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The Lord Prepares the Way

Michael Ray
February 21, 2023 11:15 AM

"We have to choose our hard and become what the Lord wants us to become, letting the heat of experience, combined with the love and comfort of the atonement of Jesus Christ, purify us."

I am grateful and honored to have the opportunity to speak with you today.

How do we become capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ? Today I would like to share a few things that help me in my efforts to be a true disciple of Christ.

One of my favorite sayings is “Choose your Hard”.

I first heard this saying a few years ago from my Stake President, who heard it from a Missionary serving in our area. As she explained it, life is meant to be hard, not easy. We get to choose our hard: something hard we do today, or a hard outcome we’ll get in the future. You might have heard some say, “you can do hard things”, but I’d say you must choose to do the hard thing because it’s going to be even harder if you don’t.

Let me give you a few examples

We can choose to take care of our bodies and health. That’s Hard! Or we can become obese, unhealthy and suffer problems associated with that lifestyle. That’s harder.

We can choose to work hard and spend less than we earn. That’s Hard! Or we can overspend, live in debt and feel stress. That’s harder.

We can invest in our relationships. Or we can be lonely.

We can study, pray and keep covenants. That’s Hard! Or we can struggle spiritually and miss the joy that comes from the gospel. Harder.

We can repent and live worthy. That’s hard. Or we can live without the spirit, struggling with decisions, not having the peace and comfort that comes from the Lord. That’s harder.

Choosing our hard is an eternal principle. All actions and the lack of action come with consequences. Sometimes the hard comes to us and we have to choose how we will respond.

Think of Nephi, who is told to return to Jerusalem to get the plates from Laban. He responded: “I will go and do the thing the Lord commanded, for I know the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” [i] Nephi chose his hard, with faith that the Lord would prepare a way.

Do you remember what Sister Kusch told us, just a few weeks ago, “Be grateful for the gift of opposition, for challenges, for hard things. They smooth out our rough edges, turn us to God, and help us appreciate a beautiful, warm, sunny day.”

Jesus Christ is the greatest example of Choosing our Hard. He volunteered to come to earth and be the Savior in the great premortal council. [ii] He was born in a conquered nation in humble circumstances with a feeding trough for his first bed. He fasted 40 days in the wilderness to commune with His Father. He did not succumb to Satan’s temptations. He chose His hard over and over. When the time came for His great atoning sacrifice, it was harder than we can begin to comprehend. He prayed: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Then later he prayed “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” The pain and agony were so great he sweat great drops of blood as he took upon Him our sins, pains, sufferings and sorrows. He chose His hard and in so doing saved all mankind. Then He had to choose his hard again the next day, going through the scourging, beating, insults and scorn, finally submitting to be crucified. He had the power and choice not to do these things, but He chose his Hard and fulfilled his mission, doing all the Father directed.

What hard things do you need to choose? Marriage, childbirth, living the law of chastity, going on a mission, staying active and faithful in church when somebody offends you or you don’t understand some element of the doctrine; truly, these are hard things. Just remember, choosing hard now brings joy and a better life later.

A few weeks ago, Elder Bednar spoke to us and shared that the essence of mortality is to gain experience and change from the natural man, not stay the same as we are. I think this is our greatest hard. It never ends during this life. It is the essence of our mission, to repent and change, to become reborn and converted. This has to happen to us individually, as families, and as a people.

President Nelson has been sending this message, that we need to change and be converted, to us loud and clear in recent years. He’s taught:

· Repentance is the process of change. We need to change to become more like Jesus Christ. Make your focus daily repentance. [iii]

· Do the spiritual work to find out for yourselves (that this is the Savior’s restored church). Time is running out! [iv]

· Let God Prevail! [v]

· The Lord needs a willing and worthy people to prepare the world for the Second Coming [vi]

· Start today to increase your faith. This takes effort. [vii]

· Get on the covenant path and stay there! [viii]

· Know your identity as a child of the God, a child of the Covenant, and a Disciples of Jesus Christ

We only can do this through Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. We need to be as King Lamoni’s father—willing to give up all our sins to know God. [ix] It’s hard. We have to choose it and prioritize it. We know no unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of God. [x]

But this seems so unattainable. And it is. It is fully impossible for us to do this on our own. For we are natural men and women, living in a fallen world, surrounded by the adversary and his servants that tempt us on every hand. For us, it would be impossible. But as the Savior reaffirmed, “With God, all things are possible”. [xi]

Both Isaiah and Malachi compared the Savior to refiner’s fire. May I share with you a personal experience with real refiner’s fire?

Example of Bronze Foundry:

When I was around seventeen, I worked as the head caster in a bronze foundry here in Salt Lake. We made some beautiful articles. The process began by heating up bricks of bronze in a special crucible, which I placed in a blast furnace. The heat from that furnace was tremendous. I wore multiple winter coats forward and backward, along with asbestos aprons and shields so I or my clothes wouldn’t catch fire. We’d heat the bronze until it became molten and a bright orange around 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. But it has to get hotter—to almost 2000 degrees, when it becomes brighter and white hot. During this last phase, before you pour it into waiting molds, the impurities separate from the bronze. You see them as streams of black, swirling in and out of the white-hot bronze. You can stir the bronze with a steel rod, but the impurities won’t adhere to it because they’re still blended with the bronze. You need a catalyst to change things. At that stage, I had to put in a small piece of zinc into the molten bronze. The zinc would flare up and melts instantly and suddenly the impurities rise to the top. When I would stir the metal with the rod, the impurities would now stick to the rod and I could easily remove and discard them, leaving the bronze pure and brilliant and ready to pour.

It takes both the zinc and the heat to transform bronze. So it is with us. We first activate the atonement of Christ through faith, repentance and making the covenant of baptism. We commit to always remember Him, take His name upon us and to keep His commandments. This is like the catalyst of the zinc. Only then can the Lord baptize us with Fire and the Holy Ghost, fully purifying us, removing our impurities and preparing us to be molded into what He would have us be, preparing us to return to the Father and Celestial glory.

When we make the effort to keep this covenant, the Savior’s atonement will cleanse us, ridding us of the sins and impurities that are engrained in us and swirl in our lives. When we strive to live with Him in our lives, He can change us from an impure natural man to a pure and beautiful spirit-led version of ourselves. He can break the chains of our bad habits and addictions, our natural appetites and lusts. He helps us replace selfishness with selflessness. We begin the process of becoming like Him and have hope in a joyful future.

Now might be a good time for each of us to personally reflect on how we are doing. Are you clean and pure today, ready to meet the Lord in His glory? Would we feel great joy and anticipation of being back in His presence? Or would we shrink and wish the rocks would fall on us and hide us and our bright knowledge of our guilt?

Perhaps you are struggling with a difficult sin, addiction, weakness or challenge. Maybe you’ve tried over and over and feel exhausted and hopeless? Maybe you feel you’ve fallen so far that the blessings and promises you’ve received are lost forever. You might feel it’s too late for you to repent. Or perhaps you think the pain of going through the process might be too harmful to your spouse, your children, your parents, or others around you as your sins are exposed. Maybe it’s just better to give up and be like everyone else may you can explain it all when you’re brought to the judgement bar after this life.

My dear friends, those are all the messages of the adversary. He tells us to give up, to stop trying, that it’s too late, that we can’t do this, that it’s too hard, that you should wait.

What does God say? Jesus taught it perfectly in Luke 15 in the parable of the Prodigal Son. If you will allow me to paraphrase part of the story: A son decided he’d had enough of living at home with his father and family. He wanted what the world had to offer, so he asked his father to give him his inheritance now. He left all behind, went into a far land and lived riotously, partaking of all the things the world offered that he’d been protected from at home. Money and virtue spent, the son found himself caught up in a famine and impoverished so he became a servant to a local man, feeding his pigs. The son was starving, so much so that he wished he could eat the husks and slops given to the pigs. At long last, he “came to himself” and woke up. He was the child of a loving father, who he’d rejected. How much better would he be to go back home. True, he’d already spend his inheritance, so he couldn’t be an heir or have status in the household. And perhaps there would be a hard price to pay of humiliation or worse. But it had to be better than this. He came up with what he’d say as he met his Father, “Father, I am no more worthy to be called they son: make me as one of thy hired servants”. He hoped this would work. He chose his hard and started the long walk home.

Now quoting from Luke’s account of the Savior’s parable, “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell upon his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring forth the fatted calf and kill it; and let us eat and be merry. For this, my son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost, and is found.”

For me, the phrase “when he was a great way off, his father ran to him” brings great hope and understanding. The Lord doesn’t wait to help us until we have arrived, fully repented and changed. He runs to us, with help—shoes, robes, ring and food—whatever we need to return. As the Lord told Moroni, His grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before Him. [xii]

We are all prodigals at some point. We all make mistakes and sin. What a blessing to know our Heavenly Father and Savior stand waiting for us to come to ourselves so they can run to us and help us return. I promise you that if you will make the effort to try, the Lord will come to you with the help you need to return to the path. Don’t wait. Choose your hard.

The Way

Alma shared that through his repentance experience, he learned that Jesus Christ is the only way and the only means to be saved [xiii] . You might ask, “But why would He prepare a way back for me after the many times I’ve fallen, and all I’ve done wrong?” The answer is simple: He loves you! How much? So much that our Heavenly Father gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life! [xiv] Jesus didn’t come to earth and do all He did so he could condemn you. He came to save you because He loves you! We can never do it alone. But we can do all things with Christ.

May I share two important principles that might increase your hope and motivate you to “come to yourself” and choose your hard?

1. God has all power. He can do anything, create anything, fix anything. He operates by eternal laws and can do all things necessary to fulfil His plans and accomplish His work.

2. God knows all things, past, present and future. Now this principle is hard for us to understand because we live in linear time where only this instant is present and all before this instant is the past and all ahead of this instant is the future. Not so for Him. His course is one eternal round. He sees the end from the beginning. We could spend a lot of time exploring the implications of this, but for now, let’s just recognize that He already knows what is going to happen in all things.

Now, think of what these two principles mean, when combined. He knows the choices we’ll make, both good and bad. This does not diminish in any way our ability to choose, the importance of our choices or predestine us in some way. Quite the opposite. It means that as a merciful Heavenly Father and our kind Elder Brother and Savior, They know what will happen and They prepare the way for us to do all we are supposed to do. They prepare the path for us to succeed and be blessed. As we enter the path, we don’t see the end or why He is having us do what he asks. That usually is only apparent in hindsight. The scriptures are full of examples you can study and ponder: The story of Joseph in Egypt, Moses and the Exodus, Esther and the King. If you look, you’ll find many more. Let’s look at two together.

God knew Jerusalem would be destroyed and the Jews carried away by Babylon because of their wickedness. He prepared the way for Lehi and his family to be safe and brought to a promised land. There are so many examples of how Lord’s omnipotence and omniscience prepared the way in their story:

1. God warned Lehi and helped him escape the mobs seeking his life

2. He had Lehi send his sons back to get the brass plates, preserving both their ability to know God through scripture and their ability to retain language. Do you remember what Nephi said—That he was led by the spirit, not knowing beforehand the things he must do?

3. He provided a Liahona that would guide them in through the wilderness, and then across the seas, including protecting them from danger and providing direction to food. They learned they had to be righteous to receive God’s direction.

4. He taught them, by the spirit, to build a ship using curious workmanship that could cross the thousands of miles of ocean to the Americas.

5. He had them keep a record, the Book of Mormon, that would fulfil prophecy and serve as a second witness of Christ, a critical part of the restoration and gathering of Israel.

Truly, God knew all things that they would need, all things they would do, and prepared the way for them. They made many mistakes. He did not remove the consequences of those mistakes, but He prepared a way for them if they would repent and follow Him.

Our second and probably best example of this principle for each of us comes from the early history of the church and the life of the prophet Joseph Smith.

After 4 years of instruction, testing, mistakes and repentance, Joseph received the golden plates from Moroni September 22, 1827. It took time and hard work for Joseph to develop the gift of seership and translation. By April of 1828, he and his now expectant wife Emma were living in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Joseph had now translated some of the Book of Mormon with Emma acting as his scribe but it was slow going. They both had to work most of the time and Emma didn’t feel very well. Martin Harris began to act as Joseph’s scribe April 12 and the work accelerated rapidly. They were translating the Book of Lehi, the first part of the large plates. By early June, the handwritten manuscript had reached 116 pages, written in small text on 13 ½ by 17 inch pages. Scholars have estimated that had this been published, it would have been well over 300 printed pages. Martin, who was under pressure from his wife and others who did not believe the record existed, asked Joseph if he could take the manuscript home to Palmyra to show it to them. Joseph didn’t like the idea, but asked the Lord if Martin could take it. The Lord said no. Martin pressed his request again and the Lord again said no. Martin begged Joseph to try one more time and this time the Lord gave conditional permission if Martin promised to show it to only 5 designated people and to covenant to obey the word of the Lord, which he did. Joseph gave him the manuscript June 14 and Martin left for Palmyra.

Later that same day Moroni appeared to Joseph and took the interpreters from him. The following day, Emma delivered a baby boy, Alvin, that was weak and sickly and died later that same day. Emma was weak and ill following the birth and Joseph cared for her for almost two weeks as they mourned the loss of their first son. During this time, they heard nothing from Martin and Emma grew increasingly restless and worried about him and the manuscript as did Joseph. She pled for Joseph to leave her and go to Palmyra to retrieve it, which he did. Upon arriving, Joseph sent a message to Martin, who lived 3 miles away, to come join them for breakfast. He didn’t arrive. Four hours passed before they saw him walking slowly up the path to their home.

Upon sitting down at the table, Martin dropped his head and sobbed: I have lost my soul! I have lost my soul! Joseph asked if he had lost the manuscript and Martin cried yes. Joseph told him they must go search for it at once but Martin had already torn the entire home apart. It is not there. Joseph exclaimed: “All is lost! What shall I do!...” and began weeping, groaning and pacing the floor. He and Martin knew how sacred the record is, how sacred the trust was that the Lord placed in them. Martin knew he had disobeyed the Lord and broken the covenant he made, showing the manuscript to many more people than he’d promised. Joseph was sure he made a grave mistake by wearying the Lord with his requests. They both feel their salvation and calling was lost and there is nothing they can do.

Let me pause the story for a minute. Have you ever felt like this? Like you can’t fix what you’ve done, that your very soul is at risk and perhaps much more? That the situation is hopeless?

Joseph’s mother encouraged him to repent and perhaps the Lord would be merciful and forgiving. Joseph left for Harmony the next day. After he arrived home, Moroni appeared to him and took the plates from Joseph. Joseph feels he is in darkness. After sincere repentance for a several weeks, Joseph’s prayers are answered and Moroni returned the Urim and Thummin to him, and told him that if would repent fully, he would receive the plates again in September. Through the interpreters Joseph received the revelation we read in D&C 3. In it, he was reprimanded sharply and told that the work of the Lord can’t be frustrated, but that if he repented, his gift and calling to translate would be restored. He was told the course of the Lord is an eternal round, but does he know what that means for him?

In September, Joseph receives the plates as promised and translation resumes starting where the manuscript left off, which is the Book of Mosiah, continuing in the large plates. The Lord instructed him not to retranslate any of what was lost, explaining that evil men had altered the manuscript and were laying a trap to discredit the work. The account of Lehi, his family and journey, the kings, wars and experiences up to that point are lost. In April 1829 Joseph received the revelation we read in D&C 10 and is told an account of what was lost was in the plates of Nephi, which he has yet to translate. By summer, almost a year after the manuscript was lost, they were at the Whitmer Farm in New York. The Book Saints presents it this way:

He was now translating the last part of the record, known as the small plates of Nephi, which would actually serve as the beginning of the book. Revealing a history similar to the one he and Martin had translated and lost, the small plates told of a young man named Nephi, whose family God had guided from Jerusalem to a new promised land. It explained the origins of the record and the early struggles between the Nephite and Lamanite peoples. More important, it bore a powerful testimony of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

When Joseph translated the writing on the final plate, he found that it explained the record’s purpose and gave it a title, The Book of Mormon, after the ancient prophet-historian who had compiled the book.

We don’t know exactly when Joseph understood that there was a another account of what had been lost, found in the small plates. He had to walk forward in faith, being obedient. But in the end, Joseph and we can see the Lord’s hand from the beginning. He prepared the way for his work to go forth perfectly. Joseph and Martin both repented and became more obedient, faithful servants. And the version of the Book of Mormon we have today is exactly what the Lord wanted us to have. Can you see how He prepared the way?

1. He had Nephi create a second set of plates, the small plates, for a wise purpose in Him that Nephi did not know. Upon these plates, Nephi and the subsequent prophets recorded their visions, revelations, and most spiritual experiences. They were the most precious portion.

2. When Mosiah became the record keeper, he was instructed by the Lord to only keep one record. There was no need for a parallel record beyond this part of the story.

3. Mormon and Moroni were inspired to include the small plates in their abridged record and to put them at the end of the record. Had they been at the beginning, they would have been the portion lost. The Lord had them placed there with the title page, for a reason.

4. The Lord preserved the record for over 1400 years, guarding it until Joseph was prepared and obedient enough to bring it forth.

Now think about the implications for us. We have a perfect case study showing God directed the actions of his servants more than 2000 years before what He knew would take place, happened. Like Joseph, we may not see the path to correct our errors, but it is there, waiting for us to repent and find it. He will show it to us. We still have to make the choice, be worthy to hear his guidance, and do whatever work is required. We have to repent and be humble. But the way is prepared and we can be led by the spirit to find it.

We will win the battle with the adversary if we keep repenting, listening to and following the spirit. The Lord can change us and take our mistakes and turn them into strengths. It is hard to repent. But it is harder not to. We have to choose our hard and become what the Lord wants us to become, letting the heat of experience, combined with the love and comfort of the atonement of Jesus Christ, purify us.

May we become as Alma and his son Alma the Younger, Enos, the Sons of Mosiah, the Apostle Paul, and the millions of others who have truly been converted. Like them, the Lord can make us strong tools in His hands to perform His mighty works.

Never give up my friends. It’s not too late to repent, find the path the Lord has prepared and to follow Him. He will run to help you. He will strengthen you to endure the trials of this life. He will purify you through experience and His Spirit. When you look back, you will see His hand has prepared the way for you in every step.

I know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. It is lead by a prophet, Russell M Nelson, who is guided by Them. May we choose our hard and come unto Christ becoming His capable and trusted disciples.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

[i] I Nephi 3:7

[ii] Abraham 3:27,







[ix] Alma 22:18

[x] 3 Nephi 27:19

[xi] Matthew 19:26

[xii] Ether 12:27

[xiii] Alma 38:9

[xiv] John 3:16-17

About the Speaker

Michael Ray

Mike Ray joined Ensign College as Director of Career and Internship Services in July, 2022.

Mike has worked as a leader for over 35 years in sales and marketing roles with leading technology companies. Most recently, he was Senior Vice President for MarketStar Corporation. Previous to MarketStar, he worked for Intel Corporation for almost 20 years.

Mike has an MBA from the University of Utah and a BS degree in Accounting from Brigham Young University.

He served a full-time missionary in the Texas Dallas and Peru Lima North Missions. Brother Ray has served in many ward and stake callings in the church and is currently serving as a ward missionary and gospel doctrine teacher.

He and his wife Cindy will be celebrating their 40th anniversary this year and are the parents of 7 children and grandparents of 19 grandchildren.
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