"If it is not clean, do not think it; if it is not true, do not speak it; if it is not good, do not do it." - Carlos E. Asay
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained why it is of critical importance for us to follow the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles today:
“The apostolic and prophetic foundation of the Church was to bless in all times, but especially in times of adversity or danger, times when we might feel like children, confused or disoriented, perhaps a little fearful, times in which the devious hand of men or the maliciousness of the devil would attempt to unsettle or mislead. Against such times as come in our modern day, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are commissioned by God and sustained by you as prophets, seers, and revelators. . . .
“. . . Such a foundation in Christ was and is always to be a protection. . . . In such days as we are now in—and will more or less always be in—the storms of life ‘shall have no power over you . . .’ [Helaman 5:12]” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2004, 5; or Ensign,Nov.2004,7).
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that we, like the Nephites, must follow our prophet if we hope to find safety, peace, prosperity, and happiness:
“It is no small thing, my brothers and sisters, to have a prophet of God in our midst. Great and wonderful are the blessings that come into our lives as we listen to the word of the Lord given to us through him.... When we hear the counsel of the Lord expressed through the words of the President of the Church, our response should be positive and prompt. History shows that there is safety, peace, prosperity, and happiness in responding to prophetic counsel” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2001, 84; Ensign, May 2001, 65).
Elder David A. Beggar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described the fact that we, like Pahoran, can choose to not be offended:
“When we believe or say that we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else. . . .
“Through the strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you and I can be blessed to avoid and triumph over offense. ‘Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them’ (Psalm 119:165). . . .
“. . . As described by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, the Church is not ‘a well-provisioned rest home for the already perfected’ (in Conference Report, Apr. 1982, 57; or Ensign, May 1982, 38). Rather, the Church is a learning laboratory and a workshop in which we gain experience as we practice on each other in the ongoing process of ‘perfecting the Saints.’
“Elder Maxwell also insightfully explained that in this latter-day learning laboratory known as the restored Church, the members constitute the ‘clinical material’ (see ‘Jesus, the Perfect Mentor,’ Ensign, Feb. 2001, 13) that is essential for growth and development. . . .
“You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people. However, we do determine how we will act. Please remember that you and I are agents endowed with moral agency, and we can choose not to be offended” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2006, 95–97; or Ensign, Nov. 2006, 90–91).
Sister Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president, described covenant women who know who they are:
“In the Book of Mormon we read about 2,000 exemplary young men who were exceedingly valiant, courageous, and strong. ‘Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him’ (Alma 53:21). These faithful young men paid tribute to their mothers. They said, ‘Our mothers knew it’ (Alma 56:48)....
“The responsibility mothers have today has never required more vigilance. More than at any time in the history of the world, we need mothers who know. . . . When mother's know who they are and who God is and have made covenants with Him, they will have great power and influence for good on their children” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2007, 80; or Ensign, Nov. 2007, 76).
“Many people try to find happiness and fulfillment in activities that are contrary to the Lord’s commandments. Ignoring God’s plan for them, they reject the only source of real happiness. They give in to the devil, who ‘seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself’ (2 Nephi 2:27). Eventually they learn the truth of Always warning to his son Corianton: ‘Wickedness never was happiness’ (Alma 41:10)....
“As you seek to be happy, remember that the only way to real happiness is to live the gospel. You will find peaceful, eternal happiness as you strive to keep the commandments, pray for strength, repent of your sins, participate in wholesome activities, and give meaningful service. You will learn to have fun within the limits set by a loving Father in Heaven” (True to the Faith, 79–80).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught that the Lord will be with and strengthen you as you properly repent:
“To you is extended the peace and renewal of repentance available through the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. In such serious matters the path of repentance is not easily begun or painlessly traveled. But the Savior of the world will walk that essential journey with you. He will strengthen you when you waver. He will be your light when it seems most dark. He will take your hand and be your hope when hope seems all you have left. His compassion and mercy, with all their cleansing and healing power, are freely given to all who truly wish complete forgiveness and will take the steps that lead to it” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 101–2; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 78).
Alma referred to a recurring theme in the Book of Mormon of prospering in the land. Alma 36:30 gives contextual meaning to that phrase. It is not necessarily intended that all inhabitants will become materially rich in this life. Rather, there is a spiritual meaning to the word prosper. This verse teaches us that if we do not “keep the commandments of God,” then we shall not prosper but be “cut off from his presence.” Therefore, those who prosper in the land are those who are successful in obtaining the spiritual blessings of being close to the Lord. They are on a track that will lead to entering the Lord’s presence.
Alma 34:14–17. “Faith unto Repentance”
While serving as a member of the Seventy, Elder Robert E. Wells spoke of the faith required to bring changes in our lives sufficient to participate in the Atonement of Jesus Christ:
“‘Just how much faith do I need for the Atonement of Christ to work for me? ’In other words,how much faith do I need to receive salvation? In the book of Alma . . . we find the answer. The prophet Amulek taught this simple but grand principle: ‘the Son of God, . . . bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance’ (Alma 34:14–15; emphasis added).
“Please note those three words: faith unto repentance. That is the clue. Four times in three verses he uses that expression
[see Alma 34:15–17]....
“So the combination of faith in Christ plus faith unto repentance is vitally important. That concept is one of the greatest insights we have into the importance of simple, clear faith—faith sufficient to repent. Apparently faith great enough to move mountains is not required;faith enough to speak in tongues or to heal the sick is not needed;all that we need is just enough faith to recognize that we have sinned and to repent of our sins, to feel remorse for them, and to desire to sin no more but to please Christ the Lord. Then the greatest miracle of all, the Atonement, whereby Christ rescues us from our deserved punishment, is in effect in our behalf” (“The Liahona Triad,” in Bruce A. Van Ogden and Brent L. Top, eds., Doctrines of the Book of Mormon: The 1991 Sperry Symposium ,6–7).
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “Ours is not a second hand religion. We cannot receive the blessings of the gospel merely by observing the good that others do. We need to get off the sidelines and practice what we preach...
“...Now is the time to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, become His disciples, and walk in His way” (“The Way of the Disciple, Ensign,May2009,76–77).
President Lorenzo Snow (1814–1901) spoke of the blessings that come through tribulation:
“I suppose I am talking to some who have had worry and trouble and heart burnings and persecution, and have at times been caused to think that they never expected to endure quite so much. But for everything you have suffered, for everything that has occurred to you which you thought an evil at that time, you will receive fourfold, and that suffering will have had a tendency to make you better and stronger and to feel that you have been blessed. When you look back over your experiences you will then see that you have advanced far ahead and have gone up several rounds of the ladder toward exaltation and glory...
"Take it individually or take it collectively, we have suffered and we shall have to suffer again; and why? Because the Lord requires it at our hands for our sanctification” (The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, comp. Clyde J. Williams , 117–18).
•President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) spoke of the power of scriptures to help us draw nearer to God:
“I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures, the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more. I find it easier to abide their counsel” (“What I Hope You Will Teach My Grandchildren and All Others of the Youth of Zion” [address to Church Educational System religious educators, July 11, 1966], 4).
Korihor sought to make it appear foolish for anyone to follow their ecclesiastic leaders. President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency taught to the contrary:
“Korihor was arguing, as men and women have falsely argued from the beginning of time, that to take counsel from the servants of God is to surrender God-given rights of independence. But the argument is false because it misrepresents reality. When we reject the counsel which comes from God, we do not choose to be independent of outside influence. We choose another influence. We reject the protection of a perfectly loving, all-powerful, all-knowing Father in Heaven, whose whole purpose, as that of His Beloved Son, is to give us eternal life, to give us all that He has, and to bring us home again in families to the arms of His love. In rejecting His counsel, we choose the influence of another power, whose purpose is to make us miserable and whose motive is hatred. We have moral agency as a gift of God. Rather than the right to choose to be free of influence, it is the inalienable right to submit ourselves to whichever of those powers we choose.
“Another fallacy is to believe that the choice to accept or not accept the counsel of prophets is no more than deciding whether to accept good advice and gain its benefits or to stay where we are. But the choice not to take prophetic counsel changes the very ground upon which we stand. It becomes more dangerous. The failure to take prophetic counsel lessens our power to take inspired counsel in the future. The best time to have decided to help Noah build the ark was the first time he asked. Each time he asked after that, each failure to respond would have lessened sensitivity to the Spirit. And so each time his request would have seemed more foolish, until the rain came. And then it was too late” (in Conference Report,
Sister Sheri L. Dew, while serving as a counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, taught us concerning the role Jesus Christ plays in our daily lives:
“Is it possible to be happy when life is hard? To feel peace amid uncertainty and hope in the midst of cynicism? Is it possible to change, to shake off old habits and become new again? Is it possible to live with integrity and purity in a world that no longer values the virtues that distinguish the followers of Christ?
“Yes. The answer is yes because of Jesus Christ, whose Atonement ensures that we need not bear the burdens of mortality alone.
…“Through the years I, like you, have experienced pressures and disappointments that would have crushed me had I not been able to draw upon a source of wisdom and strength far greater than my own. He has never forgotten or forsaken me, and I have come to know for myself that Jesus is the Christ and that this is His Church. With Ammon I say, ‘[For] who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy … ? Behold, … I cannot say the smallest part which I feel’ (Alma 26:16). I testify that in this, the twilight of the dispensation of the fulness of times, when Lucifer is working overtime to jeopardize our journey home and to separate us from the Savior’s atoning power, the only answer for any of us is Jesus Christ” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1999, 85–86; or Ensign, May 1999, 67).
President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency taught that prompt obedience to the Lord is necessary to our spiritual well-being:
“However much faith to obey God we now have, we will need to strengthen it continually and keep it refreshed constantly. We can do that by deciding now to be more quick to obey and more determined to endure. Learning to start early and to be steady are the keys to spiritual preparation.
…“A loving Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son have given us all the help They can to pass the test of life set before us. But we must decide to obey and then do it. We build the faith to pass the tests of obedience over time and through our daily choices. We can decide now to do quickly whatever God asks of us” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2005, 39, 41; or Ensign, Nov. 2005, 38, 40).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that envy, born of worldly influences, stands in opposition to God’s perfect love:
“It has been said that envy is the one sin to which no one readily confesses, but just how widespread that tendency can be is suggested in the old Danish proverb, ‘If envy were a fever, all the world would be ill.’ … As others seem to grow larger in our sight, we think we must therefore be smaller. So, unfortunately, we occasionally act that way.
“How does this happen, especially when we wish so much that it would not? I think one of the reasons is that every day we see allurements of one kind or another that tell us what we have is not enough. Someone or something is forever telling us we need to be more handsome or more wealthy, more applauded or more admired than we see ourselves as being. We are told we haven’t collected enough possessions or gone to enough fun places. We are bombarded with the message that on the world’s scale of things we have been weighed in the balance and found wanting [see Daniel 5:27].
…“But God does not work this way. …
“… I testify that no one of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another. I testify that He loves each of us—insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all. He doesn’t measure our talents or our looks; He doesn’t measure our professions or our possessions. He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other. I know that if we will be faithful, there is a perfectly tailored robe of righteousness ready and waiting for everyone [see Isaiah 61:10; 2 Nephi 4:33; 9:14], ‘robes … made … white in the blood of the Lamb’ [Revelation 7:14]. May we encourage each other in our effort to win that prize” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2002, 72, 74; or Ensign, May 2002, 63–64).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland noted that vanity of physical appearance is spiritually dangerous:
“In terms of preoccupation with self and a fixation on the physical, this is more than social insanity; it is spiritually destructive and it accounts for much of the unhappiness … in the modern world. And if adults are preoccupied with appearance—tucking and nipping and implanting and remodeling everything that can be remodeled—those pressures and anxieties will certainly seep through to children. At some point the problem becomes what the Book of Mormon called ‘vain imaginations’ [1 Nephi 12:18]. And in secular society both vanity and imagination run wild. One would truly need a great and spacious makeup kit to compete with beauty as portrayed in media all around us” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2005, 30–31; or Ensign, Nov. 2005, 30).
Those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ have always faced persecution. President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) admonished those who are persecuted neither to allow their trials to stop their spiritual progression nor to deter their righteous zeal:
“To be persecuted for righteousness sake in a great cause where truth and virtue and honor are at stake is god-like. … The great harm that may come from persecution is not from the persecution itself but from the possible effect it may have upon the persecuted who may thereby be deterred in their zeal for the righteousness of their cause. Much of that persecution comes from lack of understanding, for men are prone to oppose that which they do not comprehend. Some of it comes from men intent upon evil. But from whatever cause, persecution seems to be so universal against those engaged in a righteous cause. …
“… If you stand firmly for the right despite the jeers of the crowd or even physical violence, you shall be crowned with the blessedness of eternal joy. Who knows but that again in our day some of the saints or even apostles, as in former days, may be required to give their lives in defense of the truth? If that time should come, God grant they would not fail!” (Decisions for Successful Living , 61–62).
After recounting the story of Naaman, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said:
"The way of the gospel is a simple way. Some of the requirements may appear to you as elementary and unnecessary. Do not spurn them. Humble yourselves and walk in obedience. I promise that the results that follow will be marvelous to behold and satisfying to experience" (in Conference Report, Oct. 1976, 143; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, 96).
“We must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair.
“But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said ‘were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.’ (3 Ne. 9:20; italics added.)” ( President Ezra Taft Benson, “A Mighty Change of Heart,” Ensign, Oct. 1989, 5).