LECTURES ON JESUS THE CHRIST
II – TEACHING THE LIFE OF CHRIST
Chauncey C. Riddle
January 30, 1963
Brothers and sisters, it is indeed a privilege to stand before you and to occupy your time. I hope and pray that we might communicate. I wish that I could open up my mind and you could see at least part of what is in there–the part that I would like for you to have, because I am sure that not all of what I would like to say gets through my words. I hope that you will have a feeling for what I am saying, and that we will not misunderstand one another.
I think the most obvious thing to say when we are talking about teaching the life of Christ is that we need to know what we are talking about. Therefore, the first subject I am going to discuss this evening is testimony.
Definition of Testimony. –There are two definitions of testimony, two kinds of things that go under the name testimony. I think we ought to carefully distinguish these. First of these is to receive a testimony, To receive a testimony is to receive someone s witness of what they know. For instance, in a court of law the jury and judge receive testimony from the various witnesses. Not every person is qualified to be a witness. The only people that can legally qualify as witnesses are those whose special knowledge qualify them to occupy that place. Principally this means they must have been eyewitnesses. They must come to the courts to testify of that which they have seen, heard, felt, smelled or touched. They are, as it were, vicarious eyes and ears for the jury. And only as they report the things which they have actually experienced are they legal qualified wit-nesses. When they start reporting what they believe, what they infer, what they hope, what they think, these things are not witnesses, and these things are not acceptable in a court of law.
Now it is one thing to have this testimony, and as people bear to us this testimony, we must look first of all to see who they are, because not all witnesses given to us are of equal value. There are some that are much more important than others.
Secondly, there is such a thing as being able to bear a testimony, having one to give. As I have pointed out, hearsay evidence does not constitute a basis for having a testimony in the second sense. For instance, if I go to a court of law and I hear a witness stand up and `Il what he has seen, and I go to another court of law and tell what I heard that witness say–l can only testify as first hand evidence what I heard the witness say. I cannot say that what he said is true because I am once removed from it. In other words, hearsay evidence is not admissible in bearing my own testimony. This can be part of it, but if this is all I have to say, I am not doing a very good job as a witness.
Let us talk about the basis upon which we could give a valid witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It seems to me that we could liken a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ to a Texas tower. Do you know what a Texas tower is? I will draw one here. This is the big steel structure that they put out in the ocean. It goes down beneath the ocean and is anchored onto a point of rock, and then on the platform on the top they put whatever installation they want to have, such as a radar unit.
Getting a testimony of the gospel is very much like establishing one of these Texas towers. You can imagine what would happen to the tower if one of its legs were taken off. It would just go “whop” over into the ocean. Or even worse, imagine it trying to stand on one leg. There would be absolutely no hope for it. It takes all three. Not only does it have to have the three strong legs, but these legs have to be anchored into the rock at the bottom. They not only have to be anchored into the rock at the bottom, but they also have to be united at the top. Now let us see how this compares to a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Evidence as a Basis for Testimony. – -The evidence s that we can have for our testimony are principally witnesses. (I am contradicting myself a little, it seems, but we are going to get to the first-hand evidence a little later.) There are three kinds of special witnesses that a person can have that he might know that the gospel is true. First of all he must have the witness of the Holy Spirit. This is a very special and distinct kind of wit-ness because this is not a witness of man, it is not a witness of things physical, but it is a divine witness–a witness of a God himself. But this is not sufficient. There are those who think if they get the Spirit this is all they need. But indeed this is not so. The devil can most easily mislead these people. Much more is needed than simply to be guided by the Spirit. Why? Because there is more than one Spirit. There are lots of spirits that are anxious to give men direction and guidance, to give them rewards for the acts that they perform. But there is one Spirit which is a Holy Spirit, which is the only one to which we have to pay attention. And so it is important that we have other witnesses, too. The Lord says that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall all things be established.” (II Corinthians 13:1.) And His gospel is established in the mouth of two or three witnesses, first of all in the mouth of the Holy Spirit or the Holy Ghost.
Secondly, we have the witness of the scriptures–these books that we have, the testimony of ancient prophets or sometimes of modern prophets, but essentially those who have gone before.
And thirdly, we have the testimony of living prophets . Now the hall-mark of knowing that we have the Spirit, for one thing, is to see that what the Spirit tells us squares exactly with what the living prophets say and with what the dead prophets say. People will always bring up particular things, like Paul apparently being a little bit down on women and so forth, and therefore he does not agree with modern prophets. You have to remember that in the first place that is not what Paul said. It is important to under-stand what he was really talking about. In the second place, remember that there are times when specific commandments are given to specific peoples. When the Lord gives a commandment sometimes it is not for all time–it is for a specific time. Maybe for a later time he wants the people to live by a different commandment. This is to say that the most important prophets for us are the living prophets. I hope you all heard what President Moyle said in his talk to you on January 7. He said that the most important scriptures that the Church has today are the words of President McKay. And they are scripture. So I hope we will all take cognizance of that fact. And if we have the Holy Ghost it will bear witness that what President McKay says is true. I simply bear you my witness that that is so. So these three witnesses will stand. If we have the proper witness, we as a jury sit and judge the witnesses that we have received. One of the criteria that we must judge them by is–do they agree, are they teaching the same gospel? And it is my testimony to you that as we have the Spirit, we will see a unity of the faith in ancient and modern prophets.
Reason as a Basis for Testimony.–Another leg we must have for the Texas tower is reason. We need reason so that we can think through the things that the scriptures say, so that vie can piece them together, so that we can try to understand them. It takes all the intellectual power any human being can muster, so far as I can see, to understand, to comprehend, to appreciate the revelations of God. If we will bring to bear with all our might the force of intellect that we have to try to understand, to try to see how everything fits together, to see how there is a great unity in this whole thing, our reason will show us eventually that this is so.
The mistake we do not want to make is to suppose that reason by itself is sufficient. Remember this about reason: in the technical sense of proof, you can prove anything by the use of reason. By that same token, if you can prove anything you can also disprove anything by the use of reason. What I mean to say is simply this: Whenever we reason, we have to take certain fundamental premises. And on the basis of these premises, according to the rules of good reasoning, we deduce certain conclusions. We can get nothing out of the conclusion that is not in the premises. Because of this, the whole thing depends on the premises in our reasoning. And the only thing that reason will ever show us is that there is a careful and valid relationship between the premises and the conclusion.
After we get good premises, we can reason on these and be sure of ourselves; but the search for good and true premises is a search which has baffled humanity from the beginning. Our human powers of intellect are not sufficient to be able to certify the true premises that our reason needs to come to correct and true conclusions about the world. To make a long story short, we have to get our premise from something other than reason, and therefore reason becomes only a tool in helping us to assess how good our knowledge Is, to see if it fits together, if it is consistent, but never to give us a judgment of truth. In other words, we are saying we want to be reasonable. This is one of the tremendous things about the gospel of Jesus Christ. In my own life I have seen a number of things which I thought were contradictions in the scriptures, but as I have searched these things through and sought for answers to them, when I have finally gotten through to the meaning of the passage of scripture with which I was concerned, I have seen in almost every case that, when I finally understood, it all intermeshed and fit together so beautifully that my reason showed me not that it was true, but that it was not wrong because of being inconsistent.
There is a philosophy abroad in the world called rationalism (it does not matter what you call it) whereby people attempt to discover truth through reason. But if they will investigate the basis of reason they will find that you can detect some kinds of error by reason, but you can never can certify truth through reason. We want to be reasonable so we will be able to detect those kinds of errors. We want to be able to see by the power of our reason that if what the Spirit apparently tells us is not the same as what our authorities tell us, we better get back on our knees and start praying again– something is haywire. This is the thing we have to do. We have to see that we see eye to eye. Remember again, the Lord tells us that if we are not one, if we do not see eye to eye with those who are in authority over us, it is because somebody does not have the Spirit. And judging from the fact that the Lord has put them in authority over us, guess who it is who does not have the Spirit?
Functionality as a Basis for Testimony. –Thirdly, another basis
for our testimony will be the functionality of our testimony. In other words, If we will simply try out the thing that we are told to believe and see if It works, this is an indispensable means for knowing whether the thing is true or not. This is the pragmatic test. And the Savior commended this to man. If any man will know the doctrine, if he wants to know, let him perform this test. Try it out and see if it works, Remember the gospel is not essentially a message of theology. It is a prescription for action. There is theology in it, but it is essentially a message telling men to do something, telling men to believe on Jesus Christ, to repent of their sins, make the covenant of baptism, and to receive the Holy Ghost.
It is a prescription to do something, and a certain specific result is promised, this is a thing that can be tested. So we can perform the test. If we want to know whether or not this gospel is true all we have to do is go through the steps. Believe in the message. Hope in it. If we would like to believe that there is a God in heaven who is righteous and answers men s prayers then let us believe in that, and hope with our might that there is a Jesus Christ: one who will help us, one who will save us, one who will lead us and guide us in all things to righteousne9s. Then let us repent `of our sins through Him to receive into our minds the Holy Spirit, to accept, to receive the words of Christ and abide in it. Let us make the promises of the covenant of baptism, and if we have done those things as the message prescribes, we will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is-to the mind and will of the Lord with us at all times.
How can you tell if you have the Holy Ghost? Well, there are specific promises. For one thing, any man who has the Holy Ghost, who has fulfilled this test, will have the gift of the Spirit. He will be able to fortell the future, sometimes; maybe to speak in tongues, if that is needed. If he has the priesthood, perhaps he will have the gift of the power to heal. We are told plainly in the scriptures that every person who is born of the Spirit is given some gift, some particular gift of the Spirit. We are all commanded to seek earnestly the best gifts. If we have no gifts, we have not put this thing to the test. This is why the only people who can speak authoritatively as to whether the gospel is true or not are those who have gone through the steps, who have tried the test.
So there are these three things:
We must have the witnesses.
We must have our reason to show us how the thing fits together.
We must try it out and see if it works.
This is Alma’s experiment that he gives to us in Alma 32. If we will perform the test, if we find that living this way brings to us fruits and results that are delicious, then indeed we shall know this is a good thing that we have hold of.
What is the rock at the bottom to which these things have to be anchored? The rock is our Savior, Jesus Christ. We will discover that if our witnesses are solid and true witnesses, they go back to Jesus Christ. He is the source of all of them. If our reasoning is good and true, it will be because we are enlightened by the power of Jesus Christ to be intelligent. It is His light that lightens our minds. By the light of Christ all men are intelligent, rational beings. By His light all men live–everything that lives, everything that functions In the universe is governed through His power. As Paul says, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (See Acts 17:28.) (It is interesting just to note that all of the men who fight against Christ do so by His power. And this is why when they are brought to account on the day of judgment they will hang their heads because they will then know that it was by His good grace they were able to do so much against Him.) Thirdly, we must try this test and see that it works. And as we try the test, from whom is it that we receive the blessings? From the Lord Jesus Christ. Now we have to tie this thing together at the top ourselves. Our Savior is the rock upon which we must support this structure, but we have to be the rigid structure at the top. To me this is simply saying, we must ask in faith, nothing wavering. If we are willing to put these three things together and not waver in our determination to seek righteousness, then because of the rigidity of the structure, we will be able to withstand any winds and waves that come along.
You remember that a couple of years ago there was a tower out in the Atlantic that went down. Why did it go down? Because one of the legs went out from under it. It did not hang together. This Is why we must have all three of these things. They have `to be a functional unity. And we have to make sure that we put it together solidly. This takes a good deal of courage and effort on our own part.
The Necessity of Testimony.–When we have searched the scriptures, when we have listened to the words of the living prophets, when we have received the Holy Spirit into our lives, when our reason shows us that it all fits together and that it works in our lives, then we have a testimony. Then, having a testimony, we are likely to know what the Holy Spirit is, and by the Holy Spirit we can come to know the truth of all things. What I am saying is this: The big problem we have is to get into our lives a knowledge as to what the Holy Ghost is. Who is he? How does he speak? How can I recognize him? And if we have a testimony that the gospel is true and we have tried these, these give us a basis for knowing what the Holy Spirit is so that we will not be confused by evil spirits. Then when we have the Holy Spirit we can teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. The scriptures tell us very plainly in the Doctrine and Covenants, “And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.” (D&C 42:14.)
Let me say just a word about testimonies before we pass on. I am going to read from the Lectures on Faith a very important passage related to testimony:
1. Having treated in the preceding lectures of the ideas, of the character, perfections, and attributes of God, we next proceed to treat of the knowledge which persons must have, that the course of life which they pursue is according to the will of God, in order that they may be enabled to exercise faith in him unto life and salvation,
2. This knowledge supplies an important place in revealed religion; for it was by reason of it that the ancients were enabled to endure as seeing him who is invisible. An actual knowledge to any person, that the course of life which he pursues is according to the will of God, is essentially necessary to enable him to have that confidence in God without which no person can obtain eternal life. It was this that enabled the ancient saints to endure all their afflictions and persecutions, and to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing (not believing merely) that they had a more enduring sub-stance. (Hebrews x. 34.)
3. Having the assurance that they were pursuing a course which was agreeable to the will of God, they were enabled to take, not only the spoiling of their goods, and the wasting of their substance, joyfully, but also to suffer death in its most horrid forms; knowing (not merely believing) that when this earthly house of their tabernacle was dissolved, they had a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Corinthians v. l.)
4. Such was, and always will be, the situation of the saints of God, that unless they have an actual knowledge that the course they are pursuing is according to the will of God they will grow weary in their minds, and faint; for such has been, and always will be, the opposition in the hearts of unbelievers and those that know not God against the pure and unadulterated religion of heaven (the only thing which insures eternal life), that they will persecute to the uttermost all that worship God according to his revelations, receive the truth in the love of it, and submit themselves to be guided and directed by his will; and drive them to such extremities that nothing short of an actual knowledge of their being the favorites of heaven, and of their having embraced the order of things which God has established for the redemption of man, will enable them to exercise that confidence in him, necessary for them to overcome the world, and obtain that crown of glory which is laid up for them that fear God.
5. For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor, and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also–counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ–requires more than mere belief or supposition that he is doing the will of God; but actual knowledge, realizing that, when these sufferings are ended, he will enter into eternal rest, and be a partaker of the glory of God.
6. For unless a person does know that he is walking according to the will of God, it would be offering an insult to the dignity of the Creator were he to say that he would be a partaker of his glory when he should be done with the things of this life. But when he has this knowledge, and most assuredly knows that he is doing the will of God, his confidence can be equally strong that he will be a partaker of the glory of God.
7. Let us here observe, that a religion that doe s not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.
8. It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtain faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they, in like manner, offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.
9. It was in offering sacrifices that Abel, the first martyr, obtained knowledge that he was accepted of God. And from the days of righteous Abel to the present time, the know ledge that men have that they are accepted in the sight of God is obtained by offering sacrifice. And in the last days, before the Lord comes, he is to gather together his saints who have made a covenant with him by o sacrifice. Psalm 1:3,4,5: “Our God shall come, and shall
not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” (Lecture Sixth.)
Well, I read that rather lengthy quotation simply to emphasize the fact that we have to know what we are talking about. If we do not know what we are talking about we cannot teach, nor can we fully live the gospel without that testimony. But only as we begin to live the gospel can we grow in knowledge of what we are talking about.
Maybe it sounded to you like there was a bit of contradiction in what I was reading. But let us explain it by this means. No man can offer a righteous sacrifice unto the Lord and do His will sufficiently unless he has the knowledge by the Holy Spirit that he is doing what is right. Any man who will live by the Spirit, and he knows he is living by the Spirit if he agrees with the prophets for one thing, any man who will do this and per-forms that sacrifice will receive not just the witness and testimony of the Holy Ghost that he is doing what is right, but eventually he will know for himself more directly than that. If you want to know what I mean by that, 9 I commend to you John 14:10. There read the particular promise which is made unto every saint that he might know. If you want further clarification of that, read the Teachinqs of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pages 159- 161, where he clarifies exactly the meaning of John 14:10.
The Aim of Education. –I am going to digress from a spiritual realm for just a moment and talk about teaching. I recognize these are my personal ideas. I do not have any idea how this is going to square with the professional educators. I have not had classes in professional education and I am just shooting in the dark so far as everybody else is concerned. But I do have certain convictions about teaching.
In the first place I believe that teaching is an art. It is the turning out of a very specific refined product. The teacher is very much a craftsman, and only as he has much experience and is careful to accept the realities of his materials and to know how to apply his own talents skillfully to the materials at his hand, can he really accomplish anything in teaching. I think it is the goal of teaching to build character. Now this is not anything novel. I take this on good authority. As I understand it, this is what President McKay has said many times, that the essential thing we are trying to do in education is to build character. I think character consists of four principal things, the first of which is knowledge. Too often education stops with imparting knowledge and turns loose on the world a knowledgeable demon, so to speak. But we have to do more than they truly to educate.
The second step in character education, I think, is to gain wisdom, or a beginning of understanding as to how knowledge should be applied.
The third step in character is to love work. I think this is a basic part of any good thing, any good program in this world. Nothing will succeed among a people unless they learn to love work, because work is the basis of all good things that come to man. Too many societies get to the point where they think that the worst thing in the world is work, and that society then quickly goes downhill. It is interesting to note that most people as soon as they get a little bit elevated in society think they are above work. It is for this reason that they have undertaken generation after generation to enslave other men. Have you noticed as you read the history books, that every world civilization has been built on slavery, including our own United States? It is too bad, isn’t it? But this is a fact we have to face up to about human beings. Naturally, as they come, men do not love work–they have to be taught this. And this is an important part of education. Until men learn to love the work that produces the good things of life they are drones in society.
Fourthly, I think the crowning aspect of teaching men character is teaching them righteousness–which I take to mean simply motivating men to work for good goals. The four specific goals are, then: knowledge, wisdom, work, and righteousness.
The Role of the Teacher. – -What is the role of the teacher in this process? It would be my understanding that the role of a teacher is to assist the student to learn. I do not conceive of the teacher, the good human teacher, as a master in the sense that he pretends that he is omniscient, that he is omnipotent, that the student must conform exactly to be well taught. I think that every human teacher needs to recognize his own fallibilities sufficiently that he is willing to give the student the opportunity to develop his own creative powers. If he will do that, he does something wonderful for the student.
The Role of the Student. –This suggests that something very important also has to prevail on the part of the student. The student has to have the thirst to attain character. He has to want it. In my own education, I have observed that the situations in which I grew the most and learned the most were situations wherein I had two things: where I was hungry for something myself, where I wanted to fit myself to gain a certain body of knowledge, to be able to do a certain thing; and at the same time where there was some-one there who could instruct me and guide me and channel my enthusiasm.
I have seen times in my life when I had no desire whatever to learn and no matter how good the teacher was, we got nowhere. I have seen times in my life when I wanted with all my heart to learn something but there was no teacher available and I could not learn it. An education, I think, is the product of the happy union of a skilled teacher and a desiring student. Maybe this will have to be modified, depending upon the level on which you operate. But as I teach on the college level, I am convinced more and more that what students know they have learned for themselves. If they have had the good fortune to sit under good teachers, they can learn more rapidly, more correctly, more efficiently, but they have to learn for themselves or it does not do them any good.
The Final Product of Education.–What is the final product of education? In general, to me, the final product of education should be a good citizen, a person who is willing to take his part in the world. [think the overwhelming fact of our reality is that we are social beings, we press upon one another in this world; and unless we learn to act toward one another in a good way, we just create a hell for ourselves. To be a good citizen, to me, simply means to learn to take one’s place in the world where he becomes a blessing to bat world rather than a hindrance. How can we apply this to the gospel?
Teaching the Gospel
The Aim of Gospel Teaching. –To me the aim in teaching the gospel is exactly the same as in other teaching–that of building character. But now we can get very specific. What is the knowledge that we need to teach? You can teach people the theology of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the ideas related to the gospel about our God, about ourselves. It is my own personal conviction that no people can be moral without a knowledge of true theology. I think this is an absolute requisite. In other words, to be moral or to do what is right has to be based in a knowledge of things as they are, and this is what theology tells us. There is no sociological or scientific or psycho- logical experiment or body of knowledge which any person can turn to tell us the ultimate nature of man or the ultimate nature of God. This cannot be done. It is entirely beyond the powers of human beings. Oh, you can say a lot about them as they exist now and as they act now, but I am talking about the eternal significance of the nature of human beings. Our actions cannot be wise unless we base our actions in a knowledge of the eternal nature of human beings and their God. This is why a knowledge of true theology is absolutely essential.
Secondly, we need to know what to begin to do about this. If we know that we are fallen men, if we know that we are captive and probably do not do the things that we really want to do, how can we get out of this predicament? Teaching people the gospel of Jesus Christ is teaching them the beginning of wisdom, to know what to do. Then if we can teach them to love to work, to love righteousness sufficiently, to love their fellow man–they they will love to do those things which create happiness in the world.
There is a very interesting phrase in Isaiah 35 and Paul repeats it. He says, ,`. . . lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (Hebrews 12:12.) Have you ever seen somebody who goes around like this? They do not know what to do. They have never learned how to work. They do not know what to put their hands to. They just go around with their hands hanging down. I think this is what he is talking about.
Lift up the hands! Teach people what to do and then to love to do it, so that when they stand around they will quickly find something to do and get on with life. Just think how much wasted energy there is in our society. I am not suggesting that a lot of the things we do which are not work are bad, but if everybody in our society would contribute to the material well-being of our society, it would take very little time on anybody’ s part. If everybody shared that burden then everybody would have time for a lot more of the delightful things–the other delightful things. But that will never happen until men come to see the hard ordinary work of subduing the earth, for one thing, as a godly work. And isn’t it a godly work? This is one of the commandments the Lord has given us. This earth obeys His commandments because He has learned to be master of it. And the unique access we have to become masters of earths is to subdue this one first of all, and to love doing it, to work hard enough to learn how to transform the way nature is to something that is delightful and not fallen.
Nature comes to us fallen; it needs to be put in order. Through our own efforts we can create and put it back into a terrestrial and eventually into a celestial order–not through just our own efforts, but through the help of the Lord, the things that we find naturally. We must begin with ourselves. We are to subdue our own bodies (which are part of this earth in a sense–we are created out of the dust), then to subdue the physical things around us to attain a terrestrial or celestial order. As we do this, we are engaged in the process of salvation. But we have to teach people to love work, to love the work of the Church, to love to carry out the assignments that they are given through the priesthood. This is what builds the spiritual kingdom and brings us celestial order on the earth.
Finally, if we could teach them to love righteousness–then there is no sacrifice they will not be willing to make. To love righteousness is simply to love the Lord, Jesus Christ, as I understand it. He is the epitome of righteousness. If we know Him and understand what He is and have any conception of Him that is true, we will begin to love Him. And I do not see how we can do that apart from loving righteousness.
The Role of the Teacher in the Church. –What then is the role of the teacher in the Church? As the role of the teacher in any situation is to simply assist the student, to me the role of the teacher in the Church is to help every person to come to one principal thing: to come to a unity of the faith through the Spirit. In other words, when a teacher has finally gotten someone to believe in the authorities of the Church, to accept what they say on the basis of their own spiritual witness, then this student is achieving a unity of the faith. It is not required that we be unified with everybody. Who are we supposed to be unified with? With the Lord, principally. If we are unified with Him we do not need to worry about much else. Correct? But we need to remember this. He has authorities on this earth who represent Him. And if we pretend that we are unified with Him and we ignore His representatives here, we are not unified with Him. This is why we have to see eye to eye with those who are set as fathers in the priesthood over us: our bishops, our stake presidents, the general authorities of the Church. This is “coming to a unity of the faith” if we see eye to eye with them; and the only basis for doing this is through the Holy Spirit. So this is the role of the teacher in the Church- -to help people to accept the living prophets and the Holy Spirit and to come to a unity of the faith.
The Role of the Student in the Church. – -What is the role of the student in the Church? No person can be an apt student in the gospel of Jesus Christ unless he does this thing the Savior mentions in the Sermon on the Mount, unless he hungers and thirsts after righteousness. As he has that desire first in his heart and mind, then he will see it in the program of the Church, he will see it in the directions of the Spirit. He will see in the Lord and Savior of mankind the opportunity for righteousness.
The Final Product of Gospel Education. –What is the final product of gospel education? A Latter-day Saint. Not necessarily a Mormon, but a Latter-day Saint. I do not mean to make too much of that distinction but simply to point out what are some of the characteristics of a good Latter-day Saint. Such a person is a good citizen of the kingdom of God. He has knowledge of his own. He does not depend on any other man for his light; he lives by the Spirit.
But the reason for being independent and having the Spirit for ourselves is so that we will know with whom to cooperate. The reason for becoming independent and having our own light is not so that we can go off and be a law unto ourselves, as a lot of people think. The reason for becoming independent is so that we will not err in associating with and in cooperating with the right people. The Lord desires that His kingdom shall be a grand unity of people who see eye to eye, who are dependent upon Him for their knowledge, and who work together in perfect harmony. This is what the Church is supposed to be.
First of all, a Latter-day Saint is led by the Spirit. Secondly, he is a cooperator: he gets in and pitches. He is a responsible steward. Any job can be turned over to him in the Church and if he says it is done, it is done. You do not have to follow up on it. That is a rare thing, is it not?
If you have ever had much administrative responsibility in the Church you know that there are few men upon whom you can depend, when you say “Brother so and so, we would like this done,” and he says, “I will go and do it.” There just are not very many like that, that you can trust. Yet this is the purpose of teaching, to bring people to such a state. And if people love the Lord, if they hunger and thirst for righteousness, if they get good teaching, if they get the Spirit, they will be filled by the Lord with that knowledge, that motivation, that power that they need to become that kind of a responsible steward.
There is one thing that will drive a man if nothing else will, and that is the pricking of the conscience–if he is humble. And that is why our job is to get people to obtain the Spirit and know that it is the right spirit; and then they will do the job. A person who is a Latter-day Saint can be a leader or a follower, it does not matter. Wherever he is put in the kingdom he fulfills his function. It does not matter what the job is, every job is important. We have heard this said so many times but we do not all believe it. Frankly, almost anybody in the Church, I challenge you, will think that the job of a bishop is more important than the job of a ward teacher. Well, it is and it is not. It is in this sense: the bishop has more responsibility. But it is not in this sense: the ward teacher has to do just as exacting a job of fulfilling his stewardship as does the bishop, to stand blameless before the Lord. We have to remember that when we take upon ourselves the authority of the priesthood to act in the name of God, we take upon ourselves the responsibility for that stewardship. And whatever is not right with that stewardship we have to put right as much as it is within our power, or we stand condemned.
Remember Jacob took his garments and shook them before the people after he had taught the gospel to them. He said to them: “I’ve given you your chance. I’ve taught you the gospel. Because you’ve had my witness and the witness of the Spirit, you know what you’re supposed to do; and if you henceforth sin, it is on your shoulders.” (See 2 Nephi 6 ff .) Similarly, every person who has an authoritative office in the Church, until such time as he discharges his responsibility, is responsible for the blood and sins of those people over whom he presides. This is an awesome thing. But a true Latter-day Saint nevertheless can fit anywhere into the Church system.
Teaching the Life of the Savior
There are three principal things that you are going to have to accomplish if you are going to weld any group of men into a cooperative, organized body. Suppose you are given one hundred or two hundred men and you are told to organize them into an army to do a certain job, or organize them into a sales force to go out and promote Ct certain product. I think. there are three things that you must accomplish before you can ever say that this is an organization.
First, you have to have every man in that group know his job. He has to have a specific task–to know what it is and how to do it. He has to be trained in that specific responsibility.
Second, every man in the organization has to know his line of authority and his line of responsibility. We have some ultimate source of authority, and the authority comes down to us. Whatever is below us is our responsibility, whatever is above us is the authority over us. If a man does not know what his authority is, he cannot function in an organization. If he has two people to tell him what to do, he will never do it right because he will have to satisfy both of them which will be virtually impossible. Have you ever tried to work under two bosses? This is a really miserable thing to have to do. One comes along and says, “Do it this way.” Another ones comes along and says, “Ah, that’s terrible; do it this way.” Then the first one comes back and says, “Why aren’t you doing it the way I told you to?” And this is the way it goes.
In the Church of Jesus Christ there is only one direct line of author-ity, and if we know who our authority is and recognize it, we will be able to see what is going on and know what to do. We have to know what the authority and responsibility is of those who are beneath us, in the same fashion. We cannot dictate to those who are over us and we want to make sure that we do not overstep the bounds of those who are beneath us. We do not usurp authority–we give authority when we have responsibility. We want to make sure that we respect it beneath us just as well as we respect it above us.
Finally, the third point: If we are going to have this group of men organized into an army, they must have proper motivation. When a group of men are out on the firing line in a war, what percentage of them fire their guns? Do you have any idea? If you get up to twenty-five per cent, you are doing pretty well sometimes. The rest of them just hunch down and try to keep from being hit. But how on earth can you win a war with that kind of a rate? If they are so scared to death for their own skins that they will not even fire their guns, it is pretty hard to win a war.
This is the same problem that we face. We have lots of soldiers in the army of Israel but most of them are afraid to fire their guns. They just hunch down in their foxholes and do not fire. They bury their talents in the ground.
If we are to teach the life of the Savior through the priesthood of God, we are going to organize them into the army of Israel, are we not? So we have to make sure that we know what these three objectives are so that we can put them into their minds. As teachers of the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums, as fathers and mothers, as administrators, the whole business of our life in the Church is to get people to be good servants to Jesus Christ. Everybody needs to be aware of that objective.
Everyone to Know His Assignment.–What is the assignment of every single member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? We all have one job. What is it? To become as the Savior. Now that is why I was saying just a minute ago that the final product of Latter-day Saint education is to be a Latter-day Saint. A Latter-day Saint is somebody who can fit any place in the Church. If he is assigned to be a missionary he goes out and is a good missionary. If he is assigned to genealogical work, he does not rationalize out of it, but he goes out and does it. If he is assigned to take care of the boy scouts he goes out and does it. A Latter-day Saint can fill any office in the Church. If wO would Lecome as the Savior, as the scripture commends to us, if we would live 50 close to the Spirit that it could show us all things that we should do, if we would work together in love and harmony and cooperation and bolster and build one another’s faith and testimony, pretty soon we would be as the Savior, and then any one of us could fill any of these jobs. I am not trying to contradict Paul. He said that every person in the Church has an office, a function. The hand cannot say to the eye, `I have no need of thee.” (See I Corinthians 12:21.) `o This is the way we are now. We are not perfect yet. But the goal is perfection. And when we come to the state we are supposed to attain, every person who will, will have become as the Savior. This is our job. This is our duty. We pretend when we bear the priesthood to represent Jesus Christ. If we do it in righteousness, we will do it because we have become as Jesus Christ. How was the Savior righteous in representing His father? For one thing, He did everything His father told Him to do, and only what His father told Him to. By the same token, when we go out representing the Lord to use His priesthood, we need to make sure that we are doing what he tells us to and only what he tells us to.
Everyone to Know His Line of Authority and Responsibility.–Every man should know his line of authority. Actually every bearer of the priest-hood has three lines of authority, but they all go back to the same source. The three lines of authority the priesthood bearer has are, first, his line of ordination. He was ordained by so and so to be an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and bear the Melchizedek Priesthood. That man was ordained by somebody to receive his priesthood and so on back. But it all gets back to whom? To Jesus Christ. Whose priesthood is this? It is the priesthood of Jesus Christ. And unless we can trace our authority through ordination back to Him we should wonder if we have any priesthood. It is a good t ding to know our priesthood lineage.
What is our second lineage? Our second lineage is not the lineage of our ordination, but that of our calling. Office and calling are different.
The same diversity exists as between priesthood and keys. We have a specific lineage through our calling in the Church. For instance, if I am bishop of some ward I have a direct responsibility to the stake president and he has a responsibility to the general authorities of the church. That Is my lineage in my calling. And who does this go back to ultimately? Whose Church is this? The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It goes back to Him.
Third, there is one more element that I have to have before I can exercise the priesthood fully. I have to be guided in what I do and say by the Holy Spirit. And who tells the Holy Spirit what to tell me to do and say? Our Savior, Jesus Christ. We have to recognize, in other words, on all three lines of authority, that Jesus Christ is our authority. So our mission is to become as the Savior under His authority. He is perfect, and He has the power to teach us to become the same if we will receive the priesthood and function in it properly.
Everyone Properly Motivated . – -How are we going to get everybody motivated? So far as I can see there is only one motivation that is going to be sufficient to get people actually to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not care how many external things we apply, externals will never motivate a person sufficiently to live the gospel of Jesus Christ fully. It has to be something that wells up from within him and causes him to be righteous. Shall we say, he has to find within himself the desire to become righteous. And the only thing that I know that can bring that desire fully is the love of his Savior, Jesus Christ.
The first and great commandment is to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, might, mind and strength. How can a person learn to love the Lord? He cannot learn to love the Lord if he does not know anything about Him. He has to have a knowledge of what His character is, what He has done for us and so forth. He must see everyone else in the world as children of the Savior. Usually we cannot approach our love of the Lord except as we begin to love our fellow men. We cannot love all of our fellow men except as we love those that are around us. Those that are closest around us are our own families, and to me this is the place to begin to teach a person to love the Lord.
If a person, it does not matter who he is, if there is a man in the Church who has any spark of love for his wife and children, I think you can make a lot of progress with that man in helping him to become more righteous. If his love for his wife and children is very great at all he can and will become a saint, because as he wants to do good things for his wife and children to bless them, he cannot be happy with himself unless he not only desires to bless them but actually blesses them. As he comes to that realization he will see, if he is honest, that only through the Lord Jesus Christ, can he be a fulness of blessing to his wife and children. Only as he honors his priesthood can he do certain things for them. Only as he receives the guidance of the Spirit can he direct the affairs of his family so that he an help and save his children from certain calamities. As he comes to realize this, he will come to treasure the Church, the authorities, the Spirit. As he comes to treasure these things, he will come to treasure that great Being who stands at the head of it all, our Savior. But until he comes to feel the love of the Lord toward him and to begin to reflect that love, he will not be sufficiently motivated to “fire his gun.” We make a Latter-day Saint only when he is filled with the pure love of Christ. So we have to know that this is our objective.
An Ideological Profile of the Savior
I would like now to suggest something to you. I do not want to say that this is anything final; it is rather an instrument. Do you remember the scripture we quoted from Ephesians? It says that we come to a unity of the faith and a knowledge of the Son of God under the direction of our authorities. (See Ephesians 4:13.) We need to come to a unity of the faith as to who and what Jesus Christ is, in these two years that we as a Church study the book Jesus the Christ. And I say as a Church; I mean everybody. The father is not just supposed to study this in priesthood meeting. He is supposed to make that the basis for carrying this into the home and studying it with the whole family. He is not just supposed to receive and not give. This should be a family project. If, as the Church studies the book Jesus the Christ, we all come to a unity of the faith on the fundamentals of what and who Jesus Christ is, this will be a tremendous power in helping us to become true Latter-day Saints.
There are a lot of false doctrines floating around the Church and we need to be aware of them. If you are a teacher or a father or a mother, you need to make sure that when these false doctrines come up, that the doctrine is dealt with appropriately. We want to make sure that we treat the person who is promoting the doctrine with all kindness and love, but that we make sure that a correct doctrine is taught in its place. I am not going to tell you what the false doctrines are; I think you can figure those out. But I am going to try to suggest to you ten ideas which I think give a picture of the Savior. If we could all agree on such a set of ideas we would be ahead. But I am not sure these are the ten. I wish you would work on these ideas and see if you can find something that I have left out. If we could get this down to ten items that would really round cut our picture of the Savior sufficiently that we could come to love Him, I think we would be a great step ahead. Let us see what these ten items are that I have suggested.
l. The Son of God. –We need to realize that Jesus is the Son of God. This is to say that He is not just Jesus of Nazareth, He is not Jesus the son of Joseph, the carpenter’s son–He is Jesus the Christ. The words “the Christ” mean what? They mean “the anointed one,” the one who has been consecrated at the hands of God the Father to be our God, and who is His literal son. This is important. If we know that Jesus Christ is divine and has the full authority and power of Godhood, this is going to make a difference as to the way we treat Him and act toward Him. This is an indispensable basis for our faith and our trust in Him. If He is just the great teacher of Nazareth, why have faith in Him? Perhaps another greater teacher will come along one of these days. This is what some people teach. I hope you have not heard it in the Church, but I attended a seminary back East for two years where I sat under the so-called great theologians of our day. If I were to tell you their names you would find that they are some of the leading lights in Protestantism. But they were teaching plainly that Jesus Christ was not the Son of God. He was simply a great, inspired man. They went so far as to say that He taught the people an agrarian ethic. This was good for farmers, but now that we are factory workers we need a better system.
2. Sinless, Perfect. –We need to have it very clear in our minds and believe and know that the scriptures testify that Jesus Christ was sinless, that He was perfect. If He was not sinless and perfect how could He have wrought our atonement? You will find that the people who do not believe that He was sinless do not put much stock in the atonement either. But there is one very insidious accompaniment of the doctrine that the Savior did commit sin, and as I see it sometimes it is a rationalization. I do not want to question the integrity of people that say the Savior committed sin, but there is one bad effect of it. It has this effect: If the Savior committed sins, what does that mean about me? I can get away with committing a few, too. Isn’t that the net consequence of saying that the Savior was sinful? So it becomes a matter of great moment to know whether He was perfect or not. What are we going to take as a witness? Do we want to trust our own minds? By our own minds we can prove it either way, as we pointed out before. How about the people that knew Him? What about the testimony of the Holy Ghost? Should the Holy Ghost know whether He is perfect or not? I think so. He is a God, too, He knows all things. What about the Father? The Father must believe the Savior is perfect because He gave everything over to the Savior. The thing that He says when He comes to men is, “This is my beloved son, hear him.” (Joseph Smith 2:17.) Now God cannot look upon a sinful thing with the least degree of allowance; this is His nature. He could not accept the Savior back into His presence if the Savior had been sinful. At least we cannot make the scriptures fit together if that is not so. So I hope you see that the idea that the Savior was perfect is very important and indispensable to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If we can come to a unity of the faith on that principle it will help us to see and to know that, since the Savior is the example, we can rise to that same level through His power and also get to the point where we no longer sin. Now that is important. To me this is what the word “repent” means–to stop sinning.
He Who Descended Below All Things. –It is important to know the Savior came on the earth and took upon himself mortality, meaning that He was subject to all the pangs of the flesh, the temptations, the trials; every-thing that you and I are asked to go through, He had to go through. This is important because there will not be one of us that can go to the Savior on the day of judgment when we stand before Him and say, “Lord, it was really tough. There were just so many obstacles that [just couldn’t live your laws.” The Savior will be there and we will look Him in the face and know that He suffered so much more terribly than anything you and I ever could suffer, that there is no comparison. Then, if we are tempted to say, “Well, you were the Son of God, after all,” He will say to us, “I gave you the chance to be a son of God, too, to have every power that I have to overcome these things. But you didn’t want it. You rejected it.” This is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the Son of God– to enable us to become like Him. So it is important to know that He descended below all these things and He conquered and mastered them all. It is possible; He did it, and not only that, thank goodness; for He is not the only one that has done it. He is the only one who has been perfect all during His life, make no mistake–but we know there have been men who have repented of all their sins and have become exalted already. This is a wonderful thing to know.
4. The Way, the Truth, the Life. –Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. There is no other name under heaven whereby man can be saved. He is the door to the sheepfold. And any man that tries to get in any other way but through Him is a thief and a robber. I hope we all recognize that. Then we see what the first principle of the gospel means. What is the first principle of the gospel? It is not faith. What is the first principle of the gospel? It is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Is there a difference? There is a great difference!
Everybody has faith. You have to have faith. We do not know the world is going to be here five minutes from now. We just suppose it is; we trust in it; we have faith in it. Every act of our lives is essentially an act of faith because we know very little. But that is not the faith that saves man. The only thing that saves man is faith in Jesus Christ, which means simply to believe in Him and do what He says.
If we can do that, in other words, if we believe He is the Way and do what He says, then He will open the gate to us and we can get through that way.
He is the truth. One of His names is the Spirit of Truth. The only way a man can be sure he knows the truth is if he receives It by direct revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost is also called the Spirit of Truth because he relays the message to us. I wish I had a certain quotation from President McKay, found in the Instructor. (I hope you read the editorials in the Instructor. Just for curiosity’s sake, how many of you read those every month? I commend all of you that do. This is one of the most choice experiences of your life–to read the words of the living prophet, And I testify to you that these words are choice.) President McKay pointed out not very long ago that the only way that men know truth is through revelation. Frankly this is a hard and bitter pill for a lot of people to swallow. This cuts directly across the grain of much of our education, the intellectual heritage that our society and civilization has. But I point out to you also that it can be very clearly demonstrated on the basis of that same intellectual knowledge. In other words, using its own tools you can prove that this is so, you can show people that of themselves they cannot know truth. Now that is a hard thing to say.
If anybody wants to take up the challenge I am willing to take them on, because I know it can be demonstrated that the only way a man can know truth is through the Lord Jesus Christ. Now do not mistake me, in the common sense terminology I am not saying that you cannot know your Savior except by the power of revelation. The things that are important are the things that we cannot see and this is where we have to have revelation to know truth. Revelation helps for the realm that we can see, too, but especially for the realms that we cannot see. And it is the realms that we cannot see that control our lives. Is that not right? We cannot see the past but it has a very definite control over us. We cannot see the future but it is important. We cannot see what is distant; we cannot see the infinitesimals of our body; we cannot see the infinity of the universe, we cannot see God directly; but until we know about these things and have true ideas about them we cannot act correctly nor righteously. We must have revelation to know enough truth to be righteous and the only way to get this is through Jesus Christ. He said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:22.) Usually the interpretation is that if you know truth you are relieved from error and therefore are free. But that is not what that scripture says. Read the context; it says plainly if you know Jesus Christ, He will make you free. Now that is a good thing to know, it is not? He is a good person to know.
Third , He is the life . Any man who knows Him really lives .. this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.)
5. The Efficacy of the Atonement. – -We need to have a clear concept in our minds of the efficacy of the atonement, to realize that the Savior has power to forgive all sins of man. There are some sins that are unforgivable,
, but this is only after a person has once been cleansed by the power of the atonement. Otherwise, as I read the scriptures, all things are forgivable. In other words, the Savior is strong enough and powerful enough through His atonement to rescue every man from hell, that no one need suffer for his sins.
If we do not look upon the Savior as a suffering redeeming Messiah, we miss largely the whole point of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the demonstration of His great love to us, that He saves us both in time and in eternity. And if we discount the atonement we remove the Savior from the plan of salvation.
6. The Power of the Resurrection. –We need to recognize in Him the power that brings all men back to life. There will be an infinity of time hereafter which we will have with our bodies. The question is, will we enjoy it or not? We have the opportunity to decide right now which way it will be. As we receive His power of resurrection into our lives, we must stand before Him at the next point as the righteous judge.
7. The Righteous judge.–Now I emphasize the righteous judge, because there are those who want to say that the Savior will forgive all men. This just is not so. He is a God of justice and justice cannot rob mercy. He is also a God of mercy and mercy will not rob justice. That the two might work, each takes its own; those that have sought mercy will receive mercy and justice will be satisfied. Those that have denied mercy will receive justice and may cannot apply. No man need think that he can defy the whisperings of the Spirit and the testimony of the servants of God and that all will be well with him in the last days. There are those who preach it is all right to sin a little bit, to lie a little bit; when we get up there God will beat us with a few stripes and eventually we will enter into our kingdom. That is what Nephi says that the false teachers will teach in the last days. It just is not so. He is the righteous judge and we our-selves force upon Him the judgment that we will receive. It will not be His fault; it will be our fault, because He has given us the alternatives and opportunities; we select the one we want, and He simply gives us the reward.
8. The Friend in Our Need. –I love that song that says, “He watching over Israel slumbers not nor sleeps.” I hope you know that song, it is a beautiful one. He is always there, no matter where we are; no matter what we are doing, He is ready to help us in our troubles. Do you realize that the scriptures say that anything you ask in righteousness, if you are a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, you will receive. (See Enos 1:15.)
What could you ask more than that kind of a blank check? No matter what our trouble is, if we will repent of our sins and ask for righteous things, we will receive it. I think most of us just do not believe that promise; it is too stupendous for us to appreciate. But it is there. It is not there once, but many, many times. There is no need that we have that is so great that He cannot satisfy it, if it is a righteous desire. I think that is a wonderful thing to know.
This does not mean we are going to be spared all suffering in our life, does it? Why? Remember that all things work well for those that love the Lord. If we suffer trials and tribulations, sickness, bereavement, if we receive these things properly they will lift us to the state where God can exalt us. We are here to learn through the things that we suffer. And when we have suffered sufficiently and have proven that we can overcome all things, it is not desirable that we suffer forever, and the Lord will cause a cessation to that suffering. He is pleased to do that. We suffer only, in a sense, as there is some purpose in it. Now you have to be careful how you push that. There is a lot of suffering in the world that gets pretty hard to explain; but may I simply point out this: It is the mission of the servants of Jesus Christ to relieve that suffering in the world by telling all men of the opportunities of salvation through their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The world is in misery today because it has rejected time and time again the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is our job to get the word out. There are many people who are now suffering that do not want to be suffering and if they heard the gospel they would be righteous. But we are having a hard time mustering enough strength to get out there and give them the opportunity as we should.
9. The Pattern for All Men.–The Savior is the pattern for all men. He is not the exception. He is the example. His life is the measure of our lives. We will simply be put up against the Savior and what He accomplished in His life on the day of judgment. If we within our sphere were able to accomplish, with what we had, what He was able to accomplish in His sphere with what He had, then we will measure up favorably. Sin is rejecting the opportunity that comes to us to be as the Savior.
10. The Head of His Church.–Jesus Christ is the head of this Church. I bear you my witness that Jesus Christ is running this Church, and I do this in all solemnity, because there are many who wonder sometimes, and I have wondered myself. When President McKay first became President of the Church he did something that I just could not see any basis for in scripture at all. I thought, “Here we go. This is the trial of the last days,” and so forth. But I had been counseled by wise men, “Whenever you think the President of the Church is wrong, see what the Lord has to say about it.” So I started to pray about it. For two whole years I continued to pray about this thing and to fast about it occasionally. Finally one night in a dream the Lord rewarded me and He showed me not only that this thing was good and right that President McKay was doing, but 1 was shown why and how it fit into the whole picture. After I saw that, it was obvious how foolish I was to question it, and I have been very grateful. I have tested this on other things that have happened since then. And I testify to you that David O. McKay does represent Jesus Christ. This is the Church of Jesus Christ and we can know this for ourselves–every one of us. You do not have to take my word for it; just go ask the Lord.
It is like the Book of Mormon. In the Book of Mormon it does not say only to pray and ask if it is true; what else does it say? it says to pray and ask if it is not true. Have you ever noticed that? Because if you have been reading along through the book and you get to Moroni 16:4 and you have not had a witness of the Spirit by that time, there is not much hope. In other words, as you read along you cannot help but get the witness of the Spirit telling you these things are true, as you go. Then the thing you are asked to do is to ask the Lord if maybe you have been fooled. Ask Him if it is not true then. And if you do not 4et an answer, then you have your answer, have you not? Frankly, I was always hesitating to apply the test because people kept telling me you are supposed to pray about the Book of Mormon and see if it is true. I have never been able to do that because every time l have read it the Spirit of the Lord has borne such a powerful witness to me that it was true, that if I were to say, “Lord, is it true?” I would be saying, “I didn’t believe you the first time, tell me again.”
Now I challenge you, when President McKay speaks in conference, if you can avoid a testimony at the time, pray and ask if this is (or is not, any way you want), if this is not the will of the Lord. I am sure you will get your answer if you pray consistently. If you keep at it you will get an answer that will be soul-satisfying to you–not just an answer that takes care of your mind, but one that also takes care of your heart, so that you are lifted up to love that man if you do not already.
Let me read just a few words from this wonderful man, our Prophet. This is very pertinent to what he has to say to us, connected with the life of our Savior that we have been talking about.
The teachings of the Master have never seemed to me more beautiful, more necessary and more applicable to human happiness. Never have I believed more firmly in the perfection of humanity as the final result of man’s placement here on Earth. With my whole soul I accept Jesus Christ as the personification of human perfection, as God made manifest in the flesh as the Savior and redeemer of mankind.
Accepting Him as my Redeemer, Savior, and Lord, I accept His gospel as the plan of salvation, as the one perfect way to happiness and peace. There is not a principle which was taught by Kim but seems to me to be applicable to the growth, development, and happiness of mankind. Every one of His teachings seems to touch the true philosophy of living. I accept them wholeheartedly; I love to study them; I like to teach them.
So it is with the Church which Christ has established. Every phase of it seems to be applicable to the welfare of the human family. when I consider the quorums of the priesthood I see in them an opportunity for developing
that fraternity and brotherly love which is essential to the happiness of mankind. In these quorums and in the auxiliaries of the Church I see opportunities for intellectual development, for social efficiency. In the judicial phases of the Church I see ample means of settling difficulties, of establishing harmony in society, of administering justice, and of perpetuating peace among individuals and groups. In the ecclesiastical organizations I see an opportunity for social welfare such as cannot be found in any other organization in the world. Thus do Christ and His Church become my ideal, my inspiration in life. I think it is the highest ideal for which man can strive. (Instructor, January, 1963.)
Is there any doubt in his mind what the measure of Jesus Christ is?
So brothers and sisters, I hope we can come to a unity of the faith about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the knowledge that will save us. A man is saved no faster than he gains that knowledge.
We have said a lot of things; I hope that I have said the important things in regard to these matters. Inasmuch as I have or I have not, I simply take this stand before you: I do not know very much about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I say that because almost every day, every week, I learn something new and I am a bit ashamed for what I said yesterday. But I do see that what I was taught first fits well with what I was taught later–it is just that these details keep filling in. Sometimes I am tempted to get a little bit ahead of the details and start filling them in myself and then I usually have to backtrack. But I am grateful for the fact that in this Church there is a Holy Spirit; that there are prophets of God; that I can get up and talk to you, and you can tell me things, and we can learn and grow together in a love of our Savior and in a knowledge of Him, into a true body of Latter-day Saints.
I humbly pray that whatever errors of doctrine we might have in our minds, whatever lack of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, whatever fear of doing His work or His ministry, whatever emptiness there is in the place where there should be a fulness of love for Him, that these things will be remedied as we study the life of our Lord and Savior these two years.
I pray that we might come to a unity of the faith and establish His kingdom, and I say this, bearing you my testimony that I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I know that it works. I have seen it demonstrated and the power of the priesthood so manifest in my life that I could never deny it. I bear you my solemn witness and the hope that I have in Jesus Christ that we all might enjoy a fulness of life in Him, and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Question: Do we stand by the four Standard Works of the Church as our only scripture?
Let me read you what the Lord says. This is Doctrine and Covenants 68:2-4:
And, behold, and io, this is an ensample unto all those who were ordained unto this priesthood, whose mission is appointed unto them to go forth–
And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
Now these are the three lines of authority that we mentioned when we were talking about authority- -those who are ordained, who are acting in their stewardship, who are speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost. This is what the Lord says about such people:
And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. (verse 4.)
Now we have four books which are canonized scriptures, which means to say that a constituent body of the Church have raised their hands, assembled in general conference, and said that we the people will be bound by these four standard works. But there is a lot of other scripture. Remember that anything that any man says in the Church, who is functioning in his proper ordination, in his calling by the power of the Holy Ghost, is scripture. A bishop can speak scripture; a ward teacher can speak scripture; a quorum president can speak scripture; a stake president can; anybody who is sent by the Lord can speak scripture. This is why we are to keep careful minutes of our sacrament meetings of the admonition of the authorities, because the people of that ward will be bound by those words on the day of judgment. They are supposed to be there in that sacrament meeting and receive that word from the Lord’s representative, and pleading ignorance will be no excuse. One purpose of the ward teachers is to go out and make sure that every family gets the message.
When we pick up the Instructor and we read the statement by President McKay, is he acting in his calling? In his authority of ordination? By the power of the Spirit? It is up to each of us to judge the third aspect, but I do not think there is much question about the first two. [testify to you that this is the word of the Lord; this is scripture. And I think that we ought to treasure up the words of the First Presidency and the general authorities.
Have you noticed that every public speech by the First Presidency is carefully printed in the Church News? Why? Because it is scripture.
Why are the conference reports bound carefully and sent out to every bishopric, stake presidency, and high council? Because that is scripture, not just something to stack on the shelf and say “I have it here.” This is our living Doctrine and Covenants, shall we say.
I do not mean to detract at all from these books of canonized scripture. The two kinds must fit perfectly together, but nevertheless, may I make this bold statement: Every written word on the earth could be wiped out right at this moment and it would not hinder our salvation one bit, if we would listen to the living prophets. In other words, it is the living scripture that saves us.
Unfortunately there are some people who will go back and say, “Joseph Smith said such and such. You don’t agree with him, therefore you’re wrong.” Like “You can’t make the seven presidents of Seventy High Priests,” and so forth, as some people said to President McKay. This is exactly what the people said to Joseph Smith when he came along. They said, “We’ve got the New Testament, we don’t need you. The heavens are closed.” It is exactly what they said to the Savior when He came along. They said, “We’ve got Moses, we don’t need you.” What did they say to Moses when he was alive? “We think you’re a faker; Abraham is our father.”
The hardest thing for men to accept is living prophets. Dead ones are very easy to accept. Why are dead ones easy to accept? You can take their words in the scriptures and make them into anything you want. And that is what people do. But you cannot take a living prophet and tell him to his face that that is not what he means. And that is why people get angry with the living prophets and that is why they sometimes stone them to death.