Truth: Through the Power of the Holy Ghost

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Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

July 22, 2004
Lloyd Munson
La'ie Temple Presidency

Most of us are familiar with the promise in Moroni 10 which gives the pattern for knowing whether the Book of Mormon is true. We are instructed to: (1) Read the book; (2) ponder it in our hearts; and (3) Ask God, the Eternal Father in the name of Christ. It further instructs us that our prayers should be with a sincere heart, with real intent, and having faith in Christ. Many of us stop at that point and fail to read or understand the impact of verse five which is my thesis for today, as follows: "AND BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY GHOST YE MAY KNOW THE TRUTH OF ALL THINGS. Please notice that there are no restrictions....that verse says: "ALL THINGS!"

Alma 17:2-3 shows how Alma and the Sons of Mosiah were able to know and teach by the Spirit. "..they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently that they might know the word of God. But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God."

Notice that the prayers were players of faith and not prayers of desperation. The Sons of Mosiah had refused the kingdom, had dedicated themselves to keeping the commandments of God, and were doing their best to help the Lamanites to come to a knowledge of the truth. A comparison for our day would be for those who have been endowed in the Temple to actively live the sacred covenants they have taken. For students it would be those who are well prepared each day in every class rather than those who postpone their gaining of knowledge and rely on cramming for each exam.

Obedience, faith, and humility are also part of the formula for obtaining a knowledge of truth through visitations of the Spirit. D&C 130:20-21 summarizes that thought: "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated, and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated."

My examples and experiences are mostly centered on spiritual or gospel truths but the seeking after truth should not stop there. D&C 29:34 tells us that all things are spiritual unto the Lord.

A good place to start is with classes you are taking or planning to take and see how many of them include the word "Principles" or "Theory" in the title. By my definition, a "principle" is a truth which has been tested over time and a "theory" is a presumption of a truth but mayor may not prove to be true over time. Remember, the goal is to know the truth through the Power of the Holy Ghost although a short term goal might simply be to learn the principles and theories sufficiently well to pass the next exam. However, the gaining of a quality education has eternal significance with an immediate ability to improve the quality of our own lives and the lives of our families.

What is TRUTH? There is much to consider to properly define a word which should be clearly understood by every member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Since this talk is presented in an academic setting, I wish to consider some situations which call for a determination of what is and is not the truth.

WHAT IS THE CORRECT (TRUE) TIME:

The news commentator says, "The President will be flying to an unknown destination where he will make an important announcement at eight o'clock on the first Sunday of April." Not knowing the location or whether the talk will be given in the evening or the morning could cause us to miss the important announcement. The following factors are significant:

Eastern Time verses Pacific time verses Hawaiian Time

Standard time verses Daylight Savings Time (Arizona & Hawaii do not change)

Scheduled time verses the actual time of the talk (or when plane arrives)

PM verses AM

WHAT IS THE PROPER (TRUE) AGE, METHOD, AND AUTHORITY FOR BAPTISMS?: A mother says, "We really believe what it says in John 3:5 that everyone must be baptized by water and of the spirit or they cannot enter the kingdom of God. Each of our children were baptized within the first month after birth by Reverend Jones of the Church of Faith and the reverend always uses a silver goblet to pour the water on the heads of the babies." What factors must be considered to know the truth?

Age of accountability OR shortly after birth

Immersion verses sprinkling or pouring of the water

Performed by any minister of any church OR having "proper authority"

WHAT IS THE TRUE METHOD & AUTHORITY FOR RECEIVING THE HOLY GHOST?: The mother previously mentioned says, "Reverend Jones really gives a powerful sermon each time a baby is baptized. It is easy to tell that the babies have been baptized by the spirit ." What are the areas to be considered?

By any minister of any church verses having "proper authority

By "laying on of hands" verses "comes at time of baptism"

TRUE AUTHORITY TO PERFORM ORDINANCES:

There are many churches with ministers or priests who have been appointed under the guidelines of their respective church and/or within the laws of the various states or nations. Most of the priests and ministers help the members of their congregations to live good lives. What must be considered in determining the truth?

Continuous authority from the Apostle Peter OR

Authority taken from earth and need for Restoration

Called of God as was Aaron by someone with proper authority OR

Mail-Order minister certificates OR

Divinity schools with bestowal of academic degrees

TRUE REVELATIONS FROM GOD:

Our Article of Faith Number nine states: "We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." Can this be so if the Heavens are Closed as taught by many churches? O Prophets on earth today OR no further need for prophets

Continuous revelation OR closed Heaven theory

Need for new revealed scriptures OR cannot add or take from the Bible

TRUE RESULTS FROM PRESCRIBED INGREDIENTS

The pharmacist receives a detailed prescription from a local doctor to formulate a stimulant for a patient. The doctor specifies that enough strychnine equal to the weight of a dime should be added to the formula. The dictionary defines strychnine as, "a bitter highly poisonous substance used in very small doses as a stimulant." What will likely be the desired result if:

The pharmacist follows the precise directions of the doctor OR

The pharmacist does not have a dime so he uses the weight of two nickels determining the amount of strychnine to add to the formula.

The Home Economics teacher gives a homework assignment to make a cake which will be judged by serving it to the class members.

The student followed the recipe without deviation from the cookbook OR

The recipe is mostly followed but a teaspoon of pepper was substituted for a teaspoon of cinnamon since the student had no cinnamon.

SPEAKING THE CORRECT (TRUE) WORDS IN A SECOND LANGUAGE:

Some languages have words which sound the same or almost the same but have different meanings. The difference might be a nasal tone or a change in pitch of the voice.

The second language speaker said the correct word to express sympathy

The second language speaker used a word which sounds almost the same but said that the person is foolish.

TRUTH CANNOT BE FOUND THROUGH THE POWER OF THE HOLY GHOST IF THE FORMULA GIVEN BY GOD THROUGH REVELATION IS NOT FOLLOWED:

The seeker after truth chooses to read, study, ponder, ask God, has a sincere heart, has real intent, and has faith in Christ with an assurance that he will receive the promptings of the Holy Ghost. He/she also realizes the importance of obedience and humility in the quest for truth

The person decides that there is no necessity to study and ponder to know the truth

The person decides that prayer is not a necessary ingredient in determining truth

The person decides that feelings cannot be a yardstick in determining the truth

The person is not obedient to the commandments of God

While teaching at BYU-Hawaii, a student came to my office seeking help. He had just failed the first accounting exam and wanted to know how he could do better in the class. We reviewed his class and work schedule and found a sufficient block of time for study for the accounting class and his other classes. I suggested an approach where he would follow the syllabus carefully, read the chapter in the text before the date for class discussion of that chapter, write down questions to ask in class or in later meetings with me, then re-read the chapter in light of the class discussion. His next question almost left me speechless when he said, "Brother Munson, does that mean that I should buy the textbook?" The student didn't even take step #1 to read and ponder!

While serving in the Florida Tampa Mission, it was a common occurrence to receive "anti-Mormon" pamphlets in the mail or placed in our mailbox by unknown persons. I wish now to quote from one such tract which was designed to aid the members of their church in combating the Mormon missionaries who might appear at their doors.

QUOTE: "..there are few people who haven't been visited at least once by Mormon missionaries. At some point in your doorstep dialogue these earnest young men will entreat you to accept a copy of the Book of Mormon, read it, and pray about it, asking the Lord to `send the Holy Ghost to witness that it is true.' They'll assure you that if you read their text in a spirit of prayerful inquiry, you too will receive the testimony of the Holy Ghost. That testimony will convince you beyond doubt that the Book of Mormon is exactly what they claim it to be.

SOUNDS PRETTY GOOD SO FAR, SO LET'S CONTINUE

"When you're given the Book of Mormon and asked to pray about it, it's important to realize why prayer is not a necessary ingredient in the process of determining whether this work is of God....Keep in mind that the missionaries want you to have a feeling about the Book of Mormon after reading it. They'll testify to you that you'll receive the witness of the Holy Ghost in the form of a `burning in the bosom' a warm fuzzy feeling, after reading and praying about it. That feeling is, for them, the clincher. It's the real proof that the Book of Mormon is inspired Scripture, and everything else follows from that conclusion" THE PAMPHLET CONTINUES

"How often have you felt strongly about something or someone, only to learn your feelings were misguided? Consider how often feelings change, even within the space of a single day, as they are affected by weather, lack of sleep, your surroundings, and a host of other factors. Feelings, although a part of our human make-up, can't be a yardstick in matters like this."

Paul's writing to the Ephesians spoke of similar doctrines as just mentioned. Chapter 4 discusses the need for apostles, prophets, and other priesthood leaders and their functions of perfecting the saints and overcoming the craftiness of men, who lie in wait to deceive. Verses 17-19 have a specific reference to the subject at hand, as follows: "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind. Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness."

Nephi also addressed Laman and Lemuel, as follows: "Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; ye have heard his voice from time to time; AND he hath spoken to you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words..." (I Nephi 17:45)

Elijah the Prophet was the last person in the Old Testament to hold all of the keys of the priesthood, including the keys of sealing power. He found that the manifestations of the Holy Ghost do not come through strong winds, nor earthquakes, nor fire but by "a still small voice" (I Kings 19:11-12). Likewise, the "still small voice" is how we will receive the promptings leading to a knowledge of truth through the power of the Holy Ghost.

D&C 93:24 gives us in simple understandable words the Lord's definition of Truth, as follows: "AND TRUTH IS KNOWLEDGE OF THINGS AS THEY ARE, AND AS THEY WERE, AND AS THEY ARE TO COME." As previously mentioned, honest seekers of truth must have faith in Christ, be worthy of promptings of the Holy Ghost, and earnestly seek the truth through study and prayer.

Truth of THINGS AS THEY ARE might seem obvious in our present understanding but were not always accepted as the truth.

We in the Church accept that we were created in the image of God. Many people today profess that there is no God and that the human race evolved from lower forms of life.

We know that the earth is round. However, the theory that the earth is flat existed for many centuries.

Truth of THINGS AS THEY WERE is often twisted to cast a more favorable light on certain events, on a particular group of people, or with an intent to distort the truth.

The inhuman treatment of the Jewish people during the Nazi era was well known and documented and some people are still alive who experienced the holocaust. Yet, some present groups advocate that the holocaust never happened and even some histories have been re-written to ignore this terrible treatment of the Jews.

Current American History texts have largely ignored the suffering of the early members of the Church at the hands of their enemies before the exodus to the Rocky Mountains. There have been recent apologies from legislatures in the states from which the Saints were driven.

Millions of people have strong testimonies through the Power of the Holy Ghost that God, the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ visited young Joseph Smith and that other Heavenly beings came and restored the keys of the Priesthood to him. However, many others scoff at the happenings and state that these were mere hallucinations.

Truth of THINGS AS THEY ARE TO COME is a supreme test of our faith and hopefully will prompt us to change our own lives. Prophetic statements by Living Prophets should not be ignored.

One of the best documented instances of a prophecy which came to pass is recorded in D&C 87. The prophecy was made on December 25, 1832 and goes into great detail about the war between the Southern States and the Northern States.

We have periodic reminders from our Church leaders about getting out of debt and staying out of debt and also making preparations of food and other commodities for times of turmoil.

The Family Proclamation to the World issued by the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles gives guidance and also includes predictions and warnings for what will surely come to pass in years ahead if the counsel is ignored.

EXAMPLES OF TRUTH THROUGH THE POWER OF THE HOLY GHOST

Nephi was led by the spirit not knowing beforehand the things he should do when seeking the Plates of Brass from Laban (I Nephi 4:6). Nephi's faith in the Lord was tested to the limit when he was commanded to construct a ship to carry them to the promised land. He had never built a ship before and he did not get any encouragement from his brothers. In fact, just the opposite...His brothers murmured against him saying: "Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters" (I Nephi 17:17). However, Nephi had previously sought directions from the Lord as to where he could obtain ore so he could make the tools to construct the ship after the manner shown to him by the Lord. He was then shown from time to time how to work the timbers to construct the ship.

Joseph Smith's visit to the Sacred Grove was no accident. The time was nearing for the restoration of the true church upon the earth. Young Joseph, as the future prophet of this dispensation, was able to be in the presence of both The Father and The Son. This was possible only through the Power of the Holy Ghost. From that day to the present time, the Holy Ghost can and will be available to assist anyone who is earnestly engaged in activities relating to spreading the gospel and other aspects of the mission of the church. This includes individual missionaries, calling of individuals to fill positions at any level, help for investigators, family history research, the gaining of individual testimonies, inspiration to individuals and leaders in fulfilling their callings, help in overcoming distressful situations and many other situations in obtaining a knowledge of the truthfulness of all things. Truth is this context is often "what should I do and what should be done?

The necessity for promptings of the Holy Ghost in activities relating to missionary work and the welfare of each missionary quickly became apparent as a new mission president. The words of D&C 50:13-14 now become evident as a guiding principle for the individual missionary and the mission president, "Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question -- unto what were ye ordained? To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth." Our Heavenly Father is well aware of Satan's all out effort to turn hearts away from truth and the individual missionaries need to teach the truth through the power of the Holy Ghost

Our first night's sleep in the mission home was interrupted by a telephone call around 1:00 AM. The Elder making the call said, "President Munson, I just called to tell you that I am going home!" We made arrangements to meet together later that morning in the mission office where I was able to convince him to stay longer through the promptings of the Holy Ghost."

At the time of our arrival in Florida, each missionary companionship had their individual pagers and my pager received lots of action since there were about 200 missionaries. I always kept my pager tuned to "vibrate" so there was no audible sound. However, I quickly became used to the feeling of the vibration from the pager. Even at night I would leave the pager on the night stand where the vibration from the pager would awaken me. It was several weeks before Sister Munson and I felt that we could take a P-Day. We were about 45 minutes away from the mission home when that familiar vibrating feeling occurred. I reached for my pager only to find that I had failed to attach the pager to my belt! Nevertheless, there was no doubt that the pager was vibrating. I mentioned the feeling to my wife and she knew as I did that one of the missionaries needed to get in touch with his or her mission president. We arrived at the mission home and found that the pager had vibrated off the night stand and on to the floor. A call to the telephone number shown on the pager received an instant answer. The Elder said that he paged me several times and had been praying that I would call because his specific problem could be handled only by his president. There was no doubt in my mind that the Holy Ghost functioned in an unusual but effective manner that day.

The nearest LDS chapel to the mission home was less than five minutes from the mission home. Mostly we attended Sacrament Meetings at one of the four chapels in the immediate area around Tampa. However, at least five times I felt prompted to attend Sacrament Meeting in some far away place as much as 200 miles away. In each instance we were greeted by one of the Elders or Sisters assigned to that ward with the familiar words, "President Munson, I have been praying that you would attend here today!" I would meet privately with that missionary and find that there was some serious situation requiring my immediate attention.

The promptings of the Holy Ghost in making decisions falls somewhere between Knowledge of things as they are and as they are to come. Here are some examples:

Notes from my journal about my call as a stake president: "My appointment to meet with Elder Dalfia Oaks and Elder Albert Ho (the Regional Representative) was at 10:00 AM on Saturday, March 15, 1986. I arrived at the appointed time and was quickly made to feel at ease by Elder Oaks. Eider Oaks explained the purpose of the interview and stated that neither he nor Eller Ho had any preconceived notions about who should be called but they were to determine whom the Lord had selected to receive the call as Stake President"

Elder Spencer W. Kimball and Sister Kimball visited the LDS servicemen in Stephenville, Newfoundland in May 1960. After our conference, Elder Kimball invited us to sit in a circle and give brief testimonies. He then told of his years as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and the meetings with the First Presidency when part of the agenda was to select individuals to fill vacancies. I do not feel at liberty to discuss the selection process he mentioned in detail except to observe that the Prophet would say, "Let us now see whom the Lord has selected to fill this position."

Because I was the stake president of a single student stake, I had many opportunities to interview prospective missionaries and to contact the missionary department concerning the calls. The brother with whom I had frequent contact often bore his testimony (over the phone) about the missionary selection process. He stated that is was not unusual for one of the members of the selection committee to say, "Let's go back again and look at the assignment of Elder or Sister Jones. I don't feel just right about the assignment" Upon another review of the application, others would agree and a change was made in the assignment. I already had a testimony of the missionary selection process before being called as a mission president and could relate that testimony to the individual missionaries who would later tell me that the were disappointed in not being called to a foreign mission.

The gaining of testimonies comes from promptings of the Holy Ghost and probably relates most closely to "Things as they are" whereas actions taken as a result of our testimonies has an impact on "Things as they are to come." Remember that the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit in a form and likeness of man. He can only be in one place at a time but his influence can be in every place at the same time. The power of the Holy Ghost can come upon one before baptism. We as individuals have a physical body and within each of us is an immortal spirit As missionaries teach the gospel their spirit speaks to the spirit of the investigators and the power of the Holy Ghost then speaks to the spirits of the investigators as the convincing witness that the gospel is true. After baptism and the Laying on of Hands, the gift of the Holy Ghost gives the right for the worthy member the companionship of the Holy Ghost. "More powerful than that which is available before baptism, it acts as a cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify him from all sin." (Bible Dictionary page 704.)

I have previously mentioned Elder Kimball's visit to the servicemen's group in Newfoundland in May 1960. On the way from the airport, I mentioned one special black serviceman to Elder Kimball. I told him of my many discussions with that young man who had joined the church while in basic training. Among other things, I hid asked him why he had joined the church when he was unable to receive the priesthood. The young man had responded, "I knew without a doubt that the Church is true and also know that I will someday be able to receive the priesthood." Elder Kimball's response was, "It will probably surprise many of us that the day may come sooner than we expect." Of course that day did come in June 1978 when the announcement was made that "every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with their loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple." (Official Declaration 2)

I think of a young lady in Florida who was convinced by the spirit that the gospel was true. Sister Munson and I were privileged to attend her baptism on an Easter Sunday. She spoke in her own baptismal service and bore witness to the truthfulness of the gospel, her deep feelings as she read and pondered the Book of Mormon, and knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Her mother also attended with a friend but left the service saying, "I am going home to pray for her soul" That special young lady has since filled a full-time mission at Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

A young man who was the son of a Pentecostal Minister had invited his parents to attend his baptism and the baptismal service was delayed while awaiting their arrival After awhile, the telephone rang and his father told the young man that they would not be attending the baptism. Furthermore, his father said that the young man would not be welcome in their home if he went through with the foolish notion to become a Mormon! The young man responded, "I want you to know that I love both of you very much and have tried hard to be an obedient son. However, I know that this is the correct decision and I would not be loyal to God if I am not baptized today." He was then baptized and became an active member of the Church.

When attending the stake conference of the Winter Haven Florida Stake (now Lakeland Florida Stake) we were invited to stay at the home of Brother and Sister Nolan. After the Saturday evening session we visited for awhile before retiring for the night I asked the Nolan's to tell us about their conversion which had occurred almost 20 years before. They both smiled then Sister Nolan started telling us about their eventual baptism. Her story went somewhat like this: "We had been married just a short time and one evening were having a big fight" Brother Nolan interrupted his wife by saying, "Now dear, we were not fighting, just having an argument" Sister Nolan continued, Well anyway, we were really upset with each other and in the midst of the argument the doorbell rang. I answered the doorbell and there were two Mormon Elders at the door. I called to my husband that two Mormon missionaries wanted to visit with us. His response was 'send them away!' I was so mad at him that I invited them in!" Brother Nolan continued, "As those missionaries came into the room, the ill feelings we had for each other just disappeared. We both knew that there was something special about these young men and the message they left with us."

At the time of our visit, Brother Nolan was serving as a counselor in the stake presidency and their son had submitted his papers to serve as a missionary.

My wife and I both have strong convictions about the Law of Tithing. During our tithing settlement in Fairborn, Ohio with Bishop Joseph McPhie, the Bishop made a statement which we have tested many times. He said, "With the Lord on my side and 90 Cents un my pocket, I can accomplish much more than I can with a dollar all by myself." Our conviction was reinforced by the following experience of Elder Brett Sumsion who was one of my assistants and nearing the end of his mission. He and his companion were teaching an exceptional Hispanic family. The family lived in humble circumstances and the father basically worked three jobs to keep beans and rice on the table for his family. It was now time for the fifth discussion which includes the Law of Tithing. Elder Sumsion said he could not see any way that the family could pay tithing and he was tempted to leave any mention of tithing out of the missionary discussion. However, he knew that he had to. The husband had tears in his eyes as the presentation on tithing was made. At the conclusion of the lesson, the father said,"There is no way that we can pay tithing. However, I feel strongly that this is a true commandment from Heavenly Father so we will pay tithing."

My thesis in this talk has been that we can be led by the Power of the Holy Ghost to gain a knowledge of the truth of all things. Hopefully, you have seen the importance of gaining and keeping a strong testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which will help you to endure to the end of your lives.

We should recognize that it is necessary to keep our thoughts and actions clean and pure so that we are able to hear and feel that "still small voice". President Hinckley has reminded us many times of the importance of avoiding pornography. What we read, view or think can easily crowd out any possibilities for whisperings of the Holy Ghost. Likewise, we should only be in places where the Holy Ghost can prompt us. We cannot expect to receive promptings of the Holy Ghost in bars and discos in Honolulu. Also, can you expect to hear the "still small voice" when listening to loud music and particularly when the loud music is accompanied by vulgar lyrics?

My testimony!