Before we start discussing this talk, I want to make sure we all know what it means to be a disciple.
I have a couple definitions. One comes from Elder Bednar’s most recent conference address. He says:
“Devoted disciples of Jesus Christ always have been and always will be valiant missionaries. A missionary is a follower of Christ who testifies of Him as the Redeemer and proclaims the truths of His gospel.”
I also love this definition from BYU professor, Chauncey C Riddle: “A disciple of Christ is one who is learning to be like Christ—learning to think, to feel, and to act as he does…It involves the total transformation of a person from the state of the natural man to that of [a] saint, one who loves the Lord and serves with all of his heart, might, mind, and strength’ (Chauncey C. Riddle, ‘Becoming a Disciple,’ Ensign, Sept. 1974, 81)”
Elder Holland begins his talk by saying there will come times when we must defend our faith, and even endure some personal abuse just because we are members of the church. He says we must be courageous and courteous during these instances.
He gave an example of a pair of sister missionaries who were spat on, cursed at, with food thrown at them.
Wouldn’t it have been easy, and even understandable, for the sister missionaries to yell and scream and tell the man he was a terrible person?
I have seen members of the church be ugly to the protesters at General Conference. I have read rude and condescending comments from members of the church, rebuking those who speak badly of the church in online news articles. It is easy to get angry when someone bashes what is so important to us, or when someone treats us or someone we love badly for our beliefs.
Elder Holland said to be courteous when we are persecuted. James 1:20 says: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Why do you think that is?
Quote 1 – Robert D. Hales said, “Because … power resides in the Spirit of the Lord, we must never become contentious when we are discussing our faith. As almost every missionary learns, Bible bashing always drives the Spirit away. The Savior has said, ‘He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me’ (3 Nephi 11:29). More regrettable than the Church being accused of not being Christian is when Church members react to such accusations in an un-Christlike way! May our conversations with others always be marked by the fruits of the Spirit— ‘love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance’ (Galatians 5:22–23)” (“Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 73).
We should follow Jesus’ example. Elder Holland said:
Indeed, of Jesus Himself, Jacob’s brother Nephi wrote: “And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.”
There are a couple things we can learn from this. One is that Jesus turned the other cheek. He endured persecution and he still loved them.
How do you think Christ was able to endure it? How can we endure it?
Quote 2 – While serving as a member of the Seventy, Elder Dennis E. Simmons explained “If all the world is crumbling around us, the promised Comforter will provide His peace as a result of true discipleship. … We can have His peace with us irrespective of the troubles of the world…That peace comes from the assurances spoken by a still, small voice” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1997, 41–42; or Ensign, May 1997, 31).
Quote 3 – To help us recognize the other lesson, let’s read a quote from Lawrence E. Corbridge: Opposition, criticism, and antagonism are companions to the truth. Whenever the truth with regard to the purpose and destiny of man is revealed, there will always be a force to oppose it. Beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, down to the ministry of Christ, and on down to our day, there has always been and will ever be an effort to deceive, derail, oppose, and frustrate the plan of life.
Look for the biggest dust cloud billowing above the most dirt that is kicked at One who was most opposed, challenged, and rejected, beaten, abandoned, and crucified, One who descended below all things, and there you will find the truth, the Son of God, the Savior of all mankind. Why did they not leave Him alone?
Why? Because He is the truth, and the truth will always be opposed. (The Prophet Joseph Smith- April 2014)
Elder Holland reminds us that prophets, apostles, missionaries and members in every generation have been rejected, and often have paid a high price – even their lives – just to “honor God’s call to lift the human family to “a more excellent way.”
Speaking of these messianic messengers, he says, “They know full well that the road leading to the promised land “flowing with milk and honey”6 of necessity runs by way of Mount Sinai, flowing with “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.”
In other words, before you can receive all the blessings the Lord has in store, you must obey his commandments.
This type of message often brings hatred and anger from those who don’t want to hear the truth.
Elder Holland said, “…it is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds. Talk about man creating God in his own image! Sometimes—and this seems the greatest irony of all—these folks invoke the name of Jesus as one who was this kind of “comfortable” God. Really? He who said not only should we not break commandments, but we should not even think about breaking them. And if we do think about breaking them, we have already broken them in our heart.”
Quote 4 – This reminds me a lot of Elder Christofferson’s talk from this October’s conference:
“A God who makes no demands is the functional equivalent of a God who does not exist. A world without God, the living God who establishes moral laws to govern and perfect His children, is also a world without ultimate truth or justice. It is a world where moral relativism reigns supreme.
Relativism means each person is his or her own highest authority. To those who believe anything or everything could be true, the declaration of objective, fixed, and universal truth feels like coercion—“I shouldn’t be forced to believe something is true that I don’t like.” But that does not change reality. Resenting the law of gravity won’t keep a person from falling if he steps off a cliff. The same is true for eternal law and justice. Freedom comes not from resisting it but from applying it. That is fundamental to God’s own power. If it were not for the reality of fixed and immutable truths, the gift of agency would be meaningless since we would never be able to foresee and intend the consequences of our actions.
Elder Holland mentions the bumper sticker phrase “What would Jesus do?” Don’t people interpret the answer to this question differently? I think his next points are crucial to how all disciples of Christ should answer this question.
“At the zenith of His mortal ministry, Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”16 To make certain they understood exactly what kind of love that was, He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments”17 and “whosoever … shall break one of [the] least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be … the least in the kingdom of heaven.”18 Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it. So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others. Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once).”
Quote 5 – This reminds me of Dallin H Oaks’ October conference talk:
“Even as we seek to be meek and to avoid contention, we must not compromise or dilute our commitment to the truths we understand. We must not surrender our positions or our values. The gospel of Jesus Christ and the covenants we have made inevitably cast us as combatants in the eternal contest between truth and error. There is no middle ground in that contest.
The Savior showed the way when His adversaries confronted Him with the woman who had been “taken in adultery, in the very act” (John 8:4). When shamed with their own hypocrisy, the accusers withdrew and left Jesus alone with the woman. He treated her with kindness by declining to condemn her at that time. But He also firmly directed her to “sin no more” (John 8:11). Loving-kindness is required, but a follower of Christ—just like the Master—will be firm in the truth.”
Quote 6 – This August, Elder Nelson gave the BYU commencement address. He gave a clear example of how to follow this counsel:
“Wherever we go, you and I as disciples of the Lord bear a solemn responsibility to proclaim the will of God to all people,” he said. “And one of the more demanding opportunities of our time is to stand up for the truth regarding the sacred nature of marriage.”
We must remember the beautiful truth Elder Holland speaks: “Pure Christlike love flowing from true righteousness can change the world.”
Both of these things must work together to further the kingdom. You cannot have one without the other.
I hope someday I can have such a strong conviction as Elder Holland, who said, ”I bear witness of that gospel and that Church, with a particular witness of restored priesthood keys which unlock the power and efficacy of saving ordinances. I am more certain that those keys have been restored and that those ordinances are once again available through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than I am certain I stand before you at this pulpit and you sit before me in this conference.”
He closed his talk by saying: “Be strong. Live the gospel faithfully even if others around you don’t live it at all. Defend your beliefs with courtesy and with compassion, but defend them. In courageously pursuing such a course, you will forge unshakable faith, you will find safety against ill winds that blow, even shafts in the whirlwind, and you will feel the rock-like strength of our Redeemer, upon whom if you build your unflagging discipleship, you cannot fall.”
April 2003 – A Child and a Disciple – Henry B Eyring –
The Lord trusts His true disciples. He sends prepared people to His prepared servants. You have had the experience, as have I, of meeting people where you were sure the meeting could not have been by chance.
Second, they are the grateful disciples of the resurrected Jesus Christ. They know for themselves that the Atonement is real and necessary for all. They have felt cleansed through baptism by those in authority and the receipt of the Holy Ghost for themselves. And because of the peace they have experienced, they are like the sons of Mosiah, “desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.” 2
Your worthiness and your desire will shine in your face and your eyes. You will be excited about the Lord’s Church and His work, and it will show. You will be His disciple 24 hours a day in every situation. You won’t need to build up your courage for one great moment to speak to someone and then retreat. The fact that most people are not interested in the restored gospel will have little bearing on what you do and say. Speaking what you believe will be part of what you are.
To be part of that miracle, you must not wait until you feel closer to Heavenly Father or until you are sure that you have been purified through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Pray for the chance to encounter people who sense there could be something better in their lives. Pray to know what you should do to help them. Your prayers will be answered. You will meet people prepared by the Lord. You will find yourself feeling and saying things beyond your past experience. And then in time you will feel yourself drawing closer to your Heavenly Father, and you will feel the cleansing and the forgiveness the Savior promises His faithful witnesses. And you will feel His approval, knowing you have done what He asked of you, because He loves you and trusts you.