Strengthen Faith as You Seek Knowledge

Elder Quentin L. Cook

 

Brigham Young UniversityIdaho Devotional

March 14, 2006

 


As I have prayerfully considered what I might share with you wonderful talented students, I have titled my remarks, “Strengthen FAITH as you seek KNOWLEDGE.”

 

In the doctrines of the Church, faith and the quest for knowledge are not inconsistent, they are compatible and complimentary. When I speak of faith, I am speaking of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members have a doctrinal commitment to education. Studies have indicated that over 50% of Latter-day Saint men and 40% of Latter-day Saint women have completed four or more years of college. This is among the highest of all religions. In addition, “Mormons with college experience have attendance rates notably higher than any other group” (Stan L. Albrecht and Tim B. Heaton, “Secularization, Higher Education, and Religiosity,” LDS Social Life Social Research on the LDS Church and its Members, edited by James T. Duke, pgs 302 and 304).

 

Faith and knowledge require equal effort and commitment. We cannot expect to have faith at the center of our lives if all of our efforts are expended on knowledge, making money, sports, hobbies, or other pursuits.

 

Elder LeGrand Richards, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, used to tell the story of a man living in the southern part of the United States who sold rabbit pies. He had a significant business and produced a large number of pies. At some point people became suspicious that the pies included horse meat. A charge was made that he was engaged in false advertising. He initially denied that the pies contained horse meat, but upon questioning admitted that “yes there was a little horse meat.” Upon further interrogation he finally acknowledged that the pies were half horse and half rabbit. When asked what he meant by half horse and half rabbit, he said one horse and one rabbit.

 

Some of us want faith to be at the center of our lives, but it does not get our attention, it is the rabbit portion of the pie.

 

In the yearend double edition of The Economist (“Economics Focus,” The Economist, Dec. 24, 2005, pp 100-01), the respected British newspaper magazine, there was a very interesting economic analysis of attendance at several churches. The economic study and analysis by Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, claims, according to the article that, “. . . regular religious participation leads to better education, higher income and a lower chance of divorce. His results . . . imply that doubling church attendance raises someone’s income by almost 10%.”

 

On the next page there was an equally interesting advertisement for a teaching course entitled, “Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition.” The advertisement in The Economist was for an 84 lecture, 12 professor audio or video tour of more than 60 of history’s greatest minds, including Galileo, Hegel, Bacon, Newton, Plato, and Locke. But what interested me was the lead-in to the offer which stated:

 

Ever since the dawn of civilization, certain crucial questions have preoccupied thoughtful people: What is the purpose of life? What is the best kind of life? Who or what is God? How can we tell truth from falsehood? What is the essence of justice? . . . Can these questions even be answered? (“Economics Focus,” The Economist, Dec. 24, 2005, pp 100-01).

 

In reviewing these two interesting items in The Economist, I was pleased that attendance at any church resulted in temporal blessings, but I was not surprised that answers to inherently religious questions were being sought primarily as intellectual inquiries.

 

Let me share with you five principles that I believe are essential as you place faith in the Lord Jesus Christ at the center of your lives as you seek diligently for knowledge.

 

First , understand that there is truly opposition in all things. The choices you make are critical.

Many years ago I did a little legal work in connection with the Charlie Brown Christmas Special on TV and became a fan of Charles Schulz and his newspaper comic strip, Peanuts. One of my favorite comic strips involved Linus in a snowball fight with Lucy. As I remember it:

 

Linus has a snowball in his hand and he is going to hit Lucy with the snowball. Lucy says to Linus, “. . . you have two choices: If you hit me with that snowball, I am going to grind you into the snow. If you don’t hit me with that snowball, I will let you live.”

 

Linus dejectedly throws the snowball to the ground and says, “Everyone has choices but me.”

 

Choice is a very loaded word. Most of you are at the stage of life where you have numerous options for some of the most important choices you will ever make:

 

•How will you live your life?

•Will you serve a mission?

•Who will you marry?

•Will you be married in the temple?

•Will you get additional education or training? Where?

•What kind of employment will you seek?

 

Many of these decisions or choices will need to be made soon – most over the next few years. The choices you will make are the key to your future and your happiness. Remember, you are the sum total of every decision you make.

 

We live at a time when almost every choice is debated and dissected. Any righteous proposal or principle is almost immediately opposed by many.

 

The Prophet Lehi near the end of his life taught, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). He continues later:

 

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself (2 Nephi 2:27).

 

Given the war in heaven over the Plan of Salvation, it is not surprising that the religious principles that have been taught in this, the last dispensation, are attacked with malignant ferocity.

 

But lest we be discouraged, let us remember the outcome of the war in heaven and the outcome that we know will come to fruition with the second coming of Christ.

 

President Gordon B. Hinckley, our Prophet and president, has indicated that the tough decisions today involve individual behavior, and these decisions can be made and followed. But don’t be distracted by rationalization or diversions.

 

Many years ago Robert K. Thomas, who for several years was Academic Vice President at Brigham Young University, told of a moving poem by John Holmes. The poem describes an old, deaf New England shipbuilder teaching Holmes in his youth about building a ship. Holmes comes to an understanding with the force of a voice shouting in his ear that, no matter how you build it, “your ship has to float: you can’t explain to the ocean.”

 

A great enemy of good choices is rationalization. Many argue that we are not accountable for our choices.

 

Because of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ we know that we are accountable for our choices (Doctrine and Covenants 72:3) and we also know to whom we must account (2 Nephi 9:41).

 

Do not suppose that rationalizations about bad choices will be any more effective than trying to explain to the ocean why the ship was built in such a way that it could not float.

 

We need to make good choices each day and not rationalize or be diverted. Sometimes the choices that are important are quite simple.

 

As I have reflected back to when I was your age, I remember being a new missionary serving in England. My companion and I had the opportunity to go to the temple. We arrived late in the evening. Early the next morning after study and prayer, we crossed the temple grounds. The temple president, Selwyn Boyer, was a very dignified man with white hair. He had come out of the temple and was walking towards us. He looked at us and seeing our missionary badges pointed his finger at us and said: “Matthew 5:48, do you know that scripture?” My senior companion stated, “Be ye therefore perfect even as your father which is in heaven is perfect.” President Boyer said, “That is correct.” He then said, “Elders, are you living that commandment?” We started to stammer; we knew we were not perfect! He started to help us. He asked questions starting three days earlier. He asked when we went to bed, when we got up, did we have individual and companion scripture study, did we go out proselyting on time? He then said, “I am sure you are not perfect, but you have made perfect choices for the last three days and that means you are moving in the right direction.” He then left us thinking about the importance of the questions he had asked.

 

My mission president, Elder Marion D. Hanks, taught me that it is the small decisions or choices day by day that are important. He introduced me to some wonderful advice by Harry Emerson Fosdick:

 

Ah, my soul, look to the road you are walking on! He who picks up one end of a stick picks up the other. He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determines the end.

 

I have found Fosdick’s counsel to be true, and it has been most helpful to me throughout my life.

President Hinckley has made this promise to you:

 

Now, here you are on the threshold of your mature lives. You . . . worry about school. You worry about marriage. You worry about many things. I make you a promise that God will not forsake you if you will walk in His paths with the guidance of His commandments (Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth,” New Era, Jan. 2001, 4).

 

The great Prophet Lehi issued the cry about choice, that every righteous father and mother has for their sons and daughters, “And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit” (2 Nephi 2:28). I challenge you to understand that there is opposition in all things and that the choices you make are critical.

 

The second principle is strengthening your own testimony as a foundation for all of the choices you make.

The foundation for every important decision and choice you will make is your testimony of Jesus Christ and the restoration of His gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is an essential element of that testimony.

 

Last August President Hinckley challenged all of the members of the Church throughout the world to read, or reread, the Book of Mormon before the end of 2005. He made the following promise to all who completed the assignment:

 

Without reservation I promise you that if each of you will observe this simple program, regardless of how many times you previously may have read the Book of Mormon, there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God (Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Testimony Vibrant and True,” Ensign, August 2005, 3).

 

I hope you completed President Hinckley’s challenge.

 

Many of you, if not most, have a testimony. We each need a personal testimony. President Joseph F. Smith said, “One fault to be avoided by the Saints, young and old, is the tendency to live on borrowed light, . . . [and] to permit . . . the light within them to be reflected, rather than original” (Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era, vol. 8, pp 60-62, 1904-5).

 

Heber C. Kimball, who was a counselor to Brigham Young, said it this way:

 

The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand? . . . If you don’t have it, you will not stand; therefore seek for the testimony of Jesus and cleave to it, that when the trying time comes you may not stumble and fall (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, p 450).

 

It is interesting to me that Heber C. Kimball, of the First Presidency, gave this message in 1867 — 23 years after the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith. An entire generation had grown up after the death of Joseph. They had not heard Joseph’s personal testimony of the First Vision.

 

Through all of the trials of Kirtland, Missouri, and Nauvoo, Heber had remained faithful to Joseph and to his own testimony of the Savior which had sustained him.

 

The 76th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants refers to the three degrees of glory and compares the Celestial Glory to the sun. It then compares the Terrestrial Glory to the moon.

 

It is interesting that the sun has its own light but the moon is reflected light or “borrowed light.” Speaking of the Terrestrial Kingdom, verse 79 reads, “These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; . . .” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:79). We cannot obtain the Celestial Kingdom and live with God the Father on borrowed light, we need our own testimony of Jesus.

 

Be grateful if you have had goodly parents who have testimonies. However, you need your own testimony.

 

Not too long ago Sister Cook and I heard a man speak and bear his testimony. On the whole, it was wonderful. He told how it had been his goal to play his favorite sport until his 50th birthday. His wife had agreed with his goal if he met certain family responsibilities. It was interesting to see all of the sacrifices he was willing to make so he could play his favorite sport until he was 50. He had just turned 50 and was finally retiring from actually playing, but during his testimony, there was one sad note. He testified that he believed the Book of Mormon was true, but admitted he had never read it from cover to cover. Hopefully, with President Hinckley’s challenge he has now read it.

 

I realized the significance of a testimony of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and the Savior and how it affects your choices when I was 15 years old.

 

My brother, Joe, was 20 years old. It was during the Korean conflict and only one young man in each ward could go on a mission. The others had to be available to be drafted into the military. A young man in our ward had gone on a mission early in the year; my brother’s birthday was in September, so he didn’t think he would get the opportunity to serve a mission.

Our stake president called my brother in and told him that one of the wards had not used its allotment and he might be able to go. Missionaries were called at 20 years of age in those days and my brother had just filled out his application to apply to medical school. He was a good student. My father, who was not active in the church, had made financial preparations to help him with medical school and was disappointed when he learned of the conversation with the stake president. He counseled him not to go and suggested that he could do more good by going to medical school.

 

This was a big issue in our family. That night my brother and I talked about the choice. He was five years older so it was mainly his thinking. As we reasoned it out, we concluded: If Jesus Christ was a great man but not divine, if Joseph Smith was a wonderful teacher but not a prophet, or if the Book of Mormon had wonderful counsel but was not the Word of God, then dad was right – it would be better to go to medical school. But, if Jesus Christ is divine, if Joseph Smith is a prophet, and if the Book of Mormon is the Word of God – then it would be more important to accept the call and proclaim the gospel.

 

That night, more than ever before, I wanted to know the answers to these questions. I had always believed in the divinity of Jesus Christ. I believed in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, but I wanted confirmation from the Lord. That night, as I prayed, the Spirit bore witness to my soul of the Savior and the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. My brother received the same witness and made the choice to serve a mission. Incidentally, when my brother returned from his mission, he went to medical school. When I reached my 20th birthday, my father was happy to see me serve a mission.

 

Paul, Nephi, Alma, Joseph Smith, and others have seen angels – such manifestations are rare. The kind of spiritual impressions I experienced when I was 15 are more typical. The impressions made by the Holy Ghost are equally as important as manifestations.

 

President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “. . . the impressions on the soul that come from the Holy Ghost are far more significant than a vision. It is where Spirit speaks to spirit, and the imprint upon the soul is far more difficult to erase” (Joseph Fielding Smith, “Priesthood in Relation to History,” Seek Ye Earnestly, p 214).

 

I counsel you to strengthen your own testimony as a foundation for all of the choices you make.

 

The third principle is to seek knowledge diligently, wisely, and with humility.

The fact that you are here attending BYU–Idaho is evidence that you are making a good choice about knowledge.

 

Latter-day Saint doctrine is unique and unequivocal about the role of intelligence and the importance of education and knowledge. In Section 93 of our Doctrine and Covenants we are taught that:

 

1.Truth is independent – it “. . . is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:24).

2.“The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:36).

3.Exercising our agency to find light and truth is essential.

 

In the quest for both faith and knowledge, we also need to maintain humility. Those who have attained significant amounts of specialized knowledge sometimes lose perspective about what they don’t know. As “experts,” they elevate knowledge, particularly the knowledge in the area of their expertise to an importance that is not warranted. They become prideful and loose their humility.

 

In 2 Nephi 9:28 it reads, “O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God . . .”

 

Paul described it this way to Timothy, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).

 

One reason to be humble about knowledge is that much of it is subject to change. I recently had a conversation with my brother, Joe, who, as I indicated, is a medical doctor. He is 70 years old and is about to take the medical recertification exam in his area of expertise for the sixth time. In his specialty you are required to take the test every seven years; he has elected to take it every six years. He laughingly indicated to me that the questions are the same as those presented over 35 years ago, but the answers keep changing. In the exam, 35 years ago, a typical multiple choice question might be: What is the primary cause of a peptic ulcer?

 

The answer would have related to stress. Today the answer to the same question would be that it is caused by a certain kind of bacteria that can live and grow in the gastric tissue by the name of H. pylori. Thirty-five years ago the answer to the question: How do you treat ulcers? would have related to reducing stress because it produces excess acid; stop eating spicy foods and change your job, if necessary. Today the answer to how you treat ulcers would be a combination of medications, including antibiotics and antisecretory agents. As you can see, the questions have not changed, but many of the answers have. This is true in several fields of knowledge.

 

My friends in certain areas of engineering have said that the information one learns today will be obsolete within a few years. So maintaining a certain amount of humility about one’s field of expertise is important.

 

I remember when I was in my first year at Stanford Law School, one of the teachers told us that it was important to learn the law and think like a lawyer, but not to memorize the laws. He pointed out that the Legislature could change all of the laws in one session and everything memorized would then be wrong. He noted that learning to think like a lawyer would be valuable regardless of what laws exist at any particular time.

 

The foregoing examples are not meant to reduce your commitment to knowledge; knowledge is essential. The scriptures encourage knowledge.

 

Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms— (Doctrine and Covenants 88:79; see also Doctrine and Covenants 93:53).

 

Knowledge in all areas is important. Do not underestimate the importance of knowledge which will primarily allow you to raise, teach, and bless your family. We are particularly fortunate to live in an age when the technological revolution is in progress. I continue to be amazed at what can be learned over the Internet. I recently learned that Wikipedia, which I am sure you access often, has around 939,000 articles and about 340 million words compared to the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica (the gold standard in my day) which contains 85,000 articles and 55 million words. “Nature” magazine recently found that Wikipedia is almost as reliable as Britannica, although neither is completely accurate (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/wikipediaoverview_FAQ#How_big_is_Wikipedia.3F). My children and grandchildren utilize the Internet as a learning medium better than I do. The Church and the Lord’s work are major beneficiaries of much that is happening. Our youth need to be a part of that, as well as all knowledge. Remember the Glory of God is intelligence.

 

Many years ago I was visiting London with my family. We stayed at a hotel in Sloane Square. There is a statue of Sir Hans Sloane in the center of the square. As a young man in the mid 1600s, Hans Sloane became a physician and then developed a strong interest in botany. The 17th century physician used herbal remedies. Prescriptions were primarily herbal and not based on chemistry as they are today.

 

In 1687 Sloane accompanied the Duke of Albemarle to Jamaica as his personal physician. He catalogued the flora and fauna of Jamaica and identified about 800 new species of plants. He collected specimens of animals as well and pickled them or embalmed them. During their stay, Lord Albemarle died; it necessitated Sloane returning to London. Sloane pickled the body of Lord Albemarle so Lord Albemarle could be buried in England. Upon Sloane’s return, he wrote an extensive two volume natural history of Jamaica (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Sloane).

 

In Jamaica Sloane had noticed that the people drank cocoa which he found “nauseous.” Sloane experimented with making medicines acceptable to children by mixing them with milk and honey. He mixed the cocoa with milk and sugar and found that it was delicious. Sloane became very wealthy when he sold his recipe to Cadbury Brothers who manufactured chocolate using Sloane’s recipe (www.nhm.ac.wk/research-curation/projects/sloane-herbarium/hanssloane.htm).

 

What is perhaps most interesting to me is that Sloane used most of that money to collect botanical and other specimens that he had become so intrigued with as a young physician. He bought people’s collected specimens from all over the world and he put together an enormous collection. When he died, he donated it to the British nation. That was the beginning of the British Museum.

 

The foundation collection of the natural history part of the entire British Museum came because of the great desire for knowledge of that incredible man, Hans Sloane.

 

I relate this account because it exemplifies the love of learning and the synergism of knowledge. Elder Russell M. Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was a pioneer in the development of open heart surgery which has significantly blessed those who live at this time. We were together in the Pacific Islands for an area training meeting. I asked him about that incredible history and his role in it. We discussed it for some time and then Elder Nelson humbly stated, “. . . how wonderful it is that the Lord who knows all allows us the great joy of discovering certain pieces of knowledge.”

 

2 Nephi 9:29 reads, “But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” Knowledge has always been important and today we are at the threshold of new and exciting major technology. Certainly this technology revolution could have enormous benefits for the Church and for your fellow human beings. Knowledge, whether old or new, is important.

I commend you for being here at BY–Idaho in your quest for knowledge and challenge you to seek it diligently, wisely, and with humility.

 

The fourth principle is to follow the Prophet’s counsel as you make your choices.

A few years ago, Sister Cook and I were in Vava’u in the Tongan Islands. I had just spoken about following the Prophet in the general session of stake conference. At the luncheon following the conference, I sat next to a distinguished elderly patriarch. He indicated how grateful he was to hear what the Prophet was teaching. He gave me the following account:

 

Vava’u, which is a relatively small island, usually has sufficient rain, but periodically there are severe droughts. The island has long inlets or bays, almost like sounds, which curl into the island below steep hills. When drought conditions left the village without water, there was only one way they could obtain fresh water and stay alive. Over the centuries, they had found that fresh water traveled down through rock formations inside the mountains and came up in a few spots in the sea.

 

The Tongan men would set off in their small boats with a wise elder standing at one end of the boat looking for just the right spot. The strong young men in the boat stood ready with containers to dive deep into the sea water. When they reached the appropriate spot, the wise man would raise both arms to heaven. That was the signal. The strong young men would dive off the boat as deep as they could and fill the containers with fresh spring water.

 

This old patriarch likened this life saving tradition to the living waters of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the wise man to God’s prophet here on earth. He noted that the water was pure, fresh, and in their drought condition—life saving. But it was not easy to find. It was not visible to the untrained eye. This patriarch wanted to know everything the prophet was teaching.

 

We live in a precarious time. The world is in desperate need of the fresh spring water, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The spiritual war for the souls of men is raging and there are diminishing numbers of people who support our position.

 

In a Worldwide Leadership Training meeting, President Hinckley said:

 

No one need tell you that we are living in a very difficult season in the history of the world. Standards are dropping everywhere. Nothing seems to be sacred anymore. . . . I do not know that things were worse in the times of Sodom and Gomorrah . . . I think our Father must weep as He looks down upon His wayward sons and daughters (President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Standing Strong and Immovable,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 10, 2004, p 20).

 

As is characteristic of President Hinckley’s positive leadership, he went on to say, “We must not give up. We must not become discouraged. We must never surrender to the forces of evil. . . . If it means standing alone, we must do it. But we shall not be alone” (President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Standing Strong and Immovable,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 10, 2004, p 20).

 

Prophets are not speaking just to our own day; they give us counsel that will bless us and our children in the future and through the eternities.

 

As I think about the time when I was your age, one specific example comes to mind. During the late 1960s, illegal drug usage reached epidemic proportions throughout the US. I completed law school in 1966 and then lived on the San Francisco peninsula in the Bay Area.

 

The Bay Area was a magnet for drug use and all manner of promiscuous and sinful conduct. The impact on many high school and college students was devastating. While there were some members who rebelled and were caught up in the drug culture, the vast majority of LDS youth were able to avoid it.

 

What allowed the Latter-day Saints to be protected? President Heber J. Grant, president of the Church and Prophet from 1918 to 1945, had been inspired to emphasize adherence to the Word of Wisdom (Heber J. Grant, “Observing the Word of Wisdom,” Teachings of the Presidents of the Church Heber J. Grant, pgs 189-197. See also Doctrine and Covenants 89). He stressed the importance of not smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages, and directed the bishops to review the principles in temple recommend interviews.

 

In that period of time smoking was accepted by society as an appropriate behavior. Most political leaders smoked and the movies made smoking appear glamorous. The medical profession seemed to accept smoking with little concern. President Grant counseled with great vigor against both smoking and drinking.

 

During and following the Second World War, Latter-day Saints moved to many locations, especially the west coast, and they became known as a people who did not drink or smoke. Obeying the Word of Wisdom gave our members an inoculation against the coming epidemic of drugs, which was even more serious. A prophet’s teaching saved generations of young people from both terrible health and moral hazards.

 

We must listen intently to the Prophet as we make our choices. Commit yourself to following all of his counsel. Later in your lives you will see how following the teachings of the Prophet saved your generation, as it has past generations.

 

If we follow the Prophet, we can look to the future with great optimism.

 

As I look at President Hinckley’s ministry, I think there is good reason for us to be optimistic. When President Hinckley was a new General Authority, there were approximately 1.5 million members; today there are over 12 million members. When he first became president of the Church, there were 47 temples operating; today there are 122 in operation.

 

Doctrine and Covenants 1 verse 30 makes it clear that one of the objectives of the leadership of the Church is to bring it out of obscurity. Think of all that President Hinckley has done to accomplish this: the Mike Wallace interview, the Larry King interviews, the National Press Club speech, interviews from media all over the world in connection with the Olympics, and much, much more. President Hinckley has clearly helped bring the Church out of obscurity.

 

President Hinckley is the great leader for our generation. He is our “prophet,” but we need to follow his teaching. We need to understand how difficult the war for the souls of men has become and recommit ourselves to follow his counsel.

 

I exhort you with all of my heart to follow the Prophet’s counsel as you make your choices.

 

The fifth principle is to live so that the atonement can be fully efficacious in your life.

As indicated previously, rationalization for bad choices will not be effective, but repentance will. Those who repent will be particularly blessed by the atonement (“The Atonement,” Gospel Principles, p 75. See also “Atonement of Jesus Christ,” True to the Faith, A Gospel Reference, p 14). Without the atonement the eternal principle of Justice would require punishment.24 Because of the atonement Mercy can prevail for those who have repented and allow them to return to the presence of God (Alma 42:15).

 

I first understood the full significance of the atonement when my grandfather was dying. I was studying for the California bar exam when my mother called and said if I wanted to see my grandfather before he died, I better come to Utah. My grandfather, who was 86 years old, was very ill. He was so pleased to see me and share his testimony.

 

There were three concerns that he had:

 

1.He loved his ten children very much. They were all good people. He wanted them all to be temple worthy.

2.His father was one of the young men who had carried members of the Martin Handcart Company across the Sweetwater. His father had died when my grandfather was three years old and he looked forward to seeing him and hoped his father and other family members would approve of his life.

3.Finally, and most importantly, he told me how he looked forward to meeting the Savior. He referred to the Savior as the “Keeper of the Gate,” a reference to 2 Nephi 9:41. He told me that he hoped he had been sufficiently repentant to qualify for the Savior’s mercy.

 

All of us have sinned and it is only through the atonement that we can obtain mercy and live with God. I can remember to this day the great love that grandfather had for the Savior and the appreciation he had for the atonement.

 

Brother Hugh Nibley has said, speaking of the atonement, it is “the one supreme reality of our life upon this earth” (Hugh Nibley, World and the Prophets, pp 263-64).

 

President Hinckley has taught, “When all is said and done, when all of history is examined, when the deepest depths of the human mind have been explored, there is nothing so wonderful, so majestic, so tremendous as this act of grace. . .” (President Gordon B. Hinckley “Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p 28).

 

I have reviewed with you five significant principles to follow as you place faith in the Lord Jesus Christ at the center of your lives and seek diligently for knowledge.

 

First: Understand that there is truly opposition in all things. The choices you make are critical;

Second: Strengthen your own testimony as a foundation for all of the choices you make;

Third: Seek knowledge diligently, wisely, and with humility;

Fourth: Follow the Prophet’s counsel as you make your choices; and,

Fifth: Live so the atonement can be efficacious in your life.

 

I personally testify of the divinity of the Savior and the reality of the atonement, and I hope that you will prayerfully consider the significant choices that are before you.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

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