Thanks so much for the beautiful, heartfelt expressions of sympathy to the Pontius family, as well as the well wishes to Shayne and I. We read every one of them, and amidst the tears are smiles of gratitude.
I wish all of you could have known my friend, John. You could walk into a church cultural hall, look across it to the other side, see him and go, “Who is that good man over there?” He radiated the spirit…inside and out.
I have no precise idea what John would say if he were to come back and give us one last Unblog message. I know he was a big time Christmas guy, who really got into the spirit of the season. So I’d imagine the phrase “Have a Merry Christmas” wouldn’t be too far off the mark.
Yet there was another concept, another phrase which I think he would want you to remember even more.
But first, a little background….
Joseph Smith’s Appearance
Well after he was martyred, in February 1847, Joseph Smith appeared to Brigham Young in a dream and said:
“Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you how to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife, and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in Heaven before they came into the world. Tell the people to be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and follow it, and it will lead them just right.” (Brigham Young, vision, Feb. 17, 1847, in Brigham Young Office Files, 1832–1878, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah)
What John Might Say Today
In my humble opinion, I believe if John were to come back and give us one message, he would say something similar to the Prophet Joseph – a phrase which he wrote in his book, Following the Light of Christ into His Presence:
“The key to spiritual growth is obedience to the voice of the Holy Spirit. This message needs to be blazoned in the sky in letters a thousand feet tall. We consistently underestimate how great a role obedience plays in our spiritual progression. Spiritually, nothing is possible without it, and everything – absolutely everything – is possible with it.”
If you’ve ever listened to any of John’s firesides or his talks, you’d know that John’s passion was getting everybody he could to listen to the Holy Ghost. He knew full well that it’s the Holy Ghost’s mission to bring us to Christ, and the more we obey the Holy Ghost’s promptings, the closer we are brought to Christ until we arrive at a point which the scriptures characterize as “The Perfect Day.”
The Challenge of Being Perfectly Obedient to the Spirit
If there’s one thing that’s for sure, it’s the fact that we have no shortage of commandments, laws and expectations to which we should be obedient.
We should be actively doing our family history, visiting the temple regularly, preparing for and doing our home/visiting teaching and our church calling(s), reading lessons and the scriptures, attending church meetings, doing member missionary work, keeping a journal, visiting the sick, developing our talents, educating ourselves, growing a garden, preparing for the future and performing service for others. Oh, and don’t forget: we need to work, do our chores, raise our kids and/or help with homework, spend quality time with our spouse or others, pray, sleep and eat.
It’s no wonder that some saints feel frustrated, even depressed, at times because they feel they can’t keep up with all their expectations of a faithful, obedient latter-day saint.
This frustration may, in fact, stem from not knowing to what we should be obedient. In Following the Light of Christ into His Presence, John uses the example of a person who needed to perform chores like repairing their fences and painting their barn…along with a few thousand other commandments:
“So how do you ever become totally obedient when you can’t possibly get to every barn and fence? It is simple, really. Listen to the voice of the Lord and He will direct you. When you are totally obedient to the will of God, you are totally obedient – even if a barn or fence remains unpainted. The reason you are totally obedient, even when a few things remain undone, is because you have an obedient spirit. If and when He sends you out to paint the barn you will obey. If He never sends you to paint the barn, you will also obey. You simply are obedient. In the end, the Lord will not judge us according to our barns; He will judge us according to our heart. When our heart is flawlessly obedient, we are judged as being flawlessly obedient, even if some obvious things never get done.”
What is it you must obey?
Every word which proceeds forth from the mouth of God — the voice of the Holy Spirit, the voice of Jesus Christ.
And when you hearken to the voice of the Spirit, you come unto God, the Father:
“And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life.
For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.
For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.
And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.” (D&C 84:43-47)
I testify to you that the Lord knows the exact course our lives should take, which sin should be eliminated first, which weakness should be addressed first, and which blessings we will need to accomplish these things. You don’t need to create a laundry list of to-do items. The Lord has already made it for you. Besides, your list could never be as inspired, gentle and caring as His.
If you will make the Spirit’s influence first in your life, he will tell you what should come second. He will also give you the step-by-step direction, and power, you need to be faithfully obedient in all things.