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I Will Not Yield, Becoming a Follower of Christ

President Bruce C. Kusch PhD
Alynda Kusch
April 23, 2024 11:15 AM

"Yielding to Satan and yielding to God are very different. Yielding to Satan means we give in to his influence. Yielding to God means we allow Him to prevail in our lives."
— President Bruce C. Kusch
"Is your outward appearance as well as the way you speak and behave a reflection of who you want to be in your heart?"
— Alynda Kusch

I Will Not Yield

By President Bruce C. Kusch
When I was 15 years old, I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to drive. Living in California, you could get a learner’s permit at 15 ½, and then at age 16, you could become a fully licensed driver.

I love to drive a car – probably not as much as Elder Uchtdorf loved flying airplanes – but it’s close. I’m not an expert when it comes to fixing a car. I can’t fix a car to save my life. I just like to drive them. One of the things I loved about our mission in Mexico was its size. It was 27,000 square miles of roads of varying quality and interesting obstacles. Shortly before coming home, Sister Kusch and I calculated that we had driven more than 300,000 kilometers, which is close to 190,000 miles - and had spent 5 ½ months of our mission just in the car, driving to our various assignments.

 When someone learns to drive, there are some important things to learn. You need to know how the car you are driving functions. You must learn to be a defensive driver – meaning you are watching and reacting to what other drivers are doing. And you need to know what the traffic lights and road signs mean.

 It’s important to understand what the “Yield” sign means and what it means to yield to another driver. When you yield to another driver, it means giving them the right-of-way to proceed before you. This is especially important at an intersection or when entering a roundabout. If you get distracted or if you and other drivers refuse to yield, you are guaranteed to have an accident.

This morning, I would like to speak about yielding and not yielding – but not in the context of driving - but in our lives in our relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and in resisting the temptations that Satan places before us.

I know many of you come to devotional earnestly seeking to be taught and edified by the Holy Ghost. I hope and pray you will feel His influence this morning as I share the message I have prepared.

So, what does it mean to yield? Let me share two definitions.

When we speak of yielding to Satan, to yield means to give up or to surrender or give way to his influence. Yielding to God means acknowledging His superior power, authority, and influence. It means we willingly allow Him to prevail in our lives.

The tugs and pulls and temptations of the world are everywhere. They’re all around us. They are not going away, and we can be certain that Satan and his countless minions never sleep in thinking of new ways to distract us and lead us away from the covenant path.

The Adversary would have us look at temptation and sin much differently than God would.

Satan would have us think, “I am mortal. I can’t be perfect in this life. Of course, I am going to sin. It is impossible not to yield to all the temptations that surround me every day. And besides, I’ve already yielded, so why try now? And even if I do sin, it’s no big deal. I’ll just go see the bishop to repent. That’ll take care of everything. Anyway, just a little sin is OK, isn’t it?”

Here’s how God would have us think: “I am a child of God, a child of the covenant, and a disciple of Jesus Christ. I recognize that in my imperfection, I will make mistakes; however, I am determined NOT to yield to Satan’s influence. I will use every resource I have to fight the battle against him. I will follow the Savior’s example of obedience and not yielding to temptation and I will draw upon the power of His Atonement and divine grace in my daily efforts to be what God wants me to be.”

Drawing upon the scriptures and prophetic teachings, I would like to share several doctrines, principles, and suggestions that can help us in our daily quest to not yield to the temptations of the world.

First, it is important to understand that being tempted is not a sin. Sin only comes when we choose to yield to temptation.

Being tempted by Satan is an intended part of our mortal experience.

In the Doctrine & Covenants, we learn that “…it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet“(see D&C 29:39).

One of the greatest gifts given us by Heavenly Father is the gift of moral agency (D&C 101:78),the freedom to choose (2 Nephi 2:27), to act and not be acted upon (2 Nephi 2:26), with the intent that we would choose God, obey His commandments (Moses7:33, Jacob 2:21), make and keep covenants with Him, and live to merit eternal life and exaltation (D&C 14:7).

Sometimes, we are tempted to do something that seems very harmless. One very important reason for us to live worthy of the personal revelation that comes through the Holy Ghost is to be warned of danger, to stay away from dangerous things, and to make the deliberate choice not to do them.

President Nelson has repeatedly counseled us to learn how to receive personal revelation and work each day on improving our capacity to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost. I will mention this again in a few minutes. He said:

“He will help you know what to do and what not to do, where to go and where not to go. He will help you to discern who are your true friends and who are not. The Holy Ghost will give you strength and keep you safe.” (“You Can Do All Things Through Christ,” 22 October 2023)

Now, for the young students who are here today, it’s been a very long time since I was your age. I don’t know what it is like to be you today – but I remember what it was like to be me when I was like you.

At your age – and even when you were younger, you may think you are invincible – especially the boys – and sometimes teenage boys do really dumb things.

I spent a couple of my Southern California summers working at a Boy Scout Camp. The camp I was assigned to was in a very remote area – miles from the headquarters. Our only form of transportation was an old Army jeep. It looked just like the jeep in this picture, only it wasn’t as nice.

We were under strict instructions that the jeep was to be driven only by licensed drivers. Remember that I told you how much I like to drive? Several of us were not old enough to drive yet, including me– but that was not about to stop us!

During a break when no other Scouts were in camp, we decided it would be fun to drive the jeep, so we started taking turns driving it. Besides the driver, there was someone in the front passenger seat, and two or three others could sit in the back. As you can see, the jeep was completely open.

But it wasn’t enough just to drive the jeep; we pretended we were race car drivers, and we wanted to see how fast we could negotiate the dirt roads in the middle of a very dense forest. We would drive a lap or two, then everyone would get out and change places, and we would do it all over again.

I took my turn driving, and then I was supposed to sit in the back for one last ride. There were no seatbelts. I climbed in, I took my place, and then I had the very distinct impression that I should get out of the jeep. I did, and I said, “I’m good, guys. I’m going to sit this one out.”

Off they went, roaring through the forest, and then we heard the terrifying sound of crunching metal and glass as the jeep crashed into a tree. The young man driving failed to negotiate a turn because he was going too fast; he hit a tree, and the jeep rolled. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. But, had I gone, I would have been sitting alone in the back of the jeep. When we got to the crash site, it was apparent that had I been in the back of that jeep, I would have been thrown out either into a tree or the jeep would have rolled over precisely where I would have landed. I don’t think I would have survived either of those possibilities. I am grateful that, in spite of my poor choice and disobedience, I was protected and warned that day by the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Sometimes, He can be very direct.

Sometimes, the promptings are soft and subtle, and they are the still, small voice.

If we are not careful with the choices we make, we risk offending the Holy Ghost, and He will leave us. To enjoy the influence and companionship of the Holy Ghost requires intentional effort on our part, and the desire on our part, to have the Holy Ghost. It means an intentional effort to choose good and avoid the things that can harm us, not only spiritually but physically.

Secondly, as we face life’s temptations, we may think, “No one knows what it’s like to be me right now. There is no one who understands.”

You and I can take comfort in knowing the Savior understands. He is our advocate and knows how to strengthen us when we are tempted (see D&C 62:1).

We have a simple but powerful description of how the Savior responded to temptation in the Doctrine and Covenants. It says, “He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them” (D&C 20:22).

Nowhere in the scriptures does it say, “Because Jesus Christ is the Son of God, when He was on the earth He had extraordinary power given Him to resist temptation.” Instead, it says, “He suffered temptations.” When Christ was confronted by Satan after fasting 40 days and 40 nights, His very Godhood was at stake if he would have succumbed and yielded to Satan’s enticements and devilish dares. But Christ’s response to temptation inspires our own: “…but He gave no heed unto them.”

Not heeding, not watching, not listening to, not reading, not talking about, and not following things on social media that tempt us to sin is a strength that we can develop – if we lack that now. We get to choose how we respond. Every righteous choice we make now will have huge dividends – not only in mortality but also for all eternity.

President Brigham Young said, “The men and women who desire to obtain seats in the celestial kingdom will find that they have to battle every day” (Journal of Discourses, page 392).

So, if we are to battle our way to the celestial kingdom, it seems only appropriate that we each have a personal battle plan.

The words of living prophets, especially the teachings of the President of the Church, can help us do just that. Let’s consider just a few of the things President Nelson has taught.

The first element and foundation of your plan is an unshakeable understanding of who you really are. It is the first step in your ability to “think celestial.”

In the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults in May 2022, he said:

“I believe that if the Lord were speaking to you directly tonight, the first thing He would make sure you understand is your true identity. My dear friends, you are literally spirit children of God. You have sung this truth since you learned the words to “I Am a Child of God.” But is that eternal truth imprinted upon your heart? Has this truth rescued you when confronted with temptation?

I fear that you may have heard this truth so often that it sounds more like a slogan than divine truth. And yet, the way you think about who you really are affects almost every decision you will ever make.”

When we have a vision and understanding of this truth and who we have the potential to become, our desire and power to act righteously will increase enormously (Dallin H. Oaks, “Desire”, April 2011 General Conference).

The next element in your plan is taking charge of your own testimony. In that same devotional, President Nelson offered this plea:

“I plead with you to take charge of your testimony. Work for it. Own it. Care for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth. Don’t pollute it with the false philosophies of unbelieving men and women and then wonder why your testimony is waning.

Engage in daily, earnest, humble prayer. Nourish yourself in the words of ancient and modern prophets. Ask the Lord to teach you how to hear Him better.”

Your testimony is yours to own – to develop, nurture, strengthen, and protect. It belongs to only you. Even though we are encouraged to share our testimonies liberally, as we do so, they don’t diminish in size; rather, they are enlarged.

A strong testimony and accompanying personal conversion will fortify you against the gospel naysayers and others who pretend to be well-meaning but whose true goal is only to divert you from the covenant path. Such strength will immunize you against the modern-day malady of having a “faith crisis.” When challenges come, and come they will, and when you have questions about Church practices, principles, or doctrines, you can rely on past spiritual experiences and assurances of truth to be unshaken in your faith. Questions and challenges that come do not change the truths that God previously revealed to you by the power of the Holy Ghost.

The third element of your plan is also related to taking charge of your testimony. It is increasing your capacity to receive personal revelation. You will recall that President Nelson taught:

“…in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.

My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” April 2018 General Conference).

The final element I will suggest is making temple worship, as often as your personal circumstances permit, a priority. At the General Conference just concluded, President Nelson promised:

“Nothing will help you more to hold fast to the iron rod than worshipping in the temple as regularly as your circumstances permit. Nothing will protect you more as you encounter the world’s mists of darkness. Nothing will bolster your testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement or help you understand God’s magnificent plan more. Nothing will soothe your spirit more during times of pain. Nothing will open the heavens more. Nothing!

We are instructed that all who worship in the temple will have the power of God and angels having “charge over them” (D&C109:22). How much does it increase your confidence to know that…armed with the power of God, you do not have to face life alone? What courage does it give you to know that angels really will help you?

I could add many more things President Nelson has taught to our arsenal. As we strengthen our testimony, as we deepen our conversion, as we prioritize temple attendance, our lives will be filled with light, and there will be no place for darkness. We will be so busy doing good that there will be little time to even think about Satan’s devious efforts.

Now, in summary:

Yielding to Satan and yielding to God are very different. Yielding to Satan means we give in to his influence. Yielding to God means we allow Him to prevail in our lives.

Temptation is an intended part of our mortal probation. Faced with choices we have the blessing of exercising our moral agency, with the intent that we will choose God and the Savior and their commandments.

The Savior understands what it means to experience every mortal temptation. He gave no heed to them and stands ready to strengthen us in times of weakness and struggle.

As capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ, in our own efforts to withstand Satan’s fiery darts, the counsel of President Russell M. Nelson provides patterns, principles, and prophetic promises that can form the basis of our personal plans to think and act celestial.

President Nelson’s counsel includes:

  • Knowing and understanding your true identity as a child of God

  • Taking charge of your personal testimony – to develop, nurture, and protect it

  • Strengthening and increasing your capacity to receive personal revelation

  • Making temple worship a priority

Brothers and sisters, I know that if we do these things, we will be amongst the saints that Nephi described when he said:

“It came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb and upon the covenant people of the Lord…and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory (1 Nephi 14:14).

Armed with this kind of power, Satan doesn’t stand a chance!

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Becoming a Follower of Christ

By Alynda Kusch
During the days before Christmas a few years ago, our daughter and her family were visiting. On Christmas Eve she invited a friend of hers and her children to come to dinner. I had not met this woman before, so I looked her up on social media to learn a little about who she was and to see her cute children, including her missionary son.

Christmas Eve arrived, and I was working in the kitchen on last minute dinner preparations when the doorbell rang, and our daughter answered it.

She brought her friend into the kitchen so I could meet her and say hello. As she was introduced to me, I looked up from what I was doing and thought, “Who is that?” She didn’t look anything like her Facebook pictures, except for the color of her hair.

After dinner my daughter and her friend took a selfie, and her friend posted it on her Facebook page. I saw the picture later that evening and thought, “Wait! My daughter looks like herself, but now her friend looks like all of the other images on her page, but not the person who was at my house.”

At the time, I was not familiar with picture filters, so I wondered how this woman had transformed herself into a completely different person and put that image out there as who she really was.

So, what else could I do? I asked my children to explain to me how she could become someone else. They showed me the app that my daughter’s friend had used to transform herself into a movie star.

And I thought, “Now that sounds entertaining!”

And we all had some fun with it making each other look old, and young, and like celebrities.

We turned our son into a very distinguished older gentleman (referring to slide),

We turned our grandson into a very happy old man (referring to slide),

and we turned President Kusch into a teenager (referring to slide).

Even My Heritage offered us some fun with their AI. We submitted a few pictures and then they created even more personalities for us. So, we had this great fun with My Heritage’s AI.

I had never imagined myself as a Viking princess (referring to slide),

or a cowgirl in the old west (referring to slide),

or, a poster model supporting our troops during World War II (referring to slide),

or a punk rocker (referring to slide).

But in the end, none of us in those pictures looks like who we really are (referring to slide).
My sister and her husband moved to southern Utah a few years ago. They now live in the town where my mother’s family grew up. My mother moved away to California just after high school, but my two aunts lived there until they passed away.

A few weeks after their move, my sister joined a quilting club in town and after her first meeting she was visiting with one of the other members. They talked about what had brought them to Kanab and my sister mentioned my mother and my Aunt Grace. This is what the woman said to my sister:

"Oh, I can tell you a story about Grace Gowans! I was five years old when my twin brothers were born. One had some health issues and my mother had to take him to Salt Lake for medical care. Grace cared for the other newborn twin while my mother was out of town. I have such tender memories of your aunt. As I visit with you, I can see Grace in you. You remind me of her."

Thinking about these two experiences I would ask – if someone met you for the first time and spent time with you, who would you remind them of, the real you or someone you are pretending to be?

Who do you look like?

Who is the real you, not someone who doesn’t exist in real life, the real you?

Is your outward appearance as well as the way you speak and behave a reflection of who you want to be in your heart?

Do you look and act like a someone who is striving to follow Jesus Christ?

This year as I have been studying the Book of Mormon, I have been looking for Jesus, who He is and what He is like. On almost every page I have found references to His attitudes and character, to the qualities that are essential if we want to be like Him.

And I believe that we all want to be like Him, to rely on Him, to trust in Him, and to call Him our friend, or we would not even be here today.

I have a good and true friend. I have known her for over 40 years, since the first day we moved to San Jose, California. At the time, neither of us lived near family so we became adopted sisters to each other. We used to walk almost every morning together and we lovingly referred to that time as our therapy sessions. We talked about our families. We talked about our dreams. We talked about our fears and disappointments. We talked about our testimonies. I knew the things she loved. I knew the things that made her angry. I knew the things that brought her joy. We laughed and cried together, and I knew I could count on her if ever I was in trouble and needed help. When we moved away to Rexburg, Idaho in 2002, I did not see her for a long time.

She and her husband have moved to Lehi and now we are geographically closer, so we have reconnected. The first time I saw her, even after many years, I recognized her because I knew her well. She was not a stranger to me. And now we get together once a month for lunch and we laugh and cry and talk about all the same things that we talked about all those many years ago.

She is a good and true friend and I love her.

In the 15th chapter of John, the Savior was teaching His disciples about the perfect law of love. To them He declared:

“I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends. I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:12-15)

You are a friend of our Savior Jesus Christ. He has declared that. Isn’t it wonderful.

I have thought a lot about what it means to have a good and true friend.

How would someone know that you are a friend to Jesus?

The prophet Alma, as he was visiting cities and villages throughout Zarahemla and beyond, teaching the people about true conversion and faith in Jesus Christ, speaks of a mighty change of heart that can happen in their lives, one that allows them to be faithful and true. This is what he said:

“And now behold, I ask you my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances?” (Alma 5:14)

When someone meets you, talks to you, knows you well, would they conclude that you are a friend of Jesus? Would they identify you as one of His disciples and followers?

Those are good questions to think about.

There is no app that can instantly turn you into a true disciple (or follower) of Christ. You must do that work on our own.

As I have thought about what it means to be followers and friends of Jesus, to be like Him, I have concluded 4 things about how to make that happen for us:

First, you can only be like Him if you know what He is like.

How do you make a new friend? How do you come to know a person?

As with my friend, you spend time with them. You talk with them. You learn what makes them happy and what they expect from you. You are interested in the things they say to you, and you listen to them. You learn what they like, and what is important to them.

How can you do that with the Savior?

You can spend time with Him by reading His words and by praying and then acting upon the answers you receive.

You show that you are interested in what He is saying and teaching by thinking about those truths, by writing them down, by applying them in your life; by striving to make them a part of who you really are. That is His expectation.

So, as you read and study about Jesus, you can continually ask for help to know Him and to understand Him and to help you in your efforts to be like Him. You can do that.

Second, you must believe in Him. That is called having faith and confidence in Jesus Christ.

That faith moves you to action, gives you the strength and power to change, gives you the courage to stand firm and steadfast.

Faith in Jesus Christ means relying on Him and trusting Him.

Faith in Jesus Christ means having confidence in Him without reservation.

As you pray and study and read about Jesus this year, you can pray specifically to believe. Heavenly Father will help you do that.

You can pray for the strength and courage to change what you should, along with a confirmation of what you are already doing that is right and true. That’s important to know also.

You can pray for the peace and joy that can be yours as you move forward even if you are not certain about every detail because of your faith in His perfect character and His love.

Third you must also believe Him – believe that His promises are for you.

He has experienced all of your mortal anguish - your pain, your sicknesses, your disappointments. He knows you completely, so He knows how to bless and help you perfectly.

He has promised that He will do that for you. Believe that He will.

Ask in in your prayers to receive an assurance that His promises to you are real and to recognize all the ways that you are being blessed by Him.

Fourth you must follow Him.

He said this. In the Book of Mormon, in Second Nephi, we read, “Follow me and do the things which you see me do.” (2 Nephi 33:10-13)

What does He do? He keeps his promises. He is kind and loving. He forgives and forgets and does not hold grudges. He is obedient. He remembers and keeps the covenants He makes. He is prayerful. He is always honest and true.

Is that you?

I would invite you to ask yourself this question – How I can better follow the Savior and become like Him?

Learn about Him and then act in ways that show you are trying to be like Jesus.

If you do this, the Holy Ghost will teach you what you need to improve. He will also help you see the things you are doing that are right and that are helping you to be more like the Savior.

What does a disciple of Christ look like? He looks like you – a disciple is someone who is trying to know Him, someone who is working to increase their faith in Him, someone who believes all the things that He has promised He will do, someone who is trying to follow Him and be like Him.

Although there is no app to instantly change you from the inside out - you can work and try and pray to become a better version of yourself – more like your trusted and true friend, even Jesus Christ. Then when someone meets you and knows you, they will be able to say the same thing that my sister’s quilting friend said to her -

“I see the Savior in you. You remind me of Him.”

With a grateful heart, I testify that Jesus Christ is true and faithful to the Father and to us. He is my Redeemer, my Savior and my friend.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
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