Elder Russell M. Nelson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
One week after a recent assignment to create the first stake in Moscow, Russia, I attended a district conference in St. Petersburg. While speaking about my gratitude for early missionaries and local leaders who brought strength to the Church in Russia, I mentioned the name of Vyacheslav Efimov. He was the first Russian convert to become a mission president. He and his wife did wonderfully well in that assignment. Not long after they had completed their mission, and much to our sorrow, President Efimov suddenly passed away. He was only 52 years of age.
While speaking of this pioneering couple, I felt impressed to ask the congregation if Sister Efimov might be present. Far in the rear of the room a woman stood. I invited her to come to the microphone. Yes, it was Sister Galina Efimov. She spoke with conviction and bore a powerful testimony of the Lord, of His gospel, and of His restored Church. She and her husband had been sealed in the holy temple. She said they were united forever. They were still missionary companions, she on this side of the veil, and he on the other side. With tears of joy, she thanked God for sacred temple covenants. I wept too, with full realization that the everlasting unity exemplified by this faithful couple was the righteous result of making, keeping, and honoring sacred covenants.
One of the most important concepts of revealed religion is that of a sacred covenant. In legal language, a covenant generally denotes an agreement between two or more parties. But in a religious context, a covenant is much more significant. It is a sacred promise with God. He fixes the terms. Each person may choose to accept those terms. If one accepts the terms of the covenant and obeys God’s law, he or she receives the blessings associated with the covenant. We know that “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
Through the ages, God has made covenants with His children. His covenants occur throughout the entire plan of salvation and are therefore part of the fulness of His gospel. For example, God promised to send a Savior for His children, asking in turn for their obedience to His law.
In the Bible we read of men and women in the Old World who were identified as children of the covenant. What covenant? “The covenant which God made with [their] fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”
In the Book of Mormon we read of people in the New World who were also identified as children of the covenant. The resurrected Lord so informed them: “Behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”
The Savior explained the importance of their identity as children of the covenant. He said, “The Father having raised me up unto you first, . . . sent me to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities; and this because ye are the children of the covenant.”
The covenant God made with Abraham[i] and later reaffirmed with Isaac and Jacob is of transcendent significance. It contained several promises, including:
- Jesus the Christ would be born through Abraham’s lineage.
- Abraham’s posterity would be numerous, entitled to an eternal increase and also entitled to bear the priesthood.
- Abraham would become a father of many nations.
- Certain lands would be inherited by his posterity.
- All nations of the earth would be blessed by his seed.
- And that covenant would be everlasting—even through “a thousand generations.”
Some of these promises have been fulfilled; others are still pending. I quote from an early Book of Mormon prophecy: “Our father [Lehi] hath not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all the house of Israel, pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days; which covenant the Lord made to our father Abraham.” Isn’t that amazing? Some 600 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, prophets knew that the Abrahamic Covenant would be finally fulfilled only in the latter days.
To facilitate that promise, the Lord appeared in these latter days to renew that Abrahamic covenant. To the Prophet Joseph Smith the Master declared: “Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins—from whose loins ye are, . . . my servant Joseph. . . . This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham.”
With this renewal, we have received, as did they of old, the holy priesthood and the everlasting gospel. We have the right to receive the fulness of the gospel, enjoy the blessings of the priesthood, and qualify for God’s greatest blessing—that of eternal life.
Teachings of Jesus
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
At a stake conference many years ago, I met a woman who said she had been asked to come back to Church after many years away, but could not think of any reason why she should. To encourage her I said, “When you consider all of the things the Savior has done for us, don’t you have many reasons to come back to Church to worship and serve him?” I was astonished at her reply: “What’s He done for me?” For those who do not understand what our Savior has done for us, I will answer that question in His own words and with my own testimony.
The Bible records Jesus’ teaching: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Later, in the New World, He declared, “I am the light and the life of the world” (3 Ne. 11:11). He is the life of the world because He is our creator and because through His resurrection we are all assured that we will live again. And the life He gives us is not merely mortal life. He taught, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28; also see John 17:2).
Jesus also taught, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness” (John 8:12). He also declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He is the way and He is the light because His teachings light our path in mortal life and show us the way back to the Father.
Doing the Will of the Father
Always, Jesus honored the Father and followed Him. Even as a youth He declared to His earthly parents, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). “For I came down from heaven,” He later taught, “not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38; also see John 5:19). And, the Savior taught, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6; also see Matt. 11:27).
We return to the Father by doing His will.
Jesus taught: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt.
7:21). He explained, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (vs. 22-23).
Who then will enter the kingdom of heaven? Not those who merely do wonderful works using the name of the Lord, Jesus taught, but only “he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).
Teaching after the Manner of the Spirit
Matthew O. Richardson
Second Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency
Many years ago, my children and I hiked to the top of South Sister, a 10,358 foot mountain in Oregon. After several hours we encountered a long 45+ degree slope of tiny volcanic pebbles. With the summit in sight, we pressed on only to find that with every step our feet would sink in the pebbles causing us to slide backward several inches. My twelve-year-old son forged ahead as I stayed with my eight-year-old daughter. Fatigue and discouragement soon set in and she was heartbroken thinking that she might not join her brother at the top. My first impulse was to carry her. My spirit was willing but sadly my flesh was weak. We sat down on the rocks, assessed our situation, and devised a new plan. I told her to put her hands in my back pants pockets, hold on tight, and—most importantly—as soon as I lifted my foot to take a step, she should quickly put her foot in its place. She mirrored my every move and relied on the lift that came from hanging on to my pockets. After what seemed like an eternity we made it to the top of the mountain. Her expression of triumph and satisfaction was priceless. And yes, she and her brother were, in my opinion, real hikers.
My daughter’s success was a result of her diligent effort and how well she hiked after the manner that I hiked. As she synchronized her movement with mine, we achieved a rhythm together allowing me to utilize my full energy. Such is the case when we teach after the manner of the workings of the Spirit. As we align the manner of our teaching to match that of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit strengthens us and, at the same time, is not constrained. With this in mind, please consider two fundamental “workings of the Spirit” worthy of our emulation.
First, The Holy Ghost teaches individuals in a very personal way. This makes it possible for us to intimately know truth for ourselves. Because of our different needs, circumstances, and progression, the Holy Ghost teaches what we must know and do so we may become what we must be. Please note that while the Holy Ghost teaches “the truth of all things,” it does not teach all truth all at once. The Spirit teaches truth “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.”
Those who teach after the manner of the Spirit understand they teach people, not lessons. As such, they overcome the urge to “cover” everything in a manual or teach all they have learned on the subject and focus instead on those things that their family or class members need to know and do. Parents, leaders, and teachers who mirror how the Spirit teaches, quickly learn that real teaching involves much more than just talking and telling. As a result, they intentionally pause to listen, carefully observe, and then discern what to do next. When they do this, the Holy Ghost is in a position to teach both learners and teachers what they should do and say.
Second, the Holy Ghost teaches by inviting, prompting, encouraging, and inspiring us to act. Christ assured us that we come to know the truthfulness of the doctrine as we act accordingly. The Spirit leads, guides, and shows us what to do. It will not, however, do for us what only we can do for ourselves. You see the Holy Ghost cannot learn for us, feel for us, or act for us because this would be contrary to the doctrine of agency. It can facilitate opportunities and invite us to learn, feel, and act.
Those who teach after this manner of the Spirit help others by inviting, encouraging, and providing them opportunities to use their agency. Parents, leaders, and teachers realize they cannot feel for, learn for, or even repent for their family, congregation, or class members. Rather than asking, “What can I do for my children, class members, or others?” they ask, “How do I invite and help those around me to learn for themselves?” Parents who mirror the workings of the Holy Ghost create homes where families learn to value rather than just learn about values. In like manner, rather than just talking about doctrines, teachers help learners understand and live gospel doctrines. The Holy Ghost is unrestrained as individuals exercise their agency appropriately.
Missionaries Are a Treasure of the Church
Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita
Of the Seventy
One night a number of years ago, a newly called missionary named Elder Swan and his Japanese senior companion came to visit our home. Fortunately I was home, so I invited them in. When I greeted them at the door, my eyes were drawn to the coat that Elder Swan was wearing. Without thinking, I said to him, “That sure is a nice coat you are wearing!” However, it wasn’t a new coat, and it was rather faded. I assumed that the coat was one that a previous missionary had left behind in the missionary apartment.
Elder Swan immediately responded to my words, and it was completely the opposite of what I had been thinking. In halting Japanese he replied: “Yes, this is a good coat. My father wore this coat when he served as a missionary in Japan over 20 years ago.”
His father had served in the Japan Okayama Mission. And when his son was leaving to serve a mission in Japan, he had given his coat to him. This picture shows the coat that two generations of Elder Swans wore in Japan.
I was touched when I heard Elder Swan’s words. And I now understood why Elder Swan wore his father’s coat while he was proselyting. Elder Swan had embarked on his mission having inherited his father’s love for Japan and its people.
I am sure that some of you have experienced something similar to this. A number of missionaries serving in Japan have told me that their fathers, their mothers, their grandfathers, or their uncles have also served missions in Japan.
I would like to express my sincere love, respect, and feeling of thankfulness for all the returned missionaries who have served around the world. I am sure that those you helped convert have not forgotten you. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings!”1
I am one of those converts.
I was converted at 17, when I was a high school student.
The missionary who performed my baptism was an Elder Rupp from Idaho. He was recently released as a stake president in Idaho. I have not seen him since I was newly baptized, but I have exchanged e-mails with him and talked to him by telephone. I have never forgotten him. His kind, smiling face is etched into my memory. He was so happy when he learned that I was doing well.
When I was 17, I didn’t really have a good understanding of the messages that the missionaries had been teaching me. However, I had a special feeling about the missionaries. I wanted to become like them. And I felt their deep and abiding love.
Choose Eternal Life
Elder Randall K. Bennett
Of the Second Quorum of Seventy
Our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson has taught: “I can’t stress too strongly that decisions determine destiny. You can’t make eternal decisions without eternal consequences.”
Each of you is a beloved spirit son or daughter of Heavenly Parents. You have a divine nature and destiny. During your pre-mortal life you learned to love truth. You made correct eternal choices. You knew that here in mortality, there would be afflictions and adversity, sorrow and suffering, tests and trials to help you grow and progress. You also knew that you could continue making correct choices, repent of incorrect choices, and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, inherit eternal life.
What did the prophet Lehi teach about choice? He counseled that we are “free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil.” He then instructed: “ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life.”
In what we choose to think about, feel, and do, are you and I choosing eternal life?
Our grandchildren are learning that when they make a choice, they also choose its consequences. Recently one of our three-year-old granddaughters refused to eat her dinner. Her mother explained: “It’s almost bedtime. If you choose to eat dinner, you are choosing ice cream for dessert. If you choose not to eat dinner, you are choosing to go to bed now, without ice cream.” Our granddaughter stated emphatically, “I want this choice—to play and eat only ice cream and not go to bed.” Do we wish we could play, eat only ice cream, never go to bed and somehow avoid consequences like malnutrition and exhaustion?
In reality we have only two eternal choices, each with eternal consequences: choose to follow the Savior of the world and thus choose eternal life with God or choose to follow the world and thus choose to separate ourselves from God eternally.
We cannot successfully choose both the safety of righteousness and the dangers of worldliness.
The Privilege of Prayer
Elder J. Devn Cornish
Of the Quorum of the Seventy
My beloved sisters and brothers, God our Father is not a feeling or an idea or a force. He is a holy person who, as the scriptures teach, has a face and hands and a glorious, resurrected body. He is real; He knows each of us individually; and He loves us, every one. He wants to bless us.
Jesus said, “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:9 – 11).
Perhaps a personal experience will help to illustrate the point. When I was a young resident physician at Boston Children’s Hospital, I worked long hours and mostly traveled between the hospital and our home in Watertown, Massachusetts, by bicycle since my wife and young family needed our car. One evening I was riding home after a long period in the hospital, feeling tired and hungry and at least a bit discouraged. I knew I needed to give my wife and 4 small children not only my time and energy when I got home, but also a cheery attitude. I was frankly finding it hard to just keep peddling.
My route would take me past a fried chicken shop, and I felt like I would be a lot less hungry and tired if I could pause for a piece of chicken on my way home. I knew they were running a sale on thighs or drumsticks for 29 cents each, but when I checked my wallet, all I had was one nickel. As I rode along, I told the Lord my situation and asked if in His mercy He could let me find a quarter on the side of the road. I told Him that I didn’t need this as a sign, but that I would be really grateful if He felt to grant me this kind blessing.
I began watching the ground more intently but saw nothing. Trying to maintain a faith-filled but submissive attitude as I rode, I approached the store. Then, almost exactly across the street from the chicken place, I saw a quarter on the ground. With gratitude and relief, I picked it up, bought the chicken, savored every morsel, and rode happily home.
In His mercy, the God of Heaven, the Creator and Ruler of all things everywhere, had heard a prayer about a very minor thing. One might well ask why He would concern Himself with something so small. I am led to believe that our Heavenly Father loves us so much that the things that are important to us become important to Him, just because He loves us. How much more would He want to help us with the big things that we ask, which are right (see 3 Nephi 18:20)?
The Songs They Could Not Sing
Elder Quentin L. Cook
Of the Quorum of the Twelve
In many ways the sinking of the Titanic is a metaphor for life and many gospel principles. It is a perfect example of the difficulty of only looking through the lens of this mortal life. The loss of life was catastrophic in its consequences but was of an accidental nature. With the carnage of two world wars and having just passed the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center Towers, we have seen in our own time a window into the shock, agony, and moral issues surrounding events resulting from the evil exercise of agency. There are terrible repercussions to family, friends, and nations as a result of these tragedies regardless of the cause.
With respect to the Titanic, lessons were learned about the dangers of pride and traveling in troubled waters and that God is no respecter of persons. Those involved were from all walks of life. Some were rich and famous, such as John Jacob Astor; but there were also laborers, immigrants, women, children and crew members.
There were at least two Latter-day Saint connections to the Titanic. Both illustrate our challenge in understanding trials, tribulations, and tragedies and provide insight as to how we might deal with them.
The first is an example of being appreciative for the blessings we receive and the challenges we avoid.
It involves Alma Sonne, who later served as a General Authority. He was my stake president when I was born in Logan, Utah. I had my mission interview with Elder Sonne. In those days all prospective missionaries were interviewed by a General Authority. He was a great influence in my life.
When Alma was a young man, he had a friend who was less active in the Church, named Fred. They had numerous discussions about serving a mission, and eventually Alma Sonne convinced Fred to prepare and serve. They were both called to the British Mission. At the conclusion of their missions, Elder Sonne, the mission secretary, made the travel arrangements for their return to the United States. He booked passage on the Titanic for himself, Fred, and four other missionaries who had also completed their missions. When it came time to travel, for some reason Fred was delayed. Elder Sonne cancelled all six bookings to sail on the new luxury liner on its maiden voyage and booked passage on a ship that sailed the next day.
The four missionaries who were excited about traveling on the Titanic expressed their disappointment. Elder Sonne’s answer paraphrased the account of Joseph and his brothers in Egypt recorded in Genesis, “How can we return to our families and the lad be not with us,” (Genesis 44:30-31, 34). He explained to his companions that they all came to England together, and they all should return home together. Elder Sonne subsequently learned of the Titanic’s sinking and gratefully said to his friend, Fred, “You saved my life.” Fred replied, “No, by getting me on this mission, you saved my life.” All of the missionaries thanked the Lord for preserving them.
“Until We Meet Again”
President Thomas S. Monson
President: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
My brothers and sisters, I know you will agree with me that this has been a most inspiring conference. We have felt the Spirit of the Lord in rich abundance these past two days as our hearts have been touched and our testimonies of this divine work have been strengthened. We express thanks to each one who has participated, including these brethren offering prayers.
We are all here because we love the Lord and want to serve Him. I testify to you that our Heavenly Father is mindful of us. I acknowledge His hand in all things.