In every sacrament meeting the word always is used in a covenant, a sacred promise with God that you are making. This is what you hear, read by authorized servants of God: “That they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (D&C 20:77; emphasis added).
You promise to “always remember him.” You may have wondered, as have I, why He used the word always, given the nature of mortality as it weighs upon us. You know from experience how hard it is to think of anything consciously all the time.
I am not wise enough to know all of His purposes in giving us a covenant to always remember Him. But I know one. It is because He knows perfectly the powerful forces that influence us and also what it means to be human.
You and I can see evidence of the acceleration in the two great opposing forces around us. One is the force of righteousness. For instance, temples of God are being built at a rate across the earth that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable. Missionaries are being called in numbers and to new places which change so rapidly that I have learned not to try to give the numbers or the places because my knowledge will have fallen behind the reality.
As has always been true, there is an opposing power. It is the power of sin, and it is visibly accelerating. I will not try to bring examples to your minds. The media and what you see in the lives of those around you present you with tragedy enough. And even in your experience, you surely must sense the ominous increase of toleration and even encouragement of the powers of sin to corrupt and torment.
The Master not only foresees perfectly the growing power of the opposing forces but also knows what it is like to be mortal. He knows what it is like to have the cares of life press upon us. He knows that we are to eat bread by the sweat of our brows and of the cares, concerns, and even sorrows that come from the command to bring children to the earth. And He knows that the trials we face and our human powers to deal with them ebb and flow.
He knows the mistake we can so easily make: to underestimate the forces working for us and to rely too much on our human powers. And so He offers us the covenant to “always remember him” and the warning to “pray always” (3 Ne. 18:18) so that we will place our reliance on Him, our only safety. It is not hard to know what to do. The very difficulty of remembering always and praying always is a needed spur to try harder. The danger lies in delay or drift.
Move Forward Spiritually
My message is a plea, a warning, and a promise: I plead with you to do the simple things that will move you forward spiritually.
Start with remembering Him. You will remember what you know and what you love. The Savior gave us the scriptures, paid for by prophets at a price we cannot measure, so that we could know Him. Lose yourself in them. Decide now to read more, and more effectively than you have ever done before.
Several Decembers ago I learned again the power that comes from trying harder to have the scriptures opened to our hearts. It began when I noticed the scriptures of a man sitting next to me in a meeting. I could see that he had marked them, as I had done, but with a difference. He had placed colored tags on the edges of pages, keyed to the colors with which he had marked the scriptures so that he could study all the scriptures that were helpful to him on a particular topic.
Within a day I had purchased an inexpensive set of scriptures. But it took more than a few days and more than a few prayers for me to know the topics that would open the scriptures anew for me. I chose the topics that would teach me of my call to be a witness of Jesus Christ. The first topic was the witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the next was that He is risen, and the third was that He is the head of His Church.
I would not urge you to buy a new set of scriptures nor to get colored tags and colored pencils nor to choose the topics I chose. But I plead with you to return to the scriptures in some way that opens your mind and heart to be taught.
Many of the scriptures have become familiar to us. Yet in just a few weeks what I remembered about the Savior and what I felt about Him were enriched.
I began to read with purpose. Perhaps it was because of the Christmas season, perhaps it was because I wanted always to remember Him, but I found myself drawn to the accounts of His birth. I read again His words, spoken to a prophet named Nephi, recorded in the Book of Mormon, familiar to us all. And yet it seemed new to me:
“Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.
“And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came” (3 Ne. 1:14–15).
Later, as I had never done before, I saw in my mind and felt in my heart the fulfillment of Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy that the sun would set without darkness (see Hel. 14:3–4). I saw it at His birth, as if I were somewhere among the people in those lands of promise. And I saw it as it will be when He comes to stand, in resurrected glory, on the Mount of Olives. The darkness will be dispelled when the promised Messiah comes with healing in His wings. Knowing how much I need that healing, I feel my heart nearly burst with joy and love for Him at the thought of that light. I believe I will never see the dawning of a new day, as the sun banishes the darkness, without the sight triggering love in my heart for Him.
I must add to my pleading a warning. You have the right and the obligation to choose for yourselves. You can search the scriptures or not. You can choose to work hard enough, to ponder, and to obey His commandments so that the Holy Ghost can be your companion. Then you will come to know the Savior better and better, and your heart will swell with love for Him. Or you can choose to delay. You can choose to drift, deciding past efforts will be enough.
My warning is a simple matter of cause and effect. Jesus Christ is the light and the life of the world. If we do not choose to move toward Him, we will find that we have moved away.
“For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
“Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven;
“And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts” (D&C 1:31–33).
We are promised that if we always remember Him and keep His commandments, we will always have His Spirit to be with us. That light to our feet will grow dim if we choose to delay or to drift.
Now for the sure promises. First, if you will let your heart be drawn to the Savior and always remember Him and if you will draw near to our Heavenly Father in prayer, you will have put on spiritual armor. You will be protected against pride because you will know that any success comes not from your human powers. And you will be protected against the thoughts which come rushing in upon us that we are too weak, too inexperienced, too unworthy to do what we are called of God to do to serve and help save His children. We can have come into our hearts the reassurance recorded in Moroni: “Christ truly said unto our fathers: If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me” (Moro. 10:23).
There is another sure promise. It is this: Whether or not you choose to keep your covenant to always remember Him, He always remembers you. I testify that Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, was and is the Only Begotten of the Father, the Lamb of God. He chose from before the foundations of the earth to be your Savior, my Savior, and the Savior of all we will ever know or meet. I testify that He was resurrected and that because of His Atonement we may be washed clean through our faith to obey the laws and accept the ordinances of the gospel.
I promise you that you will feel the influence of the Holy Ghost touch your heart as you search the scriptures with new purpose and as you pray earnestly. From that, you will have the assurance that God lives, that He answers prayers, that Jesus is the living Christ, and that He loves you. And you will feel your love for Him increase.