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Elder Joseph W. Sitati

Elder Joseph W. Sitati

07 Dec. 2015

Transcript

A Pattern in All Things

Thank you, President Richards, and thank you, members of the choir, for that wonderful music. Brothers and sisters, Sister Sitati and I feel honored to be here and to be invited to talk at this devotional. I’ve not ever mentioned to President Richards that our connection as a family to LDS Business College actually goes quite a way back. More than about 15 years ago, our son Martin was at this College. He was here for two years, and one of the remarkable things that we noticed was that when Martin came back to Kenya after being here and then serving a mission in St. Louis in Missouri, was that his English was very good. It was almost perfect. And he kind of became a reference among his friends for how to speak good English. So we acknowledge the good things that are done here, and I hope that those of you who are here can be recognized in some special way as you leave this College.

I really feel grateful for the opportunity to be assigned by the First Presidency to speak to you this morning. I’d just like to begin by acknowledging the important work that you do and in which you are involved in at this College. It is a work of transforming lives through the pursuit of eternal truth.

If you are a member of the faculty, yours is the sacred responsibility of presenting principles of truth in their purity, in your professional area of specialization. In doing so, you will help to inspire those who learn at your feet to hunger, to explore, and to discover more on their own.

If you are a student, then yours is the sacred responsibility to invest your faith and hope in the promise of those truths to which you have been introduced. As you do so, may you ignite the fire of desire in your hearts to seek to discover more about those truths, and may the reality of the promise of having and applying truth be manifest through who you become and how successfully you navigate through this life after graduating from LDS Business College.

Today, I desire to share with you a few principles of truth I have learned from the patterns of things in nature that have strengthened my faith in God and my love for His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, and for His chosen servants, the prophets who testify of Him. My purpose is to invite you to find personal strength in these patterns, and to continue in them if you have already found meaning that strengthens your faith.

I begin by sharing a short story from my youth about an experience with which you may be familiar. As a young boy, I was fascinated by many things, as boys usually are. Our family lived in the countryside of rural western Kenya. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, boys my age in that part of the world typically took the family cattle out to pasture when we were not in school. There in the fields, I would be on my own, and my eyes and mind were free to wonder and ponder on the drama of nature as it played out before me.

I remember being almost enchanted by the rainbow. It created the most mysterious beauty in the sky. In my young mind, I had many questions. What was the rainbow? Why did it appear only at certain times and not others? And always, only when there was rain? Could I ever be near enough to one to touch it? It always seemed to be in the distance where I could never reach it. Why was it that sometimes there was only one rainbow and at other times there were two nested together?

From what I heard others say about rainbows, I knew that I would not find answers that satisfied my yearning to really know. Others usually spoke of the mystical powers of traditional rainmakers but which were beyond anyone’s understanding. When I was old enough to go to secondary school a few years later, and with these questions still in mind, it was exciting for me to discover in my science class that white light is composed of several components of different color. This was like magic to me. We passed white light through a clear glass block called a prism, and it emerged in different colors. But excitement did not end there. When we passed those colors through a second prism, white light emerged again.

I learned that this separation of white light into each component as it passed through a prism was caused by a natural phenomenon called refraction. When light passes through the air and enters a prism, the glass of the prism, being denser than the air, slows the light down. And then interesting things begin to happen. Each of the components of light slows down to a slightly different speed, separating itself from the others in the process and emerging from the process as a separate, individual, visible color. I learned that when the sun is in certain positions, rainwater drops in the sky can behave like tiny prisms.

I also learned that light striking the surface of water at a certain angle is reflected in the same way a mirror reflects light. Rainwater droplets in the sky also behave like tiny mirrors when light passes through them when it strikes the rain at certain angles.

I came to understand that the combined action of these two natural phenomena—refraction and reflection—is what caused the rainbow. When I was in a position with the sun behind me and a rain shower in front of me, light from the sun reaching the drops of rain falling from the sky were refracted and reflected back to me, appearing as a wonderfully beautiful rainbow. Moreover, I learned that the visible rainbow reveals only a tiny portion of something much larger. There are other components on either side of the visible rainbow that my eyes were simply not made to see. Learning about these other components revealed an electromagnetic spectrum, of which visible light is only a small part.

That youthful peek into one of the wonders of nature that I saw around me taught me profound lessons that led me to learn and embrace truths about life that have been of great value to me.

The prophet Enoch testified that natural things bear witness of the reality of God, and said, quoting God, “And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath; all things bear record of me.”[1]

I’ve come to know that when I understand the pattern of the realities that are naturally before me, I am strengthened in my understanding of the truths of the gospel. This increased understanding adds to my faith in a world that increasingly advocates the idea that truth is negotiable or is something that can be made up in a person’s own mind. I love the counsel of the Lord given in the Doctrine and Covenants: “And again, I will give you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations.”[2]

I summarize some of the truths I have learned in the following three principles. First, things that appear are a pattern of things that do not appear. Second, men and women are made in the image and likeness of God. And third, all things are governed by the eternal law of God.

Let us consider the first principle: things that appear are a pattern of things that do not appear. The rainbow colors that are visible give the pattern of the electromagnetic spectrum, most of which is not visible. For purposes of illustration, we can liken the electromagnetic spectrum to the notes of a piano.

The notes of a piano range from the low and deep note all the way up to the high note. All the notes have a similar pattern, with the tone of each note changing as the frequency of the note changes. If the electromagnetic spectrum were actually the notes of a piano, you’d experience visible light as only a few of the middle notes. A loving Heavenly Father has created the human family with eyes having sensitivity to only visible light, by which we can see things around us, learn, associate with one another, find food, appreciate the beauty of our surroundings, and avoid danger, among other miraculous things our eyes enable us to do.

But our eyes remain limited, and even the most marvelous things they enable us to create are limited. But through white light, Heavenly Father has opened a window for mankind to act within the scope of his abilities to discover that light which we cannot see but which is nevertheless present. If we make the effort to seek it, we will find it.

For example, scientists have explored and discovered much about the electromagnetic spectrum. From those discoveries have come many products and processes that continue to benefit mankind in temporal ways. In the same way, through the light of the truths of the revealed gospel, Heavenly Father has opened a window to us, His children, to discover through His Spirit eternal truths that are not written. If we make the effort to seek them by diligently applying the truths we have already received, more will be revealed to us to enable us to find joy as we build up the kingdom of God and bless His children.

The Psalmist has testified: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”[3] I invite you to learn from the patterns manifest in the works of God so that you may grow closer to and rejoice in Him.

Let us consider the second principle: men and women are made in the image and likeness of God. A pattern that witnesses one of the great eternal truths is the image and likeness of men and women as they exist on this earth from conception until death, and what it reveals about them and about God.

Job said, “There is a spirit in man”[4] that gives life. Ecclesiastes added that the spirit at death returns “unto God who gave it.”[5] In the first chapter of Genesis, we read: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”[6] A little further, in the fifth chapter, we find another reference to the Creation. It reads: “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him. . . . And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth.”[7]

The scriptures teach that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man.”[8] The form of the spirit that you and I possess as the posterity of Adam is the likeness and image of the God who created us. We do not see the spirit in the human soul, but we are well acquainted with the body in which the spirit dwells. Neither are we able to see God with the limited ability of our eyes. But He has provided means by which every normal person can know Him beyond doubt, despite the constraint of human limitations.

Let me elaborate. In addition to the patterns He has put before us in natural life on earth, God has revealed Himself more directly to mankind through His chosen and anointed prophets, who bear special witness of Him. Through their testimony, which may be confirmed individually to each of us by the Holy Ghost according to our desires and seeking, we may also become firm in our personal knowledge of God.

For example, a clear witness of the nature of the spiritual God is provided in the book of Ether by the brother of Jared[9]. Due to his great faith, the brother of Jared was blessed to have the veil removed from his eyes, enabling him to see the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ centuries before He came to live on the earth as a man. The brother of Jared saw the finger of the Lord, and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood.

As the brother of Jared continued to exercise faith, the Lord showed him His full image, and then asked him

Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.

Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.[10]

Abraham and Moses were also privileged to see the premortal spirit of Christ face to face. They were overshadowed by the power of God, which enabled them to see Him while they lived as mortals on the earth. Writing of this experience, Moses noted: “Now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.”[11]

Not only did Abraham and Moses see the Lord face to face, but they were also able to see worlds without number, together with the inhabitants thereof. It is interesting to observe, but not surprising to note, that it has taken the combined power of the most powerful telescopes ever made and the most advanced vehicles traveling deep into space for modern technology to start providing to the world a small glimpse into what Moses and Abraham saw centuries ago with the enabling power of God.

Christ appeared to His people in the flesh in the meridian of time, as He had promised the brother of Jared.[12] The Savior taught His disciples that not only were they made after His image and likeness and form, but also that they were to strive to have His likeness in their nature, or in their character, in the same way that He had the likeness of the Father and His nature. At the Last Supper, as He spoke to them about the Father, He said, “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.”[13] “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”[14]

Later as He gave the Intercessory Prayer, He invoked the Father’s blessing upon his apostles and disciples that His likeness, through the Father, might abound in them and that they might all be one, made perfect in love. He prayed:

As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. . . .

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; . . .

And the glory which thou givest me I have given them; that they may be one even as we are one.[15]

Knowing the true nature of God with certainty helps us to find answers that bring peace and joy to our souls regarding the fundamental questions of our existence, the purpose of life, and the miracles of birth, growth, aging, and death. It gives us identity in this vast universe, that we are children of God, that our current experience of life is temporary but an important part of the eternity of our existence. That knowledge helps us to look to God the Father and to His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, and to His chosen living prophets and apostles. This provides a sure anchor against the deception of the world, gives us hope that vitalizes the human spirit, and leads us to seek and to bring out the best that is possible in our being as we reach out to strengthen others.

The Lord Jesus Christ taught: “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”[16] I invite you to discover how the revelations given in the scriptures and in the teachings of the living prophets and apostles resonate with the natural patterns before you, to reveal your true nature and the true nature of God who is our Father, that you may strengthen your faith and avoid the deception of the world.

Let us now consider the third principle: all things are governed by the eternal law of God. The rainbow taught me that light is subject to the laws of refraction and reflection. As light obeys these laws naturally; light can be changed into something of great beauty. Similarly, when we learn about and respect all the laws to which light is subject, as we work with light, we greatly increase the ways in which light can bless our lives.

This pattern of obedience and the blessings that flow from obedience apply to all things. If you ponder about the things you do every day and that you mostly take for granted because that is the way things have always been, you will recognize that all things work according to conditions that cannot be changed.

Let us examine a few examples. When you walk, it would be impossible for you to move forward if it were not for the law of friction. Friction enables you to keep one foot in one place as you move the other foot forward. Without it, you would be sliding back every time you attempt to move one foot forward. Similarly, without friction, a car would simply spin its wheels and remain in the same place.

Yet another example is that all of us in this assembly hall are as firmly fixed in our place as are people on the opposite side of the earth on a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean, which you might refer to as the bottom of the earth from where we are. Moreover, the ocean water on which the ship is floating is not pouring away, as we might suppose, and all of this is because the law of gravity is acting to hold everyone and everything firmly in place.

Another obvious reality is that without the light of the sun, all life on the earth as we know it would quickly wither and die, and the earth would become a dark, cold, and silent place. We can go on and mention many other realities that are part of our life experience. They confirm the fact that every form of existence is perpetually subject to unchangeable conditions outside of itself. Put another way, all things are governed by eternal law.

Through His prophets, the Lord has taught the following about the order of things in the universe:

All kingdoms have a law given;

And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.[17]

In addition, the Lord has revealed that His truth testifies of Him and of the power by which He has made all things:

And again, verily, I say unto you, he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons;

And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the planets. . . .

Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.[18]

Now, “that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same. That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, . . . cannot be sanctified by law.”[19]

In addition, where there is a law given there is always a punishment affixed, and all things that abide not in the condition of the law are not justified, or must suffer the punishment of the law.[20]

It follows that obedience to eternal law allows us greater freedom according to the law, while disobedience leads to punishment by the law. In temporal or physical things, the freedom or punishment is observed immediately. In spiritual things, however, freedom or punishment is felt rather than observed. Freedom is felt as an internal sense of peace, joy, love, or hope following obedience. Punishment accrued is felt as an internal sense of shame or guilt following disobedience.

In both temporal and spiritual cases of disobedience, freedom and justification are restored only after the punishment is suffered and the action of disobedience is reversed. In other words, there is restitution and repentance, followed by obedience. If not, then according to the scripture, “justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment.”[21]

In spiritual things, accrued punishment is confirmed by the unrepented feelings of guilt, which continue until removed through repentance. I invite you to consider the patterns of nature, in which all things, seen and not seen, are governed by the eternal laws of God that allow you always to choose the way of freedom and justification through obedience.

Let me in conclusion summarize the three principles I have learned from the patterns of nature that have strengthened my faith. First, things that appear are a pattern of things that do not appear. Second, men and women are made in the image and likeness of God. Third, all things are governed by the eternal law of God.

These principles are true. I invite you to learn them for yourself from the patterns available in nature that your faith may also be strengthened. I testify of the living Heavenly Father and of our Savior, His living Son, even Jesus Christ, and of the great work that They have done in providing to us this beautiful earth in this beautiful universe, and its patterns, and the many tender mercies They have extended to us through these blessings. I testify that we have a living prophet on the earth today, even Thomas S. Monson, who represents our Savior and holds the keys that enable the fulness of the light of truth to be available to the world in these last days. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Brothers and sisters, President Richards says that we have about five minutes, if any of you would like to ask a question, we could use that time in that way.

I see a hand here. [Audience member speaks.] How do we find balance? One of the great gifts that we have as the children of God and as members of the Church is the opportunity to have the gift of the Holy Ghost. And I do promise you that through the Holy Ghost, you can learn how to be confident about all things.

Let me—I’m not trying to make this simpler than it actually is—but let me just recall the revelation that talks about how we receive revelation, okay? It talks about studying it in your mind and then going  to Heavenly Father and asking Him. And then He will confirm to you that which is right (see D&C 9:8). Now, that process requires effort from you. It requires that you look at all of the things that you need to do, that require your effort. And the studying part of it is attaching to those things the benefits and the downsides that come from you applying your time to them. Each of them. And then at the end of it, look at those things in your mind and see them according to you. According to your study on the blessings and downsides, how you would rate them in terms of what will deliver to you the greatest blessings?

After you have your list, then go to Him, okay? According to you—you have studied it in your mind—you will go to Him, and He will manifest to you with a feeling of peace, or sometimes you may even feel a burning in the bosom as we are told in the scriptures (see D&C 9:8). But mostly, personally, I have experienced peace rather than a burning. Is that helpful?

We have time for another question. [Audience member speaks.] About what? Be specific; it’s too broad. [Audience member speaks.] Well, I don’t know. I struggle a little bit with that, because I believe that the most important things in life are the same everywhere. Life is the same, okay? I have found, for example, that when you love a person—like us coming from Africa being in the United States, of course it is a new experience for us—but when you love someone, they know it. They feel it. You don’t even have to speak, to say anything. And it is exactly the same thing there. And I don’t speak Japanese, but I believe that if I was in Tokyo, I don’t have to know how to speak Japanese for someone to know that I love them. Are you with me?

And I think this is the most important thing. The things that separate us—the differences that we have—tend to set us apart. They don’t bring us together. So I would rather focus on those things that make us one. And that is one of the reasons that I so much like John 17, the Intercessory Prayer. The Lord is just pleading about how we should be one with the Father, how we should be one with Him and with the Father as He is with the Father. In the other chapters, as He was just closing His mission on earth, chapter 13 of the book of John, many times he repeats, “a new commandment I give you, That ye love one another.”[22]

For me, between Africa and the United States, this is the most important thing. Is that helpful? Thank you.

Thank you, brothers and sisters. It has been a wonderful meeting, and I invoke the blessings upon you that you might find true fulfillment and joy in being at this institution and lay the foundations to grow to your full potential, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

[1] Moses 6:63

[2] D&C 52:14

[3] Psalms 19:1

[4] Job 32:8

[5] Ecclesiastes 12:7

[6] Genesis 1:26–27

[7] Genesis 5:1, 3

[8] D&C 88:15

[9] See Ether 3

[10] Ether 3:15–16

[11] Moses 1:11

[12] See Ether 3:16

[13] John 14:11

[14] John 14:21

[15] John 17:18, 20–22

[16] John 17:3

[17] D&C 88:36–37

[18] D&C 88:42–43, 47

[19] D&C 88:34–35

[20] See D&C 88:39

[21] Alma 42:22

[22] John 13:34