JAMES E. TALMAGE LECTURE SERIES
by Chauncey C. Riddle
You have all heard the saying, “Fools rush in. . .” We have selected topics tonight that are interesting but usually discussions of these topics are quite charged with emotion. My hope is that we can discuss these rather dispassionately, looking at them coolly in the light of certain things that we know to be true.
I propose that we would examine these issues in the light of an LDS frame of reference. I warn you in advance this is my conception of an LDS frame. We have no established creed and therefore each individual must try to find that true frame for himself. l think that one of the glories of the gospel is that no one is required to believe a certain way.
Because of that, of course, we can all grow and perfect our understanding as we have experiences and opportunities to have spiritual insight.
The beginning point of our discussion is on a point fundamental to all. We begin with the point that there are absolute moral laws in the universe. I take it that this is a proposition that is even prior to the existence of God. The fact that there is a right and a wrong to every question is fundamental to our existence. My understanding is that God is God because he recognizes, obeys, and sustains those absolute moral laws of the universe. Should he cease to act on and sustain those laws, he himself would cease to be God. His station is contingent upon His recognition of this. Therefore, it is important for us to recognize the importance of these laws in our lives.
The work of God, who is an exalted man, is to help us to become exalted. As his children, his only purpose is to bless us. This means that God’s work in everything he does–every word, every act–is intended to benefit His children. We speak of curses, of judgments, of the wrath of God, and so forth. My comprehension of these things, however, is that these are not simply vindictive reactions; that they are all intended for the betterment, for the blessing, and for the eventual happiness of the persons to whom they are given. As we see the scriptures in that light, they take on quite a different meaning. The work of God is to bless each of His children as much as each can stand. l take it that in the eternities every person will be as happy as he can possibly be. For some it is not possible to be very happy, but nevertheless they will be as happy as they can be.
One of the great deliverances of the omniscience and omnipotence of God is the assurance that every person will be as happy as he can be. God’s power is sufficient to that end and thus He can guarantee it. Each of us is an individual personality which was not created by God. God, howùever, took us in to his association and seeks to bless us that we might have the opportunity to become like Him. He has clothed us first in a spirit body like His and now in a physical tabernacle made in His image. The question is, will we come to act after His pattern, to be in His image mentally and morally? If we can do this, he holds out the opportunity of inheriting, of being blessed to receive ALL that He has.
God, however, cannot bless His children indiscriminately. He can bless them only according to their own righteousness. He is bound by the moral absolute laws of the universe. As we struggle with and overcome temptations that face us, the more we can live by those laws, and the more He can bless us. So His program is one of teaching us, opening the way to righteousness, that we might be able to live by that standard.
Righteousness, in my definition, is doing good for one’s fellow beings. This is what makes it absolute. Each individual has a certain nature. Each has a certain potential quotient of happiness. It is our work as righteous beings to contribute to the happiness of other beings. If we help every other person we contact to be as happy as they can be, then we are participating in the work of God, which is the work of righteousness. Righteousness, of course, cannot exist except as the act of a free agent. Though I might do something that might help someone be happy–if I don’t do it freely it is not a righteous act on my part, even though it might be done for his good. Free agency, then, becomes a matter of concern to us.
A free agent is first of all an intelligent being. Secondly- he is a being who has knowledge of the important alternatives. That is to say, he must know both good as well as evil. A person might be said to be somewhat free (that is to say, he could make choices) if he knew several varieties of evil. But the real freedom of choice is the freedom to know the good; to know what is righteous to do in a particular case.
Man of himself cannot know righteousness. A man can know what he feels is for his own good, but he cannot know what is good for another or for himself. We are simply not that intelligent or perceptive, and therefore we must rely upon God to know what is right. That is why the scriptures say that the Savior is the fountain of ALL righteousness. No person can act righteously apart from Him and from His power. So to become free, a man must come unto Christ.
The third characteristic of the free agent is the power to carry out his own choice. We know good from evil or right from wrong. We need then the power to act according to choice. Again, this is the gift of God. In God we live and move and have our being. Were it not for His sustaining &power, we could not draw a single breath. The most evil man on the earth perpetrates his evil because of the gift of Cod who has given him his life, his power, his intelligence, his opportunity to act. All men, then, at one stage or another of their probation, are made partially free agents by God. They are given the opportunity to choose, the opportunity to carry out these choices to a sufficient extent that they can establish to themselves, to God, and to everyone else, just how righteous they are. God, then, gives man a limited free agency. No mortal on the earth has all of it, because each of us have a limited knowledge and a limited power.
We are given the parable of the talents that we might understand that if we do well with this little bit of agency that we have, we shall be given more. As we use that more to the same degree of righteousness, the time will come when we need not be limited in every way as to knowledge or as to power. This state we call exaltation, or the attainment of the office of Godhood.
We have, then, these two alternatives which face us in our lives. We may act selfishly, which is to choose our own good, or we may act unselfishly, which is to act righteously, to choose the good of others. Basically, this is the dilemma of each choice we face. Do we seek to save our own lives, to promote our own good? Or do we seek to promote the work of others? The work of Godliness is to promote the good of others. But each of us, being individuals and having agency, some people wish simply to promote their own good. This is the reason for the evil in this world, God allows it, but men choose it and carry it out. Therefore, both men and Cod are responsible.
God has done something about His part. In fact, the Savior has taken upon Himself the sins of the whole world, of every living creature. He did this because He has allowed those sins. He gave men the agency to commit sin, therefore He personally suffers for them. But He does this because He wants to achieve two things: First, He absolves Himself of responsibility for them. Second, He makes possible the forgiveness of sins for those who turn away from selfishness and learn to be righteous beings. Those who will not turn away then have the opportunity to suffer for their own sins, to make their own recompense.
The basic choice of men is between selfishness and unselfishness. Another way to put it is that our choice is between yielding to the lust of the flesh and yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit. It turns out that our problem in this world, having passed our first estate, is to come down here to see if we can cope with the physical body. If we can subdue it, learn to master it and control it, then we need not be limited–that is to say, damned. We can receive an inheritance of all things. But if it turns out that upon achieving this opportunity of a body of flesh and bone like God, that it overwhelms us and Satan continues to the end of our probation to have power over us through our flesh, then we must be limited. We will all be privileged to have a body continue with us into eternity, but the body will have power only to that degree that we learn to be righteous in our probation. We are constantly faced then with this challenge. Do we do what we do because our bodies desire it, or do we do what we do because our spirit desires to do the will of God, to do what is righteous, to bless our fellow man?
All of this raises the question of the position of pleasure in the framework of the gospel. I understand that righteous men do not seek pleasure for its own sake. They seek to do the Lord’s will. In doing the Lord’s will, they may be called upon to undergo considerable sacrifice, pain, anguish, difficulty. But it turns out that those who seek to do the Lord’s will in blessing others also, in line of their duty in serving God, encounter pleasure. That pleasure they thus encounter is not evil. In fact, they are entitled to enjoy it and usually their enjoyment is heightened. They enjoy pleasure more because of the fact that they are not seeking it for its own sake. They seek righteousness and it is strictly a byproduct. You will find that spiritual people take great delight in certain pleasures. They are very much impressed by the beauties of nature, for instance. They take pleasure in good music, often in good food, especially in good company. These pleasures are good, and servants of the Lord certainly enjoy them, but they do not seek them for their own sake. That is the key.
We might next ask, what is the place of sex? My understanding of sex is that it is a holy, divine institution. It is an act ordained and commanded of God. He tells us that a man should leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and they twain shall be one flesh. I understand God’s prime purpose in allowing this opportunity is to give man an opportunity to participate with Him in the life-forming process. The work and glory of God is to beget children and to bless them. If a man would become like God, then the work and glory of that man will be to beget children and to bless them as God does. He will bless them with knowledge of the opportunities of righteousness, so that they too may obtain the inheritance available to all of us as heirs of Jesus Christ. Sex is a most beautiful, a most sacred, a most wonderful opportunity, a very precious aspect of love. But that love must not be what the world calls love; it must be the pure love of Christ. The pure love of Christ is different from worldly love because it is not self-seeking in any way. It is unmixed with selfishness and therefore it is pure. The word chastity itself means purity. It comes from the Latin word for “pure.”
A person who is pure, then, and who remains chaste even in marriage is one who does not seek simply pleasure but seeks to do the works of righteousness under the direction of God. There is only one marriage which is recognized by, in the full sense, and ordained of God. This is a marriage between two people who have come unto Christ and have taken upon themselves His name. They have entered upon the straight and narrow way of righteousness that leads to exaltation. They have been forgiven of their sins. They have covenanted to receive the powers of the priesthood and in their marriage they are consecrated in a very special way to do the work of God in begetting children. If their love of the Lord is sufficiently great, their sex life will be for the purpose of begetting children to the glory of Cod. This is not to say that they will not enjoy it. They can and they will. Their joy in righteousness will be much greater than anything that can be had outside the bonds that God has ordained.
If we see the essence of sex as a life-forming process, then we see how important it is to unite only a righteous person and with the righteous person that God has appointed. This is a stewardship. We do not own our own bodies and therefore we do not have a right to give our bodies to anyone. Only God, who owns our bodies, has that right. It is His stewardship to give us in marriage. We have the quaint custom in the world of the father giving the bride away, That is simply a dim recollection of the day when men knew of the glory of God and recognized that only God gives the bride away. As God does this, He gives a man and a woman to each other who are fit parents, and they are fit because they are covenant servants of Christ. To engage in sexual intercourse in any other circumstance is a defeat of the whole purpose and plan of God because children would then be born to parents who are not worthy to be parents in the full sense, and who will not bring up their children in the nurture of God. Therefore, the plan is frustrated. Our Father knew that many children would be born without a knowledge of the gospel with terrible handicaps go far as righteousness is concerned. Therefore, He organized not only families, but a Church that there might be foster fathers and mothers to teach the Gospel to everyone. Our Father also organized a spirit world so that if someone should have to go through this whole life without hearing the gospel, they would still have the chance to hear it and have the chance to be righteous. But the ideal, nevertheless, is that men should be born into homes of covenant servants of God, to be blessed as the children of God should be.
Unchastity, then, is a double evil because it seeks pleasure for pleasure’s sake first, and is secondly a life-forming act outside of one’s stewardship. It is a rejection of God’s order. It is on a par with the sin of priestcraft.
We might note a parallel between the righteous action of a true servant of God contrasted with priestcraft. On one hand the ideal is to be chaste and pure and to be a true representative of God, a true servant of the Lord holding the priesthood. One step removed from this is unchastity or indulging in sexual intercourse outside the bounds the Lord has prescribed. The priesthood correlation of this is being a law unto oneself. Those who have the true priesthood are not laws unto themselves. They function in the order of the priesthood within the kingdom of God. They find their place and serve well in their place. But when people reject the priesthood, they become a law unto themselves. An evil that is worse than unchastity is prostitution, which is unchastity for the sake of gain. Worse than being a law unto oneself is to pretend to be God to someone else for gain. This is priestcraft.
It is interesting to me how parallel these two sins are in the world. Unchastity and being a law unto oneself go together. Prostitution and priest craft and the problems we are talking about tonight are marvelously promoted by priestcraft in this world.
I take it then that life-forming under the priesthood of God is the most important activity of adults in this world, which, of course, can only be done correctly by covenant servants of the Lord. This work has two phases. First, temporal or physical aspect which is blessed and made holy by chastity and an eternal or spiritual aspect which is blessed and made possible through priesthood. Life-forming, then, is ultimately God’s power and doing. Without Him we could not do this. But we may participate with Him. I think the closest any being on this earth ever comes to a celestial state of existence is where there is a priesthood home of faith, where children are wanted and are loved.
The prophets have given us plain and simple counsel on this. They have instructed us that those who love the Lord will not artificially prevent life formation. To put it bluntly, they will not artificially control the size of their families. There is a natural way to do that. If people for some righteous legitimate reason need not to have children at a given time, the simple way to do it is to abstain. But those who live for pleasure find abstinence an unduly great burden. They do various things that break the commandments of God. It is popular in the world we live in both to prevent and to extinguish life in behest of pleasure. These are acts of selfishness, or in other words, sin. They are indications of subjection to Satan. They are thwarting the work of God and worst of all, the usurping of the prerogatives of God.
Abortion is the deliberate taking of life after participating in giving it. If we wish to associate with the Gods in the giving of life, then we must remember that we have not been given the authority to take it. We don’t have the power to give it solely of ourselves and we should not usurp the power to take it. The taking of life is God’s prerogative except under very special conditions which He has laid down, Abortion then is one form of the shedding of blood, or to put it bluntly, it is a form of murder. Those who indulge in it for whatever purpose, except where there might be a case where this art is commanded by God, are guilty of sin.
My question to you is this: Can a society which countenances and justifies such action long endure? You can look at nations which have practiced this for a long, long time. Some seem to prosper, but I think there is one group that can never prosper in sin. These are the house of Israel, the servants of the Lord, Wicked people may sometimes inhabit promised lands, but covenant people cannot when they are wicked.
I believe that if you and l and the membership of this Church were ever to descend into this pit and begin practicing abortion that God would destroy us. It is one thing for people who know not God to do these things. It is quite another thing for people who know God to do it. One point of the gospel is no one need be subjected to Satan. No one need live for pleasure. There are things so much greater than the physical pleasures of this life which come through the gospel. To live a real human life is to partake of the fullness of the ordinances of the gospel and the joy which only God can give and only God does give to the righteous. To prefer immediate physical pleasure to that I take to be a form of insanity.
Let us turn for a moment to a discussion of capital punishment. In the scriptures we find some rather instructive statements about the nature of capital punishment, beginning in Genesis, Chapter 9. I am reading from the inspired version. You may not find some of these things in the King James’ version:
Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him. And every beast, every creeping thing, every fowl upon the earth after their kinds went forth out of the ark. And Noah built him an altar unto the Lord and took of every clean beast and every clean fowl and offered burnt offerings upon the altar and gave thanks unto the Lord and rejoiced in his heart.
Noah did this, of course, because he was commanded. That was his reason for taking the blood of these animals,
And the Lord blessed Noah and Noah smelled a sweet savor and he said in his heart, l will call upon the name of the Lord that he will not again curse the ground anymore for man’s sake for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.
Just before this in the flood social conditions became so bad that the only thought of men’s hearts was to do evil continually. When that is the case, there is no point in life, so God destroyed man, leaving only those who were committed to his covenants. Noah being the realist that he was knew that as children began to be born again, they would fall into the same pattern and they would again begin to be evil because of the tremendous power of Satan. He was desirous that the Lord would not again destroy life with a flood:
And that he will not again smite every living thing as he hath done while the earth remaineth and that seed time and harvest and cold and heat and summer and winter and day and night may not cease with man. And God blessed Noah and his sons and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every fowl of the air and upon all that moveth upon the earth. And upon all the fishes of the sea, into your hand are they delivered.
I wonder what that means: “the fear of you.” I think we might have some interesting thoughts there trying to understand this in terms of as man should fear God so the animals should fear man.
Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
But the blood of all flesh which I have given unto you for meat shall be shed upon the ground which taketh life thereof; and the blood ye shall not eat.
And surely blood shall not be shed, only for meat to save your life. And the blood of every beast will I require at your hands.
And whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for man shall not shed the blood of man. For a commandment I give that every man’s brother shall preserve the life of man for in mine own image have I made man. And a commandment I give unto you, be fruitful and multiply and bring forth abundantly upon the earth and multiply therein.
This is the first reference we have to the principle of capital punishment. We might ask why the principle of capital punishment? Why would God command that if a man shed another’s blood his blood must be taken. Part of the answer to this is given in Exodus 11. I am going to take the liberty to read a good deal of this presuming that not many of you read Exodus 11 very often,
He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.
And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.
This verse apparently is a distinction between murder which is pre-meditated, that is to say lying in wait, and manslaughter, which a person might do accidently. They are both killing, but there is a way out for a person who commits unpremeditated murder or manslaughter. There is a place of refuge where he can go. But for the one who murders, the only out is for him to give his own life,
But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbor, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.
And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death,
And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be Put to death. . .
And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed:
If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.
And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall surely be put to death.
Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two and recover, he shall not put to death for he is his servant.
If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
And if any mischief follow. then thou shalt give life for life,
Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake.
And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maid- servant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.
If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall surely be stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit.
But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it has been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.
If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him.
Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to his judgment shall it be done unto him.
If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein;
The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his.
And if one man’s ox hurt another’s, that he die; then they shall sell the live ox, and divide the money of it; and the dead ox also shall they divide.
The point is this. They didn’t have jails in Israel. What did they have instead? They had justice. What is justice? Justice is the man receiving his rights. When a man injured another, instead of putting people in jail for it, which doesn’t do the injured party any good at all, the injured party had the right to receive recompense–that is to say, he bad the right to be paid, not necessarily an eye for an eye, but the price of an eye for an eye; the price of a tooth for a tooth; or the price of an ox for an ox; and so forth. If a person did wrong, he must pay for it; he must pay for it; he must make recompense. It is a curious thing that in our so-called enlightened civilization, we have rather lost sight of the concept of justice. When a person commits a wrong against another man, we are willing to put him in jail, but we make no demand that he restore, that he benefit the one whom he has injured. Because we have lost the concept of justice in that regard, we seem also to have lost the concept of justice in regard to murder. It is fashionable in our society today to speak against capital punishment, to think that somehow it is an act of mercy or righteousness or goodness to let the murderer go free. I submit to you it is exactly the contrary: that letting the murderer go free shows a complete misunderstanding of humanity and the rights of man. If we let the murderer go free, we are saying in essence, that the life of the one whom he has murdered has no worth. Are we prepared to make that judgment?
The only person who can legitimately excuse the murderer is either the person himself who was killed or someone who has paid the debt for that murder, which could only be God himself.
There are only two people, then, who are able to forgive a murderer: the person murdered and God. If man takes it upon himself to forgive a murderer, he is saying then that the life of the person murdered it worth nothing–it needs no recompense. No justice needs to be done. Nothing needs to be satisfied.
God commanded, then, that if a man sheds another man’s blood and kills him, that his blood must be shed. That is the only way that justice can be satisfied.
There are some side benefits to that; namely, if a man has no rights in society he can be killed without any recompense. What is there to stop murder? Nothing. Thus, sin and this kind of taking opportunity against a man’s neighbor run rampart. A society cannot be well ordered if there is no justice.
What do we do then? If we forgive a man for murder, having no right to do so, then we are accountable to God and to the murdered man for it. We become guilty of the murder. This is why the prophets say in the scriptures that if we do not take a man’s blood when he has shed another’s blood, that blood is upon us. The only way injustice can be answered is by justice. So, I submit to you that it is not noble to give a reprieve to a murderer. It is on the contrary a complete despising of human life, or a pretension to the prerogatives of Godhood, which is a species of priestcraft.
I think it would be valuable now to delineate the frame of mind that justifies abortion and the elimination of capital punishment. It is first of all naturalistic. That is to say, persons of this mind do not believe there is a God in the universe. Because they do not believe there is a Cod, they do not believe there can be such a thing as righteousness. Because there is no God, there is no such thing as justice, because only God can guarantee justice.
Second, it is monistic in metaphysics. Persons of this mind believe that man is only a body and is a chance evolutionary creation of the ongoing blind processes of the universe. Because this is all that life is, life is cheap. Life is not important. There is no problem in either doing away with it or in dismissing its worth.
Thirdly, the frame espouses amorality. That is to say that morals don’t count. There is no right or wrong. Persons of this mind say that the so-called standards of right and wrong are simply cultural traditions that reflect the prejudices of some persons and have no basis in the reality of the universe. All three of these principles, you see, are contrary to the teachings of the gospel.
The purpose of the gospel is to teach man a correct understanding as to who they are and what their existence is. The purpose of Satan is to substitute lies for these truths that men may be confused, and being confused, they step into the paths of evil and wrongdoing very readily, not knowing the landmarks.
As I came over tonight I was trudging along through the snow and I suddenly noticed that the path I was following led right across the lawn. I happen to be one of those who believe in not walking across the lawn because I know what it does to the lawn. I would rather have a nice, green lawn than a muddy patch. So I felt a little bit chagrined that I had been trapped into just following the path. That happened, of course, because the landmarks had gone. Everything was covered with snow, and I was enticed into doing something that I would not otherwise do by this blindness.
This is very similar to what happens in the world. As Satan can substitute false ideas for the true concepts, the landmarks are gone in men’s minds and they fall into the evil paths and don’t know that they are in them.
We live in a day when God has told us that the love of men will wax cold; a day when men will hate one another unreservedly, much like the end of the Nephite nation. I think we are seeing this today in these two moods. Isn’t it curious that the innocent are condemned to die in abortion, and the guilty are allowed to go free as men try to eliminate capital punishment? This is just exactly the opposite of what God would have; but the opposite because men’s minds are damaged, are stultified by the power of the adversary. The force that principally aids and abets both of these causes in the world is priestcraft: men setting themselves up for a light to the world for praise and gain.
What should be done about these problems? The key to these problems is not in the problems themselves. The point that I am trying to make tonight is that it doesn’t do much good to go out and fight abortion or capital punishment. The place where we can be most effective in bringing about good is in helping men to change their minds. It is their thinking; it is their understanding of the universe that gets them to espouse causes that we can see are evil. The best way to help the world is to convert men to Christ, to help them to come unto him and let Him form the concepts of their minds and set the standards and establish the values. The key to this and every other is the message of salvation — it is to help men to repent. To repent means to change one’s mind.
It is our great opportunity to take upon ourselves the mind of Christ. We do this not all at once but line upon line, precept upon precepts answer by answer as we seek the mind and will of the Lord through His Holy Spirit. Each of us as members of the Church is commanded to receive the Holy Spirit. If we do receive it and profit from it and are obedient, the Lord will fill our minds with His truth. We will see and know.
I have dwelt somewhat on negative things. I hope that won’t be what you remember. I hope the thing that you will remember from what I say is that there is a positive side. There is an alternative to abortion, living the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is an alternative to abolishing capital punishment, namely a recognition of justice through God’s will. We can recognize that man lives eternally, and that it just might be that the greatest favor that can be possibly done for that man is to allow him to have his blood shed that he might satisfy the demands of justice and be better off in eternity. But that is not for us to decide. God has set the policy. It is for us to live our lives and do good as we can under Christ. It is a terrible thing to take the life of another man. But he who thinks nothing of taking the life of another in murder, nevertheless, has an opportunity to do something about that sin by having his own life taken.
It is my hope and prayer that we as Latter-day Saints will be a force for the work of Christ in this world; for the work of goodness and righteousness. As the Adversary spreads his mists of darkness and false doctrine abroad among us, that we might not be taken in by the world; that we might not succumb to the propaganda; that we might tread a steady course, straight along the path of righteousness.
I don’t think it pays to go out into the world and shout these things. I say these things rather plainly and rather bluntly to you tonight because I presume that you are servants of Christ. If you are not a member of the Church, I don’t expect that you will even understand what I say, much less accept it. If you are a member of the Church, I would expect that you will be enlightened by the Spirit and thus will come to a position in which you can be a servant of Christ, edifying and blessing those around you.
My only hope is that each of us will do that. I hope that each of us will search our souls to rid ourselves of the selfishness, of the lust that keeps us from doing what we know is right, that we might serve Christ. Our opportunities to build a kingdom where righteousness prevails, where there is justice but also mercy, the justice and mercy of God, not our pretended justice and mercy. I hope for the day when He will reign whose right it is to reign — the only one who knows enough to establish righteousness and justice and truth. I bear witness of Him that He is our only hope, that He lives, that He is a reality, that we can come to Him and know of Him and be of Him. I pray that each of us might know this. I bear this testimony in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.