Feast Upon the Words of Christ

----------------------

J. Alan WalkerDevotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii

January 26, 2006
J. Alan Walker
Sales Director of Polynesian Cultural Center

When I received this assignment to speak to you today, I pondered and prayed asking the Lord to reveal to me what he would have me share with you. His answer came to me through the sweet whisperings of the Spirit. I was instructed to "speak to you about feasting upon the words of Christ."

I assume that most of us have heard that it is important to daily feast upon the words of Christ. Some will wonder, "Why?" First, let me say this. Feasting upon the words of Christ is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. To truly understand why the Lord asks us to feast upon the words of Christ, I believe that we must first see the bigger picture. It is then that we will really come to understand its true significance. "Seeing the bigger picture," means that we must look at something from a larger perspective. In this case, that perspective is our purpose in life. When we see our existence through this larger purpose, picture, or vision, we can separate the unimportant from the important. With the bigger picture of eternity in our mind, we will come to see that the daily act of feasting upon the words of Christ is essential in order to reach our potential and achieve our eternal purpose.

So, what is our purpose in life? In his October 2005 General Conference address, Elder Russell M. Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve stated that, "what matters most is what lasts longest." Well, I would like to ask you, what lasts the longest? Think about that for a minute. I cannot think of anything that lasts longer than eternal life and eternal families. Most everything else will have an end, but eternal life and eternal families can continue forever. I believe this is what matters most, and I know that the words of Christ lead to it. To put this purpose in perspective, please allow me to briefly review the plan of happiness with you.

As you know, we are all literal spirit children of a loving Father in heaven. We lived with him as spirits in the premortal existence and we loved being with our Father. Our Father is perfect in every way. Even his happiness is perfect. We longed to be like him. Though we loved being with him in our premortal state, we understood that to progress and to attain perfect happiness, like our Father, we would need to be separated from him, receive a physical body, and prove ourselves.

Our Father held a grand council in the preexistence. You and I were all there, though we no longer remember. At this council a great and wonderful plan was introduced. Our Father would provide a way for us to become like him. Upon hearing the plan, we shouted for joy! Father explained that it would not be easy and that many would fail, but he assured us that he would make available a way for us to succeed. Father would help us, and to make it all possible, he provided a Savior to help us overcome two obstacles of mortal life that we could not overcome on our own, even death and sin. Our eldest spirit brother, Jesus Christ, willingly volunteered to fulfill this role. One-third of our brothers and sisters rejected this plan to follow Satan, but we accepted the Father's plan and have been given the opportunity to come to this Earth, receive a physical body, and start an eternal family. If we succeed, we will receive the fullness of the Father, we will become like him, we will receive eternal life, which is the life that our Father enjoys, and this includes having a family that will be perpetuated through eternity. This is perfect happiness. It is for the pursuit of this happiness that we came here. That's what matters most, and that is what our life on this earth is all about.

Now, here is the problem. Remember Satan and the one-third of our brothers and sisters who rejected the plan? Well, because these rebelled, they were cast out to this earth and cannot have joy. They are continuously miserable. They have become purely evil spirits and their only desire and purpose is to make us miserable. Well, Satan and his evil followers have been allowed to attempt to stop us from succeeding in our purpose. They are very clever and very real. Over thousands of years of practice, Satan has found that he can often thwart our progress by confusing us about what really matters. Satan has found that when he disguises the things of this earth as the things of happiness he can have great success in leading many down forbidden paths that lead to misery not happiness. This is the great lie. The beloved apostle, Elder Neil A. Maxwell, described this well when he said:

"How relentlessly the adversary seeks to grind mortals down to a single plane, knowing, as he does, that if mortals can be confined to now, then it is easy to declare present appetite, instead of Jesus, as king."

It is essential, therefore, that we frequently review the plan and continually remember it to be successful in achieving the purpose of mortality. Why? Because it helps us keep proper perspective. When we know and remember who we are and why we are here, we are more likely to place our focus on things of eternity versus the temporal pleasures of this Earth. It will help us see the devil's lies for what they are. It is that perspective that we must have to successfully qualify for and receive all of the ordinances of salvation and exaltation, and it is that perspective that will help us to keep the associated covenants and endure to the end, thus qualifying for eternal life and an eternal family.

However, we must first, come to know for ourselves that the plan of happiness is true.

So, how do we come to know of the truth for ourselves, and how do we constantly remember who we are, why we are here, and where we want to go? How do we separate the truth from the lies? How do we do it?

Thankfully, our Father and Savior are far more powerful than the adversary. They have provided us with some tools to secure knowledge of the truth for ourselves and tools to help us continually remember who we are so that we can endure to the end. These tools, or rather, means to our desired end and purpose, are many, but few are as important as the words of Christ.

Harold B. Lee warned:

"Unless every member of this Church gains for himself an unshakeable testimony of the divinity of this Church, he will be among those who will be deceived in this day when the 'elect according to the covenant' are going to be tried and tested. Only those will survive who have gained for themselves that testimony" (HAROLD B. LEE in CR, Oct. 1950, p.129.).

Where do we get that testimony? Joseph Smith stated:

"Search the scriptures—search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another" (JOSEPH SMITH, TPJS, p. 11.).

As the prophet Joseph testified, that testimony will best come by feasting upon the words of Christ.

I have experienced this for myself. As Brother Roberts said, I attribute much of my testimony to my experiences with the words of Christ here at BYU Hawaii. It was here, while a student at BYU Hawaii, that I received my witness that Jesus is the Christ, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that our Father in Heaven call prophets to lead this Church today. For me, this campus is truly hallowed ground. If I may, I would like to share with you a little of the story behind how I gained my personal spiritual witness through the process of feasting upon the words of Christ.

I was raised in the Church with weekly Family Home Evenings, daily family prayer, and so on. Like most young members of the Church, my testimony of the Gospel was initially completely dependent on the testimony of my parents and my leaders. I guess I can say that deep down inside, I knew that what they believed in was true because everything they believed in taught me to do good. Nonetheless, I did not have a firm personal testimony of the Gospel. My testimony was that of others, not of my own.

Following my graduation from high school, I began to attend BYU Hawaii. As I entered my second or third semester at BYU Hawaii, the reality that I was quickly approaching 19 years of age began to weigh heavily on my mind. I knew that worthy male priesthood holders normally begin their two-year mission service at that age. I had a decision to make, and I knew that I needed to know for myself that this Gospel was true in order to dedicate two-years of my life to the cause. Well, it just so happened that at that time, I was taking a course on the New Testament. My professor was a wonderful teacher by the name of Dr. Thornock. He used great skill in opening our understanding of the words of Paul and the other Apostles and leaders whose words grace the pages of the New Testament. I had done my part and had been studying the assigned scripture readings for the class. When we reached the book of James, Dr. Thornock emphasized the scripture James 1:5. He reminded us that this was the scripture that left a powerful impression on the Prophet Joseph Smith. This was the scripture that inspired the Prophet to seek an answer from God pertaining to which Church was true. It left an impact on me also. That same night when I was preparing to go to bed, I got an idea. I thought something along the line of "well, I have been studying the scriptures I have been assigned to read. . . . Maybe if I ask if these are true or not I will receive an answer too." So, as I knelt beside my bed and began my evening prayers I asked my Heavenly Father if what I had been studying was His truth. I did not know what to expect. To be honest with you, my expectations were rather low. It was not that I did not have faith in the Lord's ability to answer prayers, but rather that I questioned whether I had really done enough to qualify for an answer. However, upon asking the Lord that question, I began to feel something. As I knelt at the side of my bed the feeling began to envelope my entire. The feeling was so strong that I knew immediately it was not a creation of my mind. This feeling, this force, this impression, it was from God! I do not have the words to describe it. You may have experienced something similar and understand. The best description I can put in words is to say that it was a feeling of overwhelming power, a feeling of love, and it seemed to touch every part of my being. It was also an uplifting and edifying feeling. It made me want to shout for joy. Incredibly, it was familiar feeling. Somehow, I knew it was not the first time I had felt it. However, I could not remember ever experiencing such an impression so powerful in my entire life. But, it was so familiar. I can only ascertain that it was something I had experienced often in the preexistence. I knew it was from God, and I knew it was an answer to my prayer. I had received a powerful witness of the truthfulness of the New Testament. The Holy Ghost had spoken to my soul. I knew for the first time in this life with a surety that God lives! I knew that Jesus was the Christ because God had answered me through His Spirit. He had confirmed that the New Testament was His Word, and that book testifies over and over that Jesus is the Christ.

I ask you "Was my testimony complete?" To that my answer is no. I knew that God lived and that Jesus was the Christ, but at that point in time, I did not have a confirmation concerning the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. As a result, I made it my aim to gain that testimony. Over a period of approximately three-months, I carefully read the Book of Mormon until I completed the entire text. During that journey I had many experiences with the Spirit, but due to my lack of keen spiritual sense, I was unable to recognize that what I was feeling at that time was indeed the Spirit. However, as I concluded the Book of Mormon, I followed the familiar direction in the promise written by the prophet Moroni. Once again, I knelt beside my bed and in my evening prayer I asked God if the Book of Mormon was true. I received an answer to that prayer. It was almost identical to the experience I had a few months earlier with the New Testament. As a result, I came to know that the Book of Mormon was also His truth, and I knew that Joseph Smith had to be a true prophet of God because this scripture came to us through him.

Well, since then, I have felt the Spirit on many occasions, but these two experiences were very special and very sacred to me. The Spirit truly confirmed to my entire being that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that the Book of Mormon and Bible are the Word of God, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is His Church, and that we have a true and living prophet who leads this Church this day. I know this. I really know it to be true.

Now please understand that the way the Spirit has or will confirm the truth to you may be different than the way the Spirit witnessed the truth to me. We are all individuals. We are not the same. The Lord knows that and He answers our prayers in the most appropriate way for each of us as individuals. I sometimes wonder why the Lord blessed me with these powerful witnesses. I think I know why. I believe that He knows how stubborn I am. He knew that I needed to be hit over the head with what I like to term as a spiritual "two-by-four" in order to really be convinced of the truth. Others, probably many of you, are more in tune with the Spirit. They do not require a powerful witness like the one I required. The important thing is that we remember that the Lord will provide a witness to each of us if we really seek it out, and the key to seeking it lies in feasting upon the words of Christ.

The words of Christ were a key to my conversion, and I can attest that it is also a key to retaining a brightness of testimony. Without sustenance, our testimonies will dwindle and our memories of the witnesses can fade. If not sustained, our testimonies can weaken to a point where we question the witness received. I believe that continual feasting upon the words of Christ will not only help us maintain a bright testimony, but continue to strengthen that testimony.

Now, there is a scripture in the Book of Mormon that made me think differently. Do you remember the story of the people of King Benjamin? They were the people that experienced a mighty change of heart after receiving a spiritual witness that the words of Christ that King Benjamin taught them were true.

Mosiah 5:2: "And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou has spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually."

The conclusion of that verse of scripture used to bother me. Why? Because I had experienced a change of heart, but I still found myself susceptible to temptation, and even occasionally succumbing to it. No major sin, but sin nonetheless. I would think to myself, "What is wrong with me?" "How come I do not have a disposition to do good continually?" "Why can I not be like the people of King Benjamin?" After all, it appeared that they overcame evil through that spiritual witness. Then, one day, I came across some words penned by a well-known LDS writer named Stephen Robinson. Brother Robinson wrote about the people of King Benjamin and their change of heart. This is what he wrote:

"At that moment, filled with the Spirit and clearly seeing the two paths before them, the people of Benjamin lost all desire to follow the path of evil. I feel the same way when I feel the Spirit, but I do not always feel the Spirit...Therefore, we must recharge our spiritual batteries regularly...being truly converted does not end the tests of mortality, for we will continue to be tested and tempted as long as we are in the flesh." (Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News, pp. 41-43).

When I came across these words I felt the warmth of the Spirit confirm to me that this statement was a precept of truth. I nearly shouted for joy! I'm glad I didn't because I probably would have scared the neighbors around me. This commentary opened my eyes. I realized something very crucial. When we feel the Spirit; we have no desire to do evil. Think about that? Think about when you feel the Spirit. When you have the Spirit do you have any desire to do evil? I say to you that evil thoughts or desires cannot exist when we feel the Spirit. If this is true, and I know that it is, a key in enduring to the end is to have the spirit with us continually. When we have the Spirit, we will desire to do good continually. We will stay on the correct course. We will remember better who we are, and we will not be deceived by the fiery darts of the adversary.

That brings me to my next point. What can we do to have the Spirit with us as much as possible?

President Ezra Taft Benson said:

"Satan is waging a war against the members of the Church who have testimonies and are trying to keep the commandments..."

He went on to say, "In his dream, Lehi saw an iron rod which led through the mist of darkness. He saw that if people would hold fast to that rod, they could avoid the rivers of filthiness, stay away from the forbidden paths, and stop from wandering in the strange roads that lead to destruction. Later his son Nephi clearly explained the symbolism of the iron rod. When Laman and Lemuel asked, "What meaneth the rod of iron?" Nephi answered, "It is the word of God; and [note this promise] whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction." (1 Ne. 15:23-24). Not only will the word of God lead us to the fruit which is desirable above all others, but in the word of God and through it we can find the power to resist temptation, the power to thwart the work of Satan and his emissaries..."

President Benson continued:

"My dear brethren, this is an answer to the great challenge of our time. The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life" (The Power of the Word," Ensign, May 1986, 79-80).

Did you just hear what President Ezra Taft Benson was saying? Can you see why the words of Christ are so crucial to our purpose? President Benson stated that the words of Christ "have the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life." It is a key to having the Spirit with us continually. The words of Christ are a powerful means to our desired end. These words, when feasted upon daily, help us feel the spirit and maintain necessary perspective. These words thwart the effort of the adversary. Satan cannot fool us when we are continually reminded of our true purpose and when we continuously feel the Spirit.

Now, I want to speak about the words of Christ that are found from a source other than the scriptures and words of the prophets. These words of Christ are very essential to our success in enduring to the end, but are not as well understood.

When I served as a full-time missionary in the Japan Nagoya Mission, my mission president was inspired to ask all of the missionaries to memorize and then recite each morning two sets of scripture. One of those was found in the Book of Mormon. That scripture is 2 Nephi 32:3. It goes like this:

"Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do."

As I pondered over the meaning of this scripture, two things come into my mind. First, the use of the verb "feast." I love that expression. Nephi did not ask us to just read or listen to the words of Christ. He asked us to feast upon them. What does that mean to you? To me, this implies that the words of Christ are spiritual nourishment. We are asked not just to partake or eat of that nourishment, but to feast upon it. Again, to me, that means to enjoy, to really absorb, to consume, or to devour. When Nephi asks us to feast upon the words of Christ, I think he is asking us to read, ponder, and make them a part of who we are. In other words, Nephi is asking us to become very familiar with the words of Christ and then live them. And, as physical food and nourishment are required by the body daily, I believe that his comparing the word of God to nourishment implies that we must partake of this spiritual nourishment just as frequently as physical nourishment; daily. Second, when we do this, not only will we better remember who we are and why we are here, but we have the promise that the words of Christ will show us all things that we must do. Now, we can hear the words of Christ as spoken by the prophets of the Lord and other general and local leaders of the Church as they are moved upon by the Spirit. Their words are for the entire Church and they give us great direction. I also know that the words of Christ we find in the scriptures will often give us personal direction. I am sure many of you have heard of stories of people who have a problem and when they randomly open the scriptures the first verse they read has the answer. I do not doubt this. I know that the Lord can work this way, but I have found that the words of Christ are available on an even more personal level for each of us. These words, I have found, are directed specifically to us and can show us all things that we must do. These words that I speak of are those spoken in the beginning of 2 Nephi 32:3 where it says:

"Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore they speak the words of Christ."

I realized the significance of this portion of this verse while studying a book of Latter-Day Saint commentary on the Book of Mormon. I was in flight from Honolulu to Japan on a business trip for the Polynesian Cultural Center. As I studied this commentary, I came across the following words of Gordon B. Hinckley, our current prophet and president of the Church. President Hinckley said this:

"We need the Spirit of the Lord in our lives more...But there is hardly time to reflect and think and pause and meditate. I daresay that most of those in this room today have not taken an hour in the last year to just sit down quietly, each man to himself, as a Son of God, reflecting upon his place in this world, upon his destiny, upon his capacity to do good, upon his mission to make some changes for good. We need to." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997], 334)

As I read these words, the Spirit enveloped me and I saw something I had previously not detected in 2 Nephi 32:3. When Nephi said that angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, he did not just mean angels alone. Nephi was referring to words spoken by the power of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, when we have the spirit and the Holy Ghost whispers direction and inspiration to us as individuals, these words of direction are the words of Christ to us as individuals. That precept was confirmed in the previous quote from President Ezra Taft Benson. Remember that he had said that:

"The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit..."
Personal revelation is also classified as the words of Christ to us as individuals! Indeed, later in 2 Nephi 32:5, Nephi tells us that if we are baptized and "receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do." Are these not the words of Christ to us as individuals in the form of personal revelation? I believe that is exactly what they are.

What I have also found is that the answers that come to us as the words of Christ are often the words that come via the Spirit as personal revelation to us as we read, ponder, and meditate. To me, these words are the most sweet of all the words of Christ. Why? Because these words of Christ are from my Father to me. They are very personal and they have everything do with what I should do in my life and in my stewardship. These words of Christ are most precious.

When President Packer spoke here at the graduation ceremonies in December, he focused on the need for personal revelation.

You will remember that President Packer said:

"You won't survive spiritually, unless you know how to receive revelation."

It is essential that we not only feast upon the words of Christ found in the scriptures and in the words of our Church leaders, but that we seek out and feast upon the words of Christ that come to us as personal revelation. But, what can we do to secure the words of Christ spoken of by Nephi of Old, and President Packer today, or in other words, personal revelation?

President Packer provided a few clues on how to secure personal revelation when he counseled the December graduates:

"It's a noisy world, and you're going to have to learn first...that revelation comes in the quiet times. It will come when the Lord can speak to our feelings."

"Go quietly into the world. Go quietly about your affairs," he continued, "and learn that in the still, small hours of the morning the Lord will speak to you. He will never fail to answer your prayers."

There is great truth in this. When I was called to serve as stake president of the Waipahu Hawaii Stake, Elder Stucki of the Quorum of the Seventy counseled me to keep a notepad and pencil by my bed side. He taught me that the Lord will often reveal things in the early hours of the morning, and that it was important to write down the thoughts he gave through his spirit as these can be very fleeting in form. I have found that to be true. However, there is more to receiving personal revelation then just placing a notepad and pencil by your bedside.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie asked:

"Would you like a formula to tell you how to get personal revelation? It might be written like this: (1) Search the scriptures. (2) Keep the commandments. (3) Ask in faith. Any person who will do this will get his heart so in tune with the Infinite that there will come into his being, from the 'still small voice,' the eternal realities of religion." (BRUCE R. McCONKIE, BYUSY, 1966, p.8.)

What a fabulous promise! Did you notice that his formula began with searching the scriptures! As I think about it, I realize that it is often when I am feasting upon the words of Christ that I experience a quiet time, and it is then that revelation and inspiration will often flow! We cannot ignore obedience to the commandments, nor the request of faith via prayer, but I can think of no other action that will best bring the spirit of revelation than that of studying the scriptures or as we say "feast upon the words of Christ."

I want that light. Not just so I can fulfill my church calling or church responsibility, but also so that I can know what I need to do as a husband and a father. That comes via revelation. That revelation comes when we do those things that bring the Spirit. Again, I can think of no greater action to bring this about than to study the scriptures. President Hinckley stated:

"Read the word of the Lord...I promise you that if you will read the words of that writing which we call scripture, there will come into your heart and understanding and a warmth that will be pleasing to the experience...Let the Lord speak for himself to you, and his words will come with a quiet conviction..." (GORDON B. HINCKLEY, Be Thou and Example, p. 83.)

I firmly believe that this promise is personal revelation and that it best comes through first, being worthy, second, the study of the scripture, and third, via prayer and taking time out for meditation or quiet time. If we will create the proper environment, we can help facilitate personal revelation. Elder Bruce R. McConkie confirmed this when he said:

"Those who study, ponder, and pray about the scriptures, seeking to understand their deep and hidden meanings, receive from time to time great outpourings of light and knowledge from the Holy Spirit...However talented men may be in administrative matters, however eloquent they may be in expressing their views, however learned they may be in worldly things--they will be denied the sweet whisperings of the Spirit that might have been theirs unless they pay the price of studying, pondering, and praying about the scriptures. (Bruce R. McConkie, Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, p. 238)

I would like to suggest three steps to first secure that change of heart and gain a burning testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel:

1) Desire to know
2) Study and ponder the Book of Mormon
3) Pray with a sincere heart and real intent

I would like to suggest three steps for maintaining that testimony through the act of feasting upon the words of Christ. This will help us remember our purpose and will be the means through which the Lord will show to us the things that we must do:

1) Feast upon the words of Christ spoken by our leaders as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. You have access to this at Church and in General Conference
2) Study the scriptures and feast upon the words of Christ therein
3) Seek personal revelation through quiet times of meditation, scripture study, temple attendance, and personal prayer. Then feast upon these words of Christ

The words of Christ are a key to securing a testimony. They are a key to maintaining that testimony and remembering the bigger picture and focus on things that matter most. The words of Christ are a key to receiving guidance in all things that we must do to secure for ourselves and our families the things that last the longest; eternal life and eternal families. It is my prayer that we all continue in our feast upon the words of Christ.

In conclusion I would like to leave with you my testimony. It is my prayer that as I do so, that the words I speak will be carried by the power of the Holy Ghost into your heart so that these words will be to you what they are to me, even the words of Christ.

  1. I know that there is a God, and he is our Father
  2. I know that Jesus is the Christ; he is our Savior and Redeemer. He has conquered death and sin, and he lives!
  3. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. It contains the words of Christ. It is the key to our knowledge of the truth
  4. I know that Joseph Smith is a true prophet. He is the prophet of the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. Our Father and our Savior did appear to him, and through him the fullness of the Gospel was restored in this the latter-days
  5. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true and living Church upon the face of the Earth. It contains all of the principles, commandments, ordinances, and covenants, of the Gospel necessary for salvation and exaltation
  6. I know that Gordon B. Hinckley is a true prophet of God. The Lord is at the helm of this Church, and President Hinckley is his mouth piece

I know that this is true. I know it for myself because I have received a personal witness of the truthfulness of these things by feasting upon the words of Christ.
In the name of him whose words we rely on, even Jesus Christ, Amen.