Unwavering Commitment to Jesus Christ

Unwavering Commitment to Jesus Christ


Last April, I had the
privilege of dedicating the Kinshasa Democratic
Republic of the Congo Temple. Words can’t express the
joy the faithful Congolese and I felt to see a temple
dedicated in their land. Individuals who enter
the Kinshasa temple see an original painting
entitled Congo Falls. It uniquely reminds temple-goers
of the unwavering commitment required to anchor
themselves to Jesus Christ and to follow the covenant path
of our Heavenly Father’s plan. The waterfalls depicted
in the painting call to mind a practice
that was common more than a century ago among
early converts to Christianity in Congo. Before their conversion, they
worshipped inanimate objects, believing that the items
possess supernatural powers. After conversion,
many made a pilgrimage to one of the countless
waterfalls along the Congo River, such as the Nzongo Falls. These converts threw their
previously idolized objects into the waterfalls as a
symbol to God and others that they had discarded
their old traditions and accepted Jesus Christ. They intentionally did
not throw their objects into calm, shallow
waters; they threw them into the churning waters of
a massive waterfall, where the items would
become unrecoverable. These actions were a token of
a new but unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ. People in other ages and places
demonstrated their commitment to Jesus Christ in similar ways. The Book of Mormon people known
as the Anti-Nephi-Lehies “laid down the weapons of
their rebellion,” burying them “deep in the earth”
as “a testimony to God … that they never would use
[their] weapons again.” In doing so, they promised
to follow God’s teachings and never go back
on their commitment. This action was the beginning of
being “converted unto the Lord” and never falling away. Being “converted
unto the Lord” means leaving one course of action,
directed by an old belief system, and adopting
a new one based on faith in Heavenly
Father’s plan and in Jesus Christ
and His Atonement. This change is more than
an intellectual acceptance of gospel teachings. It shapes our identity,
transforms our understanding of life’s meaning, and leads
to unchanging fidelity to God. Personal desires that are
contrary to being anchored to the Savior and to following
the covenant path fade away and are replaced
by a determination to submit to the will
of Heavenly Father. Being converted
unto the Lord starts with an unwavering
commitment to God, followed by making that
commitment part of who we are. Internalizing such a commitment
is a lifelong process that requires patience
and ongoing repentance. Eventually, this
commitment becomes part of who we are, embedded
in our sense of self, and ever present in our lives. Just as we never forget
our own name no matter what else we are
thinking about, we never forget a commitment that
is etched in our hearts. God invites us to cast our old
ways completely out of reach and begin a new life in Christ. This happens as we develop
faith in the Savior, which begins by hearing the testimony
of those who have faith. Thereafter, faith deepens
as we act in ways that anchor us more firmly to Him. Now it’d be nice
if increased faith were transmitted like the
flu or the common cold. Then a simple “spiritual” sneeze
would build faith in others. But it does not work that way. The only way faith grows is for
an individual to act in faith. These actions are often
prompted by invitations extended by others, but we cannot “grow”
someone else’s faith or rely solely on others
to bolster our own. For our faith to grow, we must
choose faith-building actions, such as praying,
scripture study, partaking of the sacrament,
keeping the commandments, and serving others. As our faith in
Jesus Christ grows, God invites us to make
promises with Him. These covenants, as
such promises are known, are manifestations
of our conversion. Covenants also create
a sure foundation for spiritual progression. As we choose to be
baptized, we begin to take upon ourselves
the name of Jesus Christ and choose to identify
ourselves with Him. We pledge to become like Him
and to develop His attributes. Covenants anchor
us to the Savior and propel us
along the path that leads to our heavenly home. The power of covenants helps
us maintain the mighty change of heart, deepen our
conversion to the Lord, and receive Christ’s image
more fully in our countenance. But a half-hearted
commitment to our covenants will not guarantee us anything. We may be tempted to equivocate,
throw our old ways in calm water, or bury our
weapons of rebellion with the handles sticking out. But an ambivalent
commitment to our covenants will not open the door to the
sanctifying power of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Our commitment to
keep our covenants should not be conditional
or vary with changing circumstances in our lives. Our constancy to God should
be like the dependable Congo River that flows near
the Kinshasa temple. This river, unlike most
rivers in the world, has constant flow all year
and pours nearly 11 millions of gallons of water per second
into the Atlantic Ocean. The Savior invited
His disciples to be this dependable and steadfast. He said, “Wherefore,
settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things
which I shall teach, and command you.” A “settled” determination
to keep our covenants allows for the full realization
of God’s promise of enduring joy. Many faithful Latter-day
Saints have demonstrated that they are
“settled” in keeping their covenants with God
and are forever changed. Let me tell you about three
such individuals–Brother Banza Mucioko, Sister Banza Regine,
and Brother Mbuyi Nkitabungi. In 1977, the Banzas
lived in Kinshasa, in the country of
Zaire, now known as the Democratic
Republic of the Congo. They were highly respected
in their Protestant church community. Because of their
talents, their church arranged for their young family
to go to Switzerland to study and provided a
university scholarship. While in Geneva on the
bus route to school, Brother Banza frequently
saw a small meetinghouse with the name “The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” He wondered, “Does Jesus
Christ have Saints now, in the latter days?” He eventually decided
to go and see. Brother and Sister Banza were
greeted warmly at the branch. They asked some of the
persistent questions they had about the
nature of God, such as “If God is a
spirit, like the wind, how could we be created
in His likeness? How could He sit on a throne?” They had never received
a satisfactory answer until the missionaries
explained restored doctrine in a brief lesson. When the missionaries left,
the Banzas looked at each other and said, “Isn’t this the
truth that we have heard?” They continued coming
to church and meeting with the missionaries. They knew that baptism in the
restored Church of Jesus Christ would have consequences. They would be stripped
of their scholarships, their visas would be revoked,
and they and their two young children would be
required to leave Switzerland. They chose to be baptized and
confirmed in October 1979. Two weeks after their baptism,
Brother and Sister Banza returned to Kinshasa as the
first and second members of the Church in their country. The members of the Geneva branch
stayed in contact with them and helped them connect
with Church leaders. The Banzas were encouraged
to faithfully await the promised time when God would
establish His Church in Zaire. Meanwhile, another
exchange student from Zaire, Brother Mbuyi,
was studying in Belgium. He was baptized in 1980
in the Brussels ward. Soon thereafter, he served a
full-time mission to England. And God worked His miracles. Brother Mbuyi returned to
Zaire as the third member of the Church in his country. With parental permission,
Church meetings were held in his family home. In February 1986, a petition
was made for official government recognition of the Church. The signatures of three
citizens of Zaire were required. The three happy
signatories of the petition were Brother Banza, Sister
Banza, and Brother Mbuyi. These stalwart members knew
the truth when they heard it; they made a covenant
at baptism that anchored them to the Savior. They metaphorically
threw their old ways into a churning waterfall
with no intention of retrieving them. The covenant path
was never easy. Political turmoil, infrequent
contact with Church leaders, and challenges inherent in
building a community of Saints might have deterred
less-committed individuals. But Brother and Sister
Banza and Brother Mbuyi persevered in their faith. They were present at the
dedication of the Kinshasa temple, 33 years
after they signed the petition that led
to official recognition of the Church in Zaire. The Banzas are here in the
Conference Center today. They are accompanied by their
two sons, Junior and Phil, and daughters-in-law,
Annie and Youyou. In 1986, Junior and Phil were
the first two individuals baptized into the
Church in Zaire. Brother Mbuyi is watching
these proceedings from Kinshasa with his wife, Maguy,
and their five children. These pioneers understand
the meaning and consequences of covenants, through which
they have been brought “to the knowledge of
the Lord their God, and to rejoice in Jesus
Christ their Redeemer.” How do we anchor
ourselves to the Savior and remain faithful
like these and many tens of thousands of Congolese
Saints who followed them and millions of others
throughout the world? The Savior taught us how. Each week, we partake
of the sacrament and make a covenant with
our Heavenly Father. We promise to link our identity
with the Savior’s by pledging our willingness to
take upon us His name, to always remember Him, and
to keep His commandments. Conscientiously preparing
for and worthily making these covenants each
week anchors us to the Savior, helps us internalize
our commitment, and powerfully propels us
along the covenant path. I invite you to commit
to a lifelong process of discipleship. Make and keep covenants. Throw your old ways into
deep, churning waterfalls. Completely bury your
weapons of rebellion with no handles sticking out. Because of the Atonement
of Jesus Christ, making covenants with a real
intent to reliably honor them will bless your life forever. You will become
more like the Savior as you always remember Him,
follow Him, and adore Him. I testify that He is
the firm foundation. He is dependable, and
His promises are sure. In the name of
Jesus Christ, amen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *