It is wonderful to be here with you. I am a Cougar through and through—I love BYU. While here I obtained both my undergraduate and graduate degrees, created lasting friendships, and convinced Shelley Hatch to take a risk on me. She was the first of the two of us to graduate from BYU and is the best thing I gained from being here. I hope your time as a student will be as productive as mine was!
After I was called as a General Authority, Sister Nash and I—along with our two youngest children—were assigned to Lima, Peru, where I would serve in the Area Presidency. On our first Monday there, we were given a brief driving tour so that we could learn how to get to and from places such as home, the children’s school, the grocery store, and other places. Then they handed me the keys to the car.
This sounds simple, but the streets of Lima can be bewildering. Even seasoned inhabitants get lost. The traffic is in constant flow and the streets curve, twist, and turn—and never seem to intersect with another street that will take you back to the exit you just missed. It can seem at times that the streets of Lima are designed to take the unwary exactly where they do not intend to go! So after driving for approximately five minutes that first day, I missed a turn and got us completely lost—and that was for a few hours.
A year or two later Sister Nash, driving on her own in Lima, got lost and ended up in a part of the city that was uncomfortable and even dangerous—and she did not know how to get home. Then, in a moment of inspiration, it came to her that our recently obtained GPS had a button marked Home. She pushed that button and was guided safely home.
My dear students, the plan of salvation—one of the greatest treasures of knowledge restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith—is a perfect, fully updated spiritual GPS. It is a celestial map given to unerringly guide us home.
Please listen to what I am about to say, even though you have heard it before. Listen as if you were hearing this for the first time: each of us “is a beloved . . . son or daughter of heavenly parents,” and we lived with them prior to our mortal birth.1 Motivated by perfect love and a desire to give each of us as His children the opportunity to receive all He has, our Father in Heaven instituted a plan from before the foundation of this earth2 whereby we could obtain eternal life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God.”3 Put simply, eternal life is the life God lives!4 This plan of salvation was—and is—based upon laws and truths that have always existed5 and that make God what He is and heaven what it is.6 When the plan was explained to us in the premortal realm, you and I not only “shouted for joy”7 but also defended the plan against those who opposed it.8
The plan required that this beautiful world be created to give us a place to live in mortality outside of the presence of God so that we could receive a body and gain experience.9 Thus Adam and Eve were placed upon this earth, and together they chose to fall from the presence of our Father in Heaven and become mortal so that humankind could come into existence.10
For us, some things fundamental to eternal life could only be learned by experience. For example, a book or video may explain the different swim strokes, but we really only learn to swim when we exercise our faith by getting into the water and applying what the book or video has described. In a similar way, living in mortality with its attendant trials and opposition gives us the opportunity to learn by experience some things we could learn in no other way—especially to learn how to live by faith.11
Our Heavenly Father understood that as mortal beings fallen from His presence, faced with opposition and temptation, we would sin. He knew that we and others impacted by our sins would—sooner or later—experience the misery that sin always produces. He knew that as a result of our own sins, we would become impure and thereby disqualify ourselves from reentering the presence of God, where nothing unclean can dwell.12
Thus, as a loving, just, and merciful God who desires our happiness here and in all eternity, our Heavenly Father provided as a part of His plan a Savior to redeem us from our sins through His atoning sacrifice.13 It is through the Savior’s Atonement that the plan is made operative.14 Because of the plan and the Savior’s Atonement, we can repent,15 grow, be cleansed from sin,16 be happy even in tough times,17 and live with the hope (that is, the expectation) of eternal life18—the very life God leads.19
Knowledge—such as that of the plan of salvation—is only helpful to the degree it is applied. For example, knowing that seatbelts save lives will not do us any good in an accident unless we have put one on. Similarly, while it is good to know the plan, that alone is not enough. We must also apply it to our thinking, our decisions, and our actions—and that requires faith. Faith is confidence and trust that moves us to act; indeed, it is the moving “principle of action in all intelligent beings.”20 Faith in Heavenly Father and His Son is both a principle of action and of power—Their power.21
We focus our faith upon God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.22 Jesus plainly taught, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”23 Part of the reason for the Savior’s mortal ministry was—and is—to reveal the Father to us through His teachings and His exemplary, perfect life. In order to exercise faith unto salvation—again, it is eternal life that we are speaking of—we must come to know our Heavenly Father and His Son24 and learn of Their “character, perfections, and attributes.”25 To know Them is to love and trust Them completely and to willingly submit to Their will and law.26 As we do so consistently—which will require sacrifice on our part—we will come to know that our life is increasingly in accordance with Their will. This knowledge will strengthen our faith even more, eventually making it powerful.27
If we fail to exercise faith in the Father and His plan of salvation and in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, we will fall far short of our divine potential. You see, we are not able to do it on our own. Mormon put it this way: “No man can be saved . . . save they shall have faith in his name.”28 He added that where there is no faith, “awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.”29
Why is that? Simply stated, those who lack faith will lack the motivation and power to consistently live the law of the gospel of Jesus Christ upon which eternal life is based.30 Since the law was given to enable us to partake fully of the redemptive power of Christ and receive eternal life, those without faith to live that law are as though there were no redemptive power—and that is awful! Especially when so much is offered us with so much love.
Faith comes by reading, hearing, and experimenting upon the word of God and nurturing it with all diligence.31 When we do this consistently, we will feel swelling motions in our breast, our souls will enlarge, and our understanding will be enlightened. We will come to know that this is real, good, and true—for it is light and it is discernible.32
I have experienced this throughout my life, beginning in my youth. After reading the Book of Mormon as a teen, I asked in prayer if it was true. The response, interestingly, was to guide my mind to the peace, soul-expanding light, and understanding that had gently distilled upon me while reading the book. I knew it was true, and that knowledge was so sweet that at times, as a teen, I would hold the book to my chest as I went to sleep. That knowledge increased my faith, enabling me to seek more “learning, even by study and also by faith.”33
Perhaps chief among the many ills of the world is the widespread lack of faith caused by a famine of the word of God.34 Many in our day are starving spiritually. Without belief in and obedience to the word of God, there is no real foundation for faith in the Father, nor in the Savior. As a result, many people know so little (or seem to have forgotten what they once knew) about the Father’s plan of salvation that, with a straight face, they actually “call evil good, and good evil.”35 Perhaps the confusion of some can be excused on account of their lack of knowledge of the plan. But we as Latter-day Saints have no such excuse. We are blessed to know the plan and are expected to share it as part of the Restoration and to apply our knowledge of the plan to our lives and the decisions we make—which, again, requires faith on our part.36
Now, let’s collectively exercise faith and examine a couple of current social issues in light of our knowledge of the plan of salvation. It is important to note that faith-challenging social issues have for centuries rolled through each successive generation. Through it all, the fundamental, eternal doctrine of the plan of salvation and the need to learn to live by faith will remain unchanging.37
First, please consider this observation by Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
Marriage and family are under attack because Satan knows that they are essential to obtaining eternal life—as essential as the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Having failed to destroy any of those pillars of the plan, Satan seeks to destroy our understanding and practice of marriage and family.38
We know that the purpose of the plan is to give each of us the opportunity to obtain eternal life—the life God leads. Stated simply, Heavenly Father’s life defines eternal life. One of the things we know about His life is that He is sealed in an eternal marriage of man and woman. So to choose anything less than the eternal marriage of woman and man is to choose something less than the full, resplendent purpose of our Father’s plan!39
God loves all of His sons and all of His daughters, and He would have us know that each of us has the innate, divine capacity to exercise faith in Christ and receive all the Father offers His children. In other words, none of us is predestined to fail.40 However, we should recognize that each of us comes into this world with weakness, which I will define as desires or tendencies inconsistent with the plan of salvation. Such things, to one degree or another, are inherent in the human condition.41
Moroni taught that any son or daughter of God who will humble him- or herself before God and exercise steadfast faith will over time experience the miracle of Christ making “weak things become strong unto them.”42 If we do not dictate a timetable to the Lord, we shall, like Joseph Smith, “out of weakness . . . be made strong.”43 Any of us, whatever our weakness, can live with the assurance that if we see—that is, acknowledge—our weakness and exercise faith in the Father and His plan and in the Savior and His Atonement, we shall “be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which [the Lord has] prepared in the mansions of [our] Father.”44
For the faithful, such weakness is ultimately temporary, for when He comes again, God will “wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”45
Our Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation—making eternal life possible for us—is the greatest expression of love ever made. If we choose by faith to live according to His law despite our human weakness,46 we will one day receive all that the Father has! Thus, to stand for the Father’s plan is not hatred or bigotry; rather, it is an expression of God’s love.47
Second, there is societal concern about the equality of woman and man. While I do not pretend to know all the answers, I do know that, according to the plan of salvation, “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children”48 and that the ultimate expression of priesthood power is in the eternal union of woman and man. While we do not fully know what administrative structure will exist in the next life, we do know that families sealed in the temple will exist in the next life. When we contemplate mortality against the backdrop of eternity, we should remember that the title of our God is not President but Father. That alone speaks volumes about the organizational structure that matters most in the celestial kingdom and in eternity.49 So do not get too distracted by temporal administrative structure.
The ultimate purpose of the plan is that a husband and wife are happy at home and sealed for time and eternity so that they may receive eternal life50—for their eternal union is part of the very definition of eternal life. You see, the ultimate equality of woman and man is godhood, something each can only do with the other by together entering into—and abiding within—the order of the priesthood of the new and everlasting covenant of eternal marriage.51 Notably, the blessings pertaining to eternal life are promised jointly and severally to “them” and not severally to “him” or “her.”52 In the order of heaven, “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”53
On these and other issues, we would do well to understand that “the key to our success in our premortal life was our support of the Father’s plan.”54 And the key to success in this life is the same: support the Father’s plan. We must learn, by faith, to see life through the lens—or from the perspective—of the very plan about which we “shouted for joy” in our premortal existence!55
Satan—who was thrust out of the presence of God for his rebellion against the Father and His plan of salvation—desires the misery of all mankind.56 Because he is aware of the protective, moving power of faith,57 he seeks to weaken and ultimately destroy it. Time has shown that among the most effective weapons in his war against faith are sin, fear, and doubt. Maybe a couple of stories will illustrate the potentially disabling impact of doubt.
Several years ago I watched as our high school girls’ volleyball team in Washington State (where we lived at the time) played in the state volleyball championship tournament. Many on the team feared and doubted they belonged in that tournament, so they played very poorly and were soundly defeated in the first game of their first match. Now contrast that with what happened next: There was a very special athlete on that team—in the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that she is our daughter—and she happened to be the one who was to start service in the second game of the match. Knowing her, I expected to see something remarkable. And I did. She served thirteen straight aces. Her greatest gift as an athlete was confidence, even faith, and when the game was on the line, she gave no room to fear or doubt.
When the Savior saved Peter from slipping into the stormy sea upon which Peter had been walking, He gently asked Peter: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”58
In that insightful, probing inquiry, I hear the Savior saying to Peter: “Despite what science and life experience would say, you were walking on water! So why did you doubt?”
Too many of our members have walked on water spiritually and do not know it. Or, if they did know it once, they—like Peter—have taken their eyes from the Savior and pay more attention to the doubt suggested by some towering waves of secular thinking. Too many do not exercise faith in God and the eternal truths they know to be good and true; instead, they operate from the perspective of culture or, worse yet, from the position of fear or doubt.
Still others conflate the idea of questions with the concept of doubt. Questions and doubt are not the same thing. We can seek answers to honest questions with doubt, or we can do so with faith. The choice is ours. To do so through doubt is, frankly, to put ourselves—and others—at the risk of spiritual paralysis. On the other hand, to do so through faith is to progress, learn, and grow.
In making this choice, please remember the father who sought healing for his son. The Savior reminded him that belief, or faith, was key. Said He, ”If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”
In response, the man cried out, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”59
In that moment this admirably honest man declared his choice of faith and asked in faith to be helped with his unbelief. And that was sufficient. Because the man chose faith, Christ healed his son.60
As you know, “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”61 Having faith means that we do not know all the answers to all the questions all the time, but we choose to live our lives consistent with the gospel truths we do know because we trust our God! So heed not62 the mocking and often condescending voices of those who have lost faith, including the online Iagos,63 whose object is to cultivate doubt. Rather, with the light of your faith, engage your reason, study prayerfully, be patient, and keep yourself anchored in the scriptures and in the guidance of the Spirit.64
Remember, we receive a witness after the trial of our faith—not of our doubt!65 Knowing this and appreciating the great power of faith, we can better understand that the Lord’s command to “doubt not, fear not”66 is akin to King Benjamin’s instruction to “[put] off the natural man.”67 We are all acquainted to some degree or another with natural-man tendencies such as anger, impatience, selfishness, and greed. If left unchecked, such things will canker our soul. That is why we put them off! Doubt too can be part of the natural-man experience, and it too will canker the soul if left unchecked. So while we do not panic at the manifestation of any of these natural-man tendencies, we do learn to put them off through faith in the Father and His plan and in the Son and His Atonement.
Rather than over- or underreacting if doubt crosses your mind about what you already know to be good and true, see doubt for what it is: a natural-man impulse that can paralyze your thinking and actions. Then exercise your faith in the Father and in the Son by patiently and diligently living the gospel and trusting that light and understanding will come to those who patiently seek learning by study and by faith.68 It is beautifully, eternally productive to combine study and faith.
These words—faith, diligence, and patience—may not resonate with some who have grown up in a world of two-hour movies in which the earth is imperiled and then saved, where love is lost and then found—and all in the same movie! An invitation to faith and patience can seem like a delay tactic to those who impatiently wait two or three minutes for the microwave oven to heat their food, who complain over having to wait ten minutes in the line of a fast-food take-out window, or who believe that all knowledge is instantly available through Google and maybe prayer. It can seem like a rebuff to others who have cried out for answers and feel they hear nothing in response but the echo of their cries.
Regardless of our circumstance, the first answer is always—always—the faith of which I have spoken and patience. My dearly beloved students, start with what you know to be good and true and hold to it. Lead with it!69
When Elijah invited the starving widow to give him food to eat and promised that if she did so her “barrel of meal [would] not waste, neither [would] the cruse of oil fail,”70 she at that moment had a choice to make: stay with the stark reality of her impoverished life and have one last meager meal with her son before they died or exercise faith in Elijah’s seemingly impossible promise and live. She chose—at great personal sacrifice—to exercise faith. And so she lived.71
I promise that if you choose to exercise faith by daily reference to the plan of salvation and obedience to the truths of the gospel, you too will live—and that eternally.72 You will experience peace in this life and eternal life—God’s life—in the world to come.73 You will be guided safely home.
In this way the plan of salvation will be for you a personal GPS—an eternal global positioning system—that by faith will unerringly guide you safely home. That home is before us, not behind us. The journey of faith of which I speak is to go forward. It is to progress, grow, and, through the Atonement of Christ, become like our Heavenly Father, like our heavenly parents! There we will live as family, enjoying “all that [our] Father hath.”74
I bear witness that this is the Lord’s Church. I know that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is true. We are led by living prophets, by a living prophet. I know that our Father in Heaven lives and loves us. Of that great love and of the living, loving reality of the Lord Jesus Christ I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
3. D&C 14:7.
4. See Harold B. Lee, “Eternal Life,” Instructor 101, no. 10 (October 1966): 378; see also Bruce R. McConkie, CR, April 1970, 26.
5. See 2 Nephi 2:13; D&C 88:29–35. See also Howard W. Hunter, “To Know God,” Ensign, November 1974, 97; also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2002), 30.
6. See George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of George Q. Cannon, sel. Jerreld L. Newquist, two volumes in one (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1987), 296.
8. “Mortals who have been born on this earth chose the Father’s plan and fought for it” (Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, November 1993, 72). See also Moses 4:3–5; Abraham 3:28; Revelation 12:7–12.
11. See Bruce R. McConkie, “The Probationary Test of Mortality,” Salt Lake City institute devotional, 10 January 1982.
12. See 1 Nephi 15:34.
14. See Bruce R. McConkie, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” Ensign, May 1985, 9.
15. See Alma 34:14–17.
17. See 2 Nephi 2:25.
18. See Moroni 7:40–41.
19. See Ether 12:4.
20. Lectures on Faith (1985), 1 (1:9); see also 1–2 (1:10).
22. See Articles of Faith 1:1.
23. John 14:9.
24. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
25. Lectures on Faith, 38 (3:4); see also 38 (3:2–4).
27. See Lectures on Faith, 1–5 (1:13–24), 38–39 (3:2–6); see also Jacob 4:4–7.
28. Moroni 7:38.
29. Moroni 7:38.
30. See D&C 88:29–35.
32. See Alma 32:34–35.
33. D&C 88:118.
34. See Amos 8:11.
36. Faith is vitally important both in time and in eternity. For example, consider the faith that our Heavenly Father exercised in His Son when He sent Him to earth as a babe. All eternity hung in the balance, and because of the Savior’s love and faith in our Father and because of the Father’s faith in His Only Begotten Son, the Savior fulfilled His mortal mission perfectly and performed His wondrous Atonement. Thus it was by faith that the plan of salvation became operative through the Atonement of Christ, even from before the foundation of the world. Think about it: the children of God were able to exercise faith unto repentance and be forgiven and cleansed from sin thousands of years prior to the Savior’s atoning sacrifice because of their faith coupled with the faith of the Father and the Son!
37. See, generally, Robert D. Hales, “The Plan of Salvation: A Sacred Treasure of Knowledge to Guide Us,” Ensign, October 2015, 30–31.
38. Hales, “The Plan,” 29; see also 27.
There is no Latter-day Saint who dies after having lived a faithful life who will lose anything because of having failed to do certain things when opportunities were not furnished him or her. In other words, if a young man or a young woman has no opportunity of getting married, and they live faithful lives up to the time of their death, they will have all the blessings, exaltation and glory that any man or woman will have who had this opportunity and improved it. That is sure and positive. [“Discourse by President Lorenzo Snow,” Millennial Star 35, no. 61 (31 August 1899): 547; quoted in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2012), 130]
40. See D. Todd Christofferson, “Why Marriage, Why Family,” Ensign, May 2015, 52.
41. See Ether 12:27.
42. Ether 12:27.
43. 2 Nephi 3:13.
44. Ether 12:37.
46. See, e.g., Hebrews 11:6–40.
47. To reject the law of God is to ultimately reap despair and regret (see D&C 88:35). Those who do not abide according to the law shall be “even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite” (2 Nephi 27:3). It is love of the highest order to help others to understand and live the plan so that they and the world may avoid personal tragedy as well as “the calamities” long “foretold by ancient and modern prophets” (“The Family: A Proclamation”).
49. President Boyd K. Packer said:
Today we have other organizations in the Church that are working on family ties. We have stakes and missions, wards, branches, and districts. Each is presided over by a priesthood officer. These organizations are temporarily essential; they are not eternal organizations. They can be organized or they can be dissolved. . . .
But the family, on the other hand, can be an eternal organization. Though the family may move from one ward or stake to another, the family organization remains intact. It may even be transferred from mortality into the eternities in the spirit world. The family established under the priesthood in the temple is founded in what is perhaps the most profound of all ordinances. When a couple enters into the new and everlasting covenant, they have the possibility of entering full expression of their life powers, both spiritual and physical. [“The Family and Eternity,” Ensign, February 1971, 9–10]
President Howard W. Hunter stated:
The family is the most important unit in time and in eternity and, as such, transcends every other interest in life. [“Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign, November 1994, 50]
And President Ezra Taft Benson said:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints views the family as the most important organization in time and all eternity. The Church teaches that everything should center in and around the family. It stresses that the preservation of family life in time and eternity takes precedence above all other interests. [TETB, 489]
50. See Packer, “Plan of Happiness,” 26.
52. See D&C 132:19–21.
53. 1 Corinthians 11:11.
54. Hales, “The Plan,” 31; see also 26.
56. See 2 Nephi 2:27.
60. See Ether 12:12.
61. Alma 32:21.
63. See William Shakespeare, Othello.
64. See D&C 88:118.
65. See Ether 12:6. Also, we are told:
Doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time; . . . persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence; and where unshaken confidence is not there faith is weak; and where faith is weak the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations, and afflictions . . . ; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them. [Lectures on Faith, 71 (6:12)]
66. D&C 6:36.
67. Mosiah 3:19.
68. See D&C 88:118.
69. See, e.g., Mark 9:23.
70. 1 Kings 17:14.
71. See 1 Kings 17:9–16.
72. See Dallin H. Oaks, “No Other Gods,” Ensign, November 2013, 73.
73. See D&C 14:7.
74. See D&C 84:38.
Marcus B. Nash was a member of the Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given on 2 February 2016.