Editor’s note: This post is part of a collaborative effort of Mormon bloggers who are reading and writing about General Conference talks. We call it the General Conference Odyssey. [See this article at Meridian Magazine sharing more about the Odyssey, including how it came about as well as some thoughts from those of us participating in this project. One of the things I appreciate so much about being a part of this effort is to read the words of my fellow brothers and sisters. Their perspectives and experience enrich my experience engaging the words of the prophets.]
The other posts from this week’s reading, which focused on the Tuesday Afternoon Session (interesting that they did Conference on Tuesdays!) of the April 1971 General Conference, are at the bottom of the post.
“As we journey along through life we, as individuals, come in contact with many shaded areas, twilight zones, and even dark alleys, where we, unless aided by a higher power, are not able to see clearly, to interpret correctly, and to come to sound conclusions….
“As individuals, we have some limitations when it comes to our understanding of things as they really are. We can see so far, and then the earth and the sky come together, so to speak, and we cannot see beyond. But there is something beyond. In the physical world, all we have to do to realize this is to improve our vantage point by getting on top of a building, on a mountain, or in an airplane….
“Without divine guidance, we will have difficulty in the shaded areas of life. But we need not walk alone. Our Father in heaven and his Son Jesus Christ and the prophets—both ancient and modern—have given us a well-charted course for our journey through life. We can find joy and happiness and we can arrive at our destination in safety if we will but heed the road signs and follow the directions that have been given to us….
There were some simple, sublime messages that stood out to me from the Tuesday afternoon session of the 1971 Conference. These are truths that even children can and do understand, and yet they are also deep and profound — veritable secrets to the universe. Because keys have been restored, we have the keys to understand the purpose of life.
- We are mortal. We need God.
- We are His children. He and the Savior love us.
- They want to help us.
- They speak to us through the scriptures, through prophets, and through the Holy Ghost.
- When we act in faith and in a spirit of obedience, we can see more clearly.
- The Church is true! This is why we want to share it with others.
I’m hesitant to select only a few quotes because the talks were dense with insight, but here are some that stood out to me, with some commentary of my own interspersed.
“The Holy Ghost can give us a sure conviction that man is a child of God. Altogether too frequently, when men, unaided, try to understand the relationship of man to God, they look at things through mortal eyes only and consider only mortal conditions. But this life is not the beginning, neither is it the end. To understand man’s relationship with God, we must broaden our perspective with the help of the Holy Ghost.” ~William H. Bennett
“The impressions made by the Holy Ghost can be equally deep and lasting [as rare manifestations such as those experienced by Saul/Paul or Alma]. President Joseph Fielding Smith has said, ‘Therefore, the seeing, even the Savior, does not leave as deep an impression in the mind as does the testimony of the Holy Ghost to the spirit. … the impressions on the soul that come from the Holy Ghost are far more significant than a vision. It is where spirit speaks to spirit, and the imprint upon the soul is far more difficult to erase.” (Seek Ye Earnestly [Deseret BookCo., 1970], pp. 213–14.) ~Henry D. Taylor
[That quote from President Smith may be one of my favorite quotes about the Holy Ghost.]
“The Savior, while teaching at the temple, was questioned by the Jewish teachers as to the source of his doctrine, which was astounding to them. Whence came his wisdom? they asked. Jesus answered their troubled inquiries, saying: “… my doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. 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 7:16–17.) ~Henry D. Taylor
[This scripture was also quoted by William H. Bennett— a simple, powerful second witness to the importance of action as a requirement for knowledge and understanding.]
“Joseph Smith was called by revelation, as were the prophets of old. John the Baptist restored to him and Oliver Cowdery the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood, followed by Peter, James, and John, who restored the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Elijah returned in the Kirtland Temple and restored the keys of the sealing blessings for the living and the dead.
“Joseph Smith bestowed all the keys upon the Quorum of Apostles before his death. These keys of priesthood authority have been thus preserved to this day and shall continue to usher in the millennial reign of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” ~Eldred G. Smith
[In two paragraphs, he summed up some of the most amazing truths we proclaim — prophets! angels! priesthood! keys! life and family after death! As Mormons, do we see what we have? And is it any wonder that we are urged to share these truths with others?]
Add to that Elder Richards‘ testimony:
“Malachi saw before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord when the Lord said he would send Elijah the prophet to “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”(Mal. 4:6.) Just think of that statement. The Jews are still waiting for his coming….”
[Read also his tender words about what is yet to come through the Book of Mormon in bringing the Jews to Christ. I long for that day. I read the Book of Mormon sometimes with that lens, wondering what it will be like when the Jews read Nephi’s words — which were written to and for them — and find Jesus in them.]
More from Elder Richards:
“It is hardly within the capacity of an ordinary man to comprehend and understand what has happened in this world because of Elijah’s coming….” [I can only imagine what Elder Richards thinks now about all that the internet has done for the work of turning hearts of fathers to children and children to fathers!]
“[F]ollowing [Jesus’] resurrection, as he walked along the way by two of his disciples to Emmaus, and we are told that their eyes were holden, that they did not recognize him, when he heard what they had to say about him and his ministry and his crucifixion, he realized that they did not comprehend what he had been trying to teach them, so he said, “O fools, and slow of heart, to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25), and commencing with Moses and the prophets, he showed them how that in all things the prophets had testified of him.” ~LeGrand Richards
[I was struck by how even these earnest disciples could not see without the Savior’s help to open their eyes. They didn’t see the patterns in the prophets’ teachings through the ages. They did not see Him of their own ability because they weren’t well-versed in the words of the prophets. Are we not all like this? We all need heavenly help to see what may be right before us. And yet, perhaps we would see more if we did know and study and ponder the patterns in the words of the prophets.]
Also from Elder Richards: “I believe that the words of the prophets are the most sure guide we have in this world today. I believe what Jesus said: ‘Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.’ (Matt. 5:18.)….
“Trust not the wisdom of men.
“I pray that the Lord will help us to go on, still fulfilling his promises of all that he has revealed that has not yet been fulfilled. And I would like to live long enough to see a little more even of these marvelous accomplishments, as a part of this great gospel dispensation. [He lived longer than almost any apostle.]
“With all my heart and soul, I bear you my witness of the divinity of this work, that God the Eternal Father has decreed its destiny. It is built on the foundation of apostles and prophets, with Christ our Lord as the chief cornerstone. And he is guiding his church today, and will continue to do so until he comes in the clouds of heaven as the holy prophets have declared….”
The closing testimony of President Joseph Fielding Smith was simple and powerful, given with great love and also directness (which is evidence of his love!)
He bore testimony of all that has been mentioned here. All that God has given us through his prophets is because of His love, pointing us to the love and grace and guidance of the Savior.
“A gracious and loving Father has in these last days spoken again from heaven to his servants the prophets.
“His voice has been one inviting all men to come to his Beloved Son, to learn of him, to partake of his goodness, to take his yoke upon them, and to work out their salvation by obedience to the laws of his gospel. His voice has been one of glory and honor, of peace in this life, and of eternal life in the world to come.”
But what of those outside our faith who love the Savior and honor God with their lives? President Smith shares one of the most important truths about why Mormonism matters:
“I am not unmindful that there are good and devout people among all sects, parties, and denominations,and they will be blessed and rewarded for all the good they do. But the fact remains that we alone have the fullness of those laws and ordinances which prepare men for the fullness of reward in the mansions above.”
And then, he extends this beautiful invitation which we have heard echoed through prophets in recent years:
“Keep all the good you have; cleave unto every true principle which is now yours; but come and partake of the further light and knowledge which that God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever is again pouring out upon his people.”
Elder Richards talked of the 14,000 missionaries that were serving at the time. Today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has over 85,000 missionaries…to invite people to “come and see.“
I am grateful to be a member of this Church, to have prophets and restoration scriptures to give further light and knowledge, to help me see even more the love of God, the reality of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the purpose of prophetic patterns, and the reality and importance of laws and ordinances.
It’s true. This I know. Come and see!
If you are struggling to see, lean on God and the His methods has has given to help us see. Lean on the testimonies of others that move you. Move your feet in faith until you can come to a new vista. Trust the process. Truth does come. God is there. In His time and way, as you seek, He will make things known to you. It’s ok to wrestle. Just be sure to let the wrestle include the ways the Lord designated to help us see.