In preparation for this talk I have felt the weight of speaking to such an experienced crowd. Before me are lawyers, doctors, mothers, fathers, friends whom I have admired, and teachers who have shaped who I am. At first, I was worried. I prayed to know, How can I, a 19 year old kid say anything that will teach and bless my superiors. An answer soon came, I cannot. In fact,as I wrote this talk an impression came, that if my address was the most important words you hear this day, then I have failed in my assignment. For this cause do I pray that the Holy Ghost will be with you and me this day so that we both can learn, by the quiet whisperings, the specific instructions our Heavenly Father has for each of us.
It is about this spirit that I would like to speak today. Each week as we take the sacrament we hear words first spoken by the Savior the night of his Atonement. In that sacred prayer are the words “that they may always have his Spirit to be with them.” Over the last couple months, I have paid special attention to that phrase. As I have pondered on these words I have come to find that this promise is not made unconditionally. At confirmation we are told to “receive the Holy Ghost”, in that imperative phrase we are told it is our responsibility to always have his spirit to be with us. The Spirit of our Heavenly Father, which is offered so graciously to each of us, is like a delicate present that must be handled carefully. If we disregard the value of such a gift, we carelessly threaten the help of the gift and the giver.
Is it any wonder then, that we are the ones expected to be worthy to receive the Spirit? As any parent with children can tell you, you don't serve your nicest china to a three year old. The precious dinnerware is only used once the individual has learned of its worth and has earned the trust that they will treat it properly. So our Heavenly Father expects us to treat his Spirit with the respect he deserves.
And so the question arises, how do we earn the trust of our Heavenly Father ? I have found a few ways, and so have you. But first let us look at the Holy Ghost as what it can do for us. Perhaps, as with all valuable gifts, once we realize the magnitude of our sacred gift we will seek more urgently to be worthy of it.
Elders Jay E Jensen and Dallin H. Oaks in the most recent general conference spoke of 4 distinct jobs the Holy Ghost has. Namely,
To Teach and to Testify
To Testify to the Truth of all Things
To show what to do and lead men to do good
To comfort in times of need.
It is interesting that in both talks the brethren listed the first duty as Teaching and Testifying. When Joseph Smith was asked by the President of the United States how his church differed from others, he said that they varied in mode of baptism and in the gift of the Holy Ghost. Joseph concluded that every other difference could be categorized under the personal revelation given through the Holy Ghost. Obviously the need for divine teaching is essential for each of us individually.
In a Church that originated from and is still headed by the Son of God, its obvious that our earthly minds will not be able to comprehend and find every divine truth that ties to the eternities. In a world rigidly set by bounds and limits, we can never on our own expect to understand the limitless power of the Priesthood and the unending promise of eternal life. And so one need for the Holy Ghost becomes the teaching of infinite concepts to a finite mind. The Book of Mormon Prophet Alma showed us the need for a spiritual witness when he bore his testimony to the wicked people of Zarahemla. As a young man Alma was converted after being chastised by an angel of God, he had seen physical evidence of heaven, but listen to how he describes his knowledge of God. “
Behold, I say unto you, they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And I know I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.
You'll notice that Alma did not cite his Angelic visitor as the foundation of his testimony. Even a Heavenly messenger was not enough without the confirmation of truth from the Holy spirit to bring Alma to the church. Nephi's brothers lamen and lemual also saw an angel, but because of their lack of faith in the Holy Ghost, their testimony's did not endure.
Another vital need for the Spirits teaching and testifying are the symbolic teachings held in the covenants we take and the scriptures we read. President G. once said that often the Lord uses symbolism and parables to hide the sacredness of holy ordinances. Those who partake of the sacrament each week can notice this, as can those who attend the temple. Jesus himself taught this truth in the 13th chapter of Matthew when his apostles asked him why he taught in parables. The Savior answered
“Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”
The Holy Ghost is needed to understand the doctrines of the Gospel. God did not reveal to us every logical step to his Kingdom, because we need faith to be worthy of returning to Him. As you attend your meetings, and read your scriptures I can testify and promise you that the Holy Ghost will teach and testify to the importance of the seemingly mundane things you do.
The Second Job of the Holy Ghost is to testify to the truth of all things. As any member who has felt the converting power knows, we come to know the truths of the gospel through the quiet manifestations of the Spirit. Moroni made a powerful promise at the end of the Book of Mormon concerning this responsibility. He said
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
President Henry B. Eyring has often spoken of the importance of knowing truth. As a professor at stanford, a student at Harvard and an honorary guest at MIT, President Eyring has needed to know, through the spirit many important secular truths. But In October of 2003 in a general conference, after telling the sad tale of the falling away of the three witnesses, Elder Eyring (as he was at the time) gave one of his greatest testaments of the importance of knowing each and every day that the church is true. He said
“The Lord gave the witness of the Spirit without the same physical evidence to others who were severely tested by opposition and tribulation. Brigham Young, John Taylor, Heber C. Kimball, and many others stayed steady in their testimony. They endured in faith because they paid the price to keep the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the burning testimony he alone brings.
Because of that, they had more than a memory of the moment when the spirit whispered to their minds and hearts that God lived, that Jesus was the Christ, and that Joseph was their prophet. And they had more than a memory of the feeling of peace and the joy that witness brought. Because they qualified for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, they could say in every circumstance, however difficult; “I knew it then. I felt it was true then. I feel so now”
Nostalgia will not be enough to bring us back to our Loving Heavenly Father. The once strong testimony we felt as a deacon or beehive will not carry us through the stresses of life alone. Unless we have refreshed in us each day ,by the Holy Ghost, the testimony that we have a Purpose and a Savior who loves us, we will not make it. This is true, please don't ever forget that when you read and pray, you are inviting that essential witness of Christ into your life.
The Third Job of the Holy Ghost is to Teach and Lead all to do Good. This is especially important to missionaries as one cannot teach without first learning. Preach my Gospel puts it this way.(quote)
The Holy Ghost will Teach you new truths and bring the doctrines you have studied to your remembrance.
Living in a telestial world with a veil of forgetfulness removing our memories of life in the spirit world, all of us have an urgent need to learn and remember our urgent duty here on earth. Often, when a convert hears the truths of the gospel for the first time, they describe it as “a feeling of remembering .” This is more than a poetic expression of the comforting feelings the spirit of truth brings. It is a testament that mortality is only the second act in the play of eternity.
I am thankful for the need to relearn here on earth, because it means our Heavenly Father has blessed us with a way to gain the faith that we so urgently need to return to him.
Once we learn of our duty ,we are expected and indeed have covenanted to share our happiness with those fellow spirits who have not yet learned as we have. That is the reason I am going to serve a mission. Its not because I think my wife will be more attractive if I go, its not because my family would be disappointed if I didn't. No external party alone is worth two years of my work. I am going because I feel happiness, and I recognize truth, and I promised God when I received the Priesthood that I would find my friends from a previous life and offer them the chance to live now in the joy the gospel brings. When I teach It will not be alone, the Holy Ghost can and will be with me as I humbly seek to tell others of the glorious reality that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Finally the Holy Ghost has the power to comfort and give help to all of us, as all need it. He can do this because Jesus Christ suffered for each of us, individually in the garden of Gethsemane. Because Christ has perfect empathy for what trials we have gone through, he knows exactly what actions and thoughts will bring us the comfort we need. Christ sends these messages through the Holy Ghost, if we are willing to listen I promise that comfort will come.
Necessarily, the need to always have his spirit to be with us means a certain quality and perhaps quantity of work. All of us where born with powerful cravings for satisfaction, both physical and psychological. While each individuals life differs in the arrangement and magnitudes of temptations and trials, they come to all of us. The Lord is not asking us to endure the hard times, for through his Atonement that path is already prepared. He is asking us to endure them well. It is that enduring well that invites the Holy Ghost to be with us.
I'd like to share with you a very personal story to me.
At a very young age I was diagnosed with depression. It is not a rare diagnosis, but a frustrating one. My early years where filled with anger and rage that I would be cursed by such an inconvenient mental imbalance. While a simple medication and other external activities helped to lessen my problems, my inner frustrations with who I was and why I was, held me back. I did not find a change until I accepted that God knew I was facing these problems and that it was my job to endure them well. After that change in attitude, I realized just how blessed I was. I had been raised in a time where doctors could regulate serotonin and dopamine levels and so help manage the troubles many in an earlier age simply had to suffer through. I also had a renewed empathy for those in emotional trouble, and I now had a witness that God can help me through all things. The condition did not lessen in its severity from recognizing this, but it changed from an annoyance to a blessing. I would not trade the lessons I learned from these hard times for anything. Now, I do not say this to boast that I am a stunning example of enduring well. I am not, I have a long way to go with this and many other difficult trials. But I can testify that even in the little i've done, God has poured out his blessings of comfort upon me.
For some, being worthy of the spirit may take eliminating media and poor friends from their lives. That was a trial of faith for me. One of the hardest things I have ever experienced is deleting music that I loved, but knew offended the spirit. For years I tried unsuccessfully to change my tastes, I knew what was right, but I loved the mindless relief hard music gave me. Then one day after failing to stay away from what I knew was wrong, I realized I needed more than my own willpower to change. I prayed that my Heavenly Father would help me realize the importance of the Holy Ghost, I asked him to help me feel the severity of what happened when I offended him and so unqualified myself for the compass that points to good and away from evil. The following weeks where difficult, but a change began to happen. When I heard hard music I felt the power and comfort of the spirit leaving me, when I consciously tried to listen to good things I felt an assurance from the spirit, that what I was doing was right. And so , as time went on I felt myself repulsed by things that ,just weeks before had brought me joy. I realized this as more than my own power, I was experiencing what the Book of Mormon calls the loss of the disposition to do evil. I felt I had more control of my life, but more important than that, I felt that God was building a trust in me.
I will need that trust, and so will you in the coming years, life will get harder, and difficult times are ahead. But I feel assured that heavenly help will come to negate and overcome even the most difficult of days if we only gain his trust now.
Now I have spoken today of the great need we have for heavenly guidance, and hopefully I have shared something that will help you in your life. But more than that that I hope you have heard the quiet whispering inside of you today. If you listened, you will have felt the promise of divine direction offered in that baptisimal covenant we renewed today. Tonight, you might pray and ask that you will have the power to do or say those things you have felt today, I promise you if you act on them the guidance will come more often. Let me conclude in telling you, just a few of the things I have learned from the Holy Ghost.
I know that the Church of Jesus Christ is the true church, Joseph was not the founder, rather he was the instrument by which Jesus Christ restored the church he established thousands of years ago. I know that the Priesthood that Jesus conferred on His apostles exists again on the earth today. I know that by his will men and women alike can be blessed by the gracious covenants he has offered us. I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, he saw what he saw and he endured to the end well. I know Thomas S. Monson is the Prophet today and that he as well as his apostles speaks those things that God instructs them to say. I know God is our Loving Heavenly Father, he loves us, and he wants us to return to him. Jesus Christ fulfilled his Atonement and so the way is prepared, if we take it, to return to him. I know the gospel blesses families and I have hope that one day when I start a family of my own I will be able to be with them forever.
Finally I'm thankful for all the support and patience that has been given me this day, without each one of you, I would not be where I am today, the spirit whispers to me that is true
I testify of these things I have felt impressed to say,today, humbly. In the name, of Jesus Christ Amen.