I was asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting based on the October 2020 talk by Elder Ulisses Soares called “Seek Christ in Every Thought” so I thought I would share my remarks here. I think the topic is very applicable to missionaries and pre-missionaries. Elder Soares’ talk is about how we all suffer temptations in this life and, being the imperfect people that we are, we all make mistakes and sin. But the Lord is ready to assist us and if we seek Christ in every thought, through the atoning grace of Jesus Christ, we can become healed and be clean, worthy, and able to receive eternal life and exaltation.
There is a poem that I love that talks about the ups and downs of life and how God loves us no matter what and is cheering for us to endure to the end. It’s called “The Race” by D.H. (Dee) Groberg and is about a young boy in a foot race who falls down, not just once, but multiple times. The boy’s father, watching in the stand, encourages him to get up each time he falls and when he finishes the race, the crowd goes wild. This is how the last few lines of the poem go:
But when the fallen youngster Crossed the line last place,
The crowd gave him the greater cheer, For finishing the race.
And even though he came in last With head bowed low, unproud,
You would have thought he’d won the race To listen to the crowd.
And to his dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do too well.”
“To me, you won,” his father said. “You rose each time you fell.”
And now when things seem dark and hard And difficult to face,
The memory of that little boy Helps me in my race.
For all of life is like that race, With ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win, Is rise each time you fall.
“Quit! Give up! You’re beaten!” They still shout in my face.
But another voice within me says: “GET UP AND WIN THE RACE!”
God knew, when he sent us to earth, that we would have these ups and downs. He knows the experiences we have gone through, both good and bad. He knows the failures we’ve had in life, as well as our successes. He knows us at our low points, and he knows it’s at our high points. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and our moments of strength and weakness.
Even Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, also had his ups and downs. His downs were not due to any mistake he made, for he was without sin, but his down cycle was to pay the price for our sins and mistakes. D&C 88:6 says Jesus is “He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;” And in 3 Ne 27:14, Jesus said, “And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father.”
To me, this cycle of ups and downs, this ability to come full circle, to rise after we fall is part of the principle of the atonement Jesus Christ. The at-one-ment is not only something Christ has done. We are all commanded to be at one with God. In Jesus’s great Intercessory Prayer recorded in John chapter 17:21, the Savior says: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.”
God knew we would make mistakes during our earthly journey, and he provided a way back through his Son Jesus Christ and his gospel. Because Jesus suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” (Alma 7:12) and overcame them, He knows how to bless, comfort, and help lift us up. Because of our Savior’s love, we can do as the Lord instructed in D&C 6:36, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”
Elder Soares said in his talk:
Seeking Christ in every thought and following Him with all our heart requires that we align our mind and desires with His. The scriptures refer to this alignment as “stand[ing] fast in the Lord.” This course of action implies that we continually conduct our lives in harmony with the gospel of Christ and focus daily on everything that is good. Only then may we achieve “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” and which will “keep [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Elder Soares gave several suggestions in his talk about how, by seeking Christ in every thought, we can avoid temptations and conquer inappropriate thoughts more quickly when they enter our minds. As he spoke about staying far away from temptations, the Spirit reminded me of what the Lord’s servants have been teaching us for many years about being careful about the media we consume on TV, movies, the internet, and social media. We live in what some have called a golden age of TV and movies. So many educational and entertaining things are available, literally, at our fingertips through our smart phones. But with all that digital content comes good and bad media. The prophets have often counseled us that the media we consume should be of a high standard.
The First Presidency has said:
“Choose wisely when using media because whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Select only media that uplifts you. … Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable. Have the courage to walk out of a movie, change your music, or turn off a computer, television, or mobile device if what you see or hear drives away the Spirit” of God. (For the Strength of Youth, 2011, section on Entertainment and Media)
I like to teach my kids lessons for life by comparing life situations with scientific principles. For example, a scientific principle was postulated by Aristotle says that “nature abhors a vacuum.” This means that when there is an empty space in nature, things around it immediately rush in to fill the void. I have found that principle to be true regarding our thoughts and minds. If we follow the counsel of the prophet to remove inappropriate media from our life that is a great start, but we must then fill our minds with light and goodness instead. If we remove the bad and don’t replace it with the good, then that creates a vacuum and we are likely to fall back into old habits.
We should follow the advice of the prophet Moroni to seek Christ in every thought. Said Moroni: “I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing” (Moroni 10:30). We should follow the admonition of Paul and of Joseph Smith, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” (AoF 1:13).
When we let virtue garnish [our] thoughts unceasingly the Lord has said, “then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth” (D&C 121:45-46).
When the Spirit of God is our constant companion, we call that the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I’d like to tell you about a time when the Gift of the Holy Ghost was manifest in my life to help lift and edify me. Several years ago in my work, I was in charge of a large website and a new man was put on our team in charge of what we call interaction design—he was the graphics designer and had responsibilities for user experience design. While I was in charge of the site overall, this designer did not report to me and he seemed very antagonistic toward me. In the first meeting I had with him, he appeared cold and seemed to take the opposite opinion of everything that I said. I thought he hated me and this persisted for some weeks and the project was stalling because of this poor working relationship.
One day, however, I felt inspired to call him on the phone, which was as unusual then as it is today because we usually would send emails or text messages. On the phone call, I approached him humbly and he asked to come to my office to talk more. He agreed, and when we met in person, we were, miraculously, able to work out most of our differences. The problems which previously seemed irreconcilable were surmounted.
Afterwards, as I contemplated the situation, I was baffled. It seemed like such a small thing for me to place a phone call and then talk to him one on one, but somehow that melted the ice in our relationship and led to much better working conditions. As I pondered on this situation, the thought came to my mind that what I had experienced was a manifestation of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Because I was living worthily, the Spirit of God was with me, inspiring my thoughts and actions, giving me abilities beyond my own, and guiding me to the blessings of God.
When we seek Christ in every thought, we will receive the direction of God to guide us in our life through the Holy Ghost. President Russell M. Nelson made a promise last year that he and the other leaders of the Church have been repeating often. He said that all those who are willing to “hear Him” meaning “Hear God” and obey His commandments “will be blessed with additional power to deal with temptation, struggles, and weakness” (“Hear Him,” Ensign, May 2020).
I leave you my testimony that Jesus Christ has won the greatest victory of all. He has overcome sin and death. He lives today and is the light and life of the world. Through the atoning power of Christ, we can get up each time we fall. We can repent, follow the teachings of Jesus, and return to live with him and our Father in Heaven in Celestial glory. I know these things are true. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.