Live True to Your Faith

The following remarks were shared as part of the United Kingdom Conference held in Leeds, England on November 14, 2023.

Knowing that I was coming over here, I found some quotes from Englishmen to use. Assuming that a proper education…

[Audio cuts out from 0:15 to 0:35. Denver quoted Winston Churchill as follows: “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”]

…That’s one of the problems with religion, generally, and the truth, almost invariably. 

George Bernard Shaw said, “Beware of false knowledge; [it’s] more dangerous than ignorance.” Ignorance leaves you, you know, still unaware; false knowledge makes you certain. And that’s where unbelief comes from. 

And then this other one, which I like most of all, from George Bernard Shaw, “All great truths begin as blasphemies,” which is where often we find ourselves. I had a Catholic friend—I still have him; I shouldn’t talk of him in the past tense—I had a Catholic friend who heard I had been excommunicated from the LDS Church for writing a book, and he called me excited about that, saying, “You know that when you write a book and get excommunicated from a religion, over time that makes you a saint!” He said, “Someday, you’re going…” Well, as a Catholic would think, “Someday you’re going to be canonized!” I thought, “Oh, settle down. You’re my friend because you coach baseball, and that’s what we talk about, not religion.” 

He’s an honest man, however. I went to the Rose Festival at the Catholic Church with him. He owned a motorcycle. I owned a Harley Davidson. We went on a poker ride (and this was a Catholic Church affair). On a poker ride, you ride from bar to bar to bar, and then you stop at the bar, and you get a card. And after you have made five stops, you have five cards. And depending upon the hand, someone would have the winning hand with the best group of cards. Now, when we got to the fourth stop, which was a bar in a little town called Lehi, Utah (full of cowboys and about 98% Mormon), the bartender was talking about how the Catholics were welcome; they ought to come back. They have a big affair every week on Wednesday evenings where the local Relief Society ladies come in for dinner at this Lehi, Utah bar. And so if the Relief Society could go on Wednesday evenings, I felt proper as (then) a Latter-day Saint attending the same thing. But it was going on too long, and I had to leave. So I gave my four cards to my Catholic friend, and I had to go home; we had some family thing going on. He kept my four cards. He went to the fifth bar, he collected two cards, and then he went back to the Catholic Church in Draper, Utah, submitted two hands of cards, and in my absence, my Catholic friend said I had the winning hand. I won a $700 leather coat as a result of winning the Catholic poker run. I wonder how many Mormon friends, Presbyterian friends, or others entrusted with the winning hand and in my absence would have surrendered a $700 leather coat because it was me that was the winner and not him. He’s a trusted friend, as a consequence. I know him to be honest. 

I’ve been listening to everything that got said here today, and I was struck in particular by Amberli’s statement about this singular individual: that murder went on among the Nephites, but it wasn’t coupled with “secret” until Gadianton, and then the account that she gives of how things progressed from there until the utter destruction of the people because of the prevalence of secret murder among the Nephites. And I’m persuaded by her book; I think she makes a very sad but telling point. 

When I was a law student at Brigham Young University, it was a very young law school, comparatively; I would be in the fifth graduating class. But every year, because the president of the university and the dean of the law school and several of the other members of the faculty had been clerks at the United States Supreme Court, every year during the moot court competition, we would have one or more members of the United States Supreme Court come to the law school to sit during the moot court competition by the students, and then they would meet with us afterwards. And I met a number of the Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice Warren Burger, while I was a law student. (And I was a member of the ad hoc committee with Chief Justice Warren Burger that founded the American Inns of Court, modeled after the British Inns of Court. And so someday, I hope in London to visit the Inns of Court there.) But one of the justices who visited while he was there was Justice Harry Blackmun. 

Justice Harry Blackmun wrote the majority opinion in Roe vs. Wade, which in 1973 made abortion legal in the United States. No one voted on it; no one had a say on it; it went through the courts. And Justice Blackmun wrote an opinion which said that, through the third trimester, abortion was a constitutional protected right not found in the language of the Constitution but found in (and this is the language) found in the penumbra to the right to privacy. “Penumbra” is a word that describes that gray zone between light and dark; it’s not fully lit, but you’re still somewhat out of the darkness. And in that vague, poorly illuminated (if you can call it that) area between the right to privacy (that we think is brightly lit in the Constitution) and some things that may possibly be implied, there was this right to privacy that guaranteed a woman the ability to have an abortion. 

There’s a scathing dissent written by Justice Rehnquist (who also would come to our law school while I was a law student), and Justice Rehnquist said, “There’s absolutely no precedent for finding this to belong to the right to privacy. It didn’t exist at the time the Constitution was written; it was illegal and considered immoral—in fact, criminal—in every one of the original 13 states that adopted the Constitution, and it is, by and large, illegal throughout the nation at this time.” 

And so you have a “penumbra” in the majority opinion, and you have an outright declaration that what Justice Blackmun had written is a load of crap! However, there is a majority opinion and a dissenting opinion written by Rehnquist—there were other opinions that joined in for other reasons—but Blackmun’s was the majority opinion. And it was like they were speaking opposite one another in different directions with different reasoning, without ever coming together to meet one another’s arguments. 

So when Justice Blackmun opened up the meeting for questions in the moot courtroom, and I was raising my hand to ask a question, and Dean Lee knew that was problematic, Dean Lee was relieved to see Blackmun was calling on people throughout. I was on the far left (I guess I would have been on Justice Rehnquist’s far right, which is probably a little more symbolically suitable). And after trying to be called on for some time, Justice Blackmun said, “Oh, I’ll take one more question. I haven’t called on anyone from over there.” And he called on me, and Dean Lee looked like, “Gah. I could have gone all day without having this!”

So I stood up, and I said, “Justice Blackmun, we have a dissenting opinion in Roe vs. Wade.” Okay. I just spoke the tragic words “Roe vs. Wade.” He’d been on campus for like two weeks, and no one had invoked Roe vs. Wade, and now there it is in all its messiness, sitting right on the table. 

“In the dissenting opinion written by Justice Rehnquist in Roe vs. Wade, you in the majority seem to be like two ships passing in the night. Would you please respond to Justice Rehnquist’s dissenting opinion and explain why he got it wrong?” 

[Impersonating Elvis]: Thank you very much. Elvis has left the building. 

And I sat down, and there was this long, awkward pause while Justice Rehnquist Justice Blackmun paced back and forth up behind the bar at the front of the moot courtroom, rubbing his hair back. And after a long silence, he did not answer my question, but essentially said… Well, he first told the story about how when he came to the Supreme Court, the Sergeant at Arms came into his newly assigned chambers and dropped a large book on the table with a loud thump and said, “Sign it.” And he looked at the book, and it was the Bible. And it had the signatures of venerable prior justices: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Taft, there were a number of names that he listed, and he’s kind of being a tourist looking at the signatures in the Bible, when the Sergeant at Arms [clearing his throat loudly] clears his throat like, “Get on with it.” And he signed his name, and the Sergeant at Arms closed the Bible and left. 

He said he was a religious man. He said he was a man of faith. And he said that religiously there was no way that he could justify abortion. But he said constitutionally he did not see any way to prevent it. And therefore, what he wrote in the majority opinion, he felt had to be done—all of which got sent down the river by a decision of the Supreme Court just in the last few years, in which they overruled Roe vs. Wade, and they sent the decision back to the states for the states to grapple with, and not as something that gets imposed from the top without the public being able to vote on the matter.

This is from the Book of Mormon: Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right, but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right (Mosiah 13:6 RE).

In 1973, the people did not have a vote; they were not given the opportunity to decide that. A single man, acting in the role of Gadianton, imposed upon an entire nation of over 200 million people the judicially imposed, from-the-top-down edict that abortion in the United States is a right. Can’t be prevented. But that right got restored to the people, and the United States was given the opportunity to make a decision at the state level about whether they would or they would not permit abortion to continue on. And so for the last couple of years in the United States, state legislatures have been grappling with it. Politicians have been running campaigns in which they came out supporting or opposing abortion, and state legislators have been elected as a consequence of the position that they hold. And just (I think) last week, Ohio voters were given the opportunity to decide whether they would amend the constitution of the state of Ohio to allow abortion to take place as a constitutional right in the state of Ohio. And the people of Ohio voted to amend the constitution of the state and to make abortion a right that they have in the state. Well, see, the role of decision-making was never given to the voice of the people in 1973. But it has been given now. 

For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction. For the laws had become corrupted, yea, and this was not all; they were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction. (Helaman 2:15 RE)

There are a handful of states that have made abortion either illegal altogether or limit it to circumstances that we find compelling, like saving the life of the mother or rape or something similar. But on both coasts of the United States, the decision has been made that abortion is permitted. So we find, now, the voice of the people having been persuaded. If you had had an election in 1972, in which this issue was put in the lap of the people and they were permitted to vote, there’s no question what the outcome would have been. It had to be imposed by edict. The edict was issued by Harry Blackmun. In a very real sense, he has occupied the role of Gadianton because now, after 30 years of it being a right and arguments having been mustered to support it, people can’t conceive of it being anything other than a right. And therefore, the voice of the people now has been persuaded by Gadianton that it is altogether right and fitting that we should engage in the process of murdering the unborn. It’s one of the sobering lessons in the Book of Mormon. But the Book of Mormon does not leave us without hope. 

The destruction that took place is analogous to the destruction which will take place, and the destruction was targeted. God knew who to spare, and God knew how to spare them. However random, however surprising the circumstances may have been in which the destruction took place, God knows who His people are. And God has a line He won’t cross: He will let the wicked destroy the wicked; He will even let the wicked destroy the righteous, to a point, in order to justify His judgments against the wicked; but what He will not do is destroy the righteous. He can’t do that; it would violate one of the laws that He has adopted for this entire creation. God will not destroy the righteous. Therefore, if you accept the Book of Mormon, believe its principles, follow its precepts, and accept it as it has been offered in 2017 to us as a covenant, God will not allow the elements to be used, the destructions that have been decreed, or the fires that will consume the wicked as stubble to affect you if you remain true and faithful to what He asks of us. And what He asks of us is largely that our hearts be inclined, that we do our best. You don’t have to be error-free. He’s a forgiving, loving God. Try to do what He asks, give it your best effort, and realize that God will not only refuse to destroy you in the coming judgments, but He will protect those that are His sheep. 

I also want to make clear, because this question came up in a conversation I had about a week ago. I want to make clear, there’s no reason to be in a panic about the coming judgments. First of all, not everyone who has not heard of the Book of Mormon or accepted rebaptism is going to be destroyed. That’s not gonna happen. There will be many, many good people from all over the world with backgrounds that are as divergent as Hinduism and Islam and even atheism who live harmlessly, with goodwill towards their fellow man, who do not present a threat to anyone, who have regard for their fellow man. They won’t be destroyed; they’ll be preserved. The reason why the prophecy into the Millennium talks about people, that the heathens and “it being well with them,” and there being an effort to reach out to them during the Millennium is because many of them are going to be preserved in the coming destruction, and there will be a lot of opportunity for people in very far-spread places to say, “Hey! Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord’s house where we can learn of His ways.” And why do they have to learn of His ways at the mountain of the Lord’s house? It’s because where they reside, they don’t have it. They have to go and learn it “that we may walk in His paths.” See, once they learn, then they want to return and they want to live their lives accordingly. There’s a great effort that will be made among people—good people—who will be preserved in the coming destructions. So if you’ve got someone in your family who’s a good person, and this good person thinks you’re heretical, if they’re a good person, you don’t have to wrestle them down into the River Thames and dunk them under the water in a panic because, otherwise, they’re gonna ignite like a match head when the Lord appears in His glory. That’s not how this is going to work. Calm down! 

Look, the best way for people to be interested in what you have to offer, assuming you have something to offer, is to calmly go about living your life confident in the message of the Lord, trusting in the Book of Mormon, and living true to the faith that you hold. That arouses curiosity. And when someone asks to know about something, they’re a whole lot more interested in hearing what you have to say than they are when you come in hands-on-hip and finger-wagging, saying, “You’re gonna be damned. But I’m not! And I’m not because I got something you don’t got! You, you need what I got!” You’re not gonna persuade anyone with that kind of nonsense. If they’re good people, rejoice with them. Love them. Be kindly towards them. Be patient with them—a long and patient example. When they see… 

I mean, why does the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount say, “Blessed are you when men will speak all manner against you falsely for my name’s sake” (see Matthew 3:14 RE)? It’s because hearts have been broken by hypocrites so often that no one trusts a genuinely religious person to be authentically what they claim to be. I can’t remember the name of that preacher from Oklahoma…  I want to say Swaggart, but I don’t think that’s it. There was a preacher from Oklahoma who had a university. [Audience comments.] No, no, it wasn’t Bakker. And I don’t think it was Oral Roberts, although Oral Roberts had… This guy made, like, Newsweek magazine; it’s been a while. [Audience comment.] Umm, it could have been. Anyway, this guy… I think… I want to say it started with an H, but that doesn’t matter; name doesn’t matter. This guy wound up sleeping with the coeds at his university and getting caught. And when he got caught, this is… This really tells you where his heart was—he’s a Christian minister, but where his heart was—he said he “couldn’t help himself; it was in his genes and chromosomes. It was biology. He just couldn’t help himself.” And there’s an article about it, and he’s giving his confession and saying, Oh, he was compelled to do so! And my reaction to the article was, “Yeah, if he’d kept his jeans on, his chromosomes wouldn’t have been spread about the campus!” 

We’re accustomed to that kind of crap from the religious community! I had a friend who went to present a paper to a group of Christians in Atlanta. And he presented his paper to an auditorium full of Christians, and one of them came up to him and said, “You talk and write like you believe this stuff!” And he said, “Yeah, I… Don’t you?” And the reaction was [disdain sound]. Nonsense. So he asked that there be a show of hands in the auditorium of those who did not believe the account of the New Testament to be accurate, trustworthy, and reliable—these are ministers! 80% of the people raised their hands who were professional ministers! They didn’t believe it. He flipped the question and said, “Well, do any of you believe it to be true?” And about 10% did. So the other missing 10% just didn’t know. And they’re ministers!

The reason why people say evil concerning you for His name’s sake is because if you really do believe and follow what He teaches, everyone is gonna be skeptical because there are so many hypocrites, so many people who sin and disbelieve in private but make a public pretense of believing in it. But if you endure that gracefully, if you really do demonstrate faith in Christ, those people who speak evil concerning you will eventually have it touch them, and they will realize they finally found an authentic follower of the Lord. And when they realize that, that arouses curiosity. You don’t have to bludgeon anyone into believing. You don’t have to go ask the golden questions: “What do you know about the Mormons? Would you like to know more?” You don’t have to do any of that. They’ll ask you. They’ll come to you. You may have to put up with a lot of nonsense first. 

I can’t tell you how much garbage there is about me on the Internet. I don’t defend myself; I don’t respond to the nonsense. I just let it go. But I don’t know how many people who have come and spent any time with me have walked away shocked at the remarkable difference between this rather welcoming chap who seemed to have a bit of common sense about him versus the lunatic that’s out there trying to recruit a cult so that he can fair sumptuously while shacking up with a polygamous commune. I do not believe that Joseph Smith originated or practiced polygamy. I believe it is morally wrong. I have taught that; I’ve been clear on that. I’ve published things about that. And yet on the Internet, that nonsense still percolates about. 

So you’re gonna get lied about. You’re gonna get misinterpreted. You’re gonna get misunderstood. That’s just what Christ said would happen to you in the Sermon on the Mount. So don’t let it surprise you or frustrate you or anger you. Blessed are you. Take it in stride! How do you think Christ remained so congenial throughout His ministry? If you had the nonsense said to your face that He had said to His face, you would have probably been far less kindly than Jesus was. He walked the path; He set the example. We’re just asked to follow it. He’s already set the pattern before us, and He’s given us counsel in the Sermon on the Mount on how to do it. 

So, I’m out of time. We’re past when we said we would stop. There’s still time to hang around in here, and I don’t know if we need to straighten things up or if there’s more treats in the back to be consumed. But I want to wrap up by saying, look, the Book of Mormon is exactly what it purports to be. And Joseph Smith was not only what he said he was, he rather understated the case. Joseph’s proclamations about himself were modest. He was more than he said he was. But he didn’t think people could hear everything that needed to be said. And although he began the process of the restoration, it was not finished! It’s not going to be finished by a group of people atop a multibillion-dollar church that has the financial and political and social clout to decide to undertake a trillion-dollar enterprise developing a city in Florida on 133,000 acres.

They’re not gonna do it. It’s gonna be the few who are the humble followers of Christ who take Him seriously that will finish up the work. That is currently afoot. That is currently advancing, step-by-step, forward to a conclusion. And the promise is that in the generation when it starts, it will all be concluded. There’s still time. “Generation” is a vague timing. We may number them as “Z” and “Baby Boomers” and “X” and “Millennials.” The Lord doesn’t do it that way. So however long a generation is, that’s how long it will take to wrap things up. I think we’ve got perhaps decades. Just live your religion. Just set the example. Arouse the curiosity of others who have seen hypocrisy year in/year out, and live true to your faith. Don’t be a hypocrite, and God will use you to a good end. 

Of that, I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


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