Saturday, October 10, 2015
#LDSConf October 2015: Sunday Morning Session
Recently, as I have been reading and pondering the scriptures, two passages in particular have stayed with me. Both are familiar to us. The first is from the Sermon on the Mount: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”1 The second scripture is one which came to my mind as I pondered the meaning of the first. It is from the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to Timothy: “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
I believe the second scripture explains, in great part, how we can accomplish the first. We become examples of the believers by living the gospel of Jesus Christ in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, and in purity. As we do so, our lights will shine for others to see...
To be an example of faith means that we trust in the Lord and in His word. It means that we possess and that we nourish the beliefs that will guide our thoughts and our actions. Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in our Heavenly Father will influence all that we do. Amidst the confusion of our age, the conflicts of conscience, and the turmoil of daily living, an abiding faith becomes an anchor to our lives. Remember that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other. I reiterate what we have been told repeatedly—that in order to gain and to keep the faith we need, it is essential that we read and study and ponder the scriptures. Communication with our Heavenly Father through prayer is vital. We cannot afford to neglect these things, for the adversary and his hosts are relentlessly seeking for a chink in our armor, a lapse in our faithfulness. Said the Lord, “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.”
Finally, we are to be pure, which means that we are clean in body, mind, and spirit. We know that our body is a temple, to be treated with reverence and respect. Our minds should be filled with uplifting and ennobling thoughts and kept free from those things which will pollute. In order to have the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, we must be worthy. Brothers and sisters, purity will bring us peace of mind and will qualify us to receive the Savior’s promises. Said He, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”...
My brothers and sisters, our opportunities to shine surround us each day, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. As we follow the example of the Savior, ours will be the opportunity to be a light in the lives of others, whether they be our own family members and friends, our co-workers, mere acquaintances, or total strangers.
To each of you, I say that you are a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father. You have come from His presence to live on this earth for a season, to reflect the Savior’s love and teachings, and to bravely let your light shine for all to see. When that season on earth has ended, if you have done your part, yours will be the glorious blessing of returning to live with Him forever.
How reassuring are the Savior’s words: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Of Him I testify. He is our Savior and Redeemer, our Advocate with the Father. He is our Exemplar and our strength. He is “the light which shineth in darkness.” That each of us within the sound of my voice may pledge to follow Him, thus becoming a shining light to the world, is my prayer in His holy name, even Jesus Christ the Lord, amen.
[This is the talk where he almost collapsed, and two men were able to help him to his seat as soon as it was over.]
A few days ago I had the great privilege to meet with the First Presidency and receive this call from our dear prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. I want to witness to all of you of the strength and love President Monson had as he said to me, “This call comes from the Lord Jesus Christ.”...
If I could leave one small message with you today, it would be this: the Lord has said, “Love one another; as I have loved you.”2 I’m conﬁdent that there is no choice, sin, or mistake that you or anyone else can make that will change His love for you or for them. That does not mean He excuses or condones sinful conduct—I’m sure He does not—but it does mean we are to reach out to our fellowman in love to invite, persuade, serve, and rescue. Jesus Christ looked past people’s ethnicity, rank, and circumstances in order to teach them this profound truth.
I have been asked many times when I received my testimony.
I can’t remember not believing in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I have loved Them since I learned of Them at the knees of my angel mother, reading scripture and gospel stories. That early belief has now grown into a knowledge and a witness of a loving Heavenly Father, who hears and answers our prayers. My testimony of Jesus Christ has been built from many special experiences in which I have come to know His great love for each one of us.
I was called to meet with President Monson, along with his counselors. Moments later, as I walked into the boardroom adjacent to his office, I must have looked nervous sitting across the table, as he kindly spoke to calm my nerves. He commented, noting my age, that I seemed quite young and even looked younger than my age.
Then, within a few moments, President Monson described that acting on the will of the Lord, he was extending a call to the Quorum of the Twelve to me. He asked me if I would accept this call, to which, following what I am sure was a very undignified audible gasp, in complete shock, I responded affirmatively. And then, before I could even verbalize a tsunami of indescribable emotion, most of which were feelings of inadequacy, President Monson kindly reached out to me, describing how he was called many years ago as an Apostle by President David O. McKay, at which time he too felt inadequate. He calmly instructed me, “Bishop Stevenson, the Lord will qualify those whom He calls.” These soothing words of a prophet have been a source of peace, a calm in a storm of painful self-examination and tender feelings in the ensuing agonizing hours which have passed day and night since then.
I rehearsed what I have just described to you to my sweet companion, Lesa, later that day, seated in a quiet corner on Temple Square, with a serene view of the temple and the historic Tabernacle lying before us. As we tried to comprehend and process the events of the day, we found our anchor to be our faith in Jesus Christ and our knowledge of the great plan of happiness. This leads to an expression of my deepest love for Lesa. She is the sunshine in and of my life and a remarkable daughter of God. Hers is a life punctuated by selfless service and unconditional love of all. I will strive to remain worthy of the blessing of our eternal union...
Something wonderful happens in a missionary’s service when he or she realizes that the calling is not about him or her; rather, it is about the Lord, His work, and Heavenly Father’s children. I feel the same is true for an Apostle. This calling is not about me. It’s about the Lord, His work, and Heavenly Father’s children. No matter what the assignment or calling is in the Church, to serve capably, one must serve knowing that everyone we serve “is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, … has a divine nature and destiny.”...
In the Church, to effectively serve others we must see them through a parent’s eyes, through Heavenly Father’s eyes. Only then can we begin to comprehend the true worth of a soul. Only then can we sense the love that Heavenly Father has for all of His children. Only then can we sense the Savior’s caring concern for them. We cannot completely fulfill our covenant obligation to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort unless we see them through God’s eyes. This expanded perspective will open our hearts to the disappointments, fears, and heartaches of others...
With all my heart I want to be a true follower of Jesus Christ. I love Him. I adore Him. I witness of His living reality. I witness that He is the Anointed One, the Messiah. I am a witness of His incomparable mercy, compassion, and love.
It has been difficult for me to believe that these three treasured friends, these magnificent servants of the Lord, are gone. I miss them more than I can say.
As I’ve reflected on this unexpected turn of events, one of the impressions that has lingered with me is that which I observed in these surviving wives. Etched in my mind are the serene images of Sister Donna Smith Packer and Sister Barbara Dayton Perry at their husbands’ bedsides, both women filled with love, truth, and pure faith.
As Sister Packer sat next to her husband in his final hours, she radiated that peace that passes all understanding.1 Though she realized that her beloved companion of almost 70 years would soon depart, she showed the tranquility of a faith-filled woman...
Thirty-six years ago, in 1979, President Spencer W. Kimball made a profound prophecy about the impact that covenant-keeping women would have on the future of the Lord’s Church. He prophesied: “Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world … will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.”
My dear sisters, you who are our vital associates during this winding-up scene, the day that President Kimball foresaw is today. You are the women he foresaw! Your virtue, light, love, knowledge, courage, character, faith, and righteous lives will draw good women of the world, along with their families, to the Church in unprecedented numbers!
We, your brethren, need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices. The kingdom of God is not and cannot be complete without women who make sacred covenants and then keep them, women who can speak with the power and authority of God!...
We know that the culminating act of all creation was the creation of woman! We need your strength!
Attacks against the Church, its doctrine, and our way of life are going to increase. Because of this, we need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation. We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms. We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity. We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve.
My dear sisters, nothing is more crucial to your eternal life than your own conversion. It is converted, covenant-keeping women—women like my dear wife Wendy—whose righteous lives will increasingly stand out in a deteriorating world and who will thus be seen as different and distinct in the happiest of ways.
So today I plead with my sisters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to step forward! Take your rightful and needful place in your home, in your community, and in the kingdom of God—more than you ever have before. I plead with you to fulfill President Kimball’s prophecy. And I promise you in the name of Jesus Christ that as you do so, the Holy Ghost will magnify your influence in an unprecedented way!
GREGORY A. SCHWITZER - "Let the Clarion Trumpet Sound"
of the Seventy
The Apostle Paul taught us about comparing communication to musical instruments when he wrote to the Corinthians:
“And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?
“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”
If ever there was a time when the world needs disciples of Christ who can communicate the message of the gospel with clarity and from the heart, it is now. We need the clarion call of the trumpet.
Christ was certainly our best example. He always demonstrated courage to stand up for what was right. His words echo through the centuries as He invites us to remember to love God and our fellowman, to keep all of God’s commandments, and to live as lights to the world. He was not afraid to speak against the earthly powers or rulers of His day, even when such were opposing His mission given to Him by His Heavenly Father. His words were not designed to confuse but to move the hearts of men. He clearly knew His Father’s will in all He said and did.
I also love the example of Peter, who confronted the men of the world with courage and clarity on the day of Pentecost. On that day people were assembled from many countries criticizing the early Saints because they heard them speak in tongues and thought they were drunken. Peter, having the Spirit rise in his soul, stood up to defend the Church and the members. He testified with these words: “Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words.”...
Over the many years that I have studied the story of Lehi’s dream in the Book of Mormon, I have always thought of the great and spacious building as a place where only the most rebellious reside. The building was filled with people mocking and pointing at the faithful who had held on to the iron rod, which represents the word of God, and had made their way to the tree of life, which represents the love of God. Some could not bear up under the pressure of the people mocking them and wandered off. Others decided to join the mockers in the building. Did they not have the courage to speak boldly against the criticisms or messages of the world?
As I watch the current world moving away from God, I think this building is growing in size. Many find themselves today wandering the halls of the great and spacious building, not realizing that they are actually becoming part of its culture. They often succumb to the temptations and the messages. We eventually find them mocking or chiming in with those who criticize or mock...
It is time for us, as Latter-day Saints, to stand up and testify. It is time for the notes of the melody of the gospel to rise above the noise of the world.
of the Seventy
I love to study and ponder the life of Him who gave everything for me and for all of us.
I love to read scriptural passages about His sinless life, and after reading the scriptures which tell about the events experienced by Him, I close my eyes and try to visualize these sacred moments that teach me and strengthen me spiritually.
Moments such as:
• When He spat on the ground and, having made clay of the spittle, anointed the eyes of the blind man and said unto him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” And the man obeyed, “and washed, and came seeing.”
• When He healed the woman who had an issue of blood and had touched the border of His garment, believing that just by touching Him, she would be healed.
• When He appeared to His disciples, walking upon the sea.
• When He went with the disciples on the road to Emmaus and opened the scriptures to their understanding...
I meditated upon each word of the blessings on the bread and the water. I deeply reflected on the words “and always remember him” in the blessing on the bread and “that they do always remember him” in the blessing on the water.
I meditated on what it means to always remember Him.
To me it means:
• To remember His premortal life, when this beautiful planet was made by Him.
• To remember His humble birth in a manger in Bethlehem of Judea.
• To remember when, even as a 12-year-old boy, He taught and preached to the doctors in the temple.
• To remember when He went aside privately into a desert to prepare for His mortal ministry.
• To remember when He was transfigured before His disciples.
• To remember when He instituted the sacrament at the Last Supper with them.
• To remember when He went to the Garden of Gethsemane and suffered so intensely for our sins, pains, disappointments, and illnesses that He bled from every pore.
• To remember when, after so much suffering and severe pain, even yet in Gethsemane, He was betrayed with a kiss by one of the disciples whom He called a friend.
• To remember when He was taken to Pilate and to Herod for trial.
• To remember when He was humiliated, buffeted, spat upon, smitten, and scourged with a whip that tore His flesh.
• To remember when a crown of thorns was brutally put upon His head.
• To remember that He had to carry His own cross to Golgotha and that He was nailed to the cross there, suffering every physical and spiritual pain.
• To remember that at the cross, with His bowels full of charity, He looked at those who crucified Him and raised His eyes to heaven, pleading, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
• To remember when He, knowing He had fulfilled His mission of saving all mankind, gave up His spirit into the hands of His Father, our Father.
• To remember His Resurrection, which ensures our own resurrection and the possibility to live beside Him for all eternity, depending on our choices.
Furthermore, meditating on the sacrament prayers and the very special and meaningful words of the prayers reminds me how wonderful it is to receive the promise, during the blessing of the sacrament, that as we always remember Him, we will always have His Spirit with us.
I believe the Lord has His own timing as to when to give revelation unto us.
My purpose today is to increase your desire and your determination to claim the gift promised to each of us after we were baptized. During our confirmation we heard these words: “Receive the Holy Ghost.”1 From that moment, our lives changed forever.
We can, if we live worthy of it, have the blessing of the Spirit to be with us, not only now and then, as in such remarkable experiences as we’ve had today, but always. You know from the words of the sacrament prayer how that promise is fulfilled: “O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them.”
And then comes the glorious promise: “That they may always have his Spirit to be with them” (D&C 20:77).
To always have the Spirit with us is to have the guidance and direction of the Holy Ghost in our daily lives. We can, for instance, be warned by the Spirit to resist the temptation to do evil...
Just as the Holy Ghost strengthens us against evil, He also gives us the power to discern truth from falsehood. The truth that matters most is verified only by revelation from God. Our human reason and the use of our physical senses will not be enough. We live in a time when even the wisest will be hard-pressed to distinguish truth from clever deception...
For many reasons, we need the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. We desire it, yet we know from experience that it is not easy to maintain. We each think, say, and do things in our daily lives that can offend the Spirit. The Lord taught us that the Holy Ghost will be our constant companion when our hearts are full of charity and when virtue garnishes our thoughts unceasingly (see D&C 121:45).
For those who are struggling with the high standard needed to qualify for the gift of the Spirit’s companionship, I offer this encouragement. You have had times when you have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost. It may have happened for you today...
I bear you my testimony that God the Father lives, that the resurrected Jesus Christ leads His Church, that President Thomas S. Monson holds all the keys of the priesthood, and that revelation through the Holy Ghost guides and sustains The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its humble members.
I further testify to you that these wonderful men who have today been speaking to us as witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ, as members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, are called of God. I know that the Spirit led President Monson to call them. And as you listened to them and their testimonies, the Holy Spirit confirmed to you what I now say to you. They are called of God. I sustain them and love them and know that the Lord loves them and will sustain them in their service.