In the Middle Ages, Parents would arrange an apprenticeship for their children beginning as young as 7 years old. The child would leave home and live with a master craftsman and the master would provide room and board for the child and train him. In exchange, the child would work at the master’s direction - an indentured servant of sorts. Apprenticeships lasted as long as 7 years with the expectation that the child would learn the trade, join the guild and be on his way to becoming a master himself.
In the Gospel we all go through a similar process to become disciples of Christ. But there are no limits on the # of children admitted.
The Savior said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.” (Matt 11:28)
The Path of Discipleship
We can break down the process of becoming a disciple of Christ into 3 steps:
Learning what a disciple is
Doing what a disciple does
Becoming a disciple
We spend most of our life learning and relearning the why and how of discipleship.
And it begins by learning the "vocabulary of Christ". In Gospel terms, we can only think as deeply as our vocabulary allows. This means that, in order to be a disciple, we need to understand the vocabulary.
In studying the gospel at home and in church we learn terms like preexistence, the fall, natural man, atonement, Holy Ghost, redemption, and eternal life. These words provide the context of discipleship. We learn the why and the how of discipleship from the scriptures.
The prophet Alma taught:
"... all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made." (Alma 34:9)
Without Christ, the end of this life would be the end of our existence. The Savior said:
What a Disciple is
The Savior taught what discipleship looks like in parables. From some we learn:
From the Good Samaritan, we learn how disciples are neighbors and love and care for others
From the 10 Virgins, we learn how disciples are be prepared
From the Lost Sheep, we learn how disciples leave the 99 and search for the 1
From the Prodigal Son, we learn how disciples love and forgive others AND that we are never too far removed to return to the Lord
And we learn about required ordinances like baptism and the sacrament are essential
When we Know the Why and What a Disciple is, Next we Do:
The Lord said to Peter, "When thou art converted, strengthen they brethren.” (Luke 22:32)
This starts with those closest to us. Our home and family provide a training ground for discipleship. We practice being disciples of Christ in the home, where it’s the easiest to take people for granted and teach our children to also.
President McKay taught the importance of being disciples at home when he said:
“No other success can compensate for failure in the home. The poorest shack over which love prevails is a far greater value to God and the future of humanity than any earthly riches. In such a home, God can work miracles and will work miracles."
There's nothing better than when children are laughing together, encouraging each other or loving a brother or sister.
I'm convinced this is how Heavenly Father feels when we love and serve each other.
We can appreciate imperfections in ourselves and each other.
President Hinckley taught to: "go into marriage with your eyes 90% open and then go through marriage with your eyes 90% shut.”
The happiest disciples know they’re not perfect and don’t expect it from others.
President Nelson has taught us to focus on daily improvement:
"Experience the strengthening power of daily repentance—of doing and being a little better each day.
When we choose to repent, we choose to change! We allow the Savior to transform us into the best version of ourselves. We choose to grow spiritually and receive joy—the joy of redemption in Him. When we choose to repent, we choose to become more like Jesus Christ!” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2019/04/36nelson?lang=eng)
The Church - Opportunities to serve
We are fortunate to have the church and the opportunities to grow and develop through different callings and working with different people.
Like our family, we don’t choose our ward. We move into an area and worship and serve with others in the geographical area. We learn that differences are good and that we can learn from everyone.
My wife says that people are like a book. It might take a few chapters to begin appreciating some but, if you put in the time, everyone is worth the read. We learn this through working with, serving, teaching and being taught by one another.
No paid clergy
In the church we all are our "brother’s keeper”. We’re given opportunity and responsibilities to teach and serve one another.
There is a “current of discipleship in the Church” that allows the Savior to say “Come unto me, all…”. The current is created by each of us saying yes to callings and loving those we serve. If a parent were simply bring their children to church and put them into the current, the children will experience 15 years of learning, training and practicing discipleship from members doing their callings.
For example, if I've counted correctly, in our ward a child would have 5-6 years in Primary learning from:
19 adult teachers and leaders, teaching the “language of Christ” each Sunday
Sister Brown teaches them the gospel through music
Experiences like giving talks and singing in front of their peers to give them confidence
6-7 years in the Young Women and Young Mens organizations.
With another 11 men and 9 women focused on teaching and training
7 others who teach combined Sunday school classes
Adult leaders providing “shadow leadership" to teach and train in leadership
Presidencies with responsibilities for class/quorum members
Opportunities to speak in front of 150 people and grow in confidence
Attend the Temple
And then have the opportunity to serve a full-time mission where they would spend
All time and effort spent doing nothing but serving and teaching the gospel
They become part of Ward leadership councils and learn from different leaders
And the current continues as they age and become the teachers and leaders who teach and train the next generation. Allowing the Lord to make disciples out of any who come.
Becoming a Disciple
Continually “doing” discipleship ultimately leads to becoming a disciple. Those of us lucky enough to live long lives learn that the longer we live the easier it becomes to be humble, love others and focus on the do’s of the gospel.
Some years ago Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained in “The Challenge to Become” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2000/10/the-challenge-to-become?lang=eng
"In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something."
“The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”1
I’m grateful for the chance to speak in church and would like to end with my testimony that I know God lives, that Jesus is our Savior and that Joseph Smith was the prophet of the restoration. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
I'll end with sharing my testimony that I know God lives, that Jesus Christ is our Savior and the Joseph Smith is the prophet of the restoration. And that through His church "all" truly can come unto him and get on the path of discipleship. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.