Born of the Spirit

04 Sep. 1998

Transcript

Born of the Spirit

 
Good Morning. What a nice occasion. President Gordon B. Hinckley would say, "Well you don't look like much, but you are all we've got."
How do you think he did last night [on the Larry King show? Did you get a chance to see him? He was worried about it. In the temple meeting Thursday he talked about it to the General Authorities. We have a sacrament meeting together every first Thursday of the month in the Salt Lake Temple. He calls upon members of the Seventy, the Twelve, and the First Presidency to bear their testimonies during our sacrament meeting. We don't volunteer.
Anyway, he expressed his concerns about the occasion last night, whether or not he would be prepared. Do you think he was prepared? He knew there would be questions from all spectrums of life in the Church and out of the Church, and there were.
I remember Elder David B. Haight said to him during the expression of his feelings, "President just tell it like it is, and you'll be fine."
I thought he did well–very well. I especially enjoyed the closing comment of Mr. King. He thanked the Prophet, he thanked the President. He said, "We have as our guest Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Prophet!"
I thought that was well said, the Prophet. From a man of Jewish faith, I think that was rather significant he would close in that manner. I would like to have cheered for President Hinkley. We watched the meeting in our home. I had the same feeling of reverence and honor for him that I do when he speaks at conference. It's rather significant that he would be heard on CNN around the world. Whenever we travel across the world and check into our hotel rooms, we can almost always pick up CNN no matter where we are. I am sure that people heard our prophet around the world last night.
I was with him a month ago in Eastern Canada as he was completing the tour of Canada. We were in the Montreal Theater. There were 3,000 saints assembled there. When he announced the Montreal Temple, they broke into applause and cheering–a little unusual at a church meeting. President Hinckley was a little embarrassed frankly. He came and sat down by me after his talk and he said, "They shouldn't have done that."
I just pass that along as a clue that if you are ever in a meeting with him, don't applaud. But they were so excited. It was an historic day for Canada that he announced several temples on this trip–Edmonton, Regina, Montreal, Nova Scotia. It's a great day. Five of them will be built in the North America North East Area in the next few months. At the rate that we are going with these small temples–it's just an absolute wonderful thing–we are going to have ground breaking for two of them in October. They've just been announced and will move ahead. This is a fast-track temple program, and it's wonderful.
We have in the audience here today a friend of mine. I just met Sister Mains that many of you know. Her father was a student at Yakima Valley College when I was the institute director there. I remember Ron. He was so faithful and eager to learn about the gospel. We had some success that year, I think 20 to 30 converts in our institute program.
He wanted me to meet one of his friends over at the dorm. So I said, "Well, I'll go with you."
We went over and met this young man. He didn't have any interest he said in our church–didn't want anything to do with us–he said. I said, "Well I would like to give you a Book of Mormon."
He said, "I don't want it."
I said, "Well I'm going to leave it with you anyway."
That is not a very good way to do missionary work, but I kept in touch with this boy and then I moved away. I think it was 12 years later when I had an education week assignment in Moses Lake, Washington. I completed a lecture and stepped into the cultural hall. I stared down the side of the cultural hall, and I noticed a man and his wife coming in the back door and starting across the hall to intercept me. I knew I knew him. As he got closer, I remembered that he was the boy at Yakima Valley College, in this dorm room, who didn't want the Book of Mormon.
I said, "What are you doing here?"
He said, "I have joined the Church. I wanted to come and tell you about it. Heard you were going to be here. A couple years ago my wife and I were struggling with life. I had this little paperback Book of Mormon that I had stuck away on a dusty shelf all these years. We took that book and we read it together. It saved our marriage, and we joined the church. We wanted to thank you for sharing it with us–with me–those 10 or 12 years ago, whatever it was. Now we have been to the temple. We are raising our family in the covenants. We just wanted to thank you."
So Sister Mains, will you tell Ron, your dad, that these converts do all right. You are the second generation. My sons have been on missions. Now I have grandsons. It is a glorious day for all of those who come into the Church. I didn't think that I would have those tender feelings this morning but that is what happens when the spirit is evident as in this meeting.
I would like to talk to you this morning a little bit. I am really proud of you first of all. Thanks for pursuing your education. You are taking this time in your life to prepare yourself, to better yourself, to improve yourself. I think that you need to be honored for that. Thank you for helping each other. Thank you for coming here today.
As a convert to the Church, I have had some experiences that many have not in the leading councils of the Church. I come to you today as one who knows things about the restoration that others have not personally experienced. I am one who has asked God if this church is true. I am one who wrestled over the concept of a living prophet in the last days in Joseph Smith and as Amulek testified in Chapter 10 of Alma. He knew the day, the month and the year. I know the moment, when Joseph became my prophet also, the very moment having asked God if he was a prophet. I am one who knows by the power of the Holy Ghost the truth of the things that Moroni talked about. If you would ask God, with real intent having faith in Christ, he would manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost (see Moroni 10:4). I'm one who knows those things can happen. I've asked lots of questions and I know this work is true.
I come today to bear witness. I am a witness; I'm a witness of Christ. I am one who can testify that he lives, that this is His work, His church. Gordon B. Hinckley is His prophet. His scriptures have been revealed in these last days. I love them; I see in them the Christ. I love them. I have come to know of Christ through the scriptures through his voice, through the Holy Ghost and through answers to prayers from God the Eternal Father. I am a witness these things are true.
I come today to join with the choir in glorifying God who has given all things to us. I've been where you are. I've taught where you've taught, brothers and sisters, the young people of the Church. I know that you have some doubts. I know that this is a time in your life when you have doubts, when you're looking, when you're searching, when you're trying to get a hold of things, trying to get a little direction, trying to find out what to do, where to go. There are lots of those questions. I just wanted to come today and tell you that He knows, He knows you. Just be patient; don't push it too hard. He'll help you; He'll guide you; He'll give you some impressions. You will be in the right place at the right time when it's needed.
This is real stuff, this life. It's hard, but I assure you with all of my heart that God lives. He knows his children. Some have thought that maybe this church was too hard, that you couldn't be quite good enough to obtain eternal life. I testify to you, you can. We can. The plan is designed for people like us–people with weaknesses, people with doubts, people that are just trying to work through life the best they can. That's the plan. It's for us. There is only one perfect man and He invited us to follow Him–that's the beauty of it–invited us to follow Him.
You recall that the scriptures have indicated that this life is the time to what? Prepare to meet God. So we are all in this together. We're going to work it out. I'm older now than you, so I can speak from experience. When I was your age, I didn't have that experience. I had to gain it. I had to have the faith to move ahead. Continue to work; continue to study; continue to pray; continue to serve. There wasn't any magic day that came along. It was just,"work it out." And so I think I understand where you are. I honor you that you would take time today, to come and regenerate some of those spiritual feelings–some of those batteries that can be recharged–because we are spiritual beings. There is more than this life; there is eternity. What an opportunity we have to prepare for eternity.
I know something about knowledge, the kind of knowledge that changes your life. I know something about faith, expressing faith to the point that it becomes knowledge. I know something about life and the persuit of the things that God wants us to do. I testify to you that he will bless you. He knows you.
We were born on this earth to gain experience to be tried and tested, and what a wonderful thing it is to have the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints restored on the earth today. What a wonderful time for us to live. Many of the members of the Church today are converts. They are discovering these things. Some of you have been raised in the Church all of your life; you have never known anything else. That's all right. You are here to work out your salvation too. We have a purpose in this life. We have been given time to prepare ourselves to meet God. I believe the scriptures are true. I believe Jesus. When He says something can happen, I believe it will happen. When He talks to a prophet and the prophet writes it down, it becomes scripture. I believe it. I just accept it. I am glad to have it. I'm not among those that say, "Well, we have enough; we need no more." I don't prescribe to that. I would like to have more; it would be okay with me to have more of this saving knowledge. It's wonderful to have this saving knowledge.
I was raised in another church. I was an alter boy in the Catholic Church 12 years. Virtually every Sunday of my life between the age of nine to 21, I served mass somewhere. If not once a week, five or six times a week. I was planning on becoming a Catholic priest. It would have been a great honor in my family for one of the sons, the oldest in particular, to become a priest.
But I met the Mormons about the time I needed to make some decisions, some really important decisions about my future and about my life. I met the Mormons, and one thing that I learned immediately about them is that they have the answers to everything. I want you to know that. You have more answers to life's challenges than most people who walk the earth today. You have them right now. Because you are faithful Latter-day Saints, you have answers that most people do not have.
I went through the study process. It took me a year. I read the Mormon literature; I went to the Mormon meetings, after mass, of course. I talked with the Mormon kids at institute and in my classes, and they had answers and so we kept talking. Somebody finally gave me a Book of Mormon. It was a privilege receiving a Book of Mormon. I thought that you couldn't get one until you were a member because nobody ever gave me one. Now that is reversed. That is one of the first things that we do is to give them a Book of Mormon so they can begin to study.
Well, I read it. And I know, I know it's true. So when I knew it was true. I had a problem then with Joseph because if it was true, then Joseph had to be a prophet. And if Joseph was a prophet, then my church wasn't true. There was another true church on the earth. I was always taught that my church was true. How could there be two? Well, there couldn't be. I had to find out what was true, and what was of the Lord.
So again, speaking as Amulek spoke, on a certain morning, at a certain hour, on a certain day, of a certain week, of a certain month, of a certain year, I asked God if these things are not true. Then I received His answer by the power of the Holy Ghost. I wasn't a member of the Church. I hadn't had any missionary lessons, but I asked. Moroni said if I would ask, I could know. So I asked.
I had that experience which I thought was a wonderful, blessed event in my life, literally a life-changing event. I then went from my apartment immediately to the institute of religion and said I want to be baptized. The brethren there and the institute director looked at me like you just don't understand–this is not the way that this works. They said, "Well you need the lessons,"
I said, "I just had a lesson. God has given me an answer to my prayer by the power of the Holy Ghost. That was a lesson, is that good enough?"
"Nope, that's not good enough. You need the lessons."
I said, "Who gives the lessons?"
They said, "The missionaries."
I said, "Well, where are they?"
"We don't know."
" I'm one who has had trouble coming into the Church–couldn't get it right. Well can you find them?"
"Yes, we can find them."
So I think it was three or four days later, two of those Mormon missionaries taught me the gospel. We had all the lessons in one week. In fact, we had all the lessons in two lessons. I just wanted them to get them over with. Elder Door fell asleep during one of the lessons. I didn't care. In my heart it was just "brethren get this over with so I can get in the Church."
And then I had the privilege of being baptized by a returned-missionary friend of mine who was in my physics class. His name was John, John M. Madsen.
Elder Madsen and I were called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, and the First Quorum of the Seventy exactly at the same time. We are the only two men that we know of in the history of this church that one baptized the other and were called to be general authorities the same day. How do you think we feel about each other? One who taught the other the gospel and one who responded through the waters of baptism–I continue to marvel that our friendship has been preserved in this calling now, where as no one else has had this.
I joined the Church. I know it's true. I knew it was true before I joined it. That is why I wanted to join it. Melvin J. Ballard, the apostle Melvin J. Ballard, said, "This life is the time to repent. You can do more in this life in preparation for eternal life than you can in any other place. This is the time to prepare for that, to overcome the things of this world and prepare to meet God."
I'm one who joins with the prophets and declares that because this church is true and because you and I have partaken of the ordinances necessary for eternal life, we will be saved. Brigham Young made this statement and maybe you have seen it in your lessons this year as you are studying the prophets now. Maybe you have seen this statement. He says, "I want present salvation, and I don't talk much about the Gods and the eternities. I just want to know if I am saved today, tomorrow and the next day."
That is my feeling. I want present salvation and to know if I'm doing what the Lord has asked me to do. If I partake of the covenants He has indicated we are to partake of such as baptism in His church, confirmation to receive the Holy Ghost in his Church–there isn't any other church that can do it–ordination to the Priesthood of God in His church, then I'm on the path.
Didn't Nephi say in 2 Nephi 31 that there was a path, a specific path? What kind of a path is it? It is a straight and narrow path. How do you get on it? Baptism. What else do you need why you are on it? Confirmation. Where does it lead? It leads to eternal life. Now, do you believe that or not? I do. I believe it, and I am committed to living it and to helping others find it. It's going to be my life's work. It is going to help others accept that doctrine, believe it and live it. It's true; that is how we gain eternal life.
You have entered that path; now don't doubt. I know you will stray once in a while.
I know that things get tough, I know that you have a doubt or two. You work through that–life is going to let you work through that–but it's true. This is the way. There is no other way, there is no other name, there is no other manner given under heaven whereby men may be saved. It's just this way.
One of the things that I loved about the Book of Mormon was the plan. When you are a student you like a plan, don't you? I was a student. Here the Book of Mormon said the plan of redemption, the merciful plan of the creator, the great plan of our God, the great plan of redemption, the plan of salvation, the plan of restoration, the great plan of happiness, the plan of mercy, the great plan of mercy, and the plan was good. I discovered in the Book of Mormon the plan. Who would want more than that? The plan–God's plan–we have it. There is no one who can speak of this plan like we can. They don't have it in their scriptures. The word plan is not in the Old and New Testaments; it has to be a restored doctrine. It is a restored doctrine; it's restored in the Book of Mormon, the Pearl Great Price. I want to live His plan, and it's this church.
I bear testimony to you; this work is true. Now just take it easy; live it; don't get too excited; don't get over-anxious; don't get too much heartburn–you don't need any ulcers–just keep plugging away. Listen to the Spirit. The Spirit will never, never lead you astray. If you get an impression, do it. Get an impression over there to stay away from that? Do it–stay away. Just keep plugging away; adding to your faith, knowledge, testimony, works, service. You'll be all right. God knows you're here; these are tough times. He knows. He won't abandon us. We've got a prophet, a prophet of God. Even Larry King knows we have a prophet. He is the Lord's prophet and this is his work. God lives, and Jesus is the Christ and this church is true. The Book of Mormon is true. We love you.

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Do We Know How Much He Went Through?

14 Oct. 1998

Transcript

Do We Know How Much He Went Through?

 
President Brigham Young asked the human family this question:
"Can all the wisdom of the world devise means by which we can be redeemed, and return to the presence of our Father and Elder Brother, and dwell with holy angels and celestial beings? No, it is beyond the power and wisdom of the inhabitants of the earth...to prepare or create a sacrifice that will pay this divine debt. But God provided it, and his Son has paid it." (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941, p.59)
In order to answer this weighty question, for the next few minutes, I would like to discuss how much our Savior really went through. We need to comprehend how much our Lord, Jesus Christ, went through spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally from the time of the Last Supper in the upper room until His Holy resurrection.
He took eleven of His apostles to the Garden of Gethsemane. All eleven felt inexpressible depression as they crossed the Kedron Valley and entered into the garden.
The Savior entered alone into the valley of the shadow of death -- the Garden of Gethsemane. Our Lord felt and knew that the awful and uncomprehended hour of His deepest humiliation had finally arrived. His torture of physical pain and the poignancy of mental anguish was unbelievable.
The Lord told eight of the apostles, "...Sit ye here while I go and pray yonder" (Matthew 23:36) and told them, "...pray that ye enter not into temptation." (Matthew 26:41) Then the Lord took Peter, James, and John, the leading Brethren, further and began to be eveloped by deep sorrow.
"My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me." (Matthew 26:38)
He went farther to a stone's cast distance and fell on His face and prayed:
"Abba, Father, all things [are] possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt." (Mark 14:36)
His earnest and impassioned supplication must have been heard by at least one of these three Brethren. He came back and Jesus found them sleeping. Jesus addressed Peter who a short time ago had loudly expressed his readiness to follow the Lord, even to prison and death, "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?" (Matthew 26:40)
Speaking of His suffering, King Benjamin foresaw this most overwhelming moment:
"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." (Mosiah 3:7, emphasis added)
Brother McConkie said, "There is not language known to mortals that can tell what agony and suffering was his while in the garden." (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, Vol. 4, p 126-127.)
In his book, "The life of Christ," Frederic Farrar expressed of the Savior:
"... He had to brace His body, to nerve His soul, to calm His Spirit by prayer and solitude to meet that hour in which all that is evil in the power of evil should wreak its worst upon the Innocent and Holy." (Frederic Farrar, The Life of Christ, 575)
He faced that hour alone. No human eyes witnessed, except through the twilight and shadow, the depth of His suffering. It was uncomprehended by the finite mind. Elder James E. Talmage writes:
He struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible. It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from ever pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing. (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 613)
The Savior went back the second time, pleading in agony:
"O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done." (Matthew 26:42)
He came back a second time to His apostles, and found them sleeping, "...for their eyes were heavy." (Matthew 26:43) Joseph Smith translation, "...neither knew they what to answer him." (JST Mark 14:40) The Lord charged them to watch again, and the third time He went to His lonely vigil and individual struggle. He implored His Father with the same words of yearning entreaty. He came to the disciples, and the apostles were again sleeping. Matthew describes, "And He left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh He to His disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners." (Matthew 26:44-45)
Joseph Smith added his thought and translated, "And after they had slept... ." (JST Matthew 26:43) The Savior came back a third time and allowed them to rest for a time and kindly watched them sleep. He must have prayed earnestly again while they were sleeping. "And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him." (Luke 22:43) "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Luke 22:44) Little did these men realize or understand the Lord's agony and the eternal and lasting impact of His suffering on the human family.
Amulek testifies: "And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the
Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal." (Alma 34:14)
These sacred hours of redemptive work for each one of us, to all the human family, even the whole universe, were caused by his sacred and redeeming and atoning blood.
His suffering was beyond our imagination. His grief was beyond our comprehension. His pain was beyond utterance. His struggle was beyond endurance. He felt a horror of great darkness.
His endurance of this exquisite pain caused a medical condition know as hemohydrosis or haematirosis, which is exceedingly rare. This bloody sweat was caused because he was taking on all of the sins of the whole human family, both on this side and on the other side of the veil. He faced a state of loneliness, agony, disappointment, denial, desertion, extreme mental and physical, even emotional stress which caused him fear on fear.
President John Taylor testified:
"As the Son of Man, He endured all that it was possible for flesh and blood to endure; as the Son of God He triumphed over all... ." (The Mediation and the Atonement, Salt Lake City: Deseret News Co., 1882, p. 151)
Our earth was chosen to be the place where the Savior was to be born. The Lord Himself came to this special small planet eart to redeem the whole universe. And "worlds without number have I created." (Moses 1:33) Jesus took all the sins of all the children of our Father in Heaven upon himself. That is why it was beyond our imagination and understanding.
His prayer was in infinite reverence. His strong crying to His Holy Father and those tears which He shed were not rejected. You and I cannot intrude too closely into this scene, it was so sacred that no footstep may penetrate.
As we contemplate this sacred and solemn occasion, maybe like those disciples, our senses are confused and our perceptions are not clear. As we reverently meditate the sacred mission of our holy Savior in our lives, we too, sometimes, are half awake, half oppressed by our daily lives like an irresistible weight of troubled slumber.
Can you see His face upon the ground? Can you hear his voice wailing? Can you see His finger nails scratching the bark of the olive tree, because it is so painful? Can you hear His murmurous and broken agonizing voice? His utterance of atoning cries pierces our souls. Do we feel His deep everlasting atoning love that He has for us? Are we ever grateful for His redeeming blood? Do we express our deep humility of reverence to His redeeming love? Do we show our humble adoration for His mercy? Are our souls penetrated by His eternal grace?
During His ministry, He commanded the winds and the sea. They obeyed Him. In His glorious pre-mortal life, He created the extensive universe, with innumerable stars and galaxies. He created all life-beautiful lilies and all living creatures. Why must He go through this? Can you see His anguish and the great drops of atoning blood which were shed from Him?
Under the dark shadows of olive trees you may not see Him clearly, but can you see the angel helping Him? (See Luke 22:43). Can you see this angel supporting the failing strength of our Lord? This angel-supporting Him to rise from those prayers? For almost four hours through the agonized failings of His heart. His fearful amazement and also horror of darkness brought Him almost down to the grave.
I myself cannot even scarcely talk about His painful suffering and offering without shame and sorrow. So I cannot speak lightly of the price He paid for us. To discuss His crucifixion is so deep and profound. I am confused at His mercy. It is so sacred. It is so meaningful. This is such a solemn matter that it requires a sublime and holy spirit to feel His redemptive act for each one of us.
Eighteen centuries later, the Savior in describing His agony to the Prophet Joseph, remembered the pain as though it had been experienced yesterday:
"...how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent...
Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit-and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink. Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men" (D&C 19:15-19).
As the Hymn so beautifully expresses:
His precious blood he freely spilt;
His life he freely gave,
A sinless sacrifice for guilt,
A dying world to save (Hymn No. 195, verse 2)
His atoning blood ransoms us whole. His atoning utterance cleanses our broken hearts and makes them contrite. His blood and His eternal offering at the sacred altar in the garden and on the cross purifies and sanctifies our souls. His pure love now ransoms all.
His compassionate act will purify us under only one condition. That is we must LOVE Him. We must SERVE Him. We must OFFER our absolute commitment to Him. We must follow Him obediently with all of our might, mind, and strength.
His redeeming power will have an effect upon us when we partake of His sacred emblems-the foundation of the living waters. Let us partake of the sacrament of everlasting love from Him daily. (See 1 Nephi 11:25) Let us sing the "song of redeeming love." before the Lord everyday (see Alma 26:13)
Almost 83 years before Christ on this American continent, Alma testified to the people of Gideon of the Savior's mission:
"And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind...he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people...he will take upon him death...loose the bands of death...and...take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy... .(Alma 7:12, emphasis added)
Imagine, in the center of the universe, our loving and kind Heavenly Father must have wiped His holy tears. Imagine the great gratitude of the Father for His Son's willingness to give himself for all of the Father's children. The Father could have sent multitudes of the hosts of heaven to rescue His Son from that awful situation. But our Father must have closed His eyes in those final moments in order that you and I and other sons and daughters could have hope.
Judas betrayed Him. He brought Him to the high priests, soldiers and a great multitude with swords and staves. (Matthew 26:46-56,14-15,21, Mark 14:8, 14:10-11, 14:18, Luke 22:3-6)
The chief priests could not find any fault from the Lord, however the whole council falsely witnessed against Him to put to death. The Lord kept His peace. Finally, the Lord testified, "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man, sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." (Matthew 26:59-68) The verdict on this trial was "...blasphemy and guilty of death." (Matthew 26:65-66) They spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,
"Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?" (Matthew 26:67-68)
"And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? (John 18:22)
Pilate could not find good reason to hold Him and was about to release the Lord. The people cried, "Let Him be crucified." (Matthew 27:22) "Crucify him." (Mark 15:13)
Pilate, after extensive questions to our Lord, said, "...I find no fault in this man." (Luke 23:4) And when Pilate found that He was from Galilee, he sent the Lord to Herod.
There also the chief priests vehemently accused the Lord. In this trial, Herod with his men mocked and arrayed the Lord in a gorgeous robe. He sent the Lord back to Pilate.
Again Pilate could not find sound reasons to keep the Lord, but the people cried more loudly, "Let Him be crucified." (Matthew 27:22) "Crucify Him." (Mark 15:13) "His blood be on us, and on our children." (Matthew 27:25) They stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet robe and a platted crown of thorns upon His head. Soldiers bowing their knees before Him to salute and worship Him, mocked Him. (Matthew 27:27-28, Mark 15:20) The soldiers treated Him roughly. For scourging, the Savior was stripped of his upper clothing.
It is presumed his hands were tied to an upright post and the back, buttocks, and legs were flogged. Usually the whipping was performed by two soldiers, or one alternating positions. This scourging was so severe that sometimes the victim came to a stage of collapse or death.
Scourging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution. The usual instrument was a short or long whip composed of several single or braided leather thongs in which small diamond-shaped pieces of iron, or shattered sheep bone were tied at intervals on both sides.
"I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting." (Isaiah 50:6)
According to the Jewish law, lashes were limited to 39-40, but we do not know how many our Lord had. But remember He not only endured scourging by leather thongs, but had a crown of thorns on His head. A wooden staff as a scepter was placed in his right hand. The soldiers spat on our Lord and Savior and struck Him on the head with the wooden staff.
The head is covered by many subtle small blood tissues and a nervous system. Wearing that thorny crown with plaited thorns would cause blood to stream down from those tissues all over the face. Not only that though, the head would feel as though the brain were caught by a burning fire. It is so unbelievable the pain that would go through the entire head. You just could not bear and think and behave reasonably.
When Roman soldiers tore the robe from the Savior's back, they reopened His scourging wounds.
"...abuses physically and mentally and lack of food, water, and sleep contributed to a more and more weakened state of His strength. Even before the actual crucifixion, His physical condition was so serious and critical." (JAMA Report, 21 March. 1986)
On this sacred altar, our Heavenly Father offered His beloved Son and His eternal offering. By His holy grace and through His redeeming blood and atoning blood - which is His sacrifice to all of us - we may return to His presence once again.
The Lord said: "To this end was I born and for this cause came I into the world." (John 18:37)
There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all.
We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.
There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin.
He only could unlock the gate
Of heav'n and let us in.
Oh, dearly, dearly has he loved!
And we must love him too,
And trust in his redeeming blood,
And try his works to do. (Hymn No. 194)
I humbly bow my head and reverently and meekly search my soul to feel His redeeming love ever moment. Can you see His atoning blood dripping like rain. His sweat that He shed in the agony of His pain on the cross on Calvary was for me. There are no words in express my love to Him. He has suffered death for you and me. I want to print in my soul His Holy face and words of love and record permanently in my ears His eternal whisperings of the words "redeeming love." Then, I wish I shall never forget them as long as I live.
These were hours of horror, yet the Lord expressed His infinite love towards those that treated Him in such cruel ways.
"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. The reference, of course, is to "the soldiers who crucified him. (JST Luke 23:35) "Others rebelled against Him and chose to walk in darkness at noon day. All these are left in the hands of divine justice and mercy." (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, Vol. 4, p. 211)
Still with all He went through, our Savior was nailed to a cross and crucified. The major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion, beyond the excruciating pain, comes from the weight of the Savior's body, pulling down on the outstretched arms and shoulders, which fix the intercostal muscles in an inhalation state and hinder passive exhalation. Accordingly, exhalation was diaphragmatic, and breathing was shallow.
"This form of respiration would not suffice and hypercarbia would soon result. The onset of muscle cramps or tetanic contraction, due to fatigue and hypercarbia, would respiration even hinder." (JAMA Report, 21 Mar. 1986)
He was offered vinegar and myrrh to drink. But He refused. Brother McConkie said, "The effect of the draught was to dull the nerves, to cloud the intellect, to provide an anesthetic against some part, at least, of the lingering agonies of that dreadful death." (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, Vol. 4, p. 210)
Oh, will we ever understand why and how He did it for us?
Glory to God. His eternal voice comes back to my ears thousands of times until I really understand His sacred at-one-ment-to become one with Him. By His grace and mercy, we receive the honor to become one with the Father through the sacred mediator. His holy redeeming act allowed us to be with the Holy Father once again. His atonement brought to the universe the new birth-it is called holy resurrection.
Brother McConkie explains the mysteries of the atonement and resurrection as follows:
"In some way, incomprehensible to us, Gethsemane, the cross, and the empty tomb join into one grand and eternal drama, in the course of which Jesus abolishes death, and out of which comes immortality and eternal life for the righteous." (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, Vol. 4, p. 224, emphasis added)
Heavenly Father loves us so much. He wanted all of us together to be glorified before His presence. Because of His love, Heavenly Father offered His Eternal and Infinite Love, who is His Only Begotten Son. Why? Because Father loves us, His children, so much.
Yes, He, Himself testified:
"Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name." (3 Nephi 9:15)
Joseph Smith testified:
"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; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." (History of the Church, Vol.3, Ch. 3, p. 30)
President Hinckley testifies:
"The greatest salient truth of life is that the Son of God came into our world and atoned for the sins of mankind and opened the gate by which we may go on to eternal life." (Charlotte North Caroline Regional Conference, Priesthood Leadership Session, February 24, 1996)
I feel Joseph's feeling as he listened to John Taylor sing "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief," in Carthage jail:
In prison I saw him next, condemned
To meet a traitor's doom at morn.
The tide of lying tongues I stemmed,
And honored him 'mid shame and scorn.
My friendship's utmost zeal to try,
He asked if I for him would die.
The flesh was weak; my blood ran chill,
But my free spirit cried, "I will!" (Hymn No. 29)
I reverently want to say to the Lord and offer my small token of my love to Him. The Lord knows my flesh is weak but my soul and my spirit cry, "I will and I will."

© Intellectual Properties Inc.

Today

04 Nov. 1998

Transcript

Today

 
The story is told of a great sculptor and a little boy as they stood before a massive block of granite. With fascination, the boy watched as the sculptor began to apply mallet and chisel to the granite. Day after day he chipped and chiseled. Day after day the boy watched as, gradually, the magnificent figure of a man emerged under the skilled hand of the sculptor. Finally, the work was finished. Where once there had been only a granite block, now there stood a beautiful statue. The admiring lad walked carefully around the statue, surveying it from every angle. Finally, in reverential tones, he exclaimed to the sculptor, "Gee, mister, how did you know he was in there?!"
Although probably apocryphal, this little story has a close parallel to life, especially for students standing upon its threshold. Each of you has emerged relatively recently from the cocoon of childhood and adolescence. Each of you stands at life's first great crossroads. Each of you has embarked upon an educational career.
In an important sense, each of you is as the sculptor. While your tools may not be a mallet or a chisel, you are no less craftsmen. Your tools -- the instruments of your art work-- are your daily decisions and your determination to accomplish. Your working material is not granite, but rather the precious substance of eternity -- the immortal soul. What's more, there is more to your ultimate craftsmanship than the inanimate work of art. What you are doing has eternal consequences of incalculable significance. What you are doing is of utmost importance to you and your posterity because, you see, you are the work in progress!
In the story I just related, the boy asked the sculptor how he knew the statue of the man was "in there." The question is provocative. It infers the obvious, namely that the sculptor had a pre-set idea -- a mental picture -- of the end result of his work. When he looked at the unformed and unfinished granite block, the sculptor saw more than a "big rock." Rather, he saw in his mind's eye the magnificent figure of a man. Through the days and weeks of difficult chipping and chiseling, he never lost that vision.
What is your vision? Here you are, young men and women poised on the threshold of life. You have completed the mandatory education required by the law. Up to now, you've gone to school because the law required it. Now, you are on your own time. You're enrolled here voluntarily. Why? What is it that you are sculpting? Is your vision merely occupational -- a job? When you look in the mirror do you see just a future accountant or legal secretary or interior designer?
Or is your vision grander than that? When you look in the mirror or when you close your eyes do you see in your mind's eye the person you are crafting as a figure of nobility and dignity? Do you see someone with a divine royal heritage and with important contributions to make to the welfare of mankind and the upbuilding of the kingdom of God? Do you ever look down the road 10 years, 30 years or 50 years and see yourself? If so, whom and what do you see?
These are questions of profound importance. They are timely questions. They are questions of great urgency for you because, like the sculptor standing before the unblemished block of granite, you have one great gift that will never again appear quite as fresh and unsullied as it now presents itself. I speak of the great blessing opportunity.
Opportunity: Your life is yours for the molding. Blessed with the vigor of youth and few obligations, this is the season of your great opportunity. But opportunity is an elusive commodity. It is, quite literally, "here today and gone tomorrow." Carpe diem is a Latin phrase. It means, "seize the day." You have Today within your grasp. But unless you "seize" it, ere long it will slip through your fingers like quicksilver and be gone. Oh, certainly, the sun will come up each morning throughout your life; and each day will present an opportunity of sorts for good works and happiness. But no other Today will ever again be quite like the one that is now in your grasp. Carpe Diem.
May I share with you a personal experience that has taught me the importance of the opportunity of Today and its profound effect on Tomorrow. In 1965 I was a young infantry officer in the United States Army assigned as a platoon leader in a rifle company of an infantry battalion stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. In October of that year we received a new battalion commander. His name was Lt. Col. Thomas U. Greer, or "Tug" Greer as he was known to his peers. Col. Tug Greer had graduated from West Point in the class of 1951. That class left many of its members dead on the rugged slopes of Korea during that conflict. Tug Greer's perspective on life was colored significantly by that grim fact.
Shortly after assuming command of our battalion, he scheduled training maneuvers in the rugged Kahuku Mountains of northern Oahu. For several days we trudged up and down the steep volcanic slopes of the Kahukus practicing various offensive and defensive infantry tactics. Finally, it was Saturday morning - the last day of the scheduled training. I remember watching the sun come up on that beautiful Hawaiian weekend day. From my perch atop one of those mountain peaks I could look down across the beautiful verdant fields and white sandy beaches to the ocean sparkling like a sapphire in the morning sunlight. Like the rest of the troops, I was eager to return to our base and turn in the equipment so that I could "hit the beach." After all, what was the point of being assigned in Hawaii if you couldn't go to the beach?
Col. Greer came around to our company's location and gave an order to our company commander, Capt. Jim Andrus. We were to establish defensive positions as the last exercise in the training. Now that meant, among other things, digging foxholes. You know what a foxhole is. Basically, it is a hole in the ground large enough for a soldier to seek shelter from enemy fire. But this was volcanic rock and had almost no topsoil. We were equipped only with those small collapsible shovels (know as Army "entrenching tools") to dig with. So, Capt. Andrus ordered that we just would "simulate" foxholes, meaning that we would scrape away a little topsoil at each place where we would have placed a foxhole.
Presently, Col. Greer came around to inspect our positions. Gesturing toward these shallow indentations in the ground, he demanded to know what they were supposed to be. Capt. Andrus hesitantly replied that these were "simulated foxholes." "Simulated foxholes!" spluttered Col. Greer (with a few other words not in the Latter-day Saint vocabulary thrown in for emphasis), "I ordered this company to prepare defensive positions. That means foxholes!" he exclaimed. "This company is going to stay out here and dig until it learns how to make foxholes that look just like those in the training manual," Col. Greer commanded.
My heart sank, as did that of every man in our rifle company. All visions of an afternoon at the beach evaporated. And so, while the rest of the battalion packed up and returned to base and on to the enjoyment of the weekend, Charley Company stayed out on the mountainside, digging. We dug and we dug and we dug. Col. Greer's name was mentioned numerous times that afternoon, but not in a very complimentary way. However, by nightfall we had foxholes that did look like they came right out of the training manual. After that, no outfit in the entire United States Army could dig finer foxholes than C Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry.
What we didn't know on that fateful Saturday was that this was to be our last training exercise before our battalion received orders for Vietnam. You see, upon assuming command Col. Greer had been advised of those top secret orders - orders which he could not share with us. With his vivid remembrance of fallen classmates on the rugged hillsides of Korea, he wanted to do all he could to protect us from the same fate. Hence, he knew that this training exercise would be out last opportunity to prepare for the perils of combat.
It was just three months later that our battalion arrived in Vietnam and was assigned an operating area. That first night, the order went out: establish defensive positions. Our battalion dug in with regulation foxholes because that's the way it had been trained by its commander. A neighboring battalion, however, arriving late in the afternoon only scooped out shallow depressions in the ground - much like our "simulated" training foxholes. That night an enemy mortar barrage rained down on the green troops. Our men were safe and secure in their foxholes. The other battalion was far less fortunate. The next morning, Tug Greer's name was again on everyone's lips - this time with reverence and appreciation. I still regard Lt. Col. Thomas U. Greer as one of the great men I have known. He taught me the importance of an opportunity seized. Carpe Diem.
I believe this is the stuff of which parables are made. What is the significance of the Parable of the Foxholes? From its several applications, I have selected one that seems to have particular significance for young men and women in your circumstance. It is simply this: the importance of recognizing the opportunity presented by Today - not just an opportunity to prepare for future peril, but an opportunity to prepare for future success and happiness. At this singular moment in your lives, the greatest importance of Today is as the springboard for Tomorrow. Today presents an opportunity that likely will not come again. Each of you stands before your own block of granite with mallet and chisel. The vision of yourself that you adopt Today, the crafting and polishing that you commence Today, will determine who and what you will become Tomorrow.
Although you are students, I hope you can see the instruments of craftsmanship at hand as more than just class offerings out of the course catalog. I hope you are developing yourselves as Latter-day Saints as well, and as men and women of strength and character. The qualities that will make your Tomorrow are far more important that those occupational qualifications you will eventually list on your resume. It is the worshipful reverence of the Savior as worthy temple recommend holders, the habits of right living and the joy you find in service to others that will most determine who you will become. These are the qualities that will most determine your success and your happiness. What you learn in academic course work will only be an overlay on who and what you really are. To be sure, success also requires mastery of professional and occupational requirements, but these are decidedly secondary to the qualities of faith, character and habits of personal righteousness that you develop Today.
Yet, seeing Today as a tremendous opportunity to prepare for Tomorrow is not exactly an idea that has large cheering sections among many of the world's young adults in contemporary society.
It is hard for me to comprehend that it has been almost 35 years now since my college class graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. It has been a long time since I was a Young Adult - using that term as a proper noun (although I still like to think of myself as a "young adult" - used as a descriptive term). Recently, I have had occasion to reminisce about my feelings, my attitudes, my life as it was in my early twenties. I remember a sense of seeming immortality, as though life would go on forever. I remember a boundless energy, a zest for life, a time of great expectations as well as great anxieties. I remember those young adult years (borrowing from Charles Dickens) as truly "the best of times" and "the worst of times." Observing you and your generation, I can tell that such feelings continue to be alive and well!
But there are differences as well between your generation and mine. You see, I came of age in the sixties - one of the most turbulent decades in American history. Ours was the Vietnam Era and all that momentous period represented both at home and abroad. As a young man of 25 - the age of some of you here this morning - I went to war as a combat leader of 30 or 40 other young adults. So many of my comrades in arms would never live to see 30, or even 25, much less 50. I can close my eyes and see their faces swimming before me - Sam Solomon, Bill Hoos, Hashiro Imae, Danny Fernandez and others. All so young - gone now. All so reminiscent of the popular ballad, "Where have all the flowers gone."
I see arms and faces bronzed deeply by the tropical sun. I see lines and creases etched into young brows by the unrelenting fatigue, anxiety and ugliness of war. Most of all, I see their eyes - eyes filled with an indescribable weariness and hollowness brought about by too many days and too many nights in the rice paddies and the jungles.
War brought a soberness to my generation. Like it or not, maturity was forced upon us. Our experiences in the ever present face of death and pain and privation laid to rest forever our childhood. Those who returned "back to the world," as we termed anywhere that wasn't Vietnam, were no longer adolescents. War provided a bright line between youth and adulthood.
For this generation it has been so much different. "Young beyond their years" one national magazine has termed this generation's circumstance. In a special issue of Newsweek some years ago, an insightful author had these observations about today's young adult era:
"Something happened on the way to the 21st century; American youth, in a sharp reversal of historical trends, are taking longer to grow up. As the 20th century winds down, more young Americans are enrolled in college, but fewer are graduating - and they are taking longer to get their degrees. They take longer to establish careers, too, and longer yet to marry. Many, unable or unwilling to pay for housing, return to the nest - or are slow to leave it. They postpone choices and spurn long-term commitments. Life's on hold; adulthood can wait...To be sure, most young Americans still expect to marry and have children. But unlike their parents, the prospect fills them with dread. They have grown accustomed to keeping their options open. There are so many choices to make - in relationships, careers and consumer goods - that they hate to limit their freedom. They sense that marriage requires compromise, negotiation and discipline - habits the youth culture does not enjoy."
While the writer of this article was attempting to describe the general young adult culture of America, sadly I must tell you, my young friends, that in my opinion his description is also descriptive of some of our Latter-day Saint Young Adults. For some in their twenties, the term "Senior Adolescents" would be more descriptive than the term "Young Adults." I do not mean to apply this appellation to all, or even very many; certainly there are many who represent the very best, the very finest of all of Father's sons and daughters who have ever lived. This generation of Latter-day Saints, I believe, will play a pre-eminent role in helping to prepare the earth for the return of the Master to reign in peace and in glory. I intend my comments less as a criticism than as an observation-and as a predicate for action.
Neither you nor I had anything to do with the tenor of the times into which we stepped as we crossed the legal threshold from youth to adulthood. Just as my generation may have had the harshness of a distant and unpopular war thrust upon us by the turbulence of our times, so some in this generation may have languished a little too long in the idyllic sandpile of childhood because of the relative affluence and tranquility of these times. My generation did not seek the trials of war; you have not requested the trials of ease. Each circumstance has brought its challenges. If the challenge for my generation was to shed the cloak of spiritual disaffection, the challenge for your generation is to don the mantle of responsibility. To each of us, however, whatever condition our times may have dealt us, the Lord beckons. To each is extended the unique gift of young adulthood: Opportunity-a time and a season to make of one's life an magnificent work of art.
But how does one do that? Most particularly, how do you of this generation do that?
As in all things, the life of the Savior is instructive. You recall that when He was only twelve years, Mary and Joseph took Him with them to Jerusalem. They became separated, and for three anxious days the worried couple sought their divine Son. They found Him in the temple teaching among the doctors of Jewish theology. In gentle reprimand His mother, Mary, said: "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father [referring to Joseph] and I have sought thee sorrowing?" (Luke 2:48). In answer and equally gentle reminder of His divine station, Jesus responded: "How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Id., v. 49). There was a soberness about Jesus, even as a child, born of His recognition of His great mission. He was anxious to "be about his Father's business," and that anxiousness colored every aspect of His life.
Is there not a teaching there for you and me? We, too, each of us, have a sacred mission-our "errand from the Lord," to borrow Jacob's marvelous phrase. Is it not time to be about our Father's business? You and I did not create the world into which we have come. But we certainly can create the kind of person we each will be to walk in it. This is not an entirely easy process. Joseph Smith lamented his difficulty. Said he, describing his youthful experience after obtaining his errand from the Lord:
"During the space of time which intervened between the time I had the vision and the year eighteen hundred and twenty three...I was left to all kinds of temptations; and mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God. In making this confession, no one need suppose me to be guilty of any great or malignant sins. A deposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc. not consistent with the character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been..." (JS-History 1:27).
Does that have a familiar ring to you, my young friends? "Guilty of levity?" "Associating with jovial company?" Doubtless all of us present have been guilty of these-perhaps for some even recently! These are not, in Joseph's words, "great or malignant sins." But they are unworthy of those who are called of God as we have been. Paul's great expression rings down the centuries: "When I was a child... I thought as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things." (1Cor. 13:11)
My dear brethren and sisters, the time has come to "put away childish things." This means developing a genuine sense of purpose about life. It means seeing Today as the wondrous opportunity it is. Today is the day to make the most of your education here. Today is the day to prepare for missionary service and for temple marriage. Today is the day for magnifying Church callings and responsibilities. Today is the day for thrusting aside the all-consuming Cult of Self to render Christian service to others. Today is the day for right decisions and resolute determination-your mallet and chisel-to prepare for Tomorrow. This is the very essence of being about your Father's business.
I cannot reflect on the priceless value of Today's opportunity without thinking about the Hoa family. The year 1975 was grim in Vietnam. The Republic of Vietnam had collapsed in the face of the relentless onslaught of the North Vietnamese. The army had surrendered. The government had capitulated. Those who had been strongly identified with the government of South Vietnam or with the Americans feared for their lives and well-being. Many fled the country. Those who could not force their way onto departing military aircraft took passage on overcrowded ships and boats of every description. Some of these rusting hulks sprang leaks and sank in the South China Sea, not far into the voyage. Others were accosted by pirates, who molested and murdered many of these pathetic refugees and stole what few possessions they had brought with them. Tran Do Hoa, his wife Nga, their two daughters and Nga's teenage brother were among those who survived these perils and eventually reached the United States under an amnesty program.
Our ward in Southern California had offered to sponsor one such family. We found and rented a small home and furnished it in "early Deseret Industries" decor. Finally, the day came that we were to meet "our" family. With my young son as company, I drove to Camp Pendleton, the sprawling U.S. Marine Corps base in northern San Diego County, to pick them up. Following directions, we turned off the main highway onto a narrow byway that soon became a dirt road. We drove down this road for a considerable distance until we came to a large encampment of tents in an isolated part of the base. This was where these refugees were housed. The sight was heartrending: hundreds of Vietnamese attired in worn and ill-fitting clothing, many malnourished and still showing the bone-deep exhaustion of the ordeal. Clouds of dust hung in the late-summer air from the foot and vehicular traffic in and about the camp.
It was then, after checking in at the administrative tent, that I got my first glimpse of Hoa. He was a distinguished looking man in his early forties, thin to the point of emaciation, with graying hair and a gently, polite smile. Nga, his wife, was a tiny woman with the natural beauty and graciousness of the Vietnamese. Two little girls, Betty and "Tee," each clutching a doll, shyly clung to their parents. Thuan, Nga's teenage brother, stood awkwardly nearby. And what I remember the most: all of their belongings were in a small, travel-worn suitcase and a cheap, plastic shopping bag. In Vietnam, Hoa had been a government civil servant; Nga had worked as a secretary. They had enjoyed a modest, but comfortable, standard of living. Now they had nothing. In fleeing Vietnam, they had forsaken everything they owned and held dear. Grateful to have escaped with their lives, they were totally and completely destitute in a strange land far from home. Hoa spoke halting English; Nga and the children spoke almost no English. As we drove out of that dusty encampment and onto Interstate 5, the great coastal superhighway, I remember thinking how overwhelmed and alone they must feel.
Looking back now, however, with the perspective of the years, I realize that Hoa and Nga had something not immediately apparent to the eye. They had a profound sense of gratitude for the opportunity that this land afforded them. They had virtually nothing of this world's goods when they arrived in this country. But they brought with them a fierce determination to seize the opportunity provided. Through some interviews we helped to arrange, Hoa found work in a small electronics company. Nga immediately began attending English classes and eventually found a clerical job. Betty and Thuan enrolled in school and devoted themselves to their studies with single-minded resolve. Little Tee, a pre-schooler when the family arrived, grew up as an American child but fueled with the same work ethic that animated the other members of her family.
In time, our family moved away. We lost contact with Hoa and Nga and their children for a period of years. And so it was, with considerable delight, that we discovered on a return visit to that community that Hoa and Nga had purchased a lovely home. Two late-model automobiles were parked in their garage. Hoa and Nga each held responsible, remunerative jobs. Thuan had completed college as an electoral engineer. Betty had a scholarship to attend UCLA. And Tee was a vivacious teenager. No long afterward, Hoa passed away prematurely.
More years passed. I was serving in the Area Presidency of the North America West Area and was assigned to a stake conference near Riverside, California. As I walked into the chapel on Sunday morning, there on the first row was Thuan. Although not a Church member and living more than 50 miles from this stake center, he had heard of my coming to the conference quite by chance from a workmate who was a member of the stake. He had come to once again express his gratitude-and that of his family-for the blessing of an opportunity. It was a wonderful and tearful reunion for me-one I shall always remember.
As I look at you and me; bathed as we are in relative affluence, and all too often nonchalant about the opportunity cascading about us, I see in my mind's eye a dusty encampment shimmering in the summer heat and a little family far from home, strangers in a strange land, with a worn suitcase and a plastic shopping bag. The vision restores my perspective.
My dear young friends, carpe diem! Seize this day! Grasp the marvelous opportunity that is at hand! Your Today is garnished not only with the opportunity for a first-rate academic education but with the truth of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Your Tomorrow is bright indeed-if you make the most of Today.
What is truly distinctive about Mormonism is the promise of Tomorrow. The holy temple is the great symbol of that promise. Its eternal ordinances, the truth it represents-these provide the luster to Tomorrow, both in time and in eternity. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, has purchased Tomorrow for us. The temple seals this wondrous blessing upon us in all its fulness. Indeed it can be said-truly, we have everything. We need only to grasp it-Today.
The great sculptor saw not a block of granite but a magnificent man before his eyes as he surveyed his task. He knew he was "in there." Each of you holds in his hand, as it were, a lump of clay-your own life-ready for molding and shaping into a man or woman of magnificence. He or she is also "in there." On this bright, sparkling morning of life my prayer for each you is that you will not squander this Today at the "beach," so to speak. The functional equivalent of "digging foxholes" on such a day may not be very glamorous at times, but the eventual reward is incalculable. Beside it, even the sun pales. Carpe diem!

© Intellectual Properties Inc.

"Your Whole Soul as an Offering to Him" Omni 1:16

10 Nov. 1998

Transcript

"Your Whole Soul as an Offering to Him" Omni 1:16

 
Brothers and sisters, it is a privilege for Sister Bednar and me to be here with you today.
Let me begin by indicating that I wear lots of different hats. I have a husband hat. I have a dad hat. I have a president of Ricks College hat, and I also have an Elder Bednar hat. During the time that I am going to visit with you today, I am going to wear my Elder Bednar hat. And I am going to pay you the ultimate compliment.
Each week as we attend devotionals at Ricks College, I hear speakers address the young people of the Church and say you are the finest generation ever to live upon the earth, reserved for this special day and time. And that is exactly how I am going to talk to you. That is the compliment. I'm not here to entertain you. I want to discuss with you a topic that I believe is very important in this day, in this time, and especially for students.
I invite the Spirit of the Holy Ghost to be with us here. The Holy Ghost is a revelator and a teacher. Please turn with me to Section 8 in the Doctrine and Covenants, if you have your scriptures. Here we find a description of the spiritual gift of revelation. In verse one we find our instruction to Oliver Cowdery given through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Oliver was concerned about and interested in the process of translating. He is instructed that the knowledge he desires will indeed come if he follows the pattern outlined in verse one. And in verses two and three we learn how revelation often comes.
Turn to Section 8 in the Doctrine Covenants if you have your scriptures. Because here we find a description how revelation occurs. In verse two--now what precedes this in verse one is instruction to Oliver Cowdery through the Prophet Joseph Smith--Oliver was quite concerned about, and interested in the process of translating. He wanted to be able to do that, and he's instructed that, that knowledge will come if he follows a particular pattern as it is outlined in verse one. Now I won't tell you what the pattern is; just read it at a later time. Section 8 of the Doctrine Covenants verse one outlines a pattern that precedes revelation. And then in verse two it describes how the revelation will come.
Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now behold this is the spirit of revelation. (D&C 8:2-3)
Brothers and sisters, revelation frequently comes as thoughts to the mind and feelings to the heart. One of the most miraculous things about the Church is the spiritual gifts it makes available to us. In an assembly like this, each person can be taught individually that which is needful by the Holy Ghost. My responsibility is to preach the doctrine and invite the Spirit so each person can receive that portion which is needful.
Now, if you will, in the Book of Mormon, turn to1 Nephi chapter 16. I want to share with you some of the things that I have been studying, thinking about, and trying to integrate during the past several weeks. I have been studying two major topics: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and diligence. In1 Nephi chapter 16 verse 28 we are introduced to the Liahona, which provided direction to Lehi and his family. Pay close attention in verse 28 to the description of how the Liahona worked.
And it came to pass I Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.
Note the emphasis on faith, diligence and heed. Now please notice in verse 29.
And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things. (1 Nephi 16:28-29)
Now I would like you to keep in mind the concepts of faith and diligence a you listen to this statement by Elder Richard L. Evans. He was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve from 1953 until 1971. He teaches us a powerful lesson in this statement.
You know it is a wonderful thing to be faithful, but a much greater thing to be both faithful and competent. There is no particular virtue in being uninformed, certainly no virtue in ignorance. When young people can acquire the skills, the techniques, and the knowledge of these times, and along with it have a spiritual commitment and a solid faith and cleanliness of life, there is nothing that you cannot achieve, nothing in righteousness, or in reason. (from an address given to the young people at the Northwest Inland Division Gathered for Zion's Camp, 15 October 1971)
That statement was made in 1971. Personal computers had not been invented yet. There was no such thing as the Internet. Many of the topics that you presently are studying had not yet been discovered or fully developed. Again listen to what he said.
When young people can acquire the skills, the techniques, and the knowledge of these times, and along with it have a spiritual commitment and a solid faith and cleanliness of life, there is nothing that you cannot achieve, nothing in righteousness, or in reason.
I fear that sometimes students at Church institutions falsely separate their spiritual progress from their academic discipline and diligence. Faithfulness and competence both are important. We should not naively assume that because we consistently attend our church meetings and conscientiously serve our brothers and sisters, that it is "ok" to miss classes and perform at a lesser level academically. If we believe our spiritual progress is a valid reason for not doing well academically, we are fooling ourselves.
My primary objective today is to explain why both spiritual development and academic diligence are crucial for students. What I would like to do is challenge you to be balanced in both spiritual and intellectual development.
Please turn to Section four in the Doctrine and Covenants. I want to emphasize verse two. Listen carefully and see if you can identify a reference to both faithfulness and competence in this verse.
Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. (D&C 4:2)
Now consider these four words: heart, might, mind and strength. Typically we would interpret heart, might, mind and strength as four separate but interrelated factors that are required in the service of God. May I suggest an additional interpretation? Please consider the word "might" as descriptive of the "heart." In other words, a mighty heart is required for serving God. Now also consider that the word "strength" as descriptive of the "mind." Therefore, to effectively serve God we also must have a strong mind.
Perhaps, then, another way of interpreting this verse is as follows:
O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with a mighty heart, and with a strong mind, that ye stand blameless before God at the last day.
A mighty heart equates to the faithfulness and spiritual development described by Elder Evans. A strong mind equates to competence achieved through diligence and intellectual preparation.
Please remember that as I talk about intellectual diligence and preparation I am not talking about taking tests and getting good grades. Many students can memorize wonderfully and ultimately learn little or nothing at all. A student can be very savvy in the process of playing the game to get good grades but fail in the development of a strong mind, which is a requirement, even a prerequisite, for the service of God.
Turn with me to 2 Nephi chapter 2. There you will find a verse that very clearly indicates why both a mighty heart, and a strong mind are so crucial.
And now my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning. [I think that it is just not a coincidence that learning is contained in this verse] for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon. (2 Nephi 2:14)
Note the distinction between things to act and things to be acted upon. Now we might ask the question: What things are to act and what things are to be acted upon? Verse 16 provides the answer.
Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. (2 Nephi 2:16)
Brothers and sisters, you and I are to act and not to be acted upon. You and I have the gift of agency, the blessing of agency, and you and I are to act and to use our agency to choose the right. You and I are prepared to act if we have both a mighty heart and a strong mind. It requires both of these vital qualifications for us to be successful, especially in the world in which we live today. And in the world into which we are moving, both qualifications will increasingly be necessary.
You owe it to yourself to become a diligent student. Note that I am using the word diligent. I would not suggest that you have to be a 4.0 grade point average, but you do have to be diligent. You don't have to get an A on every test; we all have differing levels of ability and skill. But you do have to be diligent. And diligence leads to the ability to learn how to learn. That is the key. You owe it to yourself to develop this vital skill.
You owe it to your family to become a diligent student as an expression of your love and appreciation for them.
And thirdly, you owe it to the Savior and to His Church to become a diligent student because of the covenants you have already made or will yet make, particularly, the covenants of sacrifice and consecration.
I now want to relate the responsibility that you and I have to develop strong minds to the principles of sacrifice and consecration. Let me briefly describe each of these principles.
The word sacrifice means to offer or to surrender something valuable or precious. The Prophet Joseph Smith gave the best and clearest definition of sacrifice in the "Lectures on Faith."
For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor, and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also -- counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus -- requires more than mere belief or supposition that he is doing the will of God; but actual knowledge, realizing that, when those sufferings are ended, he will enter into eternal rest, and be a partaker of the glory of God.
Let us hear observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through the medium of the sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. ("Lectures on Faith," Lecture 6, p. 57-58)
Did you note the things we must be willing to offer, to give up, and to surrender? As I understand this statement by the prophet, the principle of sacrifice requires you and me to willingly offer anything and everything we possess for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ, including, our character and reputation, our honor and applause, our good name among men, our houses, our lands, and even our families, all things including our very lives if need be. It is a very serious principle and commitment.
In essence our pledge is this: I will give all that I possess, and I am willing to die, if need be, for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sacrifice is motivated by faith and hope and produces increased commitment and a desire to obey.
President Spencer W. Kimball vividly describes how he, as a very young boy, began to learn about the principle of sacrifice.
When I was a little boy about four years old, my father had gone to work on Monday morning and my mother took my brothers and sisters and myself to see the bishop. (You see, my mother had eleven children.) There were about four or five that were not in school, so Monday morning we started out on the road with two buckets of eggs. I was like many other little boys, I could ask many questions, and I said: "Where are we going, Ma?" and she said, " We are going to the bishop's," and I said, "Why are we going to the bishop's?" "These are tithing eggs," she said. Then I said, "Ma, what is tithing?" And then she explained, "Every time we take ten eggs out of the nest, we put one in a special bucket. The other nine we take to the store to buy clothes and food with and so these eggs in this special bucket keep increasing until we have bucket full. And then every week we take them to the bishop and he gives us a receipt showing that we have paid our tithing."
Then, when I was a little bigger boy, I used to put up hay. I would drive the horses that were hitched to the wagon and tramp the hay down and my older brothers pitched it on the wagon, and when we had gone to the field in the morning, my father would say, "Now, boys, this is the tenth load this morning. This belongs to the Lord. You go up into the upper part where the hay is the best and get a big load and then take it over to the big barn in which the bishop keeps the Church hay." In that way I learned how to pay tithing, so it isn't hard for me to obey this law. ("Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball," p. 341)
For the Kimball family, only the best was good enough for the Lord. And it is in that spirit that you and I should observe the principle of sacrifice.
The second principle I want to emphasize is consecration. Consecration is related to but different from sacrifice. Sacrifice is what we will offer, surrender, yield, or give up. Consecration, on the other hand, is to develop and dedicate to a sacred purpose. Listen to this description of the principle of consecration provided by President Ezra Taft Benson:
We covenant to live the law of consecration. This law is that we consecrate our time, talents, strength, property and money for the up-building of the Kingdom of God upon this earth and the establishment of Zion. (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 121)
As we live the principle of consecration, we are willing not only to offer anything and everything that we possess for the gospel, but we also promise to devote our best selves, our time, our talents, and our energy to the building of the kingdom of God on the earth. Our pledge is: I will give me and all that I can become to the building of the kingdom of God.
The principle of sacrifice is a lesser law in preparation for the principle of consecration. The law of consecration encompasses the law of sacrifice and much, much more. We are not only willing to offer up our possessions, but we are willing to become the very best that we can be and assist, however possible, in the building of the kingdom of God in righteous ways. I would summarize consecration in this way: We will not only die for the gospel, but we will live for and dedicate our best selves to the gospel of the Savior.
The best application of the principle of consecration that I can think of, being developed and dedicated to a sacred purpose, is motherhood. I have over the past 24 years watched my wife, a very talented, capable, and competent woman, as she has developed and dedicated herself to the holy purposes of our home. Some would say she has sacrificed or given something up much to become the heart of our home and to rear and nurture our children. She has not given up anything; rather she has been dedicated and consecrated to a holy purpose. She has developed herself and applied those skills as God has directed, in the most important undertaking of a lifetime, which is the rearing and nurturing of those children.
May I suggest that in these latter days, more is required of you and me than our substance and our money. As the Church rapidly grows throughout the world in a technologically sophistication information age, we must consecrate unto the Lord a faithful heart and a strong mind, a mind capable of learning, of instruction, of discipline and receiving revelation.
I would ask you to keep in mind that you pay only a very small percentage of the actual cost of your education. Every single student at the LDS Business College receives a substantial scholarship from the Church. If you were paying the total cost of the educational experience, it would be many, many times more than the price you pay. Sacred tithing funds of the church make it possible for you to be here.
Why would the church invest in you in that way? Because you are the hope of Israel. You have the responsibility to contribute and assist in building the kingdom of God in important and significant ways -- in rearing righteous families, in contributing in society and in serving the Church. And your time at the LDS Business College is a unique opportunity, the chance to study and learn in a place where the Spirit of the Holy Ghost can assist you in preparing to have a mighty heart and a strong mind.
Please turn to Omni in the Book of Mormon. As you listen to verse 26, pay particular attention to the phrase that describes your whole soul.
And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved. (Omni 1:26)
As a student at the LDS Business College, you have been provided with a stewardship opportunity and responsibility to develop a might heart and a strong mind -- to become both faithful and competent as Elder Evans described -- in preparation for that day when you can offer your whole souls unto Him.
I want to conclude with a statement from President Marion G. Romney.
Can we see how critical self-reliance becomes when looked upon as the prerequisite to service, when we also know that service is what Godhood is all about. Without self-reliance one cannot exercise this enate desire to serve. How can we give if there is nothing there? Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves. Money to assist the needy cannot come from an empty purse. Support and understanding cannot come from the emotionally starved. Teaching cannot come from the unlearned. And most important of all spiritual guidance cannot come from the spiritually weak. (Conference Report, October 1982, p. 135)
Indeed, you are a choice generation; and you must remember that where much is given much is required. More will be required of you an me--not just our money and possessions. In this day as the Church grows rapidly throughout the earth, you and I must be prepared to consecrate a might heart and a strong mind. Please use this opportunity at this marvelous school to the fullest. Do not be causal about learning. And remember that I am not talking simply about getting good grades. I am talking about learning how to learn through the Spirit of the Holy Ghost so you can develop the skills that will bless you and your family for a lifetime.
Now, my dear brothers and sisters, the thing which I value most is my testimony. I know that God lives. I know and witness that Jesus is the Christ. I know that Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw, the Father and the Son, and the fullness of the gospel was restored to the earth. I know that there are apostles and prophets on the earth today who direct the affairs of this Church for the Savior. I pray that each of us will develop a mighty heart and a strong mind so that the Lord can use us in building of His kingdom in the important days ahead. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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