Conducted After the Workings of the Spirit.
In Moroni Chapter 6, Moroni looks back at the Church of Christ that led to hundreds of years of peace on the American Continent. He gives us advice that is very relevant to the Church in our days and filled with insight that would strengthen our words and branches. I see his counsel echoing the wise instruction of the Apostles and Prophets urging us to baptize converts that are truly converted, fellowship those that enter the fold, and to have the spirit present in our meetings.
1 And now I speak concerning baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.
2 Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.3 And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.
In my mission and missions across the world, converts are baptized well before they are ready to take that sacred step. Perhaps they came to church and ‘felt something’ that they liked, perhaps they fell in love with a particular missionary or felt good around him or her. People make the choice to be baptized for many different reasons. However, only a true conversion to the gospel evidenced by a broken heart and a contrite spirit as well as fruits of repentance and a determination to serve God to the end can lead to abiding fellowship and membership in the church and the covenant.
Elder Hales exhorted each of us to ensure that those that we help prepare for baptism ( be it our children, or friends and neighbors) truly understand the commitment they are making (The Covenant of Baptism: To Be in the Kingdom and Of the Kingdom, October 2000 General Conference)
“We cannot take lightly the law given to us to teach our children the doctrine of repentance; faith in Christ, the Son of the living God; and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands when eight years old, which is the age of accountability appointed by God. We need to do a better job of teaching our children and our grandchildren to understand what it means to enter the kingdom of God, for we will be held accountable. Many members of the Church do not fully understand what happened when they went into the waters of baptism. It is very important for us to understand the marvelous gift of the remission of sins, but there is much more. Do you understand and do your children understand that when they are baptized they are changed forever? Adult converts to the Church often have a better understanding of this transformation because they feel the contrast as they come out of the world into the kingdom of God.
When we are baptized, we take upon ourselves the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Taking upon us His name is one of the most significant experiences we have in life. Yet sometimes we pass through that experience without having a full understanding…..
How many of our children—how many of us—really understand that when we were baptized we took upon us not only the name of Christ but also the law of obedience?I urge all parents to prepare your children, and missionaries to prepare your converts, for the sacred baptismal ordinance. Teach of its significance so that their baptism will be impressed upon their spiritual memory for the rest of their lives. Take them to sacrament meeting weekly to renew their baptismal covenants through the ordinance of the sacrament. Be a good example for them to follow. Teach them that because of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, the way they look at the things of the world should change. A mighty change must take place in their hearts and in their minds so they will be able to turn from temptations of the world and from that time forward put their “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2) into being citizens in the kingdom of God.”
Nourishment by the good word of God
4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.
Everyone of course remembers President Hinckley’s plea that every recent convert be given: a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with “the good word of God.” In my mission we were woefully inadequate at doing so. New Converts went for months without a calling and without friendship outside of the full time missionaries. Bishops/branch presidents would regard callings as a gift that needed to be reserved for those that ‘earned’ their trust rather than an opportunity to help strengthen a new members testimony. So many wonderful people fell away due to the return of old habits and the pressures of family and friends. Sadly, when a new convert would make a mistake members would be judgmental rather than loving. How dramatic would be the growth in the church if we took to heart Moroni and President Hinckley’s plea and truly strove to accept, love and integrate these new coverts.
Moroni suggests that we can do better if we truly love these new converts and exhort them to remember the savior and rely on him. We can help people be truly anchored in the gospel and in the church. Moroni’s words of forgiveness are also very critical in our ever diversifying and growing Church.
7 And they were strict to observe that there should be no iniquity among them; and whoso was found to commit iniquity, and three witnesses of the church did condemn them before the elders, and if they repented not, and confessed not, their names were blotted out, and they were not numbered among the people of Christ.8 But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.
I am reminded of President Uchtdorf’s eloquent evocation
“I am deeply impressed by the way our Church members extend themselves to others. As we hear of your selfless sacrifice and overwhelming compassion, our hearts swell with gratitude and happiness. You are a shining light to the world, and you are known for your goodness and compassion all around the globe.
Unfortunately, from time to time we also hear of Church members who become discouraged and subsequently quit coming to and participating in our Church meetings because they think they don’t fit in….
I hope that we welcome and love all of God’s children, including those who might dress, look, speak, or just do things differently. It is not good to make others feel as though they are deficient. Let us lift those around us. Let us extend a welcoming hand. Let us bestow upon our brothers and sisters in the Church a special measure of humanity, compassion, and charity so that they feel, at long last, they have finally found home….
I am not suggesting that we accept sin or overlook evil, in our personal life or in the world. Nevertheless, in our zeal, we sometimes confuse sin with sinner, and we condemn too quickly and with too little compassion. We know from modern revelation that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” 4 We cannot gauge the worth of another soul any more than we can measure the span of the universe. Every person we meet is a VIP to our Heavenly Father. Once we understand that, we can begin to understand how we should treat our fellowmen. ” (You are my Hands, April 2010 General Conference)
After the manner of the workings of the spirit
5 And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.6 And they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus.9 And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done.
It’s no secret that at times our church meetings can be dull, dry, formulaic and predictable. I firmly believe that what Spencer W. Kimball was right when he said that he had never been to a boring sacrament meeting. So much of what we can get from our church meetings is based on what we bring. We can receive personal revelation in even a very dull and poorly prepared lesson as illustrated by this story told by Elder Scott
“Subsequently, I visited the Sunday School class in our ward, where a very well-educated teacher presented his lesson. That experience was in striking contrast to the one enjoyed in the priesthood meeting. It seemed to me that the instructor had purposely chosen obscure references and unusual examples to illustrate the principles of the lesson. I had the distinct impression that this instructor was using the teaching opportunity to impress the class with his vast store of knowledge. At any rate, he certainly did not seem as intent on communicating principles as had the humble priesthood leader.
In that environment, strong impressions began to flow to me again. I wrote them down. The message included specific counsel on how to become more effective as an instrument in the hands of the Lord. I received such an outpouring of impressions that were so personal that I felt it was not appropriate to record them in the midst of a Sunday School class. I sought a more private location, where I continued to write the feelings that flooded into my mind and heart as faithfully as possible. After each powerful impression was recorded, I pondered the feelings I had received to determine if I had accurately expressed them in writing. As a result, I made a few minor changes to what had been written. Then I studied their meaning and application in my own life.
Subsequently I prayed, reviewing with the Lord what I thought I had been taught by the Spirit. When a feeling of peace came, I thanked Him for the guidance given. I was then impressed to ask, “Was there yet more to be given?” I received further impressions, and the process of writing down the impressions, pondering, and praying for confirmation was repeated. Again I was prompted to ask, “Is there more I should know?” And there was. When that last, most sacred experience was concluded, I had received some of the most precious, specific, personal direction one could hope to obtain in this life. Had I not responded to the first impressions and recorded them, I would not have received the last, most precious guidance.” ( To Acquire Spiritual Guidance; October 2009)
This is true, and I bear testimony that we can always seek revelation if we are seeking it. HOWEVER, it is also equally true that our church meetings would be even more uplifiting, revelatory and inspiring if we more frequently followed the admonition of Moroni and conducted our meetings after the workings of the spirit.
I recently had two really great experiences that illustrated this principle and showed me once again that those men called of God to lead this Church truly understand the Gospel and are urging us to emulate them and the savior more fully.
In October, I went to New York and Boston for a couple of days. I had the opportunity to attend the University Ward in Cambridge and that evening attend a fireside hosted by Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve. Elder Anderson spoke about receiving the promptings of the spirit and following his guidance. However, what impressed me was how he illustrated this principle in his talk. On the stand sat his wife as well as several bishops and stake presidents from the area. Elder Anderson got up to talk and said that he felt prompted to try something a bit different. He called upon those that he knew in the audience ( including my bishop Roger Porter who was sitting in the back of the audience and had not been told in advance that he would speak- indeed none of them had been told in advance) to come up and share an experience or teach about a particular principle relating to revelation. What amazed me was how beautifully the spirit led the meeting and how the various short talks from about 10 different people came together like a symphony to illustrate gospel principles. It was actually similar to the experience at general conference when dozens of talks are not coordinated in advance but yet are able to compliment each other so beautifully.
A few weeks ago, we had a stake conference here in Provo and Bishop Dean M. Davies of the President Bishopric presided over the meeting. As I came in to the sacrament hall, Bishop Davies was walking around and shaking hands with members and find out where they were from and about them. This seemed like a pretty standard practice and I didn’t think much of it until halfway through the meeting Bishop Davies said that he would call on some people that he had met earlier to get up and bear their testimony of the savior. He chose a few of those with whom he had spoken and invited them to bear a short testimony of the savior. These were very sweet and powerful testimonies and it brought the spirit quite powerfully. Again, these short testimonies really complimented his overall message and left a deep impression.
I love how these two general authorities are leading by example by following the promptings of the spirit and conducting after the manner of the spirit. I hope that Bishops and Stake Presidents will continue to take inspiration from these men and learn how to conduct with spontaneity and spiritual power. I know that as we strive to have the spirit more ever present in our meetings, our communities will improve as we are more fully led by the spirit of God.