After watching the April 2018 General Conference, I can’t help but be reminded of the countless talks living prophets and apostles have given previously that have blessed my life. One talk I will never forget is a talk Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave in the October 2012 conference entitled “The First Great Commandment.” Though his message was given years ago, its truths and principles will forever be a reminder of the magnitude of my call to discipleship.
Before Peter lived a life of devoted discipleship, he had an encounter with the Savior that changed his life, which Elder Holland considers to be the crucial turning point in Peter’s apostolic ministry. Here are two principles I learned from Elder Holland that taught me what it truly means to love God.
Love for God is Loyalty to Him
After the resurrected Savior left Jerusalem, Peter, together with other apostles, decided to go fishing. The scripture reads “Simon Peter saith unto them, I go fishing. They say unto him, we also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately.” Then Jesus Christ once more showed himself to them and tested Peter’s loyalty by asking him “Lovest thou me?” three times.
Elder Holland taught that when Judgement Day comes, God will ask us the same question Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” And though we might answer yes, Elder Holland said that our love for God will always be measured by our loyalty, because it is the “crowning characteristic of love.”
This made me ponder how loyal I am to God. I knew that because of the natural man within me, my loyalty sometimes tends to shift toward things that make me happier temporarily. There were times when I felt like the prodigal son who left his father to spend his inheritance elsewhere, or even like Peter who went back to fishing after the Savior’s resurrection.
I was more susceptible to these feelings after my mission because I was afraid that serving God would become second priority due to other temporal goals. But knowing that I can choose to be happy and loyal to Him, the One to whom I owe everything, I accepted callings that I knew would bless the lives of others. By doing so, my love and loyalty to God increased. This taught me that loving God and staying loyal to Him are not consequences of receiving blessings but a choice I can make.
Love of God is discipleship.
In this same talk, Elder Holland taught, “…we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord.” And we do this through the service we render to others.
For some, like myself, a life of devoted discipleship seems like an enormous task to take on. But if we truly love God, we can do all things for Christ who will strengthen us. As the saying goes, “love is the most powerful force,” and our love for God will be the force that turns us into disciples.
Listening to Elder Holland speak, I learned that Peter did not immediately became a great apostle. He went back to fishing immediately after the Savior left. But because he was reminded to love God, he went back to his duties with full purpose of heart. He led the apostles, preached the gospel, and greatly influenced the world in which we now live. The Savior could have done anything to encourage the apostles to do their duties, but He knew that reminding them to love God is the key.
It is the same for us, and it is truly the same for me. My love for God motivated me to become a better disciple. My progress was not at all immediate for I fell short repeatedly during my mission. Nevertheless, I served God willfully, making small and consistent steps, steps I knew I could surely make. Through those steps, my love for Him grew steadily and it allowed me to serve others in greater ways than before. And I believe this is the true essence of discipleship: serving God by serving other people.
Our call to become a loyal disciple.
Elder Holland concluded by testifying, “The call is to come back, to stay true, to love God, and to lend a hand.” There is a great weakness in all of us: the weakness of forgetting the miracles and blessings we have been given. Because of this universal weakness, God has provided prophets and apostles so that we can return to loving God and be reminded of our call to discipleship. May we love Him by showing loyalty and keeping His commandments so we can all stand before God on judgement day and honestly reply, “Yea, Lord, we do love thee.”