Sunday, April 3, 2011

Three Questions about God: Yes or No?

From among the favorite stories of President Heber J. Grant:

President Heber J. Grant
When I was in England many years ago, I purchased a book entitled The Young Man and the World. The book was written by the late senator from Indiana, Albert J. Beveridge. It was written originally as a series of contributions to The Saturday Evening Post, after which it was compiled in book form.

In one chapter, "The Young Man and the Pulpit," the author said that a certain individual with a very splendid opportunity of securing answers to interrogations, during an entire summer vacation asked every minister with whom he came in contact three questions:

First: "Yes or no; do you believe in God the Father, God a person, God a definite and tangible intelligence — not a congeries of laws floating like a fog through the universe; but God, a person in whose image you were made? Don't argue; don't explain; but is your mind in a condition where you can answer yes or no?"

Not a minister answered, "Yes," but they all gave a lot of explanations to the effect that we could not be sure about such things.

What is the condition of the Latter-day Saints? Suppose a man were to stand up and say, "I do not believe that God ever visited the Prophet Joseph Smith." We would say, "Well, wait until you do believe it," before we would baptize him. Every true Latter-day Saint believes beyond the shadow of a doubt that God did appear to Joseph Smith.

The next question was: "Yes or no; do you believe that Christ was the Son of the living God, sent by Him to save the world? I am not asking whether you believe that He was inspired in the sense that the great moral teachers are inspired — nobody has any difficulty about that. But do you believe that Christ was God's very Son, with a divinely appointed and definite mission, dying on the cross, and raised from the dead — yes or no?"

Again, not a single minister answered, "Yes." The sum total of their answers was that He was the greatest moral teacher that ever lived. I maintain that He could not possibly have been a moral teacher if He were not the Son of God, because that was the foundation of His teachings. He came as the Son of God to do the will of God, and He announced that those who had seen Him had virtually seen God, because He was in the image of God.

Again, no man would be baptized into this Church who did not believe that God Himself introduced His Son to the boy Joseph Smith as His well-beloved Son, and told the boy to listen to Him. Do you think we would baptize a man who would say, "I do not believe in the revelations that Joseph Smith received; I do not believe that Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple?"

We believe that He appeared to him there. We believe that not only did Jesus Christ appear there, as recorded in the one hundred tenth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, but that Moses, and Elias, and Elijah appeared, and that they gave Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery all the keys of the dispensations of the gospel that have existed upon the earth. We announced these things to the people of the world.

Senator Beveridge's third question was: "Do you believe that when you die you will live again as a conscious intelligence, knowing who you are and who other people are?"

Again, not a man answered, "Yes." They hoped so, rather believed so, but there were some rather serious objections, and they said we could not know such things.

Is there a Latter-day Saint living who has been in the temple and been married there for time and eternity who could not answer that question in the affirmative? It would be ridiculous and absurd to go through the temple and have such a ceremony performed if we did not have an unshakable knowledge and conviction that we would exist as separate individualities beyond the grave.

Referring to these ministers, Senator Beveridge said that they were particularly eminent ministers. One of them had already won a distinguished reputation in New York and the New England States for his eloquence and piety. Every one of them had had unusual success with fashionable congregations.

Senator Albert J. Beveridge
I remember as I read this book while in England — it is my custom with many books to write comments on the margin of the pages — I wrote: "Albert Beveridge was the man who asked those questions."

When I got home I made inquiry and found that I was correct. They were altogether too much to the point to be hearsay. I learned that not only did he ask the questions of the ministers he met, but he wrote letters to ministers, the sum total being about three hundred, all of which brought indecisive answers.

When I think of the knowledge that we possess as individuals, then think of these men, professed teachers of Christianity, professed ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ lacking knowledge, I cannot help feeling thankful for the testimony that we have, and my gratitude for this knowledge is far beyond my power of expression.

Beveridge said that these men acknowledged that there was a decay of faith among the people; that the churches were becoming empty, so to speak, and he went on to say: "How could such priests of ice, warm the souls of men? How could such apostles of interrogation convert a world?"

There is no interrogation with us. We have the truth. We are spending our time preaching it. Every true Latter-day Saint can say: "I know that God lives; I know that Jesus Christ lives, that He is the Redeemer of the world; I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God."

How I do rejoice in the knowledge of the Latter-day Saints concerning these things. Knowledge is what counts in this world, and the Latter-day Saints have it. We declare what we know and what God has revealed to us. We declare to the world that the everlasting part of us has been converted to the divinity of the work in which we are engaged. (Era, 43:394, 438).

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