The Eternal Blessings of Marriage

Elder Richard G. Scott
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

 181_sunpm_scott

If you are a young man of appropriate age and are not married, don’t waste time in idle pursuits. Get on with life and focus on getting married. Don’t just coast through this period of life. Young men, serve a worthy mission. Then, make your highest priority finding a worthy, eternal companion. When you find you are developing an interest in a young woman, show her that you are an exceptional person that she would find interesting to know better. Take her to places that are worthwhile. Show some ingenuity. If you want to have a wonderful wife, you need to have her see you as a wonderful man and prospective husband.

If you have found someone, you can form an extraordinarily wonderful courtship and marriage and be very, very happy eternally by staying within the bounds of worthiness the Lord has established.

If you are married, are you faithful to your spouse mentally as well as physically? Are you loyal to your marriage covenants by never engaging in conversation with another person that you wouldn’t want your spouse to overhear? Are you kind and supportive of your spouse and children?

Brethren, do you lead out in family activities such as scripture study, family prayer, and family home evening, or does your wife fill in the gap your lack of attention leaves in the home? Do you tell your wife often how very much you love her? It will bring her great happiness. I’ve heard men tell me when I say that, “Oh, she knows.” You need to tell her. A woman grows and is greatly blessed by that reassurance. Express gratitude for what your spouse does for you. Express that love and gratitude often. That will make life far richer, more pleasant, and purposeful. Don’t withhold those natural expressions of love. And it works a lot better if you are holding her close while you tell her.

I learned from my wife the importance of expressions. Early in our marriage I often would open my scriptures to give a message and I would find an affectionate, supportive note from Jeanene slipped into the pages. Sometimes they were so tender that I could hardly talk. Those precious notes from a loving wife were and continue to be a priceless treasure of comfort and inspiration.

I began to do the same thing with her, not realizing how much it truly meant to her. I remember one year we didn’t have the resources for me to give her a Valentine, so I decided to paint a watercolor on the front of the refrigerator. I did the best I could, only I made one mistake. It was enamel paint not watercolor. She never let me try to remove that permanent paint.

I remember one day, I took some of those little round paper circles that form when you punch holes in a paper and I wrote on them the numbers 1 to 100. I turned each over, wrote her a message, one word on each circle. I then scooped them up and put them in an envelope. I thought she would get a good laugh.

When she passed away, I found in her private things how much she appreciated the simple messages we shared with each other. I noted that she had carefully pasted every one of those circles on a piece of paper. She not only kept my notes to her, but she protected them with plastic coverings as if they were a valuable treasure. There is only one that she didn’t put with the others. It is still behind the glass of our kitchen clock. It reads, “Jeanene, it is time to tell you I love you.” It remains there and reminds me of that exceptional daughter of Father in Heaven.

As I have thought back over our life together, I realize how blessed we’ve been. We have not had arguments in our home or unkind words between us. Now I realize that blessing came because of her. It resulted from her willingness to give, to share, and to never think of herself. In our later life together, I tried to emulate her example. I suggest that as husband and wife you do the same in your home.

“As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

181_sunpm_christofferson

Our Heavenly Father is a God of high expectations.  His expectations for us are expressed by His Son Jesus Christ in these words: “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48).  He proposes to make us holy so that we may “abide a celestial glory” and dwell in His presence. (See D&C 88:22 and Moses 6:57).  He knows what is required, and so He provides His commandments and covenants, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and most importantly, the Atonement and Resurrection of His Beloved Son to make our transformation possible.

In all of this, God’s purpose is that we, His children, may be able to experience ultimate joy, to be with Him eternally, and to become even as He is.  Some years ago Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained. “The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done.  It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become.  It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions.  The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our heavenly Father desires us to become.”

Sadly, much of modern Christianity does not acknowledge that God makes any real demands on those who believe in Him, seeing Him rather as a butler “who meets their needs when summoned” or a therapist whose role is to help people “feel good about themselves.”  It is a religious outlook that “makes no pretense at changing lives.”  “By contrast,” one author declares, “the God portrayed in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures asks, not just for commitment, but for our very lives.  The God of the Bible traffics in life and death, not niceness, and calls for sacrificial love, not benign whatever-ism.”

I would like to speak of one particular attitude and practice we need to adopt if we are to meet our Heavenly Father’s high expectations.  It is this—willingly to accept and even seek correction.  Correction is vital if we would conform our lives “unto a perfect man, [that is], unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7).  Paul said of divine correction or chastening, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth” (Hebrews 12:6).  Though it is often difficult to endure, truly, we ought to rejoice that God considers us worth the time and trouble to correct.

Divine chastening has at least three purposes: (1) to persuade us to repent, (2) to refine and sanctify us, and (3) at times to redirect our course in life to what God knows is a better path.


The Lord’s Richest Blessings

Elder Carl B. Pratt
Of the Seventy

181_sunpm_pratt
I am grateful for righteous ancestors who taught the gospel to their children in the home long before there were formal family home evenings. My maternal grandparents were Ida Jesperson and John A. Whetten. They lived in the small community of Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The Whetten children were taught by precept, and by observing the examples of their parents. The early 1920s in Mexico were hard times. The violent revolution had just ended. There was little cash circulating and most of it was in silver coins. People often conducted their business through barter or exchange of goods and services.

One day towards the end of summer Grandpa John came home having completed a trade involving a couple of beef cattle and had received as part of the deal 100 pesos in silver coins. He gave the money to Ida with instructions it was to be used to cover the upcoming school expenses of the children. Ida was grateful for the money, but reminded John that they had not paid any tithing all summer long.   They had had no cash income, but Ida reminded him that the animals had provided meat, eggs, and milk. Their garden had provided an abundance of fruits and vegetables, and they had made other trades for goods not involving cash.  Ida suggested they should give the money to the bishop to cover their tithing.  John was a little disappointed as the cash would have helped a great deal toward the children’s schooling, but he readily agreed they needed to pay their tithing.  He carried the heavy bag to the tithing office and settled with the bishop.

Shortly afterwards, he received word that a wealthy businessman from the United States, a Mr. Hord, would arrive next week with several men to spend a few days in the mountains hunting and fishing.

Grandpa John met the party of men at the railroad station near Colonia Juarez.  He had the string of saddle horses and the necessary pack animals ready to transport the baggage and camp equipment into the mountains.  The following week was spent guiding the men and caring for the camp and animals.

At the end of the week, the men returned to the railroad station to take the train back to the U.S.   John was paid that day for his work and was given a bag of silver peso coins to cover the other expenses.  Once the men had been paid, John returned the balance of money to Mr. Hord, who was surprised as he had not expected any money to be left over.  He quizzed John to make sure all costs had been covered, and John answered that the expenses for the trip had all been met and this was the balance of the funds.

The train whistled. Mr. Hord turned to go, then turned back and tossed the heavy bag of coins to John.  “Here, take this home for your boys.”  John caught the bag and headed back to Colonia Juarez. That evening as the family gathered around after supper to hear the stories of the trip, John remembered the bag and brought it in and set it on the table. John said he didn’t know how much was in the bag, so for fun the bag was emptied onto the table—quite a pile, and when it was counted, it came to exactly 100 pesos in silver. Of course it was deemed a great blessing that Mr. Hord had decided to make that trip.  John and his boys had earned good wages, but the 100 pesos left over was a reminder of the exact same amount of tithing paid the week before. To some, that might be an interesting coincidence, but to the Whetten family it was clearly a lesson from the Lord that he remembers his promises to those who faithfully pay their tithing.

As a child, I loved that story because it was about a horseback camping trip into the mountains for hunting and fishing. And I loved it because it teaches that when we obey commandments we are blessed. There are several things we can all learn about tithing from this story.

First, you will notice that the payment of tithing in this case was not related to the amount of cash income. The Whettens decided to use their first cash income for tithing because they had lived well from their animals and their productive fruit and vegetable garden. They obviously felt indebted to the Lord for their blessings.

That is a reminder of the implication in Lord’s words when he asked: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me.” The people ask, “Wherein have we robbed thee?” And the Lord thunders back: “In tithes and offerings.”(Malachi 3:8)

“What Manner of Men [and Women] Ought Ye to Be?”

Elder Lynn G. Robbins
Of the Quorum of Seventy

181_sunpm_Robbins
“To be or not to be?”
(Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1) — is actually a very good question. The Savior posed the question in a far more profound way, making it a vital doctrinal question for each of us, “What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be?  Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Ne. 27:27).  The first-person present tense of the verb be is — I Am. He invites us to take upon us His name and His nature.

To become as He is, we must also do the things He did:  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also  do . . .”  (3 Ne. 27:21)

To-be and to-do are inseparable.  As interdependent doctrines they reinforce and promote each other.  Faith inspires one to pray, for example, and prayer in turn strengthens one’s faith.

The Savior often denounced those who ‘did’ without ‘being’ – calling them hypocrites, “This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mark 7:6).  To-do without tobe is hypocrisy, or feigning to be what one is not — a pretender.

Conversely tobe without to-do is void, as in “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17).   Be without do, really isn’t being – it is self-deception, believing oneself to be good, merely because one’s intentions are good.

Do without be (hypocrisy) portrays a false image to others, while be without do portrays a false image to oneself.

The Savior chastised the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For ye pay tithe (something they did) of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. . .” (They failed to be what they should have been) (Matthew 23:23)

While He recognized the importance of do, the Savior identified be as a “weightier matter.”

 


Called to be Saints

Elder Benjamín De Hoyos
Of the First Quorum of the Seventy

Some years ago, while serving in the office of Public Affairs of the Church in Mexico, we were invited to participate in a radio talk show.


  The purpose of the show was to describe and discuss the different religions of the world.  Two of us were assigned to represent the Church in responding to questions that might be asked during this type of a program.  After several “air times”, as they say in radio parlance, the program director made this comment, “We have with us this evening two elders from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”   He paused and then asked, “Why does the Church have such a long name?  Why don’t you use a shorter or more commercial name?”

My companion and I smiled at such a magnificent question and then proceeded to explain that the name of the Church was not chosen by man.  It was given by the Savior through a prophet in these latter days.  “For thus shall my Church be called in the last days, even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” (D&C 115:4).  The program director immediately and respectfully responded, “We will thus repeat it with great pleasure.”  Now I can not remember how many times he repeated the significant name of the Church, but I do remember the sweet spirit that was present when we explained not only the name of the Church, but also how  it makes reference to the members of the Church – the Latter-Day Saints.

We read in the New Testament that the members of the Church of Jesus Christ were called CHRISTIANS for the first time in Antioch (Acts 11:26), but they called each other SAINTS.  How stirring it must have been for them to hear the apostle Paul call them “fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19-20), and also “… called to be saints” (Romans 1:6-7).

To the degree that members of the Church live the gospel and follow the counsel of the prophets, they will, little by little and even without noticing it, become sanctified.  Humble members of the Church that conduct daily family prayer and scripture study, engage in family history and consecrate their time to worship in the temple frequently, become saints.  They are those who are dedicated to creating eternal families.  They are also those who set apart time from their busy lives to rescue those who have become alienated from the Church and encourage them to return and sit at the Lord’s Table.  They are those elders and sisters, and mature couples who respond to a call to serve as the Lord’s missionaries.  Yes, my brothers and sisters, they become saints, to the degree that they discover that warm and wonderful feeling that is called charity, or the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7:42-48).


The Miracle of the Atonement

Elder C. Scott Grow
Of the Quorum of the Seventy

181_sunpm_grow

While preparing my talk for this conference, I received an unexpected phone call from my father.  He said that my younger brother had died that morning in his sleep.  I was heart-broken.  He was only 51 years old.  As I thought about him, I felt impressed to share with you some events from his life.  I do so with permission.

As a youth, my brother was handsome, friendly and outgoing?totally dedicated to the gospel.   After serving an honorable mission, he married his sweetheart in the temple.  They were blessed with a son and a daughter.  His future was full of promise.

But then he gave in to a weakness.  He chose to live a hedonistic lifestyle, which cost him his health, his marriage, and his membership in the Church.

He moved far from home.  He continued his self-destructive behavior for more than a decade; but the Savior had not forgotten nor abandoned him.  Eventually the pain of his despair allowed a spirit of humility to enter his soul.  His feelings of anger, rebellion and militancy began to dissipate.  Like the prodigal son, “…he came to himself….” He began to reach out to the Savior and to make his way back home.

He walked the path of repentance.  It wasn’t easy.  After being out of the Church for twelve years, he was rebaptized.  His priesthood and temple blessings were eventually restored.

He was blessed to find a woman who was willing to overlook the residual health challenges from his prior lifestyle, and they were sealed in the temple.  Together they had two children.  He served faithfully in the bishopric for several years.

My brother died on Monday morning, March 7th.  The previous Friday evening he and his wife attended the temple.  On Sunday morning, the day before he died, he taught the priesthood lesson in his high priest group.  He went to bed that evening, never to awaken again in this life?but to come forth in the resurrection of the just.

I am grateful for the miracle of the Atonement in the life of my brother.  The Savior’s Atonement is available to each of us, always.

We access the atonement through repentance.  When we repent, the Lord allows us to put the mistakes of the past behind us.

Quote, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.  By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins?behold, he will confess them and forsake them.”

 

 

 

An Ensign to the Nations

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

181_sunpm_holland

 
Before leaving Nauvoo in the winter of 1846, President Brigham Young had a dream in which he saw an angel standing on a cone-shaped hill, somewhere in the west, pointing to a valley below.  When he entered the Salt Lake Valley some 18 months later, he saw just above the location where we are now gathered, the same hillside prominence he had seen in vision.

As has often been told from this pulpit, Brother Brigham led a handful of leaders to the summit of that hill and proclaimed it “Ensign Peak,” a name filled with religious meaning for these modern Israelites.  Twenty-five hundred years earlier the prophet Isaiah had declared that in the last days, “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains . . . and [there] he shall set up an ensign for the nations.”

Seeing their moment in history as partial fulfillment of that prophecy, the brethren wished to fly a banner of some kind to make the idea of “an ensign to the nations” literal. Elder Heber C. Kimball produced a yellow bandana.  Brother Brigham tied it to a walking stick carried by Elder Willard Richards, and then planted the makeshift flag, declaring the valley of the Great Salt Lake and the mountains surrounding it as that prophesied place from which the word of the Lord would go forth in the latter days. 

Brothers and sisters, this general conference and the other semiannual versions of it are the continuation of that early declaration to the world.  I testify that the proceedings of the past two days are yet one more evidence that, as our hymn says, “Lo, Zion’s standard is unfurled”—and surely the dual meaning of the word “standard” is intentional.


 

 

 

  It is not happenstance that the English publication of our general conference messages is in a magazine simply titled, The Ensign.

As our conference comes to a close, I ask you to reflect in the days ahead, not only on the messages you have heard but also on the unique phenomenon that general conference itself is—what we as Latter-day Saints believe such conferences to be and what we invite the world to hear and observe about them.  We testify to every nation, kindred, tongue and people that for our time and in our day the counsel you have heard is, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, “the will of the Lord, . . . the word of the Lord, . . . the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.

Perhaps you already know (but if you don’t you should) that with rare exception, no man or woman who speaks here is assigned a topic.  Each is to fast and pray, study and seek, start and stop and start again until he or she is confident that for this conference, at this time, theirs is the topic the Lord wishes them to present regardless of personal wishes or private preferences.  Every man and woman you have heard during the past ten hours of general conference has tried to be true to that prompting.  Each has wept, worried and earnestly sought the Lord’s direction to guide his or her thoughts and expression.  And just as Brigham Young saw an angel standing over this place, so do I see these angels standing in it.  My brethren and sisters among the general officers of the Church will be uneasy with that description, but that is how I see them—mortal messengers with angelic messages, men and women who have all the physical and financial and family difficulties you and I have, but who with faith have consecrated their lives to the callings that have come to them, and the duty to preach God’s word, not their own.

At Parting

President Thomas S. Monson

181_sunpm_monson

 

Now, before we leave today, may I share with you my love for the Savior and for His great atoning sacrifice for us. In three weeks’ time the entire Christian world will be celebrating Easter. I believe that none of us can conceive the full import of what Christ did for us in Gethsemane, but I am grateful every day of my life for His atoning sacrifice in our behalf.

At the last moment He could have turned back. But He did not. He passed beneath all things that He might save all things. In doing so, He gave us life beyond this mortal existence. He reclaimed us from the Fall of Adam.

To the depths of my very soul I am grateful to Him. He taught us how to live. He taught us how to die. He secured our salvation.

As I close, may I share with you touching words written by Emily Harris  which describe so well my feelings as Easter comes:

            The linen which once held Him is empty.
            It lies there,
            Fresh and white and clean.
            The door stands opened.
            The stone is rolled away,
            And I can almost hear the angels singing His praises.
            Linen cannot hold Him.
            Stone cannot hold Him.
            The words echo through the empty limestone chamber,
            “He is not here.”
            The linen which once held Him is now empty.
            It lies there,
            Fresh and white and clean
            And oh, hallelujah, it is empty.