What can you learn from the past

Learn from the past

We live in fascinating and sometimes baffling times. A few days ago I told one of my grandchildren that I needed to go through the file containing my conference address. He looked puzzled. "Are you emailing your address?" He asked. "I thought you had to go to the conference center!"

It may be easier for some to send an e-mail, but I am grateful to speak today because I believe that my message is important for this grandson, for my other grandchildren, and for all of the youth of the Church .

Many years ago I learned a very expensive lesson as a businessman because I did not listen carefully to my Father's counsel or to the promptings of the Spirit that Heavenly Father guides me through. My father and I were in the automotive industry and Ford was looking for dealerships for their new range of models. The Ford executives invited us to a demonstration of their product, which they believed would be a huge success. When we saw the cars, my father, who had been in the industry for 35 years, warned me not to get into the trade. The Ford sales force was very convincing, however, and so I decided to become the first - and also the last - Edsel dealer in Salt Lake City. If you don't know what an Edsel is, ask your grandfather. He will confirm to you that the Ford Edsel was a sensational failure.

Now each of you can learn a powerful lesson from this. If you willingly listen and learn, you can learn some of the most meaningful lessons from the lives of those born long before you. They have already been where you are now and have experienced much of what you are now experiencing. If you heed their advice, they can lead you to decisions that will be of your benefit and blessing and divert you from decisions that will harm you. As you think about your parents and others born before you, you will find examples of faith, determination, hard work, devotion, and sacrifice that you should imitate.

It is difficult to imagine a situation in which it is not worth taking advantage of someone else's experience. Many professions require an internship in which an ambitious young professional observes seasoned professionals in order to learn from their years of experience and the knowledge they have gathered. In professional sports, a beginner is often expected to sit on the bench and learn by watching the experienced players. A new missionary is assigned to a senior staff member whose experience can teach them the proper methods of serving the Lord meaningfully.

Of course, sometimes we have no choice but to venture out on our own and assert ourselves on our way to the best of our ability. For example, there aren't many of my generation whose experience would be particularly helpful when it comes to the latest technology. Most of the time, when a problem occurs with a modern device, we have to turn to someone who knows more about it than we do - and that is usually one of you young people.

My message and testimony to you today, my young friends, is that you will find the answers to the most important questions of your eternal life in the scriptures and in the words and testimonies of the apostles and prophets. The fact that these words are mostly from older men from the past and present doesn't make them any less meaningful. Yes, it makes them even more valuable because they come from men who have lived godly lives for many years and have learned from them.

There is a well-known quote attributed to George Santayana. You have probably heard it before: "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (John Bartlett, ed., Familiar Quotations, 15th Edition, 1980, page 703.) There are several versions of this quote that differ in a word or two, but regardless of the exact wording, the statement remains profound. Important lessons can be learned from the past and should be learned so that you do not waste your spiritual strength repeating previous mistakes and wrong decisions.

You don't have to be a member of the Church - you don't even have to be a believer - to see in the life of God's children as recorded in the Old Testament that history repeats itself. Time and again we see righteousness follow wickedness. The descriptions in the Book of Mormon are similar. The ancient peoples on the American continent followed the same pattern: righteousness was followed by prosperity, then material abundance, then greed, pride, then wickedness and moral decline, until people had brought so much calamity upon themselves that they turned to humility and repentance and were roused to a change of heart.

In the comparatively short period of time that the New Testament covers, this pattern from history repeats itself again. This time the people turned against Christ and his apostles, and so great was the decline that we know it to be a great apostasy. It led to centuries of intellectual stagnation and ignorance - the Dark Ages.

I have to say a clear word about these times of apostasy and spiritual darkness that recur in history. Our Heavenly Father loves all of His children and wants everyone to have the blessings of the gospel. Spiritual light is not lost because God turned away from his children. Rather, spiritual darkness occurs when his children collectively turn their backs on him. It is a natural consequence of wrong decisions made by an individual, a community, a country or an entire civilization. This has been proven time and again over time. An important lesson from this pattern from history is that our decisions - whether we make them personally or collectively - have spiritual consequences for ourselves and our descendants.

In each dispensation, God's loving desire to bless His children is shown in the miraculous restoration of gospel truths by living prophets. The Restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith in the early 19th century is only the latest example. Similar restorations in earlier times came through prophets such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and of course the Lord Jesus Christ.

The 179 years since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was officially organized has been extraordinary in every way. Never in the history of mankind has there been a time of such striking progress in science and technology. This progress has helped the gospel spread around the world. But it has also contributed to more materialism, increasing self-indulgence, and moral decline.

We live in a time when the boundaries of good taste and general decency are being pushed back so far that they practically no longer exist. The commandments of God are in retreat in a swaying marketplace of opinion that totally rejects the concept of “right” and “wrong”. Certain sections of society seem to view everyone who lives by faith with general suspicion. And when a believer tries to warn others of the possible consequences of their sinful behavior, he will be mocked and laughed at, and his most sacred customs and the values ​​he most cherishes will be publicly ridiculed.

Do some of these sound familiar to you, my young brothers and sisters? You see the pattern of history reappearing - that righteousness is followed by prosperity, then material abundance, then greed, pride, wickedness, and moral decline - the same pattern we see over and over in the Old and New Testaments and find in the Book of Mormon? More importantly, how do these past lessons affect the choices you make today and for the rest of your life?

The voice of the Lord is clear and unmistakable. He knows you. He loves you. He wants you to be happy forever. But according to your God-given freedom of choice, the choice is yours. Each of you must decide for yourself whether to ignore the past and endure the painful mistakes and tragic pitfalls that previous generations have fallen victim to and the dire consequences of wrong decisions. How much better your lives will be if you follow the noble example of faithful disciples of Christ, such as the sons of Helaman, Moroni, Joseph Smith, and the steadfast pioneers, and as they choose to be faithful to Heavenly Father's commandments .

I hope and pray with all my heart that you will be smart enough to learn from the past. You don't have to live like Laman or Lemuel to find that it is far better to be like Nephi or Jacob. You do not have to follow the path of Cain or Gadianton to see that being bad never makes you happy (see Alma 41:10). And you don't have to allow your homeland to become Sodom and Gomorrah only to see that it is not a good place to raise children.

If you learn from the past, you can boldly walk in the light without running the risk of stumbling in the darkness. This is exactly how it is intended. This is God's plan: father and mother, grandfather and grandmother teach their children, children learn from them, and then through their own experiences and opportunities, they become a more righteous generation. As you learn from the past, you can build your own testimony on a solid foundation of obedience, faith, and confirmation of the Spirit.

Of course, it is not enough to learn these lessons in a purely historical and cultural sense. If you learn names, dates, and the sequence of events from a book, it will be of no use to you unless the meaning and message are written in your heart. If you nourish them with testimony and faith, lessons from the past can take root in your heart and become a living part of yourself.

And so, as always, everything comes back to one's own faith and testimony. That is the difference, my young brothers and sisters. This is how you gain knowledge. In this way you can avoid the mistakes of the past and take your spirituality to the next level. If you are open and receptive to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, you will understand the lessons of the past and they will burn into your soul by the power of your testimony.

How do you get such a testimony? There is no modern technology for this, and it never will. You can't google to get a testimonial. You cannot email faith. One gains a vibrant life-changing testimony today in the same way as it has always been. This process has never changed. It is obtained through desire, study, prayer, obedience, and service. For this reason, the teachings of the prophets and apostles, present and past, are as significant to your life today as they always have been.

That you may find happiness, joy and peace in the future by learning from the great and everlasting lessons of the past, I pray for each of you - for my grandchildren and all of the youth of the Church, wherever you may be. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.