George Albert Smith, the eighth president of the Church, was born at Salt Lake City on April 4, 1870. He often said with a twinkle in his eye that he had to go to general conference on most of his birthdays, and those who knew him best knew that that was the place he preferred to go. He was ordained an apostle October 8, 1903, by President Joseph F. Smith, and was sustained as president of the Church May 21, 1945. He passed away on his birthday, April 4, 1951. “Freely Ye Have Received: Freely Give” is adapted from a message given at the Washington (D.C.) Ward November 4, 1945. The full text may be found in Sharing the Gospel with Others (Preston Nibley, comp.), pages 193–219.
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We sometimes speak of aristocracy in the world. There is only one aristocracy that God recognizes, and that is the aristocracy of righteousness. It is he who has written: “I … cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” (D&C 1:31.) Why? Because he knows that if we partake of sin, we lose a blessing that we would enjoy if we did not forsake the pathway that leads to that blessing. It is therefore desirable that we learn these things and, remembering them, adjust our lives to the changing conditions of the world and so prepare ourselves that when the time comes for us to say goodbye to mortality, we may find that we have earned a place in the companionship of those we love in the kingdom of our Lord.
I recall an experience I once had. I was riding on a train in England. My companion in the compartment was a Presbyterian minister, and when he gave me the opportunity to do so, I told him I was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With amazement he said, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself to belong to such a group?”
I smiled at him and said, “My brother, I would be ashamed of myself not to belong to that group, knowing what I know.” Then that gave me the opportunity I desired to talk to him and explain to him some of the things we believe. He opened up the conversation by saying, “Why do you come over here to England and invite our people to leave this wonderful land and go out to America? Why don’t you leave us alone to enjoy ourselves and be happy here? Do you come over here to divide our families, take part of them away and leave the others? Why not leave them alone?”
I said, “My brother, you have been misinformed. We are not over here to take anything away from you; we are not over here to divide your families; we are not over here to break up the churches.”
He said, “You come over here with ministers to this country when we have more ministers and more churches than we can take care of now. Why don’t you leave us alone, and why don’t you go and preach the gospel to the heathens like we do?”
I said, “We do.”
He said, “Where do you go?”
I said, “One of the places to which we go is England.” He looked a little bit annoyed at me, and I smiled and said, “Now, my brother, that was not intended to be offensive. I just wanted to bring you to an understanding of what the truth is.” I said, “What is a heathen?” And of course he had to give me the definition—a man who does not believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That is the substance of it. And I said, “Haven’t you any such people as that here in England?”
And he said, “Plenty of them.”
Then I said, “Surely you are not going to complain at me and my associates, if you have not converted them, if we come over here to help you.”
I said, “First of all, we are asking all you fine people over here to keep all the glorious truths that you have acquired in your churches, that you have absorbed from your scriptures; keep all that, keep all the fine training that you have received in your educational institutions, all the knowledge and truth that you have gained from every source—keep it all. Keep all the fine characters that have been developed, everything that is good in your character that has come to you as a result of your lovely home; keep all the love and the beauty that is in your heart from having lived in so beautiful and wonderful a land—keep it all. That is all a part of the gospel.
“Then let us sit down and share with you some of the things that have not yet come into your lives that have enriched our lives and made us happy. We offer it to you without money and without price. All we ask you to do is hear what we have to say, and if it appeals to you, accept it freely. If it does not, then we will go our way to somebody else that we hope will be more fortunate, that will accept the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness and thereby enrich his life.”
That is the attitude of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Let us analyze that situation just a moment. We have a good many people in the United States and other parts of the world who are trained, strong, vigorous men and women intellectually—wonderful people. They know almost everything that you could think about, and yet some of those very people do not know God. They do not know that Jesus was the Savior of the world. They say that he died like other men and passed away like other men. He was not a God.
In answering them, we call attention to the fact that when he was old enough to lead the way, when he had matured and knew what he should do, Jesus applied to his cousin John, at Jordan, who was there baptizing. John said, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.” (Matt. 3:14–15.)
Jesus Christ went down into the watery grave, was immersed in the water and came up out of the water, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17.)
After that this same Jesus of Nazareth organized a church and went among those people, teaching them the gospel.
And then he was crucified. After his body had lain in the tomb for three days, Mary Magdalene and other women went to the tomb to prepare the body for burial. When they arrived there, lo, the great stone at the mouth of the tomb had been rolled away.
When they looked inside, the one they sought was not there, but a man standing by, seeing their confusion, was looking at them. Then one of them, Mary, mistook him for the gardener and she asked, “Where have they laid my Lord?” Instead of saying, He has been resurrected, the man just said, “Mary.” In her joy at seeing him alive again, she would have undoubtedly embraced him, but he said, “Touch me not, Mary, for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (See John 20:15–17.)
On one occasion when they were gathered together in a room—for fear of their enemies the room was closed and the doors were locked—suddenly there materialized in that room a living being, an immortal being, and they were astonished that such a thing could happen. It was the resurrected Lord. They were frightened. He saw their predicament and said, in the kindness of his heart and his tenderness, “… a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. Handle me and see.” (See Luke 24:39.)
Now we accept all these things, but millions of our Father’s children do not accept them and give all kinds of reasons why they cannot be true.
Soon after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a great multitude of people were gathered around the temple in the land Bountiful on this Western Hemisphere, and all at once they heard a voice. Then, looking in the direction whence it came, they saw the heavens open, and a glorified, immortal being came down and stood before them and said, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.” (3 Ne. 11:10.) He was not a man helpless in the hands of his enemies, but he came in power and glory and he visited with them and taught them the truth and gave them an understanding of what was necessary for them to do in order that they might be happy and have glorified lives.
We believe those things; we accept them as true.
But that is not all. Our latter-day scriptures also contain other information with regard to the divine mission of Jesus Christ. They tell of his appearance to a boy not yet fifteen years of age, just a humble farmer boy, who read in the scriptures, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5.)
So he went out into the woods to put it to the test. Was that promise fulfilled? It was, and when he knelt and prayed, the Father and the Son appeared to him and the Father asked him what it was he wanted. He told him he wanted to know which church to join. He was told not to join any of them, that there was a mission for him to perform, and he would be told his duties.
So now, we have the appearance of the Savior and his association with the people in Judea; we have the appearance of the Savior and the organization of his church and his association with the people in this Western Hemisphere; we have the coming of the Savior in our own day, a little over a hundred years ago, when the Father and the Son appeared to young Joseph Smith.
And here is another witness: We have been promised that if we will go down into the waters of baptism, if we receive the Holy Ghost, if we will conform our lives to the teachings that our Heavenly Father has given us, we shall know of the doctrine and we shall know that Jesus is the Christ, not for somebody else but for ourselves.
What did the Lord promise if we accept the gospel of Jesus Christ? He promised every other good thing. It was the Savior who said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33.) And so I stand here to say to you Latter-day Saints, you men and women who have accepted the gospel, you cannot think of a blessing that is worthwhile in preparation for eternal happiness that God has not offered to you. No other place in the world can you find the peace, the happiness, and the joy that have come to those who have accepted the truth and are seeking to apply it in their lives and share it with others. It is rich and beautiful. It isn’t only what we receive that makes us happy, it is what we give; and the more we give of that which is uplifting and enriching to our Father’s children, the more we have to give. It grows like a great fountain of life and bubbles up to eternal happiness.
I bear you my witness that these things are true, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.