Have you ever watched a large ship weigh anchor? It is fascinating to see and hear the massive links of chain screeching against the metal bow of the ship as the anchor is raised. Now, the metal links of the anchor chain are incredibly heavy, but their weight is slight when compared to the total weight of the ship. Still, if an anchor is placed properly on the bottom of the sea, it can a hold a giant ship fast, even in rough seas.
Just as ships need anchors to keep them from drifting away on the open seas, people need spiritual anchors in their lives if they are to remain steadfast and not drift into the sea of temptation and sin. Faith in God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the main anchor we must have in our lives to hold us fast during times of social turbulence and wickedness that seem to be everywhere today.
Recently I spoke to a group of prospective missionaries. Many of those young men and women had made the decision to accept a call to serve a full-time mission, but others were not certain they should accept a call to serve. I told them that they did not have to decide that night whether or not to go on a mission. But I said they did need to decide whether or not Joseph Smith knelt in the presence of God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, “on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty.” (JS—H 1:14.) Here are Joseph’s own words:
“After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. …
“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. …
“When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS—H 1:15–17.)
Nothing is more remarkable or important in this life than to know that God our Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, have spoken again from the heavens and have called prophets and Apostles to teach the fulness of the everlasting gospel once again upon the earth. That is a glorious thing to know. When you know it, that knowledge affects your life. It influences every major decision you make. It changes the course of your life to a safer one because it provides an anchor that helps hold you fast to the teachings of the gospel despite the evil influences all around you that entice you to drift toward sin and transgression.
I make the same argument for the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood through John the Baptist and the Melchizedek Priesthood through Peter, James, and John. Let’s be very plain about this. Either the priesthood of God has been restored or it has not. When you know that it has, you have secured your spiritual anchor even more firmly against the turbulence and storms of life.
Similarly, either the Book of Mormon is the word of God and is another testament of Jesus Christ or it is not. Either it is the record of the Lord’s dealings with the people on the American continent from 600 B.C. to A.D. 421 or it is not. Either it is a translation from gold plates, completed by Joseph Smith under divine guidance, or it is not. The issue is that simple and that profound. If the Book of Mormon is, in fact, the word of God, as I testify that it is, then the question of whether or not we should apply its principles and teachings in our own lives is already decided, isn’t it?
The same simple test applies to our living prophets and Apostles today. President Ezra Taft Benson is either a prophet of God in every sense, in every way, or he is not.
It really is no more complicated than that. If we know these things to be true, we really have no question about how we should live and what we should do with our lives. If we know that we are anchored to “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30), our course is clear. What a marvelous blessing to know this.
The most important knowledge you can acquire, and the area of learning that will keep everything else in focus for you and bring you true happiness and joy, will be your solid anchor of assurance that you are a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. The word disciple comes from the Latin word discipulus, meaning “pupil” and implying learning or knowledge. Many people think that to be a disciple means simply to follow, with an unfortunate connotation of following blindly. Becoming a true disciple is nothing of the sort.
It requires us to learn and to know of Jesus Christ, to study the principles of truth for ourselves and to receive answers; in other words, to receive knowledge. Once we have knowledge of the simple principles of the Restoration, coupled with a deep and abiding faith in the truths we do not yet know, we become true disciples of Jesus Christ, and not simply followers. The difference between a disciple and a follower is like the difference between a ship’s anchor that is lodged solidly at the bottom of the sea, holding the ship fast, and an anchor that is merely suspended in water because the chain is too short. Such an anchor may appear to be doing its job when the seas are calm, but it serves no purpose during storms or high waves. Remember these words from the prophet Nephi:
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” (2 Ne. 31:20.)
Every great prophet, including those in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Book of Mormon, has had to go through the process of becoming a true disciple by coming to an unshakable knowledge of Christ. Each one has had to ask himself, Is Jesus Christ the Son of God, our Eternal Father? Does He live and does He preside over His church today?
The sure knowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world provided the courage for Meshach, Shadrach, and Abed-nego to enter a fiery furnace without fear. (See Dan. 3.) Abinadi’s knowledge of Christ gave him the power to testify of Christ while being burned to death by the wicked priests of King Noah. (See Mosiah 12–17.) The same knowledge that Christ lives gave Nephi the power to endure the incessant insults of his brothers and gave him the strength to suffer until his brothers broke the strong cords that held him bound during a tumultuous storm at sea. (See 1 Ne. 18.) The brother of Jared was even able to move the mountain Zerin because he knew in his heart of hearts that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God! (See Ether 12:30.) The scriptures are filled with righteous acts and testimony of men and women who came to know for themselves that Jesus is the Christ.
That same sure testimony of Jesus can be yours, because the gospel has been restored in its fulness in the last days. Testimony and knowledge come as a result of your personal faith and prayers. Ask your Heavenly Father to bless you with faith and courage, and He will help you endure any challenges you may face. He will help you overcome loneliness, feelings of desperation and hopelessness, setbacks of a personal, emotional, financial, and even spiritual nature, or will strengthen you when you are simply feeling overwhelmed by all of the demands for your time and attention. He will give you the ability to serve faithfully in every assignment you receive from your local Church leaders. Your faith and your knowledge of the restoration of the gospel will give you the strength to be faithful and true to the covenants you have made with the Lord, and to share your strengths and talents gladly to build up the kingdom of God here on the earth! Your testimony of Jesus Christ is the most important anchor that you can have to help hold you, steadfast and immovable, to principles of righteousness, regardless of the challenges and temptations that may come in the future.
The Book of Mormon prophet Ether explained this principle to the people of his day. From the twelfth chapter of Ether we read:
“[Ether] could not be restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him. For he did cry from the morning, even until the going down of the sun, exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be destroyed, saying unto them that by faith all things are fulfilled—
“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” (Ether 12:2–4; emphasis added.)
The principle is clear. We believe, we hope, we have faith, we act upon that faith by “abounding in good works,” and we have an attitude of glorifying God. Then we shall, indeed, have a place at the right hand of God.
Those of our Father’s children who know that through Joseph Smith the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored are most blessed. With this precious knowledge comes a duty to prepare ourselves spiritually to serve God and our fellowmen.
We know that we cannot look to the government, to the Church, or even to our own families to save us, because we can be saved ultimately only through the Lord’s atonement and then through our own individual good works in relation to our own testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Creator of the universe, and that His gospel has been restored through Joseph Smith, with the priesthood and the ordinances that will provide eternal life to the faithful.
A fervent personal testimony of Christ and His Church often comes in simple ways. From my own experiences, I can testify of this. I accepted a call to go to England on a mission when I was nineteen. Because of my missionary experience, I became anchored to a testimony of the reality of the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I stood in Hyde Park and on many other street corners in the British Isles and bore my testimony that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, that the gospel had been restored in its fulness, and that the priesthood with its authority to bless mankind is once again upon the earth. The more I bore my testimony, the more it became a part of me.
My understanding of the gospel has given me guidance on the kind of father and now grandfather I should be. My testimony, gained in my youth, has helped me respond to every call in the Church, including this current overwhelming call to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. My testimony, obtained a long time ago on the street corners of England, has grown line upon line and precept upon precept until I can testify as a special witness of the Lord Jesus Christ that our Savior lives and that He is the Son of God our Eternal Father. My life has never been the same since I anchored my soul to the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now let’s return for a moment to the analogy of the ship’s anchor, especially the massive anchor chain. Suppose a beautiful sailing ship had been manufactured from the finest materials and had been reinforced and strengthened for the roughest seas. The mast and sails had been prepared carefully and were sturdy and seaworthy. Suppose the anchor was above standard in size and weight and craftsmanship. But suppose, by some inadvertent error, the chain attached to the anchor was inferior and weak. Visualize what would happen the first time the anchor was lowered, or the first time a strong wave tried to push the anchored ship out to sea. If any link of the chain holding the anchor broke, the anchor would be left to rust on the bottom of the ocean floor, and the ship would drift and perhaps be destroyed.
The comparison to our lives is plain. The links in our chain of faith and testimony that enable our personal anchor to keep us safe and secure are the simple doctrines and teachings of the gospel. Can you see the value of the gospel link of personal prayer? Those of you who are single can kneel in a quiet and private place and pray for guidance before you leave your home and after you return each day. If you are married, you can join hands with your spouse and take turns offering prayers with your companion.
Another link is the law of tithing. You understand, I believe, that paying a full tithe is not a matter of money; it is a matter of faith. You can pay full tithe regardless of your income if you develop the faith to do so. The Lord surely will open the windows of heaven (see Mal. 3:10) as He has promised to those who are obedient to this commandment.
How about the links of honesty, moral purity, service to others, attendance at Church meetings, and studying the scriptures, to name just a few? These links of your gospel anchor chain may seem somewhat elementary, but they are as important as the anchor of faith and testimony itself. Remember, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We must take care every day to examine our own personal chain that anchors our souls to the gospel and see if we have any weak links that may make us vulnerable to the influence of the devil.
One good way to keep every link strong is to partake of the sacrament each week. As you know, the sacrament is a renewal and a reminder of all our covenants with the Lord. What a great time for personal introspection and reflection on our life during the past week. Make the sacrament a time to review your personal gospel chain and see if each link is equal to the task of anchoring you securely to the Church.
Your personal chain that anchors your souls to the gospel can be as strong as you want to make it through a daily review of your life. Be grateful for the principle of repentance, which provides the way for us to strengthen any weak links in our chain. Be worthy and at peace within yourself. If you know that you are anchored to the Lord Jesus Christ, but still feel life’s trials are more than you can handle, find peace and strength in the knowledge that each day you have done the best you can in honoring the Lord. Remember that strengthening your testimony is a lifelong process. I am reminded of what Helaman said to his sons, Nephi and Lehi, some thirty years before Christ was born: “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Hel. 5:12.)
You know how to find out for yourselves if these things are true because you understand the first principle of the gospel. Because you have an anchor of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you understand that you must pray to receive your personal testimony. You understand that the Holy Ghost “shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance.” (John 14:26.) When you know and live these simple truths, they will be a spiritual anchor to help you keep your own life from being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” (Eph. 4:14.)
Becoming firmly grounded to these simple truths and focusing your attention on the lessons of eternity will keep your life moving in the right direction at all times and in all situations, regardless of which way the winds of current worldly trends may be blowing. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.