The Best is Still to Come

My freshman year of college was a very important year for my spiritual development. I was transitioning from life in high school, living at home, to going out on my own. I had to start building my own life, deciding how I would live, no longer having my parents there to structure everything. And I was preparing for a mission.

It was a stressful time, and I was rather vulnerable spiritually. Both God and the adversary were aware of this pivotal period of my life, and both played their hands, the adversary striving to pull me downward, and God gently, but powerfully, inviting me to look and move upward.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland came to BYU that year (2009) and gave a devotional address that penetrated right to my heart. His address was called “Remember Lot’s Wife.” It was given in January, at the start of a new year, and the central theme was that we should not dwell on the past but look to the future with faith. We can’t worry about mistakes we’ve made and beat ourselves up about how we should have done things differently. We can’t waste time thinking over and over again about past choices. The past is gone, and it doesn’t matter anymore, except that it teaches us how to make better choices today. Elder Holland said: “There is something in us, at least in too many of us, that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life — either mistakes we ourselves have made or the mistakes of others. That is not good. It is not Christian. It stands in terrible opposition to the grandeur and majesty of the Atonement of Christ. To be tied to earlier mistakes — our own or other people’s — is the worst kind of wallowing in the past from which we are called to cease and desist.”

He continues later in his talk, saying, “Perhaps at this beginning of a new year there is no greater requirement for us than to do as the Lord Himself said He does: ‘Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more’ (D&C 58:42).

“The proviso, of course, is that repentance has to be sincere, but when it is and when honest effort is being made to progress, we are guilty of the greater sin if we keep remembering and recalling and rebashing someone with their earlier mistakes — and that ‘someone’ might be ourselves. We can be so hard on ourselves, often much more so than with others!

“Now, like the Anti-Nephi-Lehies of the Book of Mormon, bury your weapons of war, and leave them buried. Forgive, and do that which is harder than to forgive: Forget. And when it comes to mind again, forget it again.

“You can remember just enough to avoid repeating the mistake, but then put the rest of it all on the dung heap Paul spoke of to (the) Philippians. Dismiss the destructive and keep dismissing it until the beauty of the Atonement of Christ has revealed to you your bright future and the bright future of your family and your friends and your neighbors. God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you have been as He does about where you are and, with His help, where you are willing to go.

“This is an important matter to consider at the start of a new year — and every day ought to be the start of a new year and a new life. Such is the wonder of faith and repentance and the miracle of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

This time in my life was when I first started to understand that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real; the seed of my understanding was just starting to grow.

It was around this same time — I think within weeks of hearing Elder Holland’s address — that I first discovered 2 Nephi, chapter 4. The latter half of this chapter has been called the Psalm of Nephi. Maybe I had read it or heard it in church or during family scripture study before, but it had never really sunk in. At this time in my life, I really related to the feelings Nephi expressed. Starting in verse 15, the record reads:

15 Upon these I write the things of my soul, and many of the scriptures which are engraven upon the plates of brass. For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.

16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.

17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins….

I could relate to these struggles. I was preparing to be a missionary, to represent Jesus Christ. But how could I really consider myself worthy of such an honor when I had made so many mistakes in my life? How could I ever rejoice when I had fallen so utterly short of how a true disciple of Jesus Christ is supposed to be? I, too, felt “encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which (did) so easily beset me.”

But then comes the turning point, Nephi’s all-powerful declaration: “Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.”

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we know in whom we trust. We trust Him whose name the church bears, and we invite one and all to join with us and come unto Christ. We trust Jesus Christ because there is “no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:17). He is the only one who has the power to save us, to heal us, to enable us to overcome our sins and be worthy despite our weakness. Because of Him, we can rejoice. Because of Him, we can have peace, and we can always be filled with faith and hope, knowing that, as President Eyring said in January’s broadcast announcing the new First Presidency of the Church, “The best is still to come.”

The best truly is still to come, but sometimes it is hard for us to see and feel that. Sometimes our faith and hope are weak. We, of ourselves, are weak. We are not meant to be able to thrive in this life on our own. The Lord told Moroni that He gave us our weakness, and that there is a purpose to it. Ether 12:27 reads:

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

In 2 Corinthians, chapter 12, Paul tells of a similar message he received from the Lord:

9 And (the Lord) said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

That’s an interesting perspective, isn’t it? Paul rejoiced in his weakness. He recognized that it was God-given. It is part of God’s plan that we are weak, because our weakness helps us to be humble and recognize that we can’t save ourselves. It helps us realize that we need to put our trust and faith and hope in the Lord, because He is the only one who can save us. When we put our trust and faith and hope in the Lord, we become strong because we are teamed up with Him. The pair of us are strong because He is strong, and we’ve attached ourselves to Him.

Our challenge, then, is to always remember this. Our challenge is to always remember Jesus Christ — who He is, and that He is our only hope. That’s why the phrase “always remember Him” is repeated twice each and every Sunday, once in each sacrament prayer. That’s how we thrive in this life. If we always remember Him, we are promised that we will “always have His Spirit to be with (us),” and the Book of Mormon promises that the Spirit will show us everything that we need to know and do (2 Nephi 32:5).

All we need to do are the “small things.” All we need to do is pray daily, study and ponder the scriptures for a few minutes daily, attend our church meetings once a week to partake of the sacrament and learn of Christ with each other, live worthy of a temple recommend and attend the temple regularly (at least once a month), and look for opportunities to serve our neighbors in small ways.

If that sounds like a lot to do, that’s okay. Just start with the first one. Pray daily. Kneel down in a private place, where you won’t be interrupted, and talk with your Heavenly Father. Or just think. Invite His presence with your thoughts. Like sitting beside a fire, just be there and feel the warmth of His presence. It will refresh you and strengthen you. It will increase your faith.

As your faith increases, add scripture study to your daily routine. Do it in a way that works for you. You can start at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, or you can flip through randomly and read, or you can use the Topical Guide to find scriptures about a certain topic, or you can use other guides like Institute or Sunday School manuals, or you can use a General Conference talk as your guide and look up the scriptures they reference. There is a ridiculous amount of resources available to us today to help us study and learn about Christ and His Gospel, and we can carry all of them around with us in our pocket. It’s amazing. Our Heavenly Father has provided us with these tools to help us overcome the challenges of today’s world. Along with prayer, nothing has helped me strengthen my faith more than consistently spending a few minutes each day studying the Book of Mormon and the other scriptures — including the words of latter-day prophets — that God has given us in these days.

As your faith continues to increase and you become more familiar with the scriptures, bring your faith and knowledge and budding testimony to church. Be here with others who are walking the same path you are. We come here to learn from each other and to strengthen each other, and the Spirit attends us as we do so. The Spirit teaches us individually in an intimate and personal way, with words that often aren’t said aloud. The Spirit puts what we need to know straight into our heart. Sometimes, words that we hear with our ears run into traffic in our mind and don’t make it to our heart, so the Spirit skips the traffic and goes straight to the heart. We just need to open it up and allow ourselves to be taught. The Spirit we feel at church further strengthens our faith.

As you consistently attend church and repeatedly renew your devotion to the baptismal covenants that you’ve made, you can progress to the crowning blessings of the restored gospel, further devoting yourself to God by making additional covenants in the temple. If you aren’t quite ready to make those additional covenants, you can go and do baptisms for the dead, helping those who cannot help themselves.

I remember the first time I went to the temple to do baptisms for the dead. I was 12 or 13 years-old, and we went to the Columbus, Ohio temple. One of the workers spoke to us before we began. I don’t remember his exact words, but I remember that he described the scene in the afterlife, when those for whom we had performed these ordinances will approach us, and how grateful they will be. We truly are saviors to those for whom we perform ordinances in the temple.

If you haven’t yet gone to the temple to receive your endowment, start thinking and praying about it. Set up a meeting with your bishop so he can help you prepare.

No matter what you do at the temple, it’s a place where the Spirit of the Lord dwells. It is a place where the Lord Himself dwells. Even if you only go and sit on the grounds, you’ll feel His presence, and this will strengthen your faith.

As we strengthen our faith and remember Jesus Christ by consistently doing these small things, we will come to know Him better. We will begin to understand in a more profound way who He is and what His plan and purpose is, and we will have a greater desire to align our lives with that plan and purpose. Aligning our lives with His plan will give us power. We will have access to His power, and this will bring peace to our lives, and it will enable us to help others bring that same peace to their lives.

We should remember that our weakness is part of God’s plan. It helps us put our trust in God. Do not allow the adversary to take over your mind and steal your faith with doubtful, despairing, and fearful thoughts. Remember Christ, and know that the best is still to come.