Tag Archives: war

#BOMTC Ether 13-15: New Jerusalem–ZION as a Pattern for LIFE

There is a lot of bad stuff that happens in Ether 13-15, and it is not very fun to read about. The prophet Ether told the Jaredite king, Coriantumr, that his people would be destroyed because of their wickedness, and he admonished Coriantumr and his people to repent. When they refused to repent, war and wickedness escalated for many years until the entire Jaredite nation was destroyed. Only Ether and Coriantumr survived to witness the fulfillment of Ether’s prophecy.

#BOMTC Day 82, June 27~Ether 13-15 or Pages 513-518, Coriantumr Kills Shiz

The Last of the Jaredites: Coriantumr and Shiz

CAUTION: This short film would probably be rated PG-13

IF you watch this film about the last battle of Coriantumr and Shiz, you will notice a scriptural content error at the end. Understandably, it was most likely an intentional artistic edit to increase the drama of the already dramatic battle.

 

The prophet Ether’s record of the Jaredite civilization serves as a witness that those who reject the Lord and His prophets will not prosper. These chapters are also a fulfillment of God’s decree that “whatsoever nation shall possess [the land of promise] shall serve God, or they shall be swept off” (Ether 2:9).

However, what I would like to focus on in these chapters is great to learn about–NEW JERUSALEM (Ether 13:1-12). I love to learn and teach about New Jerusalem!

The Guide to the Scriptures, one of the study helps of the LDS scriptures, teaches the following about New Jerusalem:

The place where the Saints will gather and Christ will personally reign with them during the Millennium. Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent, and the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory (A of F 1:10). It also refers to a holy city that will come down out of heaven at the beginning of the Millennium.

#BOMTC Day 82, June 27~Ether 13-15 or Pages 513-518, New Jerusalem

New Jerusalem is mentioned in each of the books of scripture used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. In order to get a good understanding of New Jerusalem it is important to see what each book teaches about this holy city.

Where I find real relevance and immediate personal application for New Jerusalem–the City of Zion–is in the plat that was created by Joseph Smith for the organization of the holy city (History of the Church, Vol. 1 Chapter 26 [June 1833- July 1833]).

Plat of Zion with 24 temples at the center of New Jerusalem

This plat became the model for the early Saints as they built their first settlements. At the center of the plat of Zion for New Jerusalem there are 24 temples! Everything in the city is built around and focused on the temple. To help understand the relevance of this in one’s life it is important to remember that the temple is a symbol of the Savior. So if I am patterning my life after the plat of Zion, I am not just creating a temple-centered life, but rather a temple-centered life is a Christ-centered life.

I live in Salt Lake County, Utah. Salt Lake was surveyed and laid out according to the Zion plat pattern. The base and meridian points are found at Temple Square. When I give people my home address I am actually telling them how far my home is from the Salt Lake City Temple. For those who are not familiar with Salt Lake City, I will use the words of a visiting tourist who posted the following on his website:

#BOMTC Day 82, June 27~Ether 13-15 or Pages 513-518, salt lake city base and meridian

The Great Salt Lake Base and Meridian

When the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley after their epic journey across the continent, and Brigham Young proclaimed that, “Here we will build a temple to our God,” in 1847, it was at this exact spot [Base & Meridian stone]. A stake was placed into the ground immediately and it became the anchor for the LDS headquarters and all of their activities thereafter.

Great Salt Lake Base and Meridian Marker Photo, Click for full size

This same method also allows me to find my way to the temple by simply reversing the cardinal directions of most local addresses. If I am at Rice-Eccles Stadium (451 S 1400 E, Salt Lake City), then I just need to travel four-and-a-half blocks North and then 14 blocks West and I will arrive at the Salt Lake temple.

temple square mormon

Have you ever noticed what is on the cover of each of the booklets prepared for latter-day youth? The temple is on the cover of the For the Strength of Youth, Personal Progress, and Duty to God booklets. Again, remember that the temple is a symbol of the Savior.

ZION, the City of New Jerusalem, not only “sets forth an orderly pattern intended as an earthly reflection of the ideal religious community” (Far West Plat Reflects Inspired City Plan) but also a pattern for a Christ-centered lifestyle.

THE SAVIOR IS AT THE CENTER! Those who will build their lives around the temple will find that they have centered their lives on the Savior. They will become citizens of New Jerusalem before it is even built, and they will receive the wages of the “laborer in Zion“.

There is a simple symbol that is found in the Kirtland Temple that uses a similar theme to convey this same lesson of Savior-centered living.

DC 94, Kirtland Temple Concentric Squares

The concentric squares that are found on the interior decor of the arched windows of the Kirtland Temple are a simple and significant symbol that are said to represent sacred space with increasing zones of holiness.

DC 94, Kirtland Temple Concentric Squares

The squares represent the temple as a sanctuary from the world with areas in the temple being holier and holier, similar to the ancient temple’s outer court, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies. The following diagram of the layout of the Tabernacle of the Congregation is a good illustration of this.

Diagram of the Tabernacle of the Congregation with commentary notes

Diagram of the Tabernacle of the Congregation with commentary notes

The Tabernacle (Exodus 25-30)

A video explaining the Tabernacle and its importance.

Even the order of the Camp of Israel in the wilderness is an illustration of this symbol of sacred space with it’s increasing zones of holiness. The Tabernacle was at the center of the camp and was surrounded by the priesthood-bearing Levites, and the Levites were surrounded by the other Tribes of Israel.

Organization of the Camp of Israel (Numbers 1-10)

Organization of the Camp of Israel (Numbers 1-10)

These simple squares that symbolize sacred space should also represent our lives and serve as a pattern of priorities for this life. I invite you to discover how this symbol of concentric squares can help you to improve your life by placing Christ at the center. Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk entitled, “Good, Better, Best” that may be helpful for you to study and how each of the three concentric squares can represent those things in your life that are, “good, better, best” and ponder how to prioritized the the many aspect of your life using this pattern of the plat of Zion. If New Jerusalem is a pattern for you, then what do you need to do to become “NEW”?

Good, Better, Best

Most of us have more things expected of us than we can possibly do. As breadwinners, as parents, as Church workers and members, we face many choices on what we will do with our time and other resources.

I.
We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.

Jesus taught this principle in the home of Martha. While she was “cumbered about much serving” (Luke 10:40), her sister, Mary, “sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word” (v. 39). When Martha complained that her sister had left her to serve alone, Jesus commended Martha for what she was doing (v. 41) but taught her that “one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (v. 42). It was praiseworthy for Martha to be “careful and troubled about many things” (v. 41), but learning the gospel from the Master Teacher was more “needful.” The scriptures contain other teachings that some things are more blessed than others (see Acts 20:35; Alma 32:14–15).

A childhood experience introduced me to the idea that some choices are good but others are better. I lived for two years on a farm. We rarely went to town. Our Christmas shopping was done in the Sears, Roebuck catalog. I spent hours poring over its pages. For the rural families of that day, catalog pages were like the shopping mall or the Internet of our time.

Something about some displays of merchandise in the catalog fixed itself in my mind. There were three degrees of quality: good, better, and best. For example, some men’s shoes were labeled good ($1.84), some better ($2.98), and some best ($3.45).1

As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.

Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best. When the Lord told us to seek learning, He said, “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom” (D&C 88:118; emphasis added).

II.
Some of our most important choices concern family activities. Many breadwinners worry that their occupations leave too little time for their families. There is no easy formula for that contest of priorities. However, I have never known of a man who looked back on his working life and said, “I just didn’t spend enough time with my job.”

In choosing how we spend time as a family, we should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best. A friend took his young family on a series of summer vacation trips, including visits to memorable historic sites. At the end of the summer he asked his teenage son which of these good summer activities he enjoyed most. The father learned from the reply, and so did those he told of it. “The thing I liked best this summer,” the boy replied, “was the night you and I laid on the lawn and looked at the stars and talked.” Super family activities may be good for children, but they are not always better than one-on-one time with a loving parent.

The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.

Family experts have warned against what they call “the overscheduling of children.” In the last generation children are far busier and families spend far less time together. Among many measures of this disturbing trend are the reports that structured sports time has doubled, but children’s free time has declined by 12 hours per week, and unstructured outdoor activities have fallen by 50 percent.2

The number of those who report that their “whole family usually eats dinner together” has declined 33 percent. This is most concerning because the time a family spends together “eating meals at home [is] the strongest predictor of children’s academic achievement and psychological adjustment.”3 Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children’s smoking, drinking, or using drugs.4 There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents: what your children really want for dinner is you.

President Gordon B. Hinckley has pleaded that we “work at our responsibility as parents as if everything in life counted on it, because in fact everything in life does count on it.”

He continued: “I ask you men, particularly, to pause and take stock of yourselves as husbands and fathers and heads of households. Pray for guidance, for help, for direction, and then follow the whisperings of the Spirit to guide you in the most serious of all responsibilities, for the consequences of your leadership in your home will be eternal and everlasting.”5

The First Presidency has called on parents “to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles. … The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place … in … this God-given responsibility.” The First Presidency has declared that “however worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform.”6

III.
Church leaders should be aware that Church meetings and activities can become too complex and burdensome if a ward or a stake tries to have the membership do everything that is good and possible in our numerous Church programs. Priorities are needed there also.

Members of the Quorum of the Twelve have stressed the importance of exercising inspired judgment in Church programs and activities. Elder L. Tom Perry taught this principle in our first worldwide leadership training meeting in 2003. Counseling the same leaders in 2004, Elder Richard G. Scott said: “Adjust your activities to be consistent with your local conditions and resources. … Make sure that the essential needs are met, but do not go overboard in creating so many good things to do that the essential ones are not accomplished. … Remember, don’t magnify the work to be done—simplify it.”7

In general conference last year, Elder M. Russell Ballard warned against the deterioration of family relationships that can result when we spend excess time on ineffective activities that yield little spiritual sustenance. He cautioned against complicating our Church service “with needless frills and embellishments that occupy too much time, cost too much money, and sap too much energy. … The instruction to magnify our callings is not a command to embellish and complicate them. To innovate does not necessarily mean to expand; very often it means to simplify. … What is most important in our Church responsibilities,” he said, “is not the statistics that are reported or the meetings that are held but whether or not individual people—ministered to one at a time just as the Savior did—have been lifted and encouraged and ultimately changed.”8

Stake presidencies and bishoprics need to exercise their authority to weed out the excessive and ineffective busyness that is sometimes required of the members of their stakes or wards. Church programs should focus on what is best (most effective) in achieving their assigned purposes without unduly infringing on the time families need for their “divinely appointed duties.”

But here is a caution for families. Suppose Church leaders reduce the time required by Church meetings and activities in order to increase the time available for families to be together. This will not achieve its intended purpose unless individual family members—especially parents—vigorously act to increase family togetherness and one-on-one time. Team sports and technology toys like video games and the Internet are already winning away the time of our children and youth. Surfing the Internet is not better than serving the Lord or strengthening the family. Some young men and women are skipping Church youth activities or cutting family time in order to participate in soccer leagues or to pursue various entertainments. Some young people are amusing themselves to death—spiritual death.

Some uses of individual and family time are better, and others are best. We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.

IV.
Here are some other illustrations of good, better, and best:

It is good to belong to our Father in Heaven’s true Church and to keep all of His commandments and fulfill all of our duties. But if this is to qualify as “best,” it should be done with love and without arrogance. We should, as we sing in a great hymn, “crown [our] good with brotherhood,”9 showing love and concern for all whom our lives affect.

To our hundreds of thousands of home teachers and visiting teachers, I suggest that it is good to visit our assigned families; it is better to have a brief visit in which we teach doctrine and principle; and it is best of all to make a difference in the lives of some of those we visit. That same challenge applies to the many meetings we hold—good to hold a meeting, better to teach a principle, but best to actually improve lives as a result of the meeting.

As we approach 2008 and a new course of study in our Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Societies, I renew our caution about how we use the Teachings of Presidents of the Church manuals. Many years of inspired work have produced our 2008 volume of the teachings of Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of this dispensation. This is a landmark among Church books. In the past, some teachers have given a chapter of the Teachings manuals no more than a brief mention and then substituted a lesson of their own choice. It may have been a good lesson, but this is not an acceptable practice. A gospel teacher is called to teach the subject specified from the inspired materials provided. The best thing a teacher can do with Teachings: Joseph Smith is to select and quote from the words of the Prophet on principles specially suited to the needs of class members and then direct a class discussion on how to apply those principles in the circumstances of their lives.

I testify of our Heavenly Father, whose children we are and whose plan is designed to qualify us for “eternal life … the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7; see also D&C 76:51–59). I testify of Jesus Christ, whose Atonement makes it possible. And I testify that we are led by prophets, our President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1. Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog, Fall and Winter 1944–45, 316E.
2. See Jared R. Anderson and William J. Doherty, “Democratic Community Initiatives: The Case of Overscheduled Children,” Family Relations, vol. 54 (Dec. 2005): 655.
3. Anderson and Doherty, Family Relations, 54:655.
4. See Nancy Gibbs, “The Magic of the Family Meal,” Time, June 12, 2006, 51–52; see also Sarah Jane Weaver, “Family Dinner,” Church News, Sept. 8, 2007, 5.
5. “Each a Better Person,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2002, 100.
6. First Presidency letter, Feb. 11, 1999; printed in Church News, Feb. 27, 1999, 3.
7. “The Doctrinal Foundation of the Auxiliaries,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 10, 2004, 5, 7–8; see also Ensign, Aug. 2005, 62, 67.
8. “O Be Wise,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2006, 18–20.
9. “America the Beautiful,” Hymns, no. 338.

If what I have written has either confused your or left you wanting to learn more, then I would encourage you to review the following sites. They are some of my favorites (just a few of my favorites on this that have not been mentioned yet). Please feel free to leave a link to one of your favorites, or one that you feel is informative on this topic, in the comments section.

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#BOMTC Helaman 1-3: The Beginning of the End

The events in the book of Helaman begin at about 52 B.C. At this point in our reading we have about 30% still left in the Book of Mormon, but as Mormon points out, the secret combinations that were being organized at that time would lead to the eventual overthrow of Nephite nation (Hel. 2:13-14).

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming” (“The Savior’s Visit to America“, Ensign, May 1987). One of the major points emphasized in this book is the evil caused by secret combinations.

Satan LOVES secrets! Many times we keep something a secret in an effort to save ourselves in some way.  But secrets do not save us; they enslave us! We become a slave to a secret. We would do well to understand what Mormon teaches us about secret combinations so that we can recognize modern-day secret combinations and do everything in our power to combat them–especially the secret combinations that we may produce in our own lives.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles warned of the dangers of secret combinations in our day:

“The Book of Mormon teaches that secret combinations engaged in crime present a serious challenge, not just to individuals and families but to entire civilizations. Among today’s secret combinations are gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime families. The secret combinations of our day function much like the Gadianton robbers of the Book of Mormon times. … Among their purposes are to ‘murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God’ (Helaman 6:23).

“If we are not careful, today’s secret combinations can obtain power and influence just as quickly and just as completely as they did in Book of Mormon times. …

“The Book of Mormon teaches that the devil is the ‘author of all sin’ and the founder of these secret combinations (Helaman 6:30). … His purpose is to destroy individuals, families, communities, and nations (see 2 Nephi 9:9). To a degree, he was successful during Book of Mormon times. And he is having far too much success today. That’s why it is so important for us… to take a firm stand for truth and right by doing what we can to help keep our communities safe.

“… [We can] ‘stand as witnesses of God’ by [1] setting an example, [2] keeping Church standards, and [3] sharing our testimony with those around us (see Mosiah 18:9)” (“Standing for Truth and Right,” Ensign, Nov. 1997).

Bro Simon Bonus:

My “current favorite” verses from the Book of Mormon come from Helaman 3:27–30. Mormon often used the phrases “thus we may see,” “thus we see,” and “we see” to point out truths he wanted us to learn. In Helaman 3:27–30 these phrases are used a number of times. What message do you think Mormon wants you to take away from these verses?

27 Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.

28 Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.

29 Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—

30 And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.

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#BOMTC Alma 59-61: “But It Mattereth Not”

Choose Not to Be Offended

“During a perilous period of war, an exchange of letters occurred between Moroni, the captain of the Nephite armies, and Pahoran, the chief judge and governor of the land. Moroni, whose army was suffering because of inadequate support from the government, wrote to Pahoran ‘by the way of condemnation’ (Alma 60:2) and harshly accused him of thoughtlessness, slothfulness, and neglect. Pahoran might easily have resented Moroni and his message, but he chose not to take offense. Pahoran responded compassionately and described a rebellion against the government about which Moroni was not aware. And then he responded, ‘Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. … And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart’ (Alma 61:2, 9) (Elder David A. Bednar, “And Nothing Shall Offend Them“, Ensign, Nov. 2006. Emphasis added.).

WOW!!! If only we could have, “but it mattereth not,” attitudes in such situations. How many misunderstandings, grudges, conflicts, offenses, etc. could be avoided with a simple, “but it mattereth not“?

I invite you to ponder some profound principles from Elder David A. Bednar on this matter of “but it mattereth not”. The weird thing about his message is that you will have to make sure that you are not be offended by it. He is very tactful, but also very direct. ENJOY!!!

“And Nothing Shall Offend Them”

This afternoon I pray that the Holy Ghost will assist me and you as we review together important gospel principles.

One of my favorite activities as a priesthood leader is visiting members of the Church in their homes. I especially enjoy calling upon and talking with members who commonly are described as “less active.”

During the years I served as a stake president, I often would contact one of the bishops and invite him to prayerfully identify individuals or families we could visit together. Before traveling to a home, the bishop and I would kneel and petition our Heavenly Father for guidance and inspiration, for us and for the members with whom we would meet.

Our visits were quite straightforward. We expressed love and appreciation for the opportunity to be in their home. We affirmed that we were servants of the Lord on His errand to their home. We indicated that we missed and needed them—and that they needed the blessings of the restored gospel. And at some point early in our conversation I often would ask a question like this: “Will you please help us understand why you are not actively participating in the blessings and programs of the Church?”

I made hundreds and hundreds of such visits. Each individual, each family, each home, and each answer was different. Over the years, however, I detected a common theme in many of the answers to my questions. Frequently responses like these were given:

“Several years ago a man said something in Sunday School that offended me, and I have not been back since.”

“No one in this branch greeted or reached out to me. I felt like an outsider. I was hurt by the unfriendliness of this branch.”

“I did not agree with the counsel the bishop gave me. I will not step foot in that building again as long as he is serving in that position.”

Many other causes of offense were cited—from doctrinal differences among adults to taunting, teasing, and excluding by youth. But the recurring theme was: “I was offended by …”

The bishop and I would listen intently and sincerely. One of us might next ask about their conversion to and testimony of the restored gospel. As we talked, eyes often were moist with tears as these good people recalled the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost and described their prior spiritual experiences. Most of the “less-active” people I have ever visited had a discernible and tender testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. However, they were not presently participating in Church activities and meetings.

And then I would say something like this. “Let me make sure I understand what has happened to you. Because someone at church offended you, you have not been blessed by the ordinance of the sacrament. You have withdrawn yourself from the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Because someone at church offended you, you have cut yourself off from priesthood ordinances and the holy temple. You have discontinued your opportunity to serve others and to learn and grow. And you are leaving barriers that will impede the spiritual progress of your children, your children’s children, and the generations that will follow.” Many times people would think for a moment and then respond: “I have never thought about it that way.”

The bishop and I would then extend an invitation: “Dear friend, we are here today to counsel you that the time to stop being offended is now. Not only do we need you, but you need the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Please come back—now.”

Choose Not to Be Offended

When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.

In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13–14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation.

Thomas B. Marsh, the first President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation, elected to take offense over an issue as inconsequential as milk strippings (see Deseret News, Apr. 16, 1856, 44). Brigham Young, on the other hand, was severely and publicly rebuked by the Prophet Joseph Smith, but he chose not to take offense (see Truman G. Madsen, “Hugh B. Brown—Youthful Veteran,” New Era, Apr. 1976, 16).

In many instances, choosing to be offended is a symptom of a much deeper and more serious spiritual malady. Thomas B. Marsh allowed himself to be acted upon, and the eventual results were apostasy and misery. Brigham Young was an agent who exercised his agency and acted in accordance with correct principles, and he became a mighty instrument in the hands of the Lord.

The Savior is the greatest example of how we should respond to potentially offensive events or situations.

“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9).

Through the strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you and I can be blessed to avoid and triumph over offense. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).

A Latter-Day Learning Laboratory

The capacity to conquer offense may seem beyond our reach. This capability, however, is not reserved for or restricted to prominent leaders in the Church like Brigham Young. The very nature of the Redeemer’s Atonement and the purpose of the restored Church are intended to help us receive precisely this kind of spiritual strength.

Paul taught the Saints in Ephesus that the Savior established His Church “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12–13).

Please note the use of the active word perfecting. As described by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, the Church is not “a well-provisioned rest home for the already perfected” (“A Brother Offended,” Ensign, May 1982, 38). Rather, the Church is a learning laboratory and a workshop in which we gain experience as we practice on each other in the ongoing process of “perfecting the Saints.”

Elder Maxwell also insightfully explained that in this latter-day learning laboratory known as the restored Church, the members constitute the “clinical material” (see “Jesus, the Perfect Mentor,” Ensign, Feb. 2001, 13) that is essential for growth and development. A visiting teacher learns her duty as she serves and loves her Relief Society sisters. An inexperienced teacher learns valuable lessons as he teaches both supportive and inattentive learners and thereby becomes a more effective teacher. And a new bishop learns how to be a bishop through inspiration and by working with ward members who wholeheartedly sustain him, even while recognizing his human frailties.

Understanding that the Church is a learning laboratory helps us to prepare for an inevitable reality. In some way and at some time, someone in this Church will do or say something that could be considered offensive. Such an event will surely happen to each and every one of us—and it certainly will occur more than once. Though people may not intend to injure or offend us, they nonetheless can be inconsiderate and tactless.

You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people. However, we do determine how we will act. Please remember that you and I are agents endowed with moral agency, and we can choose not to be offended.

During a perilous period of war, an exchange of letters occurred between Moroni, the captain of the Nephite armies, and Pahoran, the chief judge and governor of the land. Moroni, whose army was suffering because of inadequate support from the government, wrote to Pahoran “by the way of condemnation” (Alma 60:2) and harshly accused him of thoughtlessness, slothfulness, and neglect. Pahoran might easily have resented Moroni and his message, but he chose not to take offense. Pahoran responded compassionately and described a rebellion against the government about which Moroni was not aware. And then he responded, “Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. … And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart” (Alma 61:2, 9).

One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended—and to say with Pahoran, “it mattereth not.”

Two Invitations

I conclude my message with two invitations.

Invitation #1

I invite you to learn about and apply the Savior’s teachings about interactions and episodes that can be construed as offensive.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. …

“For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

“And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43–44, 46–48).

Interestingly, the admonition to “be ye therefore perfect” is immediately preceded by counsel about how we should act in response to wrongdoing and offense. Clearly, the rigorous requirements that lead to the perfecting of the Saints include assignments that test and challenge us. If a person says or does something that we consider offensive, our first obligation is to refuse to take offense and then communicate privately, honestly, and directly with that individual. Such an approach invites inspiration from the Holy Ghost and permits misperceptions to be clarified and true intent to be understood.

Invitation #2

Many of the individuals and families who most need to hear this message about choosing not to be offended are probably not participating with us in conference today. I suspect all of us are acquainted with members who are staying away from church because they have chosen to take offense—and who would be blessed by coming back.

Will you please prayerfully identify a person with whom you will visit and extend the invitation to once again worship with us? Perhaps you could share a copy of this talk with her or him, or you may prefer to discuss the principles we have reviewed today. And please remember that such a request should be conveyed lovingly and in meekness—and not in a spirit of self-righteous superiority and pride.

As we respond to this invitation with faith in the Savior, I testify and promise that doors will open, our mouths will be filled, the Holy Ghost will bear witness of eternal truth, and the fire of testimony will be rekindled.

As His servant, I echo the words of the Master when He declared, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended” (John 16:1). I witness the reality and divinity of a living Savior and of His power to help us avoid and overcome offense. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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#BOMTC Alma 56-58: Modern-day Stripling Warriors

The young men that we refer to as “Stripling Warriors” were the sons of the converted Lamanites known as Ammonites (the People of Ammon, or the Anti-Nephi-Lehies) who became warriors under the prophet Helaman’s military charge (Alma 53:16-22; see also #BOMTC Alma 53-55,  Follow the Prophet!).

As pointed out in my previous post, we may give Helaman and these young men more physical credit than we do spiritual credit. The word “stripling” means, “a young man”. The only other attributes that are really mentioned about these young men are all of a spiritual nature. Their prophet/captain Helaman considered them worthy to be called his sons (See Alma 56:10), their mothers had taught them not to doubt the Lord’s ability to deliver them (See Alma 56:47), and they defeated the Lamanites and were preserved by their faith such that none were slain (See Alma 56:52–54, 56Alma 57:26).

These scriptures teach us that the young men had never fought in battle before but that they had not entered into the same covenant as their parents to not fight in war. If the Nephites considered them to be under the age of accountability, then that covenant would probably have excluded children under age eight (See D&C 68:25).

Some suppose that Helaman’s “stripling” warriors may have been about 20 years old because that was the minimum age for Israelite soldiers according to the Law of Moses (see Numbers 1:3).  According to the timetable of the book of Alma and an article in the Ensign, These “stripling warriors” could have ranged in age from twenty (using the law of Moses as the standard for the time) to about twenty-two (those who could have been about seven years old when the oath was taken by their parents) in the twenty-sixth year of the judges. Three years later, sixty young men joined Helaman’s two thousand stripling warriors (see Alma 57:6), perhaps having reached the age for military service. By the time that Helaman wrote his epistle to Moroni (see Alma 56:1), it seems possible that his youngest soldiers perhaps were age twenty-one, and his eldest, twenty-six.

Regardless of their age or stature, there is much that can be learned from the faith of these fine young men that is relevant to our lives today. Perhaps one of the most common “likenings” for this story is with today’s missionaries–sometimes referred to as “God’s Army”. Elder M. Russell Ballard gave what has become a landmark talk called, “The Greatest Generation of Missionaries“. I invite you to watch/listen/read it and see if there is something that stands out to you that can help you in life’s battles.

In one of the most powerful and instructive stories from the Book of Mormon, the people of Ammon had covenanted never again to take up weapons for the shedding of blood. But “when they saw the danger, and the many afflictions … which the Nephites bore for them, they were moved with compassion and were desirous to take up arms in the defence of their country” (Alma 53:13). Helaman and his brethren persuaded them to honor their covenant with the Lord.

The scriptural account doesn’t tell us who first pointed out that their sons had not made the same covenant their parents had made. I like to think that it was one of the young men who suggested the possibility that he and his peers be allowed to “take up arms, and [call] 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” (Alma 53:16–17).

This was an extraordinary task for a group of 2,000 young men, but they were extraordinary young men. According to the scriptural record: “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” (Alma 53:20–21).

The rest of the story tells how these young men fought valiantly against the much older and much more experienced Lamanite army. According to their leader, Helaman, “They … fought as if with the strength of God; … and with such mighty power did they fall upon the Lamanites, that they did frighten them; and for this cause did the Lamanites deliver themselves up as prisoners of war” (Alma 56:56).

Imagine that! These inexperienced young men were so spiritually and physically prepared, and so powerful, that they frightened their foes into surrendering! Although all 2,000 of the young men were wounded in battle at one time or another, not one was killed (see Alma 57:25). Again quoting Helaman, “And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe—that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his marvelous power” (Alma 57:26).

Brethren, today we are fighting a battle that in many ways is more perilous, more fraught with danger than the battle between the Nephites and the Lamanites. Our enemy is cunning and resourceful. We fight against Lucifer, the father of all lies, the enemy of all that is good and right and holy. Truly we live in a time of which Paul prophesied, when “men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

“Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

“… lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:2–5).

Does this sound familiar, brethren? To me it sounds like a night of prime-time television.

These are “perilous times.” We battle literally for the souls of men. The enemy is unforgiving and relentless. He is taking eternal prisoners at an alarming rate. And he shows no sign of letting up.

While we are profoundly grateful for the many members of the Church who are doing great things in the battle for truth and right, I must honestly tell you it still is not enough. We need much more help. And so, as the people of Ammon looked to their sons for reinforcement in the war against the Lamanites, we look to you, my young brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood. We need you. Like Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors, you also are the spirit sons of God, and you too can be endowed with power to build up and defend His kingdom. We need you to make sacred covenants, just as they did. We need you to be meticulously obedient and faithful, just as they were.

What we need now is the greatest generation of missionaries in the history of the Church. We need worthy, qualified, spiritually energized missionaries who, like Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors, are “exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity” and who are “true at all times in whatsoever thing they [are] entrusted” (Alma 53:20).

Listen to those words, my young brethren: valiant, courage, strength, active, true. We don’t need spiritually weak and semicommitted young men. We don’t need you to just fill a position; we need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate missionaries who know how to listen to and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t a time for spiritual weaklings. We cannot send you on a mission to be reactivated, reformed, or to receive a testimony. We just don’t have time for that. We need you to be filled with “faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 4:5).

As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I call upon you to begin right now—tonight—to be fully and completely worthy. Resolve and commit to yourselves and to God that from this moment forward you will strive diligently to keep your hearts, hands, and minds pure and unsullied from any kind of moral transgression. Resolve to avoid pornography as you would avoid the most insidious disease, for that is precisely what it is. Resolve to completely abstain from tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs. Resolve to be honest. Resolve to be good citizens and to abide by the laws of the land in which you live. Resolve that from this night forward you will never defile your body or use language that is vulgar and unbecoming to a bearer of the priesthood.

And that is not all we expect of you, my young brethren. We expect you to have an understanding and a solid testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We expect you to work hard. We expect you to be covenant makers and covenant keepers. We expect you to be missionaries to match our glorious message.

Now these are high standards. We understand that, but we do not apologize for them. They reflect the Lord’s standards for you to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, to enter the temple, to serve as missionaries, and to be righteous husbands and fathers. There’s nothing new in them, nothing you haven’t heard before. But tonight we call upon you, our young brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood, to rise up, to measure up, and to be fully prepared to serve the Lord.

Many of you are already on this track, and we commend you for your worthiness and determination. For those of you who are not, let tonight be the beginning of your preparation process. If you find yourself wanting in worthiness, resolve to make the appropriate changes—beginning right now. If you think you need to talk to your father and your bishop about any sins you may have committed, don’t wait; do it now. They will help you to repent and change so you can take your place as a member of the greatest generation of missionaries.

Please understand this: the bar that is the standard for missionary service is being raised. The day of the “repent and go” missionary is over. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you, my young brothers? Some young men have the mistaken idea that they can be involved in sinful behavior and then repent when they’re 18 1/2 so they can go on their mission at 19. While it is true that you can repent of sins, you may or you may not qualify to serve. It is far better to keep yourselves clean and pure and valiant by doing such simple things as:

• Developing a meaningful prayer relationship with your Heavenly Father.

• Keeping the Sabbath day holy.

• Working and putting part of your earnings in a savings account.

• Paying a full and honest tithing.

• Limiting the amount of time spent playing computer games. How many kills you can make in a minute with a computer game will have zero effect on your capacity to be a good missionary.

• Giving the Lord more of your time by studying the scriptures and gaining an understanding of the marvelous message of the Restoration that we have for the world.

• Serving others and sharing your testimony with them.

Now, fathers, you have a vital role in this preparation process. We know that the most profound influence on helping young men prepare for the Melchizedek Priesthood, marriage, and fatherhood is the family. If your sons understand the basic doctrines required to become a faithful father, they will surely be ready to serve as a full-time missionary. Unfortunately, far too many fathers abdicate this eternal responsibility. You may assume that the bishop and the seminary, Sunday School, and Young Men teachers and leaders are in a better position to motivate and inspire your sons than you are. That simply is not the case. While ecclesiastical leaders are important to your son’s priesthood and missionary preparation, the Church exists as a resource to you. It is not a substitute for your inspired teaching, guidance, and correction.

Consequently, if we are “raising the bar” for your sons to serve as missionaries, that means we are also “raising the bar” for you. If we expect more of them, that means we expect more of you and your wife as well. Remember, Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors were faithful because “they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” (Alma 53:21)—and that instruction came in their homes.

Some fathers don’t think they have the right to ask worthiness questions of their children. They think that is the purview of the bishop alone. Fathers, not only do you have the right to know the worthiness of your children, you have the responsibility. It is your duty to know how your children are doing with regards to their spiritual well-being and progression. You need to monitor carefully the issues and concerns they share with you. Ask specific questions of your children regarding their worthiness, and refuse to settle for anything less than specific answers.

Too often our bishops have to instruct youth to talk to their parents about problems they are having. That procedure should actually flow the other direction. Parents should be so intimately aware of what is going on in their children’s lives that they know about the problems before the bishop does. They should be counseling with their children and going with them to their bishops if that becomes necessary for complete repentance. As divinely appointed judges in Israel, the bishop and the stake president determine worthiness and resolve concerns on behalf of the Church; but, fathers, you have an eternal responsibility for the spiritual welfare of your children. Please assume your rightful place as counselor, adviser, and priesthood leader in preparing your sons to bear the Melchizedek Priesthood and to serve as missionaries.

Now, a word to you bishops. I realize there are many young men who don’t have a faithful father in their home. In these cases, use the resources of the Church to see that these Aaronic Priesthood holders are taught by Melchizedek Priesthood brethren who can help them to prepare for their future priesthood service. Upon you bishops and you stake presidents rests the responsibility to recommend only those young men and women whom you judge to be spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to face today’s realities of missionary work. Brethren, judge wisely and remember: not every young man needs to be called to serve away from his home; some may best serve under your direction as ward missionaries.

To those of you who are currently serving as full-time missionaries, we thank you for your service. Tonight is a good time for each of you to take a close look at your performance; and if you are not measuring up, your mission president will help you make the necessary changes to be an effective, dedicated servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, to those of you who have already served, please remember that you were released from your missions but not from the Church. You spent two years as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. We expect you to always look and act like one of His disciples. Look the part. Act the part. Don’t follow worldly trends and fashions. You are better than that. If you have slipped, then do what is necessary to regain your spiritual balance. The rules for happiness and success after your mission are pretty much the same as they were during your mission: pray hard, work hard, and be obedient. Get busy now and find your eternal companion to enjoy life with. Serve the Lord together, and raise up the next great generation.

My brethren, I have spoken plainly tonight. I hope you can feel the love and the concern that emanates from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other Church leaders as we ask you to prepare now to join us in taking the blessings of the restored gospel to all the people on the earth. Each one of you is precious, and we want you to be successful and secure in the battle for the souls of our Heavenly Father’s children. May God bless you with the courage to be “true at all times” (Alma 53:20) and with the vision to realize who you are and what the Lord has for you to do, I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Here is a fun little activity called, “An interview with Helaman and his Stripling Warriors,” that some people have used for Sharing Time and Family Home Evening.

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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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