President Monson, at the Sunday morning session of General Conference in 2003, retold a great little story about a conversation that Mark Twain once had with a friend. Apparently, this wealthy friend told Mr. Twain that before he died, he meant to “make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land . I will climb to the top of Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud.”
Mark Twain replied, “Why don’t you just stay home and keep them?!”
With his sense of humor, accompanied by sound thinking and a forthright ability to communicate, Mr. Twain has left behind many humorous anecdotes for us to enjoy. Included in some of them- like this one shared by President Monson- are seeds of brilliant truth.
Blooming Where We are Planted
Is it possible that we are sometimes so enamored of the journey to a distant land, the exotic situation that would take us out of the ordinary routine, or some experience that is ‘larger than life’, that we fail to see the proverbial forest for the trees? How profound is Mr. Twain’s suggestion that his friend forego the exotic trip where he could recite the Ten Commandments, choosing instead to simply stay home and incorporate them into his everyday (more humdrum) life!
Although it makes perfect sense, we sometimes forget to bloom where we are planted, seeking for more exciting soil elsewhere.
The Savior’s life seems, on the surface, to be one of relative simplicity. He never traveled far from his place of birth. He did not choose a larger-than-life platform on which to teach the principles of eternal salvation. (Well, excepting the glorious principle of the Resurrection.) His vision was perfect because his eye was single to God’s glory. He taught the principle of blooming where we are planted, and provided the example of creating monumental good from seemingly humble circumstances.
He was – in a word- obedient. He was obedient to Heavenly Father’s will, to the eternal plan, and to His life’s mission. He understood that through his example, his work, and his love, he could bridge the way for us to return to our Heavenly Home. He taught us the importance of obedience as the only way to real freedom and joy.
In his General conference address, President Monson taught that Christ was the Master Bridge Builder. Jesus’ work was one of building bridges of righteous direction and strength that- if we chose to follow- would get us across the wide chasms of sin, fear, and earthly woes so that we may enjoy spiritual peace. Paramount was the Bridge of Obedience . Walking that bridge is a short trip worth taking!
Shedding Sin and Tossing Temptations
Included in the New Testament gospel accounts, we read about the experience of our Savior being tempted of Satan.
Although hungry, he did not fall for the offer of food from the adversary. (“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matt. 4:4.)
When Satan tempted him with power, Jesus clearly had his eye on a higher power than anything offered on this earth. (“It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Matt. 4:7).
When Satan offered up the riches and honors of the earth, He said, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matt.4:10.)
Following the Savior’s example, the way to shed sin and toss temptation is to “give no heed to them” [D&C 20:22]. Before we weaken, rationalize, or reconsider, our best choice is to turn immediately from the temptation. Sins we have committed? Give them away- immediately- and accept the loving gift of the atonement. Repentance is one of the most beautiful gifts we are given. Once free of them, we can determine to keep our rocks and slingshot, so to speak, at the ready. In David- like fashion, we can stop further temptations in their tracks.
This bridge of obedience Jesus built offers the route to safety from sin and temptation.
“Whatever God requires is right”
The prophet Joseph spoke the words, “Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof until all of the events transpire.” (HC, 5:135.)
Have you ever known you needed to do something, but it was really hard? You may have been scared because of fallout that would happen? It might step on another’s toes, or cause friction with loved ones? Have you followed a prompting that you knew was right, only to have negative ramifications, and there is no answer – yet- as to why the prompting came?
I have. There have been fears that accompanied some decisions. The fears, I have noted, would remain with me until I not only made the decision, but followed through with that decision.
Then – only then – did the fears depart. And even now, I may not have the reasons for the promptings. But peace came because I knew God required it of me. My only problems concerning these decisions has been when I have not fully trusted in Him. He knows what is what. He requires what is right. My part is to be obedient. When I am scared, I can lean on the Master bridge builder, and cross safely over the chasm of fear.
Just Do It
It was President Kimball who taught us so clearly that to know something is not enough. We have to do it. The sign on his desk, ‘Do it’, is one we could all probably use on our own desks and mirrors and counters.
The Savior appealed to us when he said, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” How helpful is it if we know the concepts and principles of salvation and exaltation, but fail to implement them? How well will rationalization serve us when famine comes and we have no food? When the time for repentance is past and we remain in our sin? When a loved one is gone from mortality yet we failed to share our feelings of love with them? When we have been taught faith and hope and charity, yet have not allowed it find lodging in our hearts, so that we act on those principles?
Thus, when President Kimball had the hymn “I am a child of God” come across his desk, he changed the one word.
“Teach me all that I must know” became “Teach me all that I must do.”
How much better for us to read the scriptures, listen to the counsel from our general authorities, and study the words of the prophets so that we can internalize them. Asking, through prayer, for help and understanding will give us a steadiness in the good things. From our hearts, we can act on what we know—we can do it.
It would be nice to travel to the top of Mt. Sinai and read the commandments aloud. But it is more expedient for us to “stay home” and keep them. As we are obedient to the commandments, building faith in every footstep, we are bound to walk more sure-footedly across those bridges provided by the Master Himself!