Hastening the Lord’s Work within Our Own Souls
Contributed By Robert L. Millet, Church News contributor
- In addition to hastening the work of the Lord, we need to foster “real growth”—deep conversion and complete consecration to God and His Church and kingdom.
“We need a witness and an assurance that produce and result in real growth, in deep conversion, in complete consecration. In this way and through this sacred process, the work of the Almighty is hastened—within our own souls.” —Robert L. Millet, professor emeritus of ancient scripture
In recent years we have been reminded by our leaders that a significant prophecy is being fulfilled in our day. The Lord said: “Behold, I will hasten my work in its time” (D&C 88:73). To hasten is to urge on, to accelerate, to move or act quickly.
Specifically, the Brethren have called upon the Latter-day Saints to hasten the work of (1) reaching out to those who may not now enjoy the blessings of the restored gospel; (2) extending the blessings of that gospel to those who have died without the opportunity to receive its requisite covenants and ordinances; and (3) searching out and caring for the poor and needy among us.
These selfless acts—missionary work, temple work, and compassionate service—are part of what we are called upon to do as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle James, brother of our Lord, explained that this is what true Christians do; this is what he called “pure religion.” But there was one more thing involved in pure religion—namely, keeping ourselves unspotted from the vices of the world (Joseph Smith Translation, James 1:27). This facet of the Christian faith has to do with personal spiritual development.
In addition to hearing much about hastening the work, we have been told how important it is to encourage and foster “real growth,” that is, deep conversion, complete consecration to God and His Church and kingdom. While such growth is surely the product of consistent and sustained gospel living, what does it look like? How might we know if we are, through the years, experiencing real growth? What might we begin noticing in our own discipleship? Here are a few thoughts to consider:
1. There begins to develop within our hearts a desire to do more to further the work of the Lord and to be better people than we are. This seems to be what Abraham felt when he wrote of how he had previously been a follower of righteousness but had felt the need “to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge” (Abraham 1:2). That is, Abraham wanted to do more and be more.
2. We gradually begin to view commandments, laws, and Church directives differently, to no longer see them as guard rails, barricades, or hindrances to life’s enjoyments, but instead as helps, guides, and kind gestures of a benevolent Father in Heaven. To those Saints who had begun to gather to the land of Missouri, those who had come out of the world and chosen the gospel path, the Savior promised that they would be “crowned with blessings from above, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time” (D&C 59:4). We certainly cannot enjoy the blessings of living a law we do not keep or one of which we are ignorant. John the Beloved explained that “this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous [burdensome, oppressive]” (1 John 5:3).
3. The more we search the scriptures, we begin to see patterns, connections, parallels, and principles for living. Holy writ becomes more and more relevant to everyday life. In a sense, the words of the prophets become our words. Many of us can still remember the final sermon and testimony of Elder Bruce R. McConkie. As he began to unfold the truths associated with Christ’s atoning sacrifice, Elder McConkie said: “In speaking of these wondrous things I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other apostles and prophets.
“True it is they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard his voice and know his word” (“The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” April 1985 general conference).
4. Our personal gospel study becomes more and more enlightening and faith affirming, so that regularly during the week we are fed and spiritually strengthened. Because of this, our attendance at Church—in which we partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, receive instruction and inspiration from those who teach us, and enjoy sweet association with members of the household of faith—need not be our only opportunity for building gospel scholarship and being edified. Sabbath worship thus becomes the capstone for a spiritually productive week.
5. We begin to be more secure and settled in our faith, less troubled by unanswered questions; in short, we begin to have doubt banished from our hearts and minds. Cyprian, one of the great defenders of the faith following the apostolic period, described his own experience: “Into my heart, purified of all sin, there entered a light which came from on high, and then suddenly, and in a marvelous manner, I saw certainty succeed doubt” (quoted by Harold B. Lee, in Stand Ye in Holy Places , 57).
6. We begin to feel a deeper sense of love for and loyalty toward the apostles and prophets, those charged to guide the destiny of the kingdom of God. As the Lord explained in modern revelation (D&C 1:38; 21:5), their words truly become His words. Their counsel becomes His counsel. President Harold B. Lee was fond of teaching, “That man [or woman] is not fully converted until [they see] the power of God resting upon the leaders of this Church and that witness goes down into [their hearts] like fire” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee , 520). We begin to see and feel about world conditions and the state of society as the Brethren do.
7. With the passing of time and as we mature spiritually, our faith is transformed into certainty. Indeed, our receipt of personal revelation and our regular encounter with the Spirit of God leads us to that point where our faith begins to be “unshaken in the Lord” (Enos 1:11; see also Jacob 7:5). Further, that conviction manifests itself in commitment. Because true faith entails a decision (see Neil L. Andersen, “It's True, Isn't It? Then What Else Matters?” April 2007 general conference), it becomes with us, as it was with the early Latter-day Saints: It is the kingdom of God or nothing!
On more than one occasion I heard President Gordon B. Hinckley comment on the need for the Latter-day Saints to get the gospel from their heads to the hearts. Yes, we as followers of Jesus Christ need to have a reason for the hope within us (see 1 Peter 3:15)—an understanding of the doctrines and principles of the restored gospel that is as stimulating and satisfying to the mind as it is soothing and settling to the heart. In addition, we need a witness and an assurance that produce and result in real growth, in deep conversion, in complete consecration. In this way and through this sacred process, the work of the Almighty is hastened—within our own souls.
Robert L. Millet is professor emeritus of ancient scripture and former dean of religious education at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.