An edited version of a Brigham Young University devotional address delivered 10 April 1979.
The Best of All Good News:03121_000_017
In the Church we have really only one basic subject to talk about: Everything hinges on the fact that the gospel has been restored. I know that all of us know about the Restoration, but we do not always remember all of its implications. This has to be the greatest news event since the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is more important by far than world wars or atom bombs. It is more far-reaching than space flight or men on Mars. There is something in it that the whole world must hear.
As we proclaim and teach and remind both members and those not in the Church of this message, we wonder why people do not pay more attention, if it is all that important. Perhaps we do not tell it right. One good reason, of course, why people do not pay attention is that most of the people in the world have not heard about it yet. Very few of those not of the Church understand the Restoration, for various reasons. First of all, they are probably not too interested; second, the Restoration offends their traditions; third, obedience to the gospel would upset their plans and interests. And so, most people act as if they would rather it had not happened. I spoke of the Restoration one day to a minister of another faith, and answered all his questions in a friendly discussion. After he had taken a day or two to reflect on what I had told him, he said with considerable warmth, “I think that what you teach is a very dangerous heresy.” Possibly I had done a poor job of explaining, but, you see, he really did not want the gospel to be restored.
Some members of the Church do not pay much attention either. Their reasons may be that the Church requires too much of their time and effort, or that keeping the commandments would spoil their life-style. Many people simply do not want to be that deeply involved or to make firm commitments.
Still, as we all know, it really has happened and is true. Such earthshaking events come so rarely that people tend to quickly forget the reality in them. A most unusual demonstration of this attitude is found in 3 Nephi. The prophecy had been given that the birth of the Savior would be signified by a period of a day, a night, and a day without darkness; and, as the time approached, those who did not believe and who did not want it to happen began to threaten those who were watching for the sign. You can imagine the feelings of the believers as they waited and waited and wondered if perhaps it would not come after all. But it came, as everything predicted in relation to the Savior will come to pass in due time.
Then, at the time of the crucifixion of the Savior, nearly every one of those who had heard about it on the American continent had forgotten the first wonderful sign of the day and the night and the day, and they ignored the threat of the other and more terrible sign that had been predicted. Certainly, they thought, it would not really happen; such things do not happen in this world, you know. But it happened. “And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land” (3 Ne. 8:5). Before the trouble was over it did not matter any more about the warning; those who had not listened were gone.
The implications for us of the restoration of the gospel are as follows: first, we can really know that God lives; second, the gospel will guide us to a richer, happier, more purposeful life on earth; third, we can know that God watches over us; and fourth, we have assurances that we will live again after death and renew our association with those loved ones we have lost. We have received the promise of a life so rich and happy that its wonders have only been hinted at. Let me give you this example from section seventy-six of the Doctrine and Covenants:
“They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
“They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
“And are priests of the Most High. …
“Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether … things present, or things to come. …
“These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever” (D&C 76:55–57, 59, 62).
Maybe there are some people who do not want that to happen either.
We are expected to spread the news. We must see to it that other people understand; our own blessings depend on how well we take the gospel to the world. Everybody must hear about it. As the Lord said in his preface to the Book of Commandments, or the Doctrine and Covenants,
“For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.
“And the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.
“And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days” (D&C 1:2–4).
All of us in the Church are the disciples spoken of, and we ought to improve our method for spreading the gospel. Most of us could be better examples and thus make it easier for others to receive the news. We really do need to learn better ways of teaching, and we must increase our ability to announce the news.
Here are some examples of what the gospel really means to people on the earth. I would like to speak about some of this without making reference to the written text, but by drawing upon your recollection. You may, for example, remember something of the story of Adam and Eve when they were cast out of the garden of Eden and, in that sad circumstance, wondered what would become of them. You can imagine that they had enjoyed the fulness of the blessings of a rich and wonderful life in the actual presence of their Father in Heaven; and now, because of transgression, they were cast out and had nowhere to go.
They were told to go to work and to do what they had to do, and doggedly they went about their task. If you read carefully in the fifth chapter of the book of Moses you will see that they went through a long trial. They began to have children—not the children you hear about, Cain and Abel and Seth—but other children before those. These children grew up, and they began to pair off and have children and multiply in the land. So Adam and Eve were now grandparents, and they were still struggling in an almost hopeless circumstance. “What are we here for now? We’ve lost it all. Where can we go?”
One day, as Adam was offering a sacrifice, which he did because he had been told to, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and asked, “Adam, what are you doing?”
And Adam replied, “I’m offering a sacrifice unto the Lord.”
“Why are you doing that, Adam?”
Adam said, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
“And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father. …
“… and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore” (see Moses 5:6–8).
And from that moment the Holy Ghost, or the Spirit of God, fell upon Adam, and a revelation was given to him about the purpose of life and the purpose of the Son of God, who would bring a redemption whereby Adam really could, along with his wife, once again live with God. Imagine the joy with which he returned and told his wife, and how she rejoiced as she said, “I see it all now. There was a purpose in it. Thanks even for our transgression because it brought about the things that we now can enjoy as the greatest gifts in life” (see Moses 5:11).
There are other stories. My wife happens to be related to the family of Jacob Hamblin, and those who have worked with me over the years know that I have a particular feeling for this man’s story. His name, I suppose, is known to most members of the Church, and he had a particular ability to explain his feelings and the motivating power of faith that touched his life.
He said that he first heard of the gospel when he was living on the frontiers of Wisconsin. He heard through a friend or a neighbor that there were preachers in the area who were proclaiming that the gospel had been restored and that it was the privilege of every man to find out for himself through the Spirit if it was true. Jacob did not understand much about that, but the feeling so fired his mind that he could hardly wait to hear more. He found the missionaries holding a meeting in a house. He arrived after the meeting had begun, but as he listened to the message, he thought, “This is what I’ve been searching for, what I need more than anything in life. How can I know if it’s true?”
As if he had asked the question aloud, the elder stood up again and said, “If there is anyone here who would like to know the truth of what we have just told you, we promise you that if you’ll be baptized by immersion and receive the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Lord will reveal it to you.”
And Jacob said, “That’s good enough for me. I’ll do that, even though it costs the sacrifice of everything I have.”
He went home and told his wife. She said, “Oh, yes, that’s just what it will cost you. I won’t live with you any more if you join that church.”
His father and his brother said, “Jacob, what’s the matter with you? Don’t you know that those are the Mormons? It’s one thing to get religion, but why did you have to choose the worst one there is?”
But he still had that independence of spirit and, having made arrangements to be baptized, he proceeded to meet the elders. He said that on his way to be baptized he began to reflect on what the sacrifice would mean, and it seemed to him almost too much to bear; he was on the point of turning back. (That is a good thing for missionaries to remember, that this wavering happens to most people as they are about to join the Church.) But, he said, as he was about to turn back, he felt the presence of someone near him. He realized that it was his dead grandfather, and he heard a voice say, “Go forward, my son. You cannot comprehend the joy that will come into your life as a consequence of what you’re about to do today.” Thus fortified, he went forward and met the elders and was baptized into the Church.
As the elders confirmed him a member of the Church, one of them said, “The spirits in prison have greatly rejoiced over what you have done.” Jacob did not understand that, but he told them of his experience with his grandfather on the way. They then explained to him the great work of salvation for the dead, and suddenly he knew why he had joined the Church—not just to satisfy his own interest and curiosity, but to become an instrument in the hand of the Lord to bring the same joy and privilege and blessing to the lives of many other people.
He returned and told his family what he had done. Evidently they said worse things than they had said before, but now he said, “I just laughed at them and I told my father, ‘Never mind; within two years I’ll baptize you in the Church too!’” (See Pearson H: Corbett, Jacob Hamblin, the Peacemaker, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1952, pp. 9–11.)
Well, they all followed him, and they went through the turmoil and the trials of the days of Nauvoo. After the death of the Prophet, they followed Jacob across Iowa and across the plains. In the process his wife did leave him, and his mother died along the way. The rest of the family settled in Tooele, and then were called to go to what must have seemed the very end of the earth, down in southern Utah—at that time a desolate desert inhabited by some of the poorest people Jacob had ever seen. While they were living there, his father died in their little hut, and just before his death he called Jacob to him and said something like this: “Jacob, you know that you have been as a Joseph to your family. Like Joseph who was sold into Egypt, you have brought salvation to your family. Thanks for your persistence and faithfulness. Thanks, Jacob, for all these blessings.”
Does that sound a little strange to you? For what blessing could he possibly be thankful, down there in the desert dying under miserable circumstances? “Thanks for all these blessings, Jacob.” Well, he knew of what he spoke. He was thinking of the gospel that had been restored, and he said, “There’s no use to pray for me that I stay here longer. I know the gospel. It’s time for me to go where I’ll be happier. Thanks for those great blessings” (Ibid., pp. 24, 105).
There is a story about Abraham, found in the first chapter of the book of Abraham, that shows he did not always know the gospel, and that it came to him with great impact and power.
Knowing about the blessings that others had had before him, Abraham said: “I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge … and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace” (Abr. 1:2).
You can see that Abraham was not content with little things. He wanted all that the Lord had promised. But he did not get it all at once. He knew it would take a little time. But it says further, in Hebrews:
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed. …
“By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country. …
“For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. …
“[He] died in faith, not having received [yet] the promises, but having seen them afar off, and [was] persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that [he was a stranger and a pilgrim upon] the earth” (Heb. 11:8–10, 13).
Members of the Church are a called people. We were sent here for a purpose; we are committed and dedicated. You who have served as missionaries are slowly finding out that the mission term was not for just two years, as you thought it was. You are enlisted “for the duration.” You may not all understand that phrase; but back in the years of World War II, when we were being called up and enlisted, they did not tell us when we would get out. They just said, “For the duration—and six months.” That is how long you are enlisted in the gospel. We can act like the people of the world if we want to, taking the toys and the cake and the candy, but we will miss out on the really great prize. Remember, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 10:39).
As members of the Church, there are things you cannot do. For one, you cannot take a Las Vegas-style vacation. I do not know whether you all knew that. You cannot gamble, bet on the horses, or play with playing cards. You cannot be “loose,” immoral, or violent. Even though the world wants all you men to imitate the “Marlboro man” and to be “macho,” those attitudes simply do not belong to you. They do not demonstrate Christlike qualities.
You cannot be dishonest. You cannot take immoral liberties in dating or other associations. You have no excuse because you know better.
Now, what can you do—in fact, what must you do as a member of the Church? You must love everybody. Yes, take it literally—and you must especially love your wife or husband. Quite a few married people in the Church forget that. You must be true, go to church, give unstinting service, go on a mission, go to the temple, and pay your tithing. Why must you do all these things? Because when you understand all, you will see that it is worth it. You would really rather live that way when you know all the perspectives.
In your daily work, you must have an occupation that contributes to the benefit of humanity and over which you can ask the blessings of the Lord from day to day. Anything else would be unworthy.
You are committed to be a conservationist in its true sense. We have no right to squander the earth’s blessings. Learn not to waste food, energy, or gasoline. My father used to tell the story about the man who bought a pig for five dollars in the spring and sold it for five dollars in the fall. When he was asked how he made money that way, he said, “Well, I didn’t make much on the transaction, but I had the use of the pig all summer.” Perhaps not all of you understand that. Such days are a little in the past, but a friend of mine once put it this way: “If I were eating an apple and didn’t want to finish it, I wasn’t allowed to throw it away; I had to find a chicken or a pig or something to give it to so that I wouldn’t waste it.” Thrift is an ancient virtue that still needs to be cultivated in our time.
Many potent examples show how people must still learn to think correctly. I have a friend who, after he was married in the temple, drifted away from the Church. He was an airline pilot. As time went on, one of his companions who was also a member of the Church said, “Look, friend, you’re not helping me any. I used to live like you, but I’ve changed. I’m in the bishopric now, and everything I do to try to build up the Church you tear down. I want you to change.”
Because my friend respected this man, he began to change his ways, went back to church, and became active. He said, however, that he still had one vice. He liked to gamble. He played cards with the other pilots when he was away from home, and he was good at it. He hated to give it up because he won quite a bit of money; but he said, “One day as I went to pay my tithing, I thought, ‘Let’s see—how do I pay tithing on this money I won gambling?’” That solved the problem for him.
Other such questions are solved by straight thinking. My father often met the test that farmers generally undergo of “whether I should haul my hay on Sunday because it’s about to rain.” That was quite a test once upon a time. My father answered it by saying, “Let it rain. I don’t care if it rains on the hay; I don’t have to eat hay.”
What if we do not want to keep the commandments? Brother ElRay Christiansen used to tell of a man who came over from Denmark who was skilled at amassing wealth. He gave up a rather substantial fortune to join the Church and come to Utah, but after he settled here he again had the ability to build up his resources. In the process he lost his testimony. As the brethren visited him, they would say, “You’re not doing right, you know,” but he would never listen.
One day two brethren were visiting and one of them said, “Now look, Lars, it’s not right what you do.” He paid no attention. The brother continued, “Look, Lars, you can’t take it with you, you know.”
This touched Lars, and he said, “What’s that you say?”
“I told you, you can’t take it with you.”
And Lars said, “Vell den, I vill not go.”
Brother Christiansen bore testimony that he has gone.
In closing, there is a story told by President Spencer W. Kimball. He said, in substance, “I went to visit a friend. He met me at the airport. ‘How do you like my car?’ he said, as he showed me his luxurious limousine. On the way from the airport to his home, he stopped the car, we got out, and he said, ‘See all this? From the mountains on the right hand over to the river on the left—it’s all mine.’” The way President Kimball said “mine” made you feel the covetousness that man had for his possessions. Then they proceeded to his home, which was truly a palace. President Kimball said, “I spoke at his funeral not long ago. They buried him in a piece of land the length of a tall man and the width of a heavy man, and as I returned from the cemetery I observed the cattle in the field, seemingly unaware that there had been a change of ownership.” (See Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1972, pp. 281–84.)
I ask you, do you understand that story? Is there anyone five years old who cannot understand it? It is as plain as day what life is all about. That is why we have the gospel with us; that is why it has been restored. That is why we are called upon to give service and to bring forth fruit as those who know the truth and know the difference between right and wrong.
I give you my testimony that I know the gospel is true, that it has been restored, and that this knowledge supersedes in importance every other thing that has been told to us in all the years of our lives. It takes precedence over all the other projects and activities that people anywhere may want to do. I pray that we will be faithful and true to what that implies for all of us, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.