Sunday, June 12, 2011

12 June 2011 Farwell Talk

Today I was asked to speak about understanding and using one of the great blessings given to us by our Heavenly Father. It is the gift of the Holy Ghost. As one of the three members of the godhead, it is the only one, whose presence we can always be in, should we live righteously. It also is a necessary part of the mission that I will soon be serving.

In 2009, Elder Holland spoke of the role of the Holy Ghost in missionary work; he entitled his teachings as “The Divine Companionship.” In his talk, he stressed that the Spirit must be with each of us and that we must teach by it. When things are taught with the Spirit, in the way of the Lord, it ceases to be our lesson and becomes the Lord’s, having the power to lift investigators out of the temporal world. He continues saying, “We are charged with the responsibility of getting people out of their ruts and routines, out of their problems and their pain, out of their earthly little arguments and ignorance and sins, and take them to the Gods — to the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost — ultimately we are to take them toward their own Godhood. In short, we are to take them to the divine. The Holy Ghost is the connecting link which the Godhead has agreed to give us here in mortality for that heavenly connection. One cannot go forward in this work without “the ultimate teacher.” He must be a part of our companionship. We must never forget that the Holy Ghost is the key to knowledge.”

In the line of missionary work, teaching with the gift of the Holy Ghost increases in importance as there are often people taught who have received more formal educations, or have had much more experience than the missionaries. Missionaries meet people who have studied philosophy and metaphysics, world history and languages, science and the arts. They also encounter ministers who have had a greater education in theology. In our church there is no professional clergy, no school of theology, or many of the other professional preparations that exist in other religions. If missionaries don’t have the spirit of the Lord, and if they don’t teach under the direction of the Spirit, how can they be expected to accomplish their mission? As Elder Oaks briefly put it, “we cannot compete with the world on its terms. If we are to fulfill our callings, we must teach the Lord’s way. If we have the spirit of the Lord to guide us, we can teach any person, no matter how well educated, any place in the world. Acting under his spirit, we can deliver his message of salvation to each and every soul.”

Section 50 in the Doctrine and Covenants explains that there are two ways of teaching: through the spirit, or through some other way. “Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question, “unto what were ye ordained”?  To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth. If a man preacheth not by the spirit of truth, it is not of God, and if he receiveth the word of truth not from the spirit, but by some other way, it is not of God.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that the “other way” described in section 50 is through the power of the intellect. He explained that teaching with one’s intellect is possible, but cannot grant the same power of conversion which only enters and fills one’s mind and one’s heart with a sure and sincere testimony as when teaching with the power of the spirit.

With the many great promises made when we have the Holy Spirit with us, it becomes important for each member and person to know how to recognize it, that they may follow its promptings and fulfill those promises. The most commonly known form of the Holy Ghost is it’s ‘still, small voice’. Many other descriptions have been given to us by prophets to help us further recognize the spirit. Elder Oaks described the spirit as communicating through “the language of peace, as spoken by the Lord, which embraces a sense of quiet confidence, comfort, and warmth. It is gentle and calm, amiable and sweet’ it is temperate and kind’ it is orderly and identified by happiness, joy, and feelings of love. It is a piercing flame felt in the heart. It prompts testimonies and results in such great joy and peace in the room, such a near-tangible atmosphere of divinity, that neither the missionary, nor the member, nor the investigator experiencing such a moment would choose to be anywhere else in the entire world at that time. Sometimes tears will be shed. Always great love will be felt. It is then that the veil is thin, that the Godhead is making its presence felt, and no other time or place would be appealing to those so privileged to be experiencing this.”

Doctrine and Covenants, Section 8, explains, “Behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.” In section 6, the Lord says that the Spirit will enlighten and speak peace to our minds. Joseph Smith referred to the Holy Ghost as “pure intelligence which may give sudden strokes of ideas”.   The Holy Ghost is not felt by only members, but can be felt by nonmembers as well.

Elder Oaks shared a story of a personal experience, in which, the Spirit taught through the feelings of one who was not familiar with the process of revelation. Here are his remarks:“About nine years ago, three elected deputies of the Supreme Soviet visited Salt Lake City. I helped host them on Temple Square. I took them into the North Visitors’ Center to see the paintings and the Christus statue. Then I took them into the Tabernacle, where they heard the Sunday morning Tabernacle Choir broadcast. Afterward a few of us met with them in a conference room on Temple Square. We told them a little bit about the Church. Then Konstaintin Lubenchenko, the senior in the delegation, spoke to us. I made notes of his remarks as they were relayed through an interpreter: “Before I came here I thought the Mormon Church was a very conservative organization of fanatics. But after seeing the beautiful pictures and statue in your visitors’’ center and the beautiful setting where the choir sang and hearing the choir and organ, I have a new understanding of your church. Since I have come to the United States, people have asked me what is my strongest impression in the United States. I can tell you now. It is the singing of your choir. I love organ music and choirs and have gone to hear them many times in my country. As the choir sang, I had a very strong feeling. Although I do not speak English, I felt with my heart that they were sincerely expressing my feelings. My relation with God was expressed in earthly feelings through their singing.” The Soviet lawmaker had received a witness from the Spirit.”

The other day I heard an analogy of the Holy Ghost that I would like to share. Wiring in machines sometimes uses iron. Other times copper wires are used, which are generally more valuable than other resources and materials. The top quality of conductors however, is silver, which is much higher in value and is rarely used. Being many times the cost of copper or iron, silver is only used in the most precise, important cases. Likewise, each of our personal relationships with the Holy Ghost is comparable to this electrical wiring. Many people have the common, standard connection with the Holy Ghost, the iron, so to speak, which, while the power and influence of the Holy Ghost can be transmitted through, the iron wiring does not receive the blessings and gifts given to those with a copper connection. With the value increasing with each increase in connection, it becomes more rare, eventually reaching the desirable silver wiring. While it is rare, each one of us must strive to reach the point where we have a perfect connection with the Spirit, and are able to receive all the blessings and gifts our Father in Heaven wishes to give us.

The other aspect of the wire analogy is that as the Spirit is able to send its influence and power one way, towards us, we are also able to transmit signals the other way. From this and the teachings of the apostles, we can learn that to teach with the spirit and use its gifts to teach others, we must first strengthen the quality and signals on our end. The Lord said, “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.”

There are many ways we can help improve our relationship with the spirit. Elder Holland referred to the Book of Mormon as “a pure vehicle of the Spirit because it is the pure word of God, which must be used in teaching as often as possible.” To have the Holy Ghost as our companion requires following the commandments. We know that our bodies are personal temples, and we must keep ourselves clean, for the Spirit of the Lord will not dwell in any unclean temple. More ways to prepare ourselves to fully receive the spirit is to follow the instructions given in the sacrament prayer: that we are willing to take the Lord’s name upon us, and always remember him that we may have his spirit to be with us. However, one of the best ways to keep the Spirit with us is to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost as we receive them.

One often-forgotten “trick” so to speak, to receiving help from the Holy Ghost is to study matters out in our mind. There are times when revelations come in the form of a confirmation, rather than an independent idea. When Oliver Cowdery attempted to translate the Golden Plates, he was unable to do so, and the Lord revealed to him, “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it to you, when you took no thought, save to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right”.

We must also remember that the Holy Ghost speaks to us in its own time and way. The purpose of the Spirit is not to solely suit our convenience, giving us immediate responses to every question and desire we have. While we can help our relationship with the Godhead by drawing closer to the Lord and seeking him diligently, in the end, revelation comes according to the Lord’s will.

About 25 years ago, the church made plans for the President of the United States to visit and speak at BYU. While the church leaders had a list of things they would’ve like to have the President say and do while he was there, and times that would be convenient for their program, they all knew that it would be impossible to contact and invite the highest authority in the United States to speak to 26,000 people, and put conditions on his appearance. The leaders knew that to invite the president, they would have to allow him to come at whatever time he desired, and complete freedom of what he said and did while he was there, scheduling and arranging around the President’s desires. If those are the terms of how a university of 26,000 people must approach the highest authority of a single nation, then it should be no surprise that we are in no position to individually impose conditions on the timing and decisions of the highest authority in the universe.

Developing our relationship with our Father in Heaven and the Holy Ghost is a process. It is a gradual thing, made up of many experiences and the perseverance of multiple trials. We are born again by degrees, adding light, knowledge, and all manner of blessings as we keep the commandments, drawing nearer to the Lord.

Lastly, I’d like to share a story of one of the many miracles inspired by the Holy Ghost. Shortly after Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the apostles went among the people teaching the gospel. One of the times they were out teaching, a great crowd was gathered listening to the apostle Peter. Here is a recording of the miracle that transpired.

"Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."

The "sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind" was heard abroad; and a multitude gathered about the place. And the apostles spoke to the multitude, and a great miracle was wrought, by which "every man heard them speak in his own language"; for the apostles, now richly gifted, spake in many tongues, as the Holy Ghost, by whom they had been endowed, gave them utterance. There were present men from many lands and of many nations, and their languages were diverse. In amazement some of them said: "Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?"  Then Peter cited ancient prophecy embodying the promise of Jehovah that He would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, so that wonders would be wrought, even as those there present witnessed.

The power of the Holy Ghost could not be resisted; to every earnest soul it carried conviction. They that heard were pricked in their hearts. Now that they were prepared for the message of salvation, it was given without reserve. Their conversion was genuine and not the effect of a passing enthusiasm; that they were literally born again through baptism into a newness of life is evidenced by the fact that they endured in the faith - "and they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." So devoted were these early converts, so richly blessed with the outpouring of the Holy Ghost was the Church in those days, that the members voluntarily disposed of their individual possessions and had all things in common.

Later this week I will leave to serve a mission in Hungary. It is a language I am barely familiar with, and have yet to learn even the most basic phrases. I am glad that each of us has the opportunity to have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion. I look forward to bringing the gospel to the Hungarian people, so that they too may feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost. I’d also love it if I received the blessing of the gifts of tongues in the miraculous way told earlier, but as the Lord taught before, some blessings require much hard work and dedication before they can be received.

I’d like to close with my testimony that the Book of Mormon is true and is inspired by revelation. That it was translated by Joseph Smith, a prophet of the Lord, to, like the Holy Ghost, guide us in this life. That our prophet and apostles today receive revelation to continue to guide us on the straight and narrow path, and finally, that I know that Jesus is our savior and redeemer. Amen.

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