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Elder Dallin H. Oaks Addresses Saints in Georgia

By David Winters
ROSWELL, GEORGIA -- November 19, 2001 -- Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed Latter-day Saints in the Roswell Stake Conference sessions on November 17-18 in Roswell, Georgia. Elder Oaks covered a wide range of topics as he counseled members of the stake during the leadership and general sessions of the conference.

"I have been coming to this part of the world for 43 years – as a lawyer, then as a university president, and now as an Apostle," Elder Oaks declared. "This is a choice land. There are great, God-fearing people in Georgia. And it is our blessing to share with them the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

During a leadership session, Elder Oaks facilitated a discussion on how members of the stake could increase their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In a session to members of the ward and stake councils, he discussed the importance of tithing. Quoting Malachi chapter 3, Elder Oaks declared that entire nations are blessed as their citizens pay tithes. He challenged church members to share their testimonies of tithing with their families and with one another.

In the general session held Sunday morning, Elder Oaks posed the following question: "Suppose a servant of the Lord said that the Lord had come and that you were invited to meet him at 9:00 PM that evening. What would you do between now and then to prepare for that meeting?" Elder Oaks then challenged the Saints to think what might need straightening out in their lives. "There is not an inexhaustible amount of time. This is the time to make amends with our fellowmen. This is the time to serve. This is the time to teach the children what God expects us to teach them…. This is the time to share the gospel message with our friends and neighbors. This is the time."

Elder Oaks also discussed a question he has received again and again over the years. "We are often asked, 'How is this church different?' Since we have some that are here who are not members of our church, and some new members whom I met prior to this meeting…I would like to answer that question…. I say our church is complete. It is complete -- and here are some of the measures of completeness. We have temples. Ancient Israel had temples. There was a temple in Jesus’ time. He honored it; he went there to teach. Where are the temples today in Christianity? There aren’t any except in this church. Why not? In temples we perform ordinances for those who are dead. We are the only Christian denomination that does that. Baptism for the dead was a practice following Jesus. It was known by the people of that day. It was so familiar that the Apostle Paul used that as an argument for the resurrection, in teaching people the resurrection. ‘Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?’ (1 Corinthians 15:29). Where is that teaching in Christianity today? Christianity today is incomplete. There was a falling away – a loss. [There was] a loss of gospel understanding, a loss of priesthood authority – and that had to be restored. There is nothing unique about that. It happened after Adam, and Noah had to restore gospel understanding. It happened after Noah, and Abraham had to restore gospel understanding. It happened after Abraham, and Moses had to restore gospel understanding. And it happened after Moses and Jesus, coming to fulfill prophecy in the meridian of time, he restored the fullness of the gospel and preached it…. What this church has that makes it different is a fullness of the gospel. A revealed understanding of the way God organized his Church for the growth of his children."

He counseled the youth of the stake to not defile their bodies. He declared, "One of the things the Apostle Paul said to the saints in Corinth in one of his great letters ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are’ (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Our bodies are temples. A temple is the most sacred thing on the face of the earth. We have a temple of bricks and mortar that we dedicate to the Lord….But each of us has in the wonderful body that God has created something that is also called a temple. Now would anyone in this audience take a can of spray paint and go over and put graffiti on the House of the Lord? That would be a defilement of the temple … [and a] very evil act. None of us would dream of doing that. Now, Paul warned us against defiling our own temple. We can defile a temple by unrighteous acts, but we can also defile our temple by marking it up. And here I want to say something to young people: don’t get tattoos. Is that plain enough? God gave you that body. He didn’t give it to you to paint up…. But there are a lot more serious things, young people, to defile your body than to get a tattoo. Don’t take things into your bodies that defile it. Stay away from drugs. Stay away from alcohol. Stay away from tobacco. Stay away from things that addict you – that take away part of that wonderful power of choice that God gave to his children…. Young people, stay away [from those things] and be grateful that God has given us commandments that protect us…. If we defile ourselves with substances, if we defile ourselves with transgressions, the spirit of the Lord leaves and we no longer have [the Spirit] to guide us."

In every session, Elder Oaks closed with his personal testimony of the Savior. "I testify to you that this is His church. I testify of Christ who is our Savior. Because of His resurrection we have the certainty of immortality --- that is a gift to everyone…. But there is more than immortality. There is eternal life – the greatest of all the gifts of God, the glory of the sun, the potential to have the ‘stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:13) as the Bible says. I testify to you that that gift is available through the doctrine and the authority in this church. And I pray God will bless us, that we may follow the teachings of the Book of Mormon prophet Benjamin [who declared in Mosiah 4:10], ‘Now if ye believe these things, see that ye do them.’"