Sincere Seekers of Truth

In April 1977, Elder Delbert L. Stapley bemoaned what he saw as a tide of relativism with regard to the notion of a true church:

“My brothers and sisters and friends, the following statement is sometimes voiced by well-intentioned and sincere individuals: “You go to your church; I’ll go to mine; but let us walk together.” However, can people really walk together if they don’t agree on the basic teachings of the doctrines of Christ? Do all Christian churches teach the true gospel and its principles and also have the authority to administer the saving ordinances which will guide and exalt their members in God’s heavenly kingdom?

Elder Stapley rejected the teaching that remains in vogue today that “all roads lead to God.” He emphasized that “it is a philosophy inconsistent with the teachings of our Lord,” and that [t]here  is no logic or reason to the proposition that inconsistent teachings and differing doctrines can bring about the same results. If truth comes from one source—God—how can it be so diversely taught? We know that all truth does emanate from God and is therefore unchangeable, consistent, and unified. Consequently, not all Christian churches with their dissimilar teachings can provide a fulness of truth.”

The restoration ultimately began because of a sincere desire to find out where a young seeker could turn for truth. God did not provide the popular modern answer that all churches lead back to him.  Instead, he emphasized the need for a restoration of his Church and proclaimed that all other churches lacked the fullness of truth.

That is a hard truth for modern ears to hear. But in our justifiable and praiseworthy efforts to be inclusive, we risk loosing sight of the very question that took Joseph Smith to his knees in the sacred grove.  We risk becoming complacent.

Today a multiplicity of churches and doctrines abound, all claiming one source. Such a claim, of course, defies reason and contradicts the teachings and pattern established by Jesus Christ. A sincere seeker for truth must ask: “Which, if any, of the varying Christian groups is right?” For guidance, the apostle James gave this counsel: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5.) If you sincerely put this promise to the test in seeking light and truth, you will be rewarded.

In Joseph’s day there was great confusion and tumult, but at least people were asking the right questions. In our day, the relationship between various faiths has improved and ecumenicism is on the rise, but so many are put off from ever asking one of the most important questions that they will ever ask.  How tragic

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Blessings and Righteousness

The advent of false doctrines like the prosperity Gospel have had the unfortunate tendency to make us discount true doctrine taught consistently by the Lord. In particular, as a culture we have developed an aversion to teach the truth that many blessings are predicated on righteousness.

At the start of the April 1977 conference, President Spencer W. Kimball delivered a very old school sermon about the importance of keeping the commandments in order to be able to call down blessings from heaven.

He began by speaking of then recent efforts in the Church to fast and pray for rain in the face of a drought.

Early this year when drouth conditions seemed to be developing in the West, the cold and hardships in the East, with varying weather situations all over the world, we felt to ask the members of the Church to join in fasting and prayer, asking the Lord for moisture where it was so vital and for a cessation of the difficult conditions elsewhere.

Perhaps we may have been unworthy in asking for these greatest blessings, but we do not wish to frantically approach the matter but merely call it to the attention of our Lord and then spend our energy to put our lives in harmony.

I love President Kimball’s focus on calling on the Lord and then working to put our lives in harmony.

President Kimball reported on the miraculous results: “With the great worry and suffering in the East and threats of drouth here in the West and elsewhere, we asked the people to join in a solemn prayer circle for moisture where needed. Quite immediately our prayers were answered, and we were grateful beyond expression. We are still in need and hope that the Lord may see fit to answer our continued prayers in this matter.”

He then spoke about how the scriptures link things such as peace, and moisture from heaven to keeping the commandments and in particular to sabbath day worship.

His invitation to self examination rang true with me:

Perhaps the day has come when we should take stock of ourselves and see if we are worthy to ask or if we have been breaking the commandments, making ourselves unworthy of receiving the blessings.

The truths of the Gospel have not changed. God still promises us blessings if we repent and have faith in him. We are not, however, guaranteed a life free of sorrow or trials.

We cannot use material wealth as a proxy to judge spiritual righteousness. That is a dangerous perversion of the truths being taught. But equally perverse would be to detach the scripturally mandated link between righteousness and blessings. We must not over correct and lose sight of eternal truth.

Being Bold Amidst the Storms

The Priesthood Session of the October 1976 conference had two talks that really made me feel a greater sense of urgency in my missionary efforts and in my dedication to the Gospel.

First, Elder Rex D. Pinegar shared a story from the life of President Spencer W. Kimball that made me reflect on how much more bold I need to be in my efforts:

Our beloved prophet not only calls us to be better missionaries, to lengthen our stride, he shows us how. In 1975 my wife and I were with President and Sister Kimball in Bogota, Colombia. As we were in the airport for his departure, an airlines representative met with us. Upon being introduced to this fine young man, the prophet extended his hand with these words, “Young man, I hope the next time I shake your hand you’re a member of this church.” Without any hesitation, and with his eyes fixed firmly on those of the prophet, the man replied, “Sir, so do I!” The President turned to the mission president and obtained a commitment from him to teach the man the gospel. Words President Kimball had spoken to missionaries in Bogota had been exemplified in deed: “Give full energy and thought to the Lord’s work–your lives will be rich because of it.” That day I saw how the prophet’s full thought was centered on living the spirit of the calling, as well as carrying out the physical duties that are his.

I was so impressed by the effectiveness of this missionary approach by the prophet that I tried it myself in Puerto Rico. Just a few weeks later I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a district conference. Following the morning session a Brother Martinez brought his nonmember mother and sisters up so I could meet them. As I leaned down over the railing of the stand I could hear the words of President Kimball ringing in my mind. Out they came: “Ma’am, the next time I shake your hand, I hope you are a member of this Church.” To my amazement and joy, her reply came quickly and sincerely, “And sir, so do I.” Five weeks following the conference the Martinez family was baptized. The father followed the rest of the family into the waters of baptism by three weeks. This experience has been repeated at least six times. My life has become rich by following the example set by President Kimball.

When I was a full-time missionary I had that kind of boldness. It's easier to be bold with people in far away countries, but so much credit harder to be bold with our neighbors. I talk about the church with people all the time. I'm rarely silent about my beliefs. And yet, this story makes me realize that I have been far too timid.

A story shared by Elder Marion G. Romney had a similar impact:

In any event, the charge came to my mind recently as I listened to the report of a returned missionary.

He told us that the wife in the family in whose home he and his companion were living was interested in the gospel; her husband was not interested, however. But finally he warmed up a little and said that when the missionaries had nothing else to do he would listen to them. Sometime thereafter when a wet and windy storm drove them in from tracting, finding him alone, they gave him the first missionary lesson. He didn’t exhibit much interest at first, but when they had concluded, he stood up and said, in effect:

“Do you know what you have just told me?”

They thought they did.

“Do you believe it?” he asked.

“Yes,” they replied, “we believe it.”

“Well then,” he declared, “you don’t understand what you’re saying. If you really believed that God and His resurrected Son, Jesus Christ, actually came to this earth in 1820 and personally appeared to a boy and gave him the message you say they gave him, no storm could drive you in from doing your work. With a message like that you would have to stay out there knocking on doors and delivering your message.”

As I have thought about this incident, I have asked myself the question which I now put to you: How much of a storm does it take to drive you in? How much of a storm does it take to drive me in?

How easily dissuaded or distracted are we from sharing the Gospel because we worry about being uncomfortable? If we truly understand how precious and incredible the Gospel is, we will be bold in sharing and willing to take on whatever inconvenience needed to share our witness.