Updated: Oct 26, 2022
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That not even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
What a beautiful statement. The Saviour expounded great and marvelous truths in the Sermon on the Mount. Many are memorable- “be ye therefore perfect,” “blessed are the meek,” and “judge not lest ye be judged.” But the statement of the beauty and simplicity of the lilies of the field is one of the most profound.
The Jews of Jesus’ day lived in a confusing time. They were not a free people- being subject to the Roman Empire. They had also been subjects of the Persians, Babylonians, Greeks and Egyptians in the past six hundred years.
The Law of Moses was given to the people to point them to Christ and His Great and Last Sacrifice. As we have read this year as part of the Come Follow Me study, the Jews were given hundreds of commandments to follow but each of them focused on the Atonement and the mission of Jesus Christ. The Children of Israel were promised that they would be kept safe and if they followed the commandments and held true to them. The Children of Israel did not always follow the commandments and were eventually conquered and enslaved by their neighbours.
The Jews did not have proper priesthood authority at this time as well. Without it, they corrupted the Law of Moses by adding new and complicated laws to follow so they wouldn’t break the Law of Moses by accident. The Pharisees, Sadducees and other religious leaders understood enough of the history of the people that they had been warned by God that they would be subject to other kingdoms and empires if they didn’t follow the commandments revealed by the prophets in the Old Testament. They decided to build a fence about the Law so they and the people would always be keeping the Law of Moses (see "Ethics of the Fathers" Chapter 1). This hedge added new and complicated rules and regulations to what the people could do and how they could worship.
While the leaders of the Jews did this with good intentions, they ended up changing how they and the people viewed the coming of the Messiah. They came to envision a warrior who would destroy the oppressors and free the Jews from earthly shackles. The people had lost the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were caught up in not doing anything wrong that they forgot why the Law of Moses was given in the first place.
By the time Jesus came, the people were not able to recognize Him for who he was because they had complicated the law and did not search for the signs of His coming. As a result of this, Jesus spent His ministry teaching the simple truths of the gospel. The main truth He taught was how much God, our Heavenly Father loves each of us.
Following up on His statement about the lilies of the field, Jesus said,
“Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you… [?]… Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?… [F]or your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”
To shorten this statement, God loves you. He knows you. You are always in His thoughts. There is nothing you can do that will cause Him to not love you. Because Heavenly Father loves us, He sent His son to Atone for our sins, die and rise again to pave the way for us to return home to Him with our families. To return to Him, He has asked us to follow His commandments and keep our covenants that we have made with Him.
In the Book of Mormon the phrase “as ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land” and its variations appear fifteen times. It was written by Lehi, Nephi, Jarom, Omni, Alma, King Benjamin, and Mormon. This phrase does not only apply to the people of Nephi, but to us also. It is a simple call to action. We are asked to follow through on what we promised to do when we were baptized and what we will promise once we go through the temple to receive our endowments.
We promised to mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that need comforting, bear one another’s burden, be called by Jesus’ name, and stand as a witness of Christ at all times and places (see Mos. 18:8-10). These things are all very simple to understand. We are to look after each other. It is simple to promise to do these things but we are mortal and therefore, we are not perfect.
Most of the time we have the best of intentions but the natural man can get in the way. The natural man is the part of us that seeks out the easy thing to do which usually leads us away from following through on our covenants. We end up making things complicated for ourselves when we let ourselves get distracted.
President Oaks spoke about the principle of Good, Better, and Best in October 2007. He spent his talk explaining that we have three choices in what to do with our lives. There are many, many good things we can do, quite a few Better things we can do, and a few things that are the Best for us to accomplish. He said:
As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.
Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best. When the Lord told us to seek learning, He said, “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom”
In choosing how we spend time as a family, we should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best. A friend took his young family on a series of summer vacation trips, including visits to memorable historic sites. At the end of the summer he asked his teenage son which of these good summer activities he enjoyed most. The father learned from the reply, and so did those he told of it. “The thing I liked best this summer,” the boy replied, “was the night you and I laid on the lawn and looked at the stars and talked.” Super family activities may be good for children, but they are not always better than one-on-one time with a loving parent.
When we fill our days with the everyday errands and responsibilities of life, we are in danger of losing opportunities to care for those around us and follow the simple request of our Heavenly Father to follow His commandments.
Elder Uchtdorf said that:
“[S]ometimes we take the beautiful lily of God’s truth and gild it with layer upon layer of man-made good ideas, programs, and expectations. Each one, by itself, might be helpful…but when they are laid on top of each other, they can create a mountain of sediment that becomes so thick and heavy that we risk losing sight of that precious flower we once loved so dearly.”
He reminded us that living the gospel didn’t need to be complicated. He shared five steps we can take to simplify living the gospel.
First is to hear the word of God with earnest intent- which will lead us to believe in God and trust His promises
Immediately before Jesus appeared to the gathered Nephites, God Himself declared the coming of His son. The first time He spoke, the people did not understand the words but were touched in their hearts. The second time He spoke, the people understood a little more. Finally, when Heavenly Father spoke the third time, the people opened their ears and heard these words:
“Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name- hear ye him.” (3 Ne. 11:7)
The people then had the marvelous opportunity to be taught by Christ himself. The lessons and blessings he gave the people led to all being converted to the gospel which allowed for peace to last for two hundred years among the people of the new world. Hearing the words of God and Jesus Christ helped them believe and trust in the promises given to them.
Second, the more we trust God, the more our hearts are filled with love for Him and for each other.
As mentioned above, there was peace in the land of the Nephites for two hundred years after the appearance of Jesus Christ. Their trust in the promises made to them that if they believed in and followed the commandments, they would prosper in the land led them to reach out to their neighbour and share the gospel with them. They also became one people- they dropped their national identities and became simply followers of Jesus Christ.
In the fourth book of Nephi, we are told of what it was like to live in a Zion society:
And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. And there were no envyings, nor strifes, no tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God. (4 Nephi 1:15-17)
Being one with each other and God is the greatest expression of love that we can manifest in our mortal existence.
Third, because of this growing love, we gain a greater desire to follow Him and align our actions with His revealed word.
As we can see in these steps, there is a compounding effect. The more we hear, the more we trust. The more we trust, the more we love, the more we desire to show it. We show our love for God by continually doing better in following His commandments. This step of simplifying our gospel living is where we put into action what we have covenanted to do at our baptism and when we receive(d) our endowment in the temple (see Mosiah 18:8-10).
Fourth, because we love God, we will want to serve Him. We do that by working to bless the lives of others and help the poor and needy.
Service is the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He showed us by example how to serve. The church has had a welfare and humanitarian departments for many years that are ready to help those stricken by misfortune. If there is a natural disaster, members of the church help clean and repair. The church sends food and supplies to those in need. When we have an individual, personal disaster, we can turn to our bishops to seek help in getting back on our feet. King Benjamin taught us that when we do these things for our fellow men, we are “in the service of [our] God.” (Mosiah 2:17) The Saviour also summed up this principle: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (see Matt. 25:40)
Fifth, the more we walk this path of discipleship, the more we desire to learn the word of God.
The great compounding of following these steps leads us to start at the beginning again, searching the words of the prophets for ways we can continue to improve and come closer to God and Jesus Christ.
These five steps help us to not gild the beautifully simple lily. Instead, we will be led by revelation and guided to those we need to reach out to.
The lily of the field is beautiful because it is simple. So is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are five things we need to have and do in this life to move along the Covenant Path. We need to have faith in Jesus Christ, repent of our sins and mistakes, be baptized by the proper authority, receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost (also by the proper authority), and then endure to the end. Nice, simple steps along the Covenant Path. The best part of these simple things is we get the opportunity to act on them often.
We should read the scriptures and listen to the prophets and apostles to continually build our faith in Christ. Every six months, we can view General Conference to hear their counsel. Then in our Elders Quorum and Relief Society meetings, we review those talks and learn from each other how to implement the counsel received. There is also the daily personal study we can do, utilizing Come Follow Me to gain further personal revelation on how to move forward along the Covenant Path.
We pray for the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost that the gospel is true and how to put it into practice. Moroni promises us that by the power of the Holy Ghost we can know the truth of all things (see Moroni 10:3-5). When we earnestly seek after truth and a confirming witness of it, we will be given an answer and direction on how to proceed. The Holy Ghost’s mission is to confirm truth and guide us towards it. Prayer is a powerful tool. It can change lives and change the world.
We partake of the Sacrament weekly to renew all covenants we have made with Heavenly Father. This opportunity is give to us each week so we can recommit to our covenants. We promise to do better in the next week and remember the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said that the Sacrament was instituted to remind us of Him and what He had done for us. If we do not take the opportunity to renew and remember, we will eventually forget why we have chosen to participate in this great latter-day work.
We repent when we have made errors in judgement and action, climbing back onto the Covenant Path and continuing forward towards our goal of eternal life. Enduring to the end is our continual efforts at repenting of our mistakes and also our constant commitment to reach down and lift up others who are striving to return to the Covenant Path. As stated before, the more we heed the word of God, the more we desire to do His will. The more we do His will, the easier it will be to stay on the Covenant Path and help others return to it.
It is in the simple things that we find joy. At the end of final episode of the television show “The Office” the character Pam says, “There's a lot of beauty in ordinary things, isn't that kind of the point?” It sure is. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is extraordinarily ordinary. It is that beautiful lily growing in the field. This lily is simple and easy to understand. When we do the simple actions of Christlike love, we grow in that love. That love moves us to do more. Eventually these actions compound into a change in our heart and character. We become more Christlike. Alma said that by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is more than a set of rules that will let us score well on a test. It is the tools that the Master Craftsman uses to mold us into celestial beings. It is the reinforcement of the great truth: GOD LOVES US AND WANTS US TO BE HAPPY. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.