Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917-2008), Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

The sparrow flying into a hurricane may believe that he can successfully navigate the storm, but the unforgiving natural law will convince him otherwise in the end.

Are we wiser than the sparrow? Often what passes for faith in this world is little more than gullibility. It is distressing to see how eager some people are to embrace fads and theories while rejecting or giving less credence and attention to the everlasting principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is distressing how eagerly some rush into foolish or unethical behavior, believing that God will somehow deliver them from the inevitable tragic consequences of their actions. They even go so far as to ask for the blessings of heaven, knowing in their hearts that what they do is contrary to the will of our Father in Heaven.

How do we know when our faith conforms to the will of our Heavenly Father and He approves of that which we seek? We must know the word of God. One of the reasons we immerse ourselves in the scriptures is to know of Heavenly Father’s dealings with man from the beginning. If the desires of our heart are contrary to scripture, then we should not pursue them further.

Next, we must heed the counsel of latter-day prophets as they give inspired instruction.

Additionally, we must ponder and pray and seek the guidance of the Spirit. If we do so, the Lord has promised, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.”

Only when our faith is aligned with the will of our Heavenly Father will we be empowered to receive the blessings we seek.

Truly understood and properly practiced, faith is one of the grand and glorious powers of eternity. It is a force powerful beyond our comprehension. “Through faith … the worlds were framed by the word of God.” Through faith, waters are parted, the sick healed, the wicked silenced, and salvation made possible.

Our faith is the foundation upon which all our spiritual lives rest. It should be the most important resource of our lives. Faith is not so much something we believe; faith is something we live.

Remember the words of the Savior: “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.”

Those who walk in faith will feel their lives encompassed with the light and blessings of heaven. They will understand and know things that others cannot. Those who do not walk in faith esteem the things of the Spirit as foolishness, for the things of the Spirit can only be discerned by the Spirit.

The manifestations of heaven are sealed from the understanding of those who do not believe. “For if there be no faith among the children of men,” Moroni tells us, “God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith.”

Yet throughout history, even in times of darkness there were those who, through eyes of faith, pierced the darkness and beheld things as they truly are. Moroni reveals that “there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong … [they] could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.”

Our homes should be havens of faith. Mothers and fathers should teach the principles of faith to their children.
Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Shall He Find Faith on the Earth?” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 82

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declares boldly that through another type of window, the windows of heaven, we can access spiritual information from the Source of light and truth. “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” In this dispensation of the fulness of times, the revelation superhighway has been carrying heavy traffic of eternal truth ever since that day in the spring of 1820 when the Lord answered a farm boy’s fervent prayer in the Sacred Grove and ushered in the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are blessed to live in these, the latter days, when a loving Heavenly Father has called a great leader, President Gordon B. Hinckley, as prophet, seer, and revelator. Through him, the Lord opens windows of revelation to guide and bless all of our Father’s children who will heed the words of the prophet. Today, as in ancient times, God opens windows of gospel light and truth by revealing “his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Those who have “eyes to see, and ears to hear” can learn eternal principles; view majestic vistas of knowledge, foresight, and wisdom; and receive direction on how to live their lives.

If we configure our hearts and minds properly with faith, disciplined obedience, prayer, and scripture study, we can access the network of divine and eternal truths. We can receive the teachings and counsel of God’s prophet, opening to us knowledge and revelation from our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

The Lord counsels us to become skilled in using these spiritual windows so we can seek and receive personal revelation for ourselves and our families. When the storms of life leave us confused, the windows of revelation can guide us safely home to our Heavenly Father. If we should yield to temptations of the adversary and find ourselves weakened spiritually, inspired bishops and other caring leaders can open the windows of revelation to provide spiritual direction. Well-prepared and inspired missionaries can open the windows of heaven to enlighten those “who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.”

The windows of heaven are open wide to the faithful and righteous; nothing closes them faster than disobedience. The unworthy cannot access fully the network of revealed truth. “The powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.” “Obedience is the first law of heaven.” That is why Alma exhorted us to “be humble, … submissive and … diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times.”

To open the windows of heaven, we must conform our will to God’s will. Diligent, enduring obedience to God’s laws is the key that opens the windows of heaven. Obedience enables us to be receptive to the mind and will of the Lord. “The Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient” are those who receive the blessings of revelation through the open windows of heaven.
Our Heavenly Father opened the windows of heaven and gave his children the Word of Wisdom to warn against consuming substances that can damage and destroy our physical bodies. He likewise has, through prophets, cautioned against consuming the steady diet of evil that is offered relentlessly in today’s media, especially magazines, movies, videocassettes, video games, and television. The windows of computer monitors and television screens can bring to us very useful information, but they can also bring information that is evil, degrading, and destructive.

The Lord has warned repeatedly against the evils and designs of conspiring men in our day who would enslave us to our appetites and passions by tempting and tantalizing us with obscene images, words, and music. Through his servants the Lord has cautioned us strongly not to take into our minds thoughts that can harm our spirits.

Since 1950, Church leaders speaking in general conference have counseled us some seventy-five times against unhealthy media consumption. In recent years, as standards of public decency and morality have declined and as public media have reflected and often led that decline, these words of loving concern from inspired shepherds of the Lord’s flock have come with more frequency and greater urgency. The watchmen on the tower have raised a warning voice.

I add my own voice. I suggest that we pay greater heed to voices of warning that our Father in Heaven has raised against the forces of Satan that come so easily and so pervasively into our homes through the media. I think of all the words of counsel and direction that we have received on this matter as constituting collectively a “word of wisdom for the mind.” Just as we exercise great care about what we take into our bodies through our mouths, we should exert a similar vigilance about what we take into our minds through our eyes and ears.

The gift of the Holy Ghost may be likened to a sure, personal compass to provide lifesaving vision, wisdom, and insight as a spiritual window. The Holy Ghost gives us clear guidance and direction in a world of unanchored faith. President James E. Faust expressed his assuring testimony that “the Spirit of the Holy Ghost is the greatest guarantor of inward peace in our unstable world. … It will calm nerves; it will breathe peace to our souls. … It can enhance our natural senses so that we can see more clearly, hear more keenly, and remember what we should remember. It is a way of maximizing our happiness.”
Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Windows of Light and Truth,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 75

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Recently on the island of Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands, Sister Wirthlin and I passed by two very large trees that the wind had blown down and uprooted. These huge trees had extremely shallow roots. I wondered if they would have survived the winds and storms if their roots had been deeper. Relatively mild gusts of wind blow some trees down. Graceful palm trees, for example, are lovely to look at but will not stand up in a heavy wind because they are not well anchored. Contrast this with giant oak trees that have deep root systems that can extend two and one-half times their height. Such trees rarely are blown down regardless of how violent the storms may be.

Faithful members of the Church should be like oak trees and should extend deep roots into the fertile soil of the fundamental principles of the gospel. We should understand and live by the simple, basic truths and not complicate them. Our foundations should be solid and deep-rooted so we can withstand the winds of temptation, false doctrine, adversity, and the onslaught of the adversary without being swayed or uprooted. Members whose roots are only at the surface of the gospel need to sink them deeper until they reach the bedrock below the soft topsoil.

Spiritual nourishment is just as important as a balanced diet to keep us strong and healthy. We nourish ourselves spiritually by partaking of the sacrament weekly, reading the scriptures daily, praying daily in personal and family prayer, and performing temple work regularly. Our spiritual strengths are like batteries; they need to be charged and frequently recharged.
Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Deep Roots,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 75

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What a great responsibility rests with parents to be certain that they do nothing to alter or destroy the guileless innocence of their little ones!

I believe the necessity for the members of the Church to be without guile may be more urgent now than at other times because many in the world apparently do not understand the importance of this virtue or are indifferent to it. We see and hear reports of fraud and deception in all levels of our society. A few citizens of some nations betray their country by exchanging sensitive information for money, information they have stolen or with which they have been entrusted. The entertainment industry seems to have lost, in large measure, the concept of moral values. Employees falsify expense accounts. These few examples of guile illustrate how pervasive it is.

Of far greater concern than the outward acts of guile are the inner feelings and the attitudes that motivate them. Fraud and deception appear to be increasingly acceptable; the only wrongdoing seems to be in being caught. The objective often is to get gain or to profit, regardless of the injury, loss, or damage to others. This attitude is totally contrary to the principles of the gospel. It hinders or thwarts the spiritual progress of anyone afflicted by it. The practice of guile prevents the Holy Ghost from prompting, guiding, and instructing us, leaving us ever more susceptible to the buffetings of Satan. When we break the commandments, we close ourselves to God’s influence and open ourselves to Satan’s influence.

If we practice guile in small matters, we soon can find ourselves entangled in an ever-increasing, unending spiral, because each lie or other deception often requires a larger one to cover the first. Moreover, the practice of guile often leads to hypocrisy, which is the false pretense of virtue or righteousness and pretending to be something that we are not. If we know what is right and profess to live by that knowledge but, in fact, do not, we are hypocrites. The Savior denounced hypocrites in unmistakable language. He declared:

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of … all uncleanness.

“Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matt. 23:27-28).

To the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed: “Wo unto them that are deceivers and hypocrites, for, thus saith the Lord, I will bring them to judgment. …

“[They] shall be detected and shall be cut off, … and wo unto them who are cut off from my church, for the same are overcome of the world” (D&C 50:6, 8).

What are the Latter-day Saints to do? The answer is plain. The Saints are to be absolutely without guile in every aspect of their lives: in their homes and families, Church callings, all business dealings, and, especially, the private and personal parts of their lives into which only they and the Lord see.

I suggest that we look into our hearts and see whether our motives and actions are pure and above reproach and to see whether we are free of deceit and fraud.
Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Without Guile,” Ensign, May 1988, 80