True Believers


Neal A. Maxwell
Excerpted from a devotional address given at Brigham Young University, October 7, 1980.
How can you reflect Christlike qualities in your own life?

In our time, the words “true believer” have sometimes come to denote “fanatic.” But many years ago, a similar phrase was used by Alma and by the Apostle Nephi, who wrote of “true believers in Christ” as a definition of those who belong “to the church of God” and are “true worshipers” (Alma 46:14, 4 Ne. 1:36).

Jesus, of course, knows who His true believers are. Others may know who His disciples are because of the love they show for the Savior, for each other, and for their fellowmen. Here are some characteristics that define those who truly believe in the Savior:

True believers are settled in their views of Christ. Despite their weaknesses, their spirituality is centered on the Savior, so their views of everything else are put in that precious perspective.

True believers gladly perform their duties in the kingdom. These duties are usually measurable and straightforward. They include partaking worthily of the sacrament, rendering Christian service, studying the scriptures, praying, fasting, receiving ordinances, attending to family duties, paying tithes and offerings, doing missionary and family history work, attending meetings, preparing for the temple, and much more. True believers do these things willingly because they see their clear connection in helping them to keep the commandments.

True believers are humble. They are “meek and lowly of heart,” ready to be taught things they “never had supposed,” as was Moses, one of the most meek men upon the earth (see Moses 1:7–11, Num. 12:3). They are not easily offended. They do not resist counsel. They don’t see themselves as being “above” the routine duties of Church membership and discipleship, and they don’t reject those duties on the basis of “I’ve done all that before.” How can we pretend to be true believers if we shun the chores of the kingdom?

True believers are willing to do what Christ wants. A young man told the Savior he had kept all the commandments from his youth, and Jesus gave this young man a specific challenge: go and sell all that he had, giving the money to the poor, then come and follow the Savior. The good and decent young man went away sorrowing because he could not meet that customized challenge. He was clearly an admirer of Jesus, but not a true believer in Christ (see Mark 10:21). Nor are we, if we shrink from our customized challenges. Are we willing to let the Lord lead us into further developmental experiences? Or do we shrink back? The things which enlarge the soul inevitably involve stretching.

True believers have a balanced contentment. They strike a balance between being too content and wishing for a more important role. Alma said, “I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me … why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?” (Alma 29:3, 6). To develop contentment by using our existing opportunities is obviously one of our great challenges. Otherwise we may feel underappreciated even as we ignore opportunities for service all around us.

True believers truly pray. Their prayers are sincere. They understand what the Lord meant when he said, “You have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me,” and so they combine “study[ing] it out in your mind” (D&C 9:7–8) with patience, faith, and real intent. The true believer’s prayers, at least some of the time, are inspired.

True believers have both right conduct and right reasons for that conduct. They are so secure in their relationship with the Lord that their goodness would continue even if nobody were watching. They still love and pray sincerely for those who misrepresent, misquote, or misuse them.

True believers rejoice in the success of others. When someone seems to surpass them, spiritually or temporally, true believers give them heartfelt and sincere praise. They don’t regard colleagues as competitors.

True believers remember that forgetting is part of forgiving. They follow the Lord’s example: “I [will] remember [their sins] no more” (D&C 58:42). They help others to get deservingly reclassified, and, like the Lord, don’t mention their past mistakes to them (see Ezek. 18:22).

True believers are innocent as to sin, but not naive. They are kind, but candid. They love their fellowmen. They are influential because their righteousness permits them access to the powers of heaven.

True believers are happy. Instead of a “woeful countenance,” true believers in Christ have a disciplined enthusiasm to work righteousness. They are serious about how they live life, but are also of good cheer. Their humor is the humor of hope and modesty, not the hollow laughter of sarcasm and despair. They have a quiet, heaven-does-care attitude. They can read the signs of the times without being depressed, because they have a “perfect brightness of hope” (2 Ne. 31:20).

Let us seek to become such true believers in Christ. Let us make our way, righteously and resolutely, notwithstanding our weaknesses, to the beckoning City of God. There, the sole and self-assigned gatekeeper is Jesus Christ. He awaits us not only to certify us, but because His deep, divine desire brings Him there to welcome us. If we acknowledge Him now, He will lovingly acknowledge us then.

May God bless you as a generation with a continuing sense of impending rendezvous with tasks you know not of yet, but for which you must be prepared. I see you as a generation fitted before you came here, measured for the challenges to be given to you. I plead with you to determine to settle in spiritually, by moving along in the pathway to becoming true believers in Christ.

[photo] True believers seek His words in the scriptures. They center their spirituality on Him so that everything else falls into precious perspective.

[photo] True believers gladly perform their duties in the kingdom. Unlike the rich young man who shrank from the Savior’s challenge, they are willing to give their all.

[photo] They are kind. They love their fellowmen. They are influential because their righteousness permits them access to the powers of heaven.

[photos] True believers are happy. They are innocent as to sin, but not naive. They have the right conduct for the right reasons. Their goodness would continue even if nobody were watching.

[photos] True believers truly pray. They pray with forethought, patience, and faith. Their prayers, at least some of the time, are inspired.