The Church of Jesus Christ is blessed to have inspired leaders that have the power to speak for the Lord.
A couple of years ago, I discovered some LDS bloggers had started a “conference odyssey.” The idea is that the Lord has already spoken to us repeatedly, so why should he give us new and exciting revelation through his prophets if we are ignoring what he has already given?
I didn’t try to jump in on the odyssey, and I’m not planning on beginning now. I did, however, start a personal odyssey and began reading from the earliest conference sessions available online. From time to time, I will share some of these talks with you.
Today, the talk is “True Religion,” given by Howard W. Hunter in OCtober 1978.
Joseph Smith and the Fundamentals of Our Religion
From the start of the church there have been those who have questions about what we believe. Joseph Smith answered that question with the following:
- The testimony of the apostles and prophets of Jesus Christ, and
- Their witness that Christ died, was buried, rose on the third day and ascended into heaven.
Christ is the beginning of our faith, the end of our faith, and everything we cling to in between. It is his investment in the plan of salvation — from the creation to his Atonement for our sins and finally to our resurrection and assignment to a kingdom of glory — that gives us any hope that our mortal existence is worth it.
President Hunter points out that two out of the three references to religion in the New Testament are made by Paul, who is referring to the practices and traditions he followed rather than the doctrines and creeds.
In James 1:27, James defines “pure religion”:
- To visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction, and
- To keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Generally, Latter-day Saints don’t have a big problem with the first requirement. By and large, the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are a loving, serving, and giving people. Sure, I have pointed out in other posts that sometimes these things go awry, but that would be the human side of mortality showing through.
I live in an area where members of my faith are a minority. Even so, generous fast offerings are given, and service projects are well-attended. We look after fellow members, and we reach out to our neighbors.
No, I would say that the test for most disciples of Christ is the second requirement — staying unspotted from the world.
We live in the world. We work in the world. We send out children out into the world. The world comes to our homes through electronic devices. We are in the world.
Because the messages of the world are so intense, persistent, and continual, I think we adopt worldly ideas without even noticing. We adapt to our culture. We want to fit in and be well-liked, and we may even tell ourselves that we need to be at least a bit like our peers, or no one will ever listen to our message. Then, lines blur and we find ourselves rationalizing different things until it’s hard to tell the difference between “us” and “them.”
Generally, I am against an “us and them” mentality, and I’m not really pushing one now. But, we have to accept and embrace that, if we are fully committed to following Christ among others who are not, then we have to be different. We have to stand out. We have to, as spoken by a former Relief Society general president and echoed by Presdient Kimball, be “distinct and different in happy ways.”
We have to remember our covenants, remember the commandments, and remember our divine mission and purpose in mortality.
We have to reflect on our daily actions and attitudes and see if we measured up. Sometimes we really meant to do better, but something misfired and it went wrong. Sometimes, we really don’t try or we actually willfully choose a lesser way. Whatever the reason, we should be seeking to know how Heavenly Father perceives these things and seeking his guidance in overcoming them.
I add my witness to President Hunter’s in that the Lord lives and that he has a plan for each one of us. Living the gospel and practicing true religion are how we become partners in his plan.