The Martyrdom

Yes, this is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. 27 June 1844.


On June 24, Joseph and Hyrum Smith bade farewell to their families and rode with other Nauvoo city officials toward Carthage, voluntarily surrendering themselves to county officials in Carthage the next day. After the brothers had been released on bail for the initial charge, they were falsely charged with treason against the state of Illinois, arrested, and imprisoned in Carthage Jail to await a hearing. Elders John Taylor and Willard Richards, the only members of the Twelve who were not then serving missions, voluntarily joined them. On the afternoon of June 27, 1844, the little group of brethren sat silent and disconsolate in the jail. One of the men asked Elder Taylor, who had a rich tenor voice, to sing to them. Soon his voice was raised: “A poor wayfaring Man of grief hath often crossed me on my way, who sued so humbly for relief that I could never answer nay.” Elder Taylor recollected that the hymn “was very much in accordance with our feelings at the time for our spirits were all depressed, dull and gloomy.” (John Taylor, quoted in History of the Church, 7:101; from John Taylor, “The Martyrdom of Joseph Smith,” in Historian’s Office, History of the Church ca. 1840s–1880, p. 47, Church Archives). Shortly after five o’clock in the afternoon, a large group of attackers stormed the jail, firing their guns at the men inside. Within a few minutes, the foul deed was done. Hyrum Smith was shot first and died almost immediately. Elder Richards miraculously received only a superficial wound; and Elder Taylor, though severely wounded, survived and later became the third President of the Church. The Prophet Joseph ran to the window and was fatally shot. The Prophet of the Restoration and his brother Hyrum had sealed their testimonies with their blood.


God protected Joseph Smith until his earthly mission was complete. In August 1842, Joseph Smith said: “My feelings at the present time are that, inasmuch as the Lord Almighty has preserved me until today, He will continue to preserve me, by the united faith and prayers of the Saints, until I have fully accomplished my mission in this life, and so firmly established the dispensation of the fullness of the priesthood in the last days, that all the powers of earth and hell can never prevail against it.”  In October 1843, the Prophet said: “I defy all the world to destroy the work of God; and I prophesy they never will have power to kill me till my work is accomplished, and I am ready to die.”  In May 1844, the Prophet said: “God will always protect me until my mission is fulfilled.”  In June 1844, the Prophet said: “I do not regard my own life. I am ready to be offered a sacrifice for this people; for what can our enemies do? Only kill the body, and their power is then at an end. Stand firm, my friends; never flinch. Do not seek to save your lives, for he that is afraid to die for the truth, will lose eternal life. Hold out to the end, and we shall be resurrected and become like Gods, and reign in celestial kingdoms, principalities, and eternal dominions.”


Early on June 27, 1844, in Carthage Jail, Joseph Smith wrote in a hasty letter to Emma Smith: “I am very much resigned to my lot, knowing I am justified and have done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children and all my friends … ; and as for treason, I know that I have not committed any, and they cannot prove one appearance of anything of the kind, so you need not have any fears that any harm can happen to us on that score. May God bless you all. Amen.” (Letter from Joseph Smith to Emma Smith, June 27, 1844, Carthage Jail, Carthage, Illinois; Community of Christ Archives, Independence, Missouri; copy in Church Archives).


Before his death, Joseph Smith conferred upon the Twelve Apostles every priesthood key and power that the Lord had sealed upon him. Wilford Woodruff, the fourth President of the Church, recalled: “[Joseph Smith] spent the last winter of his life, some three or four months, with the quorum of the Twelve teaching them. It was not merely a few hours ministering to them the ordinances of the gospel; but he spent day after day, week after week and month after month, teaching them and a few others the things of the kingdom of God.” (Wilford Woodruff, Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, Dec. 21, 1869, p. 2.)  Gordon B. Hinckley, the fifteenth President of the Church, testified: “So certain was [Joseph Smith] of the cause he led, so sure of his divinely given calling, that he placed them above the value of his own life. With prescient knowledge of his forthcoming death, he surrendered himself to those who would deliver him defenseless into the hands of a mob. He sealed his testimony with his life’s blood.”  (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1981, p. 7)


PARLEY P. PRATT gave a detailed description of the Prophet Joseph Smith shortly after the martyrdom of the Prophet:  President Joseph Smith was in person tall and well built, strong and active; of light complexion, light hair, blue eyes, very little beard, and of an expression peculiar to himself, on which the eye naturally rested with interest, and was never weary of beholding. His countenance was ever mild, affable, beaming with intelligence and benevolence; mingled with a look of interest and an unconscious smile, or cheerfulness, and entirely free from all restraint or affectation of gravity; and there was something connected with the serene and steady penetrating glance of his eye, as if he would penetrate the deepest abyss of the human heart, gaze into eternity, penetrate the heaven and comprehend all worlds. He possessed a noble boldness and independence of character; his manner was easy and familiar; his rebuke terrible as the lion; his benevolence unbounded as the ocean; his intelligence universal, and his language abounding in original eloquence peculiar to himself – not polished – not studied – not smoothed and softened by education and refined by art, but flowing forth in its own native simplicity, and profusely abounding in variety of subject and manner. He interested and edified, while, at the same time, he amused and entertained his audience; and none listened to him who were ever weary with his discourse. I have even known him to retain a congregation of willing and anxious listeners for many hours together, in the midst of cold or sunshine, rain or wind, while they were laughing at one moment and weeping the next. Even his most bitter enemies were generally overcome, if he could once get their ears…. In short, in him the character of a Daniel and a Cyrus were wonderfully blended. The gifts, wisdom, and devotion of a Daniel were united with the boldness, courage, temperance, perseverance and generosity of a Cyrus. And had he been spared a martyr’s fate till mature manhood and age, he was certainly endowed with powers and ability to have revolutionized the world in many respects, and to have transmitted to posterity a name associated with more brilliant and glorious acts than has yet fallen to the lot of mortal.  (The Historical Record, VII, January, 1888, pp. 575-576).


GEORGE Q. CANNON wrote this about when he first saw the Prophet Joseph Smith: (He had been converted in England in 1840 at the age of 15 and came to Nauvoo two years later).  This is what he wrote in his book, Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet:  It was the author’s privilege thus to meet the Prophet for the first time. The occasion was the arrival of a large company of Latter‑day Saints at the upper landing at Nauvoo. The general conference of the Church was in session and large numbers crowded to the landing place to welcome the emigrants. Nearly every prominent man in the community was there. Familiar with the names of all and the persons of many of the prominent elders, the author sought with a boy’s curiosity and eagerness to discover those whom he knew, and especially to get sight of the Prophet and his brother Hyrum, neither of whom he had ever met. When his eyes fell upon the Prophet, without a word from anyone to point him out, or any reason to separate him from others who stood around, he knew him instantly. He would have known him among ten thousand. There was that about him, which, to the author’s eyes, “distinguished him from all the men he had ever seen.”  (George Q. Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1964), 20‑21).


OTHER REFERENCES (I know there are many more):  Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “JOSEPH, THE MAN AND THE PROPHET,” Ensign May 1996 /  Elder Tad R. Callister, “JOSEPH SMITH – PROPHET OF THE RESTORATION,” Ensign November 2009  /  Elder Neil L. Andersen, “JOSEPH SMITH,” Ensign November 2014  /  Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge, “THE PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH,” Ensign May 2014  /  There is an article about the martyrdom written by Brother Joseph I. Bentley (currently president of the Newport Beach California Temple). Here’s a link:   Brother Bentley, an attorney, also wrote “Road to Martyrdom: Joseph Smith’s Last Legal Cases.” It can be found in BYU Studies, Volume 19, #2, Winter 1979

Elder Dallin H. Oaks co-authored a book about the martyrdom with Marvin S. Hill: Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith. It’s available on I read a copy my Dad had, and it’s fascinating. This is what they (the authors) wrote about the book:  Our book is intended to have significance for both scholar and layman. We have tried to look at the trial as a significant legal event in Mormon and American history. But we have tried not to lose sight of the fact that good history is good narrative. Our introduction and concluding chapter may be of special significance for the scholar, but for most readers the point of interest will be the story between.




Many years ago (MANY!) when I was much (MUCH) younger, I used to think it would be “fun” for the men called to be Apostles. I imagined them enjoying all their visiting. Back then we occasionally had TWO Apostles come at a time. My Daddy served in a stake presidency for 10 years, and we had many Apostles and other leaders come to our home for dinner. What a blessing! Of course it was a blessing for us… but I also considered it a blessing for them, since my Mother was such a good cook! My parents had started a book for visitors to sign, and it’s a great feeling to look back at all the Church leaders and others who were in our home.

So I was thinking, as I said, of how much FUN it would be for them to be Apostles. Probably lots of “get-togethers” at each other’s homes and such-like. Oh! I was SO naïve! (I still AM in many ways, of course). During the time I worked at the MTC, I attended many of the Devotionals where Church leaders would come to teach and inspire the missionaries (they really inspired me too!). One evening (22 April, 1980) it was Elder Boyd K. Packer’s turn. He brought a kind of “schedule book” or planner with him and told us about the past few weeks of his life. Samoa, South America, and other places he’d been, with HUGE responsibilities and PACKED schedules. He spoke of wishing he had time to change his shirt (that really “got to me”). He spoke of training new Patriarchs, explaining to members why the location of a new Temple needed to be changed, and on and ON.


And then he taught us some powerful truths.  He said “We do not always have time to say things twice.” “We do not always have time to explain WHY.” “You do not release whom you did not call!” And then he admonished us: “FOLLOW THE BRETHREN!” I’ll never forget that experience or how I felt. It is not “FUN” to be an Apostle … I can’t even begin to imagine the RESPONSIBILITY . . . .

I remember in 1963 when a relatively new Apostle came to visit us (missionaries and members) in the Philippines. His name was Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, and he’d been called an Apostle by President David O. McKay in October of 1961. He met with us (I think there were still fewer than 20 of us missionaries serving in all the Philippines at the time – it was a zone of the Southern Far East Mission – and not many more than 100 members of the Church).


We met with Elder Hinckley in the best hotel: The Manila Hotel. It was such a wonderful experience. He taught us a little bit about what it was like to be an Apostle – even one who was pretty “new” still. He said that maybe we thought it was easy for them to prepare messages, but that it wasn’t easy! He spoke of the earnest prayers and efforts to prepare what the Lord wanted others to hear and learn. He also spoke of what we had shared in our testimony meeting which came right before his message. We had (of course) spoke of how EXCITED the members were to have a visit from him – an Apostle! And the one who had dedicated the land for missionary work just two years earlier.  He said something about how the members might be disappointed when they saw a rather short, balding man . . . I don’t remember his exact words, but he made us laugh, and he made us THINK. I for one realized at least a little bit that it was a HUGE challenge and responsibility to be called as an Apostle.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while this morning is because of an article I found from the Church News. I’m going to share it, hoping that for those who choose to read it (I know this is getting LONG) it will bring to your heart and soul an even deeper appreciation for those who accept the call of Apostles – Prophets, Seers, and Revelators! – The call to serve for the rest of their lives….  And that we will all be mindful of them in our thoughts and our prayers — sustaining them in every way we can.

Here is the article. It’s about Elder Rasband (who’s been an Apostle not quite as long as Elder Hinckley had been when he visited us).

ELDER RASBAND OFFERS COUNSEL, BLESSING TO QUAKE-WEARY ECUADORIANS – By Jason Swensen, LDS Church News – Published: Thursday, June 23 2016 1:00 p.m. MDT


Elder Ronald A. Rasband and Sister Melanie Rasband, stand at the pulpit, offer words of counsel and love to members in Portoviejo, Ecuador. The area was severely impacted by a deadly earthquake last April.

In the days leading up to his recent trip to northwestern South America, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles experienced a powerful prompting. Elder Rasband felt strongly that he should visit the Latter-day Saints in western Ecuador whose lives were forever changed on April 16 by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that killed hundreds and injured tens of thousands. He was told such a visit was impossible. Elder Rasband would be on a tight schedule during his June 3–13 tour of Colombia, Peru and Ecuador. Additionally, there were questions about the road conditions leading to the quake-impacted cities of Portoviejo and Manta. “Still, I felt like we somehow needed to get to those areas,” he told the Church News. His determination would be rewarded. On June 13 — the final day of his 10-day trip — Elder Rasband and his wife, Sister Melanie Rasband, traveled to Portoviejo and, a short time later, to Manta. “It was one of the highlights of the trip,” he said. Elder Rasband expected a few local priesthood leaders and perhaps a few members to attend the hastily organized gathering in Portoviejo. “But when we arrived and went inside the stake center the chapel was filled,” he said. “I was speechless. I could not believe it.” Seated on the front rows were members who had lost loved ones in the quake, along with “pioneers” of the Church in the region. Elder Rasband shared a message of love from President Thomas S. Monson. He also assured the quake-weary members that they were not forgotten. He told them they were the subject of many prayers. He thanked them for caring for one another. And then, in one of the few times since his call to the Twelve last October, he bestowed an apostolic blessing. “It was as if my hands were on their heads,” he said. “All the words came to my mind at that moment.”  Before leaving, the Rasbands exchanged one-on-one greetings with all assembled. “I received more abrazos [hugs] than at any time in my life,” said Elder Rasband with a smile. They then drove 30 minutes to Manta, where the local chapel was filled with hundreds. Once again, they shook hands and exchanged hugs with all who came forward. Afterward, they rushed back to Guayaquil to catch their flight home.

Elder Rasband marvels at how the initially unplanned trip to the quake areas came together “like clockwork. It was divinely orchestrated from A to Z,” he said. He was uplifted by the faith, courage and charitable actions of the members. “We all had a great sense that the Ecuadorian people were rallying to the cause and helping one another.”  Elder Rasband said the Lord’s hand could be traced throughout his trip. Elder and Sister Rasband met with thousands of members of all ages — both in person and via interactive devotionals broadcast over the internet.  They were joined at different segments of their travels by the South America Northwest Area Presidency — Elder Juan A. Uceda, Elder Carlos A. Godoy and Elder Hugo Montoya — and their wives, Sister Maria Isabel Uceda, Sister Monica Godoy and Sister Maria Montoya. In each country, the Rasbands and the other Brethren and their wives visited with missionaries. Elder Rasband encouraged the young elders and sisters to always remember that “they are to find the Lord’s elect” and to establish multi-generational wards and stakes in their own lands. Elder and Sister Rasband and the others also participated in several devotionals for young people. The youth gathering in Bogota was broadcast across Colombia and Venezuela, while a similar meeting originating in Lima was seen by youth in Peru and Bolivia. A third youth devotional in Guayaquil was seen throughout Ecuador. At each youth devotional, young men and young women asked questions of Elder Rasband and the others. “Their concerns are the same as youth living anywhere else,” he observed. “They have the same issues.” In a series of Priesthood Leadership Conferences, Elder Rasband and the Area Presidency met with local stake presidents, bishops and quorum leaders. Again, they addressed universal concerns — including societal challenges to the family, issues of religious freedoms and the dangers of pornography. Elder Rasband noted the capacity of the local priesthood and Relief Society leaders that ensures a bright future for the Church across northern South America. Temples, he added, are further evidence of the wonderful growth of the Church in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador. Temples operate in each of those nations — and, in each nation, new temples are either under construction or have been announced. “In all three countries, the Lord, through His prophet, has chosen to build new temples to bless the people.”

President Monson

I know that most of you have seen his Facebook posts, but I wanted to share two of the most recent with their loving, powerful, beautiful messages.  I feel SO thankful for a living Prophet, and for 15 called by God whom we sustain as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators. What incredible blessings we have!!!  (You can tell that I still don’t know how to do things very well on the Blog OR Facebook . . . oh well ……)


Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. Often we assume that they must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know. Wrote William Shakespeare, “They do not love that do not show their love.” We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. Rather, our regrets will come if such things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us. Send that note to the friend you’ve been neglecting; give your child a hug; give your parents a hug; say “I love you” more; always express your thanks. Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.

Thomas S Monson  June 16 at 12:32pm ·  This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.


Have you ever had a time when you were in a place where it was completely dark, and you could see ZILLIONS of STARS??  I’ve wanted to post something about this on the Blog for “many moons,” but it has taken a long time just to try to “organize” it.

The Heavens

My best friend from childhood and I used to sleep out a lot, lying in our sleeping bags and looking up at all the stars (we lived in a small community without a ton of street lights, so we could see LOTS of stars). We’d find one which we were sure no one else could see or had noticed, and that would be “our very own special star.” We loved looking at the Milky Way, the Big and Little Dippers, and other things we’d been shown. We loved the light that was reflected in and from these wonderful creations of God.


I started counting stars when I was about 7 (I was interested in counting “everything”) . . . I never finished, and eventually I quit trying. Now I realize that my effort was futile anyway. I want to share a few things about the UNIVERSE.  Buckle up!


The universe – which is EXPANDING – is believed to be at least 93 BILLION LIGHT YEARS in diameter (Factoid: A light year is almost 6 TRILLION MILES)…. and contains a VAST NUMBER of galaxies. A galaxy is a huge system of stars, gas, dust, and stuff. One typical galaxy is estimated to be 56,000 light years in diameter (I can’t even begin to imagine that!!) and approximately 60 million light years away from us…. (You might get a brain cramp just trying to comprehend such numbers, such distances!).  Most galaxies are separated from one another by distances measured in MILLIONS of light years!  And some are considered to be around 14 billion years old!!!  It is estimated that some galaxies contain ONE HUNDRED TRILLION STARS!! In October of 2013, a galaxy was discovered which is approximately 13.1 BILLION LIGHT YEARS from earth.  It produces stars at a phenomenal rate of about 300 suns per year . . . . And it is also estimated that there may be more than 170 BILLION GALAXIES in the observable universe!!!  That’s an incredibly large number of galaxies!  And this has probably increased just while I’ve been working on this blog!.  Things REALLY get complex when we try to think about the Universe beyond that which is observable. The “whole” Universe, as it were. Some estimate that the WHOLE Universe is at least 250 TIMES AS LARGE as the OBSERVABLE UNIVERSE and could actually be INFINTE! . . . . (Do you have a headache yet??) HELP!!!!! This is all so “MIND BOGGLING!” Or, to put it another way, it “BLOWS MY MIND!!”


But I have to keep remembering that just because we can’t understand all of this doesn’t mean it’s not TRUE!  Listen again to what the Creator of all of these galaxies and stars (Who is THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD) said to Moses: (Moses 1:37-39) 37- … The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they ARE numbered unto me, for they are mine. [HE KNOWS EACH STAR!!] 38- And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words. 39- For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. 


OK… to get to the point I’m trying to make, I have to leave the universe and galaxies and stars for just a few moments and focus on this tiny little planet called earth. We live here with just a few of Heavenly Father’s children (7 billion plus). We speak over 6,000 languages. We share the planet with over 10,000 species of BIRDS (and likely over 400 BILLION birds!), over 12,000 species of ants (over 100 TRILLION individual ants!), over 30,000 species of fish, 400,000 kinds of flowers, 100,000 kinds of trees, and 950,000 species of insects….


And even with all these birds, fish, flowers and insects, and even with 170 BILLION galaxies and TRILLIONS of STARS, and even with BILLIONS of CHILDREN . . . [Imagine these words are 50 feet high]  YOU ARE KNOWN AND LOVED AND CHERISHED INDIVIDUALLY BY THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE!!!  He knows how many hairs are on your head!  Not even a single sparrow dies without Him knowing.  (And yes… there are still a few who say there is no God….) HE IS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER!!!  HE KNOWS YOUR NAME!!! YOU ARE UNIQUE!!!  YOU’RE A MIRACLE!  THERE IS NO ONE EXACTLY LIKE YOU IN ALL THE VAST UNIVERSE….


If you have interest and time:




On this beautiful Sunday morning, I want to share a message from a great soul: President Marion George Romney. I love this good man so much. I hope you won’t mind me sharing a connection I have with him. One of his sisters – Jasmine – married my Uncle John. I always felt very close to President Romney, and I had the chance to thank him for all he taught me about the gospel principles which are emphasized in welfare services (including the importance of self-reliance). Once, at a time in my life when I needed rescuing, he was kind enough to give me an incredible priesthood blessing which “changed everything” for me. Today I’m sharing his message about the celestial nature of self-reliance. I’ve heard so many questions asked about this topic – even some questions as to whether it sounds like we don’t need God if we work to be self-reliant. I pray this message from President Romney will help you as much as it has helped me in understanding the spiritual (celestial) nature of self-reliance.  This is an edited version. You can read the talk as it was originally given in the Ensign for November 1982 (one of the last things listed in that issue).


THE CELESTIAL NATURE OF SELF-RELIANCE  By President Marion G. Romney (1897–1988)  Ensign, Mar 2009, 61–65

Marion G. Romney was ordained an Apostle on October 11, 1951. He served as Second Counselor to Presidents Harold B. Lee and Spencer W. Kimball and later as First Counselor to President Kimball. After President Kimball’s death, President Romney resumed his position in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and became President of the Quorum on November 10, 1985. He died on May 20, 1988, at the age of 90. President Romney was serving as Second Counselor in the First Presidency when he gave this talk during general conference in October 1982. This edited version of the talk was first published in 1984. Original: Ensign, November 1982


I love the simple gospel truths as taught by the holy prophets, and I never tire of speaking about them. Since the beginning of time man has been counseled to earn his own way, thereby becoming self-reliant. It is easy to understand the reason the Lord places so much emphasis on this principle when we come to understand that it is tied very closely to freedom itself.  On this subject, Elder Albert E. Bowen said, “The … Church is not satisfied with any system which leaves able people permanently dependent, and insists, on the contrary, that the true function and office of giving, is to help people [get] into a position where they can help themselves and thus be free.”1  Many programs have been set up by well-meaning individuals to aid those who are in need. However, many of these programs are designed with the shortsighted objective of “helping people,” as opposed to “helping people help themselves.” Our efforts must always be directed toward making able-bodied people self-reliant.



I clipped the following article from the Reader’s Digest some time ago. It reads: “In our friendly neighbor city of St. Augustine great flocks of sea gulls are starving amid plenty. Fishing is still good, but the gulls don’t know how to fish. For generations they have depended on the shrimp fleet to toss them scraps from the nets. Now the fleet has moved. …  The shrimpers had created a Welfare State for the … sea gulls. The big birds never bothered to learn how to fish for themselves and they never taught their children to fish. Instead they led their little ones to the shrimp nets. Now the sea gulls, the fine free birds that almost symbolize liberty itself, are starving to death because they gave in to the ‘something for nothing’ lure! They sacrificed their independence for a handout.  A lot of people are like that, too. They see nothing wrong in picking delectable scraps from the tax nets of the U.S. Government’s ‘shrimp fleet.’ But what will happen when the Government runs out of goods? What about our children of generations to come? Let’s not be gullible gulls. We … must preserve our talents of self-sufficiency, our genius for creating things for ourselves, our sense of thrift and our true love of independence.”2


The practice of coveting and receiving unearned benefits has now become so fixed in our society that even men of wealth, possessing the means to produce more wealth, are expecting the government to guarantee them a profit. Elections often turn on what the candidates promise to do for voters from government funds. This practice, if universally accepted and implemented in any society, will make slaves of its citizens.  We cannot afford to become wards of the government, even if we have a legal right to do so. It requires too great a sacrifice of self-respect and political, temporal, and spiritual independence.  In some countries it is extremely difficult to separate earned from unearned benefits. However, the principle is the same in all countries: We should strive to become self-reliant and not depend on others for our existence.

Governments are not the only guilty parties. We fear many parents are making “gullible gulls” out of their children with their permissiveness and their doling out of family resources. In fact, the actions of parents in this area can be more devastating than any government program.  Bishops and other priesthood leaders can be guilty of making “gullible gulls” out of their ward members. Some members become financially or emotionally dependent on their bishops. A dole is a dole whatever its source. All of our Church and family actions should be directed toward making our children and members self-reliant. We can’t always control government programs, but we can control our own homes and congregations. If we will teach these principles and live them, we can do much to counter the negative effects which may exist in government programs in any country.

We know there are some who, for reasons beyond their control, cannot become self-reliant. President Henry D. Moyle had these people in mind when he said: “This great principle does not deny to the needy nor to the poor the assistance they should have. The wholly incapacitated, the aged, the sickly are cared for with all tenderness, but every able-bodied person is enjoined to do his utmost for himself to avoid dependence, if his own efforts can make such a course possible; to look upon adversity as temporary; to combine his faith in his own ability with honest toil. … We believe [that] seldom [do circumstances arise in which] men of rigorous faith, genuine courage, and unfaltering determination, with the love of independence burning in their hearts, and pride in their own accomplishments, cannot surmount the obstacles that lie in their paths.”3



Now, I wish to speak of a very important truth: self-reliance is not the end, but a means to an end. It is very possible for a person to be completely independent and lack every other desirable attribute. One may become wealthy and never have to ask anyone for anything, but unless there is some spiritual goal attached to this independence, it can canker his soul.  The Church’s welfare program is spiritual. In 1936, when the program was introduced, President David O. McKay made this astute observation:  “The development of our spiritual nature should concern us most. Spirituality is the highest acquisition of the soul, the divine in man; ‘the supreme, crowning gift that makes him king of all created things.’ It is the consciousness of victory over self and of communion with the infinite. It is spirituality alone which really gives one the best in life.  It is something to supply clothing to the [poorly] clad, to furnish ample food to those whose table is thinly spread, to give activity to those who are fighting desperately the despair that comes from enforced idleness, but after all is said and done, the greatest blessings that will accrue from the Church [welfare program] are spiritual. Outwardly, every act seems to be directed toward the physical: re-making of dresses and suits of clothes, canning fruits and vegetables, storing foodstuffs, choosing of fertile fields for settlement—all seem strictly temporal, but permeating all these acts, inspiring and sanctifying them, is the element of spirituality.”4

Doctrine and Covenants 29:34–35 tells us there is no such thing as a temporal commandment, that all commandments are spiritual. It also tells us that man is to be “an agent unto himself.” Man cannot be an agent unto himself if he is not self-reliant. Herein we see that independence and self-reliance are critical keys to our spiritual growth. Whenever we get into a situation which threatens our self-reliance, we will find our freedom threatened as well. If we increase our dependence, we will find an immediate decrease in our freedom to act.  Thus far, we should have learned that self-reliance is a prerequisite to the complete freedom to act. We have also learned, however, that there is nothing spiritual in self-reliance unless we make the right choices with that freedom. What, then, should we do once we have become self-reliant in order to grow spiritually?  The key to making self-reliance spiritual is in using the freedom to comply with God’s commandments. The scriptures are very clear in their command that it is the duty of those who have, to give to those who are in need.



Jacob, speaking to the people of Nephi, said: “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.  But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.  And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” (Jacob 2:17–19).

In our own dispensation, when the Church was only 10 months old, the Lord said:  “If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all my commandments.  And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support” (D&C 42:29–30).

The same month, the Lord referred to this subject again. Evidently the members had been a little remiss. They had not moved fast enough. “Behold, I say unto you, that ye must visit the poor and the needy and administer to their relief” (D&C 44:6).

It has always seemed somewhat paradoxical to me that we must constantly have the Lord command us to do those things which are for our own good. The Lord has said, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39). We lose our life by serving and lifting others. By so doing we experience the only true and lasting happiness. Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made.  Oh, for the glorious day when these things all come naturally because of the purity of our hearts. In that day there will be no need for a commandment, because we will have experienced for ourselves that we are truly happy only when we are engaged in unselfish service.

Can we see how critical self-reliance becomes when looked upon as the prerequisite to service, when we also know service is what godhood is all about? Without self-reliance one cannot exercise these innate desires to serve. How can we give if there is nothing there? Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves. Money to assist the needy cannot come from an empty purse. Support and understanding cannot come from the emotionally starved. Teaching cannot come from the unlearned. And most important of all, spiritual guidance cannot come from the spiritually weak.


There is an interdependence between those who have and those who have not. The process of giving exalts the poor and humbles the rich. In the process, both are sanctified. The poor, released from the bondage and limitations of poverty, are enabled as free men to rise to their full potential, both temporally and spiritually. The rich, by imparting of their surplus, participate in the eternal principle of giving. Once a person has been made whole, or self-reliant, he reaches out to aid others, and the cycle repeats itself.

We are all self-reliant in some areas and dependent in others. Therefore, each of us should strive to help others in areas where we have strengths. At the same time, pride should not prevent us from graciously accepting the helping hand of another when we have a real need. To do so denies another person the opportunity to participate in a sanctifying experience.

One of the three areas emphasized in the mission of the Church is to perfect the Saints, and this is the purpose of the welfare program. This is not a doomsday program, but a program for our lives here and now, because now is the time for us to perfect our lives. May we continue to hold fast to these truths.


  1. Albert E. Bowen, The Church Welfare Plan (Gospel Doctrine course of study, 1946), 77.
  2. “Fable of the Gullible Gull,” Reader’s Digest, Oct. 1950, 32.
  3. Henry D. Moyle, in Conference Report, Apr. 1948, 5.
  4. David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 103







A Magnificent Obsession

Years ago I saw a movie you may have seen too (if you’re quite OLD). The title was “Magnificent Obsession,” and it was about a doctor whose “magnificent obsession” was to help people anonymously.  He kept a secret notebook of what he had done and how happy it made him. (I may not have described this very well… it’s been a long time since I saw it and read the book).

There is an aspect of my life which I call my “magnificent obsession.”  It doesn’t really have much to do with me keeping a secret notebook of good deeds . . . but it IS about something which captured my heart and soul and opened up all kinds of “windows of heaven” for me.


44 years ago today – 06 May 1972 – I entered the Missionary Home (which at that time was across the street north of the Church Office Building) headed back to the Philippines for the second time (as a health missionary).  And I began to learn – mostly from Dr. James O. Mason – about the gospel principles emphasized in welfare services. It felt like words and descriptions were being put to things I had felt for a long time.

My companion was Jill Bousfeld from Perth, Australia.  Both of us were nurses.  She wasn’t able to come to the LTM, so I brought a “double dose” of all the materials I’d been given, we met each other in the Philippines, and we studied and prayed earnestly to know how to carry out what we’d been called to do.

Towards the end of that mission (with about 4 months left), I was asked to go to Hong Kong and work for about a month with the first health missionaries assigned there. This was a great opportunity – I had lived and served in Hong Kong for 5 months on my first mission, so I knew my way around a little bit (it had changed a lot in 10 years plus!).

Then back to the Philippines to finish my last 3 months with an incredible mission president (Carl Jones) who had arrived while I was in HK. I’ll never forget how I felt when he said/asked “Sister Edmunds, how can I help to make the last 3 months of your mission the best experience possible?” WOW!!

I was then hired by Dr. Mason (who was over health services for the Church) to coordinate the work of all health missionaries. It was a fantastic experience. I continued to learn from this important mentor in my life (and from others too, of course). I loved the 7:00 AM Welfare sessions on the Saturday morning of General Conference. It was a sad day when I learned they were being discontinued. It felt like they were “how-to” sessions for leaders and members. Applying gospel principles – putting the gospel “in action.”

During the close to 3 years that I helped train and supervise the health missionaries, I had the blessing of visiting many of them while they were serving, traveling to Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, the Dominican Republic (a few years later) and some locations “state-side” (like on some Reservations). I put out newsletters, received reports, and did my best to give encouragement and ideas to the Sisters (and, for a while, the Elders) who were called to this assignment.

Then I was called to go out again, to Indonesia, and our “title” had changed to Welfare Services missionaries, but the basic assignment was the same: Helping members to LIVE (to APPLY) what they’d been taught.  When I returned from Indonesia I almost went back to nursing. I was offered a job (actually 3 to choose from) at the hospital. But I kept feeling there was something else. A couple of weeks later I was hired at the LTM (later MTC when the English were “added” in 1978), and my responsibility was to supervise the training of the welfare missionaries, which I did for around 17 years (plus the time before that). What a blessing! I met some fantastic young women, and I loved watching them “catch on.”

Someday maybe I’ll share some of the incredible experiences I had. For now I’m just celebrating the day it all started, 44 years ago. It changed my life.  One of my favorite handbooks (and I don’t know if it’s still printed) is: Providing in the Lord’s Way. At one point I pretty much had it memorized (OK… that’s an exaggeration).  I’m deeply grateful to all who helped me understand more about the gospel principles which are emphasized in welfare services. I love (LOVE!) having former “WSMs” come up to me wherever I go and report that they’re still teaching (their children, their Relief Society sisters, etc. etc.). What a blessing they are to everyone around them!

I’ve been tempted to add some quotes, but my “project” got out of hand. I’ve tried to cut down to just a few (you may not believe that if you start reading). I hope you’ll find them meaningful.  (And thanks for letting me go on and on and on … as if you could have stopped mee!!!  HA HA) I should give a Blue Ribbon to anyone who reads the whole thing (“I can’t believe I read the whole thing!”) Just thanks to those who figure out how important this work and these principles have been in my life since 06 May 1972.

PRESIDENT SPENCER W. KIMBALL – Isn’t the plan beautiful?  Don’t you thrill to this part of the gospel that causes Zion to put on her beautiful garments?  When viewed in this light, we can see that Welfare Services is not a program, but the essence of the gospel.  It is the gospel in action.  It is the crowning principle of a Christian life.  (Ensign, Nov, 1977)

PRESIDENT EZRA TAFT BENSON – Welfare Service is not a program but the essence of the gospel.  It is the gospel in action.  Welfare principles are eternal.  They do not change.  Living them is essential to our perfection.  We desire all members of the Church in every area of the world to enjoy the blessings that will come as they work, become self-reliant, live providently, contribute their fast offerings, and render compassionate service. (“Applying Welfare Principles in our Lives” – Video)

PRESIDENT MARION G. ROMNEY – Let us work for what we need.  Let us be self-reliant and independent.  Salvation can be obtained on no other principle.  Salvation is an individual matter, and we must work out our own salvation in temporal as well as in spiritual things.  (02 October 1976)

PRESIDENT BRIGHAM YOUNG – My experience has taught me, and it has become a principle with me, that it is never any benefit to give out and out to man or woman, money, food clothing or anything else, if they are able bodied and can work and earn what they need, when there is anything for them to do.  This is my principle and I try to act upon it.  To pursue a contrary course would ruin any community in the world and make them idlers.  (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe, p.274)

PRESIDENT MARION G. ROMNEY – There is an interdependence between those who have and those who have not.  The process of giving exalts the poor and humbles the rich.  In the process, both are sanctified.   (Ensign, Nov, 1982)

PRESIDENT RUSSELL M. NELSON – Few, if any, of the Lord’s instructions are stated more often, or given greater emphasis, than the commandment to care for the poor and the needy.  Our dispensation is no exception.    (Ensign, May 1986)

PRESIDENT J. REUBEN CLARK, Jr. – The real long-term objective of the welfare plan is the building of character in the members of the Church, givers and receivers, rescuing all that is finest down deep inside of them, and bringing to flower and fruitage the latent richness of the spirit, which after all is the mission and purpose and reason for being of this Church.  (02 Oct 1936 – Providing in the Lord’s Way, Frontispiece)

THE FIRST PRESIDENCY: Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark Jr., David O. McKay – Our primary purpose was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift, and self-respect be once more established amongst our people.  The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves.  Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership. (October, 1936)

PRESIDENT MARION G. ROMNEY – It is my prayer that each of us will derive from this session of conference today a greater conviction and a deeper understanding that welfare services is the work of Jesus Christ, that the welfare plan is his plan, that its principles are his principles, that its spirit is his spirit, and that its achievements are the surest guarantee of peace in this life and immortal glory in the world to come.   (Ensign, Nov 1980)

PRESIDENT JOSEPH F. SMITH – It has always been a cardinal teaching with the Latter-day Saints that a religion that has not the power to save people temporally and make them prosperous and happy here cannot be depended upon to save them spiritually and to exalt them in the life to come.    (“Out West,” Sept, 1905, p. 242)

PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY – We reaffirm the basic principles of the welfare program.  There will be no departure from those foundation principles.  We feel the need to emphasize with greater clarity the obligation for members of the Church to become more independent and self-reliant, to increase personal and family responsibility, to cultivate spiritual growth and to be more fully involved in Christian Service.   (01 April, 1983)

PRESIDENT MARION G. ROMNEY – Almost from the beginning of my services in church welfare I have had the conviction that what we are doing in this welfare work is preliminary to the reestablishment of the Law of Consecration and Stewardship as required under the United Order.  If we could always remember the goal toward which we are working, we would never lose our bearings in this great work.  (02 April 1977)

BISHOP GLENN L. PACE – There is a state of human misery below which no Latter-day Saint should descend as long as others are living in abundance.   (Ensign, May 1986)

BISHOP J. RICHARD CLARKE – It has always been the disposition of the true disciples of Christ, as they reached higher degrees of spirituality, to look after the needy.   (Ensign, May 1977)

PRESIDENT THOMAS S. MONSON – Self-reliance is a product of our work and undergirds all other welfare practices.  It is an essential element in our spiritual as well as our temporal well-being.   (Ensign, Sept 1986)

ELDER ROBERT D. HALES – With…basic welfare principles in mind, today we are being asked to teach and practice the doctrine of work, self-reliance, provident living, giving, and caring for the poor; to increase our generous fast offering donations to help those in need; to increase our compassionate service, involving the family in charitable acts of serve to one another and to our neighbors.   (Ensign, May 1986)

BISHOP GLENN L. PACE (Quoting PRESIDENT MARION G. ROMNEY) – All we have been trying to do is make our people self-reliant, because the more self-reliant one is, the more able to serve he becomes, and the more he serves, the greater his sanctification.  (Ensign, May 1986)

BISHOP J. RICHARD CLARKE – The welfare services program of the Church is essentially you and I being self-sufficient within our own families.  The Church storehouse system is a backup system….  There is no way the Church, as an institution, intends to assume the responsibility that rightfully belongs to the individual.  The welfare program was never designed to do so.  (Oct 1980)

ENSIGN article (May 1986, p. 98): – It is possible to arrive at a condition in which temporal practices foster spiritual salvation.  Welfare principles lead to the conditions that characterized Zion….  God has revealed basic principles for the welfare and salvation of his children, and these principles have not changed since the days of Enoch.  It is expected that we will rise to the same standard in our dispensation.  Whenever inspired men and women have sought appropriate ways to apply welfare principles, the Lord has revealed methods suited to their circumstances.  History reveals a surprising variety of approaches to caring for temporal needs, but two methods are dominant: compassionate service and self-reliance.  Compassionate giving and service ensure that (1) the poor do not suffer, (2) those whom the Lord has made rich sufficiently sacrifice, and (3) the Lord’s people are equal in earthly things so that things of the Spirit may be fully manifested among them.  Temporal equality means that all are adequately supplied with basic needs of life – food, shelter, and clothing. 

PRESIDENT J. REUBEN CLARK, Jr. – The Lord took the commandment from the people to live the United Order because of their selfishness, and their greed, and their love of idleness.  Had they lived it, they would have brought in the millennium.  If we don’t live the welfare program, the Lord will take from us the requirement to live it, and if he does, it will be because of our selfishness and greed and love of idleness.  If that should happen, 100 years from now the people will look back at us as we look back on the people who were given the united order law, and they will say of us, “They had the welfare program.  If they had lived it, they would have brought in the millennium.”   

PRESIDENT SPENCER W. KIMBALL – Now, brothers and sisters, would you put aside for a moment the pressing demands of this day and this week, and permit me to establish some very important perspectives about welfare services.  For many years we have been taught that one important end result of our labors, hopes, and aspirations in this work is the building of a Latter-day Zion, a Zion characterized by love, harmony, and peace – a Zion in which the Lord’s children are as ONE. The vision of what we are about and what should come of our labors must be kept uppermost in our minds as we learn and do our duty in the present implementation of welfare services. As important as it is to have this vision in mind, defining and describing Zion will not bring it about.  That can only be done through consistent and concerted daily effort by every single member of the Church.  No matter what the cost in toil or sacrifice, we must do it!    (April 1978)



Today I’m sharing a very influential message from Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:  SAVING YOUR LIFE. I read a shorter version in the March Ensign but wanted to post the whole message this morning. I know it’s long (especially when I can’t “condense” the thoughts and paragraphs to get rid of all the blank space… haven’t figure out how to do that). But I also know that it is an incredible message, and I hope you’ll find time to read it, and maybe to print it so you can mark it (I sure did!). Have a beautiful Sabbath!!!




When Jesus and His Apostles were together in Caesarea Philippi, He asked them this question, “Whom say ye that I am?”1 Peter, with reverent eloquence and power, responded, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”2 It thrills me to read those words; it thrills me to say them. Shortly after this sacred moment, however, Jesus spoke to the Apostles about His impending death and resurrection, and Peter contradicted Him. This earned Peter a stinging rebuke that he was not in tune with or not “savoring” the things of God “but those that be of men.”3 Then Jesus, “showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom [He had] reproved,”4kindly instructed Peter and his Brethren about taking up one’s cross and losing one’s life as the way to find an abundant and eternal life, Himself being the perfect example. Let’s look at the portrayal of this event in one of the Bible videos produced by the Church: Jesus: The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected of the elders and of the chief priests and scribes and be killed and after three days rise again. Peter: Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.  Jesus: Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.5

I want to talk to you about the Lord’s seemingly paradoxical declaration that “HE THAT FINDETH HIS LIFE SHALL LOSE IT: AND HE THAT LOSETH HIS LIFE FOR MY SAKE SHALL FIND IT.”6 It teaches a powerful, far-reaching doctrine that we need to understand and apply.


A thoughtful professor offered this insight: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, God’s work in your life is bigger than the story you’d like that life to tell. His life is bigger than your plans, goals, or fears. To save your life, you’ll have to lay down your stories and, minute by minute, day by day, give your life back to him.”7

The more I think about it, the more amazed I am at how consistently Jesus gave His life to the Father, how perfectly He lost His life in the will of the Father—in life and in death. This is precisely the opposite of Satan’s attitude and approach, which have been widely adopted in today’s self-centered world. In the premortal councils, in volunteering to fill the role of Savior in the Father’s divine plan, Jesus said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.”8 Lucifer, on the other hand, declared, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.”9

Christ’s commandment to follow Him is a commandment to reject once again the Satanic model and to lose our life in favor of the real life, the authentic life, the celestial–kingdom-enabled life that God envisions for each of us. That life will bless everyone we touch and will make saints of us. With our current, limited vision, it is a life that is beyond comprehension. Indeed, “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”10

I wish we had more of the conversation between Jesus and His disciples. It would have been helpful to have some additional light about what it means, in practice, to lose one’s life for His sake and thereby find it. But as I pondered it, I realized that the Savior’s comments just before and after His declaration provide valuable guidance. Let’s consider three of these contextual comments.


First are the Lord’s words spoken just before He said, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it.”11 As recorded in each of the synoptic gospels, Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”12 Luke adds the word daily—“let him … take up his cross daily.”13 In Matthew, the Joseph Smith Translation expands this statement with the Lord’s definition of what it means to take up one’s cross: “And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments.”14

This accords with James’s declaration: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”15 It is a daily life of avoiding all that is unclean while affirmatively keeping the two great commandments—love of God and fellowman—on which all other commandments hang.16 Thus, one element of losing our lives in favor of the greater life the Lord envisions for us consists in our taking up His cross day by day.


A second accompanying statement suggests that finding our life by losing it for His sake and the gospel’s entails a willingness to make our discipleship open and public: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”17

Elsewhere in Matthew, we find a companion statement: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”18

One obvious and rather sobering meaning of losing your life by confessing Christ is to lose it literally, physically, in sustaining and defending your belief in Him. We have grown accustomed to thinking of this extreme requirement as applying in history as we read about the martyrs of the past, including most of the ancient Apostles. Now we see, however, that what was historical is moving into the present. News reports from Iraq and Syria speak of hundreds of Christians and other minorities being driven from their homes or killed by Islamic extremists in the last several months. The terrorists demand that these Christians convert to their form of Islam or abandon their villages or die. The Christians will not deny Him, so many have fled and some have been killed.19 Surely such souls will be among those whom the Savior will not be ashamed to confess before His Father in a future day. We know not what may come in the future, but if any of us should face the trauma of literally losing our life in the Master’s cause, I trust we would show the same courage and loyalty.

The more common (and sometimes more difficult) application of the Savior’s teaching, however, has to do with how we live day by day. It concerns the words we speak, the example we set. Our lives should be a confession of Christ, and together with our words testify of our faith in and devotion to Him. And this testimony must be stoutly defended in the face of ridicule, discrimination, or defamation on the part of those who oppose Him “in this adulterous and sinful generation.”20

On a different occasion the Lord added this remarkable statement about our loyalty to Him: “Think not that I am come to send peace on [the] earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”21

Saying that He came not to send peace, but rather a sword, seems at first impression a contradiction to the scriptures that refer to Christ as the “Prince of Peace,”22 and the proclamation at His birth—“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,”23 —and other well-known references, such as, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.”24 “It is true that Christ came to bring peace—peace between the believer and God, and peace among men. Yet the inevitable result of Christ’s coming is conflict—between Christ and the antichrist, between light and darkness, between Christ’s children and the devil’s children. This conflict can occur even between members of the same family.”25

I’m confident that a number of you in our worldwide audience this evening have experienced personally what the Lord is expressing in these verses. You have been rejected and ostracized by father and mother, brothers and sisters as you accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ and entered into His covenant. In one way or another, your superior love of Christ has required the sacrifice of relationships that were dear to you, and you have shed many tears. Yet with your own love undiminished, you hold steady under this cross, showing yourself unashamed of the Son of God.

About three years ago a member of the Church shared a copy of the Book of Mormon with an Amish friend in Ohio. The friend began to read the book and could not put it down. For three days he had no other desire but to read the Book of Mormon. He and his wife were baptized, and within seven months there were three Amish couples converted and baptized members of the Church. Their children were baptized several months following. These three families decided to remain in their community and continue their Amish lifestyle even though they had left the Amish faith. However, as a result of being baptized, they were subjected to “shunning” by their close-knit Amish neighbors. Shunning means that no one in their Amish community will talk to them, work with them, do business with them, or associate with them in any way. This includes not just friends but family members—brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents.

Initially, these Amish Saints felt very alone and isolated as even their children were subjected to shunning and removed from their Amish schools because of their baptism and membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their children have endured shunning by grandparents and cousins and close neighbors. Even some of the older children of these Amish families, who did not accept the gospel, will not talk to or even acknowledge their parents. These families have struggled to recover from the social and economic effects of shunning, but they are succeeding.

Their faith remains strong. The adversity and opposition of shunning has caused them to be steadfast and immovable. A year after being baptized, the families were sealed in the temple and continue faithfully attending the temple on a weekly basis. They have found strength through receiving ordinances and entering into and honoring covenants. They are all active in their Church group and continue searching for ways to share the light and knowledge of the gospel with their extended families and community through acts of kindness and service.

Yes, the cost of joining the Church of Jesus Christ can be very high, but the admonition to prefer Christ above all others, even our closest family members, applies also to those who may have been born in the covenant. Many of us became members of the Church without opposition, perhaps as children. The challenge we may confront is remaining loyal to the Savior and His Church in the face of parents, in-laws, brothers or sisters, or even our children whose conduct, beliefs, or choices make it impossible to support both Him and them. It is not a question of love. We can and must love one another as Jesus loves us. As He said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”26  But, the Lord reminds us, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”27  So although familial love continues, relationships may be interrupted and, according to the circumstances, even support or tolerance at times suspended for the sake of our higher love.

In reality, the best way to help those we love—the best way to love them—is to continue to put the Savior first. If we cast ourselves adrift from the Lord out of sympathy for loved ones who are suffering or distressed, then we lose the means by which we might have helped them. If, however, we remain firmly rooted in faith in Christ, we are in a position both to receive and to offer divine help. If (or I should say when) the moment comes that a beloved family member wants desperately to turn to the only true and lasting source of help, he or she will know whom to trust as a guide and a companion. In the meantime, with the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide, we can perform a steady ministry to lessen the pain of poor choices and bind up the wounds insofar as we are permitted. Otherwise, we serve neither those we love nor ourselves.


The third element of losing our lives for the Lord’s sake that I want to mention is found in the words of the Lord: “And whosoever will lose his life in this world, for my sake, shall find it in the world to come. “Therefore, forsake the world, and save your souls; for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” 28  As given in the Joseph Smith Translation, “For what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and yet he receive him not whom God hath ordained, and he lose his own soul, and he himself be a castaway?”29

To say that forsaking the world in favor of receiving “him … whom God hath ordained” is countercultural in today’s world is certainly an understatement. The priorities and interests we most often see on display around us (and sometimes in us) are intensely selfish: a hunger to be recognized; the insistent demand that one’s rights be respected (including a supposed right never to be offended); a consuming desire for money, things, and power; a sense of entitlement to a life of comfort and pleasure; a goal to minimize responsibility and avoid altogether any personal sacrifice for the good of another; to name a few.

This is not to say that we should not seek to succeed, even excel in worthy endeavors, including education and honorable work. Earlier this year, Jed Rubenfeld and Amy Chua, who are husband and wife Yale Law School professors, published a book titled The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America. Their thesis is that some groups in America do better than others based on three cultural traits, described in the book, that give these groups an edge. Chua and Rubenfeld identify Mormons, Jews, Asians, West African immigrants, Indian-Americans, and Cuban-Americans as groups in America today that possess these traits.30

Comparing these groups with American society at large on measures such as “income, academic accomplishment, corporate leadership, professional attainment, and other conventional metrics,” Chua and Rubenfeld say: “If there’s one group in the U.S. today that’s hitting it out of the park with conventional success, it’s Mormons. … “Whereas Protestants make up about 51 percent of the U.S. population, America’s 5 to 6 million Mormons represent just 1.7 percent. Yet a stunning number have risen to the top of America’s corporate and political spheres.”31

Certainly, worthwhile achievements are laudable, but if we are to save our lives, we must always remember that such attainments are not ends in themselves, but means to a higher end. With our faith in Christ, we must see political, business, academic, and similar forms of success not as defining us but as making possible our service to God and fellowman—beginning at home and extending as far as possible in the world. Personal development has value as it contributes to development of a Christlike character. In measuring success, we recognize the profound truth underlying all else—that our lives belong to God, our Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Success means living in harmony with Their will.

In contrast to the narcissistic life, President Spencer W. Kimball offered a simple expression of the more excellent way: “Service to others deepens and sweetens this life while we are preparing to live in a better world. … When we are engaged in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves! In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of Jesus that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves! [See Matthew 10:39.]  “Not only do we ‘find’ ourselves in terms of acknowledging divine guidance in our lives, but the more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls. … We become more substantive as we serve others—indeed, it is easier to ‘find’ ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!”32



Let me close with a few examples of what it means in day-to-day life to lose one’s life in Christ and His gospel and thereby find authentic (and eventually eternal) life.

President Henry B. Eyring was president of Ricks College, now Brigham Young University–Idaho, in June 1976, when the just-completed Teton Dam, not far from Rexburg, gave way. “Eighty billion gallons of water roared toward Rexburg at forty miles per hour, sweeping away everything in the way.”33 Many people in the community responded heroically, helping others even when their own homes and belongings had been destroyed by the flood. A few, however, abandoned even their loved ones and left them to fend for themselves.

President Eyring, who himself helped direct the relief effort, wanted to understand what accounted for “the difference between the heroic response of some … and the betrayal of others. … He commissioned a small but scientifically significant study. ‘There was just one thing we could find,’ he later told a class of graduating high school seniors. “‘Those who were heroes had been the people who always remembered and kept promises in the little things, the daily things … a promise to stay after a church dinner to clean up, or to come to work on a Saturday project to help a neighbor.  “‘Those who deserted their families when it was hard had often deserted their obligations when it wasn’t so tough. They had a pattern of failing to keep their word to do little things when the sacrifice to them would have been slight and doing what they had said they would do would have been easy. When the price was high, they could not pay it.’”34

Sister Christofferson and I had a friend we met during law school days, a member of our ward in Durham, North Carolina. She and her husband were an ideal young couple with small children. She was blessed with intelligence, attractiveness, and a bright personality. Everyone admired and enjoyed being around her. Some 25 years later, however, when she was still in her 40s, she was stricken with an aggressive and incurable stomach cancer that also spread to her liver and lungs. Despite the shock and the pain as her life quickly drew to a close, she wrote these tender words to her family and friends, whom she so regretted having to leave: “[God’s] plan is divine and is going forth exactly as he planned. Since I am chosen to go through this trial, I know that it must be for my greatest good and highest joy. Already, the spiritual blessings are flowing, and I feel before the end that I will experience all that I need to be prepared to meet my Savior. His power is on the earth. There are no mistakes. … The trials are many and heavy at the present. Everyone seems to be suffering from their own. Look to the Lord and receive his help. Accept those things that are yours and the pain will be taken from you, and the peace will come.”

A particular young-adult sister decided to serve a full-time mission after having already completed undergraduate and graduate degrees and having participated in prestigious internship and study programs both at home and abroad. She had developed a capacity to connect with and relate to people from almost every belief system, political persuasion, and nationality, and she worried that wearing a missionary name tag all day, every day might become an identifier that could impede her exceptional ability to establish relationships. Just a few weeks into her mission, she wrote home about a simple but meaningful experience: “Sister Lee and I rubbed salve into an old lady’s arthritic hands—one of us on either side—while we sat in her living room. She didn’t want to listen to any spoken messages, but let us sing, loved us to sing. Thank you black missionary name tag for giving me license to have intimate experiences with complete strangers.”

By the things which he suffered, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned to lose his life in the service of his Master and Friend. He once said, “I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it.”35  I think we would all be content to match Brother Joseph’s level of faithfulness. Even so, he was once forced to languish for months in the jail at Liberty, Missouri, suffering physically but probably more emotionally and spiritually as he was unable to help his beloved wife, his children, and the Saints while they were being abused and persecuted. His revelations and direction had brought them to Missouri to establish Zion, and now they were being driven from their homes, in winter, across the entire state. Despite it all, in those conditions in that jail, he composed an inspired letter to the Church of the most elegant and uplifting prose, parts of which now comprise sections 121, 122, and 123 of the Doctrine and Covenants, concluding with these words, “Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”36

Of course, the greatest illustration of saving one’s life by losing it is this: “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.”37 In giving His life, Christ not only saved His own—He saved the lives of all of us. He made it possible for us to exchange what would otherwise have been an ultimately futile mortal life for eternal life.


The theme of the Savior’s life was “I do always those things that please [the Father].”38  I pray that you will make it the theme of your life. If you do, you will save your life. My dear young friends, be content in all your striving and achieving to put His will first. Learn to want what He wants. Confess and acknowledge Him in every aspect of your life. Do not be ashamed of Christ or His gospel, and be willing to lay down cherished things, cherished relationships, and even life itself for Him. But while you live, let your life be an offering. Take up His cross each day in obedience and service. These are the implications and the fruits of our faith, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.



  1. Matthew 16:15. 2. Matthew 16:16; See also Mark 8:29Luke 9:20.  3. Matthew 16:23; See also Mark 8:33.  4. Doctrine and Covenants 121:43.  5. “Whosoever Will Lose His Life for My Sake Shall Find it,” The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos;; see Matthew 16:21–27.  6. Matthew 10:39; See also Matthew 10:32–4116:24–28Mark 8:34–38Luke 9:23–2617:33.  7. Adam S. Miller, Letters to a Young Mormon (2014), 17–18.  8. Moses 4:2, emphasis added.  9. Moses 4:1, emphasis added.  10. 1 Corinthians 2:9.  11. Matthew 16:25.  12. Matthew 16:24.  13. Luke 9:23.  14. Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 16:24 (in Matthew 16:24, footnote e ).  15. James 1:27.  16. See Matthew 22:37–40.  17. Mark 8:38; See also Luke 9:26.  18. Matthew 10:32–33.  19. Martin Chulov, “Iraq’s Largest Christian Town Abandoned as Isis Advance Continues,” The Guardian, Aug. 7, 2014;  20. Mark 8:38.  21. Matthew 10:34–38.  22. Isaiah 9:6.  23. Luke 2:14.  24. John 14:27.  25. Kenneth Barker, ed. The NIV Study Bible, 10th anniversary ed. (1995), 1453.  26. John 13:35.  27. Matthew 10:37.  28. Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 16:28–29 (in the Bible appendix).  29. Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 9:25 (in the Bible appendix). 30. See Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America (2014), 5–8.  31. Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, The Triple Package, 29–31.  32. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball (2006), 85–86.  33. Robert I. Eaton and Henry J. Eyring, I Will Lead You Along: The Life of Henry B. Eyring (2013), 276.  34. Robert I. Eaton and Henry J. Eyring, I Will Lead You Along, 280–81.  35. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith(2007), 160; emphasis in original.  36. Doctrine and Covenants 123:17.  37. Matthew 26:42.  38. John 8:29.

© 2014 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. English approval: 1/14. “Saving Your Life.” English. PD10051044 000


I’ve shared thoughts about the SABBATH before, but I’m in the mood to share again this morning. Have an especially beautiful Sabbath.


Keeping the Sabbath Day WHOLLY as well as HOLY.   I’m using BOTH WORDS — both have helped me as I’ve studied and pondered.  To keep the Sabbath day WHOLLY means COMPLETELY — the best we can the WHOLE DAY.  We sing [Hymn # 280]   “Welcome, welcome, Sabbath morning, now we rest from every care.  Welcome, welcome is thy dawning, holy Sabbath, day of prayer.”  Does that sound like YOUR typical Sunday?  RESTING from every care — a day of PRAYER?  WHAT ARE YOUR SUNDAYS LIKE?  Does calling it a “day of rest” sometimes seem like an oxy-moron?  I have a brother serving as a Bishop, and he said to me recently that MONDAYS look pretty good these days. PRESIDENT SPENCER W. KIMBALL expressed what others have said in similar ways — that the Sabbath “contemplates quiet tranquility, peace of mind and spirit. It is a day to get rid of selfish interests and absorbing activities.”  (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball [1982], 215).  How do we make it a day like that?  Many of us probably work hard just to get ourselves and our family to meetings each Sunday.  And some have a LONG WAYS to go to get to their chapel or other place of worship.  But surely there must be some things we can do to increase our enjoyment of this GIFT from GOD — this GIFT of a SABBATH — a day of REST, a day of PEACE — a HOLY DAY —   It’s a commandment which brings ABUNDANT BLESSINGS.


I’ve enjoyed studying, praying, pondering, and making some changes in my Sabbath activities.  I pray that what I have prepared to share will be meaningful, and that IMPRESSIONS and FEELINGS will come which will be helpful to us. I’ve been thinking a lot about CHANGE — about striving to be BETTER when we’re already PRETTY GOOD.  Messages from our leaders such as ELDER OAKS’ talk about “GOOD, BETTER, and BEST,” are very thought-provoking, aren’t they. I’ve been motivated to think of things I want to improve in my life — things which might be GOOD which need to be BETTER, and eventually BEST.  And this includes the SABBATH. Do you remember a SPECIFIC SABBATH DAY which was especially WONDERFUL and SATISFYING?  Can you remember what made it that way?  Are there some things you could do to recreate the feeling?  I’m sure I’ve  MISSED BLESSINGS which could have come to me if I were better at keeping the Sabbath Day holy. ELDER BRUCE R. McCONKIE wrote that True religion always has and always will call for a Sabbath on which men rest from their temporal labors and work exclusively on spiritual matters…. Without a Sabbath of rest and worship, men’s hearts will never be centered on the things of the Spirit sufficiently to assure them of salvation….   It is in no sense an exaggeration nor does it overstate the fact one whit to say that any person who keeps the Sabbath, according to the revealed pattern, will be saved in the celestial kingdom. (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, p.390-391)

For ancient ISRAEL, Sabbath observance was a sign between them and their God whereby the CHOSEN PEOPLE might be KNOWN. (Neh. 13:15–22; Isa. 56:1–8; Jer. 17:19–27; Ezek. 46:1–7; Mormon Doctrine, 658) I wish that were true for us as Latter-Day Saints — I wish WE could be known as a people who HONOR the SABBATH.  I wish I personally could be known as someone who’s doing my best to keep the Sabbath Day HOLY.  I’d like to be a much better EXAMPLE to others. The SAVIOR’s invitation to “COME UNTO ME” has come to mean a call to CHANGE — to TURN, to RETURN.  As He said when he visited in the New World following his RESURRECTION:  (See 3 NEPHI 9:13-22) 13 O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?14 Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me. 15 Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God …. 18 I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. 20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit …. 22 … whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore REPENT, AND COME UNTO ME YE ENDS OF THE EARTH, AND BE SAVED.  Again — the call to COME UNTO CHRIST is a call for CHANGE, and I think that includes a conscious and consecrated effort to keep the day He made for us — the SABBATH DAY — HOLY.  THE LORD HIMSELF ASKED: “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)  Maybe we can think of some things we could CHANGE —  some things we could ADD,  perhaps some things we could ELIMINATE, in order that we might keep the Sabbath Day HOLY (and WHOLLY)


I’ve thought a lot about the DO’s and DON’Ts connected with the Sabbath —  Mostly the DON’Ts at first.  There were once such STRICT RULES about what COULD and COULDN’T be done on the Sabbath.  I’ve wondered what would happen if some or ANY of these rules were BROUGHT BACK.  I chose a few to share, and I’ve put them in the PRESENT TENSE so we can think about what it might be like: First, the Sabbath is to be a day of ENTIRE REST.  You can’t perform ANY WORK. You can’t kindle or extinguish a FIRE.  There are certain kinds of KNOTS you can’t tie. For example, the CAMEL DRIVER’S KNOT and the SAILOR’S KNOT are UNLAWFUL. It is equally illegal both to TIE or to LOOSE them. You can’t use any tools; in fact, you can’t even handle any tools!  You can’t knead or bake bread, sew two stitches, catch deer, save a sheep, gather sticks, comfort the sick, enliven the sorrowful, walk on stilts, or kill a flea or a camel. IMAGINE!  No walking on STILTS on the Sabbath!  No killing of fleas or camels! If you have a plug in your ear and it falls out, you can’t put it back in.  (This caught my attention because of all the PLUGS we PUT IN OUR EARS these days!) If it rains and you carry the water that falls from the sky, there is no sin;  but if the rain has run down from a wall… you can’t carry it.  Can you read on the Sabbath?… that depends on how limited or extended your exertions might be.  If you stumble and fall, can you get back up? So MANY questions!!…. There’s not time to mention ALL the rules, of course — there are far too many! WHEW!!! (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols., 1:, p.205)  OH!  And the penalty for disobeying this law of the Sabbath was DEATH! From Exodus 31:15 — Six days may work be done; but in the seventh [is] the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth [any] work in the sabbath day, HE SHALL SURELY BE PUT TO DEATH. IF THAT PENALTY WERE STILL IN PLACE, I WONDER HOW MANY OF US WOULD BE ALIVE TODAY . . . .  Not only do we occasionally tie sailor’s knots and kill fleas — I’ve actually seen people walking on stilts and comforting the sick! Perhaps we don’t need to worry too much about suffering physical death if we break the Sabbath, but it may be even worse to suffer a spiritual death, or even spiritual sickness.

PRESIDENT SPENCER W. KIMBALL said this about the Sabbath: It is a day when animals may be turned out to graze and rest; when the plow may be stored in the barn and other machinery cooled down; a day when employer and employee, master and servant may be free from plowing, digging, toiling. It is a day when the office may be locked and business postponed, and troubles forgotten; a day when man may be temporarily released from that first injunction, “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.” (GENESIS 3:19) It is a day when bodies may rest, minds relax, and spirits grow. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball, p.215)  And PRESIDENT JAMES E. FAUST added that Over a lifetime of observation, it is clear to me that the farmer who observes the Sabbath day seems to get more done on his farm than he would if he worked seven days…. The doctor, the lawyer, the dentist, the scientist will accomplish more by trying to rest on the Sabbath than if he tries to utilize every day of the week for his professional work. I would counsel all students, if they can, to arrange their schedules so that they do not study on the Sabbath. If students and other seekers after truth will do this, their minds will be quickened and the infinite spirit will lead them to the verities they wish to learn. This is because God has hallowed His day and blessed it as a perpetual covenant of faithfulness. (Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 45)

As I was studying and thinking, I kept getting a little reminder that THE SABBATH WAS MADE FOR US.  I keep feeling that it should be a more PLEASANT part of the week —  a day to be ANTICIPATED WITH POSITIVE FEELINGS.  Thank goodness the SAVIOR brought back the ORIGINAL MEANING of “REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY TO KEEP IT HOLY.”  He wanted it to be a BLESSING and not a BURDEN!  He taught that it was alright to DO GOOD on the Sabbath, and reminded us that THE SABBATH WAS MADE FOR MAN (not man for the Sabbath)  (Mark 2:27)   He performed good deeds on the Sabbath, such as healing the man with palsy (Mark 2:1-12) as well as the man with the paralyzed hand (Matthew 12:10-13)  I’m grateful there are so many “DO’s” for Sabbath worship!  We can’t pack them ALL into every single Sabbath, but they can help us make good decisions about keeping the day HOLY and WHOLLY.  DOES IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR YOU TO PLAN HOW YOU’LL OBSERVE THE DAY?  It does for me.


I’d like to share some ideas about ways in which we who are not yet PERFECT can keep the Sabbath Day increasingly HOLY.  What can we do to help make our Sabbath observance more appropriate, more enjoyable, more meaningful. I’m going to anticipate what some of you might be thinking:  “Well these are all going to sound just wonderful, but you have NO IDEA what our Sundays are like!”  You’re right — I don’t. Maybe you have lots of small children, or one of your aging parents or another family member in your home.  Maybe you have health challenges, or your job requires you to work most Sundays.  Maybe you have a calling which requires you to spend a LOT of time in meetings, and/or a LOT of time traveling. WELL . . . . What isn’t HOLY about caring for little children or parents, or others.  What isn’t holy about traveling to visit someone?  We do the best we can, don’t we.  And we’re not expected to do everything everyone has ever suggested on every single Sunday! These are just some IDEAS which may help to make our Sabbath Days more ENJOYABLE, more MEANINGFUL. The Sabbath can be a time for the FAMILY to GATHER — to be TOGETHER. Our SUNDAY DINNERS almost always lasted a LONG time as we just sat visiting and enjoying our time together. The Sabbath is good time for PERSONAL STUDY — for preparing TALKS or LESSONS, or just for STUDYING something you’re interested in. It’s a good day to set aside TIME for PONDERING and MEDITATION as you can. I don’t think we do enough of this.  I loved President Hinckley telling of his FATHER sitting out in their yard on a STONE WALL for HOURS … just THINKING. The Sabbath is a beautiful day for FAMILY HISTORY work — for things like RESEARCH and PERSONAL HISTORIES. Many families hold a FAMILY COUNCIL on Sundays — and by the way, a Family Council would be a wonderful time for a discussion together about how to work together AS A FAMILY to make the Sabbath Day more meaningful, more holy.  These can be LIVELY DISCUSSIONS — there may be some DIFFERENCES of OPINION. I live alone, so I just TALK TO MYSELF about such things.  Some of those discussions get pretty lively! A choice to listen to GOOD MUSIC can make a difference.  I saw a BUMPER STICKER which said “GOOD MUSIC IS NOT AS BAD AS IT SOUNDS.” Singing the HYMNS or even just reading the WORDS can be a meaningful activity — alone or together. Finding ways to SERVE can bring a great feeling of joy to the day.  One of my friends who has 8 children tells of her family gathering each Sunday when the children were young and making 36 LUNCHES to take to the HOMELESS SHELTER. VISITING others is a wonderful way to serve them.  Think of those in your area who might be lonely, or home-bound.  We may not know how much a visit would mean to those we’re prompted to spend some time with. Sunday might be a good day to catch up on READING — the scriptures, conference reports, lessons, and other good reading materials.  Read things which UPLIFT and INSPIRE you — which give you GOOD THINGS to THINK ABOUT. Writing letters to friends and loved ones is a nice Sabbath activity.  Don’t forget how much MISSIONARIES and others who are away from home love to get mail! Many individuals and families find Sunday a good day to catch up on their JOURNALS. Some families have a SUNDAY ACTIVITY BOX which only comes out on that day. I found some CREATIVE IDEAS in an Ensign article from April 2001— “Call the Sabbath a Delight.”  I’ll share just a few of the ideas from this article: A MOTHER IN CONNECTICUT shared the idea of having a THEME for Sunday.   She wrote: “To make Sundays more meaningful, our family sometimes has a theme for the day. The theme becomes the basis for our choices of the day’s activities.”  Here are some EXAMPLES:- BLUE RIBBON SUNDAY. They remember and acknowledge people who have made a positive difference in their lives.  They create two ribbons to give to someone — one ribbon for that person to keep, and one for him or her to pass along to someone else. – MISSIONARY SUNDAY. They do things like inviting the full-time missionaries over for dinner, asking them to talk about their work, and they hold meetings in their homes with the missionaries and neighbors. This Mother said that having a theme gives the family something to look forward to and helps them focus on important areas of the gospel on the Sabbath. (Shalynn Sedgwick, Bridgeport Branch, New Haven Connecticut Stake – “‘Call the Sabbath a Delight’ (Isa. 58:13),” Ensign, Apr 2001, 46) A SISTER FROM ARIZONA told of a their family holding a discussion — a Family Council — to talk of some changes they could make — things that would set this day apart from the other days of the week.  They chose special MUSIC, including recordings of the hymns and Primary songs.  They made their Sunday meals simpler.  They changed to comfortable CLOTHES after meetings but didn’t put on “GRUBBIES.”  Sometimes they had their FAMILY HOME EVENING lesson Sunday, leaving Monday free for another FAMILY ACTIVITY. She said:  “The effects on our family were readily apparent one Sunday when a neighbor boy came by to talk to our 10‑year‑old son about some items our son [was selling] as a money‑making venture. Our son replied simply to his friend, ‘We’re closed on Sunday.’” (Betty Jan Murphy, Pine Ward, Payson Arizona Stake – “‘Call the Sabbath a Delight’ (Isa. 58:13),” Ensign, Apr 2001, 46) A WOMAN FROM CALIFORNIA said she realized that before she could fill her Sundays with spiritually nourishing activities, she had to free them of all the things that drained her.  She had to MAKE A SPACE for what she most wanted to have happen on the Sabbath.  She made a personal checklist of things to be done before Sunday.  She began praying on Saturday for the blessings she wanted to receive on the Sabbath Day.  She prayed for things like an increased understanding of the Atonement, a greater appreciation of the Sacrament, the ability to learn by the Spirit, and strength and inspiration for the coming week.  She recognizes these preparations as a GIFT she gives herself — her chance for rest and renewal. (Sharli Turner, Littlerock Ward, Palmdale California Stake –  “‘Call the Sabbath a Delight’ (Isa. 58:13),” Ensign, Apr 2001, 46)


What if you feel you don’t have TIME for many or any of these suggestions?  Well, I have an IDEA.  What if you were to make an EXCHANGE?  Exchange something you might often do now on Sundays for something different — something you feel would be more in keeping with a HOLY day, a SABBATH.  FOR EXAMPLE:  Let’s suppose someone likes to watch “60 Minutes” every single Sunday evening.  How about taping it and watching it early on Monday morning.  You’ll have an extra hour on Sunday, and you can now call your program “40 minutes,” because you can cut out the ads. There are important opportunities to teach our children and others BY EXAMPLE as we do our best to keep the Sabbath Day HOLY.  The Sabbath has been observed from the time of EVE and ADAM — it didn’t just come when Moses received the TEN COMMANDMENTS.  It is an ETERNAL PRINCIPLE.  It’s been here FOREVER.  It is a commandment that is repeated OFTEN in the Scriptures.  Here are just a few examples:  – From the OLD TESTAMENT: (Leviticus 23:3) Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day [is] the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work [therein]: it [is] the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. – From the NEW TESTAMENT:  (Matthew 12:12) … Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. – From the BOOK OF MORMON:  (Mosiah 18:23) And he commanded them that they should observe the sabbath day, and keep it holy, and also every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God. – And from the DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS: (D&C 68:29) And the inhabitants of Zion shall also observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy. In addition to the SCRIPTURES, we have received COUNSEL from latter-day PROPHETS.  Here are just a few EXAMPLES: I couldn’t resist putting this in from PRESIDENT BRIGHAM YOUNG: Every person should be silent when we meet here to worship God. Remember and try to keep perfectly quiet, and do not whisper, talk, nor scrape your feet.   (DBY, 167–68)  PRESIDENT SPENCER W. KIMBALL  People frequently wonder where to draw the line: what is worthy and what is unworthy to do upon the Sabbath.  But if one loves the Lord with all his heart, might, mind, and strength; if one can put away selfishness and curb desire; if one can measure each Sabbath activity by the yardstick of worshipfulness; if one is honest with his Lord and with himself; if one offers a ‘broken heart and a contrite spirit’, it is quite unlikely that there will be Sabbath breaking in that person’s life. (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.219)  PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY If you have any doubt about the wisdom, the divinity of observing the Sabbath Day, ¼ stay home and gather your family about you, teach them the gospel, enjoy yourselves together on the Sabbath Day, come to your meetings, participate. You will know that the principle of the Sabbath is a true principle which brings with it great blessings. (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 559)  PRESIDENT HAROLD B. LEE  My experience has taught me that the prompting of the conscience to a faithful Church member is the safest indicator as to that which is contrary to the spirit of worship on the Sabbath Day.   (Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living, p 148)  Using this standard, each person may decide for himself what may best be done on the Lord’s day. This puts the burden where the Lord intended — ON THE SHOULDERS OF THE INDIVIDUAL.  Once again, from the book of EXODUS:  Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8)  REMEMBER is an important word, isn’t it.  It always leads us back to God and His goodness, His mercy — and it leads us to gratitude, worship, obedience, and happiness.  It feels like we will have a better chance to keep the Sabbath Day holy if we REMEMBER WHY God gave it to us! As I mentioned, anciently, Israel was known as a people who SET APART one day in seven for REST and for WORSHIP. The Lord said that Sabbath observance was “A PERPETUAL COVENANT.”  PERPETUAL, which means it is STILL binding on us.  As ELDER BRUCE R. McCONKIE stated, “It is as much a law in our day as it was three thousand years ago.”  (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, p.392)  PRESIDENT JAMES E. FAUST  In our time God has recognized our intelligence by not requiring endless restrictions. Perhaps this was done with a hope that we would catch more of the spirit of Sabbath worship rather than the letter thereof. In our day, however, this pendulum of Sabbath day desecration has swung very far indeed. We stand in jeopardy of losing great blessings promised.  After all, IT IS A TEST BY WHICH THE LORD SEEKS TO “PROVE [US] IN ALL THINGS” (D&C 98:14)  TO SEE if [our] DEVOTION is COMPLETE. (James E. Faust, “The Lord’s Day,” Ensign, Nov 1991, 33)   EXODUS 31:16–17 16- Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, [for] a perpetual covenant. 17- It [is] a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he RESTED, and was REFRESHED. God likely didn’t REST after six days because He was TIRED … He CEASED with His work of PHYSICAL CREATION.  It doesn’t mean that He did NOTHING on the 7th day, the Sabbath. It says He RESTED and was REFRESHED.  The word SABBATH comes from the Hebrew word meaning day of rest, or cessation [of labor].  IN OUR REST, WE TURN OUR ATTENTION TO GOD. (How much do we really think about HIM — focus on HIM — the rest of the week?  Too often I think I’m too much like a ZORAMITE — a little time on RAMEUMPTOM once a week, and that covers it). PRESIDENT JAMES E. FAUST  Why has God asked us to honor the Sabbath day? … The first [reason] has to do with the physical need for rest and renewing…. The second reason is, in my opinion, of far greater significance. It has to do with the need for regeneration and the strengthening of our spiritual being. God knows that, left completely to our own devices without regular reminders of our spiritual needs, many would degenerate into the preoccupation of satisfying earthly desires and appetites. This need for physical, mental, and spiritual regeneration is met in large measure by faithful observance of the Sabbath day. The third reason may be the most important of the three. It has to do with obedience to commandments as an expression of our love for God. Blessed are those who need no reasons other than their love for the Savior to keep his commandments. The response of Adam to the angel who asked Adam why he made a sacrifice unto the Lord is a MODEL for all. Responded Adam, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” (Moses 5:6) (James E. Faust, “The Lord’s Day,” Ensign, Nov 1991, 33)

There may be times when WE feel that way — we do all that we can to keep the Sabbath Day holy, not knowing all the REASONS WHY, but knowing SURELY that THE LORD HAS COMMANDED IT. We have been asked to SANCTIFY the Sabbath day — to make it SPECIAL and DIFFERENT from any other day.  It’s not just a day to “hang out” — eating, sleeping, watching TV . . . . No, it’s a day when we REMEMBER — when we do things which help us feel closer to the Savior and to each other — when we do things which help us REMEMBER and RENEW our SACRED COVENANTS.  We give fuller attention to SPIRITUAL THINGS. PARTAKING OF THE SACRAMENT is one way in which the Sabbath becomes a great BLESSING to us.  This process of RENEWING OUR COVENANTS is such a WONDERFUL and IMPORTANT thing!  I pray we can make it a more MEANINGFUL part of our Sabbath and not just a chance for a few minutes of letting our minds wander. The Sabbath is TRULY A DAY TO WORSHIP GOD, and to allow Him to continue His CREATION of RIGHTEOUSNESS in us.  It’s a good day for Him to help us remove some of the WRINKLES and SPOTS from our character. It’s a day for us to STRENGTHEN and FORTIFY ourselves against the CONSTANT PRESSURE OF WORLDLY INFLUENCES. HENRY WARD BEECHER said this about Sunday: A world without a Sabbath would be like a man without a smile, like a summer without flowers, and like a homestead without a garden. It is the joyous day of the whole week. HENRY W. LONGFELLOW suggested that   Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.

 There have been a lot of changes in what happens on Sunday since I was a little girl. I imagine you’ve observed the same thing.  If our town hadn’t been so small, and life a lot simpler than it is now, it might have been more difficult to keep the day holy. ONE EXAMPLE is that in all my growing-up years, we NEVER watched TV on Sunday.   NEVER!  Not even once!  That’s hard to believe, isn’t it.   OK … so we didn’t HAVE a TV, and neither did anyone else in our town.  NONE of us watched TV AT ALL!  EVER!  But I like to say that sometimes because it sounds so impressive! I loved reading what one man said about the Sabbath in his home when he was young.  His parents had a very simple philosophy:  “The day we violate the Sabbath day and have to miss our Sunday meetings to care for the farm is the day we sell the farm.” (Earl C. Tingey, “Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy,” Ensign, Feb 2000)  It seems like many have ceased to observe the Sabbath. Not only is it an ordinary workday for many, it’s a day for RECREATION and FUN: Shopping, movies, golf, skiing, sporting events — from the Super Bowl to Nascar to the World Cup and every other kind of sport — eating out, internet games, hunting, fishing, picnicking, ETC. BROTHER ROBERT L. MILLET said that The Lord’s holy day has largely become a holiday in our fast‑paced world. Men and women scurry about on weekends in a maddened effort to grab all the relaxation and leisure they can find. In the process they do not make a way for their soul to be rested. Just as the physical body needs a diversion from the cares and trouble of the world of work, so the spirit within us needs diversion from the things that distract us from sacred matters.(Robert L. Millet, Alive in Christ: The Miracle of Spiritual Rebirth, p.142 ‑ 143)  ELDER JOE J. CHRISTENSEN  Temptations to break the Sabbath are [great].  Television is a  challenge. I love football, basketball — just about any athletic event. It doesn’t matter who is playing.  Barbara once said: “Joe, I don’t understand you. It doesn’t matter who is playing — Mars could be playing Jupiter and I’ll bet you would be interested.” [I can hear her voice as I read that!]  I agreed that if Mars were playing Jupiter, I would really be interested! … I have discovered a wonderful advantage of technology: we simply… record the Sunday programs we don’t want to miss, and then on another day, at our own convenience, we can watch those special events — fast‑forwarding through the commercials and time‑outs. We don’t have to miss a thing. (From One Step at a Time, p. 143 ff)

My niece Mary, who lives in Georgia, has a little son who asked her one January  “Mom, do we go to Church on Super Bowl Sunday?”  Definitely a “teaching moment” in the Joyner household! There are so many “TEACHING MOMENTS,” aren’t there.  It is SO IMPORTANT that we provide GOOD EXAMPLES for others.  Many years ago I was helping with “ACADEMY FOR GIRLS” program at BYU.  In one of our classes we were talking about COURAGE.  I asked them to fill in the blank:  “It takes courage to _____”  I gave them a while to think about it, then asked if anyone would like to share. One sweet young girl got up and told a story I’ll never forget.  She had taken ballet lessons for about as long as she’d been able to stand up on her own, and her biggest dream was to participate in “The Nutcracker” which was put on in the community each year at Christmas time.  When she was about 9 years old, she received an invitation to try out, and she was chosen to participate!  She was SO excited!  She went to the first meeting/practice, only to learn that many of the practices would be held on SUNDAY . . . . Her heart sank.  She went home and told her parents what she’d found out.  Their response surprised me (and perhaps it surprised her too). “That’s a real dilemma.  What are you going to do?”  She said she wasn’t sure.  They encouraged her to think about it, to pray, and told her they would support her in her decision, no matter what decision she made (who ARE these parents??).  She said she went to her bedroom to pray, already knowing what her decision would be.  But she spent a while thinking about it.  She then went back to her parents and told them she wasn’t going to be in “The Nutcracker” (how do you think they felt!….).   She called to let the person know who had invited her.  He was well aware of how long she’d waited for this chance and asked her why in the world she wasn’t going to participate.  She explained that she felt it wasn’t something she wanted to do on the Sabbath Day.  This was not an easy decision, even though she knew it was the right one.  Her dream had died. HOWEVER . . .  about a year later this same man called her to ask her to try out for “The Nutcracker” once again, and before she could say anything or ask any questions, he said “Oh, and by the way, none of our practices will be held on Sundays.”  IMAGINE!… one little girl making such a big change in her community!

Every example doesn’t have the same outcome on a whole community or group — but the possibility is there.  ELDER EARL C. TINGEY told of an experience when he had a young family and they lived in a small community where they were the only members of the Church. When our oldest son was nine years of age, he was invited to play Little League baseball. He was outfitted with a complete baseball suit, and he practiced very hard to be a good member of the team. Several days before the first game was to be played, the coach of his team came to our home and informed us that due to a recent scheduling change, all games would be played on Sunday. Our son was devastated. We convened a family home evening…and discussed the matter and left the decision to our son. Knowing of our heritage and principles, he made the decision that he would not play. I can still recall his heartbreak as I drove him to the coach’s home where he turned in his newly acquired baseball uniform. (Earl C. Tingey, “Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy,” Ensign, Feb 2000) I am convinced there were blessings that came to that little boy and his family and perhaps others as well.

I don’t know that we always RECOGNIZE the BLESSINGS that come to us when we do the best we can to keep the Sabbath Day holy.  I also feel that we may not recognize the DAMAGE which can happen if we NEGLECT or IGNORE this COMMANDMENT.  PRESIDENT GEORGE ALBERT SMITH  (Keep in mind that he said this in October Conference of 1935!!) The Sabbath has become the play-day of this great nation —the day set apart by thousands to violate the commandment that God gave long, long ago … I am persuaded that much of the sorrow and distress that is afflicting and will continue to inflict mankind is traceable to the fact that they have ignored his admonition to keep the Sabbath day holy.  (CR, October 1935, p. 120)  SUSANNAH WESLEY (Mother of John and Charles) once wrote:  “Would you judge the lawfulness or unlawfulness of pleasure, then use this rule:  Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish of spiritual things, increases the authority of your body over your mind; that thing to you is sin.” I think she’s right, and I think a habit of BREAKING THE SABBATH will weaken our reason, impair the tenderness of our conscience, obscure our sense of God, take away our relish of spiritual things, and increase the authority of our body over our mind — and to us, this would definitely be sin.


CAN WE MAKE CHANGES IF WE FEEL WE NEED TO DO SO?  A Latter‑day Saint couple bought a restaurant that had not previously been highly successful, but they planned changes to put new life into the business. Sunday had been one of the restaurant’s busy days, and some of their acquaintances — including a close friend who had loaned them money to buy the business — urged them to keep it open on Sunday.  They agonized over whether to close the restaurant on Sunday; after all, it defied good business logic.  But they finally decided to close it, follow their own beliefs, and trust in the Lord.  The succeeding months saw an immediate increase in sales, and since then the business has steadily and consistently grown.  Their experience, along with the experiences of others, teaches us that the Lord rewards those who obey his commandments….  (D. Kelly Ogden, “Remember the Sabbath Day,” Liahona, May 1998, 20-21)  I know we shouldn’t assume that we’ll receive great financial success or any other specific blessing if we honor the Sabbath.  Sometimes even when we’re doing our best to live the gospel we have financial difficulties.  I know that’s true.  But I’m convinced that as we obey the law of the Sabbath, the Lord will bless us with whatever blessing he knows is best for us.   Great blessings WILL COME, even some we may not be aware of at the time.   ELDER JOHN H. GROBERG  There is power in keeping the Sabbath day holy — power to help others as well as ourselves.  If we would have God’s blessings and protection as individuals, as families, as communities, and as nations, WE MUST KEEP HIS SABBATH DAY HOLY….  I further testify that when we eventually see things through the proper perspective of eternal truth, we will be AMAZED at how MUCH we were blessed in important — though often unperceived — ways through keeping the Sabbath holy.  (Ensign, November 1984, pp. 80-81)  A man looking back to his childhood shared an experience where he gained great respect both for the Sabbath and for his father.  It was a time when the family was having a hard time making ends meet.  The father, who was serving as a branch president, called his family together and they discussed the situation.  The five children agreed to go work in the fields at harvest time, and the father went with them to help supplement the small income he received working at a sawmill.  The harvest had been slowed by rain that year, and it came to a point where the crop either had to be harvested or it would probably mildew and rot.  The farm owner, Mr. Cobine, told everyone they’d have to work the next day, Sunday.  The boy watched as Mr. Cobine approached his father with that news.  His father stopped picking and asked Mr. Cobine if he could talk to him for a few minutes.  He reluctantly agreed.  Here’s what the young boy observed:  In a kind voice my father explained that the Lord provides everything we have. He told Mr. Cobine that keeping the Sabbath day holy was a commandment and counseled him not to anger the Lord by harvesting on Sunday. My father went on to testify that the Lord would provide — his men should not have to work on this or any other Sunday. He even invited the owner to attend Church services with our family.  To my astonishment, after asking Dad a few questions, the owner accepted his counsel about the Sabbath and asked his workers to wait until Monday to come back to work.  I could not have been prouder of my dad — but I was also concerned.  I thought to myself, How can my father promise him that the Lord will provide?  I said a silent prayer to Heavenly Father to help my dad.  The crop harvested on Monday was abundant and of an unusually high quality. To my amazement, there was no sign of mildew damage or decay. So many workers showed up for the picking that the harvesting was completed in record time. The Lord had, indeed, provided bountifully. That summer the ranch produced more than it had in any other year. Mr. Cobine repeatedly thanked my father for his counsel and guidance. Even though he didn’t consider himself a religious person, he believed that the Lord had blessed him for keeping the Sabbath day holy.  The lesson I learned that day from my father’s courage to stand up for what he believed has stayed with me. The Sabbath is a holy day and not one to be used in pursuit of the things of this world; it’s a day for us to become closer to our Heavenly Father.  Keith H. Morse (Ensign, June 1998, pp. 57-58)

You have YOUR OWN STORIES, and I hope you’ve written them down to share with your family and other loved ones.  I know that there are INCREDIBLE BLESSINGS waiting for us as we do our best to KEEP THE SABBATH DAY HOLY.  In a regional training meeting for priesthood leaders several years ago, PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY expressed concern that members of the Church may have a tendency to “TAKE ON THE WAYS OF THE WORLD.” He said:  “We don’t adopt [the ways of the world] immediately, but we slowly take them on, unfortunately.  I wish I had the power to convert this whole Church to the observance of the Sabbath. I know our people would be more richly blessed of the Lord if they would walk in faithfulness in the observance of the Sabbath.”  (Heber City/Springville, Utah, regional conference, priesthood leadership meeting, 13 May 1995)  Think of his comment about us taking on “the ways of the world” as we read in the Doctrine and Covenants section 59 verse 9: That thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;Think of just this one BLESSING of keeping the Sabbath Day holy!  We have help in keeping ourselves UNSPOTTED from the WORLD!  PRESIDENT JAMES E. FAUST asked “Who can question but that sincere sabbath observance will help us keep ourselves unspotted from the world?” (James E. Faust, Finding Light in a Dark World, p.114 ‑ 115)  I think the Sabbath might be one of the MYSTERIES — Like Tithing, where 9 pennies go further than 10, and SERVICE, where 9 minutes go further than 10.  Think of the SABBATH, and how much further the 6 days go when we properly observe and keep this 7th day HOLY!  The SABBATH is like an OASIS, and probably increasingly so.  Living water, shade from the heat of everyday life, a chance to REST (Along with our CAMELS).  Can we move from things which may be BORING in their very ROUTINE through the week and find a BREAK? … A chance to say “WHOA!” ?  Can we move from the FAST LANE, from being SO BUSY, to a day when we make time for CONTEMPLATION? Can we STOP our HABITUAL EVERY-DAY STUFF and do something DIFFERENT?  Something REFRESHING and HOLY?  Can we give up shopping, TV, doing laundry, housecleaning, going to the office, or even “chatting” as we usually do — can we think of even ONE THING we can do which will make the Sabbath more meaningful?

During the time I’ve been preparing, I’ve come to some  CONCLUSIONS.  One of them is that there is a DANGER for SABBATH BREAKERS to LOSE THE SPIRIT!  And, sadly, they may not realize it!  The SABBATH lasts ALL DAY, doesn’t it.  The commandment does not read: “Remember the 3-HOUR BLOCK [on Sunday], to keep it holy.”  Even when we’re on a VACATION, the Sabbath is still the Sabbath.  We have been asked to SANCTIFY the Sabbath day — to make it special and different from any other day … and not just if or when it feels CONVENIENT to do so.  AGAIN:  ¶ EXODUS 20:8-11  Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.  ELDER BRUCE R. MCCONKIE taught that to this very day, “the matter of Sabbath observance remains ¼ as one of THE GREAT TESTS WHICH DIVIDES THE RIGHTEOUS FROM THE WORLDLY AND WICKED”   (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed (1966) 658)  ELDER MARK E. PETERSEN  “THE MANNER IN WHICH WE SPEND THE SABBATH IS A SIGN OF OUR INNER ATTITUDE TOWARD [GOD]. ¼ “OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH IS AN INDICATION OF THE DEPTH OF OUR CONVERSION.”    (Ensign, May 1975, 49)  BROTHER WILLIAM E. BERRETT – God is not waiting to whip us or to punish us for breaking the Sabbath day. What we ARE will be reward or punishment enough.  The way we OBSERVE the SABBATH — the ways in which we do our best to KEEP IT HOLY — is a TEST!  Let’s pretend there’s a way to see how we’re doing with this TEST.  Someone with a “SABBATH EVALUATION MACHINE” comes sneaking around on Sundays to find out who is “true and faithful” and KEEPING COVENANTS and who isn’t.  (I wouldn’t let them in!).  But think about it — what would they (ANYONE) FIND and FEEL if they came to my home or your home on the Sabbath?  In 1993, The FIRST PRESIDENCY shared the following:  Since the creation of the earth, the Sabbath day has been established by God for the spiritual well‑being of His children…. We sense that many Latter‑day Saints have become lax in their observance of the Sabbath day. We should refrain from shopping on the Sabbath and participating in other commercial and sporting activities that now commonly desecrate the Sabbath.  We urge all Latter‑day Saints to set this holy day apart from activities of the world and consecrate themselves by entering into a spirit of worship, thanksgiving, service, and family‑centered activities appropriate to the Sabbath.  AS CHURCH MEMBERS ENDEAVOR TO MAKE THEIR SABBATH ACTIVITIES COMPATIBLE with the INTENT and SPIRIT of the LORD, THEIR LIVES will be FILLED with JOY and PEACE. (Ensign, January 1993, p. 80)

KEEPING THE SABBATH DAY HOLY IS CRITICAL TO SO MANY OF THE BLESSINGS FOR WHICH WE PLEAD!  LISTEN AGAIN TO THE VOICE OF THE LORD as recorded in the book of LEVITICUS  (See Leviticus 26:2-12) As I read these verses (which I’ve condensed a bit), see if you can find blessings which you need, and keep in mind that the blessings came because the SABBATH was kept HOLY.  Ye shall keep my sabbaths…. I am the Lord.  Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.  … and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.  And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid.  And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you….   And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight….  And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people. What WONDERFUL BLESSINGS!!  HE GAVE US THE SABBATH BECAUSE HE LOVES US! This, then, is the heart of the matter. The Sabbath was made for our good — not to enslave the spirit, but to feed it.  And when the spirit is fed, the Sabbath day becomes the remarkable blessing that the Lord intended it to be.  DON’T YOU FEEL SORRY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NO SABBATH — WHO OBSERVE NO SABBATH?  I believe there is a DIRECT RELATIONSHIP between HONORING THE SABBATH DAY and being blessed TEMPORALLY as well as SPIRITUALLY.  I KNOW THIS IS TRUE!  I FEEL IT SO STRONGLY!  One impression that has come to me over and over again as I’ve studied and prayed is the CONNECTION between the SABBATH and THE LAW OF THE FAST.  I’ll share two different references to illustrate.  DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS 59:9‑14   That thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; for verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High; nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times; but REMEMBER that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.  And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.  Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.  And now from the book of ¶ ISAIAH 58, verses 13 and 14:  If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words. Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord . . . . As the Prophet ISAIAH has been speaking of living the Law of the Fast just prior to this, it seems to me that he’s inviting us to “FAST” from what we would ordinarily THINK and DO and SAY on the Sabbath, and turn to what our Heavenly Father wants us to do.  As we do our best to keep the Sabbath HOLY and WHOLLY, we show our Heavenly Father that we have ACCEPTED HIS GIFT of a day of REST, a day of PEACE, a day for renewal and kindness, for worship and holiness.  Let’s become known as people who keep the Sabbath Day HOLY.  Let’s show the Lord, through our observance of His Day, that we DO REMEMBER HIM and His ATONING SACRIFICE, and we wish to WORSHIP and HONOR HIM on HIS HOLY DAY.  I feel DEEPLY about what I have shared.  I know that the Sabbath fills our NEED for PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL REFRESHMENT and REJUVENATION.  It is, as PRESIDENT FAUST CALLED IT, “a day of SPIRITUAL CELEBRATION.”  May our efforts to keep the Sabbath day HOLY bring the promised blessings in this day when we NEED those blessings as much as any of God’s children ever have!

EXTRA FROM ISAIAH 58:6-14 (p. 930-31) (Some of the most incredible and tender promises in any of scripture)  6) Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? 7) Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?   8) Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.  9) Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.  If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;10) And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday; 11) And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. 12) And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.   13) If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words. 14) Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. 


I’m sharing a message this morning which comes from a talk I value so much. As you’ll see, it was given by Brother Robert Millet at BYU-Idaho in January of 2004. I have spent over an hour trying to correct “typo’s” which come in switching a document from WordPerfect to Word) don’t even get me started on how HARD that was!!). I’ve probably missed some… just forgive me, OK? I’ve spent way too long trying to correct everything.  Just enjoy this message, and I hope it will be helpful in some way to all of you who take the time to read it.

(P.S. Leanne just reminded me that I could have pulled it off the internet and would not have had to do any editing . . . . I’m unable to express my feelings of inadequacy…..)


(Brigham Young University‑Idaho Devotional – January 27, 2004)

Robert L. Millet

Some time ago I sat in my home ward and listened with much interest as four children moved to the front of the chapel and in turn bore their testimonies. The first one could not have been more than seven years old, and yet she spoke with a confidence that one might expect from a seasoned adult member of the Church.  She said, essentially, “I want to bear my testimony that I know that the Church is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that President Gordon B. Hinckley is our living prophet today.” She then shared some personal feelings and sat down.

I pondered on her words, on the depth of sincerity evident in her voice, and I wondered:

Does she know?  Does she really know?  How much could she know?

Later during the day I reflected on the experience and had affirmed to my mind and heart that little children can come to know the things of God, by the power of the Spirit of God, (1 Corinthians 2:11‑14) and can speak words of truth and wisdom, just as their adult counterparts can (Alma 32:23).

A testimony is not something you either have or don’t have, but rather an impression of the Spirit as to the truthfulness of eternal things, an inner awareness that ranges along a spiritual continuum from a simple peaceful feeling to a perfect knowledge.  It has wisely been observed that the strength of this Church lies not alone in the powerful witnesses of the fifteen men we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators, but rather the deep reassurance and resolve that rests in the souls of individual Saints of the Most High from Alabama to Zanzibar.

A testimony may begin through trusting in and relying upon the witness of another, of one who knows for sure; to believe on the faith of another is indeed a spiritual gift, a gift that can lead to eternal life (Doctrine and Covenants 46:13‑14).  And yet surely each one of us desires to possess our own witness, an independent knowledge of the reality of God our Father, the redemptive mission of Jesus the Christ, and the divine call of Joseph Smith and the work of the Restoration.

It was President Heber C. Kimball that warned us of a test to come, a test that would separate out those who professed membership in the Church but did not possess a personal testimony sufficient to see them through hard times. “The time will come when no man or woman will be able to endure on borrowed light,” he said. “Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?” (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1973, 446, 449‑50).


A few years ago a Baptist minister friend and I were driving through Boston in an effort to get to the LDS Institute of Religion at Cambridge.  As has been my custom most every time I have been to Boston, I was absolutely lost and had no idea where we were.  We stopped several times for directions, and each helpful person would point to us the way and say with much assurance “You can’t miss it.”

After having heard that phrase five or six times, I asked our seventh helper for directions and began my question with “Please don’t say you can’t miss it, because I assure you that we can, for we have done it again and again.”

During our scavenger hunt of sorts, we chatted.  My colleague commented on a matter that we had discussed several times, namely the idea that Latter‑day Saints are more prone to rely upon feelings than tangible evidence for truth of religious claims.  In response, I asked: “Do you believe in the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ?” The look he gave me was similar to that which a sixteen‑year‑old would give to someone who had asked what the teenager felt to be an inane question.


“Of course I believe in the resurrection, Bob; I’m an ordained minister.”  I followed up:  “Why do you believe in the resurrection?  How do you know it really happened?”

He answered:  “Because the New Testament teaches of the resurrection of Jesus.” I shot right back “But how do you know that the New Testament accounts can be trusted?  How do you know the Bible can be trusted?  Maybe someone just made all of this up.  Maybe the Bible is a giant hoax. ”  “No,” he said, “There is strong evidence to support the truthfulness of the Bible.A  “Like what?” I asked.  “Well, there are archaeological, historical and cultural evidences that what is being described actually happened.”  I then queried. “And so that’s how you know the resurrection is real?”  “Yeah, I suppose so,” he said.

At this point my mind began to race.  And I found myself saying something I hadn’t planned to say.  “You know, I feel a great sense of sadness right now.”  My Evangelical friend was surprised and asked “Sadness?  Why are you sad?” “I was just thinking of a good friend of mine, an older woman in Montgomery, Alabama.  My partner asked:  “What about her? I then said, “Well, I was thinking of how sad it is that this wonderful and devoted Christian, a person who has given her life to Jesus and studied and memorized her Bible like few people I know, a woman whose life manifests her complete commitment to the Savior, is not really entitled to have a witness of the truthfulness of the Bible.”  “Why is that?” he followed up. “Well, she knows precious little about archaeology or languages or culture or history or manuscripts, and so I suppose she can’t really know within her heart that the Bible really is the word of God.”  “Of course she can,” he said.  “She can have her faith, her personal witness that the Bible is true.”

I pulled off to the side of the road and stopped the car. I turned to him, smiled, and stated:  “Do you mean that she can have the power of the Holy Spirit testify to her soul that her Bible is completely trustworthy and can be relied upon as God’s word?”  “Yes, that’s what I mean.” My smile broadened as I added:  “Then we’ve come full circle.”  “What do you mean by that?” he asked.  I said:  “You’re telling me that this good woman, one who has none of the supposed requisite background or knowledge of external evidence, can have a witness of the Spirit, including deep personal feelings about the Bible and that those feelings are genuine and heaven‑sent.”  At that point my friend looked into my eyes and he smiled.  “I see where you’re going with this.” We then engaged in one of the most productive conversations of our time together as friends.

We agreed between us that it is so easy to yield to the temptation to categorize and pigeonhole and stereotype and even demonize persons whose faith is different than your own.  It is so easy to overstate, to misrepresent, to create “straw men” in an effort to establish your own point.

We agreed that “traditional Christians” and Latter‑day Saint Christians both base their faith upon evidence – both seen and unseen.

While saving faith is always built upon that which is true, upon an actual historical moment in time, upon something that really existed in the past, true believers will never allow their faith to be held hostage by what science has or has not found at a given time.

I know, for example, that Jesus fed the 5,000, healed the sick, raised the dead, calmed the storm, and rose from the dead – not just because I have physical evidence for each of those miraculous events (because I do not), nor even because I can read of these things in the New Testament, which I accept with all my heart.  But I know these things actually happened because the Spirit of the Living God bears witness to my spirit that the Lord of Life did all the scriptures say he did, and more.

A prominent historian of religion, Randall Balmer, has written:


I believe because of the epiphanies, small and large, that have intersected my path — small, discrete moments of grace when I have sensed a kind of superintending presence outside of myself. I believe because these moments . . .  are too precious to discard, and I choose not to trivialize them by reducing them to rational explanation. I believe because, for me, the alternative to belief is far too daunting. I believe because, at the turn of the twenty‑first century, belief itself is an act of defiance in a society still enthralled by the blandishments of Enlightenment rationalism. . . . Somehow, I don’t think Jeffrey [who asks how he can know there is a God] wants me to rehearse the ontological, the teleological, and the cosmological arguments for the existence of God. . . .

So instead of dusting off the teleological argument, I think I’ll remind Jeffrey about Karl Barth, arguably the most important theologian of the twentieth century. 

Toward the end of his life, after he had written volume after volume on the transcendence of God       and the centrality of Jesus, Barth was asked to sum up his work. The good doctor paused for a minute and no doubt looked out the window and played with the stubble on his chin before responding with the words of a Sunday school ditty:  Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so” (Growing Pains: Learning to Love my Father’s Faith (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2001), 34, 61‑62).

Many years ago on a Sunday morning I opened the door and reached down to pick up the morning newspaper when I saw beside the paper a plastic bag containing a paperback book.  I brought both inside and laid the newspaper aside as I browsed the paperback.  The cover was a lovely picture of a mountain stream, but the title of the book revealed to me what in fact the book was all about – it was an anti‑Mormon treatise.  Many of the arguments in the book against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‑day Saints were old and worn‑out ones, dead horses that have been beaten since the days of E. D. Howe.  Latter‑day Saints had responded to the issues posed scores of times, but they continued to crop up.

One section of the book did prove, however, to be of some interest to me.  Let me paraphrase what was essentially said about 130 pages into the text.  The author pointed out that eventually two Mormon missionaries would come to the reader’s door.  If they do come, he pleaded, don’t let them in.  If, however, you do let them in, then don’t listen to them. If they are allowed to tell you about their message, about Joseph Smith and angels and golden plates, they will ask you to kneel and pray about the truthfulness of these things.  Whatever you do, don’t pray!  The writer then made this unusual observation:  In ascertaining the truthfulness of a religious claim, there are three things a person can never trust: (1) your thoughts; (2) your feelings; (3) your prayers.

I was all ears at this point, wondering how we could ever know anything.  I didn’t have to wait long, for the writer then noted that the only thing that could be trusted was the Holy Bible itself. I shook my head and felt a deep sense of sadness for the author, for I wondered how indeed a person could even know of the truthfulness of the Bible if he or she could not think, feel, or pray.

I had a collage of feelings at that moment.  As indicated, I felt sad for the writer, for it was obvious that he could not see the blatant inconsistency and irrationality of his own words.  I tried to put myself into the place of a reader who was not a Latter‑day Saint and wondered how I might feel upon reading such things.  To be honest, I would feel insulted, knowing that I could not be trusted enough in my pursuit of truth to rely upon my mind, my heart, or even the most tried and true method of obtaining divine direction – prayer itself.

An Evangelical Christian colleague, Craig Blomberg, once observed:  “You know, it’s ironic:

The Bible considers it praiseworthy to have a faith that does not require evidence.  Remember how Jesus replied to doubting Thomas: You believe because you see; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.  And I know evidence can never compel or coerce faith.  We cannot supplant the role of the Holy Spirit, which is often a concern of Christians when they hear discussions of this kind.

“But I’ll tell you this; there are plenty of stories of scholars in the New Testament field who have not been Christians, yet through their study of these very issues have come to faith in Christ.  And there have been countless more scholars, already believers, whose faith has been made stronger, more solid, more grounded, because of the evidence – and that’s the category I fall into.” (Cited in Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan) 1998), 52‑53).

In writing of faith in the unseen, a Roman Catholic New Testament scholar, Luke Timothy Johnson, explained: “Belief in the existence of God is already an act by which one entrusts oneself to a world that is not entirely defined by what can be seen and counted, heard, and accounted for.”


Further:  “Christians need to begin by insisting, first of all to themselves, then to each other, and finally to the world, that faith itself is a way of knowing reality.  They need to insist that faith establishes contact with reality in a way different from, but no less real than, the very limited (though, in their fashion, extremely impressive) ways of knowing by which the wheels of the world’s empirical engine are kept spinning.”

As an illustration, “If religion can hold as true only what is ‘within the bounds of reason,’ and if ‘reason’ is defined in terms of the empirically verifiable, then the resurrection is excluded by definition.  But if the resurrection is excluded, why should Christians continue to revere Jesus, who is then only one of many figures from antiquity worthy of attention and honor?” (The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why It Matters (New York: Doubleday, 2003), 45, 101, 180).

True believers will always be challenged by those who refuse to see.  In a very real sense, believing is seeing.  No member of the Church need feel embarrassed when they cannot produce the golden plates or the complete Egyptian papyrus.  No member of this Church should ever feel hesitant to bear testimony of those verities that remain in the realm of faith, that are seen only with the eyes of faith.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell has written:  “It is the author’s opinion that all the scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, will remain in the realm of faith.  Science will not be able to prove or disprove holy writ.  However, enough plausible evidence will come forth to prevent scoffers from having a field day, but not enough to remove the requirement of faith.  Believers must be patient during such unfolding” (Plain and Precious Things (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983), 4.).

Similarly, President Ezra Taft Benson pointed out:  “We do not have to prove the Book of Mormon is true.  The book is its own proof.  All we need to do is read it and declare it.  The Book of Mormon is not on trial – the people of the world, including the members of the Church, are on trial as to what they will do with this second witness for Christ” (A Witness and a Warning (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988), 13).

“We are not required to prove that the Book of Mormon is true or is an authentic record through external evidences – though there are many.  It never has been the case, nor is it so now, that the studies of the learned will prove the Book or Mormon true or false.  The origin, preparation, translation, and verification of the truth of the Book of Mormon have all been retained in the hands of the Lord, and the Lord makes no mistakes.  You can be assured of that” (A Witness and a Warning, 31).

President Gordon B. Hinckley put things in proper perspective when he taught: I can hold [the Book of Mormon] in my hand.  It is real.  It has weight and substance that can be physically measured.  I can open its pages and read, and it has language both beautiful and uplifting. The ancient record from which it was translated came out of the earth as a voice speaking from the dust. . . . The evidence for its truth, for its validity in a world that is prone to demand evidence, lies not in archaeology or anthropology, though these may be helpful to some. It lies not in word research or historical analysis, though these may be confirmatory.  The evidence for its truth and validity lies within the covers of the book itself.  The test of its truth lies in reading it.  It is a book of God.  Reasonable individuals may sincerely question its origin, but those who read it prayerfully may come to know by a power beyond their natural senses that it is true, that it contains the word of God, that it outlines saving truths of the everlasting gospel, that it came forth by the gift and power of God.   (Faith: The Essence of True Religion (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), 10‑11.)

We place a great deal of emphasis in this Church – as we should – upon the singular role of the Book of Mormon, of its vital place in our own witness of the overall truthfulness of the restored gospel.  In the meridian of time, the resurrection of the Master stood as the physical evidence for the Savior’s divine Sonship, the tangible witness that Jesus was Lord.  Either he rose from the dead, as he said he would, or he was a fraud and Christianity was a giant hoax.


So with our own dispensation, the Book of Mormon stands as the tangible evidence of a spiritual reality – that God has spoken anew in our day; has made known his mind and will and purposes through Joseph Smith and his prophetic and apostolic successors; that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‑day Saints is in deed and in fact the kingdom of God on earth.

Recently President James E. Faust told the story of a Latter‑day Saint lecturer at London University, Joseph Hamstead.  Brother Hamstead once spoke to a group at the university of the LDS faith, including its youth and family programs.

One of those in attendance responded as follows:

“I like all of this, what is being done for families, etc.  If you could take out that bit about an angel appearing to Joseph Smith, I could belong to your church.”  Hamstead retorted:  “Ah, but if you take away the angel appearing to the Prophet Joseph, then I couldn’t belong to the Church because that is its foundation” (Personal correspondence to James E. Faust; cited in Faust, “Lord, I Believe; Help Thou Mine Unbelief, Ensign, November 2003, 19‑20).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has written: To consider that everything of saving significance in the Church stands or falls on the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and, by implication, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of how it came forth is as sobering as it is true.  It is a ‘sudden death’ proposition.  Either the Book of Mormon is what the Prophet Joseph said it is, or this Church and its founder are false, a deception from the first instance onward. . . .  Joseph Smith must be accepted either as a prophet of God or else as a charlatan of the first order, but no one should tolerate any ludicrous, even laughable middle ground about the contours of a young boy’s imagination or his remarkable facility for turning a literary phrase.  This is an unacceptable position to takemorally, literarily, historically, or theologically.” 

Elder Holland went on to explain:  “If Joseph Smith did not translate the Book of Mormon as a work of ancient origin, then I would move heaven and earth to meet the ‘real’ nineteenth‑century author.  After one hundred and fifty years, . . . surely there must be someone willing to step forwardif no one else, at least the descendants of the ‘real’ author –  claiming credit for such a remarkable document and all that has transpired in its wake. After all, a writer that can move millions can make millions. Shouldn’t someone have come forth then or now to cashier the whole phenomenon?  (Holland, Christ and the New Covenant (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997), 345‑47.)

With this in mind, perhaps we can better appreciate why Joseph Smith stated simply: “Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion?  We have none” (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‑day Saints, 7 vols., ed. B.H. Roberts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:52).

While we seek to make friends and build bridges of understanding with persons of other faiths where possible, we do not court favor, nor do we compromise one whit on what we believe.

Some doctrines, like the doctrine of “only true and living church” (D&C 1:30), by their very nature, arouse antagonism from those of other faiths.  Would it not be wise to avoid or at least downplay such divisive points?  Perhaps, some say, we should consider focusing on matters we have in common and put aside, for the time being, the distinctive teachings of the Restoration.

Elder Boyd K. Packer declared:  If we thought only in terms of diplomacy or popularity, surely we should change our course.  But we must hold tightly to it even though some turn away. . . .

It is not an easy thing for us to defend the position that bothers so many others.  But, brethren and sisters, never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Never apologize for the sacred doctrines of the gospel.  Never feel inadequate and unsettled because you cannot explain them to the satisfaction of all who might inquire of you.  Do not be ill at ease or uncomfortable because you can give little more than your conviction. . . .  If we can stand without shame, without hesitancy, without embarrassment, without reservation to bear witness that the gospel has been restored, that there are prophets and Apostles upon the earth, that the truth is available for all mankind, the Lord’s Spirit will be with us. And that assurance can be affirmed to others.  (Conference Report, October 1985,104, 107).


The Significance of a Matter In the end, the only way that the things of God can and should be known is by the power of the Holy Ghost.  These things are what the scriptures call the  “mysteries of God.”

Another way of stating this is to suggest that the only way that spiritual truths may be known is by the quiet whisperings of the Holy Ghost. How did Alma the younger know?  Was it because he was struck to the ground by an angel?  Was it because he lay immobile and speechless for three days while he underwent a confrontation with himself and his sinful and rebellious past? No, Alma knew as we know: he may have undergone a serious turnaround in his life through the intervention of a heavenly messenger, but the witness that drove and directed this magnificent convert was the witness of the Spirit.

In his own words, “Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true.  And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?  Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God.  Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself.  And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me” (Alma 5:45‑46).

On the other hand, we can come to sense the significance of a spiritual reality by the loud janglings of opposition it engenders.  For example, what do the following locations have in common:  Portland, Dallas, Atlanta, White Plains, Nashville, Denver, Stockholm, and Ghana?

Clearly in each of these places the announcement that a Latter‑day Saint temple was to be built there brought opponents and even crazed zealots out of the woodwork.  If I did not already know by the quiet whisperings of the Spirit within me that what goes on within temples is true and is of eternal import, I just might sense the significance of the temple by the kind of opposition that seems almost to flow naturally from those who refuse to see.

Consider another illustration. Why is it that so many people throughout the world write scathing books, deliver biting addresses, and prepare vicious videos denouncing the Book of Mormon?  What is it about black words on a white page, all of which are uplifting and edifying, that invite men and women to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him, that would arouse such bitter antagonism?  Once again, if I did not already know, by the quiet whisperings of the Spirit, that the Book of Mormon is truly heaven‑sent and indeed Another Testament of Jesus Christ, I would recognize its significance –  its power to settle doctrinal disputes, touch hearts, and transform men and women’s lives –  by the loud and hostile reactions people tend to have toward it.

Hugh Nibley, one of the greatest minds of this dispensation, a defender of the faith throughout his life, stated:  “The words of the prophets cannot be held to the tentative and defective tests that men have devised for them.  Science, philosophy, and common sense all have a right to their day in court.  But the last word does not lie with them.  Every time men in their wisdom have come forth with the last word, other words have promptly followed.  The last word is a testimony of the gospel that comes only by direct revelation.  Our Father in heaven speaks it, and if it were in perfect agreement with the science of today, it would surely be out of line with the science of tomorrow.  Let us not, therefore, seek to hold God to the learned opinions of the moment when he speaks the language of eternity” (The World and the Prophets (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and F.A.R.M..S., 1987),134).


I have learned a few things as I have learned a few things over the years.  I thank God for the formal education I have received, for the privilege it is (and I count it such) to have received university training.  Education has expanded my mind and opened conversations and doors for me. It has taught me what books to read, how to research a topic, and how to make my case or present my point of view more effectively.

But the more I learn, the more I value the truths of salvation, those simple but profound verities that soothe and settle and sanctify human hearts.


I appreciate knowing that the order of the cosmos points toward a Providential Hand; I am deeply grateful to know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that there is a God and that he is our Father in heaven.  I appreciate knowing something about the social, political, and religious world into which Jesus of Nazareth was born; I am deeply grateful for the witness of the Spirit that he is indeed God’s Almighty Son.  I appreciate knowing something about the social and intellectual climate of nineteenth‑century America; I am grateful to have, burning within my soul, a testimony that the Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith in the Spring of 1820, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‑day Saints is truly the kingdom of God on earth.

In short, the more I encounter men’s approximations to what is, the more I treasure those absolute truths that make known “things as they really are, and . . . things as they really will be” (Jacob 4:13; compare D&C 93:24).  In fact, the more we learn, the more we begin to realize what we do not know, the more we feel the need to consider ourselves “fools before God” (2 Nephi 9:42).

Those who choose to follow the Brethren, believe in and teach the scriptures, and be loyal to the Churchno matter the extent of their academic training or intellectual capacityopen themselves to ridicule from the cynic and the critic.  Ultimately, doctrinal truth comes not through the explorations of scholars, but through the revelations of God to apostles and prophets.  And if such a position be labeled as narrow, parochial, or anti‑intellectual, then so be it.  I cast my lot with the prophets.  I am one who sincerely believes that education need not be antithetical to conversion and commitment; it all depends on where one places his or her trust.

“True religion,” Elder Bruce R. McConkie testified, “deals with spiritual things.  We do not come to a knowledge of God and his laws through intellectuality, or by research, or by reason. . . . In their sphere, education and intellectuality are devoutly to be desired.  But when contrasted with spiritual endowments, they are of but slight and passing worth.  From an eternal perspective what each of us needs is a Ph.D. in faith and righteousness.  The things that will profit us everlastingly are not the power to reason, but the ability to receive revelation; not the truths learned by study, but the knowledge gained by faith; not what we know about the things of the world, but our knowledge of God and his laws” (Conference Report, April 1971, 99).

I know, as I know that I live, that God lives, that he is our Father in heaven, that he has a body of flesh and bones, and that we are created in his image.  I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.  I know that through genuine, godly sorrow for sin, we can have our garments washed in the blood of the Lamb and enjoy peace and happiness here and eternal glory hereafter.

I know that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God, a covenant spokesman for Deity, the preeminent prophetic revealer of Christ and the plan of salvation, the one called to stand as the head of this final gospel dispensation; through his instrumentality, precious doctrinal truths and divine, saving authority have been restored to the earth.  Further, my witness is current.  I know that Gordon B. Hinckley stands in the shoes of Brother Joseph, that he holds the keys of the kingdom of God in their fullness, and that it is our privilege to live at a time when prophets and apostles walk the earth.  This Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‑day Saints is in the line of its duty, and it is preparing a people for the second coming of the Son of Man.

These things I know.  I have come to know them by the same means and in the same manner that Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16‑17).

My knowledge of things spiritual, like all true faith, is based on evidence that is not seen.  I chose to believe, and in the process I came to see, to know.  At the same time, I possess what the apostle Peter called a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).  That is to say, my witness is as satisfying and stimulating to my mind as it is settling and soothing to my heart.

God grant that you and I, as a peculiar or a purchased people, may cleave unto Him who is the Truth; that our total trust, our complete confidence, and our ready reliance will always be in Him; that our lives will reflect more and more what we know and believe; and that we will “shew forth the praises of him who hath called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).



I’m so HAPPY that we have it twice a year, not just once!  And we need to get used to having one session a week early, don’t we – the first General Session: The General Women’s Session.  It’s important that we not neglect this one!  Wasn’t it incredible!!  Here are a few quotes about Conference.  I won’t be sharing anything with you that you don’t already know, but maybe there will be a reminder or two which will help you prepare. ENJOY these next two days!!!


PRESIDENT DAVID O. MCKAY (1873–1970) on the purposes of general conferences: “(1) To inform the membership of general conditions—whether the Church is progressing or retrogressing, economically, ecclesiastically, or spiritually. (2) To commend true merit. (3) To express gratitude for divine guidance. (4) To give instruction ‘in principles, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel.’ (5) To proclaim the restoration … and to declare, quoting the Apostle Peter, that ‘there is none other name under heaven given among men’ than Jesus Christ ‘whereby we must be saved.’  (6) To admonish and inspire to continue in greater activity.” (Acts 4:12) (Conference Report, Oct. 1954, 7).


PRESIDENT HOWARD W. HUNTER (1907–95) “Conference time is a season of spiritual revival when knowledge and testimony are increased and solidified that God lives and blesses those who are faithful . . . that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God…. [It] is the time when our leaders give us inspired direction in the conduct of our lives— a time when souls are stirred and resolutions are made to be better husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, more obedient sons and daughters, better friends and neighbors.” (Ensign, Nov. 1981, 12).


PRESIDENT UCHTDORF (Liahona – September 2011) MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH ARE ENTITLED TO PERSONAL REVELATION AS THEY LISTEN TO AND STUDY THE INSPIRED WORDS SPOKEN AT GENERAL CONFERENCE. As you prepare for general conference, I invite you to ponder questions you need to have answered. For example, you might yearn for direction and guidance by the Lord regarding challenges you are facing. Answers to your specific prayers may come directly from a particular talk or from a specific phrase. At other times answers may come in a seemingly unrelated word, phrase, or song. A heart filled with gratitude for the blessings of life and an earnest desire to hear and follow the words of counsel will prepare the way for personal revelation. DON’T DISCOUNT A MESSAGE MERELY BECAUSE IT SOUNDS FAMILIAR. Prophets have always taught by repetition; it is a law of learning. You will hear repetition in themes and doctrines in general conference. Let me reassure you: this is not due to a lack of creativity or imagination. We continue to hear messages on similar issues because the Lord is teaching and impressing upon our minds and hearts certain foundational principles of great eternal importance that must be understood and acted upon before we can move on to other things.



(Doctrine and Covenants 68:4)  ELDER JAMES E. TALMAGE:  “We rely … on the teachings of the living oracles of God as of equal validity with the doctrines of the written word.” (Articles of Faith [1968], p. 7)


PRESIDENT JOSEPH FIELDING SMITH (1876–1972)  “When one of the brethren stands before a congregation of the people today, and the inspiration of the Lord is upon him, he speaks that which the Lord would have him speak. It is just as much scripture as anything you will find written in any of … the standard works….”

PRESIDENT J. REUBEN CLARK JR. (1871–1961) The question is, how shall we know when the things they have spoken were said as they were ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’? [Doctrine and Covenants 68:3].  “I have given some thought to this question, and the answer thereto so far as I can determine, is: We can tell when the speakers are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’ only when we, ourselves, are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’


PRESIDENT HOWARD W. HUNTER “Our modern-day prophets have encouraged us to make the reading of the conference editions of our Church magazines an important and regular part of our personal study. Thus, general conference becomes, in a sense, a supplement to or an extension of the Doctrine and Covenants. In addition to the conference issues of the Church magazines, the First Presidency writes monthly articles that contain inspired counsel for our welfare.” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1997], 212).

PRESIDENT THOMAS S. MONSON “We remind you that the messages we have heard during this conference will be printed in the … Ensign and Liahona magazines. As we read and study them, we will be additionally taught and inspired. May we incorporate into our daily lives the truths found therein.”  (Ensign, Nov. 2009, 109).


WE COMMIT TO HEED AND SUPPORT THOSE WE SUSTAIN IN GENERAL CONFERENCE – PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY “The procedure of sustaining is much more than a ritualistic raising of the hand. It is a commitment to uphold, to support, to assist those who have been selected.  (Ensign, May 1995, 51).

ELDER DAVID B. HAIGHT (1906–2004)  “When we sustain the President of the Church by our uplifted hand, it not only signifies that we acknowledge before God that he is the rightful possessor of all the priesthood keys; it also means that we covenant with God that we will abide by the direction and the counsel that come through His prophet. It is a solemn covenant.”  (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 14–15).


PRESIDENT BOYD K. PACKER “In a few days there opens another general conference of the Church… What you shall gain will depend not so much upon their preparation of the messages as upon your preparation for them” (Follow the Brethren, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Mar. 23, 1965], 10;).

PRESIDENT SPENCER W. KIMBALL (1895–1985) “We hope you have made copious notes of the thoughts that have come to your mindWhile sitting here, I have made up my mind that when I go home from this conference this night there are many, many areas in my life that I can perfect. I have made a mental list of them, and I expect to go to work as soon as we get through with conference;” (Ensign, Nov. 1975, 111)


PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY (Ensign, Nov. 1996, 4–5).  “I do not hesitate to promise that you will be uplifted, your resolution to do what is right will be stronger, you will find solutions to your problems and your needs, and you will be led to thank the Lord for what you have heard.”

ELDER JEFFREY R. HOLLAND  “Each of these conferences marks a call to action not only in our own lives but also on behalf of others around us, those who are of our own family and faith and those who are not. … (Ensign, Nov. 2006, 106).


PRESIDENT SPENCER W. KIMBALL “Let no arrogant, self-assured, self-styled intellectual discard the truths there taught and the testimonies there borne, nor argue with the messages and instructions there given. … I hope you will get your copy of the [Ensign or Liahona] and underline the pertinent thoughts and keep it with you for continual reference. No text or volume outside the standard works of the Church should have such a prominent place on your personal library shelves—not for their rhetorical excellence or eloquence of delivery, but for the concepts which point the way to eternal life.”  (In the World but Not of It, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [May 14, 1968], 2–3).