“Live the Commandments,” Ensign, May 1998, 6
My dear brothers and sisters, what a wonderful occasion, what a beautiful day, what a glorious time this is, and particularly for me to have an opportunity to stand here following that stirring declaration and testimony of God’s prophet here upon the earth.
As he held up that copy of the Book of Mormon from the first edition, I thought of an experience we had a few years ago as we attended a mission presidents’ seminar. At the closing of the two-day seminar in the Palmyra-Fayette area, we held a dinner in the reconstructed Peter Whitmer farmhouse, that beautiful little building where the Church was organized 168 years ago this weekend. It was such a moving occasion. The only cooking arrangement they had in that little log cabin was the fireplace. We looked at the fireplace, with a pot hanging where they did their cooking. They didn’t have any of the conveniences of today, of course. There was a well outside for their water.
Near the end of that very spiritual meeting with those mission presidents, I walked up the stairs and looked at the two little bedrooms. The Peter Whitmer family lived there. But they turned one of those rooms over to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and there he did some of the translating of the Book of Mormon. Oliver Cowdery worked with him in that humble little setting. My heart burned with the wonderful feeling I had of just being in that little farmhouse and imagining what took place and the blessings of heaven that had been poured out upon them.
As we left our meeting that evening and left that little farmhouse, there was a full moon shining down through the trees. I said to Ruby, “I can imagine the night of April 6, 1830, after that small group had assembled, the Church had been organized, and six men agreeable to its organization were present to be in harmony with the laws of the state of New York; I can imagine what was said, what was prophesied about the future of the Church, and the testimonies that would have been borne.” Then I said, “I would imagine that on the night of April the 6th, 1830, there was a full moon shining, showing that our Savior was smiling upon that occasion and upon that setting.”
Later I expressed that idea to a group where Brother Chamberlain, who then was the director of the Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake, heard me say it. He was thoughtful enough to get in touch with the naval observatory to find out what might have happened on April the 6th, 1830. They didn’t have records back that far, so he was thoughtful enough to contact the Royal Observatory at Greenwich in England for records that might have been available over there. He later sent me some documents indicating what was happening in the horizon that week of April the 6th, 1830, indicating that there was a full or beautifully beaming moon those days before and after April the 6th. The glories of the Lord had been poured out upon the occasion.
I am honored here this morning, as we listen to President Hinckley recall those tremendous events, to have had the opportunity during my life to have been taught, to have experienced events around the world and in the temple, and to have attended the meetings of the Church where I have felt the Spirit of the Lord directing this work, which I testify to you to be true. And as the years march on, I’m honored to have the opportunity just to add my testimony to that of our great prophet.
I received a letter a few days ago from a young man, 19 years old, by the name of Kevin Campbell from Juniper, Idaho, and I’m not going to try to tell you where that is, but you could imagine. And Brother Kevin wrote to me and said: “It has come to my knowledge that you are becoming quite old in your years, and I wanted to write you before you passed on to the other side. How is life in your old age? I have often wondered about it, so I pose the question to you, ‘How is life?’ so that I’ll know what to expect when I get old like you are.”
I would say to Kevin Campbell, bless his heart, life is wonderful. And the only way I can describe it is that I have been blessed all of my life, and I have been blessed with challenges and opportunities and questions and problems that are part of life. But life is wonderful if we live the simple principles that we have been taught and if we live the way that we know we should live. One of those wonderful blessings we have in our old age is the blessing of having more time with our children and their children and their children, to have that opportunity to assemble and to be with them.
Just the other night we had the opportunity to attend a baptismal service in the ward meetinghouse where Rachel, a great-granddaughter, was baptized. A few nights before that, Richard, a great-grandson, had been baptized. I had the opportunity to look at them and talk to them and squeeze them and see that sparkle in their eye and of the light of the gospel that seemed to fill their heart and soul. They were so excited about the idea of being baptized to become official members of the Church. Their families had taught them true gospel principles. I remember when I said, “Richard,” as we shook hands, “give me a real missionary handshake.” And with that little eight-year-old hand he almost squeezed my fingers off. As he did it, I said, “Richard, you’ll be a great missionary, just as little Rachel will be a great member of the Church in her right.”
On that same occasion we had an opportunity to stand in the circle and to have young Peter Jr. receive the Aaronic Priesthood and to hear his father give him the blessings of the priesthood. And those of us who were older had the chance to stand in the circle and to sense the meaning of the occasion and to feel of it and to know that all present were part of our family. I would want our family to know, as it continues to grow and expand, about their fathers. I use that term in the plural as Helaman used it—the great Book of Mormon prophet Helaman—as he taught his sons about their fathers, including Nephi and Lehi, and of their following the word of God and keeping the commandments and how they left Jerusalem and went out into the wilderness, as revealed in the Book of Mormon. Helaman taught his children that their fathers had done many works and that those works were good.
So I would hope that our own children, as the generations go on, would know of their heritage, to know who they are and to know that they had fathers who believed and to know that they had fathers who were challenged, that they had fathers who had investigated and who had been out in the world declaring the truth—not in just quoting scriptures—but feeling it in their hearts and souls that what we do is true.
We’ve had an opportunity to reacquire our old house up in Oakley, Idaho, and to restore it so that our children would know of their ancestry and to know that their fathers and their works were good also. I’m able to hold on to a gold watch that my father was given by the Oakley First Ward when he was the bishop, given to him in 1905, the year before I was born. We have a part, a little of the heritage, a reminder that our parents’ works were good and that they helped in the rolling forth of this wonderful work.
In the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord declared that this is “my preface unto the book of my commandments” (D&C 1:6). The Brethren who met there at Hyrum, Ohio, 18 months after the Church was organized, were to compile those revelations and to print them and have available to the people the commandments that the Prophet Joseph had received. As part of that first section, the Lord explained how He had given Joseph Smith the power, inspiration, and direction from heaven to translate the Book of Mormon and to bring the Church “forth out of obscurity and out of darkness” (see D&C 1:29–30).
Just reflect in your minds today what is happening with President Hinckley as he travels the world and as he goes out meeting with people. When we talk about bringing the Church out of obscurity and out of darkness, just think what he is doing out in the world with the press, the media, with people of all types. Think of how they have an opportunity to see God’s prophet and to hear him testify and to explain what has taken place. Many influential newspapers and magazines and other publications have had many favorable stories about the Church.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world today would have some real understanding of just the simple Ten Commandments, which the Lord cut with His own finger into tablets? Moses came down from Mount Sinai to show the children of Israel, who were riotous, so that they wouldn’t say they didn’t understand what was said. When Moses brought down the tablets, the people would be able to read the Lord’s own statements: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3) and “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” (Ex. 20:4)—something else to worship—but they should love the Lord, love God. The Lord said that we should not take the name of God in vain (see Ex. 20:7), that we should honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy (see Ex. 20:8), that “thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13), and that “thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:13). Imagine what that would do in the world today and in the United States and with the political spin doctors. And “thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15) or “bear false witness” (Ex. 20:16) or covet your neighbor’s oxen and farms, his wife, or anything that he has (see Ex. 20:17).
The gospel of our Lord and Savior has been restored to the earth. God lives. He is our Father. I know. Jesus is the Christ. I have heard His voice because I have felt of that Spirit as He explains to us, “My voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth” (D&C 88:66). I know that is true. Joseph Smith was the restorer and the one who was found and trained and was obedient and valiant in every way as the instrument of the Restoration. And today we have a living prophet upon the world who represents us in such a glorious way throughout the earth.
Brothers and sisters, live the commandments. Do what is right. Take advantage of this great opportunity in your life to live it well, to be good, to have good works, and to influence other people for good. The gospel is true. I hope that every day of my life I might be able to do some good and to encourage somebody to live a better life and to understand what has been restored to the earth. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.