Occasionally, with my tongue firmly lodged in my cheek, I’ll say: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is such a class outfit, I’d belong to it even if it weren’t true.” Then quickly add, “Of course, it’s a class outfit because it is true.”
Years ago while serving in the stake presidency of the Orange California stake, I received a phone call from a prominent protestant minister asking if I would be willing to share with him what the Church does to help its members prepare for emergencies. We met, and for all of five minutes we discussed the Church’s emergency preparedness program. Then my friend (and he did become my good friend) asked the questions he really wanted to ask.
“How do you get nineteen-year-old boys to give up schooling and their fun to leave their homes for two years at their own expense to teach people about Jesus Christ?” He went on to say that in his very large congregation there wasn’t one young man who would do this.
My answer was simple and direct. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Savior’s Church, and to one extent or another these young men know that and want to do what the Savior wants them to do.”
He smiled and asked another question. “I know you don’t have a paid ministry. How do you get men and women to volunteer to spend the kind of time necessary to run your wards and stakes?” My answer pretty much parroted what I said before. Again he smiled.
He went on. “Is it true that every member of your church is visited each month by a representative of the bishop?”
This time I smiled. “Theoretically.” I explained the home teaching and visiting teaching programs and that most of our members are visited each month.
“How do you get them to do that?” he asked. “Is them being able to go to your temples the incentive?" With maybe a slight variation, I gave my same answer.
Then finally he said, “I understand your teenagers have some kind of catechism training on a regular basis. Tell me about that." He was talking about seminary. I told him our young people attended classes to study our standard works, including the Bible, at 6:00 a.m. during the week.
His mouth literally dropped open. “Six o’clock? How often do they do that?”
“Five days a week,” I responded.
His head was shaking now. “How do you get teenage kids to get up for scripture study at that time of the morning five days a week?" He knew my answer.
After my friend left, I thought about the miracle of the Church.
How easy it was for me, being smack dab in the middle of it, to take for granted the extraordinary thing I was part of. My minister friend saw it and was trying to find “practical” reasons for it. There was only one reason. And that was the one I gave him.
The Church is true.
For a long time, I thought about the Church and why it was a miracle:
The unfailing testimony of Jesus Christ in every policy, written word, and practice.
An organization that allows each of us to give meaningful Christ-centered service; to receive practical and spiritual support and encouragement from one another; to learn the doctrines of Christ; and, to receive assistance as appropriate to help meet our temporal and spiritual needs.
The latter-day scriptures including The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Moses, the Book of Abraham, and the on-going word of the Lord given through his prophets to provide us up-to-the-minute direction and knowledge and encouragement.
The gift of the Holy Ghost. Through this reality alone I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. When I was eight years of age, my father laid his hands on my head and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” Literally from that moment on and for the past sixty-seven years, the Holy Ghost has been pretty much my constant companion. My father had the power to bless me with that gift because the keys of that power were restored through the Prophet Joseph and passed on to my dad through the authorized priesthood leaders of the Church.
The ordinances of the holy priesthood as administered in our Churches and temples. From baptism and the sacrament, to the endowment and sealing, these ordinances are gateways that put us under covenant, bless us, and allow us to enter the presence of God and become one with Him. Through them we know who we are, why we are here, and what lies ahead. We have eternal purpose and are enabled to achieve it.
The binding of families eternally and the work of salvation for our kindred dead.
As I watched all of the sessions of conference this past week, time and again the reality of the miracle of the Church bore upon me. Apostles were called and sustained. Men and women of God spoke by the Spirit. Our prophet, encumbered by his aging body and mind, still witnessed of Jesus Christ, and admonished us to repent and be an example and a light.
As if to make certain that none of us who watched conference would forget the blessing of and need for the Church, Elder Christofferson, in the very last session, masterfully laid out why the Lord has established His Church. He said that for him personally, "the Church . . . has been a place to come to know the Lord.
For me also, it has been a place where I have come to know the Lord.