Are You a Saint?


Keith B. McMullin
Adapted from an April 2001 general conference address.
The name of the Church is more than a label, it is an invitation to a better life.

To those who yearn for spiritual truth, some things become self-evident. I bear my witness of these things. God is in His heavens. We mortals are His spirit offspring. Jesus is our Redeemer. Joseph Smith was God’s prophet, and Gordon B. Hinckley is His prophet today. Revelations are pouring forth as in days of old. The kingdom of God, which is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is once more upon the earth.

Satan is real and is on the earth as well. He and his legions are wreaking havoc among the children of men. He speaks no truth, feels no love, promotes no good, and avows nothing but mayhem and destruction.

Therefore, I raise this day a “voice of warning” (D&C 1:4). It is an urgent, sobering reminder and invitation to good men and women everywhere. Listen to these words of revelation received on 1 November 1831:

“Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; …

“For I am no respecter of persons, and will that all men shall know that the day speedily cometh; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion” (D&C 1:17, 35).

Beware of worldly ways

The Lord speaks of calamity to befall the inhabitants of the earth. Calamities come in different forms. From time to time the forces of nature convulse, and we are wrenched by their destructive powers.

Even more devastating, however, are the calamitous forces of evil. In accordance with the prophecy of 1831, peace has now been taken from the earth, and the devil has power over his dominion. His beguiling ways are mesmerizing the people. Temptation is on every hand. Crassness and wrangling have become a way of life. What was once considered awful is now considered tame; what at first titillates, soon captivates and then destroys.

This calamity of evil will continue to spread until “the whole world … groaneth … under the bondage of sin” (D&C 84:49).

Therefore, this “voice of warning”:

  • Beware of worldly lusts. They stimulate the senses but enslave the soul. Those caught in the web of sensuality find that it is not easily broken.

  • Beware of worldly wealth. Its promises are enticing, but its happiness is a mirage. Wrote the Apostle Paul, “The love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10).

  • Beware of worldly preoccupation with self. The highs are counterfeit; the lows are despairing. Love, kindness, personal fulfillment, and genuine self-worth are found in service to God and others, not in service to oneself.

The Church provides a safe harbor

In the midst of these perils, there is a safe harbor. From the revelation cited earlier comes this assurance:

“And also the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst, and shall come down in judgment upon Idumea, or the world” (D&C 1:36).

There is safety in being a Saint. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ today are known as Latter-day Saints. In addition to being the Lord’s designation of those who belong to His Church, this appellation also serves as His invitation to a better way of life.

This became clear to me some years ago when, as a young father, I needed to purchase some temple clothing. When I entered the store, my attention was drawn to a sign that read “For Latter-day Saints Only.” The message jolted me. In my mind an argument ensued. “Why does it say ‘For Latter-day Saints Only’?” I asked myself. “Why doesn’t it say something like ‘For Endowed Church Members’?” Why does it raise this issue of being a “Latter-day Saint”?

The years since have tempered my impetuous nature. That argumentative encounter of long ago has become a treasured, defining moment. The experience taught me that just being a member of this Church is not enough. Nor is merely going through the motions of membership sufficient in this day of cynicism and unbelief. The spirituality and vigilance of a saint are required.

Becoming the Lord’s covenant people

Being saintly is to be good, pure, and upright. For such persons, virtues are not only declared but lived. For Latter-day Saints, the kingdom of God, or the Church, is not a byline; rather, it is the center and the substance of their lives. Home is “a bit of heaven,” (David O. McKay, in Improvement Era, June 1964, 520) not a hotel. The family is not merely a societal or biological entity. It is the basic eternal unit in God’s kingdom, wherein the gospel of Jesus Christ is taught and lived. Indeed, Latter-day Saints diligently strive to become a little better, a little kinder, a little nobler in the daily affairs of life.

The Lord sets forth the way in which such progress is made. Said He, “Wherefore, seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness.” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matt. 6:38; see Matt. 6:33, footnote a).

Holding to this course provides Latter-day Saints the means for avoiding the treacherous shoals of worldliness. Living this way enables members of the Church to become the covenant people of the Lord. For our time, we have the following prophetic guidance from President Hinckley on how this can be done:

“We are a covenant people. I have the feeling that if we could just encourage our people to live by three or four covenants everything else would take care of itself. …

“The first of these is the covenant of the sacrament, in which we take upon ourselves the name of the Savior and agree to keep His commandments with the promise in His covenant that He will bless us with His spirit. …

“Second, the covenant of tithing. … The promise … is that He will stay the destroyer and open the windows of heaven and pour down blessings that there will not be room enough to receive them. …

“Three, the covenants of the temple: Sacrifice, the willingness to sacrifice for this the Lord’s work—and inherent in that law of sacrifice is the very essence of the Atonement. … Consecration, which is associated with it, a willingness to give everything, if need be, to help in the onrolling of this great work. And a covenant of love and loyalty one to another in the bonds of marriage, fidelity, chastity, morality.

“If our people could only learn to live by these covenants, everything else would take care of itself, I am satisfied”(Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 146–47).

Covenants help us resist worldly ways

Worldly lusts lose their allure as the holy sacrament assumes its proper place in our lives. This covenant enables the faithful to keep themselves “unspotted from the world”(D&C 59:9; see also D&C 59:10, 12–13).

Worldly wealth loses its peril through conscientious adherence to the Lord’s tithe. Returning to Him a tithe of all He provides engenders in the giver a love of God above all else. It introduces the obedient to the higher law of giving without command. The fast and fast offerings are embraced, and power comes to loose the bands of wickedness, lift heavy burdens, bless the less fortunate, and strengthen family ties (see Isa. 58:6–11). The covenant of tithing weans the faithful from the love of money and its attendant trappings.

Worldly preoccupation with self surrenders to sacrifice, consecration, and the other holy covenants of the temple. As the Redeemer of the world gave all that we might be saved, these covenants allow us to give our all in the accomplishment of Heavenly Father’s purposes for His children.

And so, fear not. The things deemed weak by the world overthrow evils that appear so mighty and strong. Righteous men speak in the name of God the Lord. Faith increases in the earth. The everlasting covenants blossom in the lives of Latter-day Saints. The fulness of Christ’s gospel is proclaimed by precept and example unto the ends of the world. And the Lord’s covenant people prepare this earth for His Second Coming (See D&C 1:19–23). This is our duty. May the Lord sustain us in it is my prayer.

[photos] Photography by John Luke