DAVID A. BEDNAR - "Therefore They Hushed Their Fears"
In our daily lives, endless reports of criminal violence, famine, wars, corruption, terrorism, declining values, disease, and the destructive forces of nature can engender fear and apprehension. Surely we live in the season foretold by the Lord: “And in that day … the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them” (D&C 45:26).
My purpose is to describe how fear is dispelled through a correct knowledge of and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I earnestly pray the Holy Ghost will bless each of us as we consider together this important topic...
Trust and confidence in Christ and a ready reliance on His merits, mercy, and grace lead to hope, through His Atonement, in the Resurrection and eternal life (see Moroni 7:41). Such faith and hope invite into our lives the sweet peace of conscience for which we all yearn. The power of the Atonement makes repentance possible and quells the despair caused by sin; it also strengthens us to see, do, and become good in ways that we could never recognize or accomplish with our limited mortal capacity. Truly, one of the great blessings of devoted discipleship is “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
The peace Christ gives allows us to view mortality through the precious perspective of eternity and supplies a spiritual settledness (see Colossians 1:23) that helps us maintain a consistent focus on our heavenly destination. Thus, we can be blessed to hush our fears because His doctrine provides purpose and direction in all aspects of our lives. His ordinances and covenants fortify and comfort in times both good and bad. And His priesthood authority gives assurance that the things that matter most can endure both in time and in eternity...
My beloved brothers and sisters, godly fear dispels mortal fears. It even subdues the haunting concern that we never can be good enough spiritually and never will measure up to the Lord’s requirements and expectations. In truth, we cannot be good enough or measure up relying solely upon our own capacity and performance. Our works and desires alone do not and cannot save us. “After all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23), we are made whole only through the mercy and grace available through the Savior’s infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice (see Alma 34:10, 14). Certainly, “we believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (Articles of Faith 1:3).
Godly fear is loving and trusting in Him. As we fear God more completely, we love Him more perfectly. And “perfect love casteth out all fear” (Moroni 8:16). I promise the bright light of godly fear will chase away the dark shadows of mortal fears (see D&C 50:25) as we look to the Savior, build upon Him as our foundation, and press forward on His covenant path with consecrated commitment.
Prophets have revealed that we first existed as intelligences and that we were given form, or spirit bodies, by God, thus becoming His spirit children—sons and daughters of heavenly parents. There came a time in this premortal existence of spirits when, in furtherance of His desire that we “could have a privilege to advance like himself,” our Heavenly Father prepared an enabling plan. In the scriptures it is given various names, including “the plan of salvation,” “the great plan of happiness,” and “the plan of redemption.” The two principal purposes of the plan were explained to Abraham in these words:
“And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these [spirits] may dwell;Thanks to our Heavenly Father, we had already become spirit beings. Now He was offering us a path to complete or perfect that being. The addition of the physical element is essential to the fulness of being and glory that God Himself enjoys. If, while with God in the premortal spirit world, we would agree to participate in His plan—or in other words “keep [our] first estate”—we would “be added upon” with a physical body as we came to dwell on the earth that He created for us...
“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
“And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; … and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.”
Nothing relative to our time on earth can be more important than physical birth and spiritual rebirth, the two prerequisites of eternal life. This is, to use the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the “office” of marriage, the “post of responsibility towards … mankind,” that this divine institution “from above, from God” occupies. It is the “link in the chain of the generations” both here and hereafter—the order of heaven.
A family built on the marriage of a man and woman supplies the best setting for God’s plan to thrive—the setting for the birth of children, who come in purity and innocence from God, and the environment for the learning and preparation they will need for a successful mortal life and eternal life in the world to come. A critical mass of families built on such marriages is vital for societies to survive and flourish. That is why communities and nations generally have encouraged and protected marriage and the family as privileged institutions. It has never been just about the love and happiness of adults...
To declare the fundamental truths relative to marriage and family is not to overlook or diminish the sacrifices and successes of those for whom the ideal is not a present reality. Some of you are denied the blessing of marriage for reasons including a lack of viable prospects, same-sex attraction, physical or mental impairments, or simply a fear of failure that, for the moment at least, overshadows faith. Or you may have married, but that marriage ended, and you are left to manage alone what two together can barely sustain. Some of you who are married cannot bear children despite overwhelming desires and pleading prayers.
Even so, everyone has gifts; everyone has talents; everyone can contribute to the unfolding of the divine plan in each generation. Much that is good, much that is essential—even sometimes all that is necessary for now—can be achieved in less than ideal circumstances. So many of you are doing your very best. And when you who bear the heaviest burdens of mortality stand up in defense of God’s plan to exalt His children, we are all ready to march. With confidence we testify that the Atonement of Jesus Christ has anticipated and, in the end, will compensate all deprivation and loss for those who turn to Him. No one is predestined to receive less than all that the Father has for His children.
WILFORD W. ANDERSEN - "The Music of the Gospel"
of the Seventy
It is hard to dance without music. Dancing without music is awkward and unfulfilling—even embarrassing. Have you ever tried it?
In section 8 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord taught Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart” (verse 2). We learn the dance steps with our minds, but we hear the music with our hearts. The dance steps of the gospel are the things we do; the music of the gospel is the joyful spiritual feeling that comes from the Holy Ghost. It brings a change of heart and is the source of all righteous desires. The dance steps require discipline, but the joy of the dance will be experienced only when we come to hear the music.
There are those who ridicule members of the Church for the things we do. That is understandable. Those who dance often appear strange or awkward or, to use a scriptural term, “peculiar” (1 Peter 2:9) to those who cannot hear the music. Have you ever stopped your car at a stoplight next to a car where the driver was dancing and singing at the top of his lungs—but you couldn’t hear a sound because your windows were rolled up? Didn’t he look a little peculiar? If our children learn the dance steps without learning to hear and to feel the beautiful music of the gospel, they will over time become uncomfortable with the dance and will either quit dancing or, almost as bad, keep dancing only because of the pressure they feel from others who are dancing around them.
DALE G. RENLUND - "Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying"
of the Seventy
My dear brothers and sisters, in December 2013 the world mourned the death of Nelson Mandela. After 27 years of imprisonment for his role in the antiapartheid struggle, Mandela was the first democratically elected president of South Africa. His forgiveness of those who had imprisoned him was remarkable. He received widespread acclaim and praise.1 Mandela frequently deflected accolades by saying, “I’m no saint—that is, unless you think a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.”
This statement—“a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying”—should reassure and encourage members of the Church. Although we are referred to as “Latter-day Saints,” we sometimes flinch at this reference. The term Saints is commonly used to designate those who have achieved an elevated state of holiness or even perfection. And we know perfectly well that we are not perfect...
President Thomas S. Monson has taught, “One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final.” Even if we’ve been a conscious, deliberate sinner or have repeatedly faced failure and disappointment, the moment we decide to try again, the Atonement of Christ can help us. And we need to remember that it is not the Holy Ghost that tells us we’re so far gone that we might as well give up.
God’s desire that Latter-day Saints keep on trying also extends beyond overcoming sin. Whether we suffer because of troubled relationships, economic challenges, or illnesses or as a consequence of someone else’s sins, the Savior’s infinite Atonement can heal even—and perhaps especially—those who have innocently suffered. He understands perfectly what it is like to suffer innocently as a consequence of another’s transgression. As prophesied, the Savior will “bind up the brokenhearted, … give … beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, [and] the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” No matter what, with His help, God expects Latter-day Saints to keep on trying...
My invitation to all of us is to evaluate our lives, repent, and keep on trying. If we don’t try, we’re just latter-day sinners; if we don’t persevere, we’re latter-day quitters; and if we don’t allow others to try, we’re just latter-day hypocrites. As we try, persevere, and help others to do the same, we are true Latter-day Saints. As we change, we will find that God indeed cares a lot more about who we are and about who we are becoming than about who we once were.
MICHAEL T. RINGWOOD - "Truly Good and Without Guile"
of the Seventy
In a world where praise, position, power, accolades, and authority are sought on every side, I honor those wonderful and blessed souls who are truly good and without guile, those who are motivated by a love of God and their neighbors, those great women and men who are “more anxious to serve than to have dominion.”
Today there are some who would have us believe our search for relevance can be satisfied only by obtaining position and power. Yet, thankfully, there are many who are uninfluenced by this perspective. They find relevance in seeking to be truly good and without guile. I have found them in all walks of life and in many faith traditions. And I find them in large numbers among the truly converted followers of Christ.
I honor those who selflessly serve each week in wards and branches around the world by going above and beyond in fulfilling callings. But callings come and go. Even more impressive to me are the many who without formal callings find ways to consistently serve and lift others. One brother shows up early for church to set up chairs and stays after to straighten up the chapel. One sister purposely selects a seat near a blind sister in her ward not only so she can greet her but also so she can sing the hymns loudly enough that the blind sister can hear the words and sing along. If you look closely in your ward or branch, you will find examples like these. There are always members who seem to know who needs help and when to offer it.
In this Easter season we reflect upon and rejoice in the redemption provided by our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The clamor that reverberates across the earth because of worldly wickedness creates feelings of vulnerability. With modern communication the impact of iniquity, inequality, and injustice leaves many feeling that life is inherently unfair. As significant as these trials can be, they must not distract us from rejoicing in and celebrating Christ’s supernal intercession in our behalf. The Savior literally “gained the victory over death.” With mercy and compassion He took upon Himself our iniquity and transgressions, thus redeeming us and satisfying the demands of justice for all who would repent and believe on His name.
His magnificent atoning sacrifice is of transcendent significance beyond mortal comprehension. This act of grace provides the peace that surpasses understanding...
In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the Savior declared to His disciples that those who offend and do iniquity shall be gathered out of His kingdom. But speaking of the faithful, He said, “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”5 As individuals, disciples of Christ, living in a hostile world that is literally in commotion, we can thrive and bloom if we are rooted in our love of the Savior and humbly follow His teachings.
Our ability to stand firm and true and follow the Savior despite the vicissitudes of life is greatly strengthened by righteous families and Christ-centered unity in our wards and branches... Husbands and wives are equal partners. They have different but complementary responsibilities. The wife may bear children, which blesses the entire family. The husband may receive the priesthood, which blesses the entire family. But in family council, wives and husbands, as equal partners, make the most important decisions. They decide how the children will be taught and disciplined, how money will be spent, where they will live, and many other family decisions. These are made jointly after seeking guidance from the Lord. The goal is an eternal family...
We recognize that some members have questions and concerns as they seek to strengthen their faith and testimonies. We should be careful not to be critical or judgmental of those with concerns—great or small. At the same time, those with concerns should do everything they can to build their own faith and testimony. Patiently and humbly studying, pondering, praying, living gospel principles, and counseling with appropriate leaders are the best ways to resolve questions or concerns.
Some have asserted that more members are leaving the Church today and that there is more doubt and unbelief than in the past. This is simply not true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never been stronger. The number of members removing their names from the records of the Church has always been very small and is significantly less in recent years than in the past. The increase in demonstrably measurable areas, such as endowed members with a current temple recommend, adult full-tithe payers, and those serving missions, has been dramatic. Let me say again, the Church has never been stronger. But, “remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” We reach out to everyone.