Accepting the Invitation to Come unto Christ
By President Bruce C. Kusch
You are wonderful to look at. You are a beautiful sight.
As a parent I loved watching, helping, encouraging, and finally seeing each of our children learn to walk. Before achieving that milestone, you watch them turn over. You watch them start to crawl. You watch them grab onto hands that steady wobbly legs, pull themselves up using a couch, a chair, or some other piece of furniture. You watch them tumble in a little heap until their legs are strong enough to support their weight. You watch them stand, trying to gain their balance. And finally, you watch them take a little step, then a few more, and a few more each time. Eventually that precious little one is on their feet and walking – toward you, their other parent, a sibling, a grandparent, or other loved one. Big arms are outstretched and waiting for the child to come rushing into a celebration of achievement – with big cheers for what they have accomplished.
Just like the parent or loved one who waits with outstretched arms for a child as they are learning to walk, so too the Savior waits with hands outstretched for each of us as we walk through life – sometimes on wobbly legs, sometimes as we fall in a heap, sometimes as we struggle to gain our balance. But He will always be there to cheer us on, constant in His love, and willing to steady feeble knees. “…how merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the House of Israel…and he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long…” (Jacob 6:4)
Anyone who has served as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has spent significant time studying their purpose as a missionary. The very beginning of Chapter 1 of Preach My Gospel asks every missionary to ponder the question, “What is my purpose as a missionary?” The answer follows immediately: “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.” This missionary purpose describes the Doctrine of Christ.
While the primary purpose of proselyting missionaries is to invite others to come unto Christ, the invitation to come unto Him is a personal invitation, directly from the Savior to you and to me.
“Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will acome unto me ye shall have beternal life . Behold, mine carm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me” (3 Nephi 9:14)
“ aCome unto me, all ye that blabour and are heavy laden, and I will give you crest .
Take my ayoke upon you, and blearn of me; for I am cmeek and dlowly in eheart : and ye shall find frest unto your souls.
For my yoke is aeasy , and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
“Yea, blessed are the apoor in spirit who bcome unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (3 Nephi 12:3).
“Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.
Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely;
Yea, come unto me and bring forth works of righteousness…” (Alma 5:33-35).
“… come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be gnumbered with my people who are of the house of Israel” (3 Nephi 30:2).
“Now this is the commandment: aRepent , all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be bbaptized in my name, that ye may be csanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand dspotless before me at the last day” (3 Nephi 27:20).
These are but a few of the invitations found in the scriptures to come unto Christ.
When a formal invitation is extended to an event such as a wedding, or some other special occasion, it is customary to request an RSVP. So, this day, brothers and sisters, my question to you is: “How will you RSVP to the Savior’s personal invitation to you to come unto Him?”
My prayer this morning is that each of us will leave this devotional more committed as disciples and followers of and believers in Jesus Christ, to come unto Him, applying the saving and healing doctrine of Christ in our lives every day. I pray that your hearts and minds will be open this day to the Holy Ghost and inspired impressions that will surely come.
A beloved story of pioneer courage and sacrifice involves a member of the Martin Handcart Company. His name was Francis Webster, but he is better known as the man who boldly arose in a Cedar City, Utah Sunday School class to silence criticism of Church leaders who allowed the handcart company to travel west, even though they were leaving dangerously late in the season.
“I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Hand Cart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that Company and my wife was in it. . . .I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the Angels of God were there.
Was I sorry that I chose to come by hand cart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Hand Cart Company.”
But this statement from Francis Webster is only a part of his remarkable story. Many have interpreted his declaration as representing everyone in the Willie and Martin Hand Cart companies. While others may have felt as did Francis Webster, his statement should only be considered as his personal testimony.
The price paid by Francis Webster and his wife, Ann Elizabeth Webster, went far beyond a hand cart journey under circumstances more difficult and trying than any of us could ever imagine. Lessons they learned and the legacy they left illustrate and testify of a willingness to plant their feet firmly on the covenant path as consecrated, capable, and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.
They came from England and the Websters had the financial means to cross the plains by wagon which would have been much more comfortable. But they followed the counsel of church leaders and instead opted to make the journey by hand cart. The money they saved by doing this allowed them to pay for 9 additional members of the Church to travel with them from England to the United States and still make a sizeable donation to the Perpetual Emigration Fund.
Once the journey began, the Webster’s shared a hand cart with family members who could not pay for their own. On one occasion a traveler in the company too sick to pull his own cart was persuaded by Francis to climb into his, pulling him for 17 miles in one day. Francis willingly shared meager food rations with others. He was not immune from the ravages of the harsh winter conditions, writing in his journal that “My own feet were badly frozen on the journey.” What made it possible for Francis to endure such trials and challenges? It was his assurance that his Heavenly Father was mindful of him and his circumstances – an assurance that came as he served and sacrificed throughout the trek. The hand cart of Francis and his wife was the only one in the company to complete the journey supporting more family members at the end, than at the beginning. It was said of them, “Francis Webster and Elizabeth felt that the Lord had rewarded them and blessed them for the help they had given so unselfishly to others.”
On November 30, 1856, the Martin Hand Cart Company arrived in Salt Lake City. Two days later Francis, Elizabeth and their family headed south to Cedar City, where they established their home, becoming pillars of righteous influence in the region. It comes as no surprise that a life of service characterized Francis for the remainder of his days. He served faithfully in bishoprics, as a high councilor, and in a stake presidency. He served for a season as the mayor of Cedar City and played an important role in the creation of the Branch Agricultural College, which eventually became Southern Utah University.
What made the difference for Francis and Elizabeth and what is the lesson for us? It is this: they made the choice to willingly let God prevail in their lives – come what may. They could they have said, “This is too hard”. Upon arriving in the Salt Lake Valley they could have said, “We’ve done enough, now we rest”. They could have said those things, but my guess is it never crossed their minds – ever – to do so.
So, brothers and sisters, what price are you willing to pay to become acquainted with God? Is there something holding you back from giving “…your whole soul as an offering…” to come unto Christ?
You and I may not be called upon by our leaders to cross the plains by hand cart and suffer through the same trials as did the Websters and everyone else who survived unimaginable conditions as members of the Willie and Martin Hand Cart Companies. But coming unto Christ, and joyously accepting His invitation is a choice each of us must make. It is a choice we made in the pre-earth life, and it is a choice we are blessed to make again and again during mortality.
It has been our experience that from time to time the Lord will present us with opportunities to demonstrate our full commitment to Him. Some of those opportunities have been relatively small, others have loomed large, and have generally involved giving up something we wanted, or we had planned to instead make what God wanted our priority. It’s almost as if we were asked, “Are you all in? Are you with Me? Can I count on you? Just checking!”
Coming unto Christ is only made possible by our willingness to change. A willingness to change and a desire to change are integral companions. And the fundamental prerequisite of desire and willingness is humility. And how much greater is the blessing when we choose to be humble in our efforts to change, as opposed to being compelled to be humble.
Remember the teachings of Alma: “…he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed – yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble” (Alma 32:15).
As Nephi teaches the doctrine of Christ in 2 Nephi chapter 31 (verse 7) we learn of the Savior’s humility: “Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.” The Savior’s example teaches us that willing obedience is a sign of humility, meekness, and lowliness of heart. And Mormon reminds us that “…none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly of heart” (Moroni 7:44).
Making changes in our lives, through daily repentance, to come unto Christ is a sign of our willingness to give up what we are doing for something better – it is the peace and joy that comes as we exercise complete faith in Jesus Christ and His infinite and eternal Atonement. The priorities of the Father and the Son become our priorities – we align our will with God’s will – happily without regret or remorse – because we trust the Savior, and we trust our Heavenly Father. We put off the natural man, and willingly set aside anything that prevents us from coming unto Christ, knowing that accepting the invitation to come unto Him will bring blessings we can hardly imagine.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught:
“Those who do not wish to learn and change probably will not and most likely will begin to wonder whether the Church has anything to offer them.
But those who want to improve and progress, those who learn of the Savior and desire to be like Him, those who humble themselves as a little child and seek to bring their thoughts and actions into harmony with our Father in Heaven – they will experience the miracle of the Savior’s Atonement. They will surely feel God’s resplendent Spirit. They will taste of the incredible joy that is the fruit of a meek and humble heart. They will be blessed with the desire and discipline to become true disciples of Jesus Christ.” (“Lord, Is it I?”)
Long gone for me are the days when I could climb a steep trail and not have to stop and catch my breath. Taking short breaks lets me look back at the view and helps me renew my energy to continue with the climb. Similarly, it’s wise from time to time, to take a little rest along the covenant path – but never taking a detour - to evaluate our progress and recognize how much we have actually made. It will probably be more than we think. We might ask ourselves this reflective question: How am I doing in my efforts to come unto Christ? As you consider this question, it is important that you give yourself permission to be a work in progress. Coming unto Christ is a lifelong pursuit and process – not a single event. Coming unto Christ requires a daily, diligent effort. It is something we choose to do.
The Savior extends the invitation to come unto Him to every living soul. Living prophets extend invitations to us to do the things that make it possible to come unto Christ. Let us consider invitations that have come from President Nelson:
We come unto Christ by making and keeping sacred covenants.
We come unto Christ by staying on the covenant path.
We come unto Christ by gathering Israel on both sides of the veil.
We come unto Christ when we use the correct name of the Savior’s church.
We come unto Christ as we serve and minister with love.
We come unto Christ as we seek personal revelation, and fine tune our personal capacity to “hear Him.”
We come unto Christ as we take charge of our testimony and are truth seekers, from true sources.
We come unto Christ as we allow God to prevail in our lives.
We come unto Christ as we focus on the temple and building our spiritual foundation on temple covenants.
We come unto Christ as we root out racism, turn our backs on contentious and judgmental behavior, and seek to be peacemakers.
We come unto Christ as we interact with others in higher, holier ways.
We come unto Christ as we bury any and all weapons of war that drive the Spirit away.
We come unto Christ as we remember our true identify as children of God, children of the covenant, and disciples of Jesus Christ.
These loving, prophetic pleadings of President Russell M. Nelson focus our thoughts, our actions, and our desires on coming unto Christ. A daily desire to allow God to prevail in our lives helps us make righteous decisions and take righteous action. Daily repentance turns us to Him and the healing power of His Atonement. Christ IS the way. Christ is the ONLY way.
So, brothers and sisters, as we consider our RSVP to the Savior’s invitation to come unto Him I pray this day our response will be “I’m all in!”
I testify of Jesus Christ – that He lives, that He is God’s only Begotten Son, the Savior, and Redeemer of the World. I testify of living prophets, that the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ is ongoing and will continue until the Savior’s return at the Second Coming.
I close with these words from President Nelson: “The question for each of us, is the same. Are you willing to let God prevail in your life? Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life? Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day? Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other? Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition? Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His?” (“Let God Prevail”, October 2020 General Conference).
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Warnings from Living Prophets is a Good Thing
By Alynda Kusch
This is a wonderful sight. It is nice for us to be here together in this more intimate setting. I hope that as you listened to that beautiful song that those words went through your mind. We could just say “amen” now and go back to class having been taught a very good message.
Last August I bought a new car. There are many fancy things this car can do and sometimes I feel like it could drive itself. It has a camera and a sensor in the front so I can see how close I am to an object. It has a rear camera so I can see what is behind me as I back up and a camera somewhere on the top so I can see a bird’s eye view of all around my car. I have no idea how that works but it’s pretty amazing.
I had been driving my new car about 2 weeks, still learning all the controls, when my granddaughter asked if I would look for some interesting places in the Salt Lake area where she could have her pictures taken for her high school senior graduation.
During my search, I approached an intersection where the light was turning red, so I stopped and as I was waiting, I was looking around and I notice across the street a really interesting building. I thought that might be another place that would be really fun for her to have her picture taken. So as I was looking at this building, I was still aware that the light was red. A warning message came on in my car that I had never seen before. When I read it, I thought “Wait, how does my car know that I am not looking. I was looking at the building on the street and not straight ahead waiting for the light to change. That freaked me out. It thought: “Is it watching me or what?” Well over the next few weeks, however, I discovered that this warning periodically appears to remind to keep my eyes on the road which is kind of interesting because you have to look away from the road to look at the warning that tells you to watch the road.
There are other warning messages that my car has, such as this one that tells me that the weather outside is cold enough that there could be ice on the road, and I should drive carefully.
Or this one that comes on when I turn my car off if there are packages in the back seat. Imagine how valuable this would be if there was a child in my car instead of a bag of groceries.
Can you see that these warning messages are there to protect me as the driver but to also protect others on the road?
Warnings are a good thing when you are driving a car.
As described in the Old Testament, cities were often surrounded by high walls to protect them from enemy attacks. Guards, called watchmen, were positioned on top of the walls in towers to watch and warn if danger was approaching from a distance. If such was the case, the watchmen would sound an alarm which was a sign for those who lived within the city walls to prepare.
Warnings are a good thing when your enemy comes quietly in the night.
Also during this time period, if I owned grape vineyards or pastures, where my sheep would graze, I would do all I could to protect them from predators. That often meant building a small tower where a watchman would stand, with an elevated view, looking out in the distance, ready to sound an alarm if danger was approaching. That warning would give my workers enough time to protect themselves as well as my produce or animals.
Warnings are a good thing when you are responsible for protecting precious possessions.
“Through the ages, Heavenly Father has given His children “watchmen.” These watchmen are called prophets and apostles. They have been called by Heavenly Father to watch over His children. They are given a better view of the dangers that lie ahead.”
In my mind’s eye I can see the image of King Benjamin preaching from a tower the power of prayer and the blessings that come from faithful living, and Samuel the Lamanite standing atop the high wall overlooking Zarahemla, warning the stiff necked and hardened inhabitants of that great city that repentance was still possible, but that time was running out.
Just as in the days of the Book of Mormon, today we need latter-day watchmen on spiritual towers.
Watchmen on spiritual towers have an elevated view and see things from a heavenly perspective.
They see things that we cannot see.
In Mosiah we read, “A seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed…and things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.” (Mosiah 8:17)
Watchmen on spiritual towers are vigilant and will tell us the truth regardless of public opinion or trends in society.
Elder M. Russell Ballard taught: “Through the centuries, prophets have fulfilled their duty when they have warned people of the dangers before them. The Lord’s Apostles are duty bound to watch, warn, and reach out to help those seeking answers to life’s questions.” (Elder M. Russell Ballard, “God Is at the Helm,” Ensign, Nov. 2015, 25.)
Watchmen on spiritual towers warn us of things while they are still afar off, giving us time to prepare so that we can live in safety and peace.
I am grateful for latter-day watchmen.
Spiritual warnings are a good thing in our quest to become capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.
I have a friend who was a hospital nursing Supervisor during the COVID pandemic, and she recently shared with me what she learned about the connection between believing and following prophets and a greater influence of the Spirit in her life.
This is what she wrote to me:
“All my life I have heard “read the scriptures” and I did, but never consistently – even when President Benson called us to read the Book of Mormon daily, I didn’t pick up on regular, consistent reading. I was young, the college years, and I tried but couldn’t understand how something so seemingly simple could have any impact. And I never put it to the test until General Conference around 2015. President Monson renewed the challenge, to read the Book of Mormon every day. I don’t know what flipped the “switch” for me, but I decided it was time. It was not as simple as it sounded. I was a full-time mom/wife/grandmother, and I was also working full time on the night shift. But, with a promise from the Lord, I renewed by efforts.”
My friend kept her promise even though at times it was difficult and she read every night regardless of whether she was home, hospital or wherever. Through her obedient efforts she found peace and growth and depth in her testimony. When COVID 19 shutdown the world, and the pandemic raged, what she learned from following prophets guided her through difficult times. She continues:
“The next 2 ½ years proved to be the most difficult of my life. As a front-line worker in our small community hospital, I often felt buried in crisis after crises, fighting for life. As the House Supervisor, I was not just responsible for the patients, but also for the staff who cared for them. The staff needed just as much support to do the seemingly impossible as the patients did. Every night, as I walked through the atrium to the front door, I felt the strength of the Lord and the power of ministering angels lift me. I was carried through the night, and I learned the power of the Spirit as he whispered to me what to do, what to say. I saw concourses of angels surrounding each of my nurses literally lifting with them as they cared for the patients who could not even lift an arm. Had it not been for the words of two prophets that I chose to embrace, I would not have been prepared and I would have crumbled under the weight of what I was given to do.” (Letter from Margo McKay, used with her permission)
Can you see the connection between obedience to prophets and a greater influence of the Spirit in her life and in her work?
Spiritual warnings and pleadings from prophets are a good thing and they were life saving for my friend.
Today President Russell M. Nelson is one of 15 latter-day watchmen on the tower, seeing into the distance things that which we cannot see, warning us of possible dangers, and promising great blessings if we listen and follow.
If I were driving my car and a warning message appeared that told me that I was driving on a flat tire, or that the engine required immediate service, or I was 5 miles away from running out of gas, I would heed those warnings and take whatever action was needed to protect my car from danger.
Do we give the same attention to the words of living prophets?
Can you recall some of what President Nelson has recently urged is to do?
Here are just 4:
“I plead with you now to take charge of your own testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Work for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth.” (October 2022)
“I plead with you to let God prevail in your life. Give Him a fair share of your time.” (April 2022)
“Do whatever it takes to increase your spiritual capacity to receive personal revelation.” (April 2020)
“It is now time that we each implement extraordinary measures - perhaps measures we have never taken before - to strengthen our personal spiritual foundation. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.” (October 2021)
These are personal calls to action from our prophet, who is a seer, a guide, a watchman on the tower. He sees things we cannot. His promises are sure.
President Nelson has promised:
“As you make your testimony your highest priority, watch for miracles to happen in your life.” (May 2022)
“I promise that as you increase your capacity to receive revelation, the Lord will bless you with increased direction for your life and with boundless gifts of the Spirit.” (October 2020)
Just 2 weeks ago in general conference, President Nelson concluded his remarks with this promise:
“Dear brothers and sisters. I plead with you to come unto [Jesus Christ] so that He can heal you! He will heal you from sin as you repent. He will heal you from sadness and fear. He will heal you from the wounds of this world.” (April 2023)
So I ask you, would you like to feel guided in the work you do, as my friend was? Are you interested in having peace in your life? Would you like to see miracles happen for you? Do you want to feel happier? President Nelson has promised that these blessings, and many others, can be ours if we follow. I believe him.
I would invite you to read the words of living watchmen upon the tower and as you do, record words and phrases that speak to your heart. Look for warnings, pleadings, promises and blessings - they are all there.
Read and ponder them. Make a list of phrases and thoughts that come into your heart and stay there. They are your own prophetic pleadings. Act on what you learn and feel. Be sure to also list the promised blessings that come as we follow the prophet because they also can be yours.
We can be lifted and blessed and strengthened beyond what we can imagine, and receive blessings that the Lord stands ready to bestow upon us if we look, listen, and follow.
Warnings from living prophets and the promised blessing that accompany our diligence and obedience are good things and provide us with a pathway to safety, even a covenant path that leads us home.
Follow the prophet. He knows the way. Of this I bear my testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.