That We Might Know

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Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii

January 25, 2001
Elder M. Russell Ballard
Member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I am grateful for this opportunity to be with you. How blessed you are to be attending school at BYU-Hawaii where you have the opportunities you do to obtain an education and to gain understanding of diverse cultures. President Shumway, the faculty, and the staff who work under his direction have a great love for you as do the General Authorities. I bring you greetings from President Hinckley. I don't think there is anyone in this world who wants you to succeed in your studies and your spiritual development more than our Prophet does.

President Hinckley has said we should "cultivate a testimony of the restoration of the gospel. You know this work is true as well as I do. . .but you have to cultivate, you have to nourish, you have to feed your testimony of these things by reading the scriptures, and by being active and faithful in the Church. If you don't have a testimony, go to work to get one. The Lord told us how to do it. He that doeth the will of the Father 'shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or [whether] I speak of myself." (John 7:17) That is as true as anything on earth. It is just that simple. It is a law of God that carries with it a marvelous and remarkable promise." (Meeting in Guam, January 31, 2000)

I count it a great honor to be asked at any time to talk to those who will have responsibility for the leadership of the Church in the not too distant future. If you could have the veil parted for a moment and look at your premortal life with your Heavenly Father, you might be surprised to see the commitments that you made in order to come here and experience mortality. I believe that among you who are here today are those who will serve in bishoprics, on high councils, in stake presidencies, as mission presidents, and there may even be those who will serve as General Authorities.

Looking back when I was your age, if anyone had asked me did I ever think that I would serve as a bishop, a mission president, a Seventy, and as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I would have thought them to be out of their minds. Some of you may think the same, but the Lord has some assignments in mind for you--some callings that He wants you to fulfill that you committed to do before you were ever born. You do not know what they are any more than I did, so live each day striving to keep the commandments of God so you will be worthy and prepared.

Many of you young women will be called to serve in the auxiliaries of the Church. You will become mothers. You will preside with your eternal companion over the most important institution in the whole Church, your own family. It is marvelous to contemplate the many wonderful opportunities that lie ahead of you daughters of God. As I look into the faces of you students and feel your spirit, I want you to know you give me confidence that the future for the Church will be safe and secure. We are proud of you and have great faith that you will live worthy lives and prepare in every way for your lifetime of service to the Lord and to your families.

Nephi had a special quality that made him a powerful young man and later a powerful prophet. That quality is found in one verse of scripture and has application in your own lives: "And it came to pass, that I Nephi being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers." (1 Nephi 2:16)

The key quality that Nephi had was a great desire to know the mysteries of God. When you desire to know, then the mysteries of the kingdom God and the fulness of the gospel begin to unfold to you. God's marvelous plan of happiness becomes more clear, and you will want, as Nephi wanted, to understand and then share gospel truths with others.

In Nephi's case, because he had this righteous desire to know the mysteries of God, he "did cry unto the Lord. And behold the Lord did visit [him]." Now you could read right past these words and not realize that Nephi had his own Sacred Grove experience just as did the Prophet Joseph Smith. Nephi also shared his experience with his family, particularly his brother Sam.

"And I spake unto Sam, making known unto him the things which the Lord had manifested unto me by his Holy Spirit. And it came to pass that he believed in my words." (1 Nephi 2:17)

The Book of Mormon makes it clear that Nephi was a great leader. Without Nephi, Lehi would have had much more difficulty completing his mission. Laman and Lemuel would likely have had their own way. The exodus into the wilderness, the process of building the ship, the travel across the sea, and the establishment of the family here in the America's as well as all of God's purposes in this land would have been frustrated had it not been for Nephi whose great desire to know of the mysteries of God led him to recognize the will of the Lord.

In the next chapter we read Lehi's teaching to Nephi: "And now behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them. But behold, I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord." (1 Nephi 3:5)

As you remember Lehi asked his sons to go back to Jerusalem to get the plates, and Laman and Lemuel began to murmur and to complain. We might ask ourselves, do we ever murmur? "I can't do my home teaching; I've got too much studying to take care of tonight. I don't really have time to prepare a Sunday School lesson because I'm behind on my history report. I am too tired to read the scriptures, etc., etc.

Lehi continues: "Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord because thou hast not murmured." (1 Nephi 3:6) Apparently the Lord does not like murmurers. If you are a murmurer, I suggest you get over it. Learn to know the promptings of the Spirit and to be obedient to the will of the Lord. Be like Nephi: "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

The Prophet Joseph Smith is a great example of obedience to the will of the Lord. He was much like Nephi. He, too had a great desire to know the will of God. He knew that our Father in Heaven loved him, and he also knew that Jesus was the Christ. He knew from his personal study of the Bible that there was one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Because of his desire to know what God wanted him to do, he responded to the teachings of James, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5). His desire led him to the grove to pray, and our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son Jesus Christ visited him. The faithful desire and spiritual obedience of Joseph Smith ushered in the restoration of the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this the last dispensation of time.

Because of the faith and desire of Joseph Smith President Hinckley is able to give us this counsel:

"What a magnificent age in which we live with all that science has done, with all that education has done, with all of the wonderful skills that have been developed among the people; and on top of all of that, . . .we have the restored gospel with all of its keys and authority to move forward this work. I know of no one else so richly blessed in all the history of mankind." (CN Interview, Nov, 2, 1999)

Because of the restoration of the gospel, we live in a time when so many of the teachings of God have been made known when the gifts and blessings of the priesthood and the doctrines of all previous dispensations have been given to us. There never has been a greater time than this to be living on the earth. But we also must never forget that Satan knows our Heavenly Father's plan. He and his fallen followers are active and doing all they can to thwart God's plan and destroy the faith of His children. I need to caution you about some important ways that Satan is carrying on his destructive crusade.

Please be very careful in your choice of entertainment. Far too much that is being shown in theaters , on television, on videos, and over the Internet is insidious, sleazy, and dangerous. Do not ever watch the filth of pornography which is a powerful tool of the devil designed to destroy spiritual sensitivity and kill the desire to know the will and the teachings of the Lord. Strive always for those things that are "virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy" (13th Article of Faith). The prophet Mormon taught that "whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God . . . is of the devil" (Moroni 7:17).

Now, I'm aware there may be a few of you who think that you know better than the leaders of the Church about this subject. You may even argue that there is artistic merit or that "everyone is doing it." You may believe that you are not one of those people who will be influenced by on screen sex or violence. To you I have only one question: are you going to follow the true and living prophets or not? It really isn't any more complicated than that. The standard of the Church with regards to morality is clear. If you choose to read anything that contains material that is contrary to the moral standards of the Church, then you are placing yourself and your own wisdom above the counsel of God and His prophets -- a course of action that would indeed be very unwise. As soon as you begin to think that you know better than the leaders of the Church, that our counsel doesn't apply to you, you are stepping onto a slippery slope that has claimed far too many victims already. It takes real desire and unequivocal, unreserved faith to accept and to live prophetic counsel even when you may not completely understand it. Such sincere desire and simple faith has the power to guide you safely through every challenge you may face in your life.

Of course, Lucifer doesn't want us to feel or exhibit this kind of faith, and so he influences us to rationalize and justify our lack of obedience. He plants defiance in our hearts, convincing us that it is possible to live the spirit of the law even if we are not keeping the commandments. Satan can even cause some to believe that the prophets and apostles are blinded in our faith. But we must never ever forget this about Lucifer: he is a liar. He is the father of all lies, and has been from the beginning. He was cast out of Heavenly Father's pre-existent Kingdom because of his disobedience; and now he has one goal, one great cause and commitment to destroy our desire and faith. That has never changed from the time of the war in heaven. His sole purpose is to make you and me as miserable as he is, and the best way for him to accomplish that is to entice us into disobedience and sin. Although there are all kinds of misery in this world, the only kind that is eternal is the misery of the eternal soul. And that kind of misery is centered in sin and transgression. Be careful then, and stay away from pornography. Stay morally clean in mind and body. In your personal lives and in your association with each other, do not compromise God's standards of chastity.

When we are not doing what we know we ought to be doing and when we are not living the way we know we ought to live, we have a tendency to be unhappy. And make no mistake about it, we know when we are not doing what we ought to do because every one of us here has a conscience. We are born with the spirit of Christ, and we know instinctively what is right and what is wrong when it comes to our personal behavior. It offends that spirit when we allow ourselves to be manipulated by aesthetic propaganda in behalf of Satan's lies. Lehi pled with his sons and taught them this principle in these words:

"And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

" Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

" And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit." (2 Nephi 2:26-28)

Consider the following words from the Apostle Paul in connection with much of what we see and hear in our world today:

"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

"For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

"Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

"Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

"Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

"For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts.

"Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:1-7).

In Shakespeare's time, he was limited generally to the Globe Theater, but we now have a global theater. As our opportunities widen with modern satellites, computers, fiber optics, and the Internet, the doors to the world are literally opened wide. Upon your shoulders will soon rest the responsibility to teach the world that God's way is the only way to find peace, joy, and happiness.

You keep your eyes riveted on the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. We will not lead you astray. We cannot. Let me tell you why. Every week that I am in town, I attend a meeting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve on the fourth floor of the Salt Lake Temple. If you could see the prayerful consideration and discussion that each decision receives, you would have confidence and comfort that the will of the Lord is being fulfilled by the leaders of the Church. So keep your eyes riveted on the leadership of the Church. While individuals may falter, the leadership of the Church will remain steadfast and true. If someone tells you that they have received revelation that the First Presidency and the Twelve have not received, run away from them.n

One of my missionaries came to me some time ago. He was a fine missionary. I asked him, "Elder, how can I help you?"

"President," he said, "I think I'm losing my testimony."

I couldn't believe it. I asked him how that could be possible.

"For the first time I have read some anti-Mormon literature," he said. "I have some questions, and nobody will answer them for me. I am confused, and I think I am losing my testimony." He said he had counseled with his bishop and his stake president. They had simply told him not to read any more such literature and to forget it. But he was still very confused.

I asked him what his questions were, and he told me. Leaders should answer questions, so I said to him that I would provide answers to all of his questions. I set an appointment in10 days for him to return to receive an answer to every one of his questions. As he was about to leave, the Spirit prompted me to say: "Elder, you've asked me several questions here today." "Now I have one for you."

"Yes, President?"

"How long has it been since you read from the Book of Mormon?"

His eyes dropped. He looked at the floor for a while. Then he looked at me. "It's been a long time, President," he confessed.

"All right," I said. "You have given me my assignment. It's only fair that I give you yours. I want you to promise me that you will read in the Book of Mormon for at least one hour every day between now and our next appointment." He agreed that he would do that.

Ten days later he returned to my office, and I was ready. I pulled out my papers to start answering his questions, but he stopped me.

"President," he said, "that isn't going to be necessary." Then, with tears in his eyes, he explained, "I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know Joseph Smith is a prophet of God."

I said, "That's wonderful news, Elder, but you're going to get answers to your questions anyway. I worked a long time on this, so you just sit here and listen."

And so I answered all of those questions, and then asked "Elder, what have you learned from this?"

And he said, "Give the Lord equal time."

Now, brothers and sisters, fill your minds and your hearts with a desire to know the gospel and then see that you GIVE THE LORD EQUAL TIME. Give to Him His fair share of your thoughts, your time, and your attention. I know that you are all very busy with school and work and social activities. This is a critical time in your lives, when you are establishing a foundation for your families and your careers. There are many demands for your attention, and your time is limited by a wide variety of constraints. But as you learn to manage your time, be sure that you give the Lord His portion. Establish a time and place to study the scriptures on a daily basis, even if it's only for a few minutes. Pray daily, and keep a prayer in your heart always. Serve faithfully in whatever call is extended, including home and visiting teaching. Those of you who are beginning your families, start now--even when your children are infants--to hold weekly, meaningful Family Home Evenings where gospel lessons are taught and pleasant family activities are shared. In the great scheme of things, these simple things take so little time. But the long term benefits to you and to your families are infinite and eternal, and they will do much to prepare you and your children for the steadily increasing challenges of the future.

And that's really what we're talking about this morning. These are the last days. As has been foretold by God's holy prophets since the world began, they are challenging times; and they are going to become even more challenging. So wherein is our safety? Where is our peace? Where is our joy? Where is our inner security?

My testimony to you is that the safety, peace, joy and security we seek are found only in accepting and sincerely believing in the life and mission of Jesus Christ, the Son of Almighty God. As we embrace His teachings, we give up all of our sins, we repent, we do all that is in our power to do to come unto Him in a true spirit of discipleship, knowing perfectly well that it is through His grace that we are saved, even after all that we can do. And as we give ourselves to Christ, fully and completely, we find safety, peace, joy and security in Him.

Does that mean we will not have turmoil or personal problems or sickness or family challenges or employment difficulties? Does it mean you will not struggle to find and marry the right person for now and eternity? Not at all. But it does mean that if our faith is anchored securely in our testimonies of Christ, we will be able to cope with whatever challenge or adversity comes our way; and we will be able to do so in a positive, faith promoting manner. If we keep our lives focused on Christ, we will gain a broader view, an eternal perspective. With that we can understand adversity and what is the right thing for us to do, including whom we should marry, from within the context of Heavenly Father's eternal plan for all of His children. And we can find comfort in this life in the eternal safety, peace, joy and security that He promises.

That's the blessed assurance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is His Church, the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth. You stay anchored to it. Don't you let any voice or any wind of doctrine or any so-called secret revelation or any special information that "the Brethren don't understand" lead you away from what you know to be true. Our safety, brothers and sisters, our peace--our inner-peace--the peace that we all seek, lies in striving to live as the Savior would want us to live, and in knowing within our hearts and minds that we are doing the best we can to try to keep His commandments.

Remember Nephi of old. His desire never failed. Consequently, he met every test and left all of us an example to follow. Of course, such discipleship comes at a price. It isn't always easy to follow Christ. There are sacrifices that need to be made by all who seek to follow the Savior, and sometimes those sacrifices are quite painful. To be called by God to serve Him in any capacity is the greatest honor a person can have, and we all do it willingly and with all our hearts because we love our Heavenly Father and we love His Only Begotten Son. Let us accept Their teachings, strive to understand them, strive to put sin out of our lives through repentance and to honor Them through our own righteous living. Let us increase our desire to follow the inspired leadership of the Church which includes the inspired leadership of your wards and stakes and of this university.