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Brother John G. Bytheway: The Discipline Within a Disciple

‘A disciple is more than a believer. Being a disciple implies discipline,’ says Young Men leader

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By Brother John G. Bytheway, Young Men General Advisory Council

“I am a disciple of Jesus Christ” is the powerful opening line of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 2024 youth theme (3 Nephi 5:13).

If we take a closer look at that word, “disciple,” we see it is similar to the word, “discipline.” A disciple is more than a believer. Being a disciple implies discipline.

I may believe wholeheartedly that fruits and vegetables are good for my health, but if I continue to live on soft drinks and donuts, I will forfeit the blessings of discipline in my diet. I may be a believer of a good diet but not a very good disciple. Being a disciple takes our beliefs to the next level. As disciples, we strive to live according to what we believe. We value the discipline in standards, boundaries and commandments, and we enjoy the blessings connected with them.

Of course, being a disciple doesn’t mean being perfect. One young man who was struggling with some bad habits told his bishop that maybe he should stop coming to Church because he felt like a hypocrite. His leader replied, “You’re not a hypocrite because you have a bad habit you are trying to break. You are a hypocrite if you hide it, lie about it, or try to convince yourself the Church has the problem for maintaining high standards. Being honest about your actions and taking steps to move forward is not being a hypocrite. It is being a disciple” (Bradley R. Wilcox, “Worthiness is Not Flawlessness,” October 2021 general conference). Truly, a disciple is one who has the discipline to keep on trying to “Let God prevail” in his or her life.

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It is common today for people to say that they follow their “own truth.” As disciples, we seek to know and love the truth. Disciples of Jesus Christ recognize that if we choose not to follow Him, we are simply following someone else. President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, taught:

“When we reject the counsel which comes from God, we do not choose to be independent of outside influence. We choose another influence. We reject the protection of a perfectly loving, all-powerful, all-knowing Father in Heaven, whose whole purpose, as that of His Beloved Son, is to give us eternal life, to give us all that He has, and to bring us home again in families to the arms of His love. In rejecting His counsel, we choose the influence of another power, whose purpose is to make us miserable and whose motive is hatred” (“Finding Safety in Counsel,” April 1997 general conference).

Jesus never said, “Find your own way.” He said, “I am the way” (see John 14:6). He never said, “You do you.” He said, “You do me” or, in other words, “What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? ... Even as I am” (see 3 Nephi 27:27).

Some may feel that giving their lives to God, making covenants or becoming devoted disciples requires too much sacrifice on their part. President Russell M. Nelson disagrees:

“I grieve for those who leave the Church because they feel membership requires too much of them. They have not yet discovered that making and keeping covenants actually makes life easier! Each person who makes covenants in baptismal fonts and in temples — and keeps them — has increased access to the power of Jesus Christ. Please ponder that stunning truth! (“Overcome the World and Find Rest,” October 2022 general conference).

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Choosing to be a disciple of Christ isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smartest thing to do. We are all disciples of someone or something. Popular opinion, social trends and online influencers all have their disciples. But we can choose to be mentored by Christ. The decision is easy — who else would you rather have in your life? Who loves you more and has shown it in countless ways? Who is more trustworthy? Who else has the power to change your heart and who else extends boundless mercy and offers forgiveness of your sins? It’s a no-brainer.

Together with Mormon, let us all choose to say, “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life” (3 Nephi 5:13).

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