I went into the garage last night to dust off the old mission storage bin to find a note that one of my companions wrote for me years ago.
I knew it was in there somewhere.
While digging through old letters, I found one from one of my good friends, Rachel, who sent me a letter while she was serving in Guatemala and I was serving in Panama.
She included a list of a few things she had learned on her mission. The first one on her list was, “Refuse to Excuse.”
As I pondered on that a bit more, I started thinking of various ways we make excuses instead of following the Lord.
This was a little more fresh on my mind because there was a service opportunity in our stake recently and I asked one of my children if they would go so my other child didn’t have to go alone. Their response was “I don’t want to.”
It got me thinking about all the things I wouldn’t do if “wanting” to do them were a requirement. I’m sure we have all done things in the Church that we wouldn’t necessarily do if it wasn’t part of a covenant we had made.
For some reason the hymn, “Lord, I Would Follow Thee” came to mind, and it also came with the conjunction “but” afterwards.
Lord, I would follow thee, but…and the thoughts below of all the excuses we make for not being 100% committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ came into my mind.
Lord, I would follow thee, but I don’t have time because my kids are so involved in sports and dance and the like.
Lord, I would follow thee, but I’m an introvert and I don’t like talking to people.
Lord, I would follow thee, but the calling you have for me is not something I have any interest in.
Lord, I would follow thee, but I don’t like to be nervous so giving talks and singing in the choir are out.
Lord, I would follow thee, but fasting it too hard and I really like food.
Lord, I would follow thee, but my phone is more entertaining that the scriptures.
Lord, I would follow thee, but the temple is hard for me and I don’t understand it.
Lord, I would follow thee, but Family Home Evening just turns into a fight.
Lord, I would follow thee, but just being a covenant maker is so much easier than being a covenant keeper.
Lord, I would follow thee, but I would rather go on vacation than go to Stake Conference.
Lord, I would follow thee, but the couch in the foyer is more comfortable than the hard chairs in Elders Quorum and I don’t get anything out of the lessons.
Lord, I would follow thee, but I don’t think I should pay tithing to the Church because they already have enough money.
Lord, I would follow thee, but there are things in Church history that I don’t agree with.
Lord, I would follow thee, but I am putting up boundaries to protect my emotional well-being.
Lord, I would follow thee, but watching General Conference for 10 hours is hard.
Lord, I would follow thee, but pornography is too hard to stop.
Lord, I would follow thee, but I am too afraid to stand up for the truth because then people won’t like me.
Lord, I would follow thee, but I have gay tendencies and I shouldn’t have to carry a cross.
Lord, I would follow thee, but it’s easier to just be nice and kind and quiet than full of grace and truth.
Lord, I would follow thee, but sacrificing isn’t convenient.
Lord, I would follow thee, but family scripture study takes up too much time.
The hymn “Lord, I Would Follow Thee” includes the following verse:
Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can’t see.
Who am I to judge another?
Lord, I would follow thee.
I’m not here to judge anyone. I don’t understand all of the circumstances that people navigate. What I do know is that the natural man is an enemy to God and loves to make excuses. Don’t look at your neighbor, but look at yourself. I will do the same.
What excuses am I making that prevent me from being a covenant keeper? When we make temple covenants, some of the promises we make include:
- Law of Obedience, which includes striving to keep God’s commandments.
- Law of Sacrifice, which means doing all we can to support the Lord’s work and repenting with a broken heart and contrite spirit.
- Law of the Gospel, which is the higher law that He taught while He was on the earth.
- Law of Consecration, which means dedicating our time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed us to building up Jesus Christ’s Church on the earth.
Which of the excuses above would disappear if we truly were covenant keepers and help fast to the promises we made in the temple?
Back to the idea of “not wanting to” do certain things as an excuse for inactivity. I think of the Savior who pleaded with God, “and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18-19)
Honoring temple covenants is living a Christ-like life. It requires living a higher standard, sacrificing other interests, and consecrating ourselves to the building up of the kingdom of God.
Elder M. Russell Ballard shared one of the most compelling statements of all time during a speech at Brigham Young University in 1996 on the topic of the law of sacrifice. He said:
If I have a fear, it is that the principle of sacrifice may be slipping away from us. This principle is a law of God. We are obliged to understand it and practice it. If being a member of this Church becomes too easy, testimonies will become shallow, and the roots of testimony will not go down into the soil of faith as they did with our pioneer forefathers. May God grant each of us an understanding of the law of sacrifice and a conviction that it is necessary today. It is vitally important that we understand this law and live it.
Let us each remember the covenants we have made and be a keeper of those covenants. As we do so, we will aid in the building of God’s kingdom here on earth, and establish Zion!