A few weeks ago I was in a social gathering with a friend of many years—a friend who recently retired, is well educated, and has been very successful. He is recognized in his country as the leader in his field. As we sat next to one another at dinner, he turned to me and asked about the Church. This was somewhat surprising because I was aware that he, like many in the world today, had rationalized God out of existence. His question was earnest. It was apparently something he had been thinking about because it came without anything in the previous conversation that would have prompted it.
I responded by telling him of the Restoration, that God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith and that through him the priesthood and authority of God were restored to the earth. I bore witness that I knew assuredly that what I had told him was true. There was a long pause as I watched him ponder what I had said. Then, knowing that he was internalizing what he had heard, I leaned over and said: “You can know as surely as I know that what I have borne witness to is true. If you will ‘ask God, the Eternal Father, … with a sincere heart, … having faith in Christ, [I promise you that] he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost [you] may know the truth of all things.’”1
He continued to ponder. Unfortunately we were interrupted by the other guests and that precious moment passed, but I knew that in his heart he was still internalizing what he had heard and felt. And I hope that an opportunity will come again, for there is so much more that I would like to share with him. I know that he, like thousands or millions of others in the world today, is content with life as it is. As Nephi stated, they have been pacified and lulled away “into carnal security.”2 They have been steeped in traditions and taught by the precepts of men.
As I have reflected on that moment, I ask myself the question “What is the reward for following the philosophies of men?” The answer seems clear. The philosophies die with their civilizations and are left in the dust of the past without hope of eternal reward. I felt my friend had been touched by the Spirit of the Lord. Our Heavenly Father never gives up on us. The Savior said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”3
But we must have the desire to open the door, even if it shakes the very foundation of our past beliefs and way of life. And this applies to less-active members as well as those who are not yet members of the Church. I am reminded of the words of a hymn:
Know this, that ev’ry soul is free
To choose his life and what he’ll be;
For this eternal truth is giv’n:
That God will force no man to heav’n.
He’ll call, persuade, direct aright,
And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In nameless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.4
Our Father in Heaven will never take away our agency. We must seek after or desire to know our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. There is a way by which all men can know whether or not the teachings of Jesus Christ are true. As Jesus answered the skeptics at the Feast of Tabernacles, 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.”5
President David O. McKay said that this “is the most simple test to give knowledge to an individual of which the human mind can conceive. Doing a thing, introducing it into your very being, will convince you of whether it is good or whether it is bad. You may not be able to convince me of that which you know, but you know it, because you have lived it.”6
What is the Father’s will? “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bears testimony to the world that the ‘will’ of God has been made manifest in this dispensation; that the principles of the gospel, the principles of life, have been revealed. [That] they are in harmony with the principles which Christ taught in the meridian of time”7 and that “through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”8
We live in a day of rationalization; people want to discount spiritual experiences, and they deny themselves revelation. What happened to the seeking mind, the open mind, the inquiring mind—one seeking to know truth and knowledge? We tend to rely on our own rational powers. The Lord wants us to be sensitive to the Spirit, and He has given us a pattern:
“And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations—
“Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.
“He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances.”9
Why is it important for us to seek to know truth?
Jesus, our Redeemer, just before He crossed the brook of Cedron and was betrayed by Judas, offered the glorious prayer of intercession. He prayed to the Father for us. He said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”10
To know God and His Son is eternal life. How can we learn to know God if we are unwilling to seek after Him and do His will? Eternal life is what we should desire more than anything else in this world.
One cannot study about Jesus Christ and His teachings without being affected and changed for good. As you develop a testimony of the Savior, you want to become like Him and to follow Him, and thus you enter the waters of baptism and make a sacred covenant with Him.
Our Savior is concerned for each one of us:
“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
“For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.
“And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.
“And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!”11
Because of His great love for us, a divine love, He wants us to experience the kind of joy that He, Himself, experiences. He said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”12 He will bless us with a genuine peace—mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, economically—“not [a peace] as the world giveth,”13 but a “peace … which passeth all understanding.”14
As one complies with the will of our Father in Heaven, there will come spiritual, intellectual, and emotional growth and a reassurance through the Holy Spirit of truth. That reassurance and joy can grow to a perfect knowledge. The Savior said, “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”15
To the less active, to the honest in heart, to my friend, and to the good people of the earth, I invite you to awake out of complacency and foolish contentment and come unto Christ and do whatever it takes to earnestly seek truth, to know God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. For “this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.”16
I bear my witness that as you do His will, you will feel close to Him and begin to know what eternal joy is and that eternal life is attainable. You will know that He does exist, that He is our Father, who lovingly reveals to us the reality of the Atonement and the Resurrection and the divinity of this great work. To this I bear my humble witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.