The Gospel of Jesus Christ
Laurin’s talk in Dana Ranch Ward, May 25, 2014
I am grateful for the peace the Savior and his teachings bring to the whirlwinds of life. When the Savior and his apostles were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a terrible, raging storm, his disciples, fearing for their lives, woke the Savior, who was asleep, to plead for help. The Savior calmed the storm and restored peace to the vessel and hope to his disciples. I believe if each of us could awaken the Savior inside ourselves, he could help us calm the storms in our lives, restore peace to our souls and provide us with hope and confidence to move forward.
I’d like to share 3 examples of how the gospel of Jesus Christ can help us and those around us:
The first example comes from a hiking experience I had recently with some friends. These are very adventurous friends. They go on difficult hikes, usually to canyons that very few humans have ever been in. There are no trails, there are no signs. The only way we know where to go is to utilize a “trip description” provided by other adventurous types who have explored the canyons before us. This particular hike involved climbing down a very steep entry canyon, hopping and climbing over huge boulders for a couple miles rappelling down 8 dry water falls, and swimming through several pot holes; which would bring us to the Colorado river. Then we would inflate our personal rafts we had carried with us, paddle them down the River for 7 miles, camp on the shore and then the next morning, climb out another very steep and difficult canyon to return to our vehicles. Now, some of you may be thinking…..that does not sound like fun at all. About as fun as petting a cactus. As one of these friends likes to say, “It’s ‘like’ fun…only different.” Certainly fun can mean different things to different people. So, we descended down in the very steep entry canyon, quite an ordeal by itself, traversed the 2 miles of boulders, and came to the first 75’ sheer drop. We looked around for an anchor to tie our rope to, which according to the trip description should be there. But we couldn’t find it anywhere. We looked some more, but it was nowhere to be found and there wasn’t anything else to tie or rope to as the canyon walls were very smooth . At this point we become a little worried. We worried that we may not have followed the description close enough, that we have been off on our GPS points, that we may be in the wrong canyon altogether, that we may have to abort our hike and carry our huge packs back out the same way we came in… and not have any “fun” at all. We looked for the anchor some more. Then someone said, lets read the trip description. We did. The description said, when you come to the first rappel look for the anchor high on the right ledge under a small cliff. Sure enough, with that little piece of guidance we found the anchor, attached our rope and proceeded on our way and were able to experience the fun we had come to enjoy.
I testify that the Gospel of Jesus is the trip description for this mortal experience. It is something that should be read, and re-read and consulted on a daily basis. It is our guide and our source of direction. And if we ever get to a point where we feel like we can’t seem to make forward progress, If we have an obstacle we can’t seem to figure out how to get around, if we feel we have gone a little too far in the wrong direction, or if we otherwise feel we are missing out on the “Happy” part of God’s Plan of Happiness, then it may be time to re-read the gospel trip description.
I testify that following the Gospel trip description, though it may not,…. though it will not prevent us from having the difficult challenges and learning experiences that are characteristic, even a necessary part of this life; following the gospel trip description will eventually allow us to experience the happiness God has promised to the righteous.
It is the gospel trip description that allows us to be prepared for this life; to have answers to life’s questions. It allows us to have in our arsenal of learning and experience the means to face and overcome the calamities that will continue to come to us and the world.
The scriptures tell us if we are prepared, ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:40).
In D&C 78 it says: For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you (D&C 78:7).
I tend to be a little slow at embracing new technology. It was only a couple years ago that I got my first cell phone. But in preparation for our mission we have talked to several who do what we will be doing and they said it would be a good idea to have a tablet device to read the scriptures, other books, and to demonstrate things and show videos to others etc. So I asked around to get some advice on the purchase of our first tablet. I got lots of feedback. One individual said, don’t go with this company because they tend to want to control everything you do on your computer. Well, I ended up going with a different brand and still as I was going through the setup process and downloading some aps etc. I soon began to realize that ‘everybody’ wants to control you…..the hardware provider, the software provider, the apls provider. Every vendor wants to be your login manager, they want to give you their similar interface on all your electronic devices, they want to provide you with cloud storage, they want to be your internet browser, they basically wanted to control how you do your day-to-day computing. They want you to do it their way. And this is pretty typical of the world in general. Everyone is getting more and more convincing at trying to get us to do things their way.
Now, the wonderful thing about the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it does not want to control anyone. The gospel teaches us, it provides direction, proven direction, but you and I need to be the ones to decide if we want to follow it. We are not being controlled, we are always in charge. As Elder Bednar likes to remind us, we are not objects being acted upon, we are free agents and must act for ourselves.
The advisory is all about control, the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about choice….about making wise choices. We don’t ‘convince’ people to join our church, we teach them, we invite them to apply the teachings, we invite them to pray for direction from God and only when they have a testimony through their own experience and the spirit do we proceed with their choice to join with this great cause.
It must be this way because the rewards and consequences of this life in the end must be ones that you and I choose, not something that is imposed on us.
To put it another way, the choices you and I make in this life by exercising the agency we have been given will determine who we are and who we become. Those who progress to become like Christ will be rewarded with an eternity with him. Those who progress in a direction, away from Christ, will only feel comfortable after this life in a place where he does not dwell.
There is also a flip side of this. If we feel like we are a little stagnant and perhaps not progressing as we should, there is really only one person we need to consult, really only one person to blame, and it is us. As the famous song from the 80s says: “If you want to make the world a better place, and I might add, if you want to make yourself a better person, then take a look at yourself and make a change.”
The final example comes from the BofM, in Alma Chap 59
This was a time of a great war between the Nehpites and the Lamanites. Helaman had just sent an epistle to Captain Moroni telling him of the wonderful stripling warriors and about the success they had had, but that they needed more men and more supplies if they were ever to maintain the cities they have re-taken and they hadn’t received provisions from the government for a long time. Then Moroni learns that the city of Nephihah was taken by the Lamanites because the forces were not strong enough to defend it. Moroni begins to loose faith in their cause. He begins to doubt that they will be able to win the war. Why did Moroni doubt? Was it because the Lamanites were too strong? Was it because the Nephites were too week? Were they not prepared, were their strategies not good enough? No, lets read verse 11:
And now, when Moroni saw that the city of Nephihah was lost he was exceedingly sorrowful, and began to doubt, because of the wickedness of the people…….
Moroni knew and his faith was that if the people were righteousness and could qualify for the Lords blessing that they would conquer the enemy, no matter how strong the enemy was. He began to fear that his people were not choosing righteousness.
So let us summarize.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is our trip description for this earth life.
If we want to be prepared in this life, be prepared for this life, for the calamities that will continue to come, we must study the gospel trip description and apply it in our lives.
It is our choice. Each of us must decide for ourselves. We can’t blame it on our spouse or your friends. Our goal here on earth is to learn the difference between good and evil, then exercise our agency to choose the good, because that is how we become most like Jesus Christ.
The only reason we need doubt or fear is if we instead decide to choose evil; because it is impossible to conquer the enemy of all righteousness unless ‘we are’ righteous.
If, on the other hand, we do choose righteousness, and strive our best to follow Christ, it is impossible for us not to conquer the enemy.
If we do choose righteousness, and apply the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is impossible for us not to eventually have fun, to eventually experience the happiness God has promised to the faithful.
I testify that this is true. I can think of nothing more expedient or more beneficial for the world and its inhabitants than to help others understand and apply the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives.
I can think of nothing more expedient or beneficial for you or I than to more fully apply the gospel of Jesus Christ into our lives.
I testify that the gospel will help calm the storms of our lives, bring peace to our souls, and eventually reward us with true joy and happiness.
****End Laurin’s Talk
Truth Will Prevail
Mission Farewell Talk – May 25, 2014 – Holly Ashby
The comedian Groucho Marx once said, “These are my principles; if you don’t like them, I have others” (1). I’m going to speak today about religious freedom and people who had strong principles, many giving their lives for their beliefs. How many of you are 13 years old—will you raise your hands? How many are teenagers? How many are 52—just kidding, you don’t need to admit it, but I’ll be talking today about people who were once your ages when important things happened to them; people we can learn from.
In 1553 there was a woman who was Queen of England for only 9 days; her name was Lady Jane Grey. History tells us she was an unlucky child because her abusive parents expected so much of her. A visitor once asked her why she wasn’t hunting in the park with everyone else. She answered: “One of the greatest benefits that ever God gave me is that he sent me so sharp and severe parents and so gentle a schoolmaster. For when I am in the presence either of father or mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand, or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else, I must do it, as…perfectly as God made the world, or else I am so cruelly threatened…that I think all the time nothing whilst I am [learning]…And thus my book hath been my pleasure…”. At the age of 13, she had mastered Greek and Latin and was studying Hebrew, but four years later, because of political and religious strife, she was executed. Despite her young age, Lady Jane Grey is a model of constancy. In this letter, she is chastising a former tutor for changing religions when it suited those in power and his safety: “How cans’t thou, having knowledge, or how darest thou neglect the law of the Lord and follow the vain traditions of men; and whereas thou hast been a public professor of his name, become now a defacer of his glory?” She continues with some encouragement: “Disdain not to come again with the lost son, seeing you have so wandered with him…acknowledging that you have sinned against heaven and earth: against heaven, by staining the glorious name of God and causing his most sincere and pure word to be evil-spoken of through you; against earth, by offending so many of your weak brethren, to whom you have been a stumbling-block through your sudden sliding.” Lady Jane never faltered in her beliefs, but watched from the Tower of London’s window when her young husband walked to his public execution, then was herself beheaded, privately, on Tower Green. All of this happened because the new queen’s advisors said Lady Jane would be a threat as long as she was alive. Before she died on the scaffold, she made a bold declaration of her faith, then forgave the executioner who knelt to ask her forgiveness. Her last words were “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (1). She was 17.
Many people have been martyrs for their faith, as they knew it. I am grateful that our country has been blessed with freedom of religion for so many years, after other lands paved the way– wading through religious persecution for centuries. Once, English royalty thought they had the “Divine Right of Kings,” as if God had given them the right to rule, but there was confusion about who had greater rights, the king or the church, and some rulers killed those who were not of their faith. In the book London, by Edward Rutherfurd, it says 3 priors once walked to their executions knowing they were doing right. A character in the book said, “That’s what martyrs leave behind, isn’t it? For all of us to witness. A message stronger than words.”
In “The Relevance of Religion,” an article found on mormonnewsroom.org, it says, “People of faith have cause to believe not only in the good of their own religion but also in the good of religion in general…Religion’s reservoir of moral ideas spills over for everyone to drink. Reflecting on what they called “the lessons of history,” scholars Will and Ariel Durant asserted, ‘There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.’” (3)
Where would we be without religious freedom? Thomas Jefferson wanted these words on his gravestone and not one more:
“Here was buried
Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
Father of the University of Virginia” (4)
The Statue for religious freedom was passed in 1786, nine years after he wrote it, and Jefferson said it was the “severest contest” he had ever been involved in. He wrote that “Almighty God hath created the mind free…all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments…are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion…Truth is great and will prevail…” Essentially, Jefferson’s statue says that forcing the mind creates meanness and hypocrisy, but that truth is “…the proper and sufficient antagonist to error…errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them” . (5)
The Virginia assembly crossed out several of Jefferson’s original lines before passing this statue, seemingly afraid that people might think for themselves. However, this is what our church taught from the very beginning, to study, pray, and ask God for direction. Joseph Smith was a young man “in his fourteenth year” who wanted to know truth, but was confused by the various religions around him. One day, while reading the Bible, he came upon James 1:5-6, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, which giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” In other words, the scripture says if we want to know something, we should pray to God who wants us to know truth. He won’t be angry that we ask, but will actually give us the answer. However, we must ask in faith and when we feel the Lord’s direction, be ready to follow it. Joseph Smith was ready to give complete devotion to whatever answer he received. He describes his experience:
“15 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
16 But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction… I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”(Joseph Smith History—1:15-17)
Many people know the martyr Stephen’s account in the New Testament: “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56).
This is exactly what Joseph Smith saw. Not only did people doubt them, they killed them for saying they had seen God the Father and Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith refused to deny what he had seen, saying: “I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision… I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it…” (Joseph Smith—History 1:25)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized by Joseph Smith on April 6, 1830. Seven years later, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, and others, went on a mission to England where they called on the Lord for direction. The Spirit said “Go to Preston.” Queen Victoria had ascended the throne just three days before the landing of the Elders and had ordered a general election for members of Parliament, so when the Elders arrived in Preston, on July 22, 1837, it was election day: flags were flying, bands playing, and thousands of men, women, and children parading. Elder Kimball said, “One of the flags was unrolled before us, nearly over our heads, the moment the coach reached its destination, having on it the following motto: Truth Will Prevail” (6). The day after the Elders arrived was the Sabbath and they were invited by Mr. Fielding to attend church in the Vauxhall Chapel, where he would be preaching. They sat before him, praying for the Lord to open the way for them to speak, when Mr. Fielding suddenly announced that an Elder of the Latter-day Saints would preach there the next day at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. That day, my 3rd great-grandmother, Mary Harrison Rogerson, was in the audience. She had yearned and prayed for a more satisfying religion and, sometime earlier, she’d had a dream about two young men in black suits. They each held a book in their hands and she recognized one as the Bible, but didn’t know what the other book was, still, she was assured that these young men had the truth. That day when the Elders preached, she was electrified by the power of the sermon. At the end of the meeting, she stood up and testified that she had seen these young men in a dream, that they had the truth, and she applied for baptism right there. She was baptized in the River Ribble and later emigrated to America. She was 52 when she and her five children joined the Martin Handcart Company and walked nearly 1300 miles across the plains. Though they were caught in the severe Wyoming winter of 1856, all of her family survived, including my great-great-grandmother Sarah Ann, who was 13. I can better describe their conditions by sharing a family story. One morning, when they were stranded in the snow, Sarah Ann woke up in the tent and she couldn’t move her head; her braids had frozen into the ground. Her brother had to cut them off with his pocketknife and leave her long hair behind in the ice. It was remarkable that 425 people were rescued, but 150 in the company lost their lives while seeking religious freedom.
The greatest martyr of all time was Jesus Christ Himself. He was mocked and told to prove that He was the Son of God, but instead, He allowed his persecutors to crucify Him. As He hung on the cross, He felt God’s spirit withdraw from Him. When our son, Keir, was 13, he said: “Heavenly Father is with us when we need Him, unless we need to learn it alone.” James E. Talmage explains that Jesus was left to Himself on the cross so He “could finish suffering the penalty for the sins of all mankind that Jesus might have complete victory over the forces of sin and death” (7). Jesus taught us how to live, suffered for our sins, died for us, and was resurrected for every person in the world. Because of Him, we can be forgiven of our sins and, if we are righteous, live with Him again.
I know that God and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and that he was the first prophet of these latter-days. Through Joseph Smith, the martyred prophet, the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in its fullness and His authority has been restored to the earth. When I read The Book of Mormon, I know Joseph Smith was a prophet. He didn’t have enough education to translate it without divine help. God wants us to know truth so he sent prophets throughout the ages to teach us. No one is forced to belong to our religion, but we are asked to take the gospel to all the world, as Jesus taught when He was on the earth.
I pray we will all think about these things, study the scriptures, pray to know truth, and act on the knowledge we receive, so that truth will prevail.
- Groucho Marx, Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar…Understanding Philosophy through Jokes. Cathcart and Klein.
- Stephen Greenblatt, M.H. Abrams, et al, editors. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 1, 8th ed. NY: 2006. Norton, 669-70, 671.
- Hazel Jean Robinson, Cherished Memories of William Thomas and Edith Amanda Wade Davenport, 380
- James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. 1916, 660-61.