In his general conference addresses, President Heber J. Grant repeatedly urged the Saints to stay on the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life. He warned them of the danger of misplacing their priorities and being enticed away from things of greatest value. “We can hide the blessings of the Lord by clinging too firmly to the things of this world,” he said. “We can sacrifice eternal riches—dollars for copper cents, so to speak.”1
To illustrate the importance of recognizing and seeking things of eternal worth, President Grant often told of a faithful Latter-day Saint sister who thought that he carried an “awful looking” briefcase. She wished that someone would give him “a decent, respectable looking bag.” What she did not realize was that President Grant’s briefcase was worth a great deal of money and that it had been given to him by his business associates as a token of esteem. “She did not know its value,” President Grant explained. In contrast, the type of briefcase she preferred was of significantly inferior quality. President Grant likened the good sister’s “wrong estimate of things” to the manner in which the world fails to recognize the truths of the restored gospel. “They do not know the truth,” he said. “They do not realize the value of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”2
President Grant taught: “What is the gospel? It is the plan of life and salvation. It is that which is of more value than life itself. No wonder we are ready and willing to make sacrifices for the gospel, when we realize what it means if we live it.”3 This was a guiding principle in his life. Despite his many abilities and interests, he did not allow lesser concerns to obscure his view of the things that matter most. For example, his business expertise led him to prominence in numerous professional endeavors. He enjoyed participating in competitive sports, particularly tennis and golf. He was fond of theater and opera. He loved to read, appreciated nature, and enjoyed socializing. He was active in politics. He traveled widely in his Church and business responsibilities, and he and his family delighted in new places and experiences. As a result of his dedication and service, he received various awards. But his activities, prominence, and success did not distract him from the path leading to eternal life.
His counsel about walking in the straight and narrow path was straightforward. He simply taught the Saints to do their duty—to keep the commandments. He declared: “I say to all Latter-day Saints: keep the commandments of God. That is my keynote—just these few words: keep the commandments of God!”4
We find in the 22nd chapter of St. Matthew the following:
“But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 22:34–40.]
The longer I live, the more I study the gospel, the more I come in contact with men, the more forcibly am I impressed with the truth of the sayings of our Savior in the words that I have just read to you. If we did in every deed love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, there would be no need of urging from time to time upon the people the necessity of keeping the commandments of the Lord. It would be a pleasure to them to serve God and keep His commandments. We are told that where a man’s treasure is, there will his heart be also [see Matthew 6:21], and if we loved the Lord with all our heart and mind and soul, serving Him would be the great object of our lives, and the treasure we would work to gain would be His love. If we followed that second commandment, to love our neighbor as ourself, … our difficulties would all be settled amicably. … It would be almost [unnecessary] to appeal to the people for donations, to urge them to be liberal, to be generous, to strive for the benefit and welfare of their fellows.5
We are told that faith without works is dead; that as the body without the spirit is dead, so also is faith without works dead [see James 2:17, 26], and I am sorry to say that there are many professed Latter-day Saints who are spiritually dead.
We many times ask ourselves the question, why does this man progress in the plan of life and salvation, while his neighbor, of equal intelligence and ability, of apparently the same testimony and power, and perchance greater power, stands still? I will tell you why. One keeps the commandments of our Heavenly Father, and the other fails to keep them. The Savior says that he that keeps his commandments is the man that loves him, and he that keeps the commandments of God shall be loved of the Father, and the Savior says he will love him and he will manifest himself unto him [see John 14:21].
The Lord also tells us that those who hear His sayings and doeth them shall be likened unto the wise man who built his house upon the rock, and when the rains descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house, it fell not, because it was founded upon a rock. On the other hand, those who heard His sayings and did them not, the Savior likened unto a foolish man, who built his house on the sand, and when the rains descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house, it fell, and great was the fall thereof. [See Matthew 7:24–27.] There are many Latter-day Saints who are building their houses upon the sand. They are failing to carry out the commandments of our Heavenly Father that come to us from time to time through His inspired servants.
Now, if we have the Gospel (and we know we have), I say to each and every Latter-day Saint, who desires to grow and enlarge in the Gospel, he must keep the commandments of God. As we keep the commandments of God and live god-like lives, we become full of charity, long-suffering and love for our fellows, and we grow and increase in all those things that go to make us noble and god-like. We also gain the love and confidence of those by whom we are surrounded. It is by the performance of the plain, simple, everyday duties that devolve upon us that we will grow in the spirit of God.6
I rejoice exceedingly in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has been revealed in this day, and I earnestly desire that I may be able, in connection with the rest of the Latter-day Saints, to so order my life that my mind may never become darkened, that I may never depart from the truth, or break any of the covenants which I have made with the Lord. I earnestly wish to know the mind and will of my Heavenly Father and to have the ability and strength of character to carry the same out in my life. I have this same desire for all of the Latter-day Saints. I appreciate fully the fact that in proportion to our diligence, faithfulness and humility in keeping the commandments of God, He will bless us and assist us in our labors; and it is the duty of every one to seek earnestly of the Lord to learn His ways.7
In the kind providences of the Lord every man who lives the gospel of Jesus Christ sooner or later receives that precious thing known as a testimony to the eternal part of his nature, a testimony regarding the divinity of the labor in which we are engaged.
There are no people that make the sacrifices that we do, but for us it is not a sacrifice but a privilege—the privilege of obedience, the privilege of entering into a working partnership with our Father in Heaven and earning the choice blessings promised to those who love Him and keep His commandments.8
No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey. … Nephi [said]: “For I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save He shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which He commandeth them.” [1 Nephi 3:7.] Let us realize this and that the keeping of the commandments of God will bring to us the light and inspiration of His Spirit. Then the desire of our hearts will be to know the mind and will of the Lord, and we will pray for strength and ability to carry it out, thereby following in the footsteps of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.9
The devil is ready to blind our eyes with the things of this world, and he would gladly rob us of eternal life, the greatest of all gifts. But it is not given to the devil, and no power will ever be given to him to overthrow any Latter-day Saint that is keeping the commandments of God. There is no power given to the adversary of men’s souls to destroy us if we are doing our duty. If we are not absolutely honest with God, then we let the bars down, then we have destroyed part of the fortifications by which we are protected, and the devil may come in. But no man has ever lost the testimony of the Gospel, no man has ever turned to the right or to the left, who had the knowledge of the truth, who was attending to his duties, who was keeping the Word of Wisdom, who was paying his tithing, who was responding to the calls and duties of his office and calling in the Church.
There are some who are forever asking to know what the Lord wants of them, and who seem to be hesitating on that account. I am thoroughly convinced that all the Lord wants of you and me or of any other man or woman in the Church is for us to perform our full duty and keep the commandments of God.10
You find me a man that attends his quorum meetings, that performs his duties in the ward in which he lives, that honestly pays his tithing, and I will find you a man full of the spirit of God and growing and increasing in the testimony of the Gospel. On the other hand, you find me a man that has seen angels, that has had wonderful manifestations, that has seen devils cast out, that has gone to the ends of the earth and preached the Gospel, and yet who is failing to keep the commandments of God, and I will find you a man that is criticizing the Lord’s anointed, and finding fault with what the President does, with where he goes, what he engages in and how he administers the affairs of the Church. …
You will find that those who do not do their duty, are always complaining about somebody that does, and making excuses for themselves. I have never found a man who was keeping the commandments of God that had any criticism to offer concerning any administration of the affairs of the Church. Neglect of duty, failure to keep the commandments of God, darkens the mind of man and the Spirit of the Lord is withdrawn. We find it recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants “For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength and sets at nought the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall.” [D&C 3:4.]11
I am so practical in my make-up that when a Latter-day Saint tells me that he knows that he is engaged in the work of God, that he knows that this is the work of the Lord, that he knows that Joseph Smith was an inspired Prophet, that he knows that the men that stand at the head of the church today are the inspired servants of God, and such a man pays no attention whatever to the plain, simple duties that are taught to him day by day, month in and month out, year in and year out—I don’t have a great deal of faith in that kind of a man.12
There is no danger of any man or woman losing his or her faith in this Church if he or she is humble and prayerful and obedient to duty. I have never known of such an individual losing his faith. By doing our duty faith increases until it becomes perfect knowledge.13
I have seen men and women apostatize from the Church and almost without exception I have seen that apostasy come upon them gradually.
When you are in the line of your duty it is like standing in front of a line of posts, and every post is in line. But step one step aside, and every post looks as though it were not quite in line. The farther you get away from that straight line, the more crooked the posts will appear. It is the straight and narrow path of duty that will lead you and me back to the presence of God.14
The Lord, knowing what is best for you and for me and for every individual, has given to us laws, which, if we obey, will make us more Godlike, will fit and qualify and prepare us to go back and dwell in the presence of our Heavenly Father and to receive that plaudit: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” [Matthew 25:21.]
That is what we are laboring for.
We are in a school, fitting, qualifying, and preparing ourselves that we may be worthy and capable of going back and dwelling in the presence of our Heavenly Father, and the man who claims that he knows the gospel is true and then does not live it, does not keep the commandments of God. Such a man will never attain to that strength, to that power, to that eminence, and to that capacity in the Church and Kingdom of God that he would attain if he obeyed the laws of God.15
The best course to pursue is to fulfil daily the duties required as they present themselves. In this way a man is rewarded as he goes along, and walks in the path that leads to salvation.16
Success in the eyes of our Creator is very many times, in fact nearly always the exact opposite of man’s estimation of what success is. Quite frequently a man is pointed out as a successful man who has made money, but no attention has been paid as to how he made his wealth or what use he is making of it. He may have destroyed all the finer feelings of his nature and robbed himself of the privilege of dwelling with his Maker in the life to come in his mad race for the things of this world which are of no lasting value. …
Let us all do the will of our Father in heaven to-day, and we will then be prepared for the duty of to-morrow, also for the eternities which are to come. Never forget that it is the pearl of great price—life eternal—that we are working for. He only whose life’s labors shall secure it will be a successful man.17
If we examine the plan of life and salvation, if we examine the commandments that are given to us as members of the Church of God, we will find that each and every one of those commandments has been given for the express purpose that we may be benefitted, that we may be educated, that we may be qualified and prepared to go back and dwell in the presence of our Heavenly Father. These duties and obligations are calculated to make us godlike in our dispositions. They are calculated to make Gods of us, and to fit and qualify us that we may become, as it is promised that we can become, joint heirs with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and dwell with Him in the presence of God the Eternal Father throughout all the countless ages of eternity.
The object of our being placed upon this earth is that we may work out an exaltation, that we may prepare ourselves to go back and dwell with our Heavenly Father; and our Father, knowing the faults and failings of men, has given us certain commandments to obey, and if we will examine those requirements and the things that devolve upon us we will find that they are all for our individual benefit and advancement. The school of life in which we are placed and the lessons that are given to us by our Father will make of us exactly what He desires, so that we may be prepared to dwell with Him.18
Here is the keynote, Latter-day Saints. Let us realize that God is mightier than all the earth. Let us realize that if we are faithful in keeping the commandments of God His promises will be fulfilled to the very letter. For He has said that not one jot or tittle shall fall to the ground unfulfilled [see Matthew 5:18]. The trouble is, the adversary of men’s souls blinds their minds. He throws dust, so to speak, in their eyes, and they are blinded with the things of this world. Men do not lay up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust corrupt not, where thieves do not break through and steal [see Matthew 6:19–20], but they set their hearts upon the things of this world, and the adversary obtains power over them.
I say to you, Latter-day Saints, that the pearl of great price is life eternal. God has told us that the greatest of all the gifts He can bestow upon man is life eternal [see D&C 14:7]. We are laboring for that great gift, and it will be ours if we keep the commandments of God. But it will not profit us merely to make professions and to proclaim to the ends of the earth that this is the gospel, but it will profit us if we do the will of God.19
The all-important thing for you and me is to discover whether we are walking in the straight and narrow path that leads to life eternal, and if we are not, wherein have we allowed the adversary to blind our minds and to cause us to depart from that path which will lead us back into the presence of God? Each one should search his own heart to find out wherein he has failed, and then he should diligently seek our Heavenly Father for the assistance of His Holy Spirit, that he may come back into the straight path.20
It has been said … that we are not doing all we can. I do not believe that any man lives up to his ideals, but if we are striving, if we are working, if we are trying, to the best of our ability, to improve day by day, then we are in the line of our duty. If we are seeking to remedy our own defects, if we are so living that we can ask God for light, for knowledge, for intelligence, and above all for His Spirit, that we may overcome our weaknesses, then, I can tell you, we are in the straight and narrow path that leads to life eternal; then we need have no fear.21
There is but one path of safety for the Latter-day Saints, and that is the path of duty. It is not a testimony only; it is not marvelous manifestations; it is not knowing that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, that it is the plan of salvation—it is not actually knowing that the Savior is the Redeemer, and that Joseph Smith was his prophet, that will save you and me; but it is the keeping of the commandments of God, living the life of a Latter-day Saint.22
In what ways is obedience “not a sacrifice but a privilege”? How does having our hearts filled with the love of God make keeping His commandments a pleasure?
What experiences have you had that confirm the truth that God is bound to fulfill His promises when we do as He commands? (See also D&C 82:10.)
How can misjudgment of success lead us away from the path to eternal life?
What aspects of our lives might distract us from focusing on the things of God? How can we prevent these from becoming distractions?
Why does neglect of duty often come upon us gradually? What can we do that will help us remain diligent and valiant in fulfilling our duties?
What everyday duties rest on all members of the Church? What other duties are specific to your personal circumstances?
Why is duty the “one path of safety to the Latter-day Saints”?