By Alan on May 06 in Blog tagged Alma, Amulon, atonement, avoid bad, bad and good, becometh a saint, becometh as a child, Bible, Book of Mormon, burdens, by the flesh, change human nature, change of heart, Christ the Lord, corruption, Daniel W. Jones, death, Desire, empower us, enemy to God, every person, fallen natures, good men better, grace, Holy Messiah, Holy Spirit, immortality, Jesus Christ, journey, make bad men good, make mistakes, mortality, Nephi, pioneersm handcart, put off, redeeming power, sinners, Sister Bednar, strength of the Lord, tempted, the natural man, through faith, willpower, Zoramites | 2 Comments
The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality
Thus, the journey of mortality is to progress from bad to good to better and to experience the mighty change of heart—to have our fallen natures changed. Mosiah 5: 2
The enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us to do and be good and to serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity.
The grand objective of the Savior’s gospel was summarized succinctly by President David O. McKay (1873–1970): “The purpose of the gospel is … to make bad men good and good men better, and to change human nature.”1 Thus, the journey of mortality is to progress from bad to good to better and to experience the mighty change of heart—to have our fallen natures changed (see Mosiah 5:2).
The Book of Mormon is our handbook of instructions as we travel the pathway from bad to good to better and strive to have our hearts changed. King Benjamin teaches about the journey of mortality and the role of the Atonement in navigating successfully that journey: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19; emphasis added).
I draw your attention to two specific phrases. First—“putteth off the natural man.” The journey from bad to good is the process of putting off the natural man or the natural woman in each of us. In mortality we all are tempted by the flesh. The very elements out of which our bodies were created are by nature fallen and ever subject to the pull of sin, corruption, and death. But we can increase our capacity to overcome the desires of the flesh and temptations “through the atonement of Christ.” When we make mistakes, as we transgress and sin, we can repent and become clean through the redeeming power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Second—“becometh a saint.” This phrase describes the continuation and second phase of life’s journey to make “good men better” or, in other words, to become more like a saint. This second part of the journey, this process of going from good to better, is a topic about which we do not study or teach frequently enough nor understand adequately.
I suspect that many Church members are much more familiar with the nature of the redeeming and cleansing power of the Atonement than they are with the strengthening and enabling power. It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us—that is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us—not only to direct us but also to empower us.
Most of us know that when we do wrong things, we need help to overcome the effects of sin in our lives. The Savior has paid the price and made it possible for us to become clean through His redeeming power. Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints—for good men and women who are obedient, worthy, and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully. We may mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves, through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities.
The gospel of the Savior is not simply about avoiding bad in our lives; it also is essentially about doing and becoming good. And the Atonement provides help for us to overcome and avoid bad and to do and become good. Help from the Savior is available for the entire journey of mortality—from bad to good to better and to change our very nature.
I am not suggesting that the redeeming and enabling powers of the Atonement are separate and discrete. Rather, these two dimensions of the Atonement are connected and complementary; they both need to be operational during all phases of the journey of life. And it is eternally important for all of us to recognize that both of these essential elements of the journey of mortality—both putting off the natural man and becoming a saint, both overcoming bad and becoming good—are accomplished through the power of the Atonement. Individual willpower, personal determination and motivation, effective planning and goal setting are necessary but ultimately insufficient for us to triumphantly complete this mortal journey. Truly, we must come to rely upon “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8).
Grace and the Enabling Power of the Atonement
In the Bible Dictionary we learn that the word grace frequently is used in the scriptures to connote enabling power:
“[Grace is] a word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.
“It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by his atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life. It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.”2
Grace is the divine assistance or heavenly help each of us desperately needs to qualify for the celestial kingdom. Thus, the enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us to do and be good and to serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity.
In my personal scripture study, I often insert the term “enabling power” whenever I encounter the word grace. Consider, for example, this verse with which we are all familiar: “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). I believe we can learn much about this vital aspect of the Atonement if we will insert “enabling and strengthening power” each time we find the word grace in the scriptures.
Illustrations and Implications
The journey of mortality is to go from bad to good to better and to have our very natures changed. The Book of Mormon is replete with examples of disciples and prophets who knew, understood, and were transformed by the enabling power of the Atonement in making that journey. As we come to better understand this sacred power, our gospel perspective will be greatly enlarged and enriched. Such a perspective will change us in remarkable ways.
Nephi is an example of one who knew, understood, and relied upon the enabling power of the Savior. Recall that the sons of Lehi had returned to Jerusalem to enlist Ishmael and his household in their cause. Laman and others in the party traveling with Nephi from Jerusalem back to the wilderness rebelled, and Nephi exhorted his brethren to have faith in the Lord. It was at this point in their journey that Nephi’s brothers bound him with cords and planned his destruction. Please note Nephi’s prayer: “O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound” (1 Nephi 7:17; emphasis added).
Do you know what I likely would have prayed for if I had been tied up by my brothers? “Please get me out of this mess NOW!” It is especially interesting to me that Nephi did not pray to have his circumstances changed. Rather, he prayed for the strength to change his circumstances. And I believe he prayed in this manner precisely because he knew, understood, and had experienced the enabling power of the Atonement.
I do not think the bands with which Nephi was bound just magically fell from his hands and wrists. Rather, I suspect he was blessed with both persistence and personal strength beyond his natural capacity, that he then “in the strength of the Lord” (Mosiah 9:17) worked and twisted and tugged on the cords, and ultimately and literally was enabled to break the bands.
The implication of this episode for each of us is straightforward. As you and I come to understand and employ the enabling power of the Atonement in our personal lives, we will pray and seek for strength to change our circumstances rather than praying for our circumstances to be changed. We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14).
Consider the example in the Book of Mormon as Alma and his people are persecuted by Amulon. The voice of the Lord came to these good people in their affliction and indicated:
“I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs. …
“And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:14–15; emphasis added).
What was changed in this episode? It was not the burden that changed; the challenges and difficulties of persecution were not immediately removed from the people. But Alma and his followers were strengthened, and their increased capacity and strength made the burdens they bore lighter. These good people were empowered through the Atonement toact as agents and impact their circumstances. And “in the strength of the Lord” Alma and his people were then directed to safety in the land of Zarahemla.
You legitimately may be wondering, “What makes the episode with Alma and his people an example of the enabling power of the Atonement?” The answer is found in a comparison of Mosiah 3:19 and Mosiah 24:15.
“And putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lordseeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19; emphasis added).
As we progress in the journey of mortality from bad to good to better, as we put off the natural man or woman in each of us, and as we strive to become saints and have our very natures changed, then the attributes detailed in this verse increasingly should describe the type of person you and I are becoming. We will become more childlike, more submissive, more patient, and more willing to submit.
Now compare these characteristics in Mosiah 3:19 with those used to describe Alma and his people: “And they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:15; emphasis added).
I find the parallels between the attributes described in these verses striking and an indication that Alma’s good people were becoming a better people through the enabling power of the Atonement of Christ the Lord.
Recall the story of Alma and Amulek contained in Alma 14. In this incident many faithful Saints had been put to death by fire, and these two servants of the Lord had been imprisoned and beaten. Consider this petition offered by Alma as he prayed in prison: “O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance” (Alma 14:26; emphasis added).
Here again we see Alma’s understanding of and confidence in the enabling power of the Atonement reflected in his request. And note the result of this prayer:
“And they [Alma and Amulek] broke the cords with which they were bound; and when the people saw this, they began to flee, for the fear of destruction had come upon them. …
“And Alma and Amulek came forth out of the prison, and they were not hurt; for the Lord had granted unto them power, according to their faith which was in Christ” (Alma 14:26, 28; emphasis added).
Once again the enabling power is evident as good people struggle against evil and strive to become even better and serve more effectively “in the strength of the Lord.”
Another example from the Book of Mormon is instructive. In Alma 31, Alma is directing a mission to reclaim the apostate Zoramites, who, after building their Rameumptom, offer a prescribed and prideful prayer.
Notice the plea for strength in Alma’s personal prayer: “O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength, that I may suffer with patience these afflictions which shall come upon me, because of the iniquity of this people” (Alma 31:31; emphasis added).
Alma also prays that his missionary companions will receive a similar blessing: “Wilt thou grant unto them that they may have strength, that they may bear their afflictions which shall come upon them because of the iniquities of this people” (Alma 31:33; emphasis added).
Alma did not pray to have his afflictions removed. He knew he was an agent of the Lord, and he prayed for the power to act and affect his situation.
The key point of this example is contained in the final verse of Alma 31: “[The Lord] gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith” (verse 38; emphasis added).
The afflictions were not removed. But Alma and his companions were strengthened and blessed through the enabling power of the Atonement to “suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ.” What a marvelous blessing. And what a lesson each of us should learn.
Examples of the enabling power are not found only in the scriptures. Daniel W. Jones was born in 1830 in Missouri, and he joined the Church in California in 1851. In 1856 he participated in the rescue of handcart companies that were stranded in Wyoming by severe snowstorms. After the rescue party had found the suffering Saints, provided what immediate comfort they could, and made arrangements for the sick and the feeble to be transported to Salt Lake City, Daniel and several other young men volunteered to remain with and safeguard the company’s possessions. The food and supplies left with Daniel and his colleagues were meager and rapidly expended. The following quote from Daniel Jones’s personal journal describes the events that followed.
“Game soon became so scarce that we could kill nothing. We ate all the poor meat; one would get hungry eating it. Finally that was all gone, nothing now but hides were left. We made a trial of them. A lot was cooked and eaten without any seasoning and it made the whole company sick. …
“Things looked dark, for nothing remained but the poor raw hides taken from starved cattle. We asked the Lord to direct us what to do. The brethren did not murmur, but felt to trust in God. … Finally I was impressed how to fix the stuff and gave the company advice, telling them how to cook it; for them to scorch and scrape the hair off; this had a tendency to kill and purify the bad taste that scalding gave it. After scraping, boil one hour in plenty of water, throwing the water away which had extracted all the glue, then wash and scrape the hide thoroughly, washing in cold water, then boil to a jelly and let it get cold, and then eat with a little sugar sprinkled on it. This was considerable trouble, but we had little else to do and it was better than starving.
“We asked the Lord to bless our stomachs and adapt them to this food. … On eating now all seemed to relish the feast. We were three days without eating before this second attempt was made. We enjoyed this sumptuous fare for about six weeks.”3
In those circumstances I probably would have prayed for something else to eat: “Heavenly Father, please send me a quail or a buffalo.” It likely would not have occurred to me to pray that my stomach would be strengthened and adapted to the food we had. What did Daniel W. Jones know? He knew about the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He did not pray that his circumstances would be changed. He prayed that he would be strengthened to deal with his circumstances. Just as Alma and his people, Amulek, and Nephi were strengthened, Daniel W. Jones had the spiritual insight to know what to ask for in that prayer.
The enabling power of the Atonement of Christ strengthens us to do things we could never do on our own. Sometimes I wonder if in our latter-day world of ease—in our world of microwave ovens and cell phones and air-conditioned cars and comfortable homes—we ever learn to acknowledge our daily dependence upon the enabling power of the Atonement.
Sister Bednar is a remarkably faithful and competent woman, and I have learned important lessons about the strengthening power from her quiet example. I watched her persevere through intense and continuous morning sickness—literally sick all day every day for eight months—during each of her three pregnancies. Together we prayed that she would be blessed, but that challenge was never removed. Instead, she was enabled to do physically what she could not do in her own power. Over the years I have also watched how she has been magnified to handle the mocking and scorn that come from a secular society when a Latter-day Saint woman heeds prophetic counsel and makes the family and the nurturing of children her highest priorities. I thank and pay tribute to Susan for helping me to learn such invaluable lessons.
The Savior Knows and Understands
In Alma chapter 7 we learn how and why the Savior is able to provide the enabling power:
“He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11–12; emphasis added).
The Savior has suffered not just for our iniquities but also for the inequality, the unfairness, the pain, the anguish, and the emotional distresses that so frequently beset us. There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering of spirit, no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior did not experience first. You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, “No one understands. No one knows.” No human being, perhaps, knows. But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore our burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy in so many phases of our life. He can reach out, touch, succor—literally run to us—and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying upon only our own power.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
I declare my witness of and appreciation for the infinite and eternal sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. I know the Savior lives. I have experienced both His redeeming power and His enabling power, and I testify that these powers are real and available to each of us. Indeed, “in the strength of the Lord” we can do and overcome all things as we press forward on our journey of mortality.
By Alan on Mar 27 in Blog tagged agency of man, before we were born, between the fathers and the children, continue to progress, eternal life, Family History, firstborn, Heavenly Father's Plan, Jesus Christ, Kingdoms of Glory, life after death, Lucifer, mortal life, mortality, Newsletter, of the children, osmond.org, pass that legacy on to our children, plan of happiness, premortal, Premortal life, Son of the Father, The Family, The Plan of Life, The Plan of Salvation, to the fathers, turn the heart, welding link, Where did we come from, wherre do we go after this life, why are we here | Comments Off
…Turn The Heart Of The Children To The Fathers
Where did we come from?
Why are we here?
Where do we go after this life?
Through family history work, we can learn about our ancestors and increase our love for them. We can be inspired by their stories of courage and faith. We can pass that legacy on to our children. All of the family history endeavors are directed to the need to form a “welding link—between the fathers and the children” (D&C 128: 18).
We are participants in Heavenly Father’s plan, and our eternal experience can be divided into three main parts:
Life after death.
As we come to understand the plan, we find answers to questions asked by so many: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where do we go after this life?
Before we were born on the earth, we lived in the presence of our Heavenly Father as one of His spirit children. In this premortal existence, we attended a council with Heavenly Father’s other spirit children. At that council, Heavenly Father presented His great plan of happiness (see Abraham 3: 22-26).
In harmony with the plan of happiness, the premortal Jesus Christ, the Firstborn Son of the Father in the spirit, covenanted to be the Savior (see Moses 4: 2; Abr. 3: 27). Those who followed Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ were permitted to come to the earth to experience mortality and progress toward eternal life. Lucifer, another spirit son of God, rebelled against the plan and “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4: 3). He became Satan, and he and his followers were cast out of heaven and denied the privileges of receiving a physical body and experiencing mortality (see Moses 4: 4; Abraham 3: 27-28).
Throughout our premortal lives, we developed our identity and increased our spiritual capabilities. Blessed with the gift of agency, we made important decisions, such as the decision to follow Heavenly Father’s plan. These decisions affected our life then and now. We grew in intelligence and learned to love the truth, and we prepared to come to the earth, where we could continue to progress.
We are now experiencing mortal life. Our spirits are united with our bodies, giving us opportunities to grow and develop in ways that were not possible in premortal life. This part of our existence is a time of learning in which we can prove ourselves, choose to come unto Christ, and prepare to be worthy of eternal life. It is also a time when we can help others find the truth and gain a testimony of the plan of salvation.
Life after Death
When we die, our spirits will enter the spirit world and await the resurrection. At the time of the resurrection, our spirit and body will reunite, and we will be judged and received into a kingdom of glory. The glory we inherit will depend on the depth of our conversion and our obedience to the Lord’s commandments (see Kingdoms of Glory). It will depend on the manner in which we have “received the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76: 51; see also D&C 76: 74, 79, 101).
Blessings through Knowledge of the Plan
A testimony of the plan of salvation can give us hope and purpose as we wrestle with the challenges of life. We can find reassurance in the knowledge that we are children of God and that we lived in His presence before being born on the earth. We can find meaning in our present life, knowing that our actions during mortality influence our eternal destiny. With this knowledge, we can base important decisions on eternal truths rather than on the changing circumstances of life. We can continually improve our relationships with family members, rejoicing in the promise that our families can be eternal. We can find joy in our testimonies of the Atonement and the Lord’s commandments, ordinances, covenants, and doctrines, knowing that “he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59: 23).
We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.
Suzanne and I invite you to visit our Family History Site to see “Where We Came From” . . . and to see IF WE ARE RELATED!
Have you signed up for our FREE NEWSLETTER?
By Alan on Mar 03 in Blog tagged apostles, Boyd K. Packer, commandments, confusion, evil desires, female, habits, Jesus, lust, male, mortality, pornography, priesthood, prophet, revelations, same-sex marriage, the way | Comments Off
We are living at a time when there is such confusion and such danger that our young people hardly know which way they can walk. Having been warned through the revelations that it would be this way, the prophets and apostles have always been shown what to do.
The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith “that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.” 1 When the keys were restored, they provided priesthood authority to be present in every home through the grandfathers, the fathers, and the sons.
With the world in turmoil, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the fifth proclamation in the history of the Church. It is a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow.
It states in part: “We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” 2
“The Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them.
“And the Gods said: We will bless them. And … we will cause them to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” 3
This commandment has never been rescinded.
“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” 4
It is intended that we be happy, for “men are, that they might have joy.” 5
The old saying “The Lord is voting for me, and Lucifer is voting against me, but it is my vote that counts” describes a doctrinal certainty that our agency is more powerful than the adversary’s will. Agency is precious. We can foolishly, blindly give it away, but it cannot be forcibly taken from us.
There is also an age-old excuse: “The devil made me do it.” Not so! He can deceive you and mislead you, but he does not have the power to force you or anyone else to transgress or to keep you in transgression.
To be entrusted with the power to create life carries with it the greatest of joys and dangerous temptations. The gift of mortal life and the capacity to kindle other lives is a supernal blessing. Through the righteous exercise of this power, as in nothing else, we may come close to our Father in Heaven and experience a fulness of joy. This power is not an incidental part of the plan of happiness. It is the key—the very key.
Whether we use this power as the eternal laws require or reject its divine purpose will forever determine what we will become. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” 7
There is something very liberating when an individual determines of his or her own free will to be obedient to our Father and our God and expresses that willingness to Him in prayer.
When we obey, we can enjoy these powers in the covenant of marriage. From our fountains of life will spring our children, our family. Love between husband and wife can be constant and bring fulfillment and contentment all the days of our lives.
If one is denied these blessings in mortality, the promise is that they will be provided for in the world to come.
Pure love presupposes that only after a pledge of eternal fidelity, a legal and a lawful ceremony, and ideally after the sealing ordinance in the temple, are those life-giving powers released for the full expression of love. It is to be shared only and solely between man and woman, husband and wife, with that one who is our companion forever. On this the gospel is very plain.
We are free to ignore the commandments, but when the revelations speak in such blunt terms, such as “thou shalt not,” we had better pay attention.
The adversary is jealous toward all who have power to beget life. Satan cannot beget life; he is impotent. “He seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” 8 He seeks to degrade the righteous use of the life-giving powers by tempting you into immoral relationships.
The Lord used the expression “is like unto” to create an image His followers could understand, such as:
“The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man.” 9
“The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field.” 10
In our day the dreadful influence of pornography is like unto a plague sweeping across the world, infecting one here and one there, relentlessly trying to invade every home, most frequently through the husband and father. The effect of this plague can be, unfortunately often is, spiritually fatal. Lucifer seeks to disrupt “the great plan of redemption,” 11 “the great plan of happiness.” 12
Pornography will always repel the Spirit of Christ and will interrupt the communications between our Heavenly Father and His children and disrupt the tender relationship between husband and wife.
The priesthood holds consummate power. It can protect you from the plague of pornography—and it is a plague—if you are succumbing to its influence. If one is obedient, the priesthood can show how to break a habit and even erase an addiction. Holders of the priesthood have that authority and should employ it to combat evil influences.
We raise an alarm and warn members of the Church to wake up and understand what is going on. Parents, be alert, ever watchful that this wickedness might threaten your family circle.
We teach a standard of moral conduct that will protect us from Satan’s many substitutes or counterfeits for marriage.
(Same Sex Marriage)
We must understand that any persuasion to enter into any relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the gospel must be wrong. From the Book of Mormon we learn that “wickedness never was happiness.” 13
Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Remember, God is our Heavenly Father.
Paul promised that “God … will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 14 You can, if you will, break the habits and conquer an addiction and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church. As Alma cautioned, we must “watch and pray continually.” 15
Isaiah warned, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” 16
Years ago I visited a school in Albuquerque. The teacher told me about a youngster who brought a kitten to class. As you can imagine, that disrupted everything. She had him hold the kitten up in front of the children.
It went well until one of the children asked, “Is it a boy kitty or a girl kitty?”
Not wanting to get into that lesson, the teacher said, “It doesn’t matter. It’s just a kitty.”
But they persisted. Finally, one boy raised his hand and said, “I know how you can tell.”
Resigned to face it, the teacher said, “How can you tell?”
And the student answered, “You can vote on it!”
You may laugh at this story, but if we are not alert, there are those today who not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that would legalize immorality, as if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God’s laws and nature. A law against nature would be impossible to enforce. For instance, what good would a vote against the law of gravity do?
There are both moral and physical laws “irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world” that cannot be changed. 17 History demonstrates over and over again that moral standards cannot be changed by battle and cannot be changed by ballot. To legalize that which is basically wrong or evil will not prevent the pain and penalties that will follow as surely as night follows day.
Regardless of the opposition, we are determined to stay on course. We will hold to the principles and laws and ordinances of the gospel. If they are misunderstood either innocently or willfully, so be it. We cannot change; we will not change the moral standard. We quickly lose our way when we disobey the laws of God. If we do not protect and foster the family, civilization and our liberties must needs perish.
“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” 18
Every soul confined in a prison of sin, guilt, or perversion has a key to the gate. The key is labeled “repentance.” If you know how to use this key, the adversary cannot hold you. The twin principles of repentance and forgiveness exceed in strength the awesome power of the tempter. If you are bound by a habit or an addiction that is unworthy, you must stop conduct that is harmful. Angels will coach you, 19 and priesthood leaders will guide you through those difficult times.
Nowhere are the generosity and the kindness and mercy of God more manifest than in repentance. Do you understand the consummate cleansing power of the Atonement made by the Son of God, our Savior, our Redeemer? He said, “I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent.” 20 In that supernal act of love, the Savior paid the penalties for our sins so that we might not have to pay.
For those who truly desire it, there is a way back. Repentance is like unto a detergent. Even ground-in stains of sin will come out.
Priesthood holders carry with them the antidote to remove the terrible images of pornography and to wash away guilt. The priesthood has the power to unlock the influence of our habits, even to unchain from addiction, however tight the grip. It can heal over the scars of past mistakes.
I know of no more beautiful and consoling words in all of revelation than these: “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” 21
Sometimes, even after confession and paying penalties, the most difficult part of repentance is to forgive one’s self. You must come to know that forgiveness means forgiveness.
“As often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.” 22
President Joseph Fielding Smith told me of a repentant woman struggling to find her way out of a very immoral life. She asked him what she should do now.
In turn, he asked her to read to him from the Old Testament the account of Lot’s wife, who was turned to a pillar of salt. 23 Then he asked her, “What lesson do you gain from those verses?”
She answered, “The Lord will destroy the wicked.”
“Not so!” President Smith said that the lesson for this repentant woman and for you is “Don’t look back!” 24
Strangely enough, it may be that the simplest and most powerful prevention and cure for pornography, or any unclean act, is to ignore and avoid it. Delete from the mind any unworthy thought that tries to take root. Once you have decided to remain clean, you are asserting your God-given agency. And then, as President Smith counseled, “Don’t look back.”
I promise that ahead of you is peace and happiness for you and your family. The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is that a man and his wife and their children can be happy at home. And I invoke the blessings of the Lord upon you who are struggling against this terrible plague, to find the healing that is available to us in the priesthood of the Lord. I bear witness of that power in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
For The Family