Change in human nature brought through teachings of the Savior

"Human nature cannot be changed by reforming public policy; that kind of change comes by exposing the human mind and heart to the transforming teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ," according to Elder Russell M. Nelson.

Elder Nelson of the Council of the Twelve represented the Church at the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions, which met in Chicago Aug. 28-Sept. 5. (See article about the parliament on this page.) Elder Nelson delivered his address on Sept. 2.In introductory remarks, Elder Nelson spoke of his background as a medical doctor specializing in the teaching, research and practice of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery before he was called in 1984 to the Council of the Twelve. He reflected that during his medical career he learned to distinguish between the physical and spiritual components of the human soul.

"A patient could be physically weak but spiritually strong, and vice versa," he noted. He said he watched on many occasions the critically ill mobilize great spiritual strength in order to undergo a high-risk operation to correct a physical problem within the heart. In contrast, he saw individuals without physical abnormality who were seriously ill because of spiritual loss of heart.

He said he has visited approximately 100 nations where he has observed the physical and spiritual dualism of life on a broader scale. Speaking of examples in the world of the same kind of physical and spiritual disparity that he earlier had encountered in his medical profession, he said:

"I have observed that if a great physical disaster should strike, such as a devastating earthquake or flood, people are motivated spiritually by an uncommon desire to help one another. . . . Fortunately, such major disasters are rare. But unfortunately, when normal life resumes, the pendulum seems to swing from spiritual vitality to laxity. It is ironic that as affluence and physical comforts increase, spiritual strength declines. This observation has prompted the title for my message: `Combating Spiritual Drift - Our Global Pandemic.' Reversing this crisis in the health of the human spirit is an enormous challenge."

Elder Nelson said that in the century since the last meeting of the Parliament of the World's Religions there have been notable advances in virtually every field of human endeavor, such as transportation, communication, commerce, agriculture, medicine, science and electronics. "But spiritual progress has lagged behind," he said. "We see increasing ethnic strife and hatred. Nationalism seems to be taking priority over brotherly love. Violence and civil wars are raging. Divorce and diminishing regard for the sanctity of human life have eroded the strength of the family - the basic unit of society. Immorality, infidelity, and promiscuity - once shunned - are now tolerated and even condoned. We have witnessed the insidious intrusion of pornography, with its attendant denigration of the human soul. And gambling, which preys upon the poor and the compulsive, has crept from the realm of the illegal into the arena of government sponsorship."

He said while the religions of the world have done much good, there is a need to analyze past activity and note any efforts that might have been inadequate, misdirected, or even counterproductive.

"The dismal dusk of today's spiritual drift provides a rare opportunity for the radiance of religion to light the way to a new tomorrow. This can happen only as we proclaim eternal truths that have the power to engender spiritual strength."

Elder Nelson said the delegates to the parliament in Chicago represented many religious persuasions. "Because there is much that is praiseworthy in each of our faiths, it is important for us to maintain the integrity of our religious institutions and to preserve tolerance of each other's sacred beliefs," he noted.

Elder Nelson devoted the major portion of his address to explaining the institution and the doctrine of the Church. He presented a brief background of the Church, explained that it functions with a lay ministry, and gave a summary of beliefs. In the 10-statement summary, he said "We believe:

"1. In God the Eternal Father and in His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

"2. Prophets lived in days of the Old Testament, and they again live in modern times. Joseph Smith was the prophet chosen to lead this present era - the dispensation of the fulness of times.

"3. Sacred scriptures include the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.

"4. Priesthood authority has been restored to the earth.

"5. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind may be saved. Repentance and obedience to His commandments are vital to personal progress.

"6. The Savior's command to go into all the world and preach the gospel unto every creature constitutes the commission for our missionary work.

"7. The greatest blessings in this life may be obtained through ordinances performed in holy temples. Marriages solemnized by the authority therein unite couples and their children not only for this life but for all eternity as well.

"8. Care of the poor and the needy and service to others are privileges and religious responsibilities.

"9. Each individual existed as a premortal spirit and will live after death as a resurrected being. The possibility of eternal glory with our loved ones in the presence of Deity inspires obedience to God's commandments.

"10. The purpose of our creation is that we might have eternal joy, both as individuals and as families."

Elder Nelson then said: "While implementing these and other important precepts, the Church is tolerant of all faith groups, claiming for itself no right or privilege that it would deny to others. It affirms itself to be Christ's church of old, re-established anew."

Elder Nelson concluded his presentation by introducing a group of Primary children from wards in the Chicago area. The 31 children, representing a variety of ethnic backgrounds, sang "I Am a Child of God." Elder Nelson said that the children, in singing the song, acknowledged the Fatherhood of God and demonstrated the brotherhood of all mankind.

Elder Nelson's address was significant not only in terms of his speaking, but also in the fact that his teachings of the basic tenets of the Church, emphasizing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, will become part of the historical record of the parliament with a potential reading audience of hundreds of thousands.

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