July 20, 2007

Yankee Doodle Do It

Heber C. Kimball November 14, 1852 It's a familiar account; Joseph Smith found himself puzzling over the question of religion and how he could be forgiven of his sins. As he read the Bible a particular verse struck him with great power; it was found in James chapter 1, verse 5; encouraging those who lack wisdom to ask God for guidance. He believed this was true, he was prompted to act on it, he did, and the restoration of the gospel through him began. Joseph knew that faith in God's willingness to answer prayers was good, and faith involved the act; he received knowledge and acted on it. At the end of that first chapter we find a more cryptic message, a small parable:

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed (James 1:22-25).
It wasn't until I was a missionary that I understood this scripture. Being a 'doer of the word' had always made sense to me, but the example of a man beholding his face in a glass didn't mean anything until I realized how it applied. In today's discourse, Heber C. Kimball, first counselor in the First Presidency[1], was encouraging the saints to continue donating to the Temple fund. His sentiments strike at the root of the parable's meaning. It is a common problem of the 'natural man;' the tendency to forget:
These things have been talked about many times, and I might split my lungs, and my brethren might do the same, unto some people in the world; for the more you talk to them, the more light that is revealed to them, the less they seem to appreciate it. If they do seem to appreciate it, they do not obey it, they do not walk in the path marked out but they will receive instructions from day to day, and enter into the most solemn obligations, before God and angels, that they will observe them, but before they get home they forget them.
James and Heber knew we have a tendency to drift, most especially if we don't have the influence of the Holy Ghost with us. On my mission all the nearby Elders and Sisters would meet every transfer at Zone Conference where we'd receive instruction and encouragement from the mission leaders. These meetings were long, but they seemed short because the Spirit was there. Many of the missionaries would leave the meeting enthused, energized, excited, full of the Spirit, believing that they would be better missionaries, and have more success in finding those who wanted to hear the gospel message. Three days later we were back in the trenches wondering where that enthusiasm went. During the Zone Conference we would be enlightened by the Spirit, which allows us to see things "as they really are, and of things as they really will be" (Jacob 4:13). Brigham Young said it like this:
To me, these principles are like the vision of open day upon this beautiful earth. Life and death are easily understood in the light of the Holy Ghost, but, like every thing else, they are hard to be understood in its absence (Journal of Discourses 1:349).
We beheld ourselves clearly, like looking a man seeing himself in a mirror. We could sense who we were, what our purpose was, what our responsibility was, and felt we could accomplish almost anything. But if we did not choose to act on those promptings to the best of our ability we go our way and forget, as it were, what we had seen when things were made plain by the Spirit. We must be hearers of the word, and doers, if we wish to keep the Spirit of God with us, and that is the promise we make each Sunday when we take the sacrament. If there is only one time during the week when we can see ourselves clearly, as though in a mirror, this is the time. You are given a promise when you partake of the bread and water; listen:
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them (Moroni 4:3; D&C 20:77).
Note that perfection here (as in strict obedience without any mistakes) is not mentioned in the prayer. Instead, we commit that we are willing. If we are truly willing, we will do the best we can, knowing the Holy Ghost has been promised to us to help guide our lives. But we must be doers. Joseph read the scripture in James, and acted on the prompting to seek God in prayer. Later he expressed his thoughts on being a 'doer,' and not a hearer only:

I made this my rule: when the Lord commands, do it (History of the Church, 2:170).

President Kimball concluded by charging the saints to do all they could to get the Temple completed, and remembered another saying Joseph Smith used to use:
Go to work, not only next spring, but now make preparations, and let us build a temple. What say you? I do not want you to say yes, unless you calculate to do it, but, as brother Joseph used to say, "Yankee doodle do it." Now go to work, and do the thing right up, and when next fall comes to pass, let us see the walls of the temple erected, and the roof on it. What say you? It is just as you say. No one man has the capacity and power to do it himself, but if you say it, and you will do it, there will be a temple next fall, with a roof upon it. Do you believe it? You do. You nod your heads; come, nod them a little lower still; none of your half winks here, but whole winks or nothing. We can do it just as easily as I have built a little house on the corner there. How do you feel, brethren? Do you feel, do it? Don't you say yes, or give me a half wink, without meaning it; but, as the girls say, give me a whole heart or nothing. I do not want you should have my heart, and I do not want you should have the hearts of my brethren, because if you have their hearts, they will do nothing for God or His cause. You know I talk just as I have a mind to, when I get up to talk here. Do you consider it sensible, that we go to work, and rear a temple to the name of the Lord, and have the roof on it next fall? Say? None of your half winks to me again; is it not reasonable to say, it cannot be done unless you do it? (JD 1:354-358).
Footnotes: [1] Heber C. Kimball was baptized into the Baptist Church in 1832, three weeks before hearing about the restoration at the home of his friend, Phineas Young, brother of Brigham Young, who had invited three missionaries in to teach the family. After several strong spiritual experiences Heber was baptised a member of the Church of Jesus Christ in April and ordained an elder. He served a short mission and marched with Zion's Camp in 1834 before he was called as one of the original apostles in the Quorum of the 12. He died on June 22, 1868 in Salt Lake City in a carriage accident. Among his posterity was his son J. Golden Kimball and grandson Spencer W. Kimball. [2] More on doing; Belief, testimony, is not enough: "A great many say, 'I believe the Gospel,' but continue to act wickedly, to do that which they know to be wrong. I wish you to fully understand that merely believing the Gospel, that Jesus is the Christ, in the Old and New Testaments, that Joseph Smith was a Prophet sent of God, and that the Book of Mormon is true, does not prepare you to become angels of light, sons and daughters of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ to a divine inheritance. Nor does mere belief entitle you to the possession of the crowns and thrones that you are anticipating. No, such preparation can be made, and such objects attained only by doing the work required of us by our Father in heaven, by obeying Him in all things, letting our will, dispositions, and feelings fall to our feet, to rise no more, from this time henceforth, and actually operating upon the principle that we will do the will of our Father in heaven, no matter what comes upon us. Then, if you are going to be killed by your enemies, or destroyed by the adversary, you can say, "Kill away, destroy away," (Brigham Young, JD 2:248). Grow in the knowledge of truth by doing: A man who wishes to receive light and knowledge, to increase in the faith of the Holy Gospel, and to grow in the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, will find that when he imparts knowledge to others he will also grow and increase. Be not miserly in your feelings, but get knowledge and understanding by freely imparting it to others, and be not like a man who selfishly hoards his gold; for that man will not thus increase upon the amount, but will become contracted in his views and feelings. So the man who will not impart freely of the knowledge he has received, will become so contracted in his mind that he cannot receive truth when it is presented to him. Wherever you see an opportunity to do good, do it, for that is the way to increase and grow in the knowledge of the truth (Brigham Young, JD 2:266).

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