An Ensign to the Nations, a Light to the World

I’m so excited to be studying from the Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley in Relief Society this year. For the first time, I’m flipping through a manual of lessons that I actually remember first-hand. This is how all of the old ladies in my childhood wards learned in Sunday lessons… needless to say… I’m feeling ancient.

 

From this lesson, I made a handout and focused on a few key elements that I felt our Relief Society could liken to themselves as we would study together.

 

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GBH recalled the prophesies of Isaiah, who foretold that in the latter-days, the scattered descendants of Israel will be gathered, and would begin to be organised in the manner that God himself organises his children: in eternal families. The Church would become an example of Christlike love to all the world. The Church would receive the temple and its ordinances; the members of the church would receive instruction there. The temple would be built high in the mountains and all nations would flock to it. The gospel would reach all nations.

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Isaiah wasn’t the only prophet to see the work of the Church in the latter-days. Many prophets looked to our day as a time of wickedness on the earth, but they saw the ensign of the Church and its people as a light in darkness. Nephi foretold:

 

… I Nephi Beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.                                                                    1 Nephi 14:14

 

Considering these prophesies, and the emphasis on the latter-days from the beginning of the world, I wondered what my membership in the Church meant to me. Did I understand the true potential of the relationship I had with my Father in Heaven? Did I fully understand the responsibility and the gifts that came from being a covenant-keeper with the Lord? I considered the name of the ensign itself: The Church of Jesus Christ… His name I had taken upon myself and resolved to be His ambassador.

 

And who was this Jesus Christ, to whom I am allied? A teacher, a healer, minister, righteous judge, peacemaker, friend.

 

It seems to be a big responsibility to behave as He would, to reach out in the ways that He did and to love and serve as He does. To have that mandate, to stand as His representatives and to light a dark and dreary world seems almost to large a task to shoulder. I thought of the big and grand ways that the Church reaches out to the world. Immediately I thought of the most seamless and resourceful humanitarian program in the world: it’s run by the Church and serves almost every natural and human disaster that rocks struggling nations. How could I ever make an impact as powerful as that? How could these prophets have meant to speak to me individually when they taught that I would be an ensign to nations?

 

GBH contends that it’s the small works of the individual members of the Church that will make us this ensign and light to the world.

 

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The seemingly small ways that could strengthen the kingdom of God, and impact the by-standing world, are things that I know I often brush off and nugatory or insignificant. Visiting teaching, praying for the sick and afflicted, serving in a calling, visiting with a lonely friend, serving or complimenting others, being grateful or sharing an upbeat message on social media… Could it be that the little things really did have an impact on those around me? If so, how?

 

*Sisters in the Relief Society are encouraged to share experiences of the impact of others in their lives who have served in a Christlike way.

 

It occurred to me that those little things, giving them and receiving them, changed me. They were the workings of Christlike love, alive in me. Our spheres of influence can be more than we ever imagined when we can at least see the changes that serving as Christ would has on ourselves.

 

We sing often a line in a hymn: “do what is right, let the consequence follow…” GBH warns that a sign of the times would be when Christlike behaviour would seem “peculiar”. I recalled a scripture in 1 Peter:

 

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.                                                                                                         1 Peter 2:9

 

The consequence of living righteously would seem out-dated, foreign and strange. I’ve certainly felt trivialised for the ways in which I choose to conduct myself in the contrary world. GBH prophesied of the coming years, and four particular areas where society would decline in morals and common understanding.

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*In groups, discuss on of the areas that GBH predicted would suffer in the hands of society. How has the Church set itself apart in relation to that gospel principle? How can you make a commitment to uphold that principle?

 

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I testify that we aren’t just able or capable of influencing others as our contributions make the Chirch this Ensign to the nations; we were created to. Like those nephites of old who waited and prophesied of the coming of the saviour, so these same prophets and people have for centuries looked to us and to our coming. You were reserved for this time: premortally you volunteered to take upon you this mandate to light the world in a time when darkness rules.

You can download the handout for this lesson here: ensign

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