Beware of “stumbling blocks” that prevent people from realizing eternal life with Heavenly Father, warned Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Stumbling blocks impede belief and understanding, he explained. They might be sins — or anything else that distracts one from achieving righteous goals.
“We cannot afford to have our testimonies of the Father and the Son become confused and complicated by stumbling blocks. We cannot fall into that trap. Our testimonies of Them need to remain pure and simple.”
Elder Cook identified three common stumbling blocks that can “confuse and complicate” one's pure and simple testimony of the Father and the Son.
Stumbling block #1 — The philosophies of men
There is great value in acquiring learning and intelligence. “But we also know the preferred strategy of the adversary is to lead people away from God and cause them to stumble by emphasizing the philosophies of men over the Savior and His teachings.”
The Great Apostasy occurred, in part, because the philosophies of men were elevated over Christ's basic essential doctrine. Instead of the simplicity of the Savior's message, many plain and precious truths were changed or lost.
“Historically, and in our own day, some people reject the gospel of Jesus Christ because in their view it doesn’t have adequate intellectual sophistication,” he said.
Elder Cook noted that the influence of Christianity in the United States and many other countries has been significantly reduced. “Without religious beliefs there is no feeling of accountability to God. Accordingly, it is hard to establish universal values about how to live. Philosophies which are deeply held often conflict with each other.”
Some members “lose their bearings” and become influenced by the “cause of the moment.”
Elder Cook shared a quote about such stumbling blocks from Elder Neal A. Maxwell: “Much sifting will occur because of lapses in righteous behavior which go un-repented of. A few will give up instead of holding out to the end. A few will be deceived by defectors. Likewise, others will be offended, for sufficient unto each dispensation are the stumbling blocks thereof.”
Stumbling block #2 — Refusing to see sin in its true light
“One of the unique and troubling aspects of our day is that many people engage in sinful conduct, but refuse to consider it sinful. They have no remorse or willingness to acknowledge their conduct as being morally wrong.”
As Alma taught his son Corianton, “Justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved” (Alma 42:24).
Through repentance, he reminded, the “remarkable and celestial blessing” of the Savior's Atonement can overcome the stumbling block of sinful conduct.
Stumbling block #3 — Looking beyond the mark
Extremism is a contemporary example of “looking beyond the mark.”
“Gospel extremism is when one elevates any gospel principle above other equally important principles and takes a position that is beyond or contrary to the teachings of Church leaders,” said Elder Cook. “One example is when one advocates for additions, changes, or primary emphasis to one part of the Word of Wisdom. Another is expensive preparation for 'end of days scenarios.' In both examples others are encouraged to accept private interpretations.”
Additionally, some members elevate causes — many of which are good — to a status superior to basic gospel doctrine.
“They substitute their devotion to the cause as their first commitment and relegate their commitment to the Savior and His teachings to a secondary position. If we elevate anything above our devotion to the Savior, if our conduct recognizes Him as just another teacher and not the divine Son of God, then we are looking beyond the mark.
“Jesus Christ is the mark.”
Look always for “stepping stones” that improve lives and ennoble character.
“Being valiant in our testimony of Jesus is a stepping stone towards qualifying for the Savior’s grace and the Celestial Kingdom,” he concluded. “ Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven by which we may be saved.”