Our Changing World

Elder L. Tom Perry

 

Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional

January 24, 2006


 

As we have concluded the year 2005, I have marveled at the response of the members of the Church to heed the voice of the prophet as he challenged each of us to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. Remarkable stories are coming in from all over the world of a renewal of interest in this great book and testimony after testimony of the truthfulness of the doctrines contained therein. The evidence is so profoundly clear that if we heed the words of our leaders, wonderful things happen in our lives. Great lessons are to be learned from this experience.

 

I completed reading the Book of Mormon just before Thanksgiving. Then I started over again. I find that each time I immerse myself in reading this witness of our Lord and Savior, the doctrines of the kingdom increase in clarity, thus my understanding increases. I have also made a remarkable discovery. When I make a plan to accomplish a reading assignment by a certain period of time, I am much more faithful in seeing that I stay on the schedule. Since starting over the second time, I am struggling to develop a more consistent pattern of again reading the Book of Mormon. I must conclude we are more successful in our efforts if we set goals in what we desire to accomplish.

 

As I read this glorious book, two phrases seemed to be impressed upon my mind, that were repeated over and over again. The first is “and it came to pass” and the second is “thus we see that.” The phrase “and it came to pass” appeared in 1st Nephi chapter 1, verse 4, right at the beginning of the Book of Mormon and it reads:

 

For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.

 

Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.

 

And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly.

 

And it came to pass that he returned to his own house at Jerusalem; and he cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the Spirit and the things which he had seen.

 

And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.

 

And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day.

 

Further, we read in verses 18-19:

 

Therefore, I would that ye should know, that after the Lord had shown so many marvelous things unto my father, Lehi, yea, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, behold he went forth among the people, and began to prophesy and to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard.

 

And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them; for he truly testified of their wickedness and their abominations; and he testified that the things which he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.

 

Lehi was able to see in this glorious vision the beginning of time until the Lord declares the end of man’s mortal experiences on earth. It will come to pass just as the Lord has directed. Lehi was able to see that the Lord has this plan for His children and when they understand and respond to the plan, they will be blessed. When they turn away from it, they will find themselves suffering the judgments of God, being subjected to the miseries and trials of the world.

 

This glorious plan included the Lord’s mortal experience, when He came to Earth to atone for the sins of all mankind. After the death of the Savior, His apostles went forth throughout many lands to declare the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thousands were converted to the Christian movement. The travel of those early leaders was hard and difficult. Journeys were long and tiresome. Paul traveled extensively by ship, to preach and teach the gospel.

 

Reading from the book of Acts, chapter 20, verse 16:

 

For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.

 

While teaching them, he had to give them warning, he said:

 

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

 

Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

 

And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.

 

And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him,

 

Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship (Acts 20:29-30; 36-38).

 

Without direction from a central church leadership, the Christian teachings soon became mixed and polluted with pagan beliefs. As had been predicted, the Church fell into a general apostasy.

 

Two essential ingredients were missing during this period of apostasy. First, the holy priesthood, through which the Lord would reveal His will through those chosen to carry on His great work, was lost. The second was the lack of the scriptures being available to the people in order that they could gain an understanding of the doctrines of the Kingdom. The teaching was left to a few priests who possessed the biblical writings and guarded them jealously. Keeping them from the common people was a means of exercising power over them.

 

Just as Paul and other prophets had declared there would be a falling away before a glorious restoration would occur. The reestablishment of the gospel of Jesus Christ on the Earth in the last days with all of its powers, ordinances, doctrines, offices and all things as they had existed in former ages would also occur. The book of Acts describes it as a restoration of all things.

 

And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:

 

Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:20-21).

 

To begin the preparation for the restitution of all things, it was necessary to have the scriptures available for the people. Johann Gutenberg was inspired to invent a multiple-type press making it possible to print larger volumes of material. The first product of his press was the Holy Bible. It required seven to eight years to print the first copy. Now the printed word started to be available to mankind.

 

The Lord, knowing full well that the restoration would take place in an English-speaking country, inspired men such as William Tyndale, an Oxford scholar trained in Latin, Hebrew and Greek, to see the need to make an English translation of the Bible. Tyndale’s translation came directly from the Hebrew and Greek texts. When opposition to his work became too extreme in England, he fled to Germany. There he produced bibles and literally smuggled them back to England into the peoples’ hands. What was the result of his great contribution? He was imprisoned, suffering mentally and physically for eighteen months until he was taken from his cell, tied to a stake, strangled and then burned. His final words were “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”

 

A breakthrough had occurred. Slowly, the scriptures were now reaching the common people. With the people having their minds largely expanded in a knowledge of the holy scriptures, a great reformation was occurring to correct the problems that had crept into the Church during the period of the apostasy. The Lord, in His divine plan, was preparing the world with conditions which would make it possible for the restoration of the gospel. This time it would be permanent and would endure even to the end.

 

And it came to pass on the 23rd day of December 1805, a prophet was born, by the name of Joseph Smith, who would be the instrument in the Lord’s hands to bring forth this glorious restoration.

 

With the birth of the Prophet, it was just as if the Lord illuminated the minds of mankind to make it possible that technology and communications would be such that the gospel could be spread throughout the earth.

 

Beginning with the 1800’s, the Lord was inspiring the minds of mankind to create new ways to manufacture paper. The invention of the cylinder press made it possible for the printed word to be available. The discovery of electricity exploded the minds of men to make it possible to communicate by telephones, radios, TVs, computers, internet, satellites, etc. The steam, internal combustion and jet engines made travel convenient for men to travel to all corners of the earth. The world was being readied for the restoration of the gospel.

 

President Spencer W. Kimball said in the film, “Go Ye Into All The World,” produced in 1977, “the Lord will place in our hands inventions which will almost be impossible for us to comprehend and who can say what other miracles the Lord has prepared for us.”

 

We are flooded with ways to communicate and teach the gospel of our Lord and Savior. Today, it was reported to me that the Wall Street Journal reported some facts on how rapidly technology is advancing. The ability to do computations doubles every eighteen months, storage memory devices double every twelve months, and communication doubles every nine months.

 

And it came to pass, starting in the 1830’s, that the Lord opened the heavens and restored the fullness of the gospel by establishing the Church of Jesus Christ again on the Earth. His hand is in all things, His work is well planned and is directed to bring about the restoration of all things in this great era in which we live. The Church and technology have progressed to the point where worldwide expansion can continue to take place. It is now possible to communicate with every stake president in the Church through the internet. The satellite is connected to almost every stake center throughout the world. We can see that there is no limit to the progress we should be making in spreading the gospel to all the world. The Lord in His divine plan has made it possible for this work to go forward. It will come to pass that it will continue to expand and reach all corners of the Earth before He declares the time of the end of man’s mortal experience on the Earth.

 

We know what can occur through following that plan and living righteous lives, for then we will receive the blessings of heaven. If we turn from them, the scriptures are abundantly clear on what will happen. Only misery and heartache can await as the result of their transgressions.

 

The Savior once said, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19). From the teachings of the Savior, we have adopted the saying in the Church to be “in the world,” but not “of the world.” The phrase has two distinct parts, the first being “in” and the second “not of.” Too often, I think we use them together and think of them as justification to remain somewhat detached, somewhat removed from the world. I would like to separate this phrase today and give emphasis only on the part being in the world.

 

It is far better to view the two parts separately as equally important admonitions. Of course, we must stay free from the sins of materialism in the world around us. But it is equally important that we live in the world. It is in the world that we have the privilege of coming to our mortal experience. It is in the world that we are to be tested and tried. It is in the world that we have the opportunity to partake of the sacred saving ordinances which will measurably determine our post-mortal life. It is in the world that we must be saved. It is in the world that Christ must come again. We will play no part in saving the world in preparing for its destiny or in making it a better place to live if we refuse to take part and make our contribution to it while we so live here. Prophets in this day have encouraged us to be mindful of our obligation while we are here in the world. I would like to quote from just two of them.

 

First from President Heber J. Grant:

 

What a wonderful power we shall have with the Lord in furthering His mighty purpose on earth if we keep His commandments. Our influence will be not only with the world but with those we serve. Their strength and their power will be multiplied if we shall succeed in having them feel the necessity of observing the commandments of the Lord, particularly the Word of Wisdom and the principles of clean and righteous life.

 

And it is not out of place to predict that the people of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will continue to thrive and prosper, spiritually and temporally, as long as they keep the commandments of God and walk in the way which he shall point out through his inspired servants holding the holy Priesthood. They are a people whose faith, teachings, thrift, and temporal and spiritual progress will be a blessing and an advantage to the whole nation (Gospel Standards, Improvement Era, 1942, p. 101).

 

From President David O. McKay, who said:

 

The responsibility of showing to the world that the gospel of Jesus Christ will solve its problems rests upon the men who make the claim, who believe that every world problem may be solved by obedience to the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The solution to the world’s greatest problems are here in the Church of Jesus Christ. Ample provision is made not only for the needs of individuals but also for the nations and groups of nations. I grant that we may seem to be arrogating to ourselves superior wisdom, but we are not. It is simply the application of God’s plan to the world problems. You who hold the priesthood have greater responsibility today, now that you live in this creative moment in the world's history, than ever the Church has had before. I repeat it. If we make the claim to hold the truth, it is obligatory upon every Latter-day Saint so to live, that when the people of the world come, in answer to the call, to test the fruit of the tree, they will find it wholesome and good.

 

The Lord help us to be able to prove to the world that we possess just what the world today is longing for, and when they see it, may they know, as you know, as I know, that the everlasting gospel is a light to the world (Improvement Era, 1953, p. 5).

 

I stand before a group today that is having one of the greatest opportunities ever given to the children of men. You have been allowed to come to Earth when there is more truth in existence than during any other generation in the history of time. Think of the sacrifice of the parent, the widow, the worker, and the Church in making a great investment in you, providing you with the facilities and instructors to give you a good education. What kind of return are they to receive on this investment?

 

Is it an investment in time just for fun and games? Or do you show a real appreciation for the sacrifice that is being made for you to take advantage of this opportunity to grow in knowledge. You will probably never have a better opportunity to expose your minds to a variety of truth than you will during these next years as you pursue your education.

 

What will you do with this parade of information? Will it really become a part of you or is it just a process of cramming in a session before an examination to get a passing grade. Are you building a reserve of knowledge needed for your total life experience? Have you developed a storage system to retain in an orderly fashion the information that will be of value to you in your exciting life ahead? If not, your education will benefit you only in a small measure in relationship to the great potential available for you here in this special time of your life.

 

There is a real need in the world for individuals who have the determination to stretch their minds, to be of service in bringing about solutions to the many problems that face the world. Learn to take advantage of the opportunities you are given to grow in knowledge and understanding and be prepared mentally to serve in this vastly changing world that is just out there before you.

 

So we begin another year. The pages of history of 2006 are white and unrecorded before us. What will history record of this new year concerning your contribution to mankind? Will the pages of history almost completely omit your name and the fact that you were in the world because you failed to make a contribution to your fellow man this year? Will there arise from this body those who are prepared physically, who understand the Lord’s law of health, who have prepared themselves well so that they will be an example to all they come in contact with? Or will we prepare mentally? Will we be noticed for our contributions, in the way we study, the knowledge we acquire, the wisdom that is ours? Emotionally are we prepared to serve, to give ourselves to others, to help lift a soul, to touch a life, to increase the happiness of another one of our Father in Heaven’s children? Spiritually, will we be so strong in our faith, that we will be noticed because of that strength? Will we demonstrate by the life that we live that we believe in Him and follow His laws? Will we be prepared for service in the Church and in the world?

 

Barbara and I had the privilege of spending last year in the Europe Central Area of the Church. We were pleased to see the great vitality and energy of the young single adults when church service opportunities were made available to them. How rapidly they brought in new converts, activated the inactive and, most pleasing, we were able to see temple marriages occurring. This was being accomplished in spite of the trends in Europe to the contrary.

 

We witnessed the de-Christianization of Europe. Europe is beginning the 21st century in a new and uncharted phase of history. People of these great nations are embracing secularization. Most secularized value systems reason that the human being has total autonomy. An individual does not have to give an accounting to anything or anyone except himself and, to a certain extent, to the society in which he lives. Secularization becomes a force for bringing about false ideas and the breaking down of old traditions that have held civilizations together.

 

This secular lifestyle has a spiritual and moral price. It has brought with it a curse of extreme worldliness and selfishness, the decline of public and private morality, and the defiance of authority, favoring individual freedom over responsibility to society, community and the world. Another result is a declining birthrate to below replacement levels. Filling the gap of these reduced numbers will be those of strong non-Christian faiths. It is forecast that the native German population will drop from 85 million to 25 million by the turn of the next century.

 

My concern is that we are following the same pattern towards secularization. We have embraced and committed ourselves to the gospel of Jesus Christ which is completely contrary to Satan’s plan. He is doing all he can to destroy families. Throughout your life, you must set an example to safeguard the principles and doctrines which will bring the blessings of the Lord.

 

And it came to pass that we have been blessed with the revealed doctrines from heaven, given to us through holy prophets, which bring to mankind the promise of joy in this life and eternal happiness in the eternities ahead.

 

Thus we see that being obedient to the will of the Lord brings the blessings of heaven.

 

Thus we see that disobedience to the will of the Lord literally brings the destruction of the people.

 

The Savior in His great Sermon on the Mount declared:

 

            Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

 

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

 

Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).

 

In this troubled world ever seeking to find its way in so many conflicting opinions, let us turn up the candle power on our own individual lights. Our lives must be a demonstration of our good works. To glorify is to elevate to celestial glory. We have been blessed with the knowledge which leads to His eternal Kingdom. May we ever be engaged in using our talents in keeping the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ ever marking the path which leads to life eternal, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

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