Untitled Talk on Calling and Election
Elder Marion G. Romney
Assistant to the Quorum
of the Twelve
(Conference Report, October 1949, p.39)
I bring you greetings from my beloved colleague, Elder Thomas E. McKay. I stood at his bedside early this morning and said, "Thomas, it is time to get up and go to conference." There is nothing in the world he would rather have done, but he was unable to come. He asked me to express his love to you and also his appreciation for the prayers you have offered in his behalf. He feels that our Heavenly Father has heard your prayers.
I am very grateful for these conferences. They revive my soul. Every one I have attended for years has lifted me up and induced me to renew my determination to devote myself more fully to works of righteousness. During them, the importance of this world's interests and distractions seems to diminish, and life's true values, as set forth in the gospel of Jesus Christ, come into plainer view.
Fruits of the Gospel
Does each of you find it so? I hope you do, and I encourage you to take every available opportunity to renew within yourself a determination to obtain the full fruits of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When earth life is over and things appear in their true perspective, we shall more clearly see and realize what the Lord and his prophets have repeatedly told us, that the fruits of the gospel are the only objectives worthy of life's full efforts. Their possessor obtains true wealth-wealth in the Lord's view of values. We need constantly to deepen our understandings and sharpen our realization of what the fruits of the gospel are.
The Lord has defined them as ". . . peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come." (D. & C. 59:23.)
It is a bit difficult to define the "peace in this world" referred to it the revelation. But we may be assured that it is not the ease luxury, and freedom from struggle envisioned by the world's utopian dreamers. Jesus told his apostles that it would be found by theft even in their days of tribulation.
Peace I leave with you, he said, . . . my peace I give unto you. And then, by way of caution, it seems to me, he added, . . . not as the world giveth, give I unto you. (John 14:27.)
Peace Amidst Tribulation
A little later he re-emphasized this statement in these words:
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation. (John 16:33.)
Convincing evidence of the truth of this saying of the Master-that people suffering tribulation in this world could at the same time find peace in him-has come out of the most severe experiences.
I suppose that the last few days of the Prophet's life were crowded with about as much tribulation as any human being could endure. He was hounded by traitors, impeached by misguided and false-accusing associates, called to account, promised protection, and then abandoned by his government. That all the while he knew he was approaching martyrdom is clear from the record. On the evening of Saturday, June 22, he wrote in his journal:
"I told Stephen Markham that if I and Hyrum were ever taken again we should be massacred, or I was not a prophet of God."
On Sunday, the 23rd, he said to his brother Hyrum, "If you go back, I will go with you, but we shall be butchered."
Monday, the 24th, on leaving Nauvoo, he paused when they got to the temple, and looked with admiration first on that, and then on the city, and remarked,
"This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens; little do they know the trials that await them. In this setting, knowing that his own life would be taken from him by force and violence and viewing the trials and suffering which would be visited upon his beloved followers, he said to the company who were with him, I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summer's morning."
This is a classic example of a person having at the same time tribulation in this world and peace in Christ. Many others, both in ancient and in modern times, have had similar experiences.
The other fruit of the gospel named in the quotation-"eternal life in the world to come"-must be a glorious thing, for the Lord has said that "he that hath eternal life is rich," (D. & C. 6:7) and that the "gift of eternal life is the greatest of all the gifts of God." (D. & C. 14:7.) He who obtains it will obtain an exaltation in the celestial kingdom of our Father in heaven. Speaking of such the Lord says, among other things:
They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.
. . . into whose hands the Father has given all things-
They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
. . . they are gods, even the sons of God . . .
These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.
These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people . . . who shall have part in the first resurrection.
. . . who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just. These are they whose names are written in heaven . . .
. . . of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical. (D. & C. 76:54-56, 58, 62-65, 68, 70.)
Assurance of Blessings
This gift of eternal life in the world to come may not, of course, be fully realized during earth life. An assurance that it will be obtained in the world to come may, however, be had in this world. As a matter of fact, the blessings of the celestial kingdom are promised only to those who have such an assurance. According to the vision, a successful candidate for these blessings must qualify on three counts: First, he must have ". . . received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name" and been ". . . baptized after the manner of his burial"; second, he must have received "the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power"; and third, he must be "sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise." (D. & C. 76:51-53.)
The Prophet Joseph taught that one so sealed would have within himself an assurance born of the spirit, that he would obtain eternal life in the world to come. He urgently and repeatedly admonished the Saints of his day to obtain such an assurance by making their calling and election sure. It is this assurance within a person which brings to him the peace in this world which will sustain him in every tribulation.
More Sure Word of Prophecy
So taught the Prophet in explanation of the words of Peter. Although that apostle had heard the voice of God declare, when he was with the Savior on the holy mount,
"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," he nevertheless wrote to the Saints,
"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed." (2 Peter 1:19.)
Explaining this statement the Prophet said:
"Though they might hear the voice of God and know that Jesus was the Son of God, this would be no evidence that their election and calling was made sure, that they had part with Christ, and were joint heirs with him. They then would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens, and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God. Then, having this promise sealed unto them, it was an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast. Though the thunders might roll and lightnings flash, and earthquakes bellow, and war gather thick around, yet this hope and knowledge would support the soul in every hour of trial, trouble and tribulation." (D. H. C. 5:387-390.)
It was such an assurance which sustained the Prophet himself as he went to martyrdom, for unto him the Lord had said in a direct revelation:
". . . I am the Lord thy God and will be with thee even unto the end of the world, and through all eternity: for verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father." (D. & C. 132:49.)
Sustained By Assurance
The Apostle Paul was likewise sustained by such an assurance. From the hand of the Lord "he had a promise of receiving a crown of righteousness."
". . . I am now ready to be offered,"
he wrote to Timothy just previous to his death.
"I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day." (2 Tim. 4:6-8.)
I think Apostle Alonzo A. Hinckley had an assurance that he would receive the gift of eternal life in the world to come and that he was sustained by that assurance as he endured the sufferings of a slow death, for in a letter which he wrote to the First Presidency after he had been told by his physician that his illness would be fatal, he said:
"I assure you that I am not deeply disturbed over the final results. I am reconciled, and I reach my hands to take what My Father has for me, be it life or death. With a spirit of thanksgiving, and I trust free from vanity or boastfulness, I look over the past with satisfaction. I would not turn the leaf down on any chapter of my life. So far as I know, I have honored my Heavenly Father with my time, my humble talents, and all the means that he has blessed me with, and I have dealt justly with all men. I have fought, but I have fought fairly.
"As to the future. I have no misgivings. It is inviting and glorious, and I sense rather clearly what it means to be saved by the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ and to be exalted by his power and be with him ever more." (Church Section, March 27, 1949.)
These fruits of the gospel--assurance that we shall obtain eternal life, peace in this world sustained by such an assurance, and finally eternal life in the world to come--are within the reach of us all. Sometimes, however, because of our lack of understanding and appreciation of them, I am persuaded that we take too much for granted. We assume that because we are members of the Church, we shall receive as a matter of course all the blessings of the gospel. I have heard people contend that they have a claim upon them because they have been through the temple, even though they are not careful to keep the covenants they there made. I do not think this will be the case.
We might take a lesson from an account given by the Prophet of a vision of the resurrection, in which he records that one of the saddest things he had ever witnessed was the sorrow of members of the Church who came forth to a resurrection below that which they had taken for granted they would receive.
I conceive the blessings of the gospel to be of such inestimable worth that the price for them must be very exacting, and if I correctly understand what the Lord has said on the subject, it is. The price, however, is within the reach of us all, because it is not to be paid in money nor in any of this world's goods but in righteous living. What is required is wholehearted devotion to the gospel and unreserved allegiance to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Speaking to this point, the Prophet taught ". . . that those who keep the commandments of the Lord and walk in his statutes to the end, are the only individuals" who shall receive the blessings.
Referring to Paul's devotion he said:
"Follow the labors of this apostle from the time of his conversion to the time of his death, and you will have a fair sample of industry and patience in promulgating the gospel of Christ. Derided, whipped, and stoned, the moment he escaped the hands of his persecutors he as zealously as ever proclaimed the doctrine of the Savior. None will say that he did not keep the faith, that he did not fight the good right, that he did not preach and persuade to the last. And what was he to receive? A crown of righteousness, and what shall others receive who do not labor faithfully, and continue to the end? We leave such to search out their own blessings if any they have." (D. H. C. 2:19-20.)
Explaining to the Prophet Joseph Smith the reason why his exaltation was sealed upon him, the Lord said:
"Behold, I have seen your sacrifices and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you." (D. & C. 132:50.)
Calling and Election Made Sure
A half-hearted performance is not enough. We cannot obtain these blessings and be like the rich young man who protested that he had kept the commandments from his youth up but who went away sorrowful when, in answer to the question, "What lack I yet?" Jesus said unto him,
If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou, hast, and give to the poor . . . and come and follow me. (Matt. 19:21.)
Evidently he could live everything but the welfare program.
There can be no such reservation. We must be willing to sacrifice everything. Through self- discipline and devotion we must demonstrate to the Lord that we are willing to serve him under all circumstances. When we have done this, we shall receive an assurance that we shall have eternal life in the world to come. Then we shall have peace in this world.
The Prophet Joseph Smith made this perfectly clear. He said,
"After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands)....then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shall be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure." (D. H. C. 3:380.)
Now may the Lord bless us, my brethren and sisters, with an understanding of his great gospel. And may we press forward with diligence and energy to perfect and qualify ourselves to receive and enjoy the full fruits thereof, for they are of all things the most joyous to the soul. Let us each day in solemn honesty confront ourselves with the rich man's question, "What lack I yet?" And thus, with utter frankness, discovering our own limitations, let us conquer them one by one until we obtain peace in this world through an assurance that we shall have eternal life in the world to come. For these blessings I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.