Steadfast and Immovable (Mosiah 5:15)

Elder David A. Bednar

 

Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional

September 9, 2003

 

 

Brothers and sisters, good afternoon and welcome to the fall semester at Brigham Young University–Idaho.  Sister Bednar and I welcome you to campus and look forward to meeting and becoming acquainted with you.  BYU–Idaho is a remarkable place, and you are here at an important time in your life and in the history of this institution.

 

I continue to be thankful for the counsel and direction we were given by the leaders of our Church last April at general conference.  Certainly, we received timely instruction about a wide range of important doctrines and gospel subjects.  But I was most impressed by what was not said at the conference.  At a time when the United States was waging war with Iraq and a number of other political and economic events caused global concern, the Brethren said relatively little about the war or world events.  As we all recall, President Hinckley specifically addressed the subject of war and peace; but the other Brethren made only brief mention of the conflict and world conditions.  Instead, they focused their teachings upon basic gospel doctrines and principles.

 

For example, Elder L. Tom Perry stated: 

 

In a world of turmoil and uncertainty, it is more important than ever to make our families the center of our lives and the top of our priorities.

 

He then emphasized the importance of creating a gospel-centered home as a safe harbor from the storms of the adversary.

 

Elder Neal A. Maxwell described one of the fundamental choices of mortality:

 

Within the swirling global events, events from which we are not totally immune, is humanity’s real and continuing struggle:  whether or not, amid the cares of the world, we will really choose, in the words of the Lord, ‘to care . . . for the life of the soul’ (Doctrine and Covenants 101:37).

 

Elder Maxwell proceeded to discuss continuing conversion to Christ and the outcomes of this ongoing process.

 

Elder Richard G. Scott began his conference message by asking:  “Who does not have need of assurance in times of uncertainty and testing?”  He then continued and taught and testified of the sustaining power of faith in times of uncertainty and testing.

 

Without extensive or even any reference to current world difficulties, President Monson taught about the treasure map that will lead us to eternal happiness, President Faust spoke to righteous parents with disobedient children, President Packer described the importance of valuing folks in their golden years for what they are, Elder Haight testified of the power and authority of the holy priesthood, Elder Nelson addressed the sweet power of prayer, Elder Oaks highlighted gratitude

and giving thanks in all things, Elder Ballard reviewed the essential role of member missionary work, Elder Wirthlin focused upon the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, Elder Hales discussed how faith through tribulation brings peace and joy, Elder Holland emphasized the parental role in teaching children the truths of the restored gospel, and Elder Eyring recounted how the Lord trusts His true disciples.  As a people we were richly fed, both by what was said and what was not said.

 

As Sister Bednar and I drove back to Rexburg from general conference last April, we commented on the absence of hand wringing and commiserating and worrying and fussing and stewing among the Brethren.  Truly, the Brethren individually and collectively were an example of steadiness and firmness in turbulent times.  To our minds came the words from King Benjamin found in Mosiah 5:15:

 

Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all.  Amen. (emphasis added)

 

We also reflected upon the condition of the Church on the American continent shortly before the appearance of the Savior to the people of Nephi in the Land of Bountiful, as described in 3 Nephi 6:14:

 

And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up; yea, insomuch that in the thirtieth year the church was broken up in all the land save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith; and they would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord.  (emphasis added)

 

I am thankful for these modern and ancient examples of disciples who are steadfast and immovable.  Their examples have caused me to ask myself over and over again the following questions:  (1) What does it mean to be steadfast and immovable?  (2) How do we become steadfast and immovable?  (3) What blessings are associated with being a steadfast and immovable disciple of the Savior?  Let me briefly address each of these three questions.

 

What does it mean to be steadfast and immovable?

The word “steadfast” is used to connote fixed or secure in position, solid and firm in substance, unshaken, and resolute (Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, Vol. VII, pp. 689-690).  The word “immovable” is used to indicate that a person or thing is not subject to change, unalterable, and firmly fixed; it also suggests the quality of being unyielding and incapable of being diverted from one’s purpose (Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, Vol XVI, p. 589).  Thus, a person who is steadfast and immovable is solid, firm, resolute, firmly fixed, and incapable of being diverted from a primary purpose or mission.

In the scriptures we find many noteworthy examples of individuals who are steadfast and immovable.  Captain Moroni, as described in Alma 48:11-13, 17, is one such striking example:

 

And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery; 

 

Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.

 

Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.

 

Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.  (emphasis added)

 

The two thousand stripling warriors also can accurately be characterized as steadfast and immovable.  Please turn with me to Alma 53:20-21:

 

And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all- they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.

 

Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.  (emphasis added)

 

In both Captain Moroni and in the stripling warriors, we find the characteristics of firmness, of resoluteness, and of an absolute focus upon a compelling and correct purpose.

 

A classic nonscripture illustration of being steadfast and immovable is found in Aesop’s fable The Hare and the Tortoise:

 

A Hare one day ridiculed the short feet and slow pace of the Tortoise, who replied, laughing:  "Though you be swift as the wind, I will beat you in a race."  The Hare, believing his assertion to be simply impossible, assented to the proposal; and they agreed that the Fox should choose the course and fix the goal.  On the day appointed for the race the two started together.  The Tortoise never for a moment stopped, but went on with a slow but steady pace straight to the end of the course.  The Hare, lying down by the wayside, fell fast asleep.  At last waking up, and moving as fast as he could, he saw the Tortoise had reached the goal, and was comfortably dozing after his fatigue.

What is the implication of this simple but profound fable?  Slow but steady wins the race.  The tortoise made consistent and persistent progress on the prescribed course, displayed a determined sense of direction and discipline, and exhibited both strength and stamina.  This modest creature was a model of being firmly fixed and resolute in his strategy of steadiness in the race against the hare.

 

How do we become steadfast and immovable?

A building or structure that is stable and steadfast and immovable must be built upon a strong foundation.  Note in the picture now displayed on the screens how the building on the right stands firm and strong in the aftermath of the waves and fierce winds from a tropical storm.  This structure clearly was built with strong materials and upon a sturdy foundation.  And notice how the buildings on the left deteriorated and crumbled from the forces of the storm because of less effective construction and weak foundations.

 

In like manner, if you and I desire to become disciples of the Master who are steadfast and immovable, we must be built appropriately and effectively upon Him as our foundation.  Please turn with me to Helaman 5:12:

 

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.  (emphasis added)

 

As this verse affirms, the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which we must build our lives.  He is a sure foundation.  And you and I cannot and will not fall if we build upon Him as our foundation.  This is a truly remarkable and faith promoting promise.

 

The steps we must follow in building our devotion to and our character upon the foundation of Christ are identified simply and clearly in Helaman 15:7-8:

 

And behold, ye do know of yourselves, for ye have witnessed it, that as many of them as are brought to the knowledge of the truth, and to know of the wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers, and are led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them-

Therefore, as many as have come to this, ye know of yourselves are firm and steadfast in the faith, and in the thing wherewith they have been made free.   (emphasis added)

 

Please notice the specific steps outlined in these two verses:  (1) belief in the teachings and prophecies of the holy prophets as they are recorded in the scriptures (2) fosters faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Faith in the Savior leads to (3) repentance.  Faith in Christ and repentance bring about (4) the mighty change of heart.  Therefore, as many as have come to this, meaning as many as have diligently and faithfully followed these steps, are (5) firm and steadfast in the faith.  That, brothers and sisters, is the Lord’s blueprint for becoming steadfast and immovable.  I testify that as we follow in faith the building blocks described in these verses, we will be strengthened and blessed to become steadfast and immovable.

 

What blessings are associated with being a steadfast and immovable disciple of the Savior?

Brothers and sisters, a number of notable blessings are associated with being a steadfast and immovable disciple of the Savior.  Let me now suggest two of these blessings.

 

First, as we become more spiritually mature and increasingly steadfast and immovable, we focus upon and strive to understand the fundamental and foundational doctrines of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  Disciples who are steadfast and immovable do not become fanatics or extremists, are not over zealous, and are not preoccupied with misguided gospel hobbies.

 

President Joseph F. Smith emphasized:

 

We frequently look about us and see people who incline to extremes, who are fanatical.  We may be sure that this class of people do not understand the gospel.  They have forgotten, if they ever knew, that it is very unwise to take a fragment of truth and treat it as if it were the whole thing.  (Gospel Doctrine, p. 122)

 

And Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated:

 

It is . . . my experience that people who ride gospel hobbies, who try to qualify themselves as experts in some specialized field, who try to make the whole plan of salvation revolve around some field of particular interest to them- it is my experience that such persons are usually spiritually immature and spiritually unstable.  This includes those who devote themselves- as though by divine appointment- to setting forth the signs of the times; or to expounding about the Second Coming; or, to a faddist interpretation of the Word of Wisdom; or, to a twisted emphasis on temple work or any other doctrine or practice.  The Jews of Jesus’ day made themselves hobbyists and extremists in the field of Sabbath observance, and it colored and blackened their whole way of worship.  We would do well to have a sane, rounded, and balanced approach to the whole gospel and all of its doctrines.  (Doctrines of the Restoration, p. 232, emphasis added)

 

Let me repeat and reinforce this first great blessing associated with being a steadfast and immovable disciple of the Savior; such a follower of Christ consistently is focused upon and striving to understand the fundamental and foundational doctrines of the restored gospel.

 

Second, as we become more spiritually mature and increasingly steadfast and immovable, we are less prone to zealous and exaggerated spurts of spirituality followed by extended periods of slackness.  Recall the tortoise in Aesop’s fable to whom I referred earlier as an example of steadiness and persistence.  The hare, on the other hand, is a classic example of a “spurter”- one who is given to short bursts of spectacular effort followed by frequent and lengthy periods of rest.

 

A spurt may appear to be impressive in the short run, but steadiness over time is far more effective, far less dangerous, and produces far better results.  Three consecutive days of fasting ultimately may not be as spiritually effective as three successive months of appropriate fasting and worship on the designated fast Sunday.  An attempt to pray one time for five hours likely will not produce the spiritual results of meaningful morning and evening prayer offered consistently over five weeks.  And a single scripture-reading marathon cannot produce the spiritual impact of steady scripture study across many months.  As Elder Neal A. Maxwell has taught:

 

. . . measured steadiness is more efficient than spurts and then a slackening.  Further, we are less apt to "wear away" in prudent persistence than in a combination of breathlessness and ease.  Sometimes we may reward our breathlessness with a respite that turns into a permanent repose; we do this by reflecting on all that we have done up to now and how it is surely now someone else's turn.  (Wherefore Ye Must Press Forward, pp. 73-74)

 

President Spencer W. Kimball likewise taught about the importance of steadiness and consistency in our spiritual development and progress.  In explicating the parable of the ten virgins he stated:

 

The foolish [virgins] asked the others to share their oil, but spiritual preparedness cannot be shared in an instant.  The wise had to go, else the bridegroom would have gone unwelcomed.  They needed all their oil for themselves; they could not save the foolish.  The responsibility was each for himself.

 

This was not selfishness or unkindness.  The kind of oil that is needed to illuminate the way and light up the darkness is not shareable.  How can one share obedience to the principle of tithing; a mind at peace from righteous living; an accumulation of knowledge?  How can one share faith or testimony? How can one share attitudes or chastity, or the experience of a mission?  How can one share temple privileges?  Each must obtain that kind of oil for himself.

The foolish virgins were not averse to buying oil.  They knew they should have oil.  They merely procrastinated, not knowing when the bridegroom would come.

 

In the parable, oil can be purchased at the market.  In our lives, the oil of preparedness is accumulated drop by drop in righteous living.  Attendance at sacrament meetings adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop over the years.  Fasting,

family prayer, home teaching, control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures- each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store.  Deeds of kindness, payment of offerings and tithes, chaste thoughts and actions, marriage in the covenant for eternity-these, too, contribute importantly to the oil with which we can, at midnight, refuel our exhausted lamps. (Faith Precedes the Miracle, pp. 255-256)

The key lesson for us to learn from both Aesop’s fable and from the parable of the ten virgins is the same- deliberate, consistent, and reliable preparation and performance “wins the race” and provides essential oil for our lamps.  Furthermore, steadfastness is a prime indicator of spiritual maturity.

 

Brothers and sisters, you and I can learn much about steady spiritual development from the technique of drip irrigation that is used in many agricultural areas throughout the world.  Drip irrigation is sometimes called trickle irrigation and involves dripping water onto the soil at very low rates from a system of small plastic pipes fitted with outlets called emitters or drippers.  Unlike surface and sprinkler irrigation, which involves flooding or gushing or spraying large quantities of water where it may not be needed, drip irrigation applies water close to a plant so that only part of the soil in which the roots grow is wetted.  Please notice in the video you are now watching that with drip irrigation, applications of water are more focused and more frequent than with the other methods.  The steady drips of water sink deep into the ground and provide a high moisture level in the soil wherein plants can flourish.  In like manner, if you and I are focused and frequent in receiving consistent drops of spiritual nourishment, then gospel roots can sink deep into our souls, can become firmly established and grounded, and can produce extraordinary and delicious fruit.  In a gospel sense, brothers and sisters, you and I need to become intelligent drip irrigators and avoid sporadic and shallow spiritual spurting.

 

Sturdy gospel roots that go deep into rich spiritual soil strengthen and steady us in times of trial and difficulty.  One of the leaders of the Church once related to a group of religion instructors (see Robert L. Millet, I Will Fear No Evil, p. 18) that not long after he had been called as a General Authority someone planted a bomb at the door of the Salt Lake Temple.  The bomb had exploded and knocked the large, heavy door off its hinges.  He commented that the episode was chilling to him and created an anxiety and discomfort, a fear, that lasted all day.  To his utter surprise, he noticed that all through the day, in the many meetings he attended with other General Authorities, no mention was made of this scary incident.  Finally, at the end of the day, he asked one of the senior Brethren about the temple door, only to have his colleague remark, “Yes, we need to get that fixed, don’t we.” Then he added this important principle, one that will help each of us to be steadfast and immovable as we move into ever more troublesome days ahead:  “We do not take counsel from our fears.”

 

None of us will ever forget what we saw and what we felt on the morning of September 11, 2001.  The events of that day changed the world and all of our lives in a profound way.  At 10 o’clock on September 12, I was with the First Presidency, six members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other general Church leaders in a meeting of the Board of Trustees that oversees the affairs of the entire Church Educational System.  As I was preparing to participate

in that Board meeting, I said to my wife, “What would any member of the Church give to be in this setting with these Brethren and these sisters today, given what took place yesterday?”

 

It is customary that we all arrive quite early for meetings of the Board.  I entered the west boardroom of the Church Administration Building and shook hands with all of the men and women who were there.  President Hinckley was not yet in the room; he is always the last to arrive.  Interestingly, as I talked with those in the room and listened to other conversations, not one word was mentioned about the events of the previous day.  The Brethren were discussing current and anticipated assignments and other matters of ongoing Church business.  Then the door opened and President Hinckley walked into the room.  He greeted everyone and shook our hands, and he moved to his place at the head of the table and sat down.  All of the rest of us then sat down.  President Hinckley looked at us and simply said, “Brothers and sisters, we live in sobering times.  Now let’s get to work.” That is all that was said.  An invocation was offered, and the Board meeting began.

 

Steadfast and immovable.  Less than 24 hours after the awful events of September 11, I was in the presence of the Lord’s prophet who provided the perfect example of being steadfast and immovable- solid, firm, resolute, firmly fixed, and incapable of being diverted from a primary purpose or mission.  “Let’s get to work.”

 

Brothers and sisters, such examples of firmness and steadfastness are not restricted to prophets and other prominent Church leaders.  You and I, in our individual lives and in our respective spheres of influence, can likewise become steadfast and immovable.  In our desire and determination to keep and honor covenants and commitments, in our desire and determination to live worthy and pure lives, in our desire and determination to become valiant disciples of the Savior, truly we can become steadfast and immovable.

 

The Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which we must build our lives.  He is a sure foundation.  And you and I cannot and will not fall if we build upon Him as our foundation.  Please pay particular attention as we now sing together verses three and seven from the hymn

 

How Firm a Foundation.

 

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,

For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.

I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,

Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

 

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose

I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

(Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, No. 85, v. 3, 7)

 

I testify and witness that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ.  May you and I build our lives upon the foundation of Christ.  May we become steadfast and immovable- solid, firm, resolute,

firmly fixed, and incapable of being diverted from the truths of the restored gospel, is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

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