Brothers and sisters and friends, after a few introductory remarks my message today is taken from the writings of the apostle Paul, given over 1,900 years ago. Paul was born as Saul of Tarsus, being both a Jew and a Roman citizen. He became a powerful persecutor of those who accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and King. Saul was not motivated by malice, but by the belief that he was working against an enemy of his Jewish faith.
As he was en route to Damascus to pursue his persecutions, a bright heavenly light suddenly enveloped him and he fell helplessly to the ground. A voice asked, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” In response, Saul asked two questions: “Who art thou, Lord?” and “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:4–6.)
The Christ identified Himself as “Jesus whom thou persecutest.” (Acts 9:5) Then He told Saul to go to the city of Damascus where he would be instructed. Having been struck blind, Saul was assisted into the city by his companions. There, Ananias, a disciple and servant of the Lord, restored Saul’s sight and informed him that God had chosen him to know His will and hear His voice; that he was to be a witness unto all men of the resurrected Christ. He was baptized by Ananias and from that time on dedicated himself to the upbuilding of the Lord’s kingdom. (See Acts 9:4–19.)
When he was ordained, Saul became a great defender of the faith, a dynamic teacher of righteousness, and a fearless preacher to the world. He went first to the Jews in their synagogues, then subsequently made three missionary journeys, carrying the message of the resurrected Christ to many peoples. While on a mission to the gentiles, he became known as Paul. His love for and interest in his converts found him returning to oversee their progress and writing them letters of exhortation.
I have a great respect for the apostle Paul. I admire his courage, honesty, strength of faith, and deep testimony. I love his teachings and find them equally applicable to the people of today. He was specially chosen, a true witness of the resurrected Christ.
As a witness, what was Paul’s responsibility? To teach the message of faith, repentance, and baptism, to bear witness to the divine mission of the Savior, to outline man’s relationship to Jesus and to God our Father, to strengthen testimonies, to define doctrine, and to reinforce the teachings of the Christian church. He also instructed the people in their everyday living, and gave warning to the world.
Aren’t these the goals of our Latter-day Saint Church leaders? In all meetings and at all times they seek to increase faith, build testimony, strengthen commitment, bless people, teach duties and responsibilities, develop leadership, increase spirituality, and also, give warning.
I desire to present my message from Paul’s own words, as selected from his writings.
He stated his principal theme when he courageously declared to the Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” (Rom. 1:16.)
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
“For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 1:11–12.)
He said to Timothy: “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.” (2 Tim. 1:8; italics added.)
Paul also taught that there is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
“One God and Father of all.” (Eph. 4:5–6.)
This doctrine is still true. No man can enter into heaven on his own terms. God’s plan is the only way to achieve this goal, and Christ is our teacher and exemplar.
Paul declared: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. …
“We are the children of God:
“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; …
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Rom. 8:14, 16–17, 28.)
Paul admonished Timothy: “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee. …
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:6–7.)
Paul also taught explicitly about the resurrection: “Know ye not,” he asked, “that so many of us were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Rom. 6:3, 5.)
Concerning his preaching, Paul said: “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16.)
His counsel for others who desired to preach include these words:
“And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Rom. 10:15).
“And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” (Heb. 5:4.) Aaron was called of God by revelation.
Paul emphasized unity of faith: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Cor. 1:10.)
“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14:33.)
Then he asked, “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13.)
“As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:9.)
The apostle Paul outlined explicit ways for the saints to live as true Christians, preparing themselves for exaltation. He reminded the leaders:
“Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:14.)
In teaching faith, he first defined it as: “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1.)
Then he gave the promise: “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” (Gal. 3:7.)
And he instructed, “Fight the good fight of faith.” (1 Tim. 6:12.)
Stressing the importance of prayer, Paul advised: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
“For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Tim. 2:1–2.)
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philip. 4:7.)
Paul kept the saints in remembrance of the necessity to read and study the scriptures. To Timothy he said,
“From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
“That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3:15–17.)
Family members were instructed: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25.)
“And the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Eph. 5:33.)
“Teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
“To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
“Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
“In all things shewing … a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
“Sound speech, that cannot be condemned.” (Titus 2:4–8.)
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4.)
“Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.” (Col. 3:20.)
Then to all he taught: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” (Eph. 5:1–2, 6.)
Other important teachings included: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thes. 5:21–22.)
“Let us walk honestly, as in the day.” (Rom. 13:13.)
“Remember the poor.” (Gal. 2:10.)
“Give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7.)
“Bear ye one another’s burdens.” (Gal. 6:2.)
“Let us do good unto all men.” (Gal. 6:10.)
“Let brotherly love continue.” (Heb. 13:1.)
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32.)
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have.” (Heb. 13:5.)
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God.” (Heb. 13:7.)
Paul further counseled: “Quench not the Spirit.
“Despise not prophesyings.” (1 Thes. 5:19–20.)
“Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” (Rom. 14:13.)
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you.” (Eph. 4:31.)
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” (Eph. 6:10.)
“And … put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Eph. 4:24.)
“Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” (2 Cor. 13:11.)
The dangers of riches were pointed out, and Paul stressed the necessity of their being put to proper usage. Wisely he reminded:
“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Tim. 6:7, 10.)
“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
“That they do good, that they be rich in good works.” (1 Tim. 6:17–18.)
Paul also pronounced these significant warnings:
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14.)
“Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils.” (1 Cor. 10:21.)
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
“For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption: but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Gal. 6:7–8.)
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23.)
As we read Paul’s predictions of the wickedness to come, we find many similarities to the world conditions of today. Ponder these warnings:
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
“And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned into fables.” (2 Tim. 4:3–4.)
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
“Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
“Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: …
“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim. 3:1–5, 7.)
“They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Titus 1:16.)
The ungodliness of which Paul warned is present in our world today, and becoming increasingly prevalent. But just as he gave us warning, he also gave us guidance, and counseled:
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, …
“Having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
“Praying always.” (Eph. 6:13–18.)
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord.” (Col. 1:10.)
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philip. 4:8.)
Then he gave this promise, that we can “do all things through Christ which strengtheneth” us. (Philip. 4:13.)
Paul impressively taught the importance of patterning our lives after the Lord Jesus Christ, striving constantly toward perfection. The writings of the apostle Paul can give us answers, direction, and strength, just as they aided the saints in the early church. If we prayerfully ponder not only the words of Paul, but all the scriptures now available to us, our lives can be strengthened and enriched.
How beautifully and completely Paul encompassed all that would enable us to gain the greatest happiness in this life and exaltation in the life to come! Paul proclaimed the truth boldly and frankly just as our beloved prophet Spencer W. Kimball does today. If we follow our prophet’s counsel and that given by the apostle Paul we cannot go astray.
I bear solemn witness to the sacredness of the apostle Paul’s teachings. To accept and live them will bring peace and happiness to all who are sincerely searching for light and truth. This I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.