All around us we see a growing desire for spiritual direction the world over as a result of increasing natural and human-caused disasters. This yearning for spiritual guidance is a consequence of our being children of a divine Heavenly Father. It is understandable that when we face difficulty we turn to our Creator for help. Our loving Heavenly Father knew that deteriorating world conditions, severe personal challenges, and disasters would lead His children to seek His spiritual nourishment. The challenge is how to properly find it.
We lived in the presence of God our Holy Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, in a premortal existence. There we gained an understanding of the Father’s plan of salvation and the promise of help when we would be born as mortals on earth. The primary purpose of life was explained. We were told:
“We will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
“And they who keep their first estate [that is to be obedient in the premortal existence] shall be added upon; … and they who keep their second estate [that is, to be obedient during mortal life] shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.”1
Those words express the most fundamental purpose of your being on earth. That purpose is to prove yourself obedient to the commandments of the Lord and thereby grow in understanding, capacity, and every worthy trait. It is to receive every required ordinance and to make and keep every needed covenant. It is to form and nourish a family. This experience includes having periods of trial and happiness, with the objective of returning triumphantly, having met well the challenges and opportunities of mortal life to receive the glorious blessings promised for such obedience.
So that the period of mortal testing and growth would yield its greatest benefit, you were taught and prepared for the circumstances you would personally encounter in mortality. Our Father’s pattern for guiding you through mortal life was explained. He would choose from among the most valiant, obedient spirit children prophets and other authorized servants to hold His priesthood, to be taught His truth, and to be guided to disseminate that truth among His children on earth. God would give each child moral agency, the right to choose His counsel or to ignore it. All would be encouraged but not forced to obey. You understood that while you could choose your path on earth, you could not determine the outcome of your choices. That would be decided by eternal law.
Should one live to qualify for all of the richest promised blessings but for reasons beyond his or her control not be able to obtain them on earth, there would be a compensating opportunity in postmortal life. Your memory of premortal life would be kept from you to assure that it would be a valid test, but there would be guidance given to show you how to live. Our Father’s plan for salvation in this life with the opportunity of returning to Him would be called the gospel of Jesus Christ.
From before the Creation of this earth, there was rebellion against our Father’s plan, instigated by a brilliant but evil spirit we know as Lucifer or Satan. He proposed a modification of the requirements. So convincing was his argument that one-third of the Father’s spirit children followed Satan and were cast out. They lost the extraordinary opportunity to grow and the critical advantage of a mortal body.
Our Holy Father, who knows each of His children perfectly, realized that over time many would be tempted, become worldly, and reject the testimony and teachings of His prophets. Spiritual darkness would replace the light of truth in a condition called an apostasy. The period from the introduction of truth to its general loss through sin would be called a dispensation. Prophet after prophet would be chosen in a series of dispensations to keep truth on earth for the faithful despite its distortion or rejection by many.
You learned that the Light of Christ would provide that guidance. It gives light and life to all things. It prompts all individuals throughout the earth to distinguish truth from error, right from wrong. The Light of Christ is not a person. It is a power and influence that comes from God our Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, and, when followed, can lead a person to qualify for the more definitive guidance and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. You were told that transgression would weaken the influence of the Holy Ghost, but it could be restored through proper repentance. You rejoiced to know that the obedient who would receive the proper ordinances with the necessary covenants and remain faithful would inherit celestial glory and live in the presence of the Father and His Son throughout the eternities.
How do we know these truths? How can you confirm their validity? You see around you great confusion regarding the nature of God, His teachings, and the purpose of life. How then does God, our Heavenly Father, guide His children on earth? How does He communicate truth and His will so that faithful, believing children can make the right choices and receive the blessings Heavenly Father wants them to have? I will explain.
From the foundation of this earth, God our Father has consistently followed His plan I have just described. Adam labored to share our Father’s plan with his children and descendants. Many believed and were blessed. But many chose to use their divine gift of moral agency to refuse His teachings and His gospel. The disobedient rejected the truth, distorted the teachings and ordinances, and distanced themselves from God. In time, the light of truth was replaced by spiritual darkness, and the priesthood and the true Church were lost among the people.
Prophets such as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses renewed the truth for their dispensation, but in time their efforts were rejected by most. In the meridian of time Jesus Christ, the Beloved Son of God, was born on earth. He restored the truth and ministered with love and compassion. He established His Church again on earth with apostles and prophets. Through intense suffering He fulfilled His Holy Father’s divine commission to become our Savior and Redeemer. He allowed Himself to be crucified. He was resurrected and overcame physical death. His infinite atoning sacrifice is a supernal gift that allows the repentant to be forgiven of sins and qualify for eternal life. But even so the Son of God was rejected by all but a few. His Apostles and Church members were persecuted and many killed. The earth sank into a long and dreadful period of intense spiritual darkness.
The scriptures record that throughout history, on occasions of exceptional importance, God the Father’s voice has been heard. On repeated occasions Jesus Christ has personally appeared to select individuals. Yet there is only one supernal, singular instance of which we have knowledge that God the Father Himself appeared in person. This was done with His precious Holy Son, Jesus Christ, to an audience of one. That one was young Joseph Smith Jr., an extraordinary spirit prepared before the foundation of the earth. He would become the greatest prophet sent to earth. About to come forth was the return of priesthood authority, the complete Restoration of the Church established by the Savior, with additional scripture required for our time provided by continuing revelation from the Savior.
Our benevolent Father came from His vast creations to this earth to clarify truth, to disperse the intense clouds of spiritual darkness, to establish His true identity, to restore a fulness of truth, and to provide the only way to obtain secure, spiritual guidance. This momentous Restoration began with the Father’s simple phrase “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”2 There followed a Restoration of truth, priesthood, sacred ordinances, and the true Church, with the Father’s plan of salvation and happiness. When that plan is lived, it will help you overcome every challenge in life. It will help you qualify, through faith and obedience, to have the divine spiritual guidance you need. That support will give you the strength to live as you know you ought to live, no matter how world conditions degrade.
What occasion would be so stupendously important as to warrant this unprecedented visit of God the Father? It was to initiate the “dispensation of the fulness of times” foretold by prophets of the old and new testaments. The time had come for the Father to gather “all things in Christ,”3 commit all the keys of the kingdom, and restore the knowledge communicated in past dispensations4 as He established the final dispensation of the gospel for this earth.
Knowing that it would be difficult for many to believe that such a glorious Restoration did occur, the Savior provided a tangible witness to establish the truth of it, namely the Book of Mormon. The way to confirm the reality of the Restoration is described in its pages. Also, He provided additional illuminating scripture needed for our time in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price through Joseph Smith. No wonder so much of Joseph Smith’s ministry is focused on the Savior, His Atonement and doctrine.
While this precious, vital message has been proclaimed across the world, Satan has been most effective in causing people to ignore it or to look in the wrong places for it. The vast majority of Father’s children have not only forgotten their Father in Heaven and the purpose of mortal life, but they rarely even think of Him nor ponder for what purpose they are here in mortality. They have been led to be absorbed by mundane things that distract them from the essential ones. Don’t you make that mistake.
As a servant of Jesus Christ, I testify that what I have described is true. It is not sufficient to have a vague understanding of truth or the reality of the Father and His Son, our Savior. Each of us must come to know who They really are. You must feel how very much They love you. You must trust that as you consistently live the truth the best you can, They will help you realize the purpose of your earth life and strengthen you to qualify for the blessings promised. To be obedient to the commandments of God requires an understanding of them. It necessitates faith in them. That comprehension is best obtained through personal study of doctrine. That is one of the reasons that in July of this year, President Hinckley and his counselors invited all members to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. They promised, “Those who read the Book of Mormon will be blessed with an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a greater resolve to obey His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.”5 I have tested and proven that promise in my own life and have confirmed its truth. If you have conscientiously obeyed that counsel, you know what I mean. If you have not yet begun, there is still time to have your life enriched by reading the pages of the Book of Mormon. Please do it.
As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I solemnly testify that God our Father and Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith brought to pass the Restoration I have described, that the resplendent light of truth and the Church of Jesus Christ are again on earth, that the true nature of God the Father and His Son has been again revealed, and that the proper way to receive spiritual guidance has been clarified. I testify that God’s plan of salvation has been made available to all who will honestly seek it. Embrace it. Live it for your peace and happiness. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.