Elder Perry: We’re excited to address the subject today of answering life’s problems and challenges that come through applying the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our Church Presidents have given us great hope in the past to fulfill the answers of these challenges and problems in the gospel. I’ve just selected two of those for us to consider here today. The first is from President Spencer W. Kimball speaking in April conference in 1980. He said: “May I remind all of us that if we will live the gospel and follow the counsel of the leaders of the Church, we will be blessed to avoid many of the problems that plague the world. The Lord knows the challenges we face. If we keep his commandments, we will be entitled to the wisdom and blessings of heaven in solving them” (“A Deep Commitment to the Principles of Welfare Service,” Ensign, May 1980, 92).
Brothers and sisters, I know the gospel is true. It answers all of life’s questions and problems that face us. Now, from President Ezra Taft Benson speaking to the missionaries: “I testify to you that we have the answers to the problems of the world. We know where we’re going. We’re on our way, and the Lord is directing His work through a prophet of God with special witnesses bearing testimony to the divinity of [our] Lord [and Savior], who is the God of this world, under the Father. We cannot fail in this work” (“Keys to Successful Member-Missionary Work,” Ensign, Sept. 1990, 7).
With the assurance of the prophets of God, it is clear that the course is well marked for us to apply the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives. Elder Christofferson and I have decided to use a question-and-answer format for presenting and using three questions in applying the gospel through service, through rescuing, and through honoring. Of course, I will present the questions and Elder Christofferson will answer them.
It will be just a brief response in hopes that you will go forward and seek further knowledge and understanding from these questions. First, service. We apply the gospel by serving our fellowman as the Savior demonstrated in His life ministry. First, we must understand where the world places us and who we are. So the first question: Are Mormons Christians?
Elder Christofferson: Yes. Well, you’ve said that the answers to life’s challenges and problems come from the gospel and applying the gospel, which means following the teachings and the commandments and the example of Christ. And I think that it’s in this Christlike conduct and service that we present our best and most persuasive argument of our own Christianity. I know that there are those who contend that we don’t fit their particular definition of Christian orthodoxy. So be it. But our example should be such that no one can deny that the Latter-day Saints love the Savior. No one can deny that the Latter-day Saints seek to emulate the Savior. And so we demonstrate, I think, by our actions. As the Savior said, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). I happen to live, by the way, in a wonderful ward where this is really the environment and the pattern of life.
One quick example. Amy has five children, is expecting a sixth, and has had a lot of illness herself during this pregnancy. Tiffany probably has more children at home right now than anybody else in the ward. But Tiffany makes it a point, from time to time, of taking Amy’s children to be with her for a while and giving Amy some time alone to rest and recuperate. That’s a simple example, but I think if you multiply that hundreds and thousands of times, that’s what it means for us to be a Christian.
Elder Perry: Well, I think I’ll give you an A on that answer. Thank you.
Elder Christofferson: Thank you.
Elder Perry: Next question. What effect does rendering service have in our own lives?
Elder Christofferson: Well, the focus in service always has to be outward. We’re thinking of what we can do to help others, but there’s no denying that it has an effect on us at the same time. There’s something about empathy and compassion, I believe, that changes our perspective, that adds courage and strength, I think, to deal with our own needs. It refines us. It sanctifies us. President Marion G. Romney said once, you’ll remember, service is not just something we do to get into heaven, but service is the way of life in heaven. You know, it’s God’s way of life. It’s what we do there.
Christ Himself, of course, came not to be ministered unto, He said, but to minister. And I’m thinking—I marked this before I came in—the words from Amulek. In chapter 34 of Alma, he talks about, after prayer and all the other things that are part of our worship and how we live, he said, “After ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and the afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those … in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as the hypocrites who do deny the faith” (Alma 34:28).
By the way, the best service, I think, that we render should happen at home. That’s where it needs to be the most constant and the most consistent.
Elder Perry: Well, let’s try the third question in this section. People of other faiths may share our values. Are there ways we can join with them in Christlike service?
Elder Christofferson: I think that’s very natural. There doesn’t have to be an agreement on all points of doctrine for us to collaborate with and work with others. My own experience is that I’m a better person through that kind of association. I’ve had many opportunities in the different places that I’ve lived around the country and outside the U.S. to work with other groups, people of other faiths and, in some cases, no faith, I suppose, but people of real goodwill. And as I said, I feel like I’m a better man for it. And the Church organization really lends itself to group service. Our quorums and wards and all the organizations really do facilitate and prepare us to lead out and, in some cases, to join others. But we’ve had a lot of experience with this, as you know, and that’s not just on the local level, but internationally all across the world. We’ve linked with Catholics and evangelicals and Muslims and secular groups and individuals. I believe this really is, as I said, a natural outgrowth of our Christian service and our following Christ in living the gospel.
Elder Perry: Well, all right, let’s go to the next section on rescuing then. We apply the gospel by rescuing others in spiritual and temporal needs, again, as the Savior demonstrated. First question: In what way is the rescue effort central to our beliefs?
Elder Christofferson: Well, again, we’re talking about the gospel providing the solutions to life’s challenges, to our needs. And to me, the key to all of that is the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. We rely on His grace to overcome sin, to overcome suffering, to overcome even death. And part of applying the gospel in our lives, I believe, is to participate in this redemptive work, His redemptive work, with Him. And that means individually, as parents, as quorums, as wards, as stakes—whatever the case may be. Our effort is to redeem people—help Him redeem people from spiritual needs, but also from temporal needs.
That’s all part of the rescue, I think, and as we read in the handbook, for example, the bishops’ storehouse is just one example. The bishops’ storehouse is all of the goodwill, the talents, the time, the resources of members—whatever they’re willing to contribute, to give and help with that redemptive effort. So we’ve spoken of service. I think this is the ultimate in service, and it’s with good reason, I think, that President Monson urges us onward in this. You know in our Thursday meetings in the temple, we conclude with those reports of our activities of the prior week, and it seems without fail, with everything else he may have been doing as President of the Church, there’s always something of an individual ministry and an effort to rescue.
He’s visited someone in a nursing home. He’s given a blessing. He’s been at a funeral. He’s called someone he knew was lonely. All of that, I think, is a great example of what it means to have this—our participation in the redemptive work of the Lord—as central to our lives.
Elder Perry: Well, let’s try what is the role of the priesthood quorum in this rescue effort?
Elder Christofferson: Well, to me, the quorums have a central role, a leadership role. The presidents of quorums, of course, have keys. And they’re empowered with their counselors to build a quorum brotherhood and to reach out and include all the members and the families of those quorum members, whether they’re active or not, and strengthen them in the gospel covenant. Again, helping them understand how the gospel can be in their lives and assist them in overcoming their challenges.
I don’t know; to me, the rescue is really what the oath and covenant of the priesthood means. Magnifying the priesthood and the ordinances that the priesthood performs is central to that rescue. You’ve taught frequently about the role of quorums and the ward council in rescuing. Do you want to say anything about that today?
Elder Perry: Well, I love elders quorums and high priests group leaders. They lead the quorums, and those quorums need leadership. All too often we don’t give them the proper place in our congregations to understand the great leadership role they have. And I hope that we elevate an understanding of what they’re doing in bringing forward the rescue effort in our Father in Heaven’s kingdom. And I hope they have longer tenure than they currently experience today.
Elder Christofferson: I agree. I would say, by the way, what the quorums are doing really is equipping people with, again, to understand the gospel and apply the gospel in overcoming life’s challenges.
Elder Perry: All right, final question in this phase. Are there similarities in the rescue effort directed toward the less-active members and our missionary outreach to nonmembers?
Elder Christofferson: Well, I’m glad you linked those because I think they are one in the same. In the one case, the effort is directed toward those who have had the gospel in their lives and we’re bringing them back to the Savior. And in the other case, it’s bringing them to Christ in the first instance. But in the end, it’s all the same work. And I would say, by the way, that you’re really not saying to people, “Come and start over with your life.” In some cases, maybe so, but mostly, generally what we’re saying is, “Keep what you’ve got—all the good that you’ve built in there over the years and that are part of your life to date—and we’ll add the rest. We’ll provide the balance of what the Savior provides through His gospel.”
Elder Perry: All right, let’s take our final section, honoring the covenants we make with God. Your first question: What is the role of temples and temple covenants in empowering us to meet and overcome life’s challenges?
Elder Christofferson: Well, in overcoming challenges, I would say the temple and the ordinances of the temple are the ultimate application of the gospel of Christ. I say to people that one of the blessings of the temple and its ordinances is the perspective that it provides. When we go to the temple, we leave all of our cares and problems and issues and concerns at the door. And when we come back out, they’re still there. We have to pick them all up and they haven’t changed, but what has changed is ourselves. And we’ve added spiritual strength, I think, and capacity and a truer perspective on life and what it all means, and maybe the big problems don’t seem so big anymore and the little ones that we thought didn’t matter, we better deal with it before it does become something too big.
The other thing, though, I think, is there is a divine power associated with those covenants. The Doctrine and Covenants says that in the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and I would think particularly those of the temple, the power of godliness is manifest. And among other things, I believe that means there’s a godly influence, a divine power that flows into us when we make those covenants and keep them.
So it’s a place of renewal. It’s a place of revelation. Temples can only fulfill their purpose really if we are prepared. People are sometimes critical about our temple worship, claiming it’s unduly secret. But the access is limited not for secrecy, but just to assure preparation. We really need to be prepared and mature spiritually to make those covenants and then to keep them. They’re very sacred.
Elder Perry: All right, what is the role of covenants in achieving true conversion?
Elder Christofferson: To me, they’re the path of discipleship. The core of all these covenants is obedience and well up to and including sacrifice and consecration, but in a word, obedience. And it produces over time, in my view, this change from natural man to Saint. And I don’t believe there’s any other way, any other path that that can happen. To me, it produces a great deal of faith in a person to know that he or she has the promise of God, personally, to him or her, individually, apart from anyone else. We make these covenants individually, one by one.
I read some years ago an article in a French newspaper, and it was talking about our work for the dead. And it said what the Mormons do is they take rolls of microfilm and they plunge them in a bucket of water and pull them out and all those people are baptized. I thought, wow, think of all the time we could save. But it doesn’t. That’s not the way it works, because these covenants are individual, because the promises of God and our promises to Him are person-to-person, one-on-one.
And to me, that produces faith. You have His promise. You know He can’t lie. You know He will fulfill His promise, and that, to me, helps us deal with the here and now. Whatever may happen now, we know what’s coming in the end, and we can deal with it.
Elder Perry: All right, your final question: What does it mean to practice in honoring our covenants?
Elder Christofferson: I remember one of our Brethren said once, “We go to the temple to make covenants. We go home to keep the covenants.” And to me, in practice, keeping covenants is, again, primarily something that happens at home in the marriage and in the family. But we’ve been discussing the application of the gospel in rescuing and serving and ministering in obedience. To me, all of those things are what it means to keep our covenants. And I would mention especially an ongoing repentance that’s facilitated by the sacrament.
If we can prepare ourselves each week with whatever we need to resolve or repent of or confess and deal with in the week prior to Sunday, and then go to the sacrament meeting, partake of those emblems of the Lord’s Atonement, blessed in the power of the priesthood, I think that we not only renew the covenants, we receive again the promised remission of sins and the Holy Ghost as our guide through life. That’s keeping covenants.
Elder Perry: Well, wouldn’t you like to bear your testimony to what we’ve said?
Elder Christofferson: Thank you. The gospel really does have the answers. It’s what we’ve been talking about, serving and ministering and ordinances and keeping covenants. And over time, it does transform us. It adds to our capacity over time to deal with problems. It really helps us prevent and avoid, as you quoted from President Kimball, I think it was, avoid a lot of the issues and challenges of life and to draw upon divine assistance. And to me, the key is the gift of the Holy Ghost. We have this blessing, this constant direction and help and comfort and gifts of the Spirit to carry us through life, whatever may come.
That is our tutor in applying the gospel, our guide and our comfort. And my testimony is that the Holy Ghost and His powers are real; that the Lord Jesus Christ and His redemptive power is real; and that God, our Heavenly Father, who loves and has prepared the way for us through the gospel is indeed our loving Father and He lives. And I bear witness of all of that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Perry: I join Elder Christofferson in adding my testimony. The gospel has been restored. This is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is the Head. He leads and guides and directs us in the work in which we have responsibility. This is the dispensation of the fulness of times. He’s given us the way, the truth, and the life for us to follow.
I bear solemn witness that He leads and guides and directs us, and He gives us answers to all of life’s problems and challenges, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.