At church we have a lay ministry and talks and topics for the main sacrament meeting are assigned to members of the congregation, so we never know what to expect each week! Towards the end of last year I was given an assignment to speak in February. It’s taken a while to type up – it was originally hand written – but here it is. I hope you enjoy it!
The topic I was given to talk on is ‘embracing the future with faith.’ The object of this phrase is the future – the definition of future is a period of time following the moment of speaking or writing, or time regarded as still to come. The thing in this definition is ‘time’. We, humans, have a very linear view of time: it’s either behind or in front of us. In fact, President Henry B. Eyring once explained that:
“The Lord has given us the gift or inheritance of time. He invites and encourages us to spend it wisely. It’s worth investing wisely, not only because we have a lifetime ahead of us but also because we have eternity to come.” Liahona, August 1989 (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/1989/08/time-an-inheritance-from-god?lang=eng).
We know from the scriptures that in the presence of God (D&C 130 v7) – “all things for their glory are manifest, past, present and future, and are continually before the Lord.” I learn from this, that our Heavenly Father sees ‘time’ or experiences time similar to how we currently experience space, or our physical world, in 3D, in 3 dimensions. He has the whole view, He has a different perspective. So, we don’t see things before they happen, not typically, but Father sees all things. We can learn to trust that. We can learn to trust Father, and that’s where faith comes in.
President Russell M. Nelson has said “our faith increases every time we exercise our faith in Him” (General Conference, October 2020). In our everyday lives, we actually exercise a fair amount of faith, or trust in things we don’t or can’t see. For example, we flick a switch, knowing a light will turn on or off; we answer a phone, knowing there’s a message at the other end, even if it’s a cold call!; we use a key to open or lock things, but we can not see the mechanism. However, if these actions don’t produce the results expected, we know something is wrong and we ask for help. We also exercise faith or trust in other ways – I eat food, knowing it will nourish me; I have a fair idea of what foods to eat and in what proportions; I try to exercise regularly and look after my body – I don’t see an immediate change but I trust that it’s benefitting my physical health. And I will keep trying to do the right thing and not be excessive with chocolate and cakes!
Having faith or trust in Father and our Lord is similar. The Bible Dictionary (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bd/faith?lang=eng) states that: “To have faith is to have confidence in something or someone….” and our faith “must be centered in Jesus Christ in order to produce salvation.” And that is what we are concerned with here. So that we can place our confidence in the Lord, He has revealed Himself and His perfect character. President George Q Cannon taught back in 1891: “No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God] will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is not His character [to do so]… He will [always] stand by us” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2016/04/tomorrow-the-lord-will-do-wonders-among-you?lang=eng). I am very grateful to personally know that those words are true.
In April 2011 General Conference, President Nelson gave a talk titled ‘Face the Future with Faith’ where he spoke of combating fears by strengthening our faith. He explained that faith is strengthened through prayer and spoke of the Prophet Joseph Smith during the horrible, awful days in Liberty jail and Joseph’s intense & impassioned prayers. President Nelson stated: “The Lord responded by changing the Prophet’s perspective. He said, ‘know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good’ (D&C 122 v7). If we pray with an eternal perspective, we need not wonder if our most tearful and heartfelt pleadings are heard.”
So too can our perspective change – we do know enough. I’d like to share a couple of examples of individuals whose perspective and thoughts on the future changed and helped them overcome difficulties; both physical examples but we can apply them to all types of challenges; you may recognise their experiences from the news.
Back in April 2003, Aron Ralston, a single man aged 27, was climbing alone in a canyon and as he was descending a boulder became dislodged and crushed his right hand against the canyon wall. He had not told anyone of his plans and had no way to call for help. After 3 days of trying to lift or break up the boulder, he was prepared to amputate his arm but had no tools to cut through bone. By day 5 he had run out of food and water and did not expect to survive the night, but that night he had a vision of a small boy. In his words: “I see myself in this out of body experience playing with him with a handless right arm. I see myself scoop him up and there’s this look in his eyes, ‘Daddy, can we play now?’ That look tells me this is my son, this is in the future, I’m gonna have this experience some day. Now it’s like, I am going to get through this night.” The next morning, Ralston realised he could fling himself against the boulder to break his own bones. It took him an hour or so to stab through his flesh and then a 5 mile hike before he met people and was rescued (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/dec/15/story-danny-boyles-127-hours). Speaking of this incident, Dallin H Oaks (General Conference, April 2011) said, “What an example of the power of an overwhelming desire! When we have a vision of what we can become, our desire and our power to act increase enormously.” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2011/04/desire?lang=eng). We do know enough of what we can become.
Last year, as we all know, a pandemic struck the world, reaching the UK about a year ago. Robin Hanbury-Tenison, a veteran explorer of 84 years old, was one of the first people in the south west of England to become seriously ill, in early March, a couple of days after returning from France. Robin spent 5 weeks in a coma in a Plymouth hospital and, with less than 5% chance of survival, his family were told to prepare for the worse. In his words: “I was on a ventilator, experienced multiple organ failure, dialysis, a tracheotomy and severe sedation delirium. When all hope was lost, when family and friends feared the worst, I had a breakthrough moment. Taken by the nurses, my guardian angels, to [the hospital’s] rehabilitation garden, I felt the warmth of the sun on my face and I knew that I would live” (https://www.royalcornwall.nhs.uk/covid-survivors-cornish-climb-for-critical-care-garden/). Robin lived and after several months of rehabilitation went on to climb the highest peak on Bodmin Moor. We can feel the warmth from the Lord in our lives – we can go forward.
A change of perspective, seeing something different, made all the difference to the future of these two men, for them and their families, when nearly all hope was lost.
Elder Holland, gave a memorable General Conference talk in April 2016 concerning how we face tomorrow, displaying a picture of children, representing us, running away from a dinosaur, representing tomorrow (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2016/04/tomorrow-the-lord-will-do-wonders-among-you?lang=eng). He said: “If gospel standards seem high and personal improvement needed in days ahead seems out of reach, remember Joshua’s encouragement to his people when they faced a daunting future, “sanctify yourselves,” Joshua said “for the Lord will do wonders among you.” (Joshua 3 v5)… It is the promise of Him who performs those wonders, who is Himself, ‘Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God… The Prince of Peace.’”
As we strive to live close to the Lord, the Holy Ghost will give us promptings & guidance, personal inspiration & revelation, including what the future may bring – finding a job, changing job, moving house, studying, where to live, serving in a calling, or even being asked to give a talk. These are some promptings that I have felt and they have brought comfort and peace during times of change.
So, we are to embrace the future. The definition of embrace, to accept something enthusiastically, to welcome with open arms, to hold, hug, accept completely; to take up especially readily or gladly; from the French to clasp in the arms, to cherish, to love. To me, it’s not a passive action, you do something, you step forward, you reach out your arms, you reach around another person, you tighten your grip, you hold.
There are so many examples from scripture of individuals embracing the future with faith in the Lord. I’ve already mentioned Joshua, but specifically as he led the priests and the army of Israel to walk around Jericho over 7 days; before that Moses, leading the Israelites out of Egypt, returning to Pharaoh, probably over months, plague after plague; Elijah and the priests of Baal, he told them to poor water all over the wood before asking the Lord to set it alight; Esther and her people fasting before she went to see the king, to save the people of Israel; Mary, the mother of Jesus, saying ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord’ to the angel Gabriel on being told she would be Jesus’ mother.
And now we are here, 2021. President Nelson (October 2020) said:
“The Lord placed you here now because He knew you had the capacity to negotiate the complexities of the latter part of these latter days. …
I am not saying that the days ahead will be easy, but I promise you that the future will be glorious for those who are prepared and who continue to prepare to be instruments in the Lord’s hands.
…let us not just endure this current season. Let us embrace the future with faith!”
And you may be thinking, that’s great but how do I start? What should I do, now, today? We have been given a simple direction on this. President Dallin H Oaks, in General Conference April 2019 directed us:
“The restored gospel of Jesus Christ encourages us to think about the future. It explains the purpose of mortal life and the reality of the life to follow. …
Our present and our future will be happier if we are always conscious of the future. As we make current decisions, we should always be asking, “Where will this lead?” … Take the long view. What is the effect on our future of the decisions we make in the present? … We make better choices and decisions if we look at the alternatives and ponder where they will lead.” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2019/04/35oaks?lang=eng)
This is a principle that I have applied for some time, with regards to choices in my life and deciding if something is right or wrong. I also apply it by multiplying up – if everyone were doing or acting or behaving the way I was, would my home, town, country be a better place? When you think like that and change your perspective, the so-called grey areas quickly fall away.
So, to embrace the future, to start changing our perspective, starts today, starts with a simple question, where will this lead? President Oaks did give a warning alongside that counsel, which is equally important:
“…each of us is a child of God with a potential destiny of eternal life. Every other label, even including occupation, race, physical characteristics, or honors, is temporary or trivial in eternal terms. Don’t choose to label yourselves or think of yourselves in terms that put a limit on a goal for which you might strive.”
Briefly I’d like to share an example from my own life. Back in 1993 I was finishing my 6th year studying architecture; I was also preparing to serve as a full time missionary with a date to report to the training centre that summer. However, that May, I failed the practical component of my studies. Amidst the tears and anguish, I made the decision to re-submit my work in September. That summer I still went to the temple to receive my endowment – the temple is a great place to change your perspective for an eternal view – I got a job, working night shifts in a care home to save money and I spent my days studying and drawing. I re-submitted, passed and then worked and continued to save more money. I was eventually re-assigned and was set apart in December . As I was set apart, I had the distinct impression that it would be longer than 18 months before I would actually practice architecture. It was. It was 14 years later, 2007 before I returned to the architectural profession. And that was 14 years ago now. I was taught to have a long view! I am so very grateful to Father, who is not limited by time. I can always turn to Him and He will help me keep an eternal perspective and I know He’ll do the same for you. I have learnt for myself that developing eternal characteristics and being His instrument is far more important than those attributes which are part of this world.
I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s kingdom on earth; I know the Book of Mormon is our latter-day survival guide; and I am grateful for the holy priesthood and that the Lord’s covenants and ordinances help us face the future with faith (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2011/04/face-the-future-with-faith?lang=eng).
To quote Elder Jeffrey R Holland (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2016/04/tomorrow-the-lord-will-do-wonders-among-you?lang=eng):
“Keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.”
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.