Boyd K. Packer
From a talk given at the Dortmund, Germany, area conference on August 7, 1976

Language of the Spirit

Several years ago was assigned to go to Germany to take care of some important Church business. As I looked forward to that assignment, I worried a great deal. I knew there would be some very important interviews and that I do not speak German. I knew that most of those with whom I would conduct the Church business did not speak English. I felt helpless. After taking care of some work in English for about two weeks, I was finally on the plane to Germany. As I sat there pondering and praying, the voice of the Lord came into my mind, and gave me some instructions. You know, the Lord doesn’t speak in either English or German, and he can speak pure intelligence into our minds without passage of time. The message was something like this: “What are you worried about? There is another language, the language of the Spirit. Those brethren will know that language. You know the language. There will be no problem.” I was greatly comforted. And I had a great experience on that occasion.

As a witness that there is that universal language, the language of the Spirit, since then I have never been very anxious when I have had to go into other countries. Sometimes we will visit among people of seven or eight languages on one trip. But always there is that language of the Spirit.

In the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord gave this instruction: “The voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days … for I … have commanded them.” (D&C 1:4–5.) And the Lord has said that this is a day of warning, not a day of many words.

I am reminded of a story of a man who awakened in a hotel room one cold winter night. He had been very happy to reach his hotel to be sheltered from the cold weather. Sometime in the night he heard a woman in the next room calling, “Hans, Hans, get up!” He turned over in bed and went to sleep. Then he heard the woman again calling to her husband, “Hans, Hans, get up! The hotel is on fire! The hotel is on fire!” This time he sat up and he could smell smoke. He quickly slipped on a robe and ran to the stairway, down the stairs, and opened the door. Then a blast of cold air and snow hit him. He stopped for a moment and then said to himself, “My name isn’t Hans.” And he went back up to bed.

The next morning his body was found in the charred ruins of the hotel. Because his name wasn’t Hans. Now the voice of warning is to all people. And what I have to say, I would like to say to you.

We have the tendency sometimes when we hear a sermon to say, “It is too bad that Brother Jacobs isn’t here; he needs that lesson.” Or, “It is too bad Sister Muller isn’t here; she sure needed that.” Now the voice of warning is to all people.

Let me tell you of an important event that we have had in the Church in the last few months. Not too far from Church headquarters, in Idaho, there was a great tragedy. A great earthwork dam collapsed. There were 17 miles of water backed up in the canyon behind the dam. All of that was loosed on the valley below. It was a beautiful, quiet, sunny Saturday morning. Just below in the valley were two or three little communities—7,800 people in all. A few miles farther down the valley were another 25,000 to 30,000 people, almost all of them Latter-day Saints. All were going about their work, getting ready for Sunday.

The first place the water hit was the Wilford Ward area. It was washed away, all of it: all of the houses, all of the barns, all of the fences. The ward chapel was completely destroyed. The ward was gone, just like that.

Then the water hit Sugar City. The same thing happened. Sugar City was gone. The stake center stood and a few of the houses, but they were terribly damaged. The water broke into the wall of the stake center and picked up all of the benches and just tore the inside of the building out. Then it broke out the other wall and went on its way.

In all, 790 homes were destroyed. Many of them vanished without a trace. Some places you could see a cement foundation. Another 800 homes and many businesses and churches and schools were badly damaged.

Now you are wondering about the people, about the 25,000 Latter-day Saints, all in the face of this flood that Saturday morning. Very few died by drowning. Only six. That is a miracle. An expert said that 5,300 should have perished.

But only six died by drowning. How could that be? They couldn’t just run upstairs and get on the roof and be safe, because the houses were washed away. They couldn’t just run up on the hill—most of them had several miles to go before they reached safety. Then how were they saved? There was a warning. It was only a short one. Some of them only had a few minutes. But there was a warning. And Latter-day Saints pay attention to warnings. If we are living righteously, we are easily warned. And so, the word went out just before noon that the dam was beginning to crumble. Those who heard obeyed the scripture. Let me read another verse or two from the Doctrine and Covenants.

“Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.” (D&C 88:81.)

And that is what happened in Idaho. Some of them heard, and they began to warn their neighbors. Now how did they do that? Call them on the telephone? “It’s a beautiful day today, a nice day for a ride. Do you think you would like to go over to Rexburg some time this afternoon and visit the college? It’s up on the hill. Oh, you are too busy. Well, you think about it, and I’ll call later this afternoon.” No! no! That isn’t the way it was! If they got them on the phone they didn’t speak, they screamed: “The dam is breaking! Get your children! Get to high ground!” They ran from neighbor to neighbor. And they knocked on the door, and if no one would open, they kicked the door down or smashed in the window to warn them.

Only six drowned. What about them? One was a fisherman just below the dam. He had no warning. Two people heard the warning but didn’t believe it. They were found in their car, but they had moved too late. Three others heard the warning but went back to get some of their possessions. Latter-day Saints pay attention to warnings.

There are pages of miracles that took place individually. One young man was in town when he heard the warning. He knew that his parents were not at home out on the farm, but his little sister was there, and she was sick in bed. When it was all over, she had been saved.

One father was at the college in Rexburg doing some work that Saturday morning; someone knocked on his door and said, “Turn on your radio; I’ve heard that the dam is breaking.” He thought of his wife and the boys out irrigating on the farm. And he had the car. There was no time for him to go. When it was all over with, his wife and his children were there with him, warned and rescued by the neighbors. Now there is a great message in this.

You have heard the Brethren speak about testimony, about our obligations to share the gospel. Sometimes we are just polite; we talk to someone:

“Would you like to hear something about the gospel?”

“No, thank you, I’m too busy.”

“All right, good-bye.”

And that’s that. They are drowned in the flood of evil, subject to the second death, which is the spiritual death, which is separation from the presence of our Heavenly Father.

Now the Lord has said that in His Church and kingdom there is safety and that we will be protected. That is the only place on earth where this protection is. And it behooves every man and every woman and every child who has been warned to warn his neighbors. We can do this in two ways: First, we can live the gospel completely, live it religiously.

I had a missionary in Denmark ask a question: “I am striving for perfection. Some of the other missionaries say, ‘You are foolish; you can’t really be perfect.’ What do you believe?” I said I believe the scriptures: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48.) And then I humbly admitted that I was perfect in some things. Now, I am perfect when it comes to never touching tobacco—never. Alcohol—never. Tea, coffee—never. I am perfect there. Now there are many things where I am not perfect yet. But I am perfect when it comes to committing murder. I have never done that. I will never do that. We can be perfect, a little bit at a time, always perfecting ourselves, becoming Latter-day Saints. In living that way we warn our neighbors.

Second, we can strive for perfection in being missionaries. And if we are not perfect in all things, at least we can seriously heed the warnings that are given.

I bear witness that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ—I know that. The other churches teach that He is but an influence somewhere in the far reaches of the heavens. We know Him to be Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We know that He has a body of flesh and bones, that He presides over the Church, that He directs it through His earthly prophet, that there are apostles upon the earth who are witnesses of Him, special witnesses who move about the earth raising a voice of warning. I bear witness of Him. I know that He lives, and raise the voice of warning.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Ann Gallacher