I had a startling experience yesterday in church. It was a fifth Sunday and the Relief Society and Priesthood all met together in the chapel, as I presume most of the LDS world did yesterday. The Bishop set up a Power Point projector and we opened with prayer.
He walked from the stand and stood in front of us. He then delivered the most pure teaching on salvation by Grace through Atonement of Christ and obedience to the Holy Spirit that I have ever heard preached – ever. The Holy Spirit was so sweet, and so present that I felt like weeping. I also felt like weeping because I have heard so many “talks” on this subject where the speaker just didn’t understand the principle, and the talk was warm milk and fuzzy emotions rather than the burn of the Spirit. I’m not being critical; I’m telling you why this struck me so powerfully. I accept that people are in some stage of growth and speak true things from their understanding which truths are not fully evolved.
The Bishop began by asking the question: “If you had to give a one-sentence description of whole purpose and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, how would you describe it?”
Nobody replied – silence. He rephrased the question several times. Silence. Finally, I raised my hand about half way. He immediately called on me. Oddly, he called me “Brother John”. Lots of people do just out of the blue. I replied, “Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.”
He looked around the room to see if anyone else would reply, then put the first slide up on the big wall behind the pulpit. It read, “Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.” I was stunned. I was expecting his slide to be about Home Teaching or temple attendance, or some true, but less meaty answer. I thought my answer would not fit the answer he was hoping to receive from the audience.
From there he presented slide after slide of scriptures proclaiming the atonement and grace of Christ. It was magnificent.
Then something even more profound happened. Someone raised their hand and almost as if an angel were whispering in his ear, he made a comment about relying upon Christ and following His voice to bring the enabling power of the atonement into our lives. I looked around to see who it was. I thought maybe Elder Bednar had snuck into our meeting. It was a young man new to our ward I didn’t recognize.
The Bishop advanced the slide, and it said just what the young man had said. The Bishop taught eloquently from Mosiah 3:19 for a few minutes. (The natural man is an enemy to God . . . unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit… and becomes a Saint through the Atonement of Christ.) An older Sister raised her hand and said, “I have always considered that my part was to choose to obey the voice of the Holy Spirit and it seems that as a result, Jesus Christ has changed me so that I no longer desire the thing I had to initially resist. Is this how we become a Saint through the Atonement of Christ?”
This comment was profoundly correct, and I looked up to see how the Bishop would respond. He was silent for a moment, then flipped to the next slide which said exactly what she had said.
For nearly 40 minutes this continued as he taught from Moroni 7, D&C 88, 2 Nephi 25, Alma 13 and other scriptures I have understood to teach exactly what he was saying to us. The people continued to make inspired comments in sync with his Power Point presentation. I could tell by his expression that he was amazed. It was as if we were all speaking together in tongues, or singing a new song spontaneously, every voice singing the same, new melody.
I knew for a fact that the Bishop understood these truths by right of his own righteous journey, and had prepared the slides beforehand under inspiration, but I do not think that those in the audience had ever spoken those words out loud until that moment. That was the miracle – that so many understood so correctly and were able to say the words he had prepared in advance to display. It was like King Benjamin’s people who suddenly cried aloud with one voice, “We Believe!”
The reason this is so significant to me personally is because I wrote about these very things 20 years ago and published them in “Following the Light of Christ into His Presence”. Over the next 20 years I was compelled by the Holy Spirit to remain silent on these subjects, rarely speaking of these great principles of grace and atonement, of daily dispensations of grace and empowerment through obedience to the Holy Spirit. During that time I never heard them from the pulpit until Elder Bednar gave his first address in General conference in October 2004. Elder Bednar’s address was a seminal moment to me.
To hear them spoken of so eloquently by our Bishop yesterday was another pivotal moment. To hear everyone else suddenly understand him and vocally confess them was startling, and for me the end of a very long silence.
Still upcoming on the Un-Blog: The Millennium
© January 2012, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.