Ours is a church that believes in revelation. We believe that the church is led, globally and locally, by revelation. We also believe that we can receive revelation in our own daily lives. However, many struggle to be confident that they can discern between the promptings of the Spirit and their own emotions or thoughts.’ How can we tell whether we are really receiving an answer to our prayers?
Let me offer a few thoughts:
Recognising the promptings of the Spirit.
Elder Boyd K. Packer taught: “The voice of the Spirit is a still, small voice—a voice that is felt rather than heard.”
We commonly speak of the Holy Ghost bearing witness to us through a ‘burning in the bosom’. However, the Holy Ghost manifests itself in many ways and different people experience it in different ways. You may well experience a burning in the bosom or you may experience a deep feeling of peace or some other manifestation of the Spirit. I once served in a presidency with a president who experienced the testimony of the Spirit as a tingling down his back.
More important than how the Spirit testifies to us is that we recognize its promptings when they come. When you hear someone bear testimony, when you listen to General Conference, when you attend the temple, when you study the scriptures take note of how you feel. Learn to recognise those feelings as the Spirit. Then learn to distinguish them from other feelings. How do those feelings compare to how you feel when you watch Chariots of Fire, listen to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy or stand atop a mountain and gaze at the valley below?
This is not easy: learning to recognise the Spirit can take practice and time. We need to frequently put ourselves into situations where we can experience the Spirit and then be sensitive to our thoughts and feelings.
In your mind and in your heart
The Lord told Oliver Cowdery, “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.)
And to Hyrum Smith he said:
13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;
14 And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive. (D&C 11:13-14)
These scriptures indicate that the the Spirit will work both through our feelings and emotions AND through our thoughts or intellect ie he will tell us through BOTH our mind and our heart – not through one or the other in isolation. The thoughts the Spirit puts in my mind should match the feelings he puts in my heart.This is in accordance with the law of witnesses – the witness of the mind and the witness of the heart bring assurance.
Elder Jay Jensen said: “When the Holy Ghost speaks, our minds may be struck with insight and clarity akin to sudden light. At the same time, our hearts may burn or we may feel flooded with joy or deep gratitude or love. Whatever particular feelings occur, they occur simultaneously in the mind and in the heart.”
So, if we have thoughts that are not backed up by a feeling of peace or a burning in the bosom (or however the Spirit works with us individually) or if we feel that something is right emotionally but it makes no sense intellectually, then we need to be cautious in interpreting this as an answer from the Lord through the Spirit.
Of course, there may be times when the Lord wants us to do something that runs counter to conventional wisdom or to our our own predispositions. I believe that in these instances the Spirit will speak to us with a little more pressure or urgency so that we recognise its voice. Think of Nephi when the Spirit constrained him to kill Laban. This was counter to what Nephi had been taught and he shrunk from obeying the command of the Spirit. So, the Spirit makes sure that the message gets through by speaking clearly to him twice more and then by bringing to his remembrance the words of the Lord that he spoke to him in the wilderness. THEN Nephi’s doubts are dispelled, the Spirit’s command makes sense to him and he obeys.
We have also been counselled that when we ask about something, “If it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong” (D&C 9:9).
If we ask for something that is not right, rather than a feeling of peace we can experience darkness and confusion or an empty feeling.
The Spirit leads towards that which is good.
The adversary will not prompt us to do good. Mormon said, “[The devil] persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.” (Moro. 7:17.). In contrast, Hyrum Smith was told, “Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good.” (D&C 11:12.)
If a prompting is directing us towards something that is not good then we can be sure that it is not a genuine prompting of the Spirit. Similarly a genuine personal revelation won’t conflict with what the Lord has told us through His prophets.
The more we practice identifying the Spirit the more readily we will recognise those promptings when they come. President Spencer W Kimball told us that “God reveals himself to [people] who are prepared for such manifestations.”
‘The Holy Ghost is the Testifier of Truth, who can teach [us] things [we] cannot teach one another.’
Elder Bednar likes to ask at the end of meetings or discussions – ‘What did you learn from what was said?’ He then asks ‘What did you learn from what was not said?’
The Holy Ghost’s specific role is to testify of the Father and the Son. See 3 Nephi 28:11.
2. We need the Holy Ghost to guide us in our service at home and in the Church.
From the manual:
‘May I give a special word of counsel to parents who stand as heads of families: we need the direction of the Holy Ghost in the delicate and tremendous task that is ours in strengthening the spirituality of our homes.’
How can we invite the Holy Ghost to direct us as we lead our families?
3. Revelation almost always comes to us through a still, small voice—the whispering of the Spirit.
See video: Receiving Revelation. You can receive personal revelation from God by living His gospel and having the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit usually communicates with us through our thoughts and feelings. See D&C 8:2-3.
Boyd K Packer taught:
‘The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather, it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all….Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of teh time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening.’
From the manual:
‘Why is it important to know that the Holy Ghost usually communicates in “a still, small voice”? What have you learned from your own experiences about recognizing communications from the Holy Ghost?’
4. The things of the Spirit enlighten, build, and uplift us.
‘How do we know the things of the Spirit? How do we know that it is from God? By the fruits of it. If it leads to growth and development, if it leads to faith and testimony, if it leads to a better way of doing things, if it leads to godliness, then it is of God. If it tears us down, if it brings us into darkness, if it confuses us and worries us, if it leads to faithlessness, then it is of the devil.’
How can these teachings help us recognize the influence of the Spirit?
“We never can comprehend the things of God and of heaven but by revelation. We may spiritualize and express opinions to all eternity, but that is no authority.” (Kent P. Jackson, Joseph Smith’s Commentary on the Bible, 159)
Consider what Joseph Smith told Brigham Young:
“Tell the brethren to be humble and faithful and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, that it will lead them aright. Be careful and not turn away the still, small voice; it will teach them what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their heart open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits—it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts, and their whole desire will be to do good” (quoted in Juvenile Instructor, 19 July 1873, 114)
5. The Holy Ghost will be our constant companion as we live for this blessing.
See video: Having the Holy Ghost. You can invite the Holy Spirit into your life through prayer, scripture study and being obedient to God’s commandments. (2:56)
Consider the differences between:
feeling the Holy Ghost testify to us
being given the gift of the Holy Ghost
having the Holy Ghost as a constant companion.
From the manual:
‘“How do you keep the Spirit of the Lord with you at all times?” Well, you live worthy of it; you live worthy of the Spirit of the Lord. That is what you do. And you will have it. … Just live right. Stay away from the sleaze. Stay away from pornography. Stay away from these things that pull you down. The books you read, the magazines you read, the videos you look at, the television programs you look at, the shows you go to, all have an effect on you and will do if you subject yourself to the influence of those titillating kinds of things which are designed to make you poor and somebody else rich. Stay away from them.’
Are there things in your life that are impairing your ability to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost?
“If a man ‘yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord’ (Mosiah 3:19), then he is born again. His spiritual death ceases. He becomes alive to the things of the Spirit; he returns to the presence of God because he receives the gift of the Holy Ghost; and he is alive to the things of righteousness. He crucifies the old man of sin, becomes a new creature of the Holy Ghost, and walks in a newness of life. This is what is meant by being born again.” (Bruce R McConkie, The Promised Messiah, p. 350)
‘In the 1850s Church leaders decided to form handcart companies as a way to reduce expenses so that financial aid could be extended to the greatest number of emigrants. Saints who traveled this way put only 100 pounds of flour and a limited quantity of provisions and belongings into a cart and then pulled the cart across the plains. Between 1856 and 1860, ten handcart companies traveled to Utah. Eight of the companies reached the Salt Lake Valley successfully, but two of them, the Martin and Willie handcart companies, were caught in an early winter and many Saints among them perished.
Nellie Pucell, a pioneer in one of these ill-fated companies, turned ten years old on the plains. Both her parents died during the journey. As the group neared the mountains, the weather was bitter cold, the rations were depleted, and the Saints were too weak from hunger to continue on. Nellie and her sister collapsed. When they had almost given up hope, the leader of the company came to them in a wagon. He placed Nellie in the wagon and told Maggie to walk along beside it, holding on to steady herself. Maggie was fortunate because the forced movement saved her from frostbite.
When they reached Salt Lake City and Nellie’s shoes and stockings, which she had worn across the plains, were removed, the skin came off with them as a result of frostbite. This brave girl’s feet were painfully amputated and she walked on her knees the rest of her life. She later married and gave birth to six children, keeping up her own house and raising a fine posterity.10 Her determination in spite of her situation and the kindness of those who cared for her exemplify the faith and willingness to sacrifice of these early Church members. Their example is a legacy of faith to all Saints who follow them.
A man who crossed the plains in the Martin handcart company lived in Utah for many years. One day he was in a group of people who began sharply criticizing the Church leaders for ever allowing the Saints to cross the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart company provided. The old man listened until he could stand no more; then he arose and said with great emotion:
“I was in that company and my wife was in it. … We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? … [We] came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.
“I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it. … I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
“Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.”’ (Handcart Pioneers in Our Heritage)
2. The Savior rescues us through His atoning sacrifice.
“I remember reading about a fire fighter in the eastern United States who ran into a burning house to rescue several children from an arson-induced fire. While his colleagues battled the blaze to keep it from spreading to other structures in the neighbor-hood, this man dashed into the building again and again, each time emerging with a child in his arms. After rescuing the fifth child, he started back into the inferno once more. Neighbors shouted that there were no more children in the family. But he insisted that he had seen a baby in a cradle, and he dove into the intensifying heat.
“Moments after he disappeared into the fire and smoke, a horrifying explosion shook the building and the entire structure collapsed. It was several hours before fire fighters were able to locate their colleague’s body. They found him in the nursery near the crib, huddled protectively over a life sized—and practically unscratched—doll.
“As I think about such heroism, however, I’m reminded that the most heroic act of all time ever was performed in behalf of all mankind by the Son of God. In a very real sense, all of humanity—past, present, and future—was trapped behind a wall of flame that was fueled and fanned by our own faithlessness. Sin separated mortals from God (see Romans 6:23), and would do so forever unless a way was found to put out the fires of sin and rescue us from ourselves” (Cited in Our Search for Happiness: M. Russell Ballard, p. 11).
D&C 18:11-12 He suffered the pain of all men
“The results of childhood abuse, whether sexual, physical, or emotional, can be devastating…Truly the Atonement plays the crucial role in the healing process as people with broken hearts and scarred spirits realize they are not alone in their pain and that the Savior has provided a way for them to find peace.
“‘In October 1995 I was sitting in a chapel listening to general conference,’ remembers one woman. ‘Elder Jeffrey Holland spoke on remembering the Lord during the passing of the sacrament…he said, `To those who stagger or stumble, he is there to steady and strengthen us. In the end he is there to save us, and for all this he gave his life` (“This Do in Remembrance of Me,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 69).
“‘I was amazed. I knew Jesus Christ had given his life to pay for the sins of the world. But I did not know the Savior had given his life for the pains, abuse, and tearful suffering we all have to endure in this life, oftentimes as innocent victims of terrible circumstances far beyond our own control.
“‘I raced home after conference in order to look up scriptures about this aspect of the Savior’s Crucifixion. I found a wonderful scripture: Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
“‘For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him (D&C 18:10-11). He did not suffer just for people’s sins; he also suffered their pains. What a powerful message that was to my heart to learn he had suffered for those of us who had been abused. I can honestly say that my healing began on that day.'” (“The Journey to Healing,” Ensign, Sept. 1997, 19-20)
3. As Latter-day Saints, we are to rescue those in need.
Watch: Tried in All Things (D&C 136:29-33) Elder Maxwell explains how the Saints will be tried in all things. (1:47)
‘Actually, everything depends-initially and finally-on our desires. These shape our thought patterns. Our desires thus precede our deeds and lie at the very cores of our souls, tilting us toward or away from God (see D&C 4:3).’ (Neal A Maxwell, “Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 23)
D&C 18:10-16 The Worth of Souls is Great
“And how are we to determine the value of souls? This matter has been determined for us also by revelation. The souls of men are so precious in the sight of God that He gave to the world His Only Begotten Son, that by the shedding of His blood He might draw all men unto Him. That is why the great Prophet of this dispensation, Joseph Smith, and these others, John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and the rest, were called to bring souls unto Christ. And if one of these men should labor all his days, and bring save it be but one soul unto Christ, and that one should be his wife, what great joy he would have with his wife in heaven. Then if he should labor all his days and bring unto Christ the souls of his wife and his children, and none else perchance, how great would be his joy in heaven with his wife and children.” (Rudger Clawson In Conference Report, Apr. 1901, pp. 7–8.)
D&C 52:40 Remember in All Things the Poor and Needy
‘That one cannot be a true disciple of Christ without significant giving is dramatically emphasized in the revelation received by the Prophet Joseph Smith in Kirtland, on June 7, 1831. In this revelation, the Lord directed twenty-eight of the elders to travel two by two from Kirtland to Jackson County, Missouri. They were to go by different routes, preaching the gospel as they went. You will recall that they were destitute in those days and had to travel through primitive country. Joseph Smith and his immediate companions “journeyed by wagon and stage and occasionally by canal boat to Cincinnati, Ohio,” then to Louisville, Kentucky, and on to St. Louis by steamer. “From this city on the Mississippi, the Prophet of God walked across the entire state of Missouri to Independence, Jackson County, a distance of nearly three hundred miles as traveled.” (George Q. Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1958, p. 117.) I call these facts to your attention that you may have in mind the background against which the Lord said to these men as they started, “Remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple.” (D&C 52:40.) Imagine that! These elders were nearly destitute and the Lord said, “Remember … the poor and the needy.”‘ (Marion G Romney, “Living Welfare Principles,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 92)
Is there a valid case for virtue? It is the only way to freedom from regret. The peace of conscience which flows therefrom is the only personal peace that is not counterfeit.
How might you respond to someone who argues that there is not a valid case for virtue?
‘In our journey toward eternal life, purity must be our constant aim. To walk and talk with God, to serve with God, to follow his example and become as a god, we must attain perfection. In his presence there can be no guile, no wickedness, no transgression. In numerous scriptures he has made it clear that all worldliness, evil and weakness must be dropped before we can ascend unto “the hill of the Lord.”‘ (Spencer W Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], chap. 2)
2. When we rise above the filth and immorality of the world, we enjoy greater happiness, security, and peace of mind.
Watch: Shun immorality President Hinckley encourages church members to avoid the immorality we have in the world today.
From the manual:
We believe in chastity before marriage and total fidelity after marriage. That sums it up. That is the way to happiness in living. That is the way to satisfaction. It brings peace to the heart and peace to the home.
Why is chastity “the way to happiness in living”?
3. Pornography is addictive and destructive, but we can rise above it.
From the manual:
You live in a world of terrible temptations. Pornography, with its sleazy filth, sweeps over the earth like a horrible, engulfing tide. It is poison. Do not watch it or read it. It will destroy you if you do. It will take from you your self-respect. It will rob you of a sense of the beauties of life. It will tear you down and pull you into a slough of evil thoughts and possibly of evil actions. Stay away from it. Shun it as you would a foul disease, for it is just as deadly. Be virtuous in thought and in deed.
How can we find the strength to be virtuous in though and dead in this world of terrible temptations?
4. With discipline and effort, we can control our thoughts and actions.
“The pain of self-discipline will never be as great as the pain of regret.” Anonymous
From the manual:
Mental control must be stronger than physical appetites or desires of the flesh. As thoughts are brought into complete harmony with revealed truth, actions will then become appropriate. … Each of us, with discipline and effort, has the capacity to control our thoughts and our actions. This is part of the process of developing spiritual, physical, and emotional maturity.
What are some practical things we can do to keep our thoughts clean?
5. Those who have been involved in immoral behavior can be forgiven and can rise above the past.
Watch: Return to Virtue Elaine S. Dalton, a leader of the Young Women organization, urges young people to develop the strength that comes from living a virtuous life.
From the manual:
Let me … assure you that if you have made a mistake, if you have become involved in any immoral behavior, all is not lost. Memory of that mistake will likely linger, but the deed can be forgiven, and you can rise above the past to live a life fully acceptable unto the Lord where there has been repentance. He has promised that He will forgive your sins and remember them no more against you (see D&C 58:42).
“When you have fully repented, you feel an inner peace. You know somehow you are forgiven because the burden you have carried for so long, all of a sudden isn’t there anymore. It is gone and you know it is gone” (Elder F Burton Howard, in Conference Report, Apr. 1983)
1. The Prophet Joseph Smith sealed his testimony with his blood.
D&C 135:4-5 I am calm as a summer’s morning
‘Joseph Smith sealed his testimony with his blood. He could have saved his life…. He loved life. He loved his wife and family and friends. He wasn’t anxious to go over into eternity. He wanted to live a normal and natural life. He either had to give up his testimony-to recant-or he had to give up his life. He wasn’t willing to give up his testimony. He said, “Who am I to deny that I have had heavenly manifestations-that the Lord has appeared before me?”
And so he went calmly, knowing that his life would be taken. He said, “I go as a lamb to the slaughter”; and he went up to Carthage, knowing that the mob was gathering there and knowing they had bullets in their guns. He went calmly and passed on. He said, as he passed on, “Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” ‘(The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 143)
‘President Brigham Young and Elder Wilford Woodruff spent a portion of the day together in the city of Boston, and were sitting together in the railway depot at the time of the massacre of the Prophets; they felt very sorrowful, and depressed in spirits, without knowing the cause.
Elders Heber C. Kimball and Lyman Wight traveled from Philadelphia to New York by railway and steamboat. Elder Kimball felt very mournful as though he had lost some friend, and knew not the cause.
Elder Orson Hyde was in the hall occupied by the saints in Boston, examining maps, and designating or pointing out each man’s district or field of labor, in company with Elders Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff and others, a part of the day. He felt very heavy and sorrowful in spirit, and knew not the cause, but felt no heart to look on the maps. He retired to the further end of the hall alone, and walked the floor; tears ran down his face…. He never felt so before, and knew no reason why he should feel so then.
Elder Parley P. Pratt was on the canal boat between Utica and Buffalo, N. Y., on his return to Nauvoo, and was much depressed in spirit; his brother William Pratt came on board of the same boat, and Parley asked him if he had any books or pamphlets containing the gospel of Christ, or the words of life; if so, to put them under lock and key, for the people are not worthy of them for, said Parley, “I feel that the spirit of murder is in the hearts of the people through the land.”
Elders Willard Richards and John Taylor were the only two of the Quorum of the Twelve who were not on missions, and the only two men who were with the martyrs when they fell and sealed their testimony with their blood.
Elder George A. Smith rode with Elder Crandall Dunn, from Napoleon, to Elder Noah Willis Bartholemew’s, near Jacksonburg, Jackson county, Michigan, and felt unusually cast down and depressed in spirits. About five o’clock he repaired to an oak grove, and called upon the Lord, endeavoring to break the spell of horror which had dominion over his mind. He remained there a long time without finding any relief, and then went back to Brother Bartholomew’s, and went to bed with Elder Crandall Dunn; he could not sleep, but spent the night in a series of miserable thoughts and reflections. Once it seemed to him that some fiend whispered in his ear, “Joseph and Hyrum are dead; ain’t you glad of it?”
Elder Amasa Lyman was in the city of Cincinnati, and felt that depression of spirit mentioned by his brethren.’ (History of the Church, 7:132-133)
2. The Prophet Joseph Smith did more for the salvation of men in this world than anyone except Jesus.
Watch: Joseph Smith – Prophet of the Restoration (D&C 135) This review of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s ministry shows that he “has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world.” (13:09)
Watch: Testimony of the Book of Mormon A modern-day Apostle describes the unwavering faith the Church’s founders showed, even in the face of death, to remain true to their testimonies of the Book of Mormon.(4:39)
D&C 135:3 ..has sealed his mission
‘If it be the will of the Lord for the people to live, they will live. If it had been the will of the Lord that Joseph and Hyrum should have lived, they would have lived. It was necessary for Joseph to seal his testimony with his blood. Had he been destined to live he would have lived. The Lord suffered his death to bring justice on the nation. The debt is contracted and they have it to pay.’ (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 467)
Eye witness accounts of Joseph Smith
Jane James, an Afro-American convert :
I could not begin to tell you what he was, only this way, he was tall, over six feet; he was a fine, big, noble, beautiful man! He had blue eyes and light hair, and very fine white skin.
Rachel Ridgeway Grant (mother of Heber J Grant)
I guess you have seen the picture where Brother Joseph was preaching to the Indians. I was there at that time. The Indians were all kneeling down on the grass in front of the Mansion, and if you have seen that picture, that just describes the way everything was, though it is a miserable picture of the Prophet. He was a fine, noble-looking man, always so neat. There are some of the pictures that do not look a particle like him. When he was preaching you could feel the power and influence.
The Prophet weighed about 150 pounds, had nice brown hair, was always jovial and could crack a joke. He could sing well and loved music, loved to dance and would leave a meal at any time to wrestle with anyone. He was nimble as a cat and he was fond of us boys and would often play with us.
Anyone could not help but love him and he loved everybody. He always shook hands with all, even the babes. He had a very fine gray horse that he always rode whenever there was a parade.
Matthew S. Davis, member of Congress:
Washington 6th February 1840. My Dear Mary- I went last evening to hear Joe Smith, the celebrated Mormon, expound his doctrine. I with several others, had a desire to understand his tenets as explained by himself. He is not an educated man: but he is a plain, sensible strong minded man. Everything he says, is said in a manner to leave an impression that he is sincere. There is no levity, no fanaticism, no want of dignity in his deportment. He is apparently from forty to forty five years of age, rather above the middle stature, and what you ladies would call a very good looking man. ln his garb there are no peculiarities, his dress being that of a plain unpretending citizen. He is by profession a Farmer; but is evidently well read.
Josiah Quincy III, Mayor of Boston and President of Harvard University:
Pre-eminent among the stragglers by the door stood a man of commanding appearance, clad in the costume of a journeyman carpenter when about his work. He was a hearty, athletic fellow, with blue eyes standing prominently out upon his light complexion, a long nose, and a retreating forehead. He wore striped pantaloons, a linen jacket which had not lately seen the wash tub, and a beard of some three days’ growth. This was the founder of the religion which had been preached in every quarter of the earth.
A fine looking man is what the passerby would instinctively have murmured upon meeting this remarkable individual who had fashioned the mould which was to shape the feelings of so many thousands of his fellow-mortals.
George Q Cannon, Liverpool born member of the Quorum of the Twelve:
He was more than six feet in height, with expansive chest and clean cut limbs ” a staunch and graceful figure. His head, crowned with a mass of soft, wavy hair, was grandly poised. His face possessed a complexion of such clearness and transparency that the soul appeared to shine through. He wore no beard, and the full strength and beauty of his countenance impressed all beholders at a glance. He had eyes which seemed to read the hearts of men. His mouth was one of mingled power and sweetness. His majesty of air was natural, not studied. Though full of personal and prophetic dignity whenever occasion demanded, he could at other times unbend and be as happy and unconventional as a boy. This was one of his most striking characteristics; and it was sometimes held up to scorn by his traducers, that the chosen *’man of God” should at times mingle as a man of earth with his earthly brethren.
Louisa Young Littlefield, met the Prophet as a 12 year old girl in 1834:
I will speak of a prominent trait of his character which was perhaps more marked in his early career than was the case after public cares and responsibilities multiplied upon him from so many sources. I mean his natural fondness for children. In Kirtland, when wagon loads of grown people and children came in from the country to meeting, Joseph would make his way to as many of the wagons as he well could and cordially shake the hand of each person. Every child and young babe in the company were especially noticed by him and tenderly taken by the hand, with his kind words and blessings. He loved innocence and purity, and he seemed to find it in the greatest perfection with the prattling child.
James Worthington Phippen:
I was favorably impressed with his noble mien, his stately form and his pleasant, smiling face and cheerful conversation. Before I ever saw Joseph Smith I was satisfied that he was a man inspired of God, and when I beheld him if anything further could have increased my knowledge of him being a Prophet of the Lord, I was confirmed. During my acquaintance with him from 1839 until 1844, his teachings and examples were strong proof to me of his divine calling, without the inspiration of the Lord. I was an attentive listener and observer of the teachings, sayings and example of the Prophet Joseph Smith from the first time I saw him till the month of May, 1844, at which time I left Nauvoo for the state of New York on a mission. And being quite familiar with the history of his life as written, I remember many sayings recorded that I heard him utter. In common with those who were acquainted with his public life and doings in the midst of the Saints in Nauvoo, I had great joy and satisfaction in listening to his teachings.
Emmeline B Wells, 5th Relief Society General President:
In his manner he was gentle and kindly, and he was always affectionate to his friends, and at times demonstrative. He was strong and ardent in his nature and valued highly the quality of sincerity in friendship. He was manly to an unusual degree, yet tender-hearted as a woman on occasions. In his tastes he was literary as well as spiritual, fond of the drama, of music and of poetry. A very dear friend of mine who knew the Prophet intimately . . .[said] that she had known him to shed tears when hearing some specially fine vocal music, particularly old-fashioned songs and ballads. With such noble characteristics it is not strange that he was so intensely beloved.
John S. Reed, lawyer who helped Joseph Smith in some of his early law suits:
… The first acquaintance I had with General Smith was about the year 1823. He came into my neighborhood, being then about eighteen years of age, and resided there two years, during which time I became intimately acquainted with him. I do know that his character was irreproachable, and that he was well known for truth and uprightness; that he moved in the first circles of the community, and he was often spoken of as a young man of intelligence and good morals, and possessing a mind susceptible of the highest intellectual attainments. I early discovered that his mind was constantly in search of truth, expressing an anxious desire to know the will of God.
Peter H. Burnett, a former Governor of California:
You could see at a glance that his education was very limited. He was an awkward and vehement speaker. In conversation he was slow, and used too many words to express his ideas, and would not generally go directly to a point. But, with all these drawbacks, he was much more than an ordinary man. He possessed the most indomitable perseverance, was a good judge of men, and deemed himself born to command, and he did command. His views were so strange and striking, and his manner was so earnest, and apparently so candid, that you could not but be interested. There was a kind, familiar look about him, that pleased you. He was very courteous in discussion, readily admitting what he did not intend to controvert, and would not oppose you abruptly, but had due deference to your feelings. He had the capacity for discussing a subject in different aspects, and for proposing many original views, even of ordinary matters. His illustrations were his own. He had great influence over others. As an evidence of this I will state that on Thursday, just before I left to return to Liberty [Missouri], I saw him out among the crowd, conversing freely with every one, and seeming to be perfectly at ease. In the short space of five days he had managed so to mollify his enemies that he could go unprotected among them without the slightest danger.
Dr. John M. Bernhisel, close friend of Joseph Smith:
Having been a boarder in General Smith’s family for more than nine months, and having therefore had abundant opportunities of contemplating his character and observing his conduct, I have concluded to give you a few of my “impressions” of him.
General Joseph Smith is naturally a man of strong mental powers, and is possessed of much energy and decision of character, great penetration, and a profound knowledge of human nature. He is a man of calm judgment, enlarged views, and is eminently distinguished by his love of justice. He is kind and obliging, generous and benevolent, sociable and cheerful, and is possessed of a mind of a contemplative and reactive character. He is honest, frank, fearless and independent, and as free from dissimulation as any man to be found.
But it is in the gentle charities of domestic life, as the tender and affectionate husband and parent, the warm and sympathizing friend, that the prominent traits of his character are revealed, and his heart is felt to be keenly alive to the kindest and softest emotions of which human nature is susceptible; and I feel assured that his family and friends formed one of the greatest consolations to him while the vials of wrath were poured upon his head, while his footsteps were pursued by malice and envy, and reproach and slander were strewn in his path, as well as during numerous and cruel persecutions, and severe and protracted sufferings in chains and loathsome prisons, for worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience.
He is a true lover of his country, and a bright and shining example of integrity and moral excellence in all the relations of life. As a religious teacher, as well as a man, he is greatly beloved by this people. It is almost superfluous to add that the numerous ridiculous and scandalous reports in circulation respecting him have not the least foundation in truth.
I shall never forget the first time I saw Joseph Smith. It was in Father Johnson’s house, in the township of Hiram, in the State of Ohio, about twenty-five miles from Kirtland. It was near Father Johnson’s where the mob tarred and feathered him. When I saw him he was standing in the doorway. Before him was a small bowery occupied by about a hundred and fifty or two hundred men and women. There for the first time I heard his voice. When I heard his testimony in regard to what the Lord had revealed to him, it seemed to me that he must be an honest man. He talked and looked like an honest man. He was an honest man.
Margarette McIntire Burgess, convert who lived in Nauvoo as a child:
Another time my older brother and I were going to school, near to the building which was known as Joseph’s brick store. It had been raining the previous day, causing the ground to be very muddy, especially along that street. My brother Wallace and I both got fast in the mud, and could not get out, and of course childlike, we began to cry, for we thought we would have to stay there. But looking up, I beheld the loving friend of children, the Prophet Joseph, coming to us. He soon had us on higher and drier ground. Then he stooped down and cleaned the mud from our little, heavyladen shoes, took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped our tear-stained faces. He spoke kind and cheering words to us, and sent us on our way to school rejoicing.
When I first heard him preach, he brought heaven and earth together; and all the priests of the day could not tell me anything correct about heaven, hell, God, angels, or devils; they were as blind as Egyptian darkness. When I saw Joseph Smith, he took heaven, figuratively speaking, and brought it down to earth; and he took the earth, brought it up, and opened up in plainness and simplicity, the things of God; and that is the beauty of his mission.
1. The Lord poured out great blessings during the Kirtland period.
While the Prophet Joseph was living in the Kirtland area, he received numerous revelations, 65 of which are included in the Doctrine and Covenants. The revelations taught the Lord’s will in connection with welfare, sign seeking, moral conduct, dietary principles, tithing, priesthood authority, the role of a prophet, the three degrees of glory, missionary work, the Second Coming, the law of consecration, and many other subjects.
2. The Saints in Kirtland made great sacrifices to share the gospel.
The Saints in the 1830s had very little money. At tremendous sacrifice they had constructed a temple. The United States at that time was gripped by a spirit of financial speculation, which resulted in a financial crash in 1837. In Kirtland, people turned against the Prophet Joseph Smith and a great sifting took place between the faithful and those whose eyes were set upon the things of the world.
It was in these difficult times, on Sunday, 4 June 1837, that the Prophet Joseph Smith came to Elder Heber C. Kimball of the Quorum of the Twelve, while Brother Kimball in the Kirtland Temple, and whispering to [him], said, ‘Brother Heber, the Spirit of the Lord has whispered to me: ‘Let my servant Heber go to England and proclaim my Gospel, and open the door of salvation to that nation.’ ”
Imagine, one man who had very little telling another who had practically nothing that he was to go across the sea to open the work there.
One can understand Heber C. Kimball’s response. Feeling his weakness he said, “O, Lord, I am a man of stammering tongue, and altogether unfit for such a work; how can I go to preach in that land, which is so famed throughout Christendom for learning, knowledge and piety; the nursery of religion; and to a people whose intelligence is proverbial!”
Brother Kimball said at the time: “The idea of such a mission was almost more than I could bear up under. I was almost ready to sink under the burden which was placed upon me.”
“However, all these considerations did not deter me from the path of duty; the moment I understood the will of my Heavenly Father, I felt a determination to go at all hazards, believing that He would support me by His almighty power, and endow me with every qualification that I needed; and although my family was dear to me, and I should have to leave them almost destitute, I felt that the cause of truth, the Gospel of Christ, outweighed every other consideration.” (Ibid., p. 104.)
Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, and Joseph Fielding responded with similar faith, and these four were joined in New York by John Goodson, Isaac Russell, and John Snyder.
Tuesday, June 13, was the scheduled departure date for the four who were to leave Kirtland. One who looked in on the Kimball household that morning described the prayer that was uttered by the father who was leaving and who laid his hands upon his childrens’ heads to give them a blessing
“While thus engaged his voice was almost lost in the sobs of those around, who tried in vain to suppress them. The idea of being separated from their protector and father for so long a time was indeed painful. He proceeded, but his heart was too much affected to do so regularly. His emotions were great, and he was obliged to stop at intervals, while the big tears rolled down his cheeks.”
After eighteen days and eighteen hours on the water the ship pulled into the Mersey. They spent a few days in Liverpool seeking direction from the Lord, and then felt the confirming whispering of the Spirit directing them to go to Preston. There they found a city in a state of excitement over elections for members of Parliament. Queen Victoria had ascended the throne three days earlier and had called for a national election.
As they came up the street in Preston, a banner unfurled before them with the words “Truth Will Prevail.”
This they adopted as the motto of their mission. It may seem a strange motto for a political party today but it is a motto that we could do well to adopt
In a dark and troubled hour the Lord said to those He loved: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Heber C Kimball and his colleagues took heart from the simple motto truth will prevail. They then worked as hard as they could with body mind and spirit to share the Gospel. The Lord then blessed them with success in their work.
D&C 42:6 Go forth in the power of my Spirit
‘The power of a missionary is not determined by his or her height, weight, or physical prowess. Nor is it determined by his or her smoothness of tongue or cleverness of mind. It is, however, determined by his or her receptivity to the Spirit and willingness to heed its promptings.
To go forth in the power of the Spirit means that a missionary must be taught and led by the Spirit and must teach by the Spirit. Therefore, the conscientious missionary courts the Holy Spirit every day of his mission. Such courting involves the exercise of faith, prayer, study, work, and righteous living. All of this is done with these promises in mind: (1) “The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith” (D&C 42:14) and (2) “If ye will . . . receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Ne. 32:5). There is also the instruction that “if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14).
Missionaries must bear in mind that the Spirit or Holy Ghost enables a missionary to speak persuasively with “the tongue of angels” (2 Ne. 32:2). It serves as a conduit, if you will, through which the message passes from a missionary’s heart to the heart of the listener. It is the power that converts.’ (Carlos E Asay, The Seven M’s of Missionary Service: Proclaiming the Gospel as a Member or Full-time Missionary [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], chap. 4)
D&C 88:81 Warn the people
‘We who have received a knowledge of the great plan of happiness—and its implementing commandments—should feel a desire to share that knowledge since it makes all the difference here and in eternity. And if we ask, “Who is my neighbor that I should warn?” surely the answer will be found in a parable that begins, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves,”Luke 10:30 and so forth.’ (D Todd Christofferson, General Conference, April 2017)
3. Members of the Quorum of the Twelve taught thousands in England.
D&C 112:21 Power to open the door of my kingdom unto any nation
‘When I read Church history, I am amazed at the boldness of the early brethren as they went out into the world. They seemed to find a way. Even in persecution and hardship, they went and opened doors which evidently have been allowed to sag on their hinges and many of them to close. I remember that these fearless men were teaching the gospel in Indian lands before the Church was even fully organized. As nearly as 1837 the Twelve were in England fighting Satan, in Tahiti in 1844, Australia in 1851, Iceland 1853, Italy 1850, and also in Switzerland, Germany, Tonga, Turkey, Mexico, Japan, Czechoslovakia, China, Samoa, New Zealand, South America, France, and Hawaii in 1850. When you look at the progress we have made in some countries, with no progress in many of their nearby countries, it makes us wonder. Much of this early proselyting was done while the leaders were climbing the Rockies and planting the sod and starting their homes. It is faith and super faith.
These men of valor began to walk the earth with dignity and honor, with mantles on their shoulders and keys in their hands and love in their hearts.’ (Spencer W Kimball, “When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, 6)
4. Many Saints in Kirtland remained valiant despite persecution.
‘Saints who looked back on this period learned some compelling lessons of which we today need to be aware. One of the pointed lessons we learn from the Kirtland apostasy is that no one should consider himself secure from the loss of faith. Pride, criticism, speculation, envy, greed—these are enough to cause the most faithful to stumble. Parley P. Pratt, for example, declared that “envyings, lyings, strifes and divisions” caused “trouble and sorrow” in Kirtland. He admitted that he was a victim of these failings. But the Lord knew his faith—his “integrity of purpose”—and helped him in his victory against an opposing spirit.
Orson Hyde recalled that, because he acted foolishly during this period of darkness, he temporarily lost “the light of the Holy Ghost.” Luke S. Johnson admitted that his mind became darkened and he neglected his Church responsibilities after he had “partaken of the spirit of speculation.
And yet, through it all, 87 percent of the Kirtland Saints continued to nurture their faith. They continued to sustain Joseph Smith as a prophet, sacrificing nearly all their material possessions rather than forsake the restored gospel. Despite opposition, they sacrificed their homes, the sacred temple they had built, and even their lives to carry the work of the Lord forward. We would do well to emulate their example.’ (Milton V Backman, A Warning from Kirtland, Ensign, April 1989)
One evening when President and Sister Hinckley were sitting quietly together, Sister Hinckley said, “You have always given me wings to fly, and I have loved you for it.” Commenting on that expression from his wife, President Hinckley said, “I’ve tried to recognize [her] individuality, her personality, her desires, her background, her ambitions. Let her fly. Yes, let her fly! Let her develop her own talents. Let her do things her way. Get out of her way, and marvel at what she does.”
Why is it important for husbands and wives to recognise each other’s individuality.
Heavenly Father designed marriage from the beginning.
Watch: Man and Woman President Gordon B. Hinckley testifies that man and woman are God’s design. (0:57)
Watch: Renaissance of Marriage Hear what President Eyring says we all must do to have a renaissance of happy marriages and productive families. (2:36)
From the manual:
How wonderful a thing is marriage under the plan of our Eternal Father, a plan provided in His divine wisdom for the happiness and security of His children and the continuity of the race.
How can this knowledge influence the relationship between a husband and wife?
In the temple, a husband and wife can be sealed together for all eternity.
Eternal marriage is a very distinctive and valuable part of the Church. It involves a ceremony performed in a holy temple by an officiator who has the authority to seal couples together for eternity. This is a sacred and simple ceremony to unite husband and wife in the bonds of everlasting love and in the hopes of eternity.
From the manual
[The] temples … offer blessings that are had nowhere else. All that occurs in these sacred houses has to do with the eternal nature of man. Here, husbands and wives and children are sealed together as families for all eternity. Marriage is not “until death do ye part.” It is forever, if the parties live worthy of the blessing.
What are the blessings of an eternal marriage in this life and in eternity?
Husbands and wives walk side by side on an eternal journey.
We believe that life is more secure and more joyous when it is experienced in the sacred relationships of the eternal family. A person who lives a righteous life in mortality and who has entered into an eternal marriage may look forward to an association in the postmortal world with a worthy spouse, and with those who were earthly children, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters.
From the manual:
Marriage, in its truest sense, is a partnership of equals, with neither exercising dominion over the other, but, rather, with each encouraging and assisting the other in whatever responsibilities and aspirations he or she might have.
Why does marriage need to be “a partnership of equals”?
“The marriage sanctioned by God provides men and women with the opportunity to fulfill their divine potentials. ‘Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord’ (1 Cor. 11:11). Husbands and wives are unique in some ways and free to develop their eternal gifts, yet as coequals in the sight of their heavenly parents they are one in the divine goals they pursue, in their devotion to eternal principles and ordinances, in their obedience to the Lord, and in their divine love for each other. When a man and woman who have been sealed together in a temple are united spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically, taking full responsibility for nurturing each other, they are truly married. Together they strive to emulate the prototype of the heavenly home from which they came. The Church teaches them to complement, support, and enrich one another. . . . If a husband and wife are faithful to their temple marriage, they will continue as co-creators in God’s celestial kingdom through the eternities.” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., Daniel H. Ludlow, ed. [New York: Macmillan, 1992], 2:487.)
“I urge the husbands and fathers of this church to be the kind of a man your wife would not want to be without. I urge the sisters of this church to be patient, loving, and understanding with their husbands. Those who enter into marriage should be fully prepared to establish their marriage as the first priority in their lives.
“It is destructive to the feeling essential for a happy marriage for either party to say to the other marriage partner, ‘I don’t need you.’ This is particularly so because the counsel of the Savior was and is to become one flesh: ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh
“‘Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.’ (Matt. 19:5-6.) It is far more difficult to be of one heart and mind than to be physically one. This unity of heart and mind is manifest in sincere expressions of ‘I appreciate you’ and ‘I am proud of you.’ Such domestic harmony results from forgiving and forgetting, essential elements of a maturing marriage relationship. Someone has said that we should keep our eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterward. (Magdeleine Scudery, as cited in The International Dictionary of Thoughts, Chicago: J. G. Ferguson Publishing Co., 1969, p. 472.) True charity ought to begin in marriage, for it is a relationship that must be rebuilt every day.” (Teachings of James E. Faust, 366.)
God will not withhold any blessings from worthy individuals who are not married.
From the manual:
Somehow we have put a badge on a very important group in the Church. It reads “Singles.” I wish we would not do that. You are individuals, men and women, sons and daughters of God, not a mass of “look-alikes” or “do-alikes.” Because you do not happen to be married does not make you essentially different from others. All of us are very much alike in appearance and emotional responses, in our capacity to think, to reason, to be miserable, to be happy, to love and be loved.
How can President Hinckley’s promises and counsel in section 4 help persons who are not married?
Happiness in marriage comes from showing a loving concern for the well-being of one’s companion.
In 1831 the Lord revealed the law of the Church to the newly gathered Saints and commanded, “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else” (D&C 42:22). This is the only place in scripture where the Lord asks us to love anything or anyone with all our hearts besides Himself. President Hinckley has… said that a husband should regard his wife “as the greatest treasure of his life.” In Matthew 6:21 we read, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”
From the manual:
Nurture and cultivate your marriage. Guard it and work to keep it solid and beautiful. … Marriage is a contract, it is a compact, it is a union between a man and a woman under the plan of the Almighty. It can be fragile. It requires nurture and very much effort.
What are some ways a husband and wife can “nurture and cultivate” their marriage?
At times like this, when we think of all the wars that have been, of the millions who have lost their lives (55 million in World War II alone) and the millions more who have been profoundly affected by war, we may feel a mixture of emotions. We may feel gratitude for those who gave so much that we may be free, pride at their bravery and accomplishments and deep reverence for their sacrifices. We may feel horror at the sheer scale of the destruction, disgust at the barbarities that man can inflict upon his fellow man and sorrow at the waste of lives, futures and talent. While we commemorate those who gave so much and pay tribute to them we do not glorify war.
President Brigham Young said:
‘Of one thing I am sure; God never institutes war; God is not the author of confusion or of war; they are the results of the acts of the children of men. Confusion and war necessarily come as the results of the foolish acts and policy of men; but they do not come because God desires they should come.’
As members of the Church, we are against war. We do not believe that it is a righteous way of settling international disputes, We believe in peace. We follow the Saviour, who is the Prince of Peace. We look forward to that promised time foretold by the prophet Isaiah when
..’he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’ (Isaiah 2:4)
However, the history of mankind, right back to the great conflict in the pre-mortal world has been scarred by war. The history of the world is a history of wars. President Gordon B Hinckley said:
‘I think our Father in Heaven must have wept as He has looked down upon His children through the centuries as they have squandered their divine birthright in ruthlessly destroying one another.’
So, if we are for peace and against war, are there any circumstances in which Latter-Day Saints are justified in participating in war? Yes, there are times when righteous people may take up arms. President David O McKay said:
“There are, however, two conditions which may justify a truly Christian man to enter-mind you, I say enter, not begin-a war: (1) An attempt to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency, and (2) Loyalty to his country. Possibly there is a third, viz., Defense of a weak nation that is being unjustly crushed by a strong, ruthless one.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1942)
We believe in peace and look forward to the reign of peace – but, as the Article of Faith says, we also “believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” so faithful, believing Latter-Day Saints have been, and may be in the future, required to fight in wars. President Hinckley said:
‘This places us in the position of those who long for peace, who teach peace, who work for peace, but who also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our governments. Furthermore, we are a freedom-loving people, committed to the defense of liberty wherever it is in jeopardy. I believe that God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do.’
So, our armed forces are justified in carrying out their loyal duties. During the Second World War the First Presidency issued this clarifying declaration:
“the state is responsible for the civil control of its citizens or subjects, for their political welfare, and for the carrying forward of political policies, domestic and foreign. … But the Church itself, as such, has no responsibility for these policies, [other] than urging its members fully to render … loyalty to their country.”[In James R. Clark, comp. Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]
A Book of Mormon example of a loyal and righteous soldier and military leader is Captain Moroni.
And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery; (Alma 48:11).
Alma tells us that Moroni was “firm in the faith of Christ,” and his purpose in fighting was to “defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion” (Alma 48:13).
The Book of Mormon tells us in relation to a particular war between the Nephites and the Lamanites that
“the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for … power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church. “And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God” (Alma 43:45–46).
The Prophet Joseph Smith said:
‘The prediction is that army will be against army: it may be that the Saints will have to beat their ploughs into swords, for it will not do for men to sit down patiently and see their children destroyed.’ (Nauvoo, 12 May 1844)
Meanwhile the nations continue to learn war and we know that before we get to that time of peace that there will be more dark days full of conflict.
President Howard W Hunter prophesied:
‘In this last dispensation there will be great tribulation. We know that there will be wars and rumours of wars and that the whole earth will be in commotion (see D&C 45:26). All dispensations have had their perilous times, but our day will include genuine peril. Evil men will flourish, but then evil men have very often flourished. Calamities will come and iniquity will abound. (Howard W Hunter, “An Anchor to the Souls of Men,” Ensign, Oct. 1993, 71)
We have recently seen in our own country and in other countries that differences of political opinion can lead to strong and harsh words, to deep feelings and even to violence. President Hinckley counselled:
Now, there is much that we can and must do in these perilous times. We can give our opinions on the merits of the situation as we see it, but never let us become a party to words or works of evil concerning our brothers and sisters in various nations on one side or the other. Political differences never justify hatred or ill will. I hope that the Lord’s people may be at peace one with another during times of trouble, regardless of what loyalties they may have to different governments or parties.
What are we to do during these dark days? Elder Gerritt W Gong at General Conference in April 2016 said:
‘In these days of motion and commotion,some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God,”who guides “the future as he has the past.”In “perilous times,”we “remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men.” ‘
Living, as we do, surrounded by evil and in a world where conflict may break out at any time, it is important to live our lives in such a way that we are worthy of our Heavenly Father’s protection. What does the Lord expect of us as Church members? Elder Nelson said:
‘As individuals, we should “follow after the things which make for peace.” We should be personal peacemakers. We should livepeacefully—as couples, families, and neighbors. We should live by the Golden Rule. …We should bring divine love and revealed doctrines of restored religion to our neighbors and friends. We should serve them according to our abilities and opportunities. We should keep our principles on a high level and stand for the right. We should continue to gather scattered Israel from the four corners of the earth and offer the ordinances and covenants that seal families together forever. These blessings we are to bring to people of all nations.’
Black Bart was a professional thief whose very name struck fear as he terrorized the Wells Fargo stage line. From San Francisco to New York, his name became synonymous with the danger of the frontier. Between 1875 and 1883 he robbed 29 different stagecoach crews. Amazingly, Bart did it all without firing a shot. Because a hood hid his face, no victim ever saw his face. He never took a hostage and was never trailed by a sheriff. Instead, Black Bart used fear to paralyze his victims. Fear was enough to overwhelm the toughest stagecoach guard. Though we live amongst wars and rumours of wars we should not be paralysed by fear.
President John Taylor said:
‘Some in speaking of war and troubles, will say are you not afraid? No, I am a servant of God, and this is enough, for Father is at the helm. It is for me to be as clay in the hands of the potter, to be pliable and walk in the light of the countenance of the Spirit of the Lord, and then no matter what comes. Let the lightnings flash and the earthquakes bellow, God is at the helm, and I feel like saying but little, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth and will continue his work until he has put all enemies under his feet.’ (May 1862)
Section 87 of the Doctrine and Covenants was received by the Prophet Joseph Smith in Kirtland on Christmas Day in 1832. It is ‘ a revelation and prophecy on war’. It foretells the American Civil War and says that ‘the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.’ Was Joseph paralysed by this prophecy of war? Now let’s turn to Section 88. This was received on 27 and 28 December 1832, that is just 2 or 3 days after the revelation on war. It is designated as the “‘olive leaf’ … plucked from the Tree of Paradise, the Lord’s message of peace to us. ”Verses 119 -120 call for a temple to be built in Kirtland:
119 Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;
120 That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High.
Then in verse 127 the Lord instructs that the School of the Prophets should be established. For me, this tells us that the proper response to the calamities and tribulations that surround us or are to come is to turn with renewed vigour to the learning the word of the Lord and performing his work. As Section 87 verse 8 says:
Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen.
President Benson defined these holy places as our temples, our homes, our chapels and our stakes. We must trust in the Lord and in his love for us. As President Hinckley said:
Even when the armaments of war ring out in deathly serenade and darkness and hatred reign in the hearts of some, there stands immovable, reassuring, comforting, and with great outreaching love the quiet figure of the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. We can proclaim with Paul:
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
“Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).
Opposing votes heard again – invited to contact their Stake Presidents.
Elder Quentin L Cook
‘There are a number of stumbling blocks to our valor that can prevent us from reaching the goal of eternal life.’
Story of father building cabin on ranch. Window focused on power pole. ‘That power pole is the most beautiful thing to me on the entire ranch.’ To him that pole represented an improved life. While the pole was stumbling block to me it had great practical meaning to my father.
‘One Stumbling Block Is the Philosophies of Men’ . We are committed to intelligence.
1 Corinthians 15 – Handel’s Messiah. Describes some of what Christ accomplished. The apostasy – plain and precious truths lost. Christianity did not destroy paganism – it adopted it.
Heber C Kimball warned the time is coming when it will be difficult to tell the face of a friend from the face of an enemy…there is a test coming.
Elder Maxwell said much sifting will occur because of lapses in righteous behaviour which go unrepented of.
‘Another Stumbling Block Is Refusing to See Sin in Its True Light
Many people … have no remorse or willingness to acknowledge their conduct as being morally wrong. Even some who profess a belief in the Father and the Son wrongfully take the position that a loving Father in Heaven should exact no consequences for conduct that is contrary to His commandments. ‘
Corianton – son of Alma the Younger. Alma 39. Made the necessity of repentance clear to Corianton. Alma helped Corianton to understand that it is not injustice that the sinner should be consigned to misery Justice and mercy. None but the truly penitent are saved. Sooner or later everyone has to sit down to a banquet of consequences.
‘Looking beyond the Mark Is a Stumbling Block’
Gospel extremism is when one elevates any gospel principle above other equally important principles.
‘Some members elevate causes, many of which are good, to a status superior to basic gospel doctrine.’
‘If we elevate anything above our devotion to the Savior, … then we are looking beyond the mark. Jesus Christ is the mark!’
D&C 76 – being valiant in the testimony of Jesus is the simple test between the celestial kingdom and the lower kingdoms.
If we are to be valiant in the testimony of Jesus we must avoid the stumbling blocks.
Stumbling blocks may be made into stepping stones. Being valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ is a stepping stone.
Elder Gary E Stevenson
Story of young girl in New York who lost her father. Moved to another state. Missionaries came to town. Told story of Joseph Smith. Two of the missionaries had seen the plates themselves. 12 year old Mary yearned to read it.
‘I went to his house just before the meeting was to commence, and asked to see the book; Brother Morley put it in my hand, as I looked at it, I felt such a desire to read it, that I could not refrain from asking him to let me take it home and read it, while he attended meeting. He said it would be too late for me to take it back after meeting, and another thing, he had hardly had time to read a chapter in it himself, and but few of the brethren had even seen it, but I pled so earnestly for it, he finally said, ‘Child, if you will bring this book home before breakfast tomorrow morning, you may take it.’ He admonished me to be very careful, and see that no harm came to it.’
She became the first person in her town to read the Book of Mormon.
When you read the Book of Mormon and pray about it you can have the same feeling Mary had.
Joseph Smith described the Book of Mormon as the most correct of any book on the earth and the keystone of our religion.
Mission experience in Japan. Began to teach about the Book of Mormon. Received the strongest feeling accompanied by a warm feeling of serenity and confidence.
‘Each of you can also receive a personal witness of this book! Do you realize that the Book of Mormon was written for you—and for your day? This book is one of the blessings of living in what we call the dispensation of the fulness of times.’
We have the benefit of the complete Book of Mormon. Moroni saw our day Mormon 8:
34 Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you.
35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.
I’n order to help the Book of Mormon become the keystone of your testimony, I offer you a challenge. I recently learned that many young people spend an average of seven hours a day looking at TV, computer, and smartphone screens. With this in mind, would you make a small change? Will you replace some of that daily screen time—particularly that devoted to social media, the internet, gaming, or television—with reading the Book of Mormon? If the studies I referred to are accurate, you could easily find time for daily study of the Book of Mormon even if for only 10 minutes a day. And you can study in a way that allows you to enjoy it and understand it—either on your device or in book form.’
Not to be treated as nasty medicine to be gulped down (Elder Russell M Nelson).
You will encounter the Saviour on almost every page.
The Book of Mormon – tangible evidence of the Restoration.
‘Within the book’s pages, you will discover the infinite love and incomprehensible grace of God. As you strive to follow the teachings you find there, your joy will expand, your understanding will increase, and the answers you seek to the many challenges mortality presents will be opened to you. As you look to the book, you look to the Lord. The Book of Mormon is the revealed word of God.’
(Prayer and the Book of Mormon seem to be the emerging themes of this Conference)
Elder D Todd Christofferson
‘One of the terms we hear often today is that God’s love is “unconditional.” While in one sense that is true, the descriptor unconditional appears nowhere in scripture. Rather, His love is described in scripture as “great and wonderful love” [D&C 138:3], “perfect love” [1 John 4:18; Moroni 8:16], “redeeming love” [Alma 5:26], and “everlasting love” [Jeremiah 31:3]. These are better terms because the word unconditional can convey mistaken impressions about divine love, such as, God tolerates and excuses anything we do because His love is unconditional, or God makes no demands upon us because His love is unconditional, or all are saved in the heavenly kingdom of God because His love is unconditional. God’s love is infinite and it will endure forever, but what it means for each of us depends on how we respond to His love.’
To “continue in” or “abide in” the Savior’s love means to receive His grace and be perfected by it. To receive His grace, we must have faith in Jesus Christ and keep His commandments, including repenting of our sins, being baptized for the remission of sins, receiving the Holy Ghost, and continuing in the path of obedience.’
‘God will always love us but he cannot save us in our sins.’
Repentance is his gift to us purchased at a very dear price.
Russell M Nelson – ‘The resplendent bouquet of God’s love—including eternal life—includes blessings for which we must qualify, not entitlements to be expected unworthily. Sinners cannot bend His will to theirs and require Him to bless them in sin. If they desire to enjoy every bloom in His beautiful bouquet, they must repent.’
Dallin H Oaks – ‘The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become.’
Helen Keller and her teacher, Ann Sullivan. Not a pleasant experience at the beginning. Finally won her trust. Spelling words on her hand.
‘Each of us can love and serve God and be empowered to help our fellow man.’
Production of olive oil. The oil is red.
Keep his commandments.
Elder W Mark Bassett
Given a model of the golden plates as a young boy. Wanted to see what was written on the sealed portion of the plates.
‘Since the Creation of this earth, our loving Father in Heaven has provided direction, leadership, and instruction to His children through prophets. His words have been passed down through these prophets and are saved as scripture for our development and learning.’
‘Sadly, our development and learning can at times be slowed or even halted. … [Our] actions can lead us to seek after things that are not necessarily meant to be understood at this time, all the while ignoring the beautiful truths that are meant for us and our circumstances—the truths Nephi described as written for our learning and profit.’
The mysteries of God are unfolded to us only according to His will and by the power of the Holy Ghost.
‘Nephi’s example of seeking knowledge included (1) a sincere desire, (2) humility, (3) prayer, (4) trust in the prophet, and an exercise of (5) faith, (6) diligence, and (7) obedience.’
In the modern age we expect information to come immediately.
Some things can be learned only by faith – Dallin H Oaks.
‘Faith and trust in the Lord require us to acknowledge that His wisdom is superior to our own. We must also acknowledge that His plan provides the greatest potential for spiritual development and learning.
We were never expected “to have a perfect [understanding] of things” during this mortal existence. Instead, we are expected to “hope for things which are not seen, which are true” [Alma 32:21].’
‘As we acknowledge that we are the workmanship of a wise and devoted Father in Heaven, “O then,” why not allow Him to guide our spiritual development and learning “according to his will and pleasure” rather than our own? [Jacob 4:9].’
Testimony of Joseph Smith.
Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita
Dedication of the Sapporo Temple in Hokkaido.
‘In 1876, a renowned educator named Dr. William Clark was invited to come to Hokkaido to teach. He lived in Japan for just eight months, but his Christian spirit left a lasting impression on his young non-Christian students. Before leaving, he gave his students a parting message that has become immortalized in this bronze statue. He said, “Boys, be ambitious!”—“Be ambitious for Christ” [William Clark, in Ann B. Irish,Hokkaido: A History of Ethnic Transition and Development on Japan’s Northern Island (2009), 156]. His injunction to “be ambitious for Christ” can help direct daily decisions for today’s Latter-day Saints.
What does it mean to “be ambitious for Christ”? Being ambitious for Christ means being motivated, focused, and dedicated to His work. Being ambitious for Christ will seldom mean that we are singled out for public honor. Being ambitious for Christ means that we serve faithfully and diligently in our wards and branches without complaint and with joyful hearts.’
Missionaries are examples of those who are ambitious for Christ.
Story of missionary with prosthetic leg.
The Book of Mormon includes many examples of people who were ambitious for Christ. Alma the Younger.
‘In our lives we experience trials, but if we are ambitious for Christ, we can focus on Him and feel joy even in the midst of them. Our Redeemer is the ultimate example. He understood His holy mission and was obedient to the will of God the Father. What a choice blessing it is to bring His wonderful example to our remembrance each week as we partake of the sacrament.
My dear brothers and sisters, we are ambitious for Christ when we serve faithfully, accept humbly, endure nobly, pray fervently, and partake worthily.’
(Lovely talk, emotionally delivered.)
Elder Dallin H Oaks
Go ye therefore and teach all nations. The Great Commission.
We have many resources not available to previous generations. Are we using all of these resources to maximum effect?
Ideas that will work everywhere.
‘We need the help of every member, and every member can help, since there are so many tasks to perform as we share the restored gospel with every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.’
Member participation in missionary work is vital.
‘Sharing the restored gospel is our life-long Christian duty and privilege.’
‘There are three things all members can do to help share the gospel, regardless of the circumstances in which they live and work. All of us should do all of these.
First, we can all pray for desire to help with this vital part of the work of salvation. All efforts begin with desire.
Second, we can keep the commandments ourselves. Faithful, obedient members are the most persuasive witnesses of the truth and value of the restored gospel. Even more important, faithful members will always have His Spirit to be with them to guide them as they seek to participate in the great work of sharing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Third, we can pray for inspiration on what we can do in our individual circumstances to share the gospel with others.’
This is different than praying for the missionaries.
Praying for a commitment to act upon the inspiration you receive.
We should never set ourselves up as judges of who is ready and who is not.
‘As an Apostle of the Lord, I urge every member and family in the Church to pray for the Lord to help them find persons prepared to receive the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.’
Elder M Russell Ballard – Trust the Lord. He is the Good Shepherd. He knows His sheep, and His sheep know His voice; and today the voice of the Good Shepherd is your voice and my voice. And if we are not engaged, many who would hear the message of the Restoration will be passed by. Simply stated, it’s a matter of faith and action on our part. The principles are pretty simple—pray, personally and in your family, for missionary opportunities.
People interested in the results of the doctrine.
As we speak to others we need to remember that an invitation to learn more about Jesus Christ and his gospel is preferable to an invitation to know more about our church.
Our efforts to share the gospel should not be limited to our circle of friends and acquaintances.
No correlation between the depth of a relationship and the probability that someone will be interested in the gospel.
There are many opportunities to share the gospel.
Our young members’ fascination and expertise with social media gives them unique opportunities to reach out.
1. Alma gives a powerful discourse on the priesthood and foreordination.
Alma 13:1 Priests
“Book of Mormon prophets gave the title priest to officers known in this dispensation as high priests. That is, they were priests of the Melchizedek Priesthood, or as Alma expressed it, ‘the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son.’ (Alma 13:1-20.) Since there was no Aaronic Priesthood among the Nephites in Alma’s day (there being none of the lineage empowered in pre-meridian times to hold that priesthood), there was no need to distinguish between priests of the lesser and greater priesthoods.” (Bruce R McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 599)
Alma 13:3 Called and prepared from the foundation of the world
“Why were some spirits sent to earth among the Amalekites, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians, while others at the same moments found birth in the house of Israel? Why was Antipas sent as the son of a debauched and evil Herod, while John the Baptist came into the home of a priestly Zacharias and a saintly Elisabeth?
All of these things operate by law; they are the outgrowth of long years of personal preparation in the preexistence on the part of each individual; they come to pass according to the laws that the Lord has ordained. This second estate is a continuation of our first estate; we are born here with the talents and capacities acquired there. Abraham was one of the noble and great spirits in the premortal life. He was chosen for his mortal ministry and position before he was born, and as with the father of the faithful so with all of the spirits destined to be born as his seed.
The greatest and most important talent or capacity that any of the spirit children of the Father could gain is the talent of spirituality. Most of those who gained this talent were chosen, before they were born, to come to earth as members of the house of Israel. They were foreordained to receive the blessings that the Lord promised to Abraham and to his seed in all their generations. This foreordination is an election, Paul tells us, and truly it is so, for those so chosen, selected, or elected become, in this life, the favored people. Though all mankind may be saved by obedience, some find it easier to believe and obey than others. Hence the concept, taught by Jesus, that his sheep know his voice and will not follow the dissident voices of the world” (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p.512 p.513).
Alma 13:4 While others would reject the Spirit of God
“God gave his children their free agency even in the [premortal] spirit world, by which the individual spirits had the privilege, just as men have here, of choosing the good and rejecting the evil, or partaking of the evil to suffer the consequences of their sins. Because of this, some even there were more faithful than others in keeping the commandments of the Lord. …
“The spirits of men had their free agency. … The spirits of men were not equal. They may have had an equal start, and we know they were all innocent in the beginning; but the right of free agency which was given to them enabled some to outstrip others, and thus, through the eons of immortal existence, to become more intelligent, more faithful, for they were free to act for themselves, to think for themselves, to receive the truth or rebel against it” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 1:58–59).
Alma 13:6 To teach his commandments
‘Inherent in the calling of an elder is the responsibility to teach the commandments. They require no further calling, invitation, or setting apart, although these may take place. By virtue of their priesthood alone, they are both commissioned and authorized to teach the commandments and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord referred to this in his words to Sidney Gilbert, take upon you mine ordination, even that of an elder, to preach faith and repentance and remission of sins, according to my word (DC 53:3). See also DC 42:12.’ (Bryan Richards, Gospeldoctrine.com)
Alma 13:9 They become high priests forever
‘Alma does not mean to say that a high priest will retain his priesthood without regard to righteousness. Rather, his explanation points out that the priesthood was designed to be eternal, all those who are ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest continually (JST Heb 7:3, see also Heb 7:17). It was not meant to be tried and then rejected. Once a man is called to this high and holy calling, there is no going back—at least not without severe punishment. The Lord warns, whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come (DC 84:41). This punishment is so severe because to reject the priesthood of the Lord is to make a mockery of God’s great power and benevolence to the children of men. It also makes a mockery of the eternal nature of the priesthood.’ (Bryan Richards, Gospeldoctrine.com)
Alma 13:10 Many who were ordained
“God may have called and chosen men in the spirit world or in their first estate to do a certain work, but whether they will accept that calling here and magnify it by faithful service and good works while in mortality is a matter in which it is their right and privilege to exercise their free agency to choose good or evil.
“… I fear there are many among us who because of their faithfulness in the spirit world were ‘called’ to do a great work here, but like reckless spendthrifts they are exercising their free agency in riotous living and are losing their birthright and the blessings that were theirs had they proved faithful to their calling. Hence as the Lord has said, ‘there are many called but few are chosen’” (Harold B Lee, Decisions for Successful Living , 169).
Alma 13:11-12 Sanctification
“I will put my own definition to the term sanctification, and say it consists in overcoming every sin and bringing all into subjection to the law of Christ. God has placed in us a pure spirit; when this [the spirit] reigns predominant, without let or hindrance, and triumphs over the flesh and rules and governs and controls … , this I call the blessing of sanctification. Will sin be perfectly destroyed? No, it will not, for it is not so designed in the economy of heaven.
“Do not suppose that we shall ever in the flesh be free from temptations to sin. Some suppose that they can in the flesh be sanctified body and spirit and become so pure that they will never again feel the effects of the power of the adversary of truth. Were it possible for a person to attain to this degree of perfection in the flesh, he could not die, neither remain in a world where sin predominates. Sin has entered into the world, and death by sin. [Rom. 5:12.] I think we shall more or less feel the effects of sin so long as we live, and finally have to pass the ordeals of death” (Brigham Young, in Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon , 2:248–49).
Alma 13:14 Melchizedek
‘Melchizedek is one of the most enigmatic figures in Judaeo-Christian history. Legends about Melchizedek abound in Jewish traditions, in Christian literature and art, and among the writings of the Qumran sectaries. . . In some Jewish and Christian writings he is identified as Shem, the son of Noah, while later traditions hold that he was a descendant of Shem. Others suggest that he was named Melchizedek by God when the priesthood was bestowed upon him.
Josephus explained that the city of Salem, over which Melchizedek reigned, later became known as Jerusalem. (“The Antiquities” 1.10.3) In writing of Jerusalem, Josephus observed: “He who first built it was a potent man among the Canaanites and is in our tongue called [Melchizedek] the Righteous King, for such he really was; on which account he was [there] the first priest of God, and first built a temple[there], and called the city Jerusalem, which was formerly called Salem.” (“The Wars” 6.10.1; emphasis added). And, most important for our study the legends attest that Melchizedek was both king and priest in Salem (Hebrews 7:1; Ginzberg 1:233).
The scriptures also make clear that Melchizedek is a marvelous type of Christ. His name comes from two Hebrew roots, melekh (king), and tzedek (righteousness), Melchi-tzedek meaning literally “king of righteousness” or “my king is righteousness.” ‘[Robert L. Millet, “The Holy Order of God,” in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word]
Alma 13:27 Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance
‘Christ bridged the gulf between the mortal and immortal. The grave no longer holds its captives; justice can be satisfied through mercy; the wondrous Atonement, infinite and eternal in scope, is in place (see Alma 34:8–10, 14–16) Christ is the resurrected Lord, our Savior and Redeemer. Therefore, do not wait any longer. (Keith B McMullen, General Conference, April 1999)
Alma 13:28-29 Humble yourselves before the Lord
‘Alma does not simply charge the people to repent, but tells them how to do it.
“Humble yourselves” is the essential first step. Humility requires that we see ourselves against the measuring stick of gospel ideals and recognize our shortcomings. Acknowledging the difference in where we are and where we want to be is the first step. There are two possible human but dangerous ways we decline to repent in the face of such a gap. The first is denial, perhaps as mild as making excuses or justifying ourselves. The second is an extreme rejection, perhaps taking the form of exploding in anger and violence against whatever showed us the difference. Many of the Ammonihahites took this second path.
The proper reaction to seeing the difference is humility, which includes the ability to be willing to change, to admit that we are mistaken. Humility accepts that it is we who must change, not the gospel or the person who shows us our faults.
The second and third steps are to “call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually.” Repentance is not a solo journey. It is a road we walk with our hand in the Savior’s. We call on his name. This injunction invokes the ancient concept of the power of the name, calling his presence into our lives. We are not to simply request an affidavit of forgiveness but to implore the comforting blessing of the Atonement in our lives. Alma tells us to pray continually for that blessing and watch continually so that we are following the true road.
One purpose of constant prayer is “that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear.” This promise is an important one. Although we desire to repent and we begin the process, temptations do not cease. In fact, they may actually increase as we turn away from them. Through learning to resist those temptations we become stronger, until we can be as those Alma has said: “Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence” (Alma 13:2). While Alma’s reminder of the need to be continually alert may suggest the possibility of irresistible temptation, this is not the case. Paul tells us: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Paul, like Alma, recognizes the reality of temptation, but both men promise that we will not be tempted above our capacity to resist. With every temptation will come “a way to escape” or resist. Thus, should we ever succumb to temptation, it will always be our own fault. We can never blame God for confronting us with an overwhelming temptation. We must accept the fault ourselves and repent of it ourselves.
The effect of daily pleading with God is that we can “be led by the Holy Spirit,” or Comforter. This Spirit is the close and intimate reminder of God’s goodness that will uphold us through our weaknesses.
The effect of the Spirit will result in our “becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering.” It may seem ironic that this list of virtues begins with humility, which was also the trait necessary to begin the process of repentance. However, those engaged in this process know that the Spirit stands always ready to assist, even if our first efforts at humility are inadequate. The Spirit aids those beginning steps, strengthening our humility and leading to meekness and submission. These are not the traits of a weak character, but rather the traits of one who is growing in greater gospel understanding. As we repent, the Spirit is more strongly with us, leading us to desire greater understanding. The reward of humility is more humility, an increased outpouring of knowledge about God’s ways as revealed by the Spirit, and greater love for God and greater experience of his love for us.
For the Ammonihahites, their first step would be an acceptance of the Atoning Messiah—even if it was a shaky and doubtful one. Then, by humbly exercising faith and seeking enlightenment of the Spirit, they would achieve “a hope” of “eternal life.”’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)
Alma 13:29 The rest of the Lord
‘It appears that the concept of the “rest of the Lord” is used occasionally in terms of what other scriptures call the Church of the Firstborn (see Heb 12:23; D&C 76:54). The Church of the Firstborn is the church of the exalted, an organization of saved souls, a body of believers who have passed the tests of mortality and received the approval of God. They qualify for life in the celestial kingdom, and because they have been true to all their trusts, are worthy to be joint heirs with Christ, co-inheritors with him to all of the blessings of the firstborn. The phrase “Church of the Firstborn” is not found in the Book of Mormon, but it may be that to enter the rest of the Lord is to enter the Church of the Firstborn. In speaking of the ancient worthies, Alma said: “They were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb. Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God” (13:11–12). From one point of view we can grasp and apply this vital lesson from the past: those of us who magnify our callings in the priesthood are sanctified—made pure and holy—by the renovating powers of the Spirit (see D&C 84:33). We come in time to hate sin and to love and cherish righteousness. We are at peace in a troubled and turbulent world. We enter the rest of the Lord. From another perspective, these qualify, through the atonement of Christ, for the highest of priesthood blessings spoken of in the revelations. “These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn.” Further, “They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn” (D&C 76:67, 94). Indeed, the ultimate privileges of God’s holy authority are spoken of as follows: “The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—to have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (D&C 107:18–19).'[Robert L. Millet, “The Holy Order of God,” in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word]
2. Alma, Amulek, and other believers are persecuted for their righteousness.
Alma 14:1 Many of them did believe on his words
‘This chapter is a vivid demonstration of what happens when good and evil run their course and finally reach their ultimate climax. During such a contest it always seems that during most of the time evil prevails. Not until God intervenes with all his divine power does the good overcome evil.
It must have been heartening to Alma to see that at least a few of the people of Ammonihah responded to his message. As for the remainder of the people, Alma carried a heavy burden on his heart because he had already been told what would happen to them.’ (Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)
Alma 14:1-5 A divided people
“The Gospel of salvation is perfectly calculated to cause division. It strikes at the root of the very existence of mankind in their wickedness, evil designs, passions, and wicked calculations. There is no evil among the human family, but at the foundation of which it strikes effectually, and comes in contact with every evil passion that rises in the heart of man. It is opposed to every evil practice of men, and consequently it disturbs them in the wicked courses they are pursuing” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses)
Alma 14:7 Behold, I am guilty
“An important lesson seems to emerge from the experiences of Zeezrom and the other repentant transgressors who have been mentioned. It is never safe for us to judge a person to be beyond the reach of the Lord’s merciful hand. Even those whose lives have been tainted by corruption and apparent rebellion against the things of God can, through sincere repentance, become forces for great good in the accomplishment of the Lord’s purposes.
“We do know that Zeezrom’s life was dramatically redirected. It appears that in spite of his having yielded to the influence of the environment in which he had gained notoriety, a spark of spiritual light must have endured in his soul.” (Dean L Larsen, Heroes From the Book of Mormon, p. 116)
Alma 14:8 Cast into the fire
‘An ancient practice of the wicked is to destroy the family of the enemy before their eyes. Accordingly, Zedekiah was forced to watch the murder of his sons before his eyes were gouged out (2 Kings 25:7). Yet in Ammonihah, this display of unbelievable cruelty is not designed for the eyes of the fathers who believed, for they had been stoned and cast out of the city (Alma 15:1). This wicked display of barbarity is designed specifically for Alma and Amulek, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire (v. 9).
Alma had prophesied to them about their fate if they did not repent. He warned them of a lake of fire and brimstone (Alma 12:17). These wicked men were determined to show Alma that it is the believers who are cast into a lake of fire (v. 14). While they hoped to demonstrate the weakness of Alma and Amulek who were seemingly unable to save the people, all that they really demonstrated was their own wickedness—that indeed their deeds qualify them for the torments which are as a lake of fire and brimstone.’ (Bryan Richards, Gospeldoctrine.com)
Alma 14:10-11 The Spirit constraineth me
‘I think it would have been easier for both of them to leap into the fire and die with their converts than to observe and do nothing when God had given them such great power. This is an important lesson. We must always be ready to act (or not act) in accordance with the will of the Father and the Son, no matter how much it might contradict our own will.’ (Ted L Gibbons, LDSliving.com)
3. Zeezrom is healed and baptized.
Alma 15:3 Caused by the great tribulations of his mind
“I recently asked a doctor of family medicine how much of his time was devoted purely to correcting physical disorders. He has a large practice, and after thoughtfully considering, he answered, ‘Not more than 20 percent. The rest of the time I seem to be working on problems that very much affect the physical well-being of my patients but do not originate in the body.
“‘These physical disorders,’ the doctor concluded, ‘are merely symptoms of some other kind of trouble.’…
“There is another part of us, not so tangible, but quite as real as our physical body. This intangible part of us is described as mind, emotion, intellect, temperament, and many other things. Very seldom is it described as spiritual.
“But there is a spirit in man; to ignore it is to ignore reality. There are spiritual disorders, too, and spiritual diseases that can cause intense suffering.
“The body and the spirit of man are bound together. Often, very often, when there are disorders, it is very difficult to tell which is which.” (Boyd K Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 59)
Alma 15:6 Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?
‘The most important question is whether Zeezrom believes in the Messiah, especially that he believes in the “power of Christ unto salvation.” This question is all-important because it requires the complete abandonment of his Nehorite denial of Yahweh-Messiah as the Atoning Messiah. He must also see that sin is real and that its redemption requires this atonement, another doctrine denied by the Nehorites. Alma is asking if Zeezrom has been completely converted.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)
Alma 15:12 He began from that time forth to preach unto the people
“Alma’s administration is instantly effective. Zeezrom leaps to his feet, healed not only physically but spiritually as well. The report of this incident is spread throughout Sidom.
“One cannot reflect upon this episode without recalling the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in New Testament times. Saul, who had been a tormentor of the Christians and had condoned Stephen’s martyrdom (see Acts 8:1), requires a similarly dramatic conversion experience. His sightlessness is healed under the hands of Ananias. He is brought to a recognition and acknowledgement of his folly in attempting to thwart the Lord’s work. In a flood of repentant anguish he makes a dramatic reversal in the course of his life. His fervor and energy are redirected to promulgate and sustain the work he has previously sought to destroy.
“So it is with Zeezrom. He is baptized by Alma, and, just as was the case with Paul, he immediately begins to preach among the people, later becoming a trusted companion of Alma and Amulek. It is perhaps not adding too much to reality to suppose that Zeezrom’s healing, his conversion, and his testifying of Christ contribute much to the missionary success enjoyed by these three servants of the Lord. The record tells us that the people ‘did flock in from all the region round about Sidom, and were baptized’ (Alma 15:14).
“That Zeezrom proves himself in the eyes of his mentor, Alma, is confirmed by the fact that he regularly appears in the accounts of Alma’s ministry as one of his most trusted and reliable companions and fellow servants. Years after the events in Ammonihah and Sidom, when Alma undertakes one of the most difficult challenges of his life’s ministry-the conversion of the Zoramites-Zeezrom is chosen along with Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Amulek, and two of Alma’s sons to be a part of this seasoned missionary force (see Alma 31:6).” (Dean L Larsen, Heroes From the Book of Mormon, pp. 118-9)
Alma 15:15 Ammonihah remained a hard-hearted and a stiff necked people
‘Mormon spells out the contrast between the happy and hopeful state of the believers in Sidom and the hard-hearted Nehorites in Ammonihah. The contrast is all the more poignant because Zeezrom, who heeded the call to repentance, shows that such a mighty change was possible. Blinded by Nehorism, those remaining in Ammonihah were about to reap the consequences of their choice.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)
Alma 15:17 That they might be delivered
‘In ancient Israel a person accused of committing a serious offence could flee to an altar to avoid immediate death. The Old Testament refers to this tradition in the so-called Covenant Code of Exodus (see Exodus 21:12–14). 1 Kings 1:50–51, 2:2 relate that Solomon’s enemies Adonijah and Joab fled to the tabernacle and “caught hold on the horns of the altar” in hopes of deliverance, albeit with different results.
This information proves significant for an understanding of altars in Nephite society. One of the four references to altars in the Book of Mormon establishes a direct correlation between that record and the Old Testament. Alma 15:17 notes that after Alma established the church at Sidom, the people
“began to humble themselves before God, and began to assemble themselves together at their sanctuaries to worship God before the altar, watching and praying continually, that they might be delivered from Satan, and from death, and from destruction.”
This verse invokes Israelite custom by identifying the altar as a location of deliverance, a subtlety that provides further evidence that the Book of Mormon clearly reflects the traditions of antiquity.’ [David Bokovoy, “A Place of Deliverance: Altars in the Hebrew Bible and Book of Mormon,” in FARMS Update, No 143, Vol. 21, 2001, in Insights, Vol. 21, 2001, p. 2]
Alma 15:18 Took him to his own house
‘Early in the Spring of 1840 we went to Nauvoo. Here we were all sick with ague, chills and fever, and were only just barely able to crawl around and wait upon each other. Under these trying circumstances my ninth child was born. Joseph, upon visiting us and seeing our change of circumstances, urged us at once to come and share his accommodations. We went to live in the Prophet Joseph’s yard in a small cottage; we soon recruited in health, and the children became more like themselves.
One day while coming out of the house into the yard the remembrance of a prophecy Joseph Smith had made to me, while living in our house in Kirtland, flashed through my mind like an electric shock. It was this: that even as we had done by him, in opening our doors to him and his family when he was without a home, even so should we in the future be received by him into his house. We afterwards moved upstairs over the brick store.’ (Elizabeth Ann Whitney in Hyrum Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, 40)
4. The words of Alma are fulfilled as the Lamanites destroy Ammonihah.
Alma 16:2 Began to slay the people
‘This was an amazing development. Of all the cities among the Nephites, the one that would have been the most likely to have welcomed the Lamanites and joined them in conquering the Nephites, would have been the people of Ammonihah. In fact Ammonihah was the headquarters of a growing conspiracy to completely conquer the rest of the Nephite nation.’ (Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)
Alma 16:5 Aha
‘The name “Aha” in Egyptian means warrior. It was a very common name. The first king of Egypt was called Aha. That was one of his epithets; he was Aha, the warrior. It’s always written with a pair of arms, one holding a club and one holding a shield. That’s the nameAha, which means “a leader in war.” . . . The reader should note that in the Jaredite record we also find the name “Ahah” (Ether 1:9; 11:10)’. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, pp. 354-355]
Alma 16:11 Desolation of Nehors
“The desolation of the city of Ammonihah is an important part of the message of the Book of Mormon. Ammonihah and Nehor are symbols-history as prophecy. Ammonihah and Nehor were to the nation of the Nephites what the Book of Mormon is to us-a warning voice! They were types casting shadows upon the cities of Zarahemla, Moroni, Moronihah, Gilgal, Onihah, Mocum, Jerusalem, Gadiandi, Gadiomnah, Jacob, Gimgimno, Jacobugath, Laman, Josh, Gad, and Kishkumen, all of which, like Nehor, had the blood of the prophets and the Saints upon their hands, and all of which were destroyed before the coming of Christ to the Nephites in the meridian dispensation (see 3 Nephi 8, 9).
“How perfect the type-Ammonihah, a city pretending religion, a religion perfectly tolerant of any action save it be the preaching of the gospel of repentance! To preach repentance, to testify of Christ, to speak of the necessity of good works-these were sins too grievous to be borne. Their effect was to unite in wrath and bitterness the diversified factions within the congregations of this ever-tolerant religion. These missionaries of righteousness must be mocked, ridiculed, beaten, and imprisoned. Their adherents must be stoned, driven from the community, or burned at the stake. Such were the seeds they planted and such was the harvest they reaped in the desolation of Nehors. We are left to wonder to what extent Ammonihah is a prophetic foreshadowing of that which the scriptures denominate as the ‘desolation of abomination’ (D&C 84:114, 117; D&C 88:85), events that will precede and attend the coming of our Lord and Master that will bring again that peace once known to the faithful of the Nephite nation.” (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p.119)
Alma 16:13 Synagogues
‘When the temple in Jerusalem was taken away in the Old World (at the time of Lehi) the authoritative priestly order that went with it also went away. Then the synagogue became the important thing, though they had used it before. When they lost the temple they lost everything. An entirely new order of Judaism was established. Before then their practices were different, their doctrines were different, and everything else was different. . . . A rabbi is not a priest; he has no authority. He is just a learned man who has been chosen by a community. They are very jealous of the temple. The rabbi-controlled synagogues didn’t begin until the temple disappeared. . . . What the Book of Mormon student should realize is that the Book of Mormon represents temple-centered Judaism. ‘[Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 42]