Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sincerity, Signs of the Times, and South America

This post is part of the General Conference OdysseyClick here for more information.

President Harold B. Lee, Watch, That Ye May Be Ready

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 Mark E. Peterson, Honesty, A Principle of Salvation

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 Marion G. Romney, The Light Shineth

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."

Elder Theodore M. Burton, Thus Saith the Lord

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."


Please comment here: