Trial of Your Faith
How do you remain “steadfast and immovable” during a trial of faith? You immerse yourself in the very things that helped build your core of faith – you exercise faith in Christ, you pray, you ponder the scriptures, you repent, you keep the commandments, and you serve others.
When faced with a trial of faith – whatever you do, you don’t step away from the Church! Distancing yourself from the Kingdom of God during a trial of faith is like leaving the safety of a secure storm cellar just as the tornado comes into view.
When you are faced with a test of faith – stay within the safety and security of the household of God. There is always a place for you here. No trial is so large we can’t overcome it together.
There are many single adults in the Church well beyond their early adult years. While finding their present life different than they had anticipated, they keep the law of chastity. It can be a trial of their faith.
“God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation…be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” In the New Testament the Savior lifted the moral standard for His followers when he declared, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery…already in his heart.” He taught us not to condemn others, but he was unafraid to speak directly, “Go,” he said, “and sin no more.”
A few question their faith when they find a statement made by a Church leader decades ago that seems incongruent with our doctrine. There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many. Our doctrine is not difficult to find.
The leaders of the Church are honest but imperfect men. Remember the words of Moroni: “Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father… but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.”
By definition, trials will be trying. There may be anguish, confusion, sleepless nights, and pillows wet with tears. But our trials need not be spiritually fatal. They need not take us from our covenants, or from the household of God.
With faith, come trials of faith, bringing increased faith. The Lord’s comforting assurance to the Prophet Joseph Smith is the very same promise He makes to you in your trial of faith: “Hold on…fear not…for God shall be with you forever and ever.” Of this I bear my sacred witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Honeybees are driven to pollinate, gather nectar, and condense the nectar into honey. It is their magnificent obsession imprinted into their genetic make-up by our Creator. It is estimated that to produce just this one pound of honey the average hive of 20,000 to 60,000 bees must collectively visit millions of flowers and travel the equivalent of two times around the world. Over its short lifetime of just a few weeks to four months, a single honeybee’s contribution of honey to its hive is a mere one-twelfth of one teaspoon.
Though seemingly insignificant when compared to the total, each bee’s one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey is vital to the life of the hive. The bees depend on each other. Work that would be too overwhelming for a few bees to do becomes lighter because all of the bees faithfully do their part.
The beehive has always been an important symbol in our Church history. We learn in the Book of Mormon that the Jaredites carried honeybees with them when they journeyed to the Americas thousands of years ago. Brigham Young chose the beehive as a symbol to encourage and inspire the cooperative energy necessary among the pioneers to transform the barren desert wasteland surrounding the Great Salt Lake into the fertile valleys we have today. We are the benefactors of their collective vision and industry.
All of this symbolism attests to one fact: Great things are brought about and burdens lightened
through the efforts of many hands “anxiously engaged in a good cause.” Imagine what the millions of Latter-day Saints could accomplish in the world if we functioned like a beehive in our focused, concentrated commitment to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Savior taught that the first and great commandment is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“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 22:37-40).
The Savior’s words are simple-yet their meaning is profound and deeply significant. We are to love God and to love and care for our neighbors as ourselves. Imagine what good we can do in the world if we all join together, united as followers of Christ, anxiously and busily responding to the needs of others and serving those around us-our families, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens.
As the Epistle of James notes, service is the very definition of pure religion (see James 1:27).
… Simple, daily acts of service may not seem like much in and of themselves, but when considered collectively they become just like the one-twelfth teaspoon of honey contributed by a single bee to the hive. There is power in our love for God and for His children, and when that love is tangibly manifest in millions of acts of Christian kindness it will sweeten and nourish the world with the life-sustaining nectar of faith, hope, and charity.
What do we need to do to become like the dedicated honeybees and have that dedication become a part of our nature? Many of us are dutiful in attending our Church meetings, and we work hard in our callings, especially on Sundays. That is surely to be commended. But are our minds and our hearts just as anxiously engaged in good things during the rest of the week? Do we just go through the motions, or are we truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ? How do we take the seed of faith that has been nurtured in our minds and plant it deep in the fertile soil of our souls? How do we make the mighty change of heart that Alma says is essential for our eternal happiness and peace? Remember, honey contains all of the substances necessary to sustain mortal life.
And the doctrine and gospel of Christ is the only way to obtain eternal life. Only when our testimony transcends what is in our mind and burrows deep into our heart will our motivation to love and to serve become like unto the Savior’s. It is then, and only then, that we become deeply converted disciples of Christ empowered by the Spirit to reach the hearts of our fellowmen.
When our hearts are no longer set upon the things of the world, we will no longer aspire to the honors of men or seek only to gratify our pride (see D&C 121:35). Rather, we take on the Christ-like qualities that Jesus taught:
?We are gentle and meek and longsuffering (see D&C 121:41).
? We are kind, without hypocrisy or guile (see D&C 121:42).
? We feel charity toward all men (see D&C 121:45).
? Our thoughts are always virtuous (see D&C 121:45).
? We no longer desire to do evil (see Mosiah 5:2).
?The Holy Ghost is our constant companion, and the doctrines of the priesthood distill upon our souls as the dews from heaven (see D&C 121:45).
How do we make this change? How do we ingrain this love of Christ into our hearts? There is one simple daily practice that can make a difference for every member of the Church… That simple practice is: In your morning prayer each new day, ask Heavenly Father to guide you to recognize an opportunity to serve one of His precious children. Then go throughout the day with your heart full of faith and love, looking for someone to help. Stay focused on this, just like the honeybees focus on the flowers from which to gather nectar and pollen. If you do this, your spiritual sensitivities will be enlarged, and you will discover opportunities to serve that you never before realized were possible.
And remember, like the little honeybees one-twelfth teaspoon of honey provided to the hive, if we multiply our efforts by tens of thousands and even millions of prayerful efforts to share God’s love for His children through Christian service, there will be a compounding effect of good that will bring the light of Christ to this ever-darkening world. Bound together, we will bring love and compassion to our own family and to the lonely, the poor, the broken, and to those of our Heavenly Father’s children who are searching for truth and peace.
This is God’s work. May we be about it as faithfully as the dedicated little honeybees go about theirs, I humbly pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
When I was fourteen years old, two missionaries, Lee Pearson and Boyd Camphuysen, taught my family the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and I was baptized. Two years later, my priest quorum advisor, Richard Boren, challenged me to read the Book of Mormon. I accepted that challenge, and I read at least 10 pages every night until I finished.
On the title page I read that it is “written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the House of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile.” In the Introduction to the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, it says that the Lamanites “are among the ancestors of the American Indians.” As I read the Book of Mormon, it seemed to me that it was about my American Indian ancestors. It tells the story of a people, a part of which were later described as “Lamanites,” who migrated from Jerusalem to a “land of promise” about 600 B.C. It is an account of God’s dealings with these ancient inhabitants located somewhere on the American continents. It includes an account of the ministry of Jesus Christ among them following His resurrection. Passages in the Book of Mormon suggest that over time they were dispersed throughout the American continents and islands of the nearby seas (see Alma 63:9-10). Their prophets foretold that many multitudes of Gentiles would eventually come to this land of promise, and the wrath of God would be upon the Lamanites, and they would be scattered, smitten and nearly destroyed (see 1 Nephi 13:10-14).
My great grandfather, Echo Hawk, a Pawnee Indian, was born in the mid-1800’s in what is now called Nebraska. When he was 19 years of age, the Pawnee people were forced to give up their 23-million-acre homeland to make room for settlers. In 1874, the Pawnee people were marched several hundred miles south to a small reservation located in the Oklahoma Indian Territory. The population of Pawnee people had declined from over 12,000 to less than 700 upon their arrival in Oklahoma. The Pawnee, like other tribes, had been scattered, smitten and nearly destroyed.
The Book of Mormon has a special message for descendants of the Lamanites, a remnant of the House of Israel. Nephi expressed this message while interpreting his father’s vision of these latter days: “And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by Him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of His doctrine, that they may know how to come unto Him and be saved” (1 Nephi 15:14).
The Book of Mormon is sacred scripture. It contains the fullness of the everlasting gospel. The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote that “the Book of Mormon [is] the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church, 4:461). Thus, it has a message for all people of the world.
I exhort all people to read “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” I especially ask the remnant of the House of Israel, the descendants of the people of the Book of Mormon, wherever you may be, to read and re-read the Book of Mormon. Learn of the promises contained in the Book of Mormon. Follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. Make and keep covenants with the Lord. Seek for and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Savior once asked His disciples the following question: “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
This is a question that my father taught me to carefully consider years ago.
As I was growing up, my parents assigned me chores around the house and paid me an allowance for that work. I often used that money, a little over fifty cents a week, to go to the movies. Back then, a movie ticket cost twenty-five cents for an eleven-year-old. This left me with twenty-five cents to spend on candy bars which cost five cents apiece. A movie with five candy bars! It couldn’t get much better than that.
All was well until I turned twelve. Standing in line one afternoon, I realized that the ticket price for a twelve-year-old was thirty-five cents, and that meant two less candy bars. Not quite prepared to make that sacrifice, I reasoned to myself, “You look the same as you did a week ago.” I then stepped up and asked for the twenty-five cent ticket. The cashier did not blink and I bought my regular five candy bars instead of three.
Elated by my accomplishment, I later rushed home to tell my dad about my big coup. As I poured out the details, he said nothing. When I finished, he simply looked at me and said, “Son, would you sell your soul for a nickel?” His words pierced my twelve-year-old heart. It is a lesson I have never forgotten.
As we consider the nickel or national championship exchanges in our lives we can either self-justify our actions, like Cain, or look to submit to the will of God. The question before us is not whether we are doing things which need correcting, because we always are. Rather, the question is, “Will we shrink’ or finish’ the call upon our soul to do the will of the Father?”
The Lord loves our righteousness but asks of us continued repentance and submission… The chief Lamanite King, the father of Lamoni, who also asked the same question about eternal life, saying:
“What shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his spirit…I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy?”
Do you remember the response the Lord gave the king through his servant Aaron?
“…If thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and wilt bow down before God, and call upon his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then thou shalt receive the hope which thou desirest.”
When the king understood the sacrifice required, he humbled and prostrated himself, and then prayed:
“Oh God… I will give away all my sins to know thee…”
This is the exchange the Savior is asking of us-we are to give up all our sins, big or small, for the Father’s reward of eternal life. We are to forget self- justifying stories, excuses, rationalizations, defense mechanisms, procrastinations, appearances, personal pride, judgmental thoughts and doing things our way. We are to separate ourselves from all worldliness, and take upon us the image of God in our countenances.
With an engaged Enemy we must also act and not sit in “thoughtless stupor.” Taking upon the countenance of God means serving each other. There are sins of commission and sins of omission, and we are to rise above both.
Our Father in Heaven is pleading with us to quiet the rush of our lives, to hearken and to forsake our fears or inconveniences and go straightway into His service.
To the question, “What will a man give in exchange for his soul? Satan would have us sell our lives for the candy bars and championships of this world. The Savior calls us without price, to exchange our sins, take upon us His countenance, and to take that into the hearts of those within our reach. For this we may receive all that God has, which we are told is greater than all the combined treasures of this earth. Can you even imagine?
Although I do not speak in terms of politics or public policy, like other church leaders I cannot speak for the welfare of children without implications for the choices being made by citizens, public officials and workers in private organizations. We are all under the Savior’s command to love and care for each other, and especially for the weak and defenseless.
Children are highly vulnerable. They have little or no power to protect or provide for themselves, and little influence on so much that is vital to their well-being. Children need others to speak for them, and they need decision-makers who put their well-being ahead of selfish adult interests.
Worldwide, we are shocked at the millions of children victimized by evil adult crimes and selfishness.
In some war-torn countries, children are abducted to serve as soldiers in contending armies. A United Nations report estimates that nearly 2 million children are victimized each year through prostitution and pornography.
From the perspective of the Plan of Salvation, one of the most serious abuses of children is to deny them birth. This is a worldwide trend. The national birthrate in the United States is the lowest in 25 years, and the birthrates in most European and Asian countries have been below replacement levels for many years. This is not just a religious issue. As rising generations diminish in numbers, cultures and even nations are hollowed out and eventually disappear.
One cause of the diminishing birthrate is the practice of abortion. Worldwide, there are estimated to be more than 40 million abortions per year. Many laws permit or even promote abortion, but to us this is a great evil. Other abuses of children that occur during pregnancy are the fetal impairments that result from the mother’s inadequate nutrition or drug use.
Childhood abuses or neglect of children that occur after birth are more publicly visible. Worldwide, almost 8 million children die before their 5th birthday, mostly from diseases both treatable and preventable. And the World Health Organization reports that one in four children have stunted growth, mentally and physically, because of inadequate nutrition
Even in rich nations little children and youth are impaired by neglect. Children growing up in poverty have inferior health care and inadequate educational opportunities. They are also exposed to dangerous environments in their physical and cultural surroundings and even from the neglect of their parents
We remember our Savior’s teaching as he placed a little child before His followers and declared:
“And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:5-6).
When we consider the dangers from which children should be protected, we should also include psychological abuse. Parents or other caregivers or teachers or peers who demean, bully, or humiliate children or youth can inflict harm more permanent than physical injury. Making a child or youth feel worthless, unloved or unwanted can inflict serious and long-lasting injury on his or her emotional well-being and development. Young people struggling with any exceptional condition, including same-gender attraction, are particularly vulnerable and need loving understanding, not bullying or ostracism.
There are few examples of physical or emotional threats to children as important as those arising out of their relationships with their parents or guardians. Of utmost importance to the well-being of children is whether their parents were married, the nature and duration of the marriage, and, more broadly, the culture and expectations of marriage and child care where they live.
The most powerful teaching of children is by the example of their parents. Divorcing parents inevitably teach a negative lesson. There are surely cases when a divorce is necessary for the good of the children, but those circumstances are exceptional. In most marital contests the contending parents should give much greater weight to the interests of the children. With the help of the Lord, they can do so.
Children are also victimized by marriages that do not occur. Few measures of the welfare of our rising generation are more disturbing than the recent report that 41 percent of all births in the United States were to women who were not married. Most of the children born to unmarried mothers-58 percent-were born to couples who were cohabitating. Whatever we may say about these couples’ foregoing marriage, studies show that their children suffer significant comparative disadvantages. For children, the relative stability of marriage matters.
We should assume the same disadvantages for children raised by couples of the same gender. The social science literature is controversial and politically charged on the long-term effect of this on children, principally because, as a New York Times writer observed, “[s]ame-sex marriage is a social experiment, and like most experiments it will take time to understand its consequences.”
We are speaking of the children of God, and with His powerful help we can do more to help them. In this plea I address not only Latter-day Saints, but also all persons of religious faith and others who have a value system that causes them to subordinate their own needs to those of others, especially to the welfare of children.
Religious persons are also conscious of the Savior’s New Testament teaching that pure little children are our role models of humility and teachableness.
“Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).
The first instruction to Adam for his mortal responsibility is found in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
The joining together of a man and a woman to be legally and lawfully wed not only is preparation for future generations to inherit the earth, but it also brings the greatest joy and satisfaction that can be found in this mortal experience. This is especially true when the powers of the priesthood proclaim a marriage to be for time and all eternity. Children born to such marriages have a security that is found nowhere else.
Lessons taught in the home by goodly parents are becoming increasingly important in today’s world, where the influence of the adversary is so widespread. As we know, he is attempting to erode and destroy the very foundation of our society-the family. In clever and carefully camouflaged ways, he is attacking commitment to family life throughout the world, and undermining the culture and covenants of faithful latter-day saints. Parents must resolve that teaching in the home is a most sacred and important responsibility. While other institutions, such as church and school can assist parents to “train up a child in the way he [or she] should go” (Proverbs 22:6), this responsibility ultimately rests on the parents. According to the great plan of happiness, it is goodly parents who are entrusted with the care and development of Heavenly Father’s children.
In our remarkable, parental stewardship, there are many ways that goodly parents can access the help and support they need to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their children. Let me suggest five things parents can do to create stronger family cultures:
First, parents can pray in earnest, asking the Eternal Father to help them love, understand and guide the children He has sent to them.
Second, they can hold family prayer, scripture study, and family home evenings, and eat together as often as possible, making dinner a time of communication and the teaching of values.
Third, parents can fully avail themselves of the Church’s support network, communicating with their children’s primary teachers, youth leaders, and class and quorum presidencies. By communicating with those who are called and set apart to work with their children, parents can provide essential understanding of a child’s special and specific needs.
Fourth, parents can share their testimonies often with their children, commit them to keep the commandments of God, and promise the blessings that our Heavenly Father promises His faithful children.
Fifth, we can organize our families based on clear, simple family rules and expectations, wholesome family traditions and rituals, and “family economics,” where children have household responsibilities and earn allowances so they can learn to budget, save, and pay tithing on the money they earn.
These suggestions for creating stronger family cultures work in tandem with the culture of the Church. Our strengthened family cultures will be a protection for our children from the “fiery darts of the adversary” embedded in their peer culture, the entertainment and celebrity cultures, the credit and entitlement cultures, and the internet and media cultures to which they are constantly exposed. It will help our children “live in the world,” and not become “of the world.”
I believe it is by divine design that the role of motherhood emphasizes the nurturing and teaching of the next generation. But it is wonderful to see husbands and wives who have worked out real partnerships where they blend together their influence and communicate effectively both about their children and to their children.
The onslaught of wickedness against our children is more subtle and brazen than it has ever been.
Building a stronger family culture adds another layer of protection for our children, insulating them from worldly influences.
A few months prior to the completion of the extensive renovation work [of the Laie Hawaii Temple], I was invited to tour the temple with the Executive Director of the Temple Department, Elder William R. Walker, and his Temple Department associates. In addition, various members of the general contracting firm were in attendance. The purpose of the tour, in part, was to review the progress and quality of the work performed. At the time of this tour the work was about 85% completed.
As we moved through the temple, I watched and listened to Elder Walker and his associates as they inspected the work and conversed with the general contractor. On occasion I observed one man running his hand along the walls as we moved from room to room. A few times after doing this he would rub his fingers together and then approach the general contractor and say, “I feel grit on this wall. Grit is not temple standard. You will need to re-sand and buff this wall.” The contractor dutifully took notes of each observation.
As we approached an area in the temple that few eyes would ever see, the same man stopped us and directed our attention to a newly installed, beautiful, leaded glass window. This window measured about two-feet (.6m) wide by six feet (1.8m) tall and contained an embedded, small stained glass geometric pattern. He pointed to a small two-inch (5cm) colored glass square that was part of the simple pattern and said, “That square is crooked.” I looked at the square and to my eyes it looked evenly placed. However, upon closer inspection with a measuring device in hand, I could see there was a flaw and that this little square was indeed 1/8th of an inch (3mm) crooked. Direction was then given to the contractor that this window would need to be replaced because it was not temple standard.
It wasn’t until several weeks later when I was invited to tour the now completed temple that my understanding of the prior tour experience became clearer.
As I entered the completely renovated Laie Hawaii Temple, I was overwhelmed by its beauty and quality of finish. You can appreciate my anticipation as I approached the “gritty” walls and “flawed” window. Did the contractor re-sand and buff the walls? Was the window really replaced? As I approached the gritty walls I was surprised to see that beautiful wallpaper now hung on all the walls. My first thought was, “So, this is how the contractor addressed the grit-he covered it.” But, no, I learned that it had always been the plan to hang wallpaper on these walls. I wondered why a little, hardly detectable grit mattered if wallpaper was to cover it? I then eagerly approached the area where the flawed window was located and was surprised to see a beautiful floor to ceiling potted plant sitting directly in front of the window. Again, I thought, “So, this is how the contractor addressed the crooked little square-he hid it.” As I moved closer, I pushed the plant’s leaves aside and smiled as I saw that the window had indeed been replaced. The formerly crooked little square now stood neatly and evenly in the pattern. I learned that it had always been part of the interior design to have a plant in front of this window.
Why would walls with a little grit and a window with a little asymmetry require additional work and even replacement when few human eyes or hands would ever know? Why was a contractor held to such high standards?
As I exited the temple deep in thought, I found my answer as I looked up at the refinished exterior and saw these words, “Holiness to the Lord, The House of the Lord.”
The temples of this Church are precisely as proclaimed. These sacred buildings are built for our use and within their walls sacred and saving ordinances are performed. But, there should be no doubt as to whose house it really is. By requiring exacting standards of construction down to the smallest of details we show not only our love and respect for the Lord, Jesus Christ, but we hold out to all observers that we honor and worship Him whose house it is.
I learned that even though mortal eyes and hands may never see or feel a defect, the Lord knows the level of our efforts and whether we have done our very best. The same is true of our own personal efforts to live a life worthy of the blessings of the temple. The Lord has counseled, “And inasmuch as my people build a house unto me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it; Yea, and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God. But if it be defiled I will not come into it, and my glory shall not be there; for I will not come into unholy temples.”
Like the contractor, when we become aware of elements in our own lives that are inconsistent with the teachings of the Lord, when our efforts have been less than our very best, we should move quickly to correct anything that is amiss recognizing that we cannot hide our sins from the Lord. We need to remember that, “…when we undertake to cover our sins…behold, the heavens withdraw themselves;” [and] “the Spirit of the Lord is grieved…”
We are each made of the finest materials, and we are the miraculous result of divine craftsmanship. However, as we move past the age of accountability and step onto the battlefield of sin and temptation, our own temple can become in need of renovation and repair work. Perhaps there are walls within us that are gritty and need buffing, or windows of our souls that need replacement in order that we can stand in holy places. Gratefully, the temple standard that we are asked to meet is not that of perfection, although we are striving for it, but rather that we are keeping the commandments and doing our best to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that we will all endeavor to live a life worthy of the blessings of the temple by doing our best, by making the necessary improvements and eliminating flaws and imperfections so that the Spirit of God may always dwell in us.