“Writing Gospel Principles in Our Hearts,” Liahona, Jan. 2002, 35–36
English is the language of the Restoration, and in this conference session, English spoken with an accent symbolizes Church growth all over the world. I’m from South America, where the Church has grown tremendously. When I joined the Church 30 years ago, we had 108,000 members and 6 stakes. At that time we had no temple on our continent. Now we have 2,600,000 members and 557 stakes. Eleven temples are functioning, and two are under construction. Nephi, the son of Lehi, said: “But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people. For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them” (2 Ne. 33:3). This heartfelt cry is being answered in our day through the Book of Mormon. Nephi was praying that the word he had “written in weakness would be made strong unto” us, “for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal” (2 Ne. 33:4).
I have seen how the doctrine and gospel principles are guiding more and more members in South America. Our task both in South America and everywhere continues to be seeking for the principles found in the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets and writing them “not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:3). Such establishing of gospel principles requires time. Time is required both to be exposed to the truths of the gospel and to apply them in our lives.
For most South American members, our exposure to gospel principles started with devoting time to hearing the discussions and testimonies from the missionaries. We took time to listen, and now we cannot help but feel profound gratitude to the missionaries who served in our countries. Our deep gratitude is not only to the missionaries but to the families from which they came. (Now thousands of South Americans are sending their own children to serve missions to share the glad tidings of the restored gospel.) Those of us who are first-generation Church members also feel great gratitude for our nonmember parents who took time to teach us righteous principles which prepared us to recognize and welcome the gospel message.
Missionaries initiated the task of learning doctrine and gospel principles; however, maintaining the gospel in our hearts is an ongoing task which requires time. Knowledge alone is not enough. We must take time to apply the principles in our lives. For example, Nephi knew that the Lord answers our prayers. He applied his knowledge centuries ago and thus brought everlasting blessings upon us today. If we read carefully, we see that Nephi prayed with great faith unto God because he knew that God was going to hear his “cry” (see 2 Ne. 33:3). How grateful we are for Nephi’s taking time to apply his knowledge. How grateful we are that Nephi wrote this knowledge in his heart “not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.”
Like scholarship, discipleship also requires time. Sometimes we recognize that a principle is true, but we don’t change our priorities to make time to live the principle. In so doing, we miss valuable opportunities to develop a change of heart as we are taught by the Holy Ghost. Consider for a moment the example of Enos, who delayed the application of the knowledge he received from his father. He eventually took time to live up to that knowledge; a number of blessings flowed to us because he did. Enos tells us that it was when he went to hunt beasts in the forest that his father’s teachings about eternal life and the joy of the Saints deeply touched his heart, so he decided to devote time to praying (see Enos 1:3–4). In divine response to his prayer, the Lord covenanted with Enos that He would bring the records forth unto the Lamanites in His own due time (see Enos 1:16). God answers our prayers. Enos took this principle from the stone tablets and wrote it in the fleshy tablets of his heart, thus obtaining a higher level of knowledge. This brought blessings both upon him and us in this dispensation.
A number of things hinder our good intentions of devoting time to learning and especially to living a gospel principle. For example, the abundance of information about any specific subject which comes from various media can be overwhelming. Such an abundance of information may cause some to be “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7).
Each of us can evaluate ourselves, determine which things are preventing us from taking time to live a gospel principle, then repent and make the necessary adjustments so that we can have time to apply that gospel principle in our lives. If we do so, the Lord has promised that we’ll have an increased understanding of His truths as Enos did. The Savior declared, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).
Making time in our lives to learn, to ponder, and especially to practice gospel principles will bring us the joy and peace which come from the Spirit. The Church will continue to blossom in South America and other parts of the world because more and more members will continue to write gospel principles not with ink, but with the Holy Ghost; not in tablets of stone, but in the fleshy tablets of their hearts. I testify that scriptural truths can develop from intellectual appreciation to our becoming Christlike as we take time to incorporate those truths into our lives. I know the Savior is the Living Christ. Of these things I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.