Grounded, Rooted, Established, Settled
I salute you this morning as a generation of promise and destiny. Never has there been upon the earth more of a need for the youth of the kingdom to take upon them the responsibilities of the restored gospel, and never before has there been a generation more willing to shoulder these responsibilities. I express to you my love and my respect.
This is a wonderful time to be living upon the earth. Never before has there been such opportunity, such freedom, such luxury. Our world is becoming a global village. Two examples that were brought to my attention this week have reinforced that description. A young student friend of ours told us this week that she had purchased tickets to travel to Paris for four days with her friends. The cost of the round trip ticket, $200.00. Certainly an unusual fare, but a sign of the times. To think that four college students would leave Salt Lake City for a quick four day trip to Paris and back again to resume their studies almost before their teachers missed them. Secondly, was an article in Sunday's Deseret News, speaking of the agreement between TCI, the Mammoth cable company and Microsoft to create truly interactive television. We already, as our computers open to the internet, have thousands and thousands of learning options before us. With the beginning of digital, interactive television, the possibilities are only now unfolding. And not only are the advancements in transportation and communication astounding, but science, medicine, and engineering are all bringing tremendous advances. What a wonderful time to be alive!
At the same time we are seeing the kingdom of God in its purity and power, as it was restored to the Prophet Joseph Smith, come out of obscurity and darkness with nearly 60,000 missionaries, and consecrated and dedicated members on all continents of the globe. The wonders of the restoration are being declared to an ever widening population. It is a miracle to watch as we see the hand of the Lord accomplish exactly what he predicted, that this gospel would be taken to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people before His return. The times ahead for you and for me are exciting and breathtaking. What a privilege to be part of them.
I wish to begin today by telling you of a recent event that I experienced. My wife Kathy's mother is quite ill, and so we traveled just prior to Christmas to her home and our previous home in Tampa, Florida to spend the holidays with our family. During our few days there, Florida had the visit of a powerful and potent tornado. While hurricanes are common to Florida, tornadoes are not. This tornado came ripping through Haines City, Florida about fifty miles away from where we were, leaving destruction in its path. I read one experience of a lady in her mobile home. As she heard the winds approaching, she went into her bathroom and crouched down upon the floor hoping to avoid injury. She felt her trailer shake, she was jostled around, and then everything was quiet. As she crouched motionless in her bathroom she heard the voice of her neighbor who lived approximately fifty yards away from her. The voice said, "I am here in the front room." She thought somehow her neighbor had come into her trailer, and was looking for her. She soon however was very surprised to find that that was not the case at all, but that her trailer had been lifted, carried the fifty yards and landed upright on the top of her neighbors trailer. She had not realized it, but her trailer had been flying through the air. Her neighbor was actually below her, in the neighbor's own mobile home.
Our family is building a home in Bountiful. It is interesting to see all the efforts made to securely hold the home in place. First a giant hole is dug, the footers for the foundation are placed deep beneath the frost line. Steel rods run through the yards and yards of cement that form the foundation. With each adjoining part of the house, metal and steel is used to insure that each part of the house is attached firmly to the other, and that all is tied securely into the foundation and footers. Every effort is made so that the house may remain stationary should winds or tornadoes come upon us.
With all the wonderful blessings that are ours in living in this beautiful world, ours is also a time of spiritual tornadoes. Paul described your day this way: "For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy." (2 Timothy 3:2) The Lord described it this way: "They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own God, whose image is in the likeness of the world..." (D&C 1:16)
These tornadoes come out of the modern day sky with increasing frequency and test our spiritual foundations. With more opportunities, more time, more freedom, and more privilege come more temptation, and more chance of spiritual destruction from the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life. (See Matthew 13:21; Luke 8:13-14)
To weather these storms in this environment the Lord has instructed us by His prophets that we must become grounded, rooted, established, and settled in spiritual things. (See Ephesians 3:17; 1st Peter 5:10; Colossians 1:23; 2:7) Christ himself speaking to His disciples said "Settle this in your hearts, that you will do the things which I shall teach and command you." (JST Luke 14:28) Grounded, rooted, established and settled. My message today is that we must deepen our faith. Our motives must be real belief. In the environment in which we now live and in which we will live, a simple desire to follow the traditions of our parents will not be sufficient to protect us. There must come into each of our lives a firm conviction that there will be no lasting happiness except in keeping the commandments of God. It will not be sufficient to spiritually live without deep-rooted, powerful testimonies, for the winds and tornados of the world will surround us like never before. At times their effects will be very quick and disastrous, but more often like the lady in Florida, we will be carried away subtly not knowing of our flight. Unless we are grounded, rooted, established, and settled spiritually, we will be carried away and find ourselves in places and circumstances where we hoped never to be found.
This spiritual rooting must be more than just the thoughts of our mind. There must be a spiritual foundation where the power of the Holy Ghost has anchored us deeply and firmly. The Lord has clearly seen your day. While it might be a day unlike any other in the history of the world, it is not unforeseen by Him who knows all. As evil increases in the world, there is a compensating power of revelation for the righteous. The Lord said of the last days that "the whole earth shall be in commotion," (D&C 45:26) but he has assured us that He will not leave us helpless in these conditions. If we desire it, and if we will live worthy, He will testify to us; he will burn and emblazon upon our hearts those things that are true and eternal so that we may remain grounded, rooted, established and settled in spiritual matters.
If we can, it is so important that we settle ourselves on these matters while we are young. Recently I visited with an older couple as they returned to the Church, after most of their life being far, far, away. They had been raised in a Mormon community in Northern Utah but had been drawn to the excitement of worldly pursuits, and had left the Church for several decades. As I visited with them they were in the winter of their lives. The sister was in a wheelchair, their faces were wrinkled and worn. They talked of all the spiritual satisfactions they had missed in their lives. I tried hard to reassure them. I told them how thankful we were to have them back in the Kingdom, and how certain I was that our Heavenly Father was grateful for their decisions late in their life to return to that which they knew was true. I will never forget the halting voice of the elderly sister. She looked at me and said. "Brother Andersen, we appreciate your reassuring words, but our sadness is deep because none of our children or our grandchildren will have anything to do with the Church." How important it is to become grounded, rooted, established, and settled while we are yet young, for the tempestuous tornados in this modern world not only affect ourselves but our families, those who we love, and in many cases generations and generations to follow.
What does it mean to be grounded, rooted, established, and settled spiritually. It means to see "things as they really are." (See Jacob 4:13) It means having an eternal perspective, and realizing those things that will shape our lives over much more than the next five, ten, fifteen, or fifty years, but shape and mold our spirits eternally, for our spirits live forever. It is having a faith that is not a generalized feeling but reflects specific experience with interlocking principles. Being grounded and rooted means being able to look forward and backward from this life. A hundred years from now, how will my decisions affect me? A thousand years? A million years? The difficulties that are now mine, how meaningful will they be in a future state?
This perspective of seeing the spiritual all around us, seeing the purposes of life, does not come merely because we want to believe these things. If we have not grounded and settled these things deep within the foundation of our soul, when the tornados come we will find ourselves carried away, and rarely will we land right side up on our neighbor's trailer.
When I think of this perspective I think of the wonderful story told in the Old Testament of the Prophet Elisha. The King of Syria warred against the Israelites and the Israelite armies were only saved by the fact that Elisha, through his power of revelation, would tell them where and when the Syrian armies were coming. This infuriated the Syrian king and he sent his armies to find Elisha and capture him.
Thus the armies of Syria did as the king commanded and they surrounded the city where Elisha was staying. And then the scriptures explain that a servant of Elisha's arose early and he looked about and saw all the chariots and horses and the great host of soldiers and he declared to Elisha, "Alas, my master! how shall we do? (2 Kings 6:15) and Elisha answered, "Fear not for they that be with us are more than they that be with them." (2 Kings 6:16)
Elisha saw something that his servant did not see. And, then the next verse tells us this. "And Elisha prayed, and said Lord, I pray thee open his eyes (meaning the eyes of his servant), that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw; and, behold the, mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." (2 Kings 6:17)
Being grounded, rooted, established and settled means that we see things as they really are, that we see the spiritual hosts that surround us, that we understand that those who are with us are more than those who are against us. That we sense that while this earth life is a true proving ground, and there will be many difficulties and obstacles to overcome, all lasting happiness will come as we keep the commandments of God, and as we put our trust in Christ who is our Savior.
I would like to share with you today four powerful steel pillars of faith that can help to ground and root us spiritually. If you will settle these things in your heart and let them come to you with the power of the Holy Ghost they will serve you well as you face the winds and tornados of the modern world.
Believe in God, and that you are his son or daughter. Just two weeks ago I traveled up big Cottonwood Canyon to visit relatives who had come from the East to enjoy skiing in our beautiful mountains. As I drove through the canyon, and the snow fell lightly on a Saturday morning, I felt overwhelmed with the beauty of this world. I thought of the words of Alma to the agnostic Korihor, "...all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." (Alma 30:44)
I thought of the words in the Doctrine and Covenants "...and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power." (D&C 88:49)
How magnificent are the creations of our God. Believe that these were created by your Father and that you are his son or daughter.
What a wonderful knowledge to know that we are not simply His creation. We are His children, and He loves us. It is His work and His glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. It is hard to imagine how much a righteous father and mother can love a child until you have a child of your own. I love these words of Christ. "Or what man is there of you, whom if his son asks bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give good things to him that ask him?" (Matthew 7:9-11) The first pillar, believe in God, and that you are his child, and that he will open Himself to you, as you seek Him.
Believe in Christ and that he will redeem you. Learn of Christ. It was he who was in the beginning with us, the only begotten of the Father. It was he who organized this world. It was his voice that spoke to Moses, He was the great Jehovah of the Old Testament. Yet he came to earth as a carpenter's son, of no repute or reputation. He showed us how to live, he taught us how to love. He took upon him our sins that he might atone for them, and he took upon him our sorrows and sicknesses that he might understand them. It is true that we cannot fully comprehend how this could be, but as we spiritually seek, we will know that he did it. Because of him we will live again, clothed in resurrected bodies. And if we will repent and come unto him, our souls will be washed clean.
Like the servant of Elijah, these things are made evident to us only as we seek them spiritually, but they are real. I testify that Christ lives. He is the Redeemer of the earth. The second pillar. Believe in Christ and that he will redeem you.
Believe that God and Christ visited the Prophet Joseph Smith. How wonderful that our knowledge of God and Christ is not only from the Bible. Although that great book is a beautiful testimony of these things, we know that God and Christ appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in these latter days. This knowledge will ground and root you spiritually, and give you the strength to keep the commandments that you know are right. Centrally to knowing this is knowing that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. Joseph Smith said, "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." (Introduction, The Book of Mormon) The Book of Mormon is true, and you can know that with absolute assurance. If you will read it humbly and prayerfully, following its precepts and asking God in the name of Christ, you will know that this is the word of God, and that God and Christ spoke to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Pillar number 3, Our Heavenly Father and Christ spoke to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Believe that God speaks to prophets today. No one can watch President Gordon B. Hinckley and not be impressed with the kind of man he is. His openness, his devotion of taking the gospel to the world, his kindness and love are an example to good people everywhere. But I would testify to you that he is much more than an exemplary man. He is a prophet of God. I have watched him at close range; I have been in sacred meetings in the temple with him; I have had his hands upon my head in my ordination to the Seventy. Like Moses or Peter of old, he is the mouthpiece for the Lord. Christ is not absent from His Church, and his servant is Gordon B. Hinckley. When you come to know that deep inside spiritually, it will ground you, root you, establish you, settle you. You will listen to his counsel as you would listen to the counsel of an angel, for its source is the same.
Four steel rod pillars to anchor you in your spiritual foundation, that the tornados of the world will not dislodge you and carry you away. Believe in God, and that he is your father. Believe in Christ, and that he is your redeemer. Believe that God and Christ spoke to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Believe that God speaks to Prophets upon the earth today.
How can one have these pillars of testimony lodged deep within their spiritual foundation? Something so priceless comes not without sacrifice and effort. These assurances come to us as a gift of God, but, they are magnified, strengthened, and tempered as we do the things we must do to have the Holy Ghost work within our lives. We must pray. There is no other way to have these spiritual assurances. We must pray and ask for them. We must seek them from our Father. Don't try to survive spiritually without deep and continuous prayer. Don't roll into bed at night without first kneeling before your Father, expressing your thankfulness for what you have and appealing to Him to strengthen your spiritual pillars.
We must study the scriptures. The Lord has given us these magnificent books to cement our foundation, and to give us another way to unlock spiritual confirmations.
As I read the scriptures, as I come to understand the tremendous miracle of the writings of these people being preserved for us, I better understand how crucial this gift is for our spiritual foundation. For many the reading of the scriptures is not a natural experience. It requires work, it requires self-discipline, but study is essential in constructing these pillars in our hearts.
We must worship. There is power in the ordinances of the gospel, in taking the sacrament every week, in approaching the sacrament prayerfully, righteously asking for forgiveness. There is power in meeting together and discussing the doctrines of the kingdom.
Finally, we must be willing to serve one another, to be unselfish, to incorporate into our lives the qualities that Christ has taught us. As we live these principles, we will learn that there is no lasting happiness in selfishness, and that as we give ourselves to others our spiritual moorings will be strengthened.
Pray, study, worship, serve. This is how we build the spiritual foundation to be grounded, rooted, established, settled. Be willing to recognize and acknowledge the spiritual manifestations that you have already received.
On one occasion I was visiting a mission in Western Europe. The mission president told me of one of his missionaries who was determined to leave his mission and go home early. He asked me if I would speak to him.
We sat together in the front room of the mission home. The young missionary told me of his decision to go home early. I listened hoping I might be inspired with something that might help him. I asked him to tell me what he was feeling. He told me of a difficult childhood, of being abused and abandoned. I sensed what he was telling me was true.
He added, "Brother Andersen, I do not feel like my Heavenly Father loves me." He continued to speak, but a powerful, moving feeling came upon my spirit. I recognized it as the Spirit of the Lord. The feeling was this: "He knows with perfect assurance that I love him."
I pondered upon the feeling for a moment, and then I stopped him. "Elder," I said, "I have listened to your words with great interest, and I have appreciated much of what you have said. But your expression that you do not feel like your Heavenly Father loves you is not a true statement. You know he loves you, don't you?" I felt the confirming witness as I spoke to him.
He dropped his head. Tears came quickly. "Yes, I know He loves me," he said. "Yes, I do know He loves me." It was a defining moment for this good missionary, and he found the courage to stay and finish his mission.
Acknowledge the spiritual feelings you have felt. Settle yourself that God has spoken to you.
As I conclude I would like to share two examples of these principles. My first is somewhat of an unhappy experience. When we arrived in France to serve as president of the Bordeaux France Mission, one of our first duties was to prepare the mission home, as Bordeaux had just been established as the center of a mission. We were to purchase a piano, and so we visited many of the music stores in Bordeaux looking for the best value to purchase. In many of these stores the owners would speak of their knowledge of the Church. In almost all cases they mentioned that they knew a member of the Church, an outstanding pianist who played with the Bordeaux Symphony, named Pascal Robert. He had told them all that he was a member of the Church, and they spoke very positively of him.
I was anxious to meet this young accomplished pianist spoken of so warmly by these people in the community, yet the first several weeks in Bordeaux I did not meet him. I finally asked the district president why I had not met Pascal Robert, the accomplished pianist spoken of by so many. He explained to me that sadly Pascal had been excommunicated a few years earlier from the Church. He had fallen in forbidden paths, eventually leading to a disciplinary council that took from him his membership. I was disheartened at the news.
It was fully two years later that my phone rang and the person on the other end of the line said, "Brother Andersen, you do not know me but my name is Pascal Robert." I did know him, and I was thankful for his call. He invited us to a performance where he was a guest artist, and asked if he could have an appointment with me to speak about the Church.
As we met he was humble and contrite. He spoke of wanting to put his life in order and return to the Church. I referred him to a very capable branch president, and he began his process of repentance. A few months later the branch president, to whom I had assigned Pascal, called me. He said, "Pascal Robert is in the hospital and asked if you and I could come to see him." Pascal Robert was in the final stages of AIDS, and was near death. As we comforted him on his hospital bed he looked up into my eyes and almost pled saying, "Brother Andersen, can I again be baptized into the Church?" I assured him that he could be forgiven and be rebaptized. He then said something to me that I will never forget. He said, "What makes me the saddest is to realize what I could have had." He explained, "When I was baptized at age 19, the Lord gave me a powerful witness of the truth. I told everyone of the Church. My joy was overflowing." He continued, "I received my patriarchal blessing. Oh, there were marvelous promises made. I as told I would have a family, and children, and many wonderful things would come from my posterity." Then he paused, "I was also told that I should serve a mission. My musical talent, however, was so important to me and I was flattered on every side, and I thought that if I served a mission, I would not achieve what I could achieve if I stayed and pursued my artistic career. It was the first step", he said, "in unsettling my testimony. Now I will never have all those things that I were promised, not in this life." We comforted him, but his spirit could not be comforted. He had not been grounded, rooted, established, and settled, and the tornados of the world had lifted him and carried him to forbidden places. He died two days later.
My second example is a much happier story. My beloved associate of the Seventy, Elder Andrew Peterson grew up here in Salt Lake City. He served a mission in Argentina. After returning home, he married his sweetheart Christine.
After six years of marriage, they had still not been blessed with children. For some this would have been a spiritual tornado. Some might have shaken their fists at the heavens, and said, "How could you deny us, who love children so much, this privilege." No so for Drew and Chris Peterson. They were grounded, rooted, established, and settled. In Elder Peterson's words here is how their eight children came into their lives: "As school was drawing to a close and our sixth wedding anniversary was upon us, we were still without children. Then a door opened and an opportunity presented itself, and Ashley came into our lives. Our dear, precious Ashley.
"A year later we traveled to Bolivia to bring Joshua home from an orphanage. He was two years old. I can still see that beautiful little boy walking to me with outstretched arms, saying, 'Papa, Papa.' Megan then joined us, not even twenty-four hours old when we brought her home. Then back to Bolivia for Daniel, five months old when we held him for the first time.
"Several years later, while I was presiding over the Mexico Merida Mission, Jennifer joined our family--a beautiful two-week old Guatemalan baby girl born in Mexico. She opened the hearts of our missionaries and members in southern Mexico. Natalie Joy came into our family three weeks before our mission ended. Her middle name, Joy, is an eternal reminder of the witness we received that she should be included in our family. After sixteen years of marriage and six adoptions, Anne and Andrew naturally joined our family, to the joy and happiness of their brothers and sisters." (Ensign/May 1995)
Throughout their lives, they served where called. When he was released as a stake president, Drew served for a year and a half as a Star A teacher in the Primary. In speaking about teaching Primary he said, "That was some of the finest training I have ever received. I had those beautiful children teaching me more than I was giving them." (Church News, Oct. 22, 1994)
In October of 1994, Drew Peterson was called to the 1st Quorum of the Seventy. He and his wife Chris closed their dental practice, and were assigned to the Area Presidency in Mexico.
In October of 1997, returning to Salt Lake City briefly for General Conference, Elder Peterson was involved in a tragic accident that nearly took his life. For days his life hung in the balance. His vital signs finally stabilized but he had no movement below his neck. He could not speak. He could not communicate.
I visited Elder Peterson at the hospital just before Christmas. His voice had just returned the day I visited him. His words to me were these: "Oh Neil, I have been so blessed. I have learned so much, especially about the Savior." These was no hostility, no resentment. There was eternal perspective, gratitude for life. There lay a disciple of Christ, grounded, rooted, established, and settled.
After I leave you today, I will pass by the hospital to see Elder Peterson. His future abilities are still not clear, but I am happy to report there is some feeling in his extremities. We pray for his recovery. I know that your prayers would mean much to him, and I would ask you to petition our Heavenly Father on his behalf.
What his final physical condition will be is not yet certain, but his spiritual condition and that of his dear wife remain the same. They are grounded, rooted, established, and settled.
In an interview with the Church News shortly after his call to the Seventy, Elder Peterson explained what it means to be grounded, rooted, established, and settled. He said: "We need to trust in Him and realize He is always there. We sing in the Primary song. 'Heavenly Father, are you really there, and do you hear and answer every child's prayer.' We bear our testimonies that he does. He is there and will lead and guide us if we will turn to Him and have the faith to listen to a prophet." (Church News, October 22, 1994)
I pray that this may be our spiritual foundation, that when the worldly tornadoes come dangerously among us, we may stand firm.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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