Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Life Founded in Light and Truth

From "A Life Founded in Light and Truth," by Henry B. Eyring, Ensign, July 2001. Original talk given at BYU devotional on 15 Aug 2000.

Obedience to commandments is the way we build a foundation of truth. Here is the way that works, in words so simple that a child could understand: The truth of most worth is to know God our Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and Their plan for us to have eternal life with Them in families. When God communicates that priceless truth to us, He does it by the Spirit of Truth. We have to ask for it in prayer. Then He sends us a small part of that truth by the Spirit. It comes to our hearts and minds. It feels good, like the light from the sun shining through the clouds on a dark day. He sends truth line upon line, like the lines on the page of a book. Each time a line of truth comes to us, we get to choose what we will do about it. If we try hard to do what that truth requires of us, God will send more light and more truth. It will go on, line after line, as long as we choose to obey the truth. That is why the Savior said that the man who obeyed His commandments built on a rock so solid that no storm or flood could hurt his house.

In another place in the scriptures, the Lord described in a beautiful way how that foundation could be built so that we could finally come to know all He knows and become like Him and our Heavenly Father: "I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness. For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace" (D&C 93:19–20).

And then a few verses later the Lord says: "And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; and whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning. The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth; and no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments. He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things" (D&C 93:24–28).

...Yet you will notice that the work is simple obedience. It is not complicated things; it is not fancy things or getting great spiritual manifestations. This is work within the abilities of the most humble and the least educated.

It sounds so simple to build upon a foundation of truth that you may wonder why everyone doesn’t succeed. For one thing, it takes great humility. It’s hard to repent, to admit you are wrong on faith alone, before the evidence of a feeling of being forgiven and light comes. But that is the way it has to be. First comes obedience and then come the confirming assurances, the revelation of truth, and the blessing of light.

That is so because God gave us agency, not just as a right but as a necessity. We must choose with our agency to obey in faith that the promised blessing will come, that the promise is true because it comes from God. You remember the words of the scripture in Ether, the 12th chapter, which tell us both why that is hard and why it is necessary: "Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God. And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not. And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith" (Ether 12:4–6).

There is another reason why it is not easy for the proud to build on a foundation of truth. It is because the enemy of righteousness also works in little steps, so small that they are hard to notice if you are thinking only about yourself and how great you are. Just as truth is given to us line upon line and the light brightens slowly as we obey, even so, as we disobey, our testimony of truth lessens almost imperceptibly, little by little, and darkness descends so slowly that the proud may easily deny that anything is changing.

I have heard the boast of a man who walked away from the Church slowly, at first just ceasing to teach his Sunday School class and then staying away from Church and then forgetting tithing now and then. Along the way he would say to me: "I feel just as spiritual as I did before I stopped those things and just as much at peace. Besides, I enjoy Sundays more than I did; it’s more a day of rest." Or, "I think I’ve been blessed temporally as much or more as I was when I was paying tithing." He could not sense the difference, but I could. The light in his eyes and even the shine in his countenance were dimming. He could not tell, since one of the effects of disobeying God seems to be the creation of just enough spiritual anesthetic to block any sensation as the ties to God are being cut. Not only did the testimony of truth slowly erode, but even the memories of what it was like to be in the light began to seem to him like a delusion.

More than a few of those slides down the path of disobedience come in the years of transition from childhood to maturity. How often have you heard a parent describe a child’s tragic journey into years of sin and sorrow by saying, "It began when he was 16," or "It began when she was 14." And yet in those same years the young man or the young woman who chooses obedience can build a foundation of truth to last in the years ahead, and many do. It is not by accident that seminary across the world is offered to young Latter-day Saints in those years. They are at risk in that time of transition; yet the very source of that risk creates an opportunity for them and for us who serve them.

Agency is the source of that risk. It is so priceless a gift from our Heavenly Father that a war in heaven was fought to defend it. Lucifer sought to take it from us and to take for himself the honor and glory of our Father. The teenager you love may well have been one of the valiant warriors on the side of agency and truth. Satan seems to feel he can win a double victory by drawing teenagers into sin. He can destroy one of his antagonists and in the process try to prove the Father wrong, prove that the risk of agency was too great.

We can help by seeing clearly the opportunity. The teenager who begins to say, "It’s my life to live, my choices to make," is speaking the truth, a wonderful truth. The choice to do good is the only way to build a life on the foundation of truth and light. Yet these words can strike fear into a parent or a bishop or a Young Women leader who loves the teenager. That outburst of independence usually comes when a rule is announced or something is forbidden. It may come with the mere appearance of authority, of anyone telling them what they must do.

Our opportunity and theirs lies in their seeing a simple truth. It is their life to live, and yet they live it with two powerful opposing forces pulling on them. One is from God, who loves and will not compel and who offers eternal life through the plan of salvation. That plan depends on the Atonement made by the Savior, Jesus Christ, and the teenager’s choice to follow Him. The other, a terrible power, will use deception, force, and hatred to bring them into bondage and misery. And the teenager is free to choose.

The opportunity is in their seeing that reality, but that is also the problem. It takes the revelation of truth from God for the teenager to see those opposing forces as real. Once seen, the choice will be obvious. But many young people have little experience with persisting in obedience, when the truth must be taken on faith alone until truth is revealed to them. The opportunity lies in their sensing what they once knew, that the power to choose is a gift from God to bring them happiness in this life and in the life to come with Him.

We can help by the way we react to their determination to choose for themselves. They will sense whether we see them as if they could well have been one of the faithful warriors from the premortal existence, committed still to the defense of moral agency and aware of its great value to bring them happiness. If we can see them as faithful warriors from the premortal existence, we may also see their claims of independence as a sign of their potential, a sign that they are testing the power of agency which will bring them happiness. That is hard, because we know the risk should they choose sin. But when fear for them comes, as it does, it helps for us to remember and take comfort that there are opposing pulls. There is an influence of evil in the world, but there is also in the world and across all creation the powerful light of Christ.

Our young people were born with access to the Light of Christ. Because of that, they have in them the power to apply for themselves this test given in the book of Moroni, if they believe they can and if they choose to do it: "Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil" (Moro. 7:12–14).

And then a few verses later: "But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged" (Moro. 7:17–18).

...When the Spirit is invited into a meeting, truth is communicated beyond what is said aloud. In your Church meetings, write down impressions or thoughts that you feel came from God. And, remembering what we have said about building a foundation, think carefully about whether the truth you received requires action. It is by obedience to commandments that we qualify for further revelation of truth and light. In a recent meeting you may have committed to act on something you felt was true. Then more truth came to you. That process may slow or stop if, as you go out into daily life, you fail to keep the silent commitments you made with God. God not only loves the obedient, He enlightens them. I fear that more people make promises to God than keep them, so you will please Him when you are the exception and you keep your promise to obey. You should test those impressions of what you should do against a simple standard: Is it what the Master has commanded in the accepted revelations, and is it clearly within my calling in His kingdom?

Life will have its storms. We can and must have confidence. God our Heavenly Father has given us the right to know the truth. He has shown that the way to receive that truth is simple, so simple that a child can follow it. Once it is followed, more light comes from God to enlighten the understanding of His faithful spirit child. That light will become brighter even as the world darkens. The light that comes to us with truth will be brighter than the darkness that comes from sin and error around us. A foundation built on truth and illuminated by the light of God will free us from the fear that we might be overcome.

Read the whole thing here.
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