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First Observe, Then Serve
Sister Linda K. Burton
Relief Society General President

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Did you hear it-the invitation to love one another? For some, serving or ministering one by one, following the Savior’s example, doesn’t come easily. But with practice, each of us can become more like the Savior as we serve God’s children. To help us better love one another, I would like to suggest four words to remember: “First observe, then serve.”

We are all invited to follow Jesus’s teachings and minister to others. This invitation is not limited to angelic sisters.

President Monson has reminded us that “Charity, the pure love of Christ,”- or in other words observing and serving- “is evident when an elderly widow is remembered and taken to ward functions” and “when the sister sitting alone in Relief Society receives the invitation, Come-sit by us.’ The golden rule is applicable here: “Whatsoever ye would that men [or women] should do to you, do ye even so to them.”

Recently a flood opened many opportunities for disciples of Jesus Christ to first observe and then serve. Men, women, teenagers, and children saw businesses and homes destroyed and dropped everything to help clean and repair damaged structures. Some observed the need to help with the overwhelming task of doing laundry. Others painstakingly wiped down photographs, legal documents, letters, and other important papers, then carefully hung them out to dry to preserve whatever they could. Observing and then serving is not always convenient and doesn’t always fit our own timetable.

Sometimes we are tempted to serve in a way that we want to serve and not necessarily in the way that is needed at the moment. When Elder Robert D. Hales taught the principle of provident living he shared the example of buying a gift for his wife. She asked, “Are you buying this for me or for you?” If we adapt that question to ourselves as we serve, and ask, “Am I doing this for the Savior, or am I doing this for me?” our service will more likely resemble the ministry of the Savior. The Savior asked, and so should we, “What will ye that I shall do unto you?”


Where Is the Pavilion?”
President Henry B. Eyring
Of the First Presidency

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In the depths of his anguish in Liberty Jail, the Prophet Joseph Smith cried out, “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” Many of us, in moments of personal anguish, feel that God is far from us. But the pavilion that seems to intercept divine aid does not cover God; it occasionally covers us. God is never hidden, but sometimes we are, covered by a pavilion of motivations that draw us away from God and make Him seem distant and inaccessible. Our own desires, rather than the feeling of “Thy will be done,” create the feeling of a pavilion blocking God. God is not unable to see us or communicate with us, but we may be unwilling to listen or submit to His will and time.


Our feelings of separation from God will diminish as we become more childlike before Him. That is not easy in a world where the opinions of other human beings can have such an effect on our motives. But it will help us recognize the truth: God is close to us and aware of us, and never hides from His children.


Jesus Christ lives, knows us, watches over us, and cares for us. In moments of pain, loneliness, or confusion, we do not need to see Jesus Christ to know that He is aware of our circumstances, and that His mission is to bless.


… We can create a barrier to knowing God’s will or feeling His love for us: by insisting on our timetable when the Lord has His own. Sometimes, our unwillingness to wait obscures our view of His will for us.


In Liberty Jail, the Prophet Joseph asked the Lord to punish those who persecuted the members of the Church in Missouri. His prayer was for sure and swift retribution. But the Lord responded that “in not many years hence,” He would deal with those enemies of the Church. In the 24th verse of the 121st section, He says:

“Behold, mine eyes see and know all their works, and I have in reserve a swift judgment in the season thereof, for them all;

“For there is a time appointed for every man, according as his works shall be.”

We remove the pavilion when we feel and pray, “Thy will be done,” and “in thine own time.” That should be soon enough for us, since we know that He wants only what is best..

Abraham’s heart seems to have been right long before Sarah conceived Isaac and before they received their promised land. Heaven had other purposes to fulfill first. Those purposes included not only building


Abraham and Sarah’s faith, but also teaching them eternal truths that they shared with others on their long, circuitous route to the land prepared for them. The Lord’s delays often seem long; some last a lifetime. But they are always calculated to bless. They need never be times of loneliness or sorrow.


Although His time is not always our time, we can be sure that the Lord keeps His promises. For any of you who now feel that He is hard to reach, I testify that the day will come that we all will see Him face to face. Just as there is nothing now to obscure His view of us, there will be nothing to obscure our view of Him. We will all stand before Him, in person. Like my granddaughter, we want to see Jesus Christ now, but our certain reunion with Him at the judgment bar will be more pleasing if we do the things that make Him as familiar to us as we are to Him. As we serve Him, we become like Him, and we feel closer to Him as we approach that day when nothing will hide our view.


This movement toward God can be ongoing.


“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” the Savior teaches. And then He tells us how.


“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

“Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

“When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

“Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

As we do what He would have us do for His Father’s children, the Lord considers it kindness unto Him, and we will feel closer to Him as we feel His love and His approval. In time, we will become like Him, and will think of the judgment day with happy anticipation.


The pavilion that seems to be hiding you from God may be fear of man, rather than this desire to serve. The Savior’s only motivation was to help people. Many of you, as I have, have felt fear in approaching someone you have offended, or who has hurt you. And yet, I have seen the Lord melt hearts time after time, including my own. And so I challenge you to go for the Lord to someone, despite any fear you may have, to extend love and forgiveness. I promise you that as you do, you will feel the love of the Savior for that person come to you, and His love for you, and it will not seem to come from a great distance. For you, that challenge may be in a family; it may be in a community; or it may be across a nation.


But if you go for the Lord, He will see and reward it. If you do this often enough and long enough, you will feel a change in your very nature, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Not only will you feel closer to Him, you will feel more and more that you are becoming like Him. Then, when you do see Him, as we all will, it will be for you as it was for Moroni, when he said:


“And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen.”


If we serve with faith, humility, and a desire to do God’s will, I testify that the judgment bar of the great Jehovah will be pleasing. We will see our loving Father and His Son as they see us now-with perfect clarity, and with perfect love.



Learning with Our Hearts
Elder Walter F. Gonzlez
Of the Presidency of the Seventy

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“Come unto me that ye might feel and see.” This was a commandment that the Savior extended to the inhabitants of Ancient America. They felt with their hands and saw with their eyes that Jesus was the Christ. This commandment is just as important for us today as it was for them in their day. As we come unto Christ we can feel and know of a surety-not with our hands and eyes-but with all our heart and mind that Jesus is the Christ.

One way to come unto Christ is by seeking to learn essential truths with our hearts. As we do so, impressions that come from God will give us knowledge that we cannot get by any other means. The Apostle Peter knew of a surety that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The Savior explained that the source for Peter’s knowledge was not “flesh and blood . . . but [the] Father which is in heaven.”

The prophet Abinadi explained the role of the feelings that come from God to our hearts. He taught that we cannot understand the scriptures completely unless we apply our heart to understanding.

This truth was well stated in a children’s book, The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupry. In the story the Little Prince became friends with a fox. Upon parting, the fox shared a secret with the Little Prince. He said, “. . . here is my secret . . . It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Today, surrounded by so much information, we might think that navigating millions of web pages will give us all that we need to know. We can find good and bad information on the web, but information alone is not enough. God has given us another source for greater knowledge, even knowledge sent from heaven. Our Heavenly Father can give us such knowledge when we navigate the celestial web in our hearts and minds. The prophet Joseph Smith said that he had “the oldest book in [his] heart, even the gift of the Holy Ghost.” We access this celestial source when we do things such as reading the scriptures, hearkening to the living prophet and praying. It is also important to take time to be still and feel the celestial promptings. When we do this, we will “feel and see” things that cannot be learned with modern technology. Once we have some experience in navigating this celestial web, we will discern the truth, even when reading secular history or other topics. The honest seekers of truth will know the truth of all things by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Now, a word of caution: access to this celestial web is marred by iniquity and forgetting the Lord. Nephi told his brothers that they could not “feel his words” because they were “swift to do iniquity and slow to remember the Lord.” Iniquity hampers our ability to see, feel and love others. Being quick to remember the Lord by praying with all the energy of heart and bringing to mind our spiritual experiences expands our ability to see and feel the things of Christ.


Now I ask you:

  • Do you remember the peace you felt when, after much tribulation, you cried out unto the Father in mighty prayer?
  • Do you remember changing your “to-do list” to follow a prompting in your heart?

The great men in the Book of Mormon fostered access to a greater knowledge by bringing to mind their key spiritual experiences. Alma fortified his children by reminding them about his conversion experience. Helaman taught Nephi and Lehi to remember; to remember that it was upon the rock of Christ that they had to build their foundation so the devil would have no power over them. We must do the same. Remembering God helps us to feel and live. This gives deeper meaning to the words of King Benjamin who said, “And now, O man, remember and perish not.”

Those who receive knowledge, not from flesh and blood but from our Heavenly Father, do know of a surety that Jesus is the Christ and this is His Church. That very knowledge provides strength to make necessary changes to come unto Christ. For this reason, we invite every soul to now be baptized, repent and turn unto Him.

By coming unto Christ, every soul can see, feel, and know of a surety that Christ suffered and atoned for our sins that we may have eternal life. If we repent, we will not suffer needlessly. Thanks to Him, wounded souls may be healed and broken hearts may be mended. There is no burden that He cannot ease or remove. He knows about our infirmities and sicknesses. I promise and testify to you that when all doors seem to be closed, when everything else seems to fail, He will not fail you. Christ will help and is the way out whether the struggle is with an addiction, depression, or something else. He knows how to succor His people. Marriages and families that are struggling for whatever reason-economic challenges, bad media influences or family dynamics-will feel a calming influence from heaven. It is comforting to “feel and see” that He rose from the dead with healing in His wings, that because of Him, we will meet and embrace again those beloved ones who have passed away. Verily our conversion unto Him is rewarded with our healing.


The First Great Commandment
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

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There is almost no group in history for which I have more sympathy than I have for the eleven remaining apostles immediately following the death of the Savior of the world. I think we sometimes forget just how inexperienced they still were and how totally dependent upon Jesus they had of necessity been. Of them He had said, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me”?

But of course to them He hadn’t been with them nearly long enough. Three years isn’t long to call an entire quorum of Twelve Apostles from a handful of new converts, purge from them the error of old ways, teach them the wonders of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then leave them to carry on the work until they, too, were killed. Quite a staggering prospect for a group of newly ordained elders.

Especially the part about being left alone. Repeatedly Jesus had tried to tell them He was not going to remain physically present with them but they either could not or would not comprehend such a wrenching thought. Mark writes:

He taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Then, after such a short time to learn and even less time to prepare, the unthinkable happened, the unbelievable was true. Their Lord and Master, their Counselor and King was crucified. His mortal ministry was over, and the struggling little Church He had established seemed doomed to scorn and destined for extinction. His Apostles did witness Him in His resurrected state but that only added to their bewilderment. As they surely must have wondered, “What do we do now?” They turned for an answer to Peter, the senior Apostle.

Here I ask your indulgence as I take some non-scriptural liberty in my portrayal of this exchange. In effect Peter said to his associates, “Brethren, it has been a glorious three years. None of us could have imagined such a few short months ago the miracles we have seen and the divinity we have enjoyed. We have talked with, prayed with and labored with the very Son of God Himself. We have walked with Him and wept with Him, and on the night of that horrible ending no one wept more bitterly than I. But that is over. He has finished His work and has risen from the tomb. He has worked out His salvation and ours. So you ask, What do we do now?’ I don’t know more to tell you than to return to your former life rejoicing. I intend to go a fishing.'”   And at least six of the ten other remaining apostles said in agreement, “We also go with thee.” John, who was one of them, writes, “They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately.”

But, alas, the fishing wasn’t very good. Their first night back on the lake they caught nothing, not a single fish. With the first rays of dawn they disappointedly turned toward the shore where they saw in the distance a figure who called out to them, “Children, have you caught anything?” Glumly these apostles-turned-again-fishermen gave the answer no fisherman wants to give, “We have caught nothing,” they muttered, and to add insult to injury they were being called “children.”

“Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find,” the stranger calls out-and with those simple words recognition begins to flood over them. Just three years earlier these very men had been fishing in this very sea. On that occasion, too, they had “toiled all the night, and [had] taken nothing,” the scripture says. But a fellow Galilean on the shore had called out to them to let down their nets and they drew “a great multitude of fishes,” enough that their nets broke, the catch filling two boats so heavily they had begun to sink.

Now it was happening again. These “children,” as they were rightly called, eagerly lowered their net and, “they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.” John said the obvious, “It is the Lord.” And over the edge of the boat the irrepressible Peter leaped.

After a joyful reunion with the resurrected Jesus, Peter had an exchange with the Savior that I consider the crucial turning point of the apostolic ministry generally and certainly for Peter personally, moving this great rock of a man to a majestic life of devoted service and leadership. Looking at their battered boats, their frayed nets and a stunning pile of 153 fish, Jesus said to His senior Apostle, “Peter, do you love me more than you love all this?” Peter said, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.


The Savior responds to that reply, but continues to look into the eyes of His disciple and says again, “Peter, do you love me?” Undoubtedly confused a bit by the repetition of the question, the great fisherman answers a second time, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”

The Savior again gives a brief response, but with relentless scrutiny He asks for the third time, “Peter, do you love me?” By now surely Peter is feeling truly uncomfortable. Perhaps there is in his heart the memory of only a few days earlier when he had been asked another question three times and he had answered equally emphatically-but in the negative. Or perhaps he began to wonder if he misunderstood the master teacher’s question? Or perhaps he was searching his heart, seeking honest confirmation of the answer he had given so readily, almost automatically? Whatever his feelings, Peter said for the third time, “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.”

To which Jesus responded (and here again I acknowledge my non-scriptural elaboration) perhaps saying something like, “Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish I can get fish? What I need are disciples-and I need them forever.   I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message nor a fleeting task. It is not hapless nor hopeless nor to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of the Almighty and it is to change the world. So for the second and presumably the last time, Peter, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally, until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.”

Then turning to all the Apostles, He might well have said, “Were you as foolhardy as the scribes and Pharisees, as Herod and Pilate were? Did you, like they, think that this work could be killed simply by killing me? Did you, like they, think the cross and the nails and the tomb were the end of it all and each could blissfully go back to being whatever you were before? Children, did my life and my love not touch your hearts more deeply than that?”

Brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on judgment day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation God does not ask us what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all-“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” And if at such a moment we can stammer out, “Yea Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.

“If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before. The Crucifixion, Atonement, and Resurrection of Jesus mark the beginning of a Christian life, not the end of it. It was this truth, this reality that allowed a handful of Galilean fishermen-turned-again-apostles who without a single synagogue or sword went on to shape the history of the world in which we now live.

 

Sunday Morning Message
President Thomas S. Monson

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My beloved brothers and sisters, this conference marks forty-nine years since I was sustained, on October 4, 1963, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Forty-nine years is a long time. In many ways, however, the time seems very short since I stood at the pulpit in the Tabernacle and gave my very first General Conference address.

Much has changed since October 4, 1963. We live in a unique time in the world’s history. We are blessed with so very much. And yet it is sometimes difficult to view the problems and permissiveness around us and not become discouraged. I have found that, rather than dwelling on the negative, if we will take a step back and consider the blessings in our lives, including seemingly small, sometimes overlooked blessings, we can find greater happiness.

As I have reviewed the past forty-nine years, I have made some discoveries. One is that countless experiences I have had were not necessarily those one would consider extraordinary. In fact, at the time they transpired, they often seemed unremarkable and even ordinary. And yet, in retrospect, they enriched and blessed lives-not the least of which was my own. I would recommend this same exercise to you-namely, that you take an inventory of your life and look specifically for the blessings, large and small, you have received.

Reinforced constantly during my own review of the years has been my knowledge that our prayers are heard and answered. We are familiar with the truth found in Second Nephi in The Book of Mormon: “Men are, that they might have joy.” I testify that much of that joy comes as we recognize that we can communicate with our Heavenly Father through prayer and that those prayers will be heard and answered-perhaps not how and when we expected they would be answered, but they will be answered, and by a Heavenly Father who knows and loves us perfectly and who desires our happiness. Hasn’t He promised us, “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.”

For the next few minutes allotted to me, I would like to share with you just a tiny sampling of the experiences I have had wherein prayers were heard and answered and which, in retrospect, brought blessings into my life as well as the lives of others. My daily journal, kept over all these years, has helped provide some specifics which I most likely would not otherwise be able to recount.

In early 1965 I was assigned to attend stake conferences and to hold other meetings throughout the South Pacific area. This was my first visit to that part of the world, and it was a time never to be forgotten.


Much that was spiritual in nature occurred during this assignment as I met with leaders, members and missionaries.

On the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, February 20 and 21, we were in Brisbane, Australia, to hold regular conference sessions of the Brisbane Stake. During meetings on Saturday, I was introduced to the district president from an adjoining area. As I shook his hand, I had a strong impression that I needed to speak with him and to provide counsel, and so I asked him if he would accompany me to the Sunday morning session the following day so that this could be accomplished.

Following the Sunday session, we had an opportunity to visit together. We talked of his many responsibilities as district president. As we did so, I felt impressed to offer him specific suggestions concerning missionary work and how he and his members could help the full-time missionaries in their labors in his area. I later learned that this man had been praying for guidance in this regard. To him, our visit together was a special witness that his prayers were heard and had been answered. This was a seemingly unremarkable meeting but one which I am convinced was guided by the Spirit and which made a difference in that district president’s life and administration, in the lives of his members, and in the success of the missionaries there.

My brothers and sisters, the Lord’s purposes are often accomplished as we pay heed to the guidance of the Spirit. I believe that the more we act upon the inspiration and impressions which come to us, the more the Lord will entrust to us His errands.

I have learned, as I have mentioned in previous messages, never to postpone a prompting. On one occasion many years ago, I was swimming laps at the old Deseret Gym in Salt Lake City when I felt the inspiration to go to the University Hospital to visit a good friend of mine who had lost the use of his lower limbs because of a malignancy and the surgery which followed. I immediately left the pool, dressed, and was soon on my way to see this good man. When I arrived at his room I found that it was empty. Upon inquiry, I learned I would probably find him in the swimming pool area of the hospital, an area which was used for physical therapy. Such turned out to be the case. He had guided himself there in his wheelchair and was the only occupant of the room. He was on the far side of the pool, near the deep end. I called to him, and he maneuvered his wheelchair over to greet me. We had an enjoyable visit, and I accompanied him back to his hospital room where I gave him a blessing.

I learned later from my friend that he had been utterly despondent that day and had been contemplating taking his own life. He had prayed for relief but began to feel that his prayers had gone unanswered. He went to the pool with the thought that this would be a way to end his misery-by guiding his wheelchair into the deep end of the pool. I had arrived at a critical moment, in response to what I know was inspiration from on high.

My friend was able to live many more years-years filled with happiness and gratitude. How pleased I am to have been an instrument in the Lord’s hands on that critical day at the swimming pool.

On another occasion, as Sister Monson and I were driving home after visiting friends, I felt impressed that we should go into town-a drive of many miles-to pay a visit to an elderly widow who had once lived in our ward. Her name was Zella Thomas. At the time she was a resident in a care center. That early afternoon we found her to be extremely frail but lying peacefully on her bed.

Zella had long been blind, but she recognized our voices immediately. She asked if I might give her a blessing, adding that she was prepared to die if the Lord wanted her to return home. There was a sweet, peaceful spirit in the room, and all of us knew that her remaining time in mortality would be brief. Zella took me by the hand and said that she had prayed fervently that I would come to see her and provide her a blessing. I told her that we had come because of direct inspiration from our Heavenly Father. I kissed her on the forehead, knowing that I perhaps would not again see her in mortality. Such proved to be the case, for she passed away the following day. To have been able to provide some comfort and peace to our sweet Zella was a blessing to her and to me.

The opportunity to be a blessing in the life of another often comes unexpectedly. On one extremely cold Saturday night during the winter of 1983-84, Sister Monson and I drove several miles to the mountain valley of Midway, Utah, where we have a home. The temperature that night was minus 24 degrees Fahrenheit, minus 31 degrees Celsius, and we wanted to make certain all was well at our home there. We checked and found that it was fine, so we left to return to Salt Lake City. We barely made it the few miles to the highway before our car stopped working. We were completely stranded. I have seldom, if ever, been as cold as we were that night. Reluctantly we began walking toward the nearest town, the cars whizzing past us. Finally one car stopped, and a young man offered to help. We eventually found that the diesel fuel in our gas tank had thickened because of the cold, making it impossible for us to drive the car. This kind young man drove us back to our Midway home. I attempted to reimburse him for his services, but he graciously declined. He indicated that he was a Boy Scout and wanted to do a good turn. I identified myself to him, and he expressed his appreciation for the privilege to be of help. Assuming that he was about missionary age, I asked him if he had plans to serve a mission. He indicated he was not certain just what he wanted to do.

On the following Monday morning I wrote a letter to this young man and thanked him for his kindness. In the letter I encouraged him to serve a full-time mission. I enclosed a copy of one of my books and underscored the chapters on missionary service.

About a week later, the young man’s mother telephoned and advised that her son was an outstanding young man but that because of certain influences in his life, his long held desire to serve a mission had diminished. She indicated she and his father had fasted and prayed that his heart would be changed. They had placed his name on the prayer roll of the Provo Temple. They hoped that somehow, in some way, his heart would be touched for good, and he would return to his desire to fill a mission and to serve the Lord faithfully. The mother wanted me to know that she looked upon the events of that cold evening as an answer to their prayers in his behalf. I agreed with her.

After several months and more communication with this young man, Sister Monson and I were overjoyed to attend his missionary farewell prior to his departure for the British Columbia Vancouver Mission.


Was it chance that our paths crossed on that cold December night? I do not for one moment believe so. Rather, I believe our meeting was an answer to a mother’s and father’s heartfelt prayers for the son they cherished.

Again, my brothers and sisters, our Heavenly Father is aware of our needs and will help us as we call upon Him for assistance. I believe that no concern of ours is too small or insignificant. The Lord is in the details of our lives.

I should like to conclude by relating one recent experience which had an impact on hundreds. It occurred at the cultural celebration for the Kansas City Temple just five months ago. As with so much that happens in our lives, at the time it seemed to be just another experience where everything worked out. However, as I learned of the circumstances associated with the cultural celebration the evening before the temple was dedicated, I realized that the performance that night was not ordinary. Rather, it was quite remarkable.

As with all cultural events held in conjunction with temple dedications, the youth in the Kansas City Missouri Temple district had rehearsed the performance in separate groups in their own areas. The plan was that they would meet all together in the large, rented municipal center on the Saturday morning of the performance so that they could learn when and where to enter, where they were to stand, how much space should be between them and the person next to them, how to exit the main floor and so forth-many details which they would have to grasp during the day as those in charge put the various scenes together so that the final performance would be polished and professional.

There was just one major problem that day. The entire production was dependent on prerecorded segments that would be shown on the large screen known as a JumboTron. These recorded segments were critical to the entire production. They not only tied it all together, but each televised segment would introduce the next performance. The video segments provided the framework on which the entire production depended. And the JumboTron was not working.

Technicians worked frantically to solve the problem while the youth waited, losing precious rehearsal time. The situation began to look impossible.

The writer and director of the celebration, Susan Cooper, later explained, “As we moved from plan A to B to Z, we knew that it wasn’t working. . . .As we were looking at the schedule, we knew that it was going to be beyond us, but we knew that we had one of the greatest strengths on the floor below-three thousand youth. We needed to go down and tell [them] what was happening and draw upon their faith.”

Just an hour before the audience would begin to enter the center, three thousand youth knelt on the floor and prayed together. They prayed that those working on the JumboTron would be inspired to know what to do to repair it; they asked their Heavenly Father to make up for what they, themselves, could not do because of the shortage of time.

Said one who wrote about it afterward, “It was a prayer the youth will never forget, not because the floor was hard, but because the Spirit melted their bones.”

It was not long before one of the technicians came to tell them that the problem had been discovered and corrected. He attributed the solution to “luck,” but all those youth knew better.

When we entered the municipal center that evening, we had no idea of the difficulties of the day. Only later did we learn of them. What we witnessed, however, was a beautiful, polished performance-one of the best I have seen. The youth radiated a glorious, powerful spirit which was felt by all who were present. They seemed to know just where to enter, where to stand, and how to interact with all the other performers around them. When I learned that their rehearsals had been cut short and that many of the numbers had not been rehearsed by the entire group, I was astonished. No one would have known. The Lord had indeed made up the difference.

I never cease to be amazed by how the Lord can motivate and direct the length and breadth of His kingdom and yet have time to provide inspiration concerning one individual-or one cultural celebration, or one JumboTron. The fact that He can, that He does, is a testimony to me.

My brothers and sisters, the Lord is in all of our lives. He loves us. He wants to bless us. He wants us to seek His help. As He guides us and directs us, and as He hears and answers our prayers, we will find the happiness here and now that He desires for us. May we be aware of His blessings in our lives, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

The Atonement
President Boyd K. Packer
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

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It was understood from the beginning that in mortality we would fall short of being perfect. It was not expected that we would live without transgressing one law or another.

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.”

From the Pearl of Great Price we understand that “no unclean thing can dwell [in the kingdom of God],” and so a way was provided for all who sin to repent and become worthy of the presence of our Father in Heaven once more.

A mediator, a redeemer was chosen, one who would live His life perfectly, commit no sin, and “[offer] himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.”

Concerning the importance of the Atonement, in Alma we learn, “For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; . . . or else all mankind must unavoidably perish.”

If you have made no mistakes then you do not need the Atonement. If you have made mistakes, and all of us have, whether minor or serious, then you have an enormous need to find out how they can be erased so that you are no longer in darkness.

We do not know exactly how the Lord accomplished the Atonement. But we do know that the cruel torture of crucifixion was only part of the horrific pain which began in Gethsemane-that sacred site of suffering-and was completed on Golgotha.


So far as I have been able to tell, there is only one account in the Savior’s own words that describes what He endured in the Garden of Gethsemane. The revelation records: “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; “But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore.”

Throughout your life, there may be times when you have gone places you never should have gone and done things you never should have done. If you will turn away from sin, you will be able to one day know the peace that comes from following the pathway of complete repentance.

No matter what our transgressions have been, no matter how much our actions may have hurt others, that guilt can all be wiped out. To me, perhaps the most beautiful phrase in the scriptures is when the Lord said, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”

That is the purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Atonement, to take anyone who comes, anyone who will join, and put them through an experience so that at the end of their life they can go through the veil having repented of their sins and having been washed clean through the blood of Christ.

That is what Latter-day Saints do around the world. That is the Light we offer to those who are in darkness and have lost their way. Wherever our members and missionaries may go, our message is one of faith and hope in the Savior Jesus Christ.