Keeping our hearts open to conviction

In February 1847 Joseph Smith appeared to Brigham Young in a dream and said: “Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you how to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife, and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in Heaven before they came into the world. Tell the people to be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and follow it, and it will lead them just right.”

Brigham Young, vision, Feb. 17, 1847, in Brigham Young Office Files, 1832–1878, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. (Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization modernized.)

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Give the Lord equal time

Some years ago one of my missionaries came to see me. He said: “President, I am losing my testimony. I have some questions that no one will answer for me. My bishop and stake president just told me to forget them, and they had no answers.”

I asked for his questions in writing and then suggested he come to see me in 10 days, and I would answer every one of his questions.

As he was leaving my office, I was prompted to ask him, “Elder, how long has it been since you have read from the scriptures?”

He acknowledged that it had been a long time.

I said: “You have given me an assignment; it’s only fair that I give you one. You read at least one hour from the scriptures each day until you come back for your answers.”

He agreed to do this.

When he came back, I was ready. He said: “President, I don’t need the answers. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know Joseph Smith is a prophet. I’m OK now.”

I replied: “You will get your answers anyway. I worked hard on them!” All of this anti-Mormon stuff was what we were dealing with.

After our discussion I asked him, “Elder, what have you learned from all of this?”

And he gave me a very significant response: “I’ve learned to give the Lord equal time!”

M. Russell Ballard, “Follow the Doctrine and Gospel of Christ,” CES Fireside for Young Adults, November 7, 2010, Brigham Young University

Truth is always harmonious with itself; piety is often the cloak of error

The First Presidency (Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, and Charles W. Penrose) wrote the following in 1913 about those who make false claims or declare erroneous doctrines:

“When visions, dreams, tongues, prophecy, impressions or any extraordinary gift or inspiration conveys something out of harmony with the accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions of its constituted authorities, Latter-day Saints may know that it is not of God, no matter how plausible it may appear. Also they should understand that directions for the guidance of the Church will come, by revelation, through the head. All faithful members are entitled to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for themselves, their families, and for those over whom they are appointed and ordained to preside. But anything at discord with that which comes from God through the head of the Church is not to be received as authoritative or reliable. In secular as well as spiritual affairs, Saints may receive Divine guidance and revelation affecting themselves, but this does not convey authority to direct others, and is not to be accepted when contrary to Church covenants, doctrine or discipline, or to known facts, proven truths, or good common sense. No person has the right to induce his fellow members of the Church to engage in speculations or take stock in ventures of any kind on the specious claim of Divine revelation or vision or dream, especially when it is in opposition to the voice of recognized authority, local or general. The Lord’s Church ‘is a house of order.’ It is not governed by individual gifts or manifestations, but by the order and power of the Holy Priesthood as sustained by the voice and vote of the Church in its appointed conferences.

“The history of the Church records many pretended revelations claimed by imposters or zealots who believed in the manifestations they sought to lead other persons to accept, and in every instance, disappointment, sorrow and disaster have resulted therefrom. Financial loss and sometimes utter ruin have followed. . . .

“Be not led by any spirit or influence that discredits established authority, contradicts true scientific principles and discoveries, or leads away from the direct revelations of God for the government of the Church. The Holy Ghost does not contradict its own revealings. Truth is always harmonious with itself. Piety is often the cloak of error. The counsels of the Lord through the channel he has appointed will be followed with safety. Therefore, O! ye Latter-day Saints, profit by these words of warning.”

In Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 4:285–86.  Also found in Doctrine and Covenants Institute Student Manual, Enrichment J-7: Keys for Avoiding Deception.

Incarcerated within the prison of one principle

How important it is to the symmetry of our souls that we interact with all the gospel principles and with all the Church programs, so that we do not become so highly specialized that, if we are deprived of one source of satisfaction, indeed we are in difficulty. It is possible to be incarcerated within the prison of one principle. We are less vulnerable if our involvements with the kingdom are across the board. We are less vulnerable if we care deeply about many principles–not simply a few.

Neal  A. Maxwell, “But for a Small Moment,” BYU Devotional, 1 September 1974.

God is there also when true but hard words break open the chained door of a mind taken over by a single obsession. Sometimes, brothers and sisters, instead of the mind’s wrapping itself around an idea, an idea wraps itself tightly around the mind—another way in which “pride compasseth … about as [with] a chain” (Ps. 73:6).

Neal A. Maxwell, “Yet Thou Art There,” Ensign, November 1987

Looking beyond the Mark

Apostasy is always characterized by a person become his or her own law. Brigham Young said this:

You have known men who, while in the Church, were active, quick and full of intelligence; but after they have left the Church, they have become contracted in their understandings, they have become darkened in their minds and everything has become a mystery to them (see Alma 12: 11), and in regard to the things of God, they have become like the rest of the world, who think, hope and pray that such and such things may be so, but they do not know the least about it. This is precisely the position of those who leave this Church; they go into the dark, they are not able to judge, conceive or comprehend things as they are. They are like the drunken man—he thinks that everybody is the worse for liquor but himself, and he is the only sober man in the neighborhood. The apostates think that everybody is wrong but themselves (“Chapter 12: Preventing Personal Apostasy,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997).
In this same regard, Brigham Young taught:
Many imbibe [conceive] the idea that they are capable of leading out in teaching principles that never have been taught. They are not aware that the moment they give way to this hallucination the Devil has power over them to lead them onto unholy ground…. (same source as above).
Elder Quentin Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Some in their spiritual immaturity attempt to appear sophisticated and intellectual. Instead of accepting revelation, they want to dissect it and add dimensions and variations of meaning that distort its beautiful truths.” He continued: