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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mormon Theology no. 45 - Overcoming the World

This article is actually the text of my talk given in the Bonneville 12th Ward of the Bonneville Utah Stake on Sunday, 10 July 2011.

Overcome the World
To overcome the world is to surpass all trials, temptations, and tribulations sufficient to sit in the Celestial Kingdom, there to reign as an heir of Godhood.  In short, it is to abide in God’s covenant.  “I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.  For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me. (D&C 98:14-15).  President Joseph Smith taught, “God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God' (Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 21 Aug. 1883, p.1).

Examples in Scripture
There are many examples for us to look to in the pages of Holy Writ.  The surest is none other than Christ Himself.  The Apostle Peter said of Him, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (1 Peter 2:21-22).   “And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.  And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.  And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and he sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:41-43, JST Luke 2:44).  President Joseph Smith said something which could be connected to the Savior’s agony during His Atonement: “All difficulties which might and would cross our way must be surmounted. Though the soul be tried, the heart faint, and the hands hang down, we must not retrace our steps; there must be decision of character" (History of the Church 4:570).

Abraham is at the peak of this topic (no pun intended) when he, climbing a mountain, placed Isaac on an altar and gave his all, literally, to be found within God’s covenant; but not only within God’s covenant, but at the beginning thereof, even to having the apex of God’s promises named after him, which are now experienced in full only in the House of the Lord.  Abraham’s offering of his all - his one promised son - is so important to the rest of humanity that God promises each of us His all, as He did Abraham, if we give our all.

Examples in Church History
I will now quote a talk by President Gordon B. Hinckley, given at the October 1981 Semi-Annual General Conference:

“I should like to tell you of three eighteen-year-old boys.  In 1856 more than a thousand of our people, some of them perhaps your forebears, found themselves in serious trouble while crossing the plains to this valley.  Because of a series of unfortunate circumstances, they were late in getting started. They ran into snow and bitter cold in the highlands of Wyoming.  Their situation was desperate, with deaths occurring every day."

"President Young learned of their condition as the October general conference was about to begin.  He immediately called for teams, wagons, drivers, and supplies to leave to rescue the bereft Saints.  When the first rescue team reached the Martin Company, there were too few wagons to carry the suffering people.  The rescuers had to insist that the carts keep moving.

"When they reached the Sweetwater River on November 3, chunks of ice were floating in the freezing water.  After all these people had been through, and in their weakened condition, that river seemed impossible to cross.  It looked like stepping into death itself to move into the freezing stream.  Men who once had been strong sat on the frozen ground and wept, as did the women and children.  Many simply could not face that ordeal.

"And now I quote from the record: 'Three eighteen-year-old boys belonging to the relief party came to the rescue, and to the astonishment of all who saw, carried nearly every member of the ill-fated handcart company across the snowbound stream.  The strain was so terrible, and the exposure so great, that in later years all the boys died from the effects of it.  When President Brigham Young heard of this heroic act, he wept like a child, and later declared publicly, ‘that act alone will ensure C. Allen Huntington, George W. Grant, and David P. Kimball an everlasting salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of God, worlds without end.’'" (Solomon F. Kimball, Improvement Era, Feb. 1914, p. 288.) (“Four B’s for Boys”, Ensign, November 1981).

I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth.  I know that we all can overcome the world if we look to the prophets, both ancient and modern, and to our heritage.  I know Jesus is the Christ, and that He is our greatest example in this effort. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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