Several weeks ago I spoke in Sacrament meeting with one of our young missionaries who had been called to serve in Thailand. Knowing she would have a number of non-LDS friends in the audience I decided to speak about consecration and why members of our church, like Emily, go on missions. Why we have a bishop who is not paid but devotes an enormous amount of time each week to the care of people who attend our church and many who don’t. And why we Mormons feel so strongly about leading a life of discipleship.
When we are baptized and become a member of Christ’s church, we make a promise to keep God’s commandments, to always remember Jesus, and to follow Him. This commitment, however, is not static. It has potential for growth. Baptism is just the first step. Nephi described baptism as the gate by which we enter to get on the path of discipleship (2 Nephi 31:17). From there, we continue moving forward with a determination, as it says in the Book of Mormon, to serve God to the end. (Moroni 6:3)
Several weeks ago, our oldest daughter, Eliza, was baptized. It was a beautiful day. I stood at the side door of the font and watched my husband reverently and emotionally say the words to the baptismal prayer then immerse her in the water. She smiled at me after coming out of the water and I met her at the top of the steps to give her a towel.
After we walked into the bathroom and I gave her a hug, she began jumping up and down. She’s a girl with lots of energy – that’s her personality – but when I said, “Okay, calm down,” she replied, “I can’t help it. I feel so happy!”
As I helped her into her new, white dress and watched the excitement spilling out of her, I thought, you cannot fabricate this feeling she is having; you cannot pretend that kind of happiness. It was filling her so completely she couldn’t contain it. It was authentic and real. And it came from God. A witness to me (and to her) that the choice she had made to be baptized was the right one.
In his book, Mere Christianity, CS Lewis wrote,
“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. Just as a car was made to run on petrol… God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”
Christ was the fuel Eliza’s spirit was burning that day. And as CS Lewis said, there is no other fuel, no other way to receive real peace and happiness. Because those things do not last or abide outside of Him.
After entering in at the gate, or being baptized, our progression depends entirely on our commitment to the Lord and our trust in His purposes. The challenge is to give our lives over to Him, without holding back.
Neal A. Maxwell said,
“We tend to think of consecration only as yielding up, when divinely directed, our material possessions. But ultimate consecration is the yielding up of oneself to God. Heart, soul, and mind.”
I love the story of Hannah and Samuel in the Old Testament. Remember how desperately Hannah wanted to have children. She was willing, if the Lord finally let her have a child, to give that child up to the Lord.
So she had Samuel, and after he was weaned she followed through with her promise. She took him to Eli, a priest who worked at the temple, and said, “The Lord hath given me my petition…therefore as long as Samuel liveth, he shall be lent to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:27-28). And then, to my astonishment, she didn’t go away sorrowful. The scriptures say she rejoiced.
I like to think Samuel had the same spiritual DNA as his mother, because when it came time for him to hear the voice of Lord and turn his life over to God, he listened.
It says very simply in 1 Samuel chapter 3,
“The Lord called Samuel, and he answered, Here am I” (1 Samuel 3:4).
Later, Samuel, who became a powerful prophet, told the people that the only one they needed to fear was the Lord. He said,
“Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart, [and] consider how great things he hath done for you” (1 Samuel 12:20).
Both Hannah and Samuel knew what it meant to give themselves to God. Heart, soul, and mind. To not withhold a part of themselves from the Lord, or to care more about what others thought of them than God.
Over a year ago, my dearest friend, Kara was blessed, not unlike Hannah, to become pregnant with twin boys. It was a miraculous pregnancy. One she and her husband had hoped for and waited for for a very long time. In a series of unexpected complications at birth, one of her twin boys was so compromised, his systems began to fail and within 48 hours he was gone. He died in their arms, next to his twin brother.
The grief and sorrow Kara and Dave felt is indescribable. We were devastated for them.
At the graveside service for their baby, Kara’s father said something I have thought about often. He said, “So much of our lives are spent acquiring. We acquire education, land, houses, things, family. And to acquire children – that was the thing for Kara and Dave. But just as we learn to acquire, we must also learn to let go.”
And this is what I’ve learned from Kara. As I’ve watched her move faithfully through this trial. That nothing is really ours. Even our children are not our own. They are God’s. And true consecration requires letting go whenever God asks us to.
Sometimes it is our things we must give up. Sometimes it is our plans. Almost always, it involves giving up our will for his.
This surrender is actually a victory, because it introduces us to God’s higher ways, to his teaching and stretching, and if we follow this path of letting go, of discipleship and consecration, we will not fail. We will experience disappointment, heartache, and seeming failures, but in the things that matter we will not fail. We will only succeed. We will rejoice. And our lives will be happy.