To strengthen our testimonies and protect ourselves from error, we must constantly nourish and fortify our faith
We are in a unique time period of human mortality. The days seem to be growing shorter and shorter. Hearts of men are beginning to fail. News reports are full of human tragedies and events that leave us questioning human nature and human compassion. Some are even proclaiming that we are now in the end of days where scoffers are becoming more prominent in the marketplace. Any form of religious conviction, or a symbol of religious identity is being tarnished and condemned. The ideas of men, the philosophy of the world, and the wisdom of self-identity is becoming more and more prominent in the thoughts and hearts of each person. Selfish desires and attainment are more popular than selfless acts of service and love. To say the least, we are at war with the wisdom and philosophy of men. In this war, sides are being chosen. Where one decides to stand is where one’s allegiance and devotion will prevail and direct their paths.
In one of the grandest visions ever recorded in the Book of Mormon, Lehi described a vision of peace, tranquility, as well as one of trepidation and fear. This dream is that of the Tree of life (See Nephi chapter 8). As recorded by his son Nephi, we read that there arose a mist of darkness (verse 22) and many had lost their way through this mist of darkness. Along with this, Lehi related that there was a strait and narrow path leading to a magnificent tree that bore fruit. Along this path, there was a rod of iron people clung to and moved along to reach the tree. He also relates that there was a river, and on the other side of the river was a great and spacious building:
And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth. And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit. And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.
This spacious building is later revealed 1 Nephi 11 where Nephi receives an interpretation and understanding of his father’s dream. In this passage, Nephi records that the large and spacious building is the pride and wisdom of the world. It is through the pride and wisdom of the world that the Saints of God will be mocked, ridiculed and scoffed at for what they believe.
How then are we to keep our faith in a world that is growing darker and slipping into deeper states of confusion?
The first counselor of the presiding Bishopric – Gerald Causse – shares his insights into how Latter-day Saint Christians ought to strengthen their testimonies and protect them and their families from error
At school … many of my professors expressed doubts about and even hostility toward any religious belief. On many occasions I heard the teachings of Korihor from those who were belittling my beliefs:
“Behold, they are foolish traditions of your fathers. How do ye know of their surety? … Behold, ye cannot know of things which ye do not see” (Alma 30:14-15).
Bishop Causse continues:
When I was 17, I began taking philosophy classes in high school. One day, the teacher said to the class, “surely there isn’t anyone here who believes that Adam really existed!” Then he scanned the room with the look of an inquisitor, ready to pounce on whoever dared to admit to such belief. I was petrified! However, my desire to be loyal to my faith was even stronger. I glanced around to see that I was the only one of those 40 students to raise a hand.”
He then makes this very important remark:
All members of the Church at some time in their lives face moments that test the sincerity and strength of their testimonies. Braving these trials of our faith helps us stand firm in a world that is falling more and more into the depths of confusion. This confusion is evident in the barrage of messages that surround us. With the advent of the Internet, for example, an uninterrupted avalanche of contradictory opinions and information invades our everyday lives. These contradictions can become disconcerting and paralyzing.
It will not matter whether you are a youth in the Church or in your golden age. We live in a predominant social infrastructure where information is easily accessible. This includes information that our critics publish to push their attack against the Christian faith.
Social media outlets have exploded with antagonism against Christians with comments that degrade, insult and even are ridiculous on some level. Furthermore, the so-called Christians that claim to love and follow the Savior use deceptive tactics to ensnare other fellow Christian believers into the thinking of modern sophistry of today’s market place.
How then are we to respond to this onslaught of scoffers that treat sacred covenants with total disregard, which are vocal about their hatred against the Church? How can we help one another, and those who are weak in the faith to distinguish from truth or error?
Bishop Gerald Causse writes this:
It is up to us whether we remain firm in our testimonies. When I think about my past, I realize that the success of my personal journey depended upon a few simple principles that kept me on course. These principles allowed me to develop myself spiritually despite the “mists of darkness” and snares that surround all of us.
What are these principles that Bishop Causse learned and applied? They are as follows
1) Seek the truth continually:
In his article, Causse relates that we have the blessed opportunity to seek to know and understand for ourselves. He cites Matthew 7:7 where it says that to those who ask, seek, and knock, they shall receive an answer find what they are seeking, and the door will be open to them. Another passage is when Nephi is relating to his brothers about something and they are asked – have ye inquired of the Lord (1 Nephi 15:8).
One of the spiritual progresses a true disciple makes is to thirst and hunger after righteousness (Matthew 5:6). Bishop Causse comments:
Disciples of Christ hunger and thirst every day after spiritual knowledge. This personal practice is founded on study, contemplation, and daily prayer. It allows us to follow the example of Joseph Smith, who “came to the conclusion that [he] must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else … ask of God (Joseph Smith – History 1:13).
It is not merely enough for us, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ, to simply sit down and read the scriptures, but we must feast upon the words of Christ (2 Nephi 31:20 and 32:3). We must ponder and reflect upon them, determine how and where they apply in our lives and come to a confident resolution to follow those teachings and instructions. Even Jesus Christ, when challenged by the adversary, declared that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:3-4).
As we study and ponder the words of our Heavenly Father, we position ourselves in the arena of truth. We gird ourselves with the strength of righteousness, and we begin to nurture and strengthen our testimony as we transform our thoughts and desires to the will and heart of our Heavenly Father. We also protect ourselves from the influence of false doctrines.
2) Accept unanswered questions:
Many times, one will encounter a particular question, or a particular criticism against the Church. We may not have the answer right away. There may not even be an adequate answer at all that will satisfy the one making the inquiry – even if it is our own questioning of things. Though the temptation may be there to want to know all things, we must come to the conclusion that there are things we may not come to a full knowledge of. This is because of God’s infinite knowledge and understanding that are far from our own finite limited knowledge and understanding (See Jacob 4:8).
In addition to this, we must accept and acknowledge this very fact. This is something that Bishop Cassue reveals about what is recorded in 1 Nephi 11:17.
What we must concern ourselves with is the reality and necessity of our own salvation:
The Lord, nevertheless, supplies us with the knowledge necessary for our salvation and exaltation. He promises “Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you” (D&C 88:64). We receive these answers progressively, “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little (2 Nephi 28:30), depending on our needs and our capacity to comprehend.
Therefore, we must ask ourselves, especially when it comes to some of the criticisms launched against us, what does it have to do with my own personal salvation and exaltation? When we can honestly answer that question, we have the confidence not to worry about unanswered questions that take us off into paths of speculation and human understanding.
3) Seek the testimony of the spirit
What would have been the response of Jesus Christ if Peter had based his confession on something he learned? Or, Peter’s confession of who Christ is, was based on something he that was very prominent and evident for all to see? Reason why this is brought up is because Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God is not merely a confession of faith and response to the question Christ answered, but a spiritually attained knowledge that has no basis in logic, fact, or reason (See Matthew 16:16-18). Peter’s confession was not based on something he learned from studious labors in various books about Christ. It was not based on physical evidence that mandated – yes this is the promised Messiah. Peter’s confession was based on the very real Divine revelation as to who Christ is.
By relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, we are promised that we will be comforted, instructed, and that we are led into all truth and understanding (see Jacob 4:13). Through our continual seeking of the Spirit, we will draw close to our Heavenly Father, and we will strengthen and fortify our testimony through our spiritual understanding and knowledge.
4) Seek the words of Prophets and Apostles
Bishop Causse writes this wonderful statement:
When we are troubled, our first reflex must be to search the scriptures and the words of the living prophets. Their writings are beacons that cannot deceive us: “Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken (Jacob 4:6).
As we face the myriad of criticism against the Church and against our own personal testimony, we must stand on the words of the Prophets and Apostles: both ancient and modern. Through their testimony and counsel, we can receive the answers that help fortify our own testimonies. We must understand and distinguish between what they spoke as individuals of their own understanding than that of what they spoke as given counsel and direction to the Church.
There are many principles and teachings that early Prophets and Apostles have declared that have relevance in our time and lives today, just as much as it did when they spoke and gave counsel in that time to our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. In fact, we study many of their teachings and strive to apply the principle truths that they proclaimed into our lives and understanding of scriptures and how to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ each and every day.
5) Nourish your faith
Bishop Causse’s final principle truth is that we must come to the reality and understanding that Faith has the power to unlock knowledge of eternal truths. Pushed to its fullness, knowledge becomes an absolute and perfect certitude.
To which, Bishop Causse continues with the following:
- We need to have pure hearts and great humility.
- We must exercise works to where divine revelation operates when we conduct ourselves like faithful disciples of Christ
- Respect the covenants we have made with God by which the Holy Spirit will become our constant companion.
Yes, the days may grow dark; the mists of darkness may thicken evermore. Scoffers and mockers will occupy the great and spacious building. However, let us not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because it is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we receive the power of Salvation.
Let us remember this scripture passage as it pertains to how we ought to strengthen and build up, not only our own testimony, but the testimony of our families:
And it came to pass that he [Moroni] did no more attempt a battle with the Lamanites in that year, but he did employ his men in preparing for war, yea and in making fortifications to guard against the Lamanites, yea and also delivering their women and their children from famine and affliction, and providing food for their armies (Alma 53:7).
Let us not engage in battles, but spend the time in preparation and fortification of our testimonies so that we can protect ourselves and our families with the power and strength of our testimonies. Let us stand our ground against the assault of the Adversary and continue to spread the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has been restored in these last days. Let us stand against the tyranny of bondage and oppression by declaring unto all men, that there is freedom and liberty if one turns to Christ and turn away from the things of this world. Let us not be deceived but know the truth and use the sword of truth to defeat the deceptive tactics of the adversary.
There is no greater time in human mortality than today where the day’s maybe growing shorter, and the nights growing darker. We are the light of the world that shines forth to all to see.