A Pivotal Moment


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

Brother John

© January 2012, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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21 Responses to A Pivotal Moment

  1. Suzane says:

    I am in Primary. I love it but miss messages like this. Thank you for the spiritual food.

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  2. Amber says:

    Beautiful

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  3. Pearl says:

    That’s wonderful that you have such great Sunday meetings. I know it’s not like that everywhere in the Church. For example, one of our GD teacher’s favorite lines is – “Isn’t it great we don’t have to think?”

    sigh…

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  4. Tammy Jensen says:

    Hi John,
    Your work has come into my life providentially. What a comfort it has been as a witness and “steadying arm” as I travel down the path. I hope you feel my gratitude.

    Would there be a way that I could have access to the power point presented?

    Thanks, Tammy

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  5. K-Jo says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this experience with us, Brother John. So beautifully and simply stated, and yet so much depth that it warrant hours of pondering and study.

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  6. Chris says:

    Thank you for sharing this experience and thank you for that reference to Elder Bednar’s talk.

    It seems to me while on my mission, this same sort of experience seemed to happen between us as missionaries and investigators on a regular basis. I think it is absolutely necessary for those are teaching and those who are listening to both teach and receive Gospel truths via the Spirit in order for spiritual change to start in a person. It is wonderful and electrifying when it is experienced. It served as a reminder for me to be ready and in tune with the spirit at all times — so that I can learn, or teach as I may be called upon to do.

    Chris

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  7. Jean Grossnickle says:

    Very uplifting–the recent instruction of your Bishop. The Spirit encourages quietness and patience because of so much unbelief–wheat and tares together sewn. Tares appear to believe and can sense something special about such instruction. They may say they understand what is being taught, but secretly turn away and fight against relying wholly by free gifts (stumbling at that stone. Jacob in 4:14 and Romans 9:33, DC 1:16, 2Ne.28). Their oft professed work is to establish their own righteousness. Self-improvement and the good works of the law are what they distill from such an inspired meeting about the free gifts and goodness of God. (Alma 33:16) Theirs is a great and desolating contention against the revelations of a broken heart among the meek to rely alone upon Jesus. Their teaching is not seen as contention or as persecution by most, but as popular doctrine: we may by our own merit and genius do our best to become like God (It approaches the teaching of Korihor: Alma 30:16-17 for it has little need of a Savior/Good Shepherd and ignores the gate and the straight path). We see Hel. 3:34-35 revisited; and the meek are quiet because the Spirit stops their utterance. There is no correction for so many refusals to be gathered and refreshed.(2Ne,32, 3Ne.10) So many yet reconcile themselves to “their best” when He is willing to do His best in and through those who ask with real intent, relying wholly. Moroni 6:4, 2Ne.31:19-20. Suddenly the Lord will raise up his remnant and make bare His salvation. Be yet patient with many in thinking it is already appropriate to speak against such a strict command (Alma 12:9-11) about something so wonderfully hidden from all who suppose they are righteous by some merit of their own; and yet so fully revealed to the meek. Is. 2:11 will soon be fulfilled, and the Lord will do it suddenly. The truth will condemn those who have labored to receive it lightly who turn again to rend those who hold mercy and the works of faith in high esteem. Fortunately, the Spirit of Truth will guide all who do not boast as if wise, who lead so many to err, to take up right words into old vessels (without hearts made new). Helaman 12 revisited may help a few, but this is the time of division, the time of choosing, the time of kindling the flame of Christ: who is willing to come at the only time ye think not–i.e., immediately Alma 34:31), though again, we think not. And yet where two or three are gathered (perhaps even by the Lord within a congregation)… (2Ne.10:23-24 and 31:15-20, Mosiah 27:24-37 and Alma 5).
    –Not trying to daunt, but simply to appeal to the Spirit who loves holiness so very much, who can teach this people to stand in Holy places, if they will accept a broken heart. The meek will be found rejoicing with all their hearts in the word of the Lord wherever they stand; and watching, for He is near at hand. May pure love not burn you at that day, but cause you to exclaim with the redeemed, He is The Lord, My Righteousness! —written by a friend who read your email. –jean

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    • Thank you for this thoughtful comment. I appreciate your perspective. Personally I feel very optomistic about our future. I know it will be rough because the scriptures portray it such, but I also know that those who are walking with the Holy Spirit will rise to the occasion. I prefer that comments remain under 250 words in the future so that they are not overwhelming for readers. I know of many readers who read ALL of the comments, so I try to keep them shorter.

      Thanks!

      JMP

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  8. Steve says:

    So delightful to hear I’ve wondered about King Benjamin’s people all speaking as one and I likened it in my head to the story that’s told about how two members, a man and a woman who were not related, during the Kirtland era, I believe, sang a song-unrehearsed-in beautiful harmonies and in an unknown tongue. It seems in your class, the Spirit was the teacher.

    I had the opportunity to teach yesterday. My topic: building a Zion ward by building ourselves into Zion people I hope the Spirit did some teaching there, too.

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    • I learned to read Afrikaans on my mission, which is very much like Dutch. In that BoM the word for “with one voice” is saamstem (might be spelled wrong) literally means “same voice” or to vote in agreement, to all agree, to vote with a single voice.

      I prefer the metaphor of everyone crying aloud with the Spirit, but appreciated the other insight as well.

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      • Steve says:

        You know, I had thought of that, too, how one might have spoke for the people, which is likely, but when one considers how the Spirit works, it’s possible in that light, but impossible for the natural man, to speak in one voice. This is really one of the questions I have about some events in the Book of Mormon. I guess I’ll ask King Benjamin one day. (Another question is how Nephi took Laban’s head off and didn’t make a mess of Laban’s clothes–I imagine Laban’s head was downhill from his body. Sorry about that; the morbid imagination of a former cop, I’m afraid.)

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      • Steve says:

        On a different note, I’ve got a new idea for a TV series: CSI Zarahemla.

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      • Jason says:

        I learned a little Afrikaans on my mission too. Did you ever make it to Cape Town or the surrounding area? I’ve been back for for just over 3 years now. I don’t know that I have ever seen such a beautiful place as Cape Town South Africa.

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  9. Jason says:

    Isn’t it amazing when we can have experiences like that I church. I would guess that a large part of what made the lesson so great and invited the Spirit in such abundance was that the Bishop focused on the doctrines and principles of the gospel (the atonement, grace, faith) more so than the applications (temple attendance etc). I just finished Elder Bednar’s book “Increase in Learning” and that is a principle he teaches with power, the importance of teaching the doctrine and principles and focusing on them more than the applications.

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  10. Brother John
    Sister Stroud and I are reading and discussing all of the unblog articles and comments as a part of our companion study time. We started at the beginning, and have now read up to November 2011. We have also listened to each of the fireside tapes while we travel here on our little island. We have a few Phillipino brothers and sisters who are founded enough to share with them the truths we are learning. We make copies of this information and give it too them since there are no personal computers among the people. We have given one brother a copy of TTOZ book, and he is reading it now. We have found a few Americans who have come back into activity, and are sharing the unblog site with them as they are ready to receive. Thank you for your personal ministry in sharing these important truths.
    Our love to you and Terri,
    Elder & Sister Stroud

    Like

  11. Dean says:

    The kingdom of God will come without observation. I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the Zion era.

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  12. kenh says:

    This is simply what everyone in the church needs. Thank you for sharing this John. I was sick and unable to attend my ward yesterday. I am feeling better but I hope something like what you were blessed with happened at my ward as well. It is great to see the evolution of spiritual growth of the church through these types of experiences. God is truly preparing every needful thing. We, as a people, need to know these marvellous things to prepare us to be able to pass through the challenges that lie ahead.

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  13. LHD says:

    I add my own hallelujah. What a hopeful and encouraging experience. I hunger and thirst for such an experience in my ward too. I have allowed myself to feel frustration and even irritation in the past as discussions land hard on lessor topics. I felt grateful for your patient example of understanding without judging others who did not see that it is always Christ and His atonement that we must focus on.

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