I recently lead a discussion in High Priests (I never call it teaching) about Discipleship, what it was and how we can become true disciples of Jesus Christ. I used several talks and articles by Elder Neal A. Maxwell. He spoke quite a bit about the concept of discipleship and he always had a manner of speech and writing that made what he said or wrote seem more important.
In his article from the Ensign June 1996, “Becoming a Disciple”, he makes some fairly profound statements. Such as:
“…He who bore the atoning yoke has asked us to “take my yoke upon you, and learn of me” (Matt. 11:29). So the taking of Jesus’ yoke upon us constitutes serious discipleship. There is no greater calling, no greater challenge, and no greater source of joy-both proximate joy and ultimate joy-than that which is found in the process of discipleship. This process brings its own joys and reassurances. We must not, however, expect the world to understand or to value our discipleship; they will not. In a way, they may admire us from afar, but they will be puzzled about the priorities resulting from our devotion.”
“…, the more we become like Jesus, the more we come to know Him. There may even be, more than we now know, some literalness in His assertion, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40). We lack deep understanding of the implications of that remark of Jesus. As with so many things, He is telling us more than we are now prepared to receive.”
Knowledge vs. Deeds
“One mistake we can make during this mortal experience is to value knowledge apart from the other qualities to be developed in submissive discipleship. Knowledge-discovery, its preservation, its perpetuation-is very important. Yet, being knowledgeable while leaving undeveloped the virtues of love, mercy, meekness, and patience is not enough for full discipleship. Mere intellectual assent to a truth deprives us of the relevant, personal experiences that come from applying what we profess to believe. There were probably orientation briefings in the premortal world about how this mortal life would unfold for us, but the real experience is another thing!”
“Thus, while knowledge is clearly very important, standing alone it cannot save us. I worry sometimes that we get so busy discussing the doctrines in various Church classes that talking about them almost becomes a substitute for applying them. One cannot improve upon the sobering words of King Benjamin, who said, “Now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them” (Mosiah 4:10). Such is still the test. Deeds, not words-and becoming, not describing-are dominant in true discipleship.“
So, what Elder Maxwell and King Benjamin are both saying is the DOING is more important than the KNOWING. I wonder how many of us, especially on the Bloggernacle are often caught up in “one-upmanship” of all that we know rather than finding ways to put what we know into practice and serve others.
“So it is that discipleship requires all of us to translate doctrines, covenants, ordinances, and teachings into improved personal behavior. Otherwise we may be doctrinally rich but end up developmentally poor.”
Overcoming the “Natural Man”
So, how do we really become a true disciple of Jesus Christ? Elder Maxwell goes on:
“The gospel’s rich and true doctrines combine to constitute a call to a new and more abundant life, but this is a lengthy process. It requires much time, experiencing the relevant learning experiences, the keeping of covenants, and the receiving of the essential ordinances-all in order to spur us along the discipleship path of personal progression. In the journey of discipleship, we lose our old selves. The natural man and the natural woman are “put off,” and then we find ourselves become more saintly (see Mosiah 3:19). One sees such saintliness all about him in the Church-quiet, good women and men, not particularly concerned with status, who are becoming saintly. This is what should be happening in the lives of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
We are called to “put off the natural man and become a new creature,” a new being, born again. Being born again, rather than a onetime event, is a lifelong process as we learn the meaning of true discipleship and go from just knowing to actually doing what the Savior would do.
“Sometimes, as we commence taking up the cross, we ignore or neglect the first part of Jesus’ instruction. He said, “Deny [yourselves], and take up [your] cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). This self-denial is especially challenging in a world filled with so many sensual and secular stimuli. In our time, greed and lust, though they have always been friends, have never formed quite the cartel they have formed now. It is global; it is so profitable.”
“Denying oneself has never been popular as a lifestyle, and it is clearly not today. Self-denial is portrayed by many as too puritanical and too ascetic. Scoffers have acquired powerful pulpits from which they bray their message, which constantly puts down discipleship and encourages the natural man to think highly of himself and to please himself.”
“What is it that we are to deny ourselves? The ascendancy of any appetites or actions which produce not only the seven deadly sins but all the others. Happily, self-denial, when we practice it, brings great relief. It represents emancipation from all the “morning after” feelings, whether caused by adultery or gluttony. Being concerned with tomorrow, true disciples are very careful about today! Self denial also includes not letting our hearts become too set on any trivial or worldly thing. Then we can learn the great lessons about the relationship of righteousness to the powers and the joys of heaven.”
“The fundamental fact is that if we do not deny ourselves, we are diverted. Even if not wholly consumed with the things of the world, we are still diverted sufficiently to make serious discipleship impossible. As a consequence, all the gifts and talents God has given us are not put meekly on the altar to serve others and to please God. Instead, we withhold to please ourselves. Diversion, therefore, is not necessarily gross transgression, but it is a genuine deprivation, especially if we consider what we might have become and what more we might have done to bless and to help others.”
Knowing That Our Lives Please God
“One day, if we remain faithful, we will, as the man or the woman of Christ, know that we, too, please God. Discipleship’s enlarged capacity to serve will bring enlarged joys. No wonder we read lamentations from the Lord about those who do not accept His invitation to discipleship. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37).”
“Or, from the Book of Mormon, “O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!” (Morm. 6:17). These lamentations measure the deep love Jesus has for us and underscore the importance of our accepting His invitation to discipleship.”
What does the true discipleship look and feel like?
And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received His image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? Alma 5:14
Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God. Alma 13:12
So, I ask you, fellow members of the Bloggernacle, “Have ye received His image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?”