Elder Ashton: `If we are to achieve daily safety and eternal happiness, we need to live by our Savior's plan.'
Living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to achieve true, enduring happiness, and members of the LDS Church must realize that all salvation revolves around the Savior, Elder Marvin J. Ashton said during Saturday afternoon's general conference session.
Elder Ashton opened the session by urging members to avoid the temporary thrills that indulgence in sin may provide. The proceedings included the release of two members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and reorganization of the Young Men General Presidency (see accompanying story on A6).President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency of the church, conducted the session. Music was provided by a Young Women's choir from the Bountiful and Val Verde, Utah regions. All conference sessions are being carried via satellite to more than 3,000 locations in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
"How can we even guess how our life will turn out if we don't choose to follow the right pattern," Elder Ashton asked. "If we are to achieve daily safety, exaltation and eternal happiness, we need to live by the light and truth of our Savior's plan. All salvation revolves around our Savior."
He said while God is "truly loving and kind . . . when we abuse our agency to choose a lifestyle contrary to revealed patterns, we must live with the consequences. Our unwillingness to follow the true and tested patterns given for our happiness causes the individual, family and friends heartaches and ultimate disaster. Our freedom to choose our course of conduct does not provide personal freedom from the consequences of our performances. God's love for us is constant and will not diminish, but he cannot rescue us from the painful results that are caused by wrong choices."
Elder Ashton said even the best of people will face challenges. "Many times true winners in life are those who have been hurt and disappointed but have risen above these challenges. Very often in life God gives us difficulties to bring out the best in us. It is true, life does not determine winners. Winners determine life."
He also warned that "within the church there is an established pattern for receiving revelation and instructions. We need to be reminded that anyone claiming to receive direction or revelation for others should be held suspect. This is especially true when the content is believed to have relevance for areas, regions, stakes or wards in the church for whom the person has no particular responsibility. God has in the past and will continue in the future to reveal his will through his prophets. . . .
"To gain exaltation and happy daily life, we must follow a pattern of righteousness. Our self-esteem and success can best be measured by how we follow the patterns of life which prevent deceit, haughtiness, pride or pessimism."
Elder Faust: Parenting is divine calling. `Few challenges are greater than that of being good parents.'
"The greatest challenge in the world has to do with the privilege and responsibility of being good parents." Elder James E. Faust told church members that parenthood is a divine calling. "To me, there is no more important human effort. . . . While few human challenges are greater than that of being good parents, few opportunities offer greater potential for joy."
He said good parenting requires "more intelligence, intuitive understanding, humility, strength, wisdom, spirituality, perseverance and hard work than any other challenge we might have in life. This is especially so when moral foundations of honor and decency are eroding around us. To have successful homes, values must be taught, and there must be rules, there must be standards, and there must be absolutes."
Elder Faust said that in deferring their own needs and desires, "conscientious parents develop a nobility of character and learn to put into practice the selfless truths taught by the Savior."
He paid tribute to single parents, saying they "should be honored and helped in their heroic efforts. But any mother's or father's task is much easier where there are two functioning parents in the home. Children often challenge and tax the strength and wisdom of both parents."
He urged parents not to be casual in their responsibilities to hold regular family prayer, family home evening and Scripture study. He also cautioned against "parental hypocrisy," which "can make children cynical and unbelieving of what they are taught in the home. For instance, when parents attend movies they forbid their children to see, parental credibility is diminished. If children are expected to be honest, parents must be honest. If children are expected to be virtuous, parents must be virtuous. If you expect your children to be honorable, you must be honorable."
He encouraged parents to discipline their children "motivated more by love than by punishment. . . . Without discipline, children will not respect either the rules of the home or of society." An essential part of discipline is teaching children to work, he said.
Elder Faust offered comfort to conscientious parents whose children may have strayed from correct teachings. "The children themselves have a responsibility to listen, obey and, having been taught, to learn." He also encouraged parents to avoid doing or providing everything for their children. "It seems to be human nature that we do not fully appreciate material things we have not ourselves earned."
Elder Oaks: Church members have responsibility to bear witness and testimony of Jesus Christ.
Every member of the church has the responsibility to bear witness and testimony of Jesus Christ. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said Adam and Eve "established the pattern, receiving a testimony from the Holy Ghost, and then bearing witness of the Father and the Son to those around them."
Following that example, members of the church serve as witnesses of Christ "through our baptism, our membership in his church, our partaking of the sacrament and our prayers and other actions in his name."
"But our duty to be witnesses of Jesus Christ requires more than this, and I fear that some of us fall short. Latter-day Saints can become so preoccupied with our own agendas that we can forget to witness and testify of Christ."
Elder Oaks quoted a portion of a letter from a member who said he hadn't heard the name of Christ in any discussions, lessons or testimonies in the meetings he attended in his ward for a two-week period. "Perhaps that description is exaggerated. Surely, it is exceptional. I quote it because it provides a vivid reminder for all of us.
"Everyone who has received the witness of the Holy Ghost has a duty to share that testimony with others. . . . Spiritual gifts come by the power of the Holy Ghost that all the faithful may be benefited. One of these gifts is `to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.' Those who receive that gift have the duty to testify of it. Those who have the gift to know must give their witness so that those who have the gift to believe on their words can enjoy the benefit of that gift."
Of those who are valiant in bearing testimony, the Lord has promised to "forgive you of your sins with this commandment - that you remain steadfast . . . in bearing testimony to all the world of those things which are communicated to you."
Elder Oaks recalled Joseph Smith's vision of the three degrees of glory, describing those who go to the terrestrial or middle kingdom as the " `honorable men of the earth' who were `not valiant in the testimony of Jesus. . . . '
"As I see the deterioration in religious faith that has happened in my own lifetime, I am convinced that we who are members of his church need to be increasingly forthright and valiant in our testimony of Jesus."
Elder Dellenbach: Read, ponder and study Book of Mormon. `It is a spiritual compass for us to follow.'
Members who question their testimony of the gospel should read, ponder and study the Book of Mormon, Elder Robert K. Dellenbach said. He and Elders Harold G. Hillam, Helvecio Martins and Lynn A. Mickelsen were all sustained as members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy during the general conference in April.
"Why the Book of Mormon? Because it is a spiritual compass for us to follow. The Book of Mormon was written for our day to convince us `that Jesus is the Christ.' When you come to know the Book of Mormon is true, you will know Joseph Smith is the Prophet of the Restoration and that Ezra Taft Benson is the Lord's prophet today."
Elder Dellenbach outlined four steps one can take to obtain a more profound testimony:
- Desire. Alma said: "Even if you can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you."
- Works. "Young Joseph contemplated the Bible, then went into the woods to pray. Moses climbed Mount Sinai. David faced Goliath."
- Prayer. "As we sincerely pray to the Lord and rely upon his divine whisperings, that still small voice will come to us," Elder Dellenbach said. "First, we will receive a peace, knowing that God has answered our prayers. This peaceful assurance can grow into a flame of testimony."
- Trust in the Lord. "May I ask you to extend your trust to the Lord. Please take the Book of Mormon into your hands. As you read it, ask yourself: `Could any man write this?' Then ask the Lord, `Is this thy word?' " Elder Dellenbach said.
"Satan wants to stop you. He will try to distract, deceive and weaken your resolve. Do not be afraid. We have already overcome Satan at another time and place. We had a valiant testimony in our pre-existence, and we can awaken it again today."
Elder Hillam: Membership in `household of faith' brings joy of being cared for, loved and appreciated.
Membership in the "household of faith" not only brings one the blessings of the gospel but the joy of being cared for, loved and appreciated, Elder Harold G. Hillam said.
He related the story of a shoeshine man in Portugal whom Lisbon missionaries befriended. The man was alone in the world but refused steadfastly to join the church. Elder Hillam befriended the man while he served as president of the Lisbon Portugal Mission.
Eventually the man disappeared from his shoeshine post on the street. Inquiring at nearby stores, Elder Hillam learned that no one knew exactly what had happened to the man but that people believed he had died.
"I remember thinking, could it be that the best shoe-shine man in the world had died, and no on really knew or even seemed to care," Elder Hillam said.
He contrasted the man's lonely life with the lives of Brother and Sister Joaquim Aires, a Portuguese couple with few worldly possessions who joined the church.
Brother Aires was made president of one of the mission districts. When he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, the blessings of the priesthood healed the man and the love of the Portuguese church members reached out to him.
"This good man and his wife who had returned to Portugal almost unknown, now, because of his membership in the church, had literally thousands who loved them, and were concerned about them and remembered him in their prayers."
Elder Hillam concluded with the plea, "To all who find themselves outside the household of faith and away from the Saints, please accept this invitation to come unto Christ that we might all ` . . . bear one another's burdens.' Join with the saints that you might not be any longer strangers alone in this world but truly cared for, loved and appreciated."
He urged church members who know of those "who are alone in this great crowd of people who could use your special love, care and concern" to extend the hand of welcome and fellowship to them.
Elder Martins: Fears about baptism vanished with the `miracle' of conversion during conference in Rio de Janeiro.
Elder Helvecio Martins related the story of his 1972 conversion to the LDS Church. "A marvelous feeling that we never before had experienced filled our hearts, certifying the truthfulness of the message," he said of the missionaries' first visit to his home.
Elder Martins said he and his wife postponed baptism because they feared negative reactions from family members. However, they repented of that decision when they attended a quarterly conference in Rio de Janeiro.
"The Holy Ghost reconfirmed the truthfulness of the things we already knew: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the Lord's kingdom on earth, the road back to the celestial mansion of our Eternal Father.
"A miracle occurred in that moment, and our fears about baptism vanished."
Elder Martins testified, "Through obedience to the laws of the gospel, fasting and service, our Heavenly Father blessed us with power to overcome fear, challenges and eventual adversities."
He encouraged church members to constantly nourish their testimonies. It is not enough to have acquired one, he said. It should always be growing. Quoting President Harold B. Lee, he said, "For the strength of the church is not in the numbers, nor in the amount of tithes and offerings paid by faithful members, nor in the magnitude of chapels and temple buildings, but because in the hearts of faithful members of the church is the conviction that this is indeed the church and kingdom of God on the earth."
A strong testimony not only helps us face daily challenges, but it opens our eyes to the great things created by God for our improvement and eternal happiness, he said.
Elder Mickelsen: Scriptures are replete with guidelines on how to discern truth and good from evil.
Elder Lynn A. Mickelsen said Latter-day Saints must be careful to ask the right questions, seek in the right places and knock on the right doors in their search for truth.
The Lord has blessed us with the ability to discern truth. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God," Elder Mickelsen quoted.
The Scriptures are replete with guidelines on how to discern truth, he said. "For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God."
Elder Mickelsen said, "What a blessing it is for us that the Prophet Joseph asked the right questions in the right places for the right reason."
He reaffirmed Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon's final testimony of God and Jesus Christ. "Their witness of the Savior is true," Elder Mickelsen said. "I have heard his voice as I have read his word in the sacred writings of the prophets of the Book of Mormon and rejoiced with the further light and knowledge granted to our latter-day prophets. I add my witness to theirs: He lives. I know he lives."