For me, all of the talks, during this Saturday Morning session of General Conference, April 1972, seemed to fall under a simple message: Commence, Catch Hold, Cling, and Continue. These keywords are found in Lehi’s Vision as a guide for how we should journey on the strait and narrow path. We can’t just simply walk down a garden path, picking daisies, or getting lost in our thoughts. This is a treacherous path where we must watch carefully, stay focused, and not be deceived to walk toward a dangerous edge and be lost forever. (see 1 Nephi: 8).
The first two great commandments are to love God and love our neighbor. If we were to really obey those two commandments, life for each of us would be easier. As we commence along the path, we want to have the Lord on our side as we begin our test and trials. And having a cheerful, helpful attitude toward others makes life much more manageable.
Pres. N. Eldon Tanner said:
“Gossip is the worst form of judging. The tongue is the most dangerous, destructive, and deadly weapon available to man. A vicious tongue can ruin the reputation and even the future of the one attacked.”
Walking the strait and narrow path toward the tree is no easy matter. Especially while walking past the mocking and catcalls coming from the Great and Spacious Building. But worse, might there have been those who stopped in the middle of the path and let out a big raspberry at her siblings or neighbors? Even Joseph Smith warned sisters, at those early meetings of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo.
“Put a double watch over the tongue. … The tongue is an unruly member–hold your tongues about things of no moment,–a little tale will set the world on fire” (May 26, 1842)
Pres. Uchtdorf spoke in another conference,
“This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it! It’s that simple” (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy,” Apr. 2012).
As members of the church, we are unfortunately guilty of this grievous sin. We’ve been warned repeatedly, yet how many people have stopped their journey before ever really starting, because of hurt feelings, perceived pain, envy, and pride?
I’m not a great hiker. At the beginning of a hike, I might be all psyched to get to the top, but soon after the start, I’m looking for the end to come around each corner, or I start counting steps to make it to a certain point, and before long, I want to get off the mountain, and be home drinking gallons of water. Marvin J. Ashton’s talk reminded me that life is the trail, but eternity is the goal.
“I humbly bear witness to you today that an honorably completed mission, a celestial marriage, a valued testimony, a position of major responsibility in the Church are not destinations in the lives of true Latter-day Saints. … They will not save you and me in the kingdom of God”
Our destination cannot be anything short of realizing “eternal life, [and] exaltation, in our Father’s kingdom.” Lehi beckoned his family to come, partake of the tree of life. And when some of them came along the path and partook of the fruit, “it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy” (1 Ne. 8: 12). And when Laman and Lemuel refused, Lehi “did exhort them then with all the feeling of a tender parent” (1 Ne. 8:37). Do not let go too soon. Don’t let pride stop you from pressing onward. Hang in there when things get tough.
Last year, when Pope Francis came to visit America, the news covered something he said in his speech in the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in New York City. Because the pope doesn’t speak English, his words were translated to say,
“The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds: God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and produce no fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus… and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross” (“Transcript: Pope Francis’s comments at St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” The Washington Post, Sep. 24, 2015).
Realizing the flaw could be due to translation, it is certainly unfortunate to ever liken Jesus Christ with failure, especially on the cross. But, Satan is so busy trying to get us off track with things people say, inspiring absolute political correctness, or more general leniency of lifestyle acceptance, that we need to be awake and paying attention lest we stumble on the path.
Both Hartman Rector, Jr. and Thomas S. Monson quoted the scripture found in Hebrews 12:2:
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The footnote for “finisher” further explains: “one who completes, perfects.”
Elder Rector explained how we must witness to the world that “we are not in the business of tearing down men’s faith and belief, but rather of building it up”. And he ends his talk with these powerful words:
“We have the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is so generous and kind to us in this day and time when we so desperately need it. He has given us a living prophet of God, who still makes the important decisions in the church and kingdom of God under the direction of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whose church it really is.”
What an important reminder! Jesus Christ is at the head of His church. He “finished” honorably–and completely–His mission on the cross, and rose eternally from the grave in spite of the encroaching darkness of the world. And then, when the time was right, He, and His Father, visited the young boy, Joseph, calling him as prophet of the last dispensation. Today, we have a prophet, a mouthpiece of the Lord, who speaks for Him in leading this church.
Let us cling to our faith, our prophets, our Lord and Savior. Truth will outlast any form of deceit we encounter. May we never fall for Fool’s Gold, or any cheap imitation of God’s eternal plan for us.
As we continue along the path, we need to check ourselves constantly. The path is narrow, treacherous, with cliffs on every side. Our aid is the rod of iron, which stands for many things: the word of God, the voice of the prophet, the Holy Spirit, which is our personal connection with the Savior through prayer and revelation.
Our world is a raging storm, and some feel that it is too hard to hang on. Franklin D. Richards, quoting Brigham Young, said:
“You know that it is one peculiarity of our faith and religion never to ask the Lord to do a thing without being willing to help him all that we are able; and then the Lord will do the rest” (JD, vol. 5:293).
We can’t just hold on. We must take the steps, make the choices, and follow the appointed servants. And above all, pray always. Elder Richards encouraged us to “learn to solve our problems with God’s help,” as opposed to expecting Him to prove truth to us first.
“And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them” (Mosiah 4:10).
To finish this session, (then Elder) Thomas S. Monson gave one of our more memorable conference talks. This talk has been referred to many times over the years. He asks the question, “Shall I falter or shall I finish?” After listing scriptural examples of those who failed in their missions on earth, he gave us the reason why we should finish our own pressing race upon the path.
“Though Jesus was tempted by the evil one, yet he resisted. Though he was hated, yet he loved. Though he was betrayed, yet he triumphed. Not in a cloud of glory or chariot of fire was Jesus to depart mortality, but with arms outstretched in agony upon a cruel cross. The magnitude of his mission is depicted in the simplicity of his words.
“To his Father he prayed, “…the hour is come. … I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:1, 4).
Jesus finished triumphantly and became the tree that now offers that eternal fruit to each of us. But only if we commence, catch hold, cling to, and continue along the strait and narrow path. Only if we keep our eyes on the prophet. Only if we repent joyously, pray always, be kind and loving, and stay focused. Because Jesus Christ overcame ALL, we too can be finishers.
Here are the other posts from the General Conference Odyssey:
We Cannot See What Is In The Heart Nathaniel Givens
Our Eternal Destination Daniel Ortner
Faith, Works and Prayer Ralph Hancock
Enduring in Faith Michelle Linford
When You Have No Friend to Phone SilverRain