Viewpoint: Follow God’s Divine Road Map
Contributed By the Church News
While making a comment in a Sunday School Gospel Doctrine class, a father related how he quells boredom among his children during long family road trips.
Often, he said, they would ask, “Are we almost there yet?” or “How much longer till we get there?” This after only about 30 minutes into a journey anticipated to take several hours.
Then, he hit on an idea for a practice he has used with success since then. Prior to beginning the journey, he obtains a map and marks the route of travel with the starting point, destination, and landmarks in between clearly marked. He then places it in a sheet protector to preserve it.
Now, when the children want to know how much longer the journey will be he hands them the map he has prepared in advance so they can see how far they have come and how much farther they need to go.
It has done wonders, he says, for mitigating the restlessness of the passengers.
The father shared this account by way of illustrating the value of understanding the plan of salvation, or, as it is referred to in scripture, the plan of happiness, and the part our mortal probation plays in that plan.
We existed prior to mortality as spirit children of a Heavenly Father and Mother. We have been born into mortality with no remembrance of our previous existence. Mortality has a number of purposes, including a probationary period during which we demonstrate that we “will do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us]” (Abraham 3:25).
Though we experience a measure of joy, we are certain to encounter trials and hardships along the way; that is part of the plan. It helps immeasurably to have a clear understanding of the plan of happiness—a divine road map, as it were—with the destination clearly marked: a return to the presence of our Father in an exalted state whereby we become joint-heirs with Christ of all that the Father has.
On April 18, 1924, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith was traveling by train to preside at a stake conference. Concerned about the welfare of his wife, Ellen, who was back home caring for their children while seven months pregnant, he closed his letter to her with the words of a poem he had written:
Does the journey seem long,
The path rugged and steep?
Are there briars and thorns on the way?
Do sharp stones cut your feet
As you struggle to rise
To the heights thru the heat of the day? …
Let your heart be not faint
Now the journey’s begun;
There is One who still beckons to you.
So look upward in joy
And take hold of his hand;
He will lead you to heights that are new—
A land holy and pure,
Where all trouble doth end,
And your life shall be free from all sin,
Where no tears shall be shed,
For no sorrows remain.
Take his hand and with him enter in.
The poem, which is now one of our beloved Church hymns (see Hymns, no. 127), expresses the assurance and the comfort that can come from a secure knowledge of the plan of happiness, a knowledge that can buoy us up when the troubles of mortality seem overwhelming or when doubts encumber us.
The Psalmist expressed it more succinctly: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
Thus assured of the joy that awaits the faithful, we are motivated to make the sacrifices and obey the laws that lead us to this joy.
The Savior said: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
“Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
“Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
“Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?
“Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.
“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:28–33).
Our Lord gave us this imagery to teach us that discipleship is not an endeavor to be entered into lightly. The cost of discipleship requires all that we have.
That can certainly seem daunting—just as the road trip must have seemed daunting to the children who wondered if they were nearly at their destination, only to be told that they still had many miles and many hours ahead of them.
It becomes less daunting when we come to grasp the journey in its entirety and can begin to understand, even if only imperfectly, the end from the beginning.
Speaking to Abraham, the Lord said, “My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee” (Abraham 2:8).
“My young friends,” said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf in the priesthood session of the April 2006 general conference, “today I say to you that if you trust the Lord and obey Him, His hand shall be over you, He will help you achieve the great potential He sees in you, and He will help you to see the end from the beginning” (“See the End from the Beginning”).
That is the assurance open to all of us, young and old, through the plan of happiness associated with the atoning sacrifice of our Lord and Savior. May it ever guide our way.