The Celestial Way
An Address Given in Gettysburg Ward by Daniel Joseph Malcolm, November 26, 2023
I am a long term believer in following the counsel of prophets, especially the living prophet. He speaks for our day, for the time in which we live, with inspiration from on high of how we can overcome the challenges uniquely faced in our generation.
Sometimes the instruction we receive from him can be difficult. Living the laws of God and participating in the ongoing restoration is not always easy. Followers of God throughout time have endured difficult circumstances that were required for our good.
Was it easy for our first parents Adam and Eve to give life to the generations of men, knowing that their children would stray and bring unspeakable sorrow? How was the trial of Noah endured when he and his family followed the command to build an ark, a lifetime of labor and ridicule, and then to witness the destruction of so many? Was it easy for Lehi and his family to walk away from wealth and riches, a life of relative ease, to face unknown desert places and high seas? Early apostles followed Christ through peril, gave up trades and family, and ultimately faced martyrdom. The Saints built Nauvoo, and a temple to their God, on the word of their beloved prophet Joseph. How was it for them to peacefully abandon their homes and temple to follow another prophet, into an uncertain future?
Those were difficult commands to follow and endure, but follow they did, and the blessings are many:
• Billions have been born to achieve with agency the full measure of their creation;
• The family of men, along with the creatures of the world, were saved from the flood;
• A promised land was reached, the descendants of Lehi one day witnessing the resurrected Son of God;
• Those early disciples not only came to know the Lord and His love personally, but were able to spread His word to eventually reach the four corners of the world;
• The sorrow of losing their prophet Joseph Smith, and then their homes and temple, were grievous to be born, but following his successor Brigham Young, the Lord’s chosen prophet for that time, across the plains and to the Rocky Mountains, they built new communities, a new House of the Lord, and now God’s temples dot the earth.
All of these blessings followed obedience to what could be seen as difficult commandments to bear, yet the Lord blesses us abundantly also in keeping simple things. When we listen to and follow the words of prophets, whether challenging or easy to bear, our lives will be blessed for good. So if we are willing to do the big things, make and keep covenants, be obedient to commandments that have often been hard for us, why not partake also of every sweet and simple invitation that flows forth from the mouth of a prophet for our benefit?
In the days of the Moses, the children of Israel were dying from the venomous bites of serpents. The prophet of the Lord invited that they look at the brazen serpent on the end of a stick, and if they would, they would be healed. It was a simple thing. Considering all they had seen with their deliverance from Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and being fed with manna from heaven, they should have known to just look and live, as the prophet had instructed, but so many would not. To them, it perhaps seemed too simple, too easy, too much of an exercise of humble faith. So they died.
Recently, our beloved prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, extended a simple and inspired invitation to assist us in qualifying for Heavenly Father’s rich blessings. “I invite you to adopt the practice of ‘thinking celestial’! Thinking celestial means being spiritually minded. We learn from the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob that ‘to be spiritually-minded is life eternal’ (2 Nephi 9:39). …So, think celestial” (General Conference, October 2023).
No matter how one might want to complicate life or the teachings of prophets and commandments of God, thinking celestial is a small and simple thing to ask. I have tried to put it into practice since hearing President Nelson speak those words in the last general conference. It is important for us to recognize that although the counsel is simple, it is certainly not simplistic. Treated as simplistic will not accomplish the desired results of thinking celestial and growing closer to God.
A few days ago, feeling frustrated about how someone mishandled a situation, I started mumbling under my breath, “Think celestial. Think celestial.” I suddenly realized how much that reminded me of an old sitcom gag where a misguided and emotionally unstable Frank Costanza shouted when frustrated, “Serenity now! Serenity now!” The practice of thinking celestial is not akin to bundling up frustration under a pretty bow and thinking it is just going to go away. This is certainly not the intention of the counsel given by President Nelson.
Thinking celestial is about taking a long view, looking at the big picture, and living an improved life of discipleship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is about internalizing the teachings of the Savior, and allowing them to change our outlook on life, and the manner in which we live. As President Nelson taught, “When you make choices, I invite you to take the long view—an eternal view. Put Jesus Christ first because your eternal life is dependent upon your faith in Him and in His Atonement. It is also dependent upon your obedience to His laws. Obedience paves the way for a joyful life for you today and a grand, eternal reward tomorrow.”
In our day-to-day experiences, tasks and challenges, it is sometimes hard to have an eternal perspective, or even the — short — long view — so to speak. Repeating tedious tasks such as cleaning out the gutters on the house that will just get filled again, washing dishes we will have to wash tomorrow night, or making a bed that is just going to be messed up later, sometimes feels without reward. Nevertheless, when we think of the protection given our homes from water when our gutters work properly, the delicious meals we will yet enjoy on those dishes we made clean, or the sheer delight in rising from our praying knees and pulling back the covers of a freshly made bed to climb in for a restful night’s sleep, even tedious chores have long view blessings attached.
Our 99-year-old prophet is recovering from a painful and disabling back injury. In his pain and discomfort I have great empathy, as I too have suffered from similar injuries over the years. Who of us have not known debilitating pain? If we have not, chances are we will at one time or another. In his suffering and road to recovery President Nelson has taken a long view, thought celestial, if you will. He shared, “As I have wrestled with the intense pain caused by my recent injury, I have felt even deeper appreciation for Jesus Christ and the incomprehensible gift of His Atonement. Think of it! The Savior suffered ‘pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind’ so that He can comfort us, heal us, rescue us in times of need. Jesus Christ described His experience in Gethsemane and on Calvary: ‘Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore.’ My injury has caused me to reflect again and again on ‘the greatness of the Holy One of Israel.’ During my healing, the Lord has manifested His divine power in peaceful and unmistakable ways.”
In our own healing needs, in our efforts to think celestial, the Lord will manifest His divine power in peaceful and unmistakable ways to our blessing as well. We may not be healed from every injury, relieved of every pain, restored of everything ever lost, but the Lord God will manifest His power, help us to overcome our weakness, comfort us in our sorrows, and provide lasting wisdom in any trial we must endure, and the reward will be celestial.
As President Nelson admonished, “When you are confronted with a dilemma, think celestial! When tested by temptation, think celestial! When life or loved ones let you down, think celestial! When someone dies prematurely, think celestial. When someone lingers with a devastating illness, think celestial. When the pressures of life crowd in upon you, think celestial! As you recover from an accident or injury,… think celestial!”
Brothers and sisters, the effort to think celestial, to follow this simple yet profound counsel from a prophet of God, will bless our lives in countless ways, not solely in the moment, or for this life only, but for all time. Celestial is the kingdom in which we should all aspire to live — with God and our Savior, with our families, and all those we love. When we think celestial we are committing faith to action, and by the manifestation of that action, our faith will increase. Thinking celestial, following the prophet, and living the commandments of God will come more naturally and easier for us. We will draw closer to our Heavenly Father with every celestial thought, with every act of faith, better prepared for His kingdom, and by natural extension, the way we think, the way we act, the way we live, the celestial way, will impact for good those whose lives we touch.
It is the Lord who inspires our prophet for our benefit. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Great Redeemer of our souls, He who atoned for us, the resurrected Lord and Savior. I am grateful beyond measure, my heart filled with thanksgiving, for He who prophets foretold would come into the world — and He did — and prophets foretell will come again — and He will. For He who provides the light of revelation to our living prophet, for the benefit of God’s children, to the benefit of all who will hear and follow, to all who will think celestial. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.