The spirit here is so sacred, and, like you, I am grateful for all that I have been taught.
In one of Mormon’s final epistles, he taught:
“For behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good thing. …
“Wherefore, by the ministering of angels, and by every word which proceeded forth out of the mouth of God, men began to exercise faith in Christ; and thus by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing.”1
In my opinion, you, the teachers of seminaries and institutes, early morning and released time, in homes, at churches, at schools, colleges, and universities, you are among the angels whom God has sent to minister to His children so that they may exercise faith in Christ and lay hold upon every good thing. I express gratitude to you for teaching His pure doctrine by the power of the Holy Ghost. Thank you for being there day in and day out, early and late, declaring the word of God, which is “the power of God unto salvation.”2 I express gratitude for your remarkable spouses, your wives and husbands, who are also angels in their loving-kindness and sustaining influence.
It is a sacred and glorious privilege to declare the word of God—to stand as one of His witnesses and to teach eternal truth. The prophet Isaiah declared the word of the Lord to all His covenant people:
“Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord. …
“I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour. …
“… Therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.”3
It is a sacred privilege to help the rising generation learn the word of God that they also may exercise faith and become witnesses of Christ.
The young men and young women who are seated in the seminary and institute classes around the world have made covenants to love and serve God and to stand as His witnesses. By their faith in Christ, they have been baptized and received the Holy Ghost so that they may know the truth and “speak with the tongue of angels.”4 “[They] are the children of the prophets; … of the house of Israel; … [they] are of the covenant which the Father made … , saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”5
By faith every young man and every young woman has the ability to speak in the name of Christ, by the Spirit, and “to stand as witnesses of [Him] at all times and in all things, and in all places.”6
Today let us consider what can happen in a seminary or institute class to help the rising generation truly become witnesses of God. They certainly have a desire to do so.
In May of this year, in preparation for the Face to Face Facebook event with Elder David A. Bednar and his wife, Susan, youth sent in over 11,000 questions from around the world. Many questions asked how to respond to friends and family members to share, uphold, and defend the teachings of the gospel of Christ. They wanted to know what to say and what to do. Elder Bednar explained that he and his wife would be unable to answer all the questions, saying that they were neither smart enough nor experienced enough. But he did tell the youth that as they interacted together, seeking the companionship of the Holy Ghost, they would receive thoughts and feelings, impressions and inspiration by the power of the Holy Ghost.7
The Holy Ghost is the teacher. It is His divine appointment to teach, testify, and witness of the Father and the Son8 and to reveal “the truth of all things.”9 How great a gift for young people to receive certain knowledge by the Spirit that God is their Father and that He knows them, loves them, and has a glorious plan for them! How great a gift for young people to receive certain knowledge by the Spirit that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that through faith in Him and His Atonement they may repent and be cleansed from all sin, healed from all pain and suffering, and be enabled to grow, progress, and obtain their divine destiny! The Spirit is the language of the love of God. We preach the gospel by the Spirit so that our young men and young women may receive by the Spirit,10 that they may see, feel, know, and bear record of the Savior and stand as His witnesses as the prophets have foretold.11
Brothers and sisters, I have much to learn about teaching and learning, but this I know: Our modern-day prophets, seers, and revelators are showing us that we can teach and learn together with greater converting power and far more relevant purpose. Recently at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, I observed Apostles of the Lord implement principles of teaching and learning that allowed the Holy Ghost to speak to the hearts and minds of mission presidents and their wives, individually and personally, to answer their questions and distill upon them the inspiration to meet their needs. Church leaders did not just stand at the pulpit to deliver talks, as is certainly appropriate in some settings. They demonstrated patterns established by the Lord for learning “by study and also by faith.”12The Lord instructs, “Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege.”13
The intent of learning as the Lord describes is to invite the Spirit to be the teacher so that our youth may be inspired with answers to their questions and have the Holy Ghost “show unto [them] all things what [they] should do.”14
First, prepare to learn. Most of what we do in life requires advance preparation. To obtain an eternal education, we should do more than just show up to a class. The Savior taught the Nephite people that they must ponder His words and pray to obtain understanding.15 As a young boy, Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in vision because he searched the scriptures and reflected upon the words, “again and again.”16 President Joseph F. Smith received the vision of the redemption of the dead because he pondered over scripture verses he had read and studied.17
Even before entering the classroom, we invite students to pray and reflect upon the words of Christ, that their minds and hearts will be prepared to receive knowledge by the power of the Holy Ghost. The Lord said, “First seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.”18
Second, interact to edify. By providing opportunity for classroom participation, we give youth a voice. As they learn together from the words of the prophets, answer inspired questions, discuss their thoughts and impressions, and respond to the questions and concerns of their peers, the Spirit of the Lord enlightens their minds and expands their understanding.19 They learn to speak in the name of the Lord “with care, and by constraint of the Spirit.”20 Sharing the things the Spirit of the Lord has taught them helps them overcome fear and strengthen one another in defense of high moral standards and righteousness. They prepare to respond to those who would question their faith, ridicule them, or accuse them of being old-fashioned or narrow-minded.
It is interesting to note how many times in the scriptures a newly called prophet felt inadequate to speak. Enoch exclaimed, “I … am but a lad, and all the people hate me.”21 But the Lord doesn’t seem too concerned about weakness or obstacles. He responds, “Go forth and do as I have commanded thee. … Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance.”22
The Lord expects all who keep their covenants to stand as His witnesses. He says, “Open your mouths and they shall be filled, and you shall become even as Nephi of old.”23
About Nephi of old, Father Lehi explained, “It was not he, but it was the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, which opened his mouth to utterance that he could not shut it.”24
Other than the home, there is perhaps no better place to empower youth to speak in the name of the Lord “in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness,”25 than with their peers in seminary and institute classes. We invite them to interact to edify that they may “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh … a reason of the hope that is in [them] with meekness and fear.”26
Third, invite to act. It is in living the gospel that the words spoken by a young man or a young woman ring true. The invitation to act is an invitation to keep covenants, to follow the Savior, and to act with “no hypocrisy and no deception before God.”27 It is an invitation to our youth to respond to the promptings of the Spirit and apply gospel principles in practical ways. The Savior taught, “If any man will do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine.”28 To be witnesses of God, our youth must live in harmony with what they know.
Like you, I have observed the faith of our youth who understand what it means to “be anxiously engaged … and do many things … and bring to pass much righteousness.”29 One such instance was on a recent pioneer trek that I attended.
Youth pulled handcarts along a portion of the original pioneer trail in Wyoming, USA. They arrived at Gravel Hill, “the longest and steepest descent … since [leaving] Winter Quarters.”30 Years earlier, on July 9, 1847, Brigham Young’s company of original pioneers put rough-lock chains on their wagon wheels to stop them from turning in order to make the descent. But for the youthful pioneer families pulling handcarts that day, a few members of each group guided the cart at the front while most hung on from behind to hold it back from careening wildly out of control down the steep decline.
It was frightening. The footing was unstable and treacherous, and hanging on to those handcarts required every ounce of strength they had to give. I was of no help whatsoever, so I stood at the bottom of the hill to watch, with a fervent prayer in my heart that all would be well.
Stumbling over large gravel rocks, the first handcart made the descent safely. Just as I turned to watch the next cart come down, I saw four young men come running past me back up the hill. My eyes welled with tears and my heart burst with gratitude when I realized that as soon as their own cart was safely on level ground, without a word, these faithful young men raced back to help the next cart. Again and again they assisted in the work of bringing all the handcarts safely down. Their efforts inspired several others to do the same, and before long, all handcarts were well on their way to the evening’s campsite.
What our youth didn’t realize was that their righteous example on Gravel Hill and of many other instances of testimony along the trail, both in word and in deed, was a witness to a young boy who is not a member of our faith. Jack later shared that as he trekked, he learned that Mormons are not hypocrites as he had thought. He saw and felt that they are real. They live what they believe. Jack felt the Spirit, and he plans to take the missionary lessons.
Our youth do not have to navigate handcarts down rocky hillsides to be witnesses of God, but they often face great opposition as they courageously strive to stand for truth and righteousness. Teachers in the classroom can help every young man and every young woman exercise faith in Christ and receive the Holy Ghost. Help them prepare to learn by their feasting upon the words of Christ. Interact to edify by speaking the words of Christ. And invite to act by obeying the words of Christ so that they may be filled with the Spirit of the Lord. And, by the power of the Holy Ghost, they may be the witnesses of Christ who say what He would say, do what He would do, and become even as He is.
I testify that God is our Father and that His love for each one of us is perfect. I testify that Jesus Christ is God’s holy Son, our Savior and Redeemer, and that His love for us is perfect. I testify that in perfect love the Father and the Son did appear to the Prophet Joseph Smith and restored the laws and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. President Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet who guides The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today. I testify that as we exercise faith in Christ and receive the Holy Ghost, we may all stand together as His witnesses. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
© 2015 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. English approval: 6/15. “Ye Are My Witnesses.” English. PD10054335 000