Sunday, August 9, 2015

Neil L. Andersen on God's help in challenges

Elder Neil L. Andersen (1951- ) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009.
"I love these words from a favorite hymn:
"'The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
  I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
  That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
  I'll never, no never, I'll never, no never,
  I'll never, no never, no never forsake.'
('How Firm a Foundation,' Hymns, no. 85)
"Perfection does not come in this life, but we exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and keep our covenants. President Monson has promised, 'Your testimony, when constantly nourished, will keep you safe' (Ensign, May 2009, 126). We push our spiritual roots deep, feasting daily on the words of Christ in the scriptures. We trust in the words of living prophets, placed before us to show us the way. We pray and pray and listen to the quiet voice of the Holy Ghost that leads us along and speaks peace to our soul. Whatever challenges arise, we never, never leave Him."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Never Leave Him", Ensign, November 2010, p. 39
Click here to read the full talk

The refrain on the hymn Elder Andersen quotes used to bother me.  All the "nevers" — couldn't the author come up with something a little more creative to match the notes than repeating the same word SEVEN times?? But then one day in singing those words it occurred to me that the repetition might be symbolic of the unrelenting perseverance sometimes required of us in life. There are times when "all hell... endeavor[s] to shake" our souls from our course, and we have to be committed to lean on Jesus for repose, never giving up, never being swayed, regardless of how long it takes. Perhaps the determination represented by those seven nevers is not far off. Or, depending how you interpret the ambiguous "I" — it could be Jesus saying that he will never forsake us as long as we lean on Him for repose. Either interpretation is insightful.

This same spirit was reflected in another repetition of nevers, uttered by Winston Churchill in one of his famous rallying cries, given at Harrow School on October 29, 1941 as the British people were being faced with an enemy's onslaught:
"Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense."
The essence of Elder Andersen's message relates to how we endure the onslaughts of daily living through faithfulness, persistence, and proper focus. I love the imagery of "push[ing] our spiritual roots deep" through daily feasting on the scriptures.

Yesterday I planted a peach tree in my back yard. I brought it home from the nursery in a bucket that it had been grown in—convenient for transport, but the roots were tight and compressed in their limited space. As I prepared the location to plant the tree, I wanted to make sure there was space for those roots to grow strong.  I dug much deeper than needed, loosening soil and removing rocks that would have impeded growth. I will try to train the roots to become strong through regimens of watering and fertilization, so the tree itself can survive onslaughts that might weaken it, and have maximum chance for nourishment and growth.

What great symbolism for our lives. Elder Andersen builds on that imagery, as he encourages us to "never, never leave Him."

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