Talk Jan 1st 2006
Subject Defining the Gospel
Sources: Brigham Young: Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Lesson #2
May 2005 BYU Speech "Quick To Observe" Elder Bednar
This Gospel is about truth. We live in a day when Satan and his servants are doing all in their power to obscure the truth. We see it in all the news programs when “both sides are presented”. We see the doctrine of relativism everywhere. The truth has become basically whatever ones opinion is, never mind any facts to the contrary. Brigham Young defined the Gospel in part as the truth in any field. "We embrace every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. Our doctrine includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is the fulness of all things. He also said: It is our duty and calling, to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with the Universalists, or the Church of Rome, or the Methodists, the Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Quakers, the Shakers, or any other of the various and numerous different sects and parties, all of whom have more or less truth, it is the business of the Elders of this Church to gather up all the truths in the world pertaining to life and salvation, to the Gospel we preach, … to the sciences, and to philosophy, wherever it may be found in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and bring it to Zion. God has revealed all the truth that is now in the possession of the world, whether it be scientific or religious. The whole world are under obligation to him for what they know and enjoy; they are indebted to him for it all."
Are we willing to receive truth? Will we tolerate sound doctrine? Or do we have itching ears, trying to find our own facts to support our own version of the truth. Do we seek truth? Do we believe truth when it is presented to us? Do we live by the truths we know now, so we will be ready for more light and truth when God reveals it to us? Brigham Young said:
"Be willing to receive the truth, let it come from whom it may;. Just as soon receive the Gospel from Joseph Smith as from Peter, who lived in the days of Jesus. Receive it from one man as soon as another. If God has called an individual and sent him to preach the Gospel that is enough for me to know; it is no matter who it is, all I want is to know the truth. Truth will abide when error passes away. Life will remain when they who have rejected the words of eternal life are swallowed up in death. I like the truth because it is true, because it is lovely and delightful. I delight in this, because truth is calculated to sustain itself; it is based upon eternal facts and will endure, while all else will, sooner or later, perish."
So in this day of murkiness how are we to know the truth when we find it? Did God plan for this twist in our lives? He did and Brigham Young says this about knowing the truth when we see it. Every individual that lives according to the laws that the Lord has given to his people, and has received the blessings that he has in store for the faithful, should be able to know the things of God from the things which are not of God, the light from the darkness, that which comes from heaven and that which comes from somewhere else. This is known as DISCERNMENT.
In May 2005 New Apostle Elder Bednar gave a talk called “Quick to Observe”. In it he made some very good points about being quick to observe, which is an important element of the gift of discernment: He refers to Mormon 1:1-
"And now I, Mormon, make a record of the things which I have both seen and heard, and call it the Book of Mormon."
"And about the time that Ammaron hid up the records unto the Lord, he came unto me, (I being about ten years of age . . . ) and
"Ammaron said unto me: I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe; therefore, when ye are about twenty and four years old I would that ye should remember the things that ye have observed concerning this people. And behold, ye shall . . . engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people. And I, Mormon … remembered the things which Ammaron commanded me. "
"Please note that the root word observe is used three times in these verses. And Mormon, even in his youth, is described as being “quick to observe” (Mormon 1:2). Your future success and happiness will in large measure be determined by this spiritual capacity. Please consider the significance of this important spiritual gift. He speaks of two definitions of the word observe: As used in the scriptures, the word “observe” has two primary uses. One use denotes “to look” or “to see” or “to notice”—as we learn in Isaiah 42:20: “Seeing many things, but thou not; opening the ears, but he heareth not.” The second use of the word suggests “to obey” or “to keep”—as is evident in the Doctrine and Covenants: “But blessed are they who have kept the covenant and the commandment, for they shall obtain mercy” (D&C 54:6). Thus when we are quick to observe, we promptly look or notice and obey. Both of these fundamental elements—looking and obeying—are essential to being quick to observe. And the prophet Mormon is an impressive example of this gift in action."
What is the significance of this gift in our world today? Does our obedience to the whisperings of the Spirit have the capacity to affect our lives? The Holy Ghost is a still small voice. It does not shout at us or whack us with a 2X4. Elder Bednar tells us that it is a gift for us today, because it precedes the gift of discernment.
"Simply stated, being quick to observe is an antecedent to and is linked with the spiritual gift of discernment. And for you and for me, discernment is a light of protection and direction in a world that grows increasingly dark. Much like faith precedes the miracle, much like baptism by water comes before the baptism by fire, much like gospel milk should be digested before gospel meat, much like clean hands can lead to a pure heart, and much like the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood are necessary before a person can receive the higher ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood, so being quick to observe is a prerequisite to and a preparation for the gift of discernment. We can only hope to obtain that supernal gift of discernment and its light of protection and direction if we are quick to observe—if we both look and obey."
So, what is the gift of discernment?
President George Q. Cannon:
" One of the gifts of the Gospel which the Lord has promised to those who enter into covenant with Him is the gift of discerning of spirits—a gift which is not much thought of by many and probably seldom prayed for; yet it is a gift that is of exceeding value and one that should be enjoyed by every Latter-day Saint. Now, the gift of discerning of spirits not only gives men and women who have it the power to discern the spirit with which others may be possessed or influenced, but it gives them the power to discern the spirit which influences themselves. They are able to detect a false spirit and also to know when the Spirit of God reigns within them. In private life this gift is of great importance to the Latter-day Saints. Possessing and exercising this gift they will not allow any evil influence to enter into their hearts or to prompt them in their thoughts, their words or their acts. They will repel it; and if perchance such a spirit should get possession of them, as soon as they witness its effects they will expel it or, in other words, refuse to be led or prompted by it." (Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, comp. Jerreld L. Newquist (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974),
"First, I mention the gift of discernment,embodying the power to discriminate . . . between right and wrong. I believe that this gift when highly developed arises largely out of an acute sensitivity to impressions—spiritual impressions, if you will—to read under the surface as it were, to detect hidden evil, and more importantly to find the good that may be concealed. The highest type of discernment is that which perceives in others and uncovers for them their better natures, the good inherent within them.Every member in the restored Church of Christ could have this gift if he willed to do so. He could not be deceived with the sophistries of the world. He could not be led astray by pseudo-prophets and subversive cults. Even the inexperienced would recognize false teachings, in a measure at least. . . . We ought to be grateful every day of our lives for this sense which keeps alive a conscience which constantly alerts us to the dangers inherent in wrongdoers and sin.CR,April 1950,] Elder Bednar summarizes these statements by selecting four ways that this spiritual gift works:"
Elder Bednar discusses, "As we integrate the teachings of Presidents Cannon and Richards, we learn that the gift of discernment operates basically in four major ways. First, as we “read under the surface,” discernment helps us detect hidden error and evil in others. Second, and more important, it helps us detect hidden errors and evil in ourselves. Thus the spiritual gift of discernment is not exclusively about discerning other people and situations, it is also about discerning things as they really are within us. Third, it helps us find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in others. And fourth, it helps us find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in us. Oh, what a blessing and a source of protection and direction is the spiritual gift of discernment!"
Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life foreshadows the fog we find ourselves in today.
"In the vision various groups of individuals were pressing forward that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree of life. The strait and narrow path came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree.. The mists of darkness described in the vision represent the temptations of the devil which blind the eyes of the children of men and lead them into broad roads so that they are lost. Now please pay particular attention to verse 23 in 1 Nephi 8, and let us liken this scripture to our day and the challenges we face in an increasingly wicked world: And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost. (1 Nephi 8:23)Discernment is so much more than recognizing right from wrong. It helps us to distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant, the important from the unimportant, and the necessary from that which is merely nice. The gift of discernment opens to us vistas that stretch far beyond what can be seen with natural eyes or heard with natural ears. Discerning is seeing with spiritual eyes feeling with the heart—seeing and feeling the falsehood of an idea or the goodness in another person. Discerning is hearing with spiritual ears feeling with the heart—hearing and feeling the unspoken concern in a statement or the truthfulness of a testimony or doctrine.
Sister Bednar and I are acquainted with a returned missionary who had dated a special young woman for a period of time. This young man cared for the young woman very much, and he was desirous of making his relationship with her more serious. He was considering and hoping for engagement and marriage. Now this relationship was developing during the time that President Hinckley counseled the Relief Society sisters and young women of the Church to wear only one earring in each ear. The young man waited patiently over a period of time for the young woman to remove her extra earrings, but she did not take them out. This was a valuable piece of information for this young man, and he felt unsettled about her nonresponsiveness to a prophet’s pleading. For this and other reasons, he ultimately stopped dating the young woman, because he was looking for an eternal companion who had the courage to promptly and quietly obey the counsel of the prophet in all things and at all times. The young man was quick to observe that the young woman was not quick to observe.
I have a dear friend who served as a stake president. The patriarch in the stake over which he presided had experienced some health challenges and was unable to perform in his calling. The ailing patriarch had difficulty moving about and dressing and caring for himself, and his strength was limited. One Sabbath afternoon this good stake president visited the home of the patriarch to encourage him and check on his well-being. As the stake president entered the home, he found the patriarch dressed in his suit and white shirt and tie, sitting in a recliner in the front room. The stake president greeted the dear patriarch and, knowing how hard it must have been to dress himself, graciously suggested to the patriarch that it was not necessary for him to get dressed up on the Sabbath or to meet visitors. In a kind but firm voice, the patriarch reproved the stake president and said, “Don’t you know that this is the only way I have left to show the Lord how much I love Him?” The stake president was quick to observe. He both heard and felt the lesson.
I frequently have heard President Boyd K. Packer counsel members and priesthood leaders: “If all you know is what you see with your natural eyes and hear with your natural ears, then you will not know very much.”
I think this is especially true in today’s deceptive atmosphere. I close with this statement from Brigham Young. "How easy it is to live by the truth. In every circumstance of life, truth is always the surest guide and the easiest to square our lives by. Our religion is simply the truth. It is all said in this one expression—it embraces all truth, wherever found, in all the works of God and man that are visible or invisible to mortal eye." The question becomes how will we recognize the truth and how will we react to learning it? The gift of discernment has been very valuable in my life. It is a gift we will be blessed with if we sincerely ask the Lord to bless us with it. He did it for me and continues to bless me with discernment if I am mindful and ask Him for it.
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