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Nations take up their battle stations.
Patrons of zodiac revelations.
Lustations breaking family relations.
Litigation allowing shoot-up sensations.
That’s what they said
some day it would be.
Now just look around,
if that’s what we see…
It’s gotta be the last days.
Gotta be the last days.
People living lives of confusion.
Millions caught up in revolution.
Cities lost in their own pollution.
Question what is the constitution?
That’s what they said
some day it would be.
Now just look around,
if that’s what we see…
It’s gotta be the last days.
It’s gotta be the last days.
No longer need these universal questions remain unanswered.
My beloved brothers and sisters, this morning I wish to speak to you of eternal truths—those truths which will enrich our lives and see us safely home.
Everywhere people are in a hurry. Jet-powered aircraft speed their precious human cargo across broad continents and vast oceans so that business meetings might be attended, obligations met, vacations enjoyed, or families visited. Roadways everywhere—including freeways, thruways, and motorways—carry millions of automobiles, occupied by more millions of people, in a seemingly endless stream and for a multitude of reasons as we rush about the business of each day.
In this fast-paced life, do we ever pause for moments of meditation—even thoughts of timeless truths?
When compared to eternal verities, most of the questions and concerns of daily living are really rather trivial. What should we have for dinner? What color should we paint the living room? Should we sign Johnny up for soccer? These questions and countless others like them lose their significance when times of crisis arise, when loved ones are hurt or injured, when sickness enters the house of good health, when life’s candle dims and darkness threatens. Our thoughts become focused, and we are easily able to determine what is really important and what is merely trivial.
I recently visited with a woman who has been battling a life-threatening disease for over two years. She indicated that prior to her illness, her days were filled with activities such as cleaning her house to perfection and filling it with beautiful furnishings. She visited her hairdresser twice a week and spent money and time each month adding to her wardrobe. Her grandchildren were invited to visit infrequently, for she was always concerned that what she considered her precious possessions might be broken or otherwise ruined by tiny and careless hands.
And then she received the shocking news that her mortal life was in jeopardy and that she might have very limited time left here. She said that at the moment she heard the doctor’s diagnosis, she knew immediately that she would spend whatever time she had remaining with her family and friends and with the gospel at the center of her life, for these represented what was most precious to her.
Such moments of clarity come to all of us at one time or another, although not always through so dramatic a circumstance. We see clearly what it is that really matters in our lives and how we should be living.
Said the Savior:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”1
In our times of deepest reflection or greatest need, the soul of man reaches heavenward, seeking a divine response to life’s greatest questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where do we go after we leave this life?
Answers to these questions are not discovered within the covers of academia’s textbooks or by checking the Internet. These questions transcend mortality. They embrace eternity.
Where did we come from? This query is inevitably thought, if not spoken, by every human being.
The Apostle Paul told the Athenians on Mars’ Hill that “we are the offspring of God.”2 Since we know that our physical bodies are the offspring of our mortal parents, we must probe for the meaning of Paul’s statement. The Lord has declared that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man.”3 Thus it is the spirit which is the offspring of God. The writer of Hebrews refers to Him as “the Father of spirits.”4 The spirits of all men are literally His “begotten sons and daughters.”5
We note that inspired poets have, for our contemplation of this subject, written moving messages and recorded transcendent thoughts. William Wordsworth penned the truth:
Parents ponder their responsibility to teach, to inspire, and to provide guidance, direction, and example. And while parents ponder, children—and particularly youth—ask the penetrating question, why are we here? Usually it is spoken silently to the soul and phrased, why am I here?
How grateful we should be that a wise Creator fashioned an earth and placed us here, with a veil of forgetfulness of our previous existence so that we might experience a time of testing, an opportunity to prove ourselves in order to qualify for all that God has prepared for us to receive.
Clearly, one primary purpose of our existence upon the earth is to obtain a body of flesh and bones. We have also been given the gift of agency. In a thousand ways we are privileged to choose for ourselves. Here we learn from the hard taskmaster of experience. We discern between good and evil. We differentiate as to the bitter and the sweet. We discover that there are consequences attached to our actions.
By obedience to God’s commandments, we can qualify for that “house” spoken of by Jesus when He declared: “In my Father’s house are many mansions. … I go to prepare a place for you … that where I am, there ye may be also.”7
Although we come into mortality “trailing clouds of glory,” life moves relentlessly forward. Youth follows childhood, and maturity comes ever so imperceptibly. From experience we learn the need to reach heavenward for assistance as we make our way along life’s pathway.
God, our Father, and Jesus Christ, our Lord, have marked the way to perfection. They beckon us to follow eternal verities and to become perfect, as They are perfect.8
The Apostle Paul likened life to a race. To the Hebrews he urged, “Let us lay aside … the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”9
In our zeal, let us not overlook the sage counsel from Ecclesiastes: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.”10 Actually, the prize belongs to him or her who endures to the end.
When I reflect on the race of life, I remember another type of race, even from childhood days. My friends and I would take pocketknives in hand and, from the soft wood of a willow tree, fashion small toy boats. With a triangular-shaped cotton sail in place, each would launch his crude craft in the race down the relatively turbulent waters of Utah’s Provo River. We would run along the river’s bank and watch the tiny vessels sometimes bobbing violently in the swift current and at other times sailing serenely as the water deepened.
During a particular race we noted that one boat led all the rest toward the appointed finish line. Suddenly, the current carried it too close to a large whirlpool, and the boat heaved to its side and capsized. Around and around it was carried, unable to make its way back into the main current. At last it came to an uneasy rest amid the flotsam and jetsam that surrounded it, held fast by the tentacles of the grasping green moss.
The toy boats of childhood had no keel for stability, no rudder to provide direction, and no source of power. Inevitably, their destination was downstream—the path of least resistance.
Unlike toy boats, we have been provided divine attributes to guide our journey. We enter mortality not to float with the moving currents of life but with the power to think, to reason, and to achieve.
Our Heavenly Father did not launch us on our eternal voyage without providing the means whereby we could receive from Him guidance to ensure our safe return. I speak of prayer. I speak too of the whisperings from that still, small voice; and I do not overlook the holy scriptures, which contain the word of the Lord and the words of the prophets—provided to us to help us successfully cross the finish line.
At some period in our mortal mission, there appears the faltering step, the wan smile, the pain of sickness—even the fading of summer, the approach of autumn, the chill of winter, and the experience we call death.
Every thoughtful person has asked himself the question best phrased by Job of old: “If a man die, shall he live again?”11 Try as we might to put the question out of our thoughts, it always returns. Death comes to all mankind. It comes to the aged as they walk on faltering feet. Its summons is heard by those who have scarcely reached midway in life’s journey. At times it hushes the laughter of little children.
But what of an existence beyond death? Is death the end of all? Robert Blatchford, in his book God and My Neighbor, attacked with vigor accepted Christian beliefs such as God, Christ, prayer, and particularly immortality. He boldly asserted that death was the end of our existence and that no one could prove otherwise. Then a surprising thing happened. His wall of skepticism suddenly crumbled to dust. He was left exposed and undefended. Slowly he began to feel his way back to the faith he had ridiculed and abandoned. What had caused this profound change in his outlook? His wife died. With a broken heart he went into the room where lay all that was mortal of her. He looked again at the face he loved so well. Coming out, he said to a friend: “It is she, and yet it is not she. Everything is changed. Something that was there before is taken away. She is not the same. What can be gone if it be not the soul?”
Later he wrote: “Death is not what some people imagine. It is only like going into another room. In that other room we shall find … the dear women and men and the sweet children we have loved and lost.”12
My brothers and sisters, we know that death is not the end. This truth has been taught by living prophets throughout the ages. It is also found in our holy scriptures. In the Book of Mormon we read specific and comforting words:
“Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
“And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.”13
After the Savior was crucified and His body had lain in the tomb for three days, the spirit again entered. The stone was rolled away, and the resurrected Redeemer walked forth, clothed with an immortal body of flesh and bones.
The answer to Job’s question, “If a man die, shall he live again?” came when Mary and others approached the tomb and saw two men in shining garments who spoke to them: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.”14
As the result of Christ’s victory over the grave, we shall all be resurrected. This is the redemption of the soul. Paul wrote: “There are … celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.”15
It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings are earned through a lifetime of striving, seeking, repenting, and finally succeeding.
Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where do we go after this life? No longer need these universal questions remain unanswered. From the very depths of my soul and in all humility, I testify that those things of which I have spoken are true.
Our Heavenly Father rejoices for those who keep His commandments. He is concerned also for the lost child, the tardy teenager, the wayward youth, the delinquent parent. Tenderly the Master speaks to these and indeed to all: “Come back. Come up. Come in. Come home. Come unto me.”
Our thoughts will turn to the Savior’s life, His death, and His Resurrection. As His special witness, I testify to you that He lives and that He awaits our triumphant return. That such a return will be ours, I pray humbly in His holy name—even Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Redeemer, amen.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Kansas City Missouri Temple Dedicated
The Kansas City Missouri Temple was formally dedicated Sunday in three sessions by President Thomas S. Monson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). The dedicatory sessions were broadcast to congregations of the Church within the temple district.
President Monson said this “stately and magnificent temple in the lovely part of the country, really the heartland of America, … will shine as a beacon of righteousness to all who will follow its light — the light of the gospel, the light of the Savior.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elders William R. Walker and Donald L. Hallstrom of the Seventy accompanied President Monson during the weekend’s events.
The purpose of a temple dedication ceremony is to set aside the building for the work of God. A Latter-day Saint dedication ceremony includes a special prayer designating the building for Church use and asking God to bless the structure and grounds. A dedication ceremony generally also includes music and talks from Church leaders.
Prior to the dedication, President Monson sealed the temple cornerstone, a tradition marking the end of construction and the beginning of the sacred work inside the temple.
The Kansas City Missouri Temple is the Church’s 137th temple worldwide, 67th in the United States and second in Missouri. The temple will serve some 45,000 Latter-day Saints in 126 congregations throughout Kansas, Missouri and small portions of Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Plans for a temple in Kansas City were announced by the First Presidency of the Church on 4 October 2008. Construction began with a formal groundbreaking on 8 May 2010.
While tens of thousands of Church meetinghouses are open to all people who wish to attend religious services there, temples, like the Kansas City Missouri Temple, are open only to faithful Latter-day Saints after they are formally dedicated. (See a Mormon Newsroom article explaining the difference between the Church’s chapels and temples.)
Latter-day Saint temples differ from the meetinghouses or chapels where members meet for Sunday worship services. Temples are considered “houses of the Lord” where Christ’s teachings are reaffirmed through baptism and other ordinances that unite families for eternity. In the temple, Church members learn more about the purpose of life and make covenants to follow Jesus Christ and serve their fellow man.
The Church’s History in Missouri
The Church has early roots in the Kansas City area. Six months after the Church was organized in April 1830, Joseph Smith called missionaries to travel to the frontier of western Missouri to preach to Native Americans living in Indian Territory (Kansas).
Joseph Smith arrived in Independence in July 1831 and designated the area as a gathering place for Latter-day Saints. Thousands of followers soon arrived. Over the next few years, the Mormon settlement expanded beyond Jackson County into the area that is today the Country Club Plaza. In 1833 the Latter-day Saints left Jackson County, heading north into Liberty in Clay County. They later settled in Daviess and Caldwell Counties, created by the Missouri legislature specifically for the Mormons. About 15,000 Mormons left Missouri in 1838-39, settling in Nauvoo, Illinois, until 1846, when they began their journey across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley.
The Church returned to Kansas in 1895, when an office for the Central States Mission was established in St. John, Kansas. This regional office was moved to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1900 and then to Independence in 1907. Since that time, local Church membership in the metropolitan area has grown to over 22,000.
I remember reading about woodcutters laying their massive axes and power saws to the stately and once mighty elm trees that graced the countryside surrounding England’s Heathrow Airport.
It was said some of the majestic monarchs were over 100 years old. One wondered how many persons had admired their beauty, how many picnics had been enjoyed in their welcome shade, how many generations of songbirds had filled the air with music while capering among the outstretched and luxuriant branches.
Yet the patriarchal elms were dead. Their demise was not the result of old age, recurring drought, or the strong winds which occasionally lash the area. Their destroyer was much more harmless in appearance yet deadly in result. We know the culprit as the bark beetle, carrier of the fatal Dutch elm disease. This malady has destroyed vast elm forests throughout Europe and America. Its march of death continues. Many efforts at control have failed.
Dutch elm disease usually begins with a wilting of the younger leaves in the upper part of the tree. Later the lower branches become infected. In about midsummer most of the leaves turn yellow, curl, and drop off. Life ebbs. Death approaches. A forest is consumed. The bark beetle has taken its terrible toll.
How like the elm is man. From a minute seed and in accordance with a divine plan, we grow, are nurtured, and mature. The bright sunlight of heaven, the rich blessings of earth are ours. In our private forest of family and friends, life is richly rewarding and abundantly beautiful. Then suddenly, there appears before us in this generation a sinister and diabolical enemy—pornography. Like the bark beetle, it too is the carrier of a deadly disease. I shall name it “pernicious permissiveness.”
At first we scarcely realize we have been infected. We laugh and make lighthearted comment concerning the off-color story or the clever cartoon. With evangelical zeal we protect the so-called rights of those who would contaminate with smut and destroy all that is precious and sacred. The beetle of pornography is doing his deadly task—undercutting our will, destroying our immunity, and stifling that upward reach within each of us.
Can this actually be true? Surely this matter of pernicious permissiveness is not so serious. What are the facts? Let’s look! Let’s listen! Then let’s act!
Pornography and Crime
Pornography, the carrier, is big business. It is evil. It is contagious. It is addicting. It is estimated that in recent years Americans alone spent 8–10 billion dollars per year on hard-core pornography1—a fortune siphoned away from noble use and diverted to a devilish purpose!
Apathy toward pornography stems mostly from a widespread public attitude that it is a victimless crime and that police resources are better used in other areas. Many state and local ordinances are ineffective, sentences are light, and the huge financial rewards far outweigh the risks.
One study points out that pornography may have a direct relationship to sex crimes. In the study, 87 percent of convicted molesters of girls and 77 percent of convicted molesters of boys admit to the use of pornography, most often in commission of their crimes.2
Some publishers and printers prostitute their presses by printing millions of pieces of pornography each day. No expense is spared. The finest of paper, the spectrum of full color combine to produce a product certain to be read, then read again. Nor are the movie or Web site producer, the television programmer, or the entertainer free from taint. Gone are the restraints of yesteryear. So-called realism is the quest.
One leading box office star lamented: “The boundaries of permissiveness have been extended to the limit. The last film I did was filthy. I thought it was filthy when I read the script, and I still think it’s filthy; but the studio tried it out at a Friday night sneak preview and the audience screamed its approval.”
Another star declared, “Movie makers, like publishers, are in the business to make money, and they make money by giving the public what it wants.”
Some persons struggle to differentiate between what they term “soft-core” and “hard-core” pornography. Actually, one leads to another. How applicable is Alexander Pope’s classic “Essay on Man”:
The constant, consuming march of the pornography beetle blights neighborhoods just as it contaminates human lives. It has just about destroyed some areas. It moves relentlessly closer to your city, your neighborhood, and your family. Pornography is now more available than ever. At the click of a button, evil can be viewed in our homes on televisions and computer screens, in our hotels and movie theaters, or even in our places of employment, where access to the Internet is often provided.
An ominous warning was voiced by Laurence M. Gould, former president of Carleton College: “I do not believe the greatest threat to our future is from bombs or guided missiles. I don’t think our civilization will die that way. I think it will die when we no longer care. Arnold Toynbee has pointed out that 19 of 21 civilizations have died from within and not by conquest from without. There were no bands playing and flags waving when these civilizations decayed. It happened slowly, in the quiet and the dark when no one was aware.”4
I remember reading a review of a new movie. The leading actress told the reporter that she objected initially to the script and the part she was to play. The role portrayed her as the sexual companion of a 14-year-old boy. She commented: “At first I said, ‘No way will I agree to such a scene.’ Then I was given the assurance that the boy’s mother would be present during all intimate scenes, so I agreed.”
I ask: Would a mother stand by watching were her son embraced by a cobra? Would she subject him to the taste of arsenic or strychnine? Mothers, would you? Fathers, would we?
From the past of long ago we hear the echo so relevant today:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!
Today we have a rebirth of ancient Sodom and Gomorrah. From seldom-read pages in dusty Bibles they come forth as real cities in a real world, depicting a real malady—pernicious permissiveness.
Our Battle Plan
We have the capacity and the responsibility to stand as a bulwark between all we hold dear and the fatal contamination of the pornography beetle. May I suggest three specific steps in our battle plan:
First, a return to righteousness. An understanding of who we are and what God expects us to become will prompt us to pray—as individuals and as families. Such a return reveals the constant truth:“Wickedness never was happiness.”6Let not the evil one dissuade. We can yet be guided by that still, small voice—unerring in its direction and all-powerful in its influence.
Second, a quest for the good life. I speak not of the fun life, the sophisticated life, the popular life. Rather, I urge each to seek eternal life—life everlasting with mother, father, brothers, sisters, husband, wife, sons, and daughters, forever and forever together.
Third, a pledge to wage and win the war against pernicious permissiveness. As we encounter that evil carrier, the pornography beetle, let our battle standard and that of our communities be taken from that famous ensign of early America, “Don’t tread on me.”7
Let us join in the fervent declaration of Joshua: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”8Let our hearts be pure. Let our lives be clean. Let our voices be heard. Let our actions be felt.
Then the beetle of pornography will be halted in its deadly course. Pernicious permissiveness will have met its match. And we, with Joshua, will safely cross over Jordan into the promised land—even to eternal life in the celestial kingdom of our God.
Pornography is a sinister enemy.
We have the capacity and responsibility to stand against the fatal contamination of pornography.
Our battle plan includes:
An understanding of who we are and what God expects us to become.
Seeking for eternal life—life everlasting with family members forever and forever together.
A purity of heart. Let our lives be clean. Let our voices be heard. Let our actions be felt.