The Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart and core and center of revealed religion.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie Christ and the Creation

Last summer I attended the funeral of an elect lady. One speaker described three of her great qualities: loyalty, obedience, and faith. As he elaborated on her life, I thought how appropriate it was to speak of such powerful qualities in a funeral tribute. A life is not a trivial thing, and its passing should not be memorialized with trivial things. A funeral service is a time to speak of powerful ideas—ideas that can appropriately stand beside the importance of life, ideas that are powerful in their influence on those who remain behind.

As I enjoyed the spirit of this inspiring funeral, my thoughts were directed toward the application of this principle in other settings. Parents should also teach powerful ideas. So should home teachers, visiting teachers, and the teachers in various classes. The Savior warned that we will be judged for “every idle word that [we] shall speak” (Matt. 12:36). Modern revelation commands us to cease from “light speeches” and “light-mindedness” (D&C 88:121) and to cast away “idle thoughts” and “excess of laughter” (D&C 88:69). There are plenty of other spokesmen for trivial things. Latter-day Saints should be constantly concerned with teaching and emphasizing those great and powerful eternal truths that will help us find our way back to the presence of our Heavenly Father.

. . . .

It is surprisingly easy to take what should be our first devotion and subordinate it to other priorities. Fifty years ago, the Christian philosopher C. S. Lewis illustrated that tendency with an example that is distressingly applicable in our own day. In his book The Screwtape Letters, a senior devil explains how to corrupt Christians and frustrate the work of Jesus Christ. One letter explains how any “extreme devotion” can lead Christians away from the Lord and the practice of Christianity. Lewis gives two examples, extreme patriotism or extreme pacifism, and explains how either “extreme devotion” can corrupt its adherent.

“Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the ‘cause,’ in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war effort or of pacifism. … Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing” (C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, rev. ed., New York: MacMillan, 1982, p. 35).

We can readily see that tendency in our own time, with many causes that are good in themselves but become spiritually corrupting when they assume priorities ahead of him who commanded, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Jesus Christ and his work come first. Anything that would use him or his kingdom or his church as a means to an end serves the cause of the adversary.

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During his ministry [the Apostle Paul] was exposed to ample light-mindedness, idle thoughts, and trivial things. In Athens he observed that “all the Athenians and strangers which were there [in the market] spent their time in nothing else, but … to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). Paul’s determination to focus on powerful ideas is evident in one of his letters to the Saints in Corinth. He had not come “with excellency of speech or of wisdom,” he reminded them. “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1–2).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Powerful Ideas, General Conference, October, 1995

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