The Only Sure Foundation
Every person builds a house, a house of faith. We do so knowingly or unknowingly. And every builder soon learns that a good building with bad foundations is worse than useless; it is dangerous. As one Christian writer has observed, "If the stability of buildings depends largely on their foundations, so does the stability of human lives. The search for personal security is a primal instinct, but many fail to find it today. Old familiar landmarks are being obliterated. Moral absolutes which were once thought to be eternal are being abandoned." (John Stott, Life in Christ, p. 22.) Thus our house of faith can be no more secure than the foundation upon which it is built. The foolish build upon the shifting sands of ethics and the marshlands of manmade philosophies and doctrines. The wise build upon the rock of revelation, heeding carefully the living oracles, lest they be "brought under condemnation . . . and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house." (D&C 90:5.) All that we do as members of the Lord's church must be built upon a foundation of faith and testimony and conversion. When external supports fail us, then our hearts must be riveted on the things of the Spirit, those internal realities that provide the meaning, the perspective, and the sustenance for all else that matters in life.
A very old tradition among the Jews holds that during the early stages of construction of the second temple, the builders, by mistake, discarded the cornerstone. Centuries later, in the midst of a long day of debate, Jesus, seemingly drawing upon this tradition, spoke of the irony associated with ignoring or dismissing him and his message. "Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?" (Matthew 21:42; compare Psalm 118:22-23; Acts 4:11.) Among the Nephites, Jacob prophesied: "I perceive by the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that by the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation." (Jacob 4:15.)
The climax of Helaman's commission to his sons Nephi and Lehi contains the following admonition: "And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." (Helaman 5:12.)
Surely the supreme challenge of this life for those who aspire to Christian discipleship is to build our lives on Christ, to erect a house of faith, a divine domicile in which he and his Spirit would be pleased to dwell. There is safety from Satan and his minions only in Christ. There is security only in his word and through his infinite and eternal power.
How, then, do we build on Christ? In a day when the winds are blowing and the waves beating upon our ship, how do we navigate our course safely into the peaceful harbor? What must we do to have our Savior pilot us through life's tempestuous seas? Amidst the babble of voicesenticing voices that threaten to lead us into forbidden paths or that beckon us to labor in secondary causeshow do the Saints of the Most High know the Way, live the Truth, and gain that Life which is abundant? The revelations and the prophets offer us some simple yet far-reaching suggestions:
1. Treasure up his word. The scriptures are the words of Christ. They contain the warnings and doctrinal teachings of those who were moved upon by the Holy Ghost and thus spoke with the tongue of angels. (See 2 Nephi 31:13; 32:1-3; 33:10.) To read and ponder them is to hear the voice of the Master. (See D&C 18:34-36.) Holy writ has been preserved to bring us to Christ and to establish us upon his doctrine. The man or woman who is a serious student of the revelations, who seeks diligently to know and apply scriptural precepts and principleshe or she can more readily see the hand of God and can also discern the handiwork of Lucifer. Such a person is more equipped to sift and sort through the sordid, more prepared to distinguish the divine from the diabolical, the sacred from the secular.
Mormon explained that "whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked." (Helaman 3:29.) The word of God, especially that found in the canon of scripture, allows us to discern and expose those teachings or schools of thought that lead us on intellectual or spiritual detours, to cut through false educational ideas, and to discard spurious notions that may be pleasing to the carnal mind but are in fact destructive to the eternal soul. Further, those who search and study the institutional revelations open themselves more fully to that individual revelation which is promised. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained to Church leaders that "however talented men may be in administrative matters; however eloquent they may be in expressing their views; however learned they may be in worldly thingsthey will be denied the sweet whisperings of the Spirit that might have been theirs unless they pay the price of studying, pondering, and praying about the scriptures." (Regional Representatives Seminar, 2 Apr. 1982; as cited in Doctrines of the Restoration, p. 238.) Those who are grounded and settled in truth, anchored to the Lord's word, are built upon the rock of Christ. Or, in Mormon's words, those men and women of Christ who manage to lay hold upon the word of God and follow the strait and narrow path, eventually "land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out." (Helaman 3:30.)
2. Teach his doctrine. A supernal power accompanies the plain and direct teaching of doctrine. The views and philosophies of menno matter how pleasingly they are stated or how lofty and timely they may seemsimply cannot engage the soul in the way the doctrines of the gospel can. If we teach doctrine, particularly the doctrine of Christ, and if we do so with the power and persuasion of the Holy Ghost, our listeners will be turned to Christ. "True doctrine, understood," Elder Boyd K. Packer has taught, "changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. . . . That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel." (In Conference Report, Oct. 1986, p. 20.)
3. Sustain his servants. The Savior taught his apostles in the eastern hemisphere: "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." (Matthew 10:40.) To the Nephites the resurrected Lord said, "Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants." (3 Nephi 12:1.) To receive the apostles meant to accept them as the mouthpiece of deity, recognizing their voice as his voice and their authority as his authority. One certainly could not accept the Father while rejecting the Son, and one could not accept the Son while rejecting those he had commissioned to act in his name. A rejection of Peter, James, Nephi, or any of his apostolic ministers was at the same time a rejection of Jesus.
There are those who feel they can enjoy a relationship with the Lord independent of his Church, separate and apart from the organization established by revelation. There are even those who feel they can stay close to the Lord while they criticize or find fault with the Church and its leaders. These are wrong. They are deceived. They are painfully mistaken and are walking in slippery paths. No person comes to the Master who does not acknowledge the mantle worn by his anointed. There is no power to be found in Christ independent of his constituted priesthood authorities. In the words of Elder Marvin J. Ashton, "Any Church member not obedient to the leaders of this Church will not have the opportunity to be obedient to the promptings of the Lord." (In Germany Area Conference Report, Aug. 1973, p. 23.)
4. Trust in the Lord. Rely upon him. There is power in Christ, power not only to create the worlds and divide the seas but also to still the storms of the human heart, to heal the pain of scarred and beaten souls. We must learn to trust in him more, in the arm of flesh less. We must learn to rely on him more, on manmade solutions less. We must learn to surrender our burdens more. We must learn to work to our limits and then be willing to seek that grace, or enabling power, which will make up the difference, that consummate power which indeed makes all the difference.
Few gifts of the Spirit are of greater worth in a day of doubt and a time of confusion than the gift of discernment. We have the challenge not only of discerning good from evil, light from darkness, but also of discerning that which matters from that which has but little value. In a time like our own when a babble of voices is heard, when discordant voices vie for our attention and seek for our time and interest, it is incumbent upon us to be discerning, to be discriminating. Some things simply matter more than others. But, in the words of Alma, "there is one thing which is of more importance than they all." (Alma 7:7.) That something is the knowledge and testimony of Jesus, the calm certitude that comes by the spirit of revelation. We may know many things, but if we do not know this, our testimony is deficient and our foundation less solid than it might otherwise be. "Upon this rock," the rock of revelation, the Master said at Caesarea Philippi, "I will build my church." (Matthew 16:18; see also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 274.) "And how could it be otherwise?" Elder Bruce R. McConkie asked. "There is no other foundation upon which the Lord could build his Church and kingdom. The things of God are known only by the power of his Spirit. God stands revealed or he remains forever unknown. No man can know that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.
Elder Marion D. Hanks has explained: "A perusal of the Christian's passageway seems almost too much. How can ordinary mortals walk it? If we are to regard our religion as a 'packet of beliefs and practices' to be borne, it will indeed be too much. But this cannot be for the Christian. Our religion is 'not weight; it is wings.' It can carry us through the dark times, the bitter cup. It will be with us in the fiery furnace and deep pit. It will accompany us to the hospital room and to the graveside. It can assure us of the presence of a captain on the rough voyage. It is, in short, not the path to easy disposition of problems but the comforting assurance of the eternal light by which we may see and the eternal warmth that we may feel. All of this comes to us through the love of Christ." (Bread upon the Waters, p. 34.)
President Spencer W. Kimball spoke to the Saints of the need for holding tenaciously to the truth, of grounding ourselves in gospel verities. "The forces of good are clearly and continually under attack," he said. "There are times when it seems the world is almost drowning in a flood of filth and degradation. And I want to cry out, 'Hold on! Hold on to what is right and true. Therein is safety. Don't let yourself be swept away.'
"In 1946 I visited Hawaii shortly after a huge tidal wave, where walls of water some forty feet high struck Hilo and the Hamakua coast, and I saw the devastation that resulted. Homes had been overturned and shredded, crushed into splinters like toothpicks; fences and gardens were obliterated; bridges and roads were washed away. Bathtubs, refrigerators, mangled autos lay strewn all about the streets. Where one of our little chapels had stood, nothing remained but the foundation. More than a hundred people lost their lives; as many more were injured; thousands were left homeless. I heard many stories while there of suffering, of heroism, of salvation.
"One woman told how she received a telephone message from friends to get out and to leavethat a tidal wave was coming. She looked out to sea and saw the monstrous wave approaching, like a mountain. She and her husband picked up the baby and ran for their lives up the hill. However, two of their little girls were away from home playing near a clump of lauhala trees. They saw the wave coming, ran into the trees, and held tightly with their arms around the tree trunks. The first gigantic wave washed entirely over them, but they held their breath and clung with all their might until the water receded and their heads were again above the water. When the wave receded, they quickly ran up the hill before the succeeding waves came. Together, the family watched from the safety of the hill as their home below disappeared under the pounding of the waves.
"We, too, are faced with powerful, destructive forces unleashed by the adversary. Waves of sin, wickedness, immorality, degradation, tyranny, deceitfulness, conspiracy, and dishonesty threaten all of us. They come with great power and speed and will destroy us if we are not watchful.
"But a warning is sounded for us. It behooves us to be alert and to listen and flee from the evil for our eternal lives. Without help we cannot stand against it. We must flee to high ground or cling fast to that which can keep us from being swept away. That to which we must cling for safety is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is our protection from whatever force the evil one can muster." (In Conference Report, Oct. 1978, pp. 5-6.)
As we continue in his word, as we move forward in steadfast but unsensational fashion, as we come to live by everyword of God, we come to know him who is the Truth: we come to know our Lord. We come to know about the Lord by study. We come to know the Lord only by study in combination with faith. Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6.) It is not just that the Son of God brought light into a darkened and fallen world; he is the light. (3 Nephi 11:11.) It is not just that our Savior showed us the way; he is the way. (John 14:6.) It is not just that Christ made the resurrection available; he is the resurrection. (John 11:25.) And it is not just that Jesus of Nazareth restored the truth and taught the truth; he is the truth. (John 14:6.) Knowing these things, knowing that our hope for peace here and our longing for eternal glory hereafter are inextricably tied to Jesus Christ, we gladly acknowledge him as our Lord and God, our King Emmanuel, truly the Hope of Israel.
Robert L. Millet, Steadfast and Immovable: Striving for Spiritual Maturity, 131-149.