My beloved brethren and sisters, I want to speak to you today about what I consider to be one of the greatest challenges of our times—the need to pursue “a more excellent way.” It was the Apostle Paul who said, “But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” (1 Cor. 12:31.)
Why should we all seek to pursue “a more excellent way,” and what does it mean? Finding “a more excellent way” means being totally converted to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and doing all that we can to fulfill those covenants we make in becoming His disciples.
The great prophet Alma, speaking of his own life and his conversion, said: “I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.
“And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
“And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” (Mosiah 27:24–26.)
Being converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ means to walk in a newness of life. It means learning to yield to the Spirit and responding to the things that the Lord expects us to respond to. It means caring for and serving others with deep, considerate feelings rather than pursuing the natural desires of our own lives. In our day and time there has been a great tendency to shrug off the things of the Spirit as we become more and more involved in worldly things. We seem to be living in a world where people give little thought to others, as they are busily caring for their own needs. As followers of Christ, we must live outside ourselves and lose ourselves in service to others.
I believe we ought to remember what King Benjamin said so long ago. He said:
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19.)
It was the great Apostle Paul who said, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17.)
To find that “more excellent way,” brothers and sisters, we must cast aside our old selves and our old habits and ways of thinking. We must first recognize how we should change, and then we must make those changes, thus putting on the new and beginning to live as we have never lived before—walking in a newness of life.
The Apostle Paul also said, speaking of our relationship to the Lord, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4.)
Throughout the world I personally have witnessed man’s great tendency to think of himself without consideration of others. I believe with all my heart that we cannot come unto Christ unless we put on “a newness of life” in caring for those we love, in sharing the gospel, in keeping the commandments, and in honoring the covenants we have made. These are the things we must do now and better than we have ever done them before.
Our great prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson, has called upon each of us to read the Book of Mormon. He has not invited us to read this sacred record just to read the words. Through prayerful study of the Book of Mormon we can pursue that “more excellent way.” Our prophet’s motive in asking us to read the holy scripture is conveyed in the beautiful words of one of our hymns:
Now, to each of you, I bear my witness that you who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are involved in a true work. This is the Lord’s work. I want each of you to know that I sustain it with all my heart. I sustain those who preside over me—our great and living prophet, who is guided by our Father in Heaven, and his associates, who are indeed messengers of the Lord Jesus Christ. This work is true, and this is the way to come unto Christ and walk in newness of life!
My brothers and sisters, it has been a humbling experience for me to speak to you in this great conference. I want you to know that you have my love, my faith, and my prayers. I know that no people on earth have more capacity to be what the Lord wants them to be than those of you who are members of this great church.
I also want you to know that my life was changed more than forty years ago as I read the Book of Mormon. There is nothing on earth that has influenced me more profoundly than my testimony of this sacred record and the work to which it belongs. It has burned within my soul over the years with ever-increasing brightness, and I find great joy and satisfaction in walking in “newness of life” in my search for the “more excellent way.”
And I find great joy and satisfaction in walking that journey with a beloved companion, and now with a posterity who seem to have caught the same vision.
May you have this experience, I pray humbly, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.