The 11th prophet to be called in these latter days, President Harold B. Lee taught:
“To become pure and holy in life and character is the desire of all faithful Latter-day Saints. President Harold B. Lee taught that the way to purity and holiness is accepting the first four principles and ordinances of the gospel—faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost—and then enduring to the end in keeping all the commandments of God. He said:
“The laws of God given to mankind are embodied in the gospel plan, and the Church of Jesus Christ is made responsible for teaching these laws to the world. They are given by our Heavenly Father for only one purpose, that you who are governed by law might also be preserved by law and perfected and sanctified, or made holy by the same (see D&C 88:34). The greatest of all gifts of God to us is the gift of salvation in His kingdom.”
He also taught, “Knowledge of God and Jesus, His Son, is essential to life eternal, but the keeping of God’s commandments must precede the acquisition of that knowledge or intelligence.” “Chapter 4: The First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 27
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ ? It would seem to me that this would be a given for any Christian. But, that turns out not to be true. Conventions, seminars and conferences are being held, by ministers and pastors, to determine whether Jesus Christ really is divine, whether He was crucified and really resurrected, and whether He really did ascend to heaven as detailed in the Book of Acts in the New Testament.
This is completely unfathomable to me. If you are a Christian you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. You believe He is our Lord and Redeemer and the only way by which mankind may be saved and redeemed that we may return to the presence of our Father. If you are Christian you believe the Bible to be true, as far as it is translated correctly. Mormons have the Book of Mormon to back up every principle and precept, as well the prophesying of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in a far off land. 3rd Nephi gives us the record of Jesus Christ’s appearance in America. And putting all this aside, if you have knelt, and with a sincere and humble heart, asked if Jesus Christ is the Son of God, asked if the Bible and Book of Mormon are true, then the answer you received is all you need.
But perhaps President Lee said it best:
Today we should ask ourselves the question, in answer to what the Master asked of those in his day, “What think ye of Christ?” We ought to ask as we would say it today, “What think we of Christ?” and then make it a little more personal and ask, “What think I of Christ?” Do I think of him as the Redeemer of my soul? Do I think of him with no doubt in my mind as the one who appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith? Do I believe that he established this Church upon the earth? Do I accept him as the Savior of this world? Am I true to my covenants, which in the waters of baptism, if I understood, meant that I would stand as a witness of him at all times, and in all things, and in all places, wherever I would be, even until death? 7
The Lord will bless us to the degree to which we keep His commandments. Nephi … said:
“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23#23) (“Chapter 3: The Lamb Slain from the Foundation of the World,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 18)
And to further emphasize how critical it is to have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ:
“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Nephi 25:26)
Repentance ? Next is repentance, which is only possible because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His willingness to suffer for every sin, sorrow, illness and grief endured by every child of God. Yes, every child of God, not just one or two.
We are an imperfect people, for Jesus Christ was the only one who managed to complete mortality in a perfect state. Because we are not perfect, daily repentance is something required of each of us.
Let’s face it. All of us have done something that we ought not to have done, or we have neglected to do things we should have done. All of us then have made mistakes, and every one of us needs to repent. The old devil would have you believe that if you have made one mistake, why don’t you just keep on making mistakes? That is Satan trying to tell you that there is no chance to come back. But you must turn your face towards the rising sun, and through repentance turn from the thing you have done that is wrong and never go back again thereto. The Lord said, “Go [thy way] and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth [meaning again] shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.” (D&C 82:7) (“Chapter 3: The Lamb Slain from the Foundation of the World,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 18)
You must “turn your face towards the rising sun,” for in doing that you allow the light of Christ to pour out upon you and cleanse your soul. There is hope for all of us. We have only to shed that which weighs us down and burdens our souls. Christ has offered to carry our burdens, if not carry, than lighten them to the point where we can carry them ourselves.
The Atonement is the greatest act of love which has occurred in the history of this world, indeed the history of Heavenly Father’s children, all of them. Because Jesus Christ was willing to pay the price justice demands, we still have the opportunity to reach the highest of eternal life.
All of us are imperfect, do not let that stop you from reaching toward Jesus Christ and availing yourself of the Atonement and repentance process. Turn from the sins which weigh you down. Those very sins which extinguish that divine spark residing in each of us. It is a beautiful gift the Savior has given us, accept it.
Baptism ? As Jesus Christ was baptized, so too must we. If even the most perfect of us all had to be baptized, then there is reason for us to do the same.
When we went into the waters of baptism we entered into a covenant with the Lord that we would do all within our power to keep God’s commandments, with the understanding that the Lord’s promises would be given to us and His glory would be added forever and ever, and that we would let our lives be so ordered that we would serve as witnesses of God in all places even until death. [See Mosiah 18:8–10.] It was that covenant we made when we were baptized members of this Church. (“Chapter 3: The Lamb Slain from the Foundation of the World,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 18)
Baptism, and all other ordinances, are for those wishing to attain the Celestial Kingdom. Baptism opens the gate and pathway to Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven. It is necessary for all of God’s children to be baptized by one holding the proper keys and authority.
We make promises when we are baptized, promises to the Lord. Baptism isn’t a throw away covenant. It is the first covenant we make with our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ and it is the first step on that eternal path.
Baptism by immersion symbolizes the death and burial of the man of sin; and the coming forth out of the water, the resurrection to a newness of spiritual life. (“Chapter 3: The Lamb Slain from the Foundation of the World,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 18)
When I was lowered into the water and arose out of it my spirit and body were washed clean, all sins forgiven and I was as fresh and perfect as the day I was born. I have sinned since then, as have we all since that beautiful day in each of our lives. That’s where the Atonement begins to play its part in our eternal redemption. Oh yes, we must all be baptized, every single person who has ever lived on this earth.
Holy Ghost, The First Comforter ? Next comes another wonderful gift from our Father in Heaven to guide us through this mortal journey. The Holy Ghost. After we are baptized, we are then confirmed. It is during this confirmation that newly baptized members of the Mormon Church receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. That Comforter whom Jesus Christ promised to send to the Apostles once He had ascended to heaven until His triumphant return.
When a man has the gift of the Holy Ghost, he has that which is necessary to reveal to him every principle and ordinance of salvation that pertains unto man here on the earth. (“Chapter 3: The Lamb Slain from the Foundation of the World,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 18)
When we have received the Holy Ghost as a constant companion we are then entitled, as President Lee said, to all the gifts and revelation the Father is willing to bestow on us. If we live our lives worthy of this great gift, we are entitled, and will receive, the guidance necessary to navigate mortality. Prior to baptism and confirmation, again, performed by one having the authority to do so, each of us is entitled to the light of Christ and the influence of the Holy Ghost. But he is not a constant companion until after you are baptized and confirmed. He will not remain a constant companion if you do not live your life worthy of such an incredible gift.
Endure to the End ? This is the one people have the most trouble with. At times they receive an assurance of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and y do not do so they begin to slip again, losing the precious gifts given to them as they embraced the Savior, His gospel and His church.
What are the laws and the way by which we receive [the blessing of celestial glory]? Well, we have Any member of the Church who is learning to live perfectly each of the laws that are in the kingdom is learning the way to become perfect. There is no member of this Church who cannot live the law, every law of the gospel perfectly. All of us can learn to talk with God in prayer. All of us can learn to live the Word of Wisdom perfectly. All of us can learn to keep the Sabbath day holy, perfectly. All of you can learn how to keep the law of fasting perfectly. We know how to keep the law of chastity perfectly. Now as we learn to keep one of these laws perfectly we ourselves are on the road to perfection.
You may ask me, how does one sanctify himself, and make himself holy so that he is prepared to walk in the presence of the Lord? … The Lord says this, “And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same” (D&C 88:34). What law? The laws of the Lord as contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the keeping of which laws and ordinances are the ways by which we are purified and made holy. The keeping of every law that the Lord has given us is one step closer to receiving the right to enter one day into the presence of the Lord. (“Chapter 3: The Lamb Slain from the Foundation of the World,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 18)
One step at a time, my friends. One step at a time. That is how perfection is achieved. A life filled with all the Savior and our Father in Heaven have to offer endows us with great happiness. Your burdens will be lighter. Your thoughts brighter. Your hopes greater. Your dreams more vivid. Your place in the world will be a much better place.
We have only to have faith, repentance, be baptized by one in authority, receive and be worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and then to live up to our beliefs, covenants and knowledge until the end. You can do it and so can I. One step at a time.