This is the transcript of a discourse given during a Sunday worship service of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on June 15, 2014.
Once there was a man who was assigned by his long time employer to build a brand new house. The man was a loyal worker and immediately wanted to get to work. But before he started, the employer called him into his office and gave him some very specific instructions.
“I want you to use the finest materials,” said the employer, “Use the strongest cement for the foundation. Make sure it is smooth and solid. Build the walls strong and sturdy, straight and tall. Use the best wood, and make sure everything is just 100%.”
The man took the instructions and went to work. But when he went to buy the needed materials, he found that the materials required to build such quality were very expensive. He really didn’t want to spend so much of his employer’s money. So he decided to buy products of average quality in an affordable price range. He bought cement that wasn’t quite as smooth and wood that wasn’t quite as hard. All the things he bought sufficed but weren’t the absolute best like his employer had asked. But he had saved money, and at the time that was all that mattered.
He worked hard all day building the house using the materials that he had purchased and, just as he thought, the foundation was almost 100% solid, and the walls were almost perfectly straight. The house was completed and it looked almost perfect. But it was not what the employer had asked. The house was merely “good enough” and not the masterpiece it could have been. So upon completing the project the man went to the employer to report on his work.
“Oh excellent!” responded the employer, and he handed the man a set of keys. “This house is for you my friend. You have worked for me for so long, and this is my gift to you. You used the finest materials and did your finest work. I wanted this home to be a token of the fine work you have done for me throughout the years and always as a reminder of my gratitude. Thank you.”
The man returned to the house he had been given. After some further examination, he realized that the foundation was starting to crack, the walls were falling, the roof was a little leaky, the floor squeaked in several places, and the door didn’t close all the way. He sat in a chair and sighed. Why hadn’t he bought the finest materials? Why hadn’t he done his best work? In that moment, the man learned a valuable lesson: If we are going to do something, we might as well do it 100%.
Brothers and Sisters as previously mentioned, I recently returned home from a mission in Viña del Mar, Chile, and I loved it. I loved my mission. I love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I love the Lord. Approximately 756 days ago I stood at this very pulpit not having any idea of what I was getting myself into. But now I do. The purpose of this message is to tell you all that the experience served me well. Now let me tell you why.
The reason I shared with you all the story of the builder and his materials has much to do with some of the most important words that God could ever to say to us. And ironically they are the first direct words of the Lord we read upon starting the Book of Mormon. In 1 Nephi 2:1, the Lord said unto Lehi, “Blessed art thou Lehi…because thou hast been faithful.”
Later in the Book of Mormon, but even earlier in history the Brother of Jared said unto the Lord, “And I also remember that thou hast said that thou has prepared a house for man, yea, even among the mansions of thy Father, in which man might have a more excellent hope, or he cannot receive an inheritance in the place which thou hast prepared…And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful, wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.” (Ether 12:32, 37)
Here we read that the Lord also has prepared mansions for us in the kingdom of the Father, but only according to our faithfulness will our garments be made clean and our weaknesses be made strong. And only according to our faithfulness will we enter into the Kingdom, to enjoy the blessings of eternal life and exaltation with our families. There is an eternally sounding truth within these words, powerful instruction teaching us that, appropriately, if we are faithful and obedient, we will be blessed. It could not be any clearer!
Chile is a very interesting place. The church is nothing new there. The Mormons have weaved our way so profoundly into the society that it was difficult to find someone that hadn’t before met with the missionaries. Walking down the street, riding the bus, shopping in the grocery store, you could easily be surrounded by members and you wouldn’t even know it. 30 years ago the church flourished in Chile more than in anywhere in the world, but unfortunately things spun wildly out of control and everything collapsed. To this day we are suffering the consequences of several periods and occurrences that prove to us all that Satan indeed gains control of the hearts of the children of men, and it will always be a constant battle. With membership totaling around 583,000, barely a low fraction is considered active. My purpose as a missionary wasn’t just invite and baptize, but strengthen and rescue.
Nevertheless, the work of salvation continues, and the church is growing. Not necessarily in quantity, but in quality. We have the responsibility to baptize the future of the church, but in a world where the restored gospel is nothing “new” anymore, the majority of my time was spent searching and sifting for those who had truly been chosen by the Lord. The difference is absolutely profound. About a month ago I found myself in a particularly trying situation, soon to finish my mission, when things should have been easier and calming down and I was presented with a unique set of challenges with which the Lord stretched me even further. The temperature of the sanctifying oven was augmented. When I thought I had learned it all, the Lord, in His loving manner we probably all have come to know at one time or another, subtly revealed unto me the contrary. In the middle of this situation I found myself reading in Alma, and I was led to a passage of scripture that truly changed my outlook on my mission, who I am, and also my future service in the church. After nearly 2 years, finally my will was aligned a little better with what the Lord expected from me, and the attitude I ought to have. The prophet Alma brilliantly relates the following:
“And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord…O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth. But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me. I ought not to harrow up in my desires the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction. Yea, and I know that good and evil have come before all men; he that knoweth not good from evil is blameless; but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience. Now, seeing that I know these things, why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called? Why should I desire that I were an angel, that I could speak unto all the ends of the earth? For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true. I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.” (Alma 28:14, 29:1-9)
Needless to say I feel I was able to achieve more personally and come closer to God in the last month of my mission than ever before after reading that. I learned that it was required of me to teach people about the importance of this life, and all of the things we have to do in order to prepare for the life to come. It is more that just teach and baptize. It is helping people know and understand the Plan of Salvation so that they know what is required of them. Then at least they won’t perish in ignorance. Brothers and Sisters I know that now is the time to build our mansions in the heavens. I invite you all to consider what some of the finest materials are, and use them.
Faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, which includes sacred priesthood and temple covenants, loyal service, and obedience. All these constitute the one and only path led by Jesus Christ that conduces us to everlasting life.
This year we have the privilege of studying the teachings of the prophet Joseph Fielding Smith. In my reading of the manual, I came across a passage that better illustrates this point:
“Some men inherit wealth through the industry of their fathers. Some men are through inheritance raised to worldly thrones, to power, and position, among their fellow men. Some seek for the inheritance of worldly knowledge and renown through the application of their own industry and perseverance; but there is one inheritance which is worth more than all, it is the inheritance which is worth more than all, it is the inheritance of eternal exaltation.
“When we have come out of the world and have received the gospel in it’s fullness, we are candidates for celestial glory; nay, we are more than candidates, if we are faithful, for the Lord has given unto us the assurance that through our faithfulness, we shall enter into the celestial kingdom.
“Let us live so that we will be assured of our place, and so we will know, through the lives we live, that we shall enter into His presence and dwell with Him, receiving the fullness of the blessings that have been promised. Who among the Latter- day Saints will be content with anything short of the fullness of salvation which is promised to us? … It is necessary for us, in our humility, and in the spirit of repentance, to press on and on; keeping the commandments unto the end, for our hope and our goal is eternal life, and that is life in the presence of the Father and of the Son; “And this is life eternal,” said the Lord, “that they might know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) [Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith 3.6]
Brothers and Sisters I testify that that is eternal life. That is the purpose of our existence here and the purpose of our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. Through our faithfulness and obedience to the commandments and laws established by God will the teaching of Jesus Christ come to pass that reads, “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). The mission truly was exactly what I needed to understand my place in God’s plan. I was able to learn how necessary the basic principles of the gospel are, not because I didn’t know them before, but because day after day I saw and served among people that didn’t live it. And they suffered.
My invitation to everyone is that we consider our place in the Plan of Salvation and what we must do to fulfill all that is asked. And as Elder Ballard together with my mission president always said, “Just do it!” Simply enough that is the model of faithfulness. I would hope that we take advantage of the finest materials God has given us, so that we don’t end up with leaky roofs, crooked doors, and squeaky floors.
I testify that the Holy Ghost is a God and that He is here. I know by His power that our Heavenly Father lives. His Son Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and through His atoning sacrifice is the only way back to our heavenly home. This is His church. His doctrine. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I add my testimony to those of other faithful returned missionaries and share the same hope and vision as did the prophet Enos when he said, “And I saw that I must soon go down to my grave, having been wrought upon by the power of God that I must preach and prophesy unto this people, and declare the word according to the truth that is in Christ. And I have declared it in all my days, and have rejoiced in it above that of the world. And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; For I now that in Him I shall rest, and I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall stand before Him; then shall I see His face with pleasure and He will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father (Enos 1:26-27).” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.