Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Joseph F. Smith on God's rest: finding peace amid turmoil

President Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918) was the son of Joseph's brother Hyrum. He was ordained an apostle in 1866 at age 28, and served as a counselor to Brigham Young and the three presidents who followed.  He became the 6th president of the Church in 1901, and served until his death in 1918 at age 80.
"The ancient prophets speak of 'entering into God's rest'; what does it mean? To my mind, it means entering into the knowledge and love of God, having faith in His purposes and in His plans to such an extent that we know we are right, and that we are not hunting for something else; we are not disturbed by every wind of doctrine, or by the cunning and craftiness of men who lay in wait to deceive. We know of the doctrine, that it is of God, and we do not ask any questions of anybody about it; they are welcome to their opinions, to their ideas and to their vagaries. The man who has reached that degree of faith in God that all doubt and fear have been cast from him, he has entered into 'God's rest,' and he need not fear the vagaries of men, nor their cunning and craftiness, by which they seek to deceive him and mislead him from the truth.
"I pray that we may all enter into God's rest—rest from doubt, from fear, from apprehension of danger, rest from the religious turmoil of the world; from the cry that is going forth, here and there—lo, here is Christ; lo, there is Christ; lo, He is in the desert, come ye out to meet Him. The man who has found God's rest will not be disturbed by these vagaries of men, for the Lord has told him, and does tell us: 'Go not out to seek them. Go not out to hunt them: for when Christ shall come, He will come with the army of heaven with Him in the clouds of glory, and all eyes shall see Him.' We do not need to be hunting for Christ here, or Christ there, or prophets here and prophets there."
- Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, October 1909, p. 9; see also Gospel Doctrine p. 58

We too often think about "entering into God's rest" as a distant reward in the life to come, once we have survived the turmoil and challenges of this mortal existence. President Smith helps us understand that there is a much more immediate interpretation. We can be blessed with that gift now, regardless of the circumstances of our life. It happens when faith is secure, when our knowledge of God and His plan are rooted in love and confidence, when our understanding of doctrine is solid and grounded. Doubt and fear no longer have a place in us. What a marvelous condition that is!

I found it particularly interesting that of the things that we might consider as dangers that take away peace, President Smith focused on doctrinal or spiritual distractions, including "every wind of doctrine," deceptions of men, false Christs, and false prophets. That certainly has become a challenge in our time!

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