A little kingdom I possess, Where thoughts and feelings dwell, And very hard I find the task Of governing it well; For passion tempts and troubles me, A wayward will misleads, And selfishness its shadow casts, On all my will and deeds.
How can I learn to rule myself, To be the child I should, Honest and brave, nor ever tire Of trying to be good? How can I keep a sunny soul To shine along life’s way? How can I tune my little heart, To sweetly sing all day?
Dear Father, help me with the love That castest out my fear! Teach me to lean on Thee and feel That thou art very near. That no temptation is unseen, No childish grief too small, Since Thou, with patience infinite, Dost soothe and comfort all.
I do not ask for any crown But that which all may win; Nor try to conquer any world Except the one within. Be Thou my Guide until I find, Led by a tender hand, Thy happy kingdom in myself And dare to take command.
“As the forces [of sin] around us increase in intensity, whatever spiritual strength was once sufficient will not be enough. And whatever growth in spiritual strength we once thought was possible, greater growth will be made available to us. Both the need for spiritual strength and the opportunity to acquire it will increase at rates which we underestimate at our peril” (“Always,” Ensign, Oct. 1999).
The Nephites built fortifications that gave them strength in a time of great difficulty. Mormon described Teancum’s stand against the Lamanites using such words as defend, fortify, secure, and strengthen (Alma 52:5-10). We can follow their example by building our spiritual strength now so that we will have the strength we need in a time of difficulty. Spiritual strength is built most effectively by consistent, daily efforts.
“Satan’s efforts can be thwarted by all who come unto Christ by obedience to the covenants and ordinances of the gospel. The humble followers of the divine Master need not be deceived by the devil if they will be honest and true to their fellow men and women, go to the house of the Lord, receive the sacrament worthily, observe the Sabbath day, pay their tithes and offerings, offer contrite prayers, engage in the Lord’s work, and follow those who preside over them” (Ensign, Nov. 1987, 34–36).
“Our leisure, even our play, is a matter of serious concern. [That is because] there is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.” – C.S. Lewis
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As Alma and his sons continued to preach the gospel, the Zoramites joined with the Lamanite armies to attack the Nephites. Mormon began to write about many wars between the Lamanites and Nephites in Alma 43. Even though they were outnumbered, the Nephite army’s preparation and their faith in Jesus Christ gave them the advantage. Captain Moroni demonstrated faith and wisdom in defending the Nephites against the Lamanites. When the Lamanites faced certain defeat, they made a covenant of peace and departed out of the land for a season.
I want to share a video that goes with these chapters that was shown in seminary when I was a student. It is pretty old now, but it was one that had an impact on me as a youth. I hope you will enjoy it!
Firm in the Faith of Christ
A grandfather uses Captain Moroni as an example of a true hero for his grandson. Moroni’s faith and loyalty to the Savior provide an example that all Saints should follow.
In the chapters that follow (Alma 43-63) we will read a lot about war. However, if we are “quick to observe” we will have eyes to see MORE THAN WAR. We can then liken the situations that we read about to the spiritual war that continues in our lives today (see Revelation 12).
Revelation tells us that “there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
“And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev. 12:7–9).
What a perilous time that must have been. The Almighty Himself was pitted against the son of the morning. We were there while that was going on. That must have been a desperately difficult struggle, with a grand, triumphal victory.
Concerning those desperate times, the Lord spoke to Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? …
“When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4, 7).
Why were we then happy? I think it was because good had triumphed over evil and the whole human family was on the Lord’s side. We turned our backs on the adversary and aligned ourselves with the forces of God, and those forces were victorious.
But having made that decision, why should we have to make it again and again after our birth into mortality?
I cannot understand why so many have betrayed in life the decision they once made when the great war occurred in heaven.
But it is evident that the contest between good and evil, which began with that war, has never ended. It has gone on, and on, and on to the present.
I think our Father must weep because so many of His children through the ages have exercised the agency He gave them and have chosen to walk the road of evil rather than good. (President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 2004)
President Boyd K. Packer shares an experience in which he was protected during World War II by listening to a prompting from the Spirit and promises youth that they will be protected if they “heed the promptings that come from the Holy Ghost.”
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Have you ever heard someone use the term YOLO to justify doing what they want to do? YOLO is an acronym for You Only Live Once. Similar to carpe diem or memento mori, it implies that one should enjoy life, even if that entails taking risks.
The gospel however teaches a different motto. The gospel motto is more like YOMO—You’re Only Mortal Once! Alma 34 explains the concept of YOMO this way:
32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.
35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.
In Alma 36, Alma shares with his son, Helaman, an important life-lesson: YOLO will make you say, “OH NO!!!” and YOMO is the “WAY TO GO!”
YOMO–You’re Only Mortal Once
Here are a few video clips to help you YOMO a little “mo” ;o)
What Matters Most
President Thomas S. Monson counsels us to spend time with, cherish, and express love to the people we hold dear.
Moments That Matter Most
We would do well to slow down a little, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most. Read President Uchtdorf’s entire address “Of Things That Matter Most” at http://bit.ly/momentsmatter
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Using an analogy of the planting and nourishing of a seed, Alma taught the people who were poor and cast out of the Zoramite synagogues what they must do to receive and nourish faith in the word of God (see Alma 32). Alma invited them (and us) to experiment on the word and to nourish their faith and testimony daily (see Alma 32:27).
“Alma’s classic discussion on faith, as recorded in the 32nd chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon, is a series of choices to ensure the development and the preservation of our faith. Alma gave us a directive to choose. His were words of action initiated by choosing. He used the words awake, arouse, experiment, exercise, desire, work, and plant. Then Alma explained that if we make these choices and do not cast the seed out by unbelief, then ‘it will begin to swell within [our] breasts’ (Alma 32:28).
“Yes, faith is a choice, and it must be sought after and developed. Thus, we are responsible for our own faith. We are also responsible for our lack of faith. The choice is yours.” (“Faith—the Choice Is Yours,” Ensign, Nov. 2010. Emphasis added.)
In the English version of the Book of Mormon, there is a cool little acrostic-type pattern that spells the word SEED in Alma 32:28. In this verse Alma is describing to the people some of the sensations that they will “begin” to experience as they choose to “experiment upon [his] words” (Alma 32:27).
“Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” (Alma 32:28, emphasis added.)
“we will compare the word unto a SEED“
“it will begin to Swell within your breasts”
“it beginneth to Enlarge my soul”
“it beginneth to Enlighten my understanding”
“it beginneth to Delicious to me”
For a great breakdown of this verse click the graphic
“By the grace of Christ, we will one day be saved through faith on His name. The future of your faith is not by chance, but by choice.” (“Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice,” Ensign Nov. 2015. Emphasis added.)
He then went on to illustrate this point by sharing the following story:
“A month ago in Brazil, I met Aroldo Cavalcante. He was baptized at age 21, the first member of the Church in his family. His faith burned brightly, and he immediately began preparing to serve a mission. Sadly, Aroldo’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Three months later, only days before she died, she spoke to Aroldo of her greatest concern: There were no relatives to help. Aroldo would need to take full responsibility for his two younger sisters and his younger brother. He solemnly made this promise to his dying mother.
“By day he worked in a bank, and at night he attended the university. He continued to keep his baptismal covenants, but his hopes for a full-time mission were gone. His mission would be caring for his family.
“Months later while preparing a sacrament meeting talk, Aroldo studied the words that Samuel reprovingly spoke to King Saul: “To obey,” he read, “is better than [to] sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22) Aroldo received the seemingly impossible impression that he needed to obey the prophet’s call to serve a mission. Undaunted by the obstacles before him, he moved forward with enormous faith.
“Aroldo saved every Brazilian cruzeiro he could. At age 23, he received his mission call. He told his brother how much to withdraw each month from his account for the family. Aroldo still did not have enough money to pay the full cost of his mission and the living expenses for his brother and sisters, but with faith he entered the MTC. A week later he received the first of many blessings. The bank that had employed Elder Cavalcante unexpectedly doubled the money he was to receive as he concluded his work. This miracle, along with others, provided the needed income for his mission and his family during his absence.
“Twenty years later, Brother Cavalcante is now serving as the president of the Recife Brazil Boa Viagem Stake. Looking back, he said of those days, ‘As I tried to live righteously, I felt the Savior’s love and guidance. My faith grew, allowing me to overcome many challenges.’ Aroldo’s faith did not come by chance, but by choice.” (“Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice,” Ensign Nov. 2015. Emphasis added.)
“Testimony requires the nurturing by the prayer of faith, the hungering for the word of God in the scriptures, and the obedience to the truth we have received. There is danger in neglecting prayer. There is danger to our testimony in only casual study and reading of the scriptures. They are necessary nutrients for our testimony. …
“Feasting on the word of God, heartfelt prayer, and obedience to the Lord’s commandments must be applied evenly and continually for your testimony to grow band prosper. All of us at times have circumstances beyond our control that interrupt our pattern of scripture study. There may be periods of time when we choose for some reason not to pray. There may be commandments that we choose for a time to ignore.
“But you will not have your desire for a living testimony granted if you forget the warning and the promise in Alma [32:40–43].” (“A Living Testimony,” Ensign , May 2011. Emphasis added.)
Illustrating these basic nurturing steps taught by Alma and President Eyring, Brother Chad H Webb, the Administrator of Seminaries & Institutes of Religion, share the following:
We act in faith when we choose to trust God and turn to Him first in our efforts to acquire and understand spiritual knowledge. We act in faith as we keep His commandments and watch for evidence of His promised blessings. Acting in faith includes doing those things that will invite the Spirit as we search for further understanding. Elder M. Russell Ballard shared this example:
“One of our outstanding missionaries that served with us in the Canada Toronto Mission years ago came to my office in Salt Lake City. During our visit, he told me that he was losing his faith and his testimony and that he had many questions. I asked him to write down his questions and promised to find answers to them, certainly as many as I could. As he was about to leave . . . I said, ‘Elder, how long has it been since you have studied the scriptures; specifically, how long has it been since you have read from the Book of Mormon?’ He lowered his head and said he had not been doing that. I gave him an assignment to begin reading the Book of Mormon for an hour each day while I worked to prepare answers to his questions. He agreed to do so.
“Two weeks later, he came back to my office, and as he entered in and sat down he said, ‘President, I don’t need answers to those questions anymore. I did what you asked—I know the Book of Mormon is true and I know Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.’ I was very happy to hear that but said, ‘Elder, I spent a long time answering your questions so you will have to sit down and hear the answers!’ What a joy! The Spirit and light of the gospel had returned to him. I commended him and gave him a big hug before he left.”
As we act in faith through study, prayer, and obedience, we invite the Holy Ghost to dispel uncertainty and to reaffirm the testimony we have already been given of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. (“That They May Know How to Come unto Him and Be Saved,” Brigham Young University-Hawaii, March 22, 2016.)
“I am reminded of two young men who came in to see me some months ago. They had been recommended by their priesthood leaders. From the moment they stepped into the office, they began in a very sincere way questioning certain doctrines and teachings and procedures of the Church. Their attitude, however, was not antagonistic, as they were sincerely looking for answers.
“I asked them finally if their questions perhaps represented the symptoms of their problem and not the cause. Wasn’t their real question whether or not this church is true? Whether or not it is actually the Church of Jesus Christ? And whether or not it is led by divine revelation? The young men agreed that perhaps if they were sure of the answers to these questions, they could take care of the other questions that seemed to arise in their hearts.
“I asked them if they were willing to participate in an experiment. One of them appeared to be athletically inclined, and so I turned to him and asked, “If you wanted to learn about the chemical properties of water, would you go to the local sports stadium and run four laps around the track?”
“He said, “Of course not.”
“I asked, “Why not?”
“He said, “The two are not related.” We then turned to John, chapter seven, and read: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it he of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17.)
“If we are going to experiment with the things of Christ, then we are going to have to put these things to a spiritual test—a test that the Savior himself has outlined for all those who wish to know, a test of doing.
“I asked them if they went to church. They said they’d stopped.
“I asked them if they would be interested in a three-month experiment. They said they would try but were not anxious to commit themselves until they found out what I had in mind.
“During the next three months will you attend all your church meetings and listen carefully to what is being said, even taking notes of the principal points being made by the teachers and how these points might apply to your lives?”
“They thought for a moment and said they would.
“During the next three months will you reinstitute in your personal life prayer, night and morning, thanking God for the blessings you enjoy and asking him to help you know if the Church is true and if the things you are doing are meaningful to your lives?”
“One of these young men, who considered himself an agnostic, balked at this, but then he finally agreed to do it on the basis that for the sake of the experiment he would accept the premise that there is a God and would appeal to this God for the light and knowledge which he was seeking.
“I asked them if in the next three months they would refrain from drinking, smoking, and drugs. Although this created some anxiety, they resolved to do it.
“I asked them if in the next three months they would resolve to keep themselves morally clean and in harmony with the principles of virtue which the Savior taught. They said they would. And then I suggested they establish a schedule, on their own, during the next three months to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover—a few pages each day, with a prayer at each reading that the Lord would bless them to know if the book is true and actually from him. They agreed.
“Anticipating what might happen, I said, “Now, if you feel disposed to tell your friends about this, probably their first comment will be ‘Boy, has Brother Dunn snowed you.’ You may even feel that way a time or two during this experiment, but don’t let it keep you from doing what you have agreed to do. If you think that might be a problem, then keep it in the back of your mind, and go ahead and honestly experiment, and let this three-month experience speak for itself.” I added, “If things go properly, you’ll notice some by-products, such as a growing awareness and concern for your fellowman and greater appreciation and consideration for other people.” They accepted the challenge and left.” (“Drink of the Pure Water“, Ensign, June 1971)
There was an AMAZING “experiment” conducted as a joint effort by the Church and the BYU AdLab concerning the power of the Book of Mormon as Another Testament of Jesus Christ. An article explaining this experiment can be found at, “An Experiment Upon the Word“. The video clip below is from the talk, “Experiment Upon the Word,” by Elder Kevin R. Duncan, and shows a visual summary of the experiment that was conducted.
Brothers and sisters, put yourself in the position of those in the experimental group. You are a millennial non-Mormon from somewhere around the world. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Book of Mormon, if so you most likely think it’s a Broadway musical. Perhaps you know a Mormon or have met a missionary, and if so, you probably think you already know what they will say to you. You are curious, so you agree to take part in a simple experiment.
As I said, these experiments were conducted all over the world. People from every walk of life and from most every religion were involved, a true cross-section of Heavenly Father’s children here on this earth.
Because I knew I would be coming here to your campus, I asked the team to conduct one of the experiments here in Hawaii. Here is a short video of the experiments from around the world.
Brothers and sisters, the Book of Mormon speaks for itself, or rather, the voice of God is found within its pages. These children of God recognize and remember on a spiritual level that God is their Father. Much like children respond to the voice of their father here on earth, these children of God responded to their Eternal Father’s voice as found in the Book of Mormon.
Let’s now enjoy the results of the experiment.
How do you think a Muslim would view the Book of Mormon? Rafi, a Muslim from London, read page 430 and remarked:
This is the first time that I have ever read a page of scripture. I think the page was good, it’s definitely good. It shows that God is a God of miracles, not a god of punishment. He’s merciful, he does miracles and he wants to help us. I believe that God is that way, he wants to help us. Reading this book has helped me. I love it!
How might a person respond who feels like they have been in the dark respond? Kate, who calls herself Non-Religious from Australia, read page 184 and then said:
It was one of the first pages of scripture that I have ever read. And I think that a book like this can help people find answers in their life when they feel like they are in darkness. I’m so grateful to have been part of this experiment…I’ve been in the dark and needed a little more light in my life.
Here is the response from Nazam, another Muslim from the UK who read page 239:
I can see a lot of similarities between what I read here and what I read in the Koran, I do not think the two are as different as many believe them to be. I think we actually believe very similar things. I felt good as I read it and as long as it is teaching people to be good to one another then I believe it to be good.
What about people who claim that we aren’t Christians? Will, an Atheist from Chicago had something to say about that. He read page 440 and wrote:
The page that I read seemed to reference the Old Testament and I could see that it was talking about Jesus. If anything talks about God this book does.
Sometimes, one page was simply not enough! Bianca, a Christian, from South Africa, read page 307 and shared:
Where’s the next page? I want to read what happens next! I had always heard never to read more than the bible but this taught me the same things about Christ and His resurrection. I want to know more!
Incidentally after Bianca read her page it lead to an hour-long discussion about the Restoration of the Gospel and the blessing in having Another Testament of Jesus Christ on the earth today—the Book of Mormon.
Some responses made us chuckle. John, a Christian from South Africa in London, read page 232 and said:
I didn’t know that I agreed with your doctrine. I think I am a secret Mormon!
Finding John was a pretty special experience in and of itself. The team was set up on the corner of Hyde Park and Marble Arch in London, at a little place known as Speaker’s Corner. For those familiar with the history of Missionary Work in the Church, this is the same location where the first missionaries from the Church sent to England preached the Gospel publically. Today this location is still reserved on Sunday as a public space for open discussion and preaching of religion. But the modern scene might best be described as chaotic and loud. There are people on soap boxes and people on ladders yelling with megaphones.
John told us that he had moved to London from South Africa 22 years ago and had been coming every Sunday to Speaker’s Corner looking for religion. He had not felt the spirit of confirmation he had been searching for until he had stopped and read a page from the Book of Mormon. He exclaimed, “I didn’t know I agreed with your doctrine. I think I am a secret Mormon.”
The Book of Mormon helped one woman remember spiritual experiences from her youth. Miriam, a middle-aged Christian woman from Brazil, read a wonderful page, page 478. She then said:
I was very sick when I was young and my mother told me everyday to ask for God’s help. When I was five God came to me and blessed me. My father was killed in a car accident when I was 19 and when I ran up to my room upset I asked God where He was and why He would let this happen. He told me that my earthly father was gone, but I would always have my Heavenly Father. I’m so glad you’re doing this. I had forgotten about those experiences until I read this page. Reading this book lets people remember their spiritual experiences.
What is the favorite part for many who read the Book of Mormon? Lester, a Christian from the Philippines, read page 416 and then gave this beautiful and simple witness after reading his page:
I really liked the experiment. My favorite part was reading that Jesus is our Savior.
Brothers and sisters, the world wants and needs a Savior and finding that second witness in the Book of Mormon is thrilling to anyone who receives it.
Many people are exposed to war and violence. How did the experiment help them? Amna, a Muslim from Pakistan, read page 397 and wrote:
This is a brilliant idea. You should take out an ad and tell people to be here. I woke up and turned on the TV today and all I saw was war, refugees, violence, and problems. The world needs to see this. To see that there is hope and love in the world and that God is good, this is what this world needs. I am so grateful to be part of the project. The whole world needs to see it. Thank you!! It’s brilliant!
Brothers and sisters, we could keep going and going with one person after another, but you can see for yourself what one single page from the Book of Mormon can do to a child of God. People are hungry for words from their Father in Heaven and from their Brother and Savior Jesus Christ. Perhaps this scripture from the Book of Mormon itself proclaims the power of these many witnesses. (Elder Kevin R. Duncan, “Experiment Upon the Word,” BYU-Hawaii, November 14, 2017.)
Brothers and sisters, welcome to this Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, with a special welcome to those of you who will graduate this year from seminary—a praiseworthy achievement and evidence of your faith and love of the Lord. I invite you to follow the example of many others here tonight and continue your quest for spiritual learning in a local institute of religion or at a Church university. I promise you that you will continue to receive important guidance for all other vital decisions in your life, as well as meet people who will have a significant impact in your life.
Tonight you are going to hear me bear witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. You are going to hear me use the words “I know.” I want to describe to you how I came to know that He is the literal Son of God, the Redeemer and Savior of the world, and that His gospel is true.
I also want to help you discover that your own testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel is much stronger than you may think it is.
Where Is My Testimony on the Faith Spectrum?
I would like to begin by having you do a mental self-assessment. Look at the line in this illustration, and give your testimony a score on this faith spectrum:
At the bottom is the atheist. We will score the atheist a zero. At the top of the scale is a 10, or to have a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Where would you place yourself on this spectrum? I suspect that many of you would give yourself a lower score than you deserve.
Remember the score you have given yourself to see if it increases during the course of this presentation as we discuss various faith-building aspects of a testimony and how each one helps advance us on the faith spectrum and experience greater peace and happiness.
Alma invites each person to take the first step forward on the faith spectrum with “an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe” (Alma 32:27; emphasis added).
The following insight illustrates the wisdom of taking this first step of desire.
In 1623 the French prodigy, mathematician, and inventor Blaise Pascal was born. Among his other discoveries was the mathematical theory of probability, which provided the science behind rational choice theory—a logical approach for making optimal decisions. With decision theory, Pascal astutely observed that in the game of life humans cannot avoid life’s greatest wager: whether or not God exists. It has become known as Pascal’s Wager, with a person’s life—or more specifically, his or her eternal life—at stake, as depicted in this illustration:
In the column headings are two options: either God exists or He does not. In the rows are also two options: I can either choose to believe or not believe.
The possible resulting combinations are as follows:
If God exists and I believe and act accordingly, I can inherit eternal life.
If I believe and God does not exist, I lose nothing.
If I do not believe nor honor or obey God and He exists, I forfeit eternal life.
If I do not believe and God does not exist, I gain nothing.
Pascal’s Wager argues that the optimal decision is to believe in God’s existence and that only a fool would bet against the existence of God because he has everything to lose and nothing to gain.
The prodigal son would argue that what he loses is the chance to “eat, drink and be merry” (2 Nephi 28:7)—a poor consolation prize when you consider what is at stake. He may “have joy in [his] works for a season, [but] by and by the end cometh” (3 Nephi 27:11). His dreams of merrymaking and revelry become a living nightmare as he inevitably awakens to the spiritual hangover he experiences in this life and discovers for himself that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10) and later, at judgment day, when he “shall confess before God that his judgments are just” (Mosiah 16:1). In due course he learns that he has been duped by the master of illusion with his sugarcoated brand of pleasure-disguised misery. Hence, “let not thine heart envy sinners” (Proverbs 23:17).
Thank goodness there was a second chance for the prodigal son, which is one of the great lessons the Savior expects us to learn from this parable (see Luke 15:11–32).
Plant the Seed—Begin Learning
Alma describes the next step:
“Let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
“Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, [let the] seed … be planted in your heart” (Alma 32:27–28; emphasis added).
Planting the seed means you have now acted on the desire with an inspired curiosity in the experiment. You have now initiated the learning process.
According to the scriptures, this learning process should proceed in two ways: “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118; emphasis added).
The scriptures also teach us of two learning channels through which the Spirit teaches us:
“Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in yourheart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
“Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation” (D&C 8:2–3; emphasis added).
Aligning Learning Methods and Learning Channels
Before returning to the faith spectrum, I want to illustrate the interrelationship between the two learning methods and the two learning channels. Cross-connecting them should give you some helpful insights on how we continue to progress along the faith spectrum.
When Joseph Smith learned about prayer by study, he was reading in the Bible, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
Joseph learned about prayer by faith when he acted on his belief and went into the Sacred Grove and prayed.
At the top of the visual are the two learning channels—the mind and heart.
Connecting Learning by Study with the Mind
When we seek learning by study, the Lord speaks to our mind in the form of inspired thoughts. Among other possible words relating to the intersection of “Study” and “Mind,” we could add the following: thoughts, interest, curiosity, examine, study, search, consider, questions, and pondering.
Inspired questions cause one to ponder, and pondering under the influence of the Spirit takes you to the next level of learning, where study intersects with the heart.
Connecting Learning by Study with the Heart
Your pondering is nourishing the seed, and it begins tosprout, and you begin to have feelings inspired by the Spirit. It is the heart, or inspired feelings, that changes a thought into a belief.
Alma states it this way: “If it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me” (Alma 32:28; emphasis added).
While we normally associate the word understand with the mind, multiple scriptures link understanding with the heart, such as “and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed” (3 Nephi 19:33). When he spoke of James 1:5, young Joseph said, “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine” (Joseph Smith—History 1:12).
With those kinds of feelings, Alma says, “Now behold, would not this increase your faith ? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge” (Alma 32:29; emphasis added).
It is not yet a perfect knowledge. However, with the heart touched, it inspires us to take another step on the faith spectrum. For Joseph, it inspired him toact and accept the scriptural invitation to pray. He would not “receive [a] witness until after the trial of [his] faith” (Ether 12:6).
Connecting Learning by Faith with the Mind
Learning by faith requires acting on feelings and beliefs.1 The Savior gave this very invitation to learn by faith when He said, “If any man will do his will, he shallknow of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17; emphasis added). In this verse the Savior teaches us that doing is the act of faith that turns a belief into knowledge. For naysayers He exhorts, “Though ye believe not me, believe the works:that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him” (John 10:38; emphasis added).
In speaking of knowing, Alma says:
“And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs knowthat the seed is good.
“And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, yourknowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, … your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand” (Alma 32:33–34; emphasis added).
Acting on your faith has given you knowledge.
Among other words we might associate with learning by faith and the mind, we could add the following: knowledge perfect (in that thing), pray, repent, change behavior, obey, experiences, and taste.
Alma uses the verb taste in a very peculiar way as he refers to tasting light. Listen:
“O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tastedthis light is your knowledge perfect?
“Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good” (Alma 32:35–36; emphasis added).
It is tasting the light and savoring it that has given you a perfect knowledge in that thing, or knowing that the seedling is good. The light is inviting you to come unto Jesus Christ, “and the power of God [is] working miracles in [you] … and [converting you] unto the Lord” (Alma 23:6).
Connecting Learning by Faith with the Heart
Alma continues: “And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, … with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof. …
“… Behold, by and by ye shall pluck [or taste] the fruitthereof, which is most precious” (Alma 32:37, 41–42; emphasis added).
Tasting of the fruit advances us to where learning by faith and the heart intersect. Here we discover for ourselves that the fruit is, indeed, sweet and precious. Following Jesus Christ, and doing His will, allows us to taste of His Atonement and the gospel in multiple ways. Earlier in the process our hearts were deeply moved.Now “a mighty change [of] heart” is occurring, as described by Alma (Alma 5:12), and the Spirit is turning our experience and knowledge into conversion.
When we are “converted unto the Lord” (Alma 23:8), we follow the Savior by being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. As we taste the fruits of the gospel, we experience blessings and such joy and happiness that we want to share it with others, just as Lehi did: “And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit” (1 Nephi 8:12).
To be “converted unto the Lord,” in a literal sense, is themighty change and transformation of becoming like Jesus Christ, by “[yielding] to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and [putting] off the natural man and [becoming] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19). In the more comprehensive sense of the word, our conversion won’t be complete until we have grown spiritually “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). This will be a lifelong pursuit and journey of faith in Him and with His grace or divine help (see 2 Nephi 25:23).
This lifelong conversion will clearly require continued nurturing on our part to avoid the withering effect described by Alma: “But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, … it withers away” (Alma 32:38).
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20; emphasis added).
This mighty change and conversion doesn’t mean we won’t still have questions. However, having tasted the light, questions should instill in us a desire to continue learning rather than causing doubts that can wither our growing faith. “And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words” (Mormon 9:25).
Questions are good. They cause us to ponder, search, and pray. Joseph Smith continued to have questions throughout his life. Nearly every section of the Doctrine and Covenants was revealed through him as a result of a question he took to the Lord in prayer, line upon line, and precept upon precept. This is the same way the Savior learned: “And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness” (D&C 93:13).
A Perfect Knowledge
Returning to our faith spectrum, we labeled the top a “perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ and His gospel.”
Let’s examine the phrase “perfect knowledge.” In referring to “tasting light,” Alma taught that “your knowledge is perfect in that thing” (Alma 32:34). In the following verse, look for the prophet Mormon’s use of the same phrase, “perfect knowledge,” as he adds his witness of the same light:
“For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge,as the daylight is from the dark night.
“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. …
“And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully” (Moroni 7:15–16, 18; emphasis added).
Both prophets testify that it is the Light of Christ that gives us a perfect knowledge of truth. Even the people of the world recognize that they have an inner sense of right and wrong. They acknowledge the Light of Christ in the use of the word conscience, which comes from the Latin word conscientia, or “knowledge within oneself.” 2
With that light as our seal of truth, we continue to progress on the faith spectrum line upon line, and precept upon precept (see 2 Nephi 28:30; D&C 98:12;128:21), “and by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5; emphasis added).
In just a moment we will actually try Alma’s experiment so that you can be reminded of what the light tastes like and how it gives you a perfect knowledge.
Opposition Reveals the Truth
Before going forward with the experiment, it is important to identify another essential element in the process. We are taught in 2 Nephi 2 that there “must needs be … an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). Humankind “taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good” (Moses 6:55). Health, for example, is primarily the study of its opposite, sickness and disease; freedom, the study of oppression and slavery; happiness, the study of sorrow; and so on. And like the tiny miracle of fireflies, light goes unappreciated without a dark backdrop.
Opposition is indispensable to our education and happiness. Without opposition, the truth remains hidden in plain view, like taking air for granted until the moment you are gasping for it. Because the Light of Christ is everpresent, many people don’t notice the Spirit in their life, like those Lamanites in 3 Nephi 9:20who “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.”
Opposition not only reveals or unveils the truth but manifests its inherent power, joy, and sweetness. For example, it took a taste of the bitter life for the prodigal son to realize what a sweet life he had abandoned back home and had taken for granted in his youth.
It is only through pain and sickness that we come to value our health. As a victim of dishonesty, we treasure integrity. Experiencing injustice or cruelty, we cherish love and kindness—all with a “perfect knowledge,” having tasted the fruit of each by the light which is in us. The perfect knowledge comes fruit by fruit, through opposition in all things. Obedience to God’s commandments promises ultimate happiness, growth, and progress through opposition, not bypassing it. “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” 3
Consider this insightful statement from the Prophet Joseph Smith: “By proving contraries, truth is made manifest.” 4
And this one from Brigham Young: “All facts are proved and made manifest by their opposite.” 5
The Faith Experiment
Now—let’s have you become a participant in the experiment by having you consider several “to-be” commandments, or Christlike virtues, contrasting each with its opposite. As you consider each one, the Light of Christ in you should affirm to your mind and your heart that each Christlike virtue is sweet, while it’s opposite is bitter:
Love versus hate, hostility, opposition
Honesty versus lies, deceit, theft
Forgiving versus revenge, resentment, bitterness
Kindness versus mean, angry, unkind
Patience versus short-tempered, hotheaded, intolerant
Humility versus pride, unteachable, arrogant
Peacemaker versus contentious, divisive, provoking
Diligence versus grow weary, give up, stubborn
These are only a handful of the scores of Christlike virtues, but sufficient to clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of the seed experiment.
In pondering this list, you recognize that you have come to know the power, truth, and sweetness of each virtue, one by one, through thousands of validating experiences. Good fruit comes with its own inherent proof and validation—its taste! The proof is in the eating, fruit by fruit and line upon line, each with a “perfect knowledge.” Perhaps that is what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21; emphasis added). If you have integrated these and other virtues into your life, you are much further along the faith spectrum than you likely thought you were.
However, this is only what I would call a terrestrial, or glory-of-the-moon, testimony. Good God-fearing persons of any religion have this same testimony because they too have the Light of Christ, of which Mormon spoke, and have accepted a portion of His gospel.
The Faith Experiment—Next Level
A celestial, or glory-of-the-sun, testimony comes as one seeks “the fulness of the Father” (see D&C 76:75–78;93:19). When a person is baptized and worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost, he or she receives a greater endowment of the Light of Christ, as noted in this Book of Mormon verse: “If this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, … that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you” (Mosiah 18:10, emphasis added).
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught us that “the more we incline our hearts and minds toward God, the more heavenly light distills upon our souls.” 6
“And he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24).
I don’t need to tell you that a greater abundance of light improves your vision—you know that. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments.” 7
With greater light with which to see, let’s take the experiment to the celestial level, and contrast some of the doctrines that are unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with those found elsewhere under dimmer light:
God is our Father, and we are created in His image versus not literally our Father; He is incomprehensible, unknowable
His divine organization with prophets and apostles versus abandonment of His established pattern
The Lord is a God of order, governing through those holding priesthood keys versus confusion, disparate voices, “false spirits” (D&C 50:2)
Priesthood authority and called of God versus a degree in theology; elected, hired, or self-appointed
Ordinances and covenants versus simply live a good life
Children innocent versus infant baptism
The Book of Mormon, a second witness versus the Bible, an only witness
Temple work for the dead versus light a candle and pray for the dead
Eternal marriage and families versus till death do us part
It’s enlightening to contrast truth with its opposite. It helps reveal the obvious, that which is hidden in plain view. We recognize that we know a lot more than we thought we did. It should inspire us to continue to “search diligently in the light of Christ … and … lay hold upon every good thing” (Moroni 7:19).
“Blessed Are They That Have Not Seen, and Yet Have Believed” (John 20:29)
Now let’s examine another interesting aspect of faith and testimony.
The Guide to the Scriptures states that “[true] faith must be centered in Jesus Christ in order for it to lead a person to salvation. …
“[It] includes a hope for things which are not seen, but which are true [see Hebrews 11:1 ].” 8
Isn’t it interesting that true faith in Jesus Christ is “believing without seeing” when the world believes the opposite, that “seeing is believing.”
The natural man discovers the world through the five senses, demanding signs as proof. And yet the scriptures are full of examples of those who received manifestations of God’s presence and power through the five senses without receiving an enduring conversion:
Laman and Lemuel saw an angel (see 1 Nephi 3:29). They heard the voice of the Lord that “did chasten them exceedingly” (1 Nephi 16:39). They felt God’s power when Nephi stretched forth his hand and “the Lord did shake them” (1 Nephi 17:54). They tasted and smelled: “I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not” (1 Nephi 17:12). In spite of multiple manifestations through all five senses, Laman and Lemuel rebelled. Was seeing believing for them?
When Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, they witnessed plagues, pillars of fire, the Red Sea part; they tasted manna—experiences with all five senses. “And notwithstanding they being led, the Lord their God, their Redeemer, going before them, leading them by day and giving light unto them by night, and doing all things for them which were expedient for man to receive, they hardened their hearts and blinded their minds, and reviled against Moses and against the true and living God” (1 Nephi 17:30). Seeing certainly wasn’t believing for them!
There are many other similar examples in the scriptures, but the most dumbfounding example of all is of the spiritually inept who rejected the Savior in His very presence. “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him” (John 12:37; see also D&C 138:26).
There are too many examples to the contrary to say that seeing is believing. Those hoping for just one spectacular experience to help define their testimony don’t realize that the greater testimony and witness of the Spirit comes to us daily, in many small ways, such as the last time you underlined your scriptures. Think about it. The reason you underlined your scriptures is because you received an impression, an insight, an “Aha!” An inspired impression is revelation.
Another example of revelation is when you are prompted to be kind or do a good deed, “for every thing which inviteth to do good … is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ” (Moroni 7:16). The Light of Christ is ever present! You are tasting it every day. And from these whisperings, these “small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).
“By the Power of the Holy Ghost Ye May Know the Truth of All Things” (Moroni 10:5)
Can you think of anyone in the Book of Mormon who saw an angel and did believe? You are likely thinking of Alma the Younger. An angel had appeared to him and to the sons of Mosiah and “descended as it were in a cloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder” (Mosiah 27:11). You know the rest of the story—Alma’s repentance and subsequent ministry.
Was seeing believing for Alma? No. Why? Because Alma had yet to exercise his agency in learning by study and faith and had not yet prayed to know the truth. Seeing isn’t a shortcut to faith or a testimony, as evidenced in the many examples that I just mentioned. Alma himself describes how he received his testimony, and he does not attribute it to the appearance of an angel. In fact, there is no mention of the angel anywhere in his testimony:
“And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety ?
“Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto meby the Holy Spirit of God [the light]. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelationwhich is in me” (Alma 5:45–46; emphasis added).
A “wake-up call” or a short-term change in behavior may result from the outside in, through the five senses, but is always short lived, as with Laman and Lemuel. An enduring testimony can only come from the inside out, as one learns by study and faith with the Holy Ghost planting the gospel “in their inward parts, and [writing] it in their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). That is why the Nephites, who in spite of having seen, heard, and felt the Savior at the time of His visit to them, as well as tastingand smelling bread miraculously provided by Him (see3 Nephi 20:3–9), nevertheless “[prayed] for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them” (3 Nephi 19:9).
Some years ago, the following story was shared with me by a senior missionary. It happened to him when he was a young man in the 1960s and also illustrates that it is only through study and prayer that the Holy Ghost gives us a witness of the truth. He said:
“I was living alone in Provo, Utah, in a small apartment close to the center of town. I was working as a salesman in a small furniture store in Provo, and it was during the long weekend surrounding the New Year’s holiday that this incident occurred.
“We had a long weekend holiday. It was Thursday, December 31, New Year’s Eve. We had been given from Thursday through Sunday off from work, and I was in my apartment without any plans of celebration. I was preparing my dinner, waiting for it to bake, and wanted something to read. Not having anything in the apartment, I went next door to ask some young men who were living there (students at BYU) if they had something—hoping for a copy of Field & Stream, or something of that order. They said they did not have any magazines, but they did have a book I might like to read. They handed me a copy of the Book of Mormon.
“While I had heard of the Mormon Church (who in Utah hasn’t?), I was not familiar with the book. I thanked them and took it to my apartment. During dinner I thumbed through it and started to read. I admit that I scanned through several parts, trying to find out the plot. There were names and places I had never heard before, and I just couldn’t get into it. So, after dinner, I took the book back and returned it with a “no, thank you.”
“‘Did you pray about it?’ one young man asked. ‘Pray about it?’ I responded. ‘I just wanted something to read, not something I had to pray about.’ This started a very interesting conversation about the content of the Book of Mormon. They told me that it was a book of scriptures, a book that if I would first pray about and then read with a real desire to know if it was true or not, that God would reveal the truth of it to me by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“I had been brought up a Catholic, and though I was not active at the time, I held on to my membership in the Catholic Church with a strangle hold because it was all that I had ever known. The only praying I had ever done was the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and reading in my missal—something I had not done in a long, long time. And now some young men were asking me to pray to a God I did not really know and to ask Him to tell me if the book was true or not. Well, what the heck, I did not have anything else to do, and it was going to be a long, long weekend. I took the book home, opened up a bottle of beer, lit up a cigarette, and got down on my knees and asked God to tell me if this book was true. Then I started to read: ‘I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents.’
“The names and places were the same as those I had read just a couple of hours before. The only difference this time was a ‘suspension of disbelief’ that had magically come over me. I was literally in the book! I could see Nephi; I could see his brothers, and it angered me when they mistreated him. I liked Nephi! I cheered the good guys on, and I felt sorry for the bad guys. I read for hours, and I couldn’t put the book down. When I finally looked at my watch, it was almost five o’clock in the morning. I wished myself Happy New Year and went to sleep.
“I woke up about eight thirty and instinctively reached for this book. And that is the way the rest of the weekend went. Like Brother Parley P. Pratt, the thought of food was a nuisance, I did not want anything to disturb me. I took my phone off the hook and read all day, with only occasional interruptions for quick snacks. Like the first night, I would finally realize it was early in the morning, sleep a few hours, pick up the book, and continue with my self-imposed marathon. Finally, about five o’clock on Monday morning, I finished the book and I fell asleep—exhausted.
“Just before Christmas that year, I had sold a large carpet job in the American Fork area. It was a specialized type of carpet, and my boss wanted me to supervise the carpet layers. My boss was a former bishop in the Provo area and had talked to me about the Church on several occasions, but I would have none of it. He was a good boss, but you did not want to provoke him because he had a temper. It was on this Monday morning, at eight o’clock, that I was supposed to supervise the carpet installation. The appointed time came, and I did not appear; nine o’clock, then ten.
“Finally, around ten thirty, my boss, mad as a wet hen, came to my apartment, walked in the door ready to tear my head off, saw me lying on the couch with the Book of Mormon laying on my chest, and changed his mind. He quietly closed the door and went back to the shop, confident that he could get the carpet layers started. Just after eleven thirty I awoke (not knowing of my boss’s visit), looked at the clock, and for the second time in a relatively short time said another prayer. I quickly dressed (believing that when I got there I probably would not have a job left), got into my car, and sped to the job site.
“I saw my boss there and went up to him to apologize. He turned around; a grin came on his face, and he asked, ‘How did you like the book?’ Realizing what must have happened, my mind went back to the previous weekend, and through tear-filled eyes I said the only thing I could have said: ‘The book is true. The Book of Mormon is the word of God.’ I then started to cry, and he came and put his arms about me and held me. I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the 22nd of January, 1965.”
I met this good brother some decades after his conversion while he and his wife were serving a mission at the San Diego Mormon Battalion visitors’ center. The reason I like this story so much is the contrast in his two attempts to read the Book of Mormon. The first time he began to read, it was without real intent and without prayer. In the second attempt, with desire and prayer, it was an entirely different experience.
There is only one way to know if the Book of Mormon and the gospel are true, and it takes more than curiosity and more than the five senses. It takes a sincere use of one’s agency and acting on a desire to know:
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4–5).
That promise isn’t couched in terms of “He might” or “maybe” or “perhaps.” The promise is, “He will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
Another insightful principle we discover in this story is that you don’t have to read the entire Book of Mormon before a witness can come. For the man in this story, hetasted the light on page one. He didn’t need to eat the entire pizza before he knew if it was delicious. For others, it may be more of an acquired taste as the light becomes more delicious over time. That seems to be what Alma is saying in this verse: “Yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me” (Alma 32:28).
Your Testimony Is Stronger Than You Think It Is
As we began I asked you to score your testimony on the faith spectrum. I hope that you have discovered that your testimony is far more advanced than you imagined. With the Holy Ghost as your teacher, you have been gaining a perfect knowledge of many fruits of the gospel, and fruit by fruit, line upon line, your testimony has been growing stronger by the day.
The more one learns and lives the gospel, the more light they receive and the more the Father’s plan becomes the gospel of common sense. We learn from our own experiences that the fruit of the tree of life is, indeed, precious and “most sweet, above all that [we] ever before tasted” and that it fills our souls “with exceedingly great joy” (1 Nephi 8:11–12). We grow to love it because of the blessings, joy, and control it gives us over positive outcomes in our lives and the hope of endless happiness as eternal families.
I bear my witness that I know, and I know that I know, by the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true. It is the word of God. It is sweet and precious to savor. I love and cherish its taste. I bear my witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He was crucified and suffered for the sins of the world. He is our Savior and continues to lead and guide His Church and kingdom here upon the earth through living prophets and apostles. I bear witness of His name and of these sacred truths in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. See David A. Bednar, “Seek Learning By Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 2007, 60–68.
In the Book of Mormon we learn about anti-Christs (Sherem in Jacob 7, and Nehor in Alma 1). One definition of anti-Christ is “anyone or anything that counterfeits the true gospel plan of salvation and that openly or secretly opposes Christ” (“Antichrist,” Guide to the Scripture). In Alma 30, another anti-Christ named Korihor teaches that there will be no Christ. Here is a very interesting and relevant quote from Sister Julie B. Beck, a former Relief Society General President:
Public policies are being made every day that are antifamily, and the definition of family is changing legally around the world. Pornography is rampant. For those who create pornography, their new target audience is young women. Parents are being portrayed as inept and out of touch. Antifamily media messages are everywhere. Youth are being desensitized about the need to form eternal families.
We see how this can happen when we read the words of Korihor, an anti-Christ: “Thus he did preach unto them, leading away the hearts of many, causing them to lift up their heads in their wickedness, yea, leading away many women, and also men, to commit whoredoms” (Alma 30:18). Satan knows that he will never have a body; he will never have a family. So he targets young women, who will create the bodies for the future generations.
Korihor was an anti-Christ. Anti-Christ is antifamily. Any doctrine or principle our youth hear from the world that is antifamily is also anti-Christ. It’s that clear. If our youth cease to believe in the righteous traditions of their fathers as did the people described in Mosiah 26, if our youth don’t understand their part in the plan, they could be led away. (“Teaching the Doctrine of the Family,” Ensign, March 2011. Emphasis added.)
As I read these chapters, one thing that stands to me is how our actions lead us to become either INSTRUMENTS in the hands of God or PUPPETS in the hands of Satan. Alma is an instrument (see Alma 29:9) while Korihor is a puppet (Alma 30:60). Think for a moment about the differences between being a puppet and being an instrument. Consider how Alma and Korihor respectively act as an instrument and a puppet as we review their story.
All Things Denote There Is a God
(Alma 30) Korihor preaches against the prophecies of the coming of Christ. He seeks a sign to be convinced that there is a God. He is struck dumb.
Korihor’s false teachings led many to sin. He spoke against the leaders of the Church, claiming they were teaching “foolish traditions” (Alma 30:27. I refer to these as “Korihorrible teachings”). Alma taught him that all things testify of Christ. Korihor demanded that Alma show him a sign of God’s existence. In response, Korihor was struck dumb by the power of God and was convinced of the truth. Eventually, Korihor confessed that his actions were guided by the devil. Korihor asked Alma to pray so the curse could be removed from him. Alma said that if Korihor received the ability to speak, he would again teach false doctrine to the people. Korihor was cast out and went from house to house begging for food. Eventually he went to the Zoramites, who had dissented from the Nephites, and was trampled to death. Alma 30:60 teaches an important truth about what eventually happens to those who choose to be Satan’s puppets. Contrast that with the way the Lord preserves his instruments in Alma 19:23.
Alma (an instrument of God) also learned that the Nephite dissenters called the Zoramites (new puppets of Satan) had strayed from the truth of the gospel and fallen into false practices (see Alma 31). Saddened by these reports of wickedness, Alma took a group of missionaries (more instruments of God) to teach the word of God to the Zoramites. Alma and his companions witnessed the apostate worship services, materialism, and pride of the Zoramites. Alma prayed earnestly that the Lord would comfort him and his companions as they faced this challenge and that they would have success in bringing the Zoramites back to the Lord (It is interesting to contrast the prayer of Alma with that of the Zoramites upon the Rameumptom).
“Korihor was arguing, as men and women have falsely argued from the beginning of time, that to take counsel from the servants of God is to surrender God-given rights of independence. But the argument is false because it misrepresents reality. When we reject the counsel which comes from God, we do not choose to be independent of outside influence. We choose another influence [and become a PUPPET of Satan]. We reject the protection of a perfectly loving, all-powerful, all-knowing Father in Heaven, whose whole purpose, as that of His Beloved Son, is to give us eternal life, to give us all that He has, and to bring us home again in families to the arms of His love [and become an INSTRUMENT of God]. In rejecting His counsel, we choose the influence of another power, whose purpose is to make us miserable and whose motive is hatred. We have moral agency as a gift of God. Rather than the right to choose to be free of influence, it is the inalienable right to submit ourselves to whichever of those powers we choose” (“Finding Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, May 1997, 25).
So, will you be a PUPPET or an INSTRUMENT? We now know the results for each!
Ready to Serve As An Instrument In God’s Hands
Please leave your thoughts about a special verse, teaching, etc. that you enjoyed at one of the following:
There are at least two questions that you and I should NEVER ask:
And Adam and Eve, his wife, ceased not to call upon God. And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare Cain, and said: I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words. But behold, Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him? (Moses 5:16, emphsasis added)
And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper? (Moses 5:34, emphasis added)
First of all, consider the source and cynicism of these questions.
Secondly, consider the contrast that these questions pose to the Savior’s answer in Matthew 22 when He was asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” It is interesting to me that the two questions presented by Cain are answered by the Savior in His response:
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Another interesting contrast to Cain’s questions comes from the answer that the Lord gave when the prophet Enoch saw the sadness of the Lord in Moses 7:
28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?
29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?
30 And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;
31 And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?
32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;
“Unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father.” WOW!
So how does this relate to today’s reading? Well, think about the situation that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies were in. After the Anti-Nephi-Lehies made a covenant with God to never again take up weapons of war, the Amalekites and the Lamanites began to make preparations to go to battle against them. They had no one to turn to. They needed help. They were desperate. The only people that they could ask for help were the people that they had mistreated their whole lives–the Nephites.
Ammon led the Anti-Nephi-Lehies to Zarahemla, where they received protection from the Nephites and became known as the people of Ammon. They were given the land of Jershon for their new home and promised protection by the Nephite armies.
Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah each exhibited the same kind of enthusiasm to become their “brother’s keeper” as they set off for their long and eventful missions to bring everyone to the gospel (see Alma 26 and 29).
Remember when the Savior taught an important principle of the gospel in Matthew 25:31-46?
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
I am the oldest of six children, so one-on-one time with a parent was a precious commodity. I was excited to be able to spend some time away from the rest of the family with just my dad. Luckily, I had a pretty good relationship with my dad. It was during a time that our family was also struggling financially. There wasn’t much money to go around and I was old enough to know what was going on (~12 years old).
My mom had put together some food for us to enjoy. Nothing really special, but under the circumstances it was a little more special than “the usual”. To my surprise, my dad had invited another boy to come with us on this “Father and Son” outing. I didn’t ask why; I was a little too annoyed by it to want to bring it up and make a bigger deal about it. The boy was older and I can’t remember that I had ever met him before.
He worked at the same place as my dad. When we got to the camp site, we got everything ready and started to break into the food. I noticed the other boy had a few boxes of “Peeps” that he had gotten out. I am not a fan of Peeps, so I thought that was a strange thing to bring for a night of fun. Then, I noticed that my dad kept giving him “our” food (He has always been a VERY generous person–even when lacking.).
I tried to let it go, but I was a pretty immature and selfish kid. I don’t remember if I said something to my dad in front of the boy or if I waited for a more private and opportune moment, but when I had the chance I kinda gave it to my dad and asked why he was giving away all of “our” good food.
He didn’t get upset, but he was probably pretty disappointed–if he was disappointed he didn’t let me know it. Instead he calmly explained to me that he was sharing with the boy because all the boy had to eat for the entire campout was those couple boxes of Peeps. I think the next thing I did was say something to my dad about how the boy should have known better and that he needed to face the consequences of his lack of preparation (that is the oldest of six speaking).
Now here is where it got painful. Not because my dad hauled-off and hit me or something, but because of what he said next. He told me that the boy’s dad had recently died and that he didn’t have anything else in his home that he could have brought to eat during the campout. Oh boy… oh, boy… I don’t know if I have ever felt such guilt in my life. My heart sank. My conscience began to show me what a jerk I had been. I wanted to cry, not just because I realized how bad I had been, but because I felt a great deal of sympathy at that moment. I honestly didn’t want to eat anything else all weekend (although I am sure I did).
I learned a LOT of valuable lessons that day. One was about making a conscious effort to be “my brother’s keeper”. I obviously didn’t think about it in those terms at that age, but that was the message that sank into my heart. From that point on, it seemed like God would superimpose that boys face on the people in my life that needed a little extra help. I am sorry to say that I was not always as willing to jump in and help like I should have been. But I tried a lot harder, and I tried to withhold judgment a lot more often.
Anytime that I think of that experience (like right now) I feel such regret for myself, and sorrow for that boy. I can’t remember his name, but I can’t seem to forget the face as he holds that box of Peeps before my mind’s eye. It was a tough lesson to learn, and perhaps God knew that it could never be taught–it had to be caught. I don’t know. But what I do know is that the lesson was learned and it is still being applied today. It is one of many lessons that the Lord has taught me about being my brother’s keeper.
On another occasion God let me be the brother who needed to be “kept” by another. It was about two years after the “Peeps experience”, when a young ninth-grade boy showed me what it meant to be, “my brother’s keeper”. To him it was no big deal, but it was a BIG deal to me. His name is Deran Coe, and what he did made all the difference in the world for me.
I had just moved from the coast of L.A. to a suburb of Pittsburgh (specifically, Center Township, in the middle of winter). Having been a “beach bum” from the west coast for the previous eight years, I dressed and spoke differently from everyone else at Center high school. My first morning at school was not too bad because the teachers would just assign me a seat, introduce me quickly to the class, and move on to teach their lesson.
Then lunch time arrived… The worst thing about lunch for this “new kid on the block” (special reference for my wife), is that there were no assigned seats, and I didn’t want to take someone else’s “usual seat”, so I awkwardly searched for a seat that looked like it wouldn’t make my bad situation even worse.
Well, it was a small high school (less than 150 students in my graduating class) and the ninth-graders ate in a separate room from the rest of the upper-class students. The best way for me to describe it is to say that it was a lot like a typical LDS cultural hall. It had a stage and a large multipurpose floor. If I remember it correctly, it was filled at lunchtime with about 35 picnic-type tables that could sit about 8 students each. I think it was 5 rows of 7 tables.
It just so happened that I was one of the first students to the ninth-grade lunch room on my first day, so no one had really started sitting down yet. I always took my “sack lunch” from home, so I couldn’t just stand in the lunch line and wait for things to fill in. I decided to take the far corner of the lunch room and hoped that my strategy would work out…
There were only enough students to fill in the first 2-3 rows of tables. That meant that there was at least 1 entire row of tables between me and my new classmates. I just hung my head and tried to drown my embarrassment in my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I hadn’t gotten too far into my lonely meal, when I heard a boy’s voice. I looked around a saw a smiling student. He introduced himself as Deran, and asked if I wanted to come and join him and his friends for lunch.
The ironic thing is that there was no room at Deran’s table, so I ended up at the table next to his. That is when I first met the great guys that I would spend most of my high schools days with: Steve, Brett, Jeff, Ryan, Chris, and Aaron.
Deran and I never really became the kind of friends that “hang out” together; we liked each other as friends, but we had different interests. However, because of that ONE little simple act of reaching out to me I had some amazing years of high school–the effects of which continue to this day. I have thanked him a couple of times, but he never really felt like what he did deserved any thanks. Sure it was simple, but it has had simply amazing results in my life.
My sister Seana with Deran Coe at our Senior Prom (1995)
I am grateful for the painful lesson learned so many years ago. I am grateful to have a father who took the time to be slow to anger so that the Spirit could be quick to teach. I am grateful for “Peeps” each Easter season, because even though I can’t stand the taste they stand as a reminder of what God expects from me when dealing with His “peeps”–He expects me to be “my brother’s keeper”. “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him.”(Psalm 41:1–3)
We ARE our “brother’s keeper”!
Out of love, a 13-year-old boy in Arizona pushed himself to the limit so that his friend, who has cerebral palsy, could participate with him in a triathlon.
My Brother’s Keeper
Thomas S. Monson – April 1990
Parable of the Good Samaritan
A depiction of the Savior’s parable of the good Samaritan, in which a man is robbed and beaten by thieves, and a Samaritan shows mercy on him.
Lord, I Would Follow Thee
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings “Lord, I Would Follow Thee.”
1. Savior, may I learn to love thee,
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another,
Finding strength beyond my own.
Savior, may I learn to love thee–
Lord, I would follow thee.
2. Who am I to judge another When I walk imperfectly? In the quiet heart is hidden Sorrow that the eye can’t see. Who am I to judge another? Lord, I would follow thee.
3. I would be my brother’s keeper;
I would learn the healer’s art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper–
Lord, I would follow thee.
4. Savior, may I love my brother
As I know thou lovest me,
Find in thee my strength, my beacon,
For thy servant I would be.
Savior, may I love my brother–
Lord, I would follow thee.
Please leave your thoughts about a special verse, teaching, etc. that you enjoyed at one of the following:
The accounts in Alma 11–16 illustrate the sacrifices people are willing to make for their testimony of the truth. As Alma and Amulek began teaching the people of Ammonihah, they met with opposition. After they explained several eternal truths, many people “began to repent, and to search the scriptures” (Alma 14:1), including Zeezrom. However, most of the people were angry and sought to destroy Alma, Amulek, and those who believed in their words. Alma and Amulek warned the people of Ammonihah that if they failed to repent, the judgments of God would come upon them. Alma and Amulek were arrested, tried, and eventually imprisoned.
The wicked people in Ammonihah cast out the men who believed Alma and Amulek, and burned their wives, children, and scriptures while Alma and Amulek were forced to watch. After many days, the Lord delivered Alma and Amulek from prison and destroyed the wicked leaders of Ammonihah. Once the Lord delivered Alma and Amulek from prison, they went to preach to the people in the city of Sidom. There they found the believers who had been cast out of Ammonihah, including Zeezrom, who was suffering physically and spiritually because of his sins. When Zeezrom declared his faith in Jesus Christ, Alma healed him and baptized him.
Alma established the Church in Sidom, and then returned with Amulek to Zarahemla. Rejecting the call to repent, the people of Ammonihah were later destroyed by a Lamanite army, fulfilling Alma’s prophecy that the city of Ammonihah would be destroyed in a single day. In addition, the Lamanites captured some of the Nephites from the surrounding lands. Choosing to follow Alma’s prophetic guidance, the Nephite armies recovered the prisoners and drove the Lamanites from the land. During a period of peace, Alma, Amulek, and many others strengthened the Church throughout the land of the Nephites.
Mountains to Climb
Finding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will help us have the power to endure and overcome even the hardest trials in life.
“John asked if I would give him a priesthood blessing. I responded that I gladly would give such a blessing, but I first needed to ask some questions. I then posed questions I had not planned to ask and had never previously considered: “[John,] do you have the faith not to be healed? If it is the will of our Heavenly Father that you are transferred by death in your youth to the spirit world to continue your ministry, do you have the faith to submit to His will and not be healed?” (see video clip below…)
“To the sightless or hearing impaired, [God] sharpens the other senses. … With the loss of a dear one, He deepens the bonds of love, enriches memories, and kindles hope in a future reunion. You will discover compensatory blessings when you willingly accept the will of the Lord and exercise faith in Him”
Early in his childhood, Spencer W. Kimball suffered the pain that comes with the death of loved ones. When he was eight years old, his sister Mary died shortly after her birth. A month later, Spencer’s parents sensed that five-year-old Fannie, who had been suffering for several weeks, would soon pass away. Spencer later told of the day Fannie died: “On my ninth birthday Fannie died in Mother’s arms. All of us children were awakened in the early night to be present. I seem to remember the scene in our living room … , my beloved mother weeping with her little dying five-year-old child in her arms and all of us crowding around.”1
Spencer W. Kimball and his siblings, about two years before his sister Fannie died. Standing, left to right: Clare, Ruth, Gordon, and Delbert. Seated, left to right: Helen, Alice, Fannie, and Spencer.
Even more difficult for young Spencer was the news he received two years later, when he and his brothers and sisters were called home from school one morning. They ran home and were met by their bishop, who gathered them around him and told them that their mother had died the day before. President Kimball later recalled: “It came as a thunderbolt. I ran from the house out in the backyard to be alone in my deluge of tears. Out of sight and sound, away from everybody, I sobbed and sobbed. Each time I said the word ‘Ma’ fresh floods of tears gushed forth until I was drained dry. Ma—dead! But she couldn’t be! Life couldn’t go on for us. … My eleven-year-old heart seemed to burst.”2
Fifty years later, Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, found himself far away from home, recovering from major surgery. Unable to sleep, he recalled the day his mother died: “I feel like sobbing again now … as my memory takes me over those sad paths.”3
Facing the deep sadness of such experiences, Spencer W. Kimball always found comfort in prayer and in the principles of the gospel. Even in his childhood, he knew where to turn to receive peace. A family friend wrote of young Spencer’s prayers—“how the loss of his mother weighed so heavily upon his little heart and yet how bravely he battled with his grief and sought comfort from the only source.”4
In his ministry, President Kimball frequently offered words of solace to those who mourned the loss of loved ones. He testified of eternal principles, assuring the Saints that death is not the end of existence. Speaking at a funeral, he once said:
“We are limited in our visions. With our eyes we can see but a few miles. With our ears we can hear but a few years. We are encased, enclosed, as it were, in a room, but when our light goes out of this life, then we see beyond mortal limitations. …
“The walls go down, time ends and distance fades and vanishes as we go into eternity … and we immediately emerge into a great world in which there are no earthly limitations.”5
Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball
In His wisdom, God does not always prevent tragedy.
The daily newspaper screamed the headlines: “Plane Crash Kills 43. No Survivors of Mountain Tragedy,” and thousands of voices joined in a chorus: “Why did the Lord let this terrible thing happen?”
Two automobiles crashed when one went through a red light, and six people were killed. Why would God not prevent this?
Why should the young mother die of cancer and leave her eight children motherless? Why did not the Lord heal her?
A little child was drowned; another was run over. Why?
A man died one day suddenly of a coronary occlusion as he climbed a stairway. His body was found slumped on the floor. His wife cried out in agony, “Why? Why would the Lord do this to me? Could he not have considered my three little children who still need a father?”
A young man died in the mission field and people critically questioned: “Why did not the Lord protect this youth while he was doing proselyting work?”
I wish I could answer these questions with authority, but I cannot. I am sure that sometime we’ll understand and be reconciled. But for the present we must seek understanding as best we can in the gospel principles.
Was it the Lord who directed the plane into the mountain to snuff out the lives of its occupants, or were there mechanical faults or human errors?
Did our Father in heaven cause the collision of the cars that took six people into eternity, or was it the error of the driver who ignored safety rules?
Did God take the life of the young mother or prompt the child to toddle into the canal or guide the other child into the path of the oncoming car?
Did the Lord cause the man to suffer a heart attack? Was the death of the missionary untimely? Answer, if you can. I cannot, for though I know God has a major role in our lives, I do not know how much he causes to happen and how much he merely permits. Whatever the answer to this question, there is another I feel sure about.
Could the Lord have prevented these tragedies? The answer is, Yes. The Lord is omnipotent, with all power to control our lives, save us pain, prevent all accidents, drive all planes and cars, feed us, protect us, save us from labor, effort, sickness, even from death, if he will. But he will not.
We should be able to understand this, because we can realize how unwise it would be for us to shield our children from all effort, from disappointments, temptations, sorrows, and suffering.
The basic gospel law is free agency and eternal development. To force us to be careful or righteous would be to nullify that fundamental law and make growth impossible.6
With an eternal perspective, we understand that adversity is essential to our eternal progression.
If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective.
Is there not wisdom in his giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?
If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.
If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good but not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, only satanic controls.
Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life and godhood.
“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things … righteousness … wickedness … holiness … misery … good … bad. …” (2 Nephi 2:11.)
Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery. …
I love the verse of “How Firm a Foundation”—
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
[See Hymns, no. 5]
And Elder James E. Talmage wrote: “No pang that is suffered by man or woman upon the earth will be without its compensating effect … if it be met with patience.”
On the other hand, these things can crush us with their mighty impact if we yield to weakness, complaining, and criticism.
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven. …” (Orson F. Whitney)
There are people who are bitter as they watch loved ones suffer agonies and interminable pain and physical torture. Some would charge the Lord with unkindness, indifference, and injustice. We are so incompetent to judge! …
The power of the priesthood is limitless but God has wisely placed upon each of us certain limitations. I may develop priesthood power as I perfect my life, yet I am grateful that even through the priesthood I cannot heal all the sick. I might heal people who should die. I might relieve people of suffering who should suffer. I fear I would frustrate the purposes of God.
Had I limitless power, and yet limited vision and understanding, I might have saved Abinadi from the flames of fire when he was burned at the stake, and in doing so I might have irreparably damaged him. He died a martyr and went to a martyr’s reward—exaltation.
I would likely have protected Paul against his woes if my power were boundless. I would surely have healed his “thorn in the flesh.” [2 Corinthians 12:7.] And in doing so I might have foiled the Lord’s program. Thrice he offered prayers, asking the Lord to remove the “thorn” from him, but the Lord did not so answer his prayers [see 2 Corinthians 12:7–10]. Paul many times could have lost himself if he had been eloquent, well, handsome, and free from the things that made him humble. …
I fear that had I been in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, I might have deflected the bullets that pierced the body of the Prophet and the Patriarch. I might have saved them from the sufferings and agony, but lost to them the martyr’s death and reward. I am glad I did not have to make that decision.
With such uncontrolled power, I surely would have felt to protect Christ from the agony in Gethsemane, the insults, the thorny crown, the indignities in the court, the physical injuries. I would have administered to his wounds and healed them, giving him cooling water instead of vinegar. I might have saved him from suffering and death, and lost to the world his atoning sacrifice.
I would not dare to take the responsibility of bringing back to life my loved ones. Christ himself acknowledged the difference between his will and the Father’s when he prayed that the cup of suffering be taken from him; yet he added, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” [Luke 22:42.]7
Death can open the door to glorious opportunities.
For the one who dies, life goes on and his free agency continues, and death, which seems to us such a calamity, could be a blessing in disguise. …
If we say that early death is a calamity, disaster, or tragedy, would it not be saying that mortality is preferable to earlier entrance into the spirit world and to eventual salvation and exaltation? If mortality be the perfect state, then death would be a frustration, but the gospel teaches us there is no tragedy in death, but only in sin. “… blessed are the dead that die in the Lord. …” (See D&C 63:49.)
We know so little. Our judgment is so limited. We judge the Lord’s ways from our own narrow view.
I spoke at the funeral service of a young Brigham Young University student who died during World War II. There had been hundreds of thousands of young men rushed prematurely into eternity through the ravages of that war, and I made the statement that I believed this righteous youth had been called to the spirit world to preach the gospel to these deprived souls. This may not be true of all who die, but I felt it true of him.
In his vision of “The Redemption of the Dead” President Joseph F. Smith saw this very thing. … He writes:
“… I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth … but behold, from among the righteous He organized his forces … and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel. …
“… our Redeemer spent His time … in the world of spirits, instructing and preparing the faithful spirits … who had testified of Him in the flesh, that they might carry the message of redemption unto all the dead unto whom He could not go personally because of their rebellion and transgression. …
“I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption.” [See D&C 138:29–30, 36–37, 57.]
Death, then, may be the opening of the door to opportunities, including that of teaching the gospel of Christ.8
In times of trial, we must trust in God.
Despite the fact that death opens new doors, we do not seek it. We are admonished to pray for those who are ill and use our priesthood power to heal them.
“And the elders of the church, two or more, shall be called, and shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name; and if they die they shall die unto me, and if they live they shall live unto me.
“Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection.
“And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them;
“And they that die not in me, wo unto them, for their death is bitter.
“And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed.” (D&C 42:44–48.)
We are assured by the Lord that the sick will be healed if the ordinance is performed, if there is sufficient faith, and if the ill one is “not appointed unto death.” But there are three factors, all of which should be satisfied. Many do not comply with the ordinances, and great numbers are unwilling or incapable of exercising sufficient faith. But the other factor also looms important: If they are not appointed unto death.
Everyone must die. Death is an important part of life. Of course, we are never quite ready for the change. Not knowing when it should come, we properly fight to retain our life. Yet we ought not be afraid of death. We pray for the sick, we administer to the afflicted, we implore the Lord to heal and reduce pain and save life and postpone death, and properly so, but not because eternity is so frightful. …
Just as Ecclesiastes (3:2) says, I am confident that there is a time to die, but I believe also that many people die before “their time” because they are careless, abuse their bodies, take unnecessary chances, or expose themselves to hazards, accidents, and sickness. …
God controls our lives, guides and blesses us, but gives us our agency. We may live our lives in accordance with his plan for us or we may foolishly shorten or terminate them.
I am positive in my mind that the Lord has planned our destiny. Sometime we’ll understand fully, and when we see back from the vantage point of the future, we shall be satisfied with many of the happenings of this life that are so difficult for us to comprehend.
We sometimes think we would like to know what lies ahead, but sober thought brings us back to accepting life a day at a time and magnifying and glorifying that day. …
We knew before we were born that we were coming to the earth for bodies and experience and that we would have joys and sorrows, ease and pain, comforts and hardships, health and sickness, successes and disappointments, and we knew also that after a period of life we would die. We accepted all these eventualities with a glad heart, eager to accept both the favorable and unfavorable. We eagerly accepted the chance to come earthward even though it might be for only a day or a year. Perhaps we were not so much concerned whether we should die of disease, of accident, or of senility. We were willing to take life as it came and as we might organize and control it, and this without murmur, complaint, or unreasonable demands.
In the face of apparent tragedy we must put our trust in God, knowing that despite our limited view his purposes will not fail. With all its troubles life offers us the tremendous privilege to grow in knowledge and wisdom, faith and works, preparing to return and share God’s glory.9
1. In Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball Jr., Spencer W. Kimball(1977), 43.
2. In Spencer W. Kimball, 46.
3. In Spencer W. Kimball, 46.
4. Joseph Robinson, in Spencer W. Kimball, 46.
5. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 40–41.
6. Faith Precedes the Miracle (1972), 95–96.
7.Faith Precedes the Miracle, 97–100.
8.Faith Precedes the Miracle, 100, 101, 102.
9.Faith Precedes the Miracle, 102–3, 105–6.
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