Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Big Worm of Truth from the Ground of the Gospel

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. The talks for this week were given during the Saturday afternoon Session of the April 1972 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Enjoy.

The talks:

The future prophet Gordon B. Hinckley poses the question: "What will the Church do for you, a man?"  He responds with six specific things that the Church will do for a man:

"1. First, it will bring you into the greatest fraternity in the world.  
2. Second, active membership in the Church will motivate a man to clean up his life, if that is necessary.
3. Third, activity in the Church will afford you growth through responsibility.
4. Fourth, membership in the Church and active participation therein will give a new dimension to your life, a spiritual dimension that will become as a rock of faith, with an endowment of authority to speak in the name of God.
5. Fifth, it will assist you in the governance of your home.
6. Finally, the Church makes it possible for you, a man, to bind to you for eternity those you love most."

Elder Hinckley relates a few stories to illustrate his points, including a story about a man and his wife who, with the help of the Church, overcome marriage conflict resulting from financial troubles, and a story about a drunk Japanese man who changed his life through his conversion to Christ.  I couldn't help thinking of what the Gospel could do for Mr. Miyagi and Danielson:

Elder Hinckley teaches of the growth that comes through stretching service:

"Robert Browning said, 'A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.' Growth comes as we constantly seek to achieve that which is just beyond our immediate capacity. One of the noteworthy aspects of the Church program is that it constantly motivates men to stretch themselves, to reach a little higher."

The following remark is also worth pondering:

"I should like to suggest that every man who holds and magnifies the priesthood may have within him 'light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods.'"

Elder Henry D. Taylor uses Cain's question "Am I my brother's keeper?" to teach a lesson.  The short answer to this question is, of course, "yes."  Those who are their brothers' keepers include welfare project laborers, home teachers and visiting teachers, temple workers, missionaries, foster families, and the good Samaritan.  A particularly good example of a man who was his brother's keeper was Willard Richards.  Elder Taylor recounts the moving story:

"One of the most beautiful and tender accounts of brotherly love, concern, and devotion took place in Carthage Jail on the afternoon of the martyrdom. 'The afternoon was sultry and hot. The four brethren [Joseph and Hyrum Smith, John Taylor, and Willard Richards] sat listlessly about the room with their coats off; and the windows of the prison were open to receive such air as might be stirring. Late in the afternoon Mr. Stigall, the jailor, came in and suggested that [in view of threats made by the radical and bloodthirsty mob] they would be safer in the cells. Joseph told him that they would go in after supper. Turning to Elder Richards the Prophet said: 'If we go into the cell will you go with us?'

Elder Richards answered, 'Brother Joseph, you did not ask me to cross the river with you [referring to the time when they crossed the Mississippi, en route for the Rocky Mountains]—you did not ask me to come to Carthage—you did not ask me to come to jail with you—and do you think I would forsake you now? But I will tell you what I will do; if you are condemned to be hung for ’treason,’ I will be hung in your stead, and you shall go free.'

With considerable emotion and feeling Joseph replied, 'But you cannot,' to which Brother Richards firmly replied, 'I will.'" (B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 283.)

I love this story.  It brings to mind the words of one of the Prophet Joseph Smith's favorite hymns, "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief":

"In pris'n I saw him next, condemned
To meet a traitor's doom at morn.
The tide of lying tongues I stemmed,
And honored him 'mid shame and scorn.
My friendship's utmost zeal to try,
He asked if I for him would die.
The flesh was weak; my blood ran chill,
But my free spirit cried, 'I will!'"

Elder S. Dilworth Young teaches why missionary training begins early, drawing upon the example of 
Russell Nelson Jr. and his father.  Incidentally, my own father was just about to embark on his full-time mission to Paris, France, and the following counsel concerning mission preparation would apply to both of us: "He will play basketball to develop wind and limb to serve the Lord."

Like my dad, I received a lot of basketball training before my mission, and a lot of reading traing as well, although I was unfamiliar with one of the books that Elder Young recommends: The Trail of the Sand Hill Stag.  Thankfully, I have experienced the joy that comes from missionary work:

"The Lord has said that to bring one soul to him brings joy and that to bring many souls gives proportionately greater joy. The prepared youth will find that joy on his mission. It will sustain him through his life."

Salvation and ExaltationTheodore M. Burton

To declare that one has been saved, Elder Burton teaches, is to teach only an insidious partial truth.  There is a conditional salvation that depends upon grace as well as obedience.  Elder Burton fondly recalls the question that his cousin once asked him:

"If you had your heart’s desire and could take it with you out of this world, what would you take?"

Elder Burton's reply was obvious to him: "'My family and loved ones!' I can take them with me through obedience to God’s laws. Only through obedience to gospel law is that higher degree of salvation possible which will include both me and my family."

Full salvation means exaltation and eternal life:

"Thus, full salvation in its true and full meaning is synonymous with exaltation and eternal life. This inheritance within the actual family of God the Eternal Father, through Jesus Christ, is the burden of the scriptures and should be the goal of every man, woman, and child born upon this earth. This full salvation is obtained only in and through the family unit preserved throughout eternity."

Man’s Eternal HorizonJoseph Anderson

"Our philosophy of life contemplates an eternity of life—life without beginning before we came here, life without end hereafter. Our happiness here and hereafter depends upon our actions here. We should therefore seek the finer things of life. The road leading to eternal life must be paved with obedience to the commandments of the Lord."

Take the long view.  Try the experiment of faith.

"It is reported that on one occasion when Sir Isaac Newton was thinking seriously concerning the nature of light, he cut a hole in a window blind and a ray of light entered his room. He held a triangular piece of glass in the range of the light, and there were reflected in great beauty all the colors of the rainbow. And for the first time man learned that all of the glorious colors of the universe are locked up in a ray of white light."

VoilĂ  a couple of highlights from Elder Bennet's talk: 
  • "The words of President David O. McKay came to mind: 'The purpose of the gospel is to make bad men good and good men better—to change men’s lives.'"
  • "First, members of the Church everywhere should remind themselves that the gospel is to be preached and taught by example and not just by word of mouth. The lives of all Church members should be shining examples of the gospel of Jesus Christ in action."
  • "Second, as members of the Church, it is our responsibility to assist the missionaries in finding investigators to whom the message of the gospel can be taught. The missionary program needs the help of all of us—young and old—and it needs our help now."
Elder Bennett also recounts some of his great missionary experiences, in battle, on a plane, etc.

This was my favorite talk.  The future prophet Howard W. Hunter recounts the following simple story:

"Observing the clock, I fold the notes that I have prepared and place them in my inside pocket. But let me take just a moment to mention a little incident that made an impression upon me when I was a boy. This came to my mind when it was mentioned that there are with us this afternoon a large group of dedicated people who teach our youth.

It was on a summer day early in the morning. I was standing near the window. The curtains obstructed me from two little creatures out on the lawn. One was a large bird and the other a little bird, obviously just out of the nest. I saw the larger bird hop out on the lawn, then thump his feet and cock his head. He drew a big fat worm out of the lawn and came hopping back. The little bird opened its bill wide, but the big bird swallowed the worm.

Then I saw the big bird fly up into a tree. He pecked at the bark for a little while and came back with a big bug in his mouth. The little bird opened his beak wide, but the big bird swallowed the bug. There was squawking in protest.

The big bird flew away, and I didn’t see it again, but I watched the little bird. After a while, the little bird hopped out on the lawn, thumped its feet, cocked its head, and pulled a big worm out of the lawn.

God bless the good people who teach our children and our youth, I humbly pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen."

It is a simple story, but I felt as though Elder Hunter, like a large prophetic bird, drew a big worm of truth from the ground of the Gospel to show to me.  Metaphorically speaking, he flew up into the tree of life and brought back a big bug of beauty to show me.  God bless him for that.
A Missionary and His MessageHugh B. Brown

Missionary work, Elder Brown declares, is the first love of his life.  It is mine as well.

1 comment:

  1. Your blog is pretty good John. It is a great reminder of what matters most. Thank you.


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