Brother Riggins has served as a Bishop, Stake President, and President of the Ecuador Guayaquil North Mission. Brother and Sister Riggins are the parents of four children and have 13 grandchildren.
And This Is Life Eternal
Brothers and Sisters: What a wonderful blessing to be with you. Before I get started let me just thank first of all – you – for being here on a cold rainy day. Also I want to thank Guy for his introduction. I appreciate and love him – love him for his friendship. Cecilia, thank you. Wow! Her prayer was just precious. Did you notice how much gratitude? I just thought that is what we need, that kind of gratitude – thank you, thank you. And then she prayed for what I want to happen here today. Adyson, if you’ve got some more we can just forget me and just let you sing. Maddy, thank you for your testimony. Again before I get started I was looking at your devotional schedule and I thought, “What? Are you kidding me? Look who comes here to speak.” I got sandwiched between Brad Wilcox and Elder Rasband. Well we got Brad Wilcox and who is Brother Riggins and we’ll go to Elder Rasband.
Sister Riggins and I would like you to know how much we love you and how much we love the youth of the Church. It is so special to stand at this pulpit, in this building under these conditions.
For weeks, I have been pondering upon the truths that President and Sister Kusch taught you on September 14th of this year. I testify of the truthfulness of the multiple diamonds that you were given by Sister Kusch and the many pearls that you received from President Kusch.
As a reminder, here are five pearls from President Kusch.
1. Don’t be in a hurry for God to answer your prayers. But, when answers come, you will know it.
2. God puts people in our path – to fulfill His purposes – and often in miraculous ways.
3. When God’s timing is different than yours, trust His. He ALWAYS knows best.
4. If it’s meant to be, it will happen.
5. If we allow it, God will “educate our desires” to prepare us for things we might never decide to do on our own.
Like President and Sister Kusch, Brother and Sister Riggins have a story and we know the reality of these truths.
I would like you to consider a question that I often ask myself, and I’ll tie it to what President Kusch taught.
“What would I have to know about God to believe, trust, and apply what President Kusch taught me?”
Sister Kusch taught us beautifully what it means to “stand in holy places.” It’s rarely about the “place,” it’s about us! The Spirit bore witness to me of at least three diamonds of truth that she gifted us.
Do you remember these? “Be determined to stand with the Lord, and then stay there…we must have a desire to be near to Him, and then have a determination to stay with Him.”
Brothers and Sisters, I ask you my question in relationship to what Sister Kusch taught us,
“What would I have to know about God to desire to be near Him, have the determination to stand with Him, and to stay with Him?”
I couldn’t help but think of President Nelson’s teachings on one of the meaning of the word “Israel,” “Let God prevail.”
Brothers and Sisters, think about this, “what would you need to know about God to allow Him to prevail in your life?”
Think of this question as you recall last week’s devotional with Bradley R. Wilcox. He taught you some beautiful truths and invited you to do some things. Here it is. “What would I need to know about God, to feel an urgency about pursuing my education, seeking after repentance, assisting in the gathering, and living a consecrated life right now?”
I believe that many of the “so-called difficulties” with our faith, our testimonies, our activity, our commitment to our covenants, our issues with doctrine, our disagreement with prophets, and ultimately our success, are a product of not knowing God!
Consider this gift that the Lord gave us as part of one of His only recorded prayers,
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)
In my religion classes, I write it on the board as a mathematical equation:
KG + KJC = EL
That is know God plus know Jesus Christ equals eternal life.
Brothers and Sisters, I suggest to you that if we had no other scripture but this verse, we would know our mission on earth. The outcome of implementing this equation would result in bringing “…about His eternal purposes in the end of man…!” (2 Nephi 2:15)
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught,
Let us here observe, that three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.
First, the idea that he actually exists.
Secondly, A correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.
Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will.
For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Lectures on Faith, Lecture Four)
At this most recent conference, President Nelson made this statement as part of his introductory remarks,
“There has never been a time in the history of the world when knowledge of our Savior is more personally vital and relevant to every human soul.” (Russell M. Nelson, General Conference, October 2021, Pure Truth, Pure Doctrine, and Pure Revelation) - Brothers and Sisters we are not talking about point number one here, we are talking about point number two. A knowledge of his attributes, perfections and his characteristics
Why do you think that President Nelson asked the young adults of the Church in January of 2017, and then the entire Church in the April conference of 2017 to study more than 2,200 scriptural references about the Savior?
If I did the math right, he was 93 years old when he took on that challenge. After completing his study, he was asked by his wife “what impact it had” on him. He replied, “I am a different man!” (Russell M. Nelson, General Conference, April 2017, Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives) – When I heard that Brothers and Sisters I thought, “What?” Can you imagine?
Do we believe that the admonition from our Prophet to “hear Him,” “to hear Him better and more often” or the question “how do you hear Him,” are just nice statements of propaganda? Will these admonitions have no meaning after President Nelson leaves this earth?
At a mission presidents conference in 2013, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught,
“…we and our missionaries, our members, and our investigators must know for certainty the character of the members of the Godhead…. There is no point in going on to the other truths we believe if we haven’t fixed in our minds…the preeminent role of the Godhead…we are to know these Divine Beings.”
He then warned,
“We can be absolutely certain that it will not go well – for missionaries or for investigators – (and I would add members) if we slide past our teachings of the Divine. We must not point toward mortal leaders before we have taught and testified of celestial ones. We must not try to teach ancillary truths before we’ve taught the fundamental ones” (Knowing the Godhead, Ensign, January 2016).
We have evidence of this warning in the scriptures.
Have you ever wondered why Laman and Lemuel were so different than Nephi? I believe that Nephi wanted us to know the why?
Because we know Lehi and Sariah and what they taught their children, we can be assured that all their children had the “idea that God actually exists” planted in their hearts. I also believe that they tried to teach their children a correct idea of God’s character, perfections, and attributes. However, the knowledge of God’s true character, perfections, and attributes is not something that can just be given. This knowledge is intimate, it is discovered, it is revealed, it is experienced. Rarely will you get it while buying a ship. It is by building it. And rarely will you get it while riding in the ship. It is by stepping out into deep waters. As President Nelson taught, “increasing your faith and trust in Him takes effort.” And, what about an actual knowledge that the course of life which they were pursuing, was according to God’s will? This is a product of revelation; knowing the “mind of God” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
Nephi writes of Laman and Lemuel, “for behold they did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart. And thus, Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. (Listen to what Nephi says is the reason they did what they did). And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” (1 Nephi 2:11-12)
Laman and Lemuel knew of God, but they did not know God!
Nephi on the other hand, “having great desires to know of the mysteries of God,” cried unto the Lord and He did visit him, softened his heart so as to “believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him…” (1 Nephi 2:16-17)
Do you remember the difference in responses after hearing Lehi’s vision?
Nephi desired to see, hear, and know by the power of the Holy Ghost. He knew that God was the same yesterday, today, and forever. He knew that revelation is a “gift of God unto all who diligently seek him.” He knew that God had always been willing to “manifest himself unto the children of men.” He knew that since the foundation of the world, “the way is prepared for all men…if they will repent and come unto him.” (1 Nephi 10:17-19)
Laman and Lemuel on the other hand, “disputed!” After Nephi had his vision and returned to the tent of his father, he sees them disputing. He goes, takes a nap, regains his strength, and he “desires to know of them the cause of their disputation” (1 Nephi 15:1-6). They tell Nephi that they can’t understand the words of their father. Then Nephi asks,
“Have ye inquired of the Lord?” And they respond, “We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us” (1 Nephi 15:8-9).
When I’m reading this in the Book of Mormon I want to yell into the pages of the Book of Mormon and ask them,
“Laman, Lemuel, what would you have needed to know about God, his character, his perfections, his attributes, for you to have done what Nephi did?”
Brothers and Sisters, can you sense the importance of the Savior’s words as He offered his intercessory prayer? “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
Just prior to offering that prayer, the Savior tries to prepare his disciples for what is to come.
“These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me” (John 16:1-3).
But then, as if to say, “…but you do…” He reminds them of the mission of the Holy Ghost, of the love of the Father, and of His descension from and return to the Father, and finishes with these words, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)
Brothers and Sisters, what did those great disciples know about God, his character, perfections, and attributes that helped them to one, “not be offended” and two, helped them be of good cheer even in tribulation?
The devils know that there is a God and even bear witness of Him. However, they don’t know God!
Sometimes we give more credit to the devil than he deserves. We assume that because he had been in the presence of God, and had heard the plan of salvation, that he knows God. Consider the doctrine taught in this beautiful verse from the Pearl of Great Price.
“And Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, (for he had drawn away many after him,) and he sought also to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world” (Moses 4:6)
The adversary does not know the mind of God, but he does know what the Savior offered us in His intercessory prayer, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). He will do all that he can to get in the way of us coming to know the only true God.
Elder Holland taught this principle by quoting Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminding us “that Lucifer understands the significance of such doctrine, even if we don’t. He said:
“There is no salvation in believing … false doctrine, particularly a false or unwise view about the Godhead or any of its members. …
“It follows that the devil would rather spread false doctrine about God and the Godhead and induce false feelings with reference to any one of them, than almost any other thing he could do” (Knowing the Godhead, Ensign, January 2016).
At the beginning of this dispensation, and as part of the preface to His Book of Commandments, the Lord warned,
(That’s what we call the Doctrine and Covenants today.) Speaking of us …
“…the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;” (Brothers and sisters you can interpret that multiple ways. Being cut off sometimes is somebody just walking away from the Church.) “For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant; 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, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall” (D&C 1:11-16)
Brothers and Sisters, one of the great blessings of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is to have us know “the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent” (D&C 132:24). We have been invited to believe in Him, come unto Him, draw near unto Him, know Him, hear Him, feel Him, learn of Him, follow Him, obey Him, receive Him, walk with Him, build upon Him, be like Him, yoke ourselves to Him, and love Him. We are invited to see, speak, feel, serve, and to love like Him. We are invited to “view his death, to suffer his cross, and to bear the shame of the world,” even as He did!
Is any of this inviting, enticing, possible or long lasting if we don’t know the characteristic, perfections, or attributes of the only true and living God?
As a mission president I took the admonition of that first little red box in principle one of lesson one of Preach my Gospel seriously.
“Determine what each person you are teaching understands regarding Christian beliefs about God. Many people in today’s world either have no concept of God or have a very different perception of Deity.”
I believed, and still believe, that If we didn’t get God straight in the minds and hearts of our investigators, we were building on a sandy foundation.
I invited my missionaries to learn all they could about God. “El único Dios verdadero!” I would ask them to ask themselves,
“what would a friend need to know about God in order to believe in the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, the plan of salvation, the doctrine of Christ, the word of wisdom, the law of chastity, etc.?”
Most of the people that were taught by our missionaries were Christians of some denomination. I challenged my missionaries to always ask if they believed in God. In almost every case, the response was a resounding “yes.” Then they would ask, tell us, share with us your knowledge of God. Who is He, how do you see him, what are his attributes, etc.? The answer was almost always the same, “Dios es amor!” God is love!
Brothers and Sisters, GOD IS LOVE! But is that the only attribute, perfection, or characteristic that defines Him? To help my missionaries, I had to come up with a metaphor that would help them understand his love but also understand the “more” of our God.
(No doubt I will take some hits with this example, but in my simple mind, it works!)
I love Mexican food, and I especially love burritos. The tortilla is not the whole burrito. But without the tortilla, you have no burrito. The tortilla is essential because all that will be in the burrito, will be wrapped within it. The tortilla represents the love of God. Within the burrito there will be meat, beans, rice, cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo, guacamole, French fries, etc.! These, together with the tortilla, make up the attributes, characteristics, and perfections of the burrito.
God’s love, as demonstrated by the gift of his Son and the atonement of Jesus Christ, is the centrality of His character, perfections, and attributes. Without His perfect love, all the other individual traits of His makeup would have little power. God is motivated by and wraps all that He is and all that He does in His perfect love.
What are some of the characteristics, perfections, and attributes that are wrapped in His love? How do coming to know these traits in our God help us on the covenant path toward eternal life? I have come to know these traits that have helped me as a father, a husband, a student, a teacher, a grandfather, a friend, and as a servant who desired to be consecrated.
Could we exercise faith in Him if He were not “the same yesterday, today, and forever?” That’s part of Him.
Could we follow Him if He walked “in crooked paths?”
Would we strive for repentance if He didn’t look upon sin with the least degree of allowance?
Knowing that He is a God of order, of law, of purpose, of righteousness, of holiness, of cleanliness, of truth, of intelligence, of knowledge, of power, of sacrifice, of justice, of mercy, of grace, of commandments, of obedience, of correction, of forgiveness, of reason, of answers, of covenants, of promise, of delegation, of work, and of miracles, has helped Sister Riggins and I make decisions that those who do not know God would consider insane!
Knowing that He is our Father, Creator, Lord, King of Kings, Law Giver, Savior, Redeemer, Counselor, Judge, Shepherd, Lamb, Rock of Salvation, Source of Light, Exemplar, and Fountain of living water, has given us perfect security, has provided the truth of our existence, the hope of our future, and the confidence to walk uncharted paths.
Jesus Christ is the Almighty, the Righteous One, the Son of Man, the Anointed One, the Only Begotten.
Knowing that He is a jealous God who is Humble, Submissive, Gentle, Easy to be entreated, Patient, Long suffering, Temperate, Diligent, and Meek, has allowed us to feel His perfect love and exclaim as Lehi did, “the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love” (2 Nephi 1:15).
Brothers and Sisters, where are you in your quest to come to know the “only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hath sent?”
May I end by giving you the same counsel I would give my missionaries as part of their last interview when they would ask, “President, now what?”
I would open up Section 101 of the Doctrine and Covenants and I would read them this little verse,
“…in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full. Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul. And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life” (D&C 101:36-38).
God wants us to know Him and He wants to reveal Himself unto us.
We are all in different places in our quest to know the only true and living God. I invite you to ask yourself this question often. “What would I need to know about God to…?
I bear my witness that He does love us. All of those other characteristics and attributes that He has are there for our benefit. Life eternal is to know Him our “only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hath sent” and receive “eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7).