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The Only True and Living Church

Yesterday at church I heard a great talk. Emily Jensen spoke about our belief in a “true and living” church. While I have always felt the things she explained, I could not seem to put them into words like she did. She used the old “body and spirit like a glove and hand” analogy- which fit perfectly!


There are many churches on the earth.  They are easy to identify, most of the time.  They are beautiful buildings and they seek to teach those who attend better ways to live.  There is something that makes our church different from other churches.  Our church is a living church.  Last week in Primary, Sister Smith taught a lesson about our bodies and spirits.  She compared the body to a glove and the spirit to a hand.  She taught that without our spirits, our bodies cannot perform any actions.  They are dead.  With the power of a spirit inside it, our bodies can do amazing things.  The church is like that.  Without a special power, the church cannot perform special actions, like ordinances and it, or its works, are dead.  With a special power inside it, the church can perform every necessary action to help its members have joy and happiness in this life and in the next life.  The power inside our church that gives our church life to operate is the priesthood.


I had not thought about what made the church living. I would have likely said prophets, apostles, revelation or something like that. She incorporated all this under the heading of the priesthood. It reminded me about an experience I had years ago when a non LDS uncle who was a minister in the Methodist church, asked me what made our church different from others. I told him that we believed the priesthood had been lost and that it needed to be restored to the earth from God. I’m not sure how he felt about a young woman telling him his life’s work was invalid. But he took it graciously.


When we talk about something being alive, like the church being alive and able to act for our salvation, we have to remember where life comes from.  Jesus Christ taught us that he himself is life.  He told his disciples in the Bible, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).  When Lazarus died and his sisters were sad, thinking they would only see their brother again at the resurrection, Jesus Christ comforted them by explaining, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Mary and Martha didn’t have to wait for the resurrection to see Lazarus again—the one who could give him life was right there, prepared to do so.  He could give Lazarus life because He is life.  The power or life that we have in this church so that it can operate, is the power of Jesus Christ.  Priesthood power is the power of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father.  They created the earth through the priesthood power.  This is the power to move mountains.  It is an incredible, sacred power.  No other church has that priesthood power in it.


In fact, when 14 year-old Joseph Smith was trying to decide which church he should join, he was told to join none of them because the churches in 1830 not only didn’t have the priesthood power—they “denied the power thereof” or denied the power of the priesthood, saying the miracles, revelations, and visions received through the priesthood in the past “had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them.”  Can you imagine our lives with no revelation?  Members of the Church of Jesus Christ have received many revelations through our prophets over the past 179 years.  Many of these revelations are written in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Friend, The Ensign, and other places.  They occur daily.  Can you imagine no miracles?  I have had miracles in my life through the power of the priesthood.  One recurring miracle through the priesthood I have received is my patriarchal blessing.  It has been a guide and inspiration to me for more than 13 years.  It helps me remember what I should do and who I am.  It fills me with hope and gratitude when I read it.  I love the Lord for sharing his priesthood power with us.  I know that those who say the miracles of the priesthood have ceased are missing out on so much. 


Jesus Christ gave the priesthood to Joseph Smith and to Oliver Cowdery in 1829.  John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus Christ, ordained Joseph Smith to the Aaronic priesthood when Joseph Smith was 23.  Our worthy young men receive the priesthood when they are just 12.  That is a big responsibility and blessing.  You deacons are able to do at age 12 some of the wonderful things Joseph Smith didn’t get to do until he was much older.  Shortly after John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith, the apostles, Peter, James, and John, who served with Jesus Christ when he was on the earth, ordained Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the  Melchezedek priesthood.  With these two priesthoods, our church is very alive.  The church has the power to perform all the ordinances and other actions necessary, so that through Jesus Christ’s atonement, everyone on the earth can be saved.


Our church is special because those who receive the priesthood are called to special positions of leadership in the church.  We have prophets, apostles, and bishops.  These leaders are in charge of directing ordinance work in the church.  They are responsible to serve.  They are also responsible to teach the truth and the fullness of the gospel, just as ancient prophets like Moses and Abraham did. 


She shows that Jesus Christ is constant and continuing in his work and how we must also continue. No coasting. No “ok I’m done”. No “God has completed his work”. No resting on our laurels.


That brings us to another reason this church is different from the other churches we see in our neighborhoods.  This church is true.  Do you hear that a lot in our church?  I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true?  I know that too.  It is true.  What does that mean?  We can look to the Savior again to know why this church is true.  He told his disciples in the Bible, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  Jesus Christ is truth.  If this church is true, it must be His church to be true because He is truth.  Christ also said to his disciples, “If you continue in my word, ye are my disciples indeed, and ye shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).  In this scripture Jesus told the Jews that they should continue in his word.  One thing we know about God is that He never changes.  If he spoke before, he still speaks today.  His words continue.  So truth continues as well, and we need to continue in it, as he told the Jews.  Jesus Christ made this possible when he gave Joseph Smith the Book of Mormon to translate.  The Book of Mormon is a continuation of Jesus Christ’s teachings.  When Jesus was in Israel, he taught and His teachings were written in the Bible.  He continued to teach after he died and was resurrected, and some of those teachings are in the Book of Mormon.  Jesus Christ continued to teach when Joseph Smith was alive, and many of those teachings are in the Doctrine and Covenants. 


Then she moved in to the explanation of why we say our church is “true”. She points out that truth is satisfying to mankind, and essential to combat Satan.


Why does it matter that so much truth is in this Church?  Listen carefully to Oliver Cowdery’s experience after he was visited by a messenger from God and given truth.  He said, “Man may deceive his fellow-men, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught, till naught but fiction feeds the many, and the fruit of falsehood carries in its current the giddy to the grave; but one touch with the finger of his love, yes, one ray of glory from the upper world, or one word from the mouth of the Savior . . . strikes it all into insignificance, and blots it forever from the mind.  The assurance that we were in the presence of an angel, the certainty that we heard the voice of Jesus, and the truth unsullied as it flowed from a pure personage, dictated by the will of God, is to me past description, and I shall ever look upon this expression of the Savior’s goodness with wonder and thanksgiving while I am permitted to tarry.”  Oliver was overcome by the blessing of truth because it had such a great power to obliterate falsehood and because it was wonderful to him.  Satan is working hard to trick us all the time, but as we stay close to the truth, we will be delivered from evil.  I love the verse in Helamen about the power of the word of God.  It says, “Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God” (Helamen 3:29-30). 


Those verses remind me of Nephi’s vision of the tree of life in which God’s truth and word are represented by an iron rod that leads multitudes to partake of Jesus Christ’s atonement, or the tree of life.  It leads them past a wicked building, past dangerous temptations, and past treacherous waters.  That is the power and importance of truth.  It really does make us free. 


And truth continues to free us today as each prophet, whether President Hinckley or our new prophet, President Monson, speaks to us.  Jesus Christ told us to consider His prophets’ words as His own.  He said, “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”  So even last week, when President Monson gave a talk at BYU, that was the voice of Jesus Christ.  We can continue in Jesus Christ’s word in this church.  His word never ends here.  This church is true.  I have felt that special power of truth in this church.


She talked about our desire, as President Hinkley tells the world, to add to the truth that they already have. We do not condemn members of another church. We hope they will love the truth enough to accept that there may be more truth elsewhere to add to what they know. And we also must be prepared for the Lord to reveal to us more truth than we presently have.


Because truth is abundant, we have to learn to recognize it.  When I hear truth spoken, I feel a special happiness inside me and I want to be better.  I want to do something about what I am hearing.  If I am learning about prayer, I want to pray more often and more sincerely, for example.  I remember once as a youth watching a sister give a talk and realizing that she smiled all the time.  I felt the Spirit tell me that that was a good thing.  After that, I tried to smile all the time—whenever I could, I looked people in the eye and smiled.  I knew I had succeeded when people started telling me that I smiled all the time.  Our church is full of little truths such as, “We should smile” and big truths, like the truths of Jesus Christ’s atonement.  I have heard so much truth in this Church.  And our church accepts all truth from wherever it may come.  For example, a great writer may say something true and our own prophets and apostles, recognizing the value of that writer’s words may quote those true sayings when they speak to us in General Conference. Other churches have portions of truth in them.  Many Christian churches use the Bible continually.  They do have significant truths, but they do not accept all truth.


In the Church of Jesus Christ, truth continues and will always come to us in revelations to individuals as well as to the church as a whole.  I love this scripture about the abundance of revelation in the Church of Jesus Christ.  Joseph Smith asked, “What power shall stay the heavens?  As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints” (D & C 121: 34-45). 


The two ideas come together in the gift of the Holy Ghost, which we receive through priesthood power, and which constantly updates us on the truth in our own lives. She uses a moving story from her childhood that had me in tears.


When we are baptized by the living priesthood power into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, men who hold the Melchezedek priesthood put their hands on our head and we are confirmed members of the church and are given a very special gift.  I bet you know what it is.  It is the gift of the Holy Ghost.  This is a wonderful gift.  It alone fills us with greater life and truth than we had before.  Joseph Smith said that when he was given the Holy Ghost that he and Oliver were “filled with the Holy Ghost and rejoiced in the God of our salvation.  Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously.”  The Holy Ghost is a wonderful companion who can help us in just about any way.  He teaches truth to our souls.  He can help us know when we have done wrong and right.  He whispers to us.  He gives us promptings.


I remember once as a young woman being home with my younger brother alone.  He was 7 and I was 11.  I had already received the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  As the evening came upon us, my brother, Sam, suddenly had a migraine headache and was moaning and crying and walking around the house trying to cope with his great pain.  I did not know what to do.  I looked in the medicine cabinet, but I felt completely unauthorized to give any medicine to my brother.  As I stared dismayed at the medicine, a voice came to my head and said, “You need to pray.”  I took my brother into the living room with me, knelt with him, and prayed for him.  Nothing happened.  Again, I felt unsure what to do, but again I heard a voice.  This time he said, “Not you.  Him.”  I told Sam that he was the sick one, so he needed to say the prayer.  He could barely speak, he was so sick with his headache.  All he was able to cry out was, “Heavenly Father!”  Then he lay down on the carpet and fell asleep immediately.  He slept through the night and was completely at peace until my parents returned.  It was a miracle.  And miracles are what come of Jesus Christ’s true and living church.  The blessing of the gift of the Holy Ghost to children as young as 8 years-old entitled me, as I lived the commandments, to guidance no medical doctor could have given me when my brother was suffering.  And the Holy Ghost can do that for all of us.  The Holy Ghost gives wisdom, help, and peace beyond the capacity of any mortal, for He is a god.  He knows Jesus Christ, the way back to heaven, and he leads us there. 


I echo her closing testimony.


I know that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  I know that this is His Church and it is true and living too.  I know that Joseph Smith was the great prophet of the restoration and that we have living prophets and apostles who speak truth and hold the keys of the priesthood and the authority to administer all the ordinances of the gospel.  We are blessed beyond any blessings the world could offer by these holy truths and ordinances.  I know the Book of Mormon is a continuation of Jesus Christ’s words and it gives us power to be free from Satan.  I know Jesus Christ lives.  He is not far from us.  He is in all the workings of this church.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 


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