The Message:

Purity of Heart

by Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone

Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric

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    Lord Byron Buckingham said, “Make my heart transparent as pure crystal, that the world jealous of me, may see the foulest thought my heart does hold.” This philosophy is a great one. Every member of the Church should so live that this state of mind would be a reality. As youth you can determine to make your hearts as transparent crystal. When you do this, certain things are beyond consideration. It is impossible to think a foul or dirty thought. Doing so causes a certain physical and spiritual reaction within us. These thoughts tend to obscure God; they cloud, so slightly at first, our transparent inner self. As we repeat these thoughts, the clouding intensifies, and soon we are not able to view things in their pure form. We lose our judgment, we lose the ability to see things from their true perspective, and we become entangled in Satan’s web.

    To be pure in heart is a most desirable quality. There comes a strength to those who are pure. It is a measurable, physical strength. It was said of Sir Galahad that he had the strength of ten, because his heart was pure. Purity of heart also brings about a mental strength and integrity. In this day of mental conflict and compromise, the person with integrity and purity stands out like a giant in a world of Pygmies.

    There is another dimension of purity that seems to be lost in our day. It is modesty. Few souls on the earth understand what true modesty is. In a recent conversation I asked a great leader in the kingdom what had impressed him most about President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. You would have been surprised with his answer. It wasn’t the unmatched wisdom or brilliant mind. It wasn’t his great spiritual stature. It wasn’t the high esteem in which he was held by the great leaders of nations. It was his total modesty. President J. Reuben Clark, along with all of his other great character traits, had a quality of modesty that is extremely rare in man. He was as modest in his thinking as he was in dress. The slightest deviation from the pure standard was an affront to him. Modesty is necessary to one who is pure in heart. In one of President Clark’s great discourses he was discussing the crucifixion of the Savior. But we catch a glimpse of the man’s modesty as he describes the crucifixion:

    “Having in mind the modesty which I am sure attached to him, recalling the experience of Peter on the lakeshore, how offensive it must have been when they stripped him naked and then laying the cross on the ground, they laid him upon the cross, the crosspiece under his shoulders, a peg protruding from the upright beam, which he straddled to support his body. They first nailed his hands and then his feet, then as the next step in this, the cruelest death of which the ancients knew, they raised the cross and let it drop with a jolt into the pit which was dug to contain it, causing one crucified to suffer excruciating agony.”

    Most of us are concerned about the physical suffering through which Jesus went. President Clark not only suffered with the Savior physically because of great compassion, but he also felt, vicariously, the agonizing experience of one so modest being exposed. To have these feelings of empathy as President Clark had them requires a purity of heart.

    Roy Welker, who authored manuals for Melchizedek Priesthood quorums, was asked about his association with the General Authorities. The person inquiring said to him, “Brother Welker, you have had close association with the Brethren. Who impressed you most among them?” He pondered the question for a moment and then said, “Of course, all of the Brethren are wonderful, but Elder ______________ impresses me most because he has a purity of heart remarkable for one so young.” What a wonderful tribute. Would that we could all have that same comment made about us.

    Paul said, “Unto the pure all things are pure.” (Titus 1:15.) Pure connotes the absence of foreign substance. The individuals whose minds and hearts are pure have removed from their lives foreign thoughts and passions. This should be an objective of every one of us.

    To become pure in heart there are certain things one must do. The Savior gave us the pattern in the Sermon on the Mount. If we follow his teachings, we find a course leading to our objective. He said, “Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (3 Ne. 12:3.) The Book of Mormon clarifies this statement with the additional words “who come unto me.” The poor in spirit are those who finally have come to a realization that Christ is their only hope.

    “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4.) Until we suffer and visit our own personal Gethsemane we have not been through the refining process that purifies us.

    “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt 5:5.) We must be totally teachable pertaining to all things that lift and elevate the soul.

    “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Matt. 5:6, with further clarification from the Book of Mormon, 3 Ne. 12:6.) The Holy Ghost will come and abide with us only as we are worthy of his companionship. As the comforter abides with us, we receive constant impressions and guidance, which, if followed, will lead us to become pure in heart.

    “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matt. 5:7.) President Harold B. Lee in a conference address in October 1946 said:

    “I know there are powers that can draw close to one who fills his heart with … love. … I came to a night, some years ago, when upon my bed, I realized that before I could be worthy of the high place to which I had been called, I must love and forgive every soul that walked the earth, and in that time I came to know and I received a peace and a direction, and a comfort, and an inspiration, that told me things to come and gave me impressions that I knew were from a divine source.” (Conference Report, Oct. 1946, p. 146.)

    The pure-in-heart person will become Christ-like even as President Lee has. How can we think an unkind thought? How can we gossip or be critical if we have the pure love of Christ? How could we dare to be immodest in dress or thought? How would we dare to do less than our prophet has done? We must love and forgive every soul that walks the earth. This is that divine quality of being merciful. To those whose lives conform to the pattern above, the Savior says, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matt 5:8.)

    My wonderful young friends, the course is straight and narrow, and few there are that find it; but to you the way is open and before you. As you follow the Master you will find the fruit of your labors to be delicious unto your soul. You will find that all the world has to offer is sham compared to the gospel truths. Strive with all your heart and soul to be pure in heart that you may be worthy to see God and to live with him and with your family eternally.

    Photo by Jim Harris (contest winner)