We’ve all heard stories of people who stood for Christ through their whole lives. People like prophets, martyrs, pioneers, even family members, all who willingly made sacrifices, struggled through seemingly impossible circumstances, and changed their lives to follow Christ.
What is it about these people that helped them to continue forward, even facing death and loss, without losing faith? I suppose there could be a lot of answers, but I think that Nephi has a good one.
In 1 Nephi,we read about Nephi and his brothers following their parents out into the wilderness to escape threats of murder and destruction in Jerusalem. During their travels, the Lord gave the group a device called the Liahona, which guided them along the way.
Nephi states that the Liahona “did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto [it]” (1 Nephi 16:28). We may not have a device like the Liahona in our lives, but we do have our Savior, His teachings, and the Holy Spirit that can guide us along our way.
I believe that the people who stood for Christ in all those stories were people who knew how to hold to and exercise faith, diligence, and heed to God. Their examples can help us to see how we can also stand for Christ in every circumstance we face.
Faith in Christ is really the starting point for everything else in the gospel. With it comes testimony, closer relationships to God, miracles, guidance, covenants, and spiritual strength. Holding to it and allowing it to strengthen through continual challenges and questions carries us closer to Christ.
A good example of great faith is Louisa Gwyther. She grew up in a wealthy British family, but after joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when she was 22, her family disowned her. Her father was especially angry, as he was a Baptist minister and saw her joining another church as a betrayal.
She stayed with the Church the rest of her life. She married in England and had two children before moving to the United States to meet her husband who had gone ahead of the family. While preparing to leave to the U.S., Louisa’s sister, Emma, begged her not to go. Emma told Louisa that she could rejoin the family if she renounced the Church and the gospel.
Louisa wouldn’t. Emma attempted to hide one of Louisa’s daughters to keep them from leaving, but Louisa and her two daughters made it onto the ship and convinced the ship’s captain to leave in the middle of the night so Emma wouldn’t be able to stop them.
After leaving England, Louisa’s faith carried her through nearly dying, crossing the U.S. to Utah, birthing three more children, and losing one of the children to illness. She lived a long life, and after her death, her children remembered her for her strong testimony and faith that the gospel of Jesus Christ was true.
Louisa stood for Christ in every circumstance that she faced. I’m impressed by her story because I think I’d really struggle to leave my family behind like she did. But she knew the truth and refused to let anything take it away from her.
Faith is a tough subject to cover in just a few paragraphs. I’m pretty sure people have written full books on the topic, so a tiny section of a blog post can’t cover everything about it. I can say this – without faith in Christ, we can’t stand for Christ. Faith takes time to grow and strengthen, but when we have faith, we have enough of a testimony to hold on to through anything we face.
With faith, doubts and questions don’t matter. We believe in the truth, and everything else will be learned and understood with time and effort.
I think that faith and diligence show themselves in similar ways – a determination to hold to what we believe in. Neither faith nor diligence is just believing. Both require action. Diligence, in fact, is defined as persistent work or effort.
In those times when faith might be struggling, I think diligence can help us continue forward as our faith is being strengthened. It’s the determination to keep going to church, studying the scriptures, praying, and hoping when doubts, challenges, or fears pressure faith to leave. Really, as far as I understand, faith and diligence work as a team, each supporting the other.
Moses, to me, shows diligence in his calling from the Lord (Exodus 3-14). God asked him to do what we can’t even imagine – to walk into Egypt and free millions of people from bondage.
Moses’ faith helped him start, but his diligence kept him going through disagreements with the Pharaoh, the ten plagues, and the many difficulties of the following forty years in the wilderness. I’m sure there were times when Moses wasn’t sure that he’d be able to succeed in freeing the Israelites, but he knew that God had commanded him to free them, and he diligently did everything he could to fulfill this. Because he was so willing to work diligently, he received powerful aid from God to complete his mission.
Diligence is something I see in people all the time. I’ve seen it in family members working to hold true to their beliefs when everything seems against them. I’ve seen diligence in members of my ward who were full of questions and uncertainties but kept looking for answers anyway.
I wish I could pick just one example of diligence from these many people to help illustrate what this looks like, but I see it in so many places that I want to challenge you to look for people in your life who continually work to become better, to learn and accept the gospel, and to change their hearts to stand up for Christ. I think you’ll be surprised at how many people around you exemplify this.
Heed, which I’d also call obedience, means acting on the things Christ has taught us to do and what the Holy Spirit directs us to do. Elder Ronald A. Rasband recommends that when we are impressed by the Spirit to act, that “We must act on the first prompting.” Later, in the same talk, he adds,
Now a caution: don’t expect fireworks because you responded to the Holy Ghost. Remember, you are about the work of the still, small voice.Elder Ronald A. Rasband, “Let the Holy Spirit Guide,” 2017
Elder Rasband’s talk is great for inspiring us to act quickly, so I really recommend reading it over. I do think responding immediately is something we may struggle with at times. We tend to question or hesitate before responding to the prompting.
It may take time to learn to act immediately, so we can’t be too hard on ourselves. However, if we hold to the goal to always act sooner than we did before, I think we can make great spiritual progress in standing for Christ.
Alma the Younger, in the Book of Mormon, is a good example of learning to heed the Lord. He, similar to Paul, spent a lot of time mocking the people in the Church and not bothering to live the gospel himself.
Then, one day, an angel literally stopped him in his tracks. Now, most of us don’ t need an intervention from God that directly, but this angel was part of Alma’s path of learning. The angel told Alma he needed to stop his wicked behavior and repent, otherwise, he would lose his soul. More or less. (Alma 36)
This experience completely changed Alma and everything he was doing in his life. He learned to listen to God and the Spirit. In fact, later in his life, Alma was visited by the same angel again, but this time he wasn’t chastised.
Alma was on a mission to teach the people in Ammonihah, but they’d refused to listen, so Alma was walking to another city when the angel returned. The angel told him he’d done well since they’d last talked, and gave instructions for how Alma could return to Ammonihah. It’s a sign of how much Alma had grown that he immediately returned to Ammonihah to follow the instructions the angel had brought from God. (Alma 8)
Our learning curve is probably different from Alma’s. But he shows us that no matter what point we are at now, we can start listening to our Father in Heaven to make changes in our lives and in the lives of others. And the more we do this, the easier it will become to have that immediate response to the Spirit.
There are lots of ways we can stand up for Christ in our lives, but I think working to develop these three characteristics of faith, diligence, and heeding the Lord will help us focus those efforts so we can receive more guidance and strength from our Father to do His work.
Let’s pray this week to learn which of these three characteristics needs our attention most. We can all look for ways to develop that characteristic. If you have any ideas for how we can learn more about faith, diligence, and obedience, share with us in the comments below!