One of my favorite words is inclusion. It presents to me a visual image of the membership of this great church, close to ten million strong and growing. There is a place for every child of God in this church. And each of us is part of the plan that culminates in our returning back home to our Heavenly Father. What a wonderful promise—that we can live again with our Father in Heaven!
My message comes from the Apostle Paul in his teachings to the Colossians. He said: “… continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Col. 1:23).
Look closely at Paul’s counsel: “Continue in faith,” he said, issuing a charge to be strong in your testimony, be steadfast, press forward. “Grounded and settled,” he said, which suggests putting your roots down in good gospel ground, hold on, be secure, grow strong. “Be not moved away from the hope of the gospel,” he cautioned, for it is the hope of the gospel that keeps circumstances, trials, disappointments, and daily experiences in proper perspective. The hope of the gospel includes the promise of peace and comfort from the Holy Ghost. Many distractions or even slight variations draw us away from the important work we have been placed on earth to do. And soon the hope of the gospel, so necessary in our eternal progression, is set aside to allow for the immediate matters of today.
The centerpiece of this challenge from Paul is the concept of being “grounded and settled.” I know many people whom I would term grounded and settled. I know how they will respond in every situation, whether meeting daily challenges or handling difficulties of monumental proportion.
Like the five wise virgins, they have accumulated oil for their lamps drop by drop in righteous living (see Matt. 25:1–13). They are able to do this because they study the scriptures, pay tithes, fast, honor the Sabbath, show kindness, patience, charity, and they keep a measure of hope in their hearts, adding drops to their reserve. Now, as each of us live in this way, two things happen: We are prepared for the coming of the Lord, and we are sustained until our work is finished.
When teaching of working out our own salvation, Jesus often drew an analogy with work in the fields: preparing the ground, planting, cultivating and nurturing, and finally harvesting. The familiar parable in Matthew reminds us of the dangers we encounter, the difficult conditions, the challenges we face:
“Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
“And … some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
“Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: …
“And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
“And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
“But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit” (Matt. 13:3–8).
The fruit of our labors is sweet when the work is consecrated to God. But we have to be able to weather the conditions—the winds, the rain or the drought, the brilliant sun and sometimes the bitter cold. Sometimes our work needs to be directed at improving our ground rather than excusing our own harvests because the place we have been given is a little hard; there are too many rocks, too many hills, too little topsoil. If we focus on where we are instead of what we can do with our plot, we will find our efforts significantly diminished.
My friend Marie, now serving as a Primary president in Oregon, was called as a Relief Society president in a Salt Lake ward not many years ago. Having been the chorister for many years (and a very fine chorister, I would add), she was stunned with this new call. She was comfortable with music, but the Lord directed her growth in another direction. She was being “transplanted,” and the new assignment was not easy. But she had no time to worry about herself. She opened her apartment to those who needed a place to land, and one sister stayed two years. She spent her evenings and her weekends helping and listening, caring and carpooling, doing grocery shopping for someone who couldn’t get out, doing dishes for someone who couldn’t get up. She was tireless. When a ward member said to her one day, “Marie, you must slow down,” her response was grounded in gospel principles: “There are so many people who need me.”
Our lives can reflect that faithfulness. The philosopher Bernard of Clairvaux said, “If you are to do the work of a prophet, what you need is not a scepter but a hoe.” Our Father in Heaven has given us the tools to use: scriptures, daily prayers, callings, promptings from the Spirit and testimonies that grow stronger when we are asked to dig deep into our souls. I consider all faithful Latter-day Saints to be part of the Lord’s faithful “field hands,” who, like Marie, have had their needs met while they were busy meeting the needs of others.
We have also been given the assurance that we will not work alone. Think of the promise in the Doctrine and Covenants, “I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).
Coupled with being grounded is being settled. The idea of being settled is well described in Paul’s message to the Corinthians when he explained, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, … but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8–9). Why? They comprehended the “breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of gospel service (see Eph. 3:18). In 1 Timothy, Paul describes it as “godliness with contentment” (Eph. 6:6).
In Luke we read, “Settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you” (JST, Luke 14:28). The Lord’s ways are not always evident, but we have covenanted to keep his commandments. Yet we struggle, which is part of the process of learning to become like him.
In a recent Relief Society meeting a sister shared an essay titled “Welcome to Holland,” by Emily Perl Kingsley, a mother who for five years cared so tenderly for her little child limited from birth in what he could do. Her experience adds for me a new dimension to “not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). She writes:
“It’s like this … When you’re going to have a child, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip—to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Colosseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
“After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, ‘Welcome to Holland.’
“‘Holland?!?’ you say. ‘What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.’
“But there’s been a change in the flight plan. You’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
“The important thing is … they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It’s just a different place.
“So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
“It’s just a different place. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
“But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, ‘Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.’
“But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.”
This explanation helps me gain a greater understanding of being grounded and settled in where we are and in having hope in the gospel plan and the beauty of life. Hope is a precious commodity in our lives and a scarce one too for many, many people.
While being grounded and settled sounds so steady and secure, hope adds brightness and resilience. Hope—what it does to my soul when I feel it! Hope—what it does for the world when we act upon it!
I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t faced discouragement at one time or another, and sometimes we have to defer our wishes and dreams. But there is very little that does not embrace some element of hope.
I cannot imagine life without hope. Hope is one of the traits of godlike men and women. Hope is not a fulfillment of what we want but an understanding and peace that comes from living God’s laws and valuing his ways. Little in life is sure. Hope holds us steady, firmly bound to our moorings, grounded and settled in our understanding.
A good friend shared with me an experience she had one day in the temple. Her life had not progressed as she had planned or as she had hoped. She had lost most of her drive to go on, and she had gone to the temple searching for enlightenment. Through the whole temple session she prayed for help, but nothing came. And then these words rushed into her soul, “For those who have come to the temple with heavy hearts, may their hope sustain them in these difficult days.” Hope is what she needed, and the Lord had spoken to her clearly.
Brothers and sisters, I have such admiration and respect for the hope and stability you add to the lives of those around you. I’m grateful to be your sister in the gospel. I’m inspired by your willingness to do what the Lord has asked in all circumstances.
I pray that as Paul taught, we may, “continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.”