Sunday, April 12, 2015


It may have been that the teaching experiences I had while serving on my mission in Mexico as a young man were too easy and too free of contention. Because when Kathleen and I were involved with the teaching of the restored gospel to our friends the Beattys, there arose an abundance of discord in the process.

I hasten to say that it was not the Beattys who were contentious, but some well-meaning friends from their previous church who felt a need to attend a few of the discussions and put forth challenges whether they were needed or not.

Interestingly, after their baptism Bruce Beatty confided with me that one of the reasons he and his wife had been moved to pray about the truthfulness of the gospel which had been restored through Joseph Smith was the difference in the demeanor which accompanied the teaching of the principles which Kathleen and I brought forth and those which came from their friends who were trying to save them from ‘the worst decision they could possibly make’.

Before pursuing the main ideas of this week’s Thought, I want to relate some of the events which led to the conversion of Augustine, he who is most often referred to as Saint Augustine. What follows is taken from History of Christianity by LaTourette and Augustine’s own work, Confessions.

As a youth Augustine was given Christian instruction. His father was a pagan and did not receive baptism until he was on his death bed. His mother did not have Augustine baptized because, accepting the belief that baptism washed away sin committed before it was administered, she wished him to defer it until after the heat of youth was passed and with it the excesses of that ardent age.

In his teens he took a concubine, who, before he was eighteen, bore him a son. Dissatisfied with his inherited faith, he tried Manichaeism, but he later abandoned it for the study of Neoplatonism.

At the age of thirty he went to Milan where he came under the influence of Ambrose who guided him to Christianity. His friends persuaded him to give up his concubine, with whom he had lived for eighteen years, and encouraged him to marry a young Christian girl.

While awaiting marriage, he took another concubine. Interestingly, during his early efforts to overcome the needs of the flesh, he prayed, ‘Give me chastity and continency, only not yet’.

Suffering from conscious moral self-disgust because of his inability to control his sexual desires, he rushed into the solitude of a garden to be alone with his struggles. In desperation he cried out to God:

“How long, Lord, wilt Thou be angry, forever? Remember not our former iniquities… So I was speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice… chanting, and oft repeating, ‘Take up and read; take up and read.’ Instantly my countenance altered… I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God, to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find… I seized, opened, and in silence read that section, on which my eyes first fell: ‘Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Romans 13: 13, 14) No further could I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.”

Influenced by his conversion experience, he came to the conclusion that man was totally impotent to effect any change in his behavior without the grace of Christ Jesus.

In the process of likening all things unto ourselves we often discover some interesting truths.

From the experience with the Beattys I came to the realization, that having been born, as was Nephi of old, of goodly parents who taught me in my youth, I had never learned the sweetness of the gospel by being able to compare it to bitter voices.

I was soon satisfied that a contrary influence into the process of conversion was not an essential element. In fact the scriptures seem to overwhelmingly confirm that our efforts should be concentrated on sincere seeking and avoidance of contention with others.

However, and probably even more importantly, when I became acquainted with the teachings of Augustine, I had to ask myself the source and power of my belief. Likewise, I had to wonder if the testimony I had was sufficient, since I wasn't sure my behavior had been dramatically altered.

Had I had that change described by the apostle Paul when he wrote to Timothy?

According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. And I thank Christ Jesus our lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. (1 Timothy 1: 11-16)

What was the pattern of my belief:

Did I believe because of the influence of my parents?

Did I believe because it was comforting and provided a very peaceful life?

Did I believe because the great majority of my social structure centered on my belief?

Did I believe and was my life different because of the consuming grace of Christ Jesus?

Even a cursory investigation of the first three queries immediately led to the obvious conclusion. These influences had definitely had their impact on who I am and who I am becoming.

However, I was soon to discover that the investigation of the latter, of the assisting grace from Christ, would require a lengthy study and tremendous effort.

(To be continued)

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