Brother Ralph N. Christensen
Managing Director of Human Resources, LDS Church
"Fulfilling the Measure of Our Creation"
Ralph N. Christensen
October 3, 2006
My wonderful brothers and sisters of BYU–Idaho, it is truly a sacred privilege to be with with you this afternoon for the purpose of sharing in the good word of God. Sister Christensen, who is an alum of Ricks College, and I thoroughly loved strolling around this beautiful campus this morning. How blessed you are for this season of your lives. I have been deeply blessed as I have sought the direction of the Lord in preparing these comments. May His spirit be with each of us that we might be edified.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught on one occasion:
Our course as members of the Church should be compliance with the principles and ordinances of the gospel. Our goal should be to fill the measure of our creation as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father—that is, to reach exaltation and eternal life.¹
With the aid of the Holy Ghost I would like to explore 2 questions:
- What is the measure of our creation?
- How might we attain it?
Allow me to begin by sharing two stories:
Some years ago while serving as a stake president, I pled with the Lord that He would direct my feet to someone for whom I might turn priesthood keys in inviting them back into the fold. At the time I was traveling rather frequently in my work. One Monday morning I got on the flight that I took regularly to Salt Lake City where I was doing some work for the Church. Only this morning I did something that I had never done before. As I checked in, I felt prompted to change my seat to the back of the plane. I never sit in the back of the plane. I like to get as close to the front as possible so that I can make a quick get away as soon as we touch down. How grateful I am that I followed this prompting. I made my way to the back of the plane and took my seat. As I did so, a man in the row ahead of me asked if I would mind sitting with him. I looked around in surprise and agreed to do so. After exchanging pleasantries about the work that took each of us to Salt Lake, he said that he was a member of the Mormon Church but that he had been highly inactive for years. This confession seemed to open a floodgate of emotion as he began to express details of the many and deep indiscretions that had led him away from the Church. After a few minutes I interrupted him and said, “While I appreciate your openness, before you go any further I should let you know that I am probably your Stake President. He slowed, only ever so slightly, and said, “Yes, I thought that I recognized you as my Stake President. I have seen you get on this flight and sit up front several times in recent months and have just been hoping that we might have the chance to talk. May we continue?” We spoke non-stop for the rest of the flight and many other times in the months that followed. It was easy to develop a deep love for this brother and new friend as we walked together through his repentance process. I asked him often, “What in the world was it that prompted you to make such a dramatic change in lifestyle as you have come back into the Church?” He was always very clear that he felt a burning within his soul that there was something far more meaningful in life than the world’s “high life” that he was then living. He was driven to get back in touch with the real meaning that he had experienced years earlier. He was looking for purpose beyond that which the world can offer.
Now a second story . . . the August 2006 Ensign provides a touching story of Liz Shropshire, who was a single adult member of the Church living in California. Liz was also a music teacher and composer. She decided to “visit Austria because of its rich musical heritage.” “Shortly after Liz purchased her ticket to Europe, she heard a heartbreaking radio account about the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of minority groups then taking place in Kosovo. Liz says that as she heard of the suffering of these people, her heart became so filled that she felt that she needed to be there”. To make a most touching story short, she did go to Kosovo to share her musical gifts with the suffering. Her music brought a glimmer of joy to hundreds and then thousands of people who had so little joy in their lives. Over time she spread her message of hope through music to other countries—benefiting now over 8,000 people. Liz says, “I knew that what I’d been doing in Kosovo felt more right than anything else I’d done in years. Before I came, I felt I’d just been living for myself. Looking at various experiences I’d had in my life, I felt that this was something I’d been prepared to do. I used to think that being rich simply meant having money. But I have realized that being rich means being able to share whatever it is we’re blessed with. Although I have never had less of the things of the world than I have now, I have never been so rich.”
Now what do these two people have in common?
Each of these two people found deep within themselves a burning desire to identify and then fulfill their core purpose. One used this desire to lift himself out of serious problems, the other to raise herself above the routine of day-to-day life. The Lord refers to this core purpose as “the measure of our creation”. He taught that after our soul “hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father”.²
What is the measure of our creation? Remember, Elder Wirthlin taught that the measure of our creation is to achieve exaltation and eternal life, to be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father. Brothers and sisters the measure of our creation is to live again with God and to realize the invitation to become like Him.
We are children of Father in Heaven. He really is our Father. He has only one purpose in His own experience and for us His children: that we return home to Him—pure and clean and ready to inherit all that He has. You see brothers and sisters, the gospel is not overly complicated. In fact the gospel is really quite simple. Now I didn’t say the gospel was easy; I said that it is simple. There are no trick questions—no surprises. We all left our home with Father committed to successfully navigate the challenges that we would find in this telestial earthly experience. Father knew it would be hard because of the tremendous temptations and pressures of this telestial existence. Although we have been instructed that “no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God” (Alma 40:26) Father knew that none of His children save one would obey Him perfectly. As a result, he sent that one son—His firstborn—His only begotten in the flesh to pay a ransom that would open the door for us to return home if we, through Christ’s atonement and advocacy, fulfill the measure of our creation. Speaking of the many telestial distractions to this glorious measure of our creation, President Brigham Young counseled:
Will you spend the time of your probation for naught, and fool away your existence and being? You were organized, and brought into being, for the purpose of enduring forever if you fulfill the measure of your creation, pursue the right path, observe the requirements of the Celestial law, and obey the commandments of our God. It is then, and then only, you may expect that the blessing of eternal lives will be conferred upon you. It can be obtained upon no other principle. Do you understand that you will cease to be, that you come to a full end, by pursuing the opposite course?³
Now, HOW do we fulfill this glorious measure of our creation? Let me share three very specific things that each of us can do:
Firstly, fulfilling the measure of our creation requires us to understand and accept the doctrine of who we are and what we can become.
We will never fulfill the measure of our creation until we have a deep and burning testimony that we are sons and daughters of Father and that He wants us home. Without first accepting this core doctrine, it is impossible to fulfill the measure of our creation. Paul clearly taught who we are when he wrote:
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;4
The adversary would love to distract us from this profound truth. I know a man who once said that he simply does not believe that he is cut out to be celestial material. He said that while he loves the idea and believes that others may achieve such a glorious eternity, because of poor choices that he has made, he simply does not believe that these blessings could possibly be for him. As a result, he professes to be satisfied with a telestial lifestyle and inheritance. Brothers and sisters, this is to buy in to one of the greatest lies in Satan's seemingly endless arsenal. Never, no never, accept the lie that you are just not celestial material. You were celestial material before you came to this earth. You are celestial material as you journey through this telestial experience, and you will continue to be celestial material as you do all that you can do and then rely on the Savior’s marvelous gift to carry you through the hardest parts of life. That is exactly what He is there for. I testify to each and every one of you that we are all within the healing power of the Savior’s atonement—that is what makes you Celestial material.
I am always interested in how we view and describe ourselves. Some might say, “Oh, I am just a C student, or I am an athlete, I am a pre-med student, I am from Boston or Kansas City.” Brothers and sisters, while these descriptions may accurately describe aspects of your life, you are not at your essence a C student, you are not at your essence star athletes, you are not at your essence a pre-med student, and even as much as I love Boston and Kansas City, that still does not describe my essence. Please do not allow a singular focus on these telestial aspects of your life to lead you away from your celestial essence. You came to this earth fit for the kingdom. You are still fit for the kingdom, if you choose so to be.
I remember talking with a woman in our stake who expressed to me her feeling of inadequacy; she said that she felt dumb, even worthless. In one of those remarkable experiences of a priesthood leader being inspired to turn keys on behalf of a child of God, I told her in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as I now tell you, that if you have grown up with friends, parents, husbands, wives or others who have convinced you that you are worthless, inadequate, or not cut out for all that Father has, this is a lie. I promise you that if Father were here in person He would not describe us in those terms. He would do all in His power to help you see yourself as He sees you: a son, a daughter, a king, a queen, an inheritor of eternities.
If you do nothing else this year at this wonderful university, please go before your Father in heaven with a broken and humble heart, in the spirit of fasting and prayer, and plead with Him to confirm to you at the core if, in fact, He means it when He promised you all that He hath. Ask Him to confirm to you that you are his son or daughter and that the measure of your creation is to be with Him and like Him. There are too many, like my friend mentioned earlier who say that they understand the concept, they just haven’t yet come to know that it applies to them. Please do not rely solely upon an intellectual understanding of that wonderful Primary hymn, “I am a child of God”. Do whatever it takes to move that understanding from your head to your heart and soul. I promise you that He will remind your spirit what it knew before it came to this side of the veil—we are His children, He does love us, He has promised us a share of all that He has. Once you have received that testimony in your heart, regardless of your telestial circumstances and achievements or temporary failures, you will never succumb to Satan’s lie that you are anything short of an inheritor of eternal glory. Your souls will be stirred to do all that you can to become like Him and then, even as we fall short, we can with a broken heart rely on the Savior Jesus Christ to do the rest as He is so willing and able to do. With all of your learning at this wonderful university, do not leave this year without learning who you are.
Secondly, we fulfill the measure of our creation as we understand and accept the doctrines surrounding our roles as worthy men and worthy women.
In the prophetic Proclamation to the World on the Family we read:
All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.5
What a beautiful part of Father’s plan. Young women, you were a woman before you were born into mortality. You came to earth knowing the beauty of the role that Father entrusted in you. Young men, you were a man before you were born into mortality. What a divine privilege to carry the responsibilities of manhood.
The world seems obsessed in a debate over the roles of men and women. This debate causes many to look beyond the mark as it attempts to divide men and women over questions of who is more important, who is stronger, who is better, who is in control. Father assigned us roles assuming that we would rise above these petty mortal debates which can only divide and will never unify. He knows that “… neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”6
I have spent most of my professional life engaged in the design of work processes and organizational structures to help people within large organizations fulfill their vision and strategy. It is interesting to me that in most aspects of life we easily accept the notion that different people are given unique roles and then are expected to work well together in fulfilling the purposes of the organization. I know of no organization that makes all employees the CEO with identical responsibilities. I know of no organization that makes all employees engineers or production workers. Why then has it become so challenging in today’s world to accept the same principle in designing the work of the most important organization in the universe—the family? Why? Because Satan is the father of contention. He knows that he will have won a great battle if he can sow divisive jealousies and demands for ‘sameness’ in the family organization which God knows requires different roles which work well together toward the same purposes.
Young women, reflect with me upon the incredible primary responsibility that Father has given to you. You have been in invited by Father, the God of all to play the central role in the nurture and teaching of His children on how to return home to Him. Can you envision a more holy, sacred or important assignment than that which is given to women? That which Father considers to be His primary work is laid at the feet of His daughters. You remarkable women have been asked to nurture and teach His children:
- How to return home to Him.
- To know who they are as children of god
- To feel confident and loved.
- To learn the eternal doctrinal truths of the kingdom in a language that fits their particular level of maturity
President Heber J. Grant expressed:
The mother in the family far more than the father, is the one who instills in the hearts of the children, a testimony and a love for the gospel of Jesus Christ… wherever you find a woman who is devoted to this work, almost without exception you will find that her children are devoted to it.7
Elder Russell M. Nelson taught the same principle saying:
To help another human being reach one’s celestial potential is part of the divine mission of woman. As mother, teacher, or nurturing saint, she molds living clay to the shape of her hopes. In partnership with God, her divine mission is to help spirits live and souls be lifted. This is the measure of her creation. It is ennobling, edifying, and exalting.8
How can we stoop to debate the relative importance of this assignment? Father invites you sisters to nurture and bring His children home. Please feel both the incomparable importance as well as the heart humbling weight of this wonderful assignment. Whatever else you might do in this life, please accept this God given responsibility with a commitment to give it your very best efforts.
Young men, you have been invited to accept the oath and covenant of Father’s holy priesthood. He asks His sons to covenant to be faithful, to obtain his two priesthoods and to magnify their callings. In exchange, God makes with his sons an oath that:
34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father's kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.9
May I please repeat that last part – “therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.”
With the priesthood comes many responsibilities, one of those responsibilities is to lead. And where is that leadership most needed? I am aware of no scripture that suggests that we must lead in our professions, our communities, or even in the Church in order to inherit all that Father hath. I am only aware of one place where priesthood leadership is expected and so universally needed; that place is in the home. Brethren, prepare yourselves to be loving and influential priesthood leaders in your homes. I have wept as I have counseled with too many women who have pled with me to help their husbands step up to their home leadership responsibilities. Brethren, commit now that you will never become such a husband.
Let me describe priesthood home leadership by first describing what it is not. Doctrine and Covenants, Section 121 could not be clearer that “it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion”. Priesthood home leadership is not to dominate, order, or bully our wives or children. We are counseled in Section 121 that “when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” Now what does this mean? Our priesthood ordinations certainly pronounce upon us sacred responsibility and authority. However priesthood power will only come to a man when he leads with “persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile--Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.” Make no mistake brethren, a priesthood ordination may give you sacred responsibility and authority, but priesthood power only comes to a man who is both ordained and leads in the Lord’s way. If you do not lead His way, there is no priesthood power in your life.
When a worthy man and a worthy woman each understand and make commitments to fulfill their Godly assigned roles, and then do so in the spirit of love and humility, they take a giant step forward in fulfilling the measure of their creation.
Indulge me in one more thought regarding this holy and wonderful order of marriage. While I would always caution my own children who are considering marriage not to be careless in their selection of a companion, I have counseled them and now counsel you not to put off marriage with the right person until you can complete all of your education, save a good sum of money, or acquire many of the things of the world. This is a subtle means of relying on the arm of our own flesh. I will forever be grateful that sister Christensen and I were sealed in the Los Angeles temple after my sophomore year of college, completely broke, uncertain about my career direction, and what turned out to be four more years of school and three children before getting my first real job. How I loved those years of having to depend entirely upon the Lord and upon each other. How I appreciate the spiritual development that came to this naïve, simple couple as we learned to cast our faith and burdens unitedly upon the Lord, because we had nowhere else to turn. The arm of our flesh was inadequate to sustain us. We learned early that he knows us and loves us and will sustain those who demonstrate faith in him. Please do not forgo these faith molding experiences so that you can express your own strength and independence. After all, we really are not very strong and we really are quite dependent upon the Lord.
Once again let me invite you to approach Father in most humble prayer asking Him to teach you the glory of your roles as a man or a woman. I promise you that if you open your heart to His instruction, you will find a peace and power in these distinct and deeply interdependent roles.
Thirdly, we fulfill the measure of our creation when we use our gift of agency as an expression of obedience.
I remember a young woman who came to me when I served as her bishop. She appeared to be deeply troubled. She complained that in her opinion the Church placed so many constraints upon her that she felt she had no choice. She had fallen prey to the philosophies of the anti-Christ Korihor who taught the people of his day:
Ye say that this people is a free people. Behold, I say they are in bondage. Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true. Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true...10
My young friends, please see this lie precisely for what it is—another tool in Satan’s tool kit designed to confuse and distract you from the measure of your creation. There is nothing whatsoever in the gospel of Jesus Christ that takes away any element of our choice. Remember, we all followed the leadership of Jesus himself who valiantly supported Father’s plan that we would have choice—a choice that could not/should not be taken away. Jesus successfully pled with us to be faithful to the proposition that we would come to earth to freely choose either the path home or away from Father. Please do not forget that it was Satan in that great pre-mortal conflict who
Quote “… rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; …”11
Whose purpose is it to destroy our agency? Clearly this is the intent of that rascal Lucifer. Isn’t that interesting? He, whose stated purpose is “to make all men miserable like unto himself” twists the truth in an attempt to convince us that it is the gospel of Christ that takes away our agency, when in fact that was his stated purpose from the beginning. Satan will stop at nothing to lead us away from Father. Never forget against whom we are fighting this treacherous battle, and that his overall purpose is to deprive us from eternity’s most sublime gift—fulfillment of the measure of our creation, which measure Satan has forfeited through his disobedience and now in bitterness does all in his power to take us down with him.
So why does it feel to some that the gospel takes away their freedom? Because they have not yet understood and/or committed in their hearts to the first principle mentioned today, that we are all children of God and that He has offered to make us inheritors of all that He has. You see, once we really have a deep and personal conviction that we are His Children and that He wants us to have all that he has, only then do we look at the invitation to obey His commandments as the greatest blessing imaginable. Only then do we approach the scriptures or General Conference eager to hang on every word spoken by prophets of God and those with whom they work. Why can we then view obedience as a blessing rather than an obstacle? Because in that frame of mind, knowing who we are, we realize that obedience is the doorway to our fulfilling the measure of our creation. We can’t get enough of it.
The gospel of Christ is so ultimately fair. We can and will have exactly what we most deeply desire in our hearts. Samuel the Lamanite put it this way:
And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.
He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.12
What did I tell my young friend who felt constrained by the principle of obedience? The same thing that I counsel you this afternoon. I told her that she absolutely has choice. The first question we should ask ourselves is whether or not we have accepted Father’s invitation to return to Him and inherit all that He has. Once we accept that glorious proposition, the choice of obedience makes all the sense in the world. Obedience is a choice that becomes delicious to us. My young friend was a gifted musician. I told her that it was much like wanting to be a world class musician or athlete, and then complaining because the teacher or coach tells us that we have to practice. Do we really have to practice? On the one hand, absolutely not—to practice or not will always be up to us. However, if my young friend wanted to become a great musician, obedience to the principle of practice is the only way to get there. So it is with us and the gospel of the master Jesus Christ. We have complete freedom of choice to accept or reject Father’s offer to inherit all that He has; we have complete freedom of choice to obey His commandments or not. However we do not have the choice to expect to fulfill the measure of our creation while willfully choosing to disobey the commandments which serve as the only means to that glorious end. There is an eternal law that we cannot have it both ways. Father loves us far too much to bless us for our intended wickedness. Yet he loves us enough to provide hope even when we fall, if the intent of our hearts is right with Him, when we desperately desire above all else to do his will.
Unfortunately in their enthusiasm for the gospel some leaders and teachers in the church and even some parents teach the gospel with language that suggests that we don’t have choice. You cannot take drugs! You cannot live immorally! You cannot view pornography. Something in our souls knows that we have choice and may become confused with such language. Some mistakenly leap from that confusion in their souls to a feeling that there is something wrong with the gospel. Let me assure you, there is nothing wrong with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our very best efforts to obey the gospel standards combined with a humble reliance upon the atonement of Christ is the only way home.
Let me tell you what I teach my children. I tell them:
- Make no mistake, you always have choice—it is an eternal principle.
- I understand that you could use that choice to either break or keep the commandments.
- Never forget that you are a child of god. He loves you and He sent you to my home to teach you how to return to His glorious eternal home. Do you believe that? Do you want to return to Father and inherit all that He hath? Of course they do! Why would anyone choose to consciously forgo such an offer?
- Then I tell them, “Well if that is what you want, the commandments simply tell you how to do just that.” God’s commandments are never coercive. They simply inform you how to fulfill your choice to return back to His presence. A choice to rebel against these commandments once you have committed to return home clean and pure makes no sense whatsoever. Why would you ever choose such rebellion?
- At this point I ask them what I now ask you—what do you choose to become, and will you choose obedience which is the pathway home to Father?
Brothers and sisters, if from time to time you feel that the commandments are restrictions rather than help, please go before Father and ask Him to teach you the role of commandments. Go with a humble and open heart, a heart that is willing to submit to His will and then listen as He will most assuredly prompt you to joyfully obey.
Now, understanding the importance of obedience, what do we do when we desire with all of our hearts to obey and yet fall from time to time. Brothers and sisters, that is the sad reality of this telestial realm. We are not perfect and none of us has the power to perfect ourselves. Once again Father has a most beautiful response to the dilemma of our occasional sin. He invites us to repent. He commands us to repent. Why? This is not a mean spirited demeaning command. As with all of His commandments repentance has only one purpose, to make the path clear for our return home.
Brothers and sisters, I testify to you of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. I testify that each and every one of us has the ability to realize the fullness of our creation. May we come to truly know who we are. May we understand and live our God given roles as men and women and may we see obedience and repentance as two of God’s greatest gifts. May we pray for and receive a conviction of these principles, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1 Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Never Give Up,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 8
2 D&C 88:19
3 Journal of Discourses, Vol.1, p.113-p.114, Brigham Young, February 27, 1853
4 Romans 8:16-17
5 The Family A Proclamation to the World
6 1 Corinthians 11:11
7 Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, p. 150 Woman's Contribution to the Church
8 Russell M. Nelson, “Woman—Of Infinite Worth,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 20
9 D&C 84:34-38
10 Alma 30:24
11 Moses 4:3
12 Helaman 14:30
The Path of the Peacemaker
Audio of President Kim B. Clark's BYU-Idaho devotional address Winter 2009