Becoming a star witness for the Lord

 

 

Meli Lesuma DevotionalDevotional Talk Given at  
Brigham Young University-Hawaii 

August 10, 2010
Meli Lesuma  
Honor Code Advisor 
BYU-Hawaii

 

Thank you for your attendance here this morning, and I pray that the spirit will be with us so that we may all be edified together from this talk I have titled: Becoming a star witness for the Lord. I know that the title "Special Witness and Especial Witness" are reserved for the apostles and the other general authorities respectively; however, it is proper for each one of us who have joined the church to become a witness for the Lord. We are commanded and admonished to seek and earn this designation which signifies a close and hallowed relationship with Heavenly Father and His son, the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, it is a prerequisite for baptism into His church, as preached by Alma: (Mosiah 18:9.)

(8) "Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life.

In the 43rd chapter of Isaiah. The world scene is viewed as a courtroom drama: The gods of the nations are invited to bring forth their witnesses to prove their claimed cases of righteousness or to hear the witnesses for the Lord and acknowledge the truth. 

(9) Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? Let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth. 

(10) Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am He: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. 

(11) I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no Saviour. 

(12) I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange God among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God."

The prophet Isaiah prophesied that the nations and their Gods will present their witnesses, and then the Lord will call His from among his followers. This court drama has started and is unfolding and we are all involved in a very significant way. As members of the Lord's true kingdom, we made a covenant to become his witnesses. The question I ask myself frequently is, "What kind of a witness will I be in this or that situation?" OR "What kind of a witness does the Lord want me to be?" 

The What, When, How, Where and Why about a witness are fair questions to ask and I hope to discuss them in the time I have this morning. I sincerely hope and pray that we will continue to strengthen our testimonies so that we can become his star witnesses at all times and in all places that we may be in, even until death. In so doing, we gain his trust and those of our fellow men who are seekers of the truth. When this occurs in a person's life, then the blessings of the gospel will come upon him and he will feel the peace that God has promised. His testimony is strengthened, his capacity to improve increases, and he will soon be lighting the way for others to follow. Similar to a never ending water system, the stream will become a mighty river that will develop its own streams and tributaries which overtime will build into others major rivers. 

How Important Is a Witness? 

Witnesses we hear often about are those involved in our courts in criminal or civil cases, and in hearings of different kinds. Some of us have been involved as witnesses for a side in such a trial or hearing. Regardless of the circumstances, the purpose of a witness is to help the person, party or cause for which he or she is there to support. These witnesses give sworn testimonies and are expected to tell the truth, so that the decision or judgment made is based on fact and law, and because one will come out better than the other, there is a competition (sometimes intense, emotional and expensive) by the different sides to win the favor of the judge or jury. Consequently, there is a competition for credible witnesses who will through their testimonies secure victory to their side.  Witnesses can be credible, trustworthy and valuable or they can be unreliable, uncooperative or hostile. 

As a police officer many years ago, I was assigned at one time to investigate serious traffic accidents in the busy Suva area in Fiji. I learned from experience the benefit and value of a credible and competent witness.   

They provide Direct Evidence that the other side finds hard or impossible to challenge. It can stands on its own to prove an alleged fact. Such is the testimony of a witness who says that she or he personally SAW or HEARD or DID something that is relevant or at issue during the trial. When you hear the term "pains-taking" in an investigation, it usually refers to the process of securing these kinds of evidence and testimonies. Then there is the Expert Witness. This is a witness who has knowledge not normally possessed by the average person concerning the topic that he or she is to testify about. For example, an expert who testifies or gives a professional opinion about something related to his or her area of expertise. If they are honest and credible, they can be a "game changer" to borrow a sports term, in a trial or hearing. These competent and expert witnesses are the "stars" because of the great influence they have in scoring legal points to their side.

Let's contrast them with those who weaken, undermine or destroy their side's chance of success.

One of these is the hostile witness. He or she starts as a friend and a team member at first, but later changes position and becomes hostile to the side. As a result they become adverse or unfavorable and consequently are useless to the original side. 

WHY DOES A WITNESS TURN HOSTILE, ADVERSE OR UNFAVORABLE?

1. Fear of rejection or alienation.

2. Not interested, it's a distraction. Not my business.

3. Fear for their safety and security for loved ones and possessions.

4. Bought with money and favors.

How does one participate as a witness in this court drama of life taught by the prophet Isaiah and how is becoming a witness a condition of one's membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?

Jesus taught: "by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love, one to another" (John 13:35)

Speaking to the youth of the church, the First Presidency declared, 

"Service to others is one of the most important characteristics of a disciple of Jesus Christ. A disciple is willing to bear other people's burdens and to comfort those who need comfort. Often Heavenly Father will meet the needs of others through you. When serving, look to the Savior as your example. Although He came to earth as the Son of god, He humbly served those around Him.

There are many ways to serve others. You can serve in your Church assignments and in your home, school, and community. Seek daily the guidance of the Holy Ghost to know whom to sere and how to help meet their needs. Often the most important service is expressed through simple, everyday acts of kindness. As you devote yourself to serving others, you will draw closer to heavenly Father. Your heart will be filled with love. Your capacities will increase, and your life and the lives of those around you will be blessed" (For the Strength of Youth, 38).

President David O. McKay's declaration that "every member a missionary" and the Lord's injunction, "when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren," (Luke 22:32) serve to remind us about our important roles as witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether we are bearing our testimonies through the spoken word or by our actions, we are witnessing the truthfulness of the gospel plan to our fellow man. 

Some Witnesses throughout Church History:

Let's consider the contribution of some of the Lord's Star Witnesses. One who stands out is the boy prophet Joseph Smith. After his Sacred Grove experience, when he saw God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, he proclaimed this testimony and he consistently and faithfully did this at all times, and in all things, and in all places right up till his martyrdom.

"I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

"When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other ”This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" (JS-H 1:16-17). 

"I have actually seen a vision, I know it and I knew that God knew it and I could not deny it. Neither dared I do it" (JS-H 1:25).

President Ezra Taft Benson gave this tribute to the Prophet Joseph for his divinely appointed role in the restoration of the gospel in the latter days, and his credible and unimpeachable testimony.

"God has in very deed revealed Himself from the heavens. He did raise up the boy prophet." 

"Joseph Smith has done more for the salvation of men in this world than any man who ever lived in it, except the Master (see D&C 135:3). He stands at the head of this dispensation ”the greatest gospel dispensation of all time ”and all the world will someday come to realize that he is in very deed a prophet of the Living God" (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 131-32).

We are all indebted to him, his brother Hyrum and others who followed, some of whom live in our midst today. From the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon, the super star witnesses include Abraham, Joseph, Esther, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, Nephi, Alma, King Benjamin, Abinadi, and Moroni, to name some. We are indebted to them for the courage of their convictions. They are the super stars who illuminate our way back to our heavenly home, because of their credible and unflinching testimonies of the Lord and his gospel plan.

Conversely, we have had hostile and unfavorable witnesses which has existed almost as long as the church has been on the earth. Such as Cain in the Old Testament. Like many parents, Adam and Eve hoped their son Cain would follow the Lord as they did. But Cain "hearkened not" to his parents and the Lord and asked, "Who is the Lord that I should know him?" (Moses 5:16) Tragically, Cain did not repent and became a hostile witness forever.

An example many would recall, during the meridian of time, is Judas one of the Lord's disciples. Elder Jeffrey Holland explained: "The most difficult to understand in this group is Judas Iscariot. It is wrenching to think that one of His special witnesses who sat at His feet, heard Him pray, watched Him heal, and felt His touch could betray Him and all that He was, for 30 pieces of silver. Never in the history of this world has so little money purchased so much infamy. We are not the ones to judge Judas's fate, but Jesus said of His betrayer, 'Good [were it] for that man if he had not been born' (None were with Him, Ensign, May 2009). As we are serious about the charge to "be ye therefore perfect" (Matthew 5:48) our testimonies will be directly strengthened and we become a shining light to those around us. 

The Power of Pure Testimony

Speaking about testimony, Elder Ballard teaches that "Personal testimony is the foundation of our faith. It is the binding power that makes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints unique in the lives of its members, as compared with all other religious denominations of the world" (Pure Testimony, Ensign, November 2004).

He added, that "A testimony is a witness or confirmation of eternal truth impressed upon individual hearts and souls through the Holy Ghost, whose primary ministry is to testify of truth, particularly as it relates to the Father and the Son. When one receives a testimony of truth through this divinely appointed process, it immediately begins to have impact on that person's life. According to Alma the Younger, 

..It will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me (Alma 32:28).

Elder Ballard concludes that "A testimony of the reality of Heavenly Father's love, of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and of the effect of His Atonement on every son and daughter of God brings about the desire to repent and live worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. It also brings a confirmation to our soul of the Restoration of the gospel in these latter days. Real testimony of these precious truths comes as a witness by the Holy Ghost after sincere and dedicated effort, including teaching in the home, prayer, scripture study, service to others, and diligent obedience to Heavenly Father's commandments. To gain and forever hold on to a testimony of gospel truths is worth whatever price in spiritual preparation we may be required to pay" (Pure Testimony, Ensign, November 2004).

BYU-Hawaii is the Laboratory and a Dress Rehearsal for our Life's Mission:

I have mixed feelings and emotions this morning which can be broken down to a sense of reverence and trepidation. Trepidation is easy to explain but I need to tell you about the reverence part. You see as someone who has been associated with this place for 27 years, in the different capacities that my wife mentioned in her introduction, I can say without equivocation that  BYU-Hawaii is everything that the leaders have prophesied it would be. For those who are new here, I promise you that if you stay close to the Lord and your leaders, you will also find this out very quickly. 

Let me high-light some of these prophecies beginning with this one uttered by Elder Neal A. Maxwell formerly of the Quorum of the Twelve: "This is a special Institution. [Indeed] tens of thousands in the world who will never set foot on this campus will be blessed and served by the thousands who have been blessed to be here."

"The best lies ahead! There will be even wider radiating effects which pulsate outward from this place as the Lord makes His facilitating moves on the checker board of the nations." ("This is a Special Institution", Profile Magazine, December 1994, 9, 11).

The legendary vision of President David O. McKay for this place was about young people going forth to be an influence for peace worldwide.

President Romney in dedicating the Aloha Center in 1973 said, "Because the student body here is such a marvelous and representative group, this college is a living laboratory in which individuals who share the teachings of the Master Teacher have an opportunity to develop appreciation, tolerance, and esteem for one another. For what can be done here interculturally in a small way is what mankind must do on a larger scale, if we are to ever have real brotherhood on this earth."

As recently as November 2007, during the inauguration of President Wheelwright, President Eyring explained how this will be accomplished when he said; "Success will be an increase of the power of students to improve families, communities, and the world. The power to be such an influence will come from the Atonement of Jesus Christ changing their hearts. That is the way people can feel peace themselves. And that is the way they will gain the power to influence others to choose the path to peace. That is why the study of and the living of the teachings of the Savior will be increasingly at the center, of the education here." (Pres. Eyring -Inauguration of Pres. Wheelwright. Nov. 2008)

Speaking of the atonement, Sister Sheri Dew in her book The Lord Wants a Powerful People, teaches "The Atonement is filled with power, redemptive and enabling, sanctifying, strengthening, healing power." A verse in Mormon's classic discourse on faith, hope and charity teaches us how to draw upon that power. We are to 'pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart,' meaning the kind of energy we expend when we are desperate for help, peace, or solace, that we may be "filled with this love, which he (meaning our Father) hath bestowed (meaning it is a gift) upon all who are true followers of his son, Jesus Christ. (Moroni 7:48)". 

As we link these divine promises and instructions we learn that students of this university will serve and bless tens of thousands.

This is the responsibility that goes with the priesthood and this is what we will be held accountable for when we stand before the throne of God on judgment day. In our day, President John Taylor has said to those who hold the priesthood, "If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those you might have saved, had you done your duty" 

(John Taylor, "Discourse," Deseret News, Aug. 7, 1878, 2).

Elder Hugh B. Brown has likewise said, "if I fail in my assignment as a bishop, a stake president, a mission president, or one of the General Authorities of the Church - If any of us fail to teach, lead, direct, and help to save those under our direction and within our jurisdiction, then the Lord will hold us responsible if they are lost as a result of our failure." (The Abundant Life, by Hugh B. Brown, p.37).

Jacob the younger brother of Nephi and son of Lehi preached a sermon to his people after he was ordained to be a teacher and a priest. This is a powerful example of someone who genuinely cared, and someone who was responsive to the Lord's directions. You will recall in his sermon, that he condemned the sin of pride that was increasing among the Nephites. He also testified to them concerning their wickedness and said that God had commanded him to speak boldly about these things. But there was another reason why he performed this unpleasant task. He did it for the welfare of their souls. That is to say, he did it because he cared about his people, both for their temporal safety and well-being as well as for their spiritual salvation. If they did not repent of their ways, he had been told by God that the Lamanites would be allowed to come and take possession of the land of their inheritance. And in order for that to happen there would be wars, the Nephites would lose, thereby costing them their lives, their liberty, and their prosperity. He also explained that if they didn't repent they would "become angels to the devil, to be cast into that lake of fire and brimstone which is the second death" (Jacob 3:11). So, as unpleasant as it was, Jacob did as the Lord had asked of him because he truly cared about his people. Let's turn our attention to two powerful examples from the Book of Mormon which underscores the role of a powerful witness. You will recall during his address, King Benjamin at one point, when he had just borne witness to the people, that the: 

"The Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come" (Mosiah 4:3).

And that is because the Spirit cannot be restrained when pure testimony of Christ is borne. Thus, King Benjamin's people were so inspired by his testimony that their lives were changed right there, on the spot; and they became as new people.

Remember Abinadi and Alma? Abinadi infuriated wicked King Noah with his courageous testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. Eventually this great missionary offered the ultimate sacrifice for his witness and faith but not before his pure testimony touched one believing heart. Alma, one of King Noah's priests, "repented of his sins", [accepted Jesus as the Christ,] and went about privately among the people, and began to teach the words of Abinadi" (Mosiah 18:1). Many were converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ as a direct result of Abinadi's powerfully borne testimony of the Savior, believed by one soul Alma. This also serves to illustrate that we do this without regard to numbers for every souls is precious to the Lord. The famous Mother Teresa once said, "Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you." To further illustrate this, I share a story from my daughter who served her mission in St. George, Utah. One day she knocked on the door of a Sheldon Abbott who with his companion Elder Boyd Harris were the first missionaries sent to Fiji from the Samoa Mission. There were about 15 members of the church at the time. Now 56 years later, the church has now grown to over 12,000 members with four stakes of Zion, two church schools and a temple of the Lord. The Lord is in charge and this is His work and His glory. 

Although we can have testimonies of many things as members of the Church, there are basic truths we need to constantly teach one another and share with those not of our faith. Testify God is our Father and Jesus is the Christ. The plan of salvation is centered on the Savior's Atonement. Joseph Smith restored the fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Book of Mormon is evidence that our testimony is true.

Miraculous things happen when members join with missionaries and share pure testimony with those who are not members of the Church. For example, while many people were touched by Alma's testimony in the land of Ammonihah, when Amulek stood and added his testimony to Alma's, "the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified" (Alma 10:12). The same thing can happen with us today. As we stand together the Lord will help us find many more of His sheep who will know His voice as we unitedly share our testimonies with them. May we be Star witnesses of the Lord through our pure testimonies and our knowledge of His doctrines and gospel plan. I know that this gospel is true - that Jesus Christ lives and stands at the head of this church today. That President Monson is His prophet. I humbly bear this testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.