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This Great Dispensation

Posted by imawheatwatcher on October 5, 2008

I will post excerpts as pertaining to this blog. I heartily encourage you to read the entire article or watch the video stream from lds.org.

Elder Jeffery R. Holland, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
CES fireside September 12, 2004

This Great Dispensation

We are making our appearance on the stage of mortality in the greatest dispensation of the gospel ever given to mankind, and we need to make the most of it.

Here is a favorite quote of mine from the Prophet Joseph Smith: “The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age; it is a theme upon which prophets, priests and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day; . . . we are the favored people that God has [chosen] to bring about the Latter-day glory.”2

Note this similar affirmation from Wilford Woodruff in1894. Perhaps I do not need to remind you of the staggering challenges President Woodruff faced. Those years here in the West were, I suppose, every bit as fearful in their own way as were the ones I described in Missouri: prophets in seclusion, apostles in prison, fear (in President Woodruff’s words) “that the whole nation” was turning against our people, preparing to “make war upon” the Church.3

Nevertheless, President Woodruff said in the midst of such troubles: “The Almighty is with this people. We shall have all the revelations that we will need, if we will do our duty and obey the commandments of God. . . . While I . . . live I want to do my duty. I want the Latter-day Saints to do their duty. . . . Their responsibility is great and mighty. The eyes of God and all the holy prophets are watching us. This is the great dispensation that has been spoken of ever since the world began. We are gathered together . . . by the power and commandment of God. We are doing the work of God. . . . Let us fill our mission.”4

Lastly, let me share this from President Hinckley, our modern prophet, who currently guides us through the challenging times of our present hour. Citing just last April conference that very theme struck by President Woodruff, he said to all of us:

“We of this generation are the end harvest of all that has gone before. It is not enough to simply be known as a member of this Church. A solemn obligation rests upon us. Let us face it and work at it.

“We must live as true followers of the Christ, with charity toward all, returning good for evil, teaching by example the ways of the Lord, and accomplishing the vast service He has outlined for us.

“May we live worthy of the glorious endowment of light and understanding and eternal truth which has come to us through all the perils of the past. Somehow, among all who have walked the earth, we have been brought forth in this unique and remarkable season. Be grateful, and above all be faithful.”5

It is interesting to me that in those three quotations, over a representative period of time, our prophets have focused not on the terror of the times in which they lived and not on the ominous elements of the latter days, in which we are all living, but they felt to speak of the opportunity and blessing, and above all the responsibility, to seize the privileges afforded us in this, the greatest of all dispensations. I love the line from the Prophet Joseph Smith saying that earlier prophets, priests, and kings “have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and . . . have sung and written and prophesied of this our day.” What were they so joyful about? I can assure you they weren’t concentrating on terror and tragedy. Brother Woodruff’s words were: “The eyes of God and all the holy prophets are watching us. This is the great dispensation that has been spoken of ever since the world began.”6 Let me repeat President Hinckley’s words: “Through all the perils of the past, [s]omehow, among all who have walked the earth, we have been brought forth in this unique and remarkable season. Be grateful, and above all be faithful.”

I don’t know how all of that makes you feel, but suddenly any undue anxiety about the times in which we live dissipates for me, and I am humbled and spiritually thrilled, motivated at the opportunity we have been given. God is watching over His world, His Church, His leaders, and He is certainly watching over you. Let’s just make sure we are the “pure in heart” and that we are faithful. How blessed you will be. How fortunate your children and grandchildren will be.

Think about it. No earlier people down through the gospel ages—including our own parents, in many cases—have had anywhere near the blessings that you and I have been given.

Think of the help we have been given to take the light of the gospel to a darkened world. We have approximately 55,000 missionaries—obviously far more than in any other age in the history of the world since time began. And that number is repeated every two years by those going out to replace their predecessors! But we need even more. We have an LDS presence in some 170 countries. We publish our scriptures in more than 100 languages.

Over 6,000 years or so ago there was one temple in the old world (it was rebuilt two or three times, but it was always the same temple on the same mountain: Mount Moriah in Jerusalem) and two or three temples in Book of Mormon history, but now we live in a time when temples are multiplying so rapidly we can hardly keep up. As of a few minutes ago we had 119 active temples with more, I am sure, to be announced and put under construction.

Add the miracle of the computer, which helps us document our family histories and systematically perform saving ordinances for the redemption of our dead. Add modern transportation, which allows the First Presidency, the Twelve, and other General Authorities to circle the globe and personally bear witness of the Lord to all of the Saints in all of the lands. Add that where we cannot go we can now “send,” as the scriptures say, with satellite broadcasts like the one we are using tonight (see D&C 84:62).

Add all the elements of education, science, technology, communication, transportation, medicine, nutrition, and revelation that surround us, and we begin to realize what the angel Moroni meant when he said repeatedly to the boy prophet Joseph Smith, quoting the Old Testament prophet Joel, that in the last days God would pour out His spirit upon “all flesh” and that the whole world, all humankind, would be blessed by the light coming in all fields of endeavor as part of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Joel 2:28; italics added; see also Joseph Smith—History 1:41).

We consider all these blessings that we have in our dispensation, and we pause to say to our Father in Heaven, “How great Thou art”7 and “How good Thou art.”

In fact, I have a theory about those earlier dispensations and the leaders, families, and people who lived then, of those whom the Prophet Joseph, President Woodruff, and President Hinckley spoke. I have thought often about them and the destructive circumstances that confronted them. They faced terribly difficult times and, for the most part, did not succeed in their dispensations. Apostasy and darkness eventually came to every earlier age in human history. Indeed, the whole point of the Restoration of the gospel in these latter days is that it had not been able to survive in earlier times and therefore had to be pursued in one last, triumphant age.

We know the challenges Abraham’s posterity faced (and still do). We know of Moses’s problems with an Israelite people who left Egypt but couldn’t quite get Egypt to leave them. Isaiah was the prophet who saw the loss of the 10 Israelite tribes to the north. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel were all prophets of captivity. Peter, James, John, and Paul, the great figures of the New Testament, all saw apostasy creeping into their world almost before the Savior had departed and certainly while they themselves were still living. Think of the prophets of the Book of Mormon, living in a dispensation ending with such painful communication between Mormon and Moroni about the plight they faced and the nations they loved dissolving into corruption, terror, and chaos.

In short, apostasy and destruction of one kind or another was the ultimate fate of every general dispensation we have ever had down through time. But here’s my theory. My theory is that those great men and women, the leaders in those ages past, were able to keep going, to keep testifying, to keep trying to do their best, not because they knew that they would succeed but because they knew that you would. I believe they took courage and hope not so much from their own circumstances as from yours—a magnificent congregation of young adults like you tonight gathered by the hundreds of thousands around the world in a determined effort to see the gospel prevail and triumph.

Moroni said once, speaking to those of us who would receive his record in the last days:

“Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you.

“Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing” (Mormon 8:34–35).

One way or another, I think virtually all of the prophets and early apostles had their visionary moments of our time—a view that gave them courage in their own less-successful eras. Those early brethren knew an amazing amount about us. Prophets such as Moses, Nephi, and the brother of Jared saw the latter days in tremendously detailed vision. Some of what they saw wasn’t pleasing, but surely all those earlier generations took heart from knowing that there would finally be one dispensation that would not fail.

Ours, not theirs, was the day that gave them “heavenly and joyful anticipations” and caused them to sing and prophesy of victory. Ours is the day, collectively speaking, toward which the prophets have been looking from the beginning of time, and those earlier brethren are over there still cheering us on! In a very real way, their chance to consider themselves fully successful depends on our faithfulness and our victory. I love the idea of going into the battle of the last days representing Alma and Abinadi and what they pled for and representing Peter and Paul and the sacrifices they made. If you can’t get excited about that kind of assignment in the drama of history, you can’t get excited!

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2 Responses to “This Great Dispensation”

  1. Launi said

    I just finished this article–holy cow. I’m copying it now to read to the family. Thanks so much Kathy. :}

  2. […] [https://imawheatwatcher.wordpress.com/2008/10/05/this-great-dispensation/] […]

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