"Tis Not Vain to Serve the Lord"
Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, April 1952, pp. 20-24
I pray for the Spirit of the Lord to accompany my remarks. My brothers and sisters, my heart goes out to you who are attempting to live the commandments of the Lord. The "strength of the hills" is with you.
It is a great joy to me, and my heart is overflowing with gratitude, to shake your hands, to look into your smiling faces, and to feel your spirit.
We heard this morning that seventeen thousand newly converted people are today enjoying the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, are pointed in the right direction, and are on their way toward eternal life and exaltation. Ten thousand foreign and stake missionaries have been instrumental in bringing the message to them. These new members are here because these thousands have borne witness and testimony to them.
To all the millions of good, honorable people who live among us, we extend an invitation to investigate the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation ( Rom. 1:16) and to exaltation. It is the pearl of greatest price ( Matt. 13:46). It is the most glorious, the most far-reaching, the most wonderful program in the world. It is not conceived by men, but is conceived by God, our Eternal Father.
Sometime ago a sister said to me "Why is it, Brother Kimball, that those who do the least in the building of the kingdom seem to prosper most? We drive a Ford; our neighbors drive a Cadillac. We observe the Sabbath and attend our meetings; they play golf, hunt, fish, and play. We abstain from the forbidden while they eat, drink, and are merry and are unrestrained. We pay much as tithing and for other Church donations; they have their entire large income to lavish upon themselves. We are tied home with our large family of small children, often ill; they are totally free for social life—to dine and to dance. We wear cottons and woolens, and I wear a three-season coat, but they wear silks and costly apparel, and she wears a mink coat. Our meager income is always strained and never seems adequate for necessities, while their wealth seems inexhaustible and wholly adequate for every luxury obtainable. And yet the Lord promises blessings to the faithful! It seems to me that it does not pay to live the gospel—that the proud ( Mal. 3:15) and the covenant breakers are the ones who prosper."
Then I said to her: "As I remember, Job in his great distress made a statement which parallels yours."
But Job answered [Zophar] and said . . . Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?
Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes.
Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.
Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth and casteth not her calf.
They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance . . .
They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.
Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.
What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have if we pray unto him? ( Job 21:1,7-11,13-15).
And the Prophet Jeremiah asked the same question:
Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? . . .
How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? ( Jer. 12:1,4).
And again Malachi quotes the Lord as saying:
Your words have been stout against me saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?
Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?
And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up, yea they that tempt God are even delivered ( Mal. 3:13-15).
The parable of the wheat and tares is the Lord's answer:
. . . The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn ( Matt. 13:24-30).
And the interpretation of the parable given by the Lord himself makes clear that the books are not balanced daily but at the harvest-time. The time of reckoning is as sure as is the passage of time and the coming of eternity. All who live shall eventually stand before the bar of God to be judged according to their works. The final assignments will constitute rewards and punishments according to deserts. Read Malachi further:
Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.
And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not ( Mal. 3:16-18).
For behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings . . . ( Mal. 4:1-2).
The Lord admonishes his servants to remain faithful always and:
Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come . . .
But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming;
And shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;
The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth ( Matt. 24:42,48-51).
And the Prophet Zephaniah interprets the way of the Lord:
And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles [speaking for the Lord], and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.
Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof.
The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.
That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness . . .
And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.
Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy ( Zeph. 1:12-15,17-18).
Then I said to the disconsolate sister, "You have many blessings today. For many rewards you need not wait until the judgment day. You have your family of lovely children. What a rich reward for the so-called sacrifices! The great boon of motherhood is yours. With your limitations, a great peace can fill your soul. These and numerous other blessings which you enjoy cannot be purchased with all your neighbor's wealth."
Then I reminded her of the parable of the net and the fishes:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:
Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.
So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,
And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth ( Matt. 13:47-50).
No one will escape the reward of his deeds. No one will fail to receive the blessings earned. Again the parable of the sheep and goats gives us assurance that there will be total justice.
When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal ( Matt. 25:31-34,41,46).
If we can walk now by faith, if we can believe in the rich promises of God, if we can obey and patiently wait, the Lord will fulfil all his rich promises to us:
. . . Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him ( 1 Cor. 2:9).
The blessings following righteousness are enjoyed both in mortality and in eternity. Hear the words of the Savior:
And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life ( Matt. 19:29).
And ponder upon the great promises made for us even in this life:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.
And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts ( Mal. 3:10-12).
Extravagant rewards are offered. Blessings beyond one's understanding will come. The land will yield bounteously and peace shall abound. The unfaithful, proud, and wealthy can never enjoy the sweet savor of the rewards for fasting and dispensing to the poor:
Then [if you live these commandments] shall thy light break forth as the morning and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward.
Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am . . .
. . . then shall thy light rise in obscurity and thy darkness be as the noon day:
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not ( Isa. 58:8-11).
What more could one ask? The companionship of the Lord, light and knowledge, health and vigor, constant guidance by the Lord as an eternal never-failing spring. What more could one desire?
Again rich promises:
And [they] shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen ( D&C 89:19-21).
Think of it! Knowledge—strength—physical vigor and immunity from the destroying angel! Remember also that here comes protection from that more deadly destruction:
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell ( Matt. 10:28).
But the Lord knows the weakness of men, and he says in the 58th section of the Doctrine and Covenants:
I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.
Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above ( D&C 58:32-33).
The Lord promises again:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him ( James 1:5).
Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory ( D&C 76:6).
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you ( Matt. 6:33).
To those who live for tomorrow, the rewards are beyond their conception. And even though some of the blessings are for future enjoyment, is it not far better to enjoy the spiritual luxuries of tomorrow, which is an eternity, rather than to revel in the physical comforts of today?
Peace, joy, satisfaction, happiness, growth, contentment, all come with the righteous living of the commandments of God. The one who delights in all of the worldly luxuries of today, at the expense of spirituality, is living but for the moment. His day is coming. Retribution is sure.
The Lord gave us the impressive parable of the prodigal son ( Luke 15:11-32). This squanderer lived but for today. He spent his life in riotous living. He disregarded the commandments of God. His inheritance was expendable, and he spent it. He was never to enjoy it again as it was irretrievably gone. No quantity of tears or regrets or remorse could bring it back. Even though his father forgave him and dined him and clothed him and kissed him, he could not give back to the profligate son that which had been dissipated. But the other brother who had been faithful, loyal, righteous, constant, retained his inheritance, and the father reassured him: "All that I have is thine" ( Luke 15:31).
When one realizes the vastness, the richness, the glory of that "all" which the Lord promises to bestow upon his faithful, it is worth all it costs in patience, faith, sacrifice, sweat and tears. The blessings of eternity contemplated in this "all" bring to men immortality and everlasting life, eternal growth, divine leadership, eternal increase, perfection, and with it all—Godhood.
May God bless us all that we may live his commandments more faithfully, more perfectly day by day, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.