An Evening with Elder Lynn G. Robbins Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults • May 3, 2015.
Tasting the Light
Elder Lynn G. Robbins
May 3, 2015: Elder Lynn G. Robbins shows how to discover the strength of your testimony, and gives counsel on how to make its growth continual.
[MUSIC PLAYING] Brothers and sisters, we welcome you to the worldwide devotional for young adults. This broadcast is originating from the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. I'm Berne Broadbent, President of the Taylorsville Utah YSA Stake. We welcome Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Presidency of the Seventy and are grateful that Sister Robbins has accompanied him this evening. Elder Robbins will be introduced later in the program as this evening's speaker.
We're grateful and pleased to acknowledge the presence on the stand of our local Area Seventies, local young adult stake presidents, and President Burton's wife, Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president and a member of the Church Board of Education, as well as CES and Seminaries and Institutes of Religion administrators and their wives.
We will begin this evening with the choir and congregation singing "The Lord Is My Light," hymn number 89 in the English hymnbook. We appreciate the assistance of Sister Karen Child, who will conduct the music, and Sister Bonnie Goodliffe as our accompanist. After the hymn, Sister Rayona Barwick will offer the invocation.
[MUSIC - "THE LORD IS MY LIGHT"]
(SINGING) The Lord is my light; then why should I fear? By day and by night his presence is near. He is my salvation from sorrow and sin; this blessed assurance the Spirit doth bring. The Lord is my light; he is my joy and my song. By day and by night he leads, he leads me along.
The Lord is my light; tho clouds may arise, faith, stronger than sight, looks up thru the skies where Jesus forever in glory doth reign. Then how can I ever in darkness remain? The Lord is my light; he is my joy and my song. By day and by night he leads, he leads me along.
The Lord is my light; the Lord is my strength. I know in his might I'll conquer at length. My weakness in mercy he covers with pow'r, and, walking by faith, I am blest ev'ry hour. The Lord is my light; he is my joy and my song. By day and by night he leads, he leads me along.
The Lord is my light, my all and in all. There is in his sight no darkness at all. He is my Redeemer, my Savior, and King. With Saints and with angels his praises I'll sing. The Lord is my light; he is my joy and my song. By day and by night he leads, he leads me along.
Our beloved Father in Heaven, we're so grateful for the opportunity we have tonight to be gathered here, both in the Tabernacle and various other locations around the world, to hear from Elder Robbins. Please help us be able to listen with open hearts, that we'll be able to take back the things that he says that we need to apply into our lives. Please help us to be filled with the Spirit and apply those things.
Father, please help us to be able to travel home in safety when the time returns. And please help us to be able to keep the covenants that we renew today throughout the week. We love Thee very much, Father. And we say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
This evening we are joined by a combined choir from the Logan Institute of Religion, who will sing "'Twas Witnessed in the Morning Sky." They are directed by Eric S. Stauffer and accompanied by Tabernacle organist, Bonnie Goodliffe. After the musical number, we'll hear from Elder Robbins. At the conclusion of Elder Robbin's remarks, the choir will sing "Faith in Every Footstep." They will be directed by J. Niles Salmond, and the benediction will then be offered by Brother Ma'afu Tauteoli.
It is now my privilege to introduce tonight's speaker. Elder Lynn G. Robbins was sustained to the Presidency of the Seventy on April 5, 2014. He became a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy in April 2000, after three years in the Second Quorum of the Seventy. He has served as president of the South America South Area, the Central America Area, and the North America West Area. He served a full-time mission in the Argentina North Mission and was president of the Uruguay Montevideo Mission.
In his professional career, Elder Robbins was one of the founders of Franklin Quest, later Franklin Covey. He finished his career there when he was called to preside over the Uruguay Montevideo Mission in 1994. Lynn Grant Robbins was raised in Springville, Utah. He is married to Jan Nielson. And they are the parents of seven children and 17 grandchildren. The choir will now sing "'Twas Witnessed in the Morning Sky."
[MUSIC - "'TWAS WITNESSED IN THE MORNING SKY"]
(SINGING) 'Twas witnessed in the morning sky: an angel earthward bound. This messenger proclaimed anew the gospel's joyful sound. In pow'r it would be preached on earth by men of God ordained; all men, all tongues, all nations would accept and praise his name.
In ancient days the gospel plan was giv'n of God to men; in latter days the gospel is restored to earth again. By holy prophets long proclaimed, by Saints and seers adored, it speaks the everlasting truths of Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Apostles of a former day to modern prophets came; they brought the priesthood of our Lord to bless the earth again. The pow'rs of heav'n are opened wide to men of God below; the knowledge, gifts, and keys are ours, all blessings to bestow.
What a beautiful choir. Thank you so much. And President Broadbent, thank you for that kind introduction. I'm grateful for the opening prayer in which we all prayed for the Spirit to be with us here tonight. Brothers and sisters, welcome to this worldwide devotional for young adults, with a special welcome to those of you who will graduate this year from seminary, a praiseworthy achievement and evidence of your faith and love of the Lord.
I invite you to follow the example of many others here tonight and continue your quest for spiritual learning in a local institute of religion or at a Church university. I promise you that you will continue to receive important guidance for all other important decisions in your life, as well as meet people who will have a significant impact in your life.
Tonight you are going to hear me bear witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His gospel. You are going to hear me use the words "I know." I want to describe to you how I came to know that He is the literal Son of God, the Redeemer and Savior of the world and that His gospel is true. I also want to help you discover that your own testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel is much stronger than you may think it is.
I would like to begin by having you do a mental self-assessment. Look at the line in this illustration and give your testimony a score on this faith spectrum. At the bottom is the atheist. We will score the atheist as zero. At the top of the scale is a 10, or to have a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Where would you place yourself on this spectrum?
I suspect that many of you would give yourself a lower score than you deserve. Now remember the score you have given yourself to see if it increases during the course of this presentation as we discuss various faith-building aspects of a testimony and how each one helps advance us on the faith spectrum and experience greater peace and happiness. Alma invites each person to take the first step forward on the faith spectrum with "an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if he can no more than desire to believe."
The following insight illustrates the wisdom of having or taking this first step of desire. In 1623, the French prodigy, mathematician, and inventor Blaise Pascal was born. Among his other discoveries was the mathematical theory of probability, which provided the science behind rational choice theory or a logical approach for making optimal decisions.
With decision theory, Pascal astutely observed that in the game of life, humans cannot avoid life's greatest wager--whether or not God exists. It has become known as Pascal's Wager, with a person's life--or more specifically, their eternal life--at stake, as depicted in this illustration. In the column headings are two options: either God exists or He does not. In the rows are also two options: I can either choose to believe or not believe.
The possible resulting combinations are as follows. If God exists and I believe and act accordingly, I can inherit eternal life. If I believe and God does not exist, I lose nothing. If I do not believe nor honor or obey God and He exists, I forfeit eternal life. If I do not believe and God does not exist, I gain nothing. Pascal's Wager argues that the optimal decision is to believe in God's existence and that only a fool would bet against the existence of God because he has everything to lose and nothing to gain.
The prodigal son would argue that what he loses is the chance to eat, drink, and be merry, a poor consolation prize when you consider what is at stake. He may have "joy in [his] works for a season, [but] by and by the end cometh." His dreams of merrymaking and revelry become a living nightmare as he inevitably awakens to the spiritual hangover he experiences in this life and discovers for himself that wickedness never was happiness, and then later, at judgment day, when he shall confess before God that His judgments are just.
In due course, he learns that he has been duped by the master of illusion with his sugarcoated brand of pleasure-disguised misery. Hence, "let not thine heart envy sinners." Thank goodness there was a second chance for the prodigal son, which is one of the great lessons the Savior expects us to learn from this parable.
Alma describes the next step: "Let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, [let the] seed . . . be planted in your heart." Planting the seed means you have now acted on the desire with an inspired curiosity in the experiment. You have now initiated the learning process.
According to the scriptures, this learning process should proceed in two ways: "And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one other words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books . . ., seek learning even by study and also by faith." The scriptures also teach us of two learning channels through which the Spirit teaches us: "Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation."
Before returning to the faith spectrum, I want to illustrate the interrelationship between the two learning methods and the two learning channels. Cross-connecting them should give you some helpful insights on how we continue to progress along the faith spectrum. When Joseph Smith learned about prayer by study, he was reading in the Bible: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." Joseph learned about prayer by faith when he acted on his belief and went into the Sacred Grove and prayed.
At the top of the visual are the two learning channels--the mind and the heart. When we seek learning by study, the Lord speaks to our mind in the form of inspired thoughts. Among other possible words relating to the intersection of study and mind, we could add the following: thoughts, interest, curiosity, example, study, search, consider, questions, and pondering. Inspired questions cause one to ponder. And pondering under the influence of the Spirit takes you to the next level of learning where study intersects with the heart.
Your pondering is nourishing the seed, and it begins to sprout. And you begin to have feelings inspired by the Spirit. It is the heart or inspired feelings that change a thought into a belief. Alma states it this way: "If it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves--It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me."
While we would normally associate the word understand with the mind, multiple scriptures link understanding with the heart, such as, "And their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed." When he spoke of James 1:5, young Joseph said, "Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine."
With those kinds of feelings, Alma says, "Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge." It is not yet a perfect knowledge; however, with the heart touched, it inspires us to take another step on the faith spectrum. For Joseph, it inspired him to act and accept the scriptural invitation to pray. He would not receive a witness until after the trial of his faith.
Learning by faith requires acting on feelings and beliefs. The Savior gave this very invitation to learn by faith when He said, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." Now in this verse, the Savior teaches us that doing is the act of faith that turns belief into knowledge. For naysayers, He exhorts, "Though ye believe not in me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him."
And speaking of knowing, Alma says, "And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good. And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know. . . . Your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand." Acting on your faith has given you knowledge.
Among other words we might associate with learning by faith and the mind, we could add the following: knowledge perfect (in that thing), pray, repent, change behavior, obey, experiences, and taste. Alma uses the verb taste in a very peculiar way, as he refers to tasting light. Listen. "O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?
Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good." It is tasting the light and savoring it that has given you a perfect knowledge in that thing or knowing that the seedling is good. The light is inviting you to come unto Jesus Christ. And the power of God is now working miracles in you and converting you unto the Lord.
Alma continues, "And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care . . . [and] great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, . . . behold, by and by ye shall pluck"--or taste--"the fruit thereof, which is most precious." Tasting of the fruit advances us to where learning by faith and the heart intercept. Here we discover for ourselves that the fruit is indeed sweet and precious. Following Jesus Christ and doing His will allows us to taste of His Atonement and the gospel in multiple ways.
Earlier in the process, our hearts were deeply moved. Now a mighty change of heart is occurring, as described by Alma. And the spirit is turning our experience and knowledge into conversion. When we are converted unto the Lord, we follow the Savior by being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. As we taste the fruits of the gospel, we experience blessings and such joy and happiness that we want to share it with others, just as Lehi did:
"And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit." To be converted unto the Lord in a literal sense is the mighty change and transformation of becoming like Him or becoming like Jesus Christ by yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and putting off the natural man and becoming a Saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord.
So in a more comprehensive sense of the word, our conversion won't be complete until we have grown spiritually "unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." This will be a lifelong pursuit and a journey of faith in Him and with His grace or divine help. This lifelong conversion will clearly require continuing nurturing on our part to avoid the withering effect described by Alma.
"But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, . . . it withers away." "Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life."
This mighty change and conversion doesn't mean we won't still have questions. However, having tasted the light, questions should instill in us a desire to continue learning, rather than causing doubts that can wither our growing faith. Questions are good. They cause us to ponder, search, and pray. Joseph Smith continued to have questions throughout his life.
Nearly every section of Doctrine and Covenants was revealed through him as a result of a question that he took to the Lord in prayer, line upon line and precept upon precept. This is the same way the Savior learned: "And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness."
Returning to our faith spectrum, we labeled the top a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Let's examine the phrase "perfect knowledge." In referring to tasting light, Alma taught that your knowledge is perfect in that thing. In the following verse, look for the prophet Mormon's use of the same phrase, "perfect knowledge," as he adds his witness of that same light.
"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 every thing 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. . . . And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully." Now here, both prophets testify that it is the Light of Christ that gives us a perfect knowledge of truth. Even the people of the world recognize that they have an inner sense of right and wrong. They acknowledge the Light of Christ in the use of the word conscience, which comes from the Latin word conscientia, or "knowledge within oneself."
With that light as our seal of truth, we continue to progress on the faith spectrum, line upon line and precept upon precept. "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." In just a moment, we will actually try Alma's experiment so that you can be reminded of what the light tastes like and how it gives you a perfect knowledge.
Before going forward with the experiment, it is important to identify another essential element in the process. We are taught in 2 Nephi 2 that there must needs be an opposition in all things. Humankind tastes the bitter that they may know to prize the good. Health, for example, is primarily the study of its opposite, or sickness, disease; freedom, the study of oppression and slavery; happiness, the study of sorrow; and so on. And like the tiny miracle of fireflies, light goes unappreciated without a dark backdrop.
Opposition is indispensable to our education and happiness. Without opposition, the truth remains hidden in plain view, like taking air for granted until the moment you are gasping for it. Because the Light of Christ is ever present, many people don't notice the Spirit in their life, like those Lamanites in 3 Nephi 9, who were baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost and knew it not.
Opposition not only reveals or unveils the truth but manifests its inherent power, joy, and sweetness. For example, it took a taste of the bitter life for the prodigal son to realize what a sweet life he had abandoned back home and had taken for granted in his youth. It is only through pain and sickness that we come to value our health; as a victim of dishonesty, we treasure integrity; experiencing injustice or cruelty, we cherish love and kindness, all with a perfect knowledge, having tasted the fruit of each, by the light which is in us.
The perfect knowledge comes, fruit by fruit, through opposition in all things. Obedience to God's commandments promises ultimate happiness, growth, and progress through opposition, not bypassing it. Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. Consider this insightful statement from the Prophet Joseph Smith: "By proving contraries, truth is made manifest" and this one from Brigham Young: "All facts are proved and made manifest by their opposite."
Now, let's have you become a participant in the experiment by having you consider several "to be" commandments, or Christlike virtues, contrasting each with its opposite. As you consider each one, the Light of Christ in you should affirm to your mind and your heart that each Christlike virtue is sweet, while its opposite is bitter.
Love versus hate, hostility, opposition. Honesty versus lies, deceit, theft. Forgiving versus revenge, resentment, bitterness. Kindness versus mean, angry, unkind. Patience versus short-tempered, hotheaded, intolerant. Humility versus pride, unteachable, arrogant. Peacemaker versus contentious, divisive, provoking. Diligence verses grow weary, give up, stubborn.
Now, these are only a handful of the scores of Christlike virtues but sufficient to clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of the seed experiment. In pondering this list, you recognize that you have come to know by the power, truth, and sweetness of each virtue, one by one, through thousands of validating experiences--as Elder Neal A. Maxwell called them--good fruit comes with its own inherent proof and validation--its taste. The proof is in the eating, fruit by fruit and line upon line, each with a perfect knowledge.
Perhaps that is what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, "Prove all things; hold fast [to] that which is good." If you have integrated these and other virtues into your life, you are much further along the faith spectrum than you likely thought you were. However, this is only what I would call a terrestrial, or a glory of the moon, testimony. A good, God-fearing person of any religion has this same testimony because they too have the Light of Christ of which Mormon spoke and have accepted a portion of His gospel.
A celestial, or glory of the sun, testimony comes as one seeks the fulness of the Father. When a person is baptized and worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost, he or she receives a greater endowment of the Light of Christ, as noted in this Book of Mormon verse: "If this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, . . . that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?"
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught us that the more we incline our hearts and minds toward God, the more heavenly light distills upon ourselves. "And he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day." Now, I don't need to tell you that a greater abundance of light improves your vision. You know that.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views and the greater his enjoyments. With greater light with which to see, let's take the experiment to the celestial level and contrast some of the doctrines that are unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with those found elsewhere under dimmer light.
God is our Father, we are created in His image versus not literally our Father, He's incomprehensible, unknowable. His divine organization with prophets and apostles versus abandonment of His established pattern. The Lord is a God of order, governing through those holding priesthood keys versus confusion, disparate voices, false spirits. Priesthood authority and called of God versus a degree in theology, elected, hired, or self-appointed.
Ordinances and covenants verses simply live a good life. Children are innocent versus infant baptism. The Book of Mormon, a second witness versus the Bible, an only witness. Temple work for the dead versus light a candle and pray for the dead.
That is the only other option.
Eternal marriage and families versus till death do us part. It's enlightening to contrast truth with its opposite. It helps reveal the obvious, that which is hidden in plain view. We recognize that we know a lot more than we thought we did. It should inspire us to continue to "search diligently in the light of Christ . . . and lay hold upon every good thing."
Now let's examine another interesting aspect of faith and testimony. The Guide to the Scriptures states that true "faith must be centered in Jesus Christ in order for it to lead a person to salvation. . . . [It] includes a hope for things which are not seen, but which are true." Isn't it interesting that true faith in Jesus Christ is believing without seeing, when the world believes the opposite--that seeing is believing?
The natural man discovers the world through the five senses, demanding signs as proof. And yet, the scriptures are full of examples of those who receive manifestations of God's presence and power through all five senses, without receiving and enduring conversion. Laman and Lemuel saw an angel. They heard the voice of the Lord that "did chasten them exceedingly." They felt God's power when Nephi stretched forth his hand and the Lord did shake them. They tasted and smelled: "I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not."
In spite of multiple manifestations through all five senses, Laman and Lemuel rebelled. Was seeing believing for them? When Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, they witnessed plagues, pillars of fire, the Red Sea part, they tasted manna--experiences with all five senses.
"And notwithstanding they being led, the Lord their God, their Redeemer, going before them, leading them by day and giving light unto them by night, and doing all things for them which were expedient for man to receive, they hardened their hearts and blinded their minds, and reviled against Moses and against the true and living God." Seeing certainly wasn't believing for them.
There are many other similar examples in the scriptures. But the most dumbfounding example of all is the spiritually inept that rejected the Savior in His very presence: "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him." There are too many examples to the contrary to say that seeing is believing.
Those hoping for just one spectacular experience to define their testimony don't realize that the greater testimony and witness of the Spirit comes to us daily in many small ways, such as the last time you underlined your scriptures. Think about it. The reason you underlined your scriptures is because you received an impression, an insight, an "aha." An inspired impression is revelation.
Another example of revelation is when you are prompted to be kind or to do a good deed. "For every thing which inviteth to do good, . . . is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ." The Light of Christ is ever present. You are tasting it every day. And from these whisperings, these small things, proceedeth that which is great.
Can you think of anyone in the Book of Mormon who saw an angel and did believe? You're likely thinking of Alma the Younger. An angel had appeared to him and to the sons of Mosiah and "descended as it were in a cloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder." You know the rest of the story--Alma's repentance and subsequent ministry. Was seeing believing for Alma?
No. Why? Because Alma had yet to exercise his agency in learning by study and faith and had not yet prayed to know the truth. Seeing isn't a shortcut to faith or a testimony, as evidenced in the many examples that I've just mentioned. Alma himself describes how he received his testimony, and he does not attribute it to the appearance of an angel. In fact, there's no mention of an angel anywhere in his testimony. Listen.
"And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God"--the light. "Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me."
A wake-up call, or a short-term change of behavior, may result from the outside in through the five senses. But it's always short-lived, as with Laman and Lemuel. An enduring testimony can only come from the inside out, as one learns by study and faith, with the Holy Ghost planting the gospel in their inward parts and writing it in their hearts. That is why the Nephites, who in spite of having seen, heard, and felt the Savior at the time of His visit to them as well as tasting and smelling bread miraculously provided by Him, nevertheless prayed for that which they most desired. And they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them.
Some years ago, the following story was shared with me by a senior missionary. It happened to him when he was a young man in the 1960s and also illustrates that it is only through study and prayer that the Holy Ghost gives us a witness of the truth. He said, "I was living alone in Provo, Utah, in a small apartment close to the center of town"--not not too far from here. "I was working as a salesman in a small furniture store in Provo. And it was during the long weekend surrounding the New Year's holiday that this incident occurred.
We had a long weekend holiday. It was Thursday, December 31--New Year's Eve. We had been given from Thursday through Sunday off from work. And I was in my apartment without any plans of celebration. I was preparing my dinner, waiting for it to bake, and wanted something to read. Not having anything in the apartment, I went next door to ask some young men who were living there--students at BYU--if they had something, hoping for a copy of Field and Stream or something of that order. They said they did not have any magazines, but they did have a book I might like to read.
They handed me a copy of the Book of Mormon. While I'd heard of the Mormon Church--who in Utah hasn't?--I was not familiar with the book. I thanked them and took it to my apartment. During dinner, I thumbed through it and started to read. I admit that I scanned through several parts, trying to find out the plot.
There were names and places I had never heard of before, and I just couldn't get into it. So after dinner, I took the book back and returned it with a 'No, thank you.' 'Did you pray about it?'
one young man asked. 'Pray about it?' I responded. I just wanted something to read, not something I had to pray about. Well, this started a very interesting conversation about the content of the Book of Mormon. They told me that it was a book of scriptures, a book that if I would first pray about and then read with a real desire to know if it was true or not, that God would reveal the truth of it to me by the power of the Holy Ghost.
I had been brought up a Catholic. And though I was not active at the time, I held onto my membership in the Catholic church with a strangle hold because it was all I had ever known. The only praying I had ever done was the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, and reading in my missal, something I had not done in a long, long time. And now, some young men were asking me to pray to a God I did not really know and to ask Him to tell me if the book was true or not. Well, what the heck? I did not have anything else to do.
And it was going to be a long, long weekend. I took the book home, opened up a bottle of beer, lit up a cigarette, and got down on my knees and asked God to tell me if this book was true. Then I started to read: 'I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents.' The names and the places were the same as those I had read just a couple of hours before. The only difference this time was a suspension of disbelief that had magically come over me.
I was literally in the book. I could see Nephi. I could see his brothers, and it angered me when they mistreated him. I liked Nephi. I cheered the good guys on and felt sorry for the bad guys. I read for hours and couldn't put the book down. When I finally looked at my watch, it was almost 5:00 in the morning. I wished myself Happy New Year and went to sleep.
I woke up about 8:30 and instinctively reached for the book. And that is how the rest of the weekend went. Like Brother Parley P. Pratt, the thought of food was a nuisance. I did not want anything to disturb me. I took my phone off the hook and read all day, with only occasional interruptions for quick snacks. Like the first night, I would finally realize it was early in the morning, sleep a few hours, pick up the book, and continue with my self-imposed marathon. Finally, about 5:00 on Monday morning, I finished the book and fell asleep exhausted.
Just before Christmas that year, I had sold a large carpet job in the American Fork area. It was a specialized type of carpet, and my boss wanted me to supervise the carpet layers. My boss was a former bishop in the Provo area and had talked to me about the Church on several occasions. But I would have nothing to do with it.
He was a good boss. But you did not want to provoke him because he had a temper. It was on this Monday morning at 8:00 that I was supposed to supervise the carpet installation. The appointed time came, and I did not appear. Nine o'clock, then 10:00. Finally, around 10:30, my boss, mad as a wet hen, came to my apartment, walked in the door ready to tear my head off, saw me lying on the couch with the Book of Mormon lying on my chest, and changed his mind.
He quietly closed the door and went back to the shop, confident that he could get the carpet layers started. Just after 11:30, I awoke, not knowing of my boss's visit, looked at the clock, and for the second time in a relatively short time, said another prayer.
I quickly dressed, believing that when I got there I probably would not have a job left, got into my car, and sped to the job site. I saw my boss there and went up to him to apologize. He turned around. A grin came on his face. And he asked, 'How did you like the book?'
Realizing what must have happened, my mind went back to the previous weekend. And through tear-filled eyes, I said the only thing I could have said, 'The book is true. The Book of Mormon is the word of God.' I then started to cry. And he came and put his arms about me and held me. I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the 22nd of January 1965."
I met this good brother some decades after his conversion, while he and his wife were serving a mission at the San Diego Mormon Battalion Visitors' Center. But the reason I like this story so much is the contrast in his two attempts to read the Book of Mormon. The first time he began to read, it was without real intent and without prayer. In the second attempt with desire and prayer, it was an entirely different experience.
There's only one way to know if the Book of Mormon and the gospel are true. And it takes more than a curiosity and more than the five senses. It takes a sincere use of one's agency and acting on the desire to know. "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."
Now that promise isn't couched in terms of "ye might" or "maybe" or "perhaps." The promise is, "He will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost." Another insightful principle we discover in this story is that you don't have to read the entire Book of Mormon before a witness can come. For the man in this story, he tasted the light on page one. He didn't need to eat the entire pizza before he knew it was delicious.
For others, it may be more of an acquired taste, as light becomes more delicious over time. That seems to be what Alma is saying in this verse: "Yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me."
As we began tonight, I asked you to score your testimony on the faith spectrum. I hope that you have discovered that your testimony is far more advanced than you imagined. With the Holy Ghost as your teacher, you have been gaining a perfect knowledge of many fruits of the gospel. And fruit by fruit and line upon line, your testimony has been growing stronger by the day. The more one learns and lives the gospel, the more light they receive and the more the Father's plan becomes the gospel of common sense.
We learn from our own experiences that the fruit of the tree of life is indeed precious and "most sweet, above all that [we have] ever before tasted" and that it fills our souls "with exceedingly great joy." We grow to love it because of the blessings, joy, and the control it gives us over positive outcomes in our lives and the hope of endless happiness as eternal families.
I bear my witness that I know. And I know that I know by the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true. It is the word of God. It is sweet and precious to savor. I love and cherish its taste. I bear my witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He was crucified and suffered for the sins of the world.
He is our Savior and continues to lead and guide His Church and kingdom here upon the earth through living prophets and apostles. I bear witness of His name and of these sacred truths in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
[MUSIC - "FAITH IN EVERY FOOTSTEP"]
(SINGING) A marvelous work has begun to come forth among all the children of men. O ye that embark in the service of God, give heart, mind, and strength unto him, for prophets have spoken and angels have come to lift the world from sin, that Christ may reign over all the earth and bless his gathered kin. With faith in ev'ry footstep, we follow Christ, the Lord, and filled with hope through his pure love, we sing with one accord.
Those marvelous Saints who embraced this great work and shared it in lands far and near, who gave all their heart, mind, and strength to the Lord with wisdom and vision so clear, now stand as examples of virtue and faith, of souls prepared to hear, of knowledge sure, born of humble heart, and love that banished fear. With faith in ev'ry footstep, we follow Christ, the Lord, and filled with hope through his pure love, we sing with one accord.
If we now decide to assist in this work and thrust in our sickle with might, if we will embark in the service of God and harvest in fields that are white, our souls may receive the salvation of God--the fulness of his light, that we may stand, free of sin and blame, God's glory, God's glory, God's glory in our sight. With faith in ev'ry footstep, we follow Christ, the Lord, and filled with hope through his pure love, we sing with one accord. And filled with hope through his pure love, we sing with one accord.
Our Father in Heaven, we bow before Thee in humble prayer to thank Thee for all the many great blessings that we have, especially this life to experience and become more like Thee and Thy Son, Jesus Christ. Father, we are grateful for Elder Robbins for being in tune with Thy Spirit to share with us what we need to know to study Thy scriptures, to expand our minds and enlighten our minds to become more like Thee and Thy Son.
Father, we pray that we may have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to feel what was shared and apply it to our lives, ultimately to apply the Atonement of Thy Son, Jesus Christ. Bless us that we may always remember Him and Thee, Father, and to love Thee. We pray for charity in our hearts to share with others, to possess this wonderful gift Thou has blessed us with, Father. We pray we may be able to push off the natural man and exercise our agency more wisely, Father in Heaven. And we pray for these things humbly in the name Thy Son, even Jesus Christ, amen.
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