Latter-day Counsel

M. Russell Ballard

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

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Are You Going to Follow the Prophets?

“Because of the Restoration of the gospel, we live in a time when so many of the teachings of God have been made known—when the gifts and blessings of the priesthood and the doctrines of all previous dispensations have been given to us. There never has been a greater time than this to be living on the earth. But we also must never forget that Satan knows our Heavenly Father’s plan. He and his fallen followers are active and doing all they can to thwart God’s plan and destroy the faith of His children. I need to caution you about some important ways that Satan is carrying on his destructive crusade.

“Please be very careful in your choice of entertainment. Far too much that is being shown in theaters, on television, on videos, and over the Internet is insidious, sleazy, and dangerous. Do not ever watch the filth of pornography, which is a powerful tool of the devil designed to destroy spiritual sensitivity and kill the desire to know the will and the teachings of the Lord. Strive always for those things that are ‘virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy’ (A of F 1:13). The prophet Mormon taught that ‘whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God … is of the devil’ (Moro. 7:17).

“Now, I’m aware there may be a few of you who think that you know better than the leaders of the Church about this subject. You may even argue that there is artistic merit or that ‘everyone is doing it.’ You may believe that you are not one of those people who will be influenced by on-screen sex or violence. To you I have only one question: are you going to follow the true and living prophets or not? It really isn’t any more complicated than that. The standard of the Church with regard to morality is clear. If you choose to read anything that contains material that is contrary to the moral standards of the Church, then you are placing yourself and your own wisdom above the counsel of God and His prophets—a course of action that would indeed be very unwise. As soon as you begin to think that you know better than the leaders of the Church, that our counsel doesn’t apply to you, you are stepping onto a slippery slope that has claimed far too many victims already. It takes real desire and unequivocal, unreserved faith to accept and to live prophetic counsel even when you may not completely understand it. Such sincere desire and simple faith has the power to guide you safely through every challenge you may face in your life.”

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “That We Might Know,” devotional address, BYU—Hawaii, 25 Jan. 2001.

Dating and Discipleship

“There are many qualities you will want to look for in a friend or a serious date, to say nothing of a spouse and eternal companion, but surely among the very first and most basic of those qualities will be those of care and sensitivity toward others, a minimum of self-centeredness, evidence of genuine compassion and courtesy. ‘That best portion of a good man’s life [is] his … kindness,’ said Mr. Wordsworth (“Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey,” lines 33–35). There are lots of limitations in all of us which we hope our sweethearts will overlook. I suppose no one is as handsome or as beautiful as he or she wishes, or as brilliant in school, or as witty in speech, or as wealthy as he or she would like, but in a world of such varied talents and fortunes which we can’t always command, I think that makes even more attractive the qualities we can command—such qualities as thoughtfulness, patience, a kind word, true delight in the accomplishment of others. These cost us nothing, and they can mean everything to the one who receives them. …

“In a dating and courtship relationship, I would not have you spend five minutes with someone who belittles you, who is constantly critical of you, who is cruel at your expense and may even call it humor. Life is tough enough without having the person who is supposed to love you lead the assault on your self-esteem, your sense of dignity, your confidence, and your joy. In this person’s care you deserve to feel physically safe and emotionally secure.

“Members of the First Presidency have taught that ‘any form of physical or mental abuse to any woman is not worthy of any priesthood holder’ (James E. Faust, “The Highest Place of Honor,” Ensign, May 1988, 37) and that ‘[no] man who holds the priesthood of God [should] abuse his wife in any way, [or] demean or injure or take undue advantage of [any] woman’ (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Reach Out in Love and Kindness,” Ensign, Nov. 1982, 77). And that includes friends and dates, sweethearts and fiancés. …

“… In Mormon’s and Paul’s final witness they declare that ‘charity [pure love] never faileth’ (Moro. 7:46; 1 Cor. 13:8). It is there through thick and thin. It endures through sunshine and shadow, through darkest sorrow and on into the light. It never fails. So Christ loved us, and that is how He hoped we would love each other. In a final injunction to us He said, ‘A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you’ (John 13:34). Of course, such Christlike staying power in romance and marriage requires more than we naturally have. It requires an endowment from heaven. Remember Mormon’s promise—that such love, the love we each yearn for and cling to, is bestowed upon true followers of Christ (see Moro. 7:48). You want capability and safety in dating and romance, in married life and eternity? Be a true disciple of Jesus. Be a genuine, committed, word-and-deed Latter-day Saint. Believe that your faith has everything to do with your romance, because it does. You separate dating from discipleship at your peril. Or to phrase that more positively, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is the only lamp by which you can successfully see the true path of love and happiness for you and your sweetheart.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “‘How Do I Love Thee?’” devotional address, Brigham Young University, 15 Feb. 2000.

[photo] Photo by Craig Dimond

Coming to Know Christ

“We know our loving Father in Heaven and our Savior, Jesus Christ, most often minister to our needs through the efforts of typical, garden-variety people like you and me. We too often look for dramatic, divine intervention in our lives and lose sight of Jesus in the crowd of marvelous, kind, thoughtful, and generous people who live the principles of the gospel of Him who is our Savior and Redeemer. …

“Over the centuries people have been introduced to the Savior in many different ways. For the Apostle Paul it was during the miracle that occurred on the road to Damascus. Many have come to know Christ as they have been exposed to the written testaments of Book of Mormon prophets. Still others are extended introductions by the legions of missionaries who labor with devotion. Neighbors feel the Savior’s presence as their souls are softened by the kindly deeds of others. Caregivers come to feel the warm glow of the gospel of Jesus as they unselfishly minister, often for extended periods, to the needs of family members and friends. For some, crises and disasters encourage them to reach for the security blanket offered by Him who offers perfect consolation. For most people, the discovery of Jesus comes by the method He authored Himself: ‘If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine’ (John 7:17), and ‘Seek me diligently and ye shall find me’ (D&C 88:63). …

“… As His disciples, we are the primary distribution system for delivering the living water from its everlasting source to His cherished children in need. We largely determine who will receive the water as we, by our service, control the irrigation system headgates. We preserve the purity of the water as we reflect to the world the value of the living water in our own lives. If we irrigate when the living water is required, rather than when it is convenient for us, we determine its vitality. It is only the living water of Jesus Christ that can and will bring a happy, successful, and everlasting life to the children of men. …

“So many of our Father’s children are burdened with earthly cares or with the stain of sin, poverty, pain, disability, loneliness, bereavement, or rejection. The living water of Jesus is sure and certain to those who find Him and trust Him. He who stilled the winds and waves can bring peace to the repentant sinner and to the suffering saint. We as His agents are not only to declare His word but also to deliver the living water unto the least of His brethren, just as He Himself would do if He were here.”

Bishop H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop, “The Living Water of Jesus Christ,” fireside, Brigham Young University, 9 Jan. 2000.

[illustration] Christ and the Samaritan Woman, by Carl Heinrich Bloch, det Nationalhistoriske Museum på Fredericksborg, Hillerød