Notes taken from the talk "Clean Hands and a Pure Heart"
by David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
The gospel of Jesus Christ allows us to:
- be cleansed from sin and bad influences
- do good
- be good
- become better
This is done through:
- repentance of our sins
- seeking forgiveness
Necessary for our spiritual advancement, remission of sin is vital enough to make a daily priority.
The ultimate purpose of the gospel:
To have our hearts changed by the Holy Spirit to the point that "we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually" (Mosiah 5:2).
This is what we covenant to do. It's not that the covenant (and thus commitment) is made, and voila! I'm perfect. It's merely a commitment by normal, everyday people to try harder everyday and seeking the help of deity in doing so.
Not brought about through an individual's hard work and/or personal discipline.
Results from fundamental changes in:
Only brought about through the Atonement of Christ.
This is the UPWARD spiral!
The battle of this earth life:
to overcome sin AND the desire to sin.
To rise above. To upward spiral. To reverse gravity in our spirits. To fly. To soar.
There are two requirements:
(1) avoid and overcome bad
(2) do good and become better
"Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?
"He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully" (Psalm 24:3-4).
Interesting that here, the words "ascend" and "lifted up" are used.
How does one do this? Here are some of the keys:
• Have clean hands.
Do good. Seek to bless the lives of others.
• Have a pure heart.
Is it possible to have clean hands but not have a pure heart?
How are hands made clean?
- By seeking to be unselfish and generous toward others.
- By overcoming sin and evil influences through the Atonement.
How are hearts purified?
- By receiving Christ's strengthening power to do good.
- By seeking to become better
No matter what we think or feel in our hearts; no matter what our motives are. No matter how good our works are, they can NEVER alone give us the clean hands and pure heart needed to upward spiral.
There is a missing ingredient: The cleansing and redeeming power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ!
This is the ONLY way to overcome sin.
The Atonement has a sanctifying and strengthening power.
This power helps us become better than we ever could by relying only upon our own strength.
No one should overlook this power.
"The infinite Atonement is for both the sinner and for the saint in each of us:"
For the sinner: repentance; cleansing.
For the saint: improvement
How exactly does one do these things? I want a step-by-step, nitty gritty plan for this. I want to know what exactly to teach my children. This is ultimately important.
Here is the simple answer:
From the Book of Mormon. King Benjamin taught about the mission of Jesus Christ--His Atonement. What he taught caused the hearers to fall to the earth because "...they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men" (Mosiah 4:2; emphasis added).
Is it really that easy? As easy as looking at a brass serpent on a pole? As simple as asking for it? Like asking your mom for a cookie?
Let's look at that again…
"...O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified…."
Is it really that easy? Easy? Yes, but as simple as asking for a cookie? Probably not. Desire and belief must be part of the equation--desire to have sins removed; to be clean and belief in the Savior Jesus Christ and his ability to forgive and cleanse through His Atonement.
Christ's Atonement offers us a twofold blessing:
- forgiveness of sin = clean hands
- transformation of our nature = pure hearts
Whenever human nature is mentioned, it takes my mind to Mosiah 3:19 -
"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father."
Here is my commitment with the covenant I've made:
- "Yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit"
- Put off the "natural man."
Without the power of Christ's Atonement, I remain an "enemy to God," and I have no hope of fulfilling my part of the covenant.
King Benjamin, in the Book of Mormon, reiterated the importance of these two basic aspects of spiritual development:
"And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you-that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God - I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor" (Mosiah 4:26).
What specifically should we seek?
- remission of sins from day to day
- to walk guiltless before God
When I go to be judged of Jesus Christ, I must have more than just clean hands. He is as "a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19). He freely spilled His blood for me, but it was wasted if I don't use it by desiring, believing, and asking for the power of this sacrifice to be applied to me.
Is this really attainable in my life?
No one will be perfect in this life.
How to strive for perfection in this life:
- press forward with faith in Christ
- find and follow the strait and narrow path
- make steady progress toward our eternal destiny
How is it done?
- "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little" (2 Nephi 28:30).
- Small, steady, incremental spiritual improvements.
- Prepare to walk guiltless before God
Not from sporadic spurts of intense spiritual activity—consistent behaviors.
This is what's so hard for me. Being consistent in anything is difficult. Fits and spurts are much more my style, but maybe the Atonement can help me with this too--self-control, persistence, consistency of behavior.
The only way to upward spiral.