Elder Quinton L. Cook was called to be a twelve apostle on October 6, 2007. Before that he served as a Seventy. Elder Cook worked. For more information click on Quinton L Cook.
The Lord Is My Light
Like the young sunflower, when we follow the Savior of the world, the Son of God, we flourish and become glorious despite the many terrible circumstances that surround us. He truly is our light and life.
In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the Savior declared to His disciples that those who offend and do iniquity shall be gathered out of His kingdom. But speaking of the faithful, He said, “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” As individuals, disciples of Christ, living in a hostile world that is literally in commotion, we can thrive and bloom if we are rooted in our love of the Savior and humbly follow His teachings.
Husbands and wives are equal partners. They have different but complementary responsibilities. The wife may bear children, which blesses the entire family. The husband may receive the priesthood, which blesses the entire family. But in family council, wives and husbands, as equal partners, make the most important decisions. They decide how the children will be taught and disciplined, how money will be spent, where they will live, and many other family decisions. These are made jointly after seeking guidance from the Lord. The goal is an eternal family.
Even with diversity of languages and beautiful, uplifting cultural traditions, we must have hearts knit in unity and love. The Lord has stated emphatically: “Let every man esteem his brother as himself. … Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” While we treasure appropriate cultural diversities, our goal is to be united in the culture, customs, and traditions of the gospel of Jesus Christ in every respect.
If the grim realities you are facing at this time seem dark and heavy and almost unbearable, remember that in the soul-wrenching darkness of Gethsemane and the incomprehensible torture and pain of Calvary, the Savior accomplished the Atonement, which resolves the most terrible burdens that can occur in this life. He did it for you, and He did it for me. He did it because He loves us and because He obeys and loves His Father. We will be rescued from death—even from the depths of the sea.
Our protections in this life and for eternity will be in individual and family righteousness, Church ordinances, and following the Savior. This is our refuge from the storm. For those who feel they are alone, you can stand resolutely in righteousness knowing that the Atonement will protect and bless you beyond your ability to fully understand.
During the ministry of President Thomas S. Monson, he has often taught that decisions determine destiny. In that spirit my counsel tonight is to rise above any rationalizations that prevent us from making righteous decisions, especially with respect to serving Jesus Christ. In Isaiah we are taught we must “refuse the evil, and choose the good.”
My concern is not only about the big tipping-point decisions but also the middle ground—the workaday world and seemingly ordinary decisions where we spend most of our time. In these areas, we need to emphasize moderation, balance, and especially wisdom. It is important to rise above rationalizations and make the best choices.
As Brother Randall L. Ridd poignantly taught at the last general conference, speaking of the Internet, “You can get caught up in endless loops of triviality that waste your time and degrade your potential.”
Distractions and opposition to righteousness are not just on the Internet; they are everywhere. They affect not just the youth but all of us. We live in a world that is literally in commotion. We are surrounded by obsessive portrayals of “fun and games” and immoral and dysfunctional lives. These are presented as normal conduct in much of the media.
Sometimes it feels like we are drowning in frivolous foolishness, nonsensical noise, and continuous contention. When we turn down the volume and examine the substance, there is very little that will assist us in our eternal quest toward righteous goals. One father wisely responds to his children with their numerous requests to participate in these distractions. He simply asks them, “Will this make you a better person?”
When we rationalize wrong choices, big or small, which are inconsistent with the restored gospel, we lose the blessings and protections we need and often become ensnared in sin or simply lose our way.
I am particularly concerned with foolishness and being obsessed with “every new thing.” In the Church we encourage and celebrate truth and knowledge of every kind. But when culture, knowledge, and social mores are separated from God’s plan of happiness and the essential role of Jesus Christ, there is an inevitable disintegration of society. In our day, despite unprecedented gains in many areas, especially science and communication, essential basic values have eroded and overall happiness and well-being have diminished.
I believe Elder Dallin H. Oaks’s inspired message distinguishing between “good, better, best” provides an effective way to evaluate choices and priorities. Many choices are not inherently evil, but if they absorb all of our time and keep us from the best choices, then they become insidious.
Even worthwhile endeavors need evaluation in order to determine if they have become distractions from the best goals. I had a memorable discussion with my father when I was a teenager. He did not believe enough young people were focused on or preparing for long-term important goals—like employment and providing for families.
Meaningful study and preparatory work experience were always at the top of my father’s recommended priorities. He appreciated that extracurricular activities like debate and student government might have a direct connection with some of my important goals. He was less certain about the extensive time I spent participating in football, basketball, baseball, and track. He acknowledged that athletics could build strength, endurance, and teamwork but asserted that perhaps concentrating on one sport for a shorter time would be better. In his view, sports were good but not the best for me. He was concerned that some sports were about building local celebrity or fame at the expense of more important long-term goals.
However, I encourage everyone, young and old, to review goals and objectives and strive to exercise greater discipline. Our daily conduct and choices should be consistent with our goals. We need to rise above rationalizations and distractions. It is especially important to make choices consistent with our covenants to serve Jesus Christ in righteousness. We must not take our eyes off or drop that ball for any reason.
This life is the time to prepare to meet God. We are a happy, joyous people. We appreciate a good sense of humor and treasure unstructured time with friends and family. But we need to recognize that there is a seriousness of purpose that must undergird our approach to life and all our choices.
Distractions and rationalizations that limit progress are harmful enough, but when they diminish faith in Jesus Christ and His Church, they are tragic.
My prayer is that as a body of priesthood holders, we will make our conduct consistent with the noble purposes required of those who are in the service of the Master. In all things we should remember that being “valiant in the testimony of Jesus” is the great dividing test between the celestial and terrestrial kingdoms. We want to be found on the celestial side of that divide. As one of His Apostles, I bear fervent testimony of the reality of the Atonement and the divinity of Jesus Christ, our Savior. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Our Father’s plan is about families.
He says it is the privilege of [members of] this Church to be baptized for all their kinsfolk that have died before this gospel came forth. … By so doing, we act as agents for them, and give them the privilege of coming forth in the First Resurrection. He says they will have the gospel preached to them in prison.”
Our doctrinal obligation is to our own ancestors. This is because the celestial organization of heaven is based on families.
This is simply stated by President Wilford Woodruff: “There is hardly any principle the Lord has revealed that I have rejoiced more in than in the redemption of our dead; that we will have our fathers, our mothers, our wives and our children with us in the family organization, in the morning of the first resurrection and in the Celestial Kingdom. These are grand principles. They are worth every sacrifice.”
Temple and family history work is not just about us. Think of those on the other side of the veil waiting for the saving ordinances that would free them from the bondage of spirit prison. Prison is defined as “a state of confinement or captivity.” Those in captivity might be asking William Saroyan’s question: “Now what?”
Don’t underestimate the influence of the deceased in assisting your efforts and the joy of ultimately meeting those you serve. The eternally significant blessing of uniting our own families is almost beyond comprehension.
Family commitments and expectations should be at the top of our priorities to protect our divine destiny.
God intended that men and women would be free to make choices between good and evil. When evil choices become the dominant characteristic of a culture or nation, there are serious consequences both in this life and the life to come. People can become enslaved or put themselves in bondage not only to harmful, addictive substances but also to harmful, addictive philosophies that detract from righteous living.
Turning from the worship of the true and living God and worshipping false gods like wealth and fame and engaging in immoral and unrighteous conduct result in bondage in all its insidious manifestations. These include spiritual, physical, and intellectual bondage and sometimes bring destruction.
We learn valuable lessons from this tragic period. We should do everything within our power to avoid the sin and rebellion that lead to bondage. We also recognize that righteous living is a prerequisite for assisting the Lord in gathering His elect and in the literal gathering of Israel.
Bondage, subjugation, addictions, and servitude come in many forms. They can be literal physical enslavement but can also be loss or impairment of moral agency that can impede our progress. Jeremiah is clear that unrighteousness and rebellion were the main reasons for the destruction of Jerusalem and captivity in Babylon.
Other kinds of bondage are equally destructive of the human spirit. Moral agency can be abused in many ways. I will mention four that are particularly pernicious in today’s culture.
First, addictions that impair agency, contradict moral beliefs, and destroy good health cause bondage.
Second, some addictions or predilections, while not inherently evil, can use up our precious allotment of time which could otherwise be used to accomplish virtuous objectives.
Third, the most universal subjugation in our day, as it has been throughout history, is ideology or political beliefs that are inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Substituting the philosophies of men for gospel truth can lead us away from the simplicity of the Savior’s message.
But if we allow our culture to reduce the special relationship that children have with mothers and grandmothers and others who nurture them, we will come to regret it.
Fourth, forces that violate sincerely held religious principles can result in bondage. One of the most invidious forms is when righteous people who feel accountable to God for their conduct are forced into activities that violate their conscience—
The Church is a relatively small minority even when linked with people who are like-minded. It will be hard to change society at large, but we must work to improve the moral culture that surrounds us.
Agency is essential to the plan of happiness. It allows for the love, sacrifice, personal growth, and experience necessary for our eternal progression. This agency also allows for all the pain and suffering we experience in mortality, even when caused by things we do not understand and the devastating evil choices of others. The very War in Heaven was waged over our moral agency and is essential to understanding the Savior’s earthly ministry.
President Heber J. Grant described the Savior’s peace this way: “His peace will ease our suffering, bind up our broken hearts, blot out our hates, engender in our breasts a love of fellow men that will suffuse our souls with calm and happiness.”
We all long for peace. Peace is not just safety or lack of war, violence, conflict, and contention. Peace comes from knowing that the Savior knows who we are and knows that we have faith in Him, love Him, and keep His commandments, even and especially amid life’s devastating trials and tragedies.
For those who reject God, there is no peace. We all participated in the councils of heaven that provided for moral agency, knowing that there would be mortal pain and even unspeakable tragedy because of the abuse of agency. We understood that this could leave us angry, bewildered, defenseless, and vulnerable. But we also knew that the Savior’s Atonement would overcome and compensate for all of the unfairness of mortal life and bring us peace.
What are the sources of peace? Many search for peace in worldly ways, which never have and never will succeed. Peace is not found by attaining great wealth, power, or prominence. Peace is not found in the pursuit of pleasure, entertainment, or leisure. None of these can, even when attained in abundance, create any lasting happiness or peace.
Repentance and living righteously allow for peace of conscience, which is essential for contentment.
We are all aware the culture in most of the world is not conducive to righteousness or spiritual commitment.
Soon after Ezra Taft Benson was called as an Apostle in 1943, President George Albert Smith counseled, “Your mission … is to … warn the people … in as kind a way as possible that repentance will be the only panacea for the ills of this world.”
Today moral deterioration has escalated. One prominent writer recently said, “Everyone knows the culture is poisonous, and nobody expects that to change.” The constant portrayal of violence and immorality in music, entertainment, art, and other media in our day-to-day culture is unprecedented.
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.
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. When our commitment is diminished for any reason, part of the solution is repentance. Commitment and repentance are closely intertwined.
The Prophet Joseph pointed out that before your baptism, you could be on neutral ground between good and evil. But “when you joined this Church you enlisted to serve God. When you did that you left the neutral ground, and you never can [go] back.” His counsel was that we must never forsake the Master.
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. These often precede and are at the root of the choice to be less committed.
How we treat those closest to us is of fundamental importance. Violence, abuse, lack of civility, and disrespect in the home are not acceptable—not acceptable for adults and not acceptable for the rising generation.
The family is the foundation for love and for maintaining spirituality. The family promotes an atmosphere where religious observance can flourish.
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. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf and I were recently in an Amazon jungle village and observed satellite dishes even on some of the small, simply built huts. We rejoiced at the wonderful information available in this remote area. We also recognized there is virtually no place on earth that cannot be impacted by salacious, immoral, and titillating images. This is one reason why pornography has become such a plague in our day.
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.
Lehi explains some of the conduct that destroys faith. Some are proud, vain, and foolish. They are interested only in the so-called wisdom of the world. Others have some interest in God but are lost in worldly mists of darkness and sin. Some have tasted of the love of God and His word but feel ashamed because of those mocking them and fall away into “forbidden paths.”
“The family is ordained of God. It is the most important unit in time and in eternity.”
Mothers and fathers praying with children may be more important than any other example.
One of the underlying premises of Lehi’s vision is that faithful members must hold fast to the rod of iron to keep them on the strait and narrow path leading to the tree of life. It is essential for members to read, ponder, and study the scriptures.
The Book of Mormon is of seminal importance. There will, of course, always be those who underestimate the significance of or even disparage this sacred book.
Clearly, a dividing line between those who hear the music of faith and those who are tone-deaf or off-key is the active study of the scriptures. I was deeply touched years ago that a beloved prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, emphasized the need to continually read and study the scriptures. He said: “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns.”
Please understand that having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and keeping His commandments are and always will be the defining test of mortality. Above all else, each of us must realize that when one is tone-deaf to the music of faith, he or she is out of tune with the Spirit.
The Songs They Could Not Sing: "While we do not know all the answers, we do know important principles that allow us to face tragedies with faith and confidence."
LDS Women Are Incredible!: "Much of what we accomplish in the Church is due to the selfless service of women."
Let There Be Light!: In our increasingly unrighteous world, it is essential that values based on religious belief be part of the public discourse.
Here is a short video clip about the ideas Elder Cook talks about.
Our Father’s Plan—Big Enough for All His Children: Even though our journey may be fraught with tribulation, the destination is truly glorious. Listen.