All photographs used by permission, Copyright 2005, Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
The Prophet Joseph Smith: Teacher by Example
President Thomas S. Monson
Of the First Presidency
The testimony of the Prophet Joseph continues to change lives. Many years ago I served as the president of the Canadian Mission in Ontario, Canada. Two of our missionaries were proselyting door-to-door on a cold, snowy afternoon. They had not had any measure of success. One elder was experienced and one was new.
The two called at the home of Mr. Elmer Pollard, and he, feeling sympathy for the almost frozen missionaries, invited them in. They presented their message and asked if he would join in prayer. He agreed, on the provision that he could offer the prayer.
The prayer he offered astonished the missionaries. He said, “Heavenly Father, bless these two unfortunate, misguided missionaries, that they may return to their homes and not waste their time telling the people of Canada about a message which is so fantastic and about which they know so little.”
As they arose from their knees, Mr. Pollard asked the missionaries never to return to his home. As they left, he said mockingly to them, “You can’t tell me you really believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, anyway!” and he slammed the door.
The missionaries had walked but a short distance when the junior companion said, “Elder, we didn’t answer Mr. Pollard.”
The senior companion responded, “We’ve been rejected. Let’s move on to greener territory.”
The young missionary persisted, however, and the two returned to Mr. Pollard’s door. Mr. Pollard answered the knock and angrily said, “I thought I told you young men never to return!”
The junior companion then said, with all the courage he could muster, “Mr. Pollard, when we left your door, you said that we didn’t really believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I want to testify to you, Mr. Pollard, that I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God; that by inspiration he translated the sacred record known as the Book of Mormon; that he did see God the Father and Jesus the Son.” The missionaries then departed the doorstep.
I heard the same Mr. Pollard in a testimony meeting state the experiences of that memorable day. He said, “That evening, sleep would not come. I tossed and turned. Over and over in my mind I heard the words, ‘Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I know it . I know it . I know it.” I could scarcely wait for morning to come. I telephoned the missionaries, using their number which was printed on the small card containing the Articles of Faith. They returned; and this time my wife, my family and I joined in the discussion as earnest seekers of truth. As a result, we have all embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ. We shall ever be grateful to the testimony of truth brought to us by those two courageous, humble missionaries.”
On Zion’s Hill
President Boyd K. Packer
Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
I have lived a long time and watched the standards upon which civilization must depend for its survival swept aside one piece at a time.
We live in a day when the age-old standards of morality, marriage, the home, and family suffer defeat after defeat in courts and councils, in parliaments and classrooms. Our happiness depends upon living those very standards.
The Apostle Paul prophesied that in our day, these last days, men would be “disobedient to parents.without natural affection.despisers of those that are good . lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:2-4).
And he warned that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). He was right. Nevertheless, when I think of the future, I am overwhelmed with a feeling of positive optimism.
Paul told young Timothy to continue in the things he had learned from the Apostles and said he would be safe because, “From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus: (2 Timothy 3:15).
A Pattern for All
Elder Merrill J. Bateman
Of the Presidency of the Seventy
The Atonement was an intimate, personal experience in which Jesus came to know how to “succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12).
The Pearl of Great Price teaches that Moses was shown all the inhabitants of the earth which were “numberless as the sand upon the sea shore” (Moses1:27-28). If Moses beheld every soul, then it seems reasonable that the Creator of the universe has the power to become intimately acquainted with each of us. He learned about your weaknesses and mine. He experienced your pains and sufferings. He experienced mine. I testify that He knows us. He understands the way in which we deal with temptations. He knows our weaknesses. More than just know us, He knows how to help us if we come to Him in faith. That is why a young Hispanic woman suddenly realized that she was more than a speck in the universe when the Holy Spirit gave her a witness of the Restoration. She felt God’s love and realized that He knew her. It also explains why the plan of salvation seemed familiar to a Japanese friend as the missionaries taught him and as the Holy Spirit confirmed his purposes on earth and the potential that lies ahead.
My Soul Delighteth in the Scriptures
Sister Cheryl C. Lant
Primary General President
Our beloved prophet has recently asked us to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year. As I have accepted this invitation, I have found myself discovering new and exciting things in this book even though I have read it many times before. For instance, I rediscovered 2 Nephi 4:15, which reads, “For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.”
This scripture teaches us how to read the Book of Mormon. It mentions three important ideas.
First, “My soul delighteth.” I love this phrase! I have thought about hungering and thirsting after knowledge as I read the scriptures, but delighting in them is something else. I find that what I take away from the scriptures is determined by what I bring. Each time I read them, I am in a sense, bringing a new person with new eyes to the experience. Where I am in my life, the experiences I am having, and my attitude all affect how much I will gain. I love the scriptures. I treasure the truths I find as I read them. Joy fills my heart as I receive encouragement, direction, comfort, strength, and answers to my needs. Life looks brighter, the way opens before me, and I am reassured of my Heavenly Father’s love and concern for me every time I read.
Surely this is a delight to me. As one little boy in a Sunbeam class put it, “I feel happy about the scriptures!”
Second, “My heart pondereth them.” How I love to carry the scriptures with me in my heart. The spirit of what I have read rests there to bring me peace and comfort. The knowledge I have gained gives me guidance and direction. I have the confidence born out of obedience.
Elder Richard G. Scott
Of the Quorum of the Twelve
We lived in the presence of God our Holy Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ in a pre-mortal existence. There we gained an understanding of the Father’s Plan of Salvation and the promise of help when we would be born as mortals on earth. The primary purpose of life was explained. We were told:
We will make an earth whereon these may dwell:
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
And they who keep their first estate [that is to be obedient in the pre-mortal existence] shall be added upon.and they who keep their second estate [that is to be obedient during mortal life] shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever (Abr 3:24-26).
Those words express the most fundamental purpose of your being on earth. That purpose is to prove yourself obedient to the commandments of the Lord, and thereby grow in understanding, capacity, and every worthy trait. It is to receive every required ordinance and make and keep every needed covenant. It is to form and nourish a family. This experience includes having periods of trial and happiness with the objective of returning triumphantly having met well the challenges and opportunities of mortal lie to receive the glorious blessings promised for such obedience.
So that the period of mortal testing and growth would yield its greatest benefit, we were taught and prepared for the circumstances we would individually encounter in mortality. Our Father’s pattern for guiding us through mortal life was explained. He would choose from among the most valiant, obedient spirit children, prophets and other authorized servants to hold His priesthood, to be taught His truth and to be guided to disseminate that truth among His children on earth. God would give each child moral agency, the right to choose His counsel or ignore it. All would be encouraged but not forced to obey. You understood that while you could choose your path on earth you could not determine the outcome of your choices. That would be decided by eternal law. Should one live to qualify for all of the richest promised blessings but for reasons beyond his or her control not be able to obtain them on earth, there would be a compensating opportunity in post-mortal life. Your memory of pre-mortal life would be kept from you to assure that it would be a valid test but that there would be guidance given to show you how to live. Our Father’s plan for salvation in this life with the opportunity of returning to Him would be called the gospel of Jesus Christ.
President Gordon B. Hinckley
Of the First Presidency
Age does something to a man. It seems to make him more aware of the need for kindness and goodness and forbearance. He wishes and prays that men might live together in peace without war and contention, argument and conflict. He grows increasingly aware of the meaning of the great Atonement of the Redeemer, of the depth of His sacrifice, and of gratitude to the Son of God who gave His life that we might live.
I wish today to speak of forgiveness. I think it may be the greatest virtue on earth, and certainly the most needed. There is so much of meanness and abuse, of intolerance and hatred. There is so great a need for repentance and forgiveness. It is the great principle emphasized in all of scripture, both ancient and modern.
A time back I clipped a column from the Deseret Morning News, written by Jay Evensen. With his permission I quote from a part of it. Wrote he:
“How would you feel toward a teenager who decided to toss a 20-pound frozen turkey from a speeding car headlong into the windshield of the car you were driving? How would you feel after enduring six hours of surgery using metal plates and other hardware to piece your face together, and after learning you still face years of therapy before returning to normal-and that you ought to feel lucky you didn’t die or suffer permanent brain damage?
“And how would you feel after learning that your assailant and his buddies had the turkey in the first place because they had stolen a credit card and gone on a senseless shopping spree just for kicks?.
“This is the kind of hideous crime that propels politicians to offices on promises of getting tough on crime. It’s the kind of thing that prompts legislators to climb all over each other in a struggle to be the first to introduce a bill that would add enhanced penalties for the use of frozen fowl in the commission of a crime.
“The New York Times quoted the district attorney as saying this is the sort of crime for which victims feel no punishment is harsh enough. ‘Death doesn’t even satisfy them,’ he said.
“Which is what makes what really happened so unusual. The victim Victoria Ruvolo, a 44-year-old manager of a collections agency, was more interested in salvaging the life of her 19-year-old assailant, Ryan Cushing, than in exacting any sort of revenge. She pestered prosecutors for information about him, his life, how he was raised, etc. Then she insisted on offering him a plea deal. Cushing could serve six months in the county jail and be on probation for 5 years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.
“Had he been convicted of first-degree assault-the charge most fitting for the crime-he could have served 25 years in prison, finally thrown back into society as a middle-aged man with no skills or prospects.
“But this is only half the story. The rest of it, what happened the day this all played out in court, is the truly remarkable part.
“According to an account in the New York Post, Cushing carefully and tentatively made his way to where Ruvolo sat in the courtroom and tearfully whispered an apology. ‘I’m so sorry for what I did to you.’
“Ruvolo then stood, and the victim and her assailant embraced, weeping. She stroked his head and patted his back as he sobbed, and witnesses, including a Times reporter, heard her say, ‘It’s OK. I just want you to make your life the best it can be.’ According to accounts, hardened prosecutors, and even reporters, were choking back tears.”