“How Firm Our Foundation,” Ensign, May 2002, 75–77
About two decades ago when a temple was to be built in Mexico City, architects faced a great challenge. Because Mexico City is situated on a basin over water, some of its buildings settle and become tilted with the passage of time. Construction of a temple there required a special foundation. Two hundred twenty-one large, reinforced concrete piles1 were driven more than 100 feet deep into the ground. Onto those pilings, steel straps were anchored and fastened to a unit that can be adjusted if need be to keep the building level.2 With this unseen but sure foundation, that temple today stands steady and straight.
A firm foundation is necessary for any building, institution, or individual to endure. With that in mind, let us consider the foundation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then let us see how the solid foundation of the Church supports our foundation of faith as individual members of the Church.
This Church stands on a unique foundation, anchored to a bedrock of timeless truth. Brothers and sisters, the holy cause in which we are engaged did not begin in 1820 in the state of New York. It did not begin in Bethlehem. It did not begin in the Garden of Eden. The underpinnings of the everlasting gospel were in place even before the world was.
This reality is affirmed repeatedly in holy writ. I have studied the scriptures pertaining to that part of eternity before the earth was formed. Don’t worry. I won’t quote them all. But I will append some of those citations to the published text of this message. These unseen and timeless truths constitute “premortal pillars” that undergird the foundation of this Church.
The Plan of Redemption and Possibility of an Inheritance in the Kingdom of God
The Atonement of Jesus Christ
Central to that plan was the Atonement of Jesus Christ. In premortal councils, He was foreordained by His Father to atone for our sins and break the bands of physical and spiritual death.5 Jesus declared, “I … was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. … In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name.”6 Later, Paul added that the Church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.”7
Opposition from the Adversary
Even before the world was formed, the Lord was opposed by Satan.8 He and his minions have always fought against the Savior’s sacred work and will continue to do so.
Foreordination for and Conferral of the Priesthood
Before the foundation of the world, each of us existed as spirit children with our Father in Heaven. Among us were noble and great men foreordained to bear the priesthood.9 Abraham,10 Jeremiah,11 Joseph Smith,12 and others13 were destined to become prophets of God. Also foreseen was that the blood of prophets would be shed in this holy cause.14 The manner of conferring the priesthood was to come down from the fathers “from the beginning of time, … even … before the foundation of the earth.”15
Sisters Empowered to Glorify God
Sisters received special gifts. They, according to the Lord, were empowered “to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, … for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; … herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.”16 Think of it: When a mother bears and cares for a child, she not only helps the earth answer the end of its creation,17 but she glorifies God!
Children of the Covenant
Children of the covenant were designated in the premortal realm. Paul taught that the Lord “hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.”18
Blessings Predicated upon Obedience to Law
Then conditions were established that allowed us to receive blessings from God—upon obedience to laws upon which those blessings were predicated.19
Sacred Things to Be Revealed in the Latter Days
Another pillar pertains to revelation reserved for the latter days. The Lord had long planned to reveal “things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.”20 Those things included revelations recorded in the Book of Mormon.21 They also included ordinances and covenants of the holy temple.22 To the Prophet Joseph Smith the Lord declared that “I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.”23
Redemption of the Dead
The Lord revealed that “the ordinance of baptizing for the dead … was instituted from before the foundation of the world.”24 Salvation was thus made available for those “who should die without a knowledge of the gospel.”25 A welding link between generations was provided, that a whole, complete, and perfect union of dispensations, keys, powers, and glories should take place.26
Brothers and sisters, these unseen but sure pillars were in place before the world was. They undergird the everlasting gospel—now restored in its fulness.27 With such a foundation, this Church will not be moved from its place,28 even through the Millennium.29
Just as buildings and institutions have foundations, so do we as individuals have foundations that support our faith. Some are weak; some are strong. We can waffle “like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed,”30 or we can stand on a firm foundation and anchor ourselves with straps of spiritual steel, rooted and grounded to the timeless pillars of the gospel.31
President Gordon B. Hinckley has asked that our new converts be sustained in the Church by a friend, a call to serve, and be nourished by the good word of God.32 Often we sing, “How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!”33 When we receive that nurturing word of God, we feast upon His love.34
Remember: “It is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, … when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power … to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation.”35
Even firm foundations cannot prevent life’s problems. Wayward children cause parents to grieve. Some broken families don’t get fixed. Gender disorientation is poorly understood. Married couples, for whatever reason, may not be blessed with children. Even in our day, “the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money.”36 Some things just don’t seem fair.37
With strong underpinnings, however, we are better able to reach upward for help, even when faced with questions without easy answers. The poet so wrote:
Who Thou art I know not,
But this much I know:
Thou hast set the Pleiades
In a silver row;
Thou hast sent the trackless winds
Loose upon their way;
Thou hast reared a colored wall
’Twixt the night and day;
Thou hast made the flowers to bloom
And the stars to shine;
Hid rare gems of richest ore
In the tunneled mine;
But chief of all Thy wondrous works,
Supreme of all Thy plan,
Thou hast put an upward reach
In the heart of Man.38
For example, I honor those special souls who face challenges of parenthood with unwavering faith in their Maker. To a family dear to Sister Nelson and me, a son was recently born. This child was afflicted with multiple anomalies affecting virtually every system of his little body. Two operations were required in his first week of life. More will be necessary. When I spoke with the child’s parents, they did not ask, “Why did this happen to us?” Instead, they declared: “We know that this child is meant for us. God has entrusted this special baby to us. We will love him and care for him to the best of our ability.” Thank the Lord for such parents!
Not long ago, death came to the husband of a friend of ours, suddenly and without warning. Of her, these words were penned by her own sister: “Searching the years and days just past, she is awestruck, recognizing specific skills and experiences put into her life by a loving Father, things that might have seemed circumstantial at the time but that have specifically prepared her to cope successfully with this heart-breaking loss. Rather than feeling abandoned and bitter, she feels cradled and cared for. … She said to me, ‘When I see how carefully Heavenly Father has prepared and planned for my present circumstance, how can I be frightened about my future? Surely He is putting into place today all that I will need to face the unknown times ahead.’”41
From a missionary I received an unforgettable letter. He wrote: “I still am not certain why it was that I was [afflicted] with [cancer], particularly during the time I was serving the Lord on a mission, but I can say with all honesty and sincerity that I am eternally grateful to our gracious Heavenly Father for allowing me to have that experience. … Not a day goes by,” he continued, “that I don’t think about the days I spent lying in the hospital suffering through chemotherapy or grimacing with the pain from another operation. … Not a day passes when I don’t think of the days I spent studying the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, and remembering the overwhelming feelings of comfort and peace which I felt. I often think of the nights when I would retire to bed and pour out my soul to my Heavenly Father and thank Him for preserving my life.” Then the elder shared this wonderful news: “I returned to the doctor this week … and … he found no evidence of any disease in my body.”42 I love such faithful missionaries!
How firm our foundation? The foundation of this Church was forged long before the world was. It is strong. It is true. It is eternal. The foundation of one’s individual faith, if anchored firmly to eternal truth, allows each of us to reach upward with an eternal perspective.43 That faith will give hope when there is no hope. It will give us joy here and eternal life hereafter. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.