Sidney B. Sperry Symposium: “You Shall Have My Word”
By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer
The 41st annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium was held at BYU October 26–27, with 26 presenters addressing the theme “‘You Shall Have My Word’: Exploring the Text of the Doctrine and Covenants.” The symposium is held in honor of Brother Sperry, a pioneer in LDS religious education who taught at BYU from 1932 to 1971 and created a full-time faculty of religious educators at the school.
The Explanatory Introduction to the current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants says this about the book’s content:
“In the revelations one hears the tender but firm voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking anew in the dispensation of the fulness of times; and the work that is initiated herein is preparatory to his second coming, in fulfillment of and in concert with the words of all the holy prophets since the world began.”
Citing those words, Elder Gary J. Coleman, emeritus General Authority, said, “Tonight I want to deal with the tender words and tender voice of Christ by focusing on the personal-pronoun phrases from the first 19 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants.”
Elder Coleman, a member of the Seventy from 1992 until he received emeritus status in 2011, was the keynote speaker of the symposium on October 26.
“The Savior personally taught in the I, the me, the my, and the mine pronouns,” Elder Coleman pointed out.
For example, in section 18, there are two occurrences of “me” and eight of “my,” he said.
“In following this pattern, one could personalize these words from section 18, verses 34–36 as follows: ‘I testify that these words are of Jesus Christ and not of man. His voice speaks them unto me. They are given to me by His Spirit. By His power I can read them for myself and to others. I could not have the words except by His power. I can testify that I have heard His voice and that I know His words.’”
A convert to the Church of more than 50 years, Elder Coleman testified “that Jesus indeed has laid out this beautiful plan for us” and that “the more we study, the more we work, the more we enjoy the gospel.”
He said the first 19 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants represent “a pre-Church organization that the Lord is building with His prophets.”
“He is using constantly these pronouns: I, my, me, and mine.”
Elder Coleman cited Doctrine and Covenants 5:34: “Yea, for this cause I have said: Stop, and stand still until command thee, and I will provide means whereby thou mayest accomplish the thing which I have commanded thee.”
That passage, he said, came into his mind one evening while he was presiding over the California Arcadia Mission in the late 1980s. It was at a meeting for investigators of the Church in Covina.
“I stopped. I looked into the cultural hall. There was a man holding a child, about a year old.”
He approached the man and introduced himself. The man introduced him to his wife, who was not a Church member, and said that he had not been active in the Church but had come at the invitation of ward members.
In the chapel, a Church-produced film on the plan of salvation was beginning. He heard a baby cry and then saw the woman he had just met leave the chapel with her baby.
He followed her out and said, “You need to see this film tonight with your husband; let me hold the baby.”
She replied that the baby had never let anyone other than his parents hold him. President Coleman replied, “But he will let me hold him. You go back into the chapel. I know how to hold a baby; I’m a grandfather.”
She returned to the chapel while he sat and held on his knee the baby, who jabbered to him for 30 minutes. After the movie, the mother returned and said, “I can’t believe you would hold my baby.”
Three weeks later, he attended her baptism, performed by her now-reactivated husband. A few weeks later he saw them at a stake meeting, the husband now a member of an elders quorum presidency and she the ward Primary secretary. “The first thing she said when she saw us: ‘I can’t believe you would hold my baby.’”
Repeating the words of the scripture, Elder Coleman said, “‘Stop, and stand still until I command thee, and I will provide [the] means.’ All it was: Hold the baby so Mother and Father could share the gospel that night.”