Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve taught BYU students how they can become lifelong converts and “live happily ever after.”
In his Sept. 14 devotional address, Elder Renlund said lifelong conversion to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ requires “engaging with each element of the doctrine of Christ” and doing so with spiritual resilience, regardless of one’s circumstances.
“To live happily ever after is not that simple,” Elder Renlund said. “But it is also not really that complicated either.”
Elder Renlund explained three major steps individuals can take as they strive to develop a lifelong conversion: “repeatedly and iteratively” worthily partaking of the sacrament, increasing faith in Jesus Christ and repenting.
Enduring to the end
The doctrine of Christ consists of faith in the Savior and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.
Elder Renlund reminded the audience that enduring to the end is not simply following the completion of those first four steps then waiting to die.
“No,” Elder Renlund said, “enduring to the end is actively and intentionally repeating the steps of the doctrine of Christ.”
Repeatedly living the doctrine of Christ means it is a central and constant part of daily life. Elder Renlund taught the audience to not only repeat these steps but do so “iteratively,” meaning to “change and improve with each cycle.” The steps of the doctrine of Christ build upon each other, with repentance following faith in Jesus Christ and baptism and companionship of the Holy Ghost following repentance.
Elder Renlund compared this devoted and diligent life to driving on “a long road ascending to a mountain peak.” He said each cycle ends progressively higher.
“In this way, the doctrine of Christ is iterative. Cycling iteratively through the elements of the doctrine of Christ enables us to endure to the end.”
Partaking of the sacrament
Elder Renlund emphasized that partaking of the sacrament is an essential link to baptism and experiencing its blessings repeatedly throughout life.
The sacrament is essential against the backdrop of both the good and poor choices people make. The sacrament is equally essential despite the busyness of work or school, he said.
Elder Renlund shared his own life experience learning of the sacrament’s importance. Because of the rigorous demands of his medical profession, he said he missed many sacrament meetings during his career.
He drew a connection between missing the sacrament and losing sleep; it’s impossible to store up sleep against a time of sleeplessness. Similarly, he said, one cannot store-up spiritually in preparation for missing the sacrament.
“I recognized that this was dangerous,” Elder Renlund said. “I tried to compensate for it. I prayed and studied more. But these things did not adequately compensate for missing the sacrament.”
This “seemingly small action” of missing the sacrament can jeopardize things of eternal nature, he said. “To willfully choose to not partake of the sacrament when you could is a spiritual death trap.”
Increasing faith in Jesus Christ through repentance
Just as baptism and partaking of the sacrament are not isolated events, neither is nurturing and growing faith in the Savior, Elder Renlund explained.
“(Faith) begins by choosing and desiring to believe,” Elder Renlund said. “It treats Christ’s gospel as a seed, planting it and then acting in faith to nurture it.”
A foundation to lifelong conversion to Jesus Christ is to know that His word doctrine is good and true, Elder Renlund said. “That knowledge prompts us to trust the faith we already have and to act in faith.”
He recounted the teachings of President Russell M. Nelson as he spoke about choosing to embrace and earnestly seek the freedom that comes with repentance, rather than fearing it.
Elder Renlund also acknowledged the trials faced by “those of us with overexpressed guilt genes.” To those who face overwhelming feelings of guilt, Elder Renlund shared a quote from Nelson Mandela: “I’m no saint — that is, unless you think a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.”
While perfection seems distant and impossible, Elder Renlund reminded the audience that it is possible through repentance and “relying on Jesus Christ.”
Elder Renlund said engaging with each element of the doctrine of Christ is essential to not only becoming converted but staying converted. He pointed out that the ascending “mountain road” had no perfectly flat road or plateau; “no place to pause and rest; the course either goes up or down.”
If one were driving up this mountain and shifted the car into neutral, the car would inevitably roll backward. Elder Renlund likened this to people’s need to not only embark on the upward path, but remain on it at an upward trajectory.
“Ultimately, whether we remain converted throughout our life depends on our determination to be engaged with the doctrine of Christ,” Elder Renlund said.
Elder Renlund described such determination using the Finnish word “sisu.” The word is roughly translated into English as “stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, resilience and hardiness.”
He said someone with “sisu” decides on a course of action and adheres to it “no matter what.” This “sisu” is the determination one needs to stay on the covenant path.
Elder Renlund went on to teach that spiritual “sisu” is manifest in an unwavering commitment to “repeatedly and iteratively” worthily partake of the sacrament, increase faith in Jesus Christ and repent. He also said spiritual “sisu” is required for remaining converted regardless of life circumstances.
Elder Renlund closed by teaching that engaging with the doctrine of Christ develops the spiritual resilience necessary for a lifelong conversion and thus leading to “living happily ever after.”