See the End from the Beginning

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

As spirit sons of heavenly parents, you are free to make the right choices.  This requires hard work, self-discipline, and an optimistic outlook which will bring joy and freedom into your life now and in the future.  The Lord said to Abraham, “My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee.” (Abraham 2:8).  Today I say to you that if you trust the Lord and obey Him, His hand shall be over you.  He will help you achieve the great potential He sees in you, and He will help you to see the end from the beginning.

Allow me to share with you an experience from my own boyhood.  When I was 11 years old, my family had to leave East Germany and begin a new life in West Germany overnight.  Until my father could get back into his original profession as a government employee, my parents operated a small laundry business in our little town.  I became the laundry delivery boy.  To be able to do that effectively, I needed a bicycle to pull the heavy laundry cart.  I had always dreamed of owning a nice, sleek, shiny, sporty red bicycle.  But there had never been enough money to fulfill this dream.  What I got instead was a heavy, ugly, black, sturdy workhorse of a bicycle.  I delivered laundry on that bike before and after school for quite a few years.  Most of the time I was not overly excited about the bike, the cart, or my job.  Sometimes the cart seemed so heavy and the work so tiring that I thought my lungs would burst, and I often had to stop to catch my breath.  Nevertheless, I did my part because I knew we desperately needed the income as a family, and it was my way to contribute.

If I had only known back then what I learned many years later – if I had only been able to see the end from the beginning – I would have had a better appreciation of these experiences, and it would have made my job much easier.

Many years later, when I was about to be drafted into the military, I decided to volunteer instead and join the Air Force to become a pilot.  I loved flying and thought being a pilot would be my thing.

To be accepted for the program I had to pass a number of tests, including a strict physical exam.  The doctors were slightly concerned by the results and did some additional medical tests.  Then they announced, “You have scars on your lungs which are an indication of a lung disease in your early teenage years, but obviously you are fine now.”  The doctors wondered what kind of treatment I had gone through to heal the disease.  Then it became clear to me that my regular exercise in fresh air as a laundry boy had been a key factor in my healing from this illness.  Without the extra effort of pedaling that heavy bicycle day in and day out, pulling the laundry cart up and down the streets of our town, I might never have become a jet fighter pilot and later a 747 airline captain.

Our Rising Generation

Elder Ronald A. Rasband
Of the Presidency of the Seventy

The young men here tonight and throughout the world, and their young women counterparts, are very special.  President Hinckley has spoken of them:

    I have said many times that I believe we have the finest generation of young people that this Church has ever known.They try to do the right thing.  They are bright and able, clean and fresh, attractive and smart.They know what the gospel is about, and are trying to live it, looking to the Lord for His guidance and help. (President Gordon B. Hinckley, General Relief Society Meeting, “Your Greatest Challenge, Mother,” October 2000).

All of us who are involved with these youth know the truth of President Hinckley’s words.

Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, however, provides us with a somber warning:

    Many of them are remarkable in their spiritual maturity and in their faith.  But even the best of them are sorely tested.  And the testing will become more severe. (Elder Henry B. Eyring, “We Must Raise our Sights,” Ensign, September 2004, pg. 14).

This warning that the “testing will become more severe” gets my attention.  Our rising generation is worthy of our best efforts to support and strengthen them in their journey to adulthood.

In these perilous times as our youth face increased adversity, we can learn from others.  In the armed forces, particularly in all Navies throughout the world, every seaman understands one phrase that is a clarion call for immediate help, no matter what they are doing or where they are on the ship.  The call is “all hands on deck.”  Many a battle at sea has been won or lost by the response to this call.

We as members of the Church, leaders of youth, anxious fathers and concerned grandfathers, all need to respond to the call for “all hands on deck” as it pertains to our youth and young single adults.  We must all look for opportunities to bless the youth whether or not we are currently, closely associated with them.  We must continue to teach and fortify fathers and mothers in their divinely, declared roles with their children in the home.  We must ask ourselves constantly if that sporting event, that extra activity, or errand outside the home is more important than families being together at home.

NOW is the time when in every action we take, in every place we go, with every Latter-day Saint young person we meet, to have an increased awareness of the need for strengthening, nurturing and being an influence for good in their lives.

Elder Richard G. Hinckley
Of the First Quorum of the Seventy

While I was serving as a mission president recently, two of our elders asked if I would meet with an investigator who was scheduled for baptism the following day.  She had some questions they were unable to answer.  We drove to her home, where I met a young widow in her late 20’s with a child.  Her husband had been killed in a tragic accident a few years earlier.  Her questions were thoughtful and she was receptive.  After these were resolved, I asked if she had any other concerns.  She indicated that she did, and that she wanted to talk with me alone.  I asked the elders to step outside and stand on the lawn where they could see us clearly through a large window.  As soon as the door closed behind them, she began to weep.  She recounted her years alone, filled with heartache and loneliness.  During those years she had made some serious mistakes.


  She had known better, she said, but had lacked the strength to choose the right path until she had met our missionaries.  During the weeks they taught her, she had pled with the Lord to forgive her.  She sought assurance from me that through her repentance and through the ordinances of baptism and the receipt of the Holy Ghost she could be cleansed and become worthy of membership in the Church.  I taught her from the scriptures, and bore my testimony of the principle of repentance and of the atonement.

The next day my wife and I attended her baptism and that of her little girl.  The room was filled with friends from her ward, ready and anxious to stand by her as a new member of the Church.  As we left that service, I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for the magnificent principle of repentance, and for the atonement that makes it possible – for the miracle of conversion and for this great Church and its members, and for our missionaries.

A Royal Priesthood

President James E. Faust
2nd Counselor in the First Presidency

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I recently read the account of some deacons who got a little careless in their attitude towards passing the sacrament.  They began to think of it as a chore, something that no one else wanted to do.  They often came in late, and sometimes they didn’t dress appropriately.  One Sunday their priesthood adviser told them, “You don’t have to worry about the sacrament today.  It’s been taken care of.”

They were, of course, surprised to hear this, but as usual, they were late for sacrament meeting.  They slipped in casually during the opening hymn and sat in the congregations.  That’s when they noticed who was sitting on the deacons’ bench – their adviser and the high priests of the ward, which included men who had served as bishops and stake president.  They were all dressed in dark suits with white shirts and ties.  But more than that, their bearing was one of total reverence as they took the sacrament that day.  Those deacons who had become so perfunctory in their duties learned by example that passing the sacrament was a sacred trust and the greatest of honors.  They bean to realize that the priesthood is, as the Apostle Peter called it, “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9).

Generally the Aaronic Priesthood, under the direction of the bishopric, have the responsibility to administer and pass the sacrament.  In our home ward here in Salt Lake City, we have a good number of faithful, older members but few of the Aaronic Priesthood age.  Over the years I have watched these high priests and elders, men of faith and great accomplishments, humbly and reverently pass the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  For a while this group of priesthood holders included a senior Federal judge, a candidate for the office of Governor of the State of Utah and other prominent men of stature.  Yet they were honored and obviously felt privileged to perform this sacred priesthood duty.

Our Sacred Priesthood Trust

President Thomas S. Monson
1st Counselor in the First Presidency

One Sunday two years ago I was attending Sacrament Meeting in my ward.  There were three priests at the sacrament table, with the young man in the center being somewhat handicapped in movement but particularly so in speech.  He tried twice to bless the bread but stumbled badly each time, no doubt embarrassed by his inability to give the prayer perfectly.  One of the other priests then took over and gave the blessing on the bread.

During the passing of the bread, I thought to myself, “I just can’t let that young man experience failure at the sacrament table.”  I had a strong feeling that if I didn’t doubt, he would be able to bless the water effectively.  Inasmuch as I was on the stand near the sacrament table, I leaned over and said to the priest closest to me, pointing to the young man who had experienced the difficulty, “Let him bless the water; it’s a shorter prayer.”

When it was time to bless the water, that young man knelt again and gave the prayer, perhaps somewhat haltingly, but without missing a word.  I rejoiced silently.  While the deacons were passing the trays, I looked over at the boy and gave him a thumbs up.  He gave me a broad smile.  When the young men were excused to sit with their families, he sat on the row between his mother and father.  What a joy it was to see his mother give him a big smile and a warm hug, while his father congratulated him and put his arm around his shoulder.  All three of them looked my direction, and I gave them all a thumbs up.  I could see the mother and father wiping tears from their eyes.  I felt impressed that this young man would do just fine in the future.

The priesthood is not really so much a gift as it is a commission to serve, a privilege to lift, and an opportunity to bless the lives of others.

The Need for Greater Kindness

 

President Gordon B. Hinckley
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

I have permission to tell you the story of a young man who grew up in our community.  He was not a member of the Church.  He has his parents were active in another faith.

He says that when he was growing up some of his LDS associates belittled him, made him feel out of place and poked fun at him.

He came to hate the Church and its people.  He saw no good in any of them.

Then his father lost his employment and had to move.  In the new location at the age of 17 he was able to enroll in college.  There, for the first time in his life, he felt the warmth of friends, one of whom named Richard asked him to join a club of which he was president.  He says, “For the first time in my life someone wanted me around.  I didn’t know how to react, but thankfully I joined.It was a feeling that I loved, the feeling of having a friend.  I had prayed for one my whole life.  And now after 17 years of waiting, God answered that prayer.”

At the age of 19 he found himself as a tent partner with Richard during their summer employment.  He noticed Richard reading a book every night for about half an hour.  He asked what he was reading.  He was told he was reading the Book of Mormon.  He says, “I quickly changed the subject and went to bed.  After all, that is the book that ruined my childhood.  I tried forgetting about it, but a week went by and I couldn’t sleep.  Why was he reading it every night?  I soon couldn’t stand the unanswered questions in my head.


  So one night I asked him what was so important in that book.  What was in it?  He handed me the book.  I quickly stated that I never wanted to touch the book.  I just wanted to know what was in there.  He started to read where he had stopped.  He read about Jesus, and about an appearance in the Americas.  I was shocked.  I didn’t know that the Mormons believed in Jesus.”

Richard asked him to sing in a stake conference choir with him.  The day came and the conference started.  “Elder Coleman from the First Quorum of the Seventy was the guest speaker.  I found out during the conference that he also [was a convert].  At the end Richard proceeded to pull me by the arm up to talk to him.  I finally agreed and as I was approaching him he turned and smiled at me.  I introduced myself and said that I wasn’t a member and that I had just come to sing in the choir.  I asked him how he knew the Church was true.  He told me a short version of his testimony and asked if I had read the Book of Mormon.  I said no.  He told me that he promised me that the first time I read it, I would feel the Spirit.”

On a subsequent occasion this young man and his friend were traveling.  Richard handed him a Book of Mormon and asked that he read it aloud.  He did do and suddenly the inspiration of the Holy Spirit touched him.

Time passed and his faith increased.  He agreed to be baptized.  His parents opposed him, but he went forward and was baptized a member of the Church.

Now there are great statements in that story.  One is the sorry manner in which his young friends in a Mormon community treated him.

Next is the manner in which his new found friend Richard treated him.  It was totally opposite from his previous experience.  It led to his conversion and baptism in the face of terrible odds.

This kind of miracle can happen and will happen when there is kindness, respect, and love.  Why do any of us have to be mean and unkind to others?  Why can’t all of us reach out in friendship to everyone about us?  Why is there so much bitterness and animosity?  It is not a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.