- A stumbling block is “an impediment to belief or understanding” or “an obstacle to progress.” To stumble spiritually is “to fall into sin or waywardness.” A stumbling block can be anything that distracts us from achieving righteous goals.
Stumbling blocks can be found in many forms. The lack of religious guidance in creating societal values is damaging to the communities we live in. Not recognizing and calling sin what it is stops us from identifying those acts and practices that remove us from the presence and favor of Christ. But it is not too late to turn to the Savior and repent and start to follow the Saviors teachings in society and in our personal lives.
- In our day, the influence of Christianity in many countries, including the United States, is significantly reduced. Without religious beliefs, there is no feeling of accountability to God. Accordingly, it is hard to establish universal values about how to live. Philosophies which are deeply held often conflict with each other.
- One of the unique and troubling aspects of our day is that many people engage in sinful conduct but refuse to consider it sinful. They have no remorse or willingness to acknowledge their conduct as being morally wrong. Even some who profess a belief in the Father and the Son wrongfully take the position that a loving Father in Heaven should exact no consequences for conduct that is contrary to His commandments.
- Seen in their true light, the glorious blessings of repentance and adherence to the Savior’s teachings are monumentally important. It has often been declared, “Sooner or later everybody has to sit down to a banquet of consequences.”
The Saviors atonement is available to all of us that turn from these stumbling blocks and back to the Savior.
- The remarkable and celestial blessing of the Savior’s Atonement is that through repentance, sinful conduct is blotted out.
Elder Cook speaks of another stumbling block, extremism. This goes along with the idea that we look beyond the mark and to other interpretations of Christ's teachings to sell a product or service.
- While there are many examples of looking beyond the mark, a significant one in our day is extremism. Gospel extremism is when one elevates any gospel principle above other equally important principles and takes a position that is beyond or contrary to the teachings of Church leaders. One example is when one advocates for additions, changes, or primary emphasis to one part of the Word of Wisdom. Another is expensive preparation for end-of-days scenarios.
He warns us of putting anything above the teachings of the Savior or viewing one teaching as more important than another.
- If we elevate anything above our devotion to the Savior, if our conduct recognizes Him as just another teacher and not the divine Son of God, then we are looking beyond the mark. Jesus Christ is the mark!
Elder Cook concludes with advice on focusing on the Savior and not turning away from those things that are more important in life.
- If we are to be valiant in our testimony of Jesus, we must avoid the stumbling blocks that entrap and impede the progress of many otherwise honorable men and women. Let us determine to always be in His service. While seeking knowledge, we need to avoid the philosophies of men that lessen our commitment to the Savior. We must see sin in its true light and accept the Savior’s Atonement through repentance. We need to avoid looking beyond the mark and focus on Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, and follow His doctrine.
Elder Cook helps us understand that we don't have to make the gospel complicated. We need to focus on the Savior, rely on His teachings, and follow Him in faith and we will all be on the right path to eternal life. Our discipleship of the Savior needs to avoid stumbling blocks and extremism and if we do, the Savior will bless us with increased faith and devotion. I have some notes that I took during Conference on this talk and my notes are simple. They state that the gospel is simple, stay away from things that distract us from recognizing the greatness of Christ. This is great advice. I hope we will all stay focused on the Savior's simple teachings and not make them more complicated.