Sunday, August 19, 2012

In His Steps

I just read an incredible talk that my good friend sent to me by one of the Lord’s prophets, President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994). This talk is definitely one of the best talks I’ve ever read; President Benson was very straightforward and offered us pertinent, current, and invaluable counsel in our quest for happiness in this world and eternal life in the world to come. There are so many good things in this talk, I will be tweeting lines from it for weeks to come.

In his talk, entitled “In His Steps,” President Benson addressed primarily the young people of the Church and of the world, reminding us that we are in the last days, that the Savior will come soon, and that the battle between good and evil--between God and Satan--will continue to escalate and that we must choose our side and fortify ourselves. Said President Benson:

Each day the forces of evil and the forces of good pick up new recruits. Each day we personally make many decisions that show where our support will go. The final outcome is certain—the forces of righteousness will finally win. What remains to be seen is where each of us personally, now and in the future, will stand in this fight—and how tall we will stand. Will we be true to our last-days, foreordained mission?

We are, of course, not without help in our battle and efforts to overcome Satan. God has given us help and will continue to bless us as we pray to Him and study the words of His servants the prophets, who give us spiritual and temporal guidance and counsel.

After emphasizing our purpose here in this life and the increasing importance to learn the Lord’s will and strive to live His standards, President Benson expounded upon what we know and can learn from the first 30 years of Jesus Christ’s life before His ministry, all of which is summed up in the 2nd chapter of Luke, verse 52:

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Using this verse as an outline, President Benson taught what we can do to follow in the Savior’s steps and increase in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man. I will highlight a few things that stuck out to me, and then leave you to read the talk in its entirety and figure out how you can apply these teachings in your own lives.

Increasing in wisdom

President Benson taught:

Wisdom could be considered the proper application of true knowledge. Not all knowledge has the same worth, nor are all truths equally valuable. The truths upon which our eternal salvation rests are the most crucial truths that we must learn. No man is truly educated unless he knows where he came from, why he is here, and where he can expect to go in the next life; unless he can adequately answer the question which Jesus posed: "What think ye of Christ?" The world cannot teach us these things as the Kingdom can. Therefore, the most essential knowledge for you to obtain is the saving knowledge within the gospel and the knowledge of its author—even Jesus Christ.

He talked about where we can find those truths, about the best books, and also about the importance of gaining secular knowledge and vocational skills. His teachings about gaining wisdom can best be summed with this paragraph:

The most vital knowledge you can learn is the saving truths of the gospel—the truths that will make the difference in your eternal welfare. The most vital words that you can read are those of the Presidents of the Church—particularly the living prophet—and those of the apostles and prophets. God encourages learning in many areas, and vocational skills will have increasing importance. There is much reading material that is available that is either time-wasting or corrupting. The best yardstick to use in discerning the worth of true knowledge and learning is to go first and foremost to the words of the Lord's prophets.

Increasing in stature

President Benson taught, “There is no question that health of the body affects the spirit,” highlighting the importance of righteousness (“Sin debilitates; it affects not only the soul but the body”), food (“To a great extent we are physically what we eat”), exercise (“The body needs the toning up that comes from exercise”), and sleep ("Cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated” Doctrine and Covenants 88:124).

Increasing in favor with God

In order to increase in favor with God, President Benson taught that we must do His will. And in order to do His will, we must learn His will for us.

God's will for you can be determined from three sources: (1) the scriptures—particularly the Book of Mormon, of which the Prophet Joseph said, "a man would get nearer to god by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book" (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 4:461)—(2) inspired words from the Lord's anointed—particularly the presidents of the Church and especially the living one, along with the words of the apostles and prophets (local Church leaders are also entitled to give inspired direction for those over whom they preside)—and (3) the spirit of the Lord.

Of the recognizing the Spirit of the Lord, President Benson reminded us that we must keep our lives free and from sin and those things that would interfere with our ability to recognize the promptings of the Spirit. And in order to keep our lives free from sin, we must utilize the blessing and gift of repentance daily. President Benson also highlighted the importance of regular prayer, scripture study, and service to our families, neighbors, and communities.

Increasing in favor with man

The greatest roles you can take to bless your fellowmen are to be strong missionaries and to be strong patriarchs and matriarchs—to raise a righteous posterity who will be part of the solutions to the world's problems and not part of the problems.

Our countries are only as strong as our homes and ours is the duty to strengthen our homes, communities, and nations.

Conclusion

Someone has said that happy is the man who has found his worship, his wife, and his work, and loves all three.

I will leave you to read what President Benson had to say about finding worship, a spouse, and work and I will say that the last part of his talk is just as wonderful, if not more so, as the rest of it.

The counsel set forth in this talk is more than just feel-good words from a wise old man. Yes, most if not everything President Benson taught will make sense to you on some level. You may think, “well of course we should do this or try that, that’s common sense,” and you may even be tempted to think, “well, that’s all well and good in theory, but in our day that’s not possible or realistic.”  I promise you that these are not just words of wisdom to be sorted through and applied at leisure. President Benson was a prophet of God who lead the Church of Jesus Christ and spoke the mind and will of God. The Lord revealed His secrets to President Benson (see Amos 3:7) and President Benson taught us those things that are absolutely completely essential to our eternal salvation and happiness. Those things that you may be quick to discredit or think are not applicable to you or your situation are probably those things that you need most in your life. Read this talk. Pray about how you can better apply the counsel. Read the Book of Mormon. Pray about its truthfulness. I promise you that you will never regret the time and effort spent on the words of the Lord.

Jeremy