“Of the World or of the Kingdom?” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 53
In the short period of time I stand at this pulpit, I would like to testify to you of my knowledge of the truthfulness of the doctrines and teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
We live in what is described as the period of most enlightenment since the creation of the world. Scientific achievements of today are staggering to the human mind. We realize that the law under which these achievements have been accomplished has always been in existence, but it was not until this era that man’s learning and understanding have sufficiently increased to make use of natural laws to produce the accomplishments of today’s world.
A few generations ago, goods were produced with hand tools from crude materials; but in our day, mass production has replaced the old methods with greater efficiency and better quality because of the genius and skills of man and the machines he has developed.
Agriculture is the means of livelihood for more than half of the world’s population. As we pass through modernized farming areas, we no longer see farmers tilling the land with horse and plow, cutting one furrow at a time, or families working together in the fields at harvest time. These things seem to have disappeared. Today large pieces of mechanical equipment with the strength of a hundred horses plow many furrows at one time. Not many years ago the hand sickle was used to harvest the fields of ripened grain. The sheaves were flailed by hand and tossed into the wind to separate the chaff. Large combines now do all of the work in one operation as they mow the fields.
Happenings in faraway places are viewed in the quiet of our own homes, a phenomenon which would have been considered a miracle in the generations preceding ours. Modern living requires that we have instantaneous communications at our side so that we may quickly dial and transact business or have the luxury of visiting, regardless of long intervening distances. Animals provided man’s transportation for centuries, but these have now been replaced by vehicles of great speed and comfort. There has always been a curiosity as to what lies beyond the river. Today’s rapid flight through the air has made the oceans no wider than the rivers of years past and man has quick access to the world.
We take great pride in modern accomplishments—the fact that we are better housed and fed, have greater conveniences, improved medical facilities, greater advantages in education, and the highest standard of living ever enjoyed in the history of the world.
Many of my ancestors were engaged in the world’s most followed occupation of tilling the soil. Some of them left their old moorings in England and came to the shores of the New World, settling in the Plymouth and Massachusetts colonies. I get a warm feeling when I read the soul-stirring accounts of their conquest against hardship and the difficulties that faced them and their families.
Early missionaries of the Church went to Scotland, Denmark, and Norway, where other of my early ancestors lived. They accepted the teachings of the gospel, gave up the security of their homelands, and participated in the gathering to Zion. These people faced even greater hardships as they walked across the dusty plains of the Middle West and over the Rockies to the desert valleys of the mountains, pushing all of their earthly belongings in self-styled carts. The difficulties they endured bring tears to the eyes of those who are their beneficiaries today.
The stories of these people who have gone before us are ones of faith, devotion, and dedication. Although there were trials, hardships, and lack of the conveniences we think necessary in our world today, there seems to have been a happiness in their living, in their individual lives, and in their families. In their homes there was faith and prayer—faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and prayers to God asking for their needs and thanking him for his goodness to them. The Bible was read in the home and there was profound belief in its teachings. Life was more simple, but can we say that there was less happiness in simplicity?
Society has made a great effort to modernize the world in education, communication, travel, health, commerce, housing, and in many other ways, so as to increase the standard of living; but what has this socialization and modernization done to the family—the basic institution of society? Never before has there been greater instability. The divorce rate is higher now than at any time in history. Modernization has transferred the responsibility of education from the family to public institutions where modern thought has become paramount and moral principles have become abandoned. The crime rate has increased alarmingly. Drug addiction, disobedience to law, increase in venereal disease, and corruption in all forms seem to be accepted. In this day of modernization, freedom of thought and action is sponsored and promoted without consideration of the responsibilities that must accompany such freedoms if society is to be stabilized. Surely we would agree that the family institution has been seriously, if not irreparably, damaged in our society.
In the past, churches have taken a leading role in teaching men to have faith in God and to develop moral stability. What is happening to organized religion as a stabilizing force in society? Many of the largest of the Christian churches have reported losses in membership and also in income to carry on the work of their religious endeavors. Here again modernization has taken a heavy toll.
Modernism has become the order of the day in some religious thought. Modernists advocate a restatement of traditional doctrine on the grounds that today’s modern scholastic and scientific advances require a new critical interpretation of the Bible and the history of dogma. The term “modernism” is often used interchangeably with “liberalism.” Its advocates claim that religious truths are subject to constant reinterpretation in the light of modern knowledge; therefore, new and more advanced concepts are required to express modern thought and progress.
The Bible has been the subject of attack by modernists. It is said by some that science refuses to support the authenticity of such Biblical accounts as the creation of the world, placing life upon the earth, Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, the flood, and many other happenings in the Old and New Testaments. What is claimed to be superior knowledge in this day of enlightenment causes some men to look upon these accounts as fables. Because of this, can believers in Christ repudiate them? In an attempt to regain the confidence of communicants who have ceased to believe, many liberal churches have abandoned one doctrine after another, even to the extent of failing to stand by the doctrine of the existence of a personal God. They no longer uphold as a reality the resurrection of the crucified Savior, and the doctrine of the atoning sacrifice has lost its credibility. Under such circumstances, how can organized religion maintain its place as a stabilizing influence in society?
In this day of increased knowledge, higher thought, and a modernization of the old, the simple has been overlooked and the profound sought after. The basic, simple, fundamental truths of the gospel are being ignored. Paul taught the true gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Galatia and, after he left them, spurious teachers came and turned them from his teachings. This gave rise to the letter written by Paul in strong language of criticism, denouncing those who would pervert his teachings. He said to them:
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:6–8.)
From the earliest days of the Christian church, spurious gospels have been taught—not really gospels, as Paul pointed out, for there is only one gospel of Christ. Today is not different. We are surrounded by frustrations and advances in thought and learning which raise questions and doubts. These seem to drag men down and destroy faith and morality. Where, then, is hope in this world of frustration and moral decay? It lies in the knowledge and understanding of the truths taught by the Master, which must be taught by the Church of Christ without deviation and believed in and lived by its membership. These are eternal truths and will be so in perpetuity regardless of changing circumstances in society, development of new scientific achievements, or increase of man’s knowledge.
I believe we can be modern and enjoy the fruits of a modern world and its high standard of living, and I believe we can have the benefits of modern scholarship and scientific advances without turning to the theories of the modernist. I believe the principles of the gospel announced by the Savior in his personal ministry were true when they were given and are true today. Truth is eternal and never changing, and the gospel of Jesus Christ is ever contemporary in a changing world.
The knowledge explosion of which the world is so proud is not of man’s creation. It is his discovery of portions of the unlimited knowledge and information which is part of God’s knowledge. How we use it is determined by whether we are of the eternal kingdom of God or a part of the temporary understanding of the world. The question is simply this: are we seeking to find our place in the world in the realm of worldly thought, or are we seeking to find our place in the unchanging kingdom of God?
How grateful I am for my membership and association in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which takes an undeviating course in the world of change, believing in being modern, of course, but not subjecting the doctrines and truths announced by the Savior to reexamination and alteration to express “so-called” modern thought and modern progress. We take no such course.
Contrary to the views of many modernists, I know that God our Eternal Father lives; that the Bible is inspired and the Book of Mormon is also an inspired writing; that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is real and also lives, having shed his blood for us, and is truly and literally resurrected. I also bear witness that there is a prophet of God on the earth today.
May the Lord bless us in our righteous endeavors to shun the influences that lead into the ways of the world, that we may take our place, in faith and believing, in the kingdom of God, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.