Faith and Obedience Lead to Deliverance
It’s an honor for my wife, Jill, and me to be here today. We love this age. In fact, when we sat down, she said, “Don’t you just love the feeling of this age?” And I wish, or we wish, that you could see you like we see you, as the future. Sometimes life is difficult and you face great challenges. You have a lot of concerns. Sometimes I call this a “fast-paced, rat race, first place, in-your-face type of a world.” So we know a little bit about what’s going on, although I’m 46, so I think I’m right in the middle of the road. I’m looking that way, and I’m looking back this way at the youth, and as I look out and see my parents out here, I would just like to say I was born of goodly parents.
One other impression that came, and there will probably be two or three of you that will do this, in Alma 30, Korihor comes in. I just wanted to say this because of this music [the special number], and the thought and the testimony. Korihor goes through and talks about those things, those foolish traditions, ordinances and things, that will “bind us down,” [see verse 23] and they are exactly the things that the adversary would tell you would bind you down, and they are exactly the opposite of the things that the Savior Jesus Christ would teach us would lift us up. And I testify of Jesus Christ, that He is our Savior and Redeemer. In fact, in 3 Nephi 27:14, it talks about how He came and was lifted up upon the cross, that He might lift us up. And that’s my testimony of the Savior.
I wrote a couple of talks for this, and as it happened, I was in the shower this morning and felt like I should just talk to you, so on the way down I wrote down a few thoughts. I was going to talk, by the way, the title of my talk—I was all ready, excited—was called “Blessed in All Things, Both Temporal and Spiritual,” from King Benjamin in Mosiah 2:41. And I was going to talk about my great-great-grandfather, John Taylor, who prophesied and foresaw your day and said that “You will see the day when Zion will be as far ahead in learning of every kind as they are today in religion.” He said, “Mark my words. Write them down and see if it does not come to pass.” So I was going to talk about shooting for the moon and the stars, and all those things, and in the shower, the Spirit said, “Talk about faith and hope and charity, which bringeth unto me, ‘the fountain of all righteousness.’ “ (1 Nephi 2:9, Ether 8:26)
So I have a few stories, personal stories, that I hope it’s okay to share with you today. I hope they make sense; I hope they come together, and I pray that the Spirit of the Lord will touch you and bless you to know that your life is very valuable, that you have a mission, that you have a purpose, that each of us has a divine destiny in our Heavenly Father’s plan. I know that this is true. I also know that there are some of you out there thinking, “Not me. Not right now. I don’t even know what I’m going to do next.”
So I’m going to talk about a few things, and I pray the Spirit of the Lord will be here to provide the faith and the hope and the charity, the love of Christ, that will lift you. Before I do that, my other talk did have this balloon analogy, so I’m going to try to use it in this talk. If it doesn’t, just laugh with me, not at me. All right? Don’t hurt my feelings. Will you put those balloons up? There’s one balloon out of the three that has—we all know what it is, right?—helium in the balloon. [Three balloons are released. The one filled with helium rises to the ceiling.] Those stories, I pray, will put helium in your balloon, especially those of you who are down right now.
So, first story. My wife and I, for two years, went searching to find a place to live. We wanted desperately to stay in our ward in Bountiful. This was back about ten years ago. So we drove around for two years looking—looking for the house, you know, with the halo over it, or the neon sign that said, “This is the one—buy me.” We wanted to be led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand. And for two years that happened, and then one day I read a verse of scripture that changed my thinking, and I hope it changes yours. Because I believe that we all ask that same question sometimes in our lives—what am I going to do next? What am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to be?
This verse, in 1 Nephi 17, answers that question. It says: “And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye will keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.
“Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.
“Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence.” (verses 13-15)
My young brothers and sisters, Jill and I kept praying, but we decided from that point on that rather than drive around, what we were going to do was try to do better at keeping the commandments. That’s it. In fact, Elder Bednar taught us in a session of general conference address out of Doctrine and Covenants 11:20, “This is your work, to keep my commandments.” That helps when we’re making decisions about what we’re going to do, what the next step is. Where am I going to go? What’s my major? What am I going to be? Your life is full of decisions and choices, and I bear you my witness that as you go into these situations, or as you are in them, if you will turn to the Lord and make a commitment to obey the commandments just a little bit better each day, that you will be led along. He will be your light in the wilderness. He will prepare the way, and you will arrive at your promised land.
Thought number two: When I was at BYU—it seems like 50 years ago now—before one of our games we went into this room at the Marriott Center, and we met with President Ezra Taft Benson, the prophet of the Lord. We all got to meet him, and then before we went out to do our warm-ups—we were actually in our gear—our coach said, “President Benson, do you have any words of wisdom for these young guys?”
He said, “Yes, I do.” Then he said this, which was very interesting and also something that I believe will put the helium in your balloon if you will listen. He said, “Your basketball team has the Spirit.” Then he said, “The Spirit will be your greatest asset on the basketball court.” Isn’t that an interesting thought? Then he said, “It will do more for you than all of your talents combined.” That, brothers and sisters, is a significant statement.
Then he said, “Whatever your righteous desires, your goals, if you have the Spirit”—if you have the helium in your balloon—“you will be successful.” Then he said, “If you don’t, you won’t.” So my message is, brothers and sisters, as we obey the commandments, this will lead and allow the Spirit to be in our lives. If we need repentance and to change—because if we don’t, don’t kid yourselves: You will be like the two balloons that are sitting on the floor behind me. You cannot progress, we cannot progress, when there is something that stands in the way of the helium or the Holy Ghost lifting us and taking us to where we are supposed to be. I bear you my witness that that was true, as we were taught by a prophet of the Lord, President Ezra Taft Benson.
Thought number three: When times are tough, there are scriptures that are there. In fact, there is a scripture, I believe it’s in Jacob, that talks about the word that healeth the wounded soul. Before I go there, I need to go back and say that the Holy Ghost not only will be your greatest asset, but you know the name—he is our Comforter. He will come. And it says he does many things, by the way. 2 Nephi 32:5: “If ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.”
Moroni 10:5: “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
Elder Bednar in this last general conference, October 2010, called the Holy Ghost “this most valuable of all gifts.” (“Receive the Holy Ghost,” Ensign,Nov. 2010, 96) I testify to you that this is the gift that will lift us to where we need to go, wherever we are right now—whether we need to make changes or whether we are on our way, if you will, towards the promised land.
President Eyring, in this last general conference, said we need to do whatever is necessary to qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. And then he talked about going and doing whatever we are called upon to do. (“Serve with the Spirit,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, 59)
Back to the word of God, the word “which healeth the wounded soul.” (Jacob 2:8) My wife and I went through a very tough time a number of years ago, and we were in a place where we were scared, and we didn’t know what was going to happen from a financial perspective. We were trying to do everything we could, and probably I had just made a mistake. And that’s okay, by the way, but I read a verse of scripture that again helped my soul and lifted me. It says this, in Alma 58: “Therefore, we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies,”—whatever our enemies may be—“yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our possessions,”—our home, our business, and those things as they apply to us—“for the support of our people.” (verse 10)
And it says then, “Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us.” He did “visit us with assurances that he would deliver us.” Did you know that the word “protect” is in the scriptures 33 times, and the word “deliver” is in the scriptures 939 times? I believe that’s significant. He is our Deliverer. “Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him. And we did take courage.” (v. 11-12)
Brothers and sisters, I testify to you that the Lord, as we seek to obey the commandments, as we pour out our souls in prayer, as we do those things that invite him, and plead with Him to be in our lives, that He will visit us with assurances and cause us to have great faith and hope for a deliverance in Him.
One other thought about scripture: 1 Nephi 15:24 talks about the word of God, talks about the “iron rod.” It says, “Whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish.” That’s Nephi’s promise. If we’ll hold fast and hearken to the word of God, or hold fast to the iron rod, that we will never perish. That’s [the Lord’s] promise, and He keeps His promises.
I like to take this, the general conference Ensign, and I like to roll it up, and I like to say, “This is also the iron rod.” In fact, you can have a debate with Tyler someday about which is more important. I’m not going to give you the answer, but Joseph Smith gave it to Brigham, or Brigham gave it and Joseph told him he was correct, about the living word of God.
And President Uchtdorf taught, and there were others, if I had time, that all the answers to the vexing problems and concerns in life will be answered here in the words of the living prophets. I testify to you that we have living prophets, seers and revelators. And as we have questions, the answers will either come in their words, or while we are in their words, it will allow the Spirit to come into our minds and into our hearts and tell us all things what we should do.
So, I’ve talked a little bit about obedience, about prayer, about scriptures. Our family has a motto. It’s called “Go PRO.” PRO stands for “pray, read, obey—every day.” I give you this promise that as we do these small and simple things that helium will come back in our balloon. The Holy Ghost will lift us. We will be led along, and ultimately we will get to wherever our promised land is. I know that’s true. We also have a little ring that we wear. It’s called our PRO ring, and we brought some today, and we’ll figure out where they go. But we would like each one of you, if I have enough, to have one of these rings. But you can’t have one unless you commit that you will pray, read, and obey every day. And I actually really mean that.
Now, the last thought: where do I go, or where can I turn for peace? I want to tell you a story about Truman G. Madsen, who some of you know, and some of you have heard that name. We love Truman Madsen. He was one night driving with the temple president of the Manti Temple, on a dark, stormy night. And as they came up the hill, with the clouds and the thunder and the lightning, however it was—they came up, and through the darkness they saw the temple and the spires. And the temple president said to Truman Madsen, “The temple is never more beautiful than during a storm.”
The scripture says, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) Ye are the temples of God. He has great faith in each one of you. “Never more beautiful than during a storm” could be a motto that you could take and say, “I’m going through a storm right now, and it’s tough, and life is not easy for me, or for my wife, or for my family, or for one of my friends or neighbors.” I invite you to try to never be more beautiful than during a storm, and I also invite you, as a wrap-up to a lot of this, to think about the temple.
I know some of you have not received your own endowment. I understand that. But what I would say to those who have, and to those who will in the future is: Go to the temple. The temple is a place of protection. The temple is a place of power. Even if you don’t have your endowment, you can go to the temple. You can do baptisms for the dead. You can go just to be there and feel the Spirit, and you’ll receive the blessings. I like to say, as we keep our covenants, our covenants will keep us. In the Doctrine and Covenants, it says the power of godliness is manifest in the ordinances. (see D&C 84:20) The power that we need to accomplish all that Heavenly Father and the Savior would have us do is available to us in the ordinances—the sacrament that we might “always remember Him,” that we “may always have His Spirit to be with [us].” (D&C 20:77) Always remembering Him in our covenants.
One last thought—I say that, and then I give about four more usually. I don’t know why I do that. Sometimes we say, “Am I on the straight and narrow path? What is the straight and narrow path? What does it look like?” Let me give you a hint, okay? There are mile markers and milestones on the straight and narrow path. Some of them are called “covenants and ordinances.” The straight and narrow path, right in the center of the straight and narrow path—by the way, this is the only time it’s okay to be “middle of the road” is when you’re in the straight and narrow path—but right in the middle of the straight and narrow path is the Sabbath day and to keep it holy and partake of the sacrament. And right in the middle in between those seven-day mile markers is, in our case, temple covenants and ordinances. The temple is right in the middle of the straight and narrow path. The prophets—do we interact with, do we believe, do we really believe the words of the living prophets are the words of God and they can lead us to our own promised lands? I invite you to make President Monson’s and all the prophets’ words—an integral part of your lives, and you will watch as you are lifted up. I promise you that that is true. The scriptures—the “pray, read, obey”—that is right down the middle of the straight and narrow path.
There’s more. There’s family. There’s other things. But I would say this: You can do your own inventory on that, and ask if those things part of my daily walk and part of my daily talk. And if they are, you’re right in the middle of the straight and narrow path. And if they’re not, then please—I invite you to make the adjustments necessary so that the Lord can bless you, and put helium back in your balloon.
Elder Richard G. Scott, in this last general conference as well, said, “As you walk to the boundary of your understanding into the twilight of uncertainty, exercising faith, you will be led to find solutions you would not obtain otherwise. With even your strongest faith, God will not always reward you immediately according to your desires. Rather, God will respond with what in His eternal plan is best for you, when it will yield the greatest advantage. Be thankful”—this is tough sometimes, but it’s from a prophet of God—“Be thankful,” says Elder Scott, “that sometimes God lets you struggle for a long time before that answer comes. That causes your faith to increase and your character to grow.”
Do you remember back at the boy Joseph, at 14, when he was in the Grove, and said, “At the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to utter destruction”—just at that very moment—“I saw a pillar of light.” My young brothers and sisters, I testify to you that just at the very moment when you believe that you cannot go on, that the Savior will come. And as I started with 1 Nephi 17, he said, “I will be your light in the wilderness, and I will lead you along.” I testify to you that that is true.
And now, I’d like to close with a quote from Joseph Smith that I love. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “As God has designed our happiness—and the happiness of all His creatures, he never has—He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of His law and His ordinances.” (“Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Section Five, 1842-43, p. 256)
President Monson said, “Our goal is eternal life in the presence of our Father in Heaven. He loves us and wants nothing more than for us to succeed in this goal. He will help us and bless us as we call upon Him in our prayers, as we study His words, and as we obey His commandments. Therein is found safety. Therein is found peace.” (“Till We Meet Again,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, p. 112)
I love my Heavenly Father. I know He is there. I know He is there watching over us, even in our darkest hours, and that He, through His son, through the instrumentality of the Holy Ghost, will deliver us, because His Son paid a price for our sins that we might be redeemed. I love the Savior Jesus Christ, and I bear witness in His holy name, even Jesus Christ, amen.