My dear brothers and sisters, it is a great pressure to stand before you. Nevertheless I want Elder [Marvin J.] Ashton to know that I follow his teachings and that I am of good cheer.
My assignment this afternoon, as I understand it, is to speak; and your assignment this afternoon, as I understand it, is to listen. If you finish your assignment before I do, please raise your hand!
Furthermore, I want you to know that this is an assignment in which I “rejoice exceedingly,” as Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon would say. And having journeyed from the land of Japan eastward, away to the state of Utah, to attend this general conference, what adds more to my joy, as Alma continues, is to see that you are still my brothers and sisters in the Lord; yea, and that you have waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth. (See Alma 17:2.)
May I also, by way of introduction, add that when foreigners like myself are taught the English language, they are usually advised by their teachers to shy away from difficult and complicated words because they may not sound right when spoken with a foreign accent; that is, trying to impress rather than express! Language teachers do, however, allow an exception to this general rule in the case of medical terms, when properly used. I would like, therefore, to share with you a few thoughts on the medical term logokophosis, which literally means “word deafness” or, in an extended gospel meaning, “the inability to hear or understand spoken directions.”
The scriptures are replete with directions spoken by holy prophets in all dispensations because “the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear.” (D&C 1:11.) Yet time and again we have to be asked to be better listeners. President Marion G. Romney sometimes wonders out loud, “How many tellings does it take—how many repetitions of counsel? How many individual corrections must be given?”
As parents may pose these questions to their children, Heavenly Father may also wonder the same about his sons and daughters. How many of us turn a deaf ear to the admonitions from our modern-day prophets and stay passive, uninvolved, as when we half-listen to the radio?
We all know the hymn “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice.” (Hymns, 1985, no. 21.) Why then do some suffer so badly from logokophosis, the inability to hear or understand? And I am of course not referring to those among us who have physically impaired hearing. We often find among them the most faithful members of the Church.
The Apostle Paul was an inspired teacher, and he gave many spoken directions to the people during his apostolic travels. But often he later had to remind them in writing because many who heard him had apparently neither fully understood nor acted in accordance with the divine principles he taught.
Therefore, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul reminds the Greek people, who composed the Church of God at Corinth, of the gospel truths which he preached to them. He again informed them in writing that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, and that he appeared to Simon Peter and then to the Apostles. (See 1 Cor. 15:3–4.)
Since that day, these written words have reminded not just a few hundred Greeks in an outlying area, but hundreds of millions of people in all kinds of places and situations, down through sixty generations, of these important events in the history of mankind.
Paul, being a convert himself, knew what it was like to be dead in sin. Through conversion, he had come to know what it was like to become alive, knowing and accepting the truth that Christ had risen.
I testify that through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can work out our salvation, and we can even have a partnership with the Lord in saving others. Having a partnership with the Lord in saving others is for me another definition of missionary work. And I want every young man who is preparing himself for a mission to read the Book of Mormon in order to realize that he is indeed preparing himself to have a very personal partnership with the Lord in saving others, for the duration of his mission and beyond. The same is true for every young woman preparing for her mission.
The greatest news of all times is that Jesus lives and that his atoning sacrifice took place for all people; and when they put their trust in him and indeed walk in obedience to his commandments, there is a way for them to gain salvation and exaltation.
How blessed we are to live in this last dispensation when, through the restored priesthood and the Book of Mormon, the globalization of the gospel of Jesus Christ is underway. Latter-day Saints everywhere, as the covenant people of the Lord, play an important part in this process.
And of course Satan, or that miserable, incurable insomniac, as Elder Neal Maxwell sometimes refers to him, causes opposition to our missionary effort. I can testify to you that while I labor in the countries of Asia and see the enormous progress there in the work of the Lord, the Spirit repeatedly bears witness to my soul of the truthfulness of the prophetic words of President Brigham Young concerning opposition to the Church. He said:
“The Kingdom will continue to increase, to grow, to spread and prosper more and more. Every time its enemies undertake to overthrow it, it will become more extensive and powerful; instead of its decreasing, it will spread the more, become more wonderful and conspicuous to the nations until it fills the whole earth.”
I have come to the realization that the restored gospel plays a single tune for all the world to hear, and I know that the time will come when all the world will eagerly respond to that tune. Then, and only then, differences between nations and peoples will disappear, and the world will be one, when the Savior returns to rule and reign for a thousand years.
Prior to that great moment, the spreading and accepting of the glorious gospel message will be universal. It is a dire need for all of Heavenly Father’s children everywhere.
President [Spencer W.] Kimball, in his Ensign article of February 1983, entitled “Are We Doing All We Can?” phrased it so clearly and beautifully: “Our great need, and our great calling, is to bring to the people of this world the candle of understanding to light their way out of obscurity and darkness and into the joy, peace, and truths of the gospel.” (P. 5.) These were the words of a prophet who spoke to all of us.
And yet in the case of being admonished by a prophet to do missionary work, we sometimes become complacent, which according to my English-Dutch dictionary means “self-satisfied or calmly content.”
Brothers and sisters, let us therefore prayerfully reevaluate our accountability unto the Lord in this respect.
While living in the Orient, I learned two ancient proverbs which apply well in this context. The first one is, “The full evaluation of one’s life is not complete until the moment of passing.” And the other one is, “We must look for true friends after one hundred years.” On the basis of my acquired knowledge of the plan of salvation and the just-quoted sayings, I firmly believe that our good works should be performed now, but always with life beyond the veil and future generations in mind.
As Latter-day Saints we are committed to do things that will accomplish much good in this world and in the world to come. It is exactly for this reason that President Kimball had that often-mentioned sign on his desk: “Do It.”
May, therefore, those who presently suffer from logokophosis, the inability to hear or understand spoken directions, through their own prayerful efforts and under divine inspiration, find the cure for it and be healed and enjoy greater happiness in this life and in the life to come.
And when the Lord calls, with Samuel we can truly say, “Speak Lord; for thy servant heareth.” (1 Sam. 3:9.) And then, most important of all, that we will be able and willing to be doers of the word also, and not hearers only.
For these great blessings I humbly pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
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