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Cover image via Mormon Newsroom.
With Christ’s arrival and ministry on the earth, the Law of Moses, practiced for so long before His coming, was fulfilled. ‘Old things had passed away,” “all things had become new” (3 Nephi 15:2). With this renewal came a higher law, no longer could the people measure their righteousness by the number of steps taken on the Sabbath day or by the animals they sacrificed.
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill,” said Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22). This higher law meant that the Lord was no longer asking that His people just go through the motions of obedience. Now He was asking for a broken heart and a contrite Spirit, something infinitely more demanding to give.
This weekend’s General Conference was full of historic changes and all of them amount to the same admonition for us; it is no longer enough to check boxes, our own figurative Law of Moses moment is at its end.
The August 2017 announcement that Relief Society and Priesthood meeting would newly emphasize counseling together and do away with traditional teaching manuals followed by the October 2017 announcement that the Church would no longer be providing Visiting Teaching messages were already distinctive indications of a growing transition for members of the Church.
The emphasis on personal spirituality, revelation and individual Gospel understanding is growing. For many years members of the Church could depend on the structure of manuals and programs for guidance, but now the molds and forms are being pulled away and we each have to see if our own, internal spiritual strength will stand.
This Sunday’s announcement about the dissolution of the Visiting and Home Teaching program is the next surprising step in a growing pattern. In the day and age we live in, the Lord through His prophets is making it abundantly clear that more will be required of us. As Bishop Gérald Caussé said in his Conference address, “Are we active in the Gospel, or are we merely busy in the Church?” The training wheels are coming off now in a way that will make it impossible for anyone to be one without the other.
We live in a time when even the very elect are being deceived, many of us have trusted friends and family who are choosing to turn away from the Gospel and I suspect that pattern will only continue. In other words, the time has passed to go to Church just because you have friends there or because you always have. We have to be hungry for the words of Christ, we have to be daily students of the doctrine of the Gospel and we have anxiously seeking the tutelage of the Spirit.
As Elder Larry Y. Wilson memorably declared in the Sunday Morning session, “The arrival of a typhoon is no time to dust off the gift of the Holy Ghost and figure out how to use it.” Great storms are coming and great storms are already here. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build a personal relationship with the Savior and to utilize the revelation and guidance that He promised us through the gift of the Holy Ghost.
We have to be the kind of saints that will physically stand in the solemn assembly even if we are seeing General Conference alone at home, to sustain the prophets even when no one is watching. We have to read scriptures even when no one is there to read with us and pray in our secret places and not just over the pulpit. Most of all, we have to learn to recognize and heed the Savior’s personal council for us.
But it isn’t just as shelter from the storm that we are being asked with these changes to be more personally involved and accountable. As the newly ordained Elder Gerrit W. Gong said in his first address as an apostle, “we belong to each other.” The checklists are disappearing, but so are the dividing lines between us. These historic changes to the Church’s approach to ministering are not only to increase our personal strength, but to increase our strength as a people.
Think of how much more you have to know and care about each other to fellowship and teach and minister in the way that we are now being asked to do. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt say hello to your visiting teaching sister at least once by the end of the month. But I say unto you that, thou shalt be there for her whole family in their despair and in their joy and know them well enough to know when that is.
Something astonishing that our new prophet President Russell M. Nelson said almost in passing in this weekend’s Conference was that, “Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of his mightiest works between now and when he comes again.” I can’t help but think that our renewed devotion both as individuals and as a united people will be integral in facilitating those mighty works that are still to come. We are essential. We may even be the very ones he needs to accomplish those works.
In the concluding moments of the 188th Annual General Conference, President Nelson casually announced the building of not one or even two or three, but seven new temples. The list included the promise of the first temple to be built in India, a nation of 1.3 billion people, and the first to be built in Russia. The world is opening to the Gospel in unexpected places and in an exciting and unprecedented way.
The work is clearly hastening. Our Law of Moses moment has ended. We know what we need to do.