Wednesday, September 3, 2014

General Conference Highlights: April 2014

And now we're at the most recent Conference. The next one will happen next month.

April 2014

First Presidency
-Henry B. Eyring -80
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf -73

Quorum of the 12 Apostles
-Boyd K. Packer -89
-L. Tom Perry -91
-Russell M. Nelson -89
-Dallin H. Oaks -81
-M. Russell Ballard -85
-Richard G. Scott -85
-Robert D. Hales -82
-Jeffrey R. Holland -73
-David A. Bednar -61
-Quentin L. Cook -73
-D. Todd Christofferson -69
-Neil L. Andersen -63

Relief Society General President
Linda K. Burton

Once again, doing this one in chronological order.

Womens General Session

Pres. LINDA K. BURTON - "Wanted: Hands and Hearts to Hasten the Work"

The Savior taught, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.” What do we need to know and do “to live with him someday”? We can learn from the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to receive eternal life.

Jesus answered him, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”

The young man asked Him which ones he should keep. Jesus then reminded him of several of the Ten Commandments we are all familiar with.

The young man responded, “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?”

Jesus said, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

Jesus called him to become a part of His work—the work of a disciple. Our work is the same. We are to “lay aside the things of [the] world, … cleave unto [our] covenants,” and come unto Christ and follow Him. That’s what disciples do!

Now, sisters, let’s not start beating ourselves up because the Savior spoke to the rich young man about becoming perfect. The word perfect in this account was translated from a Greek word that means “complete.” As we try our best to move forward along the covenant path, we become more complete and perfect in this life...

It does not matter if we are not yet perfect and complete. We are devoted disciples who reach out and help each other along the way. Our sisterhood reaches across the generations to those faithful sisters who have walked before. Together, as sisters and in unity with living prophets, seers, and revelators with restored priesthood keys, we can walk as one, as disciples, as servants with willing hearts and hands to hasten the work of salvation. As we do so, we will become like the Savior.

Pres. HENRY B. EYRING - "Daughters in the Covenant"

No two of us will have the same memories of the day when we made that sacred baptismal covenant and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. But we each felt God’s approval. And we felt a desire to forgive and to be forgiven and an increased determination to do right.

How deeply those feelings went down into your heart was determined largely by the way you were prepared by loving people. I hope that those of you who came into the kingdom recently are blessed to be sitting near your mother. If you are, you might send her a smile of thanks right now. I can remember the feeling of joy and gratitude as I sat behind my mother on the drive home from my baptism in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

My mother was the one who had carefully prepared me for making that covenant and all the others that would follow. She had been faithful to this charge from the Lord:

“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.
“For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized.
“And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the [Holy Ghost].”...

It is our free choice whether we make and keep those covenants. Only a few of His daughters have the opportunity in this life to even learn of those covenants. You are one of the favored few. You dear sisters, each of you is a daughter in the covenant.

Heavenly Father taught you before you were born about the experiences you would have as you left Him and came to earth. You were taught that the way back home to Him would not be easy. He knew that it would be too hard for you to make the journey without help.

You have been blessed not only to find the way to make those covenants in this life but also to be surrounded by others who will help—who, like you, are covenant daughters of Heavenly Father.

You all have felt the blessing of being in the company tonight of daughters of God who are also under covenant to help and direct you as they promised to do. I have seen what you have seen as covenant sisters keep that commitment to comfort and help—and do it with a smile...

I have a sure witness that God the Father watches over you in love. He loves each of you. You are His daughters in the covenant. Because He loves you, He will provide the help that you need to move yourself and others upward along the way back to His presence.

Saturday Morning Session

Pres. THOMAS S. MONSON - "Welcome to Conference"

In May the Fort Lauderdale Florida Temple will be dedicated. Other temples are scheduled to be completed and dedicated later this year. In 2015 we anticipate completing and dedicating new temples in many parts of the world. This process will continue. When all the previously announced temples are completed, we will have 170 operating temples throughout the world.

Although we are currently concentrating our efforts on completing the previously announced temples and will not be announcing any new temples in the immediate future, we will continue the process of determining needs and of finding locations for temples yet to come. Announcements will then be made in future general conferences. We are a temple-building and a temple-attending people.

JEFFREY R. HOLLAND - "The Cost and Blessings of Discipleship"

In keeping with the Savior’s own experience, there has been a long history of rejection and a painfully high price paid by prophets and apostles, missionaries and members in every generation—all those who have tried to honor God’s call to lift the human family to “a more excellent way.”

“And what shall I more say [of them]?” the writer of the book of Hebrews asks.

“[They] who … stopped the mouths of lions,
“Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, … waxed valiant in fight, turned [armies] to flight …
“[Saw] their dead raised to life [while] others were tortured, …
“And … had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, … of bonds and imprisonment:
“They were stoned, … were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: … wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, [and] tormented;
“([They] of whom the world was not worthy:) … wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Surely the angels of heaven wept as they recorded this cost of discipleship in a world that is often hostile to the commandments of God. The Savior Himself shed His own tears over those who for hundreds of years had been rejected and slain in His service. And now He was being rejected and about to be slain.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” Jesus cried, “thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
“Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”

And therein lies a message for every young man and young woman in this Church. You may wonder if it is worth it to take a courageous moral stand in high school or to go on a mission only to have your most cherished beliefs reviled or to strive against much in society that sometimes ridicules a life of religious devotion. Yes, it is worth it, because the alternative is to have our “houses” left unto us “desolate”—desolate individuals, desolate families, desolate neighborhoods, and desolate nations...

At the zenith of His mortal ministry, Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” To make certain they understood exactly what kind of love that was, He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” and “whosoever … shall break one of [the] least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be … the least in the kingdom of heaven.” Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it. So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others. Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once).

Friends, especially my young friends, take heart. Pure Christlike love flowing from true righteousness can change the world. I testify that the true and living gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth and you are members of His true and living Church, trying to share it. I bear witness of that gospel and that Church, with a particular witness of restored priesthood keys which unlock the power and efficacy of saving ordinances. I am more certain that those keys have been restored and that those ordinances are once again available through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than I am certain I stand before you at this pulpit and you sit before me in this conference.

Be strong. Live the gospel faithfully even if others around you don’t live it at all. Defend your beliefs with courtesy and with compassion, but defend them. A long history of inspired voices, including those you will hear in this conference and the voice you just heard in the person of President Thomas S. Monson, point you toward the path of Christian discipleship. It is a strait path, and it is a narrow path without a great deal of latitude at some points, but it can be thrillingly and successfully traveled, “with … steadfastness in Christ, … a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.” In courageously pursuing such a course, you will forge unshakable faith, you will find safety against ill winds that blow, even shafts in the whirlwind, and you will feel the rock-like strength of our Redeemer, upon whom if you build your unflagging discipleship, you cannot fall.

NEIL L. ANDERSEN - "Spiritual Whirlwinds"

My young friends, the world will not glide calmly toward the Second Coming of the Savior. The scriptures declare that “all things shall be in commotion.” Brigham Young said, “It was revealed to me in the commencement of this Church, that the Church would spread, prosper, grow and extend, and that in proportion to the spread of the Gospel among the nations of the earth, so would the power of Satan rise.”

More concerning than the prophesied earthquakes and wars3 are the spiritual whirlwinds that can uproot you from your spiritual foundations and land your spirit in places you never imagined possible, sometimes with your barely noticing that you have been moved.

The worst whirlwinds are the temptations of the adversary. Sin has always been part of the world, but it has never been so accessible, insatiable, and acceptable. There is, of course, a powerful force that will subdue the whirlwinds of sin. It is called repentance.

Not all the whirlwinds in life are of your own making. Some come because of the wrong choices of others, and some come just because this is mortality...

While many governments and well-meaning individuals have redefined marriage, the Lord has not. In the very beginning, God initiated marriage between a man and a woman—Adam and Eve. He designated the purposes of marriage to go far beyond the personal satisfaction and fulfillment of adults to, more importantly, advancing the ideal setting for children to be born, reared, and nurtured. Families are the treasure of heaven.

Why do we continue to talk about this? As Paul said, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” As Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the responsibility to teach our Creator’s plan for His children and to warn of the consequences of disregarding His commandments...

Of special concern to us should be those who struggle with same-sex attraction. It is a whirlwind of enormous velocity. I want to express my love and admiration for those who courageously confront this trial of faith and stay true to the commandments of God! But everyone, independent of his or her decisions and beliefs, deserves our kindness and consideration.

The Savior taught us to love not only our friends but also those who disagree with us—and even those who repudiate us. He said: “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? … And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?”

The Prophet Joseph Smith warned us to “beware of self-righteousness” and to enlarge our hearts toward all men and women until we feel “to take them upon our shoulders.” In the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is no place for ridicule, bullying, or bigotry...

My young brothers and sisters, how we love you, admire you, and pray for you. Don’t let the whirlwinds drag you down. These are your days—to stand strong as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Build more firmly your foundation upon the rock of your Redeemer.
Treasure more completely His incomparable life and teachings.
Follow more diligently His example and His commandments.
Embrace more deeply His love, His mercy and grace, and the powerful gifts of His Atonement.

As you do, I promise you that you will see the whirlwinds for what they are—tests, temptations, distractions, or challenges to help you grow. And as you live righteously year after year, I assure you that your experiences will confirm to you again and again that Jesus is the Christ. The spiritual rock under your feet will be solid and secure. You will rejoice that God has placed you here to be a part of the final preparations for Christ’s glorious return.

Pres. HENRY B. EYRING - "A Priceless Heritage of Hope"

Because Adam and Eve did fall, we have temptation, trials, and death as our universal inheritance. However, our loving Heavenly Father gave us the gift of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior. That great gift and blessing of the Atonement of Jesus Christ brings a universal inheritance: the promise of the Resurrection and the possibility of eternal life to all who are born.

The greatest of all the blessings of God, eternal life, will come to us only as we make covenants offered in the true Church of Jesus Christ by His authorized servants. Because of the Fall, we all need the cleansing effects of baptism and the laying on of hands to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. These ordinances must be performed by those who possess the proper priesthood authority. Then, with the help of the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost, we can keep all the covenants we make with God, especially those offered in His temples. Only in that way, and with that help, can anyone claim his or her rightful inheritance as a child of God in a family forever...

We can depend on that unfailing desire of the Savior to bring all of Heavenly Father’s spirit children back to their home with Him. Every faithful parent, grandparent, and great-grandparent shares in that desire. Heavenly Father and the Savior are our perfect examples of what we can and must do. They never force righteousness because righteousness must be chosen. They make righteousness discernible to us, and They let us see that its fruits are delicious.

Every person born into the world receives the Light of Christ, which helps us see and feel what is right and what is wrong. God has sent mortal servants who can, by the Holy Ghost, help us recognize what He would have us do and what He forbids. God makes it attractive to choose the right by letting us feel the effects of our choices. If we choose the right, we will find happiness—in time. If we choose evil, there comes sorrow and regret—in time. Those effects are sure. Yet they are often delayed for a purpose. If the blessings were immediate, choosing the right would not build faith. And since sorrow is also sometimes greatly delayed, it takes faith to feel the need to seek forgiveness for sin early rather than after we feel its sorrowful and painful effects.

Saturday Afternoon Session

RUSSELL M. NELSON - "Let Your Faith Show"

When we speak of faith—the faith that can move mountains—we are not speaking of faith in general but of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can be bolstered as we learn about Him and live our religion. The doctrine of Jesus Christ was designed by the Lord to help us increase our faith. In today’s vernacular, however, the word religion can mean different things to different people.

The word religion literally means “to ligate again” or “to tie back” to God. The question we might ask ourselves is, are we securely tied to God so that our faith shows, or are we actually tied to something else? For example, I have overheard conversations on Monday mornings about professional athletic games that took place on the preceding Sunday. For some of these avid fans, I have wondered if their “religion” would “tie them back” only to some kind of a bouncing ball.

We might each ask ourselves, where is our faith? Is it in a team? Is it in a brand? Is it in a celebrity? Even the best teams can fail. Celebrities can fade. There is only One in whom your faith is always safe, and that is in the Lord Jesus Christ. And you need to let your faith show!

God declared in the first of His Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” He also said, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” Yet so many people look only to their bank balance for peace or to fellow human beings for models to follow...

Problems abound in this world because it is populated by imperfect people. Their objectives and desires are heavily influenced by their faith or lack of it. Many put other priorities ahead of God. Some challenge the relevance of religion in modern life. As in every age, so today there are those who mock or decry the free exercise of religion. Some even blame religion for any number of the world’s ills. Admittedly, there have been times when atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. But living the Lord’s pure religion, which means striving to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ, is a way of life and a daily commitment that will provide divine guidance. As you practice your religion, you are exercising your faith. You are letting your faith show.

RICHARD G. SCOTT - "I Have Given You an Example"

How can each of us become such a significant influence? We must be sure to sincerely love those we want to help in righteousness so they can begin to develop confidence in God’s love. For so many in the world, the first challenge in accepting the gospel is to develop faith in a Father in Heaven, who loves them perfectly. It is easier to develop that faith when they have friends or family members who love them in a similar way.

Giving them confidence in your love can help them develop faith in God’s love. Then through your loving, thoughtful communication, their lives will be blessed by your sharing lessons you have learned, experiences you have had, and principles you have followed to find solutions to your own struggles. Show your sincere interest in their well-being; then share your testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You can help in ways that are grounded in principle and doctrine. Encourage those you love to seek to understand what the Lord would have them do. One way to do this is to ask them questions that make them think and then allow them sufficient time—whether hours, days, months, or more—to ponder and seek to work out the answers for themselves. You may need to help them know how to pray and how to recognize answers to their prayers. Help them to know that the scriptures are a vital source of receiving and recognizing answers. In that way you will help them prepare for future opportunities and challenges...

Your personal testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is a powerful tool. Accompanying resources are prayer, the Book of Mormon and the other scriptures, and your commitment to priesthood ordinances. All of these will facilitate the direction of the Spirit, which is so crucially important for you to rely upon.

To be effective and to do as Christ has done, concentrate on this basic principle of the gospel: the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes possible our becoming more like our Father in Heaven so that we can live together eternally in our family units.

There is no doctrine more fundamental to our work than the Atonement of Jesus Christ. At every appropriate opportunity, testify of the Savior and of the power of His Atoning sacrifice. Use scriptures that teach of Him and why He is the perfect pattern for everyone in life4 You will need to study diligently. Do not become so absorbed with trivial things that you miss learning the doctrine and teachings of the Lord. With a solid, personal doctrinal foundation, you will be a powerful source for sharing vital truths with others who desperately need them.

ROBERT D. HALES - "If Ye Love Me, Keep My Commandments"

Because our Savior was obedient, He atoned for our sins, making possible our resurrection and preparing the way for us to return to our Heavenly Father, who knew we would make mistakes as we learned obedience in mortality. When we obey, we accept His sacrifice, for we believe that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws, ordinances, and commandments given in the gospel.

Jesus taught us to obey in simple language that is easy to understand: “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” and “Come, follow me.”

When we are baptized, we “take upon [us] the name of Christ” and enter “into the covenant with God that [we will] be obedient unto the end of [our] lives.” Each Sunday we renew that baptismal covenant by partaking of the sacrament and witnessing that we are willing to keep the commandments. We seek forgiveness for any thoughts, feelings, or actions that are not in harmony with our Heavenly Father’s will. As we repent by turning away from disobedience and by beginning to obey again, we show our love for Him...

Our love of the Savior is the key to Savior-like obedience. As we strive to be obedient in today’s world, we declare our love and respect for all of Heavenly Father’s children. Yet it is impossible for this love for others to modify God’s commandments, which were given for our good! For example, the commandment “thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it”13 is founded upon spiritual law that protects all of God’s children, even the unborn. Long experience suggests that when we ignore this law, immeasurable sorrow results. Yet many believe it is acceptable to terminate the life of an unborn child for reasons of preference or convenience.

To rationalize disobedience does not change spiritual law or its consequences but leads to confusion, instability, wandering in strange paths, being lost, and grief. As disciples of Christ, we have a sacred obligation to uphold His laws and commandments and the covenants which we take upon ourselves.

QUENTIN L. COOK - "Roots and Branches"

The essential doctrine of uniting families came forth line upon line and precept upon precept. Vicarious ordinances are at the heart of welding together eternal families, connecting roots to branches.

The doctrine of the family in relation to family history and temple work is clear. The Lord in initial revelatory instructions referred to “baptism for your dead.” Our doctrinal obligation is to our own ancestors. This is because the celestial organization of heaven is based on families. The First Presidency has encouraged members, especially youth and young single adults, to emphasize family history work and ordinances for their own family names or the names of ancestors of their ward and stake members. We need to be connected to both our roots and branches. The thought of being associated in the eternal realm is indeed glorious.

Wilford Woodruff indicated that the Prophet Joseph Smith lived long enough to lay the foundation for temple work. By the last time he, Joseph Smith, ever met with the Quorum of the Twelve, he had given them their endowments.

After the Prophet’s martyrdom, the Saints completed the Nauvoo Temple, and the sealing power was used to bless thousands of faithful members before the exodus to the Mountain West. Thirty years later, at the completion of the St. George Temple, President Brigham Young noted the eternal significance of saving ordinances finally being available for both the living and the dead.

This is simply stated by President Wilford Woodruff: “There is hardly any principle the Lord has revealed that I have rejoiced more in than in the redemption of our dead; that we will have our fathers, our mothers, our wives and our children with us in the family organization, in the morning of the first resurrection and in the Celestial Kingdom. These are grand principles. They are worth every sacrifice.”

Priesthood Session

DALLIN H. OAKS - "The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood"

At this conference we have seen the release of some faithful brothers, and we have sustained the callings of others. In this rotation—so familiar in the Church—we do not “step down” when we are released, and we do not “step up” when we are called. There is no “up or down” in the service of the Lord. There is only “forward or backward,” and that difference depends on how we accept and act upon our releases and our callings. I once presided at the release of a young stake president who had given fine service for nine years and was now rejoicing in his release and in the new calling he and his wife had just received. They were called to be the nursery leaders in their ward. Only in this Church would that be seen as equally honorable!

While addressing a women’s conference, Relief Society general president Linda K. Burton said, “We hope to instill within each of us a greater desire to better understand the priesthood.” That need applies to all of us, and I will pursue it by speaking of the keys and authority of the priesthood. Since these subjects are of equal concern to men and to women, I am pleased that these proceedings are broadcast and published for all members of the Church. Priesthood power blesses all of us. Priesthood keys direct women as well as men, and priesthood ordinances and priesthood authority pertain to women as well as men...

In the controlling of the exercise of priesthood authority, the function of priesthood keys both enlarges and limits. It enlarges by making it possible for priesthood authority and blessings to be available for all of God’s children. It limits by directing who will be given the authority of the priesthood, who will hold its offices, and how its rights and powers will be conferred. For example, a person who holds the priesthood is not able to confer his office or authority on another unless authorized by one who holds the keys. Without that authorization, the ordination would be invalid. This explains why a priesthood holder—regardless of office—cannot ordain a member of his family or administer the sacrament in his own home without authorization from the one who holds the appropriate keys.

With the exception of the sacred work that sisters do in the temple under the keys held by the temple president, which I will describe hereafter, only one who holds a priesthood office can officiate in a priesthood ordinance. And all authorized priesthood ordinances are recorded on the records of the Church.

Ultimately, all keys of the priesthood are held by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose priesthood it is. He is the one who determines what keys are delegated to mortals and how those keys will be used. We are accustomed to thinking that all keys of the priesthood were conferred on Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple, but the scripture states that all that was conferred there were “the keys of this dispensation” (D&C 110:16). At general conference many years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball reminded us that there are other priesthood keys that have not been given to man on the earth, including the keys of creation and resurrection...

I come now to the subject of priesthood authority. I begin with the three principles just discussed: (1) priesthood is the power of God delegated to man to act for the salvation of the human family, (2) priesthood authority is governed by priesthood holders who hold priesthood keys, and (3) since the scriptures state that “all other authorities [and] offices in the church are appendages to this [Melchizedek] priesthood” (D&C 107:5), all that is done under the direction of those priesthood keys is done with priesthood authority.

How does this apply to women? In an address to the Relief Society, President Joseph Fielding Smith, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said this: “While the sisters have not been given the Priesthood, it has not been conferred upon them, that does not mean that the Lord has not given unto them authority. … A person may have authority given to him, or a sister to her, to do certain things in the Church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation, such as the work that our sisters do in the House of the Lord. They have authority given unto them to do some great and wonderful things, sacred unto the Lord, and binding just as thoroughly as are the blessings that are given by the men who hold the Priesthood.”

In that notable address, President Smith said again and again that women have been given authority. To the women he said, “You can speak with authority, because the Lord has placed authority upon you.” He also said that the Relief Society “[has] been given power and authority to do a great many things. The work which they do is done by divine authority.” And, of course, the Church work done by women or men, whether in the temple or in the wards or branches, is done under the direction of those who hold priesthood keys. Thus, speaking of the Relief Society, President Smith explained, “[The Lord] has given to them this great organization where they have authority to serve under the directions of the bishops of the wards … , looking after the interest of our people both spiritually and temporally.”

Thus, it is truly said that Relief Society is not just a class for women but something they belong to—a divinely established appendage to the priesthood.

We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.

Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and concentrate on their responsibilities. That is a principle needed in society at large. The famous Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is quoted as saying, “It is time … to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.” Latter-day Saints surely recognize that qualifying for exaltation is not a matter of asserting rights but a matter of fulfilling responsibilities...

In the eyes of God, whether in the Church or in the family, women and men are equal, with different responsibilities.

I close with some truths about the blessings of the priesthood. Unlike priesthood keys and priesthood ordinations, the blessings of the priesthood are available to women and to men on the same terms. The gift of the Holy Ghost and the blessings of the temple are familiar illustrations of this truth...

I testify of the power and blessings of the priesthood of God, available for His sons and daughters alike. I testify of the authority of the priesthood, which functions throughout all of the offices and activities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I testify of the divinely directed function of the keys of the priesthood, held and exercised in their fulness by our prophet/president, Thomas S. Monson. Finally and most important, I testify of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whose priesthood this is and whose servants we are, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Pres. DIETER F. UCHTDORF - "Are You Sleeping Through the Restoration"

Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized. In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.” Brethren, the exciting developments of today are part of that long-foretold period of preparation that will culminate in the glorious Second Coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This is one of the most remarkable periods of the world’s history! Ancient prophets yearned to see our day.

When our time in mortality is complete, what experiences will we be able to share about our own contribution to this significant period of our lives and to the furthering of the Lord’s work? Will we be able to say that we rolled up our sleeves and labored with all our heart, might, mind, and strength? Or will we have to admit that our role was mostly that of an observer?

I suppose there are a variety of reasons why it is easy to become a bit sleepy with regard to building the kingdom of God. Let me mention three major ones. As I do, I invite you to ponder if any might apply. If you see room for improvement, I ask you to consider what could be done to change for the better.

First, selfishness.

Those who are selfish seek their own interests and pleasure above all else. The central question for the selfish person is “What’s in it for me?”

Brethren, I am sure you can see that this attitude is clearly contrary to the spirit required to build God’s kingdom. When we seek self-service over selfless-service, our priorities become centered on our own recognition and pleasure...

Another thing that may cause us to sleepwalk through this significant season of the world is addiction.

Addictions often begin subtly. Addictions are thin threads of repeated action that weave themselves into thick bonds of habit. Negative habits have the potential to become consuming addictions.

These binding chains of addiction can have many forms, like pornography, alcohol, sex, drugs, tobacco, gambling, food, work, the Internet, or virtual reality. Satan, our common enemy, has many favorite tools he uses to rob us of our divine potential to accomplish our mission in the Lord’s kingdom. It saddens our Heavenly Father to see how willingly some of His noble sons extend their wrists to accept the chains of devastating addictions...

Several years ago, President Thomas S. Monson and I were offered an opportunity to tour Air Force One—the magnificent aircraft that transports the president of the United States. There were painstaking security checks by the Secret Service, and I smiled a little as agents searched our dear prophet prior to boarding.

Then the pilot in command invited me to take the captain’s seat. It was a remarkable experience to again sit at the helm of a wonderful flying machine like the kind I had flown for so many years. Memories of flights across oceans and continents filled my heart and mind. I envisioned exciting takeoffs and landings at airports all over the world.

Almost unconsciously, I placed my hands on the four throttles of the 747. Just then, a beloved and unmistakable voice came from behind—the voice of Thomas S. Monson.

“Dieter,” he said, “don’t even think about it.”

I’m not admitting to anything, but it just may be that President Monson read my mind.

When we are tempted to do things we should not do, let us listen to the loving warning of trusted family and friends, our beloved prophet, and always the Savior.

The best defense against addiction is never to start...

A third obstacle that prevents us from fully engaging in this work is the many competing priorities we face. Some of us are so busy that we feel like a cart pulled by a dozen work animals—each straining in a different direction. A lot of energy is expended, but the cart doesn’t go anywhere.

Often we devote our best efforts in pursuit of a hobby, a sport, vocational interests, and community or political issues. All these things may be good and honorable, but are they leaving us time and energy for what should be our highest priorities?

What is the remedy?

Once again, it comes from the words of the Savior:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Everything else in life should be secondary to these two great priorities.

Even in Church service, it is easy to spend a lot of time just going through the motions without the heart or the substance of discipleship. Brethren, we as priesthood bearers have committed to be a people who love God and our neighbor and who are willing to demonstrate that love through word and deed. That is the essence of who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Those who live up to these principles will not sleep through the Restoration.

Pres. HENRY B. EYRING - "The Priesthood Man"

Each of you will be a model of a priesthood man whether you want to be or not. You became a lighted candle when you accepted the priesthood. The Lord put you on the candlestick to light the way for everyone who surrounds you. That is especially true for those in your priesthood quorum. You can be a great model, an average one, or a bad model. You may think it doesn’t matter to you, but it does to the Lord. He said it this way:

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

I have been blessed by examples of great priesthood holders in quorums where I was fortunate to serve. You can do what they have done for me by being an example for others to follow.

I have observed three common characteristics of the priesthood holders who are my heroes. One is a pattern of prayer, the second is a habit of service, and the third is a rock-hard decision to be honest.

We all pray, but the priesthood holder you want to be prays often and with real intent. In the evening you will get on your knees and thank God for the blessings of the day. You will thank Him for parents, for teachers, and for great examples to follow. You will describe in your prayers specifically who has blessed your life and how, during that day. That will take more than a few minutes and more than a little thought. It will surprise you and change you...

Some of you are already models of unselfish priesthood service. In temples across the world, priesthood holders arrive before sunrise. And some serve long after sunset. There is no recognition or public acclaim in this world for that sacrifice of time and effort. I have gone with young people as they serve those in the spirit world, who are not able to claim temple blessings for themselves.

As I see happiness rather than fatigue in the faces of those who serve there early and late, I know there are great rewards in this life for that type of unselfish priesthood service, but it is only a token of the joy they will share with those whom they served in the spirit world...

So my counsel to you who want to bless others with your priesthood has to do with your life which is private to all but God.

Pray to Him. Thank Him for all that is good in your life. Ask Him to know what individuals He has placed in your way for you to serve. Plead that He will help you give that service. Pray so that you can forgive and so that you can be forgiven. Then serve them, love them, and forgive them.

Above all, remember that of all the service you give, none is greater than to help people choose to qualify for eternal life. God has given that overarching direction to us on how to use our priesthood. He is the perfect example of it. This is the example we see in small part in the best of His mortal servants:

“And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.
“And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

We are to help in that work. Each of us can make a difference. We have been prepared for our time and place in the last days of that sacred work. Each of us has been blessed with examples of those who have made that work the overriding purpose of their time on earth.

Pres. THOMAS S. MONSON - "Be Strong and of a Good Courage"

We are here upon the earth at a remarkable period in its history. Our opportunities are almost limitless, and yet we also face a multitude of challenges, some of them unique to our time.

We live in a world where moral values have, in great measure, been tossed aside, where sin is flagrantly on display, and where temptations to stray from the strait and narrow path surround us. We are faced with persistent pressures and insidious influences tearing down what is decent and attempting to substitute the shallow philosophies and practices of a secular society.

Because of these and other challenges, decisions are constantly before us which can determine our destiny. In order for us to make the correct decisions, courage is needed—the courage to say no when we should, the courage to say yes when that is appropriate, the courage to do the right thing because it is right.

Inasmuch as the trend in society today is rapidly moving away from the values and principles the Lord has given us, we will almost certainly be called upon to defend that which we believe. Will we have the courage to do so?...

We will all face fear, experience ridicule, and meet opposition. Let us—all of us—have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval. Courage becomes a living and an attractive virtue when it is regarded not only as a willingness to die manfully but also as the determination to live decently. As we move forward, striving to live as we should, we will surely receive help from the Lord and can find comfort in His words. I love His promise recorded in the book of Joshua:

“I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. …
“… Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

My beloved brethren, with the courage of our convictions, may we declare, with the Apostle Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” And then, with that same courage, may we follow Paul’s counsel: “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

Catastrophic conflicts come and go, but the war waged for the souls of men continues without abatement. Like a clarion call comes the word of the Lord to you, to me, and to priesthood holders everywhere: “Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.” Then we will be, as the Apostle Peter declared, even “a royal priesthood,” united in purpose and endowed with power from on high.

Sunday Morning Session

Pres. DIETER F. UCHTDORF - "Grateful in Any Circumstances"

Over the years, I have had the sacred opportunity to meet with many people whose sorrows seem to reach the very depths of their soul. In these moments, I have listened to my beloved brothers and sisters and grieved with them over their burdens. I have pondered what to say to them, and I have struggled to know how to comfort and support them in their trials.

Often their grief is caused by what seems to them as an ending. Some are facing the end of a cherished relationship, such as the death of a loved one or estrangement from a family member. Others feel they are facing the end of hope—the hope of being married or bearing children or overcoming an illness. Others may be facing the end of their faith, as confusing and conflicting voices in the world tempt them to question, even abandon, what they once knew to be true.

Sooner or later, I believe that all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift.

It can happen to anyone. No one is immune.

Everyone’s situation is different, and the details of each life are unique. Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives. There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious.

We can be grateful!

It might sound contrary to the wisdom of the world to suggest that one who is burdened with sorrow should give thanks to God. But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding.

As disciples of Christ, we are commanded to “thank the Lord [our] God in all things,” to “sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving,” and to “let [our] heart be full of thanks unto God.”...

But some might say, “What do I have to be grateful for when my world is falling apart?”

Perhaps focusing on what we are grateful for is the wrong approach. It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count. True, it is important to frequently “count our blessings”—and anyone who has tried this knows there are many—but I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be less thankful in times of trial than in times of abundance and ease. In fact, most of the scriptural references do not speak of gratitude for things but rather suggest an overall spirit or attitude of gratitude.

It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach?

Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be...

We can choose to be like the Prophet Joseph Smith, who, while a prisoner in miserable conditions in Liberty Jail, penned these inspired words: “Dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”

We can choose to be grateful, no matter what.

This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer.

When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.

We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?

Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.

This is not a gratitude of the lips but of the soul. It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind...

In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.

Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.

The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions—temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.

How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings...

The Lord has given us His promise that those “who [receive] all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto [them], even an hundred fold, yea, more.”

May we “live in thanksgiving daily”—especially during the seemingly unexplainable endings that are part of mortality. May we allow our souls to expand in thankfulness toward our merciful Heavenly Father. May we ever and constantly raise our voices and show by word and deed our gratitude to our Father in Heaven and to His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

M. RUSSELL BALLARD - "Following Up"

In the October 2011 conference, I urged that we remember these important words of the Lord: “For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

With these words, the Lord makes clear that this is not only a formal title but also the name by which His Church is to be called. Given His clear declaration, we should not refer to the Church by any other name, such as “Mormon Church” or “LDS Church.”

The term Mormon can be appropriately used in some contexts to refer to members of the Church, such as Mormon pioneers, or to institutions, such as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Church members are widely known as Mormons, and in interactions with those not of our faith, we may fittingly refer to ourselves as Mormons, provided we couple this with the full name of the Church.

If members learn to use the correct name of the Church in connection with the word Mormon, it will underscore that we are Christians, members of the Savior’s Church.

Brothers and sisters, let us follow up and develop the habit of always making it clear that we belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...

The second message that I feel I should follow up on was delivered just last general conference, when I encouraged members to pray to be led to at least one person to whom they could extend an invitation to learn about the restored gospel before Christmas. Many Church members have shared with me some special experiences as a consequence of their asking the Lord for missionary opportunities...

I’m a great believer in the principle of follow-up. As it says in the missionary guide Preach My Gospel, “extending an invitation without following up is like beginning a journey without finishing it or buying a ticket to a concert without going into the theater. Without the completed action, the commitment is hollow.”

Preach My Gospel teaches everyone not only how to invite but also how to follow up on our invitations. The purpose of missionary work is defined as inviting “others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”...

May I suggest that we can all be more consistently involved in missionary work by replacing our fear with real faith, inviting someone at least once a quarter—or four times every year—to be taught by the full-time missionaries. They are prepared to teach by the Spirit, with sincere and heartfelt inspiration from the Lord. Together we can follow up on our invitations, take others by the hand, lift them up, and walk with them on their spiritual journey.

DAVID A. BEDNAR - "Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease"

The Savior said:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

A yoke is a wooden beam, normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals that enables them to pull together on a load. A yoke places animals side-by-side so they can move together in order to accomplish a task.

Consider the Lord’s uniquely individual invitation to “take my yoke upon you.” Making and keeping sacred covenants yokes us to and with the Lord Jesus Christ. In essence, the Savior is beckoning us to rely upon and pull together with Him, even though our best efforts are not equal to and cannot be compared with His. As we trust in and pull our load with Him during the journey of mortality, truly His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

We are not and never need be alone. We can press forward in our daily lives with heavenly help. Through the Savior’s Atonement we can receive capacity and “strength beyond [our] own” (“Lord, I Would Follow Thee,” Hymns, no. 220). As the Lord declared, “Therefore, continue your journey and let your hearts rejoice; for behold, and lo, I am with you even unto the end” (D&C 100:12)...

the Savior has suffered not just for our sins and iniquities—but also for our physical pains and anguish, our weaknesses and shortcomings, our fears and frustrations, our disappointments and discouragement, our regrets and remorse, our despair and desperation, the injustices and inequities we experience, and the emotional distresses that beset us.

There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, “No one knows what it is like. No one understands.” But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice (see Alma 34:14), He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power. Indeed, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Pres. THOMAS S. MONSON - "Love - The Essence of the Gospel"

My beloved brothers and sisters, when our Savior ministered among men, He was asked by the inquiring lawyer, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Matthew records that Jesus responded:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Mark concludes the account with the Savior’s statement: “There is none other commandment greater than these.”

We cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey. Likewise, we cannot fully love our fellowmen if we do not love God, the Father of us all. The Apostle John tells us, “This commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” We are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father and, as such, are brothers and sisters. As we keep this truth in mind, loving all of God’s children will become easier...

Brothers and sisters, some of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate our love will be within the walls of our own homes. Love should be the very heart of family life, and yet sometimes it is not. There can be too much impatience, too much arguing, too many fights, too many tears. Lamented President Gordon B. Hinckley: “Why is it that the [ones] we love [most] become so frequently the targets of our harsh words? Why is it that [we] sometimes speak as if with daggers that cut to the quick?” The answers to these questions may be different for each of us, and yet the bottom line is that the reasons do not matter. If we would keep the commandment to love one another, we must treat each other with kindness and respect.

Of course there will be times when discipline needs to be meted out. Let us remember, however, the counsel found in the Doctrine and Covenants—namely, that when it is necessary for us to reprove another, we afterward show forth an increase of love.

I would hope that we would strive always to be considerate and to be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around us. Let us not demean or belittle. Rather, let us be compassionate and encouraging. We must be careful that we do not destroy another person’s confidence through careless words or actions.

Forgiveness should go hand in hand with love. In our families, as well as with our friends, there can be hurt feelings and disagreements. Again, it doesn’t really matter how small the issue was. It cannot and should not be left to canker, to fester, and ultimately to destroy. Blame keeps wounds open. Only forgiveness heals...

Love is expressed in many recognizable ways: a smile, a wave, a kind comment, a compliment. Other expressions may be more subtle, such as showing interest in another’s activities, teaching a principle with kindness and patience, visiting one who is ill or homebound. These words and actions and many others can communicate love.

Dale Carnegie, a well-known American author and lecturer, believed that each person has within himself or herself the “power to increase the sum total of [the] world’s happiness … by giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged.” Said he, “Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.”

May we begin now, this very day, to express love to all of God’s children, whether they be our family members, our friends, mere acquaintances, or total strangers. As we arise each morning, let us determine to respond with love and kindness to whatever might come our way.

Beyond comprehension, my brothers and sisters, is the love of God for us. Because of this love, He sent His Son, who loved us enough to give His life for us, that we might have eternal life. As we come to understand this incomparable gift, our hearts will be filled with love for our Eternal Father, for our Savior, and for all mankind. That such may be so is my earnest prayer in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Sunday Afternoon Session

BOYD K. PACKER - "The Witness"

World War II was a time of great spiritual turmoil for me. I had left my home in Brigham City, Utah, with only embers of a testimony, and I felt the need for something more. Virtually our whole senior class in a matter of weeks was on its way to the war zone. While stationed on the island of Ie Shima, just north of Okinawa, Japan, I struggled with doubt and uncertainty. I wanted a personal testimony of the gospel. I wanted to know!

During one sleepless night, I left my tent and entered a bunker which had been formed by lining up 50-gallon fuel drums filled with sand and placed one on top of the other to form an enclosure. There was no roof, and so I crawled in, looked up at the star-filled sky, and knelt to pray.

Almost mid-sentence it happened. I could not describe to you what happened if I were determined to do so. It is beyond my power of expression, but it is as clear today as it was that night more than 65 years ago. I knew it to be a very private, very individual manifestation. At last I knew for myself. I knew for a certainty, for it had been given to me. After some time, I crawled from that bunker and walked, or floated, back to my bed. I spent the rest of the night in a feeling of joy and awe.

Far from thinking I was someone special, I thought that if such a thing came to me, that it could come to anyone. I still believe that. In the years that have followed, I have come to understand that such an experience is at once a light to follow and a burden to carry...

Parenthood is a sacred privilege, and depending upon faithfulness, it can be an eternal blessing. The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is that a man and his wife and their children can be happy at home.

Those who do not marry or those who cannot have children are not excluded from the eternal blessings they seek but which, for now, remain beyond their reach. We do not always know how or when blessings will present themselves, but the promise of eternal increase will not be denied any faithful individual who makes and keeps sacred covenants.

Your secret yearnings and tearful pleadings will touch the heart of both the Father and the Son. You will be given a personal assurance from Them that your life will be full and that no blessing that is essential will be lost to you.

As a servant of the Lord, acting in the office to which I have been ordained, I give those in such circumstances a promise that there will be nothing essential to your salvation and exaltation that shall not in due time rest upon you. Arms now empty will be filled, and hearts now hurting from broken dreams and yearning will be healed.

Another truth I have come to know is that the Holy Ghost is real. He is the third member of the Godhead. His mission is to testify of truth and righteousness. He manifests Himself in many ways, including feelings of peace and reassurance. He can also bring comfort, guidance, and correction when needed. The companionship of the Holy Ghost is maintained throughout our lives by righteous living.

The gift of the Holy Ghost is conferred through an ordinance of the gospel. One with authority lays his hands on the head of a new member of the Church and says words such as these: “Receive the Holy Ghost.”...

After all the years that I have lived and taught and served, after the millions of miles I have traveled around the world, with all that I have experienced, there is one great truth that I would share. That is my witness of the Savior Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon recorded the following after a sacred experience:

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him” (D&C 76:22–23).

Their words are my words.

I believe and I am sure that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that He lives. He is the Only Begotten of the Father, and “by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:24).

I bear my witness that the Savior lives. I know the Lord. I am His witness. I know of His great sacrifice and eternal love for all of Heavenly Father’s children. I bear my special witness in all humility but with absolute certainty, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

L. TOM PERRY - "Obedience Through Our Faithfulness"

One day I asked my grandfather how I would know if I was always doing the right thing, given that life presents so many choices. As my grandfather usually did, he answered me with an experience from farm life.

He taught me about breaking in a team of horses so that they would work together. He explained that a team of horses must always know who is in charge. One of the keys to asserting control and directing a horse is a harness and bit. If a member of the team ever believes that it does not need to obey the will of the driver, the team will never pull and work together to maximize their ability.

Now let’s examine the lesson my grandfather taught me using this example. Who is the driver of the team of horses? My grandfather believed it is the Lord. He is the one who has a purpose and a plan. He is also the trainer and builder of the team of horses and, in turn, each individual horse. The driver knows best, and the only way for a horse to know it is always doing the right thing is to be obedient and follow the driver’s lead.

What was my grandfather likening to a harness and bit? I believed then, as I believe now, that my grandfather was teaching me to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. In his mind’s eye, the harness and bit were spiritual. An obedient horse which is part of a well-trained team of horses needs little more than a gentle tug from the driver to do exactly what he wants it to do. This gentle tug is equivalent to the still, small voice with which the Lord speaks to us. Out of respect for our agency, it is never a strong, forceful tug.

Men and women who ignore the gentle promptings of the Spirit will often learn, as the prodigal son learned, through the natural consequences of disobedience and riotous living. It was only after natural consequences humbled the prodigal son that “he came to himself” and heard the whisperings of the Spirit telling him to return to his father’s house (see Luke 15:11–32)...

I have contemplated on many occasions the story of Abraham and Isaac, and I still do not believe I fully comprehend Abraham’s faithfulness and obedience. Perhaps I can imagine him faithfully packing up to leave early one morning, but how did he take all those steps alongside his son Isaac over the three-day journey to the base of Mount Moriah? How did they carry the wood for the fire up the mountain? How did he build the altar? How did he bind Isaac and lay him on the altar? How did he explain to him that he would be the sacrifice? And how did he have the strength to lift the knife to slay his son? Abraham’s faith empowered him to follow God’s lead with exactness up until the miraculous moment when an angel called out from heaven, announcing to Abraham that he had passed his agonizing test. And then the angel of the Lord repeated the promise of the Abrahamic covenant.

I recognize that the challenges associated with having faith in Jesus Christ and obedience will be more difficult for some than others. I have had enough years of experience to know that the personalities of horses can be very different and, therefore, some horses can be easier or more difficult to train and that the variety of people is far greater. Each of us is a son or daughter of God, and we have a unique premortal and mortal story. Accordingly, there are very few one-size-fits-all solutions. And so I fully recognize the trial-and-error nature of life and, most importantly, the constant need of the second principle of the gospel, even repentance.

D. TODD CHRISTOFFERSON - "The Resurrection of Jesus Christ"

A crushing sense of defeat and despair enveloped His disciples as Jesus suffered and died on the cross and His body was placed lifeless in the tomb. Despite what the Savior had repeatedly said of His death and subsequent rising again, they had not understood. The dark afternoon of His Crucifixion, however, was soon followed by the joyous morning of His Resurrection. But that joy came only as the disciples became eyewitnesses of the Resurrection, for even the declaration of angels that He had risen was at first incomprehensible—it was something so totally unprecedented.

Mary Magdalene and a few other faithful women came early to the Savior’s tomb that Sunday morning, bringing spices and ointments to complete the anointing begun when the Lord’s body was hastily laid in the sepulchre before the approaching Sabbath. On this morning of mornings, they were greeted by an open sepulchre, the covering stone having been rolled away, and two angels who declared:

“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.”
“Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
“And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead.”

As bidden by the angels, Mary Magdalene looked into the tomb, but it seems that all that registered in her mind was that the body of the Lord was gone. She hurried to report to the Apostles and, finding Peter and John, said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.” Peter and John ran to the place and verified that indeed the tomb was empty, seeing “the linen clothes lying … and the napkin, that was about his head, … wrapped together in a place by itself.” John apparently was the first to comprehend the magnificent message of resurrection. He writes that “he saw, and believed,” whereas the others to that point “knew not the scripture, that [Jesus] must rise again from the dead.”

Peter and John left, but Mary remained behind, still in mourning. In the meantime the angels had returned and tenderly asked her, “Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” At that moment the resurrected Savior, now standing behind her, spoke, “Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”

Elder James E. Talmage wrote: “It was Jesus to whom she spake, her beloved Lord, though she knew it not. One word from His living lips changed her agonized grief into ecstatic joy. ‘Jesus saith unto her, Mary.’ The voice, the tone, the tender accent she had heard and loved in the earlier days lifted her from the despairing depths into which she had sunk. She turned, and saw the Lord. In a transport of joy she reached out her arms to embrace Him, uttering only the endearing and worshipful word, ‘Rabboni,’ meaning My beloved Master.”

And so this blessed woman became the first mortal to see and speak to the resurrected Christ. Later that same day He appeared to Peter in or near Jerusalem; to two disciples on the road to Emmaus; and in the evening to 10 of the Apostles and others, appearing suddenly in their midst, saying, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” Then to further convince them “while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered,” He ate broiled fish and honeycomb before them. Later He instructed them, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”...

Given the reality of the Resurrection of Christ, doubts about the omnipotence, omniscience, and benevolence of God the Father—who gave His Only Begotten Son for the redemption of the world—are groundless. Doubts about the meaning and purpose of life are unfounded. Jesus Christ is in fact the only name or way by which salvation can come to mankind. The grace of Christ is real, affording both forgiveness and cleansing to the repentant sinner. Faith truly is more than imagination or psychological invention. There is ultimate and universal truth, and there are objective and unchanging moral standards, as taught by Him.

Given the reality of the Resurrection of Christ, repentance of any violation of His law and commandments is both possible and urgent. The Savior’s miracles were real, as is His promise to His disciples that they might do the same and even greater works. His priesthood is necessarily a real power that “administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.” Given the reality of the Resurrection of Christ, death is not our end, and though “skin worms destroy [our bodies], yet in [our] flesh shall [we] see God.”...

I believe the many witnesses of the Savior’s Resurrection whose experiences and testimonies are found in the New Testament—Peter and his companions of the Twelve and dear, pure Mary of Magdala, among others. I believe the testimonies found in the Book of Mormon—of Nephi the Apostle with the unnamed multitude in the land Bountiful, among others. And I believe the testimony of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon who, after many other testimonies, proclaimed the great witness of this last dispensation “that he lives! For we saw him.” Under the glance of His all-seeing eye, I stand myself as a witness that Jesus of Nazareth is the resurrected Redeemer, and I testify of all that follows from the fact of His Resurrection.

Pres. THOMAS S. MONSON - "Until We Meet Again"

We face many serious challenges in the world today, but I assure you that our Heavenly Father is mindful of us. He will guide and bless us as we put our faith and trust in Him and will see us through whatever difficulties come our way.

May heaven’s blessings be with each of us. May our homes be filled with love and courtesy and with the Spirit of the Lord. May we constantly nourish our testimonies of the gospel, that they will be a protection for us against the buffetings of the adversary. May the Spirit we have felt during these past two days be and abide with us as we go about those things which occupy us each day, and may we ever be found doing the work of the Lord.

I bear testimony that this work is true, that our Savior lives, and that He guides and directs His Church here upon the earth. I leave with you my witness and my testimony that God our Eternal Father lives and loves us. He is indeed our Father, and He is personal and real. May we realize how close to us He is willing to come, how far He is willing to go to help us, and how much He loves us.

My brothers and sisters, may God bless you. May His promised peace be with you now and always.

1 comment:

  1. Some thoughts on this one:
    1. Packer gave what felt like his final talk. His health's been bad for several years now. If he's still here in October, I'd expect that talk to sound like his final talk too, until he's called home. He turns 90 in a few days.
    2. Some of these talks jump out at me more when I re-read them. There's a lot of substance to Oaks' talk, which I think was originally taken by many as a response to Ordain Women, but there's a lot of ground it covers.
    3. I appreciate more now the younger Apostles. I didn't really feel used to Cook, Christofferson and Andersen, but now I do. Between them and the other three "young" ones (Holland, Uchtdorf, Bednar), the Church will be in good hands for decades to come.