Dangerous Times

Many people say that we are living in dangerous times. And I believe that they are dangerous for those who live in a dangerous way and look for dangerous opportunities. If we live the commandments, we ought not to worry about what may happen. Let us keep in mind that when we choose a path, we are also, with the first steps, choosing the destination.

Arturo Palmieri President, Cordoba Argentina Stake Buenos Aires area general conference March 8, 1975

We Came to Win

The kingdom is a winner. Isn’t it great to be part of a winner? Don’t you love a winner? I do. I believe we came to win.

Some say, “It matters not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”

Don’t you believe it. It makes a lot of difference whether you win or not. That philosophy may be all right for basketball, but it’s not all right for the kingdom of God. You see, we came here to win. We didn’t come to just play the game. If we stick with the Lord we will win. We’re not going to fail. The Lord is not going to fail. The kingdom will succeed. It will win in the earth, but we have to be part of it if we’re going to win with it. So we’re called to be winners in the kingdom of God.

Elder Hartman Rector Of the First Quorum of the Seventy Brigham Young University devotional address

Father Is Head of the Family

To the comment, “My husband is not a member of the Church, nor does he respect it,” I with love and compassion answer: “Dear Sister, whether he is a member or not, he is still the father and head of the family. If he does not appreciate your burden, support him in his positive actions. Show him that you believe in and trust his ability to direct the family. Encourage him with noble examples.”

Richard G. Scott, Regional Representative of the Twelve Buenos Aires area general conference March 8, 1975

Are You Buying a 1947 Chevrolet?

I had a man about my age come in to see me a few days ago. He told me a story about a 1947 Chevrolet. It was a little after the second World War. He was a young elder, I guess, or priest—I’m not sure which. Anyway, he and his friend were called in to see the bishop one night after sacrament meeting, and they both knew what was coming up. The bishop said to the first young man, “We’d like you to prepare to go on a mission.”

The young man replied, “All right, I’ll do it.”

And then the man who came to see me was next. He went in and the bishop said, “We’d like you to prepare to go on a mission.”

And he said, “Bishop, I can’t do it. I’m paying for a 1947 Chevrolet.” He said that at that time in his life, this was the most important thing to him. He said, “I just don’t see how I can do it.”

Well, one thing led to another, and he never did go. He came in to tell me how throughout his life he had regretted that decision so much that every time he sees a 1947 Chevrolet (and that is occasionally nowadays) he gets a sort of unhappy feeling in his heart. He relates it to something that he had an opportunity to do but didn’t.

There is a 1947 Chevrolet in each of our lives. There is some material thing that sooner or later will stand between what the Lord expects of us and what we know we should do. Then we have to make a decision, and may the Lord bless us that we may make a proper decision when our 1947 Chevrolet confronts us.

Elder Loren C. Dunn Of the First Quorum of the Seventy Brigham Young University devotional address

To Know God and Jesus Christ

Jesus asked us to know our Heavenly Father and to know Jesus Christ. He said of this life, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.) Remember those words. They were given by a living God, and they are clear and complete and do not need correction or adjustment. To have the full measure of eternal life in a divine way you must know the only true God and Jesus Christ. I repeat, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ is the most rewarding and precious of all knowledge. If you were asked these questions—“Do you know God?” “Do you know Jesus Christ?”—what would your answer be? It is important to know that the scriptures contain divine tests to determine the effectiveness of the doctrines and commandments in our lives. I repeat the questions: “Do you know the only true God, and do you know Jesus Christ?” If your answer is “yes,” then let’s see how you measure up to the test as given by the apostle John. He said, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 Jn. 2:3–4.) And I don’t mind telling you that test has been translated correctly. Be careful not to get carried away with any foolish thoughts that might justify weakness and failure to know and keep God’s commandments. Does your knowledge of God impel you to know and keep his commandments? Knowing and keeping the commandments of God are the divine ways to perfection and eternal life in the kingdom of God.

Elder Bernard P. Brockbank Of the First Quorum of the Seventy Brigham Young University fireside address

Strengthen the Spirit

The achieving of the true purpose of mortality requires a cooperation between the spirit and the body. The spirit is the disciplinarian; therefore, the spirit needs to be the stronger of the two. If the spirit becomes weak, the urges of the senses take over and sin or violation results. The weak spirit, however, can become strong through a process called worship, or adhering to all the principles as set forth in the gospel. The stronger the spirit becomes, the better the discipline of the body. As the spirit becomes strong, it prepares the soul to maintain, or keep, the second estate so that it may receive its right place in immortality.

Elder John H. Vandenberg Of the First Quorum of the Seventy Brigham Young University devotional address

Proxy Baptism

“Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:29.)

In his epistle to the Corinthians, Paul cited the early Christian practice of proxy baptism for the dead as evidence of a future resurrection and judgment. Most non-Latter-day Saint scholars have failed to note the importance of this passage. Some pass it off as an outmoded practice of the early church, while others believe it refers to an apostate or heretical doctrine.

But historical records are clear on the matter. Baptism for the dead was performed by the dominant church until forbidden by the sixth canon of the Council of Carthage in A.D. 397. Some of the smaller sects, however, continued the practice. Of the Marcionites of the fourth century, Epiphanius wrote:

“In this country—I mean Asia—and even in Galatia, their school flourished eminently and a traditional fact concerning them has reached us, that when any of them had died without baptism, they used to baptize others in their name, lest in the resurrection they should suffer punishment as unbaptized.” (Heresies, 8:7.)

In early Judaism, too, there is an example of ordinances being performed in behalf of the dead. Following the battle of Marisa in 163 B.C., it was discovered that each of the Jewish soldiers killed in the fight had been guilty of concealing pagan idols beneath his clothing. In order to atone for their wrong, Judas Maccabaeus, the Jewish high priest and commander, collected money from the survivors to purchase sacrificial animals for their dead comrades:

“And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachmas of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection: for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. And also in that he perceived that there was great favour laid up for those that died godly, it was an holy and good thought. Whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin.” (2 Maccabees 12:43–46.)

In our day, some Christian churches offer prayers and light candles on behalf of the dead, a Jewish custom also. The Coptic Church of Egypt continues to practice baptism by proxy for deceased members of Coptic families. The same is true of the Neo-Apostolic Church in Europe.

As would be expected of the Lord’s church and true doctrine, only The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints engages in genealogical work to provide proxy baptisms for all the kindred dead of its members, for those who accept the gospel in the spirit world must have this ordinance performed for them before they can progress eternally.

John A. Tvedtnes, Jerusalem Branch, Switzerland-Zurich Mission

The Greatest Experience

In one of the recent meetings we had in the temple, the President and the General Authorities were together. President Spencer W. Kimball had turned the meeting over for testimonies. President Marion G. Romney was bearing his testimony to us and telling us how much he enjoyed kneeling in prayer with the Brethren, how much he loved us, and what a great uplift it was to him to kneel and pray together.

Then he went on to say how much he loved his wife and the great experience he had every morning and evening of kneeling with her in prayer.

“But,” he said, “brethren, the greatest experience I have every day, above all others, is when I go by myself into the room and close the door. I kneel down and I talk with the Lord.” That’s the greatest experience a prophet, a counselor in the First Presidency, has—to kneel in prayer. We could do no less than that. That’s one of the most important things we can do in strengthening our faith and strengthening our spirits.

Bishop H. Burke Peterson First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric Brigham Young University fireside address

“Trusted with Great Knowledge”

Morality is another term for faithfulness. To be moral in the restored gospel is to obey the Savior in all things. Why obey him in all things? Because he is a God of righteousness. He does not command by whim, but only by that which is righteous according to a standard that coexists with him.

I understand righteousness is to bless others. Only in Christ do men know how to bless others and only from him can they receive the power to bless others sufficient to the needs of mankind, for the Savior is the sole fountain of righteousness. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are his sheep. They hearken to his voice and come unto him, that he might fill them with the Holy Ghost.

Those who obey his commandments are thus moral. Being moral, they can then be trusted with great knowledge, for they will not abuse it. They will only use it to further the cause of righteousness in the earth.

Chauncey C. Riddle Dean of the Graduate School Brigham Young University

I Should Have Changed the Subject

Most of us can remember some movie, book, or conversation from our early youth that frightened or horrified us, keeping us awake in the night to wonder what sort of creatures our fellowmen were and in what sort of world our Heavenly Father had left us to make our way. Such dreadful impressions are often not erased by the intervening years, but remain to plague us in adulthood.

“I guess you read what the killer did,” an unthinking guest blurted out at the dinner table in our home the other night. “He tied them all up and. …” Then followed a detailed description of torture and atrocity that was, I regret, served to my children with their spinach and potatoes. He did not realize that there was cruelty in introducing such horrors to innocent young minds.

It is impossible to shelter our children from all that is unpleasant or wrong in the world. But children gain their basic attitudes toward mankind and life’s realities in the home, during casual encounters when we have not had opportunity to prepare our responses in advance. It is futile, for instance, to teach respect for our country and its leaders in a well-planned family home evening if our daily conversation betrays our constant doubt of their integrity. In the same way, it seems pointless to forbid our children to see violent, debasing stories in movies or on television and then permit an unthinking neighbor or friend to discuss before them each shocking detail. I should have stopped that undesirable conversation in our home. How are children benefited by learning of the boy who tortured animals or the man who shot his wife? Such knowledge can only bring grief to anyone, and it can be devastating to our children. The Savior has warned that “whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6.)

The Lord has also counseled that we “stand in holy places.” (D&C 45:32.) Surely if we are to make “holy places” of our homes, we must take an active role in keeping out that which is debasing and mind-polluting, whether it enters via television, books, or a friend’s thoughtless conversation.

We are not helpless in the face of all that is ugly in the world; we can make our homes sanctuaries of peace and beauty and actively, responsibly, exclude all that keeps us from that ideal. From such homes our youth, as well as ourselves, can gain the faith and the strength to face the outside world and to overcome.

Sharan Elwell Napa Second Ward Napa California Stake

Keeping the Ox Mired

As for keeping the Sabbath, many of us keep our oxen conveniently in the mire. It would appear that it is easy to rationalize Sabbath closet-cleanings, drawer-straightenings, garage-sweepings, just once-a-year huntings and fishings, oh-so-necessary yard-rakings and car-washings, and so on and so on. We shift our Sabbath from a day of rest into a day of change, and we say blindly, “Lest it be a waste—after all, I just can’t sit around and do nothing.” And we switch on the TV.

But we aren’t supposed to sit around and do nothing. The Sabbath is not negative; it can only be positive. One either has a Sabbath or one does not; one can hardly break an observance one never honors. Jesus never implied that pulling one’s oxen from the mire was acceptable Sabbath performance—he merely admitted necessity. When he stated that the Sabbath was made for man, he meant that in a positive way.

A Sabbath contributes. It pertains. It does not restrict or annoy, detract or make idle. The Lord’s day is to lead us in the Lord’s work, and the Lord’s work is to bring to pass our salvation and eternal life. Sabbath thoughts and activities should be so oriented.

The Sabbath is for our sakes. Therefore, on that day we attend our priesthood meetings and study and discuss the gospel in our Sunday Schools; we attend sacrament services, renew our eternal promises, and recognize our obligations. We ought not only to wash our bodies and cleanse our clothes for the Sabbath, we ought to wash our minds and cleanse our very souls, striving to awaken ourselves to what we truly are and may become.

The Sabbath is a day of rest from the ways of the world. It is a day of reevaluation and restoration. On that day we should orient ourselves toward being more fully as our Father is—doing his work, serving others, visiting the sick, encouraging the lonely, loving our mothers and fathers, wives, husbands, and children. We should be seeking forgiveness, searching the word of the Lord, fasting and praying, and seeking with all our power to bring ourselves and our brothers and sisters closer to him and his Holy Spirit.

Whatever we do less than this is waste, and it is not our oxen we keep in the mire, but ourselves.

Richard G. Ellsworth Professor of English Brigham Young University