Thursday, February 18, 2016

Heber C. Kimball on the need for personal spiritual experiences

President Heber C. Kimball (1801-1868) was a member of the first Quorum of Twelve Apostles ordained in this dispensation in 1835. He served as first counselor to Brigham Young from 1847 until his death in 1868 at age 67. He was the grandfather of Spencer W. Kimball, who became an apostle in 1943 and served as president of the Church from 1973-1985. His great-great-grandson, Quentin L. Cook, currently serves as an apostle.
"Let me say to you, that many of you will see the time when you will have all the trouble, trial and persecution that you can stand, and plenty of opportunities to show that you are true to God and his work. This Church has before it many close places through which it will have to pass before the work of God is crowned with victory. To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess this personal knowledge or witness will fall. If you have not got the testimony, live right and call upon the Lord and cease not till you obtain it. If you do not you will not stand.
"Remember these sayings, for many of you will live to see them fulfilled. The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand? ... You will be left to the light within yourselves.  If you don't have it you will not stand; therefore seek for the testimony of Jesus and cleave to it, that when the trying time comes you may not stumble and fall."
- Heber C. Kimball, remarks given in the Old Tabernacle in 1867; see Life of Heber C. Kimball, pp. 449-451

Many of his contemporaries commented on Heber C. Kimball's gift of prophecy and his understanding of the Gospel plan. Brigham Young himself said on more than one occasion, "Heber is my prophet, and I love to hear him prophesy." Heber knew about the Gospel's promises and blessings; but he also warned and cautioned on many occasions about the tests and challenges that the people would have to face in the future.

I've always been impressed by this particular insight; in order to "meet the difficulties that are coming," it becomes crucial to have a personal knowledge of the truth of God's work on earth. We can't borrow spiritual light from others; we must have our own.

The critical invitation is to strengthen our own light, to make sure it's burning bright within our hearts and minds so that we are ready for whatever challenges come.

At a regional Priesthood meeting some years ago, I learned a further insight regarding this principle from Robert J. Matthews, who taught religion for many years at BYU and then served as the president of the Mount Timpanogos Temple. Referring to President Kimball's caution about borrowing light from others, he cautioned about borrowing light from ourselves. He said when we are living in the light of previous spiritual experiences and not having ongoing, current experiences, we're effectively borrowing light from our past, and may have only the "memory of a testimony" instead of a living, dynamic one. So that's an even more urgent reminder of the need to be continually strengthening the light that burns in our hearts!

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