This talk was recorded and posted here (EDIT: This video has now been removed from YouTube). There was no transcript yet, so I decided to make one.
Compare this talk to “The Alpine Rescue” transcript. In many places it is identical. It is very clear that Brad Wilcox has been saying this same thing for many years.
Thank you. That was a beautiful introduction. You know me better than my mom!
I appreciate you knowing that there was a team book. Do you have that one? I am so impressed! A teenager who read a book. That’s just amazing to me! Extra points! You get extra refreshments tonight! Half those cookies on that table belong to her.
I’ll see if I can flip this microphone on so I can come down here and be a little closer to you.
Thank you to everybody who put this together. I appreciate the state presidency for letting me come.
I appreciate the family that’s hosting me. Thank you, Rich. I appreciate you guys for doing that.
It’s just great to be with you, and I’m sorry you had to get Sunday clothes on, what is it, a Saturday. I know… Sorry your mom and dad dragged you out of this house and three in vans and held at gunpoint, but you got here. And whatever it took for your leaders and your parents to get you here, I’m glad you’re here. And I think by the end of the night, you’ll be glad you’re here, too.
The LDS Church and the Rise of the “Nones”
Now, I’ve been reading in the newspaper… This, children, is called a newspaper. We used them in the olden days. Look how you scroll down. Whoa! Whoa!
(Based on the stats he gives, I believe the article he is referring to is “Millennials and religion: why they leave” By Kristina Smith, published February 2, 2016 in BYU’s newspaper “The Daily Universe”)
In the newspaper, it says that people are leaving religion, especially young people. In fact, it says here it’s compared in a survey of over well over 30,000 people from all 50 States. They asked them these questions.
- Is religion very important? – Uh, let’s see… Am I going to have to go get my glasses? Alright, come tell me what this says (grabs a young girl from the audience, has her stand up front, and puts her arm around her). Stay here, I’m going to need you. 59% of my generation said “yes, religion is important”. And how many of the younger generations? 41%.
- Do you attend weekly religious services? 38% of my generation and 27% – I can see that one – of yours.
- Pray at least once a day? 61% of my generation, compared to 42% of your generation.
- And do you believe in heaven?
- 74% of my generation and 67% of yours.
Thank you very much. (Girl goes and sits down)
You probably didn’t need a research study to tell you that because you see it around you all over the place. How many of you know somebody who used to go to Church but doesn’t go to Church anymore? Wow. Look at all those hands.
Now, the reason that scares me is not because we have a few less people in the church. It scares me because we have the church in a few less people, and that’s what scares me. They’re going to have to face the same challenges and the same struggles of life that we all face. But they’re choosing to do it in the absolute hardest way possible. They’re choosing to do it without God, without Christ, without the gospel.
“Gospel” is an interesting word. G-O-S-P-E-L. It comes from an old English word, and that word was God, spelled God, meaning good spell meaning story or news. So gospel means good news. Well, that’s good news. Gospel means good news. So when somebody says, “I want to go on a mission and share the gospel”, what he’s saying is, “I want to go on a mission and share the good news”. When somebody stands up says, “I know the gospel is true”, then what she’s saying is, “I know the good news is true”.
And what is the good news? The good news is Jesus Christ. He came, He lived a perfect life, He performed the atonement, because of Him we’ll live after we die. That is good news. And that’s good news that we share with many Christian faiths who have the same good news to share. But that’s the end of their good news, and for us, it’s just the beginning of our good news.
It’s kind of interesting, Mitt Romney ran for President back in the olden days. And when he ran for President, I was reading an article that only about 39% of Americans said that latter day Saints are Christians. After his time, it was 65% of Americans who said that Latter-day Saints are Christian.
So, boy, he sure let people know through that run, and the attention the Church got, he let people know that we are Christian. But the problem is now I go to youth conferences and I’ll say to the kids, “are you a Christian?” And they say, “yes”. And then I say, “So what makes you different than a Baptist?” And they don’t know. “What do you believe that a Catholic doesn’t believe?” And they don’t know. “What makes you different than if Jehovah’s Witness?” and they don’t know. They know we’re Christian, but they kind of think that we’re like every other Christian church or that all the Christian churches all believe and teach the same thing.
So tonight I want to focus in on six pieces of good news, six doctrines that set our Church apart, six doctrines that you can’t find anywhere else. Maybe some people can leave religion and not lose very much, but you leave this religion and you lose everything, because we have so much here that you simply cannot find anywhere else.
G Stands for “Godhead”
G stands for Godhead. G stands for…? Good, one more time. G stands for…
Last summer, I participated with what was called an Evangelical / Latter-day Saint conversation. It was in Idaho Falls, and they filled an auditorium like this with people. And a Baptist (he meant Evangelical) minister from the Boise area represented an Evangelical point of view. They invited me to come from BYU and represent a Latter-day Saint point of view. And we talked to each other and ask each other questions.
One question I asked him was, “If you believe that God and Jesus are the same being, then why do you have different names for him?” And he said, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s because he has different sides of his personality”. And I get that. I mean, you know, I get that. There’s Brad, the dad; there’s Brad, the teacher; there’s Brad the sex symbol. Oh! That’s Brad Pit! Sorry, I always mix myself up with him. I looked in the mirror. I can’t remember which one I am. But there’s different sides of a personality. I get that.
But we don’t believe – we don’t call Jesus “Jesus” and God “God” because they have the same different size of a personality; we call them by different names because they’re different beings. Well, where do we learn that? Well, there’s some interesting examples in the Bible that we can point to, but usually we bear testimony of that because of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
He saw them, and he saw two separate beings with physical, tangible bodies. Wow. “Yeah, but, maybe he lied”. If you haven’t heard that, you will. You’ll hear somebody say that Joseph Smith just lie. He made it all up.
But before you buy into that too quickly, you need to remember why we lie. Now, you don’t know this because you never lie. But think of your friends. They lie. They lie all the time. So when you lie, you lie in an effort to be believed. You don’t lie in an effort to be found out. If you go to school and the teacher says, “Where’s your homework?”, you’re not going to say “Aliens being down and sucked it into the mothership.” You’re not going to say that because your teacher would never believe it. What are you going to say? Not you, but your friends. You left it at home, the dog ate it, my mom washed in the washing machine. The one I hear all the time at BYU is my printer broke. You have no idea how many broken printers fill Utah Valley. It’s just like an epidemic.
But why do they say that to me? Well, it’s because they think it’s something that I will believe. You don’t lie to be found out. You lie to be believed. So do you think Joseph Smith was all that different? I mean, if he were lying, then he would have come out of the grove of trees, and when he finally started telling people about his First Vision, he would have said, “I saw one being: God. And God and Jesus are the same being, and it’s a spirit”, because that’s what people would have believed. That’s what a lot of people believe now. But he didn’t say that. He said “the two separate beings with physical, perfected bodies.” And God and Jesus are the same being. And it’s a spirit because that’s what people would have believed.
That’s what a lot of people believe now. But he didn’t say that. He said the two separate beings with physical, perfected body. Wow. That is so far out of the realm of believability that Joseph Smith proves himself either a horrible liar, I mean he was bad at it, or a speaker of truth.
Now, I have a friend who said, “Well, I don’t believe Joseph Smith lied, and I still don’t believe he had a vision.” I said, well, “Then how do you explain that?”, and he said, “Well, I don’t believe he saw a vision, but I believe he thought he saw a vision.” In other words, it was all in his mind.
Well, I mean, that seems like a pretty reasonable explanation, until you realize that there’s a big word, a big college word, “schema”. And what it means is that your mind can’t create something that’s not already there in some form or another. So, Joseph, if it was just in his head, if it was just a phenomenological experience, if it was just a day dream, then his head would have been bound by what he already had in it. And what did he have in it? That God and Jesus were the same being. That’s all he’d ever been taught, that God and Jesus are a spirit. That’s the only religion he knew, and that’s all he knew. And so he would have come out of the grove saying what was already in his mind.
When he read the verse. “If any of you lacked wisdom, let him ask with God”, he wasn’t thinking of a God who was separate than Jesus. He was thinking of Jesus. That’s what he was thinking of. But when he came out of the grove, he bore a different testimony. He said, “Whoa, I’ve never even considered that, but Jesus and God are different”. Not only did he know that they were different beings, but he knew that God was loving. Joseph grew up in a world where God was mean and God was punishing, and God was sending lightning bolts, and you better just sit up straight. Lightning bolts are going to come down to — I mean, there was a lot of talk about God as a very mean ruler; a king who was sometimes a tyrant. And we know that’s what Joseph Smith thought, because he said that when he read in the Bible that “God would not upbraid”.
See, we don’t know exactly what that means. Some girls do, they kind of braid their air, and they say, this is an upbraid, but it’s not necessarily the same word. An “upbraid”; He upbraideth not” it means “He judges not”, “He ridicules not”. And Joseph didn’t have that in his head. In his mind, God was a mean God. And he didn’t dare go and ask him a question for fear of God punishing him. But when he ran in the Bible that God wouldn’t be judgmental, that He wouldn’t punish him, then he said, “I decided I would risk it; I would venture”. And he went to pray. And when he came out of the grove, he didn’t testify as a mean God; he testified as a loving God who called him by his first name, Joseph. Wow. He came out of the Grove with a very different description of God than the idea he went into the grove with.
So, yeah, Why do we believe — how we get our image of God from Joseph Smith? Man, some kid at BYU said to me the other day, “I don’t believe in Joseph Smith anymore. I still believe in God and Jesus”, and I said, “Do you realize how stupid you just sounded?” He said, “What?”, and I said, “‘I don’t believe in Joseph Smith, but I still believe in God and Jesus.'” Did you see what he did? He separated God and Jesus. I said, “If you really didn’t believe in Joseph Smith, you would have said, ‘I still believe in God’, or ‘I still believe in Jesus’, but you wouldn’t have said ‘God and Jesus’, because the ones who taught you to separate them is Joseph Smith.
You know, there are a lot of people in the world who believe in God. In fact, most of the studies say about 95% of humans on this planet believe there is a God. The problem is they just don’t know Him. They don’t know Him well enough to have their belief in Him make any difference in their life. So they believe in God, but it doesn’t affect their daily choices. But look at you. You believe in God and it affects what you do. It affects the choices you make. It affects your choice to be here, although you knew there were going to be refreshments, and that kind of puts your motives in question. But you made a choice because your belief is not just in some higher power out there in the universe. It’s not just some force in the universe. You believe in a God and you know the God you worship. You know His attributes, you know His personality, you know your relationship to Him., you know His plan for you, and all that sets your faith apart. It sets your faith apart.
So, yeah, we’ve got some good news to share with the world. We’ve got some good news that can keep us strong in our faith even when other people are losing their faith. And that good news is that we know God. We just don’t know there is a God. We know God. We know what He’s like. We know of His love, and that sets our faith apart.
Alright G stands for…? Good.
O Stands for “Only True Church”
O stands for only true Church. How many have ever heard those words? How many have ever said those words? How many of you have ever had a friend get kind of upset because you said those words? Oh, yeah. They get pretty uptight when you say “This is the only true Church” because they think that means we’re in a spirit of competition. Like we’re saying, “Hey, we’re better than everybody else”, and that’s not a message we’re trying to send.
Boyd K. Packer, who was the President of the Quorum of the Twelve before he passed away, he said “Truth is like a piano keyboard”. He said “Some churches have one or two notes. Some churches have five or six or seven or eight or nine or ten. But we are the only ones that have the whole piano”. So when we say we’re the only true Church, we’re not saying “Tick-tock, the games locked! Nobody else can play. We’re the best, you’re the rest. Go all the way.” No, that’s not what we’re saying!
When we say we’re the only true church, we’re saying we’re the only complete Church. We’re the only church that has more to offer. More. So we’re not saying, “Hey, stop believing the good things you believe”, we’re saying, “Come and get more. Come see how great your life can be with the whole keyboard”.
How many of you have ever gone to a high school game? Okay, how many have ever screamed “We’re number one”? How many of you have ever done that? Do you realize they do that all over the country? Do you realize that every high school screams that? Now, I’m not a mathematician, but there’s not that many number ones. Everybody’s screaming, “We’re number one” tend to see competition. They’re trying to say we’re better than everybody else. I’ve never gone to a school and heard people scream, “We’re number 439! We’re number 430–“. No, nobody screams fast. They’re all screaming, “We’re number one”, because it’s a competition. But we don’t scream “We’re the only true Church” in competition, but we do it in a spirit of invitation.
How many of you have ever gotten a wedding announcement? Okay, how many have ever been offended? See, not many. It was your girlfriend. Not many people get offended when they get a wedding announcement, they just say, “Oh,” gosh, (chuckling at a kid) he doesn’t understand what a wedding announcement was. Okay, that’s all right. Nothing a mission won’t cure. Alright. When you get a wedding announcement, you just say, “Oh, I’m so honored to be invited”, then you decide whether you want to go or not; whether you can fit it in or not. But you don’t get offended. And I wish more people in the world would realize that when we send our missionaries out to testify more truth, it’s in the spirit of invitation. We’re not forcing our church down anybody’s throat. We’re just inviting people to come and find out how much better life can be with a whole keyboard. Instead of just playing chopsticks, just find out how much more they can have.
Alright, G stands for…? Good.
O stands for…? Good.
S Stands for “Spirit”
And S stands for “spirit”.
(Pulls a teenage boy up front)
Now, I had a fight with a mission companion once because he said Latter-day Saints are the only ones who can feel the Spirit. I said “nu-uh”, he said “uh-huh”, I said “nu-uh”, he said “uh-huh”, and that’s how missionaries fight.
I said “Look, if Latter-day Saints are the only ones who can feel the Spirit, then what do they feel in their churches on Christmas Eve when they’re singing ‘Silent Night’ and the little kids are doing the major scene?” He says, “Spirit of the devil.” I said “No! You can’t feel the spirit of the devil when little kids are dressed in bathrobes. You just can’t”.
So what my companion was trying to say is that we do have something that others don’t have, but it’s called “the gift of the Holy Ghost”. See, it’s kind of like a balloon. That’s why I brought you up here, you’re going to be my balloon. If I blow up the balloon, you make the sound effect. Here we go. (kid makes a whooshing noise) Good. Its like we practiced this. This is awesome. Alright, now, if I don’t tie a knot at the end of the balloon, what’s going to happen? Make the sound effects. (kid makes another whooshing noise) Good!
Now that’s how the spirit goes in and out of people’s lives. Muslims feel the spirit, Catholics feel the spirit, Hindus fill the spirit, but it goes in and out of their lives. And we have something that sets us apart: we have the gift of the Holy Ghost. It’s kind of like the knot at the end of the balloon, and it allows us to keep that spirit with us all the time. And that’s a beautiful thing. (to the teenage boy, motioning him to sit down) Thank you.
The good news is that we get that gift usually when we’re eight years old. The bad news is that we get that gift, usually when we’re eight years old. And then young Latter-day Saints grow up in the Church, and they say to me, “I’ve never felt the spirit”, and I’m like, “oh, yeah, you have”. “No, I’ve never felt the spirit”, I’m like, “You have gone to church meetings your whole life, you’ve gone to seminary, you’ve gone to the EFY, you’ve done the youth conference, you’ve gone to girls camp, you’ve gone to funerals – millions of funerals – you have felt a spirit”, “No, never felt a spirit”. And when they say that to me, I just smile, and I say, “They’re just a big fish. Just a big old fish swimming around in the water, going ‘Water? What water?. I don’t see any water'”.
When does a fish notice the water? When it’s out of it. And sadly, that’s what has to happen sometimes for young Latter-day Saints; they have to distance themselves from the Spirit, and then all of a sudden, they go, “Wow, I was feeling it. I was feeling it all the time”, they just didn’t recognize it. See, when young people say, “I’ve never felt the spirit”, what they mean is, “I’ve never felt a dramatic manifestation of the spirit”
“The Spirit of God, like a…?” Fire. Yeah, I’ve felt that fire. I’ve felt this in my life, but I don’t feel it every day. I’m kind of grateful I don’t feel it every day. Can you imagine if you felt a Spirit like a fire every day? When you’d wake up, your alarm would go off and you’d be like, (shouting) “Whoa! Whew! Feelin’ the Spirit!” You’d be like pouring your breakfast cereal, (shouting) “Whoa!” You’d be in the shower (Shouting). I mean, you couldn’t even get through the day!
So sometimes it’s a good thing that we don’t feel the Spirit like a fire all the time. Sometimes it’s a good thing that it’s a little more subtle. When we go into a house on a cold day, nobody ever stops and says, “The furnace is working”. Nobody ever does that. When do you notice a furnace? We’re in Georgia. When do you notice an air conditioner? When it’s not working! And then you don’t sit there and say, “I guess I better get used for it”, you say, “I’m going to call somebody, man, I got to fix this because I want to feel”, catch the word, “comfortable”. Comfortable. “I want to be able to get on with my life and not worry about the furnace or the fire. I just want to get on with my life.”
So sometimes when you feel like “I’ve never felt the Spirit”, remind yourself you don’t want to come home every day and find your house on fire; you want to come home and walk into the house and get on with your life because you feel comfortable, because the furnace is working. And that’s sometimes how the Holy Ghost feels in our lives.
Alright, G stands for…? good.
O stands for…?
S stands for…?
Now if you’re smart, you realize what I’m doing is I’m planning your next Sacrament talk. So when your branch President or your Bishop says, “Will you please speak in Church?” say, “Yes, Bishop, I’d love to”, and then say, “I’ll preach about the gospel”. And they get up and say, “G stands for…? O stands for…? S stands for….?”, and then just pick one of those and talk about it. You’ve got your talk all planned! “Thank you, brother. Wilcox”, yes, you’ve got it all planned.
P Stands for Priesthood
P stands for priesthood. Priesthood. That sets our Church apart.
How many of you, when you were little, kids used to play school? Yes. Oh, there’s the hands. Yeah. How many of you ever played church? Oh, I love to see those hands up, because I always thought my kids were weird. My kids played church. They could put their little stuffed animals out on the couch and they’d have a little opening exercises and they sing the song and they do a little talk. Got a little nervous when my daughter started blessing the Sacrament, but they would play church. I would think, “Oh, how cute that is so cute”.
But now that I’m older, I realize that’s what most people in the world are doing, they’re playing religion. They’re playing church. It’s not that they’re not sincere. It’s not that they don’t have good hearts and good intentions, but they don’t have the authority that makes it count.
When I was at University of Wyoming getting my doctorate, I worked in the writing center at the university. It was a place where people could come and get help with papers they were writing, and I oversaw several tutors that were working there with me, and one tutor showed up late. And I said, “Where have you been? We’ve been busy”. She said, “I’m sorry I didn’t get here. I was at my wedding rehearsal”, the practice for her wedding, and she said, “I’m just so upset”. I said, “Maybe you shouldn’t marry him”, and she said, “I’m not upset at my fiancé; I’m upset at the preacher”. I said, “How can you be mad at the preacher? They’re nice”, she said, “Well, I’m not mad at the preacher; I just hate those words”.
Hmmm… What words did she talk about? “Till death do you part”. And a lot of churches don’t say that anymore, instead, they say, “As long as you both shall live”. It’s the same thing. She said, ‘I hate those words; I feel like I’m getting divorced the day I’m getting married.”
I was like, “This is a missionary moment. Don’t blow it, Brad. Come on, don’t blow it. You can do this.” So I said, “In my Church, we can get married in the temple, where we are sealed for time and all eternity”. She goes, (voice cracking) “Awww… I love that!” and I thought, “Man, fill the font! I’m going to baptize you right now!”
No, she didn’t want to get baptized. She didn’t want to meet the missionary. She didn’t want to become a Latter-day Saint, but she did want to rewrite her wedding ceremony. True story: she goes to her minister, she says, “May I write my own ceremony?”, and he says, true story, “For an extra fee”. So she pays the extra money, and she writes her own ceremony, and he stood there in that Protestant Church and sealed them for time and all eternity.
Everybody in the Church is like, “Oh, that is so special”, and I was like, “Oh, that is so wrong! So wrong!” Why would I say it’s wrong? I mean, anybody can say whatever word they want; it’s a free country. Why was I saying it was wrong? No authority, no priesthood authority. I mean, they could say the pretty words, but it didn’t mean anything in God’s eyes, because God’s authority has to be valued, it has to be present, and that authority makes a difference in our lives.
Now, sadly, you live in a time where people have twisted priesthood from something positive into something negative. Now, I know that these are complex issues. I realize that. But sometimes I think we make them harder than they are. So I don’t mean to be a little over simplistic, but sometimes I just think that we make things too complicated. “Why didn’t the blacks get the priests until 1978? What’s up with that brother Wilcox? What? Latter-day Saints are prejudice? What? Brigham Young was a jerk?”
I mean, you’ll hear a lot of things, but maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe instead of asking, “Why didn’t the black get the priesthood until ’78?”, we should be asking, “Why didn’t everybody else have to get it before 1829?” I mean, why did they have to wait until 1829 to have the priesthood restored? And why didn’t the Gentiles get the gospel and the priesthood until after the Jews? And why, in ancient Israel, did only the Levites have the priesthood and not everybody else? See, when we put it in that context, then instead of being grumpy and mad, we can be thankful; thankful that the priesthood was extended to somebody beside a bloodline; thankful that the priesthood was given to the Gentiles; thankful that the priesthood was restored in 1829; and thankful right down to our socks that the Blacks received the priesthood in 1978. we can feel thankful.
“Yeah, well how come the girls don’t have a priesthood? Like, what’s up with that, brother Wilcox? What? Girls are second class citizens? What? Girls don’t matter? What they do in the Church doesn’t count?” Now, I know there’s a lot of voices that are pretty loud, but just because they’re loud doesn’t make them right.
I went to a professional conference once. I had a little badge once. It said “Brad Wilcox, Brigham Young University” Some Lady I’ve never even met comes up, she reads my tag, and she’s like “Oh Brigham Young… (gasp) (Shouting) WHY DON’T YOU GIVE THE PRIESTHOOD TO THE WOMEN??” Just like that. Just like, bite my head off. I said, “Good to meet you, too”, and then I asked her a question, I said, “What’s ‘priesthood’?”, and she said, “Well, I don’t know, but I think the women should have it.”
“I don’t know, but the women should have it”? Seriously? Just because her voice is loud, I’m going to let it drown out my testimony? No.
Please remember, sisters, that you have access to every priesthood blessing. There’s not one priesthood blessing that sisters have denied. And you function with priesthood authority when you are set apart in a calling, when you’re set apart as a missionary. “What boys want real missions and girls going fake ones”? No. When you’re set apart, you are functioning with priesthood authority. You are an authorized representative. And when you go to temples, you’re endowed with priesthood power, and you dress in priesthood robes.
When people say, “Oh, women in the church aren’t the priesthood”, they’re looking at a very surface level of priesthood. They’re looking just at ecclesiastical priesthood. They’re not looking at patriarchal, matriarchal, family priesthood. They’re not looking deeper.
So what is it that sisters don’t have? Well, ecclesiastical keys and ordination.
Well, what are keys? Keys are an organizational structure; it keeps us organized. And not every man has keys. How many men in award have keys? The Spirit is whispering… The Spirit is whispering… Four. Who are they? Bishop, Elder’s Quorum President, Teacher’s Quorum President, Deacon’s Quorum President. (jokingly) And two of those are in training – the Bishop and the Elder’s Quorum President. No! The Stake President is going to jump up and say “False doctrine! False doctrine!”
Two of them are training:
- the Deacon’s Quorum President and
- the Teacher’s Quorum President.
So we’re talking about two men in the ward. So we’re going to be uptight because women don’t have the same thing that most men don’t have? See, the problem we get into is that we’re mixing up “keys” with “influence”, as if nobody without keys can have an influence in the church. Now, that’s not the case. Surely, sisters, there are some of you who have much more influence in this church than a Deacon’s Quorum President. Surely there are some of you who have great influence in the Church. So never — We want we you to have influence in the family, in the church, in the community and the government and business. We need that influence spread as far as it can be spread. So please don’t limit your influence to a position that has keys.
The other thing that sisters don’t have is ordination. “Well, how come girls aren’t ordained to the priesthood?” Again, maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe the question we should be asking is, “Why don’t they need to be?”
Sisters, how many of you have ever gone into a temple and performed ordinances? Okay, hold your hands high. Baptisms, endowments, sealings… Yeah. Now keep your hands up. Keep your hands up. Do you realize that you have done something that no man on this Earth can do? There is no male on this Earth that can do what you’ve done. They can’t go into the temple – you can put your hands down now – unless they’ve been ordained, and yet you can.
So what is it that women carry with them from a premortal life that men learn through priesthood ordination? Maybe that’s the question we should be standing up at night pondering, and maybe that’s the one we ought to be thinking about instead of, “Why aren’t women ordained?” Maybe we ought to be thinking about the other question.
Well, P stands for …? Priesthood.
Alright G stands for…? good.
O stands for…? Good
S stands for…?
P stands for…?
E Stands for “Everyone”
and E? E stands for “Everyone”! The Gospel is for everyone. And we’re the only church in the world that offers it to everyone. Not just because we have missionaries, but because we have temples. We literally offer the Gospel to everyone who’s ever been born on this planet through the work that we do in temples.
When I was on my first mission in Chile, I was sitting down on a bus, and I was sitting next to a lady, and she started speaking to me in fluent English. Freaked me out, because in Chile, I only heard Spanish. Well, I pick it back. Sometimes the kids would say swear words in English, and sometimes they’d say whatever they were learning in school in English, they’d say, “My pencil is red”, “My pencil is red”, and I’d be like (gives a goofy grin and thumbs up)
She’s talking to me in fluent English. I was like, “Whoa, where did you learn English?”, she said, “I grew up in Canada, my dad was a diplomat, and we grew up all over the world. I speak five languages.” Wow. Well educated, well traveled. I said, “That’s impressive”, she said, “Well, what are you doing here? What are you doing in Chile so far from your home?” I said, “Oh, I’m here as a missionary. I got a plaque and everything. I mean, look, I’m a missionary”. She said, “Oh, you’re a missionary. Well, I have a question for you”, I said, “Shoot! fire away! That’s why I came on my mission, to answer your question”. She said, “Well, I can’t believe you’re making a joke out of this, because it’s a serious question. I’ve asked this of every minister, every preacher, every theologian, everybody I’ve ever met, and no one has ever been able to answer me.”
I was like, “…Whoa…” I went to the MTC – I’m ready for you. She says, “When was your church organized?” I’m thinking, “What? That’s the mystery question of the universe? None of these preachers knew when their churches started? Give me a break. I learned that in primary”, “The gospel was restored April 6th, 1830”. I knew it! I spit that out, and then she goes, “AHA!”, like she caught me. Like I’d said, what she wanted me to say. “Aha!” She said, “If your Church is true, if I have to be a member of your Church to go to heaven, then what happened to everybody who lived and died before 1830?” And I said, “Well, that’s a good question”. She said, “Well, I knew you wouldn’t have an answer”, I said “but, I do!” I said “First, may I ask you a question? If you have to accept Jesus to be saved, if Jesus is your savior and you have to accept Jesus to be saved, what happened to everybody who lived and died before Jesus was even born?” She goes, “That’s my question. That’s what I’m trying to find out!”
Do you realize how good it felt to be able to tell her what you do on Tuesday night when they pack in vans and drag it over to the temple and you do baptism for the dead? And then they take out for root beer floats after? And this kid is like, “Hey, we didn’t get root beer floats!” Its alright, its all part of the ordinance.
So do you realize how good it felt to tell her that we have a solution? Now the whole world has a problem; Christianity has a problem. You have to accept Jesus to be saved, and yet so many people on this planet had never even heard his name? Boy, that’s a problem. We’re the only ones with the solution, not just the solution doctrinally like “God will take care of that one day”, we have a solution that we know about right now. We have a solution that we believe in enough to donate hours, man and women hours of volunteer service, and we build temples, we donate money to build them so that we can work that solution. Now that sets us apart. That makes us different. And that is good news indeed.
Well, G stands for…? good. Are you ready for your Sacrament meeting talk?
O stands for…?
S stands for…?
P stands for…?
What’s the next on… E! E stands for? Good!
L Stands for “Living Prophets”
L stands for “living prophets”. Prophets who are alive today.
Remember I told you about that Evangelical / Latter-day Saint conversation? There I was on the stage, I was asking him questions. He asked me questions. He said, “Are you a Bible based Church?”, and I said, (hesitantly squeaking), I said finally, “No, not the way you’re thinking of, but yes, in a way you’ve never even thought of before”. He’s like (mimicking a dumbfounded sound). I said, “Look, a lot of people hold the Bible, and they say, ‘This is my religion, this is my truth, this is the perfect word of God'”, he says, “I would be one of those people”. And I said, “But the Bible is not religion; the Bible is a history of people who have religion. And what religion did they have? They didn’t have the Bible. They didn’t say, ‘here’s my religion.’ They had prophets. They had Apostles, and that’s the same religion that we have. So, if you think about it, we’re the only Bible based church because we are the only ones that have the same religion as the people in the Bible. See, they didn’t say, ‘Turn to John 3:5’. No, they turn to John. He was standing right there. They didn’t say, ‘Turn to the Epistles of Paul’, they turned to Paul – Joseph Smith said he was short – (looking down) so they turned to Paul. He was right there. See, we have that same religion.”
Why do we do the things we do? Why do we do baptism for the dead? “Oh, because of an obscure verse in the New Testament that nobody knows about except seminary teachers”. No. Even if the New Testament didn’t mention baptisms for the dead, would we still do them? Yes. Why? Who tells us to do them? Prophets tell us to do them. When do we meet for sacrament meeting? What day? Sunday. Unless you’re a member of the church in Dubai or Jordan, and then you meet on Friday; unless you’re in Israel, and then you meet on Saturday; unless you’re a general authority, and then you meet on Thursday; unless you’re in some parts of an Asia, where they meet on Wednesday.
“What?? Brother Wilcox I thought the church was the same!” It is because we have the same prophets, and the same Apostles, and they tell us different things according to different circumstances, almost as if that’s why we need them. Dum-Dum-Duuuuum! Wow. See, how cool to know that we’re led by prophets and Apostles. If President Nelson announced tomorrow that Christmas is going to be in July, we’d put the lights up again, and you’d be so mad because he just got those down. Some of you who have procrastinated would be like, “Yes!”
But do you realize what your friends would say? They’d say, “Oh, my gosh, you are so weird. Can’t believe you think that Christmas is in July. Can’t believe you’re seeing a Christmas Carol, and it’s not even December.” They would think you’re so weird. But you know what? You wouldn’t even care what they think, because you know that you’re following the Prophet, and you would have confidence even if the world didn’t understand, you would understand. And even if the world thought that you were weird, you wouldn’t care because you’d say, “Hey, I’m standing with the Prophet”, and that would make a difference.
So you want to leave the Church? You want to take off? Say goodbye to your view of the Godhead. Say goodbye to your relationship with God. Suddenly you just have to worship a higher power, somewhere in the universe. Say goodbye to that close relationship that you understand and value, because you only find that here. That’s it. You won’t need the Church? Fine. Say goodbye to the complete keyboard. Play Chopsticks the rest of your life. Have at it.
That’s not enough for me. I got to have more, and I find it here. So you want to say goodbye to the Church? You want to just leave religion, like other people? Well, you’re going to miss something. It’s called the gift of the Holy Ghost. Oh, you still feel the Spirit. It’ll come in and out of your life, but you won’t have that constant companionship. And I can’t imagine my life without the guidance of the Spirit, and comfort of the Spirit; sanctification of the Spirit.
If you want to walk away, say goodbye to priesthood authority. Have fun “playing” church. Have fun “playing” spirituality. You can be all “spiritual”, but it’s not going to help you because you don’t have any power behind it.
You want to walk away? Say goodbye to temples. I can’t even imagine my life without a temple. Can’t even imagine my life without that kind of a sanctuary, but you’d have to say goodbye.
And you want to leave? Say goodbye to Elder Holland. (mocking screaming) “No!” Say goodbye. (yelling) You have to say goodbye. You give up the Church, you give up Elder Holland, you President Nelson, you give up Elder Oaks. You give up all of them. You give up Elder Christopherson – I can’t imagine my life without these apostles and prophets. Their examples, their teachings, the Spirit they bring.
So there’s another option: Stay, stay, stay in the Church. Stay where you are. Even when other people are leaving religion, you stay. You have every reason in the world to stay. We are in the life boat. We’re in the lifeboat, and the world is the Titanic, and it’s sinking. They don’t know it’s sinking because they’re still listening to the music, but it’s “Nearer my God to Thee”, the same song we sang at the beginning. They’re singing it because they’re going to die. The Titanic is sinking. Boy, when you’re in a lifeboat, the last thing you want to find is the exit door. The last thing you want to do is go back to a sinking ship. You don’t want to do that. You want to stay where you are.
Now, I know some of your friends have left. I know some of your brothers and sisters have left. Maybe your dad’s left. Maybe a cousin’s left. Maybe somebody has drifted. That’s all the more reason you need to stay, so that you can reach out, and you can drag them in when they finally realize that the ship is going down and that the water is cold. And at that moment, the only place they’re going to want to be is in the lifeboat. Because this is where Jesus is. He’s the captain of the lifeboat.
So while the captain of the Titanic goes down with the ship, our captain walks on water. He’s right there, and we need to be there to be able to reach out and help all those who have left to come back in. When they realize the mistake they’ve made. Right now they don’t care. Right now, they just think, “Oh, I’m missing a meeting. I get to miss a meeting”. They just don’t realize they’re missing so much more than that, but that’s all more reason that you need to stay put. Stay strong. Square your shoulders. Defend the faith. Bear this Kingdom triumphantly.
Young people, you’re starting a new youth program. You’ve been asked to set some goals. May I suggest that some of those goals be for you to find out and gain a testimony yourself of who God is and your relationship to Him? I want you to start seeking a testimony that this is the only true church. I want you to seek a testimony and recognize that you have felt a Spirit; that you felt it much more than you realized. I want you to seek a testimony of priesthood, and don’t let that get complicated. I want you to seek a testimony of temples; I want you to recognize how special they are in your life And I want you to seek a testimony of a living prophet.
If those testimonies aren’t quite there for you yet, this year set those as some of your goals in your young men and young women programs. Set those as goals, because when you have that, you have everything. You can know for yourself, you can know for sure. You can know through personal revelation. Seek it and then you will know and you will stay and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ.