Early one morning I went out on a hill on the island of Tahiti, above the exquisitely beautiful bay where Captain Bligh anchored the Bounty. I went to that lovely spot to watch the day be born. In the soft light of the early morning I could see Mooréa, the “Bali Hai” of South Pacific fame, jutting up out of the water. The ocean was very calm, and the gentle waves lapped the black, volcanic beaches and covered them like frosting on a chocolate cake. In the distance, clouds rose up out of the ocean and poked their fingers into the sky to be illuminated by the first brilliant rays of the yet-hidden sun. Early-morning fishermen headed out to sea in their small boats to seek their fortunes for the day. There was a gentle, gray haze over the outskirts of Papeete, created by the early risers preparing their morning meal.
This seemed to be the world at its perfection. This was one of God’s most beautiful creations, and in this idyllic setting He did not seem far away. In this beautiful scene, so peaceful, so restful, it seemed as though my soul had been restored, and I recalled these lines from the 23rd Psalm: “He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Ps. 23:2–3).
I have come to realize that the comfort and sense of well-being I felt on that special morning came not only from the external influence of the beauty of the landscape and the sea, lovely as they were, but from the inner peace, strength, and security of knowing that God lives and from a testimony of the divinity of His work upon the earth. It is not where but who and how. That great psalm tells us that God restores our souls. The replenishing of our inner selves occurs as we come to know the Savior through keeping His commandments and serving Him.
Joseph Smith has given us not only the message of the divine Restoration but also the practical how-to steps to obtain personal and divine communication. The young Joseph tells us of the confusion in his life. Said he, “I was laboring under … extreme difficulties” (JS—H 1:11). He was driven to the scriptures to seek guidance, which he found in the Epistle of James: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5). The young Joseph said, “At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God” (JS—H 1:13). Joseph no doubt also read the following words given by James: “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6). Joseph knelt to offer up the desire of his heart. Then came a wrestling and darkness. This was followed by the light of the divine message. The answer and the instruction were complete and full. Is not this the instruction, the how-to we need to obtain divine answers to the confusion and to the vexatious problems in our lives?
May I suggest four steps:
First, when possible, study the scriptures daily, with an emphasis upon the Book of Mormon and the modern scriptures.
Second, pray daily.
Third, listen for the divine answer.
Fourth, be obedient to it.
In a stake conference in Campinas, Brazil, I enjoyed a soul-restoring experience of listening to the gifted, able, and charming president of the stake Relief Society, Sister Vilma Figuereda. She told of the great excitement and personal revelation she received regarding the truthfulness of the Church when she first heard its message from the missionaries. She was literally twice born, with energy, conviction, and a desire to tell all of her acquaintances and others of the healing and sanctifying message of the gospel. She walked over so many cobblestones and on so many sidewalks that she would wear out a pair of shoes each month. Her husband, at that time not a member of the Church but concerned about the many demands upon the limited resources of the family, asked her, “Couldn’t the Church at least buy you a pair of shoes?” The soles of her shoes were worn thin, but the inner soul of her being was fully restored.
It is possible for all of us, through the power of the Holy Ghost, to have a personal witness. It is a personal source of information and revelation. The Psalmist says, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” (Ps. 23:5).
Jesus explained, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).
There seems to be a great need for a restoration of goodness and decency in the souls of many throughout the world. Could not much goodness be brought about in our societies by members of the Church individually, humbly, wisely, and persuasively adhering to their convictions at all times and under all circumstances? It could be brought about by the young lawyer who has the courage to let his voice be heard as a voice of reason to remind others that there are no “victimless crimes.” It could also come about by physicians, acting individually, but each refusing to perform abortions of convenience. Could it not be encouraged by teachers sharing their examples of individual moral and civil responsibility with young people as they teach history, chemistry, and mathematics? Could it not be fostered by businessmen refusing to compromise or to be compromised? It would also help if all of our members refuse to patronize stores that sell pornographic materials. Could it not be exemplified by those who hold positions of honor and trust in government, to function always from a position of personal honor and integrity?
This would be the beginning of a different kind of a revolution. It would be a revolution of thought and purpose. It would be a quiet revolution, with each individual acting independently and courageously in his or her own peace of conscience. This kind of moral courage does not destroy one’s credibility. It enhances it. Acting in harmony with our own conscience and beliefs is fundamental to our own inner peace and security.
May all who are seeking to act in harmony with their conscience enjoy an inner peace. For all who are seeking the restoration of their souls, may they remember that the Savior said, “Thy faith hath made thee whole” (Matt. 9:22). Once we have this faith, the great promise of the 23rd Psalm will be ours: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Ps. 23:6).
Inner peace, strength, and security come from knowing that God lives and from having a testimony of his work on earth.
Four steps to obtaining divine answers are to study the scriptures daily, when possible; pray daily; listen for the divine answer; and be obedient to it.
Goodness and decency are restored in our souls as we adhere with moral courage to gospel teachings.