Hi, my name is Aubrey Warner. I'm 23, the fourth of eight kids, and I am not a native of Utah. We lived here once in a while, but mostly I grew up in Chicago. There, my family was one of two LDS families at my elementary school. We didn't do a lot of things that the other kids did, and I thought that everything we didn't do, we didn't do because we are Mormon. For instance, my mom is allergic to beef so we didn't eat it, but I thought it was against the Word of Wisdom. I got some things right; I knew that we didn't drink iced tea, but I didn't realize that most Mormons probably have sugary cereal, drink pop, and eat at Burger King.
Even when I was a child I knew that as a Latter-Day Saint I have beliefs that set me apart from those of other Christian faiths. One of the most significant is that of a living prophet: I believe that the Lord has appointed President Thomas S. Monson to direct, instruct, and lead His church in the present day. But why is it so important to have a prophet to follow? How does following the prophet bring us closer to Christ? I think the answer becomes clear when we study the words of the prophet.
In his latest address to the members of the church, President Monson admonished us to seek out and live the "abundant life"-- a life he says will be "filled with. . . success, goodness, and blessings." He gives us three keys to doing so: the first is attitude, the second, believe, and the third is face challenges with courage.
President Monson asks that we invest in a positive attitude. He states, "So much in life depends on our attitude. The way we choose to see things and respond to others makes all the difference. To do the best we can and then choose to be happy about our circumstances, whatever they may be, can bring peace and contentment."
Attitude is a choice. The greatest gift God has given us is our agency. We must use our agency wisely and righteously, no matter the circumstances. 2 Nephi 2:27 tells us that we are "free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil. . ." Choosing to find joy in our situation, however powerless we may be to change it, is a victory over Satan for Christ. Choosing to employ a good attitude is choosing to let the Light of Christ brighten the darkest and most difficult times in your life.
Key number two is pretty big, and I think it deserves some serious consideration:
Believe in yourself, in others, and in eternal principles.
I have never really thought that believing in myself was an essential part of the gospel, but it makes sense. I am a daughter of God, and with that divine inheritance my only limitations are ones that I place on myself. President Monson will back me up. He says, "Don't limit yourself and don't let others convince you that you are limited in what you can do. Believe in yourself and live so as to reach your possibilities."
Three summers ago, I participated in a study abroad program in England. We spent one rainy afternoon in the city of Oxford ad I fell madly in love-- with the grand architecture, with the elegant, willowy river, with the fact that there are no formal classes at the graduate level of the university there. I decided that after I complete my Bachelor's degree, I'm going to attend that school.
But then I came home and I settled into my old routine and doubts crept in one by one. It's too far away, I'll never get good enough grades, I'm never gonna graduate, it's too much of a stretch to think that someone like little old me could end up in one of the most prestigious schools in the world.
Then one day, as I was stewing in my disappointment and misery, the Spirit whispered this crucial truth (and it has stuck with me): "The only thing holding you back is you."
Doctrine and Covenants 6:43-47 reads, "Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good, let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. . .
"Look unto me in every though; doubt not, fear not. . .
"Be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of Heaven." [emphasis added]
The Lord has expressed His utmost confidence in us-- He believes in you. If you believe that He is God, that He created all things in Heaven and on Earth, if you believe that He provided the perfect plan and makes all things possible for His children, why is it so hard to believe that He believes in you?
"You can achieve what you believe you can. Trust and believe and have faith."
I recently read a book about a woman who travelled all over the world with her husband. She said that the more she travelled, the more she came to realize that we are all God's children. She was born in raised in Turkey, was engaged to a Nigerian man, ended up marrying a Canadian, with whom she traversed the globe. Everyone she met was someone else God loved and looked after. She realized that everyone deserves the same respect and care that God himself would give them, regardless of how they treated her or how she thought herself superior.
This reminds me of the story of Zeezrom in chapters 11-13 of Alma. When Alma and Amulek first meet Zeezrom, he harasses the believers and tries to trick Amulek into denying God. For a good portion of their mission Zeezrom is a thorn in their side. But when he was ready, the Lord had mercy on Zeezrom and sent Alma and Amulek to heal him from a grave illness. He repented and went on to baptize hundreds into the Church.
"Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son." [Alma 12:34, emphasis added]
It is essential that we believe in ourselves, believe in others, and believe in the eternal principles that bind us together and make us equally important in the eyes of the Lord.
President Monson's final key to the abundant life is face challenges with courage. I believe that this encompasses both of the previous points. President Monson said that "Courage. . . is . . . not so much. . . a willingness to die manfully, but. . . a determination to live decently." He continues, "There will be times when you will be frightened and discouraged. You may feel that you are defeated. The odds of obtaining a victory may appear overwhelming. At times you may feel like David trying to fight Goliath. But remember-- David did win!"
Yesterday, my sister-in-law gave birth to her third child, a beautiful, healthy little girl. I had the privilege of bringing her other two children (just 3 and 1) to see baby Browyn. As I watched Kelsey press her nose to the glass of the nursery window and saw the pure joy on my older brother's face while he cradled his daughter, it became very clear to me that this is the abundant life. These are the blessings that will some day be ours if we heed the prophet's voice and obey the commandments of God. I know that families are eternal and that, likewise, our joy can be eternal.
I know that President Monson knows what he's talking about. He delivers messages to us that God would give if He were here. I am so grateful to belong to this church and to know that it is led by a prophet. I know that the abundant life can be ours if we follow his counsel and live our lives the way Christ would have us live.