Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave many memorable and sharply worded talks in his time as a general authority. In so doing, he made a lot of enemies and was aware that his remarks were frequently greeted with controversy. Nevertheless, he began his talk during the final session of the October 1971 conference by emphasizing that he was going “to give some rather plain and affirmative counsel as to how to worship the Lord.” But Elder McConkie noted the high stakes, as “[t]here is probably more misinformation and error in this field than in any other area in the entire world” and “no other thing as important as knowing who and how we should worship.”
Elder McConkie notes that because we are “spirit children of the Eternal Father” we all have “planted in our hearts an instinctive desire to worship, to seek salvation, to love and serve a power or being greater than ourselves.” The question “is not whether men shall worship, but who or what is to be the object of their devotions . . . ” Indeed, “[w]orship is implicit in existence itself.”
As I read Elder McConkie’s remarks, I thought about my many friends and family members who do not believe in a God at all. In many ways, their lack of faith comes from a failure to truly understand who god is. Rather than coming to know the all powerful and all loving God, they have imagined a capricious and impotent God that is not worthy of worship. And so they have turned to worshiping the things of this world and their self. They have “their chosen Most High” to which they pay their devotions.
But only worship of “the true and living God” by “the power of the spirit and in the way he has ordained” can lead to salvation. If we set up false gods “not founded on eternal truth” we cannot have assurances of salvation. For “[t]here is no salvation in worshiping a false god. It does not matter one particle how sincerely someone may believe that God is a golden calf, or that he is an immaterial, uncreated power that is in all things; the worship of such a being or concept has no saving power.”
And so there is nothing of greater significant than actually coming to know our father in heaven and his son Jesus Christ. We must know that God is “an exalted and perfected personage in whose image we are created.” We must know him intimately as our father. We must develop great and fervent testimony of “his Beloved Son” who was sent “into the world to redeem mankind.” All of these things are prerequisites to salvation. And when we do so, there is a promise that “God Almighty will pour out his Spirit upon [us]” and we will be able to perform great miracles. It is faith in the living God that leads to power unto salvation.
Knowing the nature of our God and our redeemer leads us to “true and perfect worship.” For “true and perfect worship consists in following in the steps of the Son of God.” True worship is expressed in “living and doing and obeying.” It is expressed in “emulating the life of the great Exemplar.” We must “walk in his paths” and “put first in our lives the things of his kingdom.” We must be ready “to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.” And many other things. For “[t]rue and perfect worship is in fact the supreme labor and purpose of man.”
But these things cannot be the object of our devotion. We cannot worship obedience or the commandments. We cannot put these things at the center of our faith. Instead, these actions are the natural outpouring of our love for and devotion of our heavenly father and our redeemer.
Moreover, just as obedience and “living the whole law of the whole gospel” follows naturally from correct understanding, so too does disobedience and rebellion follow from a lack of correct understanding. Those who are bitter and angry at the church for teaching a particular commandment or doctrine are ultimately angry because they do not truly understand the God that they worship and his plan of salvation. They have imagined a God that places carnal security over transformative grace. They have built altars to a false notion of God, and sacrifice their faith in “the true and living God” upon that altar.
If true worship follows from understanding the true and living God, then we know what we should focus on when teaching those who have drifted away and become disaffected. For nothing changes our attitudes, beliefs, and conduct more fully than truly coming to know God. And if we are are personally struggling with truly living a commandment, we should ask ourselves this question: In what way is our understanding of the true and living God and his son Jesus Christ lacking?
Here are the other posts based on this session of conference
- On the Inevitability of Worship (Nathaniel Givens at Difficult Run)
- Conference October 1971- Elder Hinckley and Persistence in Faith (J. Max Wilson LDS at Sixteen Small Stones)
- Worshiping the True and Living God (Daniel Ortner at Symphony of Dissent)
- On Worship, Practical, Contemplative, and Aesthetic-Humanitarian (Ralph Hancock at The Soul and The City)
- “[G]o and do” (Michelle Linford at Mormon Women)
- Emulating the Great Exemplar (Walker Wright at Difficult Run)
- Living by Power—A Woman of God (SilverRain at The Rains Came Down)
- If Ye Be Willing and Obedient (Chastity Wilson at Comfortably Anachronistic)
- “The World Needs a Bath in Christ’s Pure Religion” (Jan Tolman at LDS Women of God)