Ottawa — Area leaders for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Canada express their wishes for a peaceful, healthy and happy new year. They encourage us to have Christ’s image in our countenances, to rejoice in the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ and to let go of our burdens and trust in God.
Peace and Eternal Life
“But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23). The highest reward one may receive from God, on earth, is peace. Eternal life could be our crowning highest gift after this life. We learn from this verse that “works of righteousness” will bring these rewards to us.
We are encouraged by the many gestures of charity and care offered by people and organizations of various faiths and beliefs throughout our communities.
Best wishes for a peaceful, healthy and happy year to all. We pray that the blessings of our Lord will be with you as we strive to follow the path He has set for us to follow.
Let’s Have His Image in Our Countenances
The commencement of a new year is always a time of reflection and renewal. We reflect on our past year to evaluate our progress, our successes and, often, our struggles. It is a moment of renewed commitment and resolution. I am reminded of the wonderful discussion that the Book of Mormon prophet Alma had with his people in Alma 5. He asked them to consider a number of questions as they evaluate their relationship with their Heavenly Father. I would suggest that we ask ourselves some of those same questions as we prepare for the blessings, challenges and opportunities of a new year.
Alma asks if we have “spiritually been born of God” (Alma 5:14). When others see our actions, hear our voices and see the light in our eyes, do they recognize that we have taken upon us Christ’s name? Can they see His image in our countenances? Let’s commit to being Christlike, to light the world so others will see our good works and glorify their Father in Heaven. Spiritual birth engenders a heart of mercy, kindness and charity to all of God’s children. Christ set the example for us to follow.
Sometimes we feel pangs of regret when we look at our past mistakes and missed opportunities. Alma reminds us that we need to be looking forward with an eye of faith, with a hope in Christ that He can forgive our sins. Alma asks if we have experienced a change of heart (see Alma 5:14) through spiritual rebirth and, if so, can we feel so now? If we have lingering doubts, stifling guilt or overwhelming disappointment, let’s look to the source of our hope and repent with full purpose of heart, so we can once again feel to “sing the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26) that comes through the merciful Atonement of Jesus Christ.
One of Alma’s more difficult questions may be: “Can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying … Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness?” (Alma 5:16). I hope that each of us can trust in the love of our Father in Heaven and the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, to confidently imagine those sweet words being uttered on our behalf someday. God loves us and Christ atoned for us, so we can have hope in salvation.
At this new year, let’s seek spiritual rebirth. Let’s remember the times we have felt the Spirit’s comforting touch and have faith. Let’s believe in the miracle of redemption and allow it to lift us above the struggles of this world. Let’s have His image in our countenances.
Joy to the World
When we think of what is happening in the world and contemplate the year ahead, we can be encouraged by the optimism of our Church leaders. One of the reasons President Thomas S. Monson is so beloved, both by members and nonmembers, is that he always seems to have a positive outlook. It is easy to look around and let ourselves become depressed about things, but if we get down, we can pull others down too.
President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) said, “You cannot lift another soul until you are standing on higher ground than he is” (“Stand Ye in Holy Places,” Apr. 1973 general conference). President Lee’s statement can be considered as an invitation to develop faith and hope and then help others.
President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) gave us direct advice: “We have every reason to be optimistic in this world. … You look with optimism, work with faith, and things happen” (quoted in Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Gordon B. Hinckley: Stalwart and Brave He Stands,” Ensign, June 1995).
The mission and Atonement of our Saviour Jesus Christ has given us the reason to rejoice. “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ” (2 Nephi 25:26). Jesus Christ said, “Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail” (D&C 6:34). Christ is “a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).
We know our joy is not complete in this life: “Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full” (D&C 101:36). But hope and faith are things we can work on while in mortality. Remember, “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).
There is no lasting sadness in anything but sin, and those who are happiest are those who understand the gospel and live it.
This year, members of the Church will be studying the Old Testament in Sunday School. In this spirit of optimism, my favourite blessing from the Old Testament is:
“The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
“The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
“The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24–26).
Let Go and Let God
Will 2018 become your best year yet? Or might unforeseen challenges and trials threaten your spiritual or temporal well-being as never before? It’s too soon to know, but a bumper sticker seen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, offers good advice.
The bumper sticker said, “Let Go and Let God.” The implied message is that we are holding onto things that are weighing us down and preventing our eternal progression. If we trust in God and let Him show us how to live, then we can safely let go. We can then “let go and let God.”
The simple lesson is this: if we want to find joy in our lives, all we have to do is let go of the old “me” and let God show us the better way — the way to choose, the way to act, the way to repent, the way to serve, the way to forgive and the way to love.
Christ affirmatively declares, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). The invitation to come unto Christ is an invitation to let go of our burdens, bad habits, skepticism and doubt. It is an invitation of renewal. It is an invitation to stop the internal commotion in our hearts, minds and memories by utilizing the healing power of Christ’s Atonement and the application of personal faith.