Sunday, January 8, 2017

Settle This in Your Hearts

People have all kinds of reasons for not doing all kinds of things in life. Some won't go to war. Some don't want to work. Some excuse their way out of responsibility. Some claim to be too tired, ill, busy, poor, or self-conscious to get involved. Some claim self-importance and talent only for bigger things. There are those content to let somebody else do it and others who simply talk up a storm about love or peace or investing one's humanity. Yes, there are all kinds of reasons and all kinds of people.

That is the introductory paragraph to an article by Leon R. Hartshorn about President Heber J. Grant (New Era, January 1972). President Grant was the seventh president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and widely known as a man without excuses. "If it wasn't an easy task," Hartshorn explained, "he worked to bring about the proper result anyway. He tackled the impossible with enthusiasm, rising to the challenge in seeming glee."

One of the best-known stories about President Grant is about how he learned to play baseball. As the only child of his widowed mother, President Grant wrote of his childhood that he "grew more or less on the principle of a hothouse plant, the growth of which is 'long and lanky' but not substantial. I learned to sweep, and to wash and wipe dishes, but did little stone throwing and little indulging in those sports which are interesting and attractive to boys, and which develop their physical frames."

As a result, when he finally joined a baseball club he was assigned to play with boys two age groups younger than his own because he didn't have the strength to run, bat or even throw a ball to the next base. He was teased by the other boys and it would seem he had many good reasons to quit. He wasn't very athletic and clearly baseball wasn't his thing. Besides, did he really need to endure the verbal abuse of his peers or the embarrassment of playing with kids much younger than himself? Wouldn't his time be better spent helping his widowed mother or developing talents he was already inclined to do well?

People have all kinds of reasons for not doing all kinds of things in life, but not Heber J. Grant. He later stated, "So much fun was engendered on my account by my youthful companions that I solemnly vowed that I would play baseball in the nine that would win that championship of the Territory of Utah."

President Grant started saving his tips from shining shoes and soon had enough to buy a baseball. "I spent hours and hours throwing the ball at Bishop Edwin D. Woolley's barn, which caused him to refer to me as the laziest boy in the Thirteenth Ward. Often my arm would ache so that I could scarcely go to sleep at night. But I kept on practicing and... eventually played in the nine that won the championship of the territory and beat the nine that had won the championship for California, Colorado, and Wyoming" (Presidents of the Church Student Manual, (2012), 122-29).

President Grant's unwillingness to excuse himself from difficult tasks aided his rise in business and helped him to be a trusted instrument in the Lord's work. This principle of success is illustrated again in the Parable of the Great Supper. Speaking to a group of lawyers and Pharisees, Christ taught:

A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.

And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.

And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper (Luke 14:16-24).

There may be times when our reasons are valid and we ought to excuse ourselves; but when it comes to living the gospel, we will always forfeit blessings when put other priorities above the Lord. In the Savior's words, "Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. Wherefore, settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you" (JST Luke 14:27-28).

President Grant solemnly vowed to play on the baseball team that won the territorial championship before he could throw a ball to the next base or swing a baseball bat, but he was successful because he began with end in mind and worked diligently toward his goal. Just as a surgeon doesn't make an incision without a plan for closing it and a track star doesn't start a race without knowing where the finish line is, we should settle in our hearts what our lives will be about. Will we accept the Lord's invitation to be his disciples or will we make excuses to justify our absence? Though we will not speak at our own funerals, we determine to a large degree what others will say by the way we live our lives with or without excuse.

If we decide to be disciples of Christ, there will certainly be hard times ahead. That path has never been easy. We bear our cross when we face those challenges we don't want to face with faith in God's plan for us. Christ did not say he would suffer in Gethsemane as long as he didn't miss the game or die for us unless it would embarrass him in public. Rather, he put aside even his best excuses to do the will of the Father. As the cross is a symbol of Christ's death, we bear our cross when we live and die for him, for others, and for the gospel.

People have all kinds of reasons for not doing all kinds of things in life. The Lord challenges us to settle in our hearts now whether we will follow him when the prophet says something we don't like, when we're tempted to watch popular but offensive movies and television shows, or when we need to repent of our sins or forgive someone else. He challenges us to settle in our hearts now whether we will be disciples like President Grant or if we're too tired, ill, busy, poor or self-important to attend the Great Supper of blessings he has prepared for us.

Yes, there are all kinds of reasons and all kinds of people. Who are you going to be?

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