My purpose today is to assure you that our Heavenly Father and the Savior live and that They love all humanity. The very opportunity for us to face adversity and affliction is part of the evidence of Their infinite love. God gave us the gift of living in mortality so that we could be prepared to receive the greatest of all the gifts of God, which is eternal life. Then our spirits will be changed. We will become able to want what God wants, to think as He thinks, and thus be prepared for the trust of an endless posterity to teach and to lead through tests to be raised up to qualify to live forever in eternal life.
It is clear that for us to have that gift and to be given that trust, we must be transformed through making righteous choices where that is hard to do. We are prepared for so great a trust by passing through trying and testing experiences in mortality. That education can come only as we are subject to trials while serving God and others for Him.
"If we live by the Savior's teachings, we will with surety find a safe harbor in this life and in the eternities to come."
The meetings of the school of the prophets became the setting for many powerful spiritual experiences... Joseph reported on the first two months of schooling:
Great joy and satisfaction continually beamed in the countenances of the School of the Prophets and the saints, on account of the things revealed, and the progress in the knowledge of God. (History of the Church, Vol.1, Ch.24, p.333)
Several accounts of spiritual manifestations in the school are available. Zebedee Coltrin, is the author of the most dramatic. The following is from Coltrin's account:
About the time the school was first organized some wished to see an angel, and a number joined in a circle, and prayed when the vision came, two of the brethren shrank and called for the vision to close or they would perish, they were Bros. Hancock and Humphries.
At one of these meetings after the organization of the school, on the 23rd January, 1833, when we were all together, Joseph having given instructions, and while engaged in silent prayer, kneeling, with our hands uplifted each one praying in silence, no one whispered above his breath, a personage walked through the room from East to west, and Joseph asked if we saw him. I saw him and suppose the others did, and Joseph answered that is Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother. Afterward Joseph told us to resume our former position in prayer, which we did. Another person came through; He was surrounded as with a flame of fire. He (Bro. C[oltrin]) experienced a sensation that it might destroy the tabernacle as it was of consuming fire of great brightness. The Prophet Joseph said this was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I saw Him. This appearance was so grand and overwhelming that it seemed I should melt down in His presence, and the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marrow of my bones. The Prophet Joseph said: Brethren now you are prepared to be Apostles of Jesus Christ, for you have seen both the Father and the Son. (Zebedee Coltrin Journal, 23 January 1833, Church Archives)
John Murdock, who attended the school and boarded with Joseph reported a vision of the Savior.
During the winter that I boarded with Bro. Joseph, as just mentioned, we had a number of prayer meetings, in the prophet's chamber, in which we obtained great blessings. In one of these meetings the prophet told us if we could humble ourselves before God, and exercise strong faith, we should see the face of the Lord. And about midday the visions of my mind were opened, and the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, and I saw the form of a man, most lovely, the visage of his face was sound and fair as the sun. His hair a bright silver grey, curled in most majestic form, His eyes a keen penetrating blue, and the skin of his neck a most beautiful white and he was covered from the neck to the feet with a loose garment, pure white, whiter than any garment I have ever before seen. His countenance was most penetrating, and yet most lovely. And while I was endeavoring to comprehend the whole personage from head to feet it slipped from me, and the vision was closed up. But it left on my mind the impression of love, for months, that I never felt before to that degree.(John Murdock Journal, typescript, BYU-A, p.13)
"Those who 'live without God in the world' anxiously glean their few and fleeting satisfactions, but they are unable to find real happiness...."Ignorant of the plan of salvation, many simply do not know what the journey of life is all about. Therefore, modern selfishness and skepticism brush aside the significance of the Savior..."
It was ever thus. The price of leadership is loneliness. The price of adherence to conscience is loneliness. The price of adherence to principle is loneliness. I think it is inescapable. The Savior of the world was a Man who walked in loneliness. I do not know of any statement more underlined with the pathos of loneliness than His statement: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).
There is no lonelier picture in history than of the Savior upon the cross, alone, the Redeemer of mankind, the Savior of the world, bringing to pass the Atonement, the Son of God suffering for the sins of mankind. As I think of that, I reflect on a statement made by Channing Pollock:
Judas with his thirty pieces of silver was a failure. Christ on the cross was the greatest figure of time and eternity.
At the first organization in heaven we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed and the plan of salvation made, and we sanctioned it.
Each of you who really wants to endure to the glorious end that our Heavenly Father has foreseen should firmly establish some personal priorities. With many interests competing for your loyalty, you need to be careful first to stay safely “on the boat.” No one can serve two masters. If Satan can get you to love anything—fun, flirtation, fame, or fortune—more than a spouse or the Lord with whom you have made sacred covenants to endure, the adversary begins to triumph. When faced with such temptations, you will find that strength comes from commitments made well in advance. The Lord said, “Settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you.” He declared through His prophet Jeremiah, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
When priorities are proper, the power to endure is increased. And when internalized, those priorities will help keep you from “going overboard.” They will protect you from cheating—in marriage, in the Church, and in life.
If you really want to be like the Lord—more than any thing or anyone else—you will remember that your adoration of Jesus is best shown by your emulation of Him. Then you will not allow any other love to become more important than love for your companion, your family, and your Creator. You will govern yourself not by someone else’s set of rules but by revealed principles of truth.
We can't fully overcome these habits and impacted tendencies by ourselves. Our own resolves, our own will, our own effort - all this is necessary but is not sufficent. We need the transforming power of the Savior, born of faith in him and his atoning sacrifice and of entering into a contract with him. In such a contract, made in ordinance work and in private prayer, we covenant, or promise, or witness to take upon ourselves his name and to keep his commandments. He, in turn, promises us to give us his spirit, which, if we are true to our promises, will renew and strengthen and transform us. In this way we combine our power with the power of the Almighty.
Before we renew our covenants in the sacrament, before we promise or resolve to overcome a bad habit and establish a new one, we should sit down first and count the cost.
If we realistically count the costs and then make a deep enough commitment, we, with the Lord's help, can overcome the gravity pull of habits and atmospheric resistance of our environment with all its luring temptations.
To improve your relationships, don't look to others to change and don't look to easy, step-by-step shortcut, sunshine formulas that do not strike at the roots. Look to yourself. Be honest with yourself first - the roots of your problems are spiritual. So also, therefore, are the root solutions. The key lies in your own heart. "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." (Proverbs 4:23)
You are called to be a light, not a judge. Build your own character and relationships on the light of this world. Build your home and family around him.
Why is the atonement so important to your marriage? No relationship is so demanding as marriage. To properly fulfill the divine purpose of marriage, that of bringing spirits into the world and raising them in the nurture of the Lord, we require the upmost in self-discipline, self-sacrifice, courage, love, humility, and integrity (self-unity). Again, Christ taught, "I am the way." He was the perfect example of these character traits and instructs us to follow in his footsteps. In addition, the very nature of the process of receiving the divine gift of the atonement develops these character traits.
It is significant that there is no permanent marriage outside the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why is an eternal marriage found only in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom? I believe it is because a truly successful marriage, which can sustain any storm, must be a three-way divine partnership. The Savior and his atonement are the foundation of this harmonious partnership, this beautiful marriage. He is the Savior of the family relationship as well as the individual soul.
So it is with our relations with others. Again, he is "the way." We forgive because he forgave. We love him because he first loved us.