Progress Depends on ObedienceBy Elder Heber J. Grant then, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles General Conference – April, 1900
I rejoice exceedingly in the opportunity of again meeting with the Latter-day Saints in general conference. I have enjoyed listening to the remarks which have thus far been made, and I desire, as was said here yesterday by President Snow, as all Elders with the proper spirit should desire, that I may be blessed of the Lord and that I may have the faith and prayers of the Latter-day Saints, that what I may say. shall be beneficial to us and encourage us in performing the duties that devolve upon us as Latter-day Saints.
It has ever been a source of surprise to me that there are so many members of the Church, more particularly those who hold the holy Priesthood, who profess to be Latter-day Saints, who testify to a knowledge of the Gospel and to the divinity of the work in which we are engaged, and that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, and yet who, fail to keep the commandments of our heavenly Father, and to prove by their lives that they are in very deed Latter-day Saints. I am surprised at this, because I cannot understand how people with a knowledge of the Gospel and the testimony that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of the true and living God, and that he has established on the earth, under the direction of our heavenly Father and his Son Jesus, the Gospel of everlasting life, and that it is in very deed the pearl of great price to each and every one of us–it is a surprise to me, I say, that men, holding the holy Priesthood and possessing this knowledge, should, year after year, neglect the duties and the obligations that rest upon them. The Savior told His followers that they were the salt of the earth, but that if the salt lost its savor, it was thenceforth good for nothing, but to be east out and trodden under the feet of men. He told them also that they were the light of the world, a city set upon a hill which could not be hid; he told them that men did not light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it might give light to all that were in the room, and he admonished them to let their light so shine that men seeing their good deeds might glorify God.
This admonition applies to us. We are the light of the world. We have received the inspiration of Almighty God. We have received a testimony of the Gospel, and we do know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, and that Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff were prophets of God, as is Lorenzo Snow. Every true Latter-day Saint has this testimony burning within his or her heart. Now, are we so living that the good deeds we perform bring credit to the work of God? Are our examples worthy of the imitation of all men? Do we by our examples show that we have faith in the Gospel? We are told that faith without works is dead; that as the body without the spirit is dead, so also is faith without works dead, and I am sorry to say that there are many professed Latter-day Saints who are spiritually dead. We many times ask ourselves the question, why does this man progress in the plan of life and salvation, while his neighbor, of equal intelligence and ability, of apparently the same testimony and power, and perchance greater power, stands still? I will tell you why. One keeps the commandments of our Heavenly Father, and the other fails to keep them. The Savior says that he that keeps his commandments is the man that loves him, and he that keeps the commandments of God shall be loved of the Father, and the Savior says he will love him and he will manifest himself unto him. The Lord also tells us that those who hear His sayings and doeth them shall be likened unto the wise man who built his house upon the rock, and when the rains descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house, it fell not, because it was founded upon a rock. On the other hand, those who heard His sayings and did them not, the Savior likened unto a foolish man, who built his house on the sand, and when the rains descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house, it fell, and great was the fall thereof. There are many Latter-day Saints who are building their houses upon the sand. They are failing to do the sayings of our Savior. They are failing to carry out the commandments of our Heavenly Father that come to us from time to time through His inspired servants.
Now, if we have the Gospel (and we know we have), I say to each and every Latter-day Saint, who desires to grow and enlarge in the Gospel, he must keep the commandments of God. As we keep the commandments of God and live god-like lives, we become full of charity, long-suffering and love for our fellows, and we grow and increase in all those things that go to make us noble and god-like. We also gain the love and confidence of those by whom we are surrounded. It is by the performance of the plain, simple, everyday duties that devolve upon us that we will grow in the spirit of God. You find me a man that attends his quorum meetings, that performs his duties in the ward in which he lives, that honestly pays his tithing, and I will find you a man full of the spirit of God and growing and increasing in the testimony of the Gospel. On the other hand, you find me a man that has seen angels, that has had wonderful manifestations, that has seen devils cast out, that has gone to the ends of the earth and preached the Gospel, and yet who is failing to keep the commandments of God, and I will find you a man that is criticizing the Lord’s anointed, and finding fault with what the President does, with where he goes, what he engages in and how he administers the affairs of the Church. There are many non-tithe-payers among the Latter-day Saints, and many of them say that the reason they don’t pay tithing is because the tithing is not properly administered. Seeing, however, that they do not pay a dollar, it is none of their business how it is administered. But you will find that those who do not do their duty, are always complaining about somebody that does, and making excuses for themselves. I have never found a man who was keeping the commandments of God that had any criticism to offer concerning any administration of the affairs of the Church. Neglect of duty, failure to keep the commandments of God, darkens the mind of man and the Spirit of the Lord is withdrawn. We find it recorded in the D&C “For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength and sets at nought the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall.” As recorded in the first section of the D&C. where men repent and turn from their misdeeds, the Lord will forgive them, but His Spirit will not always strive with them.
I have met many young men who have said to me, “I do not know that the Gospel is true. I believe it, but I do not know it.” I have invariably replied to them that our Lord and Master has said that he who will do the will of the Father shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether he spoke of himself, and if they would do the will of the Father, they should eventually have a knowledge of the Gospel. Some of them have said: “Oh, if I could only see an angel; if I could only hear speaking in tongues; if I could only see some great manifestation, then I would believe.” I wish to say to all within the sound of my voice that the seeing of angels and great manifestations do not make great men in the Church and kingdom of God. Think of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon. What is their testimony? It is that an angel showed them the plates, and that they knew they had been translated by the. gift and power of God. How did they claim to know this? Because “His voice hath declared it unto us.” What else did they testify? “And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God, the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true; and it is marvelous in our eyes, nevertheless the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things.” Yet these men fell by the wayside, though they remained true and steadfast to their testimony to the Book of Mormon.
What is the testimony of Sidney Rigdon in connection with the Prophet Joseph Smith, as recorded in the 76th section of the D&C.
“And while we meditated upon these things the Lord touched the eyes of our understanding and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about;
“And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fullness;
“And saw the holy angels, and they who are sanctified before His throne, worshipping God, and the Lamb, who worship Him for ever and ever.
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of Him, this is the testimony last of all, which we give of Him, that he lives;
“For we saw Him, even on the right hand of God, and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the only Begotten of the Father–
“That by Him and through Him, and of Him the worlds are and were created and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”
Think of it, beholding the glory of the Son and receiving a fullness of that glory, and hearing the voice declare that he is the only Begotten of the Father, and yet this man, Sidney Rigdon, proved a traitor to the Prophet and fell by the wayside!
There is no character of which we have any record in the Book of Mormon that I admire more than Nephi. The life of that man has been one of the guiding stars of my life. His faith, his determination, his spirit to do the will of God has inspired me with a desire to follow in his noble footsteps.
We speak of seeing angels. What is the record of seeing angels? Those of us who are familiar with the Book of Mormon know that when God commanded Lehi to send to Jerusalem and get the plates from Laban, some of his sons complained, but when Nephi came from the mountain to his father’s tent, he said that he would go, because he knew “that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save He should prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” They went up; they failed, and the brothers wanted to go back to their father in the wilderness. But Nephi said “We will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.” They went up again and they gave their wealth to Laban. but they were driven back again. Then the older brethren smote Nephi and his brother Sam with a rod, and while they were doing this, an angel of the Lord stood before them and chided them. But no sooner had he departed, after having told them to go up again and God would deliver Laban into their hands, than they commenced once more to murmur. So it has been in all ages of the world, and so it will be with those who do not keep the commandments of God. Angels may visit them. they may see visions, they may have dreams, they may even see the Son of God, and yet the Spirit of God will not burn in their hearts. But those who do the will of God, and live God-like lives, they will grow and increase in the testimony of the Gospel and in power and ability to do God’s will.
After the angel had gone, these men said, “How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea even he can slay fifty; then why not us?” What did Nephi, the younger brother say? He said “Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord: for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?”
Here is the key-note, Latter-day Saints. Let us realize that God is mightier than all the earth. Let us realize that if we are faithful in keeping the commandments of God His promises will be fulfilled to the very letter. For He has said that not one jot or tittle shall fall to the ground unfulfilled. The trouble is, the adversary of men’s souls blinds their minds. He throws dust, so to speak, in their eyes, and they are blinded with the things of this world. Men do not lay up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust corrupt not, where thieves do not break through and steal, but they set their hearts upon the things of this world. and the adversary obtains power over them.
I say to you, Latter-day Saints, that the pearl of great price is life eternal. God has told us that the greatest of all the gifts He can bestow upon man is life eternal. We are laboring for that great gift, and it will be ours if we keep the commandments of God. But it will not profit us to merely make professions and to proclaim to the ends of the earth that this is the Gospel, but it will profit us if we do the will of God. As the inspired servant of God said, speaking of faith without works:
“What doth it profit my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?
“If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
“And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”
I say, what cloth it profit to go to the ends of the earth and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and yet fail to do your duty here in laboring for the advancement of God’s kingdom? I say to the Latter-day Saints, be honest with God, pay your tithes and your offerings, support every institution of Zion, build up the Church of Christ, pray for the authorities of the Church, and then sustain them in every labor and in all that they undertake to do.
I see that my time has expired, but I want to just make one suggestion. I rejoice in the financial growth of the Church organ; I rejoice in the increase of seven thousand subscribers to our paper, which belongs to the Latter-day Saints. I say continue the good work. Subscribe for the Deseret News. Have it in your homes. Read the sermons that are published there; read the teachings of our Heavenly Father that come to us through His servants, that are published in that paper. Do not allow your selfishness and your penuriousness to cause you, in order to save two dollars, to not have the inspiration of the Lord through His servants, as published in that paper. Sustain this paper. Why ? Because it is yours. Because the Prophet of God desires its success; because it is fighting for Zion, and because it desires the triumph of Zion. Sustain every other good institution and God will bless you, which may He do, is my prayer, and I ask it in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.