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Intentional Gospel Living

This devotional speech was given preceding a speech entitled "Teach Me All That I Must Be" given by President John S. Tanner.

I am grateful to be with you in this historic, beautiful setting. I feel great love for each of you students and the whole University ohana. Today I will briefly focus with you on the idea or word “intentional.”

This is a word that President Russell M. Nelson seems to like to both use and practice. It is not found in the scriptures that I know of, but there are words and phrases with similar meanings like “with real intent” or “with full purpose of heart” or even “with all your heart, mind, and strength.” All of these words mean that you work towards something with design, purpose, intention or determination. Having a goal or an aim or a plan is the foundation. The plan provides something on which we can focus our hearts and minds.

Let me illustrate the importance of having a plan by telling two grandchildren stories. Our grandson Joshua is the oldest child in his family. When his baby sister was born, I was there to help. Each morning bright and early, 2-year-old Joshua would come running out of his room asking, “What is the plan today, Mommy?” Every day he had the same question, wanting to know what to expect for that day. Just recently I spent some time at his home. He continues to be a delight to be around as a 17-year-old now. The first thing I would hear from him each morning was “Hey Mom, what’s the plan today?” Over all these years, not much had changed. He still had the same important question.

At Christmas time, our 6-year-old granddaughter Carlie visited us. She was up early every morning snuggling in a cozy chair while I got ready. And her first question to me each day was, “What is the plan for today, Grandma?’ On that first morning, 3 days before Christmas, I told her that we had exciting activities planned for each day. Then I told her about all of our visitors and parties and cousin time and about all of the work we would need to do to make it happen. Her eyes sparkled with excitement. And she ran with purpose to get dressed so she could help, and to tell her mommy the fun plan.

Why is having and knowing what the plan is so important that Joshua and Carlie would ask about it every single day -- and for Joshua for over 15 years? A plan gives guidance to our lives. It allows us to see the whole or at least the larger picture. It gives us a feeling of security, of excitement or happiness. Ultimately, it gives us purpose and focus.

Heavenly Father has provided a great plan for us, for all of those reasons. Every day in my prayers, I praise Him for this Plan of Happiness and for my knowledge of it, and for His son Jesus Christ who came to earth to fulfill that Plan. I find great security in knowing my eternal purpose here, in having a sense of the whole picture. It guides my actions. My choices become very intentional, purposeful, and deliberate.

We live in an era that will require from us very intentional efforts in teaching, learning, and living the Gospel, and striving to become like our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our prophet President Russell M. Nelson said,

“I am optimistic about the future. It will be filled with opportunities for each of us to progress, contribute, and take the gospel to every corner of the earth. But I am also not naïve about the days ahead. We live in a world that is complex and increasingly contentious.” (Ensign, May 2018, p. 96)

Our living prophet/president is intentional about becoming like the Savior. And he is asking us to also be purposeful in this effort. We feel his urgency to have us live the gospel with all of hearts, minds and strength. This is not a time to be casual, to waffle, to be lazy, to let things just happen as they may. This is the time to gather Israel, to prepare the world for Christ’s coming. He is telling us to live the gospel more intentionally.

“My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. . . Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the spirit more frequently and more clearly.”

He is telling us to intentionally make our homes into Gospel Training Centers.
“. . . each family [should] conscientiously and carefully transform their home into a sanctuary of faith. . . remodel your home into a center of Gospel learning. . .”

He is telling us to study the scriptures with purpose.

“Read the Book of Mormon between now and the end of the year. . . If you will accept this invitation with full purpose of heart, the Lord will help you find a way to achieve it.”

He is telling us to teach of Christ intentionally.

“Be intentional about talking of Christ, rejoicing in Christ, and preaching of Christ with your families and friends.”

Just a brief story about this. Last fall I asked each of our married children to find ways to strengthen their families, and I gave them some materials and talks about families that they could use in their family home evenings. But one of my daughters came to me shortly thereafter and apologetically told me that she probably wouldn’t be using the talks I had suggested. As she studied the recent Conference, she had felt impressed that they should focus all of their study time on Jesus Christ and becoming like Him. She was right! She was being intentional about talking, preaching and rejoicing in Christ, and she was receiving revelation for her family, as the prophet encouraged.

Our prophet has asked us to “leave the world behind as we assist in this crucial and urgent work.” We must be intentional, purposeful, and deliberate – more than ever before. As Elder D. Todd Christofferson reiterated:

“To persevere firm and steadfast in the faith of Christ requires that the Gospel of Jesus Christ penetrate one’s heart and soul, meaning that the gospel becomes not just one of many influences in a person’s life but the defining focus of his or her life and character.”
How can each of us be more intentional about making the gospel “the defining focus” in our lives, whether it be in our education, our Church service, our family lives, or our personal righteousness?

I encourage you to be intentional about your education. Most of you in this audience are students. You are at a gospel-centered university. This is a relatively short and unique time in your lives where you have the opportunity to learn, to prepare for a career, to develop leadership skills, to come to know more about the gospel and the temple, all in a setting infused with the spirit. I know the stories of many of you who have sacrificed everything to be here, who have spent years of preparation so you could have this opportunity. Your time here will only be as effective as you make it. Will you study, work, and serve with real intent and with full purpose of heart? If you do, you will receive many promised blessings because you are taking advantage of this experience very intentionally and purposefully.

All of us need to be intentional about teaching in our families. Recently our daughter had an unexpected occasion to teach with purpose in her home. She and her husband had been planning to talk with their 8-year-old daughter about the “facts of life,” but just had not gotten around to finding a quiet, special time to do so. But the opportunity came one night at the dinner table, while her husband was still at work, and the daughter opened the subject with a specific question. In a split second a hundred thoughts went through our daughter’s mind: “where is Brad when I need him?; should I just stall and tell her I’ll answer her later?; what simple message can I give her in front of the younger children?; and then a silent prayer: “Heavenly Father help me to teach her appropriately with the Spirit, now.” And that is what she did. She used truths and language from the Proclamation on the Family, simple explanations with each ensuing question. The littler ones drifted away as they lost interest, but this daughter felt affirmed, happy, well-taught, and willing to come back for more conversations. This comes from well prepared parents who seek to continually have the spirit, so they can call upon it at the needed moments. This is what purposeful parenting looks like.

I once asked Elder Bednar with his busy schedule how he stays close to his family and how he teaches them. He is very intentional about it. In July, when he has time off they gather together at a beach house on the East Coast of the United States. There they play together and bond with each other. He asks the adults to come with their gospel questions and their parenting concerns, so that when the little ones go to sleep the adults can discuss their questions and help one another learn and grow. He asks the children to come with a goal to be achieved in the coming year. They remember and review last year’s goals and then proceed to new ones. His time with them is short, but purposeful.

Each of you is stretched to the limit with your many responsibilities, but you must be very intentional about learning and living the gospel and if you have children, about teaching your little ones. To paraphrase President Nelson words, but using a family theme:

“In the coming days, it will not be possible for our children to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the intentional teaching of righteous parents.”

Let us be intentional teachers and intentional learners and follow Jesus Christ with full purpose of heart.

What do the scriptures promise us if we are intentional followers of Christ? If we embrace his great plan and “follow the Son with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent. . .then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost.” If we come to him with all of our hearts, he will deliver us out of bondage, heal us, and gather us. I want and need these blessings.

And what is our prophet promising us if we are intentional followers of Christ? The heavens will be opened to our minds and hearts with increased inspiration and revelation. We will feel a closeness to our Savior. Miracles will abound, and dramatic and sustained changes will occur in our families. We will be given special power from on high, and the Savior’s love will dwell with us. I want and need these blessings.

Brothers and Sisters, I praise the Lord for His purposeful plan for us. I am grateful that we have a knowledge and understanding of His love and blessings. I know we have a living prophet who is encouraging intentional preparation for His second coming to the earth. What a glorious time we live in! What wonderful opportunities are ours! I pray we might each live the Gospel and follow Jesus Christ with enthusiasm, with real intent, and with full purpose of heart, purposefully and intentionally.