- Local leaders across the world report that when viewed as a whole, Church members, especially our youth, have never been stronger. But they almost always raise two concerns: first, the challenge of increased unrighteousness in the world and, second, the apathy and lack of commitment of some members.
He uses as the backdrop of his talk the comments made in the Book of Mormon by Alma.
- This question, “Can ye feel so now?” rings across the centuries. With all that we have received in this dispensation—including the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the outpouring of spiritual gifts, and the indisputable blessings of heaven—Alma’s challenge has never been more important.
The things that get in our way of continuing to feel the love of the Savior are found in everyday things in our lives.
- The constant portrayal of violence and immorality in music, entertainment, art, and other media in our day-to-day culture is unprecedented.
He gives us counsel to evaluate our lives and ask if we can feel the Savior in our lives.
- It is not surprising that some in the Church believe they can’t answer Alma’s question with a resounding yes. They do not “feel so now.” They feel they are in a spiritual drought. Others are angry, hurt, or disillusioned. If these descriptions apply to you, it is important to evaluate why you cannot “feel so now.”
He explains why some can not feel the spirit as strongly as they have in the past.
- Many who are in a spiritual drought and lack commitment have not necessarily been involved in major sins or transgressions, but they have made unwise choices. Some are casual in their observance of sacred covenants. Others spend most of their time giving first-class devotion to lesser causes. Some allow intense cultural or political views to weaken their allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed. Immersion in the scriptures is essential for spiritual nourishment. The word of God inspires commitment and acts as a healing balm for hurt feelings, anger, or disillusionment.
- Alma emphasizes that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, “the arms of mercy are extended” to those who repent. He then asks penetrating and ultimate questions, such as: Are we prepared to meet God? Are we keeping ourselves blameless? We should all contemplate these questions. Alma’s own experience in failing to follow his faithful father and then coming to a dramatic understanding of how much he needed forgiveness and what it meant to sing the song of redeeming love is powerful and compelling.
Elder Cook picks two specific challenges that we experience in life that lessen our commitment and have serious effects on us spiritually.
- While anything that lessens commitment is of consequence, two relevant challenges are both prevalent and significant. The first is unkindness, violence, and domestic abuse. The second is sexual immorality and impure thoughts.
Unkindness, violence, and domestic abuse
- Violence, abuse, lack of civility, and disrespect in the home are not acceptable—not acceptable for adults and not acceptable for the
- Regardless of the culture in which we are raised, and whether our parents did or did not abuse us, we must not physically, emotionally, or verbally abuse anyone else. The need for civility in society has never been more important. The foundation of kindness and
civility begins in our homes.
- Sexual immorality and impure thoughts violate the standard established by the Savior. We were warned at the beginning of this dispensation that sexual immorality would be perhaps the greatest challenge. Such conduct will, without repentance, cause a spiritual drought and loss of commitment. Movies, TV, and the Internet often convey degrading messages and images.
Concerning commitment to living the principles of the gospel and the need for us to live our lives in harmony with the Saviors teachings, Elder Cook says.
- Parents, the days are long past when regular, active participation in Church meetings and programs, though essential, can fulfill your sacred responsibility to teach your children to live moral, righteous lives and walk uprightly before the Lord. Parents must have the courage to filter or monitor Internet access, television, movies, and music. Parents must have the courage to say no, defend truth, and bear powerful testimony. Your children need to know that you have faith in the Savior, love your Heavenly Father, and sustain the leaders of the Church. Spiritual maturity must flourish in our homes. My hope is that no one will leave this conference without understanding that the moral issues of our day must be addressed in the family. Bishops and priesthood and auxiliary leaders need to support families and make sure that spiritual principles are taught. Home and visiting teachers can assist, especially with children of single parents.
It is vitally important that we teach our youth the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
- Youth who have been exposed to immoral images at a very early age are terrified that they may have already disqualified themselves for missionary service and sacred covenants. As a result, their faith can be severely impaired. I want to assure you young people, as Alma taught, that through repentance you can qualify for all the blessings of heaven. That is what the Savior’s Atonement is
all about. Please talk with your parents or a trusted adviser, and counsel with your bishop.
Keep in mind that our baptism covenants are important. We committed to live in a Christ-like way and just because it gets difficult does not mean our commitment should be less.
- At baptism we promise to take upon us “the name of [Jesus] Christ, having [the] determination to serve him to the end.” Such a covenant requires courageous effort, commitment, and integrity if we are to continue to sing the song of redeeming love and stay truly converted.
Elder Cook concludes with these words:
- As we all live the principles the Savior taught and prepare to meet God, we win a much more important race. We will have the Holy Ghost as our guide for spiritual direction. For any whose lives are not in order, remember, it is never too late to make the Savior’s Atonement the foundation of our faith and lives.
Having the Spirit in our lives is important for us to stay on the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life. Spiritual experiences strengthen our testimonies and increase our faith in the Savior. When we placer barriers in our lives that prevent us from feeling the Spirit, those experiences that provide assurance of God's love and presence in our lives are diminished. Our goal as disciples of Jesus Christ is to live our lives in harmony with the Spirit so those experiences can happen over and over again. If we are faithful and seek to serve others, we will see the hand of God play significant roles in peoples lives. Seeing the blessings that God gives others will help us recognize the blessings we have in our lives and give us increased faith. It is my prayer that if we cannot answer today, we will all be able to answer soon that we "can feel so now."