Over the past six or seven years our (previous and current) Bishopric has developed and maintained a Ward Vision Statement. It includes the following:
We are homeward bound. Our destination is the Celestial Kingdom. Our journey consists of learning how to live the Celestial Law here and now so that we will be able to abide the glory of our destination. ?
It continues by addressing ways that our ward can help each member in his or her own journey, especially by making it a collective, cooperative journey. This vision statement, along with an emphasis on reverence (particularly in the sanctuary that is our chapel), and on the mantra of our small yet sincere efforts are good enough for now, ? has created a ward family that as a general rule is more unified, more reverent and more accepting.
The phrase homeward bound ? has long struck me as an important principle for me (and for all of us) to understand. I have used it in talks and lessons. I view the image of being homeward bound as an integral part of the plan of salvation. The perspective that this earth life is a journey is one that helps solidify my faith, my hope and my testimony.
A journey, by definition, has a starting point as well as an ending point. Our starting point was as spirit children in the pre-mortal realm. We progressed there, and then came here to this mortal earth to walk by faith and to be tried and tested. We eventually will continue our journey into the post-mortal world, to continue our lives ? lessons, growth and progression. This journey is our attempt to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father, where we were in the beginning having advanced beyond where we started.
In a talk a few years ago, I shared an analogy that Stephen Robinson uses in his book, Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News,that coming to Christ is like getting on a train to a specific destination. If we want to go to that place, it is critical that we get on the train. When we exercise faith in Christ, repent, are baptized, and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, we get on the train so most of us are already on it. And as long as we stay on the train, we will eventually reach the destination, which is eternal life with our Savior and our Father. No one can ever throw us off the train, no matter what we do or don ?t do if we get off the train it will only be because of our own choice to leave. No matter where we feel we are on that train (sitting in the front car or hanging onto the caboose), as long as we ?re on it, we are promised that we will reach the desired destination.
So, for those of us who have been baptized, following Christ becomes a matter not of getting into the kingdom of God, for we are already in it, but rather a matter of staying in the kingdom of God of choosing to stay on the train. In other words, following Christ is accomplished by enduring faithfully to the end.
Brother Robinson says that the scriptural definition of enduring to the end ? has more to do with loyalty to Christ and reliability (with being able to continue or remain) than with suffering, coping, and having enough stamina to just hang in there. ?
This train analogy could be expanded to envision one eternally long train with innumerable cars, for we are each at different levels of gospel understanding, and we each progress at different speeds. As long as we don ?t get off track, ? we can move back and forth from car to car as our knowledge and testimony grow (and, conversely, as we make mistakes and sin, which is a natural part of our mortality). We can help, encourage, and hold onto each other as we work to stay on the train. We will face challenges ? as well as joys ? as we travel on this journey home.
I believe we are each at different points on this journey back to our Heavenly Father sitting in different seats on the train but as we do the best we can to come unto Him, ? we are each homeward bound.
Most of the things I write, think, and feel are directly related to my personal journey home to Heavenly Father. Hopefully, in these posts you can see and feel how my thoughts and experiences relate to your own lives even if your own journey takes different twists and turns than mine.