Reaching Up to the Savior
by Reyna I. Aburto
My dear friends, what a beautiful sight you are! I am so grateful to be standing in front of you today and to feel of your faith and your desire to be lifted and inspired.
It is an honor for me to speak to you who belong to this remarkable institution that is LDS Business College. I love your mission statement, which reads: “LDS Business College provides a distinctive educational experience rooted in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We work together to cultivate a nurturing environment, teach practical skills and develop confident and skillful learners. We enlighten minds, elevate hope and ennoble souls to strengthen individuals, families, communities and the Lord’s Church.”
It is my prayer that we can all be enlightened, elevated, and ennobled today as we receive promptings from the Spirit and as we get clear impressions that guide us into action.
A story is told about two brothers who lived many years ago and were extremely lazy. Their father was a farmer who worked tirelessly for long hours, to keep up his farm. Even though he tried to teach the principle of work to his sons, they did not want to live up to his example and instruction and took every opportunity to run away from their chores.
One day, the two brothers were, as usual, avoiding work at all costs and went to their favorite hiding place. One of them was lying face down on the grass and the other one was lying face up, right next to him. All of a sudden, the one that was looking up saw something in the sky that he had never seen before. A huge plane was passing above their small town for the first time ever. With the desire to share that impressive sight with his brother, he exclaimed: “Look! In the sky! I have never seen anything like that before! It must be a plane! It is amazing!” Without moving or even turning one inch and still lying facedown, his brother replied, “Lucky you that you can see it!”
This story reminds me of the time when fiery serpents bit the children of Israel while they were in the desert, and many of them died. They begged Moses to pray to the Lord to protect them from the serpents. When Moses did so, the Lord told him to make a fiery serpent, to set the brass serpent on a pole, and to instruct those who had been bitten to look at it, so they might live (Numbers 21:7–9).
The Lord Jesus Christ clarified that the serpent on the pole was a symbol of Himself, when He said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14–15).
I love the further insights we get from the Book of Mormon. Nephi explained that the Lord “prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished” (1 Nephi 17:41).
Alma also expanded on these truths when he said: “There were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them” (Alma 33:20).
According to these passages of scripture, many of the people of Israel did not look at the serpent on the pole in order to be healed because it was such a simple thing to do that they did not believe it had power to heal them. Because of unbelief or maybe because of their “spiritual laziness,” they did not make even the smallest effort to look. Does that sound like the story of the two brothers? Could it also describe us when we refuse to reach up to the Savior by doing the simple things that turn our hearts to Him?
As we go through our mortal existence, sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of tribulation and sorrow. We experience heart-wrenching situations, and it becomes hard to find the strength to go on. During those times, it may be difficult to believe that by reaching up to the Savior and turning our hearts to Him, He has the power to heal us.
Other times, we have periods of spiritual laziness in our souls. We just go through the motions and are not “anxiously engaged” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27) in reaching up to God so we can receive help from Him.
I grew up as a Catholic, and even though I believed in God, I did not have a clear understanding of His nature and His love for me. I believed in Jesus Christ but did not truly comprehend how much I needed Him in my life and that I had to be more proactive in reaching up to Him in order to be saved through His grace. I was in some sort of “spiritual sleep” and was “spiritually lazy,” without the desire to exert any kind of effort to reach up to heaven for help or direction in my life.
It was not until I was 26 years old that I “came to [myself],” (Luke 15:17) like the prodigal son. At that point, I had just gone through a painful final separation from my first husband; I had a three-year-old-son, whom I loved with all my heart; and I found myself overwhelmed by fear, despair, and hopelessness. It was then, through the Light of Christ, that I received a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I felt the sincere desire to join the Church and to start participating in this remarkable journey of discipleship, experiencing its ups and downs, just like everyone else.
All I had to do was to desire to reach up to the Savior, to turn my heart to Him, to believe in Him, and to act on that belief.
My husband, Carlos, had a similar experience. He joined the Church in Mexico, together with his family, when he was nine years old. Because of various circumstances, his family did not remain active in the Church. However, he did not forget how he felt when the missionaries visited his home during his childhood and taught his family the truth.
Years later, he moved to the United States and lived with his brother. They occasionally received visits from home teachers and missionaries, and in their apartment sat a Book of Mormon which, for a long time, was untouched.
When Carlos was 27, he broke up with a girlfriend and felt devastated. Some of you may know the feeling of being brokenhearted. It is horrible! Right? It was then that he remembered how he had felt in his childhood when the Holy Ghost testified to his heart of the truthfulness of the gospel. So he finally reached up to the book, and he opened it. As he started to read, something amazing happened: he could not stop. Back then, he had two jobs and not much spare time, but instead of eating during his breaks, he continued reading the book.
After two weeks of using any minutes he had to read, he finished the book and, he was a new man. He came back to activity in the Church. Every Sunday, he renewed the covenant he had made in his childhood. Through that simple act of faith of reaching up to the Savior by reading the Book of Mormon, a whole universe of truth and light has come into his life.
In both of our cases, we were not physically lazy—we were actually busy and hardworking people—but we were going through a long period of spiritual laziness, without stretching ourselves toward God.
It was actually a simple act of faith—of reaching up—performed by a 14-year-old that started the glorious process of the Restoration of the gospel in this “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:18). As we know, at that young age, Joseph Smith found himself “in the midst of [a] war of words and tumult of opinions.” Does that sound like the times in which we live? Do you sometimes feel surrounded by a wave of stirring, division, and contention? At times, there are so many things competing for our attention, for our time, and even for our hearts, that it may be hard to keep our sight on the Lord and His gospel.
Young Joseph often asked himself, “What is to be done?” It is significant that he not only wanted to know the truth, but he also wanted to know what he needed to do. He was willing to find out what God’s will was for him and to do it.
The first answer he received entered his heart “with great force” as he was reading in James 1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
Joseph decided to act on those feelings. He chose a time and a place where he could exercise his faith and have a personal conversation with God. After going to the place he had chosen, he began to pour out his soul to his Creator. And then, an astonishing force overcame him entirely, in such a way that he could not speak. However, he exerted all his powers to call upon God. It was then that he saw a pillar of light “above the brightness of the sun,” descending gradually until it fell upon him and he had the glorious experience of seeing “God, the Eternal Father, and … His Son, Jesus Christ,” (Articles of Faith 1:1) who not only answered his question but also gave him instructions on what to do (Joseph Smith—History 1:5–20). Your presence here, my young brothers and sisters, your membership in the Church, are the fruits of Joseph’s reaching up to God. Your process of reaching, like his, begins with desire but quickly turns to action.
In his April 2017 general conference talk, President Russell M. Nelson said that in order to “[draw] the Savior’s power into our lives [we need] to reach up to Him in faith. [And] such reaching requires diligent, focused effort.”
He then talked about “the woman who suffered for 12 years with a debilitating problem [and] exercised great faith in the Savior, exclaiming, ‘If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole’ (Mark 5:28).
“This faithful, focused woman needed to stretch as far as she could to access His power. Her physical stretching was symbolic of her spiritual stretching.”
President Nelson added: “Many of us have cried out from the depths of our hearts a variation of this woman’s words: ‘If I could spiritually stretch enough to draw the Savior’s power into my life, I would know how to handle my heart-wrenching situation. I would know what to do. And I would have the power to do it’” (Russell M. Nelson, “Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2017, 41–42).
My young friends, no matter our circumstances, we all need to draw the Savior’s power into our life at all times. We all need to have a clear understanding of our divine nature and purpose so that each decision each of us make in life, can be guided by our desire to receive virtue and healing from the Savior. We all need to constantly exert all our power, stretch ourselves physically and spiritually, and reach up to the Savior so our afflictions can be “swallowed up in [His] joy” (Alma 31:38). For that, we need to start with the desire to draw closer to the Savior, nurturing that desire and exerting all of our power, until desire becomes faith and belief in the power that He has to help and to heal us.
Exerting our power in simple ways could mean to constantly pray to our Heavenly Father, knowing that He is our Father, that He knows our hearts, that He listens to our prayers, and that He truly wants us to be happy in this life and throughout eternity.
It could also mean to focus our thoughts on the Savior in a more intentional way. It may seem too simple, but I testify to you that turning our minds and hearts to our Savior as we go about our daily routines is a powerful way to reach up to Him and to draw from His power.
Another way to exert all of our power could be by reaching up to Heavenly Father through a diligent, personal study of the scriptures. Sometimes the difference between tapping into the Gospel Library and any other app on our phone is just a matter of a few millimeters. It can be as easy as to do this [swipe finger], instead of this [swipe finger the other way]. Or it could be to do this [move thumb], instead of this [move the other thumb]. Just a simple and easy movement shows our desire to reach up to the Savior—and to receive His light and guidance.
The same principle applies to studying the words of the living prophets, seers, and revelators. Once again, we have received, just a few days ago, a wealth of inspired counsel from our called leaders, and we have all of these gifts of knowledge and wisdom at our fingertips, literally.
A significant way in which we exerted all our power and showed the Savior that we wanted to receive virtue from Him was when we went into the waters of baptism to make a covenant with God, promising Him that we would obey His commandments. That act of faith required a spiritual and physical effort from us and from the people who support us in our decision to be a disciple of Christ.
Every Sunday we have the opportunity to stretch our arm and reach up our hand as we make the decision to partake of the sacrament and renew all of the covenants we have made with God. Through that simple and regular act of stretching and reaching up to the Savior, of acknowledging that we need His help at all times, we receive the strength and the vision we need every day of our week.
I know that you have a busy life. In fact, you are anxiously engaged in school, work, Church callings, helping family and friends, and having a social life. I am not implying by any means that you are lazy. My desire is to plead with you not to fall into the trap of spiritual laziness, but to keep doing the “small and simple things” (Alma 37:6) that will get you closer to the Savior so He can bless you.
President Nelson also counseled:
“When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be yours. When the Savior knows you truly want to reach up to Him—when He can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life—you will be led by the Holy Ghost to know exactly what you should do.
“When you spiritually stretch beyond anything you have ever done before, then His power will flow into you” (Russell M. Nelson, “Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” 42).
The Lord has promised that when we reach, He responds, explaining, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:63).
Together with Alma, I pledge to you:
“O my brethren [and sisters], if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief, and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish?
“… Then cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works” (Alma 33:21–22).
My young brothers and sisters, I testify to you that we have a Father in Heaven, who knows each of us personally and who “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). I testify to you that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Only Begotten Son, the Prince of Peace, and that He has the power and the desire to heal you, and to embrace you in His loving arms as you go through this mortal life. He loves you, He knows you, He wants you to draw near unto Him, and “from His perspective, you’re not that far away” (Henry B. Eyring, “My Peace I Leave with You,” Ensign, May 2017, 18). He has sent you the Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, who testifies to you of the saving and enabling power that comes from Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.
Of these things, I humbly testify, in His name, even Jesus Christ, amen.
Sister Reyna I. Aburto was sustained as second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency in April 2017.
Prior to her call, she served as a member of the Primary General Board and in different callings in Relief Society, Young Women, Primary, Sunday School and Scouting.
Sister Aburto was born in Managua, Nicaragua. She moved to the United States in 1984 and joined the Church in 1989 in San Francisco, California. She and her husband, Carlos, live in Orem, Utah. They have three children and two grandchildren.
Sister Aburto studied industrial engineering at Universidad Centroamericana in Managua, Nicaragua, and earned an associate degree in computer science from Utah Valley University. She has worked in the language industry for more than 25 years and currently works as a translator in a small translation business she owns with her husband.