WEEK SIXTY-SEVEN October 13, 2014
We had a sweet visit with the Four family this week. Her new job is promising and exciting and both our in school, she to complete her degree and he to obtain a special certification at University of California Irvine. They continue to express their great appreciation for our visits each week.
We also met with the Twenty-one family this week and completed the last temple preparation sequence with them. They are both well-prepared, excited, and willing. He has been called to the YM presidency and she is teaching Primary. “Our whole lives have changed,” said the wife, “This is wonderful.”
We missed the first Sunday of the new Aliso Creek Ward following the ward alignment and split the week before general conference. Everyone we have talked to is excited about the change, the nearness of the new chapel assignment, and their new bishop.
I remember when Nike was branded. We didn’t know how to pronounce the word, was it Nīk or Nigh-key. They then came up with the eponymous swoosh logo. So why am I thinking about that. Let me tell you. One of our dear friends now serving as a bishop shared that during conference weekend he took his twelve year old son to the general session of Priesthood. In one of those sweet tender mercies the Lord so willing shares with those alert and listening, the young man told his father of the "woosh" that he felt as the President Monson entered the room. I too have felt that “woosh” confirming not only the Lord’s anointed, but the will of the Lord. The father truthfully averred, “The Lord is always gentle and kind to ensure that his children receive opportunities to have the confirming witnesses of the Spirit of those events and opportunities.” Such a confirming scene is gratefully also seen in the lives of those we share the gospel with as missionaries.
The bishop noticed the strong theme of conference was the blessings of living prophets. He has noticed that many, questioning their faith, conclude the Brethren have been wrong before, pointing to the Priesthood ban or the practice of polygamy following the issuance of the Manifesto), and wonder if they can follow the brethren in trust.
My reply was that I had encountered the same in the mission field and that like him and his wife, it was not something I had ever encountered in my own thoughts. Every time I see a flaw in the Brethren, including the Prophet Joseph Smith, I find myself overjoyed with the thought that since the Lord sustains them, even in their flaws, there is hope for me. Furthermore I have yet to encounter an event, a principle, or teaching of the Brethren that challenged my testimony in any way. I hear all the time these “what if’s” but have never experienced one.
I found myself considering these initial truths that I hold dear—
• This is the Lord’s church and kingdom, not ours.
• If anyone needs to worry about what is happening in His church it is the Lord, not us.
• The Lord, out of His love for us, and His desire for us to receive all the joy and happiness we will allow Him to bestow upon us, not only gave us agency but sustains us in our agency.
• He has chosen to operate His church through priesthood keys which He has generously made available through His church and kingdom.
• Holy and sacred writ tells us He always has, does now, and always will sustain those who hold such priesthood keys.
• Scriptures teach the flow of knowledge comes to man always in a line upon line, precept upon precept manner, here a little and there a little.
• The Lord’s pattern of line upon line is the same for the Brethren as it is for us.
• Likewise the principles of revelation are not any different for the Brethren than they are for the rest of us.
• Our personal experience with revelation teaches great effort is required to be in tune with, hear, understand and implicitly follow the voice of the Spirit.
• To protect His church and kingdom the Lord requires the Brethren to operate in unanimity which necessitates changes being much slower than would be otherwise, but also blends in the necessary protection and certainty.
• All of the Brethren, as are we, imperfect and the Lord deals with that nonetheless and so must we.
I’ve seen a lot of changes in my lifetime in church practices and some seemingly even in doctrine. To my knowledge there has never been an occasion in which the Lord gave a comprehensive treatise on a doctrinal subject, rather again, it has always come line upon line; that is we never see the end from the beginning. If one is exposed somewhere along the line as that doctrine is being revealed, it may appear to change, but taken in total I suspect, when our perspective is perfect, it will not look so.
Since the Lord’s practice is not to give a full picture, but to guide us line upon line, to fail to sustain the Brethren, because the Lord “may” give more at a later time or because we in our foolish wisdom have a different agenda, is tantamount to casting out our confidence and depending solely on the arm of flesh. It bespeaks of someone who, at their core, doesn’t really believe the Lord is guiding the church anyway. It also invites the adversary to disrupt our happiness by sowing seeds of doubt which are happily planted and nourished to our destruction.
Members and non-members are overly agitated with fringe doctrines, i.e., doctrines not essential to the salvation and eternal life of man. It is a trap carefully developed and laid by the adversary. For some reason fringe doctrines hold great appeal, occupy much needed time, but they erode testimonies, confidence and peace.
I have yet to see an individual who struggled with faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, the very doctrines of Christ, or enduring to the end. You know, the things that bring exaltation. It is always some fringe thing, either an event or a doctrine, not yet fully developed by the Lord or explained. We have statements in the King Follett discourse concerning Heavenly Father’s process in becoming God and Lorenzo Snow’s couplet, but that is all. So how God became God, or who was God before he became our God are unproductive fringe questions. The Lord hasn’t seen fit to reveal the answers, so why do we spend any time on them at all? They are not necessary to our salvation and that is all we have time and energy to pursue in this mortal journey.
For example, the Lord has revealed very little about the creation and yet I am asked continually about “creation doctrine” and I have to repeatedly confess we do not know but the Lord has promised it will be revealed in the future (see D&C 101). We know as Elder McConkie so astutely stated, enough about the creation to know that something had to happen for the mortal journey essential to the plan of salvation to commence. That’s it. Everything else about the creation is a fringe doctrine, i.e., unnecessary to us now. We are not now in the creation business.
The event that evoked the multiplicity of opportunities to become as God we call the Fall. What do we know about the fall? Well practically nothing. We know it had to occur, we know there was a geographic change, we know it brought about procreation and all the opportunities necessary to become as God. Everything else about the creation is a fringe doctrine, not necessary to salvation, with the sole exception, we know because of the Fall, without the Atonement of Jesus Christ there was no way to return to our Father and our God. But that is it.
What then do we know about the atonement, how was it wrought, what made it possible, how did it work, why does it work? Well we don’t have those answers… yet! Instead we use terms such as “in some incomprehensible way” or “in some way not yet known to us” or “in some way yet to be revealed” Christ was able to take upon him the sins and afflictions of all mankind.
So here we have the three pillars of eternity, just the title sounds impressive and important: the creation, the fall and the atonement. However the Lord has only shared there had to be a creation and it was necessary for a fall to occur and except for the atonement the fall would have robbed all mankind of eternity with God. That’s all we know.
Just as the Lord in answering Moses’ two questions: 1) tell me how you made all these creations; and 2) tell me about these other worlds, (“Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?” [Moses 1:30]), the Lord replied: “For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me. And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth… But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you.” (Moses 1:31-32, 35.) In other words, “Moses my son I know you want to know all the things you need to know about the world, the environment, in which you live, but the rest are fringe doctrines. The key for you is to learn that “My work and my glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
The message to me is that I cannot comport my life by guessing what is going to happen or be revealed or by what may or may not be revealed at some time in the future. To do so sounds like gambling my eternal life with no evidence to support the reasons for the risk I am taking. There is nowhere in the scriptures where the Lord says, “Guess what I am going to do and you will enjoy eternal life.” Rather He says “Keep my commandments,” “Follow and sustain the Brethren,” “Hold fast to that which I have already revealed.” Furthermore, gambling on what “might happen” seems right in line with the taunting’s spewed by the adversary. Isn’t that what he did in the pre-mortal existence? It would seem obvious that following Satan’s path to find God makes no sense whatsoever.
I never place limits on my God. I am willing to accept whatever comes, whatever God reveals, I have placed no restrictions on what He can or may do or say. But for now the path is clearly before me, I have my direction clearly defined and I am confident in the Lord accepting my humble offering, as I willingly sustain the fallible Brethren He has placed at the head of His church.
“Perhaps there are very few men now living,” Lorenzo Snow testified in 1900, “who were so well acquainted with Joseph Smith the Prophet as I was. I was with him oftentimes. I visited him in his family, sat at his table, associated with him under various circumstances, and had private interviews with him for counsel. I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God; I know that he was an honorable man, a moral man, and that he had the respect of those who were acquainted with him.”
“I saw the imperfections in (Joseph). I thanked God that He would put upon a man who had those imperfections the power and authority He placed upon him ... for I knew that I myself had weaknesses, and I thought there was a chance for me. ... I thanked God that I saw these imperfections.”
“I told them I was but a man and they must not expect me to be perfect,” Joseph Smith said. “If they expected perfection from me, I should expect it from them, but if they would bear with my infirmities and the infirmities of the brethren, I would likewise bear with their infirmities.”
As bishop I felt with and for those so challenged, even to recognizing and expressing an understanding of things might look that way to them. I find myself with the same thoughts as a senior missionary. All I can offer is a simple testimony in the form of stating why I believe as I believe and why I am confident in following that path, including putting on the shelf for later exploration those things I don't understand and leaving fringe doctrines alone. I suspect when all is said and done safety is in trusting the Lord, that He is in control, that He knows what is going on, that His timing and ways are right. If we don't have that trust then there is no protection
A couple of months ago we received an unsolicited email from our missionary president instruction us to go home for our last grandson’s baptism. It has been difficult for me to contemplate doing this and even when we purchased the airplane tickets to return I was quite apprehensive. But this Friday we flew home to Provo, Utah for our grandson’s baptism and returned on Monday.
At the baptism we were greatly pleased to see Elder and Sister Litchfield, now honorable released and home from our mission, waiting at the chapel. It was good to renew our friendship with them. Our grandson had asked Sister Haddock to give the talk on baptism. She shared that our Savior walked approximately 60 miles to be baptized of John which was about the same distance driven when the family attended the Ogden Temple open house. In doing so Jesus showed us how important is baptism. She pointed out that his day today held the same authority that John had in baptizing the Savior and in being baptized he was promising to follow Jesus. That a promise with the Lord is called a covenant. Because of his love for us He also gives us a bunch of “how to’s.” These “how to’s” are commandments. A commandment is our Savior telling us, “If you want to have my spirit to guide you, keep my commandments.
If you want a blessing, Jesus gives us a How To showing us how to get it
• If you want to be blessed in this life, pay your tithing
• If you want best health, live the word of wisdom
• If you want never to be alone, pray to Heavenly Father always
She then showed the pained rock that he had sent her last Christmas telling him she used it to remind her of what Jesus Christ has done for her and what He expects of her in following His example. She concluded the talk by giving the rock back to him as a reminder to always look to Jesus for safety and support.
We had a great visit. We were able to see “Meet the Mormons” with the family.
The drive to our apartment was quite strange to me. One would think going to our home in Provo would provide a comforting returning feeling and it was nice to be there, happy to see everyone, and no bad feelings at all. But strangely as we drove into Brittany Apartment Homes I felt I was coming “home.” Returning to the mission field felt like coming home. I was surprised by the feeling I talked with Jan about it for some time. I think it was a tender blessing of the Lord assuring us we are where we are supposed to be as seasoned missionaries. Also it came as an assurance that the trip had been approved by the Lord and we were being welcomed back. The final thought was that it is going to be harder to leave those we love in the mission field than it was to leave loved ones in Provo. Those in Provo were left with the assurance that in eighteen months we would be returning to them. Yet those loved ones here in the mission field we may never see again and they now hold a large place in our hearts.
The time has flown much faster than it did even as a young missionary and I thought that was quick. Our children and grandchildren can't believe 16 months have flown by and were shocked when we told them our release date. I think it has sent a message to our grandchildren that serving a mission doesn't take much time out of your life, which eliminates a substantial worry for young folks. I have shared with them that they will be the sixth consecutive generation of our family to serve full-time missions. What a joy and what a blessing.