Living a Celestial Life

DOUG THOMPSON

IT Business Officer at BYU-Idaho
Devotional given at BYU-Idaho 4 May 2021

Welcome brothers and sisters, wherever you may be. How grateful we should be for technology that allows us to continue with devotionals.


Now, if we were meeting in person I would pause for a minute and ask that the house lights be raised. I would ask you to look around at all the equipment in the auditorium and in the rafters: lights and speakers up high, cameras around the walls, and don’t forget the people running the lights, the sound, and the teleprompter—behind-the-scenes personnel, including students, managers, and directors—all of this to put on a devotional; all of this for us. Thank you. 
I pray that the Holy Ghost will be with us today, that you can feel the desires of my heart as I share some thoughts with you. 


The past couple of months we have witnessed an event in our lives that, historically, may only happen once in an individual’s lifetime: a pandemic. Many of our ancestors may have experienced a similar event. For some of us, we hope we will never have to experience it again. As this event unfolded, exactly what went through your mind? Am I prepared? Do I have enough food storage or household supplies to take care of my needs?


This event tested our nerves, our mental capacity, our physical capacity, and yes, even our spiritual capacity. Many may have witnessed the physical destruction by losing loved ones or close friends. Some of you have watched friends, relatives, and loved ones’ testimonies tested, deprived of spiritual revelation, and questioning what they know to be true and believe in.


Thankfully, we have been counseled to have a supply of basic food and needs. We were also introduced to Come Follow Me, “a home-centered and Church-supported plan to learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship” [1]—these in preparation for the unknowns which might come our way, possibly preliminary lessons preparing us for the Second Coming. But the one constant in our lives that has remained is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 

In this week’s devotional discussion board, the question I posed was regarding, “what have you found is helping you to live a celestial life?”


From your comments, this is what I gleaned: prayer, studying the scriptures, conference talks, Come Follow Me, being personally worthy, building family relationships, hearing in-person testimonies of ward members, service, and personal revelation.


One comment that stuck out was by Valerie Cumes regarding the temple. She said, “I love to go there so much because of a royal castle like a princess.” Valerie, every woman should feel like a princess in the temple.


Today I will share some thoughts about living a celestial life, a life which we should all strive for. A life which, if lived as the Lord has commanded, will bring to each of us eternal joy and happiness in the presence of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.


The scriptures describe three degrees of glory. The kingdom we receive as our inheritance in the hereafter will depend upon the type of law and life we live on earth. If we want a celestial inheritance, we must live a celestial law.


Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Those who keep the full law and obey all the commandments of God are heirs of full salvation in the celestial kingdom. . . . These overcome all things and receive a fullness of the blessings, power, and glory of the Father.” [2]


The importance of his statement is that after we have received the testimony of Jesus, we must be obedient to all that our Heavenly Father would have us do in order to be in His presence. What a challenge. What a tremendous responsibility. Will we ever make it? Yes, we will. We know that all things are possible if we place our trust and faith in our Heavenly Father.


Our greatest test today is to live a celestial life while living in a telestial world. If we could just see the heavens for a moment and behold the unspeakable glory that awaits those who have been valiant in the testimony of Jesus, it might be easier to do what the Lord asks of us. Joseph Smith had a glimpse of the glory of the celestial kingdom.


The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell.


I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire;


Also the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son.
I saw the beautiful streets of that kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold. [3] 


What a marvelous vision. Imagine the beauty, the serenity, the happiness, and the joy in that kingdom. What would you give to be there in the presence of the Father and the Son? Are we willing to give our all, to live the best life we can live, sacrifice the pleasures of the world, and be obedient in whatever the Lord will ask of us?


In the beginning, there was a council in heaven. I imagine it was filled with feelings of joy and sorrow; joy as we were taught the plan of salvation, the commandments, and covenants; joy to be able to receive a physical body.


But I also imagine there was sorrow; sorrow because we would be removed from His presence. We would be tried, tested, and have to be proven worthy to return to His presence again. 
 

I am sure we were also instructed it would not be easy. Pains and hardship would just be a few of the challenges we would face. But we would have a Savior to take upon Him our sins if we would repent. Our Heavenly Father would also be there to watch over us. We would not be alone. 
 

Let me propose a few suggestions to assist you in living a celestial life. As you listen, I invite you to identify areas which you might need to work on and reapply in your life.


These are not new or earth-shattering concepts. In fact, most of these you have already heard before. Elder David A. Bednar said, “Repetition is a vehicle through which the Holy Ghost can enlighten our minds, influence our hearts, and enlarge our understanding.” [4]


1. Discern Between Right And Wrong


In Moroni 7:16 and 19, we read:
 

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.


Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.


In the scriptures, the Spirit of Christ is also known as the Light of Christ or more common to most of us as our conscience. “Regardless of whether this inner light, this knowledge of right and wrong, is called the Light of Christ, moral sense, or conscience, it can direct us to moderate our actions.” [5]
 

2. Pray Often


In many places in the scriptures, the Lord has commanded us to pray often, that we may not enter into temptation. Pray for strength to overcome the temptations of Satan; pray for the companionship of the Holy Ghost; pray for wisdom and understanding; pray that you might be worthy of a celestial inheritance. 


3. Attend Church Meetings


This past year has been an interesting one as it pertains to attending church. Who would have thought church meetings would have been canceled? Who would have imagined the day would come when you would watch a sacrament meeting through the internet or attend a priesthood or Relief Society meeting through Zoom? Who knew what Zoom even was?


However, coming back to church in person has been a wonderful blessing and an opportunity for you to do a self-check on your commitment.


In the Church’s General Handbook, it states the purpose of the sacrament meeting is to “remember Jesus Christ by partaking of the sacrament.” [6]


Elder L. Tom Perry said, “Partaking of the sacrament is the center of our Sabbath day observance…. As we worthily partake of the sacrament, we witness that we are willing to take the Savior’s name upon us and keep His commandments and do always remember Him, that we may have His Spirit to be with us. In this way the covenant of our baptism is renewed.” [7]


4. Listen to the Counsel of Our Prophet and Apostles


We sustain these brethren as prophets, seers, and revelators. They tell us what the Lord would have us do in our day.


Over this past year, President Russell M. Nelson and other Apostles have extended an invitation for us to “hear Him.” In his invitation, President Nelson said:


In the scriptures, there are very few sacred instances in which the voice of God the Father has been heard. So, when He says something, we really need to listen. Repeatedly, He has personally introduced His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, with a specific charge to “Hear Him!”

 
Have you ever stopped to ask, “Why?” Why is our Heavenly Father so insistent—and consistent—in His plea that we should hear His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ?


Jesus answered this question Himself. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me [John 14:6].” [8]


President Nelson re-emphasized “Hear Him” this past general conference. Here are some of his comments: “I hope you have found an increased ability to hear Him and receive personal revelation. . . . We hear Jesus Christ better when we are still. . . . In order to hear this still voice, you too must be still! . . . Quiet time is sacred time.” [9]


President Dallin H. Oaks added these comments: “When you receive an impression, act upon it, however unusual it seems or however inadequate you feel in following it. Act upon it. There is a reason for it. You may not know the reason, but blessings will come to you and to others if you hear Him and follow His directions.” [10]


5. Avoid Evil and All of Its Appearances


My father shared this experience from when he was younger:


When I was in high school, I learned how to play pool. I am not sure where I learned, but we did have a pool hall in town. Several other boys and I would go downtown at noon, go to the pool hall, and play pool. The front of the pool hall was a bar, and it seems there was always someone there drinking. We never paid much attention to them; we would just go to the back of the room where the pool tables were and play pool. The owners never said anything to us as long as we were just playing pool. 


Our stake president owned a grocery store almost directly across the street from the pool hall and had observed us going into the hall nearly every noon. One day while I was in the store, he asked why we were going into the pool hall. I explained that we were just going in to play pool. He explained that some people who saw us going in may not think that and might get the wrong idea about what kind of boys we were. He then explained what it meant to “shun the very appearance of evil.”


My father recognized what he had been doing and how it was more important and valuable to set a good example than satisfying his love for playing pool.


Do not rationalize or compromise your values. When you do, you fall into Satan’s power. Satan is running rampant on the earth today. His reign is about to come to an end, and he and his angels are exerting all their energies and influences they possess to lead us astray.
 

6. Make and Keep Sacred Covenants


We have heard the phrase, “We are a covenant-making people.” Most of us have made covenants in the Church, whether from baptism or receiving our endowments. 


Have a current temple recommend. This past general conference, after mentioning the constructing of 20 new temples, President Nelson reminded us to “stay true to the covenants you have made.” [11]


Baptism and the endowment ordinances are very important, important enough that similar questions are asked of each interviewee. Listen to the differences and similarities as I compare a few of the questions. White are baptism questions and yellow are temple recommend questions.
 

Do you believe that God is our Eternal Father? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior and Redeemer of the world? 


Do you have faith in and a testimony of God, the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost? Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and of His role as your Savior and Redeemer? 


Do you believe that the Church and gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith?


Do you have a testimony of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ? 


7. Guard Against Spiritual Apathy


One definition of apathy is when you lack motivation to do anything, or you do not care about what is going on around you.


In the April 2000 General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard said:


The Church is growing; temples are being built at an unprecedented pace. Missionary work continues to move forward. Church meetings are held on a regular basis in nearly every nation. Yet, as our prophets have indicated, “the Lord expects that we will do something.” 


But what? What is it that needs our personal attention? As I read and ponder the scriptures and carefully consider the Lord’s counsel to His followers in every dispensation of time, it appears to me that the most important thing every one of us can do is to examine our own commitment and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. We must carefully guard against spiritual apathy and work to maintain the full measure of our loving loyalty to the Lord. [12]


8. Do Hard Things


When Nephi and his brothers were asked to obtain the plates of brass from Laban it took them trying three times before successfully obtaining them—three different attempts to accomplish a task the Lord asked them to do.


My wife and I have a process we follow when faced with hard things. We lay out what we need to do and divide them up into tasks, which we call steps. The harder the task, the more steps we have.
 

This past summer I was invited to hike to a lake called Gunsight, a gorgeous glacier lake in the White Clouds mountain range, where we would spend a day fishing. This would be a one-day event:hike in, fish, and hike back out.


When I inquired about the terrain of the trail, my younger brother exclaimed, “It’s basically a goat trail.” In other words, no trail. As we began our journey, I quickly learned what he meant. For the first quarter of the trip, we ascended up the trail, with the final destination climbing down towards the lake.


After an enjoyable, relaxing day of fishing, we reversed the process and headed back out. My preparation helped me get into the lake but did not quite prepare me, or my legs, for the ascent out.

 

As you can see, I made it. 


Be prepared to accomplish hard things. Before a long race, marathon runners plan and prepare themselves by getting the proper nutrients to complete a race. This preparation helps them avoid “hitting the wall,” a sudden urge to quit that happens three-quarters of the way through the race. 
 

As I reflect back on my hike, I think about how I was not as prepared as I thought I was. I think about each foot placement and navigating over those boulders, where the slightest wrong move could have been a tragedy. 


In last week’s devotional, Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong also references being prepared. Before David was to fight Goliath, he prepared himself by picking up five round stones. But in the end, he only needed one. Elder Wong said, “It is so advantageous to prepare as much as possible now for what you will be facing in your future. Trust the Lord and prepare well for yourself.” [13]
 

In closing, remember, as good as we plan, life might take us in a different direction. Life might not always offer you an easy path. Keep spiritual apathy out of your life, constantly seeking spiritual nutrients to avoid the urge to quit, to complete our journey, that goal of celestial life. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

NOTES:

 

[1] Russell M. Nelson, “Opening Remarks,” Ensign, Nov. 2018.
[2] Joseph Fielding Smith, Sermons and Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith, 513.
[3] Doctrine and Covenants 137:1–4.
[4] David A. Bednar, “Repeat Over Again . . . the Same Things as Before,” BYUI devotional, Jan. 26, 2016.
[5] Boyd K. Packer, “The Light of Christ,” Ensign, May 2005.
[6] General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2021.
[7] L. Tom Perry, “The Sabbath and the Sacrament,” Ensign, May 2011.
[8] Russell M. Nelson, “How Do You #HearHim? A Special Invitation,” Feb. 2020.
[9] Russell M. Nelson, “What We Are Learning and Will Never Forget,” Liahona, May 2021.
[10] Dallin H. Oaks, “How I Hear Him,” Invitation from the Prophet: Hear Him, Apr. 15, 2021.
[11] Russell M. Nelson, “COVID-19 and Temples,” Liahona, May 2021.
[12] M. Russell Ballard, “How Is It with Us?” Ensign, May 2000.
[13] Chi Hong (Sam) Wong, “The 22 Stones,” BYUI devotional, Apr. 27, 2021.

Doug Thompson
White.png
White.png

Doug Thompson - IT Business Officer