White Bar

 

Sandra Rogers

 

Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional

September 25, 2012

 

 

"Easily Entreated"

Sister Sandra Rogers

International Vice President, BYU


 

Alma the Younger, who went from apostate attempting to destroy the Church to high priest committed to saving the Church, was so concerned about his people that he was inspired to select a wise man to replace him as Chief Judge so that he could “preach the word of God unto them… that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people...” When he went to Gideon Alma rejoiced that they were “still active” in the gospel. But he also understood that even the active need encouragement and true doctrine. He ended his testimony to them, after the manner of President Hinckley who was always so positive with us but never let the opportunity to encourage us to do better pass him by, with these words:

 

“And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.”1

 

Today I would like to share with you a few thoughts on the principle of being “easily entreated.”  “To entreat” (according to Mirriam-Webster) is “to make an earnest request; to plead with, especially in order to persuade.” I don’t think Alma used this phrase to suggest that we should succumb to the enticements of every door-to-door salesperson or television pitch person or crafty manipulator who wants to persuade us to “purchase” whatever is being “sold.”

 

I believe “easy to be entreated” is about how we hear the Lord’s word and how we follow the pleadings of the Holy Spirit. Alma’s hopes were that the people of Gideon would have minds and hearts open to the messages sent to them by a loving Heavenly Father, anxious to reveal truth, direction, comfort, solace, and assurance to His children. Alma, like Sister Julie B. Beck has taught, wanted the people to qualify for, receive, and act on revelation.

 

Alma knew, as well as anyone could have ever known, that through the atonement of Jesus Christ we can be pardoned from punishment for sin and declared guiltless. This pardoning of punishment comes by grace through faith, repentance, and obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, and is called justification. I am grateful beyond comprehension for the blessing of the atonement that makes it possible for me to be “justified” from my sins. 

 

The atonement of Jesus Christ also offers us something even more spiritually and eternally spectacular than justification, as marvelous as that is. The atonement of Jesus Christ also offers us “sanctification” or becoming free from sin, pure, clean, and holy. In short, through sanctification we can become like our Savior and our Heavenly Father in purity, in character, in charity. 

 

A critical stepping-stone on the way to justification and sanctification is being easily entreated. 

 

Nephi described the process this way:

 

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.”2

 

Nephi further explained, “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.” These words of Christ, which increase our faith and commitment and teach us all the things that we should be and do, are born into our hearts by the Holy Ghost. They come as a result of prayer, fasting, scripture study, temple attendance, pondering, service, and daily acts of faithful discipleship. They prompt us to faith, repentance, and justification; and then on to the level of service, obedience, consecration, and charity that allows us to retain a remission of our sins while and become sanctified.

 

Some experience grand epiphanies like Paul on the road to Damascus. For me the entreaties of the Holy Ghost have most often come in quieter, but in equally profound ways. For several months I have been agonizing over a personal challenge, trying to obtain direction and peace.  While preparing for this talk I happened to see President Uchtdorf’s October 2008 General Conference talk to the Priesthood brethren entitled “Lift Where You Stand.” I felt prompted to read it.  Buried near the end of the talk was the clarification of a principle that answered my months of searching. And the spirit bore witness to me that it was my answer.

 

King Benjamin summarized the miracle of justification and sanctification in one verse. “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticing of the Holy Spirit [or we could say unless he is easily entreated], and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”3

 

It is through our responses to the Holy Ghost—our willingness to be entreated by him, whose work it is to speak the words of Christ, that we are able to increase our faith, to have a mighty change wrought in our hearts, to be born of God, and have His image in our countenances. I have also learned that the inspiration of the Holy Ghost gives to those who receive it vision and Christian courage. Without the witness of the Holy Ghost that the teachings of the missionaries are true, despite their age, immaturity, and questionable language skills, a person may not have the courage to choose to leave the comfort of a familiar life style and family religion and risk the potential loss of friends and opportunities and be baptized. Without the witness of the Holy Ghost that the path we are pursuing is correct and in accordance with God’s will, we would not have the courage to sacrifice the present gains for a much more important and eternal future. Without the witness of the Holy Ghost we would not be able to discern truth in the cacophony of noise hurled at us by the world partying away in the great and spacious building. Without the witness of the Holy Ghost about what is true, and what is important, we would not be able to hold the course, or return to the course, through storms of trial and difficulty, with faith, optimism and confidence. 

 

President Cecil Samuelson described the opportunity he and Sister Samuelson had during the Olympics in Salt Lake City to host at a performance in the Conference Center, Mr. Mike Wallace, the television journalist who interviewed President Hinckley twice on his program. He said, “While Mr. Wallace could never trip up or confuse President Hinckley with his penetrating questions, they become good friends as a result of these interviews. Mr. Wallace frequently made very complimentary comments about President Hinckley.

 

At the conclusion of the performance, we met President and Sister James E. Faust of the First Presidency. As I introduced President Faust to Mike Wallace and explained the close relationship President Faust and President Hinckley enjoyed in the First Presidency, Mr. Wallace said to President Faust, “You are just the man to answer a question I have had for some time. Gordon Hinckley is the most optimistic man I have ever met. Can you tell me why?”  President Faust didn’t hesitate for even a moment and replied with a twinkle in his eye, “President Hinckley knows how all this is going to turn out.” The Holy Ghost does bless his servants – which includes all of us – with the assurance of “how it is all going to turn out.”

 

Sarah Rich, early Nauvoo pioneer, is quoted in Daughters in My Kingdom saying,

 

“For if it had not been for the faith and knowledge that was bestowed upon us in that temple by the influence and help of the Spirit of the Lord, our journey would have been like one taking a leap in the dark. To start out…in the winter as it were and in our state of poverty, it would seem like walking into the jaws of death. But we had faith in our Heavenly Father, and we put our trust in Him feeling that we were His chosen people and had embraced his gospel, and instead of sorrow, we felt to rejoice that the day of our deliverance had come.”4

 

When we are easily entreated by the Holy Ghost, along with wisdom, direction, confirmation, solace, comfort, aid, and increased faith, we are given optimism and hope. We rejoice as we sing the song of redeeming love because the Holy Ghost confirms in our hearts a love of the Savior, a knowledge of His plan, and a fervent desire to make and keep covenants that will ultimately bless our lives as we are consecrated to the Savior’s work.

 

How can we improve our willingness to listen, to hear, and to be entreated by the Holy Ghost? Because faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, is the fundamental principle of the gospel, developing the ability to listen to His words, His entreaties to us through the Holy Ghost, is much the same as developing and improving faith. Alma describes seven facets of this process. 

 

First, we must humble ourselves through repentance so that we can be receptive to his counsel. Second, we must awake and arouse our faculties to experiment upon the word of counsel given. Third, we need to exercise a particle of faith to act on the counsel. Fourth, we need to continue to nurture what we have been told despite a tendency to doubt or be discouraged. Fifth, we will recognize the confirmation that what we have heard is good and right and true. Sixth, we nourish what we have heard with care, and continue to act on it. And seventh, we come to know and appreciate the counsel as sweet, and feast upon it.5

 

While we are developing our abilities to hear counsel – to desire it, and want it – even when it might go contrary to what we think we want – we must also be careful to avoid the things that will make it impossible to hear the still small voice. I come from a long line of people who lose their hearing as they age. My family jokes about the wonderful time we have together yelling loudly at each other in order to communicate. The truth is, that unless we are learning to hear, to listen, and to be persuaded, the Spirit will eventually stop making the attempt to communicate with us.

Alma gave us some helpful warnings about the things that interfere with being easily entreated. These include being lifted up in the pride of our hearts, setting our hearts upon riches and the vain things of the world, and worshiping idols. When we think about them clearly, we see that the first is the parent to the other two. Pride pulls us away from the two great commandments, to love God and our fellowmen, and to, in fact, worship ourselves like golden calves by catering to our own desires and whims.

 

Pride creates a hardened crust that doesn’t allow the influence of the Holy Ghost to penetrate our hearts or minds. How many of the good potato farmers in Madison County would want to plant after a caravan of heavy equipment had driven across the land, back and forth, over and over again, packing the soil so tightly that it was as hard as asphalt? That’s what pride does to the soil of our hearts and minds.

 

President Benson’s masterful sermon on pride taught us, “the central feature of pride is enmity – enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us. Pride is essentially competitive in nature...the proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives…The proud wish God would agree with them.  They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s… Another major portion of this very prevalent sin of pride is enmity toward our fellowmen. We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others.”6

 

President Benson concluded his powerful message with these words, “The antidote for pride is humility—meekness, submissiveness, and he referenced Alma 7:23 where humility and submissiveness are listed just before “easy to be entreated”. God will have a humble people.” Then President Benson suggested that we can yield to the enticing of the Holy Spirit, put off the natural man and choose to be humble by doing the following: Esteeming our brothers and sisters as ourselves and lifting them as high or higher than we are; receiving counsel and chastisement; forgiving those who have offended us; rendering selfless service; going on missions and preaching the word; getting to the temple more frequently; confessing and forsaking our sins; loving God and submitting our will to His and putting Him first in our lives.

 

Sometimes it may not be easy to take counsel or chastisement, to admit we have made an error and need to repent. One of the reasons I have a testimony that Joseph Smith was, indeed, a true prophet and a man of God, is that he was willing to have recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants his chastisements from God. I don’t think a fraud would have been willing to be so exposed.

 

If ever there was a young man who wanted the safety and security of good friends to stand by him, that young man was Joseph Smith. He eventually found such a friend in Martin Harris.  Harris was all that Joseph Smith was not. He was more mature, better educated, more prosperous, and well respected in Palmyra. To have such a man as a friend and benefactor was truly as blessing to the young prophet.

 

When Martin Harris requested permission to take the first 116 pages of the translation of the plates home so that his wife could see them and stop nagging him about his support of Joseph Smith, Joseph took the request to the Lord. The answer was no. Finally the third time, the Lord said, “yes” and Martin departed from Harmony, Pennsylvania with the 116 pages to show his wife in Palmyra, New York. Martin was given strict instructions about the precious document. It was the “only one” in existence. No scribe had made a copy. It wasn’t “backed up” in any way.

 

Tragic family circumstances kept Joseph Smith from thinking about Martin Harris and the manuscript for a time. But, he eventually became worried, so worried that he traveled to Palmyra to retrieve the 116 pages. When finally confronted with the fact that Martin Harris no longer had the manuscript, Joseph felt that he had lost his soul. He knew the parameters the Lord had set. He also knew that he had wearied the Lord with repeated requests. He lost his gift of translation. He was devastated.

 

But Joseph was willing to be entreated after this terrible error, an error anticipated by the great prophet Mormon who was persuaded by the Spirit to include the small plates of Nephi with his own abridgement “for a wise purpose” unknown to him. The Lord chastised Joseph in section 3 of the Doctrine and Covenants with these words, “Remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men…. For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God…you should have been faithful; and I [God] would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble… remember, God is merciful; therefore repent of that which thou has done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to do the work.”

 

Joseph heard the counsel, was submissive and easy to be entreated, and became the great prophet of the restoration who did “more save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.” 

 

Being easily entreated isn’t a one-time happening that lasts for life. Like all other gospel principles and attributes, it must be continued in order “to count.” Some may think that one period of intense service is all that is required of a consecrated Latter-day Saint. They may believe that if they serve a mission, their contribution to the kingdom has been made and there is no further need to serve or be directed. The life of any one of our General Authorities or General Auxiliary Presidencies would demonstrate the fallacy in that thinking. Some may be dedicated to being easily entreated in order to find someone to marry and start a family. But that is just the beginning of a constant need for guidance. Some may think that one only needs to be easily entreated if one has an “important” calling like Bishop or Relief Society President. I have learned for myself how false that idea is.

 

At one time in my life I had the best calling in the Church – that of Primary pianist. I could play all the songs, sometimes with a little added flourish, I didn’t need to practice, and the chorister didn’t need to give me the songs early. Given how “easy” it was for me, I never, not even once, asked the Lord how He wanted me to fulfill my calling as Primary pianist. I knew all I needed to know – or so I thought.

 

Then one evening I went to an in-service meeting. We were all challenged to sincerely pray about our callings. I thought to myself, “What is there to pray about? I can do already do this – and I do it pretty well.” But, after a little cultivation of the soil of my soul, I decided to be obedient. The message that came into my mind was, “Play the songs the children are working on for the program, the songs they know, for prelude music.” Up until this time I had just picked my way through the children’s song book playing anything that looked fun to me. When I began to follow the entreaty of the Spirit something happened in Primary. It took several weeks to notice it but as the children hummed along to the tunes they knew and reverence in our Primary increased. None of us are ever “so good” at what we might be asked to do that we couldn’t do it better if we were easily entreated.

 

Sometimes we may also think that if we have been listening for awhile we have received all the messages God could possibly send us; that we don’t need any more direction from God. We think that whatever we got during our college years is all we will ever need; or that whatever the Lord told us three callings ago is good for the calling we currently have; or the inspiration we had for the people we home or visit taught five years ago is good for the ones we visit today. I testify from personal experience that there will never, ever, ever be a time when we will not need current, up-to-the-minute revelation in our lives. 

 

If you feel challenged. If you have been disappointed. If you are struggling with any burden large or small. If you are not happy in your relationships. If you are unsure about the future. If you have deep and troubling questions. If you worry that because divorce is frequent marriage should be avoided. If you are concerned about whether you have a role to play in the Lord’s kingdom, I promise you that the answers will come as you put yourself in the position of being easily entreated. 

 

In Helaman 6:36 we read that “the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words.” Elder Michael T. Ringwood said, “I [have come] to realize this easiness and willingness to believe in the word of God comes from a softness of heart. It comes from having a heart that is sensitive to the Holy Ghost. It comes from having a heart that can love. It comes from having a heart that will make and keep sacred covenants. It comes from a soft heart that can feel the power of the Atonement of Christ….An easiness and willingness to believe the word of God will come from repentance and obedience.”7

 

Being easily entreated also allows us to understand things as they really are and as they really will be. Last year the marvelous book, Daughters in My Kingdom, was sent to all the sisters in the Church. It teaches the women in the Church – and the men if they will read it – how our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, feel about them. It has come, under the direction of the First Presidency, through an official calling by the Prophet to Sister Susan W. Tanner, and under the guidance of the General Relief Society Presidency. It is a testament to the important role women play, alongside faithful priesthood holders, in the work of Salvation.

 

I have felt the Spirit bear witness to me of its timeless truths. One of those truths is the relationship between men and women in the kingdom. Because of Daughters in My Kingdom I have a better understanding of who my sisters are. But, I also have a better understanding of my brothers as well. I have had the spiritual assurance that God loves his daughters and his sons equally. I have come to know that they each have a great work to do in the kingdom. And I have come to understand that if Satan can make us think less of each other, to have disrespectful thoughts about each other, to believe that the relationships between women and men are defined by portrayals on soap operas and sit-coms or the lyrics of some popular music, he will have won a major portion of the battle for the souls of men and women. And I promise you that if you will be easily entreated by the Holy Ghost, he will teach you the truth about the way we should treat each other, mutual disciples of Jesus Christ, with respect, honor, and kindness.

 

Some time after the death of Joseph Smith, he appeared to President Brigham Young and shared this important counsel: “Tell the people to be humble and faithful and [be] sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits. It will whisper peace and joy to their souls, and it will take malice, hatred, envying, strife, and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness, and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right.”8

 

I testify of the power of the atonement. I testify of God’s love for us and his supernal gift of the Holy Ghost to us. I pray that we might develop the capacity to be easily entreated, that the Holy Ghost will be our constant guide and companion, that we might be more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. In his Holy name, Amen.

 


1 Alma 7:23

2 2 Nephi 31:13

3 Mosiah 3:19

4 Quote from Sarah Rich from p. 30 in Daughters in My Kingdom

5 Alma 33

6 Quote from President Benson, General Conference April 1989

7 Quote from Elder Ringwood from General Conference October 2009

8 Teachings: Joseph Smith, p. 98