5 Things to Keep You Safe and Secure, and Keep the Companionship of the Holy Ghost
By Sister Alynda Kusch
In July 2006, David Buschow died in the Utah desert. He was a fit, 29-year-old decorated ex-military police officer from New Jersey who had joined 11 other outdoor enthusiasts to “experience the wilderness to the fullest.”
But by day two, Dave was in very bad shape. Desperate for water he was pale and dehydrated, suffering from severe stomach cramps, slurred speech and hallucinations.
After going about 10 hours without a drink, in 100-degree heat, he fell, unconscious, face down in the dirt, less than 100 yards from the goal of the day: A cave with a pool of cool, clear water.
During what had been advertised as a wilderness-survival adventure designed to test physical and mental toughness, Dave and the 11 other hikers were led by expert guides.
The guides were carrying emergency water, but did not offer any to Dave. They wanted him to push himself beyond his known limits and see that he made it to the cave on his own.
Instead, Dave collapsed and died (source: The Guardian, 2007).
To me this story is a tragedy in so many ways:
- Water was nearby, but Dave did not know it.
- He was almost to his goal, but didn’t realize it.
- When he began to be so sick that he could hardly walk and knew, in his own words, “that something was not right,” in his effort to not look weak to the others, he did not ask for help.
- The guides were either not watching or did not care about what was happening to Dave.
- At last, when they realized that he was in trouble, it was too late to help him.
But most tragic of all, is that the guides were indeed carrying emergency water, but they choose not offer it to a dying man.
As I have contemplated the events of that day, questions come to my mind: Can this happen to me? Could I find myself spiritually thirsty, even dying spiritually, all the while surrounded by spiritual truth?
Yes. But it doesn’t have to happen to me. There are things I can do to protect myself.
As we make our way on this mortal journey, our great life-long adventure—and more specifically as we begin this new semester at LDSBC—it is possible to have a safe and secure path.
It is possible to have peace and joy as well as confidence that we can be kept from dangerous, spiritual situations and enjoy the peace that the gospel brings.
I tell you today, it is possible to receive help from Heaven in all of your endeavors this semester at school, whether you are far from home, new to college or starting over. The Lord wants to help you.
This morning I offer five things that I have learned that help me remember that being both safe and secure and having the Spirit with me are possible:
1) Build on a foundation of faith in Jesus Christ.
This group of adventure seekers were given instructions that were flawed, led by those who had miscalculated the danger and the result was tragic.
I am grateful to know that I can trust completely in the Savior. He is the source of real truth and light, the giver of perfect love and the provider of a perfect way to have peace and a happy life.
He explained who He is many times: “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world” (D&C 43:34).
“I am the bread of life; He that cometh to me shall never hunger” (John 6:35).
“He that drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst” (John 4:14).
Lehi taught us that all mankind would be lost unless they would rely on the Redeemer [who is Jesus Christ] (1 Nephi 10:6).
And Nephi taught us what to do: We “…look forward with steadfastness unto Christ,” having complete faith in him (2 Nephi 25:24).
Having faith in Jesus Christ means relying completely on Him—trusting in His infinite power, intelligence, and love, remembering that He knows us completely and Has experienced our pains, our sicknesses, even our disappointments. Because of this...He knows how to help us perfectly” (True to the Faith, pages 54-56).
Trust in who He says He is. Trust that He can do what He has promised He will do. Trust that He is the truth and the way.
2) Remember that we have true guides, even living prophets.
The group of hikers set-out on what had been advertised as a character-forming adventure and had been told that they would be led by expert guides.
As I read about these adventure guides, I was astounded to discover that they offered life-saving water to two of the other hikers and yet withheld it from the one with the greatest need. I could not help but make the comparison between them and our prophets.
“As members of The Church of Jesus Christ we are blessed to be led by living prophets, inspired men who have been called to speak for the Lord” to all of his children (True to the Faith, pages 148-149).
Or in other words, true guides, watching over us, with all of our welfare foremost on their minds. They would never withhold life-saving spiritual water from anyone, nor leave us to wonder and try to make it on our own.
Our prophets’ messages to us are true and universal. Their counsel applies to not just a few, but to all of us, giving us what we need to navigate safely while on our mortal journey.
General Conference is in less than three weeks, I am anxious to hear from prophets, knowing that I can trust completely in their words and counsel.
3) Love and obey the commandments.
Many years ago, President Kusch and I went to New York to visit the beautiful and very impressive Niagara Falls. The view from the top of the falls is amazing. The power and noise of the water is incredible.
During our visit to the waterfall we were able to travel upriver. What we saw there was very interesting. Not far from the waterfall, just one or two miles, the river was very calm. A person might see this smooth water and believe that they could safely float down the river and enjoy the beautiful sites, not realizing that they were close to danger.
But then, as they heard the waterfall and felt the power of the water pulling them to the edge, it would be too late. They would have reached a point where they could not stop.
In the same way a person on the river relies on signs posted along the banks that warn that, even though they can’t see them, dangerous currents, even a waterfall lie ahead, God’s commandments are so much more than a list of things we cannot do. They protect us from spiritual danger and keep us safe.
I am grateful for and love the commandments of God.
4) Listen to and follow the Holy Spirit.
The constant presence and influence of the Holy Ghost was given to you as a gift when you were confirmed a member of the Church.
From my own experience I can promise you that the Holy Ghost can teach you things in ways that will astound you, and in ways that may surprise you.
We have a very dear friend who was serving as a stake president. He’s an eloquent speaker, and when I hear him give an address, it’s almost like listening to poetry.
He told us of a time years ago when he was giving a talk at stake conference and in his own words said, “I was as waxing very eloquent and was pleased with my talk.”
Following the conference, a woman came to greet our friend and said to him, “President, that was a wonderful talk on tithing.” He replied, “Sister, thank you but my talk was not on tithing.” “Yes it was President, and it was powerful and just what I needed to hear tonight.”
The Holy Ghost had taught this sweet woman the lesson that she prayed she would learn, even though no words were spoken during the meeting relating to that message. That is what the Holy Ghost can do.
I testify to you that this can be your experience this semester, in your classes, devotionals, family home evening and in your church meetings. I invite you to prayerfully come to devotionals with a question in your heart and then write down what you learn from the Holy Ghost during this important and sacred gathering.
5) Decide now to be completely faithful.
Making this decision, to continue moving faithfully forward and persevere, will bless your life in ways you cannot anticipate.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said in October 1974:
“There are reasons for your commitment to be made now, for as the rush of hours, days, and months grows stronger, the will to commit grows weaker. Events to transpire soon on this planet will dry up the options for the lukewarm…!
“Act now, so that a thousand years from now, when you look back at this moment, you can say this was a moment that mattered—this was a day of determination” (General Conference talk titled: Why Not Now).
Make the decision to be faithful in all things, beginning now.
Our desire for you is to have the most glorious experience this semester, to be successful, safe and happy.
And so, my friends:
- Have faith in Jesus Christ and believe Him.
- Remember that living prophets are our true guides.
- Love and obey the commandments of God.
- Listen to and follow the Holy Ghost.
- Make the decision to be faithful, beginning now.
We love you. We pray for you. We’re here to help you.
May the Lord bless you with every worthy desire of your heart is my prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
If You Believe All These Things
by President Bruce C. Kusch
Brother and sisters, it is a blessing to be with you today. The beginning of a new semester is always an exciting time and we add our excitement to yours as we begin this season of learning together.
If I were to tell you that the topic of my remarks today was “The Plan of Salvation,” I’d be curious to know what the first thought is that comes to your mind. And, if we were to put them into a word cloud and project them, along with your name, I wonder if it might look something like this?
In a recent fast and testimony meeting a young woman was talking about her seminary class and mentioned that the topic that day in class was the plan of salvation. She said, “I’ve heard about the plan of salvation thousands of times, so I knew this was one day I didn’t really need to pay attention.” She was followed by a young man who shared his thoughts and said, “Yeah, I was in class that day too and just spent the whole time on my phone.”
My purpose today is not to discuss the plan of salvation in detail; rather to discuss principles, that if applied, will help us recognize the importance of knowing, believing, living and understanding Heavenly Father’s plan for each of His children.
To hear something repeatedly, does not mean we necessarily understand what is being said. You will remember prior to the Savior’s visit to the Americas that the Nephites were gathered at the temple in the land of Bountiful. They heard a voice, but they did not understand it. They heard it a second time and still did not understand. But the third time they heard the voice they opened their ears and their eyes, looking “steadfastly towards heaven,” and only then did they understood.
There is a consistent pattern found in the Book of Mormon of those who are converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ that can be instructive for us. The pattern consists of:
- Someone is appointed to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to a large gathering, or sometimes just to one individual, or a small group of individuals
- Those being taught open their hearts, they listen
- As they listen, they are taught by the Holy Ghost, and they begin to have understanding, which leads to repentance and a desire to change
- That understanding and desire to change leads them to believe on Christ, to look to him for a remission of their sins
- There is a specific feeling that comes to the truly repentant when they experience a remission of sins
- That feeling and remission of sins brings great joy, peace of conscience, causes a might change of heart, and changes the disposition of the person or people
Listen to these words...
“...the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ...” (Mosiah 4:3)
“...the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent...has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2).
“...and they did all declare...the selfsame thing – that their hearts had been changed; that they had no more disposition to do evil” (Alma 19:33).
As we listen with open hearts, the Holy Ghost teaches us, and we come to understand. When we truly understand, it is in that moment we begin to change. But if we never listen with open hearts and look with open eyes, no matter how many times we have heard or seen something, we may never come to understand, and never make the necessary changes in our lives that will bring us closer to God and to the Savior.
I’d like to show you an example of hearing, listening and understanding.
Elder Luciano Zuniga was one of our missionaries who was from a town very close to Mexico City that actually bordered our mission to the north. The mission home was less than an hour from where he was from. Elder Zuniga was an excellent missionary and he had a very unique talent. He could talk really fast. So fast in fact, it was almost impossible to understand him. We used this video to help our missionaries from the United States get an idea of what Spanish was going to sound like when they arrived in their first area.
My guess is that very few of you were able to understand what Elder Zuniga taught – it actually was the plan of salvation in 43 seconds! So, you see, hearing and even listening is not the same as understanding!
You may know about the plan of salvation, but have you given your heart to truly understanding it? Do you truly believe it? Do you pick and choose what you believe? Are you doing the things that truly make you a partaker of the plan? The full blessings of the plan of salvation only come into our lives as we put our trust in the Lord, are diligent in keeping His commandments and continue in faith every single day of our lives.
This does not come without sacrifice. Think on the experience of the father of king Lamoni. After Aaron taught him the gospel, including the plan of redemption the king asked, “What shall I do that I may have this eternal life...? Before he knew the answer to his question he said, “I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.” Aaron then taught him how he might get an answer to his plea. And, once he understood, he made this bold declaration in prayer to God: “...I will give away all my sins to know thee” (Alma 22:15, 18).
Have you asked yourself the question, “What shall I do that I might have eternal life?” What are you willing to forsake? Are there some sins you think are just too hard to give up right now? Or are there things you know you should not be doing that you actually quite enjoy? What are you willing to give up to be a partaker of all of the blessings of the plan of salvation and not just the gift of resurrection that everyone born into mortality will receive as a free gift?
King Benjamin admonished us to:
“Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.
And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them” (Mosiah 4:9-10).
Elder David A. Bednar reminded us that “...what we know is not always reflected in what we do” (October 2009, “More Diligent and Concerned at Home”).
It is possible to know about something but not believe it. It is possible to believe something, but not act on that belief. When what we know is not reflected in what we do, this indicates either a lack of belief or a fundamental lack of understanding.
So, we may know about the plan of salvation and we may even believe much of what we know, but when our actions are not consistent with the doctrine it could very well be that we have not yet “applied our hearts to understanding” (Mosiah 12:27).
Brothers and sisters, a deep knowledge of, belief in, and understanding of the plan of salvation is essential FOR our salvation and exaltation. This knowledge, belief and understanding will inform all of our decisions, it will motivate us to repent and change, which will lead to peace and joy. I don’t believe any of us can afford to “procrastinate the day of our repentance.”
On Friday, I heard a reporter interviewing a man who lived in the Florida Keys about his plans to remain in his home in spite of the warnings to evacuate. “I’ll be fine,” the man said. “If it’s a category 3 storm it won’t be a problem, but if it’s stronger, then I’ll consider leaving.” This was before the storm’s track changed and category 5 Irma headed straight for the Keys. I do not know if the man had time to leave.
With the time remaining I would invite us all to apply our hearts to understanding more deeply the essential importance of the plan of salvation in our lives. In the April 2017, General Conference Elder Dallin H. Oaks offered a very succinct description. As I read this, I invite each of you to offer a silent prayer, asking that the Holy Ghost might teach you important things, to strengthen your belief in and deepen your understanding of the plan of salvation. After the devotional, I would invite each of you to dedicate a portion of your personal study time to the plan of salvation, and commit to apply the doctrines in your life.
“As spirit children of God, in an existence prior to mortality, we desired a destiny of eternal life but had progressed as far as we could without a mortal experience in a physical body. To provide that opportunity, our Heavenly Father presided over the Creation of this world, where, deprived of our memory of what preceded our mortal birth, we could prove our willingness to keep His commandments and experience and grow through the other challenges of mortal life. But in the course of that mortal experience, and as a result of the Fall of our first parents, we would suffer spiritual death by being cut off from the presence of God, be soiled by sin, and become subject to physical death. The Father’s plan anticipated and provided ways to overcome all of those barriers.”
As spirit children of God, in an existence prior to mortality, we desired a destiny of eternal life but had progressed as far as we could without a mortal experience in a physical body.
To provide that opportunity, our Heavenly Father presided over the Creation of this world, where, deprived of our memory of what preceded our mortal birth, we could prove our willingness to keep His commandments and experience and grow through the other challenges of mortal life.
in the course of that mortal experience, and as a result of the Fall of our first parents, we would suffer spiritual death by being cut off from the presence of God, be soiled by sin, and become subject to physical death.
The Father’s plan anticipated and provided ways (through the Atonement of Jesus Christ) to overcome all of those barriers.”
President Kusch invited several students to participate in a Q&A. Below is the general transcript of their conversation.
President Kusch: Would you stand please? Here’s the question: The gospel of Jesus Christ is central to the plan of salvation and the Savior is central to His gospel. How has partaking of the sacrament worthily made the plan of salvation more meaningful for you?
Student: Well it is clear that it is real. I don’t have many thoughts about it, just the fact that I know that is has an affect every week that I take it, so that means the Lord’s power is behind it.
President Kusch: Would somebody else like to answer the question?
Student: For me, it is more of a reminder that everything I do every week, every year, should be centered in Christ—that I need to remember that everything in the gospel is centered in Him. And that’s the way I remember that, partaking of His flesh and blood every weekend when I go to church.
President Kusch: Great, Thank you very much.
President Kusch's notes/thoughts: The sacrament focuses us on Christ, helps us overcome being soiled by sin and is one of the provided ways to overcome the barriers created by the fall – suffering spiritual death and being soiled by sin.
The Plan of Salvation
President Kusch: Okay, I’m going to do something that two young men are not expecting, two of our missionaries are here today, Josue and Elliot, would you please stand and answer the next question I’m going to ask? And I also want a young woman that is a return missionary, a sister missionary, to be thinking about this question too.
Here’s the question—As you taught the plan of salvation as missionaries, and you were companions for a while, and you saw your investigators come to understand their divine nature as children of God, and as you bore your testimonies to them, how did that change you?
Josue: I think that the biggest change in my life was to know that everything that I was teaching was also being applied to me as well. For a big part of my life I didn’t realize that the Atonement was for me as well, but once I started seeing the changes in other people, that brought hope into my life to know that it is possible. And when these people were able to change their lives and brighten their future, it really just opened up my mind to all sorts of experiences that allowed me to grow spiritually, allowed me to press forward and to know that Heavenly Father sees us all as His children, and we all have an equal opportunity to return to Him.
President Kusch: Thank you.
Elliot: I think, to fully gain a testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ and His plan, we have to share with others. I’m thankful for the opportunity I had on the mission to share my testimony and help others grow through the atonement and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Seeing other people change through the gospel really helped me to be the man I am today. I know that Christ has His hand extended all the time to uplift and to change people’s lives. And I think that as we teach the gospel to those in need, their hearts are opened as they make righteous decisions to change and to follow Christ.
President Kusch: Thank you. Is there a sister missionary, a returned missionary, that would like to respond to that question?
Student: In my last area—it was Spanish speaking and I served English throughout the rest of my mission—we were teaching a young woman who had just moved from Chihuahua, Mexico, and she had a rough life. She had a child when she was 16 years old and she was raising him by herself. When we talked to her about the plan of salvation, she was speechless and she had never considered that God loved her that much to provide a plan for her to come back to Him. And that hit me really hard because I was raised in the church, and being around it all the time, I didn’t realize how special that concept really is.
President Kusch's notes/thoughts: Reflect on full-time mission service. Remember the feeling of bearing testimony? Can you feel so now?
President Kusch: Thank you. Is there anyone here that is a recent convert within the last year or the last two years? Would you stand please? When were you baptized?
Student: I was baptized November fifth, 10 months ago.
President Kusch: Wonderful. So, here is the question, as you were taught the plan of salvation by the missionaries and you came to understand it, how did it change your view of yourself and your relationship with Heavenly Father and the Savior?
Student: It changed everything. It changed my entire outlook on life. It changed everything from how I treat other people to the purpose of my life. It makes me want to be a better person every single day.
President Kusch: Thank you very much.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is highly likely that you have heard the plan of salvation discussed many times. It is even more likely that throughout your life you will hear it discussed hundreds or thousands of times more.
In just a few weeks hence we will have the blessing of being taught by prophets, seers, revelators and other general Church officers. I am confident many of those messages will focus on topics that relate to the plan of salvation.
As each of us comes to know the plan of salvation, as we seek to believe all these things – every single one of them – and as we “see that we do them” I promise our understanding will increase of the vital and essential blessing of the plan of salvation. As we do it will change us – not only once, but again and again. This understanding will be a protection for us as we navigate our way through life’s challenges. We will know who we are, in our true identity as children of God. No matter how many times we have heard the plan of salvation taught or how many times we will hear it taught, I pray that each of us will forever open our hearts, our minds, our ears and our eyes.
The plan of salvation is ultimately about the Lord Jesus Christ and being partakers of the heavenly gift of His atonement. I testify He lives. He is real. The Father’s plan is one of mercy and love, allowing us realize our destiny of eternal life that we expressed our desire to achieve in our premortal existence. I so testify. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.