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Born of the Spirit

by Gary J. Coleman.

LDS Business College Devotional
First Quorum of the Seventy
September 4, 1998

Good Morning. What a nice occasion. President Gordon B. Hinckley would say, "Well you don't look like much, but you are all we've got."
How do you think he did last night [on the Larry King show? Did you get a chance to see him? He was worried about it. In the temple meeting Thursday he talked about it to the General Authorities. We have a sacrament meeting together every first Thursday of the month in the Salt Lake Temple. He calls upon members of the Seventy, the Twelve, and the First Presidency to bear their testimonies during our sacrament meeting. We don't volunteer.
Anyway, he expressed his concerns about the occasion last night, whether or not he would be prepared. Do you think he was prepared? He knew there would be questions from all spectrums of life in the Church and out of the Church, and there were.
I remember Elder David B. Haight said to him during the expression of his feelings, "President just tell it like it is, and you'll be fine."
I thought he did well–very well. I especially enjoyed the closing comment of Mr. King. He thanked the Prophet, he thanked the President. He said, "We have as our guest Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Prophet!"
I thought that was well said, the Prophet. From a man of Jewish faith, I think that was rather significant he would close in that manner. I would like to have cheered for President Hinkley. We watched the meeting in our home. I had the same feeling of reverence and honor for him that I do when he speaks at conference. It's rather significant that he would be heard on CNN around the world. Whenever we travel across the world and check into our hotel rooms, we can almost always pick up CNN no matter where we are. I am sure that people heard our prophet around the world last night.
I was with him a month ago in Eastern Canada as he was completing the tour of Canada. We were in the Montreal Theater. There were 3,000 saints assembled there. When he announced the Montreal Temple, they broke into applause and cheering–a little unusual at a church meeting. President Hinckley was a little embarrassed frankly. He came and sat down by me after his talk and he said, "They shouldn't have done that."
I just pass that along as a clue that if you are ever in a meeting with him, don't applaud. But they were so excited. It was an historic day for Canada that he announced several temples on this trip–Edmonton, Regina, Montreal, Nova Scotia. It's a great day. Five of them will be built in the North America North East Area in the next few months. At the rate that we are going with these small temples–it's just an absolute wonderful thing–we are going to have ground breaking for two of them in October. They've just been announced and will move ahead. This is a fast-track temple program, and it's wonderful.
We have in the audience here today a friend of mine. I just met Sister Mains that many of you know. Her father was a student at Yakima Valley College when I was the institute director there. I remember Ron. He was so faithful and eager to learn about the gospel. We had some success that year, I think 20 to 30 converts in our institute program.
He wanted me to meet one of his friends over at the dorm. So I said, "Well, I'll go with you."
We went over and met this young man. He didn't have any interest he said in our church–didn't want anything to do with us–he said. I said, "Well I would like to give you a Book of Mormon."
He said, "I don't want it."
I said, "Well I'm going to leave it with you anyway."
That is not a very good way to do missionary work, but I kept in touch with this boy and then I moved away. I think it was 12 years later when I had an education week assignment in Moses Lake, Washington. I completed a lecture and stepped into the cultural hall. I stared down the side of the cultural hall, and I noticed a man and his wife coming in the back door and starting across the hall to intercept me. I knew I knew him. As he got closer, I remembered that he was the boy at Yakima Valley College, in this dorm room, who didn't want the Book of Mormon.
I said, "What are you doing here?"
He said, "I have joined the Church. I wanted to come and tell you about it. Heard you were going to be here. A couple years ago my wife and I were struggling with life. I had this little paperback Book of Mormon that I had stuck away on a dusty shelf all these years. We took that book and we read it together. It saved our marriage, and we joined the church. We wanted to thank you for sharing it with us–with me–those 10 or 12 years ago, whatever it was. Now we have been to the temple. We are raising our family in the covenants. We just wanted to thank you."
So Sister Mains, will you tell Ron, your dad, that these converts do all right. You are the second generation. My sons have been on missions. Now I have grandsons. It is a glorious day for all of those who come into the Church. I didn't think that I would have those tender feelings this morning but that is what happens when the spirit is evident as in this meeting.
I would like to talk to you this morning a little bit. I am really proud of you first of all. Thanks for pursuing your education. You are taking this time in your life to prepare yourself, to better yourself, to improve yourself. I think that you need to be honored for that. Thank you for helping each other. Thank you for coming here today.
As a convert to the Church, I have had some experiences that many have not in the leading councils of the Church. I come to you today as one who knows things about the restoration that others have not personally experienced. I am one who has asked God if this church is true. I am one who wrestled over the concept of a living prophet in the last days in Joseph Smith and as Amulek testified in Chapter 10 of Alma. He knew the day, the month and the year. I know the moment, when Joseph became my prophet also, the very moment having asked God if he was a prophet. I am one who knows by the power of the Holy Ghost the truth of the things that Moroni talked about. If you would ask God, with real intent having faith in Christ, he would manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost (see Moroni 10:4). I'm one who knows those things can happen. I've asked lots of questions and I know this work is true.
I come today to bear witness. I am a witness; I'm a witness of Christ. I am one who can testify that he lives, that this is His work, His church. Gordon B. Hinckley is His prophet. His scriptures have been revealed in these last days. I love them; I see in them the Christ. I love them. I have come to know of Christ through the scriptures through his voice, through the Holy Ghost and through answers to prayers from God the Eternal Father. I am a witness these things are true.
I come today to join with the choir in glorifying God who has given all things to us. I've been where you are. I've taught where you've taught, brothers and sisters, the young people of the Church. I know that you have some doubts. I know that this is a time in your life when you have doubts, when you're looking, when you're searching, when you're trying to get a hold of things, trying to get a little direction, trying to find out what to do, where to go. There are lots of those questions. I just wanted to come today and tell you that He knows, He knows you. Just be patient; don't push it too hard. He'll help you; He'll guide you; He'll give you some impressions. You will be in the right place at the right time when it's needed.
This is real stuff, this life. It's hard, but I assure you with all of my heart that God lives. He knows his children. Some have thought that maybe this church was too hard, that you couldn't be quite good enough to obtain eternal life. I testify to you, you can. We can. The plan is designed for people like us–people with weaknesses, people with doubts, people that are just trying to work through life the best they can. That's the plan. It's for us. There is only one perfect man and He invited us to follow Him–that's the beauty of it–invited us to follow Him.
You recall that the scriptures have indicated that this life is the time to what? Prepare to meet God. So we are all in this together. We're going to work it out. I'm older now than you, so I can speak from experience. When I was your age, I didn't have that experience. I had to gain it. I had to have the faith to move ahead. Continue to work; continue to study; continue to pray; continue to serve. There wasn't any magic day that came along. It was just,"work it out." And so I think I understand where you are. I honor you that you would take time today, to come and regenerate some of those spiritual feelings–some of those batteries that can be recharged–because we are spiritual beings. There is more than this life; there is eternity. What an opportunity we have to prepare for eternity.
I know something about knowledge, the kind of knowledge that changes your life. I know something about faith, expressing faith to the point that it becomes knowledge. I know something about life and the persuit of the things that God wants us to do. I testify to you that he will bless you. He knows you.
We were born on this earth to gain experience to be tried and tested, and what a wonderful thing it is to have the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints restored on the earth today. What a wonderful time for us to live. Many of the members of the Church today are converts. They are discovering these things. Some of you have been raised in the Church all of your life; you have never known anything else. That's all right. You are here to work out your salvation too. We have a purpose in this life. We have been given time to prepare ourselves to meet God. I believe the scriptures are true. I believe Jesus. When He says something can happen, I believe it will happen. When He talks to a prophet and the prophet writes it down, it becomes scripture. I believe it. I just accept it. I am glad to have it. I'm not among those that say, "Well, we have enough; we need no more." I don't prescribe to that. I would like to have more; it would be okay with me to have more of this saving knowledge. It's wonderful to have this saving knowledge.
I was raised in another church. I was an alter boy in the Catholic Church 12 years. Virtually every Sunday of my life between the age of nine to 21, I served mass somewhere. If not once a week, five or six times a week. I was planning on becoming a Catholic priest. It would have been a great honor in my family for one of the sons, the oldest in particular, to become a priest.
But I met the Mormons about the time I needed to make some decisions, some really important decisions about my future and about my life. I met the Mormons, and one thing that I learned immediately about them is that they have the answers to everything. I want you to know that. You have more answers to life's challenges than most people who walk the earth today. You have them right now. Because you are faithful Latter-day Saints, you have answers that most people do not have.
I went through the study process. It took me a year. I read the Mormon literature; I went to the Mormon meetings, after mass, of course. I talked with the Mormon kids at institute and in my classes, and they had answers and so we kept talking. Somebody finally gave me a Book of Mormon. It was a privilege receiving a Book of Mormon. I thought that you couldn't get one until you were a member because nobody ever gave me one. Now that is reversed. That is one of the first things that we do is to give them a Book of Mormon so they can begin to study.
Well, I read it. And I know, I know it's true. So when I knew it was true. I had a problem then with Joseph because if it was true, then Joseph had to be a prophet. And if Joseph was a prophet, then my church wasn't true. There was another true church on the earth. I was always taught that my church was true. How could there be two? Well, there couldn't be. I had to find out what was true, and what was of the Lord.
So again, speaking as Amulek spoke, on a certain morning, at a certain hour, on a certain day, of a certain week, of a certain month, of a certain year, I asked God if these things are not true. Then I received His answer by the power of the Holy Ghost. I wasn't a member of the Church. I hadn't had any missionary lessons, but I asked. Moroni said if I would ask, I could know. So I asked.
I had that experience which I thought was a wonderful, blessed event in my life, literally a life-changing event. I then went from my apartment immediately to the institute of religion and said I want to be baptized. The brethren there and the institute director looked at me like you just don't understand–this is not the way that this works. They said, "Well you need the lessons,"
I said, "I just had a lesson. God has given me an answer to my prayer by the power of the Holy Ghost. That was a lesson, is that good enough?"
"Nope, that's not good enough. You need the lessons."
I said, "Who gives the lessons?"
They said, "The missionaries."
I said, "Well, where are they?"
"We don't know."
" I'm one who has had trouble coming into the Church–couldn't get it right. Well can you find them?"
"Yes, we can find them."
So I think it was three or four days later, two of those Mormon missionaries taught me the gospel. We had all the lessons in one week. In fact, we had all the lessons in two lessons. I just wanted them to get them over with. Elder Door fell asleep during one of the lessons. I didn't care. In my heart it was just "brethren get this over with so I can get in the Church."
And then I had the privilege of being baptized by a returned-missionary friend of mine who was in my physics class. His name was John, John M. Madsen.
Elder Madsen and I were called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, and the First Quorum of the Seventy exactly at the same time. We are the only two men that we know of in the history of this church that one baptized the other and were called to be general authorities the same day. How do you think we feel about each other? One who taught the other the gospel and one who responded through the waters of baptism–I continue to marvel that our friendship has been preserved in this calling now, where as no one else has had this.
I joined the Church. I know it's true. I knew it was true before I joined it. That is why I wanted to join it. Melvin J. Ballard, the apostle Melvin J. Ballard, said, "This life is the time to repent. You can do more in this life in preparation for eternal life than you can in any other place. This is the time to prepare for that, to overcome the things of this world and prepare to meet God."
I'm one who joins with the prophets and declares that because this church is true and because you and I have partaken of the ordinances necessary for eternal life, we will be saved. Brigham Young made this statement and maybe you have seen it in your lessons this year as you are studying the prophets now. Maybe you have seen this statement. He says, "I want present salvation, and I don't talk much about the Gods and the eternities. I just want to know if I am saved today, tomorrow and the next day."
That is my feeling. I want present salvation and to know if I'm doing what the Lord has asked me to do. If I partake of the covenants He has indicated we are to partake of such as baptism in His church, confirmation to receive the Holy Ghost in his Church–there isn't any other church that can do it–ordination to the Priesthood of God in His church, then I'm on the path.
Didn't Nephi say in 2 Nephi 31 that there was a path, a specific path? What kind of a path is it? It is a straight and narrow path. How do you get on it? Baptism. What else do you need why you are on it? Confirmation. Where does it lead? It leads to eternal life. Now, do you believe that or not? I do. I believe it, and I am committed to living it and to helping others find it. It's going to be my life's work. It is going to help others accept that doctrine, believe it and live it. It's true; that is how we gain eternal life.
You have entered that path; now don't doubt. I know you will stray once in a while.
I know that things get tough, I know that you have a doubt or two. You work through that–life is going to let you work through that–but it's true. This is the way. There is no other way, there is no other name, there is no other manner given under heaven whereby men may be saved. It's just this way.
One of the things that I loved about the Book of Mormon was the plan. When you are a student you like a plan, don't you? I was a student. Here the Book of Mormon said the plan of redemption, the merciful plan of the creator, the great plan of our God, the great plan of redemption, the plan of salvation, the plan of restoration, the great plan of happiness, the plan of mercy, the great plan of mercy, and the plan was good. I discovered in the Book of Mormon the plan. Who would want more than that? The plan–God's plan–we have it. There is no one who can speak of this plan like we can. They don't have it in their scriptures. The word plan is not in the Old and New Testaments; it has to be a restored doctrine. It is a restored doctrine; it's restored in the Book of Mormon, the Pearl Great Price. I want to live His plan, and it's this church.
I bear testimony to you; this work is true. Now just take it easy; live it; don't get too excited; don't get over-anxious; don't get too much heartburn–you don't need any ulcers–just keep plugging away. Listen to the Spirit. The Spirit will never, never lead you astray. If you get an impression, do it. Get an impression over there to stay away from that? Do it–stay away. Just keep plugging away; adding to your faith, knowledge, testimony, works, service. You'll be all right. God knows you're here; these are tough times. He knows. He won't abandon us. We've got a prophet, a prophet of God. Even Larry King knows we have a prophet. He is the Lord's prophet and this is his work. God lives, and Jesus is the Christ and this church is true. The Book of Mormon is true. We love you.

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