“But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.” —3 Nephi 18:13
When I stumbled upon this scripture last year, I was intrigued by one word: more.
I’m not sure if it is the consumerist culture or Church culture—or a bit of both—I was raised in that programmed me to think more is always better. I need to make more, have more, do more, and be more.
Of course, in my head I tell myself I haven’t bought into that lie. I know what matters most is loving God and my family. I know what brings lasting happiness is my connection to the divine and others. And yet every time I am asked to give a talk, prepare a lesson, hold a calling, or deliver a meal to someone in the ward, what frustrates and fixates me is the thought that I have to somehow do and bring and be more.
Or, when I am sitting in the temple or studying the scriptures, I feel like I need to receive some profound epiphany or answer of cosmic significance to prove I belong in this Church or am doing what’s right.
Yet our Savior cautioned that this fixation on doing more than He outlines will cause us to crumble, to fall, to crash when the storms and chaos of life beat upon us. We cannot sustain that kind of pace or pressure because we are not being sustained by faith, by grace, or by Christ.
But what is Jesus referring to when He tells the Nephites, “But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock”? To give a little context to this scripture, this teaching comes near the end of Jesus Christ’s first appearance among the Nephites after His death and resurrection. This isn’t some “by-the-way-you-might-want-to-consider” insight. This is among the first messages He reserved for His people.
But what does “more or less than these” really mean? Here’s a little more context. After teaching the disciples how to administer the sacrament, Jesus declared:
“And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
“And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock.”
Is that it? Could it really be as simple as remembering Jesus Christ? Could it really be as plain as keeping in mind the promises we are reminded of every week as we partake of the sacrament? If we delve back further in 3 Nephi, we see that before teaching His people how to partake of the sacrament, our Savior reminds the Nephites to study the scriptures, teaches them how to pray with meaning, and ministers to and heals them. In a nutshell, it’s the primary answers: church, scriptures, prayer, baptism, repentance, sacrament, love, service. It’s everything we find in the sacramental prayers that we listen to every. single. week. It’s all centered on accessing the forgiving, merciful, grace-embued Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.
In short, it is about nothing we do and all about what He has done for us.
Our Heavenly Parents have created no spiritual IQ test, no secret message we have to decode, and no litmus test for us to return to Them. Their deepest desire is that we all return, and because of Their love, They have made the path painstakingly and repetitively clear. As Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf eloquently explained, “Sometimes, the truth may just seem too straightforward, too plain, and too simple for us to fully appreciate its great value. So we set aside what we have experienced and know to be true in pursuit of more mysterious or complicated information.”
So why is it that we sometimes become bored with these everlastingly important answers? Why do we tend to overcomplicate our discipleship and role in the Church?
Elder Quentin L. Cook tackled this in his talk “Looking Beyond the Mark“:
“Today there is a tendency among some of us to ‘look beyond the mark’ rather than to maintain a testimony of gospel basics. We do this when we substitute the philosophies of men for gospel truths, engage in gospel extremism, seek heroic gestures at the expense of daily consecration, or elevate rules over doctrine. Avoiding these behaviors will help us avoid the theological blindness and stumbling that Jacob described. . . .
“We look beyond the mark when we refuse to accept simple gospel truths for what they are. . . . If we turn a health law or any other principle into a form of religious fanaticism, we are looking beyond the mark. . . . In some cases, seeking to perform a heroic effort can be a form of looking beyond the mark. . . . We are looking beyond the mark if our consecration is conditional or does not involve daily devotion. . . . Those who are committed to following rules without reference to doctrine and principle are particularly susceptible to looking beyond the mark. . . .
“When we look beyond the mark, we are looking beyond Christ, the only name under heaven whereby we might be saved.”
The problem with expecting more in our Church membership is that we often expect more from ourselves, our leaders, our history, our meetings, our understanding, etc. Rarely do we turn to God and our Savior, who are the source of everything and more.
If you find yourself leaning toward the more mentality, take this advice from Elder Uchtdorf: “Brothers and sisters, if you ever think that the gospel isn’t working so well for you, I invite you to step back, look at your life from a higher plane, and simplify your approach to discipleship.” In his talk “Of Things That Matter Most,” Elder Uchtdorf added, “Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace.”
And that path of sublime beauty Elder Uchtdorf outlines is our Savior Jesus Christ, His Atonement, and the love that made it possible. That’s the answer to every question, and when we keep that as our center, our purpose, our goal, our focus, the other blessings and mysteries of God will be unfolded to us in time and with effort.