This is a personal/religious article that I am posting so be warned! I am not an official spokesmen or representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or affiliated with the church, what I say in this article does not represent my churches official position, nor does it necessarily represent the general beliefs of the members therein.
This article was designed for a LDS audience. In it, I assume that the Old Testament, New Testament , Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants are inspired by God, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints official doctrine is legitimated and its claims true.
This is the talk or sermon I gave in my church on October 21, 2007. My church is a Lay Ministry church, and although we have a hierarchy, generally on the weekend services in the first portion of the meeting (called Sacrament Meeting) members are asked to give a talk or a sermon to the congregation on a specific topic. As it says in the introduction, this talk is the last sermon that I will be able to give to this congregation, as I am soon to depart to be a Missionary. In my experience these kind of talks (often referred to as farewell talks) are usually very tender, and often the speaker will break down crying(along with immediate family members, friends, and half the congregation), so I tried to avoid that and take a more informative approach to my talk. I hope you enjoy it! Here it is!
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Good morning brothers and sisters, as you undoubtedly know I’m destined to go to the Las Vegas, Nevada area to be a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints, which I will be leaving for the Missionary Training Center(MTC) on November 14, 2007, and this can be considered my “farewell talk”, or the last talk I give in this chapel before I leave. I would suggest get rid of any preconceived notions of what a farewell talk is, because I’m terrible at that “crying at the podium” business, so don’t expect too much. As I looked at you this morning, I was making a list in my mind of people I really wanted to thank, but I realize now, that that list would be far too long for me to express it today. Each and every one of you has been a support to me, and I thank each of you who have touched my life in the last three years of my life, you have been friends, teachers, leaders, guiders, employers, friends, and family to me, and I’m blessed to be in such a ward.
So onto my talk; I was given the liberty of choosing my topic from the fantastic missionary handbook “Preach My Gospel” which if you have read you realize what a huge and really all encompassing resource it is, so basically I got to choose my topic today!
Today I want to talk about something that I see many people, LDS and non-LDS, struggling and wondering about. It’s a topic which many misunderstand; this topic is “Knowledge”. Knowledge is defined as the “acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles”. In my mind there are two kinds of Knowledge; Secular Knowledge and Spiritual knowledge.
Secular Knowledge being truths learned through man and mans reasoning, usually pertaining to worldly things; this can include scientific knowledge and theories, health care, geology, history, astrology, and can even include theology.
Spiritual Knowledge being, in my definition, knowledge received from the source, our Father in Heaven. These are truths that He gives us personally through spiritual confirmations; they are received by his power through the Holy Ghost.
When we teach and preach we do not so in the name of secular knowledge, we are instructed to invite all unto Christ through Spiritual Knowledge. The goal is to sustain all and to edify all in light, each with their own personal revelatory witness and relationship with Christ, to know his love, and his continuing work with man.
When teaching those about the gospels we do not expound on how the Word of Wisdom taught healthy guidelines years before science provided secular justification for it. How ancient Hebraic documents talk of the Council of the Gods, and a Mother Goddess(see 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7) . How the ancient Middle Eastern literary poetical forms of Chiasmus are found in the Book of Mormon. How Joseph Smith (see also) remarkably accurately interpreted the Egyptian Facsimiles(1 , 2 , 3), and the Book of Abraham while modern Egyptology was in its infancy (see (Articles/Links/Books ) 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 89 ,(podcasts) 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 ,15 , 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 , 21 , 22 , 23 , 24 , 25 , 26 , 27 , 28 , 2930 ,(Video Presentations) 31, 32 , 33 , 34 , 35 , 36 , 37 , 38 , 39 , 40 , 41 , 42 , 43 , 44 , 45, 46). How the Book of Mormon had not just a few witnesses but 11 witnesses to have seen the Plates of Moroni that never denied this testimony though some rebelled against the church, or any other evidences of man. Rather we desire for them to learn for themselves, not through secular or physical evidences, not through the testimonies of others, but a spiritual confirmation coming from their loving Heavenly Father.
If your testimony is rooted in secular or physical knowledge, you can be dissuaded through secular or physical means. If your testimony rooted in the archaeological evidences of the bible, or the historical accuracy of Jesus and his life, studies may came around which apparently refutes this, and as such refutes your testimony. A secular testimony is in essence science, which changes on a daily basis, and at this moment apparently points to a rather atheistic view on life.
A spiritual testimony on the other hand, a testimony which is centered on personal knowledge from God, cannot be refuted! No matter what scientific study comes along, no matter what issues that come up there is nothing that can separate you from this testimony. Like Joseph Smith when he received that dynamic spiritual witness, we will be able to stand boldly for what others ridicule, to truly know God. We will be able to find a foot hole and stand fast in an ever changing world.
Many in the world today do not understand this, in face I believe that many people and churches are teaching with the wisdom of man rather than the spirit of God, being more interested in being intellectually justified Christians then having a personal relationship with Christ. They rely on the arm of flesh for the answers rather than the ultimate source of truth which is God in heaven.
A couple months ago I had a conversation with two disaffected of the LDS church, both which claim that because of the overwhelming physical evidences against the church, the church was false. In response I told them two things, the first was I explained how I understood the particular issues that had brought up about the church, and the second I explained that in the big picture, the gospel, and religion in general, isn’t about physical evidences, that’s science, if the gospel is to be tried, it should be tried spiritually as it is not as much a physical message from God, as it is a spiritual message from God.
Now these where both members since birth, and for them to grow up in the church and not understand this, now central principle of our church, amazed me. This is a point where I feel that first generation saints have an advantage; they realize that they were not converted through elegant words, but the spirit, whereas one who grows up in the church, one surrounded by these wonderful people, and this spirit, often do not recognize the God in their life. And do not recognize his spirit because they have known nothing else.
I would like to share a few verses from the bible with you that show the necessity of spiritual knowledge and a spiritual witness over the secular or physical evidences.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
This is such a great verse, have we seen this? Have we seen the “weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty? We can look at Moses, who said of his own that he was “Slow of speech and of a slow tongue” who was not one of the elect of the world, he ran from Egypt as a criminal (see Exodus 2:11-15) and was a Sheppard for 40 years(see Exodus 2:16-21), only then did God form him from his weakness to become a powerful man of god and to lead Israel out of Egypt. God saw fit that his only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, was born son of a carpenter, yet Jesus was destined to come from the common folk to save the world from death and sin, not through the knowledge and understanding of man, but through Gods divine word. Likewise Joseph smith, an uneducated boy at 14 was visited by God and told that if he was faithful he would be used as a great tool, and indeed he has. None of these men were scientists, none of these men were marveled for the worldly truths they utter, but all these men taught spiritually, and confounded the wisdom of man.
4… my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
These verses lay clear that we are to use the spirit to discern truth of the gospel and not the wisdom of man. It says that the man knows not the things of God, except he knows it by the spirit of God which is in him (11), for the Spirit of God searches all the deep things of God(10). And the man who does not have the spirit, or does not use the spirit cannot receive the things of God, for they cannot understand except through the spirit of God (14). Furthermore it says by this logic, it would be folly to teach the Gospel by the wisdom of man(13), for mans wisdom cannot discern the Gospel(14), so we are to compare secular things with secular things, and spiritual things with spiritual things(13).
13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
In these verses, it is formatted in a somewhat abstract manner to us now, but if we look into the text it becomes unmistakably clear as to what it means. The Holy Ghost, or the spirit of truth, is meant as a mediator between heaven and earth, and will guide us into truth as we search (13), but He doesn’t have this truth of himself, he receives it from Jesus, who in turn has received it, and everything, from His father, our God known in Hebrew as Elohim(15).
Of course there is the wonderful, famous James 1:5-6(KJV)
5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
This scripture is outstandingly clear. If you lack knowledge, or wisdom, ask god(5), and if you are worthy (see conditions about) and sincere, asking with faith that you will receive(6), it will be given you(5). Once again we see an appeal to God. We see that he not mans wisdom, is the final word.
Likewise various other biblical verses
23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
I personally have a huge spiritual testimony of this principle, I know it to be true, I have received more knowledge by prayer, and the spirit, than I could ever reading secular material. As I reflect upon my most sincere prayers, I have found that they have all been answered, sometimes in ways that I wanted, sometimes ways I wanted but later regretted, and sometimes in ways I neither wanted nor expected, yet it was more than often necessary or for my betterment. I am amazed at God’s mercy, and it astounds me that he cares enough about me to have a personal relationship with me.
I have always been going to this church, but in grade 9 I started wondering why this religion junk was taking up one of my days, I was not Christian, I didn't believe Joseph Smith. One day though, I was in a particular sober mood, I was thinking on religion, and I made a choice that I am even now impressed at. I decided to ask! I had been told several hundred times how to gain a testimony, but I dismissed it as something that people did and deluded themselves into thinking that they felt something, that really the church was holding itself up, no one admitted that they really didn't feel anything. With this mindset two things impress me, I'm surprised that I firstly would have even considered asking this in my mindset, and secondly, that I would have been humble enough, or submissive enough to receive and answer.
I am left to conclude that it was an inspired thought. When I knelt down and sincerely asked Heavenly father if He was really there, if Christ really did live, and if Joseph Smith really did see Him in that grove of trees. Instantly I was filled with a swelling emotion, a warm comforting feeling, a feeling which cannot in literal terms be defined, It made me cry. It was the strongest emotion I have ever felt in my life. I prayed to my father then and there, I said some things that I look back and say at times "how sappy was that", but I meant what I said, and I wish to always be in that state were the veil between heaven and earth is so thin. I love my Lord, I love Jesus and Heavenly Father. That experience has shaped my life. It changed my friends, my Language, my attitude, my habits, my motivation, my clothes, my music, my outlook on life! I'm so grateful for all this, and I can never get enough of this gospel.
I encourage each of you, who does not, or has a small testimony to get on your knees and do as Moroni instructs, that is to “ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Moroni 10 3-5) If you do feel you have faith in Christ I would extol you pursue further spiritual knowledge and enlightenment, as the journey never ends.
In conclusion I want to clarify that although according to scripture, a spiritual witness does seem to be what is really important, this is not an excuse to be ignorant of the world around us, we are to be “in the world"but not “of the world”. The church encourages everyone to broaden their man, and learn mans wisdom, we should all be anxiously investigating secularly work to better understand the workings and mysteries of God, as well as to help our fellow man. Secular study is an immense joy, and one with great rewards, and applying secular knowledge to religion is very exciting, it is only when we place more faith in the knowledge of man then the witness of God, that you cease to be religious.
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness…
Let us not be tossed to and fro, but let us take a stand, with the answers that don’t change, those holy words which God has, and does speak to us. I pray this in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ. Amen