White Bar
Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional

August 3, 2010 

  

 

 

"Dating, Memorizing Names, Museums and the Doctrine of Christ"

Kendall Grant

English Faculty Member, BYU-Idaho

 

  

Kendall Grant photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

A recently returned missionary who had just joined the Ricks College 42nd Ward approached me, the bishop at the time, and said that he had just read Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ talk, “Bishop Help,” where Elder Oaks invites members to help the bishop. “Bishop,” he said, “what can I do to help you?” Without hesitation I returned, “Date every sister in the ward.” He chuckled and then quit smiling when he saw that I was serious. He hesitated, and then said, “I’ll do my best.”

 

Each Sunday, I knew which sister had gone out with him on Saturday because she wore a huge smile and constantly watched the door for his arrival. He was handsome, spiritual, kind, intellectual, and talented. In fact, each week, most of the sisters turned when he walked into the Kirkham Auditorium, where we held Sacrament Meeting.

 

I had a sister in that ward who was often discouraged. We visited most Sundays and together we would review her week and her frustrations. I was not sure how to help her. She was discouraged that she had been at Ricks College for three years without a single date. I would strive to buoy her up each week, but I couldn’t find long-term solutions until one Sunday morning when she walked in with a huge smile on her face. She cornered me after Sacrament Meeting and described how one of the brothers in the ward had asked her on a date for the previous Saturday. They had gone horseback riding down on the Henry’s Fork property, leaving early in the morning and not returning until evening. The young man had prepared a wonderful picnic and had treated her like a queen. “Bishop,” she said, “I know that he is not pursuing me romantically. In fact, I know that you assigned him to date every sister in the ward, but he treated me like a daughter of God.”

 

At the end of the semester, the young man found me one Sunday after meetings and asked if he could give an accounting of his assignment. We sat down in the bishop’s office and he began. “I’m here to ask for forgiveness. I haven’t even dated half of the sisters in the ward.” I assured him that he had been inspired in his choices. He interrupted and said,

“Bishop, I don’t think that I blessed the lives of these sisters; they blessed mine. I was dating the wrong kind of girl. I was looking mostly at their physical bodies and not at who they are spiritually. I now know what kind of woman I want to marry, and physical appearance is hardly a consideration. I learned so much from the sisters in our ward.”

 

His faithful action helped others and taught him much. Being an English teacher, I know that faith isn’t a verb. It is a noun that should be accompanied by an appropriate verb, an appropriate action verb is best! Yes, faith invites action, brothers and sisters.

 

I know of another fine sister who was nervous when she arrived at BYU-Idaho. She was quiet and even afraid at times. This was long after I had served as a bishop, but I taught this young lady in an English class. Through an odd series of events, we shared a trust to the point where she asked me how she could feel included in her ward.

 

Whenever I answer a question like this without hesitation, I give credit to the Holy Ghost. I immediately responded, “Ask the bishop if you can help him by being a ward greeter.” Sometimes this responsibility is mocked by those with less understanding of baptismal covenants. This young sister, after being reminded a couple of times, asked her bishop if she could serve him and the ward in that effort. He consented and so she began. She would report to me each week about how many new names she had memorized. Then she started writing notes to some of the ward members. Soon, she knew almost everyone--greeting ward members by name each Sunday. She transformed into the most outgoing and beautiful young student I have ever met. She had dozens and dozens of friends who loved her because she had loved them.

 

Again, I submit that

“Faith is a principle of action and power. Whenever you work toward a worthy goal, you exercise faith. You show your hope for something that you cannot yet see.” (True to the Faith p. 54)

Most of you are enjoying new beginnings—like the two students in the stories. My first desire is to get you to take faithful action during your time at BYU-Idaho. And please realize that faith as a principle of action and power does not just apply to this new beginning. Every time you move to a new ward in your lives, ask the bishop how you can help; get to know every member’s name. If you do these two things, I promise you that you will find Christ in every ward in the church.

 

Making that promise reminds me of President Hinckley’s inspired direction concerning new converts:

“It is not an easy thing to become a member of this Church. In most cases it involves setting aside old habits, leaving old friends and associations, and stepping into a new society which is different and somewhat demanding."

 

"With the ever-increasing number of converts, we must make an increasingly substantial effort to assist them as they find their way. Every one of them needs three things: a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with ‘the good word of God’ (Moroni 6:4). It is our duty and opportunity to provide these things.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Converts and Young Men,” Ensign, May 1997, p. 47)

 

Do you see the connection? When we take faithful action, we begin to have friends, responsibilities, and gospel nourishment. We become self-sufficient and begin to provide these things for others. We begin keeping baptismal covenants because of our choices that develop our faith.

 

“In order for your faith to lead you to salvation, it must be centered in the Lord Jesus Christ…Remember that because He has experienced all your pains, afflictions, and infirmities, he knows how to help you rise above your daily difficulties.” (True to the Faith p. 54)

My favorite example of a person who has faith, and is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a babushka from Moscow, Russia. Ours was a short, but powerful few minutes together. I was directing a group of 35 Ricks College students through Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and Western Europe. We had been together a few weeks when we had opportunity to visit the Tretyakov Art Museum, in Moscow.

 

Frankly, I was happy when all of the students headed into every part of the museum except the wing that housed religious icons, religious paintings, in this case, of the Russian Orthodox Church that teach members about Christ and other spiritual matters. I delight in the faith it must have taken for these painters to carefully paint about Christ. I also delighted in the solitude I would find. I smiled at the museum attendant, the babushka, as I entered the religious art wing of the museum. She did not smile back. I knew I did not want to be on her bad side. Those older Russian women are known for their tough demeanor—I also knew that she would win any verbal encounter.

 

I moved past her to a very old icon, one that was not protected in any way. It was hundreds of years old. I bent toward it to see the inevitable cracks that had developed over the centuries, and I must have gotten too close. She flew out of her chair screaming nelzya, nelzya—“it is forbidden.” I apologized and moved around the corner to get out of her sight. As I rounded the partition, there was a small four-foot square table and under plexiglass was another icon, a very old icon. It portrayed Christ’s birth in a cave, in a stable, in a manger. There was the Christ child. The Holy Ghost overwhelmed me, testifying that Christ was born to Mary and put in a manger. That it was all true.

 

Tears gently flowed—I had known that Christ lived, but I had never known it this clearly, this profoundly. As I basked in the moment, I made a nearly fatal mistake. I leaned on the plexiglass to look closer at the dozen or so little circles that had been painted around the cave, little circles with painted representations of the prophesies of Christ’s birth. Elizabeth and Zacharius, Simeon, Anna, and others. As I leaned on the plexiglass, the babushka tore around the corner screaming “Nelzya, nelzya.” I turned to meet my doom, but then she saw my tears.

 

“Vy ponimayete, da?” “You understand, don’t you?”

 

“Yes,” I said, “I understand.” She explained to me that she loves to work in this wing of the museum because she loves Jesus Christ. She feels Him there; I had felt the Holy Ghost there also. She serves the Savior in this way, requesting to work that wing every shift because it is a way for her to faithfully take action.

 

Notice that she took action based on her faith.

 

True faith and action in Jesus Christ leads to repentance.

 “Repentance is much more than just acknowledging wrongdoings. It is a change of mind and heart that gives you a fresh view about God, about yourself, and about the world.” (True to the Faith p. 132)

 

In preparation for this talk, my wife, Susan, reminded me of a time when my daughter learned a tough lesson: choices have consequences. Carly, just a few years old at the time, and her brother, Greg, had planned a family sleep-out. It was evening and we were ready to get the sleeping bags situated on the tarp. The kids had spent the afternoon playing in the water. Susan had taken them in and bathed them while I finished some work in the yard. Carly was clean and dry. She headed toward the small swimming pool-- “Don’t get in that water, or we won’t get to sleep out,” Susan and I chimed in unison.

 

With a mischievous smile, Carly waltzed right into the pool. We took measured action, pulling her from the water and informing her that she would be unable to sleep outside. She cried, but she wasn’t truly upset until she found Greg crying because he did not want to sleep outside if Carly could not. Nobody would sleep out because she disobeyed. It was a solemn night at the Grant house. We all cried. Bedtime stories didn’t hold any joy. Prayers were quietly said. If it was not a powerful lesson for the children, it was for Susan and me. We saw the world in a new way as we realized that even small choices have powerful consequences for bad and good. I believe that our family changed for the better that night as we sought understanding.

 

This experience helped me understand Moses 6:55-57:

“…and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.”

 

  “And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves, and I have given unto you another law and commandment.”

 

 “Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous Judge, who shall come in the meridian of time.”

 

“Repentance is a painful [but necessary] process, [and] it leads to forgiveness and lasting peace.” (True to the Faith p. 133)

 

Do we really believe this? If it leads to lasting peace, shouldn’t it be an important part of your experience at BYU-Idaho. I invite us to repent right now, to see God and ourselves differently. Along with a new beginning during this summer term can come a lasting peace that helps us become a new person.

 

So far, we have mentioned faith with action and repentance as a part of the process that leads to us becoming new people. The repentance leads to baptism, where new converts can see themselves fresh, clean, and pure. We, too, have that blessing each week as we partake of the sacrament.

 

The Book of Mormon tells of a group of people who learned the gospel and were baptized at a place called Mormon. From the time of their baptism, they regarded Mormon as a place of beauty because while they were there, they “came to the knowledge of their Redeemer” (see Mosiah 23-23).

 

Like the people in the Book of Mormon account, you can rejoice as you remember your baptismal covenant and the Lord’s promises to you. You can find strength in the ordinance of baptism, whether you were baptized recently or many years ago.” (True to the Faith p. 21)

 

Mercedes Panichi was baptized many years ago while living in Mons, Belgium. In 1982, she lost her husband to cancer and was raising an infant son. After receiving the missionary lessons, and after telling the missionaries that she could never be worthy of baptism, she wanted to become a member of the church. After much work toward repentance, she decided that Christ’s atonement could work for her too.

 

When she found herself in the font, anxiety filled her face. Brother Renard pronounced the baptismal prayer and gently put Mercedes under the water. As her face broke the water on the way up, she greeted the world with a smile and wept for joy. “I am clean. I am clean,” she said. Then she spontaneously bore testimony that Jesus is the Christ; that Joseph is a prophet and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has authority from God. It was the sweetest testimony I have ever heard.

 

As you partake of the sacrament this week, remember Christ, His birth, His baptism, His death, and His life. I promise that each of us can feel that joy that led to Mercedes’ testimony. And we will be clean.

 

Each of us has demonstrated faith in the Lord Jesus Christ unto repentance. This led to our baptisms.

 

 2 Nephi 32:1-2 teaches us about the next step:

“ And now, behold, my beloved brethren, I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way. But, behold, why do ye ponder these things in your hearts?”

 

 “Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?”

We now need to understand the gift of the Holy Ghost if we want to understand more fully the doctrine of Christ that leads to us becoming like Christ.

“The Gift of the Holy Ghost is different from the influence of the Holy Ghost. Before your baptism, you could feel the influence of the Holy Ghost from time to time, and through that influence you could receive a testimony of the truth. Now that you have the gift of the Holy Ghost, you have the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead if you keep the commandments.” (True to the Faith p. 83)

 

Wow! What a gift, the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Have you noticed that in all of the experiences I have shared about faith, repentance, baptism, and the Holy Ghost, all of the stories are about all four of the first principles and ordinances of the gospel? Nephi calls it the Doctrine of Christ in 2 Nephi 32. He is trying to convince his wayward brothers that scriptures tell us all things that we should do and that the Holy Ghost can show us—can guide us in all things.

“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”

 

“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 Nephi 32:3-5)

 

Nephi’s powerful invitation to understand the doctrine of Christ requires that we gain understanding through scripture study and prayer so that we can understand faith, repentance, baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost--our invitation is to have faith in Christ, repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost. Then, a member of the Godhead will show us all things that we should do.

 

Shouldn’t we seek these powerful blessings, especially if it is as easy as making efforts to learn through more effective prayer and scripture study? I have learned to ask Father in Heaven constantly for His help; in so doing, I am learning to listen better.

 

Sometimes, I worry that with the freedom of choice that you enjoy while being away from home for the first time, that you will not remember to ask Heavenly Father for help, that you may not work toward having the Holy Ghost as your constant companion. I have had two students get into serious accidents the last four years. In both cases, when they told me what they were doing, I wondered if they were seeking fun, enjoyment, and recreation with or without the Spirit’s guidance.

 

Check in with Heavenly Father, and listen to the Holy Ghost, as you enjoy BYU-Idaho, Rexburg, and the recreational opportunities that this area offers. Understand the doctrine of Christ, and Heavenly Father will teach you His will. Then you will find yourself in the right place at the right time and not in harrowing situations that could lead to needless consequences that affect others.

 

Now, in closing, I want to share with you an important experience in my life that demonstrated to me what happens when we seek to understand a part of the doctrine of Christ and take action with that understanding.

 

On a later trip to Moscow, Russia, with another group of college students, we were scheduled to attend sacrament meeting in a branch just outside of the main city. It would take about forty-five minutes on the metro, and then a 15 minute walk. The metro was empty at 7:30 a.m. Interestingly enough, the nearly 40 of us all crammed into one car, so I decided to stand and hold on to a pole.

When I travel short or long distances, I make it a habit to pray, to check in with Heavenly Father. As I prayed, I told him how thankful I was for a Savior who loves me. Soon, I had a distinct impression that I could do better. In fact, I felt quite chastised and ashamed to the point of a few tears. I knew that I wasn’t guilty of any grievous sin, but the Holy Ghost taught me about sins of omission. I was a bit embarrassed by the tears and the tears made some of the students nervous, but I saw it as an opportunity to repent, so I asked Heavenly Father’s forgiveness and promised that I would do better.

 

On the walk to the chapel, I kept behind the others, feeling a bit hurt that I wasn’t who the Lord needed at the time. I resolved to do much better. We arrived at the chapel. There was a flurry of activity as the six missionaries from America realized that there were nearly 40 Americans who had just walked in. I sought a seat in the back. I watched carefully, as I am prone to do. As I watched and heard the details, I became a bit indignant. I had always wanted to serve a mission in Russia, but there were no Russian missions when I served in 1981. I had adored my mission to France and Belgium, but I was upset that some of the missionaries were complaining about food and culture. I reminded myself that I needed to prepare for the sacrament. We still had 20 minutes before the meeting would start.

 

I noticed a woman quietly going about her business. I assumed she was Russian and not a missionary. She was seated behind the piano, so I could not see her fully. I noticed that the Branch President and others spoke with her. She played the opening hymn. For some reason, the Holy Ghost whispered that she was a powerful woman, and that I needed to relay that message to her. After the sacrament and a testimony by the Branch President, she moved to the podium. I thought that she was going to bear her testimony. She sat down by the microphone, and then I realized that she was a sister missionary moving to translate for any of the Americans who wanted to bear testimony, and several did.

 

She had been unaffected when we arrived. She had gone about her duties as a missionary and branch member in powerful ways. The Spirit whispered, “Tell her that she is a powerful missionary, the kind you wanted to be in France and Belgium, and the kind you would have wanted to have been in Russia.” This prompting occurred several times before the meeting ended.

 

After the meeting, I watched her speak with several of the Branch members. I positioned myself so that I could speak with her. “Sister,” I started, “Are you staying for all three meetings?” She said yes. “Could I speak with you at the end of the block?” She affirmed that I could. Then she asked me if I would write down the names of the students who had participated as she he had promised the ward clerk that she would get them so that he could have an accurate record. She moved on to Sunday School where she powerfully interacted with the members and helped with the lesson. I was overwhelmed at her goodness and how much the Spirit wanted her to know that she was an awesome missionary.

 

At the end of the block of meetings, she came to me. I did not have to find her. She asked for the list of students. Then, she said, “You wanted to talk to me?”

 

I replied,

“Sister, I have been overwhelmed by the Spirit wanting me to tell you what a great missionary you are. I know that some of the other Elders and Sisters have not caught on to the blessing of serving these people, but the Holy Ghost wants you to know that you are a great missionary.”

 

Quietly she sobbed into her hands, trying to regain control of her emotions. I wasn’t nervous; the Holy Ghost was present and He had carefully guided me in what I was to say. After many seconds, she looked me in the face. My tears started. She said,

“Brother, I leave for home in three days. All I ever wanted to do was serve an acceptable mission for the Savior. I have been praying for weeks for an answer; I have been fasting to know. I now know that I have.”

 

It wasn’t appropriate to hug; she never would have. She was too respectful of the Savior, of her mission, of the mission rules. We grasped hands and arms. We looked into each other’s eyes and parted ways. I assume that we will never meet again.

 

I am grateful to God for the faith I have found in Jesus Christ. I continually use repentance, knowing the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for baptismal covenants that bind us together as children of our Heavenly Father. And I am most grateful for the Holy Ghost. I strive with all my heart to be worthy of the Spirit that He might always be with me and testify to me of Jesus Christ. The Spirit leads me to the Savior and my Savior will lead me back to the Father.

 

“And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.”

 

“For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.”

 

“For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.”

 

“Therefore remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into judgment.” (1 Nephi 10:17-20)

 

May we strengthen our faith, always, but especially in new situations. May we repent, always, but especially in new situations. May we always remember Him, our Savior, through the sacrament which means so much because of baptism. And He will send His Spirit to be with us always. And, my dear friends, as we take action, and we must take action, the Spirit will guide all of us, through baptismal covenants, in helping each other. Then, the love that we develop will make us like the Savior. Like it says in Moroni 7:47-48:

“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.”

 

 “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure…”

…is also my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.