Saturday, May 29, 2010
After Lehi related his dream to his children, his son Nephi wanted to understand the meaning of the things his father had seen. He had faith that God, through the Holy Ghost was able to reveal these things to him. He said, "For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round." (1 Nephi 10:19) With this faith as his strength, Nephi sat pondering the things that his father had told him.
As he was pondering, an angel appeared to him and asked what he desired. He explained that he desired to see the things his father had seen. He was then shown the tree that his father had seen. He described the fruit as being exceedingly white. He asked the meaning of the tree, and in response was shown a vision of the Savior being born in to the world. The angel asked him if he understood the meaning of the tree. Nephi replied that he understood that it was a symbol of the love of God; and that it was the most desirable thing of all.
TREE: LOVE OF GOD
Nephi was then shown the Savior going forth teaching the people, and them falling at his feet worshipping him. He then understood that the rod of iron was the word of God which leads one to God.
IRON ROD: WORD OF GOD
Nephi was then shown the life of the Savior, as well as His crucifixion. He is then made to understand that the great and spacious building is a representation of the pride of the world. He saw that the fall of it would be great.
GREAT AND SPACIOUS BUILDING: PRIDE OF THE WORLD
He is then shown the future of his people in the Americas, including the Savior's visit after His resurrection. He saw the Savior choose twelve apostles from among the people. He was shown that after the Savior's visit to the people of the Americas, that they would live in righteousness for four generations. But then he saw that they would begin to war against each other.
The angel then explained that the fountain and river of filthy water were a representation of the depths of hell. And the mists of darkness represented the temptations of the devil which he uses to blind men, harden their hearts, and lead them down the wrong paths.
MISTS OF DARKNESS: TEMPTATIONS AND DECEPTIONS OF THE DEVIL
Nephi is then shown many more things that I cannot write in this post. My one fear in writing about this subject was that I would not do it justice. I encourage you to follow this link to read the account for yourself.
One of the great lessons of Lehi's vision is that we must hold on to the word of God if we are to wend our way past the temptations and traps of the devil in this life. We cannot let the pride of the world shame us in to letting go of the word of God and veering off the path. If we hold fast to the words of God, we can partake of the love of God and will be protected from the temptations of the devil.
Below is a video of a hymn we sing to remind us to hold fast to the Iron Rod.
1. To Nephi, seer of olden time,
A vision came from God,
Wherein the holy word sublime
Was shown an iron rod.
Hold to the rod, the iron rod;
’Tis strong, and bright, and true.
The iron rod is the word of God;
’Twill safely guide us through.
2. While on our journey here below,
Beneath temptation’s pow’r,
Through mists of darkness we must go,
In peril ev’ry hour.
3. And when temptation’s pow’r is nigh,
Our pathway clouded o’er,
Upon the rod we can rely,
And heaven’s aid implore.
4. And, hand o’er hand, the rod along,
Through each succeeding day,
With earnest prayer and hopeful song,
We’ll still pursue our way.
5. Afar we see the golden rest
To which the rod will guide,
Where, with the angels bright and blest,
Forever we’ll abide.
Text: Joseph L. Townsend, 1849–1942
Music: William Clayson, 1840–1887
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Lehi, one of the first prophets that we encounter in the Book of Mormon, had a vision of the tree of life. There were many meaningful elements to his dream which are applicable to us today. In this first part of a series on this subject, I would like to introduce some of the imagery of his dream.
DARK AND DREARY WILDERNESS
At the beginning of his dream, Lehi found himself in a dark and dreary wilderness. You can imagine his despair after traveling for many hours in this oppressive place.
TREE OF LIFE
He turned to the Lord in prayer, and was shown a large and spacious field, and in the midst of it was a tree. The fruit of this tree was exceedingly white, and by eating it, one could find great happiness. Lehi went forward and ate some of the fruit of the tree.
It is interesting to note at this point that a stone has been found in south/central America that depicts many aspects of Lehi's dream, including the tree of life. In the photo below, and drawing, you can see clearlya depiction of the tree of life, and under it, a river of flowing water.
RIVER OF FILTHY WATER
Of course, Lehi's first thoughts after eating the fruit were of his family. He wanted them to come and experience the joy for themselves. As he looked around for his family, he saw a river of filthy water. At the head of the river was a fountain from which the water came.
Lehi could see his wife, and some of his children near the head of the river, standing as if they didn't know where to go. He beckoned for them to come to him and eat of the fruit. They came and also ate the fruit. He saw his other sons and called to them as well, but they would not come.
ROD OF IRON
As Lehi looked again, he could see that next to the river was a rod of iron, and a narrow path. Many people were pressing forward, holding on to the rod to try to get to the tree. Many of them were able to also come and eat the fruit. But there came a mist of darkness that made it difficult to see the way to go. Those who held on to the iron rod were able to find their way through the mist, but those who did not hold on to the rod were lost. There were still others who held on to the rod of iron and were able to eat of the fruit, but who, after eating, looked as if they were ashamed.
Lehi looked around and saw that there was a great and spacious building.
GREAT AND SPACIOUS BUILDING
Inside the building were people pointing, mocking and laughing at those who were partaking of the fruit. Some of those eating the fruit were ashamed and let go of the rod. They wandered off and were lost. Some fell in to the water, and others lost their way in the mists of darkness. There were many people pressing forward toward the tree of life, but there were also many who were making their way toward the great and spacious building.
After witnessing this dream, Lehi was concerned for the welfare of the sons who had not had the desire to eat of the fruit. He preached to them and counseled them to keep the commandments of the Lord. His son Nephi, wanting to understand the dream that his father had, sought the Lord in prayer and received an interpretation of the meaning of the dream. I will discuss that interpretation in part 2!
If you would like to read the account of Lehi's dream for youself, you may do so by clicking here.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Ensign, Oct 2004, 26–31
Note that Elder Maxwell passed away as this was being prepared to be published.
After reciting a litany of social ills during his time, Mormon consoled his son, Moroni, suggesting that somber world conditions could unnecessarily “weigh thee down” (Moro. 9:25). 1 Today, I write lest you be unnecessarily “weighed down.” What follows will include several stern but needed prophecies, yet my comments will mostly be about some very reassuring and positive things. Though I write primarily to the youth of the Church, these assurances have ready application to all gospel teachers who have been entrusted with nurturing this royal generation.
My text is a later Nephi’s phrase about his own time and season on earth. As he became less nostalgic for an earlier time and more submissive as to doing his duty in his particular season, he said, “I am consigned that these are my days.” I invite young men and women to do likewise by accepting your discipleship in “these … [your] days” (Hel. 7:9).
Societies, as well as individuals, can “sleep,” cushioned and unawares, especially if sedated by materialism and ease. Those who remain sedated will fail to meet their rendezvous. Events can, however, constitute a wake-up call. In secular history, for instance, the summer and early autumn of 1939 brought the most beautiful weather in memory to England. Haunting remembrances of the terrible devastation of World War I along with the hovering prospects of a new war made appeasement so attractive to so many. Awakened, however, the British later rallied to their “finest hour.”
Lest young disciples, too, “sleep,” I will now note several prophecies, putting your own times in needed perspective.
The last days will certainly be more challenging to young disciples than simply coping with sharp economic downturns. In these, your days, “the love of many shall wax cold,” resulting in various and serious social consequences (Matt. 24:12). Widespread despair caused by iniquity is prophesied too (see Moro. 10:22). Hence, you need to keep the two great commandments so that those two lamentable conditions do not characterize you.
If your humility is “because of the word,” it will not be fleeting! In contrast, compelled humility often fades quickly (see Alma 32:13–16).
Various forms of help are near at hand, including the Church’s stakes that are to be “for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm”—a real blessing! (D&C 115:6).
Such failing hearts suggest not cardiac arrests but a loss of will and hope. But again, such symptoms need not characterize you nor your responses to life. You will see such things, of course, but if managed in a framework of faith, these need not “weigh [you] down.”
Even the prophesied global commotion will include a dimension of redemptive turbulence—for “the kingdom of the devil must shake” in order that some therein will be “stirred up unto repentance” (2 Ne. 28:19). The Lord has His own unique way of getting good things out of bad situations, again and again.
The Earth in Commotion
In the days of young disciples, the nations of the earth will be in “distress … with perplexity,” foretelling a time of unusual perplexity and bewilderment (Luke 21:25). There will be so many rocks and so many hard places for some to get between. No wonder we rightly and reassuringly sing, “We thank thee, O God, for a prophet to guide us in these latter days.” 2 Young disciples will have the blessed, ongoing direction of the Lord, through His prophets.
After all, the restored gospel includes the reassuring truths most needed in any age. Proximate and tactical troubles do not, for instance, diminish from such reassuring strategic truths. For example, we all are spirit sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, an encouraging genealogy without temporal and national borders. Additionally, there is a redeeming plan of salvation that provides the ultimate security for the righteous. We likewise can receive the relevant and saving gospel ordinances, another great source of strength for us as individuals!
The Lord Loves You
Meanwhile, don’t worry if you cannot give glib explanations as to the meaning of all things happening to you or around you. The Lord loves you, His children, just as Nephi wrote (see 1 Ne. 11:17). Spiritual certitude can exist amid distress and perplexity. So many positive and prophetic promises are there to help latter-day disciples to cope.
The Lord said comfortingly, “I am in your midst” (D&C 38:7). “And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours” (D&C 78:18).
God watches the times and seasons. He knows your individual bearing capacities. In the very, very last days, for example, He will display His mercy in an unusual way: “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matt. 24:22).
Thus, you can have full faith and trust in God, His mercy and goodness. As the Psalmist wrote, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Ps. 20:7).
We should not trust too much in modern weaponry either.
God has transcending capacities: “I am able to do mine own work. … I will show unto the children of men that I am able to do mine own work” (2 Ne. 27:20–21). Is He ever! He not only urges us to trust Him but invites us to “[cast] all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).
Remember, too, that your faith covers all portions of life’s trail. You can have clear faith in the ultimate outcomes at the end of the trail but still find vexing uncertainties in the steps immediately ahead. The Lord knows the end from the beginning and everything in between. You, however, function in the muddled, mortal middle. Both the help and comfort of the Holy Ghost are thus much needed for the short run too!
Hence, you are to proceed with your lives within what is allotted to you, while letting adversity highlight any need for some personal and individual course corrections (see Alma 29:3). Happily, discipleship carries within itself its own witness that it is the true way of living; it is self-reinforcing.
The very first verse of the Book of Mormon is also very instructive concerning another blessing given to most all of you: being “born of goodly parents.” In the unfolding of your lives, you too may see “many afflictions,” though having also “been highly favored of the Lord.” You, too, can be blessed by relying on your “knowledge of the goodness … of God” (1 Ne. 1:1). By understanding that God is perfect in His goodness, Nephi kept his afflictions and trials in perspective, which is the challenge of discipleship in any age and any circumstance, including “these … [your] days.”
Prophetically, President Gordon B. Hinckley said to us at a recent general conference that current events in the world did not constitute the “all-consuming calamity.” President Hinckley also cautioned: “Peace may be denied for a season. … We may even be called on to suffer in one way or another. … Our safety lies in repentance. Our strength comes of obedience to the commandments of God. … This is the crux of the entire matter—obedience to the commandments of God.” 3
President Lorenzo Snow (1814–1901) further reassured us, saying: “We are here because we are worthy to be here, and that arises, to a great extent at least, from the fact that we kept our first estate. I believe that when you and I were in yonder life we made certain covenants … that in this life, when we should be permitted to enter it, we would do what we had done in that life—find out the will of God and conform to it.” 4
We thus come to this life, to borrow Wordsworth’s phrase, “trailing clouds of glory” 5 but also “trailing” traits developed in the premortal world.
Pay heed, therefore, to your inborn spiritual reflexes. Use, even more, the gifts of the Holy Ghost, who can fill you with “hope and perfect love” (Moro. 8:26). He can “enlighten your mind, … [and] shall fill your soul with joy” (D&C 11:13). How precious and relevant these gifts of hope, love, and joy are in any age, but certainly in yours, when so many feel unloved, hopeless, and sad!
The foregoing is just a small sample of positive promises! Hence, while we are clearly instructed to notice the leaves on the fig tree to know when “summer is nigh,” we are not to sit around moodily staring at the fig trees (see Matt. 24:32). There is so much work to be done in the Lord’s vast vineyard!
Many in the world, at the time of our “all-consuming calamity,” will be taken by total surprise—like a thief in the night. Others, however, will be “like a woman … in travail” where the pains of labor are foretelling, “even [in] the days of sorrow” (D&C 136:35). Still others, the “poor and the meek,” without being preoccupied, will be looking for the signs (see D&C 35:15; see also D&C 45:39).
Amid all this, God, who lives in “eternal now,” is relentlessly and lovingly accomplishing His work, using His unique foreknowledge to ensure that all His purposes will prevail—not just some of them. The Prophet Joseph said: “The great Jehovah contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth, pertaining to the plan of salvation, before it rolled into existence, or ever ‘the morning stars sang together’ for joy. … He knew … of the depth of iniquity that would be connected with the human family, their weakness and strength, their power and glory, apostasies, their crimes, their righteousness and iniquity; … He was acquainted with the situation of all nations and with their destiny; … He knows the situation of both the living and the dead, and has made ample provision for their redemption.” 6
His “ample provision” is more than adequate! But faith is not built in a wordless vacuum. Instead, it takes hearing, pondering, believing, behaving, and likening the word to ourselves! (see 1 Ne. 19:23). The Restoration has given us the vital “key of knowledge” that Jesus said had been lost. It is “the fulness of the scriptures” that includes many plain and precious things to anchor and guide us as disciples (see Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 11:53). “For they will hear my voice … and shall not be asleep” (D&C 35:21).
God has a timetable for this planet and for each person: “But all things must come to pass in their time” (D&C 64:32).
Within all of the drama cited are many individual dramas, making it imperative for you to allow the Lord to tutor you amid your discipleship.
Enoch rejoiced, and so can you over the grand, consoling reality regarding God: “And yet thou art there” (Moses 7:30). Privileged Enoch even saw the God of heaven weep! (see Moses 7:29). Yet Enoch was very discouraged by the gross wickedness anciently. He said he would “refuse to be comforted” (Moses 7:44). The mentoring Lord, however, told Enoch to “lift up your heart, and be glad; and look” (Moses 7:44). Then revealed to Enoch was Jesus’ Atonement in the meridian of time and also the latter-day Restoration. Enoch, who had been so distraught, now rejoiced!
Do not “refuse to be comforted.” Let the revelations comfort you. Let the scriptures refresh you!
You young disciples are so privileged, and though the times in which you will live will be turbulent, there will be glorious accomplishments, too.
Thus, I have desired to place some perspective on these, your days, and I salute you for what your generation represents and the divine compliment God has given you by placing you here—now.
Make use of these, “your days,” for as you become more like Jesus, there will be more and more things He will give you to do.
My feelings are such that I salute you! Perhaps this feeling is so strong because I have a more keen sense of who you really are than you do, a clearer picture of your rendezvous in these, your days, speaking of you collectively. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen!
1. This article is based on a series of firesides delivered in Salt Lake and Utah Counties in late 2001 and early 2002.
4. In Collected Discourses Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, comp. and ed. Brian H. Stuy, 5 vols. (1987–97), 4:55.
5. William Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth (1924), 359.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
“One [meaning of charity or ‘the pure love of Christ’] is the kind of merciful, forgiving love Christ’s disciples should have one for another....
“The greater definition of ‘the pure love of Christ,’ however, is not what we as Christians try but largely fail to demonstrate toward others but rather what Christ totally succeeded in demonstrating toward us. True charity has been known only once. It is shown perfectly and purely in Christ’s unfailing, ultimate, and atoning love for us. ... It is that charity—his pure love for us—without which we would be nothing, hopeless, of all men and women most miserable. Truly, those found possessed of the blessings of his love at the last day—the Atonement, the Resurrection, eternal life, eternal promise—surely it shall be well with them.
“This does not in any way minimize the commandment that we are to try to acquire this kind of love for one another. We should ‘pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love’ [ Moroni 7:48 ; see also 1Corinthians 13:4–5, 7–8 ]. ... As Christ lived so should we live, and as Christ loved so should we love. But the ‘ pure love of Christ’ Mormon spoke of is precisely that—Christ’s love. With that divine gift, that redeeming bestowal, we have everything; without it we have nothing and ultimately are nothing, except in the end ‘devils [and] angels to a devil’ [ 2Nephi 9:9 ]” ( Christ and the New Covenant, 336–37).
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Pres. Howard W. Hunter
“Let us follow the Son of God in all ways and in all walks of life. Let us make him our exemplar and our guide. We should at every opportunity ask ourselves, ‘What would Jesus do?’ and then be more courageous to act upon the answer. We must follow Christ, in the best sense of that word. We must be about his work as he was about his Father’s. ... To the extent that our mortal powers permit, we should make every effort to become like Christ—the one perfect and sinless example this world has ever seen” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 84; or Ensign, May 1994, 64 ).
Monday, May 17, 2010
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
“People serve one another for different reasons, and some reasons are better than others. Perhaps none of us serves in every capacity all the time for only a single reason. Since we are imperfect beings, most of us probably serve for a combination of reasons, and the combinations may be different from time to time as we grow spiritually. But we should all strive to serve for the reasons that are highest and best....
“Some may serve for hope of earthly reward. ... Others might serve in order to obtain worldly honors, prominence, or power....
“Another reason for service—probably more worthy than the first, but still in the category of service in search of earthly reward—is that motivated by a personal desire to obtain good companionship....
“These first two reasons for service are selfish and self-centered and unworthy of Saints. ... Reasons aimed at earthly rewards are distinctly lesser in character and reward than the other reasons I will discuss.
“Some may serve out of fear of punishment. ... Service out of fear of punishment is a lesser motive at best.
“Other persons may serve out of a sense of duty or out of loyalty to friends or family or traditions. ... Those who serve out of a sense of duty or loyalty to various wholesome causes are the good and honorable men and women of the earth.
“Service of the character I have just described is worthy of praise and will surely qualify for blessings, especially if it is done willingly and joyfully....
“... There are still higher reasons for service.
“One such higher reason for service is the hope of an eternal reward. This hope—the expectation of enjoying the fruits of our labors—is one of the most powerful sources of motivation. As a reason for service, it necessarily involves faith in God and in the fulfillment of his prophecies....
“The last motive I will discuss is, in my opinion, the highest reason of all. In its relationship to service, it is what the scriptures call ‘a more excellent way’ ( 1Corinthians 12:31 ).
“If our service is to be most efficacious, it must be accomplished for the love of God and the love of his children....
“This principle—that our service should be for the love of God and the love of fellowmen rather than for personal advantage or any other lesser motive—is admittedly a high standard....
“Service with all of our heart and mind is a high challenge for all of us. Such service must be free of selfish ambition. It must be motivated only by the pure love of Christ” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1984, 14–16; or Ensign, Nov. 1984, 13–15 ).
Many years ago, large packs of wolves roamed the countryside in Ukraine, making travel in that part of the world very dangerous. These wolf packs were fearless. They were not intimidated by people nor by any of the weapons available at that time. The only thing that seemed to frighten them was fire. Consequently, travelers who found themselves away from cities developed the common practice of building a large bonfire and keeping it burning through the night. As long as the fire burned brightly, the wolves stayed away. But if it were allowed to burn out and die, the wolves would move in for an attack. Travelers understood that building and maintaining a roaring bonfire was not just a matter of convenience or comfort; it was a matter of survival. (See Mary Pratt Parrish, Ensign, May 1972, p. 25.)
We do not have to protect ourselves from wolf packs as we travel the road of life today, but, in a spiritual sense, we do face the devious wolves of Satan in the forms of temptation, evil, and sin. We live in dangerous times when these ravenous wolves roam the spiritual countryside in search of those who may be weak in faith or feeble in their conviction. In his first epistle, Peter described our “adversary the devil, as a roaring lion [that] walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8.) The Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith that “enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb.” (D&C 122:6.) We are all vulnerable to attack. However, we can fortify ourselves with the protection provided by a burning testimony that, like a bonfire, has been built adequately and maintained carefully.
Unfortunately, some in the Church may believe sincerely that their testimony is a raging bonfire when it really is little more than the faint flickering of a candle. Their faithfulness has more to do with habit than holiness, and their pursuit of personal righteousness almost always takes a back seat to their pursuit of personal interests and pleasure. With such a feeble light of testimony for protection, these travelers on life’s highways are easy prey for the wolves of the adversary.
The Savior understood that many of His followers would struggle under the rigors of true discipleship; consequently, He taught them how to build burning testimonies. The night before His crucifixion, Jesus shared the feast of the Passover with His twelve beloved Apostles, most of whom had been with Him throughout His ministry. At one point during this sacred evening, the Lord looked upon Peter, His senior Apostle and loyal friend. Knowing what would be required of Peter after the Ascension, the Lord said: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
“But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31–32; emphasis added.)
Imagine for a moment that you are Peter. Three years ago a holy stranger invited you to set aside your fishing boat and nets, your means of support for yourself and your family, and then asked you to follow Him. You did so without hesitation, and for three years you have continued to follow and to love and support and sustain Him. You have seen Him confound the wise, comfort the weary and the afflicted, heal the sick, and raise the dead to life. You have seen Him conquer evil spirits, calm the troubled seas, and for a few minutes, at least, you even walked on the water toward Him. You were at His side when Moses and Elias appeared to Him; you saw Him transfigured before your very eyes. You have committed your entire life to Him. And now He questions you by instructing you to strengthen your brethren “when thou art converted.”
Peter was surprised. He assured the Lord, “I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.” (Luke 22:33.) But Jesus knew and understood. He was not condemning Peter for a lack of conviction; Peter demonstrated his conviction during the Lord’s arrest. Rather, the Savior was telling Peter what he needed to do when his testimony became more secure.
As He knew Peter, the Lord understands you and me when our testimonies may not be the brightly burning bonfire you may think they are or want them to be. Perhaps in some cases, that testimony is constructed unwisely, built on a social foundation of programs and personalities instead of the sure rock of personal revelation. Or perhaps you have allowed your testimony to flicker gradually through the years of disuse and spiritual complacency.
Regardless of the reason your testimony may be growing dim, the Savior lovingly urges you to come unto Him and become strengthened in Him. Said He to Moroni: “If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; … for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27.)
Some people are weak in their faith and testimonies but are not even aware of how precarious their situation is. Many of them likely would be offended at the suggestion. They raise their right hand to sustain Church leaders and then murmur and complain when a decision does not square with their way of thinking. They claim to be obedient to God’s commandments but do not feel at all uncomfortable about purchasing food at the store on Sunday and then asking the Lord to bless it. Some say they would give their lives for the Lord, yet they refuse to serve in the nursery.
The Savior spoke very explicitly about people who “draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me.” (Isa. 29:13.) His words were: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
“And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:21–23.)
None would want to hear the Lord speak such disappointing words of you. That is why you need to do everything in your power to be absolutely certain that your spiritual bonfire of testimony is burning brightly enough to keep the wolves of darkness away. You can always use more dry kindling. As the Apostle Paul taught, each of us has “come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23.) None of us has progressed so far in this life that we do not need to continually fortify our testimonies.
I offer three suggestions that will fan the flame of personal testimony as a protection against the wolves of evil that are prowling all around us to threaten our spiritual security.
First, make sure your testimony is built upon a solid foundation of faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Even though we enjoy the fellowship of the Saints and have strong feelings about the inspired programs of the Church, we must remember that we have only one sure anchor for our souls. It is stated in the words of the prophet Helaman, when he taught his sons:
“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Hel. 5:12.)
Perhaps you are one of the members of the Church whose first contact with the gospel came through the beautiful music of the Tabernacle Choir. Maybe your life was blessed by the Church welfare program when you followed prophetic counsel to store food and other necessities. These are marvelous, inspired aspects of the Church that God has provided to help bring his children to Christ. However, they are implements and not ends in themselves. The ultimate focus of our devotion must properly be our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
We often hear of members who have separated themselves from the Church because some leader, teacher, or member has said or done something to offend them. Others have had their faith shaken when the Brethren have taken a stand with which they disagree. In such cases, I wonder about the faith of those people and whether it was grounded securely in a testimony of the Lord, Jesus Christ, or merely based on their own ideas and social perceptions of what the Church and its members should be.
Scripture teaches us: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5.) In His moving prayer recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John, the Savior taught this profound truth: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.) Building a testimony on the foundation of a sincere, personal relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and on our faith in them, should be our highest priority.
Anchored with that faith, we are ready for my second suggestion—another layer of kindling on the bonfire of testimony—it is humble, sincere repentance. Few things extinguish the fervor of the Holy Spirit in the heart of any individual more quickly than does sin. It dulls the spiritual senses, diminishes confidence and personal security, and separates the sinner from the Savior. One who carries the burden of unrepented sin is more likely to rationalize additional disobedience. The more sin is rationalized, the greater the possibility of destruction by Satan’s wolves.
Few would argue the potential spiritual risk of major sins like murder or marital infidelity. But what about the person who uses employer’s time to complete personal projects, the person who sneaks into a pornographic movie, the student who cheats at school, the person who criticizes others unfairly, or the parent who thinks family home evening is a good idea—for someone else?
The simple fact is this: anything that does not draw us closer to God takes us away from Him. We have no middle ground, no foggy gray area where we can sin a little without suffering spiritual decline. That is why we must repent and come to Christ daily on submissive knees so that we can prevent our bonfires of testimony from being snuffed out by sin.
My third suggestion is that we follow the example of the Savior. He set the pattern.
In any pursuit and under any condition, we can ask ourselves what would Jesus do and then determine our own course accordingly. For example, what sort of home teacher would the Savior be? Would He occasionally miss visiting families? Would He visit them without a message? Or would He minister to His families like the Good Shepherd that He is, with constant watch care and loving kindness? Deep in our hearts we know what kind of home teacher Jesus would be, just as we know what kind of bishop, teacher, Primary leader, clerk, or youth adviser He would be. Even though we could never in this life measure up completely to His standard of excellence, our attempt to do so will lead us to do far better than otherwise.
We can apply the same principle to other pursuits the same way. What sort of parent would Jesus be? What sort of neighbor, employer, employee, student, or friend? If we live our lives to conform as nearly as possible to the pattern the Savior has set, our testimonies will be fortified continually and our spiritual bonfires will never be reduced to embers.
We live in perilous times. The influence of Satan often appears to be unchecked and overwhelming. Remember the promise that God has given to those who build and maintain brightly burning bonfires of testimony to counter the wolves that threaten us. This is His promise: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will … uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isa. 41:10.)
The strength of the Church lies in the depth and vitality of the personal testimonies of its members. Firm, secure testimonies will be the difference between faithfulness and disaffection.
I bear testimony that in order for us to enjoy a happy, rewarding, and spiritual life, we must make sure that our testimonies are built upon the foundation of faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, humble and sincere repentance, and following the example of the Savior.
I know that our Heavenly Father lives and loves each of His children. His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer. Christ’s atonement provides for all of us immortality and the possibility of eternal life, the kind of life that God lives, if we will repent of our sins and will be true and faithful in keeping the commandments. Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. Through him, the Lord restored the gospel of Jesus Christ in these the latter days. President Ezra Taft Benson is our prophet today. I testify of these divine truths in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
President Heber C. Kimball, who was a member of the First Presidency:
“Let me say to you, that many of you will see the time when you will have all the trouble, trial and persecution that you can stand, and plenty of opportunities to show that you are true to God and his work. This Church has before it many close places through which it will have to pass before the work of God is crowned with victory....
“... The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?” (in OrsonF. Whitney, Life of HeberC. Kimball , 449–50).
Thursday, May 13, 2010
"Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul"
April 2010 General conference
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
--"Most days we all find ourselves assaulted by immoral messages of some kind flooding in on us from every angle. The darker sides of the movie, television, and music industry step further and further into offensive language and sexual misconduct. Tragically, the same computer and Internet service that allows me to do my family history and prepare those names for temple work could, without filters and controls, allow my children or grandchildren access to a global cesspool of perceptions that could blast a crater in their brains forever...
If we stop chopping at the branches of this problem and strike more directly at the root of the tree, not surprisingly we find lust lurking furtively there. Lust is an unsavory word, and it is certainly an unsavory topic for me to address, but there is good reason why in some traditions it is known as the most deadly of the seven deadly sins.2
Why is lust such a deadly sin? Well, in addition to the completely Spirit-destroying impact it has upon our souls, I think it is a sin because it defiles the highest and holiest relationship God gives us in mortality—the love that a man and a woman have for each other and the desire that couple has to bring children into a family intended to be forever. Someone said once that true love must include the idea of permanence. True love endures. But lust changes as quickly as it can turn a pornographic page or glance at yet another potential object for gratification walking by, male or female. True love we are absolutely giddy about—as I am about Sister Holland; we shout it from the housetops. But lust is characterized by shame and stealth and is almost pathologically clandestine—the later and darker the hour the better, with a double-bolted door just in case. Love makes us instinctively reach out to God and other people. Lust, on the other hand, is anything but godly and celebrates self-indulgence. Love comes with open hands and open heart; lust comes with only an open appetite...
When we face such temptations in our time, we must declare, as young Nephi did in his, “[I will] give place no more for the enemy of my soul.”12 We can reject the evil one. If we want it dearly and deeply enough, that enemy can and will be rebuked by the redeeming power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, I promise you that the light of His everlasting gospel can and will again shine brightly where you feared life had gone hopelessly, helplessly dark. May the joy of our fidelity to the highest and best within us be ours as we keep our love and our marriages, our society and our souls, as pure as they were meant to be, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."
Click here to read the rest of the talk.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
"Prior to His ascension from the Holy Land, the Savior pronounced a unique blessing: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” (John 14:27.)
His peace is not necessarily political; His peace is personal. But that spirit of inner peace is driven away by contention. Contention does not usually begin as strife between countries. More often, it starts with an individual, for we can contend within ourselves over simple matters of right and wrong. From there, contention can infect neighbors and nations like a spreading sore.
As we dread any disease that undermines the health of the body, so should we deplore contention, which is a corroding canker of the spirit. I appreciate the counsel of Abraham Lincoln, who said:
“Quarrel not at all. No man resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention. … Better give your path to a dog than be bitten by him.” (Letter to J. M. Cutts, 26 Oct. 1863, in Concise Lincoln Dictionary of Thoughts and Statements, comp. and arr. Ralph B. Winn, New York: New York Philosophical Library, 1959, p. 107.)
President Ezra Taft Benson in his keynote address yesterday described contention as “another face of pride.”
My concern is that contention is becoming accepted as a way of life. From what we see and hear in the media, the classroom, and the workplace, all are now infected to some degree with contention. How easy it is, yet how wrong it is, to allow habits of contention to pervade matters of spiritual significance, because contention is forbidden by divine decree:
“The Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal; that they should not take the name of the Lord their God in vain; that they should not envy; that they should not have malice; that they should not contend one with another.” (2 Ne. 26:32.)"
"...To understand why the Lord has commanded us not to “contend one with another,” we must know the true source of contention. A Book of Mormon prophet revealed this important knowledge even before the birth of Christ:
“Satan did stir them up to do iniquity continually; yea, he did go about spreading rumors and contentions upon all the face of the land, that he might harden the hearts of the people against that which was good and against that which should come.” (Hel. 16:22.)
When Christ did come to the Nephites, He confirmed that prophecy:
“He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me [saith the Lord], but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” (3 Ne. 11:29–30.)"
"...What can we do to combat this canker of contention? What steps may each of us take to supplant the spirit of contention with a spirit of personal peace?
To begin, show compassionate concern for others. Control the tongue, the pen, and the word processor. Whenever tempted to dispute, remember this proverb: “He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.” (Prov. 11:12; see also Prov. 17:28.)""...Shun contention. Seek godliness. Be enlightened by eternal truth. Be like-minded with the Lord in love and united with Him in faith. Then shall “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philip. 4:7), be yours, to bless you and your posterity through generations yet to come."
I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Of the Seventy
April conference 2010
"Hope comes from faith in Jesus Christ. He has already overcome the world and has promised that He will wipe away our tears if we will only turn to Him and believe and follow.
Some who at this very moment feel desperate or discouraged may wonder how they can possibly regain hope. If you are one of those, remember that hope comes as a result of faith. If we would build our hope, we must build our faith.
Faith in the Savior requires more than mere belief. The Apostle James taught that even the devils believe and tremble. But true faith requires work. The difference between the devils and the faithful members of this Church is not belief but work. Faith grows by keeping the commandments. We must work at keeping the commandments. From the Bible Dictionary we read that “miracles do not produce faith but strong faith is developed by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ; in other words, faith comes by righteousness.”
When we strive to keep the commandments of God, repenting of our sins and promising our best efforts to follow the Savior, we begin to grow in confidence that through the Atonement everything will be all right. Those feelings are confirmed by the Holy Ghost, who drives from us what our pioneer mothers and fathers called “our useless cares.” In spite of our trials, we are filled with a sense of well-being and feel to sing with them that indeed “all is well.”"..I testify of Him, that He has overcome the world, that He will never forget or abandon us, for He has graven us upon the palms of His hands. I testify that those who keep His commandments will grow in faith and hope. They will be given strength to overcome all of life’s trials. They will experience peace that passes all understanding."
Sunday, May 9, 2010
“Today I wish to praise those motherly hands that have rocked the infant’s cradle and, through the righteousness taught to their children there, are at the very center of the Lord’s purposes for us in mortality… Do the best you can through these years, but whatever else you do, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones… Mothers, we acknowledge and esteem your faith in every footstep. Please know that it is worth it then, now, and forever.”
“Because She Is a Mother”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Friday, May 7, 2010
In the Book of Mormon we have an account of a people who were taught the gospel of Jesus Christ, and desired to covenant to follow him. They were given this counsel, " And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters." (Mosiah 5:7)
I do believe that this is not a one time act, but a lifelong pursuit. Once we have taken upon us the name if Christ, and have covenanted to keep his commandments, we must continually repent and strive to keep the commandments so that at the judgment day we can be found among those who are called "the children of Christ".
15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
2 Nephi 2:6-8
1. Most of what these people write contains quotes by anti-mormons, apostates, or is information that is taken out of context. That is simply not fair.
2. Much of what is written is simply an untruth. These authors may not be knowingly perpetuating untruths, but the information is incorrect nonetheless. I've even been given pamphlets by other religions that had printed untruths about our religion. If a church is going to spend money to print something, you would think they would be careful to make sure the information was accurate, rather than risk their own reputation and integrity. How can a Christian perpetuate untruths in good conscience? I think they can't. So my warning to all is to be careful what you teach others about our religion so that you can maintain Christlike behavior.
3. I have to wonder why they feel the need to attack our religion. Are we really a threat to them? Our church spends NO time attacking other religions, or in printing information that warns against them. We are busy carrying out the work of carrying the gospel to the world. We don't have time to worry about what other religions are doing.
4. As I have seen quotes by apostates, or opponents of our church, I have wondered about the time and effort involved in researching such quotes. My advice to such people would be that if they spent the same amount of time in a honest study of the Book of Mormon, they would learn more about our beliefs than by reading any other anti-mormon literature. Notice I used the term "honest study". To me, that term means that a person studies with real intent to find out if it is true, not just to try to prove it wrong, or find some ammunition to use against us. Personally, when I search for information, I try to go to the source, not a biased opponent. Some may call them "religious scholars", but a true scholar doesn't just study to find evidence to support their own theories, but to learn the truth.
5. I would give this advice to opponents of the church: "38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
6. I would counsel all to respect the sacredness of the beliefs of others. Some anti-mormons reveal sacred things from the temple, or profane, or vandalize things which are sacred to us. That is disrespectful at best, and down right evil at the core.
7. The ultimate source of truth is God. The Holy Ghost can witness to us the truth of all things. It's always interesting to me that people study to try to find ways to fight against our religion, but I wonder how many of them actually study, then ask God with a sincere heart if our teachings are correct. My advice is to study with a sincere heart, with real intent, then ask God for yourself.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
My son, who is serving a mission in El Salvador, recently wrote and asked us for a copy of his Priesthood lineage. He was ordained to be an Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood by his father. It's interesting to look at the rest of the lineage. My husband was ordained by a friend of ours. That friend was ordained by someone else. As we look at those ordained before, we eventually come to a place where we see that the person was ordained by Joseph Smith. Then we read that Joseph Smith was ordained by Peter, James and John. Peter, James, and John were in turn ordained by the Savior, Jesus Christ. These ordinations were all done by the laying on of hands. In ancient times this was often done "patriarchally", meaning that the priesthood was given from father to son, by the laying on of hands. But it can also be given to others by the same method.
"We believe that a man must be called of God by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof." Article of faith 5
“Prayer is such a privilege—not only to speak to our Father in Heaven, but also to receive love and inspiration from him. At the end of our prayers, we need to do some intense listening—even for several minutes. We have prayed for counsel and help. Now we must ‘be still, and know that [he is] God’ ( Ps. 46:10 .)...
"Learning the language of prayer is a joyous, lifetime experience. Sometimes ideas flood our mind as we listen after our prayers. Sometimes feelings press upon us. A spirit of calmness assures us that all will be well. But always, if we have been honest and earnest, we will experience a good feeling—a feeling of warmth for our Father in Heaven and a sense of his love for us. It has sorrowed me that some of us have not learned the meaning of that calm, spiritual warmth, for it is a witness to us that our prayers have been heard” ( “Pray Always,” Ensign, Oct. 1981, 5 ).
The Prophet Joseph Smith said:
“The Lord deals with this people as a tender parent with a child, communicating light and intelligence and the knowledge of his ways as they can bear it” ( Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 305).
Elder Henry B. Eyring, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, wrote:
“If I listen humbly, with the expectation that what matters most will be clear even to a little child, then I will be both meek enough to be quiet inside—and therefore able to hear the still, small voice—and humble enough to take correction easily” ( To Draw Closer to God , 33).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:
“How great and continuing is our dependency upon the Lord, which is one of the first and fundamental facts of life, never to be forgotten, even when we are making genuine progress.
“No wonder Jesus prayed so to the Father. And oh, how He prayed, never forgetting to call upon the Father. In this, too, Jesus was unique. Even the very righteous brother of Jared, a truly remarkable man, once was chastised during a visitation from the Lord because he ‘remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord’ [ Ether 2:14 ]. How vital prayer is, therefore, for all of us! How vital it is that even our ‘busyness’ in doing His work not crowd out our prayers to our Father” ( Even As I Am , 67).
Sunday, May 2, 2010
7 And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues;
11 But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.
19 And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.
M. Russell Ballard, “Restored Truth,” Ensign, Nov 1994, 65
Three weeks ago I was assigned to host an open house at the Orlando Florida Temple for leaders representing the clergy, press, government, education, and business. Before I escorted these prominent guests through the temple, I explained to them the position and basic doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I wanted them to know why the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith, so they could understand the divine purpose and the eternal significance of the temple. My message this morning is to remind Church members what we have and to invite nonmembers to understand the need for the restoration of the gospel.
The mortal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ was comparatively brief. He lived only thirty-three years, and His ministry was only three years. But in those three years He taught the human family everything that is necessary to receive all of the blessings our Father in Heaven has in store for His children. He concluded His mortal ministry with the single most compassionate and significant service in the history of the world: the Atonement.
One of the most important accomplishments of the Savior was the establishment of His church upon the earth. Paul taught that Christ “gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11–12).
When Jesus called His twelve Apostles, He laid His hands upon them, ordained them, and conferred upon them the authority to act in His name and govern His church. Peter is commonly understood to have become the chief Apostle, or the President of the Church, after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Early Christians endured the challenges of persecution and hardship. Peter and his brethren had a difficult time holding the Church together and keeping the doctrine pure. They traveled extensively and wrote to one another about the problems they were facing, but information moved so slowly and the Church and its teachings were so new that heading off false teachings before they became firmly entrenched was difficult.
The New Testament indicates that the early Apostles worked hard to preserve the church that Jesus Christ left to their care and keeping, but they knew their efforts would ultimately be in vain. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Saints, who were anxiously anticipating the second coming of Christ, that “that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first” (2 Thes. 2:3). He also warned Timothy that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; … And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3–4).
And Peter presupposed the falling away, or the Apostasy, when he spoke of “the times of refreshing” that would come before God would again send Jesus Christ, who “before was preached unto you:
“Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19–21).
Eventually, with the known exception of John the Beloved, Peter and his fellow Apostles were martyred. The Apostle John and members of the Church struggled for survival in the face of horrifying oppression. To their everlasting credit, Christianity did survive and was truly a prominent force by the end of the second century a.d. Many valiant Saints were instrumental in helping Christianity to endure.
Despite the significance of the ministries of these Saints, they did not hold the same apostolic authority Peter and the other Apostles had received through ordination under the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. When that authority was lost, men began looking to other sources for doctrinal understanding. As a result, many plain and precious truths were lost.
History tells us, for example, of a great council held in a.d. 325 in Nicaea. By this time Christianity had emerged from the dank dungeons of Rome to become the state religion of the Roman Empire, but the church still had problems—chiefly the inability of Christians to agree among themselves on basic points of doctrine. To resolve differences, Emperor Constantine called together a group of Christian bishops to establish once and for all the official doctrines of the church.
Consensus did not come easily. Opinions on such basic subjects as the nature of God were diverse and deeply felt, and debate was spirited. Decisions were not made by inspiration or revelation, but by majority vote, and some disagreeing factions split off and formed new churches. Similar doctrinal councils were held later in a.d. 451, 787, and 1545, with similarly divisive results.
The beautiful simplicity of Christ’s gospel was under attack from an enemy that was even more destructive than the scourges and the crosses of early Rome: the philosophical meanderings of uninspired men. The doctrine became based more on popular opinion than on revelation. This period of time was called the Dark Ages. They were dark largely because the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ had been lost.
Then in 1517, the Spirit moved Martin Luther, a German priest who was disturbed at how far the church had strayed from the gospel as taught by Christ. His work led to a reformation, a movement that was taken up by such other visionaries as John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, John Wesley, and John Smith.
I believe these reformers were inspired to create a religious climate in which God could restore lost truths and priesthood authority. Similarly, God inspired the earlier explorers and colonizers of America and the framers of the Constitution of the United States to develop a land and governing principles to which the gospel could be restored.
By 1820 the world was ready for the “restitution of all things” spoken of by Peter and “all [God’s] holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).
At this time religious excitement was sweeping across the countryside in upstate New York. Ministers from different denominations vied zealously for the loyalty of the faithful in villages and towns, including Palmyra, the home of the family of Joseph Smith, Sr., and Lucy Mack Smith.
The Smith family followed this religious excitement, and members of the family were “proselyted” to various faiths. Mother Smith and three of the children—Hyrum, Samuel, and Sophronia—joined one church (see JS—H 1:7), while Father Smith and his eldest son, Alvin, affiliated with another.
When fourteen-year-old Joseph, Jr., considered which church to join, he investigated each denomination carefully, listening to the respective ministers and trying to sort out the truth. He knew there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5), but which was the one he did not know.
“In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions,” Joseph Smith, Jr., wrote later, “I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (JS—H 1:10.)
Young Joseph looked for answers to his questions in the scriptures. While reading in the Bible, he came upon a simple, direct admonition in the epistle of James: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
Joseph reflected: “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know” (JS—H 1:12).
With the simple faith of youth and motivated by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Joseph decided to go into a grove of trees near his home and put the promise in James to the test.
On a beautiful, clear spring morning, Joseph retired to the woods. He paused when he arrived at a quiet, secluded spot. He looked around to make sure he was alone. Then he knelt and began to pray. No sooner had he done so than an overwhelming feeling of darkness swept over him, as if some evil power was trying to dissuade him. Rather than surrender, Joseph intensified his pleas to God—and God Himself responded.
Reading from Joseph’s account:
“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. …
“When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS—H 1:16–17).
I testify those Beings were God, our Heavenly Father, and His resurrected Son, Jesus Christ, in one of the most supernal spiritual manifestations of all time!
They told Joseph he should join none of the existing churches.
Their mission accomplished, the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, departed, leaving young Joseph physically drained but spiritually enriched with exciting restored truth. He knew with certainty that God, our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, are real, for he had seen them. He knew they are two separate, distinct individuals. He knew that no church on the face of the earth had the authority of the priesthood to act in the name of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the most important lesson young Joseph learned in the Sacred Grove is this significant eternal truth: the heavens are not sealed. God does communicate with mortals. He loves us today just as much as He loved those who lived anciently. What comfort that sweet assurance provides in a world filled with confusion and discouragement! What peace and security come to the heart that understands that God in heaven knows us and cares about us, individually and collectively, and that He communicates with us, either directly or through His living prophets, according to our needs.
My dear friends, I testify to you that this is true and that the Father and the Son appeared in wondrous vision to young Joseph as a step in the restoring of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. Through subsequent, equally miraculous experiences, Joseph Smith was God’s instrument in—
• Translating from ancient records a book of scripture, the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ,
• Restoring priesthood authority,
• Restoring sealing keys to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers,
• Establishing the restored church of Jesus Christ in these latter days with the fulness of the gospel as taught in the meridian of time by the Savior and His Apostles,
• Fulfilling biblical prophecy,
• Preparing for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
During the Orlando temple tours, I explained to our guests who were not of our faith that I understood if they found this message a bit overwhelming. I taught my new friends in Orlando, as I teach here this morning, that either the gospel has been restored or it has not. Either the Savior’s original church and its doctrine were lost or they were not. Either Joseph Smith had that remarkable vision or he did not. The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ or it is not. Either the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to earth through God’s chosen latter-day prophet or it was not.
The truth really is not any more complicated than that. Either these things happened just as I have testified or they did not. As a latter-day Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, my testimony, and the testimony of millions of faithful members of the Church the world over, is that what I have told you this morning is true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been restored to the earth through Joseph Smith and is administered today by a living prophet. These things I know!
This information is valuable to each of us only if we know for ourselves that it is true. Thankfully we have a simple but certain way to know. It requires some effort and sincere prayer. But it is worth it!
In the last chapter of the Book of Mormon, an ancient prophet named Moroni gave a significant promise to those who would one day read this sacred book of scripture. His promise applies to every sincere seeker of truth. He wrote:
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moro. 10:4–5).
Moroni urges us to go directly to the Source of Truth for answers to our questions. If we seek Him humbly and sincerely, He will help us discern truth from error. As the Savior Himself assured His disciples: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
Brothers and sisters, we know the truth. Because we do, we are expected to share it with all of our Heavenly Father’s children. To our dear friends of the Church, please do not let pass this opportunity to receive personal revelation from God. Consider what I have said. Weigh it carefully. Measure it against the things you believe. Hold fast to all that is true, and add to that the fulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Take into account what you have felt as you have listened. You can know if these things are true by asking God. Listen for His answer; then respond to what you feel.
If you will do so, I believe you will come to know as I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s true church upon the earth. May God bless you, my dear friends, with the peace and joy the gospel gives, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.