"ARISE AND SHINE FORTH"
(Doctrine and Covenants 115:5)
Brigham Young University-Idaho Education Week Devotional
June 28, 2003
Elder David A. Bednar
Good morning and welcome to our BYU-Idaho Education Week. I trust you have been and will yet be edified and enriched by your experience on our campus this week. I earnestly invite the Holy Ghost to be with me and with you now as together we learn about fundamental and eternal truths.
The theme for our Education Week this year is verse five of section 115 in the Doctrine and Covenants:
Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations;
Brothers and sisters, I have been studying and thinking and pondering about this scripture for many weeks. My effort to understand this verse and its context and its implications has been a rich spiritual experience, and I believe I have been blessed to find a striking consistency among and an overarching pattern in the major elements of this and many other scriptures. In particular I want to draw our attention to the phrase "Arise and shine forth, . . . ."
I now want to briefly review with you nine scriptures, including the scriptural theme for our Education Week. The central and core message of each of these nine scriptures essentially is the same, although the language and imagery vary. As I now read each verse, please listen carefully and see if you can discover the consistency I just described and identify the similarities and major theme among the verses.
And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind;
and thy neighbour as thyself.
. . . and when thou art converted,
strengthen thy brethren.
. . . as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy;
. . . I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also . . .
1 Nephi 8:12
Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, . . .
Enos 5, 9
And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil,
but to do good continually.
Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men; yea, verily I say: Hearken ye people from afar; and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together.
And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days.
D&C 1:1, 4
. . . Keep my commandments,
and seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion.
. . . first seek to obtain my word,
and then shall your tongue be loosed . . .
and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations; . . .
Brothers and sisters, these scriptures teach us valuable lessons about the meaning of the phrase "Arise and shine forth." Let me suggest that the admonition to ARISE is an invitation to ongoing and ever-deeper personal conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice how the language in the left-hand column focuses upon loving and obeying God, obtaining the word of God, hearkening and listening to the voice of God, and experiencing the mighty change of heart and becoming converted.
The challenge to SHINE FORTH is an invitation to stand as a light in a darkened world, to represent the Light of Life to those who have lost their way (Alma 5:14; 3 Nephi 12:14). In doing so, we support and serve others and assist in establishing and bringing forth the cause of Zion. Note how the language in the middle column focuses upon loving and strengthening neighbors, increasing our concern for the well-being of others, and opening our mouths to share with others the good news of the gospel.
The sequence of first arising and then shining forth-of personal conversion and service to others-is significant and unmistakable in each of the verses we just reviewed. We must experience the love of God in our own lives before we can fully love and serve our neighbors. When we have enjoyed that supernal and sanctifying influence the scriptures call the "pure love of Christ" (Moroni 7:47), we are empowered to love and lift and liberate others. We must personally be converted before we can strengthen our brethren and sisters. We must obtain the word of God before our tongues can be loosed to appropriately teach and bear testimony. And each of us must first arise before we can shine forth. To ARISE is to come alive, to awaken to things of righteousness through individual conversion and preparation-all of which precedes making a distinctive difference in the lives of others. We SHINE FORTH after arising and as we reflect and emulate the Light of the world, as we serve and teach and strengthen and warn those around us. Interestingly, we are to "shine forth" with the word forth suggesting a sense of purposive direction. We are not merely to shine; we are to "shine forth."
This same pattern of personal conversion and service to others frequently was emphasized in the teachings of President Harold B. Lee.
I read again and again the experience of Peter and John, as they went through the gate beautiful on the way to the temple. Here was one who had never walked, impotent from his birth, begging alms of all who approached the gate. And as Peter and John approached, he held out his hand expectantly, asking for alms. Peter, speaking for this pair of missionaries-church authorities-said, "Look on us." And, of course, that heightened his expectation. Then Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." (Acts 3:4, 6)
Now in my mind's eye I can picture this man and what was in his mind. "Doesn't this man know that I have never walked? He commands me to walk." But the biblical record doesn't end there. Peter just didn't content himself by commanding the man to walk, but he "took him by the right hand, and lifted him up . .. ." (Acts 3:7)
Will you see that picture now of that noble soul, that chiefest of the apostles, perhaps with his arms around the shoulders of this man, and saying, "Now, my good man, have courage. I will take a few steps with you. Let's walk together, and I assure you that you can walk, because you have received a blessing by the power and authority that God has given us as men, his servants." Then the man leaped with joy.
You cannot lift another soul until you are standing on higher ground than he is. You must be sure, if you would rescue the man, that you yourself are setting the example of what you would have him be. You cannot light a fire in another soul unless it is burning in your own soul. (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye In Holy Places, p. 186, emphasis added)
What are the implications for you and for me of this frequently emphasized pattern of personal conversion and service to others-of arising and then shining forth? Let me suggest just two.
Implication #1 - Families as the Arena for Arising
The most appropriate place or arena wherein we can "arise" is in our families. The Proclamation on the Family explains that:
The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.
Brothers and sisters, please consider with me the centrality of the family to the Father's plan. I think we would all agree that the family can and should be the most natural and the most effective setting for learning and applying gospel doctrine and principles, for becoming converted, and for, as we have been discussing this morning, arising. And as we just reviewed in the Proclamation, the family is ordained of God, marriage is essential to the Father's plan, children are entitled to birth and nurturing by parents who honor covenants and commitments, and happiness in family life is predicated upon gospel doctrine and correct principles.
I would simply pose this one question: Why? Why is the family central to the plan? Why are the family and the home the principal places for arising? Let me suggest a few thoughts that have come to my mind as I have reflected on these questions.
A major reason the family is so important to the plan is really quite straightforward: it is the only place where we cannot hide from who we really are as we strive to become what we are destined to become. In essence, a family is the mirror through which we become aware of imperfections and flaws we may not be able or want to acknowledge. No one knows us better than the members of our family. Thus, the family is the ultimate laboratory in mortality for the improving and perfecting of God's children.
Now, let us ". . . liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning" (1 Nephi 19:23). Please notice the importance of a gospel foundation and context for recognizing and overcoming weakness, as described in verses 24-28 of section 1 in the Doctrine and Covenants:
Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.
And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.
As we liken these verses unto ourselves and our families in this latter day, we clearly recognize that the family is the supernal setting wherein our errors might be made known, where we may be instructed, where we may be chastened unto repentance, and where the humble may be blessed from on high.
Several years ago when I was a business professor at the University of Arkansas, I received a phone call from Elder Henry B. Eyring. During the conversation he asked me this question: "Elder Bednar, we are in the process of identifying a new president for Ricks College. Would you be interested in being considered?" I said, "I would be delighted to learn about the position and be considered." He then said, "Good. You and your wife need to be in Salt Lake City tomorrow." That evening at dinner I reviewed the unexpected events of the day with our 15‑year‑old son and said, "Jeffrey, I received a call from Elder Eyring today. Mom and I will be traveling to Salt Lake City tomorrow to be interviewed about the possibility of becoming the president of Ricks College." He looked at me between bites of food and without any hesitation said, "Dad, there have to be a lot of guys in the Church better qualified for that job than you!"
Now what does this experience illustrate about the central role of the family and our homes in the plan of salvation? Truth is knowledge of things as they really were, as they really are, and as they really will be ( 93:24; Jacob 4:13). Sometimes we learn the poignant truth about what we really do and who we really are and what we really are like in the family, and we cannot hide from the truths that we do not want to see and about which we do not want to be reminded. Sometimes such truth can be very disturbing and distressing. Sometimes we do not deal very well with such truth. But in our family we cannot avoid the reminders to repent and to improve and to serve. Further, through family interactions we learn to love and value people who are not perfect-people who make mistakes, people whose growth toward spiritual wholeness is still under way. And the tender relationships and feelings in the family inspire and encourage us to be better than we would ordinarily be. Consequently, confronting truths about ourselves in a supportive family setting nurtures the process of continuing individual repentance and progress and ongoing conversion. So why is a family and our home the most natural and most effective arena for arising? Because in our families we find the truth about ourselves that we can find in no other place.
The Savior emphatically emphasized the home as a special setting for the learning of gospel doctrine and principles. Please turn to 3 Nephi, chapter 17. You will recall that in chapter 17 the Savior was teaching the people in the Land of Bountiful near the temple. Beginning in verse 1:
Behold, now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked round about again on the multitude, and he said unto them: Behold, my time is at hand.
I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time.
Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again. (3 Nephi 17:1-3, emphasis added)
What an instructive formula: (1) go to your home, (2) ponder upon the things that have been said, (3) ask of the Father in Christ's name that you will understand, and (4) prepare your mind for additional instruction. Even though the most influential and powerful and effective teacher who ever lived was in their midst and instructing these people, yet He, Jesus Christ, recognized that true understanding would come in the home. I find it powerful and significant that Christ emphasized the setting of the home as the place for understanding the doctrines of the gospel.
I hope we all have noticed the repeated use of and emphasis upon the concept of understanding in the scriptures we have reviewed thus far. The word understanding is commonly described in the scriptures in relation to the heart. For example,
Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise. (Mosiah 12:27, emphasis added)
And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed. (3 Nephi 19:33, emphasis added)
I find it most interesting in these verses that understanding is linked, first and foremost, to the heart. Note that we are not explicitly counseled to apply our minds to understanding. Obviously, we must use our minds and our rational capacity to obtain and evaluate information and to reach appropriate conclusions and judgments. But perhaps the scriptures are suggesting to us that reason and "the arm of the flesh" ( 1:19) are not sufficient to produce true understanding. Thus, understanding, as the word is used in the scriptures, does not refer solely or even primarily to intellectual or cognitive comprehension. Rather, understanding occurs when what we know in our mind is confirmed as true in our hearts by the witness of the Holy Ghost. The spiritual gift of revelation most typically operates as thoughts and feelings put into our hearts by the Holy Ghost ( 100:5-8; 8:2). And as testimony and conviction move from our heads to our hearts, we no longer just have knowledge or information-but we begin to understand and experience the mighty change of heart. We are arising. Understanding, then, is a revealed outcome and a spiritual gift. And, as the Savior taught the Nephites, in the family and in our home we are most receptive to teaching and revelation and witnessing by the Holy Ghost.
Now please turn to section 68 in the Doctrine and Covenants. In these verses, please pay particular attention to the word understand.
And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.
For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized. (68:25-26, emphasis added)
These verses do not simply recommend or suggest that we teach our children. Rather, they outline a law unto the inhabitants of Zion-that we must teach our children to understand. Understanding is a spiritual outcome; it is a result. Simply engaging in the activity of teaching is not the responsibility we have been assigned. Rather, the charge is to teach children to understand.
I believe, brothers and sisters, that verses 25-26 in section 68 are an admonition for parents to create a home that is a house of learning wherein the Holy Ghost can reside and teach. In such a home the Holy Ghost brings conviction to the heart and teaches both children and parents to understand. Ultimately, it is not parents who do the teaching. The parents have important and vital roles to play; they must create an appropriate spiritual environment and setting, they must invite the Spirit, and they must facilitate and aid spiritual learning by children. But the parents cannot, in and of themselves, effect the kind of spiritual understanding described in the scriptures and about which we have been talking. The teacher is the Holy Ghost. It is teaching by and the witness of the Spirit that produces understanding.
These scriptures point to the family as a powerful place for teaching by the Holy Ghost. Within a Christ-centered family, love, worthiness, obedience, trust, and confidence invite the Holy Ghost. I believe these scriptures underscore the importance of the family in the Father's eternal plan and of striving to establish a family and home wherein the Holy Ghost can be the definitive teacher. And, as parents in Zion, we have the responsibility to establish such a house of learning-a place wherein we can arise and be converted and truly shine forth and serve others.
Implication #2 - The Work of Proclaiming the Gospel As Shining Forth
Let me now quickly emphasize a second implication of this frequently emphasized scriptural pattern of personal conversion and service to others.
The natural result of arising-of an ever-deepening conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ-is a spiritually instinctive and intuitive desire to share with others that which we know to be true and which has changed our hearts in such important ways. Brothers and sisters, I am not simply talking about missionary work. I am talking about the work of proclaiming the gospel that results from and grows out of continuing conversion to the Savior. Men and women pressing forward on the pathway of personal and ongoing conversion do not need to be goaded, prodded, or pushed to participate in the work of proclaiming the gospel. One may feel inadequate and may sense his or her limitations as a messenger of the restored gospel; but the more converted we become the less fear and hesitation we feel, the less attention we pay to ourselves, and the more reliant we become upon the Lord and His Spirit. Such men and women are eager and seek for opportunities to open their mouths (33:7-10). Stated another way, fear or reluctance to open our mouths may be the most telling indicator of both our direction and pace on the pathway of personal and continuing conversion.
The scriptural account of Andrew's first encounter with, belief in, and following of the Savior illustrates in a powerful way the importance of "shining forth." Andrew was the brother of Peter. In John 1:35-42 we read:
Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.
One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
And he brought him to Jesus. . . . (emphasis added)
Brothers and sisters, consider this powerful story about Andrew finding and then bringing his brother to Christ as background for the Master's subsequent instruction to Peter almost three years later: When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren (Luke 22:32).
Just as Andrew found and brought his brother Peter to Jesus, so you and I have the responsibility to arise and to shine forth-to do all within our power to come unto Christ, to be changed and renewed, and to bring to Jesus our families and our brothers and sisters and our friends and colleagues. Such desire and action are the natural consequences of ongoing personal conversion-of truly arising and then shining forth.
Brothers and sisters, we arise as we love God, as we seek to obtain His word, as we keep His commandments and honor covenants, as we hearken and listen to Him and to His anointed servants, and as we become more fully converted to Christ and experience the mighty change of heart and have no more disposition to do evil.
We shine forth as we do good continually, as we feel an increasing desire for the welfare of our brothers and sisters, as we strive to strengthen our brethren and sisters, as we seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion, and as our tongues are loosed and we raise the voice of warning.
The family is the divinely appointed arena in which we most appropriately and effectively begin to arise. The work of proclaiming the gospel is a prime example of shining forth.
This day may each of us resolve to both arise and to shine forth. May our ongoing conversion be reflected in our conversations and in our countenances and in our conduct-both in our families and in our homes and with our friends and colleagues and associates.
I testify and witness that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ. I also testify that the fulness of the gospel has been restored to the earth in these latter days. The morning breaks, the shadows are fleeing, and each of us has a responsibility to arise and shine forth. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.