“Consecrate yourselves this day to the Lord . . . “
Exodus 32: 29
Recently, as I sat in Barnes & Noble at a book signing, looking at all the books around me, I was suddenly struck by the fact that in one way or another they all dealt with life’s great questions. Why injustice? Who are we really? Where are the answers? Why do I feel so empty? Is there absolute truth out there somewhere, or is everything relative?
The idea sailed into my head with a suddenness that almost made me jump from my chair. As Saints of the Latter-days, we have the answers to all the hard questions. We know that the only answer lies in the pure and simple plan of salvation, made possible by a loving Father in Heaven through the all-powerful, all redeeming love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Whoever we are, whatever talent we possess, this knowledge is a sacred trust. It is our duty to proclaim it using whatever we have been given to reach out, demonstrating the love of the Savior to gather souls to him. We have covenanted to do so.
Your talents, abilities, and position in life have been given you for a sacred reason–to testify never endingly of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Of His loving kindness. Of His power to forgive, redeem, and sanctify us for eternal life, where there will be no hard questions. Pure light and pure love will reign in a life with our Eternal Father. It can reign here and now in our hearts, if we let it. If we consecrate ourselves fully to the work of the Kingdom, not only will we be filled, but we will give light to scores of people who are struggling in this unhappy world. Think what it means to have all the answers to the questions that plague people into promiscuity, drug abuse, alcoholism, and even death!
Once we have put everything we are and everything we possess on the altar, it is time for a personal priesthood interview with ourselves. We have made covenants in the temple. What is it the Lord would have us consecrate?
Undoubtedly, that question may take us way out of our comfort zone. But comfort is not the design of our existence.
My sister, who is abundantly talented in many ways, was asked to speak at BYU Women’s Conference. This is an enormous responsibility, for the women who speak there affect hundreds of lives. Her topic was adversity, and she was in the midst of the worst adversity she had ever faced, with no resolution in sight. She asked for time to think about it. After consulting with me, and with her husband, she was encouraged to respond “yes”, for we both knew that she had plenty to say.
One of her concerns was that she didn’t really know how to get her thoughts together in a coherent form. Although she had served as a seminary teacher, she had not taught on this magnitude before. I encouraged her, and now encourage you to start a habit called “Morning Pages.” It is an artist’s tool, but it will work miracles for anyone. The idea is to get down to the bedrock of your thoughts and imagination. I promise you, that with the Lord’s help through fervent prayer, the journey will be a revelation to you. You will discover things about your life that need fixing, you will discover hopes and dreams that may have lain dormant for years, you will discover untapped sources of power within you to change lives.
Keep a notebook by your bed–spiral bound or a fancy journal, it doesn’t matter. Set your alarm for 20 minutes earlier than usual. As soon as you awaken, open your notebook and begin to write whatever is in your head–maybe a dream, a sense of dread, a feeling of urgency, befuddlement, whatever. Don’t worry. No one is going to see this. The purpose is not to produce brilliant prose. The purpose of this is to explore what your thoughts are on the very deepest level- uncensored thoughts.
Then, proceed with your morning prayers.
You will find, just as my sister did, that things start coming together in your head and heart. The Lord can communicate with you and give you impressions at this vulnerable time of day, before you have entered the pressure cooker that is daily life. You will probably experience some level of dissatisfaction, and may decide to pray how you can change that part of your life. Or you may realize that you are burdened and need the Lord’s help right then, at the beginning of the day to make your burdens lighter–to consecrate them for your gain. You may discover weaknesses that need to be prayed into strengths. Or, like my sister, you may find order and sanity in your life that you didn’t know was there. You may discover hidden desires to accomplish things beyond your current abilities.
As all this gets put on paper and gets prayed about, you will start living an intentional life. A life where you have prioritized things with the Lord’s counsel first thing in the morning, and have consecrated that day to Him.
This is the point where you learn to truly share your abundance, and by so doing, embrace it even more wholly. You have filled your well. You are ready to become enabled by the atonement to do things you are inspired to do or you have dreamed of doing. Pick one. If you are having trouble, or even if you’re not, go to the temple and pray about this seriously in the Celestial Room which should have a lot more meaning for you now.
A word of warning: the Lord has his own timetable. This is not like an exercise that you can do in four steps, or anything so easy. I knew five years before I was healed that the Lord wanted me to write, and was frustrated that I couldn’t. It was only after my illness was behind me that I knew what He wanted me to write about! I had to learn very specific lessons and actually become empowered by the atonement myself before I could be a witness. Also, there are priorities. I have a number of friends who are brilliant and prolific writers, however they have learned to prioritize so that their families always come first. At different times in our lives we are learning different lessons, but those. lessons become part of who we are, and thus part of what we have to consecrate.
Anytime that we are privileged to do anything for the Lord, we need to consecrate that thing to Him, that we may be the means of building our little part of Zion. Perhaps our contribution is to be the first member in our family, or maybe it is to break a long chain of abuse. Maybe our task is to raise “Stripling Warriors.” Perhaps we have a gift for teaching little children, teenagers, or adults. All of us are different. For instance, I can’t read a word of music, but am so captivated by classical music and opera that the passion for it is always straying into my books, playing a major role, stirring the soul through metaphor.
That is a very odd gift!
If you don’t have a passion or a gift, it’s time for you to read your patriarchal blessing. Study it prayerfully.
I have several friends who have come upon their lives’ real purpose in interesting ways. My husband’s first counselor in his last bishopric had a life-altering experience when he nearly died. He was absolutely positive that his life was divinely preserved because he hadn’t accomplished what it was the Lord had sent him to do. He knew every day was a gift. A contractor of modest means, he petitioned the Lord to reveal His plan for him. Little by little, all the pieces of a very unexpected enterprise fell into place. He began a humanitarian foundation that takes young adults, teenagers, and whole families down to the very poorest parts of Mexico at their own expense to build bathrooms, put in floors, roof houses, and taught the Gospel by example. Everyone of the dozens I have ever known who have gone on one of his expeditions has had his or her life changed forever. They thought they were there to help the Mexicans. But in every case, they were given priceless spiritual experiences in return. They were giving Living Water with their selfless service, and one of the properties of such a gift is that it replenishes itself. When we give from pure motives, we are always sanctified by the gift, and become more and more consecrated to the Lord.
Another example, my husband, while he was bishop of this same student ward, was inspired by the efforts of this counselor. He was dissatisfied with the service experiences we were having. He felt they weren’t really helping the recipients in a meaningful way. He began to pray mightily that he might devise a concrete way to serve the Latinos in our own community. As our Stake President was continually telling us, if Christ were serving in Provo, it wouldn’t be among the students at BYU, it would be with the poorest of the poor, which in Provo meant the Latinos. Step by step, he was led to a branch president who said he had “prayed him there.” This loyal servant desperately needed examples for the Latino youth in his ward so that they wouldn’t grow up to be subsistence laborers like their parents, and so that they wouldn’t join gangs. They spoke English, but their parents didn’t, so they couldn’t help their children with their homework. They didn’t own computers.
Thus, little by little, Latino Outreach was formed. Students in our ward, most of whom knew Spanish, turned up at the ward building on Wednesday nights with their laptops and “can do” attitudes to tutor the students in everything from computers and violin to math and physics. The student’s lives were remarkably changed. It was a true miracle. And our student ward members exulted in their pupil’s progress more than they did in their own. Soon, members of the Seventy visited, and now that humble branch president heads up Latino Outreach for the whole state of Utah.
Another counselor of my husband’s retired early, and is devoting his entire fortune to battling pornography. He meets regularly with foreign officials, U.S. Government leaders, and members of the Seventy coordinating efforts. He is literally giving his life to this project.
All of the people involved in these efforts are giving from their own abundance, their own store of knowledge and talent. They have found what it is that the Lord would have them do with their stewardship.
Though the world darkens in unbelief, bright lights shine through the Lord’s true disciples.
Those of us who are artistically inclined face a great challenge in the world today. Because most people don’t know the answers to the hard questions, many of them have given up and are indulging in providing entertainment that appeals merely to the baser senses. It is hard to find a place in such a dark, sensationalist world for the true, subtle beauty of the Spirit.
We need to remember that in addition to our talents, we have grace. That power will help any artist who is truly willing to consecrate themselves to succeed to the degree of success that is necessary for them.
Anyone who is artistically inclined, should surely read the divinely inspired words of an apostle on this subject, “The Arts and the Spirit of the Lord,” a talk given by President Packer in 1976. (Ensign, August, 1976) It has advised me ever since I first read it. I have it almost memorized. President Packer pleads with members not to “lean their ladders against the wrong wall,” but to consecrate their talents to the building up of the Kingdom of God. Surely, it is our sacred duty to bring light to the darkness with the talents we’ve been blessed with, no matter how great or small. Good people recognize the light. It resonates within them. Of course, evil will exert all efforts to destroy it. That is the challenge of the artist in today’s world. Remember there are unseen powers and dominions on your side!
Your talent or gift may not even be known to you yet. Or you may possess so many that you dont know which to develop. These things are between you and the Lord. My only hope is that if you receive the inspiration, you will not sell yourself short. Remember the Lord of the Universe gave you that special ability and intends for you to use it. Grace is a mighty partner in our consecrated endeavors, whatever they may be.
Through this consecration, you will receive joy that you never thought possible in this life. Whether raising children or building bathrooms in Mexico, with Jesus Christ as our partner, we can find everlasting joy. This is the true abundance that we embrace in spite of all the ragings of the adversary, no matter what the size of our pocketbooks, no matter what our circumstances.
I will never forget seeing and listening to Jack Rushton, a quadriplegic who had to sit with his neck held in place by a strip of Velcro. His life depended on that strip. Yet, he devised miraculous ways to study and serve the Lord. He told us of Paul, buried in a black dark hole of a prison, with only the light from above, somewhere in a sky he could not see. In this place, the apostle wrote most of his letters that now make up a large part of the New Testament. But Paul did not know that when he was so imprisoned. He knew only that the Lord had a work for him to do, prison notwithstanding. He was to testify always.
Brother Rushton took Pauls example to heart, testifying powerfully by his saintly example that “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Let us make this our watch cry as we study to know in what ways the Lord would have us serve and inspire His children to come to know and cleave to the Light.
G.G. Vandagriff is the author of sixteen books.
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