I gave a talk this last Sunday in church, based on a talk given by member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, Quintin L. Cook, given during 2010's General Conference, titled "Let There Be Light."
For those readers (if there be any) that don't know, I am a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints-in other words, I am a Mormon. Here is my talk, for those that are interested in reading. I originally had much more that I wanted to say in this talk, but I had to eliminate quite a bit due to time constraints-I was limited to 12 minutes. And without further adieu, here it is:
Using Elder Quinton L. Cook’s 2010 conference talk “Let There Be Light” as my guide, I wish to speak concerning what we can do to avoid and hinder the spread of wickedness and darkness over this earth, and bring others unto the Light of Christ and his love, as well as his protection from the ensuing storm of evil that is brewing on the earth.
One form of darkness spreading over the earth in modern times is atheism, or rather, the belief that there is no God, and thus no morals and no principles to abide by, every kind of action being accepted because there is no right or wrong.
Elder cook says of today, “Basic belief in the power and authority of God is not only questioned but also denigrated.” We often see science used as a means of attempting to prove there is no God and to denigrate those who have faith in God’s existence. I personally believe Science is synonymous with God, or rather, used by God, God being all-powerful and all knowledgeable, and thus knowing and using science, even science beyond our mere human comprehension. But there are those in society who would have us believe that because something can’t be scientifically proven, then it must not be true, including the existence of Heaven, Hell, and God. But to assert such assumes man knows all there is to know of science, which isn’t true. We know much about science, but not all there is to know. Our entire world and universe abounds in proof that there is some being out there who has much more power and knowledge than us, God’s children. And this being is God. I find the words of the American Founding Father, Thomas Paine, applicable to these men of science: such attempts as these to destroy religion or belief in God and His power by use of science “pervert the sublime and enlightening study of natural philosophy into a deformity of absurdities by not reasoning to the end.” It is using something of God to try to prove there is no God. It isn’t possible.
We are told by many in society that morals and values are relative, that we can do we what we like without fear of punishment by a God, either because no God exists or because he will justify us in the license of the natural man, as the Anti-Christ Nehor taught in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon Anti-Christs say this is because either God has redeemed all men, no matter what they do, or because there was no Christ and no Atonement, and that there is no such thing as good or evil, or right or wrong. And as we’re told in 2nd Nephi chapter 2, if there is no right or wrong, no righteousness and no sin, then God would cease to be God, and in essence cease to exist. Such false and dangerous ideas lead us away from God and His laws, and away from Liberty, ordained by God, to license, or doing as one pleases without any consequences, which is upheld by Satan. But, we know there was an Atonement by Christ, and therefore there is right and wrong, and thus God does exist, having power over all.
But we know these false notions concerning God or the non-existence of God, as well the casting aside of His law and moral values based upon His law are utterly untrue, as told to us by the prophets of old in the scriptures, and by the prophets of today.
One solution Elder Cook proposes so as to avoid the spread of atheism and subsequent license to do as one pleases without any consequences and all the evils that accompany such beliefs is to ensure that “values based on religious belief be part of the public discourse.” Such a discussion and encouragement of values based on religious belief will continue to spread and brighten light, specifically the Light of Christ, in an ever darkening world of wickedness and sin.
Elder Cook said, “we find that the majority of people are still respectful of basic moral values. But make no mistake: there are also people who are determined to both destroy faith and reject any religious influence in society.” To protect ourselves against these attempts, Elder Cook warns, “In our increasingly unrighteous world, it essential that values based on religious belief be part of the public discourse.” As God makes known to the Nephites in 2nd Nephi chapter 1 and through out the entire Book of Mormon, as well as to the future Gentiles inhabiting this American continent, meaning us, those who receive this land of promise as their inheritance, a land of liberty and freedom, must either serve God or be brought into captivity and enslavement, and possible destruction upon refusal to repent. And one of the most important ways we can serve God, as King Benjamin explains in the Book of Mosiah, is to serve our fellow man.
Elder Cook says, “religious faith is a store of light, knowledge, and wisdom and benefits society in a dramatic way when adherents engage in moral conduct because they feel accountable to God.” There must never be coercion of religion upon the people by anyone. But, this does not mean the people should not continue to encourage religious faith among the population. Ensuring that these values based on religious belief be part of the public discourse so as to hinder and avoid the advance of atheism and all the evils and darkness that accompany it has been a principle taught and pleaded for by our Founding Fathers of this country.
The importance of a belief in God and the moral values that result from knowing we are accountable to Him for our actions in this life, as reiterated by Elder Cook is his talk “Let there be Light,” is exemplified by the Founding Father Thomas Paine, who disagreed with many religious tenets of the 18th century world religions, yet reiterated often the importance of maintaining a belief in God and following those principles and laws established by Him in the laws of nature.
Indeed, one of Thomas Paine’s biographers, John Keane, described in his book, “Tom Paine, A Political Life,” Paine’s views on the evils that were accompanying Atheism and relativity in moral values in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and which describes our very day in age. To paraphrase his words,
“Paine argued, Christianity [and I, might personally add, religious faith in general] keeps alive an ethical tradition vital for nurturing republican democracy. To destroy Christianity [and I would again add religion in general] by force [and I would add, or any other means] was potentially to destroy its good moral teachings. From Atheism’s point of view, everything would become permissible. Liberty would be crushed by license, [which we defined already as doing as one pleases without any consequences or accountability]. Individuals would be forced to swallow the dogma that the existence of God is [an old and boring] superstition, that hell is a myth, and that individuals have no soul. Indecent prints and obscene books would go on sale. Moneymaking, egoism, and love of lucre would mushroom.” In other words, the love of men towards their brothers and sisters would wax cold, and selfishness would abound.
John Adams, wrote in the early 1800’s,
"If [the] empire of superstition and hypocrisy should be overthrown, happy indeed will it be for the world; but if all religion and all morality should be over-thrown with it, what advantage will be gained? The doctrine of human equality is founded entirely in the Christian doctrine that we are all children of the same Father, all accountable to Him for our conduct to one another.”
These moral values found in religious belief include the 10 Commandments and many other Judeo-Christian morals values and principles which all people should base their daily conduct on and all nations’ governments should espouse, for they are not solely for the Judeo-Christian. These moral values belong to the whole world and all of the human family, regardless of one’s religious creed or whether one has a religious creed. All that the Savior did in his life and does for us now in our lives can be found in these Judeo-Christian moral values and principles. Elder Cook emphasizes the moral principle of honesty and treating all children of God as brothers and sisters. And might I also personally add the commandment “though shalt not covet” as one of the values that would benefit us in today’s world. This, of course does not mean we legally favor Judeo-Christianity over any other religion or prevent others from sharing their religious or non-religious beliefs, but that we continue to spread and live by these righteous principles ourselves and as much as possible as a nation and society. Elder Cook says, “The moral foundation of our doctrine in the LDS church can be a beacon light to the world and can be a unifying force for both morality and faith in Jesus Christ. We need to protect our families and be at the forefront together with all people of goodwill in doing everything we can to preserve light, hope, and morality in our communities.” This gives us all the more reason to share the gospel with as many people as possible through missionary work, for remember, every member is called to be a missionary and share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And one of the ways we can do this is to be an example of light to others.
Another way we can protect ourselves from the ensuing storm of darkness, which we know must necessarily come, as has been foretold in the scriptures, is to ensure that we keep our homes a safe refuge of righteousness from the wickedness of the world. This includes keeping all things that would drive light away out of our homes and family environments, things like pornography, inappropriate TV shows, movies and internet sites, foul language, animosity between family members, and all things that drive away the Spirit of God. We must also not only expel darkness from our homes and families, but we must also seek out and invite light into our homes by having weekly family night, daily family and individual prayer, daily family and individual scripture/doctrinal study, and introducing into our homes all things that are “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy,” to quote Elder Cook.
We must remember the following, spoken by Elder Oaks in his talk on tolerance:
“So it was that at the conclusion of His ministry, Jesus prayed to the Father, “not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15). We are to be in the world, but not of the world.”
Elder Cook has optimism concerning the continued belief in God and His power and Authority in the world. He speaks of Mormon mourning the rejection of Christ and His Atonement by his brethren Nephites, yet Elder Cook speaks of those “large numbers who worship God and feel accountable to Him for their conduct” in all nations today. Truthfully, I find it very difficult sometimes to see things from an optimistic point of view, seeing the wickedness of the world and the rejection of God and his power, authority and plan of salvation for His children. But this is wrong, for we should all be as optimistic as Elder Cook. Indeed, we can be optimistic and joyful of the fact that, like in the war in heaven, although there may be that small few who will reject God and His laws and plans, we can be joyful at the fact that there will be many who will believe in God and accept Christ’s Atonement.
It is our duty to not only seek light and allow it to shine in our lives and in the lives of others, but we must also allow it to stay on forever by doing those things that will allow it to do so, by keeping our homes a place of righteous refuge from the wickedness and evils of the world. As Elder Cook says, “Freedom and light have never been easy to attain or maintain.” Indeed, Thomas Paine wrote his series called “The American Crisis,” “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” The forces of coercion, unrighteous dominion, and darkness, created and led by the adversary, who is the father of all lies, are relentless in overthrowing agency, freedom and light, and will stop at nothing to do so, and try to take as many of God’s righteous children down with them. And the adversary has become ever so consistent, persistent and cunning over the time man has been on earth, to the point where he takes what is good and makes it bad, makes good look like bad and bad look like good, and makes light look like darkness and darkness look like light. Once we have freedom and light, we must guard it ever so jealously, because the armies of evil and darkness will always be there with a plan devised to overthrow it. 2nd Nephi chapter 2 tells us we have the agency to choose light, liberty, and eternal life through Christ, or darkness, slavery, and eternal damnation and suffering. As the knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade says, choose wisely, for in the day of final judgment, we shall earn our wages according to our works done in this life. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.