Strengthening Our Relationship with God
“Chapter 16: Strengthening Our Relationship with God,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 145
I would rather have God for my friend than all other influences and powers outside. 1
From the Life of John Taylor
John Taylor had a deep and personal love for our Heavenly Father. He referred to Him as “our father, friend and benefactor.” He said, “We lean upon his arm, and we know that he will guide and direct, influence and control the affairs of his people, therefore we rely upon him.” 2
Bearing testimony of God’s love and concern for His children, President Taylor stated: “There is not a man upon the earth that has put his trust in God, I do not care what part of the world he has been in, but what can say that he delivered him. I know that has been the case with me, emphatically so. I have been satisfied, when in foreign lands and in strange countries, where I had no access but to the Almighty, that he was on my side, and I know that he has answered my prayers.” 3
This trust in God was evident in 1839, when Elder Taylor left with Elder Wilford Woodruff for a mission in the British Isles. Elder Taylor became seriously ill on the journey from Nauvoo to New York, where they were to take passage on a ship to England. Elder Woodruff went ahead to New York and waited for Elder Taylor, who was delayed in his journey due to his illness.
When Elder Taylor reached New York, Elder Woodruff was anxious to depart and immediately obtained his own passage to England. Although Elder Taylor had no money, he told Elder Woodruff, “Well, Brother Woodruff, if you think it best for me to go, I will accompany you.” Elder Woodruff inquired as to how Elder Taylor would obtain the money for the journey, to which Elder Taylor answered: “Oh, there will be no difficulty about that. Go and take a passage for me on your vessel, and I will furnish you the means.”
Hearing the conversation between Elder Taylor and Elder Woodruff, a Brother Theodore Turley expressed a desire to accompany the Apostles on their journey and offered to cook for them, although he had no money either. In response to Brother Turley’s desire to be involved in the work, Elder Taylor told Elder Woodruff to obtain a passage for Brother Turley also.
In a short time, the Lord provided the means for the journey. Elder B. H. Roberts of the Seventy recorded: “At the time of making these arrangements Elder Taylor had no money, but the Spirit had whispered [to] him that means would be forthcoming, and when had that still, small voice failed him! In that he trusted, and he did not trust in vain. Although he did not ask for a penny of anyone, from various persons in voluntary donations he received money enough to meet his engagements for the passage of himself and Brother Turley, but no more.” 4
Teachings of John Taylor
God is our Father and He cherishes a paternal regard for us.
Our religion … does not set up God as some austere being that we cannot approach, but it tells us he is our Father, and that we are his children, and that he cherishes in his bosom a paternal regard for us; and we have experienced something of the feelings that exist between father and son, mother and daughter, parents and children. 5
How does God feel towards the human family? He feels that they are his children. What, all? Yes, the white, the black, the red, the Jew, the gentile, the heathen, the Christian, and all classes and grades of men. He feels interested in all. He has done so from the beginning and will continue to do so to the end. He will do all that lies in his power for the benefit, blessing, and exaltation of the human family, both in time and eternity. 6
We are all the children of God. He is our Father and has a right to direct us, not only us, but has a perfect right to direct and control the affairs of all the human family that exist upon the face of the earth for they are all his offspring. 7
The object that God has in view is to benefit mankind as much as lies in His power. We talk sometimes about moving heaven and earth but God has moved heaven and earth for the accomplishment of that object. … God desires our welfare, and He has instituted laws for that purpose. He has introduced the everlasting Gospel for that purpose; and He has restored the Holy Priesthood that existed anciently, together with all the principles, blessings, powers, rites, ordinances, and privileges that have graced the earth from the commencement of time. 8
If we understand ourselves correctly, we must look upon ourselves as eternal beings, and upon God as our Father, for we have been taught when we pray to say, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” [See Matthew 6:9.] “We have fathers in the flesh, and we do them reverence, how much more shall we be in subjection to the Father of Spirits and live.” [See Hebrews 12:9.] I need not enter into any proof in relation to this, for it is well understood by the saints that God is the father of our spirits, and that when we go back into his presence, we shall know him, as we have known our earthly parents. We are taught to approach him as we would an earthly parent to ask of him such blessings as we need; and he has said “if a son ask bread of his father shall he give him a stone, or if he ask for fish, a scorpion. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” [See Matthew 7:9–11.] 9
Our Heavenly Father will bless us when we seek Him in humble prayer.
We should feel that God is our Father and that we are his children, and that he has promised to listen to our prayers, and that we are called upon to be obedient to his will and to carry out his designs. And then we ought, in order that our prayers may be effectual, perform the various duties devolving upon us, such as have been referred to, and we should be honest and honorable in our dealings one with another. If we try to defraud our brother, how can we expect God to bless us in that, for [our brother] is a child of our Heavenly Father just as much as we are. … [God] feels interested in his welfare, and if we try to take advantage to the injury of the Lord’s child; do you think [the Lord] would be pleased with us? 10
I am reminded of my boyhood. At that early period of my life I learned to approach God. Many a time I have gone into the fields, and, concealing myself behind some bush, would bow before the Lord and call upon him to guide and direct me. And he heard my prayer. At times I would get other boys to accompany me. It would not hurt you, boys and girls, to call upon the Lord in your secret places, as I did. That was the spirit which I had when a little boy. And God has led me from one thing to another. … My spirit was drawn out after God then; and I feel the same yet. 11
I will tell you the first thing I used to do when I went preaching, particularly when I went to a [new] place—and that was to go aside to some place, anywhere I could get, into a field, a barn, into the woods, or my closet, and ask God to bless me and give me wisdom to meet all the circumstances with which I might have to contend; and the Lord gave me the wisdom I needed and sustained me. If you pursue a course of this kind, he will bless you also. Do not trust in yourselves, but study the best books—the Bible and Book of Mormon—and get all the information you can, and then cleave to God and keep yourselves free from corruption and pollution of every kind, and the blessings of the Most High will be with you. 12
Do not forget to call upon the Lord in your family circles, dedicating yourselves and all you have to God every day of your lives; and seek to do right, and cultivate the spirit of union and love, and the peace and blessing of the Living God will be with us, and He will lead us in the paths of life; and we shall be sustained and upheld by all the holy angels and the ancient patriarchs and men of God, and the veil will become thinner between us and our God, and we will approach nearer to him, and our souls will magnify the Lord of hosts. 13
We must trust and have faith in God.
I do not believe in a religion that has not got all my affections, but I believe in a religion that I can live for, or die for. I am not talking about things that I do not understand; I have wrestled with death, and had the devil aiming at me, and I cared nothing for it. Let me be deprived of this hope and my religion is vain. … It is for us to act upon the principle that we started upon; to trust and have faith in God; to let this influence us in our acts one towards another. 14
If we will perform our part, the Lord will not fail to do His. Because others act foolishly we cannot afford to imitate them. We profess to be the Zion of God, the pure in heart. We profess to be men and women of integrity, of truth and virtue, and to have faith in God. This must not only be our profession, but our practice; we must carry out and fulfil the word and will and law of God. 15
Faith without works being dead [see James 2:17, 26], it is evident that living faith and that which is acceptable to God, is that which not only believes in God, but acts upon that belief. It is not only the cause of action, but includes both cause and action. Or in other words it is belief or faith made perfect by works. 16
We have got to put our trust in God, let the consequences be as they may. And as long as we do this, and as long as we keep the holy covenants we have entered into with him and with one another, Zion will triumph. …
But I will tell you what we have to do, my brethren and sisters, we must fear God in our hearts; we must lay aside our covetousness and our waywardness, our self-will and foolishness of every kind. … We must humble ourselves before the Lord, repenting of our sins, and henceforth preserve our bodies and spirits pure, that we may be fit receptacles for the Spirit of the living God, and be guided by him in all our labors both for the living and the dead. Our desires must be for God and his righteousness, until we shall exclaim with one of old: O God, search me, and try me, and if there be any way of wickedness in me, bid it depart [see Psalm 139:23–24]. It is for us, as fathers and mothers, to go before the Lord in all humility and call upon him that his peace may be in our hearts; and wherein we may have done wrong, confess that wrong and repair it as far as we possibly can; and in this way let every man and woman in Israel begin to set their houses in order, and forever cultivate the spirit of peace, the spirit of union and love.
And if the families of Israel do this throughout all the land of Zion, all fearing God and working righteousness, cherishing the spirit of humility and meekness, and putting our trust in him, there is no power in existence that can injure us. 17
Peace is the gift of God to those who walk according to His light.
Peace is the gift of God. Do you want peace? Go to God. Do you want peace in your families? Go to God. Do you want peace to brood over your families? If you do, live your religion, and the very peace of God will dwell and abide with you, for that is where peace comes from, and it [does not] dwell anywhere else. … Peace is good, and I say seek for it, cherish it in your bosoms, in your neighborhoods, and wherever you go among your friends and associates. If we only get that peace that dwells in the bosom of God all will be right. …
Some, in speaking of war and troubles, will say, are you not afraid? No, I am a servant of God, and this is enough, for Father is at the helm. It is for me to be as clay in the hands of the potter, to be pliable and walk in the light of the countenance of the Spirit of the Lord, and then no matter what comes. Let the lightnings flash and the earthquakes bellow, God is at the helm, and I feel like saying but little, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth and will continue his work until he has put all enemies under his feet, and his kingdom extends from the rivers to the ends of the earth. 18
All we have to do is to live our religion, to obey the counsel of our President, be humble and faithful and not exalted in our own strength, but ask wisdom of God and see that we have peace with God, with our families, with one another, that peace may reign in our bosoms and in our community. 19
When we live our religion, when we walk according to the light of the Spirit of God, when we purge ourselves [of] impurity and corruption, and the sweet whispering of the Spirit of the Lord pours intelligence into our bosoms, broods over us, causing peace and joy to be with us, we have then, more or less, a faint glimpse of those things that are laid up for the faithful, and it is then we feel as though we and all that we have are in the hands of the Lord and that we are ready to offer ourselves [as] a sacrifice for the accomplishment of his purposes upon the earth. 20
Peace is a desirable thing; it is the gift of God, and the greatest gift that God can bestow upon mortals. What is more desirable than peace? Peace in nations, peace in cities, peace in families. Like the soft murmuring zephyr [or west wind], its soothing influence calms the brow of care, dries the eye of sorrow, and chases trouble from the bosom; and let it be universally experienced, and it would drive sorrow from the world, and make this earth a paradise. But peace is the gift of God. 21
Suggestions for Study and Discussion
• What are some ways that God manifests His paternal love for us? How can knowing that He has a caring Father’s regard for us help us in times of spiritual and physical need?
• Why do we sometimes fail to have meaningful, regular prayer? What can we do to make our prayers more meaningful?
• What can we learn from John Taylor’s experiences with prayer? How can we teach children to approach God in prayer as young John Taylor did?
• How can we build our trust in God? How have you been blessed as you have put your trust in God?
• What does it mean to be willing to “walk according to the light of the Spirit of God”? How does faith affect this level of willingness? What are some specific ways that you can put your faith into action?
• In what ways have you experienced peace as a gift from God? How has this peace influenced your love for Him?
• How can you improve the level of peace in your family?