President Nelson Tour

Saints in the UK and Ireland recently had an incredible opportunity. After a historic General Conference, President Russell M Nelson embarked on a Global Tour of the Church and is visiting 8 countries in 11 days (and some of us used to suggest we couldn’t visit our handful of HT families in a month)! The very first stop was London and President Nelson, along with Elder Jeffrey R Holland and their wives taught so powerfully to the members of the UK and Ireland area of the Church.

Sister Holland spoke first and it was clear of her love for, and her reverence for, President Russell M Nelson and the sacred calling that he has been given. She encouraged us to study the words of President Nelson from his service in the General leadership of the Church. She recognised that she can speak so well of President Nelson because she knows him pers onally – she invited us all to get to know our relatively new prophet personally by studying his words and asking Father in Heaven about his call as Prophet, Seer and Revelator. This also reminded me of the invitation I had been given but not yet fully fulfilled – to study the talks given by any visiting authority. We were fortunate to have the Area President, Paul V Johnson, visit us for our Stake Conference 9 days after this special broadcast with President Nelson so I studied those talks before his visit.

Following Sister Holland was Elder Holland. He spoke of his felt inadequacy in following his wife and preceding President and Sister Nelson. He taught powerfully about revelation. As mentioned, we had a historic General Conference just a week before. He reminded us that, whilst President Nelson spoke a number of times to announce changes in Church policy, he did give a message on the Sunday General Session – revelation. The General Conference was all about revelation – whether it was Church-changing revelation or personal revelation.

Sister Nelson then spoke about her testimony about how she knows President Nelson has receive the mantle of the prophet. She made reference to a unique and divine experience that she and President Nelson had 2 days after the passing of President Monson which left her without doubt, an experience too personal to share. Also, she shared experiences of when President Nelson received revelation to guide the Church and she was directed by the Spirit to leave the room before the revelation was received. This was a powerful message, particularly after Elder Holland’s address to us to be more in tune to receive the quiet promptings of the Spirit.

President Nelson was the final speaker and he was an inspiration. He taught about the need to ‘clean up’ our lives before we meet our Saviour, similarly to how the Hyde Park Chapel was before his arrival. He then spoke of ministering – the new announcements from General Conference and how we need to become better ministers (or ‘shepherds’ as was suggested earlier on in the process). He left an Apostolic Blessing that all those in attendance would have a greater capacity to feast on the words of Christ. Also that we would be blessed with health and safety as we continued on our mortal journeys.

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Belief, Faith and Knowledge

The three terms belief, faith and even knowledge are often interchanged as though they are synonyms – all with the same meaning. However, there is a definite difference between them all.

In the Oxford Dictionary – her are the three definitions:
Belief: “something believed (accept as true)”
Faith: “reliance or trust; belief in religious doctrine”

Knowledge: “the facts etc that someone knows; knowing a fact or about a subject”

The easiest one to separate is knowledge, which will be discussed later, but belief and faith do seem to be similar – however a closer look differentiates the two.

Belief “may consist in a merely intellectual assent,” says Elder James E Talmage (Articles of Faith pg 96) whereas “faith implies such confidence and conviction as will impel to action.” (Articles of Faith pg 97). From this, it emerges that someone might believe something to be true – however, they do not act on that feeling. Faith, on the other hand, leads to action – it is a trust or reliance on a subject and acting accordingly. Faith is what is necessary for us to receive salvation and exaltation – not merely believing that to be the case. Another interesting thought is that one can have a belief – or even better, knowledge of a fact – and not have faith whereas you can’t have faith and not believe.

For example, it says in James 2:19 “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Further, a man possessed by devils was causing havoc “But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God?” (Mark 5:6-7). These devils believed Jesus to be the Christ, in fact, more than that – they knew Him to be the Christ. These spirits, unlike us, do not have a veil over their memory and so they remember perfectly the Grand Council in Heaven and the fact Christ was ordained as our Leader and Saviour. However, despite having this perfect knowledge, it doesn’t help them – they do not have the trust in Him as their Saviour (i.e. faith) because they have enlisted to follow the other ‘leader’.

Now, compare this with Peter’s statement to Christ. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). Peter has belief that Christ was the Son of God, maybe even a knowledge but it couldn’t have been much more knowledge than the devils had (after all they knew perfectly he was the Christ from their unveiled experience) – so what was different between Peter’s attitude and the evil spirits? Faith! Peter not only believed THAT Jesus was the Christ but also believed IN Him as the Christ and what He would do.

To illustrate the point that mere knowledge doesn’t save, Elder Talmage uses an example of a scientific man who discovered, through scientific tests and observations, that the supply of water in a great city was tainted and was causing outbreaks of cholera, which was killing many people. He proclaimed this and the people, never having seen the physical tests to prove it, acted on faith and would drink sterilised water. The scientific man, despite his perfect knowledge, one day forgot and drank unsterilised water and died. His sure knowledge didn’t save him, but the people’s faith did save them. The man wasn’t wise and didn’t apply the knowledge he had received to his own life – thus it is with one who has belief but no faith. “Faith in Christ leads to action.” (Preach My Gospel pg 61) and is key as the very first principle of the Gospel.

Sacrament – “This Do in Remembrance of Me”

The sacrament is a most special ordinance in the fact that it allows the opportunity to remember Christ and renew our covenants made at baptism. Concerning the sacrament – Christ himself said “This do in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:18). When we come to the sacrament meeting, we should be ready to ponder over our worthiness and be prepared for a spiritual experience. In 1 Corinthians 11:28 it says “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of that cup.” I have personally found that when one comes to take the sacrament, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and focus on what is taking place before them and the importance of that ordinance – it can be one of the most profound spiritual experiences in your life. You can feel the Spirit working within you.

The sacrament itself was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper – to usher in the new covenant. Now, instead of sacrificing a lamb to cleanse our sins, the atoning blood of the Lamb of God does that and we show our acceptance of that through the ordinance of the sacrament. Christ declared “Think not that that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am come not to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17). The doing away of sacrificing animals was not a sign of leaving God’s law – rather it is the shifting to a higher law, from which higher blessings and spirituality can be achieved.

Elder L Tom Perry said “Before the world was organised, God laid out a plan whereby He would offer blessings to His children based on their obedience to His commandments. He understood, however, that we would be distracted at times by the things of the world and would need to be reminded regularly of our covenants and His promises. The purpose of partaking of the sacrament is, of course, to renew the covenants we have made with the Lord…” – not only does this ordinance serve as an actual renewing of our covenants but also as a reminder of the covenants themselves, hence the particular wording of the prayer offered over the sacrament.

“Behold, I am the Alpha and Omega, even Jesus Christ. Wherefore let all men beware how they take my name in their lips,” (D&C 63:60-61) – a stark warning to take the name of the Lord not in vain. We are taking upon ourselves the name of Christ in being baptised and renewing those covenants weekly through the sacrament. If we do this lightly, we are breaking one of the Ten Commandments – “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain…” (Exodus 20:7). We need to be reverent and ponder over the promises we are making and renewing.

On my mission I had a moving experience whilst teaching a Family Home Evening to a member family. We showed ‘To This End Was I Born’ – a deep film of the Saviour and His Atonement. A very solemn spirit came over the lesson – somehow the sacrament was discussed and every single person in the room committed to take the sacrament more worthily, remembering that “there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” (Mosiah 3:17). It is easy to often let our minds drift during the sacrament or be preoccupied – but as we all determine to focus on why we are taking this bread and water – what it can mean for us when we take it in the right spirit – then we will receive the profound, spiritual experiences during this sacred ordinance and then all be ‘filled’.