Parley P. Pratt
August 26, 1855
Today you might expect your phone to ring a few days or weeks in advance when the Bishop calls and asks you to speak in Church.
It wasn't always so; at early meetings of the Church the presiding elder would call upon different people to speak during the meeting. Parley P. Pratt described one such occurrence:
Before I came here this morning, I was thinking: what shall I say to the brethren and sisters, if called upon to speak; and after a moment's reflection I said, I will preach the Gospel, and when brother Kimball called upon me to address you, he said, "Brother Parley, we want you to preach the Gospel to us."You might have experienced a similar premonition when you were given a new calling, or were simply asked to say the prayer in a meeting.
Parley stood and delivered his testimony on the first four principles and ordinances of the gospel, beginning with a powerful testimony of Jesus Christ:
The Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the only system whereby man can be saved, and his being the only name whereby we can approach our Father in heaven with acceptance, the only name in which remissions of sins can be obtained, and the only name whereby man can have power over unclean spirits, over devils, over diseases, over the elements, and over everything this side the celestial kingdom and its influences. It is of the highest importance, therefore, that this message of life should be declared to all the world. This Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was once born in Bethlehem, crucified on Calvary, risen again from the dead, and having ascended to his Father and to our Father to lead captivity captive, and give gifts unto men, his name has become the only name under heaven through which man may be saved-receive everlasting life and exaltation. It is the only name by which man can get remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and all its attendant blessings. It is the only name by which we may approach our Father in heaven and invoke His blessings-the only name by which we may control disease, and the very elements, by the power of His Spirit and the authority of His Priesthood. This same Jesus, after having risen from the dead, after having received all power in heaven and on the earth, gave a mission to his Apostles, Peter and others, to go into all the world, preach the Gospel to every creature, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and gave commandments that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name, in all the world, beginning at Jerusalem. Having given these commandments, and instructed his Apostles that they should teach all things whatsoever he commanded, he ascended up on high, and took his seat upon the right hand of God his Father, and he then shed forth the gift of the Holy Ghost, and bestowed gifts upon men.
Parley demonstrated the apostles began preaching the simple aspects of the gospel in Acts chapter 2, where they say all men are commanded to repent and be baptized in the name of Christ that they might receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Parley wanted to warn the elders not to overlook preaching repentance:
Mind you do not forget, when we preach this Gospel, that it is a Gospel of repentance; do not slip over part of it, but while summing it up, look at it item by item. It is the Gospel of repentance, not a mere Gospel of baptism, but a Gospel of repentance, and remission of sins, to be preached in all the world. …obedience to the Gospel implies repentance, which means nothing more nor less than putting away all our evils, and ceasing to do them. I say, as repentance is an essential part of the Gospel; that the man who has not put away his sins has deceived himself, because this repentance is one of the first principles of salvation. If I have other sins, and then add the sin of neglecting repentance, my case is still worse than it was before.Teaching repentance can be hard, especially when we are aware that we are as in need of repentance as those we teach. We are commanded in the Doctrine and Covenants:
Say nothing but repentance unto this generation; keep my commandments, and assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed (D&C 6:9; see also Mosiah 18:20).Repentance encompasses the entire gospel; it indicates the change of conversion; the cessation of evil and the beginning and continuing of righteousness. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said both aspects of repentance are key:
Wickedness is not the only mortal failure. Yes, the avoidance of wickedness remains ever important, but the sins of omission also represent a haunting failure. How often, may I ask you, do we speak about the need for repentance concerning our sins of omission? Or how often do we make personal confessions of them to God? There is a memorable scriptural phrase about our need to have "faith unto repentance" (see Alma 34:15-16). Faith unto repentance covers both sins of commission and sins of omission (Neal A. Maxwell, The Pathway of Discipleship, BYU Speeches of the Year, January, 1998).Repent: stop doing the bad and start doing the good. Soon, the good will be the natural fruit of what Christ has created within us. Usually,this conversion through repentance and faith in Christ is a life-long process; becoming takes time, and as we seek to know God's will and follow it, he will change our very natures:
And Jesus said, "Be ye as I am, and I am as the Father." He contrasts himself and them with the Father, and then says, "What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you such as I am, and I am as the Father is." It is for this purpose that we came into the world, that we might become like the Father; and that we may become like Him, we need converting every day, or at least until we are free from all evil, even if it be five hundred times-not to turn away from the truth, but keep going on to perfection (JD 3:187-191).President Ezra Taft Benson encouragingly described this gradual conversion:
We must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically in an instant, as it were... But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not' ("A Mighty Change of Heart," Ensign, October 1985, p. 5).