My father used to teach me about the scriptures. Listening to one of dad’s discourses on gospel topics was a privilege and an honor. I was just a young man—a boy really—when his stories and instruction began to change my life. I wanted to be like my dad. He told me about the teachings of Jesus Christ. One of my favorite lessons has always been the Sermon on the Mount of which the following is a small excerpt:
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Matthew 5:16-20
“By their fruits ye shall know them?” I wondered out loud. My father taught me “the gospel of Jesus Christ makes evil minded men good and good men better,” using a line from President David O Mckay.
According to Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and women for the eternities.”
Though Adam and Eve have been generally ostracized in the religions of our day because of their decision to partake of the forbidden fruit, they were fulfilling God’s plan. Though they were expelled from the Garden of Eden, their contribution, sacrifice, and example fulfilled an important role in our behalf and influenced the opportunity for happiness and growth among all mankind. “After the earth had been created, divided, beautified, and inhabited with plant and animal life, the crowning achievement of the Creation was to be man—the human being.”
The incredible truth is that His crowning creation is still mankind. You are his finest work. How can you know this? Just look at the evidence:
The God of heaven and earth has revealed that his primary purpose and role is to bring about your ultimate success and realization of the potential of his children. He said it this way:
39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Moses 1:39
Twenty years ago this month, Gordon B Hinckley appeared on 60 minutes with Mike Wallace and was asked many questions about the immensity of the Church and its influence in the world and the lives of its people. Following this outpouring of interest and multiple interviews, President Hinckley reported to the brethren of the priesthood of this occasion by saying:
“One of the most extensive interviews was with Mr. Mike Wallace of the CBS 60 Minutes program.
“Millions saw the outcome this last Easter Sunday, as Elder Haight said this morning. The editors of the program distilled about 15 minutes out of many hours of filming.”
He then went on to compliment Mr. Wallace and revealed for the most part the material not used in the broadcast including the questions that were posed and President Hinckley’s extemporaneous, unrehearsed answers. This conversation was printed in the October 1996 Ensign.
On Larry King Live speaking to people of all religions Gordon B. Hinckley exclaimed:
“I say this to other people: you develop all the good you can. We have no animosity toward any other church. We do not oppose other churches. We never speak negatively of other churches. We say to people: you bring all the good that you have, and let us see if we can add to it…Yes. Our job is to make bad men good and good men better.”
Twice a year in our church we convene a worldwide conference, in which we are able to hear from our Church leaders regarding topics of particular import to the Church membership. In the recent general conference of the Church, J. Devn Cornish taught that our intent is paramount.
“The answers to the questions ‘Am I good enough?’ and ‘Will I make it?’ are ‘Yes! You are going to be good enough’ and ‘Yes, you are going to make it as long as you keep repenting and do not rationalize or rebel.’ The God of heaven is not a heartless referee looking for any excuse to throw us out of the game.
He is our perfectly loving Father, who yearns more than anything else to have all of His children come back home and live with Him as families forever. He truly gave His Only Begotten Son that we might not perish but have everlasting life! Please believe, and please take hope and comfort from, this eternal truth. Our Heavenly Father intends for us to make it! That is His work and His glory…
“If we will sincerely repent, God really will forgive us, even when we have committed the same sin over and over again.”
But life is hard. Many are called to bear tremendous afflictions and hardships. Reading from the words of faithful pioneer under dire circumstances, Russell M. Nelson reported “None but Saints can be happy under every circumstance.”
He continued by saying “Joy has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives…How then can we claim that joy? We can start by looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith in every thought. We can give thanks for him in our prayers and by keeping covenants we have made with him and our Heavenly Father. As our Savior becomes more real to us and as we plead for his joy to be given to us, our joy will increase.”
“Remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Hel. 5:12).
Neil L. Andersen also spoke about the optimistic view of our obligation to share the gospel with our friends and acquaintances—not to make the church bigger but to bring an opportunity for true joy.
“I suggest that you stop feeling guilty about any insufficiency you think you have in sharing the gospel. Rather, pray … for opportunities. …
“Be open about your faith in Christ. When the occasion presents itself, speak of His life, His teachings, and His incomparable gift to all mankind. … Share His powerful truths from the Book of Mormon. He has given us this promise: ‘Whosoever … shall confess me before men, him will I confess … before my Father … in heaven’ [Matthew 10:32]. I promise you that as you pray often and sincerely for opportunities to ‘stand as a witness of God’ those opportunities will come, and those who seek more light and knowledge will be put before you. As you respond to spiritual promptings, the Holy Ghost will carry your words to the heart of another, and one day the Savior will confess you before His Father.
“Please don’t see your efforts to share the love of the Savior with another as a pass/fail test with your grade determined by how your friends respond to your feelings or invitation to meet the missionaries. With our mortal eyes, we cannot judge the effect of our efforts, nor can we establish the timetable. When you share the love of the Savior with another, your grade is always an A+.”
Some years ago Elder Jeffrey Holland testified that through the power of Jesus Christ
“Jesus said, ‘Without me ye can do nothing.’ I testify that that is God’s truth. Christ is everything to us and we are to abide in Him permanently, unyieldingly, steadfastly, forever. For the fruit of the gospel to blossom and bless our lives, we must be firmly attached to Him.”
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.