A Summary of a Sermon Given
By High Priest David Van Fleet
October 5, 2014
The Holy Spirit is here this morning, and I believe the music just provided added to that. I also believe the Priesthood Assembly this weekend has been exceptional, and my wife, Kay, says the Women’s Retreat has been equally as good.
The late prophet Frederick M. Smith delivered a sermon on April 6, 1924 (90 years ago) at the Stone Church, titled, “Our Heritage: What Shall We Do with It?” In this sermon, he highlighted many Restoration distinctives that we still treasure today. His list included things like divine authority, revelation, Zion, and several other items. We are a most blessed people for the reasons he mentioned. Why is that? The answer is that our doctrine teaches us that God speaks today. Many people, therefore, have the faith that the Lord will speak to them. Because of their faith, then, the Lord can do exactly that, since His promises are conditional on the prerequisite of faith.
In understanding the things of God, the Saints have access to a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips in the three standard books of the Church. This doesn’t mean that the Saints always study those books as they should. But some do, and they are rewarded for that with understanding. It is also natural that the Saints, then, would be open to knowledge from other sources, not having the bias against additional light that others outside of the Restoration may be inclined to have. Also, this openness is increased by the counsel to study all good books.
Finally, our belief that we are called to bring forth Zion and to evangelize the world is a motivation to many Saints. Many are going the extra mile and giving their all. You and I are, therefore, blessed to be associated with them because, as the Scripture says, “How beautiful are they who publish tidings of great joy.” These are but a few of the reasons why we are a most blessed people.
Joseph Smith once wrote, “…shall we not go on in so great a cause?” The answer is, how can we non go on in so great a cause? To not go on would be foolishness in the extreme. We often quote the six principles of the gospel as found in Hebrews 6: 1, 2. However, there is a seventh principle described in that chapter; it just isn’t specifically enumerated. That principle is endurance. Endure to the end is a phrase found throughout the Scriptures. To endure means that we have to put up with some bumps and bruises along the way. In Doctrine and Covenants 100, the Saints were told that it is after much tribulation that the blessing comes.
I have here a rock that’s nearly round and almost smooth. It didn’t start that way; it probably wasn’t round, wasn’t smooth, and had jagged protrusions. By enduring millennia of pounding waves and close contact with sand and other rocks, it has been transformed it into what it is today. You can see the rock is nearly round on one side, and nearly perfectly oval and symmetrical on the other. As long as this rock stayed where the waves and other rocks could pound it, the transformation continued. By me removing this rock from its environment, it will no longer be shaped and molded.
The Church is the same way. The purpose of the Church is for mutual edification. As long as we stay active in the Church, the other members, under the inspiration of the Almighty, can help shape and mold us into the image of God. However, if we remove ourselves from this holy environment, then no additional smoothing and shaping will take place.
There are many references to rocks or stones in the Scriptures. Peter was called Cephas, meaning a seer, or a stone. This may have been a reference to the Urim and Thummim which was the seer stone used by the prophets. This undoubtedly influenced Peter to refer to the Saints as lively stones, and to Jesus Christ as the “chief cornerstone.” To me, being a lively stone suggests someone who is two things: actively engaged in the work of the Lord, and a spiritual powerhouse who is empowered with the Holy Spirit in his or her daily life. Peter goes on to say that we should be a peculiar people and a people that follow the example of Christ, such as when He refused to revile those who reviled Him.
This past summer my son Bruce, my son-in-law Nick, and I tried to go fishing in Colorado at an alpine lake. However, we were prevented doing so by the combination of a broken bridge and the heavy flow of a waterfall due to recent heavy rains. We decided not to leave widows down below (in town), so we turned back.
I believe the Church is in a similar situation. The streams of Babylon are attempting to prevent us from reaching the promised land of Zion. This weekend, the priesthood talked about the necessity for power from on high to accomplish the work we have been called to do. This suggests to me that we need to undergo a greater spiritual discipline. Anyone familiar with 1 Corinthians 12 or Doctrine and Covenants 46 will be aware that spiritual gifts come by the Holy Spirit and not by the will of man. We often think that spiritual gifts come by waiting and don’t realize that we have to prepare for them. When we think of enduring, we should think of enduring a discipline that will enable us draw increasingly closer to the Lord until heaven and earth can become very close to one another. The Lord has said that if we draw close to Him, He will draw close to us. We were told at the Priesthood Assembly to develop plans to increase our spiritual level, and then follow those plans. We need to formulate a personal plan on how to cross these streams of Babylon.
So the question President Smith asked: “what shall we do with our heritage,” is pertinent to us at the end of this weekend. The Church’s mission is to grow as many people as possible in the ways of Christ: in His benevolence and in His virtue. This means enlisting new volunteers, and instructing existing ones, so that all that are willing to participate and that they may be able to participate. This assignment is to be undertaken by the Church, regardless of numbers and despite difficulties we may encounter. Whether there are six members or six million members, our task is the same. This requires a dogged determination which can be termed either our steadfastness or our endurance. Our heritage is essential in helping us accomplish our task. Yes, we shall go on in so great a cause. Let us endure to the end.
I will close with two verses from Hebrews 12:1, 2 “Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”