Despite the rising costs, wholehearted Christian discipleship brings immeasurable blessings, said Reid Neilson, assistant academic vice president for religious scholarly publications, during his Tuesday devotional address.
“All of us are here today because someone, maybe even you, set aside the things of the world, counted the costs of discipleship and paid both known and unknown costs to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. But that legacy requires continual renewal.”
Before following Jesus Christ, one must consider the level of commitment it will take to ensure lasting conversion, Neilson stated.
“Covenants, especially those made in holy temples, help us chart our discipleship over time.”
Neilson shared that as a 19-year-old going through the temple for the first time, he didn't fully understand the commitments he was making to the Lord and the overwhelming blessings that would follow.
“To the best of my youthful understanding, I had counted the costs of Christian discipleship and was eager to pay the price. In hindsight, however, I have come to appreciate how little I then understood both the demands and the blessings of discipleship.”
Over time, Neilson has come to the realization that the Lord seeks more than our time, talents and possessions; He desires our hearts, minds and wills. His boundless wisdom enables Him to achieve far more with these than we can on our own.
“Our willingness to consecrate these intangibles indicates how firmly planted our feet are on the pathway of discipleship.”
About nine months into their time presiding over the Washington D.C. North Mission, Nielson and his wife experienced many unknown costs and challenges when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and drastically altered their service.
“Starting on March 16, 2020, our missionaries were confined to their apartments, an isolation that ended up lasting fifteen long months. Tracting and street contacting came to an end. Online proselyting and Zoom video conferences replaced in-person meetings and interviews.”
During this time, President Dallin H. Oaks met with mission leaders over Zoom and provided Neilson and his wife great counsel and comfort.
Quoting President Oaks, Nielson recalled the counsel to “encourage [your missionaries] to ponder the fact that their disruptions and inconveniences in the current pandemic are not unique in the work of the Lord or in the services of their ancestors or fellow members. Teach them to remember the heritage of faith of those who have gone before.”
This guidance proved to be a profound blessing for both the Nielson family and the missionaries, with many expressing a shared positive sentiment as they drew parallels between their own trials and those endured by the Saints who preceded them.
During this time, the Neilsons also often heard a disheartening phrase from many of the missionaries under their care: “This isn't what I signed up for!”
Neilson recounted his wife's response to the missionaries' worry. She questioned, “When you put in your mission papers, when you sent in your signed acceptance letter to the First Presidency, when you entered the Missionary Training Center, what exactly did you sign up for? Did you list any conditions, limitations or stipulations to your service?”
The missionaries collectively realized that the commitment they had made involved placing trust in the Lord, inviting others to follow Christ and persisting faithfully, no matter the circumstances, Neilson said.
Every one of God’s children, including Neilson himself, has had moments of declaring “This isn’t what I signed up for!” It is in these times that we must stay closest to the Lord, and be willing to sacrifice on His behalf.
“I’m regularly reminded that just as there are known and unknown costs, there are also anticipated and unanticipated blessings that far surpass any cost we are asked to pay.”