A few years ago one of our married children and her husband decided to buy a home. They spent a long time looking everywhere in the valley for a home that they could afford and that would meet their needs. I watched their search with interest. When they came to me for counsel and we went to look at the home that they had chosen, I had but one comment for my son-in-law. I asked him, “Is it worth it?”
How many times do we have to ask the question “Is it worth it?” I suppose many of you have purchased automobiles or stereo sets or televisions or something else that you felt was very important. I would guess that as you struggled with the question of whether or not to part with your hard-earned dollars you wrestled in your mind with the question “Is it worth it?”
What are your goals for the next few years? Will you pay the price for excellence? Are you willing to become the very best in the field you choose? I would hope that every one of us is wise enough to realize that we can be excellent, that we can reach the top, that we can be the very best if we are willing to pay the price. We must be willing to establish in our minds this fact: In order to be great in whatever we attempt to do in life, we have to decide in advance that it is all worth it.
Have you set your priorities? Are they solidly and clearly defined in your minds? Were they clear when you got up this morning, and will they be clear tomorrow morning and each morning? What I would like to convey to you is that we are the sons and daughters of God. We have a great destiny, a great challenge, and a great work to do. Our number one priority could well be, “Am I doing and living and acting each day as a candidate for the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom?” I think this is our ultimate long-range goal and our number one priority. I believe that as we think about this and as we understand a few of the insights the Lord has given to us in the scriptures, we can easily come to the conclusion, “Yes, it is worth it.”
“And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—
“They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given.”
I would guess that many of you were baptized into the Church when you turned eight years of age. I was. As I read the scripture and contemplate the kind of decision I made, I conclude that I really did not make much of a decision on that day. My mother and father, to whom I am grateful, felt that I should be baptized. I can remember my interview with the bishop when I was eight, and I can remember the coaching from my mother before the interview. I remember her telling me, “Now, the bishop is going to ask you why you want to be baptized.” I listened to her with great interest to hear what answer I should give the bishop. She also told me that I would be asked about receiving the Holy Ghost and being confirmed. She taught me why that was important. I went to my interview and passed it with flying colors for an eight-year-old; all of the questions were exactly as my mother had said they would be, and I gave all the right answers. But I really did not make much of a decision.
Many of you are converts to the Church and have had to ponder the question of whether or not you would be baptized, whether or not you would receive this sacred ordinance of the holy priesthood. But all of us, converts or not, have to deal with verse 52 every day, if not every minute, of our lives. The Lord said, “That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power.”
“That by keeping the commandments.” We are faced at this moment with the question “Is it worth it?” Is it worth keeping all of the commandments? Is it worth being morally clean? Is it worth living the Word of Wisdom? Is it worth being honest, honest in your work, in your classes at school, and in all your dealings? Is it worth paying your tithes and offerings? Is it worth serving faithfully wherever you are called?
Each moment of each day we are faced with making decisions based on the training we have received in our homes and through the Church. The guidelines are clear, and our vision should be riveted on the long-range goal of qualifying to inherit the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom.
I do not believe for a minute that simply wanting that great and glorious blessing will bring it to you unless you are willing to repent where necessary and keep the commandments. I wish that somehow, by some gift, I could reach into your hearts and minds and build a sensitivity and love for the Lord. I would unite the force of that spirit within you with him so you could rivet your eyes on that great goal and be willing to pay the price and keep the commandments.
Verses 53, 55 [D&C 76:53, 55]: “And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.” Just a word about that. It is possible to fool your bishop, your mother and your father, your stake president, or your mission president. But you cannot fool the Holy Ghost.
“They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things.” Those who keep the commandments, those who are just and true—“they are they into whose hands the Father has given all things.”
Ponder for a moment the meaning of the statement that all our Father has will be given you and me if we will keep his commandments. When I ponder that our Heavenly Father, through his great and glorious and exalted understanding and mastery of the holy priesthood, organized this world with his beloved Son, Jesus Christ; when I contemplate that matter unorganized was organized into a world upon which you and I could dwell; when I contemplate that by the power of almighty God, daylight was separated from darkness and the land from the sea, and the fishes were placed in the sea and the fowls in the air; when I contemplate the creation process, reread it in the book of Genesis, and realize that the Father promises to all his sons and daughters who are willing to pay the price of keeping his commandments that he will give them all he has—I feel that it is indeed worth the price.
Verse 58 [D&C 76:58] describes further those who learn to be obedient, to master themselves, to set priorities, and to not lose sight of the long-range priority in the process of life: “Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God.”
Oh, my brothers and sisters, if you could only contemplate and really understand while at your young age what that means! And then, if you could just place that priority properly in your life and live up to it, you would never have any difficulty making the right decisions. You would always have tucked in the back of your mind this concept: “It is worth it. I am not going to compromise; I am not going to shortcut; I am going to commit myself all the way, because it is worth it.”
Verse 62 [D&C 76:62]: “These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.” Is that where you want to go? Is that where you want to be?
May I share with you the feeling of Melvin J. Ballard, my grandfather and an Apostle of the Lord? His recorded testimony is one of the great witnesses of this generation. He knew what it was like to stand in the presence of the Savior of this world and be embraced and blessed by him. He recorded in his testimony before the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency in the temple on January 7, 1919: “Oh! if I could live worthy, though it would require four-score years, so that in the end when I have finished I could go into His presence and receive the feeling that I then had in His presence, I would give everything that I am and ever hope to be!” (quoted by Melvin R. Ballard, Melvin J. Ballard—Crusader for Righteousness, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 66). That is where we are trying to go. We are trying to qualify for that blessing and that honor.
Verse 70 [D&C 76:70]: “These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical.”
Verse 92 [D&C 76:92]: “And thus we saw the glory of the celestial, which excels in all things—where God, even the Father, reigns upon his throne forever and ever.”
Then we have these powerful words in verses 95 and 96 [D&C 76:95–96]; let them penetrate: “And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.
“And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one.” My brothers and sisters, that is a lofty goal and a great objective. But it is a promised objective, a real objective, obtainable by you and me if we are willing to pay the price.
In Doctrine and Covenants 84:33–38 [D&C 84:33–38] are some words to fortify what the Lord taught earlier in section 76: “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken [listen carefully to the next few words because I think this is the key], and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
“They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
“And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
“For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
“And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
“And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.”
Is it worth it? Is it worth giving all the attention and all the energy that we can to the building of this great kingdom here upon the earth? I say yes, it is.
Now consider one of the keys that is important in keeping the highest degree of the celestial kingdom foremost in our objectives. This key also will help keep in our minds the thought “It is worth it; I am not going to weaken; I am going to go forward; I am going to make it because that’s the promise of the Father to me, his child.”
You and I must learn, as we walk through this life, how to become powerful spiritually. The spirit that dwells within this tabernacle of flesh and bone is the literal offspring of our eternal, heavenly parents. We know that; we have all talked about it in Sunday School. Because of that spiritual side of our existence, we have a spark of divinity within us. We trace our common parentage back to our heavenly parents, making us all brothers and sisters. We all understand that concept, I am sure. But our great struggle in life (I must tell you that I have had my struggles and continue to have them, and I believe that everyone else does too) is to learn this principle of obedience and reliance upon the Lord. We must educate, feed, and build our spirit every bit as much as we build our academic, our temporal, or our physical side. The spirit has to be powerful and magnified to qualify for these great blessings.
Section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants [D&C 88] gives us helpful insight on the subject in verses 15–22: “And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.
“And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.
“And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.
“Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;
“For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;
“That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.
“And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ [or the commandments], must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
“For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.”
We should be trying to live the celestial law today. Is there any use in waiting until we are dead to try to live the celestial law? What difference should there be in the way we behave today and the way we will behave when the body and the spirit are separated? Is there going to be a difference?
Grandfather Ballard taught that when we die and try to do something that requires a body and find that we cannot do it with the body and the spirit separated, then would come our full realization of and great appreciation for the ministry and the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Then we would all look forward in great anticipation to the day of resurrection when the body and the spirit could be reunited once again, never to be parted.
If you have a bad habit, do you think death is going to change it? Do you think that habit will simply dissolve in some miraculous way and will no longer be with you? I believe that the Lord impresses upon you and me the need to repent and live the law, keep the commandments, and keep our lives aligned to the celestial goal because it is when we are here in mortality that the body and the spirit can learn together.
For example, when a man who smokes dies, and his body is placed six feet into the ground, is there any reason for us to believe that when his body comes back up out of the ground it will no longer have the desires that it had when it was laid down? I do not think so. I think that the body will rise in the Resurrection with the same desire, and that the body and the spirit together must work out this matter of eternal salvation. That is why you and I must be believing enough and willing enough while we are here on this earth to strive with all our power to keep the commandments. “Is it worth it?” we need to ask ourselves. I hope I have made the point clear that it certainly is worth it.
To receive all that our Father has to give unto his sons and daughters! By any reasonable standard of thinking, my brothers and sisters, we would have to say, “Yes, certainly it’s worth it.
The importance of this concept came home hard when President Ezra Taft Benson telephoned with an assignment to speak at a funeral service for a missionary who had lost his life in the mission field. Do you have any feeling, brothers and sisters, for what it is like to speak at a service for a missionary who was serving well and lost his life on his mission, who was called home, in effect, to continue to another mission? I was impressed to tell the family that he had been transferred to a greater work, a higher work. Can you sense the feeling that goes through a General Authority’s mind in that position? Oh, how grateful I was that I could call the mission president and ask him this brief question: “What kind of an elder was he?”
“Outstanding,” the president said. “He could have had any assignment in our mission. Brother Ballard, I just didn’t have any finer missionary than this young man.”
What a thrill it was to know that that missionary was striving to live the celestial law on his mission. I am sure he did not expect to be called home. I am sure he did not expect that accident to occur. But it happened. He was alive and well in the morning and gone in the afternoon. Gone where? Back to the presence of our Father in Heaven.
Do you think it was important that he was living the celestial law to the best of his ability? Will you ponder in your minds and determine that you are going to live as close to that celestial law as you know how? Determine that you will strive to keep the commandments and strive to build the power of your spirit. Oh, that every one of us might have the power and the feeling of the great prophet Nephi! I love these words in 1 Nephi 2:16 [1 Ne. 2:16]: “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceeding young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God.” Do you have that desire, a great desire to know of the mysteries of God? Do you desire it enough to pay the price? Nephi did. “Wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.”
Oh, the power there is in having a desire to know with all your heart the things of God! Do not permit your quest to become a doctor, lawyer, scientist, educator, salesman, or marketing executive overshadow your quest for a testimony of the divine mission of Jesus Christ, the divine mission of Joseph Smith, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and the knowledge that we are led by a prophet of God, even Spencer W. Kimball. Oh, that that assurance would burn in our hearts! Oh, that we would have the desire burning in our hearts, with all of the power we are capable of mustering, to know the mysteries of God! That the spirit might be educated and prepared for that great day of promise when we will go back into the presence of our Heavenly Father!
We desperately need every single one of you young people prepared, spiritually prepared and with all question out of your mind as to whether or not it is worth it. We need you fully resolved and solidly entrenched, certain that it is worth the goal, worth the quest, and worth the effort, because here is your job, and it is going to be a bigger job for you, I think, than it is for us. The job was given to you and me by President Kimball a few years ago in general conference.
“Now, my brothers and sisters, it seems clear to me, indeed, this impression weighs upon me—that the Church is at a point in its growth and maturity when we are at last ready to move forward in a major way. … But the basic decisions needed for us to move forward, as a people, must be made by the individual members of the Church. …
“We have paused on some plateaus long enough. Let us resume our journey forward and upward. Let us quietly put an end to our reluctance to reach out to others—whether in our own families, wards, or neighborhoods. We have been diverted, at times, from fundamentals on which we must now focus in order to move forward as a person or as a people” (“Let Us Move Forward and Upward,” Ensign, May 1979, p. 82).
Oh, brothers and sisters, it is worth it! May God bless each one of you that in your individual lives you will find peace in your hearts and your minds. If there is transgression holding you back, seek out your bishop and get your life righted to the celestial path, and then commit yourself to that course if you have not already done so. Commit tonight as you write your goals: “I am going to do my part. I am going to be ready when the brethren need me, whether it is to be a Sunday School teacher or president of the stake or a General Authority. I will be ready because it is worth it.”
I leave my witness and testimony that Jesus is the Christ. He lives. This is his church. How blessed we are to know that! We are on the road back into his holy presence. I testify that if we will listen to the voice of the prophets and the Apostles and strive to keep the commandments, all the blessings of eternity will in very fact become ours.