How to Stay on the Straight and Narrow

Chauncey C. Riddle

It is my purpose tonight to paint a picture for you. The picture is one with which you’re all very familiar: I propose to talk about the gospel. I hope to say something that will crystalize it in a special way. It’s not my intent to say anything new and startling.

I believe that the Savior was sent into the earth to be the key for the solution for every problem. It does not matter what the problem is. It seems to me as I read the scriptures and as I listen to the Brethren, the key to the solution to every problem—every personal, human problem–Is to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him and partake of His goodness.

President Hinckley says that the purpose of the Church is to relieve human suffering. Well, we humans suffer a lot of things. One of the principle things we suffer is the deprivation of much of the good that is our heritage. Of course, through the gospel we may attain this heritage. Our potential, our heritage, is to be as our Father in Heaven–to be as He is, to enjoy all that He has, to be as much as He Is.

But we have been cut off from that potential by the fall of Adam, which fall was necessary because there was no way we could get to that potential without the fall. And so the fall comes as that kindly disposition to remove us from His presence, that we might choose our way back into His presence and into His blessings rather than having it somehow be automatic.

Thus, the way back to Father is a way of covenants, and there are two covenants. First there is the old covenant. The old covenant is described in Abraham Chapter 3. Basically the old covenant says, “You must do everything that God commands, and if you do everything God commands, then you will receive the fullness of the blessings. But, of course, if you happen to slip in any particular, that means you’re irretrievably damned forever.” Now that’s a pretty severe covenant. This is the covenant of justice, and Father represents justice. But Father also represents mercy. And so He sent His Son, knowing that we could not keep that first covenant. He sent His Son with another covenant. And this is the new covenant, or the New and Everlasting Covenant. In the new covenant, we have the privilege of slipping if we should call that a privilege. We can slip and still inherit. But the basic requirement is the same. The requirement is that through repentance we still live up to every commandment that God gives. That is to say, there is nothing short of attaining total perfection that will suffice. We must enter into the way, and become as the Father and as the Son.

You are aware that in the world there are different theories of salvation. The Catholic and Protestant theories of salvation are approximately the same. They differ in some details, but basically what they say is, “Here we have this poor, depraved, blighted human being and we will take this human being and if certain things happen, then we’ll take this bucket of whitewash and pour it over him and pretend that he’s clean and we will set him up in heaven where he will dwell forever after, worshipping God.” That is a bit different from the LDS version.

The LDS version is that there is no bucket of whitewash. What we have to do is to take the bull by the horns and using the gifts of God, work out a new being for ourselves–a new character. God is not going to excuse us in anything. That is to say, if we don’t measure up to what he is, then we simply cannot inherit. He gives us all the tools, and then we have to take these tools and build a new self. So we are saved by grace, which is the tools. But we’re only saved by doing all that we can do with them. And so as we receive these tools, these blessings, these gifts, these opportunities and seize upon them, then we must enter into the way. And “the way” means we are becoming like Christ. Until we have obtained everything that He possesses and is, we have not come to the end. Of course, we have promised to endure to the end. Thus we have the New and Everlasting Covenant which consists of a series of discrete steps which lead us to come unto the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ.

There is a scripture pertinent to this topic: Moroni 10. I didn’t discover this scripture until a couple of years ago; it’s amazing, and it was there all the time. It finally hit me and I’m so grateful to realize that it means the Father’s plan. Moroni 10:24-25:

Now I speak to all the ends of the earth, that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief. And woe be unto the children of men if this be the case for there shall be none among you that doeth good, no not one for if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God. “

Now to me, that says something really plain. It says, “Here we are in this world, having a choice between good and evil. That’s why Adam fell so we would have that choice. And every decision we make is a choice between good and evil. We’re not usually aware of that, but if we work at it, we can become aware of it. Most people would think that most of the decisions they make are just sideways, they are not good or evil they are just somehow in there. But my understanding is that every decision is a choice between good and evil and that we can only choose good and do good by the gifts and power of God. And if we refuse the gifts and power of God, then by default we do evil. This of course, is why so much evil is done in the world, some deliberate, some not deliberate.

But evil is simply that which is not up to the celestial standard. It’s not up to what Father would have His children do.

There are all kinds of degrees of evil. My understanding is that there are not lots of degrees of good -but that there are many degrees of evil. There can be a little bit of evil and there can be a great evil. But if we do good–do real good–then we do it because we have come to Christ and in Him we have found some good gift and we take this gift and apply it in our lives.

So, for instance, supposing I have grown up in a home where honesty is not valued, and I find it expedient to lie from time to time. What have I got to do? I’ve got to treasure the Spirit of the Lord so much that I will implore the Father through Christ that He will give me the Spirit of honesty; that He will prick my conscious whenever I tell a lie. Then I must use that prick, that gift, and force myself by the nape of the neck (so to speak) if necessary to stop lying. And when I finally get that habit of being honest firmly ingrained in myself so that I have knee-jerk honesty, then I have to that degree obtained a new character. And that is the process by which we are saved, as I understand, by acquiring every good habit.

We go through our lives, habit by habit, idea by idea, deed by deed, and we reject the evil. Which is to say, we repent of the evil things we have done and the evil things that we are and replace them with good, line upon line, precept upon precept, habit upon habit, idea upon idea, feeling upon feeling, becoming more and more like Christ, culminating finally in the full character of the Savior. And so Moroni says in this same Chapter, verse 32: “Yea, come unto Christ and be perfected in Him, deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and if you deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength, then is His grace sufficient for you. That by His grace, ye may be perfect in Christ. And if by the grace of God you are perfect in Christ, you can in nowise deny the power of God.”

So the goal is to become as the Savior, which means to become absolutely pure in heart, to be entirely enlightened in our minds, which is to have a fullness of truth even as He does, to be renewed in the flesh and receive a celestial body eventually, and finally, to gain all power in heaven and earth, which is to be almighty, even as He is. This is a specific sequence: heart, mind, strength, and might and that’s the order in which we must be saved. We don’t begin with might, though that is where a lot of people would like to begin. They want to be almighty to start with and believe that the rest of the things will work out. Of course, that would make monsters out of us. So, Father starts at the other end and has prescribed that the first thing, the most fundamental thing we must do is become pure in heart. Our heart is our desires, and when our desires are pure, then we can be trusted with anything and everything.

The question in this life is not, “Are you forgiven of your sins?” because everybody in every kingdom of glory will be forgiven of sins. The question is, “How much can you be trusted?” What kind of assignments could you receive and carry through in the way that the Savior would? That is the true measure of our being. And so as we focus on obtaining the character of Christ, that is the straight and narrow way. To step by step replace the evil in ourselves with good until we have come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

The thing that is absolutely necessary in this life is to gain the pure heart. We don’t have to do all of the rest in this life, for there will be much to do when we get on the other side. But one thing that is necessary for those who do have the covenant, the New and Everlasting Covenant, is to get the pure heart. Now the mind can wait, the body can wait, the might can wait–but the pure heart can’t wait. The scriptural name for the pure heart is charity. And if we have charity, then we are (will be) possessors of all things. If we don’t have charity, we are still nothing. The scriptures are very plain about that. Until we get the gift of charity, we simply can’t be trusted.

So that is the absolute fundamental that we must strive for in this world. In this world we build houses, we raise families, we subdue the earth. The purpose of all those things is that in the process, we might build for ourselves a new character, a new personality, a new person, a new being in the image of Christ. But there are obstacles.

Satan is not our main enemy. Oh he is an enemy, that’s true. He’s not interested in our turning to good at all, but he’s not our real problem. The real problem is simply ourself. If we can overcome ourselves, Satan offers no further barrier to us. The real problem is just our own heart. The evil desires within our own heart are the enemy we each have to conquer. Thus, it doesn’t matter whether we’re born rich or poor, male or female, black or white, bond or free–the human problem is all the same. The problem is, can you work out a new heart Can you become so pure that you have no ill will toward any human being. Your heart needs to be full of love for the Father and the Son and for all other beings, much so that you can be trusted to do the right thing in any circumstance in which you’ll be found. That is the goal.

But there are some things that get in our way; pride, for instance. We live in a very prideful world. President Benson has labeled this as the great enemy. Pride is enmity toward God. Pride sums up all the problems. We’ll enumerate some others but they are all simply species of pride. Pride says, “I will do it my way.” Pride says, “I don’t need to be told what to do. I don’t need help. I don’t need a time-table. I don’t need to make promises. I will do it my way.” Pride is self-sufficiency. Pride is saying, “I’m good enough as I am. I will find my own way home. I like myself the way I am.”

One of the principle things the world would have us say to ourselves these days is, “You’re really wonderful the way you are.” The world would have us build ourselves up in our own esteem. I don’t wish to speak too much on that thing, but it is interesting that so many people in the church have picked up on that false idea which is quite contrary to the teachings of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is plain. Whenever people draw close to the Savior and have their eyes opened and see what they are, they realize they are nothing. Whereas the world would say, “Esteem yourself. Build yourself up in your own eyes. Don’t have a bad self-image.”

Book of Mormon says, “Realize that you’re nothing.” That’s quite a different philosophy. My understanding is that the way up in the New and Everlasting Covenant is down. That is to say down on our knees, down in the depths of humility, down until we are completely humble before the Savior and ready to do anything and everything he instructs us to do, ready to make any sacrifice, ready to pay any price, ready to work however hard is necessary to do what only he knows what we should do to achieve that goal of the new character that we must have.

Then there’s procrastination: “Oh, I’ll do it when I get around to it.” We don’t have forever. One of the doctrines that is interesting in the church is the doctrine of eternal progression. As far as I can tell, there’s no scriptural base for this whatsoever. Now there is a correct doctrine of eternal increase, but eternal progression is usually taught in a non-scriptural way. We have to be wary of that.

The way it’s often taught as I hear, is that you can go on progressing and repenting forever. If you don’t happen to make it before you die, that’s all right, you may just go on and do it in the next world. Now there is some truth to that idea in the sense that people who have not had the new and everlasting covenant can repent in the next world and obtain exaltation. My understanding is that those who have had the opportunity in this world and have understood what they’ve had and have a measure of the fullness of time, they have to accomplish certain things now. It would seem to me that if we really understood the gospel and really believed, we would make our absolute number one priority before we eat or drink or sleep or do anything else any day, to search out the Savior and get His instructions for that day that by nightfall we might be one day closer to the end of becoming as He is. It’s so easy to let a day go past filled with our own dreams and expectations and workings and machinations and quite ignore Him and the gifts that He would give us to work out this salvation. But we don’t have forever. Procrastination is a great enemy.

And there is perverseness. There’s some who say, “I really don’t think God has anything to offer me. I really don’t want to go to the celestial kingdom.” Well, that’s interesting because those who say that really don’t have any idea what they’re turning down. That is really a measure of arrogance to turn down something we know not what it is and say, “Well, what I have now is good enough for me.” That is arrogating to ourselves the role of a God (which we are not) and thus is another species of pride.

Then there is pleasure. Some of us have the temptation to live for pleasure and justify ourselves because it feels good. Just because it feels good doesn’t mean it is good. Whatever we do has to be right with Father and with the Son.

Then there is prominence. Some people love prominence more than righteousness because it’s so fun to look down on other people. They’ve done studies to show that people would rather have less in total amount as long as they can look down on somebody who has less than they do. We have this human, terrible need to look down on somebody. And the place that I became so well acquainted with this was in grammar school, grade school. I don’t know how it is in your life but it was in grade school when my social life was at its worst. The grade school children were meaner and nastier than any group that I’ve ever been with the rest of my life. How did they get that way? Well, I suppose they learned it from their parents, though I don’t know. But I suppose there is an awful lot of latent anger in the population that comes out on children and children reflect that rather honestly. By the time they get to high school they’ve learned to mask some of it. But my, we have a job to do because that idea of looking down on somebody is so prominent.

And finally, there is power. Some people just like to move and shake things. They love that exhilarating feeling of being in control. They love a motorcycle because it feels so good to race against the wind, to have all that power at your command. Sometimes the power kills them, but they would rather die happy, having power, than to be righteous.

But all of this boils down to pride, and pride is the great enemy. Pride is, again, enmity toward God. The word enmity is interesting. An enemy is one whom we don’t love. Enmity toward God is simply not loving him. If we love him, then we search him out, search out his commandments, keep the commandments. That’s how we show our love for God. Pride is saying, I don’t need God, I can do it quite well by myself, thank you.

Then there is the problem of getting on the path and staying there. We get on the path through baptism. As I study the baptismal covenant, I’ve become convinced that it is the primary and most important covenant that we make. I believe it’s more important than any of the others because it encompasses all of the others.

Let us recount the promises we make in the covenant of baptism. We promise first of all that we will be willing to take upon ourselves the name of Christ. That doesn’t mean we are doing so, but that we will do so. We do it partly in baptism. The words “name of Christ” are code words. That is a code phrase for the fullness of the New and Everlasting Covenant. What that says then is that we’re willing to go to the end in the New and Everlasting Covenant. What a promise to make! My honest suspicion is that not many people understand what they are doing when they get baptized.

Secondly, we promise that we will always remember him. We will always remember that he is our lodestar. He is the one to whom we turn for everything, to rely alone on his merits, and that we will always remember that we are his children, his servants, and are beholden to him for every good thing.

Thirdly we promise that we will keep every command that he has given us. Now that is a reflection of the old covenant. In the old covenant, the question was: would we keep every commandment that the Lord God would give to us? So the new covenant contains the old covenant, but with a provision that if we have broken it, it may be possible to be restored through repentance and the atonement of Christ and receive the fullness of the blessings anyway, as long as we do endure to the end and prove that we are trustworthy. If we don’t endure to the end and don’t prove we are trustworthy of course, then there can be for us no such thing as celestial salvation.

If we make those promises sincerely, then we receive the Holy Ghost, which comes to us and is supposed to be a constant companion. The Holy Ghost will constantly give us the guidance, the enlightenment, the gifts that we need to do good and to be good in order to transform our character into that measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Later we may receive the priesthood, which is the opportunity to administer to others blessings of Christ. And then we may receive the endowment. The endowment is the second stage of receiving the Melchizedek priesthood. And in the endowment we are given further special gifts. The word endowment means gift. But the gifts of the endowment are great treasures that a person must have to successfully negotiate certain callings and opportunities in the kingdom. For instance, missionary work. Now, the blessings are there, they are pronounced upon our heads in the endowment. They are not ours just because they are pronounced upon our heads any more than the gift of the Holy Ghost is ours just because hands have been laid upon our head. We have to specifically pray for and gain each of those blessings. The question to you is: Could you name them? Do you know what they are? Do you remember them? Have you learned enough from the endowment ceremony that you could (in your prayers) enumerate the blessings that we have been promised and request them? The question then is, have we claimed those blessings and are we using them to pursue the straight and narrow way and to fulfill the priesthood assignments that we all have?

Then there is temple sealing or marriage. The order of Godhood is an order of marriage. God is first of all a husband and father and a wife and mother. These callings are the greatest callings in the universe. And if we turn our time to other things and do not succeed as husband and father, wife and mother, everything else is really quite beside the point. These are the things that we must do to endure to the end. These are our prime and first responsibilities. So temple sealing brings us a new set of gifts and powers of God. Can you enumerate them? Have you claimed them for your own? Because without the gifts and powers of God, it’s impossible to do good. The scripture says if man is offered a gift and he won’t receive it, what is the point? He cannot be helped. That may be the situation in which some Latter- day Saints find themselves.

Well now, let’s get to the point, how do you stay on the straight and narrow? Let’s draw a graph of our life on earth and what we are doing here. Let’s call this birth. This is death. Now we’re going to show the pattern of people who are in the church. We won’t go into the pattern for non-members, for that is a little different. There is a theoretical line from birth to death which goes straight from one to the other and consists of a series of discreet steps. Each of the steps is the receiving and the keeping of a commandment from Father through the Son. So if we were to enter at birth and keep every commandment that God gives us until the moment of our death, that would of course keep the first covenant, Fathers’ covenant of justice. It’s important that that covenant exists even though none of us can keep it, because that’s the covenant by which we are all saved. That’s the covenant the Savior had to live so that he could perform the atonement so that the New and Everlasting Covenant could exist for our sake. So we cannot do away with the old covenant. The Savior gained his exaltation through it. We get ours through him. What he now does is to enable us to come at it a little bit differently. We have to get to the same place and the same worthiness, but it’s a much easier route than the route that he took to get there. So the life of most normal Latter-day Saints goes all right until we get to the age of accountability and then we wander off the path.

Why do we wander off the path? Because we start willfully disobeying the commandments of God. Now as we do that – every time we break a commandment of God, a little sin or a great sin – we incur a debt. I ask you these questions:

“Riddle: What’s wrong with sin? Why does the Father abhor sin?”

Now there are good answers to those questions and there are bad answers, so be careful which one you give.

“Student response: Because if you want to be perfect, you can’t sin.”

True, but you didn’t answer the question. Why does the Father not like us to sin? What you said is true, but … Why? That’s the question I’m asking.

“Riddle: Why can no sinful thing enter into the kingdom of God?”

“Student response: Because that’s the law.”

“Riddle: There’s got to be a better answer than that.”

“Student response: Anything that’s not perfect will deteriorate over time.”

“Riddle: That’s true.”

“Student: So, over eternity, it will self-destruct.”

“Riddle: But now the question I’m asking is the question behind that. Why is sin of that sort, of that nature?”

“Many students respond: It is hard.”

“Riddle: That’s very true. Let me tell you my answer. These are all good answers. Don’t mistake me. But, you see, I think there’s another answer that is necessary for this case. The debt that we incur is, of course, the debt of sin. And the debt of sin is the fact that whenever we sin, we inflict injury upon other people. Now, you see, what is our goal? To see if we can be trusted. Anybody who is willing to inflict injury upon other people cannot be trusted. And so, the burden of sin is the fact that we have all these wounds that we’ve done to other people.”

There’s a myth floating around the world that there are private sins, that there are things you can do that don’t affect anybody besides you. You see, whatever we do, we become that. And whenever I think an evil thought, I curse everybody around me. Because then I’m not what I’m supposed to be. We are all supposed to be radiators. Each of us is sent into this world to radiate good after the measure of Christ. That’s why we were created. Now, if we take that good and, instead, radiate evil, we’re cutting other people off from their blessings; we’re cursing them. So every time we keep a commandment of God, we’re blessing somebody, probably many people. Every time we break a commandment of God, we’re cursing them, and Father does not take it kindly when one of His children curses another of His children. He cannot stand that. He cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. And, therefore, if that burden is on us, you see, He has to cut us off from His spirit and relegate us to worldliness.

Well, most of us follow this pattern. We sin. Then, sometime or other, the Spirit gets through to us, something jars us. We wake up and realize we are not on the straight and narrow anymore. Then the Spirit comes to us and we recognize it. The spirit says, “You must repent.” Suppose we were baptized at age 8. We start to sin before we’re 8, of course, and that’s why we need to be baptized when we’re 8. What usually happens to us is a little sin here and then a return to the line at baptism and then a departure again.

Now there is an ordinance we can perform to get the Spirit back when we have sinned if we are truly sorry for what we have done and are willing to repent. What is that ordinance? – the Sacrament. We take the Sacrament, we honestly renew our covenants of baptism, the Spirit comes to us and puts us back on the line and we start to march again. We march along keeping those commandments of God. Now one of the things to remember is that we are born spiritually small. The goal is to become a giant in the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Every time we keep a commandment, we grow. Every time we break a commandment, we shrink. If you spend half your time breaking the commandments and half your time living the commandments, what happens to you in this world? You haven’t gone anywhere; you just maintain the status quo.

Now, can a person who has only maintained the status quo be trusted? I don’t think so. And so there has to be something more than this. Most of us go along for a while and say, “Hey, you know, I’ve been keeping the commandments. I’ve been doing so well, I’ve got so many blessings, I’m doing so much good for other people, I think I deserve a vacation. I’m going to do what I want to for a little bit.” So they go off the straight and narrow path again and start incurring this debt of sin. Then they start getting the results of that and realize they’ve lost the gifts of the Sprit and they’re on their own and not doing very much good anymore. And so to get the Spirit back and they take the sacrament again and they get back on the straight and narrow path. They go along for a little ways and decide they’re going to be their own man again and they start wandering off. They do more sin, then repent–and thus the pattern repeats itself week after week through life for many people.

One other factor that takes place as we go along here, supposing we’ve got a little growth, is that as long as we’re sinning we carry this tremendous burden of sin with us. It’s just strapped to our backs. It’s pretty hard to do very much or be very agile or accomplish very much good with that strapped to our backs. When we partake of the covenant, of course, and renew our covenants, the sins are forgiven and the burden is taken off our backs. But the next time we sin, what happens to that burden? The old burdens all come back and we then again carry the burden for every sin we’ve committed in our life. Now that’s a hard doctrine. A lot of people don’t believe it. The scriptures are very plain. D & C 82:7. If we sin the old sins come back upon us and we are then responsible for them. When we sin, you see, what are we doing? When we sin, we are saying: “I reject my covenant with Christ. I become responsible for myself.” Then there is no Atonement for my sins anymore and I have the whole burden back on me. The only way I can get rid of that again is to perform some ordinance, such as partake of the sacrament, and get the Savior to accept the burden of my sins again.

“SR: There’s a problem with your analogy here. The sacrament doesn’t bring you back to the straight and narrow line unless your original baptism is truly efficacious.”

Riddle: Oh, agreed.

“SR: If the baptism has not been effective, and I am of the opinion that most Latter-day Saints are basically suspended between the law and the spirit of baptism, then by the same token, their partaking of the sacrament doesn’t do a thing until they go back and complete the original ordinance.”

“Riddle: I’m making a different assumption. I’m making the assumption that it did work and that they did get the spirit and they were forgiven of their sins. Now, you see, in the case you’re talking about that’s a person who is a member of the Church but it’s never taken. I heard President Joseph Fielding Smith say one time that he believed about one-half the members of the church were in that category.”

“SR: If what you’re saying is so, I cannot conceive that if a person has had an effective baptism, they don’t just wander off the straight and narrow path like that.”

“Riddle: Oh, they were never on it. If you have had an effective baptism, then you can be on the straight and narrow. Until you have had an effective baptism you cannot get on the straight and narrow.”

“SR: Doesn’t that effective baptism change the individual ….?”

“R: No, that’s why I’m telling the story, because the two are not the same. What you have brought about is that you have emphasized the problem: What does the Lord think when he looks at a person who every week goes off and sins and then takes the sacrament and gets forgiven and then goes and sins again and takes the sacrament?  Is that building trustworthiness? No, and yet is that not the pattern of many people who are members of the Church? Now the point of the whole discussion is this: It is important to stay on the straight and narrow. To be trusted we have to show the Lord  that for some point in time to the end we would stay on the straight and narrow and not deviate. We must show Him that we love him enough that we’ll make all the sacrifices necessary to keep his commandments.”

Now, a person who has done that when they get to this point the Savior takes them by the hand and takes them to the Father and says, “Father, this is my child, he/she learned to keep the covenant. He/she kept all the commandments. From this point to this point in their life they were able to abhor sin and I have forgiven them of all their transgressions before that time, and therefore, would you please accept them into your presence and share with them all that you have.” And Father is happy to do that, He’s more than willing. That’s why He lives, to do that.

But, you see what some people want to do is to have a different pattern. They want to get over here close to death and all of a sudden jump up here and be on the path. Why doesn’t that work? That’s called deathbed repentance, and why is that impossible? Why doesn’t it work?

“SR: No work. No track record.”

“Riddle: Exactly, there’s no track record of trustworthiness. Being sorry for your sins is not enough to get a track record of trustworthiness. So that just doesn’t fly, and people who do that, you see, are not much better off than the people who don’t get baptized. They probably are a little better off, but that still doesn’t suffice.”

Now what has to happen? At some point in our life we have to get so tired of this pattern of sinning and being forgiven and sinning and being forgiven that we finally get worried about it and we go to the Lord and we say, “I have tried living the Gospel, I can’t do it. I need help.” If we honestly have done everything we can to keep the covenants, to keep all the commandments and have been unable, which all of us are, then, if the time is right, we can apply to the Savior for a new heart. We say to him: “I can’t do it. The me that now exists cannot be saved, I can see that. Would you make me a new creature and give me a new heart.”

This is a special thing that happens to people who have been through all the ordinances and have tried with all their might to do everything they can to keep their covenants. At a certain time the Spirit will prompt them to pray that prayer. They will pray it and the Savior will grant them that blessing. This is what happened to the people of King Benjamin. He was sent to give them that special sermon in the first few chapters of Mosiah because they had apparently done that. They, as a group were then ready to be able to apply to the Lord for a new heart. The scripture manifests that they did apply and they got it. What did they say when they got it? They said, “We have the Holy Ghost. Were it necessary we could prophesy all things.” When a person gets that (the new heart) they can be trusted and have a fullness of the Spirit. They can have any spiritual gift they need and any power they need because they will not do anything that is contrary to the will of the Lord. They have then proven that they can be trusted.

Now, our proof that we can be trusted apparently has two phases. The phase before we get the new heart is that we must do all that we can do with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Step one is getting the Holy Ghost in the first place and then living by it. Step two is getting the new heart. Now, getting the new heart is called in the scriptures purification and the scriptures call it having”charity” when we get that pure heart. (In response: Yes, you have to go to a point where you can stand it, be worthy of it.) The scriptures claim it’s the most difficult thing in the world to do, and, yet, everybody can do it. Not all of us can become the world’s greatest violin player, but everyone can be saved. The Savior’s grace is so great that he can make it possible for every individual to become as He is. I think that’s a wonderful thing.

“Q: Two questions: First, what you’re saying is when having your calling and election made sure …?”

“Riddle: Well, if you have this gift of charity, the pure heart, then you have real hope of having your calling and election made sure. The other question?”

“Q: A gentleman asked if you would respond to his question saying President Smith quoted half the members of the Church – what was the specific …?”

“Riddle: They had been baptized but had not been born of the Spirit. I conduct the baptisms in our stake, and it’s interesting to me how many times I hear little children told, “”Now that you’ve come up out of the waters of baptism, your sins are washed away.”” As far as I can tell, that’s an absolutely false doctrine. Water doesn’t wash away any sins, ever. It’s the blood of Christ that takes away sins and the occasion for that remission is when a person receives the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. Water is for the remission of sins, just like a marriage license is for getting married. But you aren’t married just because you have got the license. You have to go through the ceremony itself.”

“Q: The baptism with fire comes a lot later usually?”

“Riddle: No, it’s supposed to come right then. The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is supposed to come in conjunction with the baptism of water. But in real practice it doesn’t and didn’t for me I’m sure. I didn’t have any idea of what it was.”

“Q: I’ve heard that the Atonement covers those sins that are done before we’re 8, but …”

“Riddle: That’s right. The Atonement covers those that are done before we’re 8 if we die without baptism.”

“Q: Well, why aren’t we taught better to be prepared at 8?”

“Riddle: Well, whose responsibility is it? It is the parent’s responsibility. Why don’t the parents teach their children? I don’t know. It’s different for every parent, I guess.

“Q: My parents taught me, but what I’m saying is I didn’t feel the witness of the Spirit.”

“Riddle: This Sister’s comment is that at age 8, she didn’t feel this great event take place. My answer to that is simply that the gospel system is so wonderful that it can pick us up and take us from that point forward whenever we wake up to this thing. So it doesn’t matter if we’re 24 or 48 when we finally realize what the covenant of baptism is about. If we then make the covenant with full purpose of heart, then our spiritual life can finally begin. I think it’s true that there are a lot of people that don’t make the connections when they’re 8; there are a few that do. I have interviewed a couple of kids that I thought were really ready for baptism, but most are not. You tell them the words, but it doesn’t sink in. Now, if the parents start telling them the words at age 1, by the time they’re 8 they really understand. Little children are given the Spirit to understand those things. If the parents start to tell them the words the day before the baptism, not much happens.”

“Q: I’ve heard that we should not take the Sacrament unless we have repented …”

“Riddle: Have you listened to the prayer?”

“Q: Yes, it’s a covenant that we’ll continue on with our baptismal covenant, but”

“Riddle: Well, let me just express my opinion. The Sacrament is a renewal of the covenant of baptism, and truly the Sacrament doesn’t take away our sins. It’s the Atonement that takes away our sins. But it’s a way of making promises to Father again and to the Savior so that the Atonement can become effective in our lives. And I think there is a definite connection between the Sacrament and the forgiveness of our sins because the prayer says so, does it not? So I don’t know what your source is on that. Let me be clear about what I’m saying. I’m painting a picture for you. It is obvious the picture that I’m painting is not the same as your picture exactly. It is not intended to be. I don’t pretend that mine’s true and yours is not true. I’m a painter; I’m not a photographer. I can’t take a snapshot of the gospel the way it really is. I just have to portray it in words the best I understand it. Now my hope is that I have captured something that will cause you to want to look more closely into the gospel, maybe to repaint your own painting, not because of what I say but because you go back to the Lord and back to the Spirit and back to the scriptures and to the brethren and find out from them what you should think. Don’t take me as an authority; I’m not here to be an authority. I’m here simply to stimulate your mind to think certain thoughts and ask certain questions, and if you ask the questions I’m happy. I don’t care what the answer you come up with is. That is between you and the Savior. But I think it’s important that we raise the questions; that’s my job. And that is what we are to do in the Church for one another is to encourage each other, to ask the right questions, and then go to the right source for the answers. And the right source for every question is the Father through the name of our Savior.”

“Q: I’ve heard you in a class before at BYU and so I know that you know quite a bit about this, and so I would ask that the main motivation we have in looking at what the prophets have said about freedom in the press is that the principles of the gospel can be applied to the political question that you’re approaching. In other words, our commandments provide a system which we obey, and as we depart from that path we become captive to various forces. Then there comes a point where only Jesus Christ can save us from that captivity. There’s a time of appropriation, for example, that we have to adhere to that path very strongly and show the Lord that there is a group of people that will adhere to these principles of freedom, both politically and religiously, and then He can come and deliver those people and essentially usher in a Zion society. That is, in my estimation, the equivalent of a calling and election made sure. In other words, the question is this: you painted out this gospel scenario, and the question I would like to ask is “”Could you tie that into the political arena and the questions that are raised there and our responsibilities as members of the Church in that area?”

“Riddle: My understanding is that what I’ve painted is the picture for the individual. You ask what does the group do? You can’t save the group without saving the individuals. So I would say, if you want to do something good for your country, become a servant of Christ, and then through his gifts and powers you will know what good things should be done civically and politically. Now, it is not possible, I understand, to have a good civil government without having good people. And so, this is fundamental to every good thing in the world. If you “”want to have good science, or good art, or good education, you first remake the person in the image of Christ and the other will follow. So I believe that the big gap in our preparation for the future is this individual work. And that while we need to be civically active and do all that we can, the more important thing is to come to Christ and be perfected in Him so that when we do have opportunity to act civically, we will promote good and not evil. Does that make sense?”

“Q: Yeah, except I think that you can look at it this way, that is the first coming of Jesus Christ had to do with this type of thing, the gospel as individual redemption, an individual departs from the path of righteousness and needs be redeemed, and that there is a judgment, the law of justice that has to be fulfilled and Christ’s Atonement pays that price. His Second Coming, though, I see as being a very political salvation, saving a group of people, saving a nation that needs salvation. And so I see that there are essentially two arenas, both of which we need to be righteous per se, in other words, it’s not. . You say that if we are righteous within a gospel framework then our righteousness in a government frame would automatically follow and I don’t necessarily see that connection because I see a lot of really good people who I think have the gospel down, but yet are able to ignore what the prophet has said and are not fulfilling their political responsibilities.”

“Riddle: What makes you think they’re good then?”

“Q: I don’t think they are.”

“Riddle: My opinion on that is simply this: when the Savior came the first time, the Jews were angry with Him because He would not smite the Romans. They wanted a political kingdom, the Messiah they thought was a king. He came offering to forgive them of their sins, they didn’t want forgiveness of their sins, they wanted freedom. I think the situation is really not much different this time. The Savior comes first offering forgiveness of sins individually. If we will accept that and go with it, He will give us the freedom politically. But if we reject the personal freedom, the other freedom really doesn’t have much meaning. My belief is that there’s not that much difference between the First and Second Comings. This is not a time of greater political activity than there was then. There was some then, and those Jews who were faithful in that time – not just Jews but anyone who was faithful – received their reward. For some of them it was a temporary reward as well as a spiritual one, for some it was only spiritual because they had to die. I think some of us today are going to have to die. But the important thing is, do we preserve our souls in the process? Now, we have a kingdom to bear off, we have a freedom to preserve, a national integrity to preserve, but again you see, if we don’t have the righteousness to go to the Lord to get from Him the instructions as to how to do that, we’re likely to wind up as persons who are vehemently pursuing a skewed cause.”

“Q: Let me state it this way: If our end goal is to become kings and queens, priests and priestesses.”

“Riddle: Yes, but that must be as becoming a humble child of Christ.”

“Q: But in Luke it says kings or queens which I see as being a government responsibility increases in being a religion directed by the responsibility, so how can we become kings and queens in God’s kingdom if we just do not understand His government and seek to establish that upon the earth? A response to this question or perhaps this statement that Christ came the first time, having been convicted – they were looking for a political Messiah so they crucified Him. And then the gospel was taken from the Jews, marking His rejection religiously and then was taken to the Gentiles. And in the Latter Days, the Gentiles I think are expecting a religious Messiah and are going to reject Christ politically, and it’s going to be that rejection that is going to then be the result of the gospel going from the Gentiles to the House of Israel. And only those who understand Christ politically – His government – are the ones who are going to be a part of His House of Israel Kingdom.”

“Riddle: It sounds to me as if you might be getting close to that dangerous point of saying that the political is more important than the spiritual. I hope you aren’t saying that. Because I surely don’t believe that.”

“Q: What I’m saying though, is just that the political is much more important than just one of the responsibilities we need to do. I see it as being a major portion of our responsibilities here today.”

“Riddle: Well, I don’t fight that. But you see, if we don’t lay the foundation, in being a servant of Christ, then we’re likely to be one of these persons who gets off the track. I’m sure you are aware that Utah County spawns more apostate LDS churches than any other county on earth. We’re also probably the strongest LDS county on earth. And so, right here in the heart of the Church is where both the good and the evil fight it out. And we have to be careful that we don’t let ourselves get twisted or taken off the path in any way. I frankly see some people who get so enamored of some side issues, like polygamy, like the United Order, sometimes even political things, that they forget the main point which is to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him. And they think they’re going to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him by doing these other things first, but I think that’s a mistake. I think we must come unto Christ first and be perfected in Him so that we can do all these other things in His grace, in His goodness, in His power, and in His way, and that’s the message for us. Whatever we are: if we’re a father, that’s how you be a good father; if you’re a city councilman, that’s how you be a good city councilman; if you’re a public school teacher, that’s how you be a good public school teacher; if you’re a farmer, that’s how you be a good farmer. I think whatever our lot in life is – as citizens, as parents, as professional people – it all depends on whether we come unto Christ and do what we do in the measure of His glory. So, I don’t think I’m really opposing what you say.”

“Q: I think all things are spiritual. . in talking about politics, if you have government, you know everything is spiritual and so if you talk about individual, it applies to”

First – spiritual, second – temporal D & C 29:31.

“Q: Also, If it is temporal it isn’t spiritual and anything spiritual isn’t temporal as well. They’re all tied together.”

“Riddle: Agreed.”

“Q: I stand just to add my witness to yours Chauncey, that the gospel is a sweet, essential process that we need to understand which we can by studying the scriptures, by listening to the prophet and by seeking the Holy Ghost to guide us in our lives, to bring us closer to Christ. I’ve appreciated your presentation. It’s fulfilled a good purpose and I’m a little concerned when we start wanting to have some technical questions. I hope we can conclude now with your testimony rather than answering technical questions. My fear is, if I may express it openly, that the doctrine you preach is hard, very difficult for people to humble themselves, and to truly know the Lord and to say, “”I need your help, I’m weak, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, I don’t want to do it anymore, please help.”” And I think that’s the direction you’ve pointed us. And I don’t want to be distracted with further technical questions if they could be handled privately with you and those who might have them afterwards. I’ve appreciated your marvelous message. And I add my witness that those principles are true.”

“Riddle: Thank you Brother Wardle. (clapping) I would like to say again, please don’t believe what I’ve said. Do ask Father about the things that I have talked about. I think they’re very important. This is a wonderful kingdom. I am grateful to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and to be acquainted with the restoration of the gospel because I know that the power is here. There is power in this priesthood. There are gifts of the spirit. There is hope in Christ and in Christ comes every good thing and I bear that testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

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2 Responses to How to Stay on the Straight and Narrow

  1. David Mulholland says:

    Thank you for all your work to post brother Riddles works – good job!

    Would you please email me the source for “How to Stay on the Straight and Narrow”

    Thank you


  2. Jared says:

    This website is awe-inspiring – I’m glad to have access to so much good gospel teaching from Chauncey Riddle.
    One key insight I really liked in this ‘staying on the straight and narrow’ was the explanation of the Old Covenant and the New and Everlasting Covenant. The old covenant corresponding to the Justice of Heavenly Father, and the New Covenant Mercy through Jesus Christ.
    One thing I was kind of puzzled at, but maybe I’ll find as I read more on this site, is why the Sacrament would need to be taken in order to restore someone to forgiveness of sins. I’m not of that understanding, currently, at least, but I’m curious.
    And I love the clear, straight talk about good- that there’s only one good, and that there are many kinds of evil. The good that is really good being the celestial, or doing the will of God.
    It may be a matter of definition and perspective, but I think that one could define what is good/evil and the degrees slightly differently, though still understandably. Recently, we’ve heard, for example in Conference, about ‘Good, better, best’. That’s one I need to think about more, but perhaps Chauncey Riddle’s way of dividing it makes the most sense- there’s only one good. That seems to be how the Book of Mormon usually breaks it down on matters of salvation and damnation- it’s pretty clear cut.
    As regarding the Catholic and Protestant view of Salvation as Chauncey Riddle referenced it, it’s my belief that the principle of eternal progression – not as falsely taught as some people have falsely taught it as Bro. Riddle describes, could offer a reason as to why they hold a view that could be characterized as such (whitewashing, etc.).
    What I mean is, it’s kind of two sides to the same coin if we believe in becoming like God, then we as believers, I guess, would need to accept that “few there be that find” the way to salvation and hopefully be motivated by that to really, while in mortality, follow God. Also, as specifically LDS, that we believe we can progress to Godhood, that it will take long after this life. I’m grateful Bro. Riddle explains we need to be trustworthy in order to have the true freedom offered by the Gospel, and true progression.
    Excellent teaching. Great website. Thanks!

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