Developing a simple, untroubled faith does not limit us in our growth and accomplishment. On the contrary, it may intensify and quicken our progress.
Several months ago, with another General Authority, I visited the beautiful island of Tahiti. Our airplane arrived at the Papeete airport at about four o’clock in the morning. We were met by a group of local Church leaders headed by regional representative Victor Cave. We quickly gathered our luggage and went to the hotel to get what rest we could before the day’s activities began.
As we drove through the quiet streets in the early morning light, we saw a man crossing the road in front of Brother Cave’s car. Brother Cave slowed the car to give the man plenty of time to cross and told us, “That man is from the local ward. He is hurrying to get to the temple. The first session of the temple doesn’t begin until nine o’clock, but he wants to be there well in advance.”
“How far away does he live?” he was asked. The answer: “Two or three blocks.” Brother Cave said that the caretakers open the temple gates early and that this man comes in and watches the day begin from within the sacred grounds surrounding the beautiful temple.
I marveled at the faith of that man, who is willing to give up his sleep and other activities in order to meditate and contemplate. Some would no doubt say, “How foolish! What a waste of time that could be spent sleeping or studying.” I hope that in those special hours of meditation and contemplation that faithful man is coming to know himself and his Creator.
It is important for us to develop such simple, untroubled faith. I urge us all to accept the basic principles of our religion. At the same time, I plead with you not to be overly concerned about the small details, and any seeming contradictions that seem to trouble many of us. Sometimes we spend time satisfying our intellectual pride and trying to find all the answers before we accept any.
We are all seeking truth and knowledge. Developing a simple, untroubled faith does not limit us in our growth and accomplishment. On the contrary, it may increase and quicken our progress. This is so because our natural gifts and powers of achievement are always improved by new growth or knowledge.
Nephi explained that his brethren had become so wicked and insensitive to the Spirit that they became “past feeling,” even though they had seen and heard an angel, and even though God had spoken to them in a still, small voice. (See 1 Ne. 17:45.) In contrast, Nephi tells us that if we “feast upon the words of Christ … the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Ne. 32:3.)
I have a dear friend. We grew up together. Although he was intelligent and capable, he was not a good student in school. Family needs and concerns limited his educational opportunities; he did not complete his basic schooling. He was able to buy an old, used truck and he began hauling sand and gravel for a few building contractors. They got work only when the weather was good. The old truck often broke down and needed repairs.
He married a good woman, and although things were hard for them financially, they somehow managed to build their own house.
I was his bishop at that time and called him to be the Aaronic Priesthood adviser. He took his calling seriously. He wore out the handbook, studying it. He had a notebook filled with dates when all the young men in the ward would reach the age to be advanced in the Aaronic Priesthood. He kept good track of the young men and kept the bishopric informed of their activities.
Some years after I was released as bishop, he became a member of the bishopric. He responded to the call faithfully. He later became our bishop and served wonderfully and well.
In the meantime, he and an associate had learned how to lay bricks and had formed a brick-contracting partnership. They both did fine, quality work. Their services were in demand. He prospered and became very respected in the community.
After many successful years as a bishop, he was called to the stake high council and served well and faithfully. Although his formal education was limited, he is now a respected and honored business man. With the advantage of a college education he no doubt would have achieved even more.
What caused him to succeed? Industry? Thrift? Self-reliance? Yes, but there was more. Faithfully and diligently, he sought to know and do the mind and the will of the Lord. He had a simple, untroubled faith.
President Stephen L Richards explained it this way: “The immortal soul which is the union of body and spirit, becomes filled with the divine nature of our eternal Father and our elder Brother, Jesus Christ.” (General Conference, April 1945.) That investment of the divine nature intensifies and magnifies our gifts and abilities. There is no greater teacher, no greater strength than the divine nature of the Eternal Father and Jesus Christ.
The prophet and other Church leaders are also great teachers. Before I was called as a General Authority and had a seat in general conference, I always tried to listen, either by television or radio, to all the conference sessions. One Saturday, my son had a seminary assignment to review the conference messages. We listened faithfully to all of the conference proceedings. Afterwards, my son thoughtfully said, “What are the Brethren telling us?” He was trying to understand the basic theme of their messages.
We all should ask ourselves: What are the Brethren telling us? The living prophets can open the visions of eternity; they give counsel on how to overcome the world. We cannot know what that counsel is if we do not listen. We cannot receive the blessings we are promised if we do not follow the counsel given.
As a young stake president, I met many of the General Authorities when they came to speak at our stake conference. What a wonderful experience! President Hugh B. Brown came to one of our stake conferences just a week before he was called and sustained as a member of the Council of the Twelve. We enjoyed his warm spirit and his good humor. As I helped him put his coat on and walked out to his car with him, I said, “Elder Brown, do you have any personal advice for me?”
His answer was, “Yes. Follow the Brethren.” He did not choose to elaborate or explain, but he left that powerful message: Have the simple faith to follow the Brethren.
My grandmother, Maud Wetzel Faust, used to tell her young grandsons about going to general conference when President Brigham Young presided. Except for the Prophet Joseph Smith, she had known all of the Presidents of the Church, up to Heber J. Grant. From her observations over the years, she had this to say: “Those who have turned away from the counsel of the Brethren have not prospered.”
The critics of the Church try to discredit this marvelous work because of the human weaknesses of its leaders. We can acknowledge that all Church leaders, past and present—except Christ himself—are subject to human failings and weaknesses. But, as President Gordon B. Hinckley said a few years ago, “to emphasize the mistakes and ignore the greater good is to draw a caricature. Caricatures are amusing, but they are often ugly and dishonest. A man may have a wart on his cheek and still have a face of beauty and strength, but if the wart is emphasized over the other features, the portrait is often lacking in honesty.” (Church News, 3 July 1983, page 11.)
In the same statement, President Hinckley said, “If some of [the early leaders of the Church] made mistakes, or if their characters may have been slightly flawed in one way or another, it is even more amazing that they accomplished so much.” The same is true today.
In an urgent plea for the Saints to concern themselves more with the common things, President Wilford Woodruff gave this counsel to the Church: “Cease troubling yourselves about who God is; who Adam is, who Christ is, who Jehovah is. For heaven’s sake, let these things alone. Why trouble yourselves about these things? … God is God. Christ is Christ. The Holy Ghost is the Holy Ghost. That should be enough for you and me to know. If we want to know any more, wait till we get where God is in person. I say … humble yourselves before the Lord; seek for light, for truth, and for a knowledge of the common things of the kingdom of God.” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, edited by G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946, pages 135–136.)
To have a “knowledge of the common things of the kingdom,” you must keep your spiritual innocence. That requires avoiding cynicism and criticism. This is the day of the cynic and the critics. Said President Hinckley: “Criticism is the forerunner of divorce, the cultivator of rebellion, sometimes an agent that leads to failure. In the Church, it leads to inactivity and finally apostasy.” (Church News, 3 July 1983, page 10.)
To have spiritual innocence—to have a simple, untroubled faith—we must accept some absolutes. They are basic. They mean believing that:
1. Jesus, the Son of the Father, is the Christ, and the Savior and Redeemer of the world;
2. Joseph Smith was the instrument through which the gospel was restored in its fulness and completeness;
3. The Book of Mormon is the word of God and, as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, is the keystone of our religion;
4. Ezra Taft Benson is, and all of his predecessors as Presidents of the Church were, successors in holding the keys and authority restored through Joseph Smith.
You may ask, “How can I acquire an untroubled faith and a spiritual assurance that each of these absolutes is true?” This untroubled faith can come through prayer, study, and a humble willingness to keep the commandments.
But let us be more specific. As to the first absolute, the acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, we have two thousand years of teaching and tradition, which help us accept him as our Savior and Redeemer. So this absolute, initially, at least, may be the easiest to accept after study, prayer, and trying to follow his teachings.
The second absolute, the calling of Joseph Smith as the Prophet of the Restoration, may be more difficult for the honest seeker to accept. To have a fair appreciation for the greatness of Joseph Smith’s mission, we must step back and view the grand panorama of it all. To me, the only logical explanation for the majesty and success of his work is that he saw what he said he saw, and he was what he said he was. The fruits of Joseph Smith’s work, so plain for all to see, are also a testimony of the divinity of his work.
The third absolute, namely a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, in my opinion comes exactly as Moroni states, by the power of the Holy Ghost—through asking God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if the book is true. The promise then comes: “If ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Moro. 10:4.)
The fourth absolute is essential to enjoying an untroubled faith. It is the proposition that President Ezra Taft Benson is the inheritor of the restored keys, as was each of his predecessors since Joseph Smith. Some accept the Savior, the divine mission of Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon, but then think that after Joseph’s time somehow the Brethren went astray. Many who have thought this have taken others with them, and their efforts have not prospered.
There is a powerful precedent that comes down through the ages to sustain the succession of authority. After the crucifixion of the Savior, Peter, as the senior Apostle, became the President of the Church. Since the restoration of priesthood keys to Joseph Smith, this practice has been followed in the successions to the office of President of the Church.
As each of the Apostles has been ordained to the Apostleship and the Quorum of the Twelve, he has been given all of the keys of the kingdom of God on the earth—some of which are to be held inactive until the death of the President of the Church. Upon the death of the President of the Church, the keys rest with the Quorum of the Twelve as a body. When a new President is ordained and set apart, the Council of the Twelve unitedly lay their hands upon his head and activate the keys he has held since he was ordained an Apostle. It has been so since Peter, James, and John bestowed the keys upon the Prophet Joseph Smith. It was so with President Ezra Taft Benson.
Because of this transferring of keys and authority, we can truthfully say that, since there is priesthood authority on the earth today, President Benson holds the keys to it.
The acceptance of these four absolutes, together with the ordinances administered by the Church and obedience to the commandments, is a solid foundation for the enjoyment of the promise of the Savior—peace in this life and eternal life in the life hereafter. (See D&C 59:23.)
I bear my testimony, as one of the special witnesses of Christ, that the Father and the Son did appear to the boy Joseph Smith and that he was given direction to reestablish the Church upon the earth in its fulness. I also testify of the divine and truthful message of the Book of Mormon. I believe that President Ezra Taft Benson holds all of the keys and authority to administer the affairs of the kingdom of God on the earth.
Like that man crossing the street in Papeete at 4:00 A.M., hurrying to the temple, we can enjoy an untroubled conscience in the temples of God. Having a simple, untroubled faith can lift us above the selfish, sordid, and greedy aspects of the world toward peace and eternal life.