In this episode the Mormon Chronicle interviews James and Hannah Stoddard of The Joseph Smith Foundation. The Joseph Smith Foundation released the documentary, “For Our Day: Covenant on the Land“ in April, 2013. “For Our Day: Covenant on the Land” explores the prophetic parallels in the Book of Mormon, referencing statements from latter-day prophets of God and the Standard Works. For Our Day: Covenant on the Land discusses the covenant on the Promised Land for both ancient and modern inhabitants.
In this episode the Mormon Chronicle interviews the Founder of The Joseph Smith Foundation, James Stoddard, as well as the co-writer and director of For Our Day: Covenant on the Land, Hannah Stoddard. They talk about the history of the Joseph Smith Foundation, their projects past, present and future, controversy surrounding some of their efforts and so much more.
Type: Talk or speech
Author: Joseph Fielding Smith
This speech was given by Joseph Fielding Smith at BYU on May 06, 1958
[http://speeches-files.byu.edu/download.php/Smith_JosephFld_051958.mp3?type=2&fname=Smith_JosephFld_051958.mp3 Download Entire Book (zip or mp3) ]
Type: Audio Book
Author: Bruce R. McConkie
Bruce R. McConkie was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 2 December 1975.
I have prayed and pondered earnestly to learn what the Lord wants me to say on this occasion. In the early hours of the morning, as I tossed and turned in bed and kept my wife awake, I concluded upon a subject. I shall talk, if I am properly guided by the Spirit, about what I consider in some respects to be the third greatest miracle that has ever occurred in all eternity. This miracle is of such a nature and of such moment that its accomplishment was attended by a heavenly choir, who sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). It was attended by an angelic visitant who proclaimed to all of earth’s inhabitants that “unto [us] is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). It is clear that, if we are to consider this matter, we need a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I need it so that what is said may be expressed discreetly and wisely and in harmony with the mind and will of the Lord, and you need it so that the thoughts expressed will sink into your hearts and you will have a feeling of their eternal verity.
The Three Greatest Miracles of Eternity
As I analyze and view the matter, it seems to me that the greatest miracle that ever occurred was the miracle of creation: the fact that God, our Heavenly Father, brought us into being, the fact that we exist; that we were born as his spirit children; and that now we are privileged to abide in mortal tabernacles and partake of a probationary experience.
It seems to me that the second greatest miracle that has ever occurred, in this or any of God’s creations, is the atoning sacrifice of his Son; the fact that he came into the world to ransom men from the temporal and spiritual death brought into existence by the fall of Adam; the fact that he is reconciling us again to God and making immortality and eternal life available to us. This atoning sacrifice of Christ is the greatest thing that has even happened since the creation.
You probably know that the Prophet was once asked, “What are the fundamental principles of your religion?” He responded:
The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it. [Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 121]
The very heart and core and center of revealed religion is the atoning sacrifice of Christ. All things rest upon it, all things are operative because of it, and without it there would be nothing. Without it the purposes of creation would be void, they would vanish away, there would be neither immortality nor eternal life, and the ultimate destiny of all men would be to become as Lucifer and his followers are.
The underlying foundation upon which the atoning sacrifice of Christ rests is the doctrine of divine sonship, by which we mean that the Lord Jesus, the firstborn spirit child of the Father, having been foreordained to his mission, was born into this world, on the one hand as the Son of God, inheriting thus from his Father the power of immortality; and that he was born, on the other hand, as the offspring of a mortal women, inheriting from Mary, his mother, the power of mortality. Thus he became the only person who has ever lived who had the power within himself to either live or die as he chose–and therefore the power to work out the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice upon which all things rest. It seems to me that it would be appropriate on this occasion–as we come into the Christmas period, when we gladly and joyously join with all Christendom in commemorating the traditional day of his birth–for us to talk about the doctrine of his coming into mortality. This is what I consider, in many respects, to be the third greatest miracle of eternity.
Messianic Texts in the Scriptures
There are several texts that we might take. One text is the great messianic utterance of Isaiah, which he couched in these simple words: “Who shall declare his generation?” (Isaiah 53:8). This means, “Who will give his genesis? Who will reveal his genealogy? Who will give the source from whence he sprang? Who will announce the divinity of the mortal Messiah?” We might also take another text, and this is one that Jesus himself spoke. He said, “Whose son is he?” This is the context: “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, the son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand till I make thine enemies thy footstool?’ (Matthew 22:4244).
Whose son is he? Is he the son of a mortal father and a mortal mother? Is he the Son of God? Is he separate and apart from all mankind by virtue of the birth that was his? Who shall declare his generation? We have an account in the New Testament that begins, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ” (Matthew 1:1). Then Matthew proceeds to outline what appears to be the ancestry of the Lord, but we can’t quite figure out how it fits in with other scriptural passages, at least in the form it has come to us. Luke gives another account that does not agree with that in the book of Matthew. We suppose it may be that one of them is a kingly, royal genealogy, intended to indicate his position and place as the one to sit upon the throne of his father, David; the other is possibly a genealogy either of Mary or Joseph–we can’t be sure. The commentaries of the world talk about the virgin birth as being “pious fiction.” No one, they say, could have been born that way; it was something which Matthew assumed, and so it became a tradition in the early Church. This matter of genealogy, this matter of the birth of our Lord, is at the heart of Christendom. Thanks be to God that by the opening of the heavens and by revelation in our day we have gained an understanding of what is involved. As a result we can put the atoning sacrifice in its proper position and relationship to all things, and then we are in a position to work out our salvation and do the things that we must do if we are to inherit peace and happiness in this life and go on to eternal glory in the life to come.
Whose son is he? He is the firstborn spirit child of God, our Heavenly Father. There is no possible way to conceive of the genealogy, the genesis, the generation of Christ, without knowing that God our Father is a personal being in whose image we are created; that he has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s–the father of the spirits of all men. The Lord Jesus, the great Jehovah, the creator of all things under the Father, is the firstborn of all that spirit host.
In that premortal life our Father ordained and established a plan of salvation named the gospel of God, which plan was to enable his spirit children, Christ included, to advance and progress and become like him. In that day he issued a great cry, a great proclamation went forth through the councils of eternity, with reference to the Father’s plan. He said, “Whom shall I send to be my Son, to work out the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice? Whom shall I send to be born into mortality, inheriting from me the power of immortality? Whom shall I send to lay down his life for the sins of men and to reconcile fallen man to me?” When that great cry went forth, as you know, there were two volunteers. One stepped forward, the firstborn of the Father, the Lord Jesus, and said, “Here am I. Send me. I will be thy son. I will do thy will. I will follow thy plan, do all things in harmony with that which thou hast ordained.” There was another volunteer, and he said, “Here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, . . . and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1)–that is, “Let me replace you and be exalted and most noble of all the persons who live and are.” Well, the decree was issued: “I will send the first” (Abraham 3:27), and that was the day when there was war in heaven, as you know.
The first volunteer was the Lord Jesus Christ; he then became the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the one appointed to come down and do all things needed to put in operation his Father’s plan. Now from that day, from the day of creation on, the prophets foretold his coming and ministry. We call these prophetic utterances messianic prophecies, as for instance, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Or, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever” (Isaiah 9:67).
How many sermons were preached in ancient Israel on these messianic texts we can only imagine. The most perfect prophecies and the greatest sermons are found in the Book of Mormon. Here is a sermon-prophecy that an angel spoke to a Nephite prophet:
For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.
And he shall cast out devils, or evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.
And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.
And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary. [Mosiah 3:58]
Accounts of the Savior’s Birth
In due course, at the appointed time, in the fulness of the Lord’s own time, the Savior was born into the world. Who shall declare his generation? We have attempts made by prophetic writers of old. Matthew says, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:18). And then he recites what happened and quotes the prophetic utterance of Isaiah about the virgin birth. Let me read you the kindred passage in the book of Luke, this one spoken by Gabriel to Mary:
The angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with god.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.
He shall be great, and shall be called the son of the Highest; and the Lord god shall give him the throne of his father David:
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the highest shall over-shadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the son of God. [Luke 1:3035]
Now I take those two statements–one written by Matthew and the other by Luke–not perhaps perfectly transcribed and recorded for us in their present form, and I add these words spoken by Alma as the Holy Ghost moved upon him. Alma, as we shall see, will tie together what Matthew and Luke have written and give us the accurate and perfect perspective as to the generation of the Lord Jesus. He said:
Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth.
And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem, which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God. [Alma 7:910]
Now I shall call your attention to one other passage, and then we shall see if we know the answer to our query, “Who shall declare his generation?” This passage is from that wondrous marvelous vision that Nephi had. He said:
I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.
And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God? [If an angel had asked that of you, what would your answer have been? Nephi was a little hesitant. He knew in part, but not in full.]
And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me again, bearing a child in her arms.
And the angel said unto me: Behold the lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! [1 Nephi 11:1321]
Who shall declare his generation? Whose son is he? Well, now it is perfectly clear. On the one hand he is the son of God, the God who said in messianic vein, “thou are my son; this day have I begotten thee” (Psalms 2:7). On the other hand, he is the son of David and the son of Mary. He inherited from his Father the power of immortality and from his mortal ancestors the power of mortality. How do we know this? How can it be established? We are dealing with spiritual things. Matthew says his book is the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, and he records the facts. He says there was a virgin birth; but the whole world–Christians, so-called–contends and is uncertain and has difficult feelings about this passage. Some say, “Yes, he was born of a virgin,” and others say, “It was a pious tradition.” Then we read the Book of Mormon account, and we discover what the perfect rendition of the doctrine is. Whose son is he and how do you know? Paul said a very impressive thing: “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Corinthians 12:3). The Prophet improved this by saying: “No man can know that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”
Testimony of the Savior’s Genealogy
Who shall declare his generation? Whose son is he? We have been called out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ. We have been called to the place where the heavens are opened, where the gifts of the Holy Ghost are poured out bounteously, abundantly, upon all the members of the Church who seek the Lord in integrity and uprightness of heart. We have the gifts of the Spirit, we have the gift of revelation, and we know what is involved in these things. Every member of the Church has had the hands of a legal administrator placed upon his head, and the decree issued: “Receive the Holy Ghost.” This means that we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead, based on faithfulness.
Who shall declare his generation? His generation can be declared only by living witnesses who have had the revelation of the Holy Ghost which certifies to their souls that Jesus is the Lord. There is no possible way to know that he is Christ above all, that all power is resident in him, that he is God’s Son, except by the process and means of revelation. Peter received a personal revelation as he stood in the presence of the Lord, and it came by the power of the Holy Ghost. He certified, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), and received a blessing from the Lord for the witness that he had borne.
Now, if we want to know who is going to declare his generation, the answer is that it is the Latter-day Saints; it is the elders of Israel; it is the prophets and apostles who minister among us; and it is all of those among us who have lived in such a manner that we know by the whisperings of the Holy Ghost to the spirit within us that there is eternal verity, that these things are true. You can be one, as well as I can be one, who declares the generation of Jesus Christ, who gives his genealogy, who comes to know in his heart by a power that is beyond intellectuality, he is the Lord, that God is the Father; and this is the beginning of a course of personal righteousness. Unless and until we know that Jesus is the Lord and that God is his Father, we do not have testimonies of the truth and divinity of the work. In our day a testimony is to know, number one, that Jesus is the Lord, which is the doctrine of the divine sonship. It is to know, number two, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and a revealer of the knowledge of Christ and of salvation for us in our day. And it is, number three, to know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.
Now, I am just one among you. There are thousands of us here congregated in the spirit of worship. I have been speaking and you listening, and the Spirit of the Lord has been present. I have given utterance to truths that are eternal, that will endure to all ages, that are the great foundation upon which the cause of truth and righteousness rests. Those truths have sunk into the hearts of all of you who have been endowed with the same Spirit, and you know as I know that they are true.
Now, in conclusion, I, acting as voice, as mouth as it were for you, declare the generation of the Lord Jesus, his genesis, the source from which he sprang: He is God’s son. He was born into this world after the manner of the flesh, with God as his father and Mary as his mother, inheriting the powers of mortality and immortality thereby. He was thus able to work out the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice. He was thus able to bow in that garden outside Jerusalem’s walls, that garden called Gethsemane, and take upon himself the sins of all men on conditions of repentance. That act is the greatest miracle of all time since the miracle of creation, and underlying it is the event which we celebrate with the world this coming season, the birth of our Lord into mortality. Is it any wonder that angelic choir sang, “Glory to God on high, and peace to men”? That is the message we proclaim at this season, and we do it with a sure knowledge whereof we speak, and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Type: Talk or speech
Author: Bruce R. McConkie
Bruce R. McConkie was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 10 January 1984.
I think I’ll take as a text what we just sang:
Glory to God on high!
Let heav’n and earth reply;
Praise ye his name!
His love and grace adore,
Who all our sorrows bore;
Sing aloud evermore,
Worthy the Lamb!
[James Allen, “Glory to God on High,” Hymns no. 44]
I wonder how many of us are aware of one of the great religious phenomena of the ages, one that is now sweeping through Protestant Christianity, as only one other thing has ever done in the whole Christian Era.
We are silent witnesses of an almost worldwide religious craze that had its birth in the minds of a few great religious reformers nearly five hundred years ago and which is now receiving a new birth of freedom and influence.
May I divorce myself for a moment from the mainstream of present-day evangelical Christianity, swim upstream as it were, and give forth some rather plain and pointed expression on this supposedly marvelous means of being saved with very slight effort.
The Original Heresy
But before zeroing in on this religious mania that has now taken possession of millions of devout but deluded people, and as a means of keeping all things in perspective, let me first identify the original heresy that did more than anything else to destroy the primitive Christianity.
This first and chief heresy of a now fallen and decadent Christianity–and truly it is the father of all heresies–swept through all of the congregations of true believers in the early centuries of the Christian Era; it pertained then and pertains now to the nature and kind of being that God is.
It was the doctrine, adapted from Gnosticism, that changed Christianity from the religion in which men worshipped a personal God, in whose image man is made, into the religion in which men worshipped a spirit essence called the Trinity. This new God, no longer a personal Father, no longer a personage of tabernacle, became an incomprehensible three-in-one spirit essence that filled the immensity of space.
The adoption of this false doctrine about God effectively destroyed the true worship among men and ushered in the age of universal apostasy. The dominant church then became a political power, ruling autocratically over kingdoms and empires as well as over her own congregations. Salvation, as was then supposed, was administered by the church through the seven sacraments.
The Second Greatest Heresy
Nearly a millennium and a half later, during the sixteenth century, as the Reformation grew out of the Renaissance, as a means of breaking the hold of the dominant church, the great Christian reformers lit a new doctrinal fire. That fire, burning wildly over the dry and arid prairies of religious autocracy, is what really prepared the way for the restoration of the gospel in modern times.
It was nonetheless the doctrinal fire–the burning, flaming, heretical fire–that became the second greatest heresy of Christendom, because it effectively destroyed the efficacy and power of the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ by whom salvation comes.
The first great heresy, sweeping like a prairie fire through the struggling branches of a newly born Christianity, destroyed the worship of the true God. And the second, a heresy originating in the same courts of darkness, destroyed that very atonement of God’s only Son.
This second heresy–and it is the delusion and mania that prevails to this day in the great evangelical body of Protestantism–is the doctrine that we are justified by faith alone, without the works of the law. It is the doctrine that we are saved by grace alone, without works. It is the doctrine that we may be born again simply by confessing the Lord Jesus with our lips while we continue to live in our sins.
We have all listened to sermons by the great revivalists and self-appointed prophets of the various radio and television ministries. Whatever the subjects of their sermons may be, they always end with an invitation and a plea for people to come forward and confess the Lord Jesus and receive the cleansing power of his blood.
Television broadcasts of these sermons always show arenas or coliseums or stadiums filled with people, scores and hundreds and thousands of whom go forward to make their confessions, to become born-again Christians, to be saved with all they suppose this includes.
While driving along a highway in my car, I was listening to the radio sermon of one of these evangelists who was preaching of salvation by grace alone. He said all anyone had to do to be saved was to believe in Christ and perform an affirmative act of confession.
Among other things he said: “If you are traveling in a car, simply reach forth your hand and touch your car radio, thus making contact with me, and then say, ‘Lord Jesus, I believe,’ and you will be saved.”
Unfortunately, I did not accept his generous invitation to gain instant salvation; and so I suppose my opportunity is lost forever!
Interwoven with this concept is the doctrine that the elect of God are predestined to be saved regardless of any act on their part, which, as I suppose, is part of the reason a Lutheran minister once said to me: “I was saved two thousand years ago, and there is nothing I can do about it one way or the other now,” meaning that he thought he was saved by the blood of Christ shed on Calvary, without any works or effort on his part.
The Example of Martin Luther
Here is an account of how Martin Luther himself came to believe the doctrine of justification by faith alone; it is an ideal illustration of why this doctrine has such wide appeal.
A friendly biographer tells us: Luther “was much concerned about his personal salvation and given to gloomy reflections over his sinful condition,” so much so that “he fell dangerously ill, and was seized with a fit of despair.” Also:
No one surpassed him in prayer, fasting, night watches, self-mortification. He was . . . a model of sanctity. But . . . he found no peace and rest in all his pious exercises. . . . He saw sin everywhere. . . . He could not trust in God as a reconciled Father, as a God of love and mercy, but trembled before him, as a God of wrath, as a consuming fire. . . . It was sin as an all-pervading power and vitiating principle, sin as a corruption of nature, sin as an alienation from God and hostility to God that weighed on his mind like an incubus and brought him to the brink of despair.
While in this state, he gained
the conviction that the sinner is justified by faith alone, without the works of the law. . . . This experience acted like a new revelation on Luther. It shed light upon the whole Bible and made it to him a book of life and comfort. He felt relieved of the terrible load of guilt by an act of free grace. He was led out of the dark prison house of self-inflicted penance into the daylight and fresh air of God’s redeeming love. Justification broke the fetters of legalistic slavery, and filled him with the joy and peace of the state of adoption; it opened to him the very gates of heaven. [Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 7, pp. 111, 116–17, 122–24]
So says Luther’s biographer.
It should be perfectly clear to all of us that Luther’s break with Catholicism was part of the divine program; it came as an Elias preparing the way for the Restoration. But this does not in any sense put a stamp of divine approval on the doctrine he devised to justify the break in his own mind.
A Modern-Day Example
I received a letter from a returned missionary whom I shall call Elder Carnalus Luciferno, for no one in his right mind would have such a name, and my correspondent was certainly out of his mind.
His letter told me of his own conversion, of his service as a zone leader in the mission field, and of making many converts. But after returning home, as he expressed it, “I returned to my old Gentile ways.”
After thus ceasing to be a true Saint, and becoming a genuine Gentile, he met some representatives of another church who taught him that we are saved by grace, without works, simply by believing in the Lord Jesus.
Thereupon he was saved, and his letter, which he sent to many people, was an invitation to these others to believe in Christ and be saved as he was saved.
Later I said to his mission president, “Tell me about Elder Carnalus Luciferno.”
“Oh,” he said, “Elder Carnalus Luciferno was a good missionary who made many converts. But since returning home he has been excommunicated.”
“Oh,” I said. “What was his problem?”
The mission president replied, “Before he joined the Church, he was a homosexual, and we understood that since his release he has reverted to his old ways.”
The Strait and Narrow Way
Now, let us reason together on this matter of being saved without the need to do the works of righteousness. Did you ever wonder why our missionaries convert one of a city and two of a family while the preachers of this doctrine of salvation by grace alone gain millions of converts?
Does it seem strange to you that we wear out our lives in bringing one soul unto Christ, that we may have joy with him in the kingdom of the Father, while our evangelist colleagues cannot even count their converts so great is their number?
Why are those who come to hear the message of the Restoration numbered in the hundreds and thousands, rather than in the hundreds of thousands?
May I suggest that the difference is between the strait and narrow way, which few find, and the broad way, “that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” (Matthew 7:13–14).
All men must have and do have some way of worship–call it what you will–be it Christianity or Communism or Buddhism or atheism, or the wandering ways of Islam. I repeat: All men must and do worship; this inclination is given them by their Creator as a natural gift and endowment. The Light of Christ is shed forth upon all mankind; all men have a conscience and know by instinct the difference between good and evil; it is inherent in the human personality to seek and worship a divine being of some sort.
As we are aware, since the Fall all men have become carnal, sensual, and devilish by nature; they have become worldly; and their inclination is to live after the manner of the flesh and satisfy their lusts and appetites.
Accordingly, anytime men can devise a system of worship that will let them continue to live after the manner of the world, to live in their carnal and fallen state, and at the same time one which will satisfy their innate and instinctive desires to worship, such, to them, is a marvelous achievement.
Salvation by Grace
Now, there is a true doctrine of salvation by grace–a salvation by grace alone and without works, as the scriptures say. To understand this doctrine we must define our terms as they are defined in holy writ.
1. What is salvation? It is both immortality and eternal life. It is an inheritance in the highest heaven of the celestial world. It consists of the fullness of the glory of the Father and is reserved for those for whom the family unity continues in eternity. Those who are saved become as God is and live as he lives.
2. What is the plan of salvation? It is the system ordained by the Father to enable his spirit children to advance and progress and become like him. It consists of three great and eternal verities–the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement–without any of which there could be no salvation.
3. What is the grace of God? It is his mercy, his love, and his condescension–all manifest for the benefit and blessing of his children, all operating to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
We rejoice in the heavenly condescension that enabled Mary to become “the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh” (1 Nephi 11:18).
We bask in the eternal love that sent the Only Begotten into the world “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
We are profoundly grateful for that mercy which endureth forever and through which salvation is offered to erring mortals.
4. Does salvation come by grace, or grace alone, by grace without works? It surely does, without any question in all its parts, types, kinds, and degrees.
We are saved by grace, without works; it is a gift of God. How else could it come?
In his goodness and grace the great God ordained and established the plan of salvation. No works on our part were required.
In his goodness and grace he created this earth and all that is on it, with man as the crowning creature of his creating–without which creation his spirit children could not obtain immortality and eternal life. No works on our part were required.
In his goodness and grace he provided for the Fall of man, thus bringing mortality and death and a probationary estate into being–without all of which there would be no immortality and eternal life. And again no works on our part were required.
In his goodness and grace–and this above all–he gave his Only Begotten Son to ransom man and all life from the temporal and spiritual death brought into the world by the Fall of Adam.
He sent his Son to redeem mankind, to atone for the sins of the world, “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). And again all this comes to us as a free gift and without works.
There is nothing any man could do to create himself. This was the work of the Lord God.
Nor did we have any part in the Fall of man, without which there could be no salvation. The Lord provided the way, and Adam and Eve put the system into operation.
And finally, there neither has been, nor is, nor ever can be any way nor means by which man alone can, or any power he possesses, redeem himself.
We cannot resurrect ourselves anymore than we can create ourselves. We cannot create a heavenly abode for the Saints, nor make provision for the continuation of the family unit in eternity, nor bring salvation and exaltation into being. All these things are ordained and established by that God who is the Father of us all. And they all came into being and are made available to us, as free gifts, without works, because of the infinite goodness and grace of Him whose children we are.
Truly, there is no way to overstate the goodness and grandeurs and glories of the grace of God which bringeth salvation. Such wondrous love, such unending mercy, such infinite compassion and condescension–all these can come only from the Eternal God who lives in eternal life and who desires all of his children to live as he lives and be inheritors of eternal life.
Teaching in the Early Church
Knowing these things, as did Paul and our fellow apostles of old, let us put ourselves in their position. What words shall we choose, to offer to the world the blessings of a freely given atoning sacrifice?
On the one hand, we are preaching to Jews who, in their lost and fallen state, have rejected their Messiah and who believe that they are saved by the works and performances of the Mosaic law.
On the other and, we are preaching to pagans–Romans, Greeks, those in every nation–who know nothing whatever about the Messianic word, or of the need for a Redeemer, or of the working out of the infinite and eternal atonement. They worship idols, the forces of nature, the heavenly bodies, or whatever suits their fancy. As with the Jews, they assume that this or that sacrifice or appeasing act will please the Deity of their choice and some vague and unspecified blessings will result.
Can either the Jews or the pagans be left to assume that the works they do will save them? Or must they forget their little groveling acts of petty worship, gain faith in Christ, and rely on the cleansing power of his blood for salvation?
They must be taught faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and to forsake their traditions and performances. Surely we must tell them they cannot be saved by the works they are doing, for man cannot save himself. Instead they must turn to Christ and rely on his merits and mercy and grace.
Teaching by Abinadi
Abinadi struggled with this same problem in his contentions with the priests and people of Noah. They had the law of Moses, with its various rites and performances, but they knew nothing of the Atoning One. And so Abinadi asked, “Doth salvation come by the law of Moses? What say ye? And they answered and said that salvation did come by the law of Moses” (Mosiah 12:31).
After teaching them some of the great truths of salvation, Abinadi answered his own question: “Salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses” (Mosiah 13:28). Salvation is not in works–not even in those revealed of God–but in Christ and his atonement.
Now let us suppose a modern-day case. Suppose we have the scriptures, the gospel, the priesthood, the Church, the ordinances, the organization, even the keys of the kingdom–everything that now is down to the last jot and tittle–and yet there is no atonement of Christ. What then? Can we be saved? Will all our good works save us? Will we be rewarded for all our righteousness?
Most assuredly we will not. We are not saved by works alone, no matter how good; we are saved because God sent his Son to shed his blood in Gethsemane and on Calvary that all through him might ransomed be. We are saved by the blood of Christ.
To paraphrase Abinadi: “Salvation doth not come by the Church alone: and were it not for the atonement, given by the grace of God as a free gift, all men must unavoidably perish, and this notwithstanding the Church and all that appertains to it.”
Let us now come to the matter of whether we must do something to gain the blessings of the atonement in our lives. And we find the answer written in words of fire and emblazoned across the whole heavens; we hear a voice speaking with the sound of ten thousand trumpets; the very heavens and the earth are moved out of their place so powerful is the word that goes forth. It is the message that neither men, nor angels, nor the Gods themselves can proclaim with an undue emphasis.
This is the word: Man cannot be saved by grace alone; as the Lord lives, he must keep the commandments; he must work the works of righteousness; he must work out his salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord; he must have faith like the ancients–the faith that brings with it gifts and signs and miracles.
“Ye Must Press Forward”
Does it suffice to believe and be baptized without more? The answer is, No, in every language and tongue. Rather, after belief, after repentance, after baptism,
Ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
And now, behold, . . . this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. [2 Nephi 31:20–21]
John, the beloved apostle, promises the Saints eternal life with the Father on this condition,
If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. [1 John 1:7]
The blood of Christ was shed as a free gift of wondrous grace, but the Saints are cleansed by the blood after they keep the commandments.
Nowhere has this ever been taught better than in these words of the risen Lord to his Nephite brethren:
And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;
Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day. [3 Nephi 27:19–22]
Men must be doers of the word, not hearers only; they must do the very works that Christ did; and those who have true and saving faith in him accomplish this very end.
Our Day’s Need: Correct Interpretation
In our day, among other Christians at least, we are not faced with the problems of our predecessors. They had to show that any works then being performed were of no avail without the atonement, that salvation was in Christ and his spilt blood, and that all men must come unto him to be saved.
Our need in today’s world, in which Christians assume there was an atonement, is to interpret the scriptures properly and to call upon men to keep the commandments so as to become worthy of the cleansing power of the blood of the Lamb.
Hear, then, the word of the Lord Jesus:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. [Matthew 7:21]
And it is the will of the Father–as a thousand scriptures attest–that all men everywhere must endure to the end, must keep the commandments, must work out their salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord, or they can in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.
How well Nephi said,
Believe in Christ, and . . . be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. [2 Nephi 25:23]
Gospel Call to Righteousness
Salvation by grace alone and without works, as it is taught in large segments of Christendom today, is akin to what Lucifer proposed in preexistence–that he would save all mankind and one soul should not be lost. He would save them without agency, without works, without any act on their part.
As with the proposal of Lucifer in the preexistence to save all mankind, so with the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, without works, as it is taught in modern Christendom–both concepts are false. There is no salvation in either of them. They both come from the same source; they are not of God.
We believe and proclaim that it is life eternal to know the only wise and true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. Let men worship whomsoever they will, but there is no salvation in worshipping any God but the true God.
We believe and proclaim that salvation is in Christ, in his gospel, in his atoning sacrifice. We are bold to say it comes by the goodness and grace of the Father and the Son. No people on earth praise the Lord with greater faith and fervor than we do because of th is goodness and grace.
As the Lord’s agents, as his servants, as ambassadors of Christ–sent by him, sent to speak in his place instead, sent to say what he would say if he personally were here–we testify that no man, as long as the earth shall stand, or the heavens endure, or God continues as God, no man shall ever be saved in the kingdom of God, in the celestial kingdom of heaven, without doing the works of righteousness.
As far as man is concerned, the great and eternal plan of salvation is:
1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; faith in him as the Son of God; faith in him as the Savior and Redeemer who shed his blood for us in Gethsemane and on Calvary;
2. Repentance of all our sins–thus forsaking the world and its carnal course; thus turning from the broad way that leads to destruction; thus preparing for the spiritual rebirth into the kingdom of God;
3. Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; baptism under the hands of a legal administrator who has power to bind on earth and seal in heaven–thus planting our feet firmly on the strait and narrow path leading to eternal life;
4. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost–thus enabling us to be baptized with fire; to have sin and evil burned out of our souls as though by fire; to be sanctified so as to stand pure and spotless before the Lord at the last day; and
5. Enduring to the end in righteousness, keeping the commandments, and living by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.
Thus saith the Lord:
He who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come. [D&C 59:23]
As God is true, and Christ is the Savior, and the Holy Ghost is their minister and witness, such is the plan of salvation, and there neither is nor ever shall be any other.
Let those in the world think and act as they please; let us, the Saints of God who know better, together with all who are willing to live by the higher standard of the gospel, praise the Lord for his goodness and grace and do so by keeping his commandments, thereby becoming heirs of eternal salvation.
Glory to God on high!
Let heav’n and earth reply;
Praise ye his name.
His love and grace adore,
Who all our sorrows bore;
Sing aloud evermore,
Worthy the Lamb!
[Hymns, no. 44]
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Type: Talk or speech
Author: Joseph Fielding Smith
This speech was given by Joseph Fielding Smith at BYU on October 25, 1961
Type: Audio Book
Author: Ezra Taft Benson
Ezra Taft Benson was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 1 October 1983.
My beloved brothers and sisters, I always rejoice at the opportunity to visit this campus. It is truly an inspiration to be in your presence. I love the youth of the Church. I have great confidence in you. It is my belief that the Lord has held many of you in reserve in the spirit world to come to earth at this particular time when temptations are the greatest and strength of character is most needed.
The Lord loves you and has favored you with a royal birthright.
We have just completed another glorious conference of the Church. We are all thankful to the Lord for the blessing of strength given to President Kimball and President Romney which enabled them to be present in two sessions of conference. We are thankful for the inspiration and counsel given by the General Authorities who spoke. I hope you will take occasion to review the wisdom and counsel of their messages.
The Product of My Thoughts
To introduce my theme today, I want to tell you, in his own words, of a life-changing experience that happened to President George Albert Smith when he was a boy. His own words are as follows:
As a child, thirteen years of age, I went to school at the Brigham Young Academy. . . . I cannot remember much of what was said during the year that I was there, but there is one thing that I will probably never forget. . . . Dr. [Karl G.] Maeser one day stood up and said:
“Not only will you be held accountable for the things you do, but you will be held responsible for the very thoughts you think.” Being a boy, not in the habit of controlling my thoughts very much, it was quite a puzzle to me what I was to do, and it worried me. In fact, it stuck to me just like a burr. About a week or ten days after that it suddenly came to me what he meant. I could see the philosophy of it then. All at once there came to me this interpretation of what he had said: Why of course you will be held accountable for your thoughts, because when your life is completed in mortality, it will be the sum of your thoughts. That one suggestion has been a great blessing to me all my life, and it has enabled me upon many occasions to avoid thinking improperly, because I realize that I will be, when my life’s labor is complete, the product of my thoughts. [Sharing the Gospel with Others (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1948), pp. 62–63]
Thoughts lead to acts, acts lead to habits, habits lead to character–and our character will determine our eternal destiny.
King Benjamin understood this. In the next-to-last verse of his great discourse recorded in the Book of Mormon, he states:
And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are diverse ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them. [Mosiah 4:29]
Then in the last verse he counsels that we must watch ourselves and our thoughts (see Mosiah 4:30)
When Christ appeared in America following His resurrection, He stated:
Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery;
But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.
Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart. [3 Nephi 12:27–29]
“Enter into your heart”–why, of course, for, as the scripture states: “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).
So critical is it that we understand the necessity of controlling our thoughts that President Spencer W. Kimball devoted a whole chapter to it in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness. The chapter caption “As a Man Thinketh” is the title of a book by James Allen, which President Kimball recommended. He quoted from this book three times. One quotation stated:
A man does not come to the almshouse or the jail by the tyranny of fate or circumstance, but by the pathway of groveling thoughts and base desires. Nor does a pure-minded man fall suddenly into crime by stress of mere external force; the criminal thought had long been secretly fostered in the heart, and the hour of opportunity revealed its gathered power. Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, p. 105]
President Kimball also quotes President David O. McKay, who said:
The thought in your mind at this moment is contributing, however infinitesimally, almost imperceptibly to the shaping of your soul, even to the lineaments of your countenance. . . . even passing and idle thoughts leave their impression. [Ibid.]
The mind has been likened to a stage on which only one act at a time can be performed. From one side of the wings the Lord, who loves you, is trying to put on the stage of your mind that which will bless you. From the other side of the wings the devil, who hates you, is trying to put on the stage of your mind that which will curse you.
You are the stage manager–you are the one who decides which thought will occupy the stage. Remember, the Lord wants you to have a fullness of joy like His. The devil wants all men to be miserable like unto himself. You are the one who must decide whose thoughts you will entertain. You are free to choose–but you are not free to alter the consequences of those choices. You will be what you think about–what you consistently allow to occupy the stage of your mind.
Sometimes you may have difficulty driving off the stage of your mind a certain evil thought. To drive it off, Elder Boyd K. Packer suggests that you sing an inspirational song of Zion, or just think on its words. Elder Bruce R. McConkie recommends that, after the opening song, you might preach a sermon to yourself. In fact, he says the finest sermons he has ever preached have been preached to himself.
We should not invite the devil to give us a stage presentation. Usually with our hardly realizing, he slips into our thoughts. Our accountability begins with how we handle the evil thought immediately after it is presented. Like Jesus, we should positively and promptly terminate the temptation. We should not allow the devil to elaborate with all his insidious reasoning.
It is our privilege to store our memories with good and great thoughts and bring them out on the stage of our minds at will. When the Lord faced His three great temptations in the wilderness, He immediately rebutted the devil with appropriate scripture which He had stored in His memory.
“Look unto Me in Every Thought”
The Lord said, “Look unto me in every thought” (D&C 6:36). Looking unto the Lord in every thought is the only possible way we can be the manner of men and women we ought to be.
The Lord asked the question of His disciples, “What manner of men ought ye to be?” He then answered His own question by saying, “Even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27). To become as He is, we must have Him on our mind–constantly in our thoughts. Every time we partake of the sacrament, we commit to “always remember him” (Moroni 4:3, 5:2; D&C 20:77, 79).
If thoughts make us what we are, and we are to be like Christ, then we must think Christlike thoughts. Let me repeat that: If thoughts make us what we are, and we are to be like Christ, we must think Christlike thoughts.
Paul, en route to Damascus to persecute the Saints, saw a light from heaven and heard the voice of the Lord. Then Paul asked a simple eight-word question–and the persistent asking of the same question changed his life. “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). The persistent asking of that same question can also change your life. There is no greater question that you can ask in this world. “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” I challenge you to make that the uppermost question in your life.
In his book Youth and the Church, Elder Harold B. Lee included a chapter entitled “Lord, What Wilt Thou Have Me Do?” He began the chapter by relating this experience:
Some time ago I heard a leader in a high Church position explain his method of endeavoring to arrive at just and equitable decisions in his council meetings. He explained that as problems would be presented, he would frequently ask himself, “As measured by the record of the Master’s teaching, just what would He do in this given situation, or just how would He answer this question or solve this problem?” [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1945, p. 49]
While he doesn’t mention who the man was, that man in due time, would become the President of the Church, President David O. McKay.
My friend Tom Anderson told the following story:
There was a little crippled boy who ran a small newsstand in a crowded railroad station. He must have been about twelve years old. Every day he would sell papers, candy, gum, and magazines to the thousands of commuters passing through the terminal.
One night two men were rushing through the crowded station to catch a train. One was fifteen or twenty yards in front of the other. It was Christmas Eve. Their train was scheduled to depart in a matter of minutes.
The first man turned a corner and in his haste to get home to a Christmas cocktail party plowed right into the little crippled boy. He knocked him off his stool, and candy, newspapers, and gum were scattered everywhere. Without so much as stopping, he cursed the little fellow for being there and rushed on to catch the train that would take him to celebrate Christmas in the way he had chosen for himself.
It was only a matter of seconds before the second commuter arrived on the scene. He stopped, knelt, and gently picked up the boy. After making sure the child was unhurt, the man gathered up the scattered newspapers, sweets, and magazines. Then he took his wallet and gave the boy a five-dollar bill. “Son,” he said, “I think this will take care of what was lost or soiled. Merry Christmas!”
Without waiting for a reply the commuter now picked up his briefcase and started to hurry away. As he did, the little crippled boy cupped his hands together and called out: “Mister, Mister!”
The man stopped as the boy asked, “Are you Jesus Christ?”
By the look on his face, it was obvious the commuter was embarrassed by the question. But he smiled and said, “No, son. I am not Jesus Christ, but I am trying hard to do what He would do if He were here.”
And that, my friend, is what it means to be a Christian, even on Christmas Eve. It’s a matter of impersonation. [American Opinion, December 1971, pp. 13–14]
What Would Jesus Do?
Some years ago Charles Sheldon wrote a book entitled In His Steps. It is perhaps one of the greatest best-sellers in American history. It tells the story of a small group of people within a Christian congregation who took a pledge. The pledge was that for an entire year they earnestly and honestly would not do anything without first asking the question, “What would Jesus do?” After asking themselves that question, they were to follow Jesus exactly as they knew how, no matter what the results. The book tells what happened and how their lives were revolutionized.
Just before he died, Charles Sheldon wrote a small sequel to his book entitled In His Steps Today. It tells of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Ward and their four children. Their two oldest children, George and Alice, attended college while their two youngest, John and Mary, were in high school. Mr. Ward was an official in a railroad office, and Mrs. Ward was prominent in the social, church, and literary life of the city.
One morning as the family was eating breakfast, Mr. Ward told of coming across a book in the library which he and Mrs. Ward had read some twenty-five years earlier, just before their marriage. It was entitled In His Steps, or What Would Jesus Do?
He wondered if the plan were practical, if it really worked. He knew of a large number of people who had taken the pledge to try to act as Jesus who had had some interesting experiences. He knew the children were eager to try experiments in the chemical laboratory and in other fields and wondered if they would be willing to conduct an experiment in the world of conduct.
He asked them if just for that day, for example, they would be willing to do nothing without first asking, “What would Jesus do?” and then try to do the same.
There was embarrassing silence around the table. They were a Christian family, but the subject was unusual. Finally, the silence was broken by John, “the irrepressible,” as the others called him: “If we take the pledge, what’s the matter with you and mother taking it too? You were talking to us yesterday about the bad example the old people set to the young generation. How about you and mother, Dad?”
The father agreed. Mrs. Ward said she would join in the pledge with the understanding that each one would give it an honest and sincere trial.
Perhaps the members of their family did not know it, but this event was to make history for all of them. The pledge was to run until ten o’clock that night. Then they were to meet at that time to share their experiences of the day, holding back nothing.
I wish I had time to tell you all of their experiences. Let me quote the parents, tell what happened to the younger ones, and consider the final question raised by Mr. Ward.
First, let’s hear from Mr. Ward:
“My first experience came to me as I went into my office this morning, and . . . saw Crawford of the auditing department. He was very much put out yesterday when he accused me of backing into his car out in front of the office, and bending a fender. I told him he had parked his car at such an angle that I couldn’t get out without hitting it. We both became angry. This morning I went in, asked his pardon, and offered to buy him a new fender. It did us both good. . . .
“This afternoon out at the golf course, while I was putting my things back into my locker, two of the members of the club came in and took flasks out of their lockers, drank, and offered some to the rest of us. This has been going on for a long time against the rules of the club and the laws of the state, but no one has ever enforced them. It seemed to me that if Jesus saw a crime being committed, he would consider it his duty as a good citizen to prevent it. I went to the chairman of the House Committee and reported the breaking of the rules, which has raised a storm.
“Several of the members came to me this evening down at the literary club, and threatened to blackball at me the next election for directors if I did not withdraw my charges against the drinkers. More will come from this. But what would Jesus do? It has been an interesting day.”
Now let’s hear from Mrs. Ward:
“I really did not know what following Jesus might mean, but my story has to do with the action of our women’s Board of Directors in renting a part of our building to certain parties who are allowing dancing of a questionable nature to go on, together with card games that are practically nothing but gambling.
“I have known of this for some time as all the women do, but did not want to be unpopular by objecting. At the directors’ meeting today, however, I expressed my opinion and objection. The club is in debt, and the amusement concessions bring in big rent. I am the only member of the board to file a protest. It will mean–”Mrs. Ward paused, and there was a moment of silence.
Finally, let’s hear from the younger ones, John and Mary, with Mary leading out:
“We went to an entertainment this evening. A lot of the girls at the high school had been to see it, and they told John and me that it was grand. But I’d rather John told what happened.”
John seemed to be unusually reluctant to relate their experiences. Finally he spoke in a subdued tone that was unlike his usual loud and assertive manner.
“Well, after it began,” he said, “I thought it was one of those foolish things that was just for–well, just entertainment. Then I remembered what you said one day, Mother, about not wanting Mary and me to go to any entertainment that we wouldn’t invite you or father to see. Well, it got pretty vulgar, and–”
Another silence was around the table. Mrs. Ward looked at the boy with a new expression, as if some very rare experience were being related–as indeed it was.
The boy went on slowly: “Just then Mary nudged me and whispered, ‘Let’s get up and go out!’ Honest, I thought it would be a [strange] thing to do, but then when I asked ‘What would Jesus do?’ it seemed all right. So we got up, treading on a lot of feet in the row where we had been sitting.”
“On our way out,” broke in Mary, “I said to John, ‘Let’s do one more thing. Let’s tell the manager why we are going out.’ John said, ‘All right, and let’s tell him to give us our money back because we did not pay for that kind of entertainment.’ You never will see a more surprised man than Mr. Rondus when we told him how we felt!”
“Surprised isn’t the word,” interrupted John. “He was flabbergasted! When I told him we thought he ought to refund our money, he didn’t say a word, but forked the money right over. Do you think we did what Jesus would do?”
Mrs. Ward had a tear in her eye. She reached over and stroked the boy’s head. “A thing like that never happened in this town before. Well, we certainly have had some new experiences.”
“Worthwhile, don’t you think? But can we keep it up?” questioned Mr. Ward.
The question provoked a discussion around the Ward table that lasted into the next morning.
What do you think? [Charles M. Sheldon, In His Steps Today (Litchfield, Ill.: Sunshine Press, 1948), pp. 22–24, 29–31]
Walking in His Way
I began my remarks this morning by discussing how we are accountable for our thoughts and how we are what we think about. I have concluded by affirming that our thoughts should be on the Lord. We should think on Christ.
I testify to you that there is no greater, more thrilling, and more soul-ennobling challenge than to try to learn of Christ and walk in His steps. Our model, Jesus Christ, walked this earth as “the Exemplar.” He is our Advocate with the Father. He worked out the great atoning sacrifice so we could have a fullness of joy and be exalted in accordance with His grace and our repentance and righteousness. He did all things perfectly and commands that we be perfect even as He and His Father are perfect (see 3 Nephi 12:48).
“What would Jesus do?” or “What would He have me do?” are paramount personal questions of this life. Walking in His way is the greatest achievement of life. That man or woman is most truly successful whose life most closely parallels that of the Master.
I know that the Lord lives. I know that He loves us. I know that apart from Him no one can succeed, but as a partner with Him no one can fail.
I know that God can make a lot more out of our lives than we can.
That we may all have the moral courage from this moment forward to more fully strive each day to think on Christ, learn of Him, walk in His steps, and do what He would have us do is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
- March 1, 1842, written
”March 1, 1842.”
At the request of Mr. John Wentworth, editor and proprietor of the Chicago Democrat, I have written the following sketch of the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-day Saints, of which I have the honor, under God, of being the founder.
Author: Joseph Smith
Type: Talk or speech
Author: Bruce R. McConkie
Bruce R. McConkie was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 17 February 1981.
I know, as do we all, that the things of God can be understood only by the power of the Holy Spirit. And I pray that we may receive a mighty outpouring of that Spirit as we consider the three pillars of eternity–the three great eternal verities upon which salvation rests.
My purpose is to take the three greatest events that have ever occurred in all eternity and show how they are interwoven to form one grand plan of salvation.
If we can gain an understanding of them, then the whole eternal scheme of things will fall into place, and we will be in a position to work out our salvation. If we do not build our house of salvation on a true foundation, we will never make the spiritual progress that will prepare us to enter the Eternal Presence.
Three Great Events
The three pillars of eternity, the three events, preeminent and transcendent above all others, are the creation, the fall, and the atonement. These three are the foundations upon which all things rest. Without any one of them all things would lose their purpose and meaning, and the plans and designs of Deity would come to naught.
If there had been no creation, we would not be, neither the earth, nor any form of life upon its face. All things, all the primal elements, would be without form and void. God would have no spirit children; there would be no mortal probation; and none of us would be on the way to immortality and eternal life.
If there had been no fall of man, there would not be a mortal probation. Mortal man would not be, nor would there be animals or fowls or fishes or life of any sort upon the earth. And, we repeat, none of us would be on the way to immortality and eternal life.
If there had been no atonement of Christ, all things would be lost. The purposes of creation would vanish away. Lucifer would triumph over men and become the captain of their souls. And, we say it again, none of us would be on the way to immortality and eternal life.
And so I now say: Come and let us reason together; let us reason as did righteous men of old that we may come to understanding.
Come and hear us declare sound doctrine; let us declare it plainly and in power as do the angels of God in heaven.
Come and let us testify of those things which God has made known to us; let us testify as do those whose souls are afire with the Spirit and who know by revelation of the truth and verity of their spoken word.
Let us gaze first at a scene of sorrow and suffering in a garden called Gethsemane, the garden of the oil press. There, outside Jerusalem’s walls, on the now sacred side of Olivet, we see eight of the Twelve huddled at the garden gate. Inside the garden are Peter, James, and John. It is night, and the eyes of all are heavy with sleep.
About a stone’s cast removed from the three we see the Son of God in sorrow and agony beyond compare. He has fallen on his face. We hear his pleading words: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).
We see great gouts of blood drop from every pore. An angel–surely it is mighty Michael himself–comes down from heaven and strengthens him. He trembles because of pain and suffers in both body and spirit. He comes off triumphant; and in a way incomprehensible to us, he bears the sins of all men on conditions of repentance.
Now let our gaze turn to Golgotha. There, at the place of a skull, we see him again, crucified between two thieves. It is noon, and his mangled and scourged body has already hung on that accursed tree for some three hours.
Again it is the hour of atonement. The sun is darkened; for three long hours there is “darkness over all the earth” (Luke 23:44), as all the agonies and sufferings of Gethsemane return. Then the victory is won; the ransom is paid; the atonement is accomplished.
Some thirty-eight or forty hours later–after three days as the Jews counted time–we see him by a garden tomb. He has risen in glorious immortality. Clothed with immortality and eternal life, he gently restrains one of the beloved Marys from embracing him with the same intimacy that had once prevailed.
Soon angelic choirs will fill the heavens as the redeemed sing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5:12).
And thus it is that salvation is in Christ, that his atoning sacrifice is the heart and core and center of revealed religion, and that he–in Gethsemane of sorrowful memory and on the cross of Calvary–put into full operation all the terms and conditions of his Father’s plan.
He is the resurrection and the life. He is the Redeemer of the world and the Savior of men. He “hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). It was his work and his glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. And his is the only name given under heaven whereby man may be saved.
If there had been no atonement of Christ, there would be no resurrection, no breaking of the bands of death, no coming forth from the grave.
If there had been no atonement, there would be no remission of sins; no return to the presence of God; no salvation of any sort, kind, or nature; no eternal life; no exaltation; no continuation of the family unit in eternity.
If there were no atonement of Christ, all men would be subject to “that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment” (2 Nephi 9:19).
If there were no atonement of Christ, “our spirits” would have become “like unto” Lucifer’s, “and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself” (2 Nephi 9:9).
If there were no atonement of Christ, all men would be damned everlastingly, all would be sons of perdition, and the whole purpose of God and his eternal plan of salvation would utterly fail.
All things center in, revolve around, are anchored to, and are built upon the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no language given to men or angels to proclaim these truths with the power and verity and dignity that should attend them. Let it be blazoned in burning fire through all the sidereal heavens that salvation is in Christ and comes because of his atoning sacrifice.
Now this atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ–grand and infinite, glorious and eternal as it is–does not stand alone. It is not simply a sudden blaze of light in a universe of darkness and despair. It is not by itself alone a great sun rising in celestial splendor to dispel the gloom of endless night. It is not merely a manifestation of the grace of an infinite God toward his fallen children.
However much the atonement may be and is all these things–and more!–yet it does not stand alone. It is not a child born without parents. It has roots; it has a reason for being; it came because other events called it forth.
The atonement is part of the eternal plan of the Father. It came at the appointed time, according to the will of the Father, to do for man that which could not have been done in any other way. The atonement is the child of the fall, and the fall is the father of the atonement. Neither of them, without the other, could have brought to pass the eternal purposes of the Father.
The fall of Adam and the atonement of Christ are linked together–inseparably, everlastingly, never to be parted. They are as much a part of the same body as are the head and the heart, and each plays its part in the eternal scheme of things.
The fall of Adam brought temporal and spiritual death into the world, and the atonement of Christ ransomed men from these two deaths by bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. This makes the fall as essential a part of the plan of salvation as the very atonement itself.
There are, in fact, five things that came into being and continue to exist because of the fall. None of these things would have existed if there had been no fall, and all of them are essential parts of the divine plan of salvation. They are:
1. Temporal death. This is the natural death; it occurs when body and spirit separate; it results in corruption and decay. Because of the atonement of Christ all men will be raised from corruption to incorruption, from mortality to immortality, thence to live everlastingly in a resurrected state.
2. Spiritual death. This is death as pertaining to the things of the Spirit. It is death
as pertaining to things of righteousness. It is to be cast out of the presence of the Lord. It is a way of life which is in opposition to that of the Father of us all. Because of the atonement, because the Lord Jesus bore our sins on conditions of repentance, we have power to gain eternal life, which is spiritual life, which is a life of righteousness, which is life in the presence of our God.
3. Mortality. Mortal life comes because of the fall. If there had been no fall, there would be no mortal life of any sort on earth. Mortal life is life where there is death. Death must enter the world to bring mortality into being.
4. Procreation. Before the fall there was no procreation. I repeat, for thus saith the Holy Word, before the fall there was no procreation. Adam and Eve, in their Edenic state, could not have children, nor, as we shall see, could any form of life when first placed on the newly created paradisiacal earth.
5. A probationary estate. We are here to be tried and tested, to see if we will believe the truths of salvation and keep the commandments while we walk by faith. After the fall men became carnal, sensual, and devilish by nature, and the plan of salvation calls upon them to put off these worldly snares and to put on Christ.
Now, lest there be any sliver of misunderstanding about any of this, let us reason together on all these things as did they of old. Indeed, let us use the very words they used as they are found in the holy scriptures.
“Now is Christ risen from the dead,” Paul said as he testified of the atonement. “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” Adam brought death, and if he had not fallen there would be no death; and Christ brought the resurrection, and, if there had been no atonement, there would be no resurrection. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20–22).
Moroni linked the fall and the atonement together in this way. God, he said, “created Adam, and by Adam came the fall of man. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ.” It is just that simple; the fall is the source and cause and reason for the atonement. “And because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man” (Mormon 9:12). Salvation is in Christ!
“And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ,” men “are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep” (Mormon 9:13).
What did the angel say to King Benjamin? He said, Christ’s “blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam” (Mosiah 3:11). We are descendants of Adam; we all have a common father.
He said, “As in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins” (Mosiah 3:16). The blessings of the fall have passed upon all men; all can be redeemed because Adam fell and Christ came.
He said, “Salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:18). There is no other source of salvation from the fall than that which comes through Christ.
He said, “The natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19).
Thus the natural man, which is Adam, is conquered by the perfect man, which is Christ; and thus “all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (Third Article of Faith). And now, what saith our great and good friend Lehi about all these things?
He saith that the Redeemer “cometh to bring salvation unto men. . . . And the way is prepared [for him] from the fall of man, and salvation is free” (2 Nephi 2:3–4). The fall is the foundation upon which the atonement rests.
He saith that “after Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit they were driven out of the garden of Eden, to till the earth” (2 Nephi 2:19). Their mortal probation and the trials and tests of mortality began after the fall.
And they have brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth. [2 Nephi 2:20]
Every living soul on earth is a descendant of Adam and Eve. God hath made of one blood all the nations of men.
If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. [2 Nephi 2:22]
If Adam had not fallen, he would be there today, six thousand years later, in all the glory and beauty of his immortal nature. Such is the word of holy writ.
And next–marvel of marvels and wonder of wonders–Lehi saith, “And all things which were created”–all things means all things; it includes animals and fishes and fowls and creeping things and plants; it includes dinosaurs and whales and ants; it means all things–
All things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. [2 Nephi 2:22]
There was, we repeat, no death in the world until after Adam fell. And there was, we repeat, no procreation until after the fall. And there was, we repeat, no mortality until after the fall.
And so Lehi continues, “And they”–Adam and Eve–”would have had no children” (2 Nephi 2:23).
And then, on the foundation so laid, while filled with light and guided by the Spirit, Lehi acclaimed:
Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy.
And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. [2 Nephi 2:25–26]
Truly, as Enoch said:
Because that Adam fell, we are; and by his fall came death; and we are made partakers of misery and woe. . . .
And men have become carnal, sensual, and devilish, and are shut out from the presence of God. [Moses 6:48, 49]
Truly, as Mother Eve said:
Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth to all the obedient. [Moses 5:11]
Truly, salvation comes because of the fall, and it is just as important to believe in the fall as it is to believe in the atonement, and, indeed, it is not possible to believe in the atonement without believing in the fall.
Now, even as the atonement grows out of the fall, so the fall grows out of the creation. If all things had not been created in the very way in which they were created, there could have been no fall. If created things were to fall, they must be created in a higher state than the state they would be in after the fall. To fall is to go downward or forward, not upward.
And so it is that the revealed accounts of the creation of this earth and all things on the face thereof are accounts of the paradisiacal creation. They speak of the immortal state in which all things were first made; they are telling of created things in the day before death entered the world.
Our Tenth Article of Faith says: “We believe . . . that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” When the Lord comes and the millennial era commences, there will be new heavens and a new earth; the earth will be renewed; it will become new again; and it will return to its paradisiacal state; it will become as it was in the Edenic day. And once again death as we know it will cease.
The accounts of the creation in Genesis 1 and Moses 2 are accounts of the paradisiacal or Edenic creation. They are descriptive of a creation that antedated death and mortality and the fall. They speak of a creation in which–again these are Lehi’s words–
All things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. [2 Nephi 2:22]
That is, they would have so remained if there had been no fall.
Now, we are speaking of the three pillars of heaven, of the three greatest events ever to occur in all eternity, of the three doctrines that are woven inseparably together to form the plan of salvation. We are speaking of the creation, the fall, and the atonement. And these things are one. And, be it noted, all things were created; all things fell; and all things are subject to the redeeming power of the Son of God.
I am not conscious of expressing a single thought or concept that has not already been said by the Brethren who have gone before. Almost every sentence I have uttered is a quotation or a paraphrase of something said by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, Orson Pratt, or some other of the great theologians of our dispensation.
Many among us have no difficulty envisioning that the atonement is infinite and eternal and applies to all forms of life. They know that the revelations say in so many words that all forms of life both lived as spirit entities and will be resurrected–animals, fowls, fishes–all things are eternal in nature.
But some among us have not yet had it dawn upon them that all things fell and became mortal so they could be resurrected.
The early Brethren of our dispensation wrote these words:
The word atonement signifies deliverance, through the offering of a ransom, from the penalty of a broken law. . . . As effected by Jesus Christ, it signifies the deliverance, through his death and resurrection, of the earth and everything pertaining to it, from the power which death has obtained over them through the transgression of Adam. . . . Redemption from death, through the sufferings of Christ, is for all men, both the righteous and the wicked; for this earth, and for all things created upon it. [Compendium, pp. 8–9, cited in Mormon Doctrine, B. R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), pp. 64–65.]
Three Glorious Beings
When we speak of the creation, the fall, and the atonement, we are speaking of the works of Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael. We are talking of the doctrines which are stated or are implicit in our first three Articles of Faith. We need to come to a unity of faith as to the labors of each of these glorious beings.
Who is Elohim? He is God the Eternal Father. He is a glorified and exalted personage. He has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s. In the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He knows all things and has all power–not simply as pertaining to us or in some prescribed sphere or realm–but in the absolute, eternal, and unlimited sense. In the ultimate sense, he is the Creator. And anything you may have heard to the contrary, whether in the creeds of Christendom or the mouthings of intellectuals who, in their own eyes, know more than the Lord, is false.
Who is Michael? He is a spirit son of the great Elohim. Under Christ he led the armies of righteousness when there was war in heaven. Our revelations say that he “was the son of God” (Moses 6:22), that he was “the first flesh [the first mortal flesh] upon earth, the first man also” (Moses 3:7), and that he was “the first man of all men” (Moses 1:34). He is Adam our father; he is the presiding high priest over all the earth. Under Christ, who is “the Holy One,” he holds “the keys of salvation” (D&C 78:16). He is the only one by whom the fall came. And anything you may have heard to the contrary, from whatever source, is false.
Who is Jehovah? He is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Firstborn of the Father, the Savior and Redeemer. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He is the Only Begotten in the flesh, the only person ever born with a mortal mother and an immortal Father. He worked out the infinite and eternal atonement, ransomed men and all forms of life from the fall, and made the purposes of creation operative. Salvation is in him and comes to those who believe and obey. And anything you may have heard to the contrary is false.
The truths relative to Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael are the greatest of all eternal verities. They wrap the creation, the fall, and the atonement into one grand plan of salvation. They are the gospel of God who is the Father. And of their truth the Holy Ghost bears witness.
God grant that we may all believe and know and understand the great eternal verities by which salvation comes and that, believing and knowing and understanding, we may so live as to gain eternal life. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
[[Category: Talk or speech]]
[[Category: Bruce R. McConkie]]
[[Category: Original Author]]
Type: Audio Book
Author: Bruce R. McConkie
Bruce R. McConkie was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 28 January 1975.
Thank you, President Oaks. I am honored and delighted to have this opportunity to meet and worship with the student body and faculty of Brigham Young University on this occasion. I have pondered and prayed much to learn what the Lord wants me to say to the youth of Zion, to the young and rising generation of the Church. My prayer has been and is, “O God, manifest unto thy servant what thou wouldst have said to those who are a choice and a peculiar treasure unto thee above all the peoples of the earth.” In response, there has come into my heart the desire to consider our unique and peculiar status as members of the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth. If I may now be guided by the Spirit, I shall take up the doctrine that we are a peculiar people; show wherein that peculiarity lies; tell how it may be obtained and perfected; and draw some conclusions as to what is expected of us because of our unique status.
We Are a Peculiar People
There is an old saying, “All the world is queer save me and thee, and sometimes I think even thee is a little queer.” This is used jocularly of those who set themselves apart from mankind and who profess to be or seemingly are different from other people. We do not place ourselves in this category. We are not freaks, but normal, wholesome people who enjoy life. We work and play, engage in sports, mingle with other people, go to parties, and enjoy festive occasions. But we are, nonetheless, peculiar in the eyes of worldly people. We are a breed set apart. We are different from the world because we do not ape the practices and follow the fashions of worldly and carnal people. We glory in the things which set us apart by ourselves, and we hope and pray that we may maintain and increase the differences. Of the true saints, with whom we are numbered, Peter said: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” Having so announced, he told what is expected of them: “That ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Query: “How shall we show forth the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light?” This is equivalent to asking “How do we worship the Lord?”
Answer: It is more than in song or sermon; perfect worship is emulation. Perfect praise is to do the things he would have us do. It is to keep the commandments of God.
To true saints, and we are they, Paul wrote:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Looking for that blessed hope [the hope of eternal life], and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ;
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. [Titus 2:1114; emphasis added]
Query: “How does the Lord purify unto himself a peculiar people?”
Answer: He does it when that people forsake ungodliness and worldly lusts, when they live “soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” He does it when that people take counsel from him and keep his commandments.
To his chosen Israel, of whom we are a part, the Lord said: “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:56). Note the terms of the Lord’s offer: “Obey my voice; keep my covenant.” This covenant is the fulness of his everlasting gospel. It is the new and everlasting covenant in which we promise to forsake the world and in which he promises us an inheritance with him in his Father’s kingdom. All those who keep the covenant, who live by gospel standards, receive this promise: “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2). And I say to you, “You are that people–’an holy people,’ a chosen and favored people, a people set apart, ‘a peculiar people.’”
The Family of the Lord
Now, with those principles before us, may I speak of the special family relationship enjoyed by those who so live that they become a peculiar people. Of them it is written: “Ye are the sons of the living God” (Hosea 1:10). That is, those who gain the high status of a peculiar people are adopted into the family of the Lord Jehovah. They become his sons and his daughters and have him as their father. Our best recitation of the doctrine here involved is found in these words of King Benjamin:
And now, because of the covenant which ye have made [in the waters of baptism], ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. [Mosiah 5:7]
This is a special family relationship reserved for the faithful. It is over, above, and in addition to the fact that all men are the spirit children of the Eternal Father.
King Benjamin continues:
And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.
And it shall come to pass that whosever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. [Mosiah 5:89]
This is a glorious and wondrous doctrine. We are the sons and daughters of the living God, the children of the great Jehovah, the adopted offspring of the Lord Jesus Christ. We bear the name of Christ. We are members of his family. He is our father. Now, how do we gain such a personal relationship with him who has bought us with his blood? He says:
But to as many as received me gave I power to become my sons; and even so will I give unto as many as will receive me, power to become my sons.
And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me.
And this is my gospel–repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom. [D&C 39:46]
When we partake of the sacrament, we renew the covenants made in the waters of baptism. We agree again to take upon ourselves the name of the Son and to keep his commandments so we shall always have his Spirit to be with us.
Baptism and the sacrament are the ordinances which open the door so that as a people, peculiar and set apart from the world, we have power to become sons and daughters of God. Obeying and conforming, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, living soberly and righteously and godly in this present world–such a way of life is the course whereby the power is exercised and the desired eventuality obtained.
In my father’s family we had a saying, “Remember who you are and act accordingly.” I adopted this same motto for my family. My wife tells me that her father did precisely the same thing. Our family motto meant to us, “First, you are a McConkie; you have been taught the truth; you know what is expected of you at all times; you are to live by the standards of the family and avoid anything that would stain the family name. Second, you are a Christian; Jehovah is your shepherd; the Lord Jesus is your father; you are to live by gospel standards and not do anything which would bring disrepute upon him whose name you bear; you are to keep his commandments.”
Now, in the light of the principle that we are a peculiar people who have become the sons and daughters of him who is our Lord, may I suggest some specific things that will help us overcome the world and make the doctrines here involved live in us. I shall do this by presenting what we may term the ten commandments of a peculiar people. First the commandments and then a brief commentary about them.
The first commandment: Thou shalt be morally clean and conform to every standard of virtue and chastity.
The commentary: People who live after the manner of the world are immoral and unclean–so much so that we sometimes wonder whether there are any moral standards left among men. People speak of a new morality, which is, in fact, immorality under a new name. We are confronted on every hand–on radio, on television, in the movies, and in the so-called literature that is available–with a recitation of standards that are contrary to gospel principles. They are inherent in the course that the world pursues.
But the true Saints still adhere to the divine decree, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). We still believe “that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Our proclamation still is “thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else. And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the spirit” (D&C 42:2223). Immorality is the crying evil of our day. It ranks next to murder in the category of personal sins. We must shun it, avoid it, flee from it. It destroys men spiritually in this life and sends them to an endless hell in the life to come. The word of the Lord given to the world through us still is “For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts” (Jacob 2:28).
Bridle Your Passions
The second commandment: Thou shalt bridle thy passions and abstain from all manner of lasciviousness.
The commentary: We are here in mortality to be tried and tested; we are on probation. The great test is whether we overcome the lusts of the flesh, flee from that which is lewd, and live by gospel standards. We are to overcome the world. If we get involved in necking and petting, if we go to pornographic movies, if we read trashy and vulgar books or magazines, if we tell or enjoy vulgar stories, if we profane and are unclean in thought or word, we are living after the manner of the world. Then there is nothing peculiar about us. We are as the generality of mankind. We are outside the family circle. We lose our status as the sons and daughters of our Lord. Oh that it might be said of us, as it was of them of old:
There was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. [4 Nephi 1516]
What an accolade that is! Surely there could not be a “happier people among all the people who had been crated by the hand of God.” True happiness is found only in righteous conduct. No one can live after the manner of the world and be truly happy. “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).
The third commandment: Thou shalt be modest in dress and appearance.
Commentary: It may come as a surprise to some people to learn that modesty in dress and grooming is related to salvation. I left the Missionary Executive Committee meeting this morning to come here, and the last item approved was a document to go to mission presidents, stake presidents, and bishops instructing each to counsel all returned missionaries to conform to the dress and grooming standards that had prevailed in their missions.
The Bible has a great deal to say about covering our nakedness, about costly and ornate apparel, about excessive use of jewelry, about garish and worldly costumes, and yes, about hair styles. Women are told to avoid “plaiting” the hair and not to wear “broided hair.” I suggest you figure out what those things mean in the context where they were used by Peter and Paul. The Holy Book approves long hair for women and short hair for men: “Doth not even nature itself teach you,” Paul says, “that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” (1 Corinthians 11:14). I noted in the church section of the Deseret News that within the month President Spencer W. Kimball, speaking before a similar group, quoted that sentence from Paul with the same application that we’re making here.
Conformity to dress and grooming standards is one of the tests the Lord imposes upon us to see if we will take counsel and to see if we can stand up against the pressures of the world. There is, of course, an underlying reason for all the counsels and commands relayed from the Lord by the Brethren to the Saints. Immodesty, for instance, leads toward immorality. Long hair and grubby grooming open the door to rebellion against the established order and to associations which lead away from the Church. Surely those who are so adorned are not living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. But even if we are not sufficiently in tune to recognize the valid reasons behind the dress and grooming standards, we are still expected to abide by them. We might well hark back to the counsel given Adam to offer sacrifices. He, not knowing the underlying reasons, did so in order to conform to the counsel that the Lord gave. And in due course the angel from heaven explained what was involved.
The fourth commandment: Thou shalt be honest and manifest integrity in all thy doings.
The commentary: The devil whispers to men, “Lie a little; there is no harm in a little dishonesty; a little stealing won’t matter; everybody cheats on an exam and you have to in order to get by; don’t search out the true owner of lost property; learn to get along in the world by living the way worldly people live.” We are living in a day when evil is on the increase. Shoplifting, crime, and dishonest practices prevail in increasing measure throughout the world. In my judgment this will continue until the day of the coming of the Son of Man when the wicked will be destroyed, the earth will be regenerated, and we will have a new way of life. I think also that in the midst of these worldly circumstances the Church itself, at least the faithful portion of it, is being perfected. We are living by higher standards, and we are preparing ourselves to be that people who will be ready for the Lord when he comes again. As to these matters, the Lord our God has never rescinded that which is written: “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15). No amendment has ever been appended to the decree “Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell” (2 Nephi 9:34). The honor code is still in force. Neither a dishonest man nor a man lacking in integrity can be saved in the kingdom of God.
Pay Your Offerings
The fifth commandment: Thou shalt pay thy tithes and offerings unto the Lord.
The commentary: Tithes and offerings divide the faithful from the unfaithful. All men will give an accounting before the judgment bar for the manner in which they used the moneys and properties that came into their hands while in mortality. “The love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). And that includes the inordinate attachment to money that is legally and properly your own. The Lord said to Martin Harris, “And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon” (D&C 19:26). Speaking of making our money and property available for building up the kingdom, Paul says, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:67). Well might we remember the revelation which says, “For he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming” (D&C 64:23). Some people say tithing is pretty good fire insurance.
Keep the Sabbath
The sixth commandment: Thou shalt go to sacrament meeting and keep the Sabbath day holy.
The commentary: We live in an age when almost the whole world is rushing about madly in search of pleasure. Nearly everyone sets the weekend apart for recreational purposes, and this means for Sabbath violation. The generality of mankind fish, play golf, go to movies, or otherwise (as they suppose) seek surcease from the toil of the week. There are churches which conduct their worship services on Friday evening or Saturday morning to free their adherents for recreational pursuits on the Lord’s day. The law of the Lord, given anew in our day, counsels us:
That thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High. [D&C 59:910]
Keep the Word of Wisdom
The seventh commandment: Thou shalt keep the Word of Wisdom.
The commentary: We have received from the Lord a law of health which, if kept, will assure us not only of physical well-being, but also of great outpourings of spiritual enlightenment. This law is divided into affirmative counsel, telling us what we may properly eat, and negative counsel, which forbids the use of certain things which are injurious to the body. While the great hosts of men–of people in the world–reel and stagger through life in an alcoholic stupor; while they immerse themselves in the stinking fumes of tobacco; while they drown themselves in gallons of semipoisonous tea and coffee; while they inhale the smoke of marijuana or otherwise afflict themselves with mind-destroying drugs; the Saints of the Most High, in all their peculiarity, avoid these things for the plague that they are.
Theirs is this promise:
And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. [D&C 89:1821]
Now note what was involved: First, “walking in obedience to the commandments,” for the World of Wisdom is more than a law of health; and second, those keeping it “shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” These hidden treasures include such things as a testimony of the truth and divinity of the work, personal revelation to guide us in all our affairs and to provide us with the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. And the eternal decree is that the Spirit will not dwell in an unclean tabernacle.
Believe True Doctrines
The eighth commandment: Thou shalt believe true doctrines and reject the false educational theories of the world.
The commentary: We are saved or damned by what we believe. If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and the saving truths of his everlasting gospel, we have a hope of eternal life. If our beliefs embrace the philosophies of men and the vagaries of the world, they may lead to destruction. Nearly the whole educational world goes blithely along, espousing the false theories of organic evolution, which rule out the fall of man and the atonement of Christ. Men worship at the shrine of intellectuality without ever realizing that religion is a thing of the Spirit and that “the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 1:11). Our schools teach some principles of socialism, of communism, of so-called women’s liberation, of curtailing population growth and the like–much of which runs counter to revealed gospel truths.
How grateful we should be for the revealed knowledge we have of the eternal saving truths of the gospel. We know the verities that must be comprehended, understood, and applied to our lives to give us joy and peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. These things pertain to the nature and kind of being that God is and to the great plan of salvation which he ordained to enable his spirit children to advance and progress and become like him. The fact that Adam fell, bringing temporal and spiritual death into the world, and the fact that God sent his Only Begotten Son into the world to ransom men from the effects of the temporal and spiritual death brought upon all mankind through the fall of Adam–these are eternal verities. Other eternal verities are these–that God has spoken in our day; that the fulness of his everlasting gospel has been restored; that the church and kingdom of God has been set up on earth anew; that it administers the gospel by the power of the holy priesthood; and that there are had among us the gifts, signs, miracles, and all the wonders, blessings, and graces that were ever had in any day when the Lord had a people on earth.
Serve Your Fellowmen
The ninth commandment: Thou shalt serve thy fellowmen and sacrifice for the building up of the kingdom.
The commentary: Service and sacrifice are essential to salvation. Jesus said, “I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:27). King Benjamin said, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). Joseph Smith taught that “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary to lead unto life and salvation.”
The tenth commandment: Thou shalt pour out thy soul to the Lord in mighty prayer.
The commentary: We are a praying people –not giving lip service only, not reciting mere words, not repeating memorized phrases–but praying with all the energy and power we possess, praying until the heavens open and the Lord rains down righteousness upon us. No one can pray with perfect faith unless he keeps the commandments. An immoral man can never generate the faith to raise the dead. A person who does not keep the Word of Wisdom will be hindered in healing the sick, and so on right down to the dress and grooming standards.
God’s Kingdom on Earth
Such, I suggest, are the ten commandments of a peculiar people. If we live by the principles set forth in them we shall have peace in this life and be inheriters of eternal life in the world to come. If any of us now fall short in any degree, the door is open for repentance. The Lord’s arm is not shortened that he will not hear, but he invites all men to come to him and partake of his goodness and grace.
There is an organization in his kingdom whereby we can receive the counsel and direction that we need. All of us have power to set our lives in order to the full so that we do “live soberly, godly, and righteously” in this present world and thereby gain the promised peace and the promised hope of an eternal reward in what we’re talking about.
“What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they?” The inspired answer is “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:1314). No one ever said or claimed that life was intended to be easy. The Lord deliberately has left us in a situation where the world is all around us and where we have to make the choices. If we choose to follow him and take the counsel that is given, we reap the blessings. And if we choose otherwise, we follow the course that the world follows and the destruction promised to them will be heaped upon us also. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21). “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his god, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:7).
What a glorious and wondrous thing it is to be a member of the church and kingdom of God on earth, to have the revelations of heaven, and to know what is meant by the prophetic utterances and the counsels written by prophets and apostles. We are so blessed. This Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s kingdom on earth. It is led by the spirit of inspiration. If we follow the counsel and direction that we receive, then these principles about which we have talked will live in our lives. They will live because they are true and because the Lord wants to operate by these standards. Out of that kind of a course we shall get the joy and the peace “that passeth all understanding” while we are here in mortality, and we’ll have a guaranteed inheritance of glory, honor, immortality, and exaltation in the realms ahead. Of this I testify and for these things I pray for all of us, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.