Don’t follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?
Don’t ask someone to guide your footsteps if you’re not willing to move your feet.
Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
All leaders strive to turn their followers into children.
President Baird told us Michael had to come home from his mission. And so, Michael came home.
Now, I can tell you Sue and I did not get off the phone with President Baird and say to each other: “We are about to have one of the most wonderful experiences of our lives.” But that is what happened. And it happened because the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ became a living reality in the life of our son.
Over the next nine months Michael went through the very difficult—but very sweet—process of repentance. He knew the Lord had forgiven him, but he also knew he needed to experience what Alma had experienced. He needed to be born of God, changed to a state of righteousness—a new creature through the mighty change of heart of which the scriptures speak. He needed to deepen his faith and his understanding of the gospel. He needed to be fully worthy to return to the House of the Lord; and he needed to be fully prepared to return to the mission field, there to serve the Lord with all his heart.
And so Michael set up a new life for himself. He got a job working at a local hospital. He set up regular visits with his bishop. He read and studied the scriptures. He prayed often seeking the Lord’s blessing. He sought to be of service and to be active in his ward.
The path was not easy. For example, Michael went to church with us the Sunday after he came home. He had just given a talk in sacrament meeting before he left on his mission, and now he had to explain to people why he was back so soon. But he faced his situation head-on with courage and candor.
During those months Michael met often with the bishop of our ward, Mark Ott. Bishop Ott was a great blessing to Michael. He counseled with him, encouraged him, and loved him. One day he asked Michael to give Sister Naomi Cranney a ride to and from church. Sister Cranney was ninety-seven years old. Every week when she was able to come, Michael would arrive at her home, help her down the steps into the car, drive her to church, help her get to the chapel, and sit with her during sacrament meeting. He would then take her home at the end of church. Sister Cranney had a wonderful spirit about her, and she grew to love Michael dearly. Over many weeks Michael was blessed to come to know and serve a great Latter-day Saint.
During this time Michael lived at home. He would often come into our bedroom at night and talk to us about his efforts. These months were Michael’s Gethsemane. He suffered, and he got discouraged. When discouragement set in, he would come into our room and ask for a blessing. I gave Michael many blessings during those months; and I knew through the Spirit that Michael was changing, that the Atonement was working in his life. Though the path was hard, the Savior was by his side.
And so it went, day after day, night after night for a long time. The dark night was long, but the morning light soon came. Sue and I were eyewitnesses to the miracle of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in the life of our precious son. The Savior reached out and took hold of that young man and changed him from the inside out. I will never forget the day Michael came home from his General Authority interview. He had gone to Pittsburgh to meet with Elder Spencer Condie. I picked him up at the airport. As he came off that airplane, he was radiant! The Spirit of the Lord shone brightly in his eyes.
Michael returned to the temple and to the mission field. His mission was not easy, but he served faithfully and well. He became a mighty elder in Israel. His knowledge of the gospel deepened, and his understanding of the Atonement increased. What began that week in January of 2001 continued through his time in British Columbia. And it continues today. He has come to know the Savior in a deep and powerful way through his own experience. I know the Atonement of Jesus Christ has full sway in his heart. And because he has “followed the Son, with full purpose of heart,” he has helped many others to feel the power of the Atonement in their lives.
My dear brothers and sisters, I bear you my testimony that Jesus is the Christ. I know from my own experience that His Atonement is real. I know He is my Savior. He is Michael’s Savior. And He is your Savior. He stands with open arms bidding all to come unto Him and receive the blessings of redemption and salvation now and forever.
Look carefully at the phrase “full sway in your heart.” If the Atonement of Christ has “full sway in your heart,” it means that faith in Christ and in the eternal doctrines of justice, mercy, and grace rule your heart and govern your deepest desires and commitments fully, completely. If the Atonement of Christ has “full sway in your heart,” then you may truly “follow the Son, with full purpose of heart.”...
Brothers and sisters, think for a moment about your own life. Think about the paths you have walked. Have you felt the power of the Atonement in your life? Do the doctrines of justice, mercy, and grace rule your heart? Do you follow the Savior with full purpose of heart?
I want to talk today about what it means for the Atonement of Jesus Christ to have “full sway in your heart.” As I speak, let your life, your hopes, your desires, and your challenges be in your mind. I hope you will be actively engaged, responding to the questions I will pose and reflecting on the doctrines and principles we will discuss. I pray the Holy Ghost will teach you what you need to do now to follow the Lord Jesus Christ with full purpose of heart.
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