The Key to Spiritual Protection
President Boyd K. Packer
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Moroni also spoke of the wickedness of our day when he warned: “When ye shall see these things come among you . . . ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation. . . .
“Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved.”
The descriptions Paul and Moroni give of our day are so accurate that they cannot be dismissed. For many it may be quite disturbing, even discouraging. Nevertheless, when I think of the future, I am overwhelmed with feelings of positive optimism.
In Paul’s revelation, in addition to the list of challenges and problems, he also tells us what we can do to protect ourselves: “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.
“And that 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.”
The scriptures hold the keys to spiritual protection. They contain the doctrine and laws and ordinances that will bring each child of God to a testimony of Jesus Christ as their Savior and Redeemer.
With years of preparation, there has been an enormous effort to produce the scriptures in every language with footnotes and cross references. We seek to make them available to all who wish to learn. They teach us where to go and what to do. They offer hope and knowledge.
Years ago, Elder S. Dilworth Young of the Seventy taught me a lesson about reading the scriptures. A stake was struggling with tensions among the members, and counsel needed to be given.
I asked President Young, “What should I say.”
He answered simply, “Tell them to read the scriptures.”
I asked, “Which scriptures?”
He said, “It really doesn’t matter. Tell them to open up the Book of Mormon, for instance, and begin to read. Soon the feeling of peace and inspiration will come, and a solution will present itself.”
Make scripture reading a part of your regular routine, and the blessings will follow. There is in the scriptures a voice of warning, but there is also great nourishment.
The Moral Force of Women
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Certainly there are trends and forces at work that would weaken and even eliminate your influence to the great detriment of individuals, families, and society at large. Let me mention three as a caution and a warning.
A pernicious philosophy that undermines women’s moral influence is the devaluation of marriage and of motherhood and homemaking as a career. Some feminist thinkers view homemaking with outright contempt, arguing it demeans women, and that the relentless demands of raising children are a form of exploitation. They ridicule what they call “the mommy track” as a career. This is not fair or right. We do not diminish the value of what women or men achieve in any worthy endeavor or career, but still recognize that there is not a higher good than motherhood and fatherhood in marriage. There is no superior career, and no amount of money, authority, or public acclaim can exceed the ultimate rewards of family. Whatever else a woman may accomplish, her moral influence is no more optimally employed than here.
Attitudes toward human sexuality threaten the moral authority of women on several fronts. Abortion for personal or social convenience strikes at the heart of a woman’s most sacred powers and destroys her moral authority. The same is true of sexual immorality and of revealing dress that not only debases women but reinforces the lie that a woman’s sexuality is what defines her worth.
There has long been a cultural “double standard” that expected women to be sexually circumspect while excusing male immorality. The unfairness of such a “double standard” is obvious, and it has been justifiably criticized and rejected. In that rejection, one would have hoped that men would rise to the higher, single standard, but just the opposite has occurred-women and girls are now encouraged to be as promiscuous as the “double standard” expected men to be. Where once women’s higher standards demanded commitment and responsibility from men, we now have sexual relations without conscience, fatherless families, and growing poverty. Equal opportunity promiscuity simply robs women of their moral influence and degrades all of society. In this hollow bargain, it is men who are “liberated” and women and children who suffer most.
A third area of concern comes from those, who in the name of equality, want to erase all differences between the masculine and the feminine. Often this takes the form of pushing women to adopt more masculine traits-be more aggressive, tough, and confrontational. It is now common in movies and video games to see women in terribly violent roles, leaving dead bodies and mayhem in their wake. It is soul-numbing to see men in such roles and certainly no less so when women are the ones perpetrating and suffering the violence.
Former Young Women General President Margaret D. Nadauld taught, “The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.” In blurring feminine and masculine differences, we lose the distinct, complementary gifts of men and women that together produce a greater whole.
My plea to women and girls today is to protect and cultivate the moral force that is within you. Preserve that innate virtue and unique gifts you bring with you into the world. Your intuition is to do good and to be good, and as you follow the Holy Spirit, your moral authority and influence will grow.
Small and Simple Things
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<hr class=’system-pagebreak’ />85pt;”>Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela
Of the Seventy
As members of the Church, we are able, through our own small and simple things, to “convince many of the error of their ways,” and help “bring them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls” (Alma 37:8).
On one occasion I accompanied a stake president and bishop to visit a less active member. We taught him, in a very simple way, about the blessings of the Sabbath. We expressed to him our sincere love. He responded, “All I needed was to have someone come and give me an abrazo’, or hug.” I immediately stood up and embraced him. The next day was Sunday. This same brother came to sacrament meeting with his entire family.
During a visiting teaching visit, Martha, a member of our ward, told my wife and her companion never to come back again. She had decided to stop coming to church. One of the visiting teachers asked Martha if they could sing a hymn together this one last time, and she agreed. As they sang, something special happened. Little by little, the Spirit began to fill the room. Each of them felt it. Martha’s heart began to soften. With her eyes filled with tears, she expressed to her visiting teachers the feelings of her heart. At that moment she realized that she knew that the gospel was true. She now thanked her visiting teachers for the visit and expressed a desire for them to return. From that day forward she received them with joy.
Martha began to attend church with her young daughter. For years they attended regularly, with Martha never losing hope that her husband might eventually choose to join them. At last the day came when the Lord touched his heart, and he began to attend with them, as did their other daughter soon thereafter. This family began to feel the true joy that comes from having gospel blessings in their home. Martha has since served faithfully as our ward Relief Society president, and her husband has served well in several callings within the stake. All this began with the singing of a hymn, a small and simple thing, that touched Martha’s heart.
Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?
By Elder Timothy J. Dyches
Of the Seventy
Corrie ten Boom, a devout Dutch Christian woman, found such healing despite having been interned in concentration camps during World War II. She suffered greatly, but unlike her beloved sister, Betsie, who perished in one of the camps, Corrie survived.
After the war, she often spoke publicly of her experiences and of healing and forgiveness. On one occasion a former Nazi guard who had been part of Corrie’s own grievous confinement in Ravensbruck, Germany, approached her, rejoicing at her message of Christ’s forgiveness and love.
“How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,‘ he said. To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”
“His hand was thrust out to shake mine,” Corrie recalled. “And I, who had preached so often . . . the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
“Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. . . . Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
“I tried to smile, [and] I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.
“As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”
Corrie ten Boom was made whole.
President Thomas S. Monson has said, “There is one life that sustains those who are troubled or beset with sorrow and grief-even the Lord Jesus Christ.”
If you feel unclean, unloved, unhappy, unworthy, or unwhole, remember, “all that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Christ.” Have faith and patience in the Savior’s timing and purposes for you; “Be not afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:36).
Be assured, the Savior still seeks to mend our souls and heal our hearts. As He waits at the door and knocks, let us answer by beginning again to pray, repent, forgive, and forget. Let us love God and serve our neighbor, and stand in holy places with a life made clean. The impotent man at the Pool at Bethesda, the leper along the journey to Jerusalem and Corrie ten Boom were made whole. “Wilt thou be made whole?” “Rise, and walk”. His “grace is sufficient” (2 Cor. 12:9) and you will not walk alone.
Like a Broken Vessel
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Let me leave the extraordinary illnesses I have mentioned to concentrate on MDD-“major depressive disorder”-or more commonly, “depression.” When I speak of this, I am not speaking of bad hair days, tax deadlines, or other discouraging moments we all have. Everyone is going to be anxious or downhearted on occasion. The Book of Mormon says Ammon and his brethren were depressed at a very difficult time and so can the rest of us be. But today I am speaking of something more serious, of an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person’s ability to function fully, a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively-though I am a vigorous advocate of square shoulders and positive thinking!
No, this dark night of the mind and spirit is more than mere discouragement. I have seen it come to an absolutely angelic man when his beloved spouse of 50 years passed away. I have seen it in new mothers with what is euphemistically labeled “after baby blues.” I have seen it strike anxious students, military veterans, grandmothers worried about the well-being of their grown children.
And I have seen it in young fathers trying to provide for their families.
In that regard I once terrifyingly saw it in myself. At one point in our married life when financial fears collided with staggering fatigue, I took a psychic blow that was as unanticipated as it was real. With the grace of God and the love of my family I kept functioning and kept working, but even after all these years I continue to feel a deep sympathy for others more chronically or more deeply afflicted with such gloom than I was. In any case we have all taken courage from those who, in the words of the Prophet Joseph, “search[ed] and contemplate[ed] the darkest abyss,” and persevered through it, not the least of whom were Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Elder George Albert Smith, the latter being one of the most gentle and Christ-like men of our dispensation who battled recurring depression for some years before later becoming the universally beloved eighth Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all never lose faith in your Father in Heaven who loves you more than you can comprehend. As President Monson said to the Relief Society sisters so movingly last Saturday evening, “That love never changes. . . . It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged, or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you deserve [it]. It is simply always there.” Never, ever doubt that and never harden your heart. Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.
Put Your Trust in the Lord
Elder M. Russell Ballard
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
My message this afternoon is that the Lord is hastening His work. In our day, this can only be done when every member of the Church reaches out with love to share the truths of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to work together in partnership with our nearly 80,000 missionaries now serving. Information about this great work, especially the assignments for stake and ward council leaders, is clearly outlined on the lds.org website entitled “Hastening the Work of Salvation.”
We know from our research that most active-members of the Church want the blessings of the gospel to be part of the lives of others whom they love, even those whom they have never met. We also know that many members hesitate to do missionary work and share the gospel for two basic reasons.
- The first one is fear. Many members do not even pray for opportunities to share the gospel, fearing that they might receive divine promptings to do something they think they are not capable of doing.
- The second reason is misunderstanding of what missionary work is.
We know that when someone gets up to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting and says, “Today I’ll be talking about missionary work,” or perhaps even when Elder Ballard gets up in General Conference and says the same thing, some of you listening may think “Not again; we have heard this before.”
Now we know that no one likes feeling guilty. Perhaps you feel you may be asked to do unrealistic things in your relationships with friends or neighbors. With the help of the Lord let me remove any fear you or any of our full-time missionaries may have in sharing the gospel with others.
Make the decision to do what Jesus has asked us to do. The Savior said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 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 . . . 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 7:7-11).
Brothers and sisters, fear will be replaced with faith and confidence when members and full-time missionaries kneel in prayer and ask the Lord to bless them with missionary opportunities. Then, we must demonstrate our faith and watch for opportunities to introduce the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our Heavenly Father’s children, and surely the opportunities will come. These opportunities will never require a forced or contrived response. They will flow as a natural result of our love for our brothers and sisters. Just be positive, and those you speak with will feel your love. They will never forget that feeling even though the timing may not be right for them to embrace the gospel. That, too, may change in the future when their circumstances change.