Whom Say Ye That I Am?
Seeking for and obtaining a testimony of spiritual truth requires asking, seeking, and knocking (see Matthew 7:7; 3 Nephi 14:7) with a sincere heart, real intent, and faith in the Savior (see Moroni 10:4). Fundamental components of a testimony are knowing that Heavenly Father lives and loves us, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that the fulness of the gospel has been restored to the earth in these latter days.
When Thou Art Converted
The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through the Savior’s Atonement. True conversion brings a change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God (see Acts 3:19; 3 Nephi 9:20) and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ.
Conversion is an enlarging, a deepening, and a broadening of the undergirding base of testimony. It is the result of revelation from God, accompanied by individual repentance, obedience, and diligence. Any honest seeker of truth can become converted by experiencing the mighty change of heart and being spiritually born of God (see Alma 5:12-14). As we honor the ordinances and covenants of salvation and exaltation (see D&C 20:25), “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20), and endure in faith to the end (see D&C 14:7), we become new creatures in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). Conversion is an offering of self we give to God in gratitude for the gift of testimony.
Book of Mormon Examples of Conversion
Knowing by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ is important and necessary. But earnestly coming unto Him and giving our whole souls as an offering requires much more than merely knowing. Conversion requires all of our heart, all of our might, and all of our mind and strength (see D&C 4:2).
The key characteristics associated with conversion are experiencing a mighty change in our hearts, having a disposition to do good continually, going forward in the path of duty, walking circumspectly before God, keeping the commandments, and serving with unwearied diligence. Clearly, these faithful souls had become deeply devoted to the Lord and His teachings.
Samuel the Lamanite identified five basic elements in becoming converted unto the Lord: (1) believing in the teachings and prophecies of the holy prophets as they are recorded in the scriptures, (2) exercising faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, (3) repenting, (4) experiencing a mighty change of heart, and (5) becoming firm and steadfast in the faith” (see Helaman 15:7-8). This is the pattern that leads to conversion.
Testimony and Conversion
Testimony is the beginning of and a prerequisite to continuing conversion. Testimony is a point of departure; it is not an ultimate destination. Strong testimony is the foundation upon which conversion is established.
Testimony alone is not and will not be enough to protect us in the latter day storm of darkness and evil in which we are living. Testimony is important and necessary but not sufficient to provide the spiritual strength and protection we need. Some members of the Church with testimonies have wavered and fallen away. Their spiritual knowledge and commitment did not measure up to the challenges they faced.
A testimony is spiritual knowledge of truth obtained by the power of the Holy Ghost. Continuing conversion is constant devotion to the revealed truth we have received-with a heart that is willing and for righteous reasons. Knowing that the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony. Consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion. We should know the gospel is true and be true to the gospel.
President David O. McKay said, “I feel impressed to emphasize what the Lord has designated as the most important meeting in the Church and that is the sacrament meeting.”2 If we properly prepare for the sacrament it can transform our lives. I would like to suggest five principles that can bless our lives as we partake of the sacrament worthily.
I. Have a Feeling of Gratitude for the Atonement of Jesus Christ
The first principle is to have a feeling of gratitude to Heavenly Father during the sacrament for the atonement of His Son.
II. Remember That We Are Renewing Baptismal Covenants
The second principle is to remember that we are renewing our baptismal covenants as we partake of the sacrament. Some of the promises that we make as recorded in the scriptures include, “Come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, …to bear one another’s burdens, …to mourn with those that mourn, …to stand as witnesses of God.”4 “Come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits,…willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end,”5 and to keep His commandments and always remember Him.
The sacramental prayers are a reminder of these covenants. When we partake of the sacrament we renew our commitment to live up to these covenants. I believe it would be appropriate to memorize the sacramental prayers in our minds and in our hearts. This will help us focus on renewing our baptismal covenants. Whether we were eight or 80 years old when we were baptized, I hope we will never forget that day and the covenants we made.
III. During The Sacrament We Can Feel Forgiven Of Our Sins
Third, during the sacrament we can feel forgiven of our sins. If we have spent time before sacrament meeting repenting of our sins we can leave sacrament meeting feeling clean and pure. President Packer said, “The sacrament renews the process of forgiveness…… Every Sunday when the sacrament is served, that is a ceremony to renew the process of forgiveness. Every Sunday you cleanse yourself so that, in due time, when you die your spirit will be clean.”6 Partaking of the sacrament worthily can help us feel like the people of King Benjamin, who, “were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience.
IV. We Can Receive Inspiration For Solutions To Our Problems
The fourth principle is that we can receive inspiration for solutions to our problems during sacrament meeting. As we humbly come to sacrament meeting we can be blessed to feel impressions for solutions to our daily problems. We must come prepared, be willing to listen and not be distracted. In the scriptures we read, “But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.”8 We can know what we should do to solve our problems.
V. Partaking of the Sacrament Worthily Will Help Us Be Filled With the Holy Ghost
The fifth principle, partaking of the sacrament worthily, will help us be filled with the Holy Ghost. Upon instituting the sacrament during His visit to the Nephites, Jesus stated, “He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger or thirst, but shall be filled.” 9 They had been promised that if they hungered and thirsted after righteousness they would be filled with the Holy Ghost. The sacramental prayer also promises that if we live up to our covenants we will always have His spirit to be with us.
What does it mean to be a Christian?
A Christian has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the literal Son of God, sent by His Father to suffer for our sins in the supreme act of love we know as the Atonement.
A Christian believes that through the grace of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, we can repent, forgive others, keep the commandments, and inherit eternal life.
The word Christian denotes taking upon us the name of Christ. We do this by being baptized and receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, by those holding His priesthood authority.
A Christian knows that throughout the ages, God’s prophets have always testified of Jesus Christ. This same Jesus, accompanied by Heavenly Father, appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith in the year 1820 and restored the gospel and the organization of His original Church.
Through scripture and the witness of Joseph Smith, we know that God, our Heavenly Father has a glorified and perfected body of flesh and bone. Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son in the flesh. The Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit whose work is to testify of the Father and the Son. The Godhead is three separate and distinct beings, unified in purpose.
With these doctrines as the foundation of our faith, can there be any doubt or disputation that we are Christian? Yet for every Christian, a simple question remains: what kind of Christians are we? In other words, how are we doing in our quest to follow Christ?
To be who Heavenly Father wants us to be, we follow Jesus Christ. I testify that He is continually calling us to follow Him. If you are just learning about the Christian commitment of the Latter-day Saints, or if you have not been fully participating in the Church and want to follow Him again-fear not! The Savior’s first disciples were all new members of the Church, newly converted to His gospel. Jesus patiently taught each one. He helped them fulfill their responsibilities. He called them His friends and laid down His life for them. And He has already done the same for you and for me.
I testify that through His infinite love and grace, we can become more Christian Christians. Consider the following Christlike qualities. How are we doing in strengthening them within ourselves?
Christian love. The Savior valued everyone. Kind and compassionate to all, he left the ninety-and-nine to find the one, for “even the very hairs of [our] head are . . . numbered” to Him.
Christian faith. Despite temptations, trials, and persecutions, the Savior trusted our Heavenly Father and chose to be faithful and obedient to His commandments.
Christian sacrifice. Throughout His life the Savior gave of His time, His energy, and ultimately, through the Atonement, gave Himself so that all God’s children could be resurrected and have the opportunity to inherit eternal life.
Christian caring. Like the Good Samaritan, the Savior was continually reaching out to rescue, love, and nurture people around Him, regardless of their culture, creed, or circumstances.
Christian service. Whether drawing water from a well, cooking a meal of fish, or washing dusty feet, the Savior spent His days serving others-lifting up the weary, and strengthening the weak.
Christian patience. In His own sorrow and suffering, the Savior waited upon His Father. With patience for us, He waits upon us to come to ourselves and come home.
Christian peace. Throughout His ministry He urged understanding and promoted peace. Especially among His disciples, He taught that Christians cannot contend with other Christians, notwithstanding their differences.
Christian forgiveness. He taught us to bless those that curse us, and showed us the way by praying that those who crucified Him would be forgiven.
Christian conversion. Like Peter and Andrew, many recognize the truth of the gospel as soon as they hear it. They are instantly converted. For others, it may take longer. In a revelation given through Joseph Smith, the Savior taught: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” Jesus Christ is “the light and Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth.”
Christian endurance to the end. In all His days, the Savior never gave up doing His Father’s will, but continued in righteousness, goodness, mercy, and truth to the end of His mortal life.
These are some of the characteristics of those who hear and heed the Savior’s voice.As one of His special witnesses on the earth, I give my Christian testimony that He is calling to you today, “Come, follow me.” Come walk the path that leads to eternal happiness, joy, and everlasting life in the kingdom of our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, amen.
Making the covenant to be a disciple of Christ is the beginning of a lifelong process and the path is not always easy. As we repent of our sins and strive to do what He would have us do and serve our fellowmen as He would serve them, we will inevitably become more like Him. Becoming like Him and being one with Him is the ultimate goal and objective, and essentially the very definition of true discipleship.
As the Savior asked His disciples when He visited the American Continent, Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?” And then, answering His own question, He said, “Verily I say unto you, even as I am (3 Nephi 27:27).
Becoming as the Savior is not an easy task, especially in the world in which we live. We face obstacles and adversity virtually every day of our lives. There is a reason for this and it is one of the primary purposes of mortality. As we read in Abraham 3:25, And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.
These tests or trials vary in nature and intensity. But no one will leave this mortal existance without passing through them. Mostly, we picture trials as the loss of a crop or a job, the death of a loved one, illness, physical, mental or emotional incapacitation, poverty or loss of friends. However, even the attainment of seemingly worthwhile objectives can bring their own dangers of unhelpful pride, where we apsire more to the honors of men than the approbation of Heaven. These may include worldly popularity, public recognition, physical prowess, artistic or athletic talent, prosperity and riches. Regarding these latter trials, some of us may have feelings similar to those expressed by Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, (quote) “if riches are a curse, may God smite me with it and may I never recover” (end quote). But these latter types of trials may be even more daunting and dangerous and more difficult to overcome than the former. Our discipleship will be devoloped and proven, not by the type of trials that we are faced with, but how we endure them. As we have been taught by President Eyring, (quote) “So, the great test of life is to see whether we will hearken to and obey God’s commands in the midst of the storms of life. It is not to endure storms, but to choose the right while they rage. And the tragedy of life is to fail in that test and so fail to qualify to return in glory to our heavenly home” (End Quote) (General Conference, October 2005).
We have had unprecedented coverage of the conference, reaching across the continents and the oceans to people everywhere. Though we are far removed from many of you, we feel of your spirit and send our love and appreciation to you.
To our Brethren who have been released at this conference, may I express the heartfelt gratitude of all of us for your many years of devoted service. Countless are those who have been blessed by your contributions to the work of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, I have just recently celebrated my 85th birthday, and I am grateful for each year the Lord has granted me. As I reflect upon my life’s experiences, I thank Him for His many blessings to me. As I mentioned in my message this morning, I have felt His hand directing my efforts as I have tried earnestly to serve Him and to serve all of you.
The office of the President of the Church is a demanding one. How grateful I am for my two faithful counselors who serve by my side and who are always willing and exceptionally able to assist in the work which comes to the First Presidency. I express my gratitude as well for the noble men who comprise the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. They work tirelessly in the cause of the Master, with the members of the Quorums of the Seventy providing inspired assistance to them.
May we ever watch over one another, assisting in times of need. Let us not be critical and judgmental, but let us be tolerant, ever emulating the Savior’s example of loving kindness. In that vein, may we willingly serve one another. May we pray for the inspiration to know of the needs of those around us, and then may we go forward and provide assistance.
Let us be of good cheer as we go about our lives. Although we live in increasingly perilous times, the Lord loves us and is mindful of us. He is always on our side as we do what is right. He will help us in times of need. Difficulties come into our lives, problems we do not anticipate and which we would never choose. None of us is immune. The purpose of mortality is to learn and to grow to be more like our Father, and it is often during the difficult times that we learn the most, as painful as the lessons may be. Our lives can also be filled with joy as we follow the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Lord admonished, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” What great happiness this knowledge should bring to us. He lived for us and He died for us. He paid the price for our sins. May we emulate His example. May we show our great gratitude to Him by accepting His sacrifice and living lives that will qualify us to return and one day live with Him.
Faith is both a principle of action and of power. It “is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if [we] have faith [we] hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” It is an assurance GAINED THROUGH OUR LEARNING that moves us to act, to follow the example of the Savior and prayerfully keep His commandments, even through times of sacrifice and trial.Faith brings us the power of the Lord, which-among other things-is manifested by: a hope of good things to come miracles that confirm faith; and divine protection in spiritual and temporal matters.
The Lord commands us to: “[take] the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” Satan will use such things as doubt, fear, or sin to tempt us to let go of faith and lose the protection it offers. Let us examine each of these challenges to faith in turn so that we can recognize and heed not the adversary’s temptations.
First, unbelief in the Lord or His gospel will cause us to resist the Spirit of God. The Lord’s antidote for doubt is simple. As King Benjamin declared, “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.”
If, because of unbelief or doubt, you find your faith wavering, remember that even the ancient apostles implored the Lord to “increase our faith.” Bearing in mind that faith and reason are necessary companions, consider the following analogy: faith and reason are like the two wings of an aircraft. Both are essential to maintain flight. If, from your perspective, reason seems to contradict faith, pause, and remember that our perspective is extremely limited compared with the Lord’s. Do not discard faith any more than you would detach a wing from an aircraft in flight. Instead, nurture a particle of faith, and permit the hope it produces to be an anchor to your soul-and to your reason. That is why we are commanded to “seek learning…by study and also by faith.” Remember, faith precedes and produces miracles for which we have no immediate explanation within our experience, such as a Dutch oven full of food from two small biscuits, or simply enduring in faith against all odds.
Second, fear distracts from, and undermines faith in, the Savior. The apostle Peter looked to the Lord one stormy night and walked on water-until he averted his gaze and “…saw the wind boisterous [and] was afraid…”-and then sank into the stormy sea. He could have continued walking if he had not feared! Rather than focus upon and fear the boisterous wind and waves in our lives, the Lord invites us to: “Look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not.”
Third, sin diminishes the presence of the Spirit in our lives, and without the Holy Ghost, we will lack the spiritual stamina to hold onto and exercise faith. It is best to exercise our faith to “touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing” and to “be diligent in keeping all [the] commandments, lest…your faith fail you, and your enemies triumph over you.” If sin has stained your life, I invite you to exercise “faith unto repentance,” and the Savior, through the Atonement, will purify and heal your life.
When the Savior taught, the learner’s agency was paramount. He showed us not only what to teach but also how to teach. He focused on the needs of the learner. He helped individuals discover truth for themselves. He always listened to their questions.
…New learning resources will help us all learn and teach in the Savior’s way in our homes and in our classrooms. As we do, we will be responding to His invitation to “Come, follow me.” While these new resources were being developed, I saw leaders and teachers in the auxiliaries and Seminary counsel together with parents so they could meet the needs of their learners
When we learn and teach His word in His way, we accept His invitation to “Come, follow me.” We follow Him one step at a time. With each step, we draw closer to the Savior. We change. The Lord knew that spiritual growth did not happen all at once. It comes gradually. Each time we accept His invitation and choose to follow Him, we progress along the pathway to full conversion.
Conversion is the goal of all gospel learning and teaching. Conversion is not a one-time event. It is a life-long quest to become more like the Savior. Elder Dallin H. Oaks has reminded us that “to know” is not enough. “To be converted requires us to do and to become.” So learning for conversion is a continual process of knowing, doing, and becoming. Likewise, teaching for conversion requires key doctrine, invitations to action, and promised blessings. When we teach true doctrine, we help the learner to know. When we invite others to action, we help them to do or live the doctrine. And when the blessings come that the Lord has promised, we are changed. Like Alma, we can become new creatures.
The new learning resources for youth have one central goal: to help youth become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ
Sometimes the pathway to conversion can be long and hard
When we live the principles taught by those we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators, we learn in the Savior’s way. We take one step closer to Him.
We want every young person to understand. We want them to learn, teach, and live the gospel of Jesus Christ every day. This is what the Lord wants for all of His children. Whether you are a child, a youth, or an adult, I invite you to come and follow Him. Come and follow in His footsteps. With each step we take, I testify that the Lord will strengthen us. He will help us come the rest of the way. Then when obstacles appear, we will keep going. When doubt comes, we will keep going. We will never turn back. We will never fall away. I testify that God the Father and His son Jesus Christ live. I testify that the Savior continues to beckon us just as He did in former times: “Come, follow me.” We can all accept His invitation. We can all learn, teach, and live His word in His way by taking one step closer to the Savior. As we do, we will become truly converted, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith sublime doctrine concerning the sacred ordinance of baptism. That light came when other Christian churches taught that death irrevocably, eternally, determined the destiny of the soul. They taught the baptized were rewarded with endless joy while all others faced eternal torment, without hope of redemption.
The Lord’s revelation that through proper priesthood authority baptism could be performed vicariously for the dead preserved the justice of His statement: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Vicarious baptism can mercifully provide this essential ordinance for all worthy deceased who did not receive it in mortality.
This glorious doctrine is another witness of the all-encompassing nature of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He made salvation available to every repentant soul. His Atonement conquered death and He permits the worthy deceased to receive all ordinances of salvation vicariously.
In an epistle, written over one hundred and fifty years ago, Joseph Smith stated: “The Saints have the privilege of being baptized for … their relatives who are dead … who have received the gospel in the spirit … through … those who have been commissioned to preach to them…. Those saints who neglect it in behalf of their deceased relatives do it at the peril of their own salvation.”
The prophet Elijah committed the keys for vicarious work to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple to fulfill the Lord’s promise that “he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.”
Through further revelation to Joseph Smith and subsequent prophets, there has come an understanding of and the provision for temple work and the family history effort that supports it. Every prophet since Joseph Smith has emphasized the imperative need to provide all ordinances for ourselves and our deceased ancestors.
Temple and family history work is one work divided into two parts. They are connected together like the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Some members may not be able to do both works because of health or distances to temples.
Father in Heaven wants each of us to receive both parts of the blessing of this vital vicarious work. He has led others to show us how to qualify. It is up to you and me to claim those blessings.
Any work you do in the temple is time well spent, but receiving ordinances vicariously for one of your own ancestors will make the time in the temple more sacred and even greater blessings will be received. The First Presidency has declared, “Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors.”
Do you young people want a sure way to eliminate the influence of the adversary in your life? Immerse yourself in searching for your ancestors, prepare their names for the sacred vicarious ordinances available in the temple, and then go to the temple to stand as proxy for them to receive the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. As you grow older you will be able to participate in receiving the other ordinances as well. I can think of no greater protection from the influence of the adversary in your life.
Many faithful saints have done the work of researching their family lines and are using the reserve feature of FamilySearch to hold the ordinances for their own family members to serve as proxy. The intent of reserving names is to allow individuals to perform ordinances for ancestors and collateral lines to give you a reasonable period of time to get them done. There are currently 12 million names and millions of corresponding ordinances that are reserved. Many names have been reserved for years. Ancestors who have been found are no doubt anxious and thrilled when their names are cleared for ordinances. They, however, may not be very happy when they have to continue to wait for their ordinances to be performed.
I testify that the spirit of Elijah is touching the hearts of many of Father’s children throughout the world, causing the work for the dead to accelerate at an unprecedented pace.
But what about you? Have you prayed about your own ancestors’ work? Set aside those things in your life that don’t really matter. Decide to do something that will have eternal consequences. Perhaps you have been prompted to look for ancestors but feel you are not a genealogist. Can you see that you don’t have to be anymore? It all begins with love and a sincere desire to help those beyond the veil who can’t help themselves. Check around. There will be someone in your area who can help you have success.