Sunday, February 14, 2016

Don't Do Acid

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey series.  Click here for more information.

The following talks were given during the Priesthood Session of the October 1971 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

    Priesthood Session

    Blessings of the PriesthoodJoseph Fielding Smithwatchlistenprint
    You Can Get There From HereMarvin J. Ashtonwatchlistenprint
    “Strengthen Thy Brethren”Robert L. Simpsonwatchlistenprint
    Love UnconditionalMarion D. Hankswatchlistenprint
    A New Health Missionary ProgramJames O. Masonwatchlistenprint
    Strive for ExcellenceDallin H. Oakswatchlistenprint
    Continuity of ServiceN. Eldon Tannerwatchlistenprint
    Responsibilities of the PriesthoodHarold B. Leewatchlistenprint
    I read these talks.  The testimonies, doctrines and principles taught in them are still true today.  All of the talks were uplifting, edifying, inspiring, and worth reading.  Nevertheless, there are a few highlights in particular that I would like to briefly mention.

    Elder Marion D. Hanks had his audience rolling with laughter before he took on a more serious tone.  In his talk, Love Unconditional, he made this simple, but profound statement:

    "We cannot, my dear brethren, condition our love by a beard or beads or habits or strange viewpoints. There have to be standards and they must be enforced, but our love must be unconditional."

    Why is unconditional love so important?  Elder Hanks shared the following tragic note from a boy who had decided to end his own life:

    "I have no hope, only dreams that have died. I was never able to obtain satisfactory interpersonal relationships. I feared the future and a lot of other things. I felt inferior. I have almost no will to achieve, perseverance, or sense of worth, so goodbye. I should have listened to you but I didn’t. I started using acid last summer. It’s purgatory."

    Several of the talks in this session mentioned the importance of helping people to know that they are loved, and that their lives matter.  Whoever you are, God loves you.  He knows you.  He has confidence in you and a plan for your joy and success in this life and eternal life hereafter.  Show unconditional love.  Don't do acid.

    It was interesting to read about the new health missionary program.  Although it is true that the advancements of modern medicine have done much to relieve suffering in the United States and in third world countries, now it often appears as though we might need missionaries from third world countries to come to the United States to teach people how live healthy, drug-free lives. 

    One of my favorite talks, or one that most resonated with me, was Elder Oaks' talk Strive for Excellence.  It is further proof, both spiritual and intellectual, that Elder Oaks has long been a true prophet, seer and revelator.  Elder Oaks begins his talking by citing, of all people, the English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes.  Since I am currently reading Hobbes' Leviathan, Elder Oaks' message stood out to me, and his testimony sunk deep into my heart:

    "In describing the nature of man, Hobbes wrote that “the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” This is a classic example of the philosophies of man. I am grateful that my education exposed me to that thought and others like it, because my familiarity with these thoughts has helped me to understand the world and its peoples and its problems.

    But most of all, I am grateful that my educational program was such that at the time I was exposed to this view of man, I was also being taught these lines:

    “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:25.)

    “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” (D&C 18:10.)

    The worlds were created by the Only Begotten of the Father, “and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (D&C 76:24.)

    “For a wise and glorious purpose thou hast placed me here on earth. …” (“O My Father,” Hymns, No. 138.)

    “… they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” (Abr. 3:26.)

    “Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—Wherefore, all things are theirs. …” (D&C 76:58–59.)

    My personal experience converts me to the wisdom of the educational philosophy that joins spiritual with secular instruction. At Brigham Young University and in the other institutions of the Church Educational System, we are concerned with teaching the fundaments of spiritual and secular knowledge and with bringing those teachings into harmony in the lives of men and women in order to prepare them for a balanced and full life of service to God and fellowman."

    It is helpful to discern the contrast between these two views of man and of human nature: Thomas Hobbes vs. Elder Oaks; the philosophies of men vs. the wisdom of God; error vs. truth; despair vs. hope.  Elder Oaks also distills four thoughts, or principles, from his spiritual education that are well worth applying to our own lives.

    Furthermore, if ever one is tempted to become complacent in the service of the Lord, Elder N. Eldon Tanner offers an antidote:

    "Thank the Lord for the privilege you have had of testing in your lives and improving your testimony. Never feel that you have finished or completed your tour of duty in church service. You have only prepared yourself to be of further service in the work of the Lord."

    Finally, President Harold B. Lee's talk, Responsibilities of the Priesthood, is powerful and memorable.  He relates the following story:

    "One of the mission presidents, with a group of his missionaries back in the Eastern States some years ago, was meeting in a hall with pillars that ran down the center of the hall, and he said to one of the missionaries, “Get up and push that pillar over.”

    “Well,” said the missionary, “I can’t.”


    “Because the weight of that ceiling is all on top of the pillar.”

    Then the president asked, “Suppose that weight were lifted off. Could you push the pillar over then?”

    The missionary replied, “Why, sure, I think I could.”

    Then the president said, “Now, brethren, you and I are just like one of those pillars. As long as we have a weight of responsibility in this church, all hell can’t push us over; but as soon as that weight is lifted off, most of us are easy marks by the powers that drag us down.”

    Now we want to put a weight of responsibility on every holder of the priesthood and on every father in every home.

    The parallel to Elder Bednar's recent talk, Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease, is uncanny: 

    "I pray for the assistance of the Holy Ghost as I emphasize vital lessons that can be learned from this story about my friend, the truck, and the wood. It was the load. It was the load of wood that provided the traction necessary for him to get out of the snow, to get back on the road, and to move forward. It was the load that enabled him to return to his family and his home.
    Each of us also carries a load. Our individual load is comprised of demands and opportunities, obligations and privileges, afflictions and blessings, and options and constraints. Two guiding questions can be helpful as we periodically and prayerfully assess our load: “Is the load I am carrying producing the spiritual traction that will enable me to press forward with faith in Christ on the strait and narrow path and avoid getting stuck? Is the load I am carrying creating sufficient spiritual traction so I ultimately can return home to Heavenly Father?”

    Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load. But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness. Because our individual load needs to generate spiritual traction, we should be careful to not haul around in our lives so many nice but unnecessary things that we are distracted and diverted from the things that truly matter most."

    The connection between President Lee's talk and that of Elder Bednar, lo, these many years later, reminds me of the principle of repetition that I emphasized in my first blog post for the General Conference Odyssey

    "I have always been impressed by how seamlessly the voice of living prophets confirms the truths that were taught by ancient prophets. This seamlessness is also discernible in the living prophets' witness in relation to their more immediate predecessors. In other words, the voice of the living prophets takes precedence over any previous prophets, but there is a seamlessness to the message that they proclaim, because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and Jesus Christ is the head of the Church."

    Thus we see, in conclusion, that we ought to love unconditionally, to strive for excellence, and to come unto Christ, that our burdens may be made light.

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