I was recently going through a box of memories. Some papers fell out, and I realized they were pages of a talk I gave in church many years ago, most likely when I was a teenager. When I looked up the talk that my comments were based around, I realized that I must have spoken the second week of April in the year 2000. Wow. I have definitely grown in how I structure my sentences since then, but I’m actually impressed I gave such a thoughtful talk at age 15, almost 16. It’s humbling to go back to the past and read about how there was a plea for better technology to share God’s word with others. It has been 21 years, and indeed there are countless ways to use technology to share the gospel. I am so grateful. See below for my talk. I typed it up with basically the same formatting I did at age 16. It made me laugh:
Good morning, my brothers and sisters. My talk today will be based on a talk by Elder L. Tom Perry entitled “Thou Shalt Give Heed unto All His Words.” Elder Perry begins his talk by complimenting the new Conference Center and saying how wonderful it is that thousands more people are no able to hear the word in person. He says,
“This is surely the beginning of a new era in church history – an era of broader, more profound reach and influence, an era of greater growth and impact.”
It is true; the church has and will continue to grow dramatically as time goes by. D&C 65:2 confirms this. It reads:
“The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.”
It is wonderful that the church is growing so rapidly, but Elder Perry in his talk mentions that this also presents a worry. President Hinckley is afraid that the Apostles will not be able to reach all of the church members and personally admonish them to live the gospel. So, in the future, technology will have to play a greater part in carrying the gospel messages to the members. Right now we are able to watch conference either from home or at the church, we receive letters from the first presidency often, we have church magazines such as the Ensign to read which teach us many great lessons, and we also have many church websites to visit such as lds.org and Mormon.org. In the future we will most likely have even greater technology that will help us as members to receive the messages we need to help us live righteously.
Elder Perry mentioned in his talk how historical prophets also used all available technologies to gather their people, spread the word of God, and to reinforce the word. One prophet in particular that he spoke of was King Benjamin in his last great sermon to the people of Zarahemla. He gave specific instructions to his son Mosiah concerning the gathering of the people. He asked his son to make a proclamation throughout all the land asking the people to gather in tents around the temple with their families to hear the king’s words. The people were so numerous, though, that King Benjamin had a tower erected so more people could hear, and even had his words written down for all the people still out of hearing range. From the tower, the king bore his testimony of the Savior and then counseled them about how to return to their Heavenly Father. He said,
“And moreover I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual, and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. Oh, remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.” (Mosiah 2:41).
After all this King Benjamin also appointed priests and teachers to preach to the people and remind them of all they had learned. King Benjamin certainly used all the technologies possible to make sure that all the members of the church received the message, as have all prophets throughout history. But according to L. Tom Perry, just receiving the word is not enough. He says,
“But the bricks and mortar and the continued expansion of technology will only bring the messages to us. One challenge remains the same from the time of King Benjamin to the time of President Grant to today – that is, the challenge of each individual and family, through personal and collective study, to internalize the messages of the gospel of our Lord and Savior. Salvation is not in facilities or technology, but in the word. Only in the power of the word will it impact our lives and help us live closer to our Father in Heaven.”
So, we need to internalize the gospel; it must be very important then. Dallin H. Oaks, in his conference talk, said:
“The gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become converted. It teaches us what we should do, and it provides us opportunities to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”
Now, I am going to make an analogy that I will use throughout the rest of my talk. It is corny, but it works. Okay, let’s imagine that the gospel is a warm, gooey, delicious chocolate chip cookie. There are many things we can do with that cookie. We can throw it away immediately, we can put it away and save it for later, we can eat some of it but set aside most of the chocolate chips, or we can internalize the entire cookie and let its particles give our body nutrients. Okay, so it’s a fat free chocolate chip cookie. Now for examples:
I think a perfect example of someone who was given the cookie and threw it away was Amalickiah and his followers. During the time of Amalickiah, Helaman and his brethren were trying to reestablish the church in every Nephite city. Alma 45:23 says,
“And now it came to pass that after Helaman and his brethren had appointed priests and teachers over the churches that there arose a dissension among them, and they would not give heed to the words of Helaman and his brethren.”
Now, Amalickiah was the leader of the dissenters who were determined to slay the believers. By flattery he gained many followers, used lies and murder to become king of the Lamanites, led the Lamanites to battle against the Nephites, and captured many cities. Well, for a while it sounded like Amalickiah was doing all right, but then one night he was slain by Teancum, one of the Nephite captains. So, apparently going against the prophet’s words doesn’t work too well.
But what about the people who save the cookie for later? A great example of this kind of person is Alma the Younger. Now, his father was the prophet, so of course he received the gospel messages. But at first he was a rebellious son and sought to destroy the church of God by leading people away. He was helped by the sons of King Mosiah. But one day an angel appeared until them. The angel told Alma to “seek no more to destroy the church of God,” and then he fell to the earth and for three days and three nights he could not move or speak. Looking back on his experiences Alma said in Alma 36:12-20:
TURN TO IT AND READ IT!!!
It took the pains of a damned soul and must torment for Alma the Younger to recollect his father’s words. But once he humbled himself and asked for Jesus’ mercy, his sorrow was gone and his sins forgiven. From that time forth, Alma dedicated his life to the Lord and eventually became the high priest of the church. Well, Alma turned out all right, but must we be “racked with torment” before we can have the joy and marvelous light that comes from heeding the word? I don’t believe so.
I think most of us in this room are in the category of the people who have eaten part of the cookie, but left some of the chocolate chips behind because they are too sweet. This category is not bad, and we can even move out of it if we keep trying. We have internalized completely, part, and probably most of the gospel, but there are some things that we know to be wrong that we do anyway. And there are some things we say we believe but we do not act upon completely. Now, I don’t think that many of us have problems with the big sins, like murder or stealing or chastity, but I do think that there are things that we say we believe but don’t always act on those beliefs. For example, we say all the time things like “We are all children of God;” “Nobody is perfect;” and “Love your neighbor.” But why then are we so quick to judge? Why do we hold grudges and gossip? Why do we sometimes feel that we are better or worse than other people? One other big principle that I feel necessary to mention is that of repentance. We believe that because of Christ’s atonement we can be forgiven of our sins and one day return back to our Heavenly parents. In conference, Todd Christofferson gave a wonderful quote. He said:
“The power of the Atonement can erase the effects of sin in us. When we repent, His Atoning grace justifies and cleanses us. It is as if we had not succumbed, as if we had not yielded to temptation.”
If this is true, then why do we so often find it so hard to forgive each other, and ourselves, of wrongs done, even if these people have repented? Doctrine and Covenants 64:9 reads:
“Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.”
I could go on with more examples, but I don’t think it is necessary. What I am trying to say is that we are taught things and believe them, but we don’t have complete faith in those beliefs. Joseph B. Wirthlin in his conference talk did a beautiful job talking about faith. He said:
“Faith exists when absolute confidence in that which we cannot see combines with action that is in absolute conformity to the will of our Heavenly Father. Without all three – first, absolute confidence; second, action; and third, absolute conformity – without these three all we have is a counterfeit, a weak, and watered-down faith.”
It sounds pretty hard to gain true faith, doesn’t it? I suppose that is what we must have, though, to be able to consume the entire chocolate chip cookie, or in other words, to gain a true testimony of all of the gospel principles, and try every day to improve ourselves in our beliefs. There are not that many people today that can fit this description, for it is very difficult to reach this kind of spirituality. I would think that President Hinckley and his apostles have probably reached this stage, but as the prophet said in conference:
“There is room for improvement in every life.”
So, even the prophet feels that he needs to improve in his spirituality, and in his oneness with Heavenly Father and his son, Jesus Christ. But how is this accomplished?
In his conference talk Todd Christofferson said:
“Surely we will not be one with God and Christ until we make Their will and interest our greatest desire. Such submissiveness is not reached in a day, but through the Holy Spirit, the Lord will tutor us, if we are willing until, in process of time, it may be accurately said that He is in us as the Father is in Him.”
So, how do we internalize the word, and establish a perfect faith in the gospel, and eventually become one with God? Well, Elder Wirthlin gave this advice in conference. He said to immerse ourselves in the scriptures, to heed the counsel of latter-day prophets, to ponder and pray and seek the guidance of the spirit, and to never abandon our faith and to never lose hope.
It is my prayer today, brothers and sisters, that we all listen and act upon the word with all of our hearts, and put God first always. I know that if we keep the commandments of God and strive throughout our lives to become more like Him, that we will be blessed immensely. I, just as Elder Perry, am also very grateful for the technology that the Lord has put out for us to be able to receive the messages of the gospel, and I hope that we can all heed those messages to their fullest. I hope you all watched conference last weekend. I know it strengthened my testimony to hear the words of those righteous men and women. I truly am grateful to have the gospel in my life, and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.