Mark Schultz - Ether 12:27 - Making Weak Things Strong
About 3 weeks ago brother Richardson called me and asked if I would speak today. To my surprise, I said yes! I have a love of the gospel but I get very nervous speaking in public. The assigned topic I was given is Ether 12:27 which talks about making weak things strong. If ever I needed a weakness to become strong it is now! I pray I can give the message I have prepared today. When I get in front of a group like this my nerves get the best of me and my mind goes blank.
A little about me. We have been in this ward (congregation) for about 25 years. This congregation has changed a lot over time and I am sure many of you may not know too much about me. I was born in Southern California and grew up in Azusa. It’s about an hour away at the other end of the 605 freeway. Our house was right on the foothills and that was my playground. A half a block up the street was a dirt road that went into the mountains. I hiked, explored, shot BB guns at lizards, you name it, anything we could imagine we did. I love riding dirt bikes and doing all sorts of outdoor activities. I love hiking and just being in the outdoors. I was born and raised in the church. I served a mission in the Philippines, Davao mission. I loved the time I spent on my mission. When I served there were only 4 missions in the Philippines. They were all English speaking. Today there are 23 missions and the missionaries teach in the native language. The church has really grown in the Philippines. I am very mechanically inclined. Out of high school, I worked in a machine shop. I started out by sweeping the floors. I looked for every opportunity to work on the machines. I picked up machining quickly. I was doing quite well. I told my boss I was going to go on a mission soon. He didn’t understand. Why would I do that when I was doing so well? He tried to get me to stay. I said I was going, I had made that decision as a young boy. He even offered me a large raise if I stayed! The last day I worked before leaving on my mission he came to me and told me when I get back I would have a job waiting. Two years later when I returned from the Philippines I took him up on his offer. I started working the Monday after I got home. I have worked in a machine shop ever since. Although I don’t get the chance to work on the machines too often anymore I still enjoy doing it. In fact, I got a 3D printer for Christmas. It works similarly to the CNC machines we have at work. It has been a blast figuring it out and making toys for my grandkids! By the way, as a side note, grandkids are the best! We just love spending time with ours! We just had Valentine’s Day this last week so I thought It would be ok if I tell a love story. It happened right here in this stake. Someone in the singles ward invited me to an activity on a Saturday night. I went to the activity. I was talking to the elder's quorum president and he said I should come to the singles ward the next day. I had been attending the family ward at the time. In fact, it was this ward. I went to the singles ward that Sunday. I was sitting near the back by myself before the meeting. Linda and her friends saw me and were wondering who the new guy sitting by himself was. She said, “Let’s go sit with him.” They came and sat by me for the meeting. After the meeting, Linda said a bunch of people were going to the movies Monday night and invited me to go with them. I said sure, sounds fun. What I didn’t know was it was a bunch of girls going to the movies. Linda told me later she was franticly trying to find some guys to go too so I wouldn’t be the only guy. It turned out that one other guy besides me went to the movies. I bought a big tub of popcorn and Linda sat by me and shared my popcorn. After that night we begin dating regularly. After about only 3 weeks of dating, I was saying good night to her and I said “is this leading to marriage?” She didn’t know what to say but smiled and we kissed good night. She later told me she almost freaked out when I said that. The rest is history. We dated for a year and a half and then got married in the Los Angeles temple. We raised 5 daughters in this ward. I’m proud of the fact they are all married in the temple. Not because of any great thing I did mind you but because of the wonderful mother and teacher my wife is. Her strength in the gospel and unwavering testimony gave them a great foundation and also lifted me up. The best decision I have ever made was to marry her. I certainly married up! I love you, honey!
Ok I wasted enough time on myself. Now to the topic I was asked to speak on, Ether 12:27. When I started preparing this talk I read all of Ether chapter 12 to get an overview of the assignment. This chapter has so many great teachings in it. I will use the whole chapter in my talk. The Jaredites in Ether’s day wanted to see evidence before they would believe in God and His power. In verse 5 it reads: "And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe because they saw them not."
I think many people today feel the same way. If they cannot see something they have a hard time believing it. One of the reasons we are on this earth is to develop faith. Moroni taught in verse 6 that “faith is things which are hoped for and not seen” and that you “receive no witness until after the trial of your faith”. Faith is one of the main themes of this chapter. Faith appears 35 times in Ether 12. We learn so many things about faith in this chapter. Here are a few I picked out. 1. First It teaches us all things are done by faith. It also says that “if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them.” 2. it was the faith of Alma and Amulek that caused the prison to tumble to the earth. 3. It was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that brought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost. 4. It was the faith of Ammon and his brethren which brought so great a miracle among the Lamanites. 5. It was the faith of the brother of Jared that allowed him to see the finger of God. As in these examples, we learn that men work Miracles because of their faith.
Here are some questions I would like you to ponder: How is your faith? Could it be stronger? What can you do to make your faith stronger? What miracles will you work because of your faith? I found a definition of faith in the guide to the scriptures. It says “faith is confidence in something or someone. As most often used in the scriptures, faith is confidence and trust in Jesus Christ. That faith leads us to obey Him. Faith must be centered in Jesus Christ in order for it to lead us to salvation. We also should have faith in God the Father, the Holy Ghost, priesthood power, and other important aspects of the restored gospel.” Alma describes faith this way. And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true. (Alma 32:21) To increase our faith in Jesus Christ we must learn all we can about him and do our best to follow him and his teachings.
When I was a young boy I learned about Jesus Christ in primary and then as a youth. I gained a desire to follow him. His prophet said every young man should serve a mission. It was scary to think about being on my own teaching people the gospel. Maybe in a foreign land. I have always been pretty shy. But I had faith that God would bless me as I followed Jesus Christ. I made the decision relying on faith that I would go on a mission. This is why when my boss tried to get me not to serve a mission it was easy to say I was going. The decision was already made. In addition to profound insights about faith, Ether 12 also has a lot to say about hope— What does hope mean to you? Ether said, “whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God.” The more faith we have in Jesus Christ the more hope it gives us that we can live with God again and that is our goal.
Now I would like to talk about the verse I was assigned. Verse 27. It reads: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble, and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” When we read Moroni’s powerful writings, it’s easy to forget that he worried about his “weakness in writing” and feared that people would mock his words. But God promised that He would “make weak things become strong” for the humble. The spiritual power in Moroni’s writings is convincing evidence that the Lord fulfilled this promise. I told you about how I met my wife. Now before I met her I had very low self-esteem. I didn’t have much confidence in myself. I needed help. I humbled myself before God and prayed and asked Heavenly Father to help me to be more confident. Soon after that, I met Linda. She lifted me so much. She has always encouraged me to do anything I wanted to do. Anytime I would let doubt in she would build me up and strengthen me. Now to this day, I won’t say I am the most outgoing and confident person but I am way stronger than I was. I mean I even said yes to giving this talk when I was asked! I feel this is how a weakness I have is becoming stronger over time through faith. Heavenly Father has kept his promise and blessed me with a wonderful wife who continually builds me up.
Think of times when God has helped you recognize your weaknesses and made you strong in spite of them. Maybe this is also a good time to think about weaknesses you are currently struggling with. What do you feel you need to do to humble yourself before the Lord and show faith in Him in order to receive His promise to “make weak things become strong”? As you ponder this, the following insight from Elder Neal A. Maxwell may be helpful: “When we read in the scriptures of man’s ‘weakness,’ this term includes the … weakness inherent in the general human condition in which the flesh has an incessant impact upon the spirit. Weakness likewise includes, however, our specific, individual weaknesses, which we are expected to overcome (see Doctrine and Covenants 66:3; Jacob 4:7)” Ether’s prophecies to the Jaredites were “great and marvelous”. He “told them of all things, from the beginning of man”. He foresaw “the days of Christ” and the latter-day New Jerusalem. And he spoke of “hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God”. But the Jaredites rejected his words, for the same reason people often reject the prophecies of God’s servants today—“because they see them not”.
It takes faith to believe in promises or warnings about things we can’t see, just as it took faith for Ether to prophesy of “great and marvelous things” to people who did not believe. It took faith for Moroni to trust that the Lord could take his “weakness in writing” and turn it into strength. It’s this kind of faith that makes us “sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God”. And it’s this kind of faith by which “all things are fulfilled”. It took faith for me to make the decision to serve a mission. It took faith for me to humble myself and ask God to help me be a more confident person. It took faith for me to give this talk. I testify that by humbling ourselves so we can first recognize our weaknesses and then increasing our faith in Jesus Christ he will help us overcome any weakness or challenge that we may have. It has worked in my life and I know it will work in yours. Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.