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#BOMTC Alma 53-55: Follow the Prophet!

“But behold, it came to pass they had many sons, who had not entered into a covenant that they would not take their weapons of war to defend themselves against their enemies; therefore they did assemble themselves together at this time, as many as were able to take up arms, and they called themselves Nephites. And they entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites, yea, to protect the land unto the laying down of their lives; yea, even they covenanted that they never would give up their liberty, but they would fight in all cases to protect the Nephites and themselves from bondage. Now behold, there were two thousand of those young men, who entered into this covenant and took their weapons of war to defend their country. And now behold, as they never had hitherto been a disadvantage to the Nephites, they became now at this period of time also a great support; for they took their weapons of war, and they would that Helaman should be their leader. And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him. And now it came to pass that Helaman did march at the head of his two thousand stripling soldiers, to the support of the people in the borders of the land on the south by the west sea” (Alma 53:10-22, emphasis added.).

It seems that many times we picture Helaman as a big, strong, experienced military leader. If that is the case, then it would make a lot of sense for a troop of young men who had never fought in battle to choose him as their general. But if we take a good look at Helaman’s resume we may picture him very differently and pause to ponder why such an inexperienced group would choose such a leader.

Resume of Helaman, the Son of Alma:

How do you visualize Helaman now? Perhaps even Arnold Friberg’s famous painting is a bit generous (maybe not…, who knows?). The point that I would like to make is that these young, novice, would-be warriors did not choose someone of vast previous military prowess and prestige. Instead they chose to make a prophet of God their leader in battle. Surely there is great scriptural support for such success, but very little worldly wisdom. Most military missions of this kind would end up a tragic headline. However, when we choose to “follow the prophet” we will always be successful.

The world may look upon us with wonder as we follow the prophets of God today. They see old men who seem to be “out of touch” and “old-fashioned”. Faithful disciples of Christ see “men of experience” who serve God and teach eternal truths. Just as the Army of Helaman found great success by choosing “the Lord’s mortal captain” as their captain, so we will find that we are able to come off conquerors in life’s great battles as we choose to “follow the prophet”. Some people may criticize this statement and say something like, “Shouldn’t you be saying ‘follow the Savior’?” Well, that is exactly what I am saying, for as President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

If we want to know how well we stand with the Lord then let us ask ourselves how well we stand with His mortal captain—how close do our lives harmonize with the Lord’s anointed—the living Prophet—President of the Church, and with the Quorum of the First Presidency (see FOURTEEN FUNDAMENTALS IN FOLLOWING THE PROPHET).

So, who have you chosen as your leader? If we haven’t chosen the Lord’s prophet, then we haven’t chosen the Lord!

“Chosen to Bear Testimony of My Name”

In 1996 President Gordon B. Hinckley appeared on the national television news program 60 Minutes. Mike Wallace, an experienced and tenacious journalist, interviewed President Hinckley about a number of important topics.

Near the end of their conversation, Mr. Wallace remarked, “There are those who say, ‘This is a gerontocracy. This is a church run by old men.’”

President Hinckley responded cheerfully and without hesitation, “Isn’t it wonderful to have a man of maturity at the head, a man of judgment who isn’t blown about by every wind of doctrine?” (broadcast on Apr. 7, 1996).

My purpose is to explain why indeed it is wonderful to have older men of great spiritual maturity and judgment serving in the senior leadership positions of the restored Church of Jesus Christ—and why we should “hear” and “hearken” (Mosiah 2:9) to the teachings of these men whom the Lord has “chosen to bear testimony of [His] name … among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people” (D&C 112:1).

I pray we may all be instructed by the Holy Ghost as we consider together this significant subject.

A Lesson of a Lifetime

I speak about this topic from a decidedly distinctive perspective. For the last 11 years, I have been the youngest member of the Twelve in terms of chronological age. During my years of service, the average age of the men serving in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has been 77 years—the oldest average age of the Apostles over an 11-year interval in this dispensation.

I have been blessed by the collective apostolic, personal, and professional experience and insight of the quorum members with whom I serve. An example from my association with Elder Robert D. Hales highlights the remarkable opportunities I have to learn from and serve with these leaders.

Several years ago I spent a Sunday afternoon with Elder Hales in his home as he was recovering from a serious illness. We discussed our families, our quorum responsibilities, and important experiences.

At one point I asked Elder Hales, “You have been a successful husband, father, athlete, pilot, business executive, and Church leader. What lessons have you learned as you have grown older and been constrained by decreased physical capacity?”

Elder Hales paused for a moment and responded, “When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most.”

I was struck by the simplicity and comprehensiveness of his answer. My beloved apostolic associate shared with me a lesson of a lifetime—a lesson learned through the crucible of physical suffering and spiritual searching.

Human Limitations and Frailties

The limitations that are the natural consequence of advancing age can in fact become remarkable sources of spiritual learning and insight. The very factors many may believe limit the effectiveness of these servants can become some of their greatest strengths. Physical restrictions can expand vision. Limited stamina can clarify priorities. Inability to do many things can direct focus to a few things of greatest importance.

Some people have suggested younger, more vigorous leaders are needed in the Church to address effectively the serious challenges of our modern world. But the Lord does not use contemporary philosophies and practices of leadership to accomplish His purposes (see Isaiah 55:8–9). We can expect the President and other senior leaders of the Church will be older and spiritually seasoned men.

The Lord’s revealed pattern of governance by councils in His Church provides for and attenuates the impact of human frailties. Interestingly, the mortal limitations of these men actually affirm the divine source of the revelations that come to and through them. Truly, these men are called of God by prophecy (see Articles of Faith 1:5).

A Pattern of Preparation

I have observed in my Brethren at least a part of the Lord’s purpose for having older men of maturity and judgment serve in senior leadership positions of the Church. These men have had a sustained season of tutoring by the Lord, whom they represent, serve, and love. They have learned to understand the divine language of the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s patterns for receiving revelation. These ordinary men have undergone a most extraordinary developmental process that has sharpened their vision, informed their insight, engendered love for people from all nations and circumstances, and affirmed the reality of the Restoration.

I have witnessed repeatedly my Brethren striving diligently to fulfill and magnify their responsibilities while struggling with serious physical problems. These men are not spared from affliction. Rather, they are blessed and strengthened to press forward valiantly while suffering in and with affliction.

Serving with these representatives of the Lord, I have come to know their greatest desire is to discern and do the will of our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son. As we counsel together, inspiration has been received and decisions have been made that reflect a degree of light and truth far beyond human intelligence, reasoning, and experience. As we work together in unity on perplexing problems, our collective understanding of an issue has been enlarged in marvelous ways by the power of the Holy Ghost.

I am blessed to observe on a daily basis the individual personalities, capacities, and noble characters of these leaders. Some people find the human shortcomings of the Brethren troubling and faith diminishing. For me those imperfections are encouraging and faith promoting.

An Additional Lesson

I have now witnessed six of my Brethren receive a transfer through physical death to new responsibilities in the spirit world: President James E. Faust, President Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Elder L. Tom Perry, President Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Richard G. Scott.

These valiant Brethren devoted their “whole souls” (Omni 1:26) to testifying of the name of Jesus Christ in all the world. The totality of their teachings is priceless.

These servants shared with us in the concluding years of their mortal ministries powerful spiritual summaries of lessons learned through decades of consecrated service. These leaders imparted truths of great worth at a time when some may believe they had the least to give.

Consider the final teachings of great prophets in the scriptures. For example, Nephi concluded his record with these words: “For thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey” (2 Nephi 33:15).

Near the end of his life, Jacob admonished:

“Repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life.

“O be wise; what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:11–12).

Moroni completed his work of preparing the plates with a hopeful anticipation of the Resurrection: “I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead” (Moroni 10:34).

You and I are blessed to learn from the benedictory teachings and testimonies of latter-day prophets and apostles. The names today are not Nephi, Jacob, and Moroni—but President Faust, President Hinckley, Elder Wirthlin, Elder Perry, President Packer, and Elder Scott.

I am not suggesting the final messages of these beloved men necessarily were the most noteworthy or important of their ministries. However, the sum of their spiritual learning and life experiences enabled these leaders to emphasize eternal truths with absolute authenticity and great, penetrating power.

President James E. Faust

In his last general conference address, in April of 2007, President Faust declared:

“The Savior has offered to all of us a precious peace through His Atonement, but this can come only as we are willing to cast out negative feelings of anger, spite, or revenge. …

“Let us remember that we need to forgive to be forgiven. … With all my heart and soul, I believe in the healing power that can come to us as we follow the counsel of the Savior ‘to forgive all men’ [D&C 64:10]” (“The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 69).

President Faust’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and one of the most forgiving men I have ever known.

President Gordon B. Hinckley

President Hinckley testified in his last general conference in October of 2007: “I affirm my witness of the calling of the Prophet Joseph, of his works, of the sealing of his testimony with his blood as a martyr to the eternal truth. … You and I are faced with the stark question of accepting the truth of the First Vision and that which followed it. On the question of its reality lies the very validity of this Church. If it is the truth, and I testify that it is, then the work in which we are engaged is the most important work on the earth” (“The Stone Cut Out of the Mountain,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 86).

President Hinckley’s witness affirms a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and know was a prophet of God.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

Elder Wirthlin delivered his final general conference message in October of 2008.

“I still remember [my mother’s] advice to me given on that day long ago when my team lost a football game: ‘Come what may, and love it.’

“… Adversity, if handled correctly, can be a blessing in our lives. …

“As we look for humor, seek for the eternal perspective, understand the principle of compensation, and draw near to our Heavenly Father, we can endure hardship and trial. We can say, as did my mother, ‘Come what may, and love it’” (“Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 28).

Elder Wirthlin’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and who was a living sermon of overcoming difficulties through faith in the Savior.

Elder L. Tom Perry

Elder Perry stood at this pulpit just six months ago. At that time we could not have imagined his testimony would be his last in a general conference.

“Let me close by bearing witness (and my nine decades on this earth fully qualify me to say this) that the older I get, the more I realize that family is the center of life and is the key to eternal happiness.

“I give thanks for my wife, for my children, for my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren, and for … extended family who make my own life so rich and, yes, even eternal. Of this eternal truth I bear my strongest and most sacred witness” (“Why Marriage and Family Matter—Everywhere in the World,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 42).

Elder Perry’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and who understood through vast experience the essential relationship between family and eternal happiness.

President Boyd K. Packer

President Packer emphasized in general conference six months ago the Father’s plan of happiness, the Savior’s Atonement, and eternal families:

“I bear witness that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God. He stands at the head of the Church. Through His Atonement and the power of the priesthood, families which are begun in mortality can be together through the eternities. …

“I am so grateful for … the Atonement which can wash clean every stain no matter how difficult or how long or how many times repeated. The Atonement can put you free again to move forward, cleanly and worthily” (“The Plan of Happiness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 28).

President Packer’s final message is a lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and who emphatically and repeatedly declared that the purpose “of all activity in the Church is to see that a man and a woman with their children are happy at home, sealed together for time and for all eternity” (Ensign orLiahona, May 2015, 26).

Elder Richard G. Scott

Elder Scott proclaimed in his last general conference talk, in October 2014: “We came to mortal life precisely to grow from trials and testing. Challenges help us become more like our Father in Heaven, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible to endure those challenges. I testify that as we actively come unto Him, we can endure every temptation, every heartache, every challenge we face” (“Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority,”Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 94).

Elder Scott’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and a beloved special witness of the name of Christ in all the world (see D&C 107:23).

Promise and Testimony

The Savior declared, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). May we hear and heed the eternal truths taught by the Lord’s authorized representatives. As we do so, I promise our faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will be fortified, and we will receive spiritual guidance and protection for our specific circumstances and needs.

With all the energy of my soul, I witness the resurrected and living Christ directs the affairs of His restored and living Church through His servants who have been chosen to bear testimony of His name. I so testify in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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#BOMTC Alma 51-52: “A Little Kingdom I Possess”

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.

-Louisa M. Al­cott, cir­ca 1846

Captain Moroni and the Title of Liberty

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency said:

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.

President James E. Faust, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught:

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).

CS Lewis, There Is No Neutral Ground

“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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#BOMTC Alma 48-50: “No Less Serviceable”

“Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men. Behold, he was a man like unto Ammon, the son of Mosiah, yea, and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God. Now behold, Helaman and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni; for they did preach the word of God, and they did baptize unto repentance all men whosoever would hearken unto their words. And thus they went forth, and the people did humble themselves because of their words, insomuch that they were highly favored of the Lord, and thus they were free from wars and contentions among themselves, yea, even for the space of four years.” (Alma 48:17-20. Emphasis added.)

Today’s post comes complements of President Howard W. Hunter. It was well worth my time to study. I hope you enjoy it as well!

“No Less Serviceable”

(BY PRESIDENT HOWARD W. HUNTER, ENSIGN, APRIL 1992)

Howard W. Hunter

It was said of the young and valiant Captain Moroni: “If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.” (Alma 48:17.)

What a compliment to a famous and powerful man! I can’t imagine a finer tribute from one man to another. Two verses later is a statement about Helaman and his brethren, who played a less conspicuous role than Moroni: “Now behold, Helaman and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni.” (Alma 48:19.)

In other words, even though Helaman was not as noticeable or conspicuous as Moroni, he was as serviceable; that is, he was as helpful or useful as Moroni.

Obviously, we could profit greatly by studying the life of Captain Moroni. He is an example of faith, service, dedication, commitment, and many other godly attributes. Rather than focusing on this magnificent man, however, I have chosen to look instead at those who are not seen in the limelight, who do not receive the attention of the world, yet who are “no less serviceable,” as the scripture phrased it.

Not all of us are going to be like Moroni, catching the acclaim of our colleagues all day every day. Most of us will be quiet, relatively unknown folks who come and go and do our work without fanfare. To those of you who may find that lonely or frightening or just unspectacular, I say, you are “no less serviceable” than the most spectacular of your associates. You, too, are part of God’s army.

Consider, for example, the profound service a mother or father gives in the quiet anonymity of a worthy Latter-day Saint home. Think of the Gospel Doctrine teachers and Primary choristers and Scoutmasters and Relief Society visiting teachers who serve and bless millions but whose names will never be publicly applauded or featured in the nation’s media.

Tens of thousands of unseen people make possible our opportunities and happiness every day. As the scriptures state, they are “no less serviceable” than those whose lives are on the front pages of newspapers.

The limelight of history and contemporary attention so often focuses on the one rather than on the many. Individuals are frequently singled out from their peers and elevated as heroes. I acknowledge that this kind of attention is one way to identify that which the people admire or hold to be of some value. But sometimes that recognition is not deserved, or it may even celebrate the wrong values.

We must choose wisely our heroes and examples, while also giving thanks for those legions of friends and citizens who are not so famous but who are “no less serviceable” than the Moroni’s of our lives.

Perhaps you could consider with me some interesting people from the scriptures who did not receive the limelight of attention but who, through the long lens of history, have proven themselves to be truly heroic.

Many who read the story of the great prophet Nephi almost completely miss another valiant son of Lehi whose name was Sam. Nephi is one of the most famous figures in the entire Book of Mormon. But Sam? Sam’s name is mentioned there only ten times. When Lehi counseled and blessed his posterity, he said to Sam:

Sam, the Brother of Nephi

“Blessed art thou, and thy seed; for thou shalt inherit the land like unto thy brother Nephi. And thy seed shall be numbered with his seed; and thou shalt be even like unto thy brother, and thy seed like unto his seed; and thou shalt be blessed in all thy days.” (2 Ne. 4:11.)

Sam’s role was basically one of supporting and assisting his more acclaimed younger brother, and he ultimately received the same blessings promised to Nephi and his posterity. Nothing promised to Nephi was withheld from the faithful Sam, yet we know very little of the details of Sam’s service and contribution. He was an almost unknown person in life, but he is obviously a triumphant leader and victor in the annals of eternity.

Many make their contributions in unsung ways. Ishmael traveled with the family of Nephi at great personal sacrifice, suffering “much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue.” (1 Ne. 16:35.) Then in the midst of all of these afflictions, he perished in the wilderness. Few of us can even begin to understand the sacrifice of such a man in those primitive times and conditions. Perhaps if we were more perceptive and understanding, we too would mourn, as his daughters did in the wilderness, for what a man like this gave—and gave up!—so that we could have the Book of Mormon today.

The names and memories of such men and women who were “no less serviceable” are legion in the Book of Mormon. Whether it be Mother Sariah or the maid Abish, servant to the Lamanite queen, each made contributions that were unacknowledged by the eyes of men but not unseen by the eyes of God.

We have only twelve verses of scripture dealing with the life of Mosiah, king over the land of Zarahemla and father of the famous King Benjamin. Yet his service to the people was indispensable. He led the people “by many preachings and prophesyings” and “admonished [them] continually by the word of God.” (Omni 1:13.) Limhi, Amulek, and Pahoran—the latter of whom who had the nobility of soul not to condemn when he was very unjustly accused—are other examples of people who served selflessly in the shadow of others’ limelight.

The soldier Teancum, who sacrificed his own life, or Lachonius, the chief judge who taught people to repent during the challenge of the Gadiantons, or the virtually unmentioned missionaries Omner and Himni, were all “no less serviceable” than their companions, yet they received very little scriptural attention.

We don’t know much about Shiblon, the faithful son of Alma whose story is sandwiched between those of Helaman, the future leader, and Corianton, the transgressor; but it is significant that he is described as a “just man [who] did walk uprightly before God.” (Alma 63:2.) The great prophet Nephi, mentioned in the book of Helaman, had a brother named Lehi, who is seemingly mentioned only in passing but is noted as being “not a whit behind him [Nephi] as to things pertaining to righteousness.” (See Hel. 11:18–19.)

Of course, there are examples of these serviceable individuals in our dispensation as well. Oliver Granger is the kind of quiet, supportive individual in the latter days that the Lord remembered in section 117 of the Doctrine and Covenants. [D&C 117] Oliver’s name may be unfamiliar to many, so I will take the liberty to acquaint you with this early stalwart.

Oliver Granger was eleven years older than Joseph Smith and, like the Prophet, was from upstate New York. Because of severe cold and exposure when he was thirty-three years old, Oliver lost much of his eyesight. Notwithstanding his limited vision, he served three full-time missions. He also worked on the Kirtland Temple and served on the Kirtland high council.

When most of the Saints were driven from Kirtland, Ohio, the Church left some debts unsatisfied. Oliver was appointed to represent Joseph Smith and the First Presidency by returning to Kirtland to settle the Church’s business. Of this task, the Doctrine and Covenants records: “Therefore, let him contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church, saith the Lord.” (D&C 117:13.)

He performed this assignment with such satisfaction to the creditors involved that one of them wrote: “Oliver Granger’s management in the arrangement of the unfinished business of people that have moved to the Far West, in redeeming their pledges and thereby sustaining their integrity, has been truly praiseworthy, and has entitled him to my highest esteem, and every grateful recollection.” (Horace Kingsbury, as cited in Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 3:174.)

During Oliver’s time in Kirtland, some people, including disaffected members of the Church, were endeavoring to discredit the First Presidency and bring their integrity into question by spreading false accusations. Oliver Granger, in very deed, “redeemed the First Presidency” through his faithful service. In response, the Lord said of Oliver Granger: “His name shall be had in sacred remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever.” (D&C 117:12.) “I will lift up my servant Oliver, and beget for him a great name on the earth, and among my people, because of the integrity of his soul.” (History of the Church, 3:350.)

When he died in 1841, even though there were but few Saints remaining in the Kirtland area and even fewer friends of the Saints, Oliver Granger’s funeral was attended by a vast concourse of people from neighboring towns.

Though Oliver Granger is not as well known today as other early leaders of the Church, he was nevertheless a great and important man in the service he rendered to the kingdom. And even if no one but the Lord had his name in remembrance, that would be a sufficient blessing for him—or for any of us.

I think we should be aware that there can be a spiritual danger to those who misunderstand the singularity of always being in the spotlight. They may come to covet the notoriety and thus forget the significance of the service being rendered.

We must not allow ourselves to focus on the fleeting light of popularity or substitute that attractive glow for the substance of true but often anonymous labor that brings the attention of God, even if it does not get coverage on the six o’clock news. In fact, applause and attention can become the spiritual Achilles’ heels of even the most gifted among us.

If the limelight of popularity should fall on you sometime in your life, it might be well for you to follow the example of those in the scriptures who received fame. Nephi is one of the great examples. After all he accomplished traveling in the wilderness with his family, his attitude was still fixed on the things that matter most. He said:

“And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

“My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

“He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

“He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.” (2 Ne. 4:19–22.)

The limelight never blinded Nephi as to the source of his strength and his blessings.

At times of attention and visibility, it might also be profitable for us to answer the question, Why do we serve? When we understand why, we won’t be concerned about where we serve.

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., taught this vital principle in his own life. At general conference in April 1951, President David O. McKay was sustained as President of the Church after the passing of President George Albert Smith. Up to that time, President Clark had served as the First Counselor to President Heber

“In the service of the Lord, It is not where you serve, but how.” - J. Reuben Clark.

J. Grant and then to President George Albert Smith. President McKay had been the Second Counselor to both men.

 

During the final session of conference when the business of the Church was transacted, Brother Stephen L Richards was called to the First Presidency and sustained as First Counselor. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., was then sustained as the Second Counselor. After the sustaining of the officers of the Church, President McKay explained why he had chosen his counselors in that order. He said:

“I felt that one guiding principle in this choice would be to follow the seniority in the Council [of the Twelve]. These two men were sitting in their places in that presiding body in the Church, and I felt impressed that it would be advisable to continue that same seniority in the new quorum of the First Presidency.” (In Conference Report, 9 April 1951, p. 151.)

President Clark was then asked to speak following President McKay. His remarks on this occasion were brief but teach a powerful lesson: “In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one takes the place to which one is duly called, which place one neither seeks nor declines. I pledge to President McKay and to President Richards the full loyal devoted service to the tasks that may come to me to the full measure of my strength and my abilities and so far as they will enable me to perform them, however inadequate I may be.” (Ibid., p. 154.)

The lesson that President Clark taught is expressed in another way in this poem by Meade McGuire, which has been repeated many times:

Father, where shall I work today?”
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then He pointed out a tiny spot
And said, “Tend that for me.”
I answered quickly, “Oh no; not that!
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done;
Not that little place for me.”
And the word He spoke, it was not stern;
He answered me tenderly:
“Ah, little one, search that heart of thine.
Art thou working for them or for me?
Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.”

(Ensign, May 1986, p. 39.)

King Benjamin declared: “Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God. And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:16–17.)

President Ezra Taft Benson said recently: “Christlike service exalts. … The Lord has promised that those who lose their lives serving others will find themselves. The Prophet Joseph Smith told us that we should ’wear out our lives’ in bringing to pass His purposes. (D&C 123:13.)” (Ensign, Nov. 1989, pp. 5–6.)

If you feel that much of what you do does not make you very famous, take heart. Most of the best people who ever lived weren’t very famous, either. Serve and grow, faithfully and quietly. Be on guard regarding the praise of men. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

“Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

“That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (Matt. 6:1–4.)

May our Father in Heaven so reward you always.

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#BOMTC Alma 46-47: STANDards Help Us WithSTAND Evil

Helaman and Captain Moroni became the Nephites spiritual and military leaders, respectively. Some people who were angry with Helaman and his brethren chose to leave the Church and follow a wicked man named Amalickiah, who wanted to be king. Amalickiah selfishly pursued his unrighteous desires to become king using tactics that resembled those of Satan.  To help defend the liberty of the people, Moroni, who was the chief captain of the Nephite armies, tore his coat and used a piece of it to make a “Title of Liberty” to rally the people in defense of liberty (see Alma 46:10-36). Captain Moroni used Title of Liberty as a STANDard (see Alma 46:36) to help his people to be faithful to God and withSTAND evil during those perilous times. The Nephites who joined with Captain Moroni captured the army of Amalickiah. However, Amalickiah and a few others escaped and joined the Lamanites.

Amalackiah used many deceptive tactics to become king of the Lamanites so that he could lead the Lamanite army to war against the Nephites. His desire was to bring the Nephites into bondage and become their king. Amalackiah joined the Lamanites. The king of the Lamanites desired to go to battle against the Nephites, but many of his people were afraid. The king asked Amalackiah to force the fearful Lamanites to join the battle. Amalickiah marched to the mountain hideout where the deserters had fled. However, he did not want to help the king of the Lamanites. He sought to become the leader of the deserters by tricking Lehonti, their leader, into coming down off his mountain refuge. Amalickiah intended to kill Lehonti with poison after he came down (see Alma 47:10–19). As Amalickiah did with Lehonti, Satan seeks to destroy us and entices us “by degrees” to “come down” and lower our STANDards.


Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that people today may try to destroy our faith and testimony by tempting us to leave our places of spiritual safety and come into the devil’s territory:

Elder Robert D. Hales

“In the Book of Mormon, we read about Lehonti and his men camped upon a mount. The traitorous Amalickiah urged Lehonti to ‘come down’ and meet him in the valley. But when Lehonti left the high ground, he was poisoned ‘by degrees’ until he died, and his army fell into Amalickiah’s hands (see Alma 47). By arguments and accusations, some people bait us to leave the high ground. The high ground is where the light is. … It is the safe ground. It is true and where knowledge is” (“Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship,” Ensign, Nov. 2008).

Come Forth

We each have Captain Moroni’s and Amalickiah’s in our lives. The Captain Moroni’s show us that STANDing with our STANDards will help us to enjoy “liberty”. The Amalickiah’s in our lives seek to overthrow us by persistently persuading us to “come down” from our STANDards so that they can destroy us by “degrees”.

“In all ages prophets have looked down through the corridors of time to our day. Billions of the deceased and those yet to be born have their eyes on us. Make no mistake about it—this is a marked generation. There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time than there is of us. Never before on the face of this earth have the forces of evil and the forces of good been so well organized. Now is the great day of the devil’s power. But now is also the great day of the Lord’s power, with the greatest number of priesthood holders on the earth.

“Each day the forces of evil and the forces of good enlist new recruits. Each day we personally make many decisions showing the cause we support. The final outcome is certain—the forces of righteousness will win. But what remains to be seen is where each of us personally, now and in the future, will stand in this battle—and how tall we will stand. Will we be true to our last days and fulfill our foreordained missions?

“Great battles can make great heroes and heroines. We will never have a better opportunity to be valiant in a more crucial cause than in the battle we face today and in the immediate future. Some of the greatest battles we will face will be fought within the silent chambers of our own souls. David’s battles in the field against the foe were not as critical as David’s battles in the palace against a lustful eye.

“Each of us has his or her own battlefield. The tactics which the enemy will use against us will vary from time to time. He will seek to exploit our weak spots, so we must be alert to the devil’s devious designs—the subtle sins and clever compromises as well as the obvious offenses.

“We must remember that the devil seeks to make all men miserable like unto himself. We must also remember that the Lord loves us and seeks for us the fulness of joy which He enjoys. We must choose whom we will serve.

“Christ lived on earth and was subject to all manner of temptation, but He won every battle. He is the most successful warrior that ever walked the earth, and He wants to help us win every battle, be it personal or public. When we fall short, His atonement will compensate for us on condition of our repentance.

“Jesus knows His kingdom will triumph, and He wants us to triumph with it. He knows in advance every strategy the enemy will use against us and the kingdom. He knows our weaknesses and He knows our strengths. By personal revelation, we may discover some of our strengths through careful and prayerful study of our patriarchal blessing. In prayer we can ask Him to reveal to us our weaknesses so that we can amend our lives” (President Ezra Taft Benson“In His Steps”, Ensign, Sept. 1988).

#BOMTC Day 51, May 27~Alma 46-47 or Pages 322-328 I Am Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down

We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down

We cannot and we must not allow ourselves to get distracted from our sacred duty. We cannot and we must not lose focus on the things that matter most. (Text of the talk)

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#BOMTC Alma 43-45: More Than War!

Praying Soldier Armor of God

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).

The Dawning of a Brighter Day

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)

Enemy Territory

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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#BOMTC Alma 37-39: “The Lord’s Side of the Line”

George Albert Smith’s grandfather, George A. Smith, served for many years in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and in the First Presidency, as a counselor to Brigham Young. George Albert Smith often repeated the counsel his grandfather used to give to his family:

There is a line of demarcation well defined between the Lord’s territory and the devil’s territory. If you will stay on the Lord’s side of the line you will be under his influence and will have no desire to do wrong; but if you cross to the devil’s side of that line one inch you are in the tempter’s power and if he is successful, you will not be able to think or even reason properly because you will have lost the Spirit of the Lord.

George Albert Smith said that he used this counsel throughout his life to guide his choices:

When I have been tempted sometimes to do a certain thing, I have asked myself, ‘Which side of the line am I on?’ If I determined to be on the safe side, the Lord’s side, I would do the right thing every time. So when temptation comes think prayerfully about your problem and the influence of the Lord will aid you to decide wisely. There is safety for us only on the Lord’s side of the line.

“All safety, all righteousness, all happiness are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you are keeping the commandments of God by observing the Sabbath day, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you attend to your secret prayers and your family prayers, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you are grateful for food and express that gratitude to God, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you are honest in your dealing with your fellow men, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you observe the Word of Wisdom, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. And so I might go on through the Ten Commandments and the other commandments that God has given for our guidance and say again, all that enriches our lives and makes us happy and prepares us for eternal joy is on the Lord’s side of the line. Finding fault with the things that God has given to us for our guidance is not on the Lord’s side of the line.” (“Stay on the Lord’s Side of the Line“, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith)

Stay Within the Lines

There are many decisions we can make that are neither good nor evil (such as what color to paint our house, what to have for breakfast, and so forth). But when it comes to the Lord’s commandments, there is a line between the Lord’s territory and Satan’s territory (see 2 Nephi 28:21–23;Moroni 7:16–17)

The Lord's Side of the Line

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, taught, “The simple fact is this: anything that does not draw us closer to God takes us away from Him. We have no middle ground, no foggy gray area where we can sin a little without suffering spiritual decline. That is why we must repent and come to Christ daily on submissive knees so that we can prevent our bonfires of testimony from being snuffed out by sin” (Ensign, Nov. 1992).

Some people think of crossing the line as something like a line in the sand, where one crosses from one side to another on an equal plane. However, I believe that when we cross the line we are no longer on an equal plane, but rather dropping to a plane that is dramatically and dangerously lower. I think of crossing the line as crossing over the edge of a waterfall. President James E. Faust pointed out the same thing in his talk entitled, “The Devil’s Throat“:

“As a young man I served a mission to Brazil. It was a marvelous experience. One of the wonders of the world in that great country is Iguaçu Falls. In the flood season, the volume of water spilling over the brink is the largest in the world. Every few minutes, millions of gallons of water cascade into the chasm below. One part of the falls, where the deluge is the heaviest, is called the Devil’s Throat.

“There are some large rocks standing just above, before the water rushes down into Devil’s Throat. Years ago, reckless boatmen would take passengers in canoes to stand on those rocks and look down into the Devil’s Throat. The water above the falls is usually calm and slow moving, and the atmosphere tranquil. Only the roar of the water below forewarns of the danger lurking just a few feet away. A sudden, unexpected current could take a canoe into the rushing waters, over the cliff, and down into the Devil’s Throat. Those foolish enough to leave the canoes to stand on these treacherous wet rocks could so easily lose their footing and be swept away into the swirling currents below.

“I recognize that some of you think of yourselves as daredevils, ready to take on almost any challenge. But some of these excursions for excitement will inevitably take you down into the Devil’s Throat. The only safe course is to stay well away from the dangers of the Devil’s Throat.”

Just as the current becomes more swift and strong as one moves toward the brink of a waterfall, so we are drawn by the power of the adversary as we approach “the line”. This increased pull of the adversary is explained well in Elder Bruce C. Hafen’s talk, “A Disciple’s Journey” (This is one of my FAVORITE talks of all time! I highly recommend that you take some time to study it in its entirety.):

“A few years ago our teenage daughter was feeling quite unsettled, asking some very honest questions, such as “Why is life so hard?” As we talked over dinner one night, I prayed like a missionary for the right things to say. After all, our children are our most important investigators. In the very moment, I received a prompting about “gravitational pull.” I grabbed a paper napkin and drew a sketch I’d never thought of before. It sparked a lively discussion…

“I’d like to share with you today the ideas from that sketch on the napkin…. Let’s call this sketch “a disciple’s journey.”

“A disciple moves from darkness into light, which increases from the dim light of the stars to the moon and then to the brightness of the sun. Joseph Smith compared these heavenly bodies with the telestial, terrestrial, and celestial kingdoms. As the temple teaches, we can and should move toward that celestial light during mortality. We need not be of the world, even if we must live in the world.

“Imagine that two vertical lines separate the stars, moon, and sun into three sections. Each line suggests a major transition as we move from one stage to the next. However, our journey is not rigidly sequential. Our experiences may move us back and forth.

“Envision also two circles, each with a center point, located in stage one and in stage three. These circles represent the gravitational pull from the opposing poles of our journey. In the darkness of stage one, he who claims to be the god of this world exerts a constant force to hold us back from moving toward the light. As we cross the first barrier, we will leave the strongest satanic tugging—though he will always try to ensnare us wherever we are in the journey.

“Reaching out from the center of light in stage three, Jesus also “entices” us with a spiritual gravitational pull toward Him.”

“As soon as you start moving toward the light, the gravitational pull of darkness will immediately try to jerk you back, “for Satan desireth to have you.” He will tempt, frighten, and fight you. Missionaries know all about this. In some way, opposition hits virtually every investigator. The first time Adam and Eve taught their children the gospel, for example, Satan came among them, saying, “Don’t believe your parents.” And so the children, we’re told, “believed [them] not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish.” (“From that time forth” tells us that these children chose to be devilish after the Fall, after they heard that message. They were not born devilish.)

“Satanic opposition does have great power in today’s world. Satan holds “a great chain in his hand,” which symbolizes such addictions as drugs, alcohol, and pornography—and the prince of darkness looks up and laughs at the poor souls he captures.20

“But that opposition cannot destroy us. Remember Joseph praying in the grove: an enemy power, he said, bound his tongue so he “could not speak.” Remember Moses when he first saw his grand vision: “Satan came tempting him” until Moses feared exceedingly, and “he saw the bitterness of hell.” But both Joseph and Moses called upon God, who gave them power to drive Satan away. That is a key insight: Satan may rattle us, but he cannot overcome us, for God can cast him from our presence.”

Alma 39 contains the scriptural basis for today’s discussion. Although there are a LOT of things that I would LOVE to focus on in Alma 37, 38, and 39, the principle of finding safety on the Lord’s side of the line is the one thing that it seems the world, and I, really need to work on. It hit me hard as I came across the words of Alma to his son Corianton:

Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel.” (see Alma 39:1-5, emphasis added).

Had Corianton stayed away from “the borders of the Lamanites” he may have never crossed paths with Isabel. He may have heard of her, but he probably would have never met her. He sought her out, and he found her–among the boarders of the enemy.

Stay on “the Lord’s side of the line”! Stay upstream from the brink of the waterfall–“The Devil’s Throat”!! Stay far away from “the boarders of the Lamanites”!!! STAY SAFE, BY STAYING WITHIN THE BOUNDS THE LORD HAS SET!

Within Bounds

Chastity: What Are the Limits?

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#BOMTC Alma 34-36: YOMO Not YOLO

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 YOMOYou’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

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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