THOMAS S. MONSON -85
-Henry B. Eyring -79
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf -73
Quorum of the 12 Apostles
-Boyd K. Packer -88
-L. Tom Perry -90
-Russell M. Nelson -88
-Dallin H. Oaks -80
-M. Russell Ballard -84
-Richard G. Scott -84
-Robert D. Hales -81
-Jeffrey R. Holland -72
-David A. Bednar -60
-Quentin L. Cook -73
-D. Todd Christofferson -68
-Neil L. Andersen -62
Young Womens General President
Elaine S. Dalton
As you know, in the October general conference I announced changes in the ages at which young men and young women might serve as full-time missionaries, with the young men now being able to serve at age 18 and the young women at 19.
The response of our young people has been remarkable and inspiring. As of April 4—two days ago—we have 65,634 full-time missionaries serving, with over 20,000 more who have received their calls but who have not yet entered a missionary training center and over 6,000 more in the interview process with their bishops and stake presidents. It has been necessary for us to create 58 new missions to accommodate the increased numbers of missionaries.
To help maintain this missionary force, and because many of our missionaries come from modest circumstances, we invite you, as you are able, to contribute generously to the General Missionary Fund of the Church.
TSM - "Come, All Ye Sons of God" (from Priesthood session)
The holy scriptures contain no proclamation more relevant, no responsibility more binding, no instruction more direct than the injunction given by the resurrected Lord as He appeared in Galilee to the eleven disciples. Said He:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
This divine command, coupled with its glorious promise, is our watchword today as it was in the meridian of time. Missionary work is an identifying feature of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Always has it been; ever shall it be. As the Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.”
Within two short years, all of the full-time missionaries currently serving in this royal army of God will have concluded their labors and will have returned to their homes and loved ones. For the elders, their replacements are found tonight in the ranks of the Aaronic Priesthood of the Church. Young men, are you ready to respond? Are you willing to work? Are you prepared to serve?...
May I suggest a formula that will ensure our success: first, search the scriptures with diligence; second, plan your life with purpose (and, I might add, plan your life regardless of your age); third, teach the truth with testimony; and fourth, serve the Lord with love.
TSM - "Obedience Brings Blessings"
The poet wrote:
Tho the heavens depart and the earth’s fountains burst,
Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,
Eternal, unchanged, evermore.
Some would ask, “Where is such truth to be found, and how are we to recognize it?” In a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith at Kirtland, Ohio, in May of 1833, the Lord declared:
“Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come. …
“The Spirit of truth is of God. …
“And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
“He that keepeth [God’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.”
What a glorious promise! “He that keepeth [God’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.”
There is no need for you or for me, in this enlightened age when the fulness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or to travel unmarked roads in search of truth. A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide—even obedience. A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God.
We learn obedience throughout our lives. Beginning when we are very young, those responsible for our care set forth guidelines and rules to ensure our safety. Life would be simpler for all of us if we would obey such rules completely. Many of us, however, learn through experience the wisdom of being obedient...
There are rules and laws to help ensure our physical safety. Likewise, the Lord has provided guidelines and commandments to help ensure our spiritual safety so that we might successfully navigate this often-treacherous mortal existence and return eventually to our Heavenly Father.
Centuries ago, to a generation steeped in the tradition of animal sacrifice, Samuel boldly declared, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
In this dispensation, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that He requires “the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.”
All prophets, ancient and modern, have known that obedience is essential to our salvation. Nephi declared, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.” Though others faltered in their faith and their obedience, never once did Nephi fail to do that which the Lord asked of him. Untold generations have been blessed as a result.
TSM - "Until We Meet Again"
We are a worldwide Church, brothers and sisters. Our membership is found across the globe. I admonish you to be good citizens of the nations in which you live and good neighbors in your communities, reaching out to those of other faiths as well as to our own. May we be tolerant of, as well as kind and loving to, those who do not share our beliefs and our standards. The Savior brought to this earth a message of love and goodwill to all men and women. May we ever follow His example.
I pray that we may be aware of the needs of those around us. There are some, particularly among the young, who are tragically involved in drugs, immorality, pornography, and so on. There are those who are lonely, including widows and widowers, who long for the company and concern of others. May we ever be ready to extend to them a helping hand and a loving heart.
We live at a time in the world’s history when there are many difficult challenges but also great opportunities and reasons for rejoicing. There are, of course, those times when we experience disappointments, heartaches, and even tragedies in our lives. However, if we will put our trust in the Lord, He will help us through our difficulties, whatever they may be. The Psalmist provided this assurance: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
I searched in the scriptures. In them, I knew I could go back again to have the Holy Ghost let me feel what two disciples of the risen Lord had felt when He accepted their invitation to come into their home and to abide with them.
I read of the third day after His Crucifixion and burial. Faithful women and others found the stone rolled away from the tomb and saw that His body was not there. They had come out of love for Him to anoint His body.
Two angels stood by and asked why they were afraid, saying:
“Why seek ye the living among the dead?
“He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,
“Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”
The Gospel of Mark adds the direction from one of the angels: “But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.”
The Apostles and disciples had gathered in Jerusalem. As we might have been, they were afraid and wondered as they spoke together about what death and reports of His being resurrected meant for them.
Two of the disciples walked that afternoon from Jerusalem on the road to Emmaus. The resurrected Christ appeared on the road and walked with them. The Lord had come to them.
The book of Luke allows us to walk with them:
“And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
“But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
“And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
“And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?”
They told Him of their sadness that Jesus had died when they had trusted He would be the Redeemer of Israel.
There must have been affection in the risen Lord’s voice as He spoke to these two sorrowful and mourning disciples:
“Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Then came a moment that has warmed my heart since I was a little boy:
“And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
“But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.”
The Savior accepted that night the invitation to enter the house of His disciples near the village of Emmaus.
He sat at meat with them. He took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened so that they knew Him. Then He vanished out of their sight. Luke recorded for us the feelings of those blessed disciples: “And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”
HBE - "We Are One" (from Priesthood session)
There is one way in which we are one in our charge in the priesthood. We sanctify ourselves and fulfill our individual duties to the commandment to take the gospel to all of our Heavenly Father’s children.
We share experiences in the way in which the Lord builds His kingdom on earth. In His Church, with all the wonderful tools and organization we have been given, there is still a fundamental truth taught by prophets of how we are to fulfill our priesthood mandate of missionary work.
In the 1959 April general conference, President David O. McKay taught this principle, as have the prophets since his day, including President Thomas S. Monson. President McKay related in his closing comments that in 1923 in the British Mission, there was a general instruction sent out to the members of the Church. They were told not to spend money on advertising to combat the bad feelings of the people against the Church. President McKay said the decision was: “Throw the responsibility upon every member of the Church that in the coming year of 1923 every member will be a missionary. Every member a missionary! You may bring your mother into the Church, or it may be your father; perhaps your fellow companion in the workshop. Somebody will hear the good message of the truth through you.”
And President McKay continued: “And that is the message today. Every member—a million and a half—a missionary!”
I believe that every life is a collection of individual “journey stories.”
I am sure you are aware that every cultural tradition is rich with journey stories. For instance, you may be familiar with the journey of Dorothy and her dog, Toto, in The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy and Toto are swept up in a tornado and deposited in the Land of Oz. There, Dorothy finds that distinctive, yellow-brick road that marks the path for a journey that eventually leads her home...
Don’t we love these journey stories because we can see ourselves in the travelers? Their successes and failures can help us find our own way through life. The video we saw a few minutes ago also tells a beautiful journey story. Perhaps these stories also remind us of a journey we all should be familiar with—a journey story in which each one of us plays an important part.
This story begins a very long time ago, long before the earth began spinning in its orbit, long before the sun began to reach its fiery arms into the cold of space, long before creatures great and small had populated our planet. At the beginning of this story, you lived in a faraway, beautiful place.
We do not know many details about life in that premortal sphere, but we do know some. Our Heavenly Father has revealed to us who He is, who we are, and who we can become.
Back in that first estate, you knew with absolute certainty that God existed because you saw and heard Him. You knew Jesus Christ, who would become the Lamb of God. You had faith in Him. And you knew that your destiny was not to stay in the security of your premortal home. As much as you loved that eternal sphere, you knew you wanted and needed to embark on a journey. You would depart from the arms of your Father, pass through a veil of forgetfulness, receive a mortal body, and learn and experience things that hopefully would help you grow to become more like Father in Heaven and return to His presence...
He didn’t send you on this journey only to wander aimlessly on your own. He wants you to come home to Him. He has given you loving parents and faithful Church leaders, along with a map that describes the terrain and identifies the dangers; the map shows you where peace and happiness can be found and will help you plot your course back home.
Now, where do you find this map?
• In the sacred scriptures.
• In the words of prophets and apostles.
• And through personal revelation from the Holy Ghost.
This map is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news, and the joyful way of a disciple of Christ. It is the commandments and example given to us by our Advocate and Mentor, who knows the way because He is the way.
Of course, simply having a map doesn’t do any good unless you study it—unless you use it to navigate through life. I invite you to make it a high priority to study and apply God’s word. Open your heart to the Holy Ghost so that He can direct you along your journey through life...
You are not alone on this journey. Your Heavenly Father knows you. Even when no one else hears you, He hears you. When you rejoice in righteousness, He rejoices with you. When you are beset with trial, He grieves with you.
Heavenly Father’s interest in you does not depend on how rich or beautiful or healthy or smart you are. He sees you not as the world sees you; He sees who you really are. He looks on your heart. And He loves you because you are His child.
Dear sisters, seek Him earnestly, and you will find Him.
DFU - "Four Titles" (from Priesthood session)
We men sometimes identify ourselves by titles. Many of us have multiple titles, and each says something important about our identity. For example, some titles describe our roles in families, such as son, brother, husband, and father. Other titles describe our occupations in the world, such as doctor, soldier, or craftsman. And some describe our positions within the Church.
Today I would like to suggest four titles that I believe apply to all priesthood holders around the world—titles that may help us recognize our individual roles in God’s eternal plan and our potential as priesthood holders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
One title that defines all of us in the most fundamental way is son of Heavenly Father. No matter what else we are or do in life, we must never forget that we are God’s literal spirit children. We were His children before we came to this world, and we will be His children forevermore. This basic truth should change the way we look at ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and life itself.
Unfortunately, none of us quite lives up to everything that this title implies, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
It can be discouraging at times to know what it means to be a son of God and yet come up short. The adversary likes to take advantage of these feelings. Satan would rather that you define yourself by your sins instead of your divine potential. Brethren, don’t listen to him...
Our Father in Heaven mentors His children and often sends unseen heavenly help to those who desire to follow the Savior.
And that leads us to the next title we all have in common: all who strive earnestly to follow the Christ are called His disciples. Although we recognize that none of us are perfect, we do not use that fact as an excuse to lower our expectations, to live beneath our privileges, to delay the day of our repentance, or to refuse to grow into better, more perfect, more refined followers of our Master and King.
Remember that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is built not for men and women who are perfect or unaffected by mortal temptations, but rather it is built for people exactly like you and me. And it is built upon the rock of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, through whose Atonement we can be cleansed and become “fellowcitizens … of the household of God.”
Without the Atonement of Jesus Christ, life would be a dead-end road without hope or future. With the Atonement, life is an ennobling, inspiring journey of growth and development that leads to eternal life in the presence of our Heavenly Father...
Brethren, if we truly follow our Lord Jesus Christ, we must embrace a third title: healer of souls. We who have been ordained to the priesthood of God are called to practice “the healer’s art.”
It is our job to build up, repair, strengthen, uplift, and make whole. Our assignment is to follow the Savior’s example and reach out to those who suffer. We “mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” We bind up the wounds of the afflicted. We “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”...
The fourth title we all share returns us to the first title in our list. As sons of our Heavenly Father, we are heirs to all that He has.
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”
Think of this, my beloved brethren. We are joint-heirs with Christ!
So, does it make any sense that many of us spend so much of our valuable time, thoughts, means, and energies in pursuit of prestige or worldly goods or to be entertained by the newest and coolest electronic gadgets?
The Lord has put before us the divine promise that “whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods, … magnifying their calling, … [will] receive me, saith the Lord; … and he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; … therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.”
It is beyond my power of thought to imagine all that this promise entails. But I do know it is grand, it is divine, it is eternal, and it is worth all of our efforts in life.
Knowing this, how can we not willingly and joyfully engage in serving the Lord and our fellowmen and living up to our responsibilities in the priesthood of God?
DFU - "The Hope of God's Light"
There may be some among you who feel darkness encroaching upon you. You may feel burdened by worry, fear, or doubt. To you and to all of us, I repeat a wonderful and certain truth: God’s light is real. It is available to all! It gives life to all things.1 It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound. It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn.
This is “the Spirit of Jesus Christ,” which gives “light to every man that cometh into the world.”2
Nevertheless, spiritual light rarely comes to those who merely sit in darkness waiting for someone to flip a switch. It takes an act of faith to open our eyes to the Light of Christ. Spiritual light cannot be discerned by carnal eyes. Jesus Christ Himself taught, “I am the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” For “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
So how do we open our eyes to the hope of God’s light?
First, start where you are.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that we don’t have to be perfect to experience the blessings and gifts of our Heavenly Father? We don’t have to wait to cross the finish line to receive God’s blessings. In fact, the heavens begin to part and the blessings of heaven begin to distill upon us with the very first steps we take toward the light...
Second, turn your heart toward the Lord.
Lift up your soul in prayer and explain to your Heavenly Father what you are feeling. Acknowledge your shortcomings. Pour out your heart and express your gratitude. Let Him know of the trials you are facing. Plead with Him in Christ’s name for strength and support. Ask that your ears may be opened, that you may hear His voice. Ask that your eyes may be opened, that you may see His light.
Third, walk in the light.
Your Heavenly Father knows that you will make mistakes. He knows that you will stumble—perhaps many times. This saddens Him, but He loves you. He does not wish to break your spirit. On the contrary, He desires that you rise up and become the person you were designed to be...
Yes, we will make mistakes. Yes, we will falter.
But as we seek to increase our love for God and strive to love our neighbor, the light of the gospel will surround and uplift us. The darkness will surely fade, because it cannot exist in the presence of light. As we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. And day by day, the hope of God’s light will grow within us, “brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”
To all who feel they walk in darkness, I invite you to rely on this certain promise spoken by the Savior of mankind: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”...
Yes, from time to time our lives may seem to be touched by, or even wrapped in, darkness. Sometimes the night that surrounds us will appear oppressive, disheartening, and frightening.
My heart grieves for the many sorrows some of you face, for the painful loneliness and wearisome fears you may be experiencing. Nevertheless, I bear witness that our living hope is in Christ Jesus! He is the true, pure, and powerful entrance to divine enlightenment.
I testify that with Christ, darkness cannot succeed. Darkness will not gain victory over the light of Christ.
I bear witness that darkness cannot stand before the brilliant light of the Son of the living God!
BOYD K. PACKER - "These Things I Know"
We will not always be safe from the adversary’s influence, even within our own homes. We need to protect our nestlings.
We live in a very dangerous world that threatens those things that are most spiritual. The family, the fundamental organization in time and eternity, is under attack from forces seen and unseen. The adversary is about. His objective is to cause injury. If he can weaken and destroy the family, he will have succeeded.
Latter-day Saints recognize the transcendent importance of the family and strive to live in such a way that the adversary cannot steal into our homes. We find safety and security for ourselves and our children in honoring the covenants we have made and living up to the ordinary acts of obedience required of the followers of Christ.
Isaiah said, “The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.”
That peace is also promised in the revelations in which the Lord declares, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”
We have a revealed knowledge of our premortal history. We recognize that when God the Eternal Father presented His plan to us at the beginning of time, Satan wanted to alter the plan. He said he would redeem all mankind. Not one soul would be lost, and Satan was confident he could deliver on his proposal. But there was an unacceptable cost—the destruction of man’s agency, which was and is a gift given by God (see Moses 4:1–3). About this gift, President Harold B. Lee said, “Next to life itself, free agency is God’s greatest gift to mankind.” Then it was no small thing for Satan to disregard man’s agency. In fact, it became the principal issue over which the War in Heaven was fought. Victory in the War in Heaven was a victory for man’s agency.
Satan, however, was not done. His backup plan—the plan he has been executing since the time of Adam and Eve—was to tempt men and women, essentially to prove we are undeserving of the God-given gift of agency. Satan has many reasons for doing what he does. Perhaps the most powerful is the motive of revenge, but he also wants to make men and women miserable like he is miserable. None of us should ever underestimate how driven Satan is to succeed. His role in God’s eternal plan creates “opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11) and tests our agency. Each choice you and I make is a test of our agency—whether we choose to be obedient or disobedient to the commandments of God is actually a choice between “liberty and eternal life” and “captivity and death.”...
In my judgment, four of the Ten Commandments are taken as seriously today as ever. As a culture, we disdain and condemn murder, stealing, and lying, and we still believe in the responsibility of children to their parents.
But as a larger society, we routinely dismiss the other six commandments:
• If worldly priorities are any indication, we certainly have “other gods” we put before the true God.
• We make idols of celebrities, of lifestyles, of wealth, and yes, sometimes of graven images or objects.
• We use the name of God in all kinds of profane ways, including our exclamations and our swearing.
• We use the Sabbath day for our biggest games, our most serious recreation, our heaviest shopping, and virtually everything else but worship.
• We treat sexual relations outside marriage as recreation and entertainment.
• And coveting has become a far too common way of life. (See Exodus 20:3–17.)
Prophets from all dispensations have consistently warned against violations of two of the more serious commandments—the ones relating to murder and adultery. I see a common basis for these two critical commandments—the belief that life itself is the prerogative of God and that our physical bodies, the temples of mortal life, should be created within the bounds God has set. For man to substitute his own rules for the laws of God on either end of life is the height of presumption and the depth of sin.
The main effects of these depreciating attitudes about the sanctity of marriage are the consequences to families—the strength of families is deteriorating at an alarming rate. This deterioration is causing widespread damage to society. I see direct cause and effect. As we give up commitment and fidelity to our marriage partners, we remove the glue that holds our society together.
Now an unprecedented wave of enthusiasm for missionary work is sweeping the entire earth. Since President Monson’s historic announcement last October, thousands of elders, sisters, and couples have been called, and many more are preparing.1 Now we get questions like “What are you going to do with all these missionaries?” The answer is simple. They will do what missionaries have always done. They will preach the gospel! They will bless the children of Almighty God!
More of you young men and women will catch this wave as you strive to be worthy of mission calls. You see this as a wave of truth and righteousness. You see your opportunity to be on the crest of that wave.
You teenagers, embrace your new curriculum and teach one another the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Now is your time to prepare to teach others about the goodness of God.
Young men and women, your education is ever important—to us, to you, and to God. Where feasible, if you wish to attend a college or university after your mission, we encourage you to apply to your institution of choice before beginning your mission. Many institutions of higher learning will grant an 18- to 30-month deferral to prospective missionaries. This will enable you elders and sisters to serve without worrying about where you will begin your advanced education. We are very grateful to leaders of educational institutions who are making such planning possible!
Jesus taught that baptism was necessary to enter the kingdom of God (see John 3:5). He began His ministry by being baptized (see Mark 1:9), and He and His followers baptized others (see John 3:22–26). We do likewise.
Jesus began His preaching by inviting His listeners to repent (see Matthew 4:17). That is still His servants’ message to the world.
Throughout His ministry Jesus gave commandments. And He taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15; see also verses 21, 23). He affirmed that keeping His commandments would require His followers to leave what He called “that which is highly esteemed among men” (Luke 16:15) and “the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8; see also verse 13). He also warned, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19). As the Apostle Peter later declared, the followers of Jesus were to be “a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9).
Latter-day Saints understand that we should not be “of the world” or bound to “the tradition of men,” but like other followers of Christ, we sometimes find it difficult to separate ourselves from the world and its traditions. Some model themselves after worldly ways because, as Jesus said of some whom He taught, “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). These failures to follow Christ are too numerous and too sensitive to list here. They range all the way from worldly practices like political correctness and extremes in dress and grooming to deviations from basic values like the eternal nature and function of the family.
Jesus’s teachings were not meant to be theoretical. Always they were to be acted upon. Jesus taught, “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man” (Matthew 7:24; see also Luke 11:28) and “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing” (Matthew 24:46)...
In the familiar parable of the lost sheep, Jesus taught that we should go out of our way to seek after any of the flock who have strayed (see Matthew 18:11–14; Luke 15:3–7). As we know, President Thomas S. Monson has given great emphasis to this direction in his memorable example and teachings about rescuing our fellow men and women.
In our efforts to rescue and serve, we follow our Savior’s unique example and tender teachings about love: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). He even commanded us to love our enemies (see Luke 6:27–28). And in His great teachings at the end of His mortal ministry, He said:
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34–35).
In our day the Hubble deep-space telescope has confirmed the magnitude of what Moses saw. Hubble scientists say the Milky Way galaxy, of which our earth and sun are just a tiny part, is estimated to be only one of over 200 billion similar galaxies. For me it is difficult to comprehend, impossible to fathom, so large and so vast are God’s creations.
Brothers and sisters, the power by which the heavens and earth were and are created is the priesthood. Those of us who are members of the Church know that the source of this priesthood power is God Almighty and His Son, Jesus Christ. Not only is the priesthood the power by which the heavens and the earth were created, but it is also the power the Savior used in His mortal ministry to perform miracles, to bless and heal the sick, to bring the dead to life, and, as our Father’s Only Begotten Son, to endure the unbearable pain of Gethsemane and Calvary—thus fulfilling the laws of justice with mercy and providing an infinite Atonement and overcoming physical death through the Resurrection.
It is the keys of this priesthood authority and resultant power that He gave to Peter, James, and John and His other Apostles to bless others and to bind in heaven that which is bound on earth.
The power of the priesthood is a sacred and essential gift of God. It is different from priesthood authority, which is the authorization to act in God’s name. The authorization or ordination is given by the laying on of hands. The power of the priesthood comes only when those who exercise it are worthy and acting in accordance with God’s will. As President Spencer W. Kimball declared, “The Lord has given to all of us, as holders of the priesthood, certain of his authority, but we can only tap the powers of heaven on the basis of our personal righteousness” (“Boys Need Heroes Close By,” Ensign, May 1976, 45)...
In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife. And as husband and wife, a man and a woman should strive to follow our Heavenly Father. The Christian virtues of love, humility, and patience should be their focus as they seek the blessings of the priesthood in their lives and for their family.
It is crucial for us to understand that Heavenly Father has provided a way for all of His sons and His daughters to have access to the blessings of and be strengthened by the power of the priesthood. Central to God’s plan for His spirit children is His own declaration: “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
I’m sure you can identify the fundamental principles that center your home on the Savior. The prophetic counsel to have daily personal and family prayer, daily personal and family scripture study, and weekly family home evening are the essential, weight-bearing beams in the construction of a Christ-centered home. Without these regular practices it will be difficult to find the desired and much-needed peace and refuge from the world.
Be obedient to the prophetic teachings Christ would have you follow. Don’t rationalize away future happiness by taking shortcuts instead of applying sound gospel principles. Remember: little things lead to big things. Seemingly insignificant indiscretions or neglect can lead to big problems. More importantly, simple, consistent, good habits lead to a life full of bountiful blessings.
You children in the Primary, you young men and women in youth programs, and you stalwart missionaries now serving are doing many things more effectively than I was able to do at your age. In the premortal life you proved to be valiant, obedient, and pure. There you worked hard to develop talents and capacities to prepare yourselves to face mortality with courage, dignity, honor, and success.
Not long ago you came to mortality with all of those magnificent capacities and endless possibilities. Yet there is real danger in the environment surrounding you. Your great potential and ability could be limited or destroyed if you yield to the devil-inspired contamination around you. However, Satan is no match for the Savior. Satan’s fate is decided. He knows he has lost, but he wants to take as many with him as he can. He will try to ruin your goodness and abilities by exploiting your weaknesses. Stay on the Lord’s side, and you will win every time...
As you center your home on the Savior, it will naturally become a refuge not only to your own family but also to friends who live in more difficult circumstances. They will be drawn to the serenity they feel there. Welcome such friends into your home. They will blossom in that Christ-centered environment. Become friends with your children’s friends. Be a worthy example to them.
One of the greatest blessings we can offer to the world is the power of a Christ-centered home where the gospel is taught, covenants are kept, and love abounds.
I learned how to be a faithful priesthood holder—to protect and defend the kingdom of God. The words of the Apostle Paul were my guide:
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Brethren, if we are faithful in the priesthood, this armor will be given to us as a gift from God. We need this armor!
Young men, your fathers and grandfathers never faced the temptations that you face on a regular basis. You are living in the last days. If your father wanted to get in trouble, he had to go searching for it. Not anymore! Today temptation finds you! Please remember that! Satan desires to have you, and “sin lieth at the door.” How will you resist his aggressive tactics? Put on the whole armor of God...
Sometimes we become the lightning rod, and we must “take the heat” for holding fast to God’s standards and doing His work. I testify that we need not be afraid if we are grounded in His doctrine. We may experience misunderstanding, criticism, and even false accusation, but we are never alone. Our Savior was “despised and rejected of men." It is our sacred privilege to stand with Him!
Ironically, standing strong sometimes means avoiding and even fleeing from the world. The Savior declared, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Joseph of Egypt ran from the temptations of Potiphar’s wife, and Lehi left behind Jerusalem and took his family into the wilderness.
On one occasion Jesus came upon a group arguing vehemently with His disciples. When the Savior inquired as to the cause of this contention, the father of an afflicted child stepped forward, saying he had approached Jesus’s disciples for a blessing for his son, but they were not able to provide it. With the boy still gnashing his teeth, foaming from the mouth, and thrashing on the ground in front of them, the father appealed to Jesus with what must have been last-resort desperation in his voice:
“If thou canst do any thing,” he said, “have compassion on us, and help us.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
This man’s initial conviction, by his own admission, is limited. But he has an urgent, emphatic desire in behalf of his only child. We are told that is good enough for a beginning. “Even if ye can no more than desire to believe,” Alma declares, “let this desire work in you, even until ye believe.” With no other hope remaining, this father asserts what faith he has and pleads with the Savior of the world, “If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.” I can hardly read those words without weeping. The plural pronoun us is obviously used intentionally. This man is saying, in effect, “Our whole family is pleading. Our struggle never ceases. We are exhausted. Our son falls into the water. He falls into the fire. He is continually in danger, and we are continually afraid. We don’t know where else to turn. Can you help us? We will be grateful for anything—a partial blessing, a glimmer of hope, some small lifting of the burden carried by this boy’s mother every day of her life.”
“If thou canst do any thing,” spoken by the father, comes back to him “If thou canst believe,” spoken by the Master...
Observation number one regarding this account is that when facing the challenge of faith, the father asserts his strength first and only then acknowledges his limitation. His initial declaration is affirmative and without hesitation: “Lord, I believe.” I would say to all who wish for more faith, remember this man! In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent of this boy’s affliction or this parent’s desperation is going to come to all of us. When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. It was of this very incident, this specific miracle, that Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.
The second observation is a variation of the first. When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your “unbelief.” That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! So let us all remember the clear message of this scriptural account: Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle...
Brothers and sisters, this is a divine work in process, with the manifestations and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will. In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith.
So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fulness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all. Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving.
Last observation: When doubt or difficulty come, do not be afraid to ask for help. If we want it as humbly and honestly as this father did, we can get it. The scriptures phrase such earnest desire as being of “real intent,” pursued “with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God.” I testify that in response to that kind of importuning, God will send help from both sides of the veil to strengthen our belief...
These things I declare to you with the conviction Peter called the “more sure word of prophecy.” What was once a tiny seed of belief for me has grown into the tree of life, so if your faith is a little tested in this or any season, I invite you to lean on mine. I know this work is God’s very truth, and I know that only at our peril would we allow doubt or devils to sway us from its path. Hope on. Journey on. Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe.
Our physical bodies make possible a breadth, a depth, and an intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in our premortal existence. Thus, our relationships with other people, our capacity to recognize and act in accordance with truth, and our ability to obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are amplified through our physical bodies. In the school of mortality, we experience tenderness, love, kindness, happiness, sorrow, disappointment, pain, and even the challenges of physical limitations in ways that prepare us for eternity. Simply stated, there are lessons we must learn and experiences we must have, as the scriptures describe, “according to the flesh” (1 Nephi 19:6; Alma 7:12–13).
After the earth was created, Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden. Importantly, however, God said “it was not good that the man should be alone” (Moses 3:18; see also Genesis 2:18), and Eve became Adam’s wife and helpmeet. The unique combination of spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional capacities of both males and females was needed to enact the plan of happiness. “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11). The man and the woman are intended to learn from, strengthen, bless, and complete each other.
The means by which mortal life is created is divinely appointed. “The first commandment … God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife” (Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129). The commandment to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force today. Thus, marriage between a man and a woman is the authorized channel through which premortal spirits enter mortality. Complete sexual abstinence before marriage and total fidelity within marriage protect the sanctity of this sacred channel.
The power of procreation is spiritually significant. Misuse of this power subverts the purposes of the Father’s plan and of our mortal existence. Our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son are creators and have entrusted each of us with a portion of Their creative power. Specific guidelines for the proper use of the ability to create life are vital elements in the Father’s plan. How we feel about and use that supernal power will determine in large measure our happiness in mortality and our destiny in eternity...
As sons and daughters of God, we have inherited divine capacities from Him. But we presently live in a fallen world. The very elements out of which our bodies were created are by nature fallen and ever subject to the pull of sin, corruption, and death. Consequently, the Fall of Adam and its spiritual and temporal consequences affect us most directly through our physical bodies. And yet we are dual beings, for our spirit that is the eternal part of us is tabernacled in a physical body that is subject to the Fall. As Jesus emphasized to the Apostle Peter, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
The precise nature of the test of mortality, then, can be summarized in the following question: Will I respond to the inclinations of the natural man, or will I yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and put off the natural man and become a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord (see Mosiah 3:19)? That is the test. Every appetite, desire, propensity, and impulse of the natural man may be overcome by and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We are here on the earth to develop godlike qualities and to bridle all of the passions of the flesh.
Recent experiences have caused me to reflect on the doctrine of peace and especially the role of Jesus Christ in helping each of us obtain lasting personal peace.
Two events in the past few months have touched me deeply. First, I spoke at the funeral for Emilie Parker, a precious six-year-old who lost her life along with 25 others, including 19 young children, in a tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. I mourned with her family and recognized that many had been deprived of peace. I found strength and faith in her parents, Robert and Alissa Parker.
Second, I met with thousands of faithful members of the Church in the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan. This French-speaking, West-African country has endured economic hardship, a military coup, and two recent civil wars concluding in 2011. Yet I felt a special peace in their presence.
Events often occur that rob us of peace and heighten our sense of vulnerability.
Who can forget the evil attacks of September 11, 2001, on various U.S. locations? Such events remind us how quickly our feelings of peace and safety can be destroyed...
The heavenly aspiration of good people everywhere has and always will be for peace in the world. We must never give up on achieving this goal. But, President Joseph F. Smith taught, “There never can come to the world that spirit of peace and love … until mankind will receive God’s truth and God’s message … , and acknowledge his power and authority which is divine.”
We earnestly hope and pray for universal peace, but it is as individuals and families that we achieve the kind of peace that is the promised reward of righteousness. This peace is a promised gift of the Savior’s mission and atoning sacrifice...
Peace comes from knowing that the Savior knows who we are and knows that we have faith in Him, love Him, and keep His commandments, even and especially amid life’s devastating trials and tragedies. The Lord’s answer to the Prophet Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail brings solace to the heart:
“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
“And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high.”
Remember, “God is not the author of confusion, but [the author] of peace.” For those who reject God, there is no peace. We all participated in the councils of heaven that provided for moral agency, knowing that there would be mortal pain and even unspeakable tragedy because of the abuse of agency. We understood that this could leave us angry, bewildered, defenseless, and vulnerable. But we also knew that the Savior’s Atonement would overcome and compensate for all of the unfairness of mortal life and bring us peace. Elder Marion D. Hanks had a framed statement on his wall by Ugo Betti: “To believe in God is to know that all the rules will be fair, and that there will be wonderful surprises.”
Among the most significant of Jesus Christ’s descriptive titles is Redeemer. As indicated in my brief account of immigrant “redemptioners,” the word redeem means to pay off an obligation or a debt. Redeem can also mean to rescue or set free as by paying a ransom. If someone commits a mistake and then corrects it or makes amends, we say he has redeemed himself. Each of these meanings suggests different facets of the great Redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ through His Atonement, which includes, in the words of the dictionary, “to deliver from sin and its penalties, as by a sacrifice made for the sinner.”
The Savior’s Redemption has two parts. First, it atones for Adam’s transgression and the consequent Fall of man by overcoming what could be called the direct effects of the Fall—physical death and spiritual death. Physical death is well understood; spiritual death is the separation of man from God. In the words of Paul, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). This redemption from physical and spiritual death is both universal and without condition.
The second aspect of the Savior’s Atonement is redemption from what might be termed the indirect consequences of the Fall—our own sins as opposed to Adam’s transgression. By virtue of the Fall, we are born into a mortal world where sin—that is, disobedience to divinely instituted law—is pervasive. Speaking of all of us, the Lord says:
“Even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.
“And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves” (Moses 6:55–56).
Because we are accountable and we make the choices, the redemption from our own sins is conditional—conditioned on confessing and abandoning sin and turning to a godly life, or in other words, conditioned on repentance (see D&C 58:43). “Wherefore,” commands the Lord, “teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence” (Moses 6:57).
As the Church of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth 183 years ago, the Lord’s charge to His small band of disciples echoed His words spoken centuries before: “The voice of warning shall be unto all people.” “For, verily, the sound must go forth … into all the world, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”
“All people”? “All the world”? “The uttermost parts of the earth”? Was it possible?
The Savior reassured His Latter-day Saints, but could they foresee the reach and destiny of this marvelous work? They must have wondered if miracles really would accompany them in spreading the gospel.
Again, faith overcame doubt, and thousands were baptized. In England, Elder Wilford Woodruff found an entire community awaiting his arrival. The Spirit of the Lord fell upon them, and he baptized 45 preachers and several hundred members during his first month at Benbow farm.
Our day is no different. When Elder David A. Bednar and I were missionaries approximately 40 years ago (and I can assure you that we are not the oldest of the returned missionaries sitting in the red chairs), there were 16,000 missionaries. As President Thomas S. Monson reported yesterday, we now have 65,000—more than ever before. There were then 562 stakes. Today there are more than 3,000. At that time, our wards and branches were in 59 countries. Today we have congregations in 189 of the 224 nations and territories of the world. We are few in number, just as Nephi foretold. But at the same time, you and I are eyewitnesses of Daniel’s prophetic words: the “stone … cut … without hands … [is filling] the whole earth.”
Of women and mothers, President Gordon B. Hinckley once said:
“We must never lose sight of the strength of the women. … It is mothers who most directly affect the lives of their children. … It is mothers who nurture them and bring them up in the ways of the Lord. Their influence is paramount. …
“… They are the creators of life. They are the nurturers of children. They are the teachers of young women. They are our indispensable companions. They are our co-workers in building the kingdom of God. How great is their role, how marvelous their contribution.”5
So how do a mother and a father instill in their daughter the ennobling and eternal truth that she is a daughter of God? How do we help her step out of the world and step into the kingdom of God?
In a morally desensitizing world, young women need women and men to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.” Never before has this been more important than now. Young women need mothers and mentors who exemplify virtuous womanhood. Mothers, your relationship with your daughter is of paramount importance, and so is your example. How you love and honor her father, his priesthood, and his divine role will be reflected and perhaps amplified in your daughter’s attitudes and behavior...
Today as a daughter of God, I stand as a witness that He lives. Jesus is the Christ. He is our Redeemer. It is through His infinite atoning sacrifice that I will one day return to live with Him—proven, pure, and sealed in an eternal family. I shall ever praise Him for the privilege of being a woman, a wife, and a mother. I testify that we are led by a prophet of God, President Thomas S. Monson, and I am grateful for righteous men, whose priesthood power blesses my life. And I shall ever be grateful for the strength I receive through the enabling power of the Savior’s infinite Atonement as I continue to strive to “act well [my] part.”
ESD - "Be Not Moved!" (from Young Womens session)
I can think of no more important counsel from a loving Heavenly Father than His admonition for each of you to “stand … in holy places, and be not moved.” He is saying: Stand firm. Be steadfast. “Stand for truth and righteousness.” Stand as a witness. Be a standard to the world. Stand in holy places. And so my message to each of you is a simple one: Be not moved.
First, be not moved in choosing right. In these latter days, there are no small decisions. The choices you are making right now are of critical importance. Agency, or the ability to choose, is one of God’s greatest gifts to His children. It is part of the plan of happiness you and I chose and defended in our premortal existence. Live your lives in such a way that you can listen to and hear the Holy Ghost, and He will help you make correct decisions. In fact, He will tell you “all things what ye should do.”...
Second, be not moved in your desire and commitment to remain virtuous and sexually pure. Cherish virtue. Your personal purity is one of your greatest sources of power. When you came to the earth, you were given the precious gift of a body. Your body is the instrument of your mind and a divine gift with which you exercise your agency. This is a gift that Satan was denied, and thus he directs nearly all of his attacks on your body. He wants you to disdain, misuse, and abuse your body. Immodesty, pornography, immorality, tattoos and piercings, drug abuse, and addictions of all kinds are all efforts to take possession of this precious gift—your body—and to make it difficult for you to exercise your agency. Paul asks, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
Third, be not moved in being worthy to make and keep sacred covenants. The covenant you make at baptism will tether you to the path of virtue and happiness as you renew that covenant each week by partaking of the sacrament. As you keep your baptismal covenant, you will look different, dress different, and act different from the world. Keeping this covenant will enable you to be guided by the Holy Ghost. Stand in holy places, and do not even go near those environments or music, media, or associations that might cause you to lose the companionship of the Holy Ghost. And as you keep your covenants, you will remain worthy and prepared to enter the Lord’s holy temples.
Last, be not moved in your acceptance of the Savior’s Atonement. The Atonement is for you and for me. It is an enabling and a redeeming power. If you are not feeling worthy to stand in holy places, do not carry this burden one day longer. In mortality, we will all make mistakes. Be assured that the Savior loves you so much that He made it possible for you to change and to repent if you make a mistake. Satan does not want you to think you can change. He will try to convince you that all is lost. That is a lie. You can return. You can repent. You can be pure and holy because of the Savior’s infinite Atonement...
Young women, generations are depending on the choices you make, your purity, and your worthy lives. Be not moved. You have a great destiny before you. This is your moment! I truly believe that one virtuous young woman, led by the Spirit, can change the world!
I testify that the Savior lives! He will be with you. He will enable you. And in difficult moments, His “angels [will be] round about you, to bear you up.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.