Some friends were extolling the virtues of the quality of the drinking water where they live. Utahns seem to be split on their water quality, while a buddy from the Pacific Northwest did his share of gloating. Being from Arizona, I had no defense for our drinking water. The best I can say is that it is unique, because it is kinda “crunchy.”
This discussion brought back a memory from my childhood that I hadn’t thought about in decades.
At the very back of our elementary school playground we had a large sand-covered play area with monkey bars and swings. They were great swings. We spent lots of time illegally jumping from them, as we took turns watching for the playground monitors.
As nice as the playground was, there was something behind the playground that was much more interesting: A gully. It was simply a little canyon that ran a hundred yards or so. It had a sandy floor, and walls covered with scrub oak and a variety of vegetation. If I were to see it now, it would probably seem pretty lame, but to us kids, it was an adventure land.
We were forbidden to enter the gully during school hours – a rule that we complied with most of the time. But as soon as school was over, that little gully became a great place to play hide-and-seek, have dirt clod battles, mud fights, or just a quiet place to hang out alone or with friends.
It was great and brings back mostly happy memories. (I do remember being on the receiving end of a particularly large mud ball to the face, but I digress.)
The best part of the gully was to be found at the very back, and was probably the reason that it even existed. Sticking out of the side of the gully was a single, exposed pipe. From that pipe flowed as small, steady trickle of water. Most of the time the flow was not strong enough to create a visible stream, but there was always enough flow for a growth of watercress to cover the hillside below the pipe.
We were told it was an artesian well – water naturally bubbling up from the aquifer. I don’t know who stuck the pipe in, making the water more accessible, but it worked.
And the water! The water was pure, clean and cold. It was perfect water, straight from the source. We would cup our hands and fill them, over and over again – a refreshing break from our serious playtime.
Here we are, 50 years later, and when a discussion about drinking water comes up, that water from the artesian well from the gully behind the elementary school in Bountiful, Utah is what pops into my mind as the best water I can remember.
It was pure, it was steady, and it was from the source.
I can’t help but draw an easy association with this supply of fresh, pure water and what I received last week from General Conference. For 10 hours I sat and listened to men and women, who have been called of God, as they provided a steady supply of light, truth and hope.
As we say in religious terms, they provided the “Living Water,” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
You might remember when Jesus was chatting with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well (A very different kind of well.) He mentioned this:
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? . . .
Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. [John 4:7–11, 13–14]
Elder David A. Bednar explained it this way: “The living water referred to in this episode is a representation of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. And as water is necessary to sustain physical life, so the Savior and His doctrines, principles, and ordinances are essential for eternal life. You and I need His living water daily and in ample supply to sustain our ongoing spiritual growth and development.” (link)
For me, when I am prepared, General Conference is a wellspring of Living Water that strengthens me, and brings me closer to the source of truth. There are times where I can feel my mind and heart being refreshed as I listen to the counsel of the Lord’s servants.
But not everyone feels this way. Some watch conference and walk away angry, disheartened or accusatory. How we react to General Conference, and the teachings of the prophets in general, comes down to one specific thing: Do we believe in one verse of scripture, or not? Because that one verse makes all the difference. Here is that one verse:
“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, IT IS THE SAME.” (D&C 1:38) (emphasis added)
That is the question.
Do we believe that the Prophets speak for the Lord, and if so, do we see it as the same?
If I don’t think that the prophets speak for the Savior, and represent a conduit for the Lord to share His will with His Church, then everything gets a little messy.
Personally, if I didn’t have a testimony that the Lord speaks through His prophets, I’m sure I wouldn’t be doing this. Being a member of the Church would seem like a colossal waste of time. For me, this would be a very difficult faith to embrace if this specific element were in doubt.
But it’s not, and I do have that specific testimony, I know from both experience and the Spirit that the Lord speaks through prophets. From Joseph Smith through to Russel M. Nelson, the Lord has had His prophets leading the way, and representing Him as a conduit for pure, living water.
Knowing this alters the way I look at things. Sometimes a policy or change will be announced that I think is stupid. (Gasp!) BUT, as I approach things with a foundational faith in D&C 1:38, I am able to accept what happens, even if I don’t like, or even agree with what happens. I figure I need to examine my heart and figure out why I disagree.
That is why you don’t see me protesting in front of Temple Square, or demanding changes or even apologies from the Church leadership. My faith gives me pause, and allows me to give the Lord’s servants the benefit of the doubt – as I would give Jesus the benefit of the doubt.
My experience – which cannot be contested – has taught me that I am always blessed when I follow the counsel of the living prophet. If we accept that the Lord runs His church the way He wants to, and the leaders that are in place are standing in for Him,AND that we accept them as Him. There would be so much less grumbling, unhappiness and apostasy, and the outlook for personal and collective spiritual growth would be enhanced. Life would also be better for those leaders as well.
Blind faith? (Chuckle) Hardly. This is the hard-won, eyes-wide-open kind of faith.
Here’s the thing: Anyone who wants to find out if the Lord’s servants speak for His, they CAN find out. Through obedience, and through he Holy Ghost.
If we want to know the “truth of all things” we need to ask. (Moroni 10:5)
We also need to respond positively to those things the Lord’s servants ask of us, if we ever hope to know of their truth. Obedience brings truth, understanding and testimony. If we have these things, we are less likely to be told what Christ told Paul: “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:5)
Being a member of the Church is vastly easier if we can attain a testimony of D&C 1:38. That single thing can turn strife into refreshment, doubt into faith, and contention to peace.
Here’s what the Lord has promised us: “But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.” (D&C 63:23)
If you desire that Living Water, come and get it! It is here waiting – or if you would like, the Savior will even deliver it to your home.