m-russell-ballard-largeStay in the Boat and Hold!

As I have known people who have not stayed in the boat and have not held on with both hands during times of trials and troubles or who have not stayed in the boat during times of relative calm, I have observed that many of them have lost their focus on the central truths of the gospel—the reasons why they joined the Church in the first place; the reasons they remained fully committed and active in living gospel standards and blessing others through dedicated, consecrated service; and the ways in which the Church has been in their lives “a place of spiritual nourishment and growth.” Joseph Smith taught this central truth: “The fundamental principles of our religion [are] the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, … ‘that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended up into heaven;’ and all other things are only appendages to these, which pertain to our religion.” If we keep our focus on the Lord, we are promised a blessing beyond comparison: “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness 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.” Sometimes faithful Latter-day Saints and sincere investigators begin to focus on the “appendages” instead of on the fundamental principles. That is, Satan tempts us to become distracted from the simple and clear message of the restored gospel. Those so distracted often give up partaking of the sacrament because they have become focused, even preoccupied, with less important practices or teachings. Others may focus on the questions and doubts they experience. Of course, having questions and experiencing doubts are not incongruent with dedicated discipleship. Recently, the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: “We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding.” Remember, Joseph Smith himself had questions that began the Restoration. He was a seeker and, like Abraham, found the answers to life’s most important questions.


Kacher_72dpi_276x337Trifle Not with Sacred Things

Still, there were many questions I could not answer. How would I address the uncertainty they created? Rather than allow them to destroy the peace and happiness that had come into my life, I chose to set them aside for a season, trusting that in the Lord’s time, He would reveal all things. I found solace in His statement to the Prophet Joseph: “Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.” I chose not to forsake what I knew to be true by following an unknown and a questionable current—a potential “riptide.” As President N. Eldon Tanner taught, I learned “how much wiser and better it is for man to accept the simple truths of the gospel … and to accept by faith those things which he … cannot understand.” Does this mean there is no room for honest inquiry? Ask the young boy who sought refuge in a sacred grove wanting to know which of all the churches he should join. Hold the Doctrine and Covenants in your hand, and know that much of what has been revealed in this inspired record has been the result of a humble search for truth. As Joseph found out, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, [who] giveth to all men liberally, … and it shall be given him.” By asking sincere questions and by seeking divine answers, we learn “line upon line, precept upon precept,” as we increase in knowledge and wisdom. The question is not, “Is there room for honest, sincere inquiry?” but rather, “Where do I turn for truth when questions do arise?” “Will I be wise enough to hold fast to what I know to be true in spite of a few questions I might have?” I testify there is a divine source—One who knows all things, the end from the beginning. All things are present before Him. The scriptures testify that He does “not walk in crooked paths, … neither doth he vary from that which he hath said.”