As We Gather Once Again
President Thomas S. Monson
President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
We meet each six months to strengthen one another, to extend encouragement, to provide comfort, to build faith. We are here to learn. Some of you may be seeking answers to questions and challenges you are experiencing in your life. Some are struggling with disappointments or losses. Each can be enlightened and uplifted and comforted as the Spirit of the Lord is felt…
Should there be changes which need to be made in your life, may you find the incentive and the courage to do so as you listen to the inspired words which will be spoken. May each of us resolve anew to live so that we are worthy sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. May we continue to oppose evil wherever it is found.
How blessed we are to have come to earth at such a time as this-a marvelous time in the long history of the world…
From a small beginning one hundred and eighty-two years ago, our presence is now felt throughout the world. This great cause in which we are engaged will continue to go forth, changing and blessing lives as it does so. No cause, no force in the entire world can stop the work of God. Despite what comes, this great cause will go forward.
And a Little Child Shall Lead Them
President Boyd K. Packer
President of the Quorum of the Twelve
Around the turn of the century, two missionaries were laboring in the mountains of the southern United States. One day, from a hilltop they saw people gathering in a clearing far below. The missionaries did not often have many to whom they might preach, so they made their way down to the clearing.
A little boy had drowned, and there was to be a funeral. His parents had sent for the minister to “say words” over their son. The missionaries stood back as the itinerant minister faced the grieving father and mother and began his sermon. If the parents expected to receive comfort from this man of the cloth, they would be disappointed.
He scolded them severely for not having had the little boy baptized. They had put it off because of one thing or another, and now it was too late. He told them very bluntly that their little boy had gone to hell. It was their fault. They were to blame for his endless torment.
After the sermon was over and the grave was covered, the elders approached the grieving parents. “We are servants of the Lord,” they told the mother, “and we have come with a message for you.” As the sobbing parents listened, the two elders read from the revelations and bore their testimony of the Restoration of the keys for the redemption of both the living and the dead.
I have some sympathy for that preacher. He was doing the best he could with such light and knowledge as he had. But there is more that he should have been able to offer. There is the fullness of the gospel.
The elders came as comforters, as teachers, as servants of the Lord, as authorized ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ…
The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is to see a husband and his wife and their children happy at home, protected by the principles and laws of the gospel, sealed safely in the covenants of the everlasting priesthood. Husbands and wives should understand that their first calling-from which they will never be released-is to one another and then to their children.
One of the great discoveries of parenthood is that we learn far more about what really matters from our children than we ever did from our parents. We come to recognize the truth in Isaiah’s prophecy that “a little child shall lead them.”
Teaching Our Children to Understand
Sister Cheryl A. Esplin
Of the Primary General Presidency
Our “children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). He knows and loves each one with perfect love (see Moroni 8:17). What a sacred responsibility Heavenly Father places upon us as parents to partner with Him in helping His choice spirits become what He knows they can become.
This divine privilege of raising our children is a much greater responsibility than we can do alone without the Lord’s help. He knows exactly what our children need to know, what they need to do, and what they need to be to come back into His presence. He gives mothers and fathers specific instruction and guidance through the scriptures, His prophets, and the Holy Ghost…
I’m reminded of a phone call I received several years ago from our daughter Michelle. With tender emotion she said, “Mom, I just had the most incredible experience with Ashley.” Ashley is her daughter who was five years old at the time. Michelle described the morning as being one of constant squabbling between Ashley and three-year-old Andrew-one wouldn’t share and the other would hit. After helping them work things out, Michelle went to check the baby.
Soon, Ashley came running in, angry that Andrew wasn’t sharing. Michelle reminded Ashley of the commitment they had made in home evening to be more kind to each other.
She asked Ashley if she wanted to pray and ask for Heavenly Father’s help, but Ashley, still very angry, responded, “No.” When asked if she believed Heavenly Father would answer her prayer, Ashley said she didn’t know. Her mother asked her to try and gently took her hands and knelt down with her.
Michelle suggested that Ashley could ask Heavenly Father to help Andrew share-and help her be kind. The thought of Heavenly Father helping her little brother share must have piqued Ashley’s interest, and she began to pray, first asking Heavenly Father to help Andrew share. As she asked Him to help her be kind, she began to cry. Ashley ended her prayer and buried her head on her mother’s shoulder. Michelle held her and asked why she was crying. Ashley said she didn’t know.
Her mother said, “I think I know why you’re crying. Do you feel good inside?” Ashley nodded, and her mother continued, “This is the Spirit helping you feel this way. It’s Heavenly Father’s way of telling you He loves you and will help you.”
She asked Ashley if she believed this, if she believed Heavenly Father could help her. With her little eyes full of tears, Ashley said she did.
Sometimes the most powerful way to teach our children to understand a doctrine is to teach in the context of what they are experiencing right at that moment.
These moments are spontaneous and unplanned and happen in the normal flow of family life. They come and go quickly, so we need to be alert and recognize a teaching moment when our children come to uswith a question or worry, when they have problems getting along with siblings or friends, when they need to control their anger, when they make a mistake, or when they need to make a decision.
The Gospel and the Church
Elder Donald L. Hallstrom
Of the Presidency of the Seventy
I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sometimes we use the terms “gospel” and “Church” interchangeably, but they are not the same. They are, however, exquisitely interconnected and we need both.
The gospel is the glorious plan of God in which we, as His children, are given the opportunity to receive all that the Father has. This is called eternal life and is described as “the greatest of all the gifts of God.” A vital part of the plan is our earthly experience, a time to develop faith, to repent, and to reconcile ourselves with God…
The Church was established by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20). In this, the dispensation of the fullness of times, the Lord restored what once was, specifically telling the Prophet Joseph Smith, “I will establish a church by your hand” (D&C 31:7). Jesus Christ was and is the head of His Church, represented on earth by prophets holding apostolic authority.
This is a magnificent Church. Its organization, effectiveness, and sheer goodness are respected by all who sincerely seek to understand it. The Church has programs for children, youth, men, and women. It has beautiful meetinghouses that number more than 18,000. Majestic temples, now totaling 136, dot the earth, with another 30 under construction or announced. A full-time missionary force of over 56,000, comprised of the young and less so, are serving in 150 countries. The Church’s worldwide humanitarian work is a marvelous display of the generosity of our members. Our welfare system cares for our members and promotes self-reliance in a manner unduplicated anywhere. In this Church, we have selfless lay leaders and a community of Saints that are willing to serve one another in a remarkable way. There is nothing like this Church in all the world…
Some have come to think of activity in the Church as the ultimate goal. Therein lies a danger. It is possible to be active in the Church and less-active in the gospel. Let me stress-activity in the Church is a highly-desirable goal; however, it is insufficient. Activity in the Church is an outward indication of our spiritual desire. If we attend our meetings, hold and fulfill Church responsibilities, and serve others, it is publicly observed.
By contrast, the things of the gospel are usually less visible and more difficult to measure, but, they are of greater eternal importance. For example, how much faith do we really have? How repentant are we? How meaningful are the ordinances in our lives? How focused are we on our covenants?
I repeat-we need the gospel and the Church. In fact, the purpose of the Church is to help us live the gospel. We often wonder: How can someone be fully active in the Church as a youth and then not be when they are older? How can an adult who has regularly attended and served, stop coming? How can a person who was disappointed by a leader or another member allow that to end their Church participation? Perhaps the reason is they were not sufficiently converted to the gospel-the things of eternity.
He Truly Loves Us
Elder Paul E. Koelliker
Of the Quorum of the Seventy
I love being with the full-time missionaries. They are full of faith, hope and genuine charity. Their missionary experience is like a mini-life packaged in 18 to 24 months. They arrive as spiritual infants with a serious appetite to learn and leave as mature adults, ready to conquer any and all challenges placed before them. I also love the devoted senior missionaries who are full of patience, wisdom and calm assurance. They bring a gift of stability and love to the youthful energy that surrounds them. Together they are a powerful, persevering force for good, which is having a profound effect on their lives and upon those who are touched by their service. Recently I listened to two of these great young missionaries as they reviewed their experiences and efforts.
In that reflective moment they considered the individuals contacted that day, some of whom were more responsive than others. They asked: “How can we help each individual develop a desire to know more about Heavenly Father? How do we help them feel His spirit? How can we help them know that we love them?” In my mind’s eye I could see these two young men three or four years after completing their missions.
I visualized them as having found their eternal companion and serving in an elder’s quorum or teaching a group of young men. Now, instead of thinking about their investigators, they were asking the same questions about their quorum members or the young men they were commissioned to nurture. I saw how their missionary experience could be applied as a template for nurturing others throughout the rest of their lives.
As this army of righteous disciples return from their missions to many countries across the earth, they are becoming key contributors in the work of establishing the Church…
Two young missionaries knocked on a door hoping to find someone to receive their message. The door opened and a rather large man greeted them in a less than friendly voice. “I thought I told you to not knock on my door again. I warned you before that if you ever came back, it would not be a pleasant experience. Now leave me alone.” He quickly closed the door. As the elders walked away the older, more experienced missionary put his arm on the younger missionary’s shoulder to comfort and encourage him. Unknown to them, the man watched them through the window to be sure they understood his message. He fully expected to see them laugh and make light of his curt response to their attempted visit. However, as he witnessed the expression of kindness between the two missionaries, his heart was instantly softened. He reopened the door and asked the missionaries to come back and share their message with him…
The feeling of love from our Heavenly Father is like a gravitational pull from heaven. As we remove the distractions that pull us toward the world and exercise our agency to seek Him, we open our hearts to a celestial force which draws us toward Him…
Both modern and ancient scripture are full of reminders of Heavenly Father’s eternal love for His children. I am confident that our Heavenly Father’s arms are constantly extended, ever ready to embrace each one of us and to say to each one with that quiet, piercing voice, “I love you.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Today, the most visible strength of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the unselfish service and sacrifice of its members. Prior to the dedication of one of our temples, a Christian minister asked President Gordon B. Hinckley why it did not contain any representation of the cross, the most common symbol of the Christian faith. President Hinckley replied that the symbols of our Christian faith are “the lives of our people.” Truly, our lives of service and sacrifice are the most appropriate expressions of our commitment to serve the Master and our fellowmen.
We have no professionally trained and salaried clergy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a result, the lay members who are called to lead and serve our congregations must carry the whole load of our numerous Church meetings, programs, and activities. They do this in more than 14,000 congregations just in the United States and Canada. Of course, we are not unique in having lay members of our congregations serve as teachers and lay leaders. But the amount of time donated by our members to train and minister to one another is uniquely large. Our efforts to have each family in our congregations visited by home teachers each month and to have each adult woman visited by Relief Society visiting teachers each month are examples of this. We know of no comparable service in any organization in the world.
The best known example of unique LDS service and sacrifice is the work of our missionaries. Currently they number more than 50,000 young men and young women and over 5,000 adult men and women. They devote from six months to two years of their lives to teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and providing humanitarian service in about 165 countries in the world. Their work always involves sacrifice, including the years they give to the work of the Lord and also the sacrifices made in providing funds for their support.
Those who remain at home-parents and other family members-also sacrifice by foregoing the companionship and service of the missionaries they send forth. For example, a young Brazilian received a missionary call while he was working to support his brothers and sisters after his father and mother died. A General Authority described these children’s meeting in council and remembering that their deceased parents had taught them how they should always be prepared to serve the Lord. The young man accepted his missionary call, and a 16-year-old brother took over the responsibility of working to support the family. Most of us know of many other examples of sacrifice to serve a mission or to support a missionary. We know of no other voluntary service and sacrifice like this in any other organization in the world.
We are frequently asked, “How do you persuade your young people and your older members to leave their schooling or their retirement to sacrifice in this way?” I have heard many give this explanation: “Knowing what my Savior did for me-His grace in suffering for my sins and in overcoming death so I can live again-I feel privileged to make the small sacrifice I am asked to make in His service. I want to share the understanding He had given me.” How do we persuade such followers of Christ to serve? As a prophet explained, “We just ask them.”
Mountains to Climb
President Henry B. Eyring
Of the First Presidency
My purpose today is to describe what I know of how we can lay that unshakeable foundation. I do it with great humility for two reasons. First, what I say could discourage some who are struggling in the midst of great adversity and feel their foundation of faith is crumbling. And second, I know that ever greater tests lie before me before the end of life. The prescription I offer you has yet to be proven through my own enduring to the end.
As a young man I worked with a contractor building footings and foundations for new houses. In the summer heat it was hard work to prepare the ground for the form into which we poured the cement for the footing. There were no machines. We used a pick and a shovel. Building lasting foundations for buildings was hard work in those days.
It also required patience. After we poured the footing we waited for it to cure. Much as we wanted to keep the jobs moving, we waited as well after the pour of the foundation before we took away the forms.
And even more impressive to a novice builder was what seemed to be a tedious and time consuming process to put metal bars carefully inside the forms to give the finished foundation strength.
In a similar way, the ground must be carefully prepared for our foundation of faith to withstand the storms that will come into every life. That solid basis for a foundation of faith is personal integrity.
Our choosing the right consistently whenever the choice is placed before us creates the solid ground under our faith. It can begin in childhood since every soul is born with the free gift of the Spirit of Christ. With that Spirit we can know when we have done what is right before God and when we have done wrong in His sight.
Those choices, hundreds in most days, prepare the solid ground on which our edifice of faith is built. The metal framework around which the substance of our faith is poured is the gospel of Jesus Christ, with all its covenants, ordinances, and principles.
One of the keys to an enduring faith is judging correctly the curing time required. That is why I was unwise to pray so soon in my life for higher mountains to climb and greater tests.
The curing does not come automatically through the passage of time, but it does take time. Getting older does not do it alone. It is serving God and others persistently with full heart and soul that turns testimony of truth into unbreakable spiritual strength.