Winter 1998

Grounded, Rooted, Established, Settled

14 Jan. 1998


Grounded, Rooted, Established, Settled

I salute you this morning as a generation of promise and destiny. Never has there been upon the earth more of a need for the youth of the kingdom to take upon them the responsibilities of the restored gospel, and never before has there been a generation more willing to shoulder these responsibilities. I express to you my love and my respect.
This is a wonderful time to be living upon the earth. Never before has there been such opportunity, such freedom, such luxury. Our world is becoming a global village. Two examples that were brought to my attention this week have reinforced that description. A young student friend of ours told us this week that she had purchased tickets to travel to Paris for four days with her friends. The cost of the round trip ticket, $200.00. Certainly an unusual fare, but a sign of the times. To think that four college students would leave Salt Lake City for a quick four day trip to Paris and back again to resume their studies almost before their teachers missed them. Secondly, was an article in Sunday's Deseret News, speaking of the agreement between TCI, the Mammoth cable company and Microsoft to create truly interactive television. We already, as our computers open to the internet, have thousands and thousands of learning options before us. With the beginning of digital, interactive television, the possibilities are only now unfolding. And not only are the advancements in transportation and communication astounding, but science, medicine, and engineering are all bringing tremendous advances. What a wonderful time to be alive!
At the same time we are seeing the kingdom of God in its purity and power, as it was restored to the Prophet Joseph Smith, come out of obscurity and darkness with nearly 60,000 missionaries, and consecrated and dedicated members on all continents of the globe. The wonders of the restoration are being declared to an ever widening population. It is a miracle to watch as we see the hand of the Lord accomplish exactly what he predicted, that this gospel would be taken to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people before His return. The times ahead for you and for me are exciting and breathtaking. What a privilege to be part of them.
I wish to begin today by telling you of a recent event that I experienced. My wife Kathy's mother is quite ill, and so we traveled just prior to Christmas to her home and our previous home in Tampa, Florida to spend the holidays with our family. During our few days there, Florida had the visit of a powerful and potent tornado. While hurricanes are common to Florida, tornadoes are not. This tornado came ripping through Haines City, Florida about fifty miles away from where we were, leaving destruction in its path. I read one experience of a lady in her mobile home. As she heard the winds approaching, she went into her bathroom and crouched down upon the floor hoping to avoid injury. She felt her trailer shake, she was jostled around, and then everything was quiet. As she crouched motionless in her bathroom she heard the voice of her neighbor who lived approximately fifty yards away from her. The voice said, "I am here in the front room." She thought somehow her neighbor had come into her trailer, and was looking for her. She soon however was very surprised to find that that was not the case at all, but that her trailer had been lifted, carried the fifty yards and landed upright on the top of her neighbors trailer. She had not realized it, but her trailer had been flying through the air. Her neighbor was actually below her, in the neighbor's own mobile home.
Our family is building a home in Bountiful. It is interesting to see all the efforts made to securely hold the home in place. First a giant hole is dug, the footers for the foundation are placed deep beneath the frost line. Steel rods run through the yards and yards of cement that form the foundation. With each adjoining part of the house, metal and steel is used to insure that each part of the house is attached firmly to the other, and that all is tied securely into the foundation and footers. Every effort is made so that the house may remain stationary should winds or tornadoes come upon us.
With all the wonderful blessings that are ours in living in this beautiful world, ours is also a time of spiritual tornadoes. Paul described your day this way: "For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy." (2 Timothy 3:2) The Lord described it this way: "They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own God, whose image is in the likeness of the world..." (D&C 1:16)
These tornadoes come out of the modern day sky with increasing frequency and test our spiritual foundations. With more opportunities, more time, more freedom, and more privilege come more temptation, and more chance of spiritual destruction from the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life. (See Matthew 13:21; Luke 8:13-14)
To weather these storms in this environment the Lord has instructed us by His prophets that we must become grounded, rooted, established, and settled in spiritual things. (See Ephesians 3:17; 1st Peter 5:10; Colossians 1:23; 2:7) Christ himself speaking to His disciples said "Settle this in your hearts, that you will do the things which I shall teach and command you." (JST Luke 14:28) Grounded, rooted, established and settled. My message today is that we must deepen our faith. Our motives must be real belief. In the environment in which we now live and in which we will live, a simple desire to follow the traditions of our parents will not be sufficient to protect us. There must come into each of our lives a firm conviction that there will be no lasting happiness except in keeping the commandments of God. It will not be sufficient to spiritually live without deep-rooted, powerful testimonies, for the winds and tornados of the world will surround us like never before. At times their effects will be very quick and disastrous, but more often like the lady in Florida, we will be carried away subtly not knowing of our flight. Unless we are grounded, rooted, established, and settled spiritually, we will be carried away and find ourselves in places and circumstances where we hoped never to be found.
This spiritual rooting must be more than just the thoughts of our mind. There must be a spiritual foundation where the power of the Holy Ghost has anchored us deeply and firmly. The Lord has clearly seen your day. While it might be a day unlike any other in the history of the world, it is not unforseen by Him who knows all. As evil increases in the world, there is a compensating power of revelation for the righteous. The Lord said of the last days that "the whole earth shall be in commotion," (D&C 45:26) but he has assured us that He will not leave us helpless in these conditions. If we desire it, and if we will live worthy, He will testify to us; he will burn and emblazon upon our hearts those things that are true and eternal so that we may remain grounded, rooted, established and settled in spiritual matters.
If we can, it is so important that we settle ourselves on these matters while we are young. Recently I visited with an older couple as they returned to the Church, after most of their life being far, far, away. They had been raised in a Mormon community in Northern Utah but had been drawn to the excitement of worldly pursuits, and had left the Church for several decades. As I visited with them they were in the winter of their lives. The sister was in a wheelchair, their faces were wrinkled and worn. They talked of all the spiritual satisfactions they had missed in their lives. I tried hard to reassure them. I told them how thankful we were to have them back in the Kingdom, and how certain I was that our Heavenly Father was grateful for their decisions late in their life to return to that which they knew was true. I will never forget the halting voice of the elderly sister. She looked at me and said. "Brother Andersen, we appreciate your reassuring words, but our sadness is deep because none of our children or our grandchildren will have anything to do with the Church." How important it is to become grounded, rooted, established, and settled while we are yet young, for the tempestuous tornados in this modern world not only affect ourselves but our families, those who we love, and in many cases generations and generations to follow.
What does it mean to be grounded, rooted, established, and settled spiritually. It means to see "things as they really are." (See Jacob 4:13) It means having an eternal perspective, and realizing those things that will shape our lives over much more than the next five, ten, fifteen, or fifty years, but shape and mold our spirits eternally, for our spirits live forever. It is having a faith that is not a generalized feeling but reflects specific experience with interlocking principles. Being grounded and rooted means being able to look forward and backward from this life. A hundred years from now, how will my decisions affect me? A thousand years? A million years? The difficulties that are now mine, how meaningful will they be in a future state?
This perspective of seeing the spiritual all around us, seeing the purposes of life, does not come merely because we want to believe these things. If we have not grounded and settled these things deep within the foundation of our soul, when the tornados come we will find ourselves carried away, and rarely will we land right side up on our neighbor's trailer.
When I think of this perspective I think of the wonderful story told in the Old Testament of the Prophet Elisha. The King of Syria warred against the Israelites and the Israelite armies were only saved by the fact that Elisha, through his power of revelation, would tell them where and when the Syrian armies were coming. This infuriated the Syrian king and he sent his armies to find Elisha and capture him.
Thus the armies of Syria did as the king commanded and they surrounded the city where Elisha was staying. And then the scriptures explain that a servant of Elisha's arose early and he looked about and saw all the chariots and horses and the great host of soldiers and he declared to Elisha, "Alas, my master! how shall we do? (2 Kings 6:15) and Elisha answered, "Fear not for they that be with us are more than they that be with them." (2 Kings 6:16)
Elisha saw something that his servant did not see. And, then the next verse tells us this. "And Elisha prayed, and said Lord, I pray thee open his eyes (meaning the eyes of his servant), that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw; and, behold the, mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." (2 Kings 6:17)
Being grounded, rooted, established and settled means that we see things as they really are, that we see the spiritual hosts that surround us, that we understand that those who are with us are more than those who are against us. That we sense that while this earth life is a true proving ground, and there will be many difficulties and obstacles to overcome, all lasting happiness will come as we keep the commandments of God, and as we put our trust in Christ who is our Savior.
I would like to share with you today four powerful steel pillars of faith that can help to ground and root us spiritually. If you will settle these things in your heart and let them come to you with the power of the Holy Ghost they will serve you well as you face the winds and tornados of the modern world.
Pillar #1
Believe in God, and that you are his son or daughter. Just two weeks ago I traveled up big Cottonwood Canyon to visit relatives who had come from the East to enjoy skiing in our beautiful mountains. As I drove through the canyon, and the snow fell lightly on a Saturday morning, I felt overwhelmed with the beauty of this world. I thought of the words of Alma to the agnostic Korihor, "...all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." (Alma 30:44)
I thought of the words in the Doctrine and Covenants "...and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power." (D&C 88:49)
How magnificent are the creations of our God. Believe that these were created by your Father and that you are his son or daughter.
What a wonderful knowledge to know that we are not simply His creation. We are His children, and He loves us. It is His work and His glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. It is hard to imagine how much a righteous father and mother can love a child until you have a child of your own. I love these words of Christ. "Or what man is there of you, whom if his son asks bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give good things to him that ask him?" (Matthew 7:9-11) The first pillar, believe in God, and that you are his child, and that he will open Himself to you, as you seek Him.
Pillar #2
Believe in Christ and that he will redeem you. Learn of Christ. It was he who was in the beginning with us, the only begotten of the Father. It was he who organized this world. It was his voice that spoke to Moses, He was the great Jehovah of the Old Testament. Yet he came to earth as a carpenter's son, of no repute or reputation. He showed us how to live, he taught us how to love. He took upon him our sins that he might atone for them, and he took upon him our sorrows and sicknesses that he might understand them. It is true that we cannot fully comprehend how this could be, but as we spiritually seek, we will know that he did it. Because of him we will live again, clothed in resurrected bodies. And if we will repent and come unto him, our souls will be washed clean.
Like the servant of Elijah, these things are made evident to us only as we seek them spiritually, but they are real. I testify that Christ lives. He is the Redeemer of the earth. The second pillar. Believe in Christ and that he will redeem you.
Pillar #3
Believe that God and Christ visited the Prophet Joseph Smith. How wonderful that our knowledge of God and Christ is not only from the Bible. Although that great book is a beautiful testimony of these things, we know that God and Christ appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in these latter days. This knowledge will ground and root you spiritually, and give you the strength to keep the commandments that you know are right. Centrally to knowing this is knowing that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. Joseph Smith said, "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." (Introduction, The Book of Mormon) The Book of Mormon is true, and you can know that with absolute assurance. If you will read it humbly and prayerfully, following its precepts and asking God in the name of Christ, you will know that this is the word of God, and that God and Christ spoke to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Pillar number 3, Our Heavenly Father and Christ spoke to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Pillar #4
Believe that God speaks to prophets today. No one can watch President Gordon B. Hinckley and not be impressed with the kind of man he is. His openness, his devotion of taking the gospel to the world, his kindness and love are an example to good people everywhere. But I would testify to you that he is much more than an exemplary man. He is a prophet of God. I have watched him at close range; I have been in sacred meetings in the temple with him; I have had his hands upon my head in my ordination to the Seventy. Like Moses or Peter of old, he is the mouthpiece for the Lord. Christ is not absent from His Church, and his servant is Gordon B. Hinckley. When you come to know that deep inside spiritually, it will ground you, root you, establish you, settle you. You will listen to his counsel as you would listen to the counsel of an angel, for its source is the same.
Four steel rod pillars to anchor you in your spiritual foundation, that the tornados of the world will not dislodge you and carry you away. Believe in God, and that he is your father. Believe in Christ, and that he is your redeemer. Believe that God and Christ spoke to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Believe that God speaks to Prophets upon the earth today.
How can one have these pillars of testimony lodged deep within their spiritual foundation? Something so priceless comes not without sacrifice and effort. These assurances come to us as a gift of God, but, they are magnified, strengthened, and tempered as we do the things we must do to have the Holy Ghost work within our lives. We must pray. There is no other way to have these spiritual assurances. We must pray and ask for them. We must seek them from our Father. Don't try to survive spiritually without deep and continuous prayer. Don't roll into bed at night without first kneeling before your Father, expressing your thankfulness for what you have and appealing to Him to strengthen your spiritual pillars.
We must study the scriptures. The Lord has given us these magnificent books to cement our foundation, and to give us another way to unlock spiritual confirmations.
As I read the scriptures, as I come to understand the tremendous miracle of the writings of these people being preserved for us, I better understand how crucial this gift is for our spiritual foundation. For many the reading of the scriptures is not a natural experience. It requires work, it requires self-discipline, but study is essential in constructing these pillars in our hearts.
We must worship. There is power in the ordinances of the gospel, in taking the sacrament every week, in approaching the sacrament prayerfully, righteously asking for forgiveness. There is power in meeting together and discussing the doctrines of the kingdom.
Finally, we must be willing to serve one another, to be unselfish, to incorporate into our lives the qualities that Christ has taught us. As we live these principles, we will learn that there is no lasting happiness in selfishness, and that as we give ourselves to others our spiritual moorings will be strengthened
Pray, study, worship, serve. This is how we build the spiritual foundation to be grounded, rooted, established, settled. Be willing to recognize and acknowledge the spiritual manifestations that you have already received.
On one occasion I was visiting a mission in Western Europe. The mission president told me of one of his missionaries who was determined to leave his mission and go home early. He asked me if I would speak to him.
We sat together in the front room of the mission home. The young missionary told me of his decision to go home early. I listened hoping I might be inspired with something that might help him. I asked him to tell me what he was feeling. He told me of a difficult childhood, of being abused and abandoned. I sensed what he was telling me was true.
He added, "Brother Andersen, I do not feel like my Heavenly Father loves me." He continued to speak, but a powerful, moving feeling came upon my spirit. I recognized it as the Spirit of the Lord. The feeling was this: "He knows with perfect assurance that I love him."
I pondered upon the feeling for a moment, and then I stopped him. "Elder," I said, "I have listened to your words with great interest, and I have appreciated much of what you have said. But your expression that you do not feel like your Heavenly Father loves you is not a true statement. You know he loves you, don't you?" I felt the confirming witness as I spoke to him.
He dropped his head. Tears came quickly. "Yes, I know He loves me," he said. "Yes, I do know He loves me." It was a defining moment for this good missionary, and he found the courage to stay and finish his mission.
Acknowledge the spiritual feelings you have felt. Settle yourself that God has spoken to you.
As I conclude I would like to share two examples of these principles. My first is somewhat of an unhappy experience. When we arrived in France to serve as president of the Bordeaux France Mission, one of our first duties was to prepare the mission home, as Bordeaux had just been established as the center of a mission. We were to purchase a piano, and so we visited many of the music stores in Bordeaux looking for the best value to purchase. In many of these stores the owners would speak of their knowledge of the Church. In almost all cases they mentioned that they knew a member of the Church, an outstanding pianist who played with the Bordeaux Symphony, named Pascal Robert. He had told them all that he was a member of the Church, and they spoke very positively of him.
I was anxious to meet this young accomplished pianist spoken of so warmly by these people in the community, yet the first several weeks in Bordeaux I did not meet him. I finally asked the district president why I had not met Pascal Robert, the accomplished pianist spoken of by so many. He explained to me that sadly Pascal had been excommunicated a few years earlier from the Church. He had fallen in forbidden paths, eventually leading to a disciplinary council that took from him his membership. I was disheartened at the news.
It was fully two years later that my phone rang and the person on the other end of the line said, "Brother Andersen, you do not know me but my name is Pascal Robert." I did know him, and I was thankful for his call. He invited us to a performance where he was a guest artist, and asked if he could have an appointment with me to speak about the Church.
As we met he was humble and contrite. He spoke of wanting to put his life in order and return to the Church. I referred him to a very capable branch president, and he began his process of repentance. A few months later the branch president, to whom I had assigned Pascal, called me. He said, "Pascal Robert is in the hospital and asked if you and I could come to see him." Pascal Robert was in the final stages of AIDS, and was near death. As we comforted him on his hospital bed he looked up into my eyes and almost pled saying, "Brother Andersen, can I again be baptized into the Church?" I assured him that he could be forgiven and be rebaptized. He then said something to me that I will never forget. He said, "What makes me the saddest is to realize what I could have had." He explained, "When I was baptized at age 19, the Lord gave me a powerful witness of the truth. I told everyone of the Church. My joy was overflowing." He continued, "I received my patriarchal blessing. Oh, there were marvelous promises made. I  as told I would have a family, and children, and many wonderful things would come from my posterity." Then he paused, "I was also told that I should serve a mission. My musical talent, however, was so important to me and I was flattered on every side, and I thought that if I served a mission, I would not achieve what I could achieve if I stayed and pursued my artistic career. It was the first step", he said, "in unsettling my testimony. Now I will never have all those things that I were promised, not in this life." We comforted him, but his spirit could not be comforted. He had not been grounded, rooted, established, and settled, and the tornados of the world had lifted him and carried him to forbidden places. He died two days later.
My second example is a much happier story. My beloved associate of the Seventy, Elder Andrew Peterson grew up here in Salt Lake City. He served a mission in Argentina. After returning home, he married his sweetheart Christine.
After six years of marriage, they had still not been blessed with children. For some this would have been a spiritual tornado. Some might have shaken their fists at the heavens, and said, "How could you deny us, who love children so much, this privilege." No so for Drew and Chris Peterson. They were grounded, rooted, established, and settled. In Elder Peterson's words here is how their eight children came into their lives: "As school was drawing to a close and our sixth wedding anniversary was upon us, we were still without children. Then a door opened and an opportunity presented itself, and Ashley came into our lives. Our dear, precious Ashley.
"A year later we traveled to Bolivia to bring Joshua home from an orphanage. He was two years old. I can still see that beautiful little boy walking to me with outstretched arms, saying, 'Papa, Papa.' Megan then joined us, not even twenty-four hours old when we brought her home. Then back to Bolivia for Daniel, five months old when we held him for the first time.
"Several years later, while I was presiding over the Mexico Merida Mission, Jennifer joined our family--a beautiful two-week old Guatemalan baby girl born in Mexico. She opened the hearts of our missionaries and members in southern Mexico. Natalie Joy came into our family three weeks before our mission ended. Her middle name, Joy, is an eternal reminder of the witness we received that she should be included in our family. After sixteen years of marriage and six adoptions, Anne and Andrew naturally joined our family, to the joy and happiness of their brothers and sisters." (Ensign/May 1995)
Throughout their lives, they served where called. When he was released as a stake president, Drew served for a year and a half as a Star A teacher in the Primary. In speaking about teaching Primary he said, "That was some of the finest training I have ever received. I had those beautiful children teaching me more than I was giving them." (Church News, Oct. 22, 1994)
In October of 1994, Drew Peterson was called to the 1st Quorum of the Seventy. He and his wife Chris closed their dental practice, and were assigned to the Area Presidency in Mexico.
In October of 1997, returning to Salt Lake City briefly for General Conference, Elder Peterson was involved in a tragic accident that nearly took his life. For days his life hung in the balance. His vital signs finally stabilized but he had no movement below his neck. He could not speak. He could not communicate.
I visited Elder Peterson at the hospital just before Christmas. His voice had just returned the day I visited him. His words to me were these: "Oh Neil, I have been so blessed. I have learned so much, especially about the Savior." These was no hostility, no resentment. There was eternal perspective, gratitude for life. There lay a disciple of Christ, grounded, rooted, established, and settled.
After I leave you today, I will pass by the hospital to see Elder Peterson. His future abilities are still not clear, but I am happy to report there is some feeling in his extremities. We pray for his recovery. I know that your prayers would mean much to him, and I would ask you to petition our Heavenly Father on his behalf.
What his final physical condition will be is not yet certain, but his spiritual condition and that of his dear wife remain the same. They are grounded, rooted, established, and settled.
In an interview with the Church News shortly after his call to the Seventy, Elder Peterson explained what it means to be grounded, rooted, established, and settled. He said: "We need to trust in Him and realize He is always there. We sing in the Primary song. 'Heavenly Father, are you really there, and do you hear and answer every child's prayer.' We bear our testimonies that he does. He is there and will lead and guide us if we will turn to Him and have the faith to listen to a prophet." (Church News, October 22, 1994)
I pray that this may be our spiritual foundation, that when the worldly tornadoes come dangerously among us, we may stand firm.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

© Intellectual Properties Inc.

Hastening the Work

11 Feb. 1998


Hastening the Work

It's a delightful honor for me to be here with you today. I have to tell you, I really resonate to smaller schools. I've been to all sizes of them, and the ones I really enjoy are the smaller schools.
This last year has been a very, very busy time in Church headquarters. Many of you are aware of some of the things that have happened but maybe some of you aren't aware. In the 88th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the 73rd verse, the Lord said he would hasten His work in it's time. As I've thought about that, I've wondered if this isn't one of the times when the Lord is really hastening the work along. I'd like to share with you some of the things that happened last year, and then see if you don't agree with me that there is some real hastening. I won't ask you to respond, but, can any of you think in your mind what were some very significant things that happened within the last twelve months? I'll tell you one. I am confident that many of the Saints heard but it might have gone over their head as to how very significant it was. Can I tell you that in April conference last year, you sat through and were part of this community when one of the major decisions of this dispensation happened. It happened in your time and you can tell your children. In April conference brethren were called and ordained Seventy that were not part of the First and Second quorums. Now what's the significance of that? You see these brethren belong to quorums that are not associated with the normal general authority concept that we have. They're called area authorities but with all of the authority to act within their areas. That is significant. With the church growing like it is--now you know that we just passed 10 million members. That's quite a few people. The Church now is over a hundred and fifty years old, and we have 10 million people. Do any of you have any idea how many members of the Church there will be in 50 years? I'll tell you. It won't be 10 million. It'll be 225 million. Now that's a lot of people. If we think we've got challenges now, can you see the challenge's we're going to have when we'll have over 200 million members. The challenges we face today will be that much bigger. Now, with the change to the Seventies, for the first time we have an ability to grow about as fast as we want. Why, because we have brethren out there who are well trained, who have had experiences in stake presidencies and as bishops, who speak the language, and who can run the Church. They have all the authority to act. So now we have not only the First and Second quorums, but also the Third, Fourth and Fifth quorums. The First and Second quorums are here, they reside here, and serve full time. The Third Quorum includes Europe, Asia and the Pacific; the Fourth Quorum includes South America and Mexico; the Fifth Quorum includes the United States. These are brethren who are tried and true and who are called now to serve as Seventies.
There was another major announcement. You sisters weren't there for that announcement, it was in Priesthood meeting. What was it: The building of the small temples. Can you imagine the impact of areas of the world where there are people who pay so much to get to the temple and make such a tremendous effort, financially, to get there. Manaus is up the Amazon River, at the north of Brazil; a thousand miles up the Amazon. It's literally in the jungle. We only have, at this time, one temple in Brazil. In order for members to get from Manaus to the San Paulo temple, they get on a boat and travel three days up the Madata river. That will put them in Puerto Velo. Then they get on a bus and cross the country from West to East for three days. That's a total of six days if everything goes well. Any flat tires or problems with the bus makes it that much longer. So generally we figured from six days to a week to get there. They'll spend a week at the temple and then it's six to seven days to get back. That's just one place. All over the world there are people who are making such tremendous sacrifices to get to the temple. It's significant that saints will soon be able to get their endowment, which is essential to receiving the sealings necessary for exaltation, closer to their homes. A very significant announcement.
We'll see hundreds of temples soon. I don't doubt President Hinckley will see a hundred temples on the earth before his days come to a close. When President Hinckley gave that talk, how many of you brethren listened to it? Did you catch this: after he made this major announcement and had explained it all he said, "Well, now enough of that." Enough of explaining that magnificent concept. Then he said, "Now I want to talk to you about something very important." I thought, "What could be so important?" What did he say? What does he feel is one of the most important things? Rivaling in his mind the announcement of the small temples. I'll tell you: the thing he has talked about constantly and that is retention of the new convert. I hope that all of you are aware of that topic and what it means to us; the importance of loving our neighbor, being kind and helping those who are coming into the church.
Well, there are a number of other items I'm going to quickly list. You of the Relief Society and the Priesthood have already recognized something different. Do you know what it is? It's the new curriculum for the Relief Society and the Priesthood. Now that's significant. But I'm not so sure that that didn't go over the top of some of our heads. Why is that so significant? Well, you'll say because husbands and wives can be studying the same thing. It's true the manual on Brigham Young is one of the finest books ever written and you're going to love it as you go through it. But to me that is not the most significant. The significant thing is for the Priesthood. Harold B. Lee said, "The thing we need to do if we're going to see the Church move forward is to stress the priesthood." We tell the brethren, "You're a priesthood quorum." And then we said, "Now take this time and study a lesson." Now for the first time, one Sunday a month is devoted only to Priesthood quorum activities allowing priesthood quorums to really be quorums. That is significant.
Another announcement. These may seem like small things, but they're eternal in their nature. The next one was that on Saturday evening there is going to be a difference in our Saturday evening sessions. Those of you who are accustomed to going to Saturday evening of conference are going to find that you're not invited to go to the Saturday evening session. That'll break some people's hearts because it was one of the finest sessions of conference. But to take it's place is a training session for stake and ward councils. And in that, there will be an opportunity for the sisters to be trained jointly with the brethren, something we've wanted to see for years. So now the sisters will be trained with the brethren, then it will be less likely that the sisters go home and say, "I don't know what's going on." That's part of the hastening of the work. The preparation of the sisters that are leaders along with the brethren.
I'm going to leave that now and talk with you about a very personal experience. As Sister Hillam and I were serving as a mission president, we had five missionaries out at the same time. Three of our children were serving at one time, and Sister Hillam and I considered ourselves missionaries, so there were five of us serving at one time. It was a great experience -- economic disaster -- but a great experience. When our children came home off their missions, we were in Brazil, as mission president. They started their missions and reported their missions and we were never there. Of our seven children, and incidently they've all served missions, we've only been home to hear one of them report their mission. We've only been home to see two of them go on their missions, and we've not been home when they started college. I'd like to just take a few minutes that I have now and share with you what council, I'd give them.
First, I would remind them of the Doctrine and Covenants, the 9th section, the 8th verse where the Lord says:
"Behold I say unto you that you must study it out in your mind (this was to Oliver Cowdery); then you must ask me if it is right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right."
Now what does that scripture mean? What I would say to my children is be sure that when you go to school you've really studied it out in your mind as to what you want to do. Don't go just with the idea, "I'll go put in a few hours." Study it out. Don't expect that the Lord is just going to tap you on the shoulder and say, "Now Harold, you go into orthodontics or you do whatever." You really study it out, and then, when you know that it's the right thing, take it to the Lord and ask him: "Heavenly Father, is this what would help me the very most?" Then I'm sure we will have that feeling in our bosom and we will know that it is right.
I can tell you when I decided that I wanted to go into dentistry that's all I could think of. That literally just permeated my thoughts. I wanted to be a dentist so bad I could almost taste it. I don't know what it is to taste dentistry, but it just permeated all my thoughts. And I think I had that sensation that it was the right thing.
Once you've made your decision, be ready to stand by it. And be ready to not move your position, not to start this one day and that another day. Brigham Young gave us some good council. He has been credited as being one of the greatest colonizers in modern history. I think he's the greatest colonizer in the history of mankind. Many times we talk about Moses. I think he was even greater than Moses. Let me tell you what I think is one of the keys to his greatness. He said, "I have Zion in my view constantly." See, he had a vision. He knew what Zion was going to be. And everything he did was to build Zion. Now the Lord has told us in this last dispensation, there have been four brethren that have gone to the Prophet Joseph Smith and said, "What would be the most important thing that I could do?" And in the 6th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and the 11th section, the 12th section, and the 14th section the response is almost the same. "Inasmuch as you have asked the thing most important to do;" number one keep the commandments, number two build Zion. I think that's something we need to have in our vision. Brigham Young taught us that once we know what we want to do, once the Lord has given that confirmation, have it in your vision constantly. Have it in your vision and don't plan on moving it.
The Lord talks about our putting our hand to the plow. Now some of you are good farmers, you might understand what the Lord is trying to tell us. In Luke 9:62, the Lord says: "And Jesus said unto him, no man having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God." What did he mean by that? No man putting his hand to the plow is fit for the Kingdom of God. The Savior was talking to those who were farmers. They knew what He was talking about. And this was the magnificent part of the Savior. He would talk to the fisherman as fisherman, he talked to the farmers as farmers and they knew what he meant. Do we have any farmers here? Ok, good. You'll understand what he said. When you get hold of the plow and you're plowing a furrow, you can't look back or off you go and your furrow is all crooked, and anybody that's farmed knows how tough it is to try and straighten out a plowed field. You can't hardly do it. So how did those farmers keep their rows so straight? Here's how it's done. Farmers would take their mule or their horse or whatever was pulling the plow and they'd line up his ears on a tree or something distant. That tree became a goal. And so he would watch that that tree was right between those horse's ears. Now today, the modern farmers line up the radiator cap on a tree and they know that they can't let that radiator cap get very far off or they're going to have a crooked row and they're going to have to try and straighten it out and it's not going to be easy. So the Lord said, when we put our hand to the plow, we can't look back. If we do, we're not fit for the kingdom because our rows might be crooked. Now what does that mean to us? When we decide what we're going do in our schooling, in our life, we put our hand to the plow, we do all we can to make it so that it does happen.
Now there are times when we do have to alter our goal just a little bit. But let me suggest, I know when I went to Ricks College for the first day, we were there and I remember one of the instructors asked, "What are you all going to do?" And I remember some of them raised their hand and said "I'm going to be a brain surgeon." And another one over here said, "I'm going to be an atomic physicist," And I sat there and thought "Boy, I'm in the wrong league. I don't know whether I can keep up with these guys." But it was interesting how many of them hadn't really thought it out. And I looked back at them later. Some of them had dropped out of school and some of them hadn't bothered to apply. It was easy for them to take their goal and let it slip. Instead of raising their goal they were obviously letting them down.
There are times when we do need to modify our goals. I'll share this with you, by Evelyn Bennitte. As every Young Woman approaches marriage and child bearing, she sets up goals hoping to make her home a little bit of heaven. As the years roll around, these specific goals have to be reevaluated and changed with the changing times. Now here's what she said: "My goals 20 years ago included: number one, keeping an immaculate house which would be an ideal setting for the spirit of our Heavenly Father to dwell. Number two, I'd read at least one excellent book a month and become well informed about the world around me. Number three, prepare well-balanced, attractive gourmet meals, experimenting with at least one new recipe a week. Bear many children who will be well dressed, well pressed and well behaved. Keep an optimistic outlook on life. At the end of every week try to evaluate what created in me good feelings or frustrations. And tell my husband once a day that I loved him.
"The first two years of our marriage before children was like a fantasy. I was so organized, orderly and adorable. We ate such creations as cordon bleu' and pheasant under glass. Our discussions were stimulating in a house which was hygienically spotless, not a thing out of place. And then came our first child. And with the demands of burping, changing, loving, bathing, rocking, washing, praying, some of my goals needed to be modified. I must give up my immaculate house. My revised goals now read: As you pass a table blow hard on the top of it just to rearrange the dust. Number two, put the vacuum in the middle of the floor so that anyone calling on you will think that sometime soon you will intend to get the debris off the floor. Then came the second child. With the demands of burping, changing, loving, bathing, rocking, washing, praying, some of my goals needed to be modified. I must give up my reading books. But not the newspaper. I still snatch time for a little worthwhile reading of my favorite funny paper characters--Mary Worth and Dr. Rex Morgan. But only every other day. And who can live without Ann Landers. Number two, to keep well informed I rush to the door when I hear the mailman to discuss some pertinent problem-- "Has the garbage been picked up down the street yet?"
"Then came the third child. With the demands of burping, changing, loving, bathing, rocking, washing, and praying, some of my goals needed to be modified. Instead of preparing well-balanced, attractive, gourmet meals, experimenting with at least one new recipe every week, my goal now read, serve a hot dish once a day. This means if I serve hot soup for lunch you can get away with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner. When I do find an extra hour and decide to go all out on a roast, potatoes, gravy and baked bread the children ask, "Who's coming for dinner?" or "Is it Thanksgiving already?" Then came the fourth child. With the demands of burping, changing, loving, bathing, rocking, washing and praying, some of my goals needed to modified. Instead of being well-dressed, well-pressed and well-behaved, my goal simply reads: dress. If the diaper is hanging around the knees by noon my neighbor will know that I pinned it up properly earlier in the day. I haven't seen the bottom of my ironing basket for three years and really don't know when I ever will. Praise be to polyester.
"Then the fifth child came. With the demands of burping, changing, loving, bathing, rocking, washing and praying some of my goals needed to be modified. My goal no longer reads: Keep an optimistic outlook on life. At the end of the week try to evaluate, what created in you good feelings or frustration. Instead it says: Keep your voice down until noon. At the end of each week count to see if you still have five children. Check your mind to see if you have lost it or not. Check your varicose veins to see if your legs will take you through another week. My last goal, tell your husband once a day that you love him, now simply says: Try to speak to your husband once a day. With cub scouts, little league, watching football, baseball, basketball, track, violin lessons, PTA board meetings, etc,etc., with chicken pox, roseola, hepatitis, Asian flu, tonsillectomies, I feel lucky to call out to him as we rush past each other going in and out of the front door, "Golly dear, I'm overdrawn at the bank again." Twenty years later, my goals are summed up by reading: Sustain life and endure to the end."
Now brothers and sisters, there are times when we need to modify our goals. But I would suggest that you try to modify them up. Don't modify your goal and come down simply because it's easier.
I would like to just share one scripture with you prior to our leaving. If I were to try to determine of all of the scriptures which would be ones I would call pivotal -- on which your destiny and my destiny are connected -- one of the most pivotal scriptures is in the New Testament. I'll read it to you. Prior to reading it, I'd like you to remember the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had his agency. He was not commanded. He had no responsibility to do what he did in the atonement. He did it simply because he loved us. He did it because he knew that your exaltation depended on what he did. It was not easy. The Savior, as he hung on the cross, agonized more than you or I could ever imagine. All of the pains of this world we can consider, he suffered while he was on the cross. And Heavenly Father had to let the Savior do it all by himself, so He withdrew His presence from the Savior. This is the first time the Savior had ever gone through that, I believe. And now he had all the weight of the suffering of Gethsemane, all of the horrible suffering on the cross, suffering every known suffering we could ever imagine, and then now without the help of his Father in Heaven. And so, my scripture, I think the pivotal scripture on which all the history of the world hung, was this one: "And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice saying,'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?' which is, being interpreted, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me." (Mark 15:34) He could have quit any time. He had control over life and death. He could have ended it and said, "I cannot." And now that He was without the support of his Heavenly Father, I think we were at one of the most precarious times in the history of this world. I know we watched him as spirit children; we saw it. I am confident that our prayers were with the Savior. And we prayed saying, "Jesus, don't, don't give up. Oh please, finish the atonement. Because my exaltation is tied to your atoning for my sins." If I were to council my children, I would say: "In all of your studying, know the Savior. Know what he really did for us."
And I leave you with my testimony. And my testimony is that there will be nothing greater than the day when I am judged by the Savior, and He, being my advocate, my attorney, will plead with Heavenly Father. I hope He will say, "Heavenly Father, have mercy on him. Have mercy on him." Because He's the only one that can plead for mercy because He died for our sins.
I love you. I love His name. I love His Church and His prophet. I leave you with my testimony that I know that Jesus Christ lives, and his Church is on the earth today and we have a living prophet. And I leave that with you in the name of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

© Intellectual Properties Inc.

Born of the Spirit

15 Apr. 1998


Born of the Spirit

The First Presidency in a letter to priesthood leaders dated January 23, 1998, announced that, "In harmony with instruction given in the revelations, the confirmation of new convert members will no longer occur at the time of baptism but will be performed in a subsequent sacrament meeting of the ward or branch in which the new member resides." This modification in what had been Church practice for some years will have several salutary effects. Certainly as new members are confirmed in a sacrament meeting, they will be identified to the ward or branch members who inevitably will be anxious to greet and welcome them into the fellowship and community of saints. Among the most important consequences of this change will be the added recognition and importance accorded to the ordinance of laying on hands to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. When confirmation occurs as something of an appendage at the end of a baptismal service, it is sometimes neglected in the sense of not receiving the attention it merits. When confirmation is performed at a separate time and place, we may have occasion to reflect more deeply on its significance. That is my hope.
Early in his ministry the Savior identified the two baptisms needed to achieve a spiritual or rebirth into the kingdom of God. To Nicodemus he declared, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:3-5). The rebirth or baptism of water is an event that occurs in a particular place at a given moment in time. Consequently it is not difficult to comprehend. The rebirth or baptism of the Spirit which often occurs over time and is generally not an observable phenomenon, is not so easily understood. It is my purpose to speak today to this essential matter in the hope of adding a degree of clarity.
In a number of places where baptism is discussed in the scriptures, it seems that the speaker urges his listeners to receive baptism not simply for the benefit inherent in that ordinance, but because taking that step opens the door for the influence of the Holy Spirit in his or her life. The sense is, "You should be baptized so that you can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost which will introduce you to the kingdom of God."
Peter in his great sermon at Pentecost says: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38)." Nephi, relating his vision of Jesus' baptism declares:
"And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism--yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel." (2 Nephi 31:12-13)
One gets the same sense of the wonder and desire to receive the Holy Ghost from the words of God himself as spoken to Adam:
"And he called upon our father Adam by his own voice, saying: I am God; I made the world, and men before they were in the flesh.
"And he also said unto him: If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men, ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask, it shall be given you." (Moses 6:51-52)
The revealed prayers used in blessing the bread and water in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, also emphasize the importance of the Holy Ghost. In both prayers, the great reward for our promises to take upon us the name of Christ, always remember him and keep his commandments is that we "may always have his Spirit to be with [us]" (D&C 20:77, 79).
Clearly there is something very important here. The role of the Holy Spirit in our rebirth is elaborated further in this same revelation to Adam as God instructs him further saying:
"Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous Judge, who shall come in the meridian of time.
"Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying: That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
"For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified." (Moses 6:57-60)
I gather from these verses that the essence of our rebirth into the kingdom of heaven is a cleansing. No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of the Man of Holiness or the Son of the Man of Holiness, and so to enter or be born into his kingdom a cleansing must be effected in us. It is conditioned on our choice manifested by repentance, or in other words the abandonment of sin, all that makes us unclean, so that we cease defiling ourselves. That choice is followed by a manifestation of commitment that we will serve God, and that our supreme loyalty henceforth is to Him. This occurs as we are baptized in water signaling our commitment and prefiguring the cleansing that can now come to us. The cleansing comes "by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten," that is, the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ or what we sometimes refer to as grace. The agency or medium by which the blood of Christ is applied to make us clean is the Spirit meaning the Holy Ghost.
These verses mention being "justified" and "sanctified" as elements of our rebirth. This is confirmed by two verses in the Doctrine and Covenants:
"And we know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true; And we know also, that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength." (D&C 20:30-31)
What do these terms mean? How do they relate to being cleansed and born again into the kingdom of heaven? A review of scriptures listed in the Topical Guide under "Justification" reveals that this term, having the same root as "justice," has to do with being guiltless or justified before the law, or in other words, without sin. For example, the Savior states, "whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled [with the Holy Spirit]; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world" (3 Nephi 27:16). The Guide to the Scriptures that is included in some of our non-English editions of the "Triple Combination" [Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price] has this simple definition of "justification": "To be pardoned from punishment for sin and declared guiltless. A person is justified by the Savior's grace through faith in him. This faith is shown by repentance and obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Jesus Christ's atonement enables mankind to repent and be justified or pardoned from punishment they otherwise would receive" (The Guide to the Scriptures, p. 141). Thus, the person who repents and is baptized in water and thereafter receives the Holy Ghost, will receive through the Holy Ghost the benefit of the Savior's grace. Christ's blood will answer the law of justice on behalf of such a person, and he or she will be justified before the law. Justification is to be pardoned.
Also in the Topical Guide you will find the term "Sanctification" with a number of scriptures listed. These verses suggest to us that there is a further necessary step for our rebirth beyond having justice satisfied on our account. Not only must our sin be pardoned, but the stain and effects of sin in us must be erased. Alma says, "[There can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins" (Alma 5:21). The resurrected Messiah stressed the same doctrine:
"And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
"Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day." (3 Nephi 27:19-20)
Turning again to The Guide to the Scriptures, we find this simple definition of "sanctification": "The process of becoming free from sin, pure, clean, and holy through the atonement of Jesus Christ" (The Guide to the Scriptures, p.219). A sanctified person, then, is not only free from responsibility for sin, but also free from the effects of sin, a holy being fit to live in the presence of the Man of Holiness.
Justification and sanctification, therefore, together constitute that perfect cleansing that God intended when he told Adam that he and all of his children "must be born again into the kingdom of heaven" (Moses 6:59). While it was Adam's choice, just as it is our action and choice, if we will, to repent, be baptized and commit to receive this cleansing, we must always remember that the cleansing itself occurs by virtue of the blood or grace or atonement of Jesus Christ through the agency of the Holy Ghost. It is the blood of Christ that justifies or pardons us. It is the blood of Christ that sanctifies us or removes our stain.
The supreme value of the gift of the Holy Ghost is evident. We must receive the Spirit so that the grace of Christ may work in us to effect our cleansing and rebirth. This is that other baptism, the baptism of the Spirit, the baptism of fire, the baptism of the Holy Ghost (see D&C 19:31). This is being born of the Spirit.
The baptism of water is, of course, an easily identifiable event in our lives. We can pinpoint when it happens. The baptism of the Spirit, so essential to our rebirth into the kingdom of heaven, is not so easily linked to a particular moment in time. In fact, it generally occurs in process of time. We may not even be fully aware as it happens. The Savior referred to an example among the ancient Lamanites: "And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not" (3 Nephi 9:20).
It is true that we are able to find in scriptural history instances where a spiritual rebirth took place seemingly at one particular moment as with King Lamoni (see Alma 19:33) or Alma the Younger (see Mosiah 27:24) or even an entire people as with those who heard King Benjamin's remarkable discourse:
"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.
"And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives." (Mosiah 5:7-8)
President Ezra Taft Benson on one occasion cautioned us about these examples, noting that they do not represent what this process will be for most of us:
"Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair.
"But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said "were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not." (3 Nephi 9:20; italics added.)
"We must not lose hope.... The Lord is pleased with every effort, even the tiny, daily ones in which we strive to be more like Him." (Ensign, October, 1989, p.9)
For all, however, whether the baptism of fire comes in a moment or over time, it will be important to stay on course and to preserve the rebirth achieved by the grace of our Lord through the workings of the Holy Spirit. In the verses immediately following the powerful witness in Section 20 concerning justification and sanctification through the grace of Jesus Christ, there is this warning:
"But there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God; Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation; Yea, and even let those who are sanctified take heed also." (D&C 20:32-34)
It is therefore essential that we not only receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and through that medium that impact of the atonement in our lives, but that we act to retain the Spirit. It must remain with us throughout life if we would preserve the cleansing that permits our entry into the heavenly kingdom. Here we see the other roles of the Holy Ghost as it comforts, warns, teaches, testifies and brings to greater maturity the attributes of godliness within us. Referring again to God's conversation with Adam, we have this divine assurance: "Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hat all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment" (Moses 6:61).
The ordinance of confirmation unlocks the door to something wonderful, nothing less than our becoming new creatures, cleansed, holy and free from every influence of sin in us. Surely we must not treat it lightly. Surely we must strive to realize the potential of this gift in our lives. I conclude with what Adam experienced after he came to understand what we have today discussed:
"And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water.
"And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.
"And he heard a voice out of heaven, saying: Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever;
"Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons [and daughters]. Amen." (Moses 6:64-66, 68)
May this be your blessing. May you have the Holy Spirit to be with you in the most complete sense so that your baptism of fire, the cleansing and purifying influence of the Spirit in you, may carry forward day by day until you are both justified and sanctified. I bear witness that by the grace of Jesus Christ it may be so with you. "Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (D&C 4:7).

© Intellectual Properties Inc.

Repentance - a Fresh View of God

06 May. 1998


Repentance - a Fresh View of God

Thank you, Dr. Brown, and thank you all for all being here. We understand that you are coming to the end of the school year, and this is the last of the devotionals. We are grateful you are here. I thank Margot Butler and the beautiful choir and above all, my secretary, Diana Torres, who offered the opening prayer. When we presided over the South America North Area, Diana was my wonderful secretary and it is so nice to be with you again. My, how your English has improved, Diana. The college has had a great impact on you.

Do You Know How to Repent?

I have been working on an idea for a number of years, and today I would like to present it to you the best I know how. I do not have a printed text yet. I just want to share some ideas that I believe I personally need to apply, and hopefully they would be helpful to you. It grows out of an experience I had twenty years ago when I was being interviewed by my bishop for my temple recommend. Because I was a member of a stake presidency, I knew all the temple recommend interview questions. I asked them weekly to other members, and I was prepared to answer each question that my bishop asked me.

But he caught me totally off guard with one question not found in the temple recommend book. He asked, "Jay, do you know how to repent?" My first thought was to say, "Yes, of course I know how to repent. After all, I am a seminary teacher. I have taught this doctrine many times." I paused for a moment to think about it, and the more I thought about it, the more uncertain I was of my answer. The standard five or six R's of repentance (some commonly taught "R's" of repentance are recognition, remorse, restitution, reformation, resolution, etc.) did not seem adequate. In fact, they were meaningless to me at that time. They seemed to be too trite, too compartmentalized. I know there are some great doctrines and principles in those R's of repentance, but I did not fell comfortable in giving an immediate answer nor using them in my answer. Finally I said rather hesitatingly, "Yes bishop. I think I do."
I do not remember any other details of the interview because I was so struck with that one question. "Jay, do you know how to repent?" Since then I have thought a lot about that question and the associated doctrine. You may remember that in President Hinckley's first message to us as the President of the Church, he encouraged all of us to be better and to do better, meaning we can and should repent.

Repentance is not a topic with which we always feel comfortable. We seem to think it is for the other person. I will never forget a wonderful member of a stake presidency with who I served who said, "Any time you point a finger towards someone in a critical or accusing way, look at the other three fingers pointing toward you and ask 'who need it the most?' Three fingers towards me and one towards the other person. I must start here and now with me." So I am giving myself a talk today, and if it helps you, my purpose for coming will be accomplished.

Elder Holland made a very insightful comment about repentance at general conference a couple of years ago. He said, "Someone once said that repentance is the first pressure we feel when draw to the bosom of the Father" (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Conference Report, November 1996, p. 83). I want to repeat it. "Someone once said that repentance is the first pressure we feel when drawn to the bosom of the Father."

How do we draw ourselves to the Father so as to feel pressure or motivation, perhaps a great deal of pressure to repent? President Hinckley was tutored for so many years with a great member of the First Presidency, Stephen L. Richards. He taught this:

Members of the Church who have been taught know the seriousness of transgression, and their knowledge brings accountability and responsibility. To them repentance has special significance. On their shoulders [is] the weight of the kingdom. Its progress is retarded not so much by lack of effort as by insufficiency of repentance- individual repentance--which is essential to make them profitable servants (President Steven L. Richards, Conference Report, April 1956, p. 94).

You work hard to be good and to do good. I work hard. You spend long hours and longs days in many good and worthwhile activities. Many of you have Church callings. Some even have two and three callings. Effort? You give much, and yet the Church seems to be on a plateau, speaking statistically and when we look at the key indicators. In fact, one or two key indicators are on a decline. But you work so hard. Is the progress of the Church, as President Richards indicated, retarded not so much by lack of effort as by insufficiency of repentance? Where can I improve? What can I do better? What excess luggage or baggage do I need to get out of my life?

The Power of Repentance and the Atonement

Some years ago I worked in the Missionary Department of the Church. We were developing materials to help missionaries be better and do better. The following experience about repentance was hared with us by one of the General Authorities:

A little over a year ago, I had the privilege of interviewing a young man to go on a mission. Because he had committed a major transgression, it was necessary of him to be interviewed by a General Authority.

When the young man came in, I said, "Apparently there's been a major transgression in your life, and that has necessitated this interview. Would you mind telling me what the problem was? What did you do?"

He laughed and said, "Well, there isn't anything I haven't done."

I said, "Well, let's be more specific the. Have you...?"

And then this General Authority began to probe with some very specific questions.

The young man laughed again and said, "I told you, I've done everything."

I said, "How many times have you..."

He said very sarcastically, "Do you think I numbered them?"

I said, "I would to God you could if you can't."

He said, again quite sarcastically, "Well, I can't."

I said, "How about..."

And then the General Authority probed in another direction.

He said, "I told you. I've done everything."

I said, "Drugs?"

He said, "Yes," in a very haughty attitude.

I said, "What makes you think you're going on a mission then."

He said, "I know I'm going. My patriarchal blessing says I'll go on a mission and I've repented. I haven't done any of those things for this past year. I have repented, and I know I'm going on a mission."

I said, "My dear friend, I'm sorry but you are not going on a mission. Do you think we could send you out with those clear, wholesome young men who have never violated the code? Do you think we could have you go out and boast and brag about you past? You haven't repented; you have just stopped doing something. Sometime in your life you need to visit Gethsemane; and when you have been there, you'll understand what repentance is. Only after you have suffered in some small degree as the Savior suffered in Gethsemane will you know what repentance is. The Savior has suffered in a way none of us understands for every transgression committed. How dare you laugh and jest and have a haughty attitude about your repentance? I'm sorry, you are not going on a mission."

He started to cry, and he cried for several minutes. I didn't say a word.

Finally, he said, "I guess that's the first time I have cried since I was five years old."

I said, "If you had cried like that the first time you were tempted to violate the moral code, you possibly would by going on a mission."

He left the office, and I think he felt I was really cruel. I explained to the bishop and the stake president that the boy could not go on a mission. I said, "I question that he should even have been ordained an elder. In fact, it seems to me that he should have been tried [by a disciplinary council] for his membership in the Church."

About six months later the same General Authority returned to that city to speak in a lecture series held in the evening. When he finished, many young adult lined up to come down and shake hands with him. As he shook hands one by one, he looked up and saw the young man that he had previously interviewed standing in the line about four back.

The General Authority relates the following:

My mind quickly flashed back to our interview. I recalled his laughing and haughty attitude. I remembered how sarcastic he was. Pretty soon he was right in from of me. I was on the stand bending over, and as I reached down to shake his hand, I noticed a great change had taken place. He had tears in his eyes. He had almost a holy glow about his countenance.

He took my hand in his and said, "I've been there; I've been to Gethsemane and back."

I said, "I know. It shows in your face."

We can be forgiven for our transgressions, but we must understand that just to stop doing something is not repentance. It is had not been for the Savior and the miracle of forgiveness, this young man would have carried his transgressions throughout all eternity. We ought to love the Savior and serve him for this reason and this reason alone (Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, Sweden Area Conference, Youth Session, August 1974).

Repentance is among the very first commandments given in mortality. In the Pearl of Great Price, we note that an angel asked Adam, Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, say the Lord commanded me. The very first thing that the angel then taught Adam and Eve was Thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore (Moses 5:6-8).

In the Doctrine and Covenants, especially in the early sections, the word repentance appears frequently. In fact, of the 28 uses of the word "repentance" "repent" appears 90 times, 48 of them are in the first 66 sections.

Declare nothing but repentance unto this generation (Doctrine and Covenants 6:9).

I like the definition of the word repentance in the Bible Dictionary: "The Greek word of which this is the translation dentures a change of mind." And then the Bible Dictionary identifies three aspects about repentance- "a fresh view about God, a fresh view about oneself, and a fresh view about the world. Since we are born into conditions of mortality, repentance comes to mean a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined" (Bible Dictionary, p. 760).

I would like to talk briefly about those three views from a scriptural foundation-a fresh view about God, a fresh view about oneself, and a fresh view about the world.

A Fresh View About God

In the Book of Mormon when we talk about a fresh view of God, Alma related what had happened in their conversion in the wilderness. He said, Behold, he [God] changed their heart, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God (Alma 5:7). They had a fresh view about God. There are many sleeping giants in our midst in this Church. Some of you seated here can think of a number of individuals, perhaps many, who are fast asleep spiritually and need to be awakened out of a deep sleep. The people of Alma described a new view about God, a fresh view. Sleeping giants today need this fresh view about God.

Shortly after I returned from my mission, I was assigned to be a deacon quorum advisor. In one of the lessons I taught, there was a story about a young deacon who had gone to a store. He did not have the money to buy what he wanted and so he stole it. He put it under his coat and started to walk out and was apprehended. The man who apprehended him was a member of the Church and knew him. This member of the Church asked the young deacon, "Why did you do that? You knew better." He answered, "Well, I wanted it; I've always wanted it. I looked straight ahead, I looked to the right and to the left and I looked behind me. When I could see no one, I took it." This wise advisor said "My son, you forgot to look up." Those who do not look up to God do not have a view about God, let alone a fresh view. We are commanded to know Him and our eternal life depends upon that knowledge ( see John 17:3).

How can we pray with faith to a God we do not know? He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. The Lectures on Faith describe Him as having a fullness of knowledge, truth, faith or power, justice, judgement, mercy, and love. I do not understand what this means, but I am seeking and striving. You faith will increase in Him as you increase a fresh view about Him. For example, in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul said, knowest thou that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (Romans 2:4). When we are drawn to the bosom of the Father and come to know Him better, we will feel the pressure to repent knowing about His goodness.

In King Benjamin's discourse, we see the following:

Behold, if the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state-

I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also the atonement...

I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation...

Believe in God. Believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend (Mosiah 4:5-7,9).

As we come to know Him, we will seek to repent.

And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of he3art that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them (Mosiah 4:10).

One of the privileges of a bishop, a stake president, and a General Authority is to see repentance in action. For us it is really seen in action when we interview candidates who were excommunicated, have repented, and been rebaptized and confirmed a member of the Church. They are recommended by their bishop and stake president to the First Presidency, and when they give approval, z General Authority conducts and interview to confirm their readiness to receive the restoration of the priesthood and the temple blessings. In those I have interviewed, I have seen true repentance. These people have been through their Gethsemane. They must go through a cleansing. To help them, they have a fresh view about God.

In the Book of Mormon, there is an example of one who gained a fresh view about God. Alma described his sinful past as follows:

I was struck with the great fear and amazement lest perhaps I should be destroyed...

I...was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins...

I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.

The very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.

Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds (Alma 36: 11-15).

Alma obtained a fresh view about God-of his goodness, holiness, mercy, justice, and judgment.

A Fresh View About Oneself

Repentance involves a fresh view about oneself. After King Benjamin spoke to the people extensively on Christ and the Atonement, they obtained a fresh view about themselves.

They had fallen to the earth for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.

They had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice , saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words, the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of their exceeding faith in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words of King Benjamin had spoken unto them (Mosiah 4:1-3).

Only when we view ourselves in our carnal state and recognize our total dependence upon Christ and the Atonement will we make the necessary movement to repent.

Another illustration of a fresh view about oneself is the wonderful account of what we call "the prodigal son." I choose to call that parable by another name. It like to call it "the parable of the two sons" because you learn as much from the second son as you do from what is called the prodigal. But when you look at the prodigal, there is a very valuable lesson about a fresh view concerning oneself.

And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him (Luke 15:15-16).

If you were to put the words "no man gave unto him" into our day, we might say that there would be no bishop's orders, no government food stamps, or no social security benefits. He hit rock bottom, and what results is this one little description in verse 17, And when he came to himself. It is as if he sees himself in the mirror. For the first time, he sees himself as he really is and cries out, "I need help." He said-

I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee (Luke 15:18).

He recognized his relationship upward and his relationship horizontally and acknowledged having sinned in two ways-against God and against man, both his Heavenly Father and his earthly father.

Alma the younger illustrated the fresh view about himself when he said-

I was struck with such fear and amazement lest perhaps I should be destroyed,...My soul was harrowed up to their greatest degree and racked with all my sins. And now for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul (Alma 36:11-12,16)

A Fresh View About the World

A fresh view about the world has to do with seeing the world for what it is-a fallen, mortal world. It is a place where we come to obtain a mortal body and gain experience as we choose good over evil. This earth is described as being in a Telestial state, not a Telestial glory. Jesus referred to Satan as the prince of this world, a price of darkness. (See John 14:30 and JST John 14:30 and also D&C 127:11).

President John Taylor taught the following:

Man has lost sight of the object of his creation, and his future destiny; and losing sight of his origin, his relationship to God, and his future destiny, he has fallen into the mazes of ignorance, superstition, and iniquity, and is groping in the dark, and knows not how to conduct himself in the world, or how to prepare for the world to come. For, instead of being governed by the Spirit, Wisdom, and Revelations of God, he is governed by the spirit of the Evil one, "The god of this world, who rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience." They have left God, and submitted themselves to his evil sway, and used that agency which God has given to them, no only in rejecting God, but in obeying Satan, and furthering his designs, which are in opposition to those of God, the happiness of mankind, and the salvation of the world. I know there are many who will ridicule this idea; but it is a thing which is plain in the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul says, The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them (2 Corinthians 4) (John Taylor, The Government of God, chapter 6)

Repent And, Or...

One of the most valuable truths about repentance came from the Index of the triple combination. After the word repent, we often find the word "and," i.e., "repent and ..." Repentance rarely stands alone. It must be coupled by something else. Repent and be baptized appears 25 times. Repent and come unto Christ is found 10 times. Repent and turn. Repent and have faith. Repent and believe. Repent and return. Repent and prepare. And so the list goes on. But it is not only the word "and," it is repent "or" followed by consequences such as "be destroyed," "not be saved," and few others. Thus repentance does not stand alone. Other actions must accompany it.

I would like to conclude with a verse with profound doctrinal meaning. Samuel the Lamanite used a phrase about repentance. He came Upon the walls of the city, that ye might hear and know of the judgments of God which do await you because of your iniquities, and also that you might know the conditions of repentance (Helaman 14:11).

Samuel repeated the phrase in verse 18-

Yea, it [the resurrection of Christ] bringeth to pass the condition of repentance...(Helaman 14:17-18).

The words "conditions of repentance" have great meaning I have studied and pondered the scriptures to learn what those conditions are. I have discovered that these conditions are prerequisites to the five or six "R's" (recognition, remorse, restitution, resolution, etc.). These "R's" are important and much needed. I have found that the following conditions need to precede the R's"

The first condition is that God lives. He is in heaven. He knows us by name. We cannot hide from Him. He has a fullness of divine attributes and perfections. In order for repentance to begin, we must start with God and our relationship to Him.

Number two, we are fallen, mortal, unclean and we need help. We are estranged and cannot live with Him being mortal.

A third prerequisite is to know the doctrine that one day we will die. Some die early, some late. But that day will come; it is absolute.

Another prerequisite is, there will be a final judgement. An important condition of repentance is to believe that one day we will al stand before the judgment bar where Jesus says He employs no servant there (see 2 Nephi 9:41 and Mormon 3:20). That day will come.

Another prerequisite to repentance is to know that no unclean thing can dwell with God (see 1 Nephi 10:21; 15:34; Alma 7:21; 40:26: and Helaman 8:25). You can hide sins from your bishop, you can hide them from your parents and friends, but if you continue and die with unresolved sins, you are unclean and no unclean thing can dwell with God. There are no exceptions.

And the last condition I mention is that we are saved only though the merits, the mercy, and the grace of the Holy one of Israel (see 2 Nephi 2:8). He is our only hope. As we find ourselves where we are, we turn to Him. I am so grateful for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, a message of hope. There is hope and He can make us clean.
Of all the chapters on the Atonement, Alma 7 is one of my favorites. After Alma taught about the Savior and why He suffered, he said-

Therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness (Alma 7:14).

He is might to save. He is mighty to cleanse. I have worked with many, including my own self, and have seen the miracle of forgiveness, the miracle of cleansing, and the I bear witness of Him, as one of His witnesses. I know that He lives. He is the Son of the Father. Jesus Christ is real and He knows us. This is His divine Church. President Gordon B. Hinckley is His authorized, legitimate spokesman, with all the keys of the kingdom surrounded by other holy prophets, seers, and revelators.

These holy scriptures are true and I bear witness of these truths about repentance and a fresh view about God. I express my love to you for your goodness. May you ever be blessed to stay on that straight and narrow path and sharpen your views about God, yourself, and the world.

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