The great historian Will Durrant once said, “In my youth I wanted freedom. In my mature years I want order.” There is nothing so important in the kingdom of God as order; yet the tendency today is to resist law and order, which must be maintained in the kingdom of God if we are to be pleasing in the sight of the Lord. “Be one,” the Lord said, “and if you are not one you are not mine.” The only way we can be one is by following the leadership of the Church as the Lord has directed.
Even in the matter of temple ordinances, there is sometimes a resistance to order. We have many requests from young couples who want to have a civil marriage first for some reason—perhaps someone in one of the families is not a member of the Church—and then they want to have a temple marriage immediately thereafter. When we say no and that a sealing following a civil marriage is not a temple marriage but a sealing after marriage, they frequently ask, “Why isn’t such a subsequent sealing just as valid as a temple marriage in the first place?” The simple answer has to be, “Because a temple marriage is the Lord’s way by his command.” Any other way than that lacks some of the blessings that could have been enjoyed if the Lord’s way had been chosen.
There are frequent requests from sealers in one temple who want to perform sealings in another temple. When we tell them that their work must be confined to the temple for which they have been set apart, they ask why. And we tell them that there must be order in the kingdom of God. Sometimes a former temple president asks years after his release if he can have permission to go back into the temple to perform another sealing, perhaps for a grandchild. His request is denied because that isn’t God’s way. When a member releases the keys that he formerly held, the keys do not belong to him anymore. They belong to somebody else, and he doesn’t have the authority he once had because there is order in the Church.
The request for persons other than bishops and stake presidents to perform civil marriages is a frequent one. Some ask, “Why not by permission?” And again we answer, “Because there is order, and stake presidents and bishops are ordained ministers and are so certified to civil authorities.”
The requirements for entry into the temple are that a newly baptized member should not be given a temple recommend for even his own temple ordinances until he has been a member of the Church at least one year. Any flexibility in this requirement would be out of order in the Lord’s Church. It is analogous to making sure that before one is ready to eat meat, he is taught to drink milk; and one year is the length of time prescribed for this learning process.
There was a convert to the Church who had a Ph.D. in psychology, and after eight months in the Church it was suggested that he have his temple endowments. When we said no and that it was contrary to the rule, it was implied that because this man was a professor in a university he should be different. I answered, “Yes, he may have a Ph.D. in science or philosophy, but he is only an eight-month-old child in the Church. Until he has been schooled in the fundamentals of the Church, he will never understand and enjoy to the fullest the temple ordinances.” We say that until he is prepared, it would be folly to have him go to the temple for instructions that would be beyond his understanding.
The simple answer to all these exceptions mentioned could be given by the single phrase, “Trust in the Lord’s way.”
I sat by the senior editor of the Reader’s Digest at a luncheon sometime ago, and he asked if the lack of modern revelation and a dwindling trust in the Lord was our biggest problem today. I said that it wasn’t a problem with us. We know that the Lord gives revelation today. We are waiting for the Lord to reveal his mind and will. The only people who find it a problem are those who don’t believe in revelation. Therein lies one of the greatest problems among those who are criticizing and finding fault and wanting exceptions. They don’t trust the Lord. They are not willing to listen to the admonition of the Lord as he prefaces his revelations in this dispensation. These are his words:
“And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people.” (D&C 1:14.)
A brother who was critical of the Church one day asked a rather interesting and even presumptuous question: “In the early days, the Prophet Joseph Smith, when faced with a difficult ecclesiastical problem in the establishment of the Church, went before the Lord and sought a revelation for the direction and guidance of the Church. Are you brethren so living today that you might receive similar guidance?”
My reply was a quotation from the words of Moroni after he had been compiling the teachings of the Jaredites. Having read the great experience of the brother of Jared, I suppose, Moroni closed with this thought: “And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen. …”
And then, quoting from Moroni again, I said to this professor, “… wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” (Ether 12:6.) Then I asked this brother, “Have you ever thought that you’re the one who ought to be doing some praying and getting close enough to the Lord to know whether or not what the brethren are saying today is the mind and will of the Lord?”
All we have to do to test the faith of the Saints is to try out something new and see how they react. As we have talked about introducing some new Church magazines, the greatest acceptance of this proposal has come from the leaders of youth. When it was announced that the youth would have a magazine that would be directed to the needs of youth, how gloriously the youth leaders hailed the news. But some of the older folks, when told of a new adult magazine, reacted as though they had been cut off from the Church. They weren’t willing to accept the change as had the youth and their leaders.
President N. Eldon Tanner and I, in talking about this great evidence of the faith of our people, agreed that when we see the simple faith of our people, we, as leaders, must be sure that we are right as we move ahead with Church programs to meet the challenges of the day in which we live. Let me comment about that.
Keep in mind that the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ are divine. Nobody changes the principles and doctrines of the Church except the Lord by revelation. But methods change as the inspired direction comes to those who preside at a given time. If you will analyze all that is being done and the changes that are taking place, you will realize that the fundamental doctrines of the Church are not changing. The only changes are in the methods of teaching that doctrine to meet the circumstances of our time. You may be sure that your brethren who preside are praying most earnestly, and we do not move until we have the assurance, so far as lies within our power, that what we do has the seal of divine approval.
I wish we could have the simple faith of a bishop in California who said to me recently, “Day after day—sometimes hour after hour—as the many problems of my people come to my attention, I have made an interesting discovery. Every problem my people bring to me can be solved by talking to Jesus Christ. Every problem!” That is an interesting discovery for all of us to make. Every problem that afflicts humankind can be solved if we can only talk to the Lord and then, equally important, listen when the Lord answers. Thus, in the management of affairs of the Church, those who believe that the Lord reveals himself today are not worried. They are waiting until the Lord speaks, and then obediently they follow. But there will always be detractors in the Church who will resist anything that fails to harmonize with their own ideas.
On one occasion I asked some people to define the words liberal, conservative, and radical. I received some interesting answers. One answer was given by a prominent person in educational circles whose definition of liberal in the Church was very simple: “A liberal in the Church is simply one who doesn’t have a testimony.” That’s all. If you’re liberal in the Church and making decisions on your own, it is because you lack a rock-bottom testimony and faith in the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the leadership that presides today.
A summation of what I have said concerning the Lord’s revelation as a guide to teachers and students and layman leaders is found in a revelation given in the early days of the Church. Many missionaries went out and then came back prematurely because they didn’t understand the various spiritual manifestations that were abroad in the earth. And they asked the Prophet Joseph how they could tell which were of the Lord and which were not. Well, the Prophet was a young man; he didn’t have the answer because he hadn’t been out in the world. But he sought the answer to this problem, just as that bishop in California does, and he went to the Lord. And the Lord gave what we call the fiftieth section of the Doctrine and Covenants. The reading of that entire section would be very profitable to you if you would read it and analyze it logically as the Lord reasoned it out. It contains in part this significant truth: “Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?
“Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.
“And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.
“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
“And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you.” (D&C 50:21–25.)