Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastsness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

Toward the end of Nephi’s life and ministry he shared this scripture.  I believe it truly gives us an ultimate road map to return to live with our Heavenly Father.  The two statements that seem to stand out are “Press forward with a steadfastness in Christ” and “Endure to the End.”  Think of the great joy, accomplishment, and reward comes to those who do these things.  Certainly you can think of examples in your life who have pressed forward against all odds to accomplish something great.

 Pressing forward and enduring to the end is easy to talk about when everything is going your way, it’s when things get tough that it starts to become more difficult.  I believe we have to be aware of discouragement and disappointment in our lives that would cause us to give up and quit trying.  One great example of urging an entire country to endure to the end was Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill

On October 29, 1941, Churchill visited his alma-mater prep school, Harrow, in Northwest London to speak to the students there.  This was at a time when the entire country had been ravaged by German bombs and had endured the Battle of Britain.  His message, however, was not one of gloom and doom or of giving up.  In fact it was quite the opposite and because one of the most famous speeches ever given.

Churchill admonished the young men at Harrow to:

“Never give in.  Never give in.  Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.  Never yield to force.  Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Then he continued, and although this part isn’t as famous, it surely is just as inspiring.

 “Do not let us speak of darker days:  let us speak rather of sterner days.  These are not dark days’ these are great days – the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.”

 Churchill was known as the “British Bulldog” and I think you can tell by this story that he was as tough as a bulldog.  His example is one of the world’s greatest models of never giving up. 
However the following is a story of a man who decided on his own not to press forward and endure to the end.  He hasn’t gone down in history as someone who was willing to endure to the end.  His name was Louis Moses Rose.

In early March, 1836, Rose was under the command of Colonel William Travis in the old Spanish mission called the Alamo.  Colonel Travis and his approximately 200 fellow soldiers faced the overwhelming force of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s nearly 1,500 troops.  One night before the final battle it was reported that Colonel Travis gathered his fellow defenders together, gave a speech and issued a challenge.  He told his outnumbered band of men that he “intended to fight to the death if necessary” but if there was any one of the men who felt like trying to escape the battle he was free to go.

The Alamo,
San Antonio, Texas

 The story continues that at that moment Colonel Travis reached for his long polished steel sword, pulled it from its scabbard and then deliberately put its tip on the ground.  He next pulled the blade across the ground creating a line – referred to as “the line in the sand.”  He then asked those outnumbered and out equipped men to demonstrate their resolve to stay and fight by stepping across the line.
One by one the men stepped across the line, most likely knowing it meant certain death in a brutal manner.  In the end every man stepped across the line except one; Louis Moses Rose.  There are many who wouldn’t have blamed Rose for escaping through the Mexican Army’s lines that night knowing that those who stayed had no chance of winning.  But he chose not to stay by the side of those who were counting on them.

The next day the cannon fire from outside the Alamo tore through its walls allowing General Santa Anna’s men to storm the old mission and kill every man there.  Each man died a hero having made a stand to fight for something bigger than each one of them. 

 I don’t judge Louis Moses Rose for his choice, but I know that every other man in that company was offered the same choice and every one of them chose to stand for something they believed in; everyone except Louis Moses Rose.

 One individual from our early church history who personified pressing forward and enduring to the end was John R. Moyle.  John was a convert to the Church who left his home in England and traveled to the Salt Lake Valley as part of a handcart company.  He settled and lived in Alpine, Utah, about 22 miles as the crow flies to the Salt Lake Temple where he was the chief superintendent of masonry during its construction.  To make certain he was always at work by 8 o’clock on Monday morning he would start walking about 2 a.m. Monday mornings in order to arrive on time.  He would finish his work week at 5 p.m. on Friday and then start the long walk home, arriving there shortly before midnight.  Each week he would repeat that schedule for the entire time he served on the construction of the temple.  That would be a grand story of dedication, but it was only the beginning of this story for John Moyle.

 Once when he was home on the weekend, one of his cows bolted during milking and kicked Brother Moyle in the leg, shattering the bone just below the knee.  With only the medical assistance available in that rural area, his family and friends took a door off the hinges and strapped him onto that makeshift operating table.  They then took the bucksaw they had been using to cut branches from a nearby tree and amputated his leg just a few inches below the knee.  When, against all medical likelihood, the leg started to heal, Brother Moyle took a piece of wood and carved an artificial leg.  First he walked in the house … then around the yard … finally, he ventured out about his property.  When he felt he could stand the pain, he strapped on his artificial leg – walked the 22 miles to the Salt Lake Temple – climbed the scaffolding, and with a chisel in his hand hammered out the declaration, “Holiness to the Lord.”  (Gene A. Sessions, ed., “Biographies and Reminiscences from the James Henry Moyle Collection,” typescript, Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 203)

“Holiness To The Lord”

The Salt Lake Temple

To this day you can see John Moyle’s work above the front doors of the Salt Lake Temple where it reads, “Holiness to the Lord.”  By pressing forward and enduring to the end his example was also etched into the annals of greatness. 

 How will you be known and remembered by your friends and family?  Are you one who overcomes all odds by pressing forward?  Are you one who won’t give up, but endures to the end?  The greatest part of Nephi’s words here are this:  Ye shall have eternal life.”

Eternal life is the greatest of all the gifts of God.  (read D&C 14:7)  Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, reserve this great gift to those who obey their commandments, press forward when times are tough and endure to the very end.  At the end of that path we are promised the greatest blessing possible … the opportunity to live with God and our families forever.  That seems like a deal we should all seek for.  I pray that throughout our lives we will never forget Nephi’s inspiring words.  I pray we will all press forward with a steadfastness in Christ.  I pray we will all feast upon the words of Christ and endure to the end.  If we do, I know we will have the greatest of all the gifts of God.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don't Be Offended

I Nephi 8:33 – “They did point the finger of scorn at me … but we heeded them not.”

Have you ever been scorned?  Scorn is described as showing distain or disrespect.  Being scorned is not a very pleasant experience for anyone to have to endure.  In fact, it can be downright miserable.  But Nephi teaches us a great lesson about listening to those who would scorn us … he said, “But we heeded them not.”  Now I believe it takes great courage to walk away from someone who may scorn you, but Nephi was clear in his actions … he heeded them not.”  I think there is a great lesson in these few words.  I believe that lesson is; “Don’t be offended by someone.”

In the many years I have served as a Bishop or member of the Stake Presidency I have seen far too many people stop coming to church, or worse yet, become angry with the Church because they “were offended” by someone there.  Sometimes it’s been a neighbor who offended them, sometimes it’s a teacher who may have said something in a lesson,  there have even been several times when I have heard people say that it was “the Bishop” who offended them and made them mad.  But in my experience it doesn’t seem to matter who it was, the outcome is usually the same … they “get even” by staying home and becoming less-active members of the Church. 

Can you imagine how Nephi’s life would have been if he quit following the Lord every time his brothers offended him?  I don’t believe they would ever have made it to the Promised Land.  I think they may have been out in the desert for years looking for the nearest directions back to Jerusalem.  But Nephi had the courage to “heed them not” and I encourage each of you to do the same thing when you may feel offended at Church or by someone in the Church.  And trust me, there will come, probably several times in your life, experiences when you can take offense at something someone will say or do to you at Church.

You’ve probably heard the saying; “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”  I believe this saying means it is foolish to think that causing serious and irreversible damage to something that offends is going to improve or resolve the issue in the big picture.  That is certainly the case when it comes to people who stay away from the Church because they’ve been offended. 

The folly of staying away from the church because of offense has been around since the beginning of this dispensation.  One of the most interesting stories involved Elder Thomas S. Marsh, who was at the time the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

While in Far West, Missouri, Elder Marsh’s wife, Elizabeth, and her friend, a Sister Harris wanted to make a large amount of cheese.  In order to do this they needed to exchange milk from their cows in order to make more cheese then they could make individually.  To be honest and fair they agreed that they would not keep what were called the “strippings,” but that the milk and strippings should all go together.  Now the strippings were the creamier part of the milk that usually came at the end of each milking.  Sister Harris was honest in her agreement, but Sister Marsh selfishly saved a pint of strippings from each cow for her own use.  This disagreement turned into an argument that they refused to settle on their own.  Their home teachers were asked to settle the argument (now that’s an interesting role for the home teachers to play, isn’t it?).  The Home Teachers sided with Sister Harris and found Elizabeth Marsh guilty of failure to keep her agreement.  She and her husband were upset with the decision of the Home Teachers and appealed the matter to their Bishop for a Church trial.  (Remember, all this was over milk strippings!)  The bishop’s court decided that the strippings were wrongfully saved and that Sister Marsh had violated her agreement with Sister Harris.

Thomas Marsh then appealed to the high council and these 12 men upheld the bishop’s decision.  But the Marsh’s were still not satisfied with the outcome so they pled their case to Joseph Smith and his counselors.  The First Presidency agreed with the Bishop and High Council and upheld the decision.

Elder Thomas B. Marsh, who sided with his wife through all this, became more offended with each successive decision – so offended, in fact, that he went before a state magistrate and swore that the Mormons were hostile toward the state of Missouri.  His testimony against the church led to Governor Lilburn Boggs’ extermination order which resulted in over 15,000 Church members to be driven from their homes in Missouri.  All of this because Elder Marsh and his wife Elizabeth were offended by Sister Harris’ charges.  (See George A. Smith, “Discourse,” Deseret News, Apr. 16, 1856, 44)

What an incredibly high price to pay for offense.  Can you imagine how much better things would have been if Elder and Sister Marsh would have taken Nephi’s advice and “heeded not” the offense?  Their pride inflicted great pain into the very lives of our pioneers.  So, who do you think loses when they stop coming to Church because they’ve been offended?  Of course, it’s the person staying away.

When Elder David A. Bednar served as a Stake President he often visited the homes of “less-active” members who had quit attending church because they had been offended.  After speaking with them and discussing the situation Elder Bednar would then say something like this.  “Let me make sure I understand what has happened to you.  Because someone at church offended you, you have not been blessed by the ordinance of the sacrament.  You have withdrawn yourself from the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.  Because someone at church offended you, you have cut yourself off from priesthood ordinances and the holy temple.  You have discontinued your opportunity to serve others and to learn and grow.  And you are leaving barriers that will impede the spiritual progress of your children, your children’s children, and the generations that will follow.”  Elder Bednar then says  that many people would think for several moments and then respond:  “I have never thought about it that way.”

Then Elder Bednar would extend an invitation:  “Dear friend, we are here today to counsel you that the time to stop being offended is now.  Not only do we need you, but you need the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  Please come back – now.”  (David A. Bednar, “And Nothing Shall Offend Them,” October 2006 General Conference).  I’m confident that there were many who heard Elder Bednar’s invitation, put their hurt aside, and returned to enjoy the blessings of the gospel. 

The story of Thomas Marsh also had a happier conclusion.  In 1857 Brigham Young conducted a meeting and introduced to the congregation a man who appeared to be old and frail.

Said President Brigham Young to the congregation:   “Brother Thomas B. Marsh, formerly the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has now come to us, after an absence of nearly nineteen years. He is on the stand to-day, and wishes to make a few remarks to the congregation.
Brother Marsh rose to the pulpit. “I do not know that I can make all this vast congregation hear and understand me. My voice never was very strong, but it has been very much weakened of late years by the afflicting rod of Jehovah. He loved me too much to let me go without whipping. I have seen the hand of the Lord in the chastisement which I have received. I have seen and known that it has proved he loved me; for if he had not cared anything about me, he would not have taken me by the arm and given me such a shaking.

“If there are any among this people who should ever apostatize and do as I have done, prepare your backs for a good whipping, if you are such as the Lord loves. But if you will take my advice, you will stand by the authorities; but if you go away and the Lord loves you as much as he did me, he will whip you back again.”
In a letter to Heber C. Kimball, First Counselor in the First Presidency at the time, Elder Marsh admitted he had learned a very hard lesson.  He wrote: “The Lord could get along very well without me and He … lost nothing by my falling out of the ranks; But, O what have I lost?!  Riches, greater riches than all this world or many planets like this could afford.”  (Thomas B. Marsh to Heber C. Kimball, May 5, 1857, Brigham Young Collection, Church History Library.)  Thomas Marsh could have saved him and his family a lot of grief, agony and blessings if he had “heeded not” the offense many years earlier.

Thomas Marsh

I hope … I plead … I pray … that you will never let offense keep you away from the beautiful blessings of the gospel.  It doesn’t matter what the offense … it is NOT worth it!  If you are tempted to let offense keep you away, think about the example of Thomas B. Marsh and then think about the teachings of Nephi.  His counsel is as important today as it has ever been when he recorded … “They did point the finger of scorn at me … but we heeded them not.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

I believe of all the scriptures Nephi has given us this one contains the message of the greatest hope possible.  The reason is very clear.  It promises us that because of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we have a source where we can turn to for a remission of our sins.  Now, that’s very important to know because none of us … and let me repeat that … none of us will get out of this life without needing a remission of sins. The apostle John said this in the New Testament.

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

-          I John 1:8

So there you have it.  Not the most encouraging news, but it’s a fact … we all sin.  We all make mistakes.  Those mistakes may be large or they may be small, but every single one of them will keep us from returning to live with our Heavenly Father if not for the Savior allowing us to receive a remission of our sins through repentance and His atonement for us.

We live in a very unrighteous world.  The practices of our world make it harder and harder to follow the Savior.  But the prophet of our day … the prophet who the Lord has sent to share the message you need has said this:

“We have come to the earth in troubled times. The moral compass of the masses has gradually shifted to an “almost anything goes” position.

I’ve lived long enough to have witnessed much of the metamorphosis of society’s morals. Where once the standards of the Church and the standards of society were mostly compatible, now there is a wide chasm between us, and it’s growing ever wider.”  (President Thomas S. Monson – Priesthood Power - April 2011 Priesthood Session) 

Now that sounds like a prophet of God, doesn’t it?  I can imagine Noah, or Abraham, or Elijah warning the youth of their day that the standards of the Lord and the standards of the world were growing ever wider … after all, isn’t that the role of a prophet to warn the people?  This is exactly what President Monson did in this recent conference talk.  He even talked about specific practices and situations that the youth of today should guard against and stay away from.

“Many movies and television shows portray behavior which is in direct opposition to the laws of God. Do not subject yourself to the innuendo and outright filth which are so often found there.

The lyrics in much of today’s music fall in the same category. The profanity so prevalent around us today would never have been tolerated in the not-too-distant past. Sadly, the Lord’s name is taken in vain over and over again. Recall with me the commandment—one of the ten—which the Lord revealed to  Moses on Mount Sinai: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”  I am sorry that any of us is subjected to profane language, and I plead with you not to use it.

I implore you not to say or to do anything of which you cannot be proud.

Stay completely away from pornography. Do not allow yourself to view it, ever. It has proven to be an addiction which is more than difficult to overcome. Avoid alcohol and tobacco or any other drugs, also addictions which you would be hard pressed to conquer.” (ibid) 

Then, like a loving prophet, President Monson gives counsel on how to stay as far away as possible from the temptation and sorrow sin can bring into our lives.

“What will protect you from the sin and evil around you?

I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior and of His gospel will help see you through to safety. If you have not read the Book of Mormon, read it. I will not ask for a show of hands. If you do so prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. If it is true—and it is—then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. The Church is true. If you do not already have a testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one. It is essential for you to have your own testimony, for the testimonies of others will carry you only so far. Once obtained, a testimony needs to be kept vital and alive through obedience to the commandments of God and through regular prayer and scripture study. Attend church … attend seminary or institute if such is available to you.” (ibid)

And then, he also reminds us that if we have made mistakes, there is a way to overcome that mistake.  Again, as a Prophet, his words lead us to the Savior, because He is the only one who can redeem us from our sins and mistakes and lift those burdens from our lives.

“Should there be anything amiss in your life, there is open to you a way out. Cease any unrighteousness. Talk with your bishop. Whatever the problem, it can be worked out through proper repentance. You can become clean once again. Said the Lord, speaking of those who repent, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,”  “and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” The Savior of mankind described Himself as being in the world but not of the world. We also can be in the world but not of the world as we reject false concepts and false teachings and remain true to that which God has commanded.” (ibid)

Right there the Lord’s prophet tells us we can, through the Savior, overcome the evil in our world world and find “peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come.”  (D&C 59:23)  Isn’t it wonderful that the Prophet doesn’t just warn us, but he points out the only path we can travel to return to live with our Heavenly Father.  That path is following the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now, back to Nephi’s scripture:

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (II Nephi 25:26)

Isn’t this exactly what President Monson is also saying?  Throughout the church - in our Sacrament Meetings, in our Sunday Schools, in our Priesthood and Young Women’s meetings, in our seminaries and institutes, in our General and Stake Conferences, in our Family Home Evenings and family prayers – we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, our leaders preach and prophesy of Christ … and again, what is the reason for this … that our Children may know what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”  In other words, I believe we teach of the Savior in all these meetings so that you, the youth and future leaders of this Church may know where you can turn to when you’ve made mistakes or done things in your life that need to be resolved.  We talk of the Savior so you, each one of you, will never forget the hope that can be found through repentance.  And, of course, that repentance is only available because of the love and atonement of the Savior.

My wish is that we all can feel the incredible hope that comes from this message.  Never forget that no matter what sins you have committed … no matter what mistakes you may have made in your lives … no matter where you have fallen short … the Savior will always be there to lift you, love you and embrace you with his spirit if you will just look to him for a remission of sins. 

That is the “good news” of the Gospel.  That is the reason why it’s probably even more important today to “talk of Christ and rejoice in Christ.”