“Pursuing the Fulness of Christ,” Liahona, April 2021
May I offer a few thoughts about the personal quest each of you will make in seeking “the fulness” of Christ’s stature (see Ephesians 4:13). I hope they will be of some value to you in your life and in the circumstances in which you find yourselves.
Some of you are where you want to be, or you at least know where you want to go with your lives. Some of you seem to have many blessings and wonderful choices ahead of you. Others of you feel, for a time and for whatever reason, less fortunate and with fewer attractive paths lying immediately ahead.
But wherever you are going and however you work through your challenges in getting there, I ask you to come unto the Savior, Jesus Christ, as the imperative first step in getting to your personal destination, in finding your individual happiness and strength, and in achieving your ultimate destiny and success (see 1 Nephi 10:18; 2 Nephi 26:33; Omni 1:26; Doctrine and Covenants 18:11).
All of that can be yours if the answer to the question “Where goest thou?” (Moses 4:15) is “Wherever you are, Lord.”
Life can be challenging. We have pain and regrets and real problems to work through. We have disappointments and sorrow, all kinds of highs and lows. But the Lord and the prophets have spoken enough encouraging words about how to face those problems to fill a cosmic journal.
The Savior’s benediction upon His disciples even as He moved toward the pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary is the most moving of these words. On that night, the night of the greatest suffering that has ever taken place in the world or ever will take place, the Savior said: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
What a stunning view of life in the most agonizing of hours! How can He possibly say that, facing what He knows He is facing? He can say that because His is the Church and the gospel of the happy endings! For us, the victory is already won. He is taking the long view; He is sharing the big picture.
I think some of us, however, must still have in us that clichéd remnant of Puritan heritage that says it is somehow wrong to be comforted or helped, that we are supposed to be miserable about something all of the time. I submit that to “be of good cheer” (John 16:33) in the quest for “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13) may be the commandment that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet surely nothing could be more grievous to the Lord’s merciful heart.
As concerned as I would be if somewhere in their lives, one of my children were seriously troubled or unhappy or disobedient, nevertheless I would be infinitely more devastated if I felt that at such a time that child could not trust me to help or thought his or her interest was unimportant to me or unsafe in my care.
In that same spirit, I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of God the Father or His Son, the Savior of the world, when They find that people do not feel confident in Their care or secure in Their hands or trust in Their commandments. My friends, for that reason alone, we have a duty to be cheerful!
Another piece of counsel about seeking Christ and the measure of His fulness occurred after Jesus had performed the miracle of feeding the 5,000 from five loaves of bread and two fishes (see Matthew 14:13–21). (By the way, don’t worry about Christ running out of miracles to help you. His “grace is sufficient” [2 Corinthians 12:9]. That is a spiritual, eternal lesson of this miracle. He has plenty of blessings to go around with several baskets full left over! Be believing and enjoy His offer of “the bread of life”! [John 6:35].)
After Jesus had fed the multitude, He sent them away and put His disciples into a fishing boat to cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He then “went up into a mountain apart to pray” (Matthew 14:23).
As the disciples set out in their boat, it was toward evening, and the night was stormy. The winds must have been ferocious from the start. Because of the winds, these men probably never even raised the sails but labored only with the oars—and labor it would have been.
We know this because by the time of “the fourth watch of the night” (Matthew 14:25)—somewhere between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m.—they had gone only a few miles (see John 6:19). By then the ship was caught up in a truly violent storm.
But, as always, Christ was watching over them. Seeing their difficulty, the Savior simply took the most direct approach to their boat, striding out across the waves to help them.
In their moment of great extremity, the disciples looked and saw in the darkness this wonder in a fluttering robe coming toward them on the ridges of the sea. They cried out in terror at the sight, thinking that it was a phantom upon the waves. Then, through the storm and darkness—when the sea seemed so great and their boat seemed so small—there came the ultimate and reassuring voice of peace from their Master: “It is I; be not afraid” (Matthew 14:27).
This scriptural account reminds us that in coming to Christ, seeking His fulness, or in His coming to us to bring us that fulness, the first step may fill us with something very much like sheer terror. It shouldn’t, but it sometimes does. One of the grand ironies of the gospel is that the very source of help and safety being offered us is the thing from which we may, in our mortal shortsightedness, flee.
For whatever the reason, I have seen investigators run from baptism. I have seen elders run from a mission call. I have seen sweethearts run from marriage. I have seen members run from challenging callings. And I have seen people run from their Church membership.
Too often we run from the very things that will save us and soothe us. Too often we see gospel commitments as something to be feared and then forsaken.
Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933) said: “Into every adult human life come experiences like unto the battling of the storm-tossed voyagers with contrary winds and threatening seas; ofttimes the night of struggle and danger is far advanced before succor appears; and then, too frequently the saving aid is mistaken for a greater terror. [But,] as came unto [these disciples] in the midst of the turbulent waters, so comes to all who toil in faith, the voice of the Deliverer—‘It is I; be not afraid.’”1
The wonderful thing about this invitation to receive the Savior, to come to Him and pursue the fulness of His stature, is that anybody can do it. That doesn’t mean everyone you know wants to keep the commandments, or that everyone you bump into will be keeping the commandments. But what it does mean is that it is possible to keep the commandments without any special gift or inheritance to do so.
I dearly plead for faith that is “shining and bright and pure and robust,” for Christ to “be brought into every square inch of [our] culture,”2 and for the stature of Christ to be at full measure in our lives (see Ephesians 4:13).
Life will challenge you. Difficulties will come. Heartbreaks will strike. Loved ones will die. So, wherever you are going, make your way to Jesus Christ first. Remember that His suffering and Resurrection make possible our victory over difficulty and death. Make your covenants with Him and keep them as you journey on.
In all my weakness, which I readily acknowledge, I yearn for us to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” I want to come unto Him. I want Him, if possible, to come unto me. And I truly want that blessing for all of you.