The Power of Plainness

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey.

I straight-up stole the title of this blog post from the title of Elder Marvin J. Ashton’s talk in the Sunday afternoon session of the April 1977 General Conference. Of course plainness isn’t a new concept to Mormonism. The Book of Mormon talks a lot about “plain and precious” truths. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen an entire talk with plainness as its theme, and I did like what Elder Ashton had to say. Here are a couple of excerpts that I highlighted as I read:

Plainness is best comprehended by the humble, the teachable, the intelligent, the wise, and the obedient. Often plain truths are perverted by the pretentious, the crude, the low, the critical, the contentious, the haughty, and the unrighteous. More so than in any other time in our history, there is an urgency in today’s society for men and women to step forward and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of plainness. God delights when His truths are taught clearly and understandably with no conspicuous ornamentation. Plainness in life, word, and conduct are eternal virtues. When the plainness of Christian teaching and living is lost, apostasy and suffering result. People walk in darkness when the light of plainness is taken from their lives.

Interesting that plainness is rejected by both “the low” and “the haughty”. Perhaps plainness is a kind of moderation or even a kind of modesty: free of unnecessary embellishment or ornamentation.1

The power of a plain, unadorned testimony is always impressive to me. I recall a twelve-year-old boy standing in front of a large congregation to share his testimony. As he stood trembling in fear and emotion, his voice failed him. He stood speechless; our hearts went out to him. The creeping seconds dragged on, making the silence of the moment intense. Prayerfully we hoped that he might gain composure and the ability to express his testimony. After great uneasiness and anxiety peculiar to a young person in such a circumstance, he raised his bowed head and softly said, “Brothers and sisters, my testimony is too small.” He cleared his voice and sat down. His message had been given. I thought then, as I think now, what a timely observation. Whose testimony isn’t too small? Whose testimony doesn’t need to be added upon? After this one-sentence sermon, I acknowledged before the congregation that my testimony was too small also and I was going to give it a chance to grow by more frequent sharing. I had been taught by a plain, simple statement.

Nothing to add. I just like this story.

Some of life’s greatest lessons are taught and learned as we go about our Father’s business in routine daily kindnesses.

How could I not quote that? You know how I feel about sifting the sacred from the mundane. And here’s one more, to exit on:

Certainly the Savior has spoken in plainness that we may learn. The words of the Savior are eloquent in their plainness.

Glamour and mystery do not lead to eternal life.

Check out the other posts from the General Conference Odyssey this week and join our Facebook group to follow along!