God Hath Prepared A More Excellent Way
President Kim B. Clark
Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional
September 5, 2006
Brothers and sisters, it is a joy to be with you on another great day at BYU–Idaho. I welcome you to a new semester. I pray that the Holy Ghost will be with you and with me as I speak today, that I may share with you the things of my heart.
Sister Clark and I have been here now for a little over a year. We love this university, we love you, and we love the Lord and His work. When you come to this university and begin to experience the Spirit of Ricks, you inherit a legacy of faith, courage, devotion, sacrifice, and heavenly power. I would like to begin my talk today by showing you a very important part of that legacy.
“Seeds to the wind”–I love those words and what they mean! I pray with all my heart that each of you, like those faithful pioneers, will fulfill that marvelous and sacred responsibility and become true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is what I want to talk about today.
To begin, let’s turn to Doctrine and Covenants, section 59, verse 4. After promising His true disciples the blessings of the earth, the Lord said:
And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me.1
The Lord promises His disciples great blessings, including “commandments not a few.” This phrase, “commandments not a few,” contains important insights about the nature of discipleship and what we must do to become true disciples of the Savior.
The Lord’s disciples are obedient to the commandments given to all members of the Church. But in this passage the Lord refers to commandments that are very personal and specific. Elder David A. Bednar described these personal commandments this way:
. . . it is an even greater thing to receive and respond to the individual, private, and personally revealed commandments that result from continual and faithful obedience.
. . . The individual and personal “commandments not a few” we receive frequently tend to focus upon the good things we can and should do to develop and deepen our discipleship . . . .2
In order to “develop and deepen our discipleship,” we must address what I would like to call our personal bar of righteousness, the personal standard that guides our daily activity. The Lord has given us the gospel, the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, and living prophets to help us set that personal bar. The commandments of the Lord that apply to all of us—I have in mind commandments like the law of chastity, tithing, the Word of Wisdom—define what we might think of as a baseline standard. If our personal bar falls below that baseline, if we fail to pay our tithing, or break the Word of Wisdom or do other things that sin against the laws of God, we need to raise our personal bar, repent of our sins, and change our ways.
But the raising of our personal bar must not stop at the baseline standard. Elder Henry B. Eyring said this about raising the personal bar of righteousness:
Now, all this has some practical applications for each of us. . . .
You can set the bar for yourself a little higher and then a little higher, again and again.
For instance, you returned missionaries can set your goal not to maintain the spirituality you felt in the mission field, but to rise higher. . . . it is your responsibility to set the bar higher for yourself, not once, but again and again.
That is true for all of us, not just for those who have been missionaries.3
The Lord wants us to move forward on the path of discipleship and become like Him. And so He sends us promptings and impressions to raise our personal bar, over and over again. The impressions that come may be about fasting with a purpose, or forgiving one who has hurt us, or sharing the gospel, or searching the scriptures more diligently, or being more thoughtful and kind to neighbors and friends, or praying with real intent. They will be what the Lord wants you to do to become a stronger, more effective disciple. And they will not come just once. If you are true and faithful, they will come all through your life.
This is the path of discipleship: to receive personal “commandments not a few,” to raise the personal bar, again and again, to become a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me share with you some thoughts about the nature of that path and then some practical ideas about what you can do to raise your personal bar of righteousness. As I do so, I would like you to be especially attentive to the whisperings of the Spirit that will come to you. I pray that as I speak, the Holy Ghost will teach you where you need to raise your personal bar. Please write down the impressions that come; they will be some of your very own “commandments not a few.”
The Path of Discipleship
Of the many aspects of the path of discipleship, I want to focus today on three. As we examine them together, please consider how they apply in your life.
1. Progress on the path occurs line upon line, precept by precept.
Progress on the path of discipleship is a journey of steps, not leaps and bounds. As disciples of the Lord, we learn precept upon precept and line upon line. We raise the personal bar a notch at a time.
Those steps are not easy. Indeed, Elder Eyring has taught us that the way to discipleship lies uphill:
The Lord is anxious to lead us to the safety of higher ground, away from the path of physical and spiritual danger. His upward path will require us to climb. My mother used to say to me when I complained that things were hard, “If you are on the right path, it will always be uphill.”4
The path of discipleship is not the easy way, nor the broad road. It is strait and narrow, and it goes uphill. That is why Nephi admonishes us to “. . . press forward with a steadfastness in Christ . . .”5 and why there is so much talk of enduring to the end in the scriptures. We endure, we press forward, step by step.
2. Faith precedes the miracle.
Each step on the path, each raising of the personal bar, is an act of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Although the Lord promises us great blessings, they do not come until we have taken action. Listen carefully to the words of Moroni:
And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.6
This passage makes clear that we realize the blessings of heaven and earth after the trial of our faith, after we do His will,7 after we continue in His word.8 This is true even when the promptings we get to raise the personal bar appear to require what may seem like miraculous changes: the painfully shy young brother prompted by the Spirit to open his mouth and share the gospel; the “night person” young sister prompted by the Spirit to get up early and study the scriptures. When such a prompting comes, we might think: “Oh, Lord, take away my shyness and I will speak,” or “Oh, Lord, wake me up in the morning and I will study.” But that is not how things work on the path of discipleship. The Lord says to us: “Act, and I will strengthen you. Speak, and I will make your words strong. Awake and study, and I will inspire you.” These are miracles, but they come only after we have acted in faith.
But they do come. I bear witness to you, my brothers and sisters, they come. The path of discipleship is a path of miracles. It is the Lord’s path; and through the power of His atonement, we may receive whatever we need to become His true disciples. Our responsibility is to act with faith in Him. Faith precedes the miracle.
3. The path of discipleship is not about you; it is about the Lord and His work; it is about service and love.
When you feel a personal prompting to raise the bar, it is only natural to focus initially on yourself—what you need to do, what the prompting means for you. But those promptings are not just about you. They come to help you love and serve one another. They come to help you do the Lord’s work.
With those promptings, the Lord invites you to “[t]ake my yoke upon you, and learn of me . . .”9 and He commands, “. . . the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do . . . .”10 Christ is the Great Exemplar. In His perfect life of love and service, we find both our model and our strength. Let’s turn to John, chapter 15, and read what Jesus taught the Apostles about this principle:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.11
Jesus Christ is the true source—the true vine—of life-giving power and strength. Through the redeeming, magnifying power of His atonement, we may bear fruit and become His disciples as we learn to love and serve others as He loves and serves us. That is why He gives us personal “commandments not a few.”
His life—a life of selfless sacrifice; a life dedicated to the will of the Father; a life of never-failing love; a life of service, always seeking to bless, heal, comfort, lift up, and strengthen—that life is our model. The path of discipleship is a path of love.
When you receive a prompting to raise the personal bar, listen very carefully to the Spirit and the Lord will show you how acting on that prompting will help you bless those around you. When you act on that prompting, He will bless you to do His work, to be of service, and to love His children. When you see Him working in the lives of His children through you, as He surely will, remember to thank Him and honor Him and praise His name. It is not about you.
The Path of Discipleship at BYU–Idaho
What I have said today about the path of discipleship and raising your personal bar will apply to you throughout your lives. But I would now like to say a word about discipleship and your time in this university. I want to consider with you today three opportunities to raise your personal bar: serving in the ward, learning in the classroom, and living the Honor Code.
1. Serving in the Ward
The wards on this campus present each of you with wonderful opportunities for service. When you are called to serve in your ward, accept that responsibility and magnify it. As an example, let me address the home teachers among us today: Brethren, each month home teachers are to visit the people assigned to them, bring the Spirit into their homes, share a message based on the First Presidency’s article in the Ensign, and pray with them. This is the baseline standard. You cannot magnify your calling as a home teacher unless you do your home teaching. That means visiting each person or family every month. But that is only the beginning. If you will remember those you teach in your personal prayers, the Spirit may prompt you to tailor your message to help them with a problem or to take some action to help them beyond the monthly visit. As you ponder and pray about your assignment and get out and do your home teaching, you will be blessed “with revelations in their time” and the Lord will work through you to bless the lives of the people you teach. Of that I have a strong personal witness.
Magnifying your calling as a home teacher at BYU–Idaho is an act of faith and love. It is an essential step in your journey to become a true disciple of the Savior.
Sisters, you have similar opportunities in visiting teaching. Brothers and sisters, make home or visiting teaching a priority in your lives. Listen to the promptings of the Spirit, and raise your personal bar for home and visiting teaching by magnifying this sacred calling.
2. Learning in the Classroom
The Lord has commanded us to “seek learning by study, and also by faith.” An important part of the mission of BYU–Idaho is to help you fulfill that commandment in a very powerful way, now and throughout your life. Our classrooms will be a wonderful source of insight and new knowledge for you, but how well they work will depend very much on you. Where you set your personal bar for learning by study and by faith will have a profound impact on your education and on the education of those around you. Here are two things you can do to raise your personal bar.
First, always come to class prepared to be taught and to teach. Always do the assigned reading or the problems—before class. Think about what you have done and be ready to explain what you have learned and what you think. Always pray before class that you will have the Holy Ghost with you to teach you and guide you and help you contribute.
Second, be on time for class. Being chronically late to class is a sign of disrespect and selfishness. It disrupts the class and hurts other people. We are building a Zion university at BYU–Idaho, and being on time and being prepared are important. In Zion, people come prepared and they come on time. No one is late and unprepared in Zion. In Zion, we “teach one another.” And you cannot do that if you are late and unprepared. When you come to class prepared and on time, you are serving the Lord and everyone in the class. That means your personal preparation and attendance are acts of faith, humility, kindness, service, and love.
Brothers and sisters, please listen to the Spirit and, under the Lord’s direction, prayerfully raise your personal bar for learning by study and by faith. You will help to build Zion, and you will take important steps on the path of discipleship.
3. Living the Honor Code
The Honor Code establishes rules and standards for behavior and dress and grooming for everyone at BYU–Idaho. The written Honor Code is the baseline standard. It is the letter of the law. The spirit of the Honor Code is the spirit of love, service, and willing obedience. The grand purposes of the Honor Code—letter and spirit—are to foster in your life and on this campus a great spirit of consecration, to protect against evil, to invite the ministry of the Holy Ghost, to help us build Zion, and to help you prepare to become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
To live both the letter and the spirit of the Honor Code, you must know the baseline standards, understand their purposes, and listen to the Spirit. When you heed the promptings of the Spirit to raise your personal bar for living the Honor Code, you not only grow in your discipleship, but you also bless the lives of those around you. Let me give you an example. Each area of the Honor Code is important, but today I want to focus on the dress and grooming standards and, in particular, what you wear every day to class.
I have noticed, for example, that jeans and T-shirts are the daily wardrobe of choice for many of you. If they are modest, not too short, not tight fitting, not torn or ragged, do not have holes in them, and do not have inappropriate messages on them, then jeans and T-shirts meet the baseline standard of the Honor Code. But as you reflect on your personal bar, listen to these words from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
. . . choose your clothing the way you would choose your friends—in both cases choose that which improves you and would give you confidence standing in the presence of God. Good friends would never embarrass you, demean you, or exploit you. Neither should your clothing.
. . . from ancient times to modern we have always been invited to present our best selves inside and out when entering the house of the Lord—and a dedicated LDS chapel [and I would add, the Lord’s university] is a “house of the Lord.” Our clothing or footwear need never be expensive, indeed should not be expensive, but neither should it appear that we are on our way to the beach. . . . We should be recognizable in appearance as well as in behavior that we truly are disciples of Christ, that in a spirit of worship we are meek and lowly of heart, that we truly desire the Savior’s Spirit to be with us always.12
Every time you walk into a classroom on this campus, you are walking into a space that has been dedicated and set apart by the prophets of God. This is the Lord’s university, a temple of learning, a disciple preparation center. When you look in the mirror in the morning before you walk on this campus, say to yourself: “I want to be a disciple of the Savior; and I am going to look like, and act like, and, in fact, be a disciple of the Savior today.” If it is a devotional day, dress in your temple best. On other days remember who you are and wear clothes that are a notch or two up from jeans and T-shirts.
Now, you may wonder why what you wear is important. After all, the Lord has said, “. . . man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”13 I want your hearts to be pure and your faith to be true, but I think there are two reasons why what you wear to class is important. First, like being on time, it is a sign of your respect for the process of learning and teaching that occurs in those dedicated places. It is a measure of your respect for everyone involved in that process—including your classmates, the faculty, and especially the Holy Ghost.
Second, what you wear affects how you and those around you behave. Simply said, your dress will affect how you and your classmates engage in the learning process and how much you learn. If you come to class better dressed, you will help to establish a sense of respect, seriousness of purpose, and focus that will affect how the class works. Through your obedience and through raising your personal bar, you will bring a better spirit to class and help to create an environment in which the Holy Ghost can minister, not only to you, but everyone around you. This means that raising your personal bar for dress and grooming is not just about you. It is an act of faith, kindness, service, and love for those around you. It is a powerful step on the path of discipleship.
The More Excellent Way
Brothers and sisters, I have talked much today about practical things—some would say, mundane things. But it is with the practical, mundane threads of your daily life that you weave the tapestry of discipleship. God really is in the details. And it is in the details of your daily life that you will find opportunities to raise your personal bar.
As you saw earlier in the video, those faithful Saints who settled this valley built the kingdom and this school in the hardship of their daily lives. It was there, in the toil and heartache, hunger and cold, that they pressed forward in faith. Their faith, their courage, their devotion, their discipleship is your legacy and your inspiration. I hope and pray that the desire to become a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ will burn in each of your hearts. I hope you will pray for guidance, listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and raise your personal bar of righteousness. My dear brothers and sisters, the path of discipleship is the only path to life and salvation. It is the path described by Moroni when he said, “. . . in the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way . . . .”14 In the more excellent way we may, in the words of Mormon, “. . . lay hold upon every good thing . . . [for] in Christ there should come every good thing.”15
I know that the Lord Jesus Christ is the way. This is His church and kingdom restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Everything we need to become His true disciples has been restored. It is all here. The path is open; the way is clear. And Christ Himself bids you to come. He will show you what you need to do to walk the more excellent way, and He will help you do it. That direction and support will come step by step, line upon line. Your acts of faith will precede the miracle, but the miracles will come. Brothers and sisters, I testify that the miracles will come as you forget yourself in the service of the Lord. Mormon described one of those miracles in Moroni 7:48:
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with [the pure love of Christ], which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of His Son, Jesus Christ . . . .16
You will experience the pure love of Christ on the path of discipleship. I know that is true. As you walk the path, pushing uphill, raising your personal bar again and again, you will become a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, you will experience His power and grace, and He will bless you to love as He loves. And so, from the depths of my own experience, I bear testimony of these things and leave you my witness in the words of Moroni:
And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. . . .17
In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1 D&C 59:4, emphasis added
2 David A. Bednar, In a State of Happiness, Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional, January 6, 2004
3 Henry B. Eyring, Raise the Bar, Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional, January 25, 2005
5 2 Nephi 31:20
6 Ether 12:6
7 John 7:17
8 John 8:31-32
9 Matthew 11:29
10 3 Nephi 27:21
11 John 15:1, 5, 8, 12
12 Jeffrey R. Holland, To Young Women, Ensign, November 2005, 28
13 1 Samuel 16:7
14 Ether 12:11
15 Moroni 7:20, 22
16 Moroni 7:48
17 Ether 12:41