Sterling W. Sill, Conference Report, October 1962, pp. 36-39
My brothers and sisters, I appreciate very much this privilege of participating with you in this great general conference of the Church. As a kind of text I would like to borrow a little from the philosophy of Rudyard Kipling. Kipling was an English writer born in 1865. He lived in that period when England was the world's leading naval power. He saw much of the change-over from the old sailing ship to the use of steam as a means of ocean navigation. Kipling preserved for us some interesting ideas about this transition in his poem entitled, "M'Andrew's Hymn."
The dictionary says that a hymn is a song of praise or adoration, having a religious significance. Kipling's M'Andrew was the captain of an early steamship in the days when 98 percent of the land-based work of the world was done by the muscle power of men and animals. And even though M'Andrew's engines were very primitive, he praised God for the use of this gigantic new power that had been placed in his hands, and he looked forward to the time when his ship might attain a speed of 30 miles per hour.
"From coupler-flange to spindle-guide I see Thy hand, O God—
Predestination in the stride o'yon connectin' -rod."
Then standing alone at night as he guided his ship home from its long journey abroad, he said:
"I cannot get my sleep to-night; old bones are hard to please;
I'll stand the middle watch up here—alone wi' God an' these
My engines, after ninety days o'race an' rack an' strain
Through all the seas of all Thy world, slam-bangin's home again.
Slam-bang too much—they knock a wee—the cross-head gibs are loose,
But thirty-thousand miles o' sea does them fair excuse."
Then while reflecting upon the beginning and contemplating the future of the machine, he said:
"Ten pounds was all the pressure then with which a man could drive;
An' here, our workin' gauges given 165!
We're creepin' up wi' each new rig—less weight an' larger power;
There'll be the loco-boiler next an' thirty mile an hour!
Thirty an' more. What I ha' seen since ocean-steam began
Leaves me no doubt for the machine: but what about the man?"
Then for a while M'Andrew focuses his meditation upon some of the blemishes of the men who run the machines. Frequently his sailors debased themselves and put ugly scars upon their souls. The fires of sin blackened their lives even as the flames blackened the ship's furnaces. M'Andrew pointed out that in traveling a million miles of sea some of his sailors had traveled an even greater distance away from God and the purposes for which they were created. But M'Andrew knew that the most important question must always be, "what about the man?" He says:
"'Tis the man that counts, wi' all his runs, o'er a million
miles o' sea:
Four times the span from earth to moon . . . But how far, O Lord, from Thee?"
Then thinking about the machine of the future M'Andrew said:
"In spite of knock and scale, of friction waste and slip
By thy great light, now mark my word
We'll build a perfect ship.
I'll never last to judge her lines
Or take her curve, not I.
But I have lived, and I have worked
Thanks be to Thee Most High."
From M'Andrew's day till now we have continued to perfect our machines until we have far surpassed M'Andrew's dream of "a perfect ship." The early steamship could hardly carry enough coal to provide the means of propelling itself across the ocean. But the new atomic ships now being launched can carry a full cargo around the earth twenty times or more without ever a thought of refueling.
Our machines not only carry us across the oceans and take us under the polar icecap, but they plow our ground, cook our food, refrigerate our homes, make our clothes, balance our books, carry our messages, build our roads, and move our mountains. Some pictures were recently published showing the construction of the Suez Canal in the 1860's. They showed the dirt being removed in baskets, strapped to the backs of human beings. Then less than a hundred years later a single giant earth-moving machine could do the work previously done by thousands of men.
We have electronic brains equally as capable in the mental field. There are a great many physical and mental jobs which we can no longer afford to have done by "manpower" inasmuch as "machine power" is so much cheaper and more effective. If M'Andrew praised God for the machines of his day, what would he think of those of our time, capable of carrying us through the stratosphere at many times the speed of sound, or what would he think of our $20,000,000,000 project to put a man on the moon? If M'Andrew lived among us, he would be sure to commend us for our machines and equally sure to inquire, "What about the man?"
We just hope that when man finally does arrive on the moon, he will not create the sorry state of affairs there that presently trouble the earth. But whether here or on the moon, our most serious question will always be, "What about the man?" What about his honor, what about his faith, what about his future? How much personal improvement will we make this year? An investment that pays five percent interest will more than double itself in fifteen years. How much personal doubling have we done in that time? It is wonderful for us to be able to stand flapping our wings in preparation for our flight into space, but in the process are we getting any closer to God and our own eternal life? Captain M'Andrew dreamed of building a perfect ship, yet he said, "It's the man that counts." What our world needs is more perfect men.
For more than nineteen centuries now we have held up before our minds the example of a perfect man, and his greatest message was, "Follow me" ( Matt. 4:19). With all of our great ability, how well are we following him in his faith? How well are we following him in his works, or in the development of real character qualities in ourselves? As the high point in the most important sermon ever given, the greatest man who ever lived said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" ( Matt. 5:48). Our Father in heaven is the most perfect, and the most intelligent Being in the universe. He is a member of the highest order in existence. He has the greatest sense of values. He is God. But what about the man? Man's eternal spirit is the literal offspring of God, and according to the natural laws of the universe, the offspring may someday hope to become like the parent. There is everything in remembering our heritage and constantly reaffirming it by the perfection of our own lives.
But generally we are not thinking very much about perfection in men. We live in the age of machines. We occupy ourselves with armament races astronauts to the moon, and contests for supremacy in material things. What a wonderful world we could have if we could make an improvement in ourselves to match the improvement in the machines we operate!
Many years ago Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote an interesting book entitled, On Being a Real Person. He detailed some of the items necessary if one desired to develop himself into a truly outstanding individual. And that is something we should work at a great deal harder than we do. But in the Holy Scriptures God has given his own specifications for developing life's highest values. It was intended that by following his formula every child of God should become "a magnificent human being" and eventually become even as God. But first we must get rid of the dishonesties, the disloyalties, and the immoralities that destroy so many of our lives and put perfection forever beyond our reach.
In an absolute sense, perfection in this life may be an impossibility. But in many ways a state of near perfection is a reasonable goal for us; for example, we can all be perfect in abstaining from tea and coffee. We can be perfect in freeing ourselves from the use of tobacco and alcohol. We can be perfect in the payment of our tithing. We can be perfect in our attendance at Sacrament meeting. We can be perfectly honest and perfectly dependable and perfectly moral, and this with much less effort than we spend in developing perfection in our machines.
The book of Genesis says that Noah was a righteous man and perfect in his generation ( Gen. 6:9). Enoch was also a perfect man, and under his teachings, his people so perfected themselves that the entire city was translated. The scripture says, "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" ( Gen. 5:24). If the people living in the city of Enoch could be perfect, then the people living in your city and the people living in my city can be perfect also.
There are some people who maintain that it is very difficult to live the religion of Christ, and for some people any righteous effort is difficult. But what kind of person would you expect to be most severely tempted by dishonesty or immorality or profanity? Or what kind of person would you expect to have the most difficulty in abstaining from drunkenness or from betraying his country? The ones suffering the strongest temptations from evil would likely be those living closest to evil. It has been pointed out that no one ever fell into a mud puddle who didn't first go too close to it. We are not necessarily complimenting ourselves when we boast of the difficulty we have in living our religion, just as we would not be complimenting ourselves to confess difficulty in restraining ourselves from being thieves and murderers.
It is not difficult to live the religion of Christ if that is what we really want to do. That is, it is just as easy for an honest man to be honest as it is for a dishonest man to be dishonest. It is just as easy for a faithful man to be faithful as it is for an unfaithful man to be unfaithful. In fact, it has been said that one can get to heaven on half the effort that we usually burn up in going to hell.
We become godly or moral or obedient, just as we become anything else, by practice. And only as we live the principles of the gospel can we really know of their truthfulness and value. It is the person who pays his tithing who believes in tithing. It is the one who observes the Word of Wisdom who knows the truth of the Word of Wisdom. It is the person who keeps the Sabbath day holy who champions it. And it is only the person who gives service who knows the joys of serving.
Jesus said, "He that doeth my will shall know of the doctrine" (see ( John 7:17). And Emerson said, "Do the thing and you shall have the power." If we can live one gospel principle perfectly today, we can live two gospel principles perfectly tomorrow. Perfection in one thing will act as a steppingstone to perfection in something else and soon we may approach perfection in all things.
In announcing his famous "as if" principle, William James said that if you want a quality, act "as if" you already had it. If you want to be friendly, act as if you are already friendly. If you want to be courageous, don't go around talking fear and indulging in negative, un-Christian thinking. If you want to be faithful, act "as if" you are already faithful. Do the things that faithful people do. Go to church, say your prayers, love God, refrain from evil, study the scriptures, be honest with yourself, and everyone else. And if you would like to be perfect, act "as if" you were already perfect. Don't go around glorying in your sins and weaknesses. We can come very close to perfection if we really get the spirit of it in our hearts. If we really want to obey God, we should act "as if" we were already obedient. We should think obedience, love obedience, practice obedience, and we should allow no exceptions to obedience. The fewer the exceptions to perfection, the nearer we get to perfection.
During the Golden Age of Greece, Pericles said that no one had a right to fill an important office until he had first filled some smaller offices with distinction. Too frequently we want to do some great thing before we have practiced perfection in doing little things well.
If we want to be great souls in heaven, we should practice being great souls here. If we believe that honor is better than dishonor, then we should immediately begin practicing honor, not just in big things, but in all things.
There is no question about the fact that our machines of the future will become more and more efficient. Our standard of living will probably go on increasing; our land will become more and more productive; our cities will become bigger and more beautiful. Recently there was unveiled in this city a master plan for our second century of development. Certainly in the future thousands of people will come here to admire our wide streets, our beautiful parks, and our useful buildings. But far the most important part of what our visitors will want to know is, "What about the man?" They will want to know how well we are living this new revelation of the gospel. M'Andrew may well join with Edwin Markham and Sing:
"We are all blind until we see
That in the human plan,
Nothing is worth the building
That does not build the man.
"Why build these cities glorious,
If man unbuilded goes.
In vain we build the world,
Unless the builder also grows."
I am sure of this, that the greatest waste there is in the world is not our blighted cities, nor the erosion of our soils, nor the depletion of our natural resources. It isn't the devastation of our wars nor the cost of our crime. The greatest waste there is in the world is that human beings, you and I, live so far below the level of our possibilities; compared with what we might be, we are only half alive. The most important part of any second century plan would be to constitute our lives as a hymn of praise to our Heavenly Father, not only for the inestimable privilege of building a perfect ship and building a perfect city and building a perfect national community, but we should also build into our lives a perfect devotion for God's perfect plan designed to bring about our perfection and eternal glory. May each of us be able to find God's own answer to M'Andrew's question, is my prayer, which I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Hugh B. Brown, Conference Report, October 1962, pp. 40-43
It is a very great honor but a sobering responsibility to undertake to address this vast audience, seen and unseen; the kind of responsibility that causes a man humbly to seek divine guidance and assistance, especially if he would talk of God and of truth.
Let us read the words of the Savior as recorded in the eighth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John:
". . . If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" ( John 8:31-32).
And again in the 17th chapter of John, he said:
"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" ( John 17:3).
The first scripture quoted is a promise that if we continue in his word we shall know the truth and gain freedom; and the second, that it is life eternal to know God. Each of these scriptures envisions and requires an eternal quest- because gaining a complete knowledge of truth, or of God, is an infinite undertaking.
It has been repeatedly stated in the conference thus far by the speakers, that we live in tremendous times—we live in the most significant period in the records of the human race. This is confirmed by our best scholars throughout the world, as they review for us the historic evolutions, revolutions, and reformations of the past. Civilized people everywhere are becoming aware of the ever-expanding complexity of our civilization and of the almost miraculous advancement and improvement in the fields of travel and communication, not only on an international but on an interplanetary basis. This knowledge causes us to refer to our time and our accomplishments as in modern vernacular, "out of this world." That phrase becomes almost literal.
In the midst of the rapid and unprecedented advance and discovery in many branches of science, we ask you, is it not reasonable to expect some new activity, some new thought, some new revelation in the most important dimension of human life, the spiritual dimension?
A. Paul Davis tells us, "The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but brotherhood." There must be social, moral, and spiritual solidarity in a world which is in hourly danger of extinction by bombs, missiles, and atomic fallout.
Many people, including some students and scholars, are unaware of the fact that also in the fields of theology and religion there have been revolutionary changes of thought, and they are of even greater consequence—greater because this area embraces all other fields of interest and activity.
The most intriguing and significant aspect of a man's search for truth is his continuing and compelling attempt to explain himself and his relation to the universe which envelops him, to find the cause behind the phenomena of life. The questions of whence and why and whither have persisted through the ages.
Any open-minded search for truth requires courage, constancy, and humility. To quote an ancient prayer:
"From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth,
the laziness that is content with half truth,
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
O God of truth, deliver us."
Any thoughtful, prayerful search for truth reveals that God is our Father, and that he is a person, that his glory is intelligence, and that he has a will, a purpose, and a plan in creating the universe and providing for man's earth life.
God is more than personality as we know it; he is that in perfect degree which our best is in imperfect degree. To have faith in a personal God, who can be referred to as "Father" gives man a sense of dignity and holds before him an ideal toward which to strive. Continuing in that faith one gets progressive answers to the disturbing questions of source, purpose, and destiny.
In Bible times, the prophets were the leaders of thought. In a sense they were the spiritual scientists who tapped the inexhaustible reservoirs of truth through the simple media of direct revelation from God.
True religion is a vital function in human living, and its teachers and disciples should seek, understand, and advocate revealed truth. This truth demands our allegiance and will lead men to the promised freedom.
If religion is to keep pace with other human interests and refute the false charges of communism that there is no God, that Christ is a myth, that religion is an opiate, we must re-examine our prescribed beliefs as set forth in formulated creeds; we must compare our organizations and procedures and our theology with the teachings of the Holy Bible. Let us seek to find a church with an organization that is identical with that set up in the New Testament.
And in our search for truth, we must purge ourselves of prejudice, for that closes the mind. Prejudice has been defined as "a vagrant opinion without visible means of support." Let us return then to a prayerful study of the Old and the New Testament, and have faith in the God of the Holy Bible who was known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as Jehovah, and to Peter, John, and Paul as the Messiah. Such a study will reveal that God is not a sovereign autocrat, but a loving, personal Father. This belief in the universal Fatherhood of God forms the basis for our faith in the universal brotherhood of man.
You, our friends who are listening to or attending the proceedings of this conference, no doubt ask what is the Mormon creed. Although we announce no formal creed, the founder and first president of the Church did set forth as an epitome of the tenets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, thirteen concise statements known as the Articles of Faith. These include fundamental and characteristic gospel doctrine as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ in former days. The first of these articles declares:
"We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost" ( A of F 1:1).
That statement should reassure some of our friends who have wondered whether or not the Mormons are Christians.
That these articles are not, and were not intended to be, a complete and final exposition of beliefs is evidenced by the fact that we receive and expect continued revelation. In fact, we say in another Article of Faith:
"We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."—Ninth Article of Faith ( A of F 1:9).
These articles are authoritative; however, they form but an outline for the study of the theology of the Church.
Theology as a science has been defined as that branch of classified knowledge which deals with God and man, their relationship and their cooperative purpose. While theology may appeal primarily to the intellect, religion touches the heart, and it inspires men to live in accordance with the knowledge gained. Theology may be only diction, but religion requires action. Religion is man's endeavor to adapt himself to the facts of existence as revealed by the Author and Creator of all that is. It differs from other such endeavors in that it seeks the adaptation of the whole of life to ultimate facts.
Now, as God is the fountain of truth and knowledge, the source of wisdom, and as theology and religion are primarily concerned with the existence of and our relationship to Deity, does it not seem obvious that this combined subject, theology and religion, when accurately defined and understood, is the queen of all the sciences? It embraces all truth and therefore includes all other sciences.
It deals with man's origin, purpose, and destiny, with the principles governing the creation of worlds, with God's eternal laws which are often called the laws of nature. God himself has from the beginning been the Great Scientist, and he has taught men by personal manifestations as well as by ministrations of his appointed servants.
But here as elsewhere, when the student comes to the edge of knowledge, he must lean on faith and continue his quest. He must "trust the soul's invincible surmise," as did Columbus. If science is built upon facts, its architect is faith.
As Dr. Talmage has eloquently said, "Though the veil of mortality with all its obscurity may shut the light of the divine presence from the sinful heart, that separating curtain may be drawn aside and a heavenly light may shine into the righteous soul. By the listening ear attuned to the celestial music, the voice of God has been heard declaring his personality and will, to the eye that is freed from the moats and beams of sin, single in its search after truth, the hand of God has been made visible; within the soul properly purified by devotion and humility, the mind of God has been revealed."
The honest investigator must be prepared to follow wherever the search of truth may lead. Truth is often found in the most unexpected places. He must, with fearless and open mind "insist that facts are far more important than any cherished, mistaken beliefs, no matter how unpleasant the facts or how delightful the beliefs."
"New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth:"
As God is our Father and the source of all truth, as we are all primarily interested in attaining eternal life and as it is eternal life to know him, surely an open-minded and courageous study of him and his divine plan with respect to our salvation will be the most interesting and permanently rewarding of all ventures into the vast realms which invite man's questing spirit. It was doubtless a contemplation of this majestic theme that gave us the rhapsody recorded in John. He said:
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" ( 1 Jn. 3:2).
The restored gospel of Jesus Christ which we proclaim, when understood and accepted, will unite all men in a common cause, and then only will all new scientific discoveries be utilized for the benefit of mankind. Then we shall have peace. A knowledge of truth will help men to be free, whether it come by direct revelation as in the case of the prophets, from the written word of God as recorded in the scriptures, revealed as a result of research in the laboratory, in the flight of the astronaut as he circles the globe, or as revealed to a prayerful youth upon his knees in the sanctuary of a grove.
Religion has to do not only with the internal life of man, but with his eternal life, which will be a continuation of identity and personality into the spiritual realm of immortality. Religion gives meaning, purpose, and direction to man's insatiable quest, his instinctive curiosity, and inspires in him a desire for greater awareness of himself, of his universe, and of God. The prayerful searcher after truth will, as Shakespeare said,
"Find tongues in trees, books in running brooks, "Sermons in stones and good in everything." (As You Like It.)
Man is ever wrestling with the problems of how to organize his reactions and find peace amidst the diverse and confusing experiences which crowd in upon the daily activities of his body, mind, and spirit. Religion is the means by which a man may achieve tranquility of spirit without internal anguish or external disaster.
The basic and fundamental doctrine of the primitive Church came through revelation from God the Father through Jesus Christ his Son. His life among men on earth, his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, all proclaim the eternal fact that he was and is personal and material, and to that we humbly bear witness. He was a babe born of woman, he matured through childhood and youth, and, as the Apostle Paul said:
". . . being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" ( Heb. 5:9).
He was and is Jehovah, God the Son, a separate identity working in complete oneness with Elohim, God the Father, in whose likeness man was created.
The announcement of new and continued revelation from God is more momentous, more reassuring and challenging in national and international affairs today than any of the discoveries of atomic energy or the amazing achievements of scientists.
We must seek to know God's word and will concerning us individually and collectively, and to this end we need not rely wholly on the written word given to people of another age. Each succeeding prophet added something to the revelations of the past. While much of that word is applicable to our time and condition, we announce to you, our friends, humbly but with a sincerity born of the witness of the Spirit, that God's word is revealed to men today, as anciently, through his own appointed servants. We proclaim a new revelation from the heavens, a new vision and understanding of God and of Jesus Christ his Son, a new interpretation of truth, and also a new delegation of authority from God to man. Continued revelation places religion in the vanguard of human progress. We proclaim the opening, under divine guidance, of the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, that which was mentioned by the Apostle Peter:
"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him" ( Eph. 1:10).
A poet of this dispensation said, hopefully:
"The morning breaks; the shadows flee;
Lo, Zion's standard is unfurled!
The dawning of a brighter day,
Majestic rises on the world."
—Parley P. Pratt
The vital and dynamic message of Mormonism is that there is a personal God in the heavens. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He has not abated his power- he has not surrendered his sovereignty; he has not diluted his love; he changes not; and his plans never fail. We bear witness that his chief executive officer in the creation and direction of the affairs of this and other worlds is Jesus Christ the Lord, the Redeemer of the World, the Son of the Father.
The foundation of this Church rests upon the bedrock of revelation. The character, personality, and purposes of God have been again revealed to the world. The kingdom of God has been set up as predicted by Daniel ( Dan. 2:44) and other prophets. An angel has flown in the midst of heaven in the latter days in confirmation of John's vision recorded in the fourteenth chapter of Revelation, where he said:
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.
"Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters" ( Rev. 14:6-7).
Our friends, either this solemn statement is true or it is false. If it is true, it is the most important announcement since the resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Christ. If it is false it will, of course, with all other falsehood, come to naught. That it is true we humbly testify, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Mark E. Petersen, Conference Report, October 1962, pp. 44-47
We Latter-day Saints believe the Bible to be the word of God ( A of F 1:8). It is a faithful record of the Lord's dealing with men down through the ages. It shows that the Lord desires that mankind should worship him intelligently, not as some incomprehensible being, but as their loving Father in heaven.
To accomplish this, God revealed himself to men from time to time so that they could see him and hear him and know him. He revealed himself personally, actually appearing to his prophets, and he talked with them face to face, even as a man "speaketh to his friend" (see Ex. 33:11).
These appearances of God to man, and by this I mean personal visitations, for that is what the Bible describes, came periodically through the generations of the past. The Lord was not content to give one and only one mighty revelation of himself to serve as a foundation for faith through all time to come. He knew that men are changeable, often drifting into by; and forbidden paths, and that a constant reminder is necessary to keep them in the right way.
The Bible shows how true that is, for even though the Lord did appear time and again anciently, the people still drifted toward other religions, at times going into what seemed to be complete apostasy from the truth, even setting up false gods of their own making.
But the Lord loved his children and desired to save them. He knew they could not be saved in ignorance nor in the false religions of their contemporaries. Only the truth could save. So to bring them back into line as they strayed away, he repeatedly gave new revelations of himself, restoring the true knowledge of the nature of God and pointing to the right way of salvation. By revealing himself to his living prophets, he showed the people the difference between their own false gods and the true and Living God.
This became a pattern with him, as is shown so clearly in the scriptures. It is a well-marked pattern, which is: that as men fell away and lost the truth, God in turn restored his truth to them again by means of new revelations of himself.
There is only one way to combat error, and that is with the truth. If men lost the truth, they could only find it by receiving it again from the Lord, and that would entail new revelation from the heavens.
As such revelation was required in the past, God gave it, and when there was no prophet on the earth to receive his revelation because of the apostasy of the people, he raised up new prophets, spoke through them, and appeared personally to them, thus restoring the knowledge of his true nature so that men could worship him intelligently in spirit and in truth.
Let us point to a few Bible examples of what we say. God walked and talked with Adam and Eve. They knew what he was like, and they received commandments from him, but many of their descendants were not true to the faith. By the time of Noah, all mankind was apostate and as a result was destroyed in the flood, all except Noah and his family. God raised up Noah as a prophet and talked with both him and his sons, revealing himself to them. Therefore they knew God and worshiped him as a result of obtaining that knowledge.
Surely, as Jesus said, this is life eternal, "that they might know thee the only true God" (see John 17:3).
Noah and his family knew the Lord, but as time went on their descendants went astray until the days of Abraham when there was much wickedness in the earth. But the Lord followed his pattern, and as men fell away from the truth he revealed himself to them again, this time to Abraham, with whom he talked personally, and then to Isaac and to Jacob.
But the believers were few in that day. When Jacob took his family into Egypt to escape the famine, the whole house of Israel numbered only seventy people ( Ex. 1:5; Deut. 10:22; Acts 7:14). In Egypt the Israelites multiplied and became numerous. Then tragedy came again. They left the teachings of their fathers, and began worshiping like the Egyptians, who were idolaters. They became so involved that later on they made a golden calf of their own and worshiped before it.
The Lord determined to bring his people out of Egypt and restore the truth to them. This would entail another new revelation, but to whom would he reveal himself? To Pharaoh on his throne? To the doubting elders of Israel?
He kept to his pattern and raised up an unspoiled man to become his prophet—a shepherd whose name was Moses. To him he spoke. To him he appeared. To him he gave power to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.
When they reached Sinai, God came down upon the Mount and talked again face to face with Moses ( Deut. 34:10). Seventy of the elders of Israel went into the Mount with Moses, and there they saw the God of Israel, and "he laid not his hand upon them," the scripture says, but "they saw God, and did eat and drink" (see Ex. 24:9-10).
Those seventy elders with Moses were now qualified to preach to the people and testify of the true nature of the Deity, for they had seen him themselves and visited with him and heard his voice.
For a time the people were faithful after this new revelation, but then wickedness came among them. Doubt returned, many drifted into the forbidden religions of their neighbors, and apostasy came upon them as a people Do you recall the difficulties of Elijah, the prophet, with the wicked King Ahab who led his whole nation astray? Do you remember the influence of Jezebel, and do you recall the problems which faced Elisha and Isaiah?
In the days of Jeremiah the apostasy was so great that this prophet was cast into a dungeon ( Jer. 38:6). When John the Baptist ministered among the people, they were so far astray that he referred to them as a generation of vipers ( Matt. 3:7).
Then came the ministry of the Savior. He was a manifestation of the true nature of God. He told the people that he resembled the Father ( John 14:9). Paul said Jesus was in the express image of the Father's person ( Heb. 1:3).
But he was also in the likeness of other men about him—his disciples and others. He was so much like them that the crucifiers could not identify him in a crowd. They had to bribe Judas to point him out with a betrayer's kiss so that they would not arrest the wrong man ( Matt. 26:48). That was the whole point of the betrayal.
But Jesus was also in the express image of God's person, so by his physical ministry among them the people learned of the nature of his eternal Father in heaven.
Many followed him. At one time there was a multitude of five thousand; at another time, four thousand. But even in his own day a falling away came, as is recorded in the sixth chapter of John. When Jesus preached doctrine contrary to the traditional beliefs, many turned away.
John wrote of this, saying: "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
"Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
"Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life" ( John 6:66-68).
How unfortunate for those who could not stand true doctrine. They turned away, preferring their own darkness to the light of Christ.
By the time of his crucifixion his faithful followers were scattered. After his resurrection and ascension into heaven the Saints gathered to resume their work on the day of Pentecost, but how many came? Only 120 souls ( Acts 1:15). That is all, according to the scriptures. Indeed there had been a falling away.
But now came another revelation. The Holy Ghost descended upon them in great power. They resumed their ministry, and thousands joined the Church. But persecution arose in its severest form. Many died as martyrs. The apostles lost their lives. Error then crept in. Philosophers from Greece added to the difficulty as they theorized about the previously simple doctrines of Christ. Disputations developed between the members of the Church. Differences multiplied. One historian says that a hundred years after Christ there were thirty different Christian sects.
This has gone on until our own day, when the various denominations of Christendom number in the hundreds. They have many different creeds and sharply contrasting interpretations and views pertaining to the nature of God.
But can a misunderstanding of the truth bring salvation? The Savior taught there is but one straight and narrow way ( Matt. 7:14). One of his great disciples wrote: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" ( Eph. 4:5). Conditions today are much as they were anciently, but in times of old when they reached this point, God clarified the issues by giving new revelation of himself, even to the point of raising up new prophets through whom to speak.
Would he do that in modern times? Are modern people as precious in the sight of God as ancient men and women? Would he make repeated efforts to save his ancient people in their times of confusion and not do the same for his modern children?
God is the same today as yesterday ( Heb. 13:8). He will do as much for modern men as he did for ancient peoples. But does that mean a modern revelation of himself? Would modern men accept such a revelation?
Again the Bible points the way. Not only does it emphasize that a falling away would occur, but it also says that in the latter-days God indeed would reveal himself again, this time to modern men to restore the truth and to save his people.
But to whom would he appear? To kings or potentates?
As in the days of Moses, so in our day, he would raise up a new prophet not previously known to man. This modern Prophet was Joseph Smith. As God appeared to Moses, so he appeared to Joseph Smith and for the same purpose—to restore the true knowledge of God so that mankind could worship the Lord intelligently.
And has this come to pass? It has. This is how it happened. In western New York State religious revivals were being held. One faith said, "Here is Christ." Another, "No, here is Christ." Confusion spread. In the home of Joseph Smith there was deep concern. The family desired to know which Church was right that they might join it. Some were inclined toward one, some to another. The serious-minded boy, Joseph Smith, searched the Bible. In it he found the writings of James, who said, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God" ( James 1:5).
This he determined to do. Going to a little grove of trees by his father's farm near Palmyra, New York, he knelt in prayer. In response he received a visitation from the Almighty, even as did Moses. There appeared to him the Eternal Father of heaven and earth and his Beloved Son, the Savior of the world, Jesus the Christ ( JS—H 1:17).
Think of it! God came to the United States of America, together with his divine Son, and they appeared personally to that boy whom they had chosen to raise up as an American Prophet, even as Moses had been raised up in his day. So it was that Joseph Smith learned about the true nature of God.
But that was not enough. The Lord had determined to restore more than this knowledge gained in that brief visitation. He sent angels to earth with more light, this in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. He gave Joseph Smith divine authority for this modern ministry, even as he had given the divine authority anciently, permitting men to serve as his duly appointed agents.
A church was to be organized, the ancient one to be restored. Baptism was required for salvation, but who had the power to baptize? The Lord sent the authority to earth. John the Baptist, who baptized the Savior, came to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and gave to them by ordination the divine power to baptize by immersion for the remission of sin.
Then came Peter, James, and John of the ancient twelve, conferring upon these same two men the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, including the apostleship which they themselves held. Thus empowered, Joseph and Oliver were now commanded of the Lord to organize his Church on the earth with all the gifts and powers of the ancient Church.
This they did. The Lord continued to give them revelation for their guidance, even as he had given it to the ancient prophets for the perfecting of the Saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ ( Eph. 4:12).
But Jesus came again and yet again. When church headquarters were established in Kirtland, Ohio, the Saints built a temple there. To it came the Savior of the world. As he appeared to Joseph and Oliver, they saw his face and his figure, and they heard his voice as he said, "I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father" ( D&C 110:4).
At another time when Joseph was accompanied by Sidney Rigdon, another glorious revelation of the Savior was experienced. They wrote of it:
"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
"For we saw him, even on the right hand of God" ( D&C 76:22-23).
So what is Mormonism, so-called? It is a new revelation of God, given to modern men through modern prophets for the salvation of all who will hear. We invite all mankind to give ear to its teachings, for it is the divine truth of God restored in our day. Of this we solemnly testify in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Boyd K. Packer, Conference Report, October 1962, pp. 47-50
I wish to speak to young people everywhere. I confess to being partial to those of you who are in your teens. The very qualities that cause some of us who are a bit older to worry about you—youthful exuberance, resistance to restraint and domination—when matured a little will be your great strength.
When we hear the question, and we often do, "What is wrong with our teenagers?" I want to thunder out, "The only thing wrong with teenagers is that there aren't enough of them." I wish, earnestly wish, that this could be a private conversation, for I am prompted to talk to you about a very personal and sacred matter. But I have such faith in you to be willing to talk to you about this subject when your fathers and mothers are present. In fact, I think you will come to know how important it is to have them present.
I take my text from the Book of Mormon. Jacob, a great Book of Mormon prophet, was teaching his people in the temple, and we find this descriptive verse: "Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord" ( Jacob 1:17). I repeat, "having first obtained mine errand from the Lord." It is about this errand, your errand, that I would speak.
Not too long ago I rode for several hundred miles with a group which included a boy named Henry. Though Henry was just in his early teens I was impressed with his inquisitive nature, with his searching, intelligent questions, and I thought, "Here is a young man with whom I can talk man to man about things spiritual." Henry has already obtained part of his errand. He is planning years ahead for service in the mission field. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is not only room for young men and women, but you are needed here. The majority of nearly 12,000 full time missionaries serving throughout the world—in Yokohama and Hong Kong, in Melbourne and Auckland, in Santiago and Hermosillo, in Hamburg and Vienna—the great majority are young men just past nineteen years of age. In this Church you are not only given full opportunity and full responsibility, but also full ecclesiastical authority. It is when I contemplate this that I repeat, here teenagers are not just tolerated, here they are needed. And it is when I contemplate this that I want to repeat again, the only thing wrong with you teenagers is that there aren't enough of you.
When I speak, I include in this errand all of you, not just those of you who have already distinguished yourselves—the captain of the football team, the valedictorian, the college or high school beauty queen. You are included, but I am speaking at least as much to you who consider yourselves nobody or at best just anybody. Some of you have been involved in serious trouble and difficulty that is only partly of your own making. Some of you I am sure, feel your parents don't love you. In this I am sure you are mistaken. Some of you feel that because of these mistakes that what I say shall not apply to you. You may even feel that no one has a regard for you, that even the Lord doesn't love you. In this you are most certainly in error.
If you obtain your errand in life from the Lord, there is a special spiritual preparation necessary. It is something you must do alone, each of you, individually, by yourselves. It is intimate and personal and sacred. It relates to the most delicate and sensitive of your feelings, and it is only in the spirit of reverence that I approach this subject with you.
To achieve this spiritual preparation you must set out on a quest. The quest has all of the aspects of high adventure. It will require the gallantry of knighthood, all of the virtues of the storybook princess. It will take the resourcefulness of the pioneer, the courage of the astronaut, and the humility of a true saint. It will require some unteenage-like maturity. I say this because right now as teenagers you are trying to assert yourselves, trying to say to the world, mostly to yourselves, "I am somebody." But, this preparation will require some different attributes, some that perhaps have not matured in you as yet. It is almost out of keeping with your teenage personalities for you to be submissive and humble, isn't it?
Recently I was tucking one of our little boys in bed. He was just five. There had been a difference of opinion as to whether it was bedtime or not. He had been guided gently to bed with something less than democracy. He looked up at me from under the covers and gritted his little teeth and said, "You not in charge of me." Wise beyond his years he spoke just like one of you teenagers. And, it is against this natural expression of youth that you will find your greatest contest.
The errand, the quest is the search for a testimony—an individual conviction, a certain knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, that God lives. Although much of religious expression is in group activity, this matter of testimony is not. It is individual—on your own, by yourself. It is because I have such confidence in you that I approach this sacred subject. I have confidence in all of the Henry's and the Bob's and Diane's and Beverly's and Allen's, and so I speak pointedly to you.
The Prophet Joseph Smith was about your age, in his fifteenth year, when he wanted to know for himself, for sure, what his errand in life should be. And, after reading James, chapter 1, verse 5: "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), he came to the conclusion, ". . . I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is ask of God. I at length came to the determination to 'ask of God' concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I would venture" ( JS—H 1:13).
Do you know how to pray, teenager? Have you ever tried it—by yourself, alone? Have you ever knelt down and poured out your soul to your Father in heaven, asking for help, asking him to guide you as you seek for your errand in life?
Joseph Smith sought seclusion, by himself, alone, as a teenage individual to attempt to pray. He asked the Lord two questions; first, which of all the churches is true, and next, which he should join ( JS—H 1:18). These two questions are appropriate for every teenager to ask, those of you who are in the Church and those of you who are seeking after truth. Now if you have the inclination or the desire to find out for yourselves, you are entering in by the way. Again from the Book of Mormon I quote the Prophet Nephi, who had been speaking to his people about this matter of testimony, and near the conclusion of his sermon he said:
"Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.
"For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do" ( 2 Ne. 32:4-5).
There is a difference, you know, between saying prayers and praying. Don't expect it all to come at once. It is worth earning. Your efforts may seem in vain, but pray unceasingly, unyielding. The Prophet Moroni said:
". . . dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith" ( Ether 12:6).
Once you have a testimony of your own, some things won't seem to change a great deal. You will still have to work for what you get. You won't be immune to illness or death. You will still have problems to solve, but you will have great strength, and you will be prompted by the Spirit of the Lord in the solution of these problems. As you accept membership in the Church, you have the gift of the Holy Ghost conferred upon you. Some of you who are young members of the Church and some of us who are older have made very little use of this gift. It is a quiet gift. It is a still small voice. May I illustrate?
Many years ago my parents lived on a modest little farm. They were ordinary people of humble circumstances. They had prayerfully asked the Lord to bless them with all of the necessities of life and some of the comforts and conveniences. One Monday morning Father came in from the field. He had broken the plow. "I must go into Brigham City," he said, "and get some welding done. Would you like to go?" Mother was washing, but she hastily set things aside and prepared the youngsters for a trip to town. The big copper boiler was lifted from the range, the buckets of hot water were set off the stove into the bedroom. Mother took the youngsters to the front gate where Father soon appeared with the white-topped buggy. As she put her foot onto the step, she paused and said, "Dad, somehow I think I shouldn't go with you today." You can imagine the conversation. "But why not? Hurry, time is wasting. You know you have shopping to do." Mother finally said, "I just feel like I shouldn't go." Thank goodness Father didn't tease her out of it. "If you feel that way, Mother," he said, "perhaps you should stay home."
She lifted the youngsters out of the buggy, and you can well guess what they started to do. Dad shook the reins, the buggy pulled down across the bridge, up the opposite bank and out of sight, and she has told me many times that she stood there and said to herself, "Now wasn't that silly of me." She busied herself with her washing again and in a moment or two she smelled smoke. Everything they owned, much of what they had prayed for, was in that modest little home. She didn't find the fire until the ceiling of the bedroom burst into flame, a ceiling made of muslin, sized with glue and wallpapered. A rusted stove pipe had permitted a spark to fall and settle in the dust atop the ceiling. A bucket brigade from the back pump, and the fire was soon out, and the incident closes without significance, unless you ask the question, "Why didn't she go to town that day?"
There is a sentence that has been tremendously important to me in the Book of Mormon. Nephi in speaking to Laman and Lemuel said:
". . . Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words" ( 1 Ne. 17:45).
Again, I say, teenagers, that you are needed in this Church. There is a great mission, a great errand for you to perform. Young Henry will hardly be prepared in time for his mission call. Some of us, in our youthfulness, may unwisely want to say to our Father in heaven that which my little son said to me. We may be tempted to grit our teeth and say to him, "You're not in charge of me." This spirit is present in the poem "Invictus" which concludes:
"It matters not how straight the gate—
How charged with punishment the scroll.
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul."
William Ernest Henley
It takes a spirit different from that if you, teenagers, will find your testimony. The late Orson F. Whitney of the Council of the Twelve Apostles wrote a poem entitled "The Soul's Captain." In answer to the declaration "I am the captain of my soul!" Brother Whitney said:
"Art thou in truth?
Then what of him who bought thee with his blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
And snatched thee from the flood,
"Who bore for all our fallen race
What none but him could bear—
The God who died that man might live
And endless glory share.
"Of what avail thy vaunted strength
Apart from his vast might?
Pray that his light may pierce the gloom
That thou mayest see aright.
"Men are as bubbles on the wave,
As leaves upon the tree,
Thou, captain of thy soul! Forsooth,
Who gave that place to thee?
"Free will is thine—free agency,
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto him
To whom all souls belong.
"Bend to the dust that 'head unbowed,'
Small part of life's great whole,
And see in him and him alone,
The captain of thy soul."
Humbly, my teenage friends, I tell you that I as well as all of these brethren here, have made that quest. Though less qualified perhaps than you, it became my blessing to know for sure which of all the churches is true, and it is because of experience that I hold out to you, not just the possibility that God will answer your prayer, but the very certainty of it. We tell you that in this Church there is love for you. In this Church you are needed. We love you because the Lord loves you. I bear humble witness that I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ, and that he loves all of us, including the youth. And I bear that witness in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.