Sermoncitos, a family tradition
The Savior told us: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." There isn't anything more important in heaven or on earth than to know the Father and the Son with a perfect knowledge. However, the only way to know by the power of the Spirit of God that He lives, hears and answers our prayers, that the Savior atoned for our sins, and that we may live again with Him, is through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
Preaching to the Nephites, Samuel gave as conditions for repentance that we should first learn the truth, then believe on His name. He continued with a plan of action: those who believe will repent (Helaman 14:11-13). When Samuel’s prophecies of the birth of Christ began to be fulfilled, Satan sent forth lyings to harden the hearts of the people, “but notwithstanding these lyings and deceivings the more part of the people did believe, and were converted to the Lord”. Nephi’s follow up to this movement of the Spirit upon the people was to teach the Gospel of repentance, and baptize the converts. The result was “peace in the land” (3 Nephi 1:22, 23). When Jesus came in person and spoke to the people he said, “Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day” (3 Nephi 27:20). Although the evidence was strong, Jesus had to remind them of the straightness of the gate and the narrowness of the way (3 Nephi 27:33). The disciples of Christ suffered persecution from those who did not believe (3 Nephi 28:19-22). Those who receive a testimony are driven to action by the burning urgings of the Spirit. Those who desire a testimony must pay the price to receive it: they must live the principles.
We should be on our knees every morning and every night pleading with the Lord that the testimony we have could be maintained, as we have ample examples that a testimony can be lost through neglect or disobedience. A testimony is a fragile gift of the Spirit that must be nurtured. The evidence that God lives is ample. The evidence that Jesus returned from the dead has been given to us again and again. The consequences of denying the revelations of the Lord are equivalent to turning away from light and living in darkness (3 Nephi 29:6, 7). We can be filled with the Holy Ghost, but only by rejecting sin (3 Nephi 30:2).
Attending church regularly, giving service, and being a good person all contribute to gaining and maintaining a testimony. These actions are logical and needful, yet they are not natural. Moroni saw our day, and knew that “there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts...”, and that many would be “ashamed to take upon themselves the name of Christ...” (Mormon 8:36-41). He noted that “...the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust” (Mormon 9:20). Moroni goes on to give us hope. There is a sure way to receive a witness of the Spirit: receive these things, ask God if these things are true with a sincere heart, real intent, having faith in Christ (Moroni 10:4).
It takes effort to obtain and maintain a testimony. Once we have done this, we are filled with the Spirit and anxious to share with others, as I do today: God lives, Jesus is the Christ, the power to baptize and give the Holy Ghost is in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Savior told us: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee
the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." There isn't
anything more important in heaven or on earth than to know with a perfect
knowledge, the Father and the Son...however it is one thing to know by
the power of the Spirit of God that He lives, hears and answers our
prayers, that the Savior atoned for our sins, and that we may live again
with Him...it's equally as important to apply that knowledge. Joseph
Smith was prompted by the Spirit and then he acted on that prompting and
received his answer. We all have such promptings and sometimes
regrettably we say later, "If only I had listened to the still small
voice, things would have turned out differently." But, most of us do
better next time - we become better listeners. You all complied with the
Spirit as it testified to you of the blessings that would come into your
life by reading the Book of Mormon (as uttered by Pres. Hinckley last
year). You were recipients of those blessings because you acted upon that
prompting. In order for us to be better listeners for the important
communication from the heavens, we must be faithful in keeping the
commandments. After a stiring testimony given by George Pace to a
gathering of not so reverant students at Colorado State University, where
he was the institute director, Sister Pace was confronted by a young man
in a rude fashion. He blurted out, "I read the Book of Mormon and prayed
about it and didn't learn it was true." She was inspired to ask, "What
kind of a life were you living when you read the Book of Mormon." His
responses were to her expectations...she then replied, "Young man, don't
you ever think that God will reveal to you sacred truths my husband
testified of, when you are living in violation of such a sacred law."
I know that each of us have specific needs that we pray for every day.
Our Heavenly Father is waiting anxiously to answer those needs as well as
to shower upon us countless other blessings that He has in store for us.
Some we pass up because we were not listening, others have been held back
because we have not worked hard enough for them. Set righteous goals and
seek inspiration to include Heavenly Father in the process and He will
see them to the end, if you keep you part of the contract.
"There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, nor unhallowed hand, that can
circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul."
Testimony of Jesus
We know that Jesus is the Christ, our Redeemer. We gain this testimony by the Spirit as we live the principles he taught. To help us gain this witness, we listen to those who have received this knowledge, and study the words and actions of Jesus. We find that he also testified of his divine nature.
When Jesus first began his ministry, he constantly bore witness to the astonished people of his true nature as Creator, Savior, the Son of God. The Pharisees criticized him for gathering food to eat on the Sabbath. Referring to David taking food from the temple, he told them plainly that he was greater than the temple, and the Lord of the Sabbath (Mathew 12:6,8).
When the Pharisees dismissed the miracles of casting out devils, Jesus showed them that this was evidence that that the “kingdom of God has come unto you” (Mathew 12:28).
When a scribe of the Pharisees asked for a sign, he prophecied that he would rise from the tomb after three days, like Jonas had emerged from the whale (Mathew 12:39-42).
When asked about his teaching methods, Jesus reminded the disciples that his coming fulfilled ancient prophecies, and that those prophets and righteous men only could wish they had lived to hear these stories in person, suggesting that he was the one they spoke of (Mathew 13:17).
With each parable he called upon the people to hear, receive and apply his word in order to receive the blessings that could only come from God (Mathew 13:23). In so doing he identified himself as the very fulfillment of the prophecies, and the giver of the blessings, and the bearer of the eternal knowledge. (Mathew 13:35).
When Jesus returned to his own childhood village, he was rejected as a teacher, since they had known him as a local, referring to his ordinary brothers and sisters who still lived there. He noted that he, like all prophets, was without honor in his own country (Mathew 13:57).
The very evening that he was mourning the death of John the Baptist, he was besieged by thousands. He healed their sick, fed them by the miracle of loaves and fishes, went alone to pray, walked on the water to join the disciples, calmed the water, and accepted the worship of those witnesses, who declared: “Of truth thou art the Son of God” (Mathew 14:33).
Everywhere he went there were people who recognized him for what he was, and felt compelled to not just listen or seek a blessing, but to worship him (Mathew 15:25).
May each of us study his holy word, listen to the testimony of his disciples, and become disciples ourselves by following Christ and living those principles that lead to the peace he promises. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Mathew 7:21). “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mathew 6:33).
I bear my witness that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that we live with purpose on the earth. Our purpose is to prepare for our eternal life. The path to peace and happiness is to follow the teachings and example of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Testimony of God
Last night as I watched the presidential candidates debate in New Hampshire, I thought of how different it was when Joseph Smith was running in 1844. He was nominated by associates who were impressed with his leadership qualities as mayor of the new city of Nauvoo, and president of a new religion. Last night the candidates struggled to distinguish between “policy” which must change with conditions, and “principles” upon which their decisions and policies would be based. Joseph Smith’s candidacy was based on principles he was not ashamed to espouse: “… let the people of the whole Union, like the inflexible Romans, whenever they find a promise made by a candidate that is not practiced as an officer, hurl the miserable sycophant from his exaltation. (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 207.) Joseph’s trust did not run to the arm of flesh, but to God and correct eternal principles. “I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on the earth,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith (Ensign, July 1972).
The Constitution, which Joseph characterized as an “inspired document”, was based on the Declaration of Independence, which begins with the bold and unusual declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (This famous line of the Declaration was originally: We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; Jefferson changed sacred and undeniable to self-evident during the writing of his Rough Draft of the Declaration). James Madison, commonly called the father of the Constitution, recognized this inspiration and gave the credit to “the guardianship and guidance of the Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this rising republic.” (Petersen, Prologue, p. 95.) Joseph Smith said, “The Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard - it is founded in the wisdom of God - it is a heavenly banner” (New Era, July, 1977).
Joseph was a candidate for change, in that he advocated a return to the principles upon which the nation was founded, including “In God We Trust”. During the year of his candidacy he was assasinated, but not before he accomplished great works that have changed the course of world history in profound ways that we will discuss in our classes each Sunday this year. His testimony of Jesus Christ certainly did change the course of my own family. My grandfathers’ grandfathers testify that when they heard Joseph’s testimony of the Savior, that they were so touched in their hearts, that they joined a persecuted church, left their homelands, and gathered with the Saints.
Joseph was not only an intellectual and spiritual giant, and dynamic speaker, and translator of ancient documents, he was the prophet chosen by God to usher in the Last Dispensation. He laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on the earth and the return of Christ to rule and reign. When I was a missionary teaching the Gospel every day, the daily testimony that I gave was that God has established His Kingdom on the earth with prophets and apostles and the teachings revealed by Joseph and the prophets since. I bore witness of my own testimony that David O. McKay was a prophet called of God. However, the core testimony that changed people’s lives began with my personal witness of Joseph Smith’s first vision. Joseph confirmed the testimony of all the prophets through the ages, that God is our Father and still loves and cares for us. The solution to our nation’s problems is obedience to God. Study the testimonies of Joseph Smith and others as a foundation for your own testimony of God and the companionship of the Holy Ghost to help you overcome temptation and enjoy peace. Share with others to invite peace into the world.