The Labourers in the Vineyard

 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

holland conference 

I wish today to speak of the Savior’s parable in which a householder “went out early in the morning to hire labourers.” After employing the first group at 6:00 in the morning, he returned at 9:00 a.m., at 12:00 noon, and at 3:00 in the afternoon, to hire more workers as the urgency of the harvest increased. The scripture says he came back a final time, “about the eleventh hour” (approximately 5:00 p.m.), and hired a concluding number. Then just an hour later, all the workers gathered to receive their day’s wage. Surprisingly, all received the same wage, in spite of the different hours of labor. Immediately, those hired first were angry, saying, “These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.”[i] When reading this parable perhaps you, as well as these workers, have felt there was an injustice being done here. Let me speak to that concern.

First of all it is important to note that no one has been treated unfairly here. The first workers agreed to the full wage of the day and received it. Furthermore they were, I can only imagine, very grateful to get the work. In the time of the Savior, an average man and his family could not do much more than live on what they made that day. If you didn’t work or farm or fish or sell, you likely didn’t eat. With more prospective workers than jobs these first men chosen were the most fortunate in the entire labor pool that morning.

Indeed, if there is any sympathy to be generated it should at least initially be for the men not chosen who also had mouths to feed and backs to clothe. Luck never seemed to be with some of them. With each visit of the steward throughout the day, they always saw someone else chosen.

But just at day’s close the householder returns a surprising fifth time with a remarkable eleventh hour offer! These last and most discouraged of laborers, hearing only that they will be treated fairly, accept work without even knowing the wage, knowing that anything will be better than nothing which is what they have had so far. Then as they gather for their payment, they are stunned to receive the same as all the others! How awestruck they must have been, and how very grateful! Surely never had such compassion been seen in all their working days.

It is against that reading of the story that the grumbling of the first laborers must be seen. As the householder in the parable tells them (and I paraphrase only slightly), “My friends, I am not being unfair to you. You agreed on the wage for the day, a good wage. You were very happy to get the work and I am very happy with how you served. You are paid in full. Take your pay and enjoy the blessing. As for the others surely I am free to do what I like with my own money. Then this piercing question to anyone then or now who needs to hear it, “Why should you be jealous because I choose to be kind?

This parable-like all parables-is not really about laborers or wages any more than the others are about sheep and goats. This is a story about God’s goodness, His patience and forgiveness, and the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a story about generosity and compassion. It is a story about grace.   It underscores the thought I heard many years ago that surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it.

I don’t know who in this vast audience today may need to hear the message of forgiveness inherent in this parable but however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made, or talents you think you don’t have, or distance from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines. Whether you are not yet of our faith or were with us once and have not remained, there is nothing you have done that can’t be undone. There is no problem which you cannot overcome. There is no dream that in the unfolding of time and eternity cannot yet be realized. Even if you feel you are the lost and last laborer of the eleventh hour, the Lord of the Vineyard stands beckoning. Come boldly to the throne of grace and fall at the feet of the Holy One of Israel. Come and feast without money and without price at the table of the Lord.[ii]

… My beloved brothers and sisters, to those of you who have been blessed by the gospel for many years because you were fortunate enough to find it early, to those of you who have come to the gospel by stages and phases later, and to those of you-member or not yet member-who may still be hanging back, to each of you, one and all, I testify of the renewing power of God’s love and the miracle of His grace. His concern is for the faith at which you finally arrive, not for the hour of the day in which you got there. So if you have made covenants, keep them. If you haven’t made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the Vineyard says there is time.  

_______________________________


[i]           NOTES

                    See Matthew 20:1-15.

[ii]          See Hebrews 4:16 and Isaiah 55:1.

           

Coming to Ourselves and Becoming Spiritually Self-Reliant: The Sacrament, the Temple, and Sacrifice in Service

Elder Robert D. Hales

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

  hales conference

            The Savior told His disciples about a son who left his wealthy father, went to a far country, and wasted his inheritance. When a famine arose, the young man took the lowly job of feeding swine. He was so hungry that he wanted to eat the husks meant for the animals.

            Away from home, far from the place he wanted to be, and in his destitute condition something of eternal significance happened in the life of this young man.In the Savior’s words, “he came to himself.”[ii] He remembered who he was, realized what he had been missing, and began to desire the blessings freely available in his father’s house.


            Throughout our lives, whether in times of darkness, challenge, sorrow, or sin, we may feel the Holy Ghost reminding us that we are truly sons and daughters of a caring Heavenly Father who loves us and hunger for the sacred blessings that only He can provide. At these times we should strive to come to ourselves and come back into the light of our Savior’s love.

            These blessings rightfully belong to all of Heavenly Father’s children. Desiring these blessings, including a life of joy and happiness, is an essential part of Heavenly Father’s plan for each one of us. The prophet Alma taught, “Even if you can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you.”

            As our spiritual desires increase, we become spiritually self-reliant. How, then, do we help ourselves and our families increase our desires to follow the Savior and live His gospel? How do we strengthen our desires to repent, become worthy, and endure to the end? How do we help our youth and young adults let these desires work in them until they are converted and become true “saint[s] through the atonement of Christ?”

            We become converted and spiritually self-reliant as we prayerfully live our covenants-through worthily partaking of the sacrament, being worthy of a temple recommend, and sacrificing to serve others.

 

Faith, Fortitude, Fulfillment, A Message to Single Parents

Elder David S. Baxter

Of the Quorum of Seventy

baxter conference 

            My message is for the single parents in the Church, the majority of whom are single mothers… you may at times have asked, “Why me?” it is through the hardships of life that we grow towards godhood as our character is shaped in the crucible of affliction; as the events of life take place while God respects the agency of man. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell commented, we cannot do all the sums or make it all add up, because “we do not have all of the numbers.”[ii]

            Whatever your circumstances, or the reasons for them, how wonderful you are. Day to day you face the struggles of life, doing the work that was always meant for two, but doing it largely alone. You have to be father as well as mother. You run your household, watch over your family, sometimes struggle to make ends meet, and miraculously, you even find the wherewithal to serve in the Church in significant ways. You nurture your children. You cry and pray with them and for them. You want the very best for them, but fret every night that your best may never be good enough.

            In the General Relief Society Meeting of September 2006, President Gordon B. Hinckley related an experience shared by a divorced single mother of seven children then ranging in ages from 7 to 16. She had gone across the street to deliver something to a neighbor. She said:

            “As I turned around to walk back home, I could see my house lighted up. I could hear echoes of my children as I had walked out of the door a few minutes earlier. They were saying: Mom, what are we going to have for dinner? Can you take me to the library?’ I have to get some poster paper tonight.’ Tired and weary, I looked at that house and saw the light on in each of the rooms. I thought of all those children who were home waiting for me to come and meet their needs. My burdens felt heavier than I could bear.

 

            “I remember looking through tears toward the sky, and I said, Dear Father, I just can’t do it tonight. I’m too tired. I can’t face it. I can’t go home and take care of all those children alone. Could I just come to You and stay with You for just one night?

 

            “I didn’t really hear the words of reply, but I heard them in my mind. The answer was: No, little one, you can’t come to me now. But I can come to you.'” [ii]

 

 Abide in the Lord’s Territory!

Elder Ulisses Soares

Of the Quorum of Seventy

soares conference

            President Monson once said: “May I provide a simple formula by which you can measure the choices which confront you. It’s easy to remember: you can’t be right by doing wrong; you can’t be wrong by doing right (Teachings of President Thomas S. Monson, pp. 84-85). President Monson’s formula is simple and direct. It works the same way as the Liahona given to Lehi did. If we exercise faith and are diligent in obeying the Lord’s commandments, we will easily find the correct direction to follow, especially when we face our day-to-day choices.  

            The Apostle Paul exhorts us about the importance of sowing in the spirit and being aware of not sowing in the flesh. He said: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:7-9).

            To sow in the spirit means that all our thoughts, words, and actions must elevate us to the level of the divinity of our Heavenly Parents.   However, the scriptures refer to the flesh as the physical or carnal nature of the natural man, which allows people to be influenced by passion, desires, appetites, and drives of the flesh, instead of looking for inspiration from the Holy Ghost. If we are not careful, those influences together with the pressure of the evil in the world, may conduct us to adopt vulgar and reckless behavior, which may become part of our character. In order to avoid those bad influences, we have to follow what the Lord instructed the Prophet Joseph Smith, about continuously sowing in the spirit – Wherefore be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).

            To enhance our spirit it is required that we “let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from us with all malice”(see Ephesians 4:31); and “be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness…”(see Mormon 9:28)

            As we study the scriptures, we learn that the promises made by the Lord to us are conditional upon our obedience, and encourage righteous living.Those promises must nourish our soul bringing us hope, by encouraging us to not give up, even in face of our daily challenges, living in a world whose ethical and moral values are becoming extinct, thus motivating people to “sow in the flesh” even more.


But how can we be certain that our choices are helping us to sow in the Spirit and not in the flesh?

            President George Albert Smith once said: There is a line of demarcation well defined between the Lord’s territory and the devil’s territory. If you will stay on the Lord’s side of the line you will be under his influence and will have no desire to do wrong; but if you cross to the devil’s side of that line one inch you are in the tempter’s power and if he is successful, you will not be able to think or even reason properly because you will have lost the Spirit of the Lord” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, p. 191, first paragraph).

            Therefore, our daily question must be: “Do my actions place me in the Lord’s or in the enemy’s territory?”


“In Tune to the Music of Faith”

 

Elder Quentin L. Cook

Of the Quorum of the Twelve

cook conference

            Our great desire is to raise our children in truth and righteousness. One principle that will help us accomplish this is to avoid being overly judgmental about conduct that is foolish or unwise, but not sinful. Many years ago when my wife and I had children at home Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that it was important to distinguish between youthful mistakes which should be corrected and sins that require chastening and repentance. Where there is lack of wisdom, our children need instruction. Where there is sin, repentance is essential.[ii] We found this to be helpful in our own family.

            Religious observance in the home blesses our families. Example is particularly important. What we are speaks so loudly that our children may not hear what we say. When I was nearly five years old, my mother received word that her younger brother had been killed when the battleship on which he was serving was bombed off the coast of Japan near the end of World War II.[ii] This news was devastating to her. She was very emotional and went into the bedroom. After a while I peeked into the room to see if she was okay. She was kneeling by the bed in prayer. A great peace came over me because she had taught me to pray and love the Savior. This was typical of the example she always set for me. Mothers and fathers praying with children may be more important than any other example.

            The message, ministry, and Atonement of Jesus Christ, our Savior is our essential family curriculum. No scripture characterizes our faith better than 2nd Nephi 25:26: “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”

            One of the underlying premises of Lehi’s vision is that faithful members must hold fast to the rod of iron to keep them on the strait and narrow path leading to the tree of life. It is essential for members to read, ponder, and study the scriptures.

            The Book of Mormon is of seminal importance.[ii] There will, of course, always be those who underestimate the significance of or even disparage this sacred book. Some have used humor. Before I served a mission, a university professor quoted Mark Twain’s statement that if you took… and it came to pass’ out of the Book of Mormon, it…”would have been only a pamphlet.”

            A few months later, while serving a mission in London, England, a distinguished Oxford educated, professor at the University of London, an Egyptian expert in Semitic languages, read the Book of Mormon, corresponded with President David O. McKay and met with missionaries. He informed them he was convinced the Book of Mormon was indeed a translation of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians for the periods described in the Book of Mormon.[ii] One example among many he used was the conjunctive phrase and it came to pass’ which he said mirrored how he would translate phraseology used in ancient Semitic writings.[ii] The professor was informed that while his intellectual approach based on his profession had helped him, it was still essential to have a spiritual testimony. Through study and prayer he gained a spiritual witness and was baptized. So what one famous humorist saw as an object of ridicule, a scholar recognized as profound evidence of the truth of the Book of Mormon which was confirmed to him by the Spirit.

            The essential doctrine of agency requires that a testimony of the restored gospel must be based on faith rather than external or scientific proof. Obsessive focus on things not yet fully revealed such as how the virgin birth or the resurrection of the Savior could have occurred or exactly how Joseph Smith translated our scriptures will not be efficacious or yield spiritual progress. These are matters of faith. Ultimately Moroni’s counsel to read and ponder and then ask God in all sincerity of heart with real intent to confirm scriptural truths by the witness of the Spirit is the answer.[ii] In addition, when we inculcate into our lives scriptural imperatives and live the gospel, we are blessed by the Spirit and taste of His goodness with feelings of joy, happiness, and especially peace.


“How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life

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

scott conference

            The Holy Ghost communicates important information that we need to guide us in our mortal journey. When it is crisp and clear and essential, it warrants the title of revelation. When it is a series of promptings we often have to guide us step by step to a worthy objective, for the purpose of this message, it is inspiration.

            An example of revelation would be the direction that President Spencer W. Kimball received after His long and continued supplication to the Lord regarding providing the priesthood to all worthy men in the Church when at the time it was available to only some of them.

            Another example of revelation is this guidance given to President Joseph F. Smith: “I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. We are not separated from them…. We are closely related to our kindred, to our ancestors,… who have preceded us into the spirit world. We cannot forget them; we do not cease to love them; we always hold them in our hearts, in memory, and thus we are associated and united to them by ties that we cannot break,… If this is the case with us in our finite condition, surrounded by our mortal weaknesses, … how much more certain it is,… to believe that those who have been faithful who have gone beyond,… can see us better than we can see them-that they know us better than we know them….


We live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever. For now they see the dangers that beset us; … their love for us and their desire for our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves.”[ii]

            Relationships can be strengthened through the veil with people we know and love. That is done by our determined effort to continually do what is right. We can strengthen our relationship with the departed individual we love by recognizing that the separation is temporary and that covenants made in the temple are eternal. When consistently obeyed, such covenants assure the eternal realization of the promises inherent in them.

            A very clear case of revelation in my life occurred when I was strongly prompted by the Spirit to ask, Jeanene Watkins, to be sealed to me in the temple.

            One of the great lessons that each of us needs to learn is to ask. Why does the Lord want us to pray to Him and to ask? Because that is how revelation is received.

            When I am faced with a very difficult matter, this is how I try to understand what to do. I fast. I pray to find and understand scriptures that will be helpful. That process is cyclical. I start reading a passage of scripture, I ponder what the verse means, and pray for inspiration. I then ponder and pray to know if I have captured all the Lord wants me to do. Often more impressions come with increased understanding of doctrine. I have found that pattern to be a good way to learn from the scriptures.

            … Revelation can also be given in a dream when is an almost imperceptible transition from sleep to wakefulness. If you strive to capture the content immediately, you can record great detail, but otherwise it fades rapidly. Inspired communication in the night is generally accompanied by a sacred feeling for the entire experience. The Lord uses individuals for whom we have great respect to teach us truths in a dream because we trust them and will listen to their counsel. It is the Lord doing the teaching through the Holy Ghost. However He may in a dream make it both easier to understand and more likely to touch our hearts by teaching us through someone we love and respect.

            When it is for the Lord’s purposes He can bring anything to our remembrance. That should not weaken our determination to record impressions of the Spirit. Inspiration carefully recorded shows God that His communications are sacred to us. Recording will also enhance our ability to recall revelation. Such recording of direction of the Spirit should be protected from loss or intrusion by others.

            The scriptures give eloquent confirmation of how truth, consistently lived, opens the door to inspiration to know what to do and, where needed, to have personal capacities enhanced by divine power. The scriptures depict how an individual’s capacity to conquer difficulty, doubt, and seemingly insurmountable challenges is strengthened by the Lord in time of need. As you ponder such examples, there will come a quiet confirmation through the Holy Spirit that their experiences are true. You will come to know that similar help is available to you.