“The Proof Is in the Doing,” New Era, Mar. 2005, 42
Some years ago, a client seeking my professional advice described to me the nature of his business, which involved selling secondhand furniture and household goods with his father. Their stock was acquired by attending auctions and market sales and by clearing unwanted items from homes. They were careful to only buy items they could sell for a profit.
On one occasion, the son had contracted to clear the contents of a home following the death of an elderly occupant. Hanging in one of the rooms was a painting. Pausing to examine it, he considered the possibility that one day he would discover an antique or painting of far greater value than the previous owner had realized. But concluding that this painting was not in that category, he carried it to his vehicle and put it among the other items.
Later, as he and his father were unloading the vehicle, the father picked up the artwork and said, “I wish I knew more about paintings and how to tell if they are valuable.” The son responded that he was sure this one was not valuable. Nevertheless, the father felt it would be worth having the painting checked by a friend of his who managed an art gallery.
Several days later, the father’s friend informed him that the painting probably had a value of at least £12,000 (almost $29,000 U.S. in the early 1970s). Excited by the news, the father and son pick up the painting. This time they carefully wrapped the work of art in a blanket, and the son held it securely in his arms as they returned to the shop. The painting sold at auction for £12,500.
In telling this story, my client concluded by saying, “I can’t imagine why anyone would be prepared to pay so much for such an ordinary painting.”
I have often reflected on the response of the young man. He had no interest in the painting. He judged it to be of little or no value.
How do we judge the value of the gospel in our lives? Do we really appreciate our indebtedness to the Savior? In exploring my own feelings, I often ponder the scriptures.
Many who witnessed the Savior during His mortal ministry had only a superficial understanding of what He did and who He was. This is confirmed by an incident that followed Jesus’s feeding of the five thousand:
“And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?
“Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
“And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?” (Matt. 13:54–56).
It would appear that many who associated with Jesus saw Him as a great miracle worker or teacher but not as the Son of God. How do we progress, then, to real understanding? I believe the answer is revealed in the words of the Savior to the Jews: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17).
I am grateful that I was brought up in a home where Christian values were taught and observed, although without benefit of the knowledge of the Restoration of the gospel. Later, as I was invited to explore the message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, each new doctrine required deep consideration, often resulting in a change of lifestyle. But those changes did not come about as a result of passive belief or mere intellectual assent. The proof was in the doing, in the exercise of faith. As I learned and tested gospel principles new to me, I invariably found them to be true.
One example of this process concerns the law of the fast. As I observed this law each fast day, I gradually gained a testimony of the principle of fasting.
President Heber J. Grant (1856–1945) often quoted the saying, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do; not that the nature of the thing is changed, but our power to do is increased.”1
President Brigham Young expressed his belief that “every principle God has revealed carries its own convictions of its truth to the human mind.”2 My experiences as I grew in the gospel bore out these statements about learning eternal truths, especially the relationship between obedience and testimony, on doing and knowing.
I can vividly recall a sunny Sunday afternoon in July 1959 when Pamela (whom I later married) and I were walking and talking together. I was contemplating becoming a member of the Church. Pamela said, “I can’t remember the missionaries teaching you about tithing.”
“What is tithing?” I asked.
Pamela responded that members give 10 percent of their income in obedience to God’s law and as an expression of their gratitude for all that our Heavenly Father has given them.
There have been a few moments in my life when I felt faint as a result of shock, and this was one of them. “Ten percent!” I echoed. “That’s impossible. There’s no way I could afford to pay tithing.”
Pamela calmly replied, “My father does. He has a wife and four children, and his income is less than yours.” She followed up by mentioning another family I had come to know in the branch, informing me that they lived on less money than I did and that there were six children in the family. This proved to be a useful challenge to me. If they could manage, I thought, then so could I.
Eleven years later, faced with a real test of my commitment to that law, I realized that through the payment of tithing great faith had developed. It was no longer simply a matter of money to me. In response to that test, I followed my faith, and was blessed for it (see Mal. 3:10).
Prior to my introduction to the restored gospel, I spent much of my time playing soccer, including games on the Sabbath day. Even though I had been brought up to have respect for the Lord’s day, it was through applying the principle after I came in contact with the Church that I gained an understanding of the doctrine and its blessings. Withdrawing from the Sunday league team was one of the significant sacrifices that led to my conversion. It helped me appreciate the value of the gospel in my life.
Three years later, when work commenced on building the Norwich chapel, I also withdrew from the Saturday league team so that I could make my contribution to the building project. The mist of self-interest that had previously restricted my vision was beginning to disperse, and a new panoramic view was emerging, bringing with it a deeper appreciation for and an increasing love of life.
This transition within ourselves is described in the words of the Savior to the Jews, recorded in John 8:31–32: “If ye continue in my word [I interpret this to mean, “If ye continue to live in harmony with my doctrine,”] then are ye my disciples indeed;
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” These words reinforce the relationship between doing and knowing.
To me there is an analogy between engaging in a physical fitness program and applying and knowing about gospel principles in our lives. When we regularly engage in physical activities, the benefits may not be dramatically apparent. However, when illness, injury, or lack of desire interrupt our fitness programs for a prolonged period, we experience great difficulty in regaining the level of fitness we previously enjoyed. Some become so discouraged that they do not persist but settle for a lesser level of fitness.
This can be true of living in harmony with gospel principles. The benefits may not always be noticeable, and this may cause some to question the reality of the doctrine and thus to lose faith and discontinue Church activity. Those who work their way back to spiritual fitness usually discover a greater appreciation for the gospel. Others slip away, and walk no more with the Lord.
The promise to those who live in harmony with the Word of Wisdom and who “[walk] in obedience to the commandments” is that they “shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones” (D&C 89:18). The admonition to “keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments” is significant.
Verse 19 adds another dimension that to some may seem almost unrelated to what is often seen exclusively as a health code. But the verse contains the great key and linkage between doing and knowing: “And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.”
Possibly there are doctrines that may not be easily tested in practical terms. Nevertheless, I believe the key that opens the way to our personal understanding of the plan of salvation, with a personal assurance regarding the blessings of the Atonement of the Savior in our own lives, is found by faithful adherence to gospel principles.
A testimony of the restored gospel is like a fabric with divine doctrine and eternal principles woven together to create a vision of such exquisite beauty that only those who follow the prescribed pattern of doing it—that is, of living the gospel—may discover its truths.