Without a doubt, one of the great sermons in the Book of Mormon is found in the powerful words of the prophet Abinadi. With great clarity, he gives expression to the doctrine of the Atonement of Christ and its effects upon all humankind.
One aspect of the Atonement made clear by Abinadi has to do with the power we receive as we follow the Savior’s example and submit the desires of the flesh to the will of God. The prophet Abinadi describes this characteristic:
“I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
“And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son. …
“And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people. …
“Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father” (Mosiah 15:1–2, 5, 7).
Seeking a Mighty Change
As we read the scriptures daily, searching the inspired words that lead many to know of their surety and to live accordingly, the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent can work a mighty change in our hearts. At the conclusion of King Benjamin’s powerful address, his people declared “that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). They had obtained the ability, surely after persistent effort, not only to renounce all that is evil, but to incorporate all that is good into their words, their works, and their thoughts (see 2 Ne. 9:39; Mosiah 4:30; Alma 12:14). Is there any desire of the heart greater than this?
As we ponder the words of Abinadi and seek to obtain that great desire of the heart, which is to put off the natural man and become “a saint through the atonement of Christ” (Mosiah 3:19), we see that the prophet is telling us about one of the principles that gave Jesus Christ power to make intercession for the children of men: the subjection of His flesh and the subjection of His will to the will of the Father (see Mosiah 15:8). We realize that in our Heavenly Father’s plan, everything was provided so that the natural man could be overcome. The words of the prophet Mormon express this truth: “Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked” (Hel. 3:29).
Following the Savior’s Example
Jesus Christ’s example of subjecting the flesh to the will of the Father is particularly evident in His atoning sacrifice. His great suffering and His plea to the Father in Gethsemane—“O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39)—reveal His great willingness to open the way for us and the great love both He and His Father have for each of Their children.
As we follow the Savior’s example of humility in facing opposition in all things, we know He will always sustain us (see Alma 36:3). How often have we felt what Nephi expressed in his psalm? He wrote:
“Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
“I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. …
“And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy? …
“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm” (2 Ne. 4:17–18, 27, 34).
One of the many qualities that each of us needs to incorporate into our lives as Latter-day Saints and that the prophet Abinadi stressed is a willingness to submit our flesh to the will of the Father by becoming disciples of Christ.
Submitting through Service
Latter-day Saints have the opportunity to serve each other through our callings in the Church. Since we do not have a professional clergy, we are all called to serve, administer, and minister to each other. This opportunity requires time, effort, an open heart, and submission to the will of God—which is communicated to us through inspiration and through His authorized servants.
The following are just a few ways we can submit our flesh to the will of the Father as we serve with all our “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2). We can lay aside the temporal things in our daily lives to go to the house of the Lord and perform saving work for others. We can regularly and devotedly attend sacrament meeting to partake of the sacrament, that we may always have His Spirit to be with us (see D&C 20:77, 79). By keeping ourselves pure and morally clean, we can serve as part of the greatest generation of missionaries, missionaries who teach by the Spirit. We can fast regularly, drawing near to our Heavenly Father, sharing our bread with the hungry, clothing the naked, and seeking out the needy. Fasting helps loose the bands of wickedness, undo heavy burdens, and let the oppressed go free, breaking every yoke (see Isa. 58:6–7).
We can submit our flesh to the will of the Father when we forget our own needs and relinquish our own comfort; when we make time to visit others, including new converts who need to be “nourished by the good word of God” (Moro. 6:4); or when we “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5).
We can submit our flesh and our will to God when we are “anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (D&C 58:27). Indeed, we should be “willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us]” (Mosiah 3:19). And perhaps more than at any other time, we can bring our will into harmony with the Father’s when we are building our families on the foundation of the gospel of Christ.
Understanding the Nature of Happiness
Submitting to the will of God is easy when we assign a proper value to the things around us because we understand the eternal nature of our existence. It is said that once the Greek philosopher Socrates stopped to admire many kinds of magnificent merchandise in the marketplace. He said, “How many things I can do without!”
In our hurry to find happiness, we often find ourselves yearning after things that are completely useless and even destructive. But in our desire for self-mastery, we must invest our time in those things that are indispensable to our goal.
Happiness does come to those who follow the Father’s counsel. King Benjamin said: “I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness” (Mosiah 2:41).
Everything in the kingdom of God, or in His Church, is structured in such a way that the weakest of the Saints can follow Jesus Christ. We can, in fact, submit our flesh and will to the will of God and gain the power to become the sons and daughters of Christ (see Mosiah 5:7).
To become true disciples of Christ, we need to remember the inspired message of Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that the only possession we have that we can give our Father is our will. 1 Our Savior’s Atonement and Redemption make it possible for us, even in our weakness, to overcome the opposition of the flesh little by little and line upon line—until we become even as He is.