Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Elder David A. Bednar on progress through righteousness and Atonement

Elder David A. Bednar (born June 15, 1952) was serving as the president of BYU–Idaho when he was called and sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2004.
"The gospel of Jesus Christ encompasses much more than avoiding, overcoming, and being cleansed from sin and the bad influences in our lives; it also essentially entails doing good, being good, and becoming better. Repenting of our sins and seeking forgiveness are spiritually necessary, and we must always do so. But remission of sin is not the only or even the ultimate purpose of the gospel. To have our hearts changed by the Holy Spirit such that 'we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually' (Mosiah 5:2), as did King Benjamin's people, is the covenant responsibility we have accepted. This mighty change is not simply the result of working harder or developing greater individual discipline. Rather, it is the consequence of a fundamental change in our desires, our motives, and our natures made possible through the Atonement of Christ the Lord. Our spiritual purpose is to overcome both sin and the desire to sin, both the taint and the tyranny of sin.
"Prophets throughout the ages have emphasized the dual requirements of (1) avoiding and overcoming bad and (2) doing good and becoming better. Consider the penetrating questions posed by the Psalmist:
"'Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?
"'He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully' (Psalm 24:3-4).
"Brothers and sisters, it is possible for us to have clean hands but not have a pure heart. Please notice that both clean hands and a pure heart are required to ascend into the hill of the Lord and to stand in His holy place."
- David A. Bednar, "Clean Hands and a Pure Heart," Ensign, November 2007, pp. 80-83
Click here to read or listen to the full talk
While the scriptures contain many admonitions related to eliminating sin and evil from our lives, what Elder Bednar points out is that there is more to our spiritual growth and development than that. In addition to cutting out the bad, we need to fill in with good—active obedience, unselfish service, faithful devotions and worship. When we "have our hearts changed by the Holy Spirit" we begin to have the desire "to do good continually" and that makes all the difference. It's critical to remember how that "mighty change" of the heart occurs—not through practice or trying harder, but through allowing the Atonement of the Savior to purge, purify, and strengthen.

It's an interesting thought that we can have "clean hands" through meticulous external efforts to obey the commandments; but that must also be accompanied by a "pure heart" through the power of the Atonement.

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