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Devotionals

Elder H. Aldridge Gillespie

Be Not Terrified but Believing

As a result of some sleepless nights the last of December, I was prompted to counsel with my family. We held a teleconference that brought together my children within the U.S., and one in Iraq. I advised them of my concern and the repeating theme of my impressions during those sleepless nights. I said it was time to carefully consider our preparation for the days ahead. We asked: “What needs to be put in order in each life and family in order to be absolutely sure that our course in life was in accordance with the Will of our Heavenly Father, and meets with the approval of the Lord, which is the third requisite in or to have faith unto salvation.”
 
I wish to speak to you plainly about the days in which we live and the signs of the times. It is my desire to give you clear counsel on how to steer a course that is acceptable to the Lord. I shall begin with the end in mind, which is: I intend to put each of you under commitment to renew your covenants with the Lord, put your lives in order, repent of your sins (both of commission and omission), and otherwise live so that the Holy Ghost can abide with you and guide you through the challenging days ahead.
 
We are concerned about you. You face a powerful, deceptive, skillful and ruthless enemy who has already vowed to destroy you. The salvation of literally hundreds of millions of God’s children, living and dead, depends upon you faithfully fulfilling your covenants with the Lord. It will take all the miracles that can be obtained only with clean hands and pure hearts, with total faith in Christ in order to “ascend into the hill of the Lord [and] stand in his holy place” (Ps. 24:4, 3).
 
I think Matt. 6:33 summarizes what I want to say: “ But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” I propose you memorize it and use it as one of your North Star scriptures to give you direction in life. I don’t remember when first it captured my attention, somewhere around 18-20 years of age, but it has proven to be a true Liahona “to show me the course which [I] should travel. And it [does] work according to [my] faith in God” ( Alma 37:39-40), showing me the way I should go, and pointing me to the right decisions I must make.
 
During that same time frame, I came across the words of the 18 th century Clergyman, William Law, who said: “If you have not chosen the kingdom of God, it will make, in the end, no difference what you have chosen instead.” May I repeat that? “IF you have not chosen the kingdom of God, it will make, in the end, no difference what you have chosen instead.” That will not always be easy to do, but I assure you, I testify to you, it will be worth it .
 
Prophecies and Warnings
 
World conditions, already bad and getting worse, will become like the days of Noah—filled with violence, corruption and natural disasters (see Genesis 6:11, 13). But, as is always the case, the Lord provided a means of escape for the righteous, even though there were only eight souls at that time (see Genesis 6:18; 7:1).
 
Why do you suppose Matt. 24, as an entire chapter, was extracted from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible and placed in the Pearl of Great Price? Maybe because it responds to a question that should be on the lips of all believers. It was so when Christ’s disciples understood “that he should come again on the earth, after that he was glorified...” (JST Matt. 1:1). They went “unto him privately, saying: Tell us when shall these things be which thou hast said, [and] what is the sign of thy coming, and end of the world, or the destruction of the wicked, which is the end of the world” (JST Matt. 1:4).
 
We must both learn what these signs are and then identify them correctly when they occur. They can and will strengthen our faith in Christ and His prophets, if we know the scriptures. Just as in the days of Noah, a way is already prepared for the escape of the Lord’s elect Latter-day Saints, if they are in tune with His prophets: For He “will tell you in your mind and in your heart by the Holy Ghost,” who will give you “revelation,” to save you from destruction (D & C 8:2, 3).
 
Quoting from Matthew, “And except those days should be shortened, there should none of their flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake, according to the covenant, those days shall be shortened” (JST Matt. 1:20).
 
In other words, the “faithful and wise servants” (JST Matt. 24:49) need not fear!
 
Heed the Warning
 
Prophets will warn “of things not seen as yet” (Heb. 11:7), but which are coming nevertheless. Seers can see the coming storms even when there is no current evidence to support their warning. For example, we read in Kings of Elijah saying to Ahab, “And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of the abundance of rain.
 
“And [he] said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.
“And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not” (1 Kings 18:41-44).
 
In other words, we’ve got a torrent coming.
 
The Lord has promised us, through the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Unto you it shall be given to know the signs of the times, and the signs of the coming of the Son of Man” (D & C 68:11). It then behooves us to interpret accurately what is taking place around us. Said Elder Packer recently: “If 9/11 (September 11, 2001) was a wake-up call, then the earthquake and tsunami in Southeast Asia (on December 26, 2004), was a kick out of bed. We need to pay attention to the signs of the times.” (Boyd K. Packer, meeting of the Twelve and the Seventy, January 11, 2005).
 
When Christ comes the second time, it will be in power and glory to claim the earth as His kingdom. It will mark the beginning of the long-awaited Millennium. As such, it will be announced by a great purifying of the world.
 
From the Doctrine and Covenants we read, “And every corruptible thing, both of man, or of the beasts, or of the fowls, or of the fish, all that dwells upon all the face of the earth, shall be consumed;
 
“And also that of element shall melt with fervent heat; and all things s hall become new, that my knowledge and glory may dwell upon all the earth (D & C 101:24-25).
 
We are to understand that during the Millennium only those who are worthy of the Celestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms shall remain, and all others will be consumed (D& C 101:24-25).
 
And then from Joseph Smith Translation we read, “And, as I said before, after the tribulation of those days, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken, then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory;
 
“And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived , for the Son of Man shall come, and he shall send his angels before him with the great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together the remainder of his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” ((JST Matt. 1:36-37).
 
And in the Doctrine and Covenants, “But the day soon cometh that ye shall see me, and know that I am; for the veil of darkness shall soon be rent, and he that is not purified shall not abide the day” (D& C 38:8).
 
Signs of the Times will Precede the Second Coming
 
The days prior to the sign of the Son of Man will be discouraging, with dizzying inversions, not just of the weather kind, as in the Salt Lake Valley during the winter, but of all nature, as well as vacillating morals, with good being called evil, and evil called good (see Isaiah 5:20-21, 24).
 
“This form of vertigo produces worldly individuals who either have trouble drawing the line or holding the line against evil” (Neal A. Maxwell, Whom the Lord Loveth, p. 16). Even the very elect must be constantly on alert not to be deceived.
 
“For in those days,” we read in Matthew, “there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant” (JST Matt. 1:22).
 
To date there have been many such deceptions. I have here one such. It is a newspaper advertisement of July 11, 2002, by Dr. Sun Moon. It covers a whole page of the Salt Lake Tribune, in the sport section. It was run in all major news media in 41 countries on that date. In it we read, and I quote: “We resolve and proclaim that the Reverend Sun Myung Moon is the Savior, Messiah, Second Coming and True Parent of all Humanity” (Salt Lake Tribune, July 11, 2002, p. D5). And the rest of the article spends its effort trying to convince us of that.
 
Christ counseled his disciples to “take heed that ye be not deceived” concerning the signs of these latter days saying, “But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified, for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. Nation shall rise against nation...and great earthquakes shall be in diverse places, and famines, and pestilence; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven” (Luke 21:8-11).
 
The Lord was speaking of a future time when war, conflict, signs in the earth and in heaven would far exceed anything the world had previously experienced. A cursory review of these phenomena today shows a clear and accelerating pattern of natural disasters in the last few decades which is ominous (ref. World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004). We have just recently added new categories to describe the increasing magnitude of nearly all of these nature and man-precipitated events.
 
The First Magnificent Sign of the Second Coming
 
To bless His children eternally and to announce the beginning of the Last Days, the Lord “sent forth the fullness of his gospel, his everlasting covenant...to prepare the weak for those things which are coming on the earth...And by the weak things of the earth the Lord shall thrash the nations” (D & C 133:57-59).
 
The restoration of the fullness of the gospel, the authority to perform the saving ordinances, and the establishment of the Church, is now a fact for the entire world to marvel at. It is a glorious manifestation that the Second Coming of the Lord is soon at hand. Additionally, this latter day restoration will endure all wars and devastations (see D & C 13; Daniel 2:44-45; 7:18). Each of the ancient prophets knew that whatever good they accomplished in their dispensation would not long endure. Disheartening as it must have been, those prophets knew that the people of their day would soon succumb to the world and apostatize from the truth. However, they were given hope by “seeing” these “Last Days,” when the restoration of all things would occur. They saw the kingdom of God established in all the earth with stakes of Zion and temples of the Most High throughout the earth, and that this last kingdom should remain until Christ would come to personally reign on earth! (See D & C 13; Is. 29:14; 54:2-10; Eze. 37:26-270.)
 
We Are in the Last Days
 
We are part of the ever- progressing saga of the fulfillment of prophesy and the realization of the Signs of the Times. Can one read these prophetic words found in the Doctrine and Covenants and not believe?
 
“For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig-tree.
 
“And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people.
 
“For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand.
“And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds” (D & C 88:87-90).
 
After our testimony come the other testimonies.
 
We might wonder, “What is the purpose of these horrendous events in the Last Days?” The answer is simple. It’s because God truly does love us! When a man will not listen to the testimony of the Lord’s prophets or His servants (the Elders of Israel), he will sometimes turn to the Lord when he is brought down low due to tragedy, reverses, sickness, loss of loved ones, or other major problems in life. Every missionary knows, or should know, that some of the best contacts are those that have recently gone through a transforming event.
 
Opposition, trials and hardships are often the only way pride and arrogance can be changed to humility and submissiveness (see Mosiah 3:19). We must remember this is the last time the Lord will gather His people.
 
Mortality is a time of probation and is mercifully brief ( Alma 34:32-34). It was meant to provide rich experiences, choices between good and evil, and time to repent. If you—the noble and elect of God—are to have your right and opportunity to do good and bless others, then the evil-disposed persons must have their right and opportunity to disobey any or all of the commandments, and to show their contempt for the good, to deny the Spirit of Christ, which is given to all men (Moroni 7:16), and to curse God and to hate people like us and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see 4 Ne. 1:34). They must be given full rein to do evil (i f that is their desire), but, like the prodigal son, who eventually “came to himself” (Luke 15:17-18), still be able to receive the full blessings of the Atonement from a loving God, if they will repent.
 
We have great respect for Alma the younger and for Saul who became Paul the Apostle, neither of whom had a sterling beginning. Yet, because of torment over their evil deeds, and having heard the testimony of others, they were eventually brought down to the depths of humility and repentance. They turned their lives around and became the Lord’s anointed. Just because everyone doesn’t follow that same path of repentance should not discourage us. There is no other way than in the fiery furnace of opposition, with their agency, to prepare the children of God for Godhood (see also Addendum # 1).
 
“And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him ” (Hel. 12:3). (See also Addendum # 2).
 
Not until every possible effort and opportunity has been expended to bring each son and daughter home, not until every prodigal son and daughter has experienced the guilt and torment of disobedience and the chastening of a loving and merciful God, with time to repent, will the Lord’s work be done. The fulfillment of the Signs of the Times may yet save millions of God’s children who would otherwise be lost eternally.
 
What is our Role in These Challenging Days?
 
I propose that it is us who must treasure up the words of Christ so we are not deceived by “other signs” or false Christs (JST Matt. 1:22, 37), nor by the sophistries of men, their eloquent, but faithless voices that teach perversion and call it politically correct and the right thing to do. Be wary of those who teach that tolerance is the greatest of all virtues, and that right and wrong exist only in the mind of the individual and there are no true absolutes. Do not be deceived by the ever-present arguments which reason, “If there is a God in Heaven, why does He permit these terrible things to happen?” Such logic and attitudes are from Satan and have as their purpose to destroy faith in Christ, increase cynicism and kill respect for all that is holy, including your own bodies and divine natures.
 
We are those who must stand anchored to the teachings and standard s of the Restored Gospel, to keep things from buckling, bending, sliding and drifting, during these times when “all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people” (D & C 88:91).
Things will always slide and drift downward. In order to hold steady in such turbulence, we, as the Lord’s elect, must be “grounded and settled,” “rooted and established,” to use the words of Paul (Col. 1:23, 27). Otherwise these latter-day shakings and fearsome signs will jar us loose from our moorings. “Pervasive commotion features geometric swings away from traditional moral values” (Ibid. Maxwell, p. 19).
 
If we become preoccupied by every change, in the ever-changing cares and priorities of the world, it could well distract us from navigating these turbulent latter-day waters by fixing our compass on the only true North Star, the “Light of the World” ( Alma 38:9). Jesus’ calming counsel is very specific; “And when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified , for these things must first come to pass; but this is not the end” (JST Luke 21:9). (See also Addendum # 3.)
 
Renewal of Commitment to our Covenants
 
Some of you may wonder why I have this little child’s bootie with me. It has a story. A few weeks ago I was in Mexico for a stake conference in which were taught some “hard doctrines” of the Church. The comment was made that for most of us adults, if we are not worthy of, and using a current temple recommend (for whatever ordinance we currently are qualified to perform), then we likely do not have “an actual knowledge that [our] course in life is according to [the will of God]” (Lectures on Faith, p. 39). This knowledge (not merely hoping) is required to exercise faith unto salvation. Without it, we would not have the faith necessary to return to H is presence, if we were to die at this time. I then asked that each one in the conference commit to keep their covenants with the Lord and to keep all His commandments. As a sign of their commitment and to show their real intent, I asked that we employ a method used in former times in Israel to confirm a change or an agreement, namely, “for to confirm all things, a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbor; and this was a testimony in Israel...so he (Boaz) drew off his shoe...and said to the elders...ye are witnesses this day” (Ruth 4:7-9).
 
I then asked the entire conference to take off a shoe, which they obediently did, as a sign of their commitment to repent, keep their covenants, put their lives in order, and to do whatever was required to obtain a temple recommend. Would you be willing to join in that same commitment by removing a shoe?
 
I told those beautiful Latin Saints I would like to take their shoes to President Hinckley, so he would know of their sincerity and determination, but I didn’t have a truck big enough. But, they did leave the shoe off until the closing “amen” so they would better remember. Will you do the same?
 
Before telling you about the little bootie, just one more thought: In most cases, not having a temple recommend comes down to one or two obstacles: Not paying a full tithe and offering, and/or unrepented sin, or maybe a weak testimony for lack of faith. I implore you to do whatever needs to be done. In the words of the Lord, “And now a commandment I give unto you, if you will be delivered you shall set in order your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house...and see that [you] are more diligent and concerned..., and pray always, or [you] shall be removed out of [your] place” (D&C 93:43, 50).
 
The Lord will bless you with more miracles than you can imagine, if you will truly put Him and His kingdom first in your life. All the things that your righteous heart desires, and all that you need, which is expedient in Christ ( Moroni 7:33), shall be given you. I offer that with my fervent testimony and witness.
Now, to the bootie.
 
After the conference, a young family by the name of Edwin and Alejandra Gomar Vargas came to shake my hand. While doing so, the mother, who was holding a beautiful baby girl (to complement the two little boys in their father’s care), took off this bootie and handed it to me. I declined at first to take it, but they insisted. They said, “We would rather that you take this as a sign of our commitment, so every time we see just one bootie we will always remember the commitment we made this day to keep our covenants with Heavenly Father, and to always have our temple recommends.” It brings tears to my eyes now; it brought tears then.
Following the benediction, please feel free to put your shoe on, and thank you for your indulgence.
 
Blessing and Testimony
 
You have been most gracious, and obedient in complying with my request to remove your shoe as a commitment to a higher level of worthiness, to live worthy of a recommend. The bar has been raised for all members of the Church. Sloppy ways, occasional obedience, unyielding hearts, doubting attitudes will not cut the mustard. You need all the blessings and strength of righteousness you can possibly obtain. Therefore, by the apostolic power given to me, I bless you with the rewards of your efforts to live righteously. I promise you the fruits of the Spirit as you study scripture s and kneel in prayer each day, and the strength and capacity of ten as you faithfully keep the Sabbath Day holy. I bless you with peace and sure footing when all about you is in chaos, in rampant disobedience to God’s laws, and the earth is shuttering and quaking under the evil and perversions of men.
 
I bless you with all the blessings of God’s Holy Temples, including eternal families, but noting also, you must not give higher priority to the things of the world, including education and the making of money and the comforts thereof, or you may well jeopardize your eternal family and your own eternal life. “But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the Kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good (bless the poor)” (Jacob 2:18-19).
 
I testify to you that God lives, that if you “seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and His righteousness,” all the needful things of life will come to you, if you are willing to work. I testify that there will be, in the not too distant future, a time when all the earth shall see the Son of Man coming in His glory, and shall fall down and worship Him as the Savior of the World, the Redeemer, the everlasting God, the Prince of Peace.
 
I know He is real and tangible; that He loves us as only a tender parent can, and that by Him and through Him and of Him were the worlds created; I testify that the restoration is real, that Joseph Smith did see and experience all the things he said he did; I know he did not lie, but was true to his holy calling, even as Gordon Bitner Hinckley has been true to his prophetic calling.
 
A Magnificent Experience
 
I will share with you just one experience. I was working on the temple executive committee, which is very much under the direction of President Hinckley, for he holds all things of temples very close to him. We were asked on the 14 th of December to come pay a visit as a committee, together with his secretary, Brother Don Stahli. President Hinckley, after our prelinm9inaries sitting in his chair, read to us the most recent revelation as pertaining to the operation of the temples in the Lord’s kingdom. What magnificent, magnificent experience that was. The spirit was very full and very rich. Eyes were brimming with tears as we realized that here was the answer to situation over which we had struggled for years, not just this committee but many previous committees. And not just this president, but previous presidents had struggled. And here was the Lords’ answer, clear, direct, simple and doable.
 
I left that day knowing beyond any shadow of doubt he is the Lord’s prophet. The Lord does direct the affairs of this kingdom in little ways and big ways. You will never hear or read that particular scripture. It will be in the archives of the church, under the sacred materials section, under his personal materials. But that has now been implemented in all the temples throughout the world. In fact, the temple department worked 24 hour days for almost a month to make it happen. It was so needful that it get out immediately.
 
I bear my solemn whiteness Christ lives, He communicates, He visits as necessary, He shows himself as we are ready, and that each of you, if you will be true and faithful to the covenants you’ve made, will have that privilege at the appointed time. In the mean time, you’ll be able to pass through these turbulent days in peace and safety and with a calmness in your heart regardless what difficulties you’re suffering personally, and we will suffer personally. That’s part of our growth process. But you will go through that knowing that your path in life is acceptable to your Heavenly father and that you will see Him someday soon. In the name of Jesus Christ, whom I love with all my heart and I hope you do too, amen.
 
Addendums
 
1. One might logically ask: “Why must we suffer these devastations? What is their purpose?” Why all these horrors, pestilence, disease, famine, abominations, terrors and terrorism, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, whoremongers, pedophiles, sodomizers, homosexuals, perjurers, wickedness in high places, etc., etc.? Paul foresaw it all and wrote:
 
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
 
“Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
 
“Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
 
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
 
“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
 
“Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
 
“Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
 
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
 
“For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
 
“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:1-7).
 
The answer to the why question is directly linked to the first war we know of, namely, the war in heaven (Rev. 12:7). God’s plan for the salvation of His children involved three key issues:
 
1. the exercise of agency;
 
2. how to gain salvation; and
 
3. who should be the Redeemer.
 
The war broke out because one-third of the hosts of heaven refused to accept Christ as the Savior, and also because they chose to relinquish agency for a sure ticket back to heaven. The agency of man, however, was absolutely required if the gift of Godhood was to be the object of this earth life; the development of the capacity to control oneself, to willingly obey eternal laws (all of them), and to “put off the natural man and become a saint (member of the Church of Jesus Christ) through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
 
2. As to the innocent and good people who die in these disasters, they “die unto the Lord,” and “shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them” (D & C 42:46). As for those who, after all these signs and testimonies, will not come unto the Lord, death brings their wretched lives and years of unrighteousness, torment and fighting against the pricks of the spirit (D & C 121:38) to a merciful close. It also brings relief to those who have suffered because of them.
 
3. Remember these promises:
 
“Behold, I will go before you and be your rearward; and I will be in your midst, and you shall not be confounded” (D & C 49:27). “For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of man; for [I] will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous” (1 Ne. 22:16). “... let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power, and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God...” (D & C 123:17). He also counsels: “... they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land. But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved, but among the wicked shall men lift up their voices and curse God and die” (D & C 45:31-32; JST Matt 1:12).
 
In other words, “ be not faithless but believing” (JST John 20:27). Just as the Lord counseled Joseph Smith after the loss of the 116 pages, so he counsels us, “Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble” (D &C 3:8).

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