By President W. Grant McMurray
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
The following is an edited transcript of remarks made by President W. Grant McMurray on Wednesday, March 31, when he returned to the conference chamber following the approval of his Words of Counsel to the Church as Section 162 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
I wish to express my deep appreciation to the Conference for your confidence and support, and far more importantly for your willingness to engage with me in the process of trying to discern God’s will for us as a people. I know discussion has continued for a number of hours and I am aware of some of the concerns and issues that have been lifted up. I hope you will indulge me just a moment or two to reflect on a few things that are on my heart.
First of all, I have had a few people say to me that they are sorry that it took so long. I want you to know with all my heart that I am not sorry. We share together in a very important and serious process and I do not underestimate for one moment the burden that places on me or the burden that places on you. It is part of the genius of this tradition that I love so much and that we honor in our coming together. We are called to stretch the limits of our understanding in what we sometimes call a theocratic-democratic tension. That’s been part of our tradition from the very beginning, and I rejoice in it.
What it means is that I have to struggle to truly understand and express God’s promptings, just as have those who have preceded me in this responsibility. But then your job is to struggle equally hard to discern whether that speaks to you and for the church. That is who we are. That is what we are about. I am eternally grateful to be a part of a church that is willing to engage together in that kind of prayerful exploration and search for truth.
I want to say something about words. Those of you who know me well know that I care very deeply about words. I work hard at how I express things, especially in written communication, because I think words are important. I’m thankful for those who edit what I write, but they usually know they are in for a battle with me because I am very particular about what goes into print. I care very much about words, but I also care about the spirit behind the words. Sometimes in trying to burrow deeply into the precise meaning of a phrase or a sentence or a paragraph, one loses the sense of what the words are really trying to communicate.
In that regard, let me make something perfectly clear. The One we follow is Jesus Christ—he who was born, lived on this earth, taught the gospel of love, embodied it in his very being, died for our sins, and was resurrected to live again in the hearts and souls of his disciples in both the first century and the twenty-first century. Let us be clear about that and not quibble about pronouns to the point that we fail to understand the truth and the spirit of the call that has come to the church to be followers of Jesus Christ. There is no confusion about whom we follow or what our mission is all about.
I also want to say something about the word “listen.” I have been confronted with that word over the past number of months as I have thought about the coming of this Conference. You may remember that in my sermon on Sunday night I quoted from Section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which begins, “Hearken O ye people of my church,” and proceeds to lay out the call to the church that stirred such passion in 1831. It is a familiar scripture, but I was struck forcefully by the phrase “listen together” in the opening sentence. I had never noticed it before, even though I had read it many times.
Frankly, I do not know whether I saw it this time when I first read that scripture in preparing my sermon or when I was preparing the document you have just considered. The scripture, the sermon, and the Words of Counsel interplayed with one another over recent weeks and I honestly do not know the time that it was first impressed upon me.
Listen together. The words came in 1831 but that is a message we need to hear in the year 2004 in a multicultural church of great diversity with people who from out of their own study and faith have arrived at a variety of different viewpoints about all kinds of issues. Listen together. I want to let you know how important it is for us to recognize that the body is sharing in a sacred calling, that building community is a sacred act, and that respecting and listening to one another in love is part of the call of discipleship in our time.
The last thing I want to say is that throughout this entire process, not least during the last two days but also in all of the preparation we have been going through, I have been filled with a renewed sense of my abundant love for our church and a powerful conviction of the call that comes again and again to this movement. I love who we have been. I honor, respect, and feel an enormous sense of allegiance to that tradition. I assure you that in my own ministry I will continue to bear witness to that to my very last days.
I also believe that the spirit of our movement calls us always to be open and receptive to where God would lead us. I do not pretend to know where God is going to take us. I do not know, but I do choose to trust in God and know that God will continue to bless us as we journey together.
My friends, I thank you for your support, but far more importantly I thank you for your willingness to risk, to explore, to pray, to think, and to talk with one another about the things that are on your heart. When the talking is over, I invite you to listen to the spirit of the counsel you have just considered. It urges us to listen and share, but then to get about the task to which we are called. Let us be engaged as disciples of the Lord Jesus in witnessing to our friends and neighbors, and sharing in works of love, peacemaking, and justice wherever we may go. Let us together be the church that we are called to be.