“The Price of Discipleship,” Liahona, Apr. 1999, 3
Many years ago, when I was engaged in the private practice of the law, a lawyer in Texas engaged me to take care of a legal problem for him in Utah.
This legal matter was satisfactorily adjusted by the payment of a sum of money, in the form of a check to our office. I forwarded the check to my friend in Texas without first cashing it, with the understanding that a portion of it would be returned to settle part of the obligation through our office.
After I sent the check, I heard nothing more from my friend. Letters, telegrams, and telephone calls went unanswered for many months. I became concerned because it was not my money and if he did not keep his word I was honor bound to make good the loss. The obvious solution was to file a complaint against him. There lurked in my mind, however, the possibility of a far more subtle approach.
I recalled how, as a boy, I had been taught by my mother the words of the Savior, as recorded by Matthew, that tell us that true Christians are supposed to pray for those who despitefully use them (see Matt. 5:44). I certainly felt that I had been despitefully used. I happened to be serving as a bishop in the Church at that time, and I chastised myself because I was something less of a Christian than I ought to be. I had not first considered the direction of the Master. At an appropriate place and time, I went to my knees and uttered a simple but sincere prayer for the well-being of this man in Texas. I am ashamed to say that this was the first time in my life when the sole and only purpose of a prayer was in the interest of one who, in my opinion, had not done well by me. The prayer seemed to have been almost instantaneously heard and brought dramatic results. In the time that it takes for an airmail letter to come from Texas, there arrived a communication from this man containing the promised money. In the letter was an explanation that he had been seriously ill, had been in the hospital, and had had to close his office but now was doing better. He asked our pardon and apologized for the inconvenience that this caused.
I relate this experience without apology to anyone who might think that I was weak, inadequate, or foolish for having humbly sought to follow a commandment of the Savior for a solution to a practical problem. The price of discipleship is obedience. In many languages, the word disciple has the same root as the word discipline. Self-discipline and self-control are consistent and permanent characteristics of the followers of Jesus.
The disciples of Christ receive a call not only to forsake the pursuit of worldly things but also to carry the cross. To carry the cross means to follow His commandments and to build up His Church upon the earth. “If any man will come after me,” said Jesus of Nazareth, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).
True followers of the Savior should be prepared to lay down their lives, and some have been privileged to do so. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him to come and die.” The Doctrine and Covenants counsels us:
“Let no man be afraid to lay down his life for my sake; for whoso layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again.
“And whoso is not willing to lay down his life for my sake is not my disciple” (103:27–28).
For most of us, however, what is required is not to die for the Church but to live for it. The price of discipleship may mean leaving behind many things. Some have learned how dear a price it is to leave loved ones in order to be baptized. Yet Jesus taught, “Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matt. 19:29).
Living a Christlike life every day may for many be even more difficult than laying down one’s life. We learned during wartime that many men were capable of great acts of selflessness, heroism, and nobility with regard to life. But when the war was over and they came home, they could not bear up under the burdens of living the eternal every day and became enslaved by tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and debauchery that in the end caused them to forfeit their lives.
The price of discipleship is to forsake evil transgression and enjoy what President Kimball called “the miracle of forgiveness.” It is never too late. But there can be no remission of sin without a godly sorrow being abundantly manifested in the mind, in the heart, and in the actions of the offender. A major step toward purging oneself of wrongdoing is for the transgressor to confess the transgression to the common judge in Israel, who is the inspired bishop or branch president of the offender. While forgiveness comes only from the Lord, confession is necessary, among other reasons, to eliminate the deceit inherent in wrongdoing.
The matter of restitution must also be considered as a key element of repentance and as an important requisite for the restoration of spiritual understanding. In its simplest terms, restitution means making right that which we have done wrong. There comes a time when each can know that his or her sins have been washed away. This assurance comes by having the “peace of conscience” spoken of by King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 4:3). But this healing forgiveness comes only when we have done all within our power to rectify the wrongs we have done.
Most of us think that the price of discipleship is too costly and too burdensome. For many it involves the giving up of too much. But the cross is not as heavy as it appears to be because we acquire through obedience a much greater strength to carry it:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30).
What is the cost of discipleship? It is primarily obedience. It is the forsaking of many things. But since everything in life has a price, it is a price worth paying, considering that the great promise of the Savior is for peace in this life and eternal life in the life to come. It is a price we cannot afford not to pay.
Jesus is the head of this Church. It is His work, and He is watching over it. I know that God speaks; He has spoken to me, and He will speak to you, for He is no respecter of persons. May we live so that this will be possible, and may we render obedience and faithfulness unto His commandments and to His living prophets, so that we fully and willingly pay the price required of His disciples and move forward His work in all the world.
The price of discipleship to the Lord Jesus Christ is obedience to His gospel.
Obedience requires self-discipline and self-control, both of which are consistent characteristics of followers of Jesus.
Obedience gives us further strength to follow the Master, for He has said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28, 30).
To those who are obedient the Lord promises peace in this life and eternal life in the life to come.