Ezra Taft Benson, “In His Steps,” Ensign, Sep 1988, 2
In all ages prophets have looked down through the corridors of time to our day. Billions of the deceased and those yet to be born have their eyes on us. Make no mistake about it—this is a marked generation. There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time than there is of us. Never before on the face of this earth have the forces of evil and the forces of good been so well organized. Now is the great day of the devil’s power. But now is also the great day of the Lord’s power, with the greatest number of priesthood holders on the earth.
Each day the forces of evil and the forces of good enlist new recruits. Each day we personally make many decisions showing the cause we support. The final outcome is certain—the forces of righteousness will win. But what remains to be seen is where each of us personally, now and in the future, will stand in this battle—and how tall we will stand. Will we be true to our last days and fulfill our foreordained missions?
Great battles can make great heroes and heroines. We will never have a better opportunity to be valiant in a more crucial cause than in the battle we face today and in the immediate future. Some of the greatest battles we will face will be fought within the silent chambers of our own souls. David’s battles in the field against the foe were not as critical as David’s battles in the palace against a lustful eye.
Each of us has his or her own battlefield. The tactics which the enemy will use against us will vary from time to time. He will seek to exploit our weak spots, so we must be alert to the devil’s devious designs—the subtle sins and clever compromises as well as the obvious offenses.
We must remember that the devil seeks to make all men miserable like unto himself. We must also remember that the Lord loves us and seeks for us the fulness of joy which He enjoys. We must choose whom we will serve.
Christ lived on earth and was subject to all manner of temptation, but He won every battle. He is the most successful warrior that ever walked the earth, and He wants to help us win every battle, be it personal or public. When we fall short, His atonement will compensate for us on condition of our repentance.
Jesus knows His kingdom will triumph, and He wants us to triumph with it. He knows in advance every strategy the enemy will use against us and the kingdom. He knows our weaknesses and He knows our strengths. By personal revelation, we may discover some of our strengths through careful and prayerful study of our patriarchal blessing. In prayer we can ask Him to reveal to us our weaknesses so that we can amend our lives. The Lord has promised:
“If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. … if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27.)
God can reveal to us our talents and our strengths so that we will know what we can build upon. Be assured that in all our righteous endeavors, we can say, as did Paul: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philip. 4:13.) Also be assured, as Paul said further, that there will be no temptation befall us but what is common to man: but God will, with each temptation, provide a way to escape. (See 1 Cor. 10:13.)
The Lord asked the question of the Nephites: “What manner of men ought ye to be?” Then He answered by saying, “Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Ne. 27:27.) What manner of man was Jesus during those thirty years when He was personally preparing Himself for His three-year public ministry? Turning to the book of Luke in the New Testament, we read these words: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:52.)
From modern-day revelation we learn that Jesus “received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace [not from sin to grace, but from grace to grace], until he received a fulness.” (D&C 93:13.)
We, too, should be moving from grace to grace in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. Let us consider these four areas of Jesus’ personal preparation. If we are to follow in His footsteps, we also should increase in the same four areas in which He increased.
Jesus Increased in Wisdom
Wisdom is 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 rest 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. He must be able to adequately answer the question Jesus posed, “What think ye of Christ?”
This world cannot teach us these things. Therefore, the most essential knowledge for us to obtain is the saving knowledge of the gospel and of its Author—even Jesus Christ.
Eternal life, the greatest gift that God can give and the life for which we all should be striving, comes from knowing our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ. As the Savior said: “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.)
We cannot know God and Jesus without studying about them and then doing their will. This course leads to additional revealed knowledge which, if obeyed, will eventually lead us to further truths. If we follow this pattern, we will receive further light and joy, eventually leading into God’s presence, where we, with Him, will have a fulness.
We are admonished to seek “out of the best books words of wisdom.” (D&C 88:118.) Surely, such books must first include the scriptures. Next must be the words of prophets, seers, and revelators. Speaking of the President of the Church, the Lord said, “For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth.” (D&C 21:5.)
While the gospel includes the more crucial saving truths contained within theology, it also embraces truth in other branches of learning. The Lord encouraged the early missionaries to be instructed more perfectly in “things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.” (D&C 88:79.)
With the abundance of books available today, it is a mark of a truly educated man to know what not to read. Of the making of books there is no end. In our reading, we would do well to follow the counsel of John Wesley’s mother: “Avoid whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, … increases the authority of the body over the mind.”
The fact that a book or publication is popular does not necessarily make it of value. The fact that an author wrote one good work does not necessarily mean that all his books are worthy of our reading. Many novels and modern publications are corrupters of morals or distorters of truth.
We, of course, recognize that it is valuable to have vocational skills—to be able to use our hands. The most essential temporal skills or knowledge are being able to use our hands and minds to provide food, clothing, and shelter for ourselves and our families.
Jesus Increased in Stature
There is no question that the health of the body affects the spirit, or the Lord would never have revealed the Word of Wisdom. God has never given any temporal commandments—that which affects our bodies also affects our souls. There are at least four basic areas which make a difference in our health—in our growing in stature.
First—righteousness. Sin debilitates. It affects not only the soul, but the body. The scriptures are replete with examples of the physical power that can attend the righteous. On the other hand, unrepented sin can diffuse energy and lead to both mental and physical sickness. Disease, fevers, and unexpected deaths are some of the consequences directly related to disobedience. Jesus healed a man of a physical malady and then told him to “sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (John 5:14.) Sir Galahad claimed that his strength was as the strength of ten because his heart was pure.
Second—food. To a great extent, we are physically what we eat. Most of us are acquainted with some of the prohibitions of the Word of Wisdom, such as no tea, coffee, tobacco, or alcohol. But what needs additional emphasis are the positive aspects—the need for vegetables, fruits, and grain, particularly wheat. We need a generation of people who eat in a healthier manner.
Third—exercise. The body needs the rejuvenation that comes from exercise. Walking in the fresh air can be exhilarating and refreshing. Properly directed, running can also have some beneficial effects. Simple sit-ups or sporting activities can also be helpful.
Fourth—sleep. Adequate early rest is best. The Lord states that we should “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.” (D&C 88:124.) Early to bed and early to rise is still good counsel.
Jesus Increased in Favor with God
What increases our favor with God? One of the purposes of this life is for us to be tested to see whether we “will do all things whatsoever the Lord” our God shall command us. (Abr. 3:25.) In short, we are to learn the will of the Lord and do it. We are to follow the model of Jesus Christ and be like Him.
The essential question of life should be the same one posed by Paul: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6.) God’s will for us 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.” (History of the Church, 4:461.)
2. Inspired words from the Lord’s anointed—counsel from prophets, seers, and revelators. Local Church leaders likewise are entitled to give inspired direction for those over whom they preside.
3. The Spirit of the Lord. The people of the world have the Light of Christ to help guide them, but we also are entitled to the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the Holy Ghost to be fully operative in our lives, we must keep our channels clear of sin. The clearer our channels, the easier it is for us to receive God’s message. And the more of His promptings we receive and follow, the greater will be our joy. If our channels are not clear of sin, then we may think we have received inspiration on a matter when it is really promptings from the devil.
In clearing our channels and keeping them clear, we would admonish all of you to read and reread President Spencer W. Kimball’s book The Miracle of Forgiveness. The sooner you can read it, the greater blessing it will be for you. Practices that increase our favor with God include daily scripture study and personal prayer morning, midday, and night. We need to render service to our Father’s children through the family, the Church, and the country.
God has a timetable, or a sequence or season, for every good thing. A mission, when the time arrives, takes priority over marriage and education. When one is mature enough and has found the right companion, then marriage should not be delayed for education. While all three—mission, marriage, and education—are essential, there is a proper time for each.
We need more men and women of Christ who will always remember Him, who will keep His commandments which He has given them. The greatest yardstick of success is to see how closely we can walk each moment in His steps.
Jesus Increased in Favor with Man
The way we can bless our fellowmen the most is to be strong missionaries and strong fathers and mothers—to raise a righteous posterity who will be part of the solutions to the world’s problems and not part of the problems.
We have heard that the greatest service we can render will be within the walls of our own homes. It is also true that no nation is stronger than its homes. For a man, there is no calling as great as being a righteous patriarch who is married in the house of the Lord and who presides over his family. Even God is pleased when we address Him as “our Father who art in Heaven.” For a woman there is no calling as great as that of a righteous mother who is married in the house of the Lord and who rears a worthy posterity.
Someone has said, “Happy is the man who has found his worship, his wife, and his work—and loves all three.” In deciding on the role of worship in our lives, each of us can know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church. All we need to do to gain this knowledge is to carefully read the Book of Mormon and then do what Moroni suggests:
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Moro. 10:4.)
If the Book of Mormon is true—and I testify that it is—then Joseph Smith was a prophet. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, then the Church he established as an instrument in God’s hands is true—even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If the Church is true, then there stands at the head of the Church a prophet of God.
My beloved brothers and sisters, Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man—and so can we. May we all follow our leader, Jesus Christ, and increase in stature mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially.
From an address given at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, on 20 September 1983.
Ideas for Home Teachers
Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:
1. Life’s greatest battles are fought within the silent chambers of our own souls.
2. The Lord was subject to all manner of temptation and won every battle. He knows not only how to overcome any temptation and inadequacy, but he knows our strengths and weaknesses; by personal revelation he can guide us to victory.
3. The key to victory in this life is to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and to progress as he did in four major areas:
—increase in wisdom, which is the proper application of knowledge.
—increase in our care of our bodies.
—increase in favor with God, which comes when we draw close to him so that we may know what he would have us do in various seasons of life.
—increase in favor with others so that we may help them see the value of the gospel in their lives.
1. Relate your feelings about following in the footsteps of Jesus.
2. Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
3. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop?
[illustration] Jesus Found in Temple, by Carl Bloch
[photo] Photography by Steve Bunderson^ Back to top