Good morning, brothers and sisters, my name is Michael Kipper. I have been in this ward for about 4 years. The first year I was an investigator. I also went to Institute that first year. I definitely knew what I was doing when I got baptized. I’ve been asked to talk on President Henry B. Eyring’s talk entitled “Tested, Proved and Polished” from last October’s General Conference. I have definitely been chosen, tested, proved, and polished to find myself here, in front of you today.
Mona & I were assigned our talks way back in February when Church was still 100% on Zoom. We were scheduled to speak on Valentine’s Day; a pretty sweet gesture by the Bishopric to allow us to share our love story and our journey. Unfortunately, it was not to be because we started going back to church that Sunday, and Mona and I were not ready. I am going to be 70 in June, I suffer from asthma and we are very conservative about masking up, staying out of crowds, and washing our hands. I know some of you think that all that is silly but we took it seriously. We did get our first shot that day (Happy Valentine's Day) and today we are both fully vaccinated and starting to venture out of our little caves into the world. Praise the Lord for science and doctors and a Prophet who encouraged us to stay safe.
The theme of President Eyring’s talk, taken from the beginning of his talk, is that “God’s purpose in the Creation of this world … was to give His children the opportunity to prove themselves able and willing to choose the right when it is hard. In so doing, their natures would be changed and they could become more like Him. He knew that would require unshakable faith in Him.”
I testify that God chose me before I was born to be born into this world at this time. He tested me during my life both to make sure I was worthy and to teach me the lessons needed to progress in this life and become the person I needed to become. It's all about becoming.
When I was a young boy of about 9 or 10, I collected rocks. I don’t know what it is about boys and rocks but they seem to attract each other. I was always searching for unique shapes and colors and had quite a collection when one day an older boy, who also collected, asked me why none of my rocks were polished. You see, inside what appears to be a common, sometimes ugly rock is a veritable explosion of color and beauty. Some rocks could be enhanced by merely polishing the surface going in stages from coarse sandpaper to finer sandpaper and then polishing compound and then wax. Some rocks, if you knew what type, needed to be broken in half to expose the miraculous beauty within. You’ve all seen the inside of a geode, I am sure.
I think Heavenly Father sees us the same way. He knows our heart. He knows what we can become if he polishes us with adversity, trials, and tribulation. His goal, as stated in Abraham 3:25 is to “... prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” You and I accepted that invitation to be tested and to prove that we would choose to keep the commandments of God when we would no longer be in the presence of our Heavenly Father. That verse goes on to say that “... they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads forever and ever.” That’s a pretty sweet promise.
Even with such a loving invitation from our Heavenly Father, Lucifer persuaded a third of the spirit children to follow him and reject the Father’s plan for our growth and eternal happiness. That’s 1/3 of every soul that has ever lived or will live. That’s a lot of evil souls pitted against us. I thank the Lord every day that I have the power to defend myself against them because of the atonement of Jesus Christ.
I’m a convert. I never understood what God’s plan was for me. His whole reason for creating this world and me is found in Moses 1:39 which you all knew when you were in primary but I learned in my 60s: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
Anyways, just like the rocks I used to find, I have been tested and proven; I have been polished. Those who have heard my story know that my first wife of 32 years was an alcoholic. Talk about testing. I was tested every day to be accepting, compassionate, and loving. Her addiction drove me to Al-Anon, a 12-step program for family and friends of alcoholics. It is here where an agnostic Christian learned to trust God again, studied the New Testament, and was blessed with a re-awakening of my relationship with Jesus Christ. My wife died, sober, but a direct result of her years of drinking. After a year of mourning, I started to venture out. A friend set me up with Mona Sprenger because she was a non-drinker, full of life, and also recently widowed. As we talked and got to know each other, she would laugh as I quoted Isiah, questioned the Trinity, and told her of my yearning to experience first-century Christianity. She would say, “You’re going to love my Church. You are an instant Mormon: just add water.”
You might reasonably wonder why a loving and all-powerful God allows our mortal test to be so hard. It is because He knows that we must grow in spiritual cleanliness and stature to be able to live in His presence in families forever. To make that possible, Heavenly Father gave us a Savior and the power to choose for ourselves by faith to keep His commandments and to repent and so come unto Him.
I cannot end my talk without mentioning the COVID-19 pandemic. It was definitely a test of our faith in God and trust in our prophet. Going to a church-supported home-based church 3 years ago as well as introducing Come Follow Me was divinely inspired. Having a physician for a prophet is prophetic in itself. Some of us passed the test; unfortunately, some of us did not. Attendance is way down and I suspect that that may continue for a while but I don’t know about you but my faith has grown this last year as I have come to know Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father so much better through increased prayer, more study and the humbling nature of this disease.
I was born a jew and became a completed jew when I began to follow Jesus Christ. But it wasn’t until I read the Book of Mormon, realized God’s true plan for me, became baptized with proper authority, and received the Holy Spirit that I now consider myself a completed Christian.
I testify that the more I read and study the Book of Mormon, the more I know it is true, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that Jesus Christ’s self-sacrifice paid the debt for my sins, cleansed me so that I might return to our Heavenly Father one day and live forever in his presence. I say these things in the name of our savior and redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.