The Lord Will Lead You to Heights That Are New

Talks and Lessons

Below is a talk I gave in Sacrament meeting the Sunday before Thanksgiving 2015.

I’d like to begin by reading a favorite hymn of mine, Hymn #127, “Does the Journey Seem Long?”. Please read along with me.

Rose Datoc Dall, Behold the Handmaid

Rose Datoc Dall, Behold the Handmaid

Does the journey seem long,
The path rugged and steep?
Are there briars and thorns on the way?
Do sharp stones cut your feet
As you struggle to rise
To the heights thru the heat of the day?

Is your heart faint and sad,
Your soul weary within,
As you toil ’neath your burden of care?
Does the load heavy seem
You are forced now to lift?
Is there no one your burden to share?

Let your heart be not faint
Now the journey’s begun;
There is One who still beckons to you.
So look upward in joy
And take hold of his hand;
He will lead you to heights that are new—

A land holy and pure,
Where all trouble doth end,
And your life shall be free from all sin,
Where no tears shall be shed,
For no sorrows remain.
Take his hand and with him enter in

The message of this song is best described by President Thomas S. Monson: “At times … we feel surrounded by the pain of broken hearts, the disappointment of shattered dreams, and the despair of vanished hopes … We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone. If you find yourself in such a situation, I plead with you to turn to our Heavenly Father in faith. He will lift you and guide you. He will not always take your afflictions from you, but he will comfort and lead you with love through whatever storm you face” (“Looking Back and Moving Forward,” April 2008).

Rose Datoc Dall, Young Women Values: Individual Worth, Red

Rose Datoc Dall, Young Women Values: Individual Worth, Red

Ten years ago, I was brokenhearted. The dreams I had worked so hard to bring to pass had shattered. I was a failure. I was alone. My life prior to this crucible was one away from the Lord and His Gospel. I had been raised in the church, but as I got older, I chose to step away from the iron rod and the Lord’s presence. It wasn’t until my life was in shambles that I realized that I needed the Lord in my life. I needed the comfort only He could bring to help me make my way through the storm I had created.

When I realized that I needed the Lord, a series of miracles occurred. I obtained a new job. Not just any job, but my dream job – teaching at a community college full-time. Next, I obtained a phenomenal deal on housing within walking distance of work. It felt like every few days I was winning the lottery and I hadn’t even bought a ticket. After a few of these miracles, I could not deny the Lord’s hand in my life. I knew that He was beside me and I thought that if I trusted Him enough, He “would take me to heights that were new.” (Hymn #127, “Does the Journey Seem Long?”)

How was this possible? Because I was grateful for the trial I was in and I was determined to learn from it. Over time, I learned to be grateful for repentance, prayer, the scriptures, and the sacrament.

Repentance is never easy.

Rose Datoc Dall, Five that Were Wise

Rose Datoc Dall, Five that Were Wise

It means “we must put aside our pride, see beyond our vanity, and in humility ask, ‘Lord, it is I?’” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Lord, Is It I?,” October 2014). By asking that question, we can gain wisdom and the “pathway to personal conversion and lasting change” begins.

Prior to the meridian of time, righteous men would build an altar to offer a blood sacrifice unto God. Adam, Noah, and Lehi all did this in the manner the Lord asked. In our time, we are not held to the same commandment. The blood atonement has been paid by our Elder Brother, Christ. Elder Neal A. Maxwell stated, “… personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed! Such is the ‘sacrifice unto the Lord … of a broken heart and a contrite spirit’ (D&C 59:8), a prerequisite to taking up the cross, while giving ‘away all [our] sins’ in order to ‘know God’ (Alma 22:18) for the denial of self precedes the full acceptance of Him” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Deny Yourself of All Ungodliness,” April 1995).

In examining my life, I realized that I could learn from parables Christ shared with His flock. I wish I could say that my life was like the virgins who had prepared to meet with the bridegroom; sadly, I was a foolish virgin. My life was like that of another parable: that of the prodigal daughter (Brent H. Nielson, “Waiting for the Prodigal,” April 2015). But as I began on the path back to the Gospel, I was inundated by the adversary with “lies that Heavenly Father [was] disappointed with [me], that the Atonement was beyond [my] reach, that there was no point in even trying, that everyone else [was] better than [me], that [I] was unworthy” (Jörg Klebingat, “Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence,” October 2014).

It took humility and perseverance plus the help of others to realize that the decision to change my life was my own. To find peace, I had to do the simple tasks that the Lord asks each of us to do: pray, study the scriptures, and be worthy to partake of the sacrament.

Prayer has been and is a struggle of mine. I continue to work on it. I desire to develop a stronger relationship with the Lord. That being said, I have sought for instruction on how to pray in a more meaningful way. Elder Bednar shared an experience he had that I found particularly instructive and I’d like to share it with you. At the time, he was the president of BYU Idaho and an Apostle was visiting his family.

“Sister Bednar and I had been informed about the unexpected death of a dear friend, and our immediate desire was to pray for the surviving spouse and children. As I invited my wife to offer the prayer, the member of the Twelve, unaware of the tragedy, graciously suggested that in the prayer Sister Bednar express only appreciation for blessings received and ask for nothing. His counsel was similar to Alma’s instruction to the members of the ancient Church ‘to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things’ (Mosiah 26:39). Given the unexpected tragedy, requesting blessings for our friends initially seemed to us more urgent than expressing thanks.

Sister Bednar responded in faith to the direction she received. She thanked Heavenly Father for meaningful and memorable experiences with this dear friend. She communicated sincere gratitude for the Holy Ghost as the Comforter and for the gifts of the Spirit that enable us to face adversity and to serve others. Most importantly, she expressed appreciation for the plan of salvation, for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for His Resurrection, and for the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel which make it possible for families to be together forever.

Our family learned from that experience a great lesson about the power of thankfulness in meaningful prayer. Because of and through that prayer, our family was blessed with inspiration about a number of issues that were pressing upon our minds and stirring in our hearts. We learned that our gratefulness for the plan of happiness and for the Savior’s mission of salvation provided needed reassurance and strengthened our confidence that all would be well with our dear friends. We also received insights concerning the things about which we should pray and appropriately ask in faith” (David A. Bednar, “Pray Always,” October 2008).

Rose Datoc Dall, Young Women Values: Good Works, Yellow

Rose Datoc Dall, Young Women Values: Good Works, Yellow

I am grateful for Elder Bednar’s instruction on prayer. I aspire to be more like his wife and ask the Lord for little since He has given me so much. Elder Bednar concludes by saying, “The most meaningful and spiritual prayers I have experienced contained many expressions of thanks and few, if any, requests” (David A. Bednar, “Pray Always,” October 2008).

Word of God
I love the written word. I always have. It’s never been a problem for me to read the scriptures; however, it has been a struggle to incorporate what the scriptures teach me into who I am. I know I am not alone in this struggle.

To express my gratitude for scriptures, I’m going to lean on the words of another whose relationship toward the scriptures is unsurpassed in this world. Oliver Cowdery was a scribe for Joseph Smith as he was translating the Book of Mormon.

“These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated … [the] record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’

… The Lord, who is rich in mercy, and ever willing to answer the consistent prayer of the humble, after we had called upon Him in a fervent manner, aside from the abodes of men, condescended to manifest to us His will. On a sudden, as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the veil was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the Gospel of repentance. What joy! what wonder! what amazement! While the world was racked and distracted—while millions were groping as the blind for the wall, and while all men were resting upon uncertainty, as a general mass, our eyes beheld, our ears heard, as in the ‘blaze of day’; yes, more—above the glitter of the May sunbeam, which then shed its brilliancy over the face of nature! Then his voice, though mild, pierced to the center, and his words, ‘I am thy fellow-servant,’ dispelled every fear. We listened, we gazed, we admired! ’Twas the voice of an angel from glory, ’twas a message from the Most High! And as we heard we rejoiced, while His love enkindled upon our souls, and we were wrapped in the vision of the Almighty! Where was room for doubt? Nowhere; uncertainty had fled, doubt had sunk no more to rise, while fiction and deception had fled forever!

… I shall not attempt to paint to you the feelings of this heart, nor the majestic beauty and glory which surrounded us on this occasion; but you will believe me when I say, that earth, nor men, with the eloquence of time, cannot begin to clothe language in as interesting and sublime a manner as this holy personage. No; nor has this earth power to give the joy, to bestow the peace, or comprehend the wisdom which was contained in each sentence as they were delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit! Man may deceive his fellow-men, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught, till naught but fiction feeds the many, and the fruit of falsehood carries in its current the giddy to the grave; but one touch with the finger of his love, yes, one ray of glory from the upper world, or one word from the mouth of the Savior, from the bosom of eternity, strikes it all into insignificance, and blots it forever from the mind. The assurance that we were in the presence of an angel, the certainty that we heard the voice of Jesus, and the truth unsullied as it flowed from a pure personage, dictated by the will of God, is to me past description, and I shall ever look upon this expression of the Savior’s goodness with wonder and thanksgiving while I am permitted to tarry; and in those mansions where perfection dwells and sin never comes, I hope to adore in that day which shall never cease.”—Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1 (October 1834), pp. 14–16.

Cowdrey’s words testify of truth. They testify of the Redeemer. They testify of the joy and peace we can feel when we incorporate the Lord’s truths within the scriptures into our lives.

The scriptures help us prepare for the sacrament because they teach us of the Lord’s commandments.

Rose Datoc Dall, Women at the Well

Rose Datoc Dall, Women at the Well

For a long time, I was not worthy to partake of the sacrament. As I worked to get my life in order, I repented, prayed, and read the scriptures. This took time. I cried many times, especially when the sacrament was passed and I, once again, would not partake of it. Why? Because the Holy Spirit had yet to confirm to me that I had done enough to be spotless before the Lord. I openly wept the first time I took the sacrament in over a decade. It was sweet.

Lehi relays a vision he had to his family: “And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted.… And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy;” (1 Nephi 8:11–12).

I know of this most sweet joy because the sacrament is a holy ordinance. It is a principle that both young and old understand.

One Sunday years ago, Bryan and I sat behind a young family during sacrament. The family had a very active three-year-old boy at the time. His parents were patient but were trying to train him to honor the holy ordinance. After the priesthood was thanked for passing the sacrament and the talks began, this little boy turned to his parents and said, “Bye bye go home now.” His parents shook their heads. The boy grew more insistent, “Bye bye go home now! Bye bye go home now!” He knew that he had partaken of the sacrament and that was what was most important to do at church.

In another story shared in General Conference, a son said to his 96-year-old father, “Dad, why do you go to church? You can’t see, you can’t hear, it’s hard for you to get around. Why do you go to church?” The father replied, “It’s the sacrament. I go to partake of the sacrament” (Cheryl Esplin, “The Sacrament–A Renewal for the Soul,” October 2014).

Rose Datoc Dall, First News of the Resurrection

Rose Datoc Dall, First News of the Resurrection

What both these sons of God can teach us is that the sacrament is why we worship on the Sabbath day. Seeing our friends is a bonus. Learning about the Gospel deepens our understanding of the Lord’s methods. But we are here to partake of the sacrament. We renew our covenants to keep all of the Lords’ commandments.

Today, I am most grateful for God’s ultimate purpose: “To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). The Lord wants us to progress. He has provided the Gospel to be on the Earth at this time preparatory to the return of our Savior. Our Father’s desire “is that we continue ‘from grace to grace, until [we receive] a fullness of all He can give.’ … [This] requires faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism of water and of the Spirit, and enduring faith to the end. One cannot fully achieve this in isolation, so a major reason the Lord has a church is to create a community of Saints that will sustain one another in the ‘strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life’” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Why the Church?”, October 2015).

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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