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Elder Stephen A. West

Are You on the Lord's Side?

I appreciated very, very much Sister Blythe's thoughtful prayer and also the prayer that was given when the choir finished their warm up. The sister who said the prayer in the choir said, "We pray that we may be uplifted today." I think that is what we all need. I think yesterday, with the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, was a very hard day. It was agonizing to watch those events on television. It was hard to believe it was going on in our country.

Last night some of you may have seen President Hinckley speak and then heard the Tabernacle Choir on television. My wife and I both commented on how uplifted we were as we heard the prophet and the choir after a long period of watching and re-watching the buildings falling and hearing the people screaming things that were offensive to listen to. Hearing the choir sing those songs of peace and of our relationship with the Lord was a wonderful way to help better deal with the discouragement of the day. To hear your choir sing this morning was much the same.

Yesterday, one of the things that was hard to watch was the films of people in the Middle East dancing up and down and carrying banners that said, "God is good," and seeing them pleased about the fact that we had been bombed. At this point, we don't know who did the bombing, and we shouldn't jump to conclusions; but it is hard to think that anyone would be happy about what they saw in the taking of innocent life and the massive destruction of property. It was mentioned on the TV that this was the greatest damage we had suffered on American soil from war-like actions since the Civil War. At the time of the Civil War, Lincoln was asked, "Whose side is the Lord on – the side of the North or the side of the South?" He is supposed to have said, "What matters most is that we are on the Lord's side." That is what I would like to talk about today – Are you on the Lord's side?

I would like to take you to the Old Testament. If you have your scriptures, please turn to 1 Samuel 17 on page 405. This deals with a battle we almost all learn about as we are growing up. It is a dramatic story. Perhaps as we get older we don't hear about it so often. It is the story of David and Goliath. I think this story could provide the basis for a wonderful motion picture or play. There is so much drama in the story. It starts out in the first verse:

"NOW the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, . . .

"And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, . . . . . . .

"And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and [there was] a valley between them." (1 Samuel 17:1-3)

Picture this, with the Israelites on one range and the Philistines on the other range. They must have been close enough that they could yell back and forth because that is just what happens as Goliath comes out and starts to yell at the Israelites. The scripture goes on to say:

"And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height [was] six cubits and a span." (1 Samuel 17:4)

In the interest of time I am not going to go into how tall that is, but he was plenty big.

"And [he had] an helmet of brass upon his head, and he [was] armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat [was] five thousand shekels of brass. "And he had . . . a target of brass between his shoulders." (1 Samuel 17:5-6)

That always seemed odd to me – why when you were going to war you would have a target there between your shoulders! The footnote for "target" says: "i.e. armour protecting the neck (targum)," so it wasn't a target as we think of it. It would be foolish to walk into battle with a big target on your chest. He had this targum or armour protecting his neck, and he had a spear, and so forth.

"And he [Goliath] stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set [your] battle in array? [am] not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. "If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. "And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. "When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid." (1 Samuel 17:8-11)

Now David was the youngest son of Jesse. Jesse had eight children. The three oldest boys were all part of the army of Saul and were all in the battle. David was back taking care of his father's sheep at Bethlehem. His father came to him and asked him to take some food to his brothers who were in the battle, and David did so.

"And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days." (1 Samuel 17:16)

So for 40 days Goliath stood on the hilltop and issued his challenge. David took the food to his brothers and was able to hear Goliath do so. David asked:

". . . What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who [is] this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (1Samuel 17:26)

It was explained to him the honor that would come to anyone who would challenge and defeat Goliath. David went to Saul,

"And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him [Goliath]; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. "And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou [art but] a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. "And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: "And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered [it] out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught [him] by his beard, and smote him, and slew him." (1 Samuel 17:32-35)

I would love to have seen David grab the lion by the beard and pull the lamb out of his mouth and slay him.

"David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee." (1 Samuel 17:37)

So Saul gave David his armour, but David took off Saul's armour and said to him:

". . . I cannot go with these; for I have not proved [them]. And David put them off him." (1 Samuel 17:39)

There is an interesting sidelight for us. In effect, David said, "I don't know how to use this armour. I have never used it." He knew what he had done in the past. David was not prepared and did not know how to use the armour and the sword of the warrior so he elected to use some things that he had used in the past and therefore was prepared to use.

"And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling [was] in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine. "And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield [went] before him." (1 Samuel 17:40-41)

Here are all the troops – the Israelites on one mountain and the Philistines on the other, Goliath coming down the hill to meet David, David coming down his hill to meet Goliath. Goliath has on all his armour and David has on his little bag with his stones in it. When Goliath looked at David and his weapons, he "distained" him. Now to those of you who come from big cities, the phrase being "dissed" may be familiar. It stands for being disrespected. Those are fighting words in a big city. To "diss" someone is definitely not what you want to do. Goliath distained David which I think is the same thing as Goliath dissing David.

". . . he disdained him: for he was [but] a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance." (1 Samuel 17:42)

You can almost see the boy's pink cheeks.

"And the Philistine said unto David, [Am] I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. "And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field. "Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. "This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel." (1 Samuel 17:43-46)

There is a lot of drama in that.

"And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle [is] the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands. "And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine." (1 Samuel 17:47-48)

Can you imagine? Here is this young boy with Goliath coming down towards him. It must have caught Goliath by surprise to have David running right at him.

"And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang [it], and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth."

So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but [there was] no sword in the hand of David.

"Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, . . ." (1 Samuel 17:49-51)

When the Israelites saw this, they had courage and they had strength. They ran down and attacked the Philistines and routed them.

David was strengthened by the Lord and even King Saul became afraid of him because of what he had done. In the 14th verse of the 18th chapter of 1 Samuel it says:

"And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the LORD [was] with him."

This went on for some period of time, and David was a great warrior. Subsequently, he became a great king and a great religious leader. He wrote many of the psalms. In the Bible Dictionary it says that out of a total of 283 direct citations from the Old Testament in the New Testament, 116 came from the Book of Psalms, so about 40% of the scriptural references to the Old Testament in the New Testament come from the Book of Psalms, many of which were attributed to David. David was a good man for much of his life. He had great accomplishments, but David saw Bathsheba. He wanted Bathsheba, and he had her. Then he sent her husband Uriah into battle where he felt Uriah surely would be killed. In fact, he was killed. That freed David up to marry Bathsheba, and he did. David realized he had done wrong. In his heart, he knew that he had sinned. The 51st Psalm is one of those that David wrote. It is David's plea to the Lord as a result of his transgression. It begins:

"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: . . ." (Psalms 51:1)

This man who as a boy was the slayer of Goliath, who later was a great warrior, who was king, who united all Israel, plead with the Lord for mercy. He petitioned the Lord saying:

"Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. "Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me." (Psalms 51:9-11)

How sad to see a great man of such tremendous ability and potential recognizing that through his wrong doing as a mature man he had lost the relationship he had with his Father in Heaven. That relationship allowed him to have sufficient faith to personally challenge Goliath, sufficient faith to lead great armies, sufficient faith and the Spirit of the Lord to compose beautiful psalms and to do all the things which he had done in an otherwise seemingly great life. Now by his sin he had cast away his ability to call upon the Spirit. It reminds us of the New Testament verse:

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36)

We speak often of the importance of having the Spirit, and we want to have it here with us today. David had it with him in his earlier years, but he lost it. I would like to now speak about the problem of losing the Spirit and what happens if we do so. Why do I do this? Because if we know the symptoms of losing the Spirit, and if we watch what is happening to us, we can guard against it; and we can protect ourselves from falling into that situation.

When I was a missionary, as my companion and I were studying we came across a four word verse, "Quench not the Spirit." (1 Thessalonians 5:19)

We thought that was an intriguing verse and "quench" an interesting word. We were young. We were happy. We were loving our work. Sometimes we were perhaps more light-minded than we should have been. As we would walk along tracting, if we found ourselves being somewhat light-minded, one of us would say to the other, "Quench not the Spirit." It became a phrase that would come up whenever we found ourselves beginning to say or do things that we felt we shouldn't. That phrase has continued to come to my mind at such times throughout the rest of my life – "Quench not the Spirit."

The Lord has said, "My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also [is] flesh: . . . " (Genesis 6:3). That is an interesting comment. What does it mean, "he is flesh?" You hear the phrase ofttimes, ". . . the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mathew 26:41). The flesh will war with our spirit sometimes and sometimes our bodies will want to do certain things that the spirit tells us not to do. The spirit gives us a warning and tells us what to do. There are a number of verses that deal with the opportunity or problem of losing the Spirit. I would like to discuss a few of those with you and show you what the result of losing the Spirit was and can be. The first one:

"For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; "Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven; "And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts." ( D&C 1:31-33)

Applying this verse in the Doctrine and Covenants to David, with all the things David had done, the time came when the Spirit quit striving with David. He realized what he had lost in his life. Nephi warned Laman and Lemuel that Jerusalem could lose the Spirit and what the results would be in these words:

"For behold, the Spirit of the Lord ceaseth soon to strive with them; for behold, they have rejected the prophets. . ." (1 Nephi 7:14)

The inhabitants of Jerusalem lost the Spirit because they were rejecting the prophets. How can we reject the prophets? By failing to follow the guidance and direction of the prophets. Nephi wrote to his people generally and said:

"AND now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men. "But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; . . ." (2 Nephi 33:2)

Today we can likewise harden our hearts against the Holy Spirit by doing things in our lives that we know are wrong. We can reach a point where the Holy Spirit is nagging at us. That is a negative phrase. I shouldn't use "nagging at us," but the Spirit is prompting us so that we will recognize we are doing wrong, and we don't want to hear that, so we let the Spirit have no place in us. What was the result in this case?

". . . wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught." (2 Nephi 33:2)

What were the things that were written that they cast away? The scriptures. The scriptures are what they cast away when they were doing wrong and wouldn't listen to the promptings of the Spirit. They didn't like to read the scriptures and review them because if they "likened them unto themselves," they would feel corrected so they cast the scriptures away and esteemed them as things of naught.

Another example of wrongdoing bringing about a loss of the Spirit and the results thereof follows:

"And because of their iniquity the church had begun to dwindle; and they began to disbelieve in the spirit of prophecy and in the spirit of revelation; and the judgments of God did stare them in the face. "And they saw that they had become weak, like unto their brethren, the Lamanites, and that the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them because the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples." (Helaman 4:23-24)

A modern-day example of a man who had done great things but lost the Spirit was Sidney Rigdon.

"And now behold, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, am not pleased with my servant Sidney Rigdon; he exalted himself in his heart, and received not counsel, but grieved the Spirit;" ( D&C 63:55)

Interesting phrase, "grieved the Spirit," by exalting himself and not receiving counsel. Another example, the Lord was angry with Ezra Booth and Isaac Morley,

". . . for they kept not the law, neither the commandment; "They sought evil in their hearts, and I, the Lord, withheld my Spirit. They condemned for evil that thing in which there was no evil; . . ." (D&C 64:15-16)

Don't we see that same result today, people condemning things that are not evil and trying to make them appear evil. Can you think of examples of that?

"For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction, . . ." (2 Nephi 26:11)

The result – speedy destruction.

"But behold, the Spirit of the Lord had ceased striving with them, and Satan had full power over the hearts of the people; for they were given up unto the hardness of their hearts, . . . " (Ether 15:19)

The result – Satan had full power over their hearts. Mormon writing to his son, Moroni, about his fears for his people, the Nephites, who had become proud said:

"Pray for them, my son, that repentance may come unto them. But behold, I fear lest the Spirit hath ceased striving with them; and in this part of the land they are also seeking to put down all power and authority which cometh from God; . . ." (Moroni 8:28)

The result – seeking to put down power and authority and not following leadership.

Well, those are a lot of verses about how we lose the Spirit and the results thereof. Can it happen to us? It can. It can happen to anybody. I would like to tell you about a situation that happened to Joseph Smith. Over a very small thing, he lost the Spirit. He found he couldn't translate unless he was worthy to be guided by the Spirit of God. David Whitmer recounted this situation. He said:

". . . something went wrong about the house and he was put out about it. Something that Emma, his wife, had done. Oliver and I went upstairs and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation but he could not do anything. He could not translate a single syllable. He went downstairs, out into the orchard, and made supplication to the Lord; was gone about an hour--came back to the house, and asked Emma's forgiveness and then came upstairs where we were and then the translation went on all right. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful." ( As quoted in B.H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:130-31)

Joseph Smith, staying close to the Lord as he was trying to do, when he had a dispute with his wife, felt that he had lost the Spirit. He had to go out and think about it, ponder it, pray about it, come in and apologize to Emma and then he could translate again. Every day we have to work to keep the Spirit. Every day there are things that can happen in our lives. We see something that we were not looking for: a poster, a magazine or something on the street. It may cause us to lose the Spirit. We have to work to keep it, to bring it back, to have it in our lives. To be on the Lord's side, as Lincoln said, is what is important. The important thing is that we are on the Lord's side.

It is a life long challenge. We hear the phrase "endure to the end." That is what we need to do in this regard. "Endure" could be read as a word that suggests a hardship, but I don't think this phrase is intended that way. I think it means to continue valiant to the end, continue faithful everyday and everyday work to have the Spirit in your life. I remember as a boy hearing one of the Twelve, who seemed to me to be very old and who had been in the Quorum of the Twelve for years, say in general conference: "I have to endure to the end." I thought, You have endured. As a result, I was interested not long ago to read about President Faust having a similar experience as he heard President J. Reuben Clark speaking. President Faust said in General Priesthood Meeting in October 1997,

"President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. a counselor in the First Presidency, used to say from this pulpit, ‘Brethren, I hope I can remain faithful to the end.' At that time, President Clark was in his 80s. "As a young man, I could not understand how this wise, learned, experienced, righteous Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ could have any concern for his own spiritual well-being. As I approach his age, I now understand. I have the same concern for myself, for my family, and for all of my brethren of the priesthood. Over my lifetime, I have seen some of the most choice, capable, and righteous of men stumble and fall. They have been true and faithful for many years and then get caught in a web of stupidity and foolishness which has brought great shame to themselves and betrayed the trust of their innocent families, leaving their loved ones a legacy of sorrow and hurt. "My dear brethren, all of us, young and old, must constantly guard against the enticements of Satan." (James E. Faust, "Pioneers of the Future: Be not Afraid, Only Believe," Ensign, Nov. 1997, p.45)

We have seen in our own nation many great men, great men in many fields, who have fallen. We have seen it in David. Let it not be the case with any of us. We must work hard to be on the Lord's side and have his Spirit in our lives. As we go through this period of healing from what has happened in the last two days, may the Lord bless us that we may be on His side. These things we can control. These things are within our power. We can govern our own behavior each day, our own actions, and our own thoughts. I know and can testify to you that if we have the Spirit of the Lord, it changes our lives. When we don't have it, we feel it. Don't let that happen in your lives. Each week as we listen to the sacrament prayer, we can consciously place ourselves among those who:

". . . witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. [Emphasis added.]" (D&C 20:77)

During this time of healing and coming back from what we have seen yesterday and today, may we be uplifted. We cannot control world events. We cannot control world leaders, but we can control ourselves. In the 59th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, it says:

"But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come." (D&C 59:23)

The peace of which it speaks in this instance is personal peace. May we have that in our lives. May we personally feel the peace that comes from a clear conscience, from being engaged in doing the work of the Lord, from having His Spirit to be with us. If we are not in that condition, may we strive to be there. May we recognize that we can. May we work to find ourselves in that condition. May the Lord bless you during this time. Know that this is His Church, that He is mindful of all of us, that He cares for us. We will come through this situation. If each of us personally controls his or her life and stays on the Lord's side, and each has His Spirit to be with us; we will learn from this, we will grow, and we will develop. I leave these things with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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