"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." - Articles of Faith 1:13
(Disclaimer: I am not an official spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
I read them. Interestingly enough, the testimonies, doctrines and principles contained in these messages are still true today, even after almost 45 years. I'll spare you the most of the commentary, but here are a few highlights:
Elder LeGrand Richards tells the following story in relation to the unique doctrine of eternal marriage:
"A few years ago while I was president of the Southern States Mission, I delivered a sermon one night in Quitman, Georgia, on the eternal duration of the marriage covenant and the family unit. I read from Brother Rulon S. Howells’ book Do Men Believe What Their Church Prescribes? (Deseret Book Co., 1932.) He has a chart there where he lists all the major churches and then their statement and attitude toward the major doctrinal principles, including this one about the eternal duration of the marriage covenant, and not one believes this.
I just cannot understand how they could read the Bible and yet not believe, and how marriages could be performed in the churches all over the world until death do you part. What a flimsy concept! Why don’t they go back to the time when God had finished the creation of this earth, and looked upon it and found it good, and placed Adam here, at which time he said: “It is not good that the man should be alone. …” (Gen. 2:18.) He made a helpmeet for him, saying, “… and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24.) Now what God joins together and makes one flesh, you couldn’t separate without having two halves instead of two wholes. Jesus repeated that statement when he said:
“For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
“… what therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matt. 19:5–6.)
At the close of that meeting, I stood at the door to shake hands with the people as they left, and a man came up and introduced himself to me as a Baptist minister. I said, “Did I misquote you here tonight?” “No, Mr. Richards,” he said; “it is just like you say. We don’t all believe all the things that our churches teach.” And I said, “And you don’t believe them either. Why don’t you go back and teach your people the truth? They will take it from you and they are not ready to take it from the Mormon elders yet.” He said, “I’ll see you again,” and that is all I could get from him that night.
The next time I went to that branch to hold a conference, about four months later, my coming was announced in the newspaper because I was the mission president. As I walked up to that little church, there stood that Baptist minister waiting for me. As we shook hands I said, “I would certainly be interested to know what you thought of my last sermon here.” He said, “Mr. Richards, I have been thinking about it ever since. I believe every word you said.” Then he said, “But I would like to hear the rest of it.” How could any man who has a true love for his wife and his children not want to believe that principle?
I like the little verse written by Anderson M. Baten, “To His Wife Beulah,” in which he said:
“I wed thee forever, not for now,
Not for the sham of earth’s brief years,
I wed thee for the life beyond the tears,
Beyond the heart pain and clouded brow.
Love knows no grave and it shall guide us dear
When life’s spent candles flutter and burn low.”
There are people like that who believe that marriage ought to be eternal, but there is no other church in all this world, outside of our church, as far as I know, that believes in the eternal duration of the marriage covenant."
He also shares the following story:
"While I was president of the Southern States Mission, a schoolteacher loaned a book to one of our Mormon children; and when the book came back, in it was an Articles of Faith card, and that schoolteacher read it. She went to her minister and said, “Why can’t our church have something like this?” The minister could not give her any satisfactory explanation, and so she wrote a letter to the Bureau of Information here in Salt Lake City. They sent her literature, they sent us her name, the missionaries called on her, and she joined the Church."
Elder James A. Cullimore speaks clearly on the elements of genuine repentance, including confession and forsaking of sin:
"Confession and forsaking, then, are the two important elements of repentance. After one has been brought to realize his transgression and made his determination to turn from it, he must humble himself to make his confession. It would be much easier to simply cease doing the wrong, in the case of serious sin, and say nothing to anyone. But to humble himself to confess it to the ones offended and to the bishop is a more sobering matter and takes real humility."
Elder Victor L. Brown relates a few beautiful stories of repentance and conversion from prison. But the lesson for us is this:
"There are many who find themselves in circumstances similar to those of Jim and Ed—not necessarily confined to a correctional institution, but nevertheless in prison, a prison from which legal authorities cannot release them, a prison of personal habits such as alcohol, drugs, immorality, selfishness, dishonesty, laziness, aimlessness; yes, these can be more confining and damning than any state prison. Yet there is a way to escape to a freedom that surpasses anything designed by man—the kind of freedom Jim and Ed have found."
Elder A. Theodore Tuttle reminds us of the things that matter most.
"The world is full of foolish schemes. They contravene and hinder the purposes of the Lord. Some seek to change the God-given roles of the sexes. Some invite mothers to leave the home to work. Others entice fathers to find recreation away from their families. These questionable practices weaken the home!"
What matters most? Elder Tuttle explains:
"We must learn, before it is too late, the truth spoken by Elder Richard L. Evans: “There never was a tonic that would cure more social ailments than a healthy, happy home. There never was a greater source of social stability than an affectionate and understanding family. There never was a better way of helping children to happiness than the close confidence of wise and loving and responsible parents.” (From Within These Walls [New York: Harper & Bros., 1959], p. 191.)"
(Fast forward from Elder Tuttle's talk, or rewind from now to 2010 when Elder Uchtdorf gave a talk on a similar topic: Of Things That Matter Most):
Elder Sterling W. Sill reminds us that the ten commandments are not just helpful suggestions. The ten commandments are still the same, even after all these years, and they're still commandments:
"1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honour thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness.
10. Thou shalt not covet."
Elder Delbert L. Stapely teaches of our responsibility to save the world. Here are a few important points to consider:
"Surely if the transgressions of men continue in an upward trend, and the world becomes ripe in iniquity, the judgments of God will be poured out in great measure upon the wicked of the earth. Our only hope of heavenly protection is in establishing righteousness and humility in the hearts of men everywhere. The Lord has promised that he shall have power over his saints and shall reign in their midst. It takes real courage and purpose to live a saintly life."
"I believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can save the world if its members will live as saints of God should. Each time we let down in living gospel principles, someone is sure to observe our conduct and form an unfavorable opinion about us and the spiritual values of the Church. Our faithfulness gives meaning to the doctrines we teach. The Savior emphasized this statement by saying: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16.)
"A recent convert wrote a letter in which he stated that he found the Mormon religion “a breath of sweet fresh air,” and then he gave eight reasons for leaving his former church and joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I will list them and comment briefly on each."
Here are the eight reasons, without the commentary (you can refer to the talk itself for the commentary):
"Those who have died in Jesus Christ may expect to enter into all that fruition of joy when they come forth, which they possessed or anticipated here. … I am glad I have the privilege of communicating to you some things which, if grasped closely, will be a help to you when earthquakes bellow, the clouds gather, the lightnings flash, and the storms are ready to burst upon you like peals of thunder. Lay hold of these things and let not your knees or joints tremble, nor your hearts faint; and then what can earthquakes, wars and tornadoes do? Nothing.All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it.
God has revealed His Son from the heavens and the doctrine of the resurrection also; and we have a knowledge that those we bury here God will bring up again, clothed upon and quickened by the Spirit of the great God; and what mattereth it whether we lay them down, or we lay down with them, when we can keep them no longer? Let these truths sink down in our hearts, that we may even here begin to enjoy that which shall be in full hereafter."
When President Lee gave this talk, the newer areas of missionary work included the Fiji Islands, Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Spain, Italy, remote areas of Latin America, and among the Indian tribes. Now many in the Church could say that they know or have met someone who has served in each one of these areas.
In contrast to the growth and expansion of missionary work, President Lee observes that organized religion was in decline in part because of misguided efforts to make it more popular, or to make it seem more relevant by eschewing the basic elements of faith. One columnized summarized the problem as the attempt to "tune out that corny old bible" and to split out of "that moldy church."
One of the great inhibitions to the spreading of the gospel, President Lee also remarks, was the pride that often follows wealth and prosperity:
"It was frightening to observe that in places where there was the greater prosperity, there was the unmistakable evidence that, like the peoples of other dispensations, when they prospered they forgot God. They were seemingly rich in things that money could buy, but they were devoid of most of the precious things money could not buy."
In spite of these obstacles, President Lee speaks glowingly of the Church welfare activities and excellence in education, which successes he attributed directly to the "family home evening programs in the homes from which most of our youth have come."
President Lee praises missionary efforts in the British Isles, warns of false Christs and false prophets, and reiterates the Savior's counsel to "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh."
In reference to another sign of the times, President Lee reminds his audience of the terrible natural disaster that had recently devastated Peru, "one of the worst calamities in the history of the world, in which an estimated seventy thousand persons were buried when an earthquake moved an entire mountain over two cities, which were completely destroyed." The four missionaries who had been assigned to labor in that area were spared, but it was the most catastrophic natural disaster in the history of Peru. Damage was reported in parts of Ecuador and tremors were felt as far away as central Brazil.
Elder Peterson delivers a powerful sermon on topic of honesty. It is as honest and as straightforward a rebuke of hypocrisy and lies as one may find. Honesty is more than a policy. It is a principle, and it is necessary for salvation. What if everyone were completely honest? Elder Peterson explains:
"If all mankind were honest, we could have heaven here on earth. We would have no need for armies or navies, nor even a policeman in the smallest community, for there would be no crime, no invasion of other people’s rights, no violence of one person against another... There would be no grounds for divorce, nor would we have errant husbands or unfaithful wives. Conflict between children and parents would disappear, and juvenile delinquency would come to an end."
The devil is a liar. He is the father of lies. We must confess our sins, forsake them, and turn to Him who is the personification of truth, namely the Savior Jesus Christ.
Elder Romney also considers the signs of the times that will precede the Second Coming of Christ. He speaks of the light that broke forth in the Spring of 1820 when God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, a light that many have rejected or refused to recognize:
"The fulfillment of this prediction is painfully evident today. The large majority to whom the gospel has been taken reject it. It is because of this rejection, and not because there is no guiding light, that this generation has been and, unless it reverses its course, will continue to be unable to avoid the calamities foreseen and foretold by Jesus. For, said he, in that generation—that is, in which the gospel is preached—'they perceive not the light' (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) and 'turn their hearts from me.'"
Elder Romney repeats the prophecies of the Lord from the Mount of Olives. "Some of these signs," he affirms, "we have already witnessed, and others we shall witness later." He reminds his audience of the Lord's parables, including the parable of the ten virgins. The entire talk is worth reading, but his final testimony is particularly noteworthy:
"I bear witness that the fullness of the everlasting gospel is in the earth. The predicted light has broken forth. Many others of the predicted signs of Christ’s coming have been given. Others are now visible. The rest are imminent.
I testify that God is not dead. He is at the helm. His power—his priesthood—is in the earth; his programs are on schedule; his “eternal purposes shall roll on, until all his promises shall be fulfilled.” (Morm. 8:22.)
To this I bear solemn witness as a special witness of Christ, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen."
The Lord sent Elder Burton on an errand to South America. He was impressed with the warmth, the love, and the kindness of the people that he met throughout the nations of South America. Of the people of Brazil he noticed that:
"Those people loved one another. They were the smilingest, handshakingest, happiest people I saw in all of South America."
Elder Burton poses an important question:
"Where is a Moses, or an Isaiah, or a Peter, or a Paul who can speak from personal knowledge of God?"
He emphasizes what the world truly needs:
"God’s way is the way to solve our political, moral, ethical, even our financial problems. The way of the Lord can eliminate wars, riots, discrimination, suffering, and starvation. What the world then needs is direction from a true prophet who, knowing the mind and the will of God, can speak in his name with power and authority and say, 'Thus saith the Lord!"
Where is such a person? Elder Burton reminds us that they have already come, and are already here, beginning anew with the Prophet Joseph Smith:
"When Joseph Smith rose from his knees in that sacred grove, he knew more about the nature, the power, and the attributes of God than learned scholars could find out through a lifetime of study. This is the genius of the Church of Jesus Christ today. It is the testimony and power of the Holy Ghost that distinguishes this church from others. We need not convene councils of learned men to debate the mind and will of God. We have living prophets and apostles to direct us. If we will follow their counsel, we can avoid the evils of today and have tranquillity of faith and peace of mind."
His final invitation is simple and eternally relevant:
"If you are discouraged, if you are puzzled, if you are seeking for greater light, greater joy and happiness, investigate these revealed truths. Find out for yourself. Come and listen to a prophet’s voice. Join with the people of God to become a covenant son or daughter of the true and living God. Obtain your inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, be assigned your lineage rights, and obtain a knowledge of the real purpose of life. To the people already members of the Church of Jesus Christ, let us develop those gifts which are within us. Let us practice that kindness one for another, and let us show that love for our fellowmen which comes through wholehearted acceptance of the principles of truth."
O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud—
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says, 'I burn.'
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats' Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.
The world’s order cannot result from a fortuitous concourse of atoms.
"At this point must I not marvel that there should be anyone who can persuade himself that there are certain solid and indivisible particles of matter borne along by the force of gravity, and that of atoms the fortuitous collision of those particles produces this elaborate and beautiful world? I cannot understand why he who considers it possible for this to have occurred should not also think that, if a countless number of copies of the one-and-twenty letters of the alphabet, made of gold or what you will, were thrown together into some receptacle and then shaken out on to the ground, it would be possible that they should produce the Annals of Ennius, all ready for the reader. I doubt whether chance could possibly succeed in producing even a single verse! Yet according to the assertion of your friends, that out of particles of matter not endowed with heat, nor with any ‘quality’ (the Greek term poiotes), nor with sense, but colliding together at haphazard and by chance, the world has emerged complete, or rather a countless number of worlds are some of them being born and some perishing at every moment of time—yet if the clash of atoms can create a world, why can it not produce a colonnade, a temple, a house, a city, which are less and indeed much less difficult things to make? The fact is, they indulge in such random babbling about the world that for my part I cannot think that they have ever looked up at this marvellously beautiful sky—which is my next topic. So Aristotle says brilliantly: ‘If there were beings who had always lived beneath the earth, in comfortable, well-lit dwellings, decorated with statues and pictures and furnished with all the luxuries enjoyed by persons thought to be supremely happy, and who though they had never come forth above the ground had learnt by report and by hearsay of the existence of certain deities or divine powers; and then if at some time the jaws of the earth were opened and they were able to escape from their hidden abode and to come forth into the regions which we inhabit; when they suddenly had sight of the earth and the seas and the sky, and came to know of the vast clouds and mighty winds, and beheld the sun, and realized not only its size and beauty but also its potency in causing the day by shedding light over all the sky, and, after night had darkened the earth, they then saw the whole sky spangled and adorned with stars, and the changing phases of the moon’s light, now waxing and now waning, and the risings and settings of all these heavenly bodies and their courses fixed and changeless throughout all eternity,—when they saw these things, surely they would think that the gods exist and that these mighty marvels are their handiwork.’"
"See therefore thou have God's promises in thine heart, and that thou believe them without wavering; and when temptation ariseth, and the devil layeth the law and thy deeds against thee, answer him with the promises; and turn to God.... Also remember, that his Son's blood is stronger than all the sins and wickedness of the whole world; and therewith quiet thyself, and thereunto commit thyself, and bless thyself in all temptation... with that holy candle."
- William Tyndale, Fire in the Bones by S. Michael Wilcox, from Work of William Tindale by S.L. Greenslade
(Thanks to Emily Maxwell for bringing this to my attention)
"Should the commandments be rewritten? No. They should be reread."
"Let’s stop quarreling with the commandments and the requirements and just face the facts."
"I have a great respect for scholarship, for education and research, for academic excellence, and for the magnificent accomplishments of sincere and searching men. But I also have great respect for the word of God, and his prophets, and life’s purpose; and it comes to a question of where to place our trust.
"I have been privileged to know some of the ablest men on earth—men of many faiths, many professions, many accomplishments, in nearly 150 countries. But I’ve never known a man who knew enough that I was willing to trust him with my everlasting life."
Many years ago Emerson wrote an essay, “Compensation,” in which he said: “The world looks like a multiplication-table, or a mathematical equation, which, turn it how you will, balances itself. … Every secret is told, every crime is punished, every virtue rewarded, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty. … “Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, … the fruit in the seed. …“What will you have? quoth God; pay for it and take it. … Thou shalt be paid exactly for what thou hast done, no more, no less. …“A man cannot speak but he judges himself. … Every opinion reacts on him who utters it. …“You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong. …“The thief steals from himself. The swindler swindles himself. …“… it is impossible to get anything without its price. …“Commit a crime, and it seems as if a coat of snow fell on the ground, such as reveals in the woods the track of every partridge and fox and squirrel and mole. You cannot recall the spoken word, you cannot wipe out the foot-track, you cannot draw up the ladder, so as to leave no inlet or clew.“… we gain the strength of the temptation we resist. …“Men suffer all their life long under the foolish superstition that they can be cheated. But it is … impossible for a man to be cheated by anyone but himself. …”
“Pride,” said John Ruskin, “is at the bottom of all great mistakes.”
"At least, pride is one of the principal barriers to repentance, because we can’t correct an error without first admitting a mistake."
"This is a time of sifting, a time when, more than ever in the history of the modern world, the adversary and his followers have shown themselves to be enemies of God. Yet as we heard our prophet and president say this morning, we need not fear the fiery darts of the adversary, because each of us has the power to avoid becoming entangled in sin more definitely than ever before. The time has come for each member of the Church to keep close to the Lord, to be steadfast by sustaining and upholding and following the counsel of his divinely appointed servants, avoiding, as the Book of Mormon says, the vainness, the frailties, and the foolishness of men. We must purify our lives and sanctify our homes."
"The Lord has made the world a crucible for testing us, a place of sifting from which may come the blessings of a joyous life here and a glorious life to come!"
"Let us make sure that we do progress as we should; that we are “on board the good ship,” so to speak! For that ship, the Church, will never fail."
"The Ten Commandments were not given for the lower animals but for man, given for those who are in the image and likeness of God, but some pay little more attention to them than do some of the lower animals."
"Fathers, if we fail to love the living God and if we show greater love and interest for worldly things and pleasures, God has said that he will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him. A father’s disrespect for the living God and Creator may be passed on to his posterity. Likewise, a father’s love and respect may be passed on to his children."
"President David O. McKay once said, “Reverence for God’s name should be dominant in every home. Profanity should never be expressed in a home in this Church. … If there were more reverence in human hearts, there would be less room for sin and sorrow and increased capacity for joy and gladness. …” (Man May Know for Himself [Deseret Book Co., 1967], p. 29.)"
"Ruskin wrote, “Reverence is the noblest state in which a man can live in the world. Reverence is one of the signs of strength; irreverence one of the surest indications of weakness. No man will rise high who jeers at sacred things. …”"
"Nobleness and dignity are the fruits of reverence."
"Fathers who disrespect that which God hallowed and fail to keep the Sabbath day holy will generally pass this sin on to their posterity. It is a sin to unhallow that which God hath hallowed. Keeping the Sabbath day holy has a hallowing effect on the soul of man, and love for God and his commandments is increased."
"Fornication and homosexual acts are inspired by the devil and are grievous sins in the sight of God. Fornication and adultery will destroy man’s Godlike potential and bring man nearer the lower animal status."
"Last fall the Lord announced through his prophet that the Church would hold family home evening on Monday nights. It is interesting that about the same time, the other side announced that there would be professional football games on Monday nights. You might be surprised to know how many families tried to work family home evenings in between half time of the football games. Of course it cannot be done. It appears the prophet’s request required too great a sacrifice."
"But the eye single to the glory of God is probably the most important of those qualifications. Generally speaking, “an eye single to the glory of God” means sacrifice. It means that instead of endlessly doing what we want to do, we have to do what the Lord wants us to do, but we have to do it in his way when he wants us to do it. This, of course, is not the natural inclination of man."
"On the other hand, Abraham was told by God to sacrifice his “only” son Isaac as a burnt offering to the Lord. I presume Abraham could not have received a more disagreeable commandment from his Heavenly Father. "
"From this it is apparent that sacrifice, no matter how disagreeable it may be, is absolutely vital, for it is the only means the Lord has provided for his children to gain the faith and assurance necessary to successfully return to his presence in condition to enjoy eternal life."
"May we serve with an eye single to the glory of God and do what the Lord wants us to do instead of endlessly doing what we want to do, and may we do it because we love the Lord."
"And this help is badly needed. All about us are those in need of encouragement, assistance, and help—help of a kind we can all give, not money, but time and attention and personal encouragement, especially to those who must bear great responsibility for loved ones and who cannot pass it to others for the simple reason there are no others to whom to pass it."
"There are many lonely people, people whose loneliness is hidden. We need to seek them out and relieve them. There are those who feel they are not accepted, who need to be built up in spirit and helped to find themselves. There are unmarried girls away from home who think no one cares. There are those troubled in spirit. It occurs to me that family home evening could occasionally be timed to bring in some of the lonely ones, some of the fearful, some of the downhearted, some of those troubled in spirit."
"The needy neighbor could be next door. The one in need may not be a member of the Church. It can be anybody who stands in need. I know of no one who is exempt from the responsibility of constant succor and personal encouragement to many who never report their difficulties to the bishop, but who, in spite of pride, and even of means, badly need the help, understanding, and love we all can give as individuals."
"The devil is mustering his forces to full strength to bring about discord, sin, and sorrow among the human family. These calamities can be averted to the extent that people live the basic principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is love."
"Our Eternal Father and his Only Begotten Son both have intense, comprehensive, and full love for us. They have much greater intelligence and understanding than we have, and so their feelings of love go far beyond our capabilities to love. The attribute of love is so highly developed in these divine Beings that the scriptures state: “God is love.” (1 John 4:16.) In fact, Deity’s transcendent love is above and beyond our deepest feelings and keenest conception. At times of great spiritual experience when we feel an abundance of the Spirit, we have a greater realization of the magnitude of God’s love."
"Among the entire human family, there is no example where the principle of love was demonstrated as perfectly as was shown in the life of Jesus in Palestine and in his ministry among the Nephites following his resurrection. He healed the sick, raised the dead, restored sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, and cleansed those who were afflicted with leprosy. His heart was filled with compassion upon the poor and any who suffered afflictions. He lifted them spiritually with his deep understanding."
"The central theme and the most dynamic force of the gospel of Jesus Christ is love."
"A husband and wife should always be gracious and kind to each other. Neither of them should ever say or do anything to hurt the feelings of the other. Deepest love and affection should be shown toward each other continuously. At all times each should make a conscious effort to do everything possible to bring joy and happiness into the life of the other. A husband should show and express appreciation for the accomplishments of his mate, and she should do likewise. We should look for ways to build each other up and make each other happy. Neither the husband nor the wife should let a day pass without expressing love for the other. We should not assume that our mate knows and that it is not necessary to express it."
"President David O. McKay, always an advocate of love and harmony in the home, stated: “Homes are made permanent through love.” (Pathways to Happiness [Bookcraft], p. 114.)"
"Controlling the tongue is one of the greatest contributing factors to concord in the home, and one which too many of us fail to develop."
"Love should also characterize the center of the family life. Each child should be made to feel at all times by his parents that he is of great importance in the family. Parents should express their love to their children and show them in numerous ways that they love them dearly. Then the Spirit of the Lord will reside in the home. The family will be love-centered and thereby God-centered. The children in turn will reciprocate the love to the parents and strive to please them."
"The goal of families who are actuated deeply by love will be to keep the commandments of our Savior in every detail and someday come back into the presence of the Eternal Father and his Only Begotten Son to dwell."
"I bear witness that the same prophet who was fed by the ravens, by the never-depleting handful of meal and cruse of oil, who brought back life to the widow’s son, whose sacrifice was consumed by an unkindled fire, who was taken into heaven in a chariot of fire, has appeared in this day, as foretold by Malachi. He is turning the hearts of this and the past generations toward each other."
"Prior to the building of temples in this dispensation and the appearance of Elijah, there was little interest in seeking out and identifying families of the past. Since temples have been built, genealogical interest in the world has increased at an accelerating rate. The gathering of hundreds of people to Salt Lake City, representing forty-five nations, for the World Conference on Records is a demonstration of this great interest."
A short time ago a number of Mormon bloggers embarked on what has since come to be known as The General Conference Odyssey, an approximately 14 year blogging project to read and to comment upon every General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from April 1971 to the present. We just finished reviewing the April 1971 General Conference (see my posts on this project thus far see here, here, here, here, here, here and here) and are now forging into the October 1971 sessions. The main purpose of this project, as I understand it, is to become more familiar with the teachings of the latter-day prophets and apostles from 1971 to the present (or to the future present) by reading all of the conference talks, posting our personal responses to the talks, and linking to the personal responses of every other participant. For a more detailed explanation of the project, see here.
As I have pondered these talks and these concepts, I have begun to better understand that the phenomenon of General Conference itself is something to be grateful for. From the first conference with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to the present, and to future reunions in Zion and in the New Jerusalem, General Conference is an inestimable blessing.
I was again reminded of the blessings of General Conference this week as I embarked on an equally ambitious journey to read, together with a group of friends, the entire History of the Church this year. In the early chapters of the History of the Church we read about the first General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in this, the final dispensation of the Gospel in the fulness of times. The prophet Joseph Smith received a commandment to organize the Church, and the Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon the early saints who met in the house of Mr. Peter Whitmer on Tuesday, the sixth day of April in 1830:
"Having opened the meeting by solemn prayer to our Heavenly Father, we proceeded, according to previous commandment, to call on our brethren to know whether they accepted us as their teachers in the things of the Kingdom of God, and whether they were satisfied that we should proceed and be organized as a Church according to said commandment which we had received. To these several propositions they consented by a unanimous vote. I then laid my hands upon Oliver Cowdery, and ordained him an Elder of the 'Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints;' after which, he ordained me also to the office of an Elder of said Church. We then took bread, blessed it, and brake it with them; also wine, blessed it, and drank it with them. We then laid our hands on each individual member of the Church present, that they might receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and be confirmed members of the Church of Christ. The Holy Ghost was poured out upon us to a very great degree- some prophesied, whilst we all praised the Lord, and rejoiced exceedingly." (p. 77-78)
From this very small beginning, or re-beginning, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has continued to grow. It has continued to hold general conferences during which the Holy Ghost is poured out, the gift of prophecy is manifest, and those who participate in the conference are moved to praise the Lord and to rejoice.
"In order for the messages of general conference to change our lives, we need to be willing to follow the counsel we hear. The Lord explained in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith 'that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other, that ye may know … how to act upon the points of my law and commandment.' But knowing 'how to act' isn’t enough. The Lord in the next verse said, 'Ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me.' This willingness to take action on what we have learned opens the doors for marvelous blessings."
All of the talks are worth reading, and there are many great passages that I could mention, but Ezra Taft Benson's talk stood out to me because of his memorable descriptions of music. In his talk, Benson describes the difference between godly music and evil music. It is sad to think that the evil music that Benson describes might now be considered merely quaint or mildly entertaining. What kind of music was popular in 1971? Only a few years after this talk, drugs claimed the life of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, the Beatles had just broken up, and the Rolling Stones were already in their Golden Age. Benson explains:
"Tolerance is a word valuable in the service of Satan. Alexander Pope warned 200 years ago that:
'Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen to oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.' ('An Essay on Man')"
What have we seen? What have we endured? Pitied? Embraced? Compared to some of the so-called "music" that is prevalent today, Elvis, the Beatles, and the Stones are as holy as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
So the choice is yours: General Conference or Elvis, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones. Someone may have already stepped on your blue suede shoes. You may have already walked through Strawberry Fields. And there might be a good reason why you can't get no satisfaction. So turn off the Stones, put away your Beatles Albums, and stop gyrating your hips to Elvis long enough to read these conference talks, or better still, to study the teachings of the current prophets and apostles.
Here are other blog posts on this session of General Conference:
"I think I can truthfully say that there is no other living man on the face of the earth today who has stood at this pulpit as many times as I have in a general conference of this church except President Joseph Fielding Smith. If I figure correctly, this is the seventy-fourth general conference in which I have been privileged to speak."
"I believe that the words of the prophets are the most sure guide we have in this world today. I believe what Jesus said: 'Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.'" (Matt. 5:18.)
"Where can you find anything in the history of this whole world to fulfill that like the singing of our Tabernacle Choir, singing now for over forty-two years without a break? Now with the Telstar, it is singing to the entire world. No wonder President Nixon said in his visit here last November that it was the greatest choir in all the world."
"There are many other things that are yet to be fulfilled. I will just mention a couple of them. The Lord put it in my heart as a young man to have a love for the Jewish people, and someday they are going to be one of the great movements of this church. In the Book of Mormon we read in the preface that that book was preserved for the convincing of Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the very eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations. And how can that book do that to the Jews unless we take it to them? And so, in his own due time and way the Lord will inspire our leaders to send messengers to that people."
"When a person receives a patriarchal blessing, he is entitled to receive a pronouncement of the blessings of Israel, or a declaration of the tribe of Israel through which his blessings shall come. This is the right to the blessings of those recorded in the book of remembrance started in the days of Adam."
"Each dispensation brings with it a reemphasis of the priesthood; a restrengthening of the opportunity given to man to receive the blessings of the gospel by proving himself in resisting the powers of the adversary."
"The Prophet Joseph Smith put it this way: '… that the dispensation of the fulness of times is made up of all the dispensations that ever have been given since the world began, until this time' (Franklin D. Richards, Compendium, 1898, p. 143), this being the time referred to as the end of time to prepare for the coming of the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus Christ on this earth."
"Now that is rather serious to those of us who sit in such a responsible position. I once asked my mother, 'How does it feel, Mom, to have all my sins placed upon your head?' She said, 'Oh, but you forgot one thing, Paul. I have transferred them back to you because I have taught you the doctrines of the kingdom.' In a sense that is what we are trying to do, young people: to prepare you to live a happy and full life both now and in the future, and true joy and happiness comes in knowing and living the commandments of our Father in heaven."
"How truly blessed is a person who has a mother who cared. I too am grateful for my parents, who applied the gospel of love in such a wonderful way. And although I often remind my mother of our round-table discussions, in which she chased me around the table, I learned the truths of the gospel by example from her and from my father."
"In today’s fast-moving, materialistic world, unfortunately many fathers place their business affairs ahead of their children. I am appalled as I look around me, as was Eddie Cantor some years ago, when he said that a man will spend a whole week figuring out what stocks to buy with $1,000—but he won’t spend an hour with his child, in whom he has a greater investment."
"Now, you young people, listen to the counsel of your parents. They love you. We are not perfect. One day you will stand where we stand, and you will have a similar challenge of rearing your young. Will you go with us the extra mile in trying to understand our true nature and purpose?"
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands for the highest ideals, principles, and standards known to man. There is nothing about the Church, its teachings, or what it represents that we need be ashamed of. The Church has immeasurable influence for good in the lives of men and women everywhere."
"In all humility and sincerity we must admit a power higher than ourselves from whom is derived a positive moral code that will give our lives significance and purpose. We also must remember once and for all that honesty, respect, and honor as such are not for sale on the market block. They are ingredients that you and I and all people should put into our daily lives."
"Honesty and integrity as perfected virtues in parents are more likely to become the heritage and rich endowments of their children. Parents cannot give to their children that which they do not possess."
"And on behalf of students and youth, do we honestly and sincerely listen to their wants and needs? Do we really try to understand them, or are we giving them what we think they should have?"
"George Washington placed emphasis upon honesty when he said: 'I hope that I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.'"
"As we journey along through life we, as individuals, come in contact with many shaded areas, twilight zones, and even dark alleys, where we, unless aided by a higher power, are not able to see clearly, to interpret correctly, and to come to sound conclusions. Some of these shaded areas are found in the physical world, some in the intellectual world, and some in the realm of the spiritual. Let us remember, however, that the Lord has said that all things unto him are spiritual."
"We need to improve our vantage points in all aspects of our living—in the intellectual and the spiritual realms as well as in the physical. As we attempt to do this, we should remember that, in every situation, there are facts and there are opinions. There are also causes of difficulties and there are symptoms that express themselves. To the extent that we are willing and able to get at the facts and at the causes and to see relationships among them clearly, we are in a good position to interpret correctly and to arrive at sound conclusions. But to the extent that we just fool around with opinions and symptoms, we may prolong our difficulties and postpone the time for arriving at lasting, satisfying solutions."
"Without divine guidance, we will have difficulty in the shaded areas of life. But we need not walk alone. Our Father in heaven and his Son Jesus Christ and the prophets—both ancient and modern—have given us a well-charted course for our journey through life. We can find joy and happiness and we can arrive at our destination in safety if we will but heed the road signs and follow the directions that have been given to us."
"President McKay assured a group of young people that a knowledge of the truth and a testimony of the gospel could come to them if even in their youth they would learn one great lesson: 'That purity of heart, and a sincere heart seeking after the Savior’s guidance daily, will lead to a testimony of the truth of Christ’s gospel. …' This counsel indicates that testimonies may be gained through clean living and prayer."
"As a young man living in Kirtland, Ohio, Lorenzo Snow, fifth president of the Church, was converted and baptized in 1836. He had studiously and conscientiously compared the teachings of the missionaries with the teachings of the Savior. Becoming convinced of the truths of the gospel, he had sought baptism by immersion.
Following confirmation, he constantly anticipated an assurance that he had received the Holy Ghost. Two or three weeks following his baptism, he reflected that he had not yet received a testimony of the truth. Being uneasy, and laying aside his books, he left the house and wandered through the fields. A gloomy spirit and indescribable cloud of darkness seemed to envelop him. It was his custom, near the close of day, to retire to a nearby secluded grove and engage in secret prayer. This night he had no inclination to do so. The spirit of prayer had departed, and the heavens seemed like brass over his head. But, determined not to forgo his evening practice, he sought his accustomed place and knelt in solemn prayer.
'I had no sooner opened my lips in an effort to pray,' recalled President Snow, 'than I heard a sound, just above my head, like the rustling of silken robes, and immediately the Spirit of God descended upon me, completely enveloping my whole person, filling me, from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and O, the joy and happiness I felt! No language can describe the almost instantaneous transition from a dense cloud of mental and spiritual darkness into a refulgence of light and knowledge. … I then received a perfect knowledge that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and of the restoration of the holy Priesthood, and the fulness of the Gospel. It was a complete baptism—a tangible immersion in the heavenly principle or element, the Holy Ghost; and even more real and physical in its effects upon every part of my system than the immersion by water.' (Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, p. 8.)"
"A testimony is a priceless gift from God. But even though a person may receive a witness through the Holy Ghost, there is no guarantee that this testimony will remain steadfast unless the person exerts constant effort to keep that testimony alive. Testimonies gained may be lost through carelessness, indifference, and/or neglect."
"I say to you, and to the whole Church, and, for that matter, to the whole world, that a gracious and loving Father has in these last days spoken again from heaven to his servants the prophets."
"I am not unmindful that there are good and devout people among all sects, parties, and denominations, and they will be blessed and rewarded for all the good they do. But the fact remains that we alone have the fullness of those laws and ordinances which prepare men for the fullness of reward in the mansions above. And so we say to the good and noble, the upright and devout people everywhere: Keep all the good you have; cleave unto every true principle which is now yours; but come and partake of the further light and knowledge which that God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever is again pouring out upon his people."
"Our Father, pour out thy Spirit upon these thy children that they may be preserved from the perils of the world and kept clean and pure, fit candidates to return to thy presence and dwell with thee."
I have been reviewing general conference talks from the early 70s with the General Conference Odyssey group for more than a month now, and it has been a great experience. Rather than elaborate on this particular talk, it occurs to me that it suffices to record the impression that I received that President Monson was a prophet from the get go. I read each of the talks in this session, but when I read President Monson's talk Lost Battalions, I received a reconfirming witness that he was and is a true prophet of God. He is a man who has filled his heart with love, his mind with truth, and his life with service. It's astonishing to think that, as inspiring as President Monson's talks are today, he has been at it for more than 50 years. Read this talk. It is true.
"There is one method of dissuading us from inordinate love of the fellow-creature which I find myself forced to reject at the very outset. I do so with trembling, for it met me in the pages of a great saint and a great thinker to whom my own glad debts are incalculable.
In words which can still bring tears to the eyes, St. Augustine describes the desolation in which the death of his friend Nebridius plunged him (Confessions xv, 10). Then he draws a moral. This is what comes, he says, of giving one's heart to anything but God. All human beings pass away. Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose. If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away.
Of course this is excellent sense. Don't put your goods in a leaky vessel. Don't spend too much on a house you may he turned out of. And there is no man alive who responds more naturally than I to such canny maxims. I am a safety-first creature. Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as "Careful! This might lead you to suffering".
To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities. I doubt whether there is anything in me that pleases Him less. And who could conceivably begin to love God on such a prudential ground because the security (so to speak) is better? Who could even include it among the grounds for loving? Would you choose a wife or a Friend - if it comes to that, would you choose a dog in this spirit? One must be outside the world of love, of all loves, before one thus calculates. Eros, lawless Eros, preferring the Beloved to happiness, is more like Love Himself than this."
The word of God is eternally durable. (D&C 1:38, Moses 1:38, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33, Matt. 24:35, JS-Matthew 1:35) There's nothing else like it. Though the heavens and the earth pass away, God's word shall not pass away. All shall be fulfilled. Whether by God's own voice or by the voice of His servants, it is the same.
I don't know about you, but that's the kind of durability that I desire to hold on to. Everything else seems to slip away like slippery spaghetti. Everything else vanishes like vapor.
In his 1971 talk The Iron Rod, President Harold B. Lee, a true servant of God, reminds us of the durability of the word of God and the veracity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. President Lee speaks of the same iron rod that Lehi saw in a vision. The iron rod, he explains, is an antidote for aimlessness. It leads to the Tree of Life.
President Lee elucidates vital aspects of Lehi's vision and he emphasizes the durability of the iron rod, but he also sheds light on the nature of the mists of darkness that enshroud men. He gives particular attention to those who speak of themselves as "liberals" in the Church. President Lee shares several definitions of a liberal (such a slippery term) in the Church:
Those who speak of themselves as liberals "read by the lamp of their own conceit." (President Joseph F. Smith)
"A liberal in the Church is merely one who does not have a testimony." (Church educational leader)
"It is well to beware of people who go about proclaiming that they are or their churches are liberal. The probabilities are that the structure of their faith is built on sand and will not withstand the storms of truth." (Dr. John A. Widtsoe)
Liberals in the Church are "those who are blinded by the mists of darkness and as yet have not a firm grasp on the 'iron rod.'" (Harold B. Lee)
President Lee then encourages us to become truly converted to Jesus Christ and to His Gospel, which conversion includes overcoming "the tendencies to criticize and to strive continually to improve inward weaknesses and not merely the outward appearances." As bad as it is to not have a firm grasp on the iron rod, President Lee affirms, it is even worse to cause those who are weak in the faith to lose their grasp on the iron rod. The Lord is clear in His warning concerning those who seek to destroy the faith of others.
"… When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. …
"But to be learned is good if they hearken to the counsels of God." (2 Ne. 9:28–29.)
As he warns against pride, President Lee also encourages us to reduce our ignorance, or in other words, to seek learning by study and by faith. He encourages us to be seekers after truth in many fields, and he counsels us to do so diligently, because "a person never learns anything until he realizes how little he knows":
"From heavenly instructions and added to which are the experiences of almost anyone who has sought diligently for heavenly guidance, one may readily understand that learning by faith requires the bending of the whole soul through worthy living to become attuned to the Holy Spirit of the Lord, the calling up from the depths of one’s own mental searching, and the linking of our own efforts to receive the true witness of the Spirit."
I like that. This is the kind of learning that takes place when we continually hold fast to the iron rod. It is the kind of learning that takes place when we partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life and discover how sweet it is. It is the kind of learning that is most joyous to the soul. It is the kind of learning that takes place when we sincerely repent, and exercise faith in Jesus Christ. It is the kind of learning that takes place when we are humble. It is the kind of learning that is durable.
As President Harold B. Lee taught, the iron rod, which is the word of God, is eternally durable. It won't slip through our hands like slippery spaghetti, and it won't vanish like vapor. All shall be fulfilled. As evidence of its durability, the inspired and inspiring words that King Benjamin taught his sons more than 2,000 yrs ago are just as relevant today as they were then:
"I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.
O my sons, I would that ye should remember that these sayings are true, and also that these records are true. And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contain the records and the sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true; and we can know of their surety because we have them before our eyes.
And now, my sons, I would that ye should remember to search them diligently, that ye may profit thereby; and I would that ye should keep the commandments of God, that ye may prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers." (Mosiah 1:5-7)
More posts on the Sunday afternoon session of the April 1971 General Conference: