with some of the people he worked with that he hasn’t paid for any of the music on his iPod. They, knowing that he was LDS, were surprised to discover that he was not perfectly honest in that area, that he would literally steal that music. This really made me look at my life, at the small things I do that God could never condone, He, being perfectly just and constant in all things, and not looking upon sin with the least degree of allowance.
Deny yourself of all ungodliness… As I read this sentence again, I am amazed at the gravity of that call to action. We are here for one purpose: to become as God is, with all that it entails. I know it is a process, I know that it will be a journey, and that it will take a lifetime, but here I am, at the beginning, finally seeing the road in front of me with a bit less fog. The Iron Rod: The word of God. Hold to the constant, unchanging standard that is absolute honesty, integrity, and righteousness in all things. Be obedient to all of God’s commandments.
There was a talk given by President Hinckley in a 1973 General Conference. He told of a conversation he had with a young Naval officer who, during his time training in the United States, had learned about the Church and been baptized.
President Hinckley asked the officer: “Your people are not Christians. What will happen when you return home a Christian, and, more particularly, a Mormon Christian?”
The officer’s face clouded, and he replied: “My family will be disappointed. … As for my future and my career, all opportunity may be foreclosed against me.”
President Hinckley asked, “Are you willing to pay so great a price for the gospel?”
With his dark eyes moistened by tears, he answered with a question: “It’s true, isn’t it?”
President Hinckley responded, “Yes, it is true.”
To which the officer replied, “Then what else matters?”
Nothing. This is it. This Gospel is the only way of life worth living, and as such, it should be lived with your whole heart, with your whole being. Nothing else matters.