“Living with Our Convictions,” Ensign, Sept. 2001, 2
As members of the Church, we have become as a city set upon a hill which cannot be hid (see 3 Ne. 12:14). Whether we like it or not, each of us is set apart from the world. We are partakers of the truth, and with that comes a responsibility. Our responsibilities are personal because testimony is a personal thing.
In this dispensation, when the Lord declared this to be “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30), we were immediately put in a position from which we cannot shrink and which we each must face with humility and courage. Every true member of the Lord’s Church who lives and breathes the spirit of the gospel of the Master knows something of that feeling as he or she associates with others. But once having gained a testimony, we are to live with it. We are to live with our conscience. We are to live with our God.
It is not only converts who sometimes pass through difficult struggles and who may know discouragement and heartache as they explain their Church membership to family and friends. In a general sense, this is the experience of all who seek to hold to the iron rod as they walk through the mists of the world. It was ever thus. The price of discipleship is personal courage. The price of adherence to conscience is personal courage.
There is no more poignant picture in all history than that of Jesus in Gethsemane and upon the cross, alone: the Redeemer of mankind, the Savior of the world, bringing to pass the Atonement.
I remember being with President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. We could sense, if only in a very small degree, the terrible struggle that took place there, a struggle so intense, as Jesus wrestled alone in the spirit, that blood came from every pore (see Luke 22:44; D&C 19:18). We recalled the betrayal by one who had been called to a position of trust. We recalled that evil men laid brutal hands upon the Son of God. We recalled that lonely figure on the cross, crying out in anguish, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Yet, courageously, the Savior of the world moved forward to bring about the Atonement in our behalf.
Inner courage is a necessary virtue of those who follow the Lord. When the tyranny of religious oppression was smothering Europe in the 16th century, there arose a man here and there who stood up courageously. I believe that the Reformers were inspired of God to lay the foundation for a time when “another angel” would “fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6). It was in Germany with personal courage to act alone that Martin Luther proclaimed his 95 theses. That which he and his associates and followers endured is a matter of history. As they led the way to a more enlightened age, they walked almost alone amid the scoffing of others.
The great Prophet of this dispensation was likewise a man of courageous convictions. The 14-year-old boy who came out of the woods was soon persecuted by some, and he was hated throughout his life. There are few more heart-moving pictures than that of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s walking his courageous way with only a handful of faithful followers. He gave his life for his testimony of the truth.
In every dispensation the followers of the Lord have known of the courage it takes to choose to serve God rather than to serve the opinions of the crowd.
I think of a friend whom I knew when I was a missionary in London many years ago. He came to our door through the rain one night. I answered his knock and invited him in.
He said, as I remember, “I have to talk to someone. I’m all alone.”
I asked what the problem was.
He said, “When I joined the Church, my father told me to get out of his house and never come back. A few months later my athletic club dropped me from membership. Last month my boss fired me because I am a member of this Church. And last night the girl I love said she would never marry me because I’m a Mormon.”
I said, “If this has cost you so much, why don’t you leave the Church and go back to your father’s home, to your club, to the job that meant so much to you, and marry the girl you think you love?”
He said nothing for what seemed a long time. Then, putting his head in his hands, he sobbed as if his heart would break. Finally he looked up through his tears and said, “I couldn’t do that. I know this is true, and if it were to cost me my life, I could not give it up.”
He picked up his wet hat and walked to the door and went out into the rain. As I watched him, I thought of the power of conscience, the loneliness of faith, and the strength and power of personal testimony.
I should like to say to members of the Church, particularly to young men and women of the Church, that I hope you may come to know inner personal courage as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For this is the requirement of the Lord as we journey through our mortal probation, as we show to Him and to ourselves that we indeed “love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart, and with all [our] soul, and with all [our] mind” and that we “love [our] neighbour as [ourselves]” (Matt. 22:37, 39).
It takes resolution to be virtuous when those around you scoff at virtue.
It takes commitment to abstain from harmful substances when those around you scoff at sobriety and at being free from drugs.
It takes courage to be a man or woman of integrity when those around you forsake gospel principles for expediency or convenience.
It takes love in our hearts to speak in peaceful testimony of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ to those who would mock Him and belittle and demean Him.
There will be times that demand courage for each of us because disciples of the Lord are to live with their consciences. Disciples of the Lord are to live with their principles. Disciples of the Lord are to live with their convictions. Each of us is to live with his or her testimony. Unless we do, we will be miserable and dreadfully alone.
Yet while there may be thorns and disappointments, while there may be heartache, even heartbreak, there can be peace and comfort and strength from the Lord for those who follow Him. For it is the Lord Himself who has said:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:28–29).
It is the Lord who has said that if we keep the commandments “the Holy Ghost shall be [our] constant companion” (D&C 121:46) to buoy us up, to teach us, lead us, comfort us, and sustain us. To obtain this companionship, we need to ask for it, to live for it, to be loyal to the Lord.
I think Mormon knew very well from his own experience the truth of his words that the “Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God” (Moro. 8:26). Though we may sometimes be alone while among those of the world, we need not be lonely, for the Lord has given us the Holy Ghost to be our companion to walk with us.
In addition, the Lord has given us others with whom we may associate and thereby build up our spirits and strengthen our courage—disciples of like mind, of like heart, of like spirit. As the Apostle Paul said, we no longer need be “strangers … , but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19). To the Thessalonians, he wrote of sustaining one another:
“Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another. …
“And we beseech you … to know them which labour among you … ;
“And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (1 Thes. 5:11–13).
Though discipleship with the Lord requires times of standing humbly and courageously apart, the Lord will not forsake us. He also gives us the association of others who can edify and strengthen us as we go about our work of blessing others in the world. And if we are prayerful and loyal to Him and His commandments, the Lord’s promise can be applicable to us: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).
This is a promise from the Lord. I believe it. I bear testimony to you of its truth. May the Lord bless all who step out of the darkness of the world into the light of the everlasting gospel. May He bless us all to walk humbly and courageously and to know in our hearts that peace which comes from squaring one’s life with principle—the “peace … which passeth all understanding” (Philip. 4:7).
Let us rejoice in the knowledge that although we are to stand with courage as we travel through mortality and even through our trials, God will not leave us without His guidance and sustaining power.
May we go forward with our righteous convictions. May we walk in truth and in faith and in love. For if we will do so, we will be upheld and strengthened by the Lord: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Some Points of Emphasis
You may wish to make these points in your discussions:
Each member of the Church should take personal responsibility to be as a city set upon a hill which cannot be hid (see 3 Ne. 12:14).
There can be peace and strength from the Lord for those who live true to their consciences and gospel principles.
We have been given the association of the Holy Ghost and fellow members who can edify and strengthen us as we live true to the Savior’s teachings.
Share an experience when inner personal courage was required to live or explain a teaching of the gospel. You may also want to invite family members to do the same.
Are there some scriptures, quotations, or stories in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
Would this discussion be better after a previsit chat with the head of the household? Is there a message from the bishop or quorum leader?