Our Hearts Knit as One
President Henry B. Eyring
Of the First Presidency
A…principle to guide our progress to become one is to be humble. Pride is the great enemy of unity. You have seen and felt its terrible effects. Just days ago I watched as two people began with a mild disagreement. It started as a discussion of what was true, but became a contest about who was right. Voices become gradually louder. Faces became a little more flushed. Instead of talking about the issue, people began talking about themselves, giving evidence why their view was more likely to be right.
You would have felt alarm as I did. We have seen the life-destroying effects of such tragic disunity. You and I know people who left the fellowship of the Saints over injured pride. Happily I have seen more and more skilled peacemakers who calm troubled waters before harm is done. You could be that peacemaker, whether you re in the conflict or an observer.
One way I have seen it done is to search in the disagreement for anything on which all agree. To be that peacemaker you need to have the simple faith that as children of God, with all our differences, it is likely that in any position we take there are elements of truth. The great peacemaker, the restorer of unity, is one who finds a way to help people see that shared truth. The truth they share is always greater and more important than their differences. You can help yourself and others to see that if you ask for help from God and then act. He will answer your prayer to help restore peace, as He has mine.
The same principle applies as we build unity with people who are from vastly different backgrounds. Again, there is always more than the children of God have in common than differences. And even the differences can be seen as an opportunity. God will help you see their differences not as a source of irritation but as a contribution. In a moment, the Lord can help you see and value what the other person contributes which you lack. More than once the Lord has helped me see His kindness in giving me association with someone whose unique difference was just what the Lord needed to help me bless lives. Differences may be the Lord’s way of adding something we needed to serve better.
That leads to another principle of unity. It is to speak well of each other. That principle is tested and proved in our lives every day. Think of the last time you were asked what you thought about how someone else was doing in your family or in the Church. It happened to me in the last week. Now, there are times we must make judgments of others. Sometimes we are required to pronounce such judgments. But more often we have a choice to make. For instance, suppose someone asks you what you think of the new bishop.
As we get better and better at forging unity, we will quickly think of a scripture. “And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.”
Knowing that you see others in an imperfect light will make you likely to be generous in what you say.
Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship
Elder Robert D. Hales
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Experience shows that seasons of negative publicity about the Church can help accomplish the Lord’s purposes. In 1983, the First Presidency wrote to Church leaders, “opposition may be in itself an opportunity. Among the continuing challenges faced by our missionaries is the lack of interest in religious matters and in our message. These criticisms create…interest in the Church…This provides an opportunity [for members] to present the truth to those whose attention is thus directed toward us.
We can take advantage of such opportunities in many ways: a kind letter to the editor, a conversation with a friend, a comment on a blog, or a reassuring word to one who has made a disparaging comment. We can answer with love those who have been influenced by misinformation and prejudice—who are “kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12). I assure you to answer our accusers in this way is never a weakness. It is Christian courage in action.
As we respond to others, each circumstance will be different. Fortunately, the Lord knows the hearts of our accusers and how we can most effectively respond to them. As true disciples seek guidance from the Spirit, they receive inspiration tailored to each encounter. And in every encounter, true disciples respond in ways that invite the Spirit of the Lord. Paul reminded the Corinthians that his preaching was “not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor: 2:4). Because that power resides in the Spirit of the Lord, we must never become contentious when we are discussing our faith.
As almost every missionary learns, Bible bashing always drives the Spirit away. The Savior has said: “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me (3 Nephi 11:29). More regrettable than the Church being accused of not being Christian is when Church members react to such accusations in an un-Christ-like way! May our conversations with others always be marked by the fruits of the Spirit—“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness [and] temperance” ( Ga. 5: 22-23). To be meek as defined by Webster’s Dictionary is “manifesting patience and longsuffering; enduring injury without resentment.” Meekness is not weakness. It is a badge of Christian courage.
This is especially important in our interactions with members of other Christian denominations. Surely our Heavenly Father is saddened—and the devil laughs—when we contentiously debate doctrinal differences with out Christian neighbors.
This is not to suggest that we compromise our principles or dilute our beliefs. We cannot change the doctrines of the restored gospel even if teaching and obeying them makes us unpopular in the eyes of the world. Yet even as we feel to speak the word of God with boldness, we must pray to be filled with the Holy Ghost. We should never confuse boldness with Satan’s counterfeit; overbearance. True disciples speak with quiet confidence, not boastful pride.
God Loves and Helps All of His Children
Bishop Keith B. McMullin
Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric
To provide for others in the Lord’s way; we strive to care for ourselves and sacrifice to help those in need. The poor labor for what they receive and seek the betterment of others as well. This pattern has been with us from the beginning.
The Church welfare plan embodies this divine pattern, and faithful Church members follow it. Their offerings provide succor to the widow, care to the orphan, and refuge to the suffering.
A few years ago, China ‘s ambassador to the United States visited Salt Lake City, toured Church sites, and gave an address at Brigham Young University.
Learning about the Church welfare program, he said, “If we all loved each other like this, the world would be a more peaceful place.”
Fasting and giving the value of the meals not eaten to help the poor captured the ambassador’s attention. At the conclusion of his visit to Welfare Square , he handed the manager there a small red envelope—a “red pocket.” In China, a “red pocket” is given as a gesture of love, blessing, and a wish for good fortune. “It does not contain much,” the ambassador said, “but it represents the money I have saved from missing breakfast the last two mornings. I would like to give my fast offering to the welfare program of the Church.”
A Return to Virtue
Sister Elaine Dalton
President, Young Women General Presidency
Virtue is a prerequisite to entering the Lord’s holy temples and to receiving the Spirit’s guidance. Virtue is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards. It encompasses chastity and moral purity. Virtue begins in the heart and in the mind. It is nurtured in the home. It is the accumulation of thousands of small decisions and actions.
Virtue is a word we don’t hear often in today’s society, but the Latin root word virtus means strength. Virtuous women and men possess a quiet dignity and inner strength. They are confident because they are worthy to receive and be guided by the Holy Ghost. President Monson has counseled: “You be the one to make a stand for right, even if you stand alone. Have the moral courage to be a light for others to follow.
There is no friendship more valuable than your own clear conscience, your own moral cleanliness—and what a glorious feeling it is to know that you stand in your appointed place clean and with the confidence that you are worthy to do so.”
Could it be that we have been slowly desensitized into thinking that high moral standards are old fashioned and not relevant or important in today’s society? As Elder Hales has just reminded us, Lehonti in the Book of Mormon was well positioned on the top of a mountain. He and those he led were “fixed in their minds with a determined resoution” that they would not come down from the mount.
It only took the deceitful Amalickiah four tries, each one more bold than the previous, to get Lehonti to “come down off the mount.” And then having embraced Amalickiah’s false promises, Lehoni was “poisoned by degrees.” Could it be that this may be happening today? Could it be that first we tolerate, then accept, and eventually embrace the vice that surrounds us? Could it be that we have been deceived by false role models and persuasive media messages that cause us to forget our divine identity? Are we too being poisoned by degrees?
What could be more deceptive than to entice the youth of this noble generation to do nothing, or be busy ever-texting but never coming to a knowledge of the truths contained in a book that was written for you and your day by prophets of God—the Book of Mormon? What could be more deceptive than to entice women, young and old, you andme, to be sol involved in ourselves, our looks, our clothes, our body shape and size that we lose sight of our divine identity and our ability to change the world through our virtuous influence? What could be more deceptive than to entice men—young and old, holding the holy priesthood of God—to view seductive pornography and thus focus on flesh instead of faith, to be consumers of vice rather than guardians of virtue?
The Book of Mormon relates the story of 2,000 young heroes whose virtue and purity gave them the strength to defend their parents’ covenants and their family’s faith. Their virtue and commitment to be “true at all times” changed the world.
The Truth of God Shall Go Forth
Elder M. Russell Ballard
Of the Quorum of the Twelve
On September 3, 1925, President Heber J. Grant announced that the Church would begin missionary work in South America . Following the Lord’s pattern for taking the restored gospel to all nations, my paternal grandfather, Elder Melvin J. Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was among those who were sent to South America to dedicate the land for the preaching of the gospel.
On Christmas morning of 1925 in Argentina , Elder Ballard dedicated the South American countries and started missionary work. Before leaving the following July, he prophesied:
“The word of the Lord will grow slowly for a time here just as an oak grows slowly from an acorn. It will not shoot up in a day as does the sunflower that grows quickly and then dies. But thousands will join the Church here. It will be divided into more than one mission and will be one of the strongest in the Church. The work here is the smallest that it will ever be.”
Anyone familiar with the growth of the Church in South America knows the fulfillment of that prophecy. Today, Brazil alone has over one million members.
During the four decades from 1930 to 1970, more than 106,000 missionaries were called to serve. Worldwide Church membership increased four-fold to over 2,800,000. More than one million new members were added just during the 1960’s. By 1970 missionaries were serving in 43 nations and nine territories. During this 40-year period the South American nations of Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela were opened to missionary work. In Central America, servants of the Lord unlocked the nations of Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. In Asia, major new efforts began to bear fruit in Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines.
None of this was easy. Challenges, obstacles and persecution accompanied every attempt to take “the Truth of god” into every continent and country so it could “sound in every ear.” Still we moved forward in faith, challenges were met and obstacles were overcome.
President Spencer W. Kimball asked members of the Church to lengthen their stride in spreading and sharing gospel truth, He asked every stake in the world to increase the number of missionaries, and he led the Church into using the media to help convey our message to hundreds of millions of people throughout the earth.
During his 12 years as president of the Church, nearly 200,000 missionaries served fulltime missions. Worldwide Church membership almost doubled, and the number of stakes nearly tripled. Missionary work was opened or re-opened in many countries, and the miracle of conversion was happening in many lands despite every adversarial attempt to thwart the Lord’s work or to discourage the Lord’s workers.
A little more than two decades have passed since the end of President Kimball’s mortal ministry. During that period of time we have experienced unprecedented prominence in the worldwide community of faith. Probably not coincidentally, we have also experienced unprecedented ideological attacks on our people, our history, and our doctrine through the media.
And yet the Church continues to grow.
Membership has more than doubled again—from about 5.9 million in 1985 to more than 13 million today. And last year, the one millionth missionary to serve during this dispensation was called.
Now my brothers and sisters, my purpose in this brief review of Joseph’s prophetic vision of the destiny of this Church, and its literal fulfillment through the decades, is to remind us of this simple truth: “The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated neither can they come to naught.
“For God doth not walk in crooked paths…neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.
“Remember,…that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men” (D&C 3:1-3).
Finding Joy in the Journey
President Thomas S. Monson
Of the First Presidency
This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and non-existent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.
I am what my wife Frances calls a “show-a-holic.” I thoroughly enjoy many musicals and one of my favorites was written by the American composer Meredith Wilson and is entitled “The Music Man. ” Professor Harold Hill, one of the principal characters in the show, voices a caution that I share with you. Says he: “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’ve collected a lot of empty yesterdays.”
My brothers and sisters, there is no tomorrow to remember if we don’t do something today.
I’ve shared with you previously an example of this philosophy. I believe it bears repeating. Many years ago, Arthur Gordon wrote in a national magazine, and I quote: “When I was around 13 and my brother 10, Father had promised to take us to the circus. But at lunch time there was a phone call: some urgent business required his attention downtown. We braced ourselves for disappointment. Then we heard him say into the phone, “No, I won’t be down. It’ll have to wait.” When he came back to the table, Mother smiled. “The circus keeps coming back, you know,” she said.
“I know,” said Father, “but childhood doesn’t.”
If you have children who are grown and gone, in all likelihood you have occasionally felt pangs of loss and the recognition that you didn’t appreciate that time of life as much as you should have. Of course, there is no going back, but only forward. Rather than dwelling on the past, we should make the most of today, of the here and now, doing all we can to provide pleasant memories for the future.
If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled, will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly.
Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. Often we assume that they must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know. Wrote William Shakespeare, “They do not love that do now show their love.” We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. Rather, our regrets will come if such things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us.
Send that note to the friend you’ve been neglecting; give your child a hug; give your parents a hug; say “I love you” more; always express your thanks. Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved. Friends move away, children grow up, loved ones pass on. It’s so easy to take others for granted, until that day when they’re gone from our lives and we are left with feelings of “what if” and “if only.” Said author Harriet Beecher Stowe, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”
In the 1960’s, during the Vietnam war, Church member Jay Hess, an airman, was shot down over North Vietnam . For two years his family had no idea whether he was dead or alive. His captors in Hanoi eventually allowed him to write home, but limited his message to less than 25 words. What would you and I say to our families if we were in the same situation—not having seen them for over two years and not knowing if we would ever see them again? Wanting to provide something his family could recognize as having come from him, and also wanting to give them valuable counsel, Brother Hess wrote—and I quote: “These things are important: temple marriage, mission, college. Press on, set goals, write history, take pictures twice a year.”