One of the Come, Follow Me “Ideas for Personal Scripture Study” for the week of September 16-22 is to accept Paul’s invitation to “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith, prove your own selves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). This is even more critical for us today because there are so many activities, distractions, powers, and people seeking to lead us away “from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). In pondering how we can “endure in faith to the end” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:25), we decided to look at two examples and one strategy of how to be carefully watchful in examining how we are living our lives.
Not Murmuring But Praying for Humble Belief and Action
When Lehi was commanded by the Lord to leave Jerusalem and “depart into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:2), not everyone in the family was happy about abandoning the comforts of their home. His two older sons, Laman and Lemuel “did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them” (1 Nephi 2:12). They were resentful and rebellious.
Even though Nephi was “exceedingly young,” he took a different way of answering his doubts and questions: “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” (1 Nephi 2:16). Nephi’s example shows that age does not determine who can receive divine guidance: both Lehi and Nephi were guided by the will of God. To obtain inspired direction, earnest prayer is the key to overcoming doubts and receiving personal revelation. As Jesus counselled in the Sermon on the Mount: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).
Because of his prayers, Nephi received not only a belief in the words and actions of his father but also a softening or humbling of his own wants and desires. Even though he did not understand all that his earthly and his Heavenly Father would ask of him, he was prepared to “go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). Nephi’s youthful example speaks volumes. In examining ourselves, we need to seek answers through our prayers, be humble, and then go and “do the thing the Lord commands” (“Nephi’s Courage,” Children’s Songbook, 120-121).
Avoid Becoming Casual about Spirituality
Elder Dale G. Renlund, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, describes an experience he had while undertaking a demanding and prestigious medical residency at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
He was required to work everyday, including Sundays. If he finished work by 2:00 p.m., he could walk home in time to join his wife and daughter for a 2:30 church meeting. One Sunday, he rationalized staying at work until after 2:15, and then he slowly walked home so that he could take a very needed nap. After lying down, however, he could not fall asleep. He was disturbed that he had deliberately avoided attending church, and he began to ponder why.
As he explains: “Because of my schedule, I had become casual with my prayers and scripture study. …The problem was that I was not doing the basic things I needed to do to keep my mightily changed heart from turning to stone. I got off the couch, got on my knees, and pleaded with God for forgiveness. I promised my Heavenly Father that I would change. The next day I brought a Book of Mormon to the hospital. On my to-do list that day, and every day since, were two items: praying at least morning and evening and reading in the scriptures. Sometimes midnight would come, and I would have to quickly find a private place to pray. Some days my scripture study was brief. I also promised Heavenly Father that I would always try to get to church, even if I missed part of the meeting. Over the course of a few weeks, the zeal returned and the fire of testimony burned fiercely again. I promised to never again fall into the spiritual death trap of being casual about these seemingly small actions and thereby jeopardizing things of an eternal nature, regardless of circumstances” (“Preserving the Heart’s Mighty Change,” Ensign, Nov. 2009, 97-99).
From Elder Renlund’s experience, we learn that everyone needs to press forward “with steadfast faith in Christ” (“Press Forward, Saints,” Hymns, 81). This means that latter-day saints need to pray, study the scriptures, partake of the sacrament every week, and have the Holy Ghost as our constant companion to guide and prompt our daily actions. We need to take time to perform regular check-ups on our spiritual status. Let us cry mightily for God to soften our hearts and faithfully follow one of President Russell M. Nelson’s ongoing challenges: “Now, to each member of the Church I say, keep on the covenant path” (“As We Go Forward Together,” Ensign, Apr. 2018).
Family Home Evening—A Strategy for Spiritual Growth Planning
Over the years, our family has found that holding regular home evenings is a key strategy for strengthening our personal spirituality. Periodically, we find it helpful to record our goals for a specific period of time (often quarterly). These goals would usually include spiritual growth plans as well as ideas for wholesome recreational activities. Then, at a later family home evening, we would review what we had accomplished and how we could improve in the future.
One of the wonderful blessings of the Come, Follow Me curriculum is that its resources re-emphasize and assist in the planning and conducting of family home evenings. We are encouraged to pray, study and share meaningful scriptures, record our impressions in our own words, use Church resources, participate in meaningful learning activities and object lessons, apply the scriptures in our lives, sing hymns and Primary songs, and ask questions. As faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, we can have our own powerful spiritual experiences just like Nephi and Elder Renlund. Our challenge is to accept the Savior’s invitation to “Come, follow me” (Luke 18:22).