Encircled About with Fire

Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Satellite Broadcast • August 4, 2015


 

Brothers and sisters, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you in this worldwide broadcast. We have been richly blessed to be here.

I want you to know that I feel in my heart a great love for you that I know is a gift from Heavenly Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I know They love you, and I know They want me to see you the way They see you and to love you the way They love you. And so They have blessed me with that gift. I pray that you will feel Their love and my love today.

I also pray that the Holy Ghost will be with us as we consider together the implications of a simple message. The message has come to me personally, but I feel that I should share the message with you too. Here it is: Whatever level of spirituality we now enjoy in our lives; whatever degree of faith in Jesus Christ we now have; whatever strength of commitment and consecration, whatever degree of obedience or hope or charity is ours; whatever level of professional skill and ability we may have obtained, it will not be sufficient for the work that lies ahead.

Brothers and sisters, you and I need to be much better than we are now. The scriptures teach us that the world is now and will be in commotion. Wickedness and darkness will increase. Yet in that darkening world there will be increased divine light. The Lord Jesus Christ has a great work for us to do with the rising generation. It is a greater work than we have ever done before. The Lord is working in power to strengthen teaching and learning in His true and living Church. He is hastening His work, and He is preparing the earth and His kingdom and us for His return.

This is all part of a beautiful pattern we see from the beginning of the Restoration. In 1820, God the Father appeared with His Son, Jesus Christ, to the boy Joseph Smith. Since that day in the Sacred Grove, Jesus Christ has built up His Church and His people line upon line, precept upon precept, step by step.

Here is what He has said:

“For I will raise up unto myself a pure people, that will serve me in righteousness.”1

“That the work of the gathering together of my saints may continue, that I may build them up unto my name upon holy places; for the time of harvest is come, and my word must needs be fulfilled.”2

“My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion.”3

This is the Lord’s pattern: He is raising up, building up, and preparing His people and His Church. This pattern is evident in our day in President Thomas S. Monson’s call to all of us to rise up and build the kingdom of God. Listen to his invitations to us to do more and to do better in the work of salvation. I want to read to you quotes from several of President Monson’s talks that he has given in general conference since he became President of the Church.

“We again issue that heartfelt invitation: Come back. We reach out to you in the pure love of Christ. … To those who are wounded in spirit or who are struggling and fearful, we say, Let us lift you and cheer you and calm your fears.”4

“If any of you has slipped into complacency concerning your home teaching … , may I say that there is no time like the present to rededicate yourself.”5

“There are feet to steady, hands to grasp, minds to encourage, hearts to inspire, and souls to save.”6

“Effective immediately all worthy and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, … will have the option of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of age 19. …

“… Able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.”7

“[Our] challenge is to be more profitable servants in the Lord’s vineyard. This applies to all of us, whatever our age, and not alone to those who are preparing to serve as full-time missionaries, for to each of us comes the mandate to share the gospel of Christ.”8

“Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him.”9

“Wishing will not make it so. The Lord expects our thinking. He expects our action. … He expects our devotion.”10

“I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us. … There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.

“My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.”11

Brothers and sisters, this is the prophet’s call to us. In the Church Educational System it means that we need trusted servants of the Lord prepared to labor in seminaries and institutes, in the Church’s colleges and universities, and in the Church’s schools. Every job, every calling, every person in the Church Educational System is important, and every one of us, including me, needs to be better than we have ever been.

I think there are two reasons:

Reason number 1: We need to educate the rising generation more deeply and more powerfully than we have ever done before or than anyone has ever done before.

Deep learning is “an increase in the … power to Know, to Do, and to Become.”12 It definitely means increased knowledge, but it also means increased understanding of the heart. It means increased skill and capacity to act. It means increased strength of character, including integrity, courage, and kindness.

Deep learning is inherently a spiritual experience. The rising generation will learn deeply only insofar as the redeeming and strengthening powers of Christ work in their lives, purifying, sanctifying, and qualifying them to receive His grace and the gifts He has prepared for them. They must diligently work and seek learning, but they must also be cleansed through the atoning blood of Christ so that they can receive more light and be taught by the Holy Ghost.

Inspired teaching that leads to deep learning is also a spiritual experience. We too need the Atonement of the Savior to work more powerfully in our lives. We need to qualify for and receive the purifying and sanctifying gifts and blessings of the Holy Spirit so we can help the rising generation learn more deeply.

The rising generation needs that deep learning because the world they will face will be both great and terrible—there will be increased light and power from heaven, and there will be even more terrible wickedness and turmoil and confusion. They will need to be grounded in the plain and simple truths of the gospel, the gospel will need to be deep in their hearts, and they will need what President Russell M. Nelson has called resilient faith in Christ: “Why do we need such resilient faith? Because difficult days are ahead. Rarely in the future will it be easy or popular to be a faithful Latter-day Saint. Each of us will be tested. The Apostle Paul warned that in the latter days, those who diligently follow the Lord ‘shall suffer persecution’ [2 Timothy 3:12]. That very persecution can either crush you into silent weakness or motivate you to be more exemplary and courageous in your daily lives.”13

Reason number 2: I believe the young people who will come to us will be ready for—and will want to receive—much more than we give them now. Moreover, some who come will need more because their homes have provided neither what they desire nor what they need.

I do not mean that young people need to venture out into the weeds of complexity and speculation. They will need the plain and simple truths of the gospel taught with increased love and with increased power of the Holy Ghost.

Let me give you an example of a plain and simple doctrine that our students need to learn far more deeply. Over the last seven years, BYU–Idaho has required a course on the family as part of their Foundations program. (Such a course is part of the new Cornerstone series required of all institute, college, and university students in the Church Educational System.) Because all BYU–Idaho students take this course, the faculty have had a window into what is in the minds and hearts of the students about the doctrine of marriage as presented in the proclamation on the family.

What the teachers have found has been unsettling. Many students, perhaps 40 to 50 percent, have at best an incomplete and at worst a false understanding of this most crucial doctrine. These are good, active Latter-day Saint youth who have graduated from seminary and who have not sufficiently learned the doctrine of marriage either at home or in seminary or in Sunday School or in their Young Women or priesthood quorum classes and, in some cases, not even on their missions.

The students not only need a better knowledge of the doctrine of marriage, they need to understand it in their hearts. They need a spiritual witness of its truth, and they need to act on that witness in the way they prepare now to be husbands or wives and mothers or fathers in an eternal family.

They also need to know how to talk about the doctrine of marriage with their friends and with others who may not share their beliefs. And they need to grow in their capacity to discern between truth and error. They need increased faith in Jesus Christ, and they need increased hope in Him.

This is what the rising generation needs. And so, what do we need to do?

Each of us needs to do what the Lord wants done in our lives. I hope the following experience will be helpful to you as you ponder and pray about what the Lord wants you to do:

Many years ago, during a very difficult time in our lives, I felt under attack from the adversary. In that experience the Lord made it very clear to me that I needed to do more and to be better. Let me give you just a little background.

Sue and I had been married for over 30 years. We had been active and involved in the Church all our lives. We served in the Church; we attended the temple every week; we prayed with our children, studied the scriptures with them, and held family home evening. We tried to be good Latter-day Saints. And yet, the Lord said to me, “You need to do more.”

One night I had a terrible nightmare. I awoke very anxious and concerned, and I knelt and prayed to my Father in Heaven for help. As I prayed, there came into my mind a passage from Ephesians chapter 6: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”14

In the morning I looked up the scripture, and I read these words:

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”15

When I read the words “put on the whole armour of God,” I felt a powerful witness of the Spirit that this was the answer to my prayers. I needed to put on the whole armour of God, every bit of it.

And so, Sue and I talked about what that might mean, and we prayed for guidance. I learned that we needed to ask ourselves two questions. I believe these are the questions whose answers will lead us to do what we need to do to prepare for what lies ahead. Here they are: (1) What am I doing that I should stop doing? and (2) What am I not doing that I should start doing?

As we asked those questions in prayer, we received very specific answers. We changed how we spent our time, what media we allowed into our home, how we served in the temple, how we studied the scriptures, how we served the Lord, and many, many other things. We needed to increase our spirituality. Through this process of repentance, the Lord Jesus Christ reached out and changed our lives. We felt His mercy, His grace, His love, and His power. Through His matchless power He changed our hearts and our minds, and He lifted us up to Him. I know that had we not listened and not acted on what we received, I would not have been called to serve at BYU–Idaho and I would not be standing here before you today. It was a turning point in our lives.

Brothers and sisters, I know that I am speaking to faithful, covenant-keeping Latter-day Saints. I know that you are really, really good and very, very good at what you do. Yet I know from my own experience that we need to ask ourselves these two questions regularly. We need to change and repent so that the Atonement of Christ can work even more powerfully in our lives. If we do, our Heavenly Father will bless us with greater spiritual power. I know that is true.

And that, I believe, is the whole key to meeting the great opportunities and responsibilities that lie before us. There are many practical things we will need to do. We will need to think hard and plan and work and counsel and prepare to do our very best. But it will be the power of the Holy Ghost that will bring about the deep learning and the greater discernment and the redeeming and strengthening power of Christ in the lives of our students.

The rising generation needs the plain and simple truths of the gospel taught and learned with increased love, with greater spiritual power, and with deeper impact in their lives. I believe that impact will come because the gospel of Jesus Christ will be more powerfully rooted in our hearts and in our minds and because the Holy Ghost will be our constant companion. Our lives will more fully and completely reflect the teachings of the Savior. Then—when we administer programs, or develop curriculum, or implement new methods, or hire or call and train new teachers, or counsel students, or plan new buildings, or open up a new area, or walk into a classroom to teach God’s children—we will receive the revelation we need, and we will do the work with the pure love of Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost. The rising generation will learn deeply, and they will rise up!

We know this will happen. We know how this all turns out. The Lord Jesus Christ will come, and His people and His Church will be prepared to receive Him.

When I think of you and what you are going to do in God’s kingdom, I think of that marvelous experience in 3 Nephi 17, when the Savior gathered the children around Him. I want you to picture that scene in your minds because you are in that scene. The parents bring their precious children to the Savior. He gathers them around Him; He is at the center. He prays for them and their parents in a miraculous way, and He blesses the children one by one. Then angels descend from Heaven “as it were in the midst of fire”16and minister to the children, and that holy fire encircles the children.

In a powerful sense, this is what we do in seminary and in institute. Indeed, this is the Church Educational System. Parents bring their children to us. The Savior is at the center, the heart of everything that happens to the children. He prays for them and for us; He is our Advocate with the Father. We are the angels—you are the angels—who come to minister to those children in holy fire. That, my dear brothers and sisters, is who we need to be.

And that is who we will be because there is a God in heaven. He is our Father. His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. He lives! I bear witness of His holy name. I have seen Him work, I know His mercy and His grace, and I have felt His love. He has all power to cleanse us from sin, change our hearts and lift us, and strengthen us to become everything He wants us to be. I know that if we turn to Christ, who always stands with His arms outstretched to us, He will bless us to be better and to do more in this, His holy work. I so testify, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Notes

  1. Doctrine and Covenants 100:16.

  2. Doctrine and Covenants 101:64.

  3. Doctrine and Covenants 136:31.

  4. Thomas S. Monson, “Looking Back and Moving Forward,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 90.

  5. Thomas S. Monson, “True Shepherds,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 68.

  6. Thomas S. Monson, “Willing and Worthy to Serve,”  Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 69.

  7. Thomas S. Monson, “Welcome to Conference,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 4–5.

  8. Thomas S. Monson, “Come, All Ye Sons of God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 66.

  9. Thomas S. Monson, “Welcome to Conference,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 4.

  10. Thomas S. Monson, “To the Rescue,” Ensign, May 2001, 49.

  11. Thomas S. Monson, “Be of Good Cheer,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 92.

  12. Kim B. Clark, “Learning and Teaching: To Know, to Do, and to Become” (remarks to faculty at faculty meeting, BYU–Idaho, Sept. 6, 2011), byui.edu/presentations.

  13. Russell M. Nelson, “Face the Future with Faith,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 35–36.

  14. Ephesians 6:12.

  15. Ephesians 6:10–11.

  16. 3 Nephi 17:24.