The Way of the Disciple
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor in the First Presidency

A friend of mine recently wrote to me, confiding that he was having a difficult time keeping his testimony strong and vibrant. He asked for counsel.

I wrote back to him and lovingly suggested a few specific things he could do that would align his life more closely with the teachings of the restored gospel. To my surprise, I heard back from him only a week later. The essence of his letter was this: “I tried what you suggested. It didn’t work. What else have you got?”

Brothers and sisters, we have to stay with it. We don’t acquire eternal life in a sprint-this is a race of endurance. We have to apply and reapply the divine gospel principles. Day after day we need to make them part of our normal life.

Too often we approach the gospel like a farmer who places a seed in the ground in the morning and expects corn on the cob by the afternoon. When Alma compared the word of God to a seed, he explained that the seed grows into a fruit-bearing tree gradually, as a result of our “faith, and [our] diligence, and patience, and long-suffering.” It’s true that some blessings come right away-soon after we plant the seed in our hearts, it begins to swell and sprout and grow, and by this we know that the seed is good. From the very moment we set foot upon the pathway of discipleship, seen and unseen blessings from God begin to attend us.

But we cannot receive the fullness of those blessings if we “neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment.”

Knowing that the seed is good is not enough. We must “nourish it with great care, that it may get root.” Only then can we partake of the fruit that is “sweet above all that is sweet, and pure above all that is pure” and “feast upon this fruit even until [we] are filled, that [we] hunger not, neither shall [we] thirst.”

Discipleship is a journey. We need the refining lessons of the journey to craft our character and purify our hearts. By patiently walking in the path of discipleship, we demonstrate to ourselves the measure of our faith and our willingness to accept God’s will rather than ours.

None were with Him
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I speak carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment of all on hit solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually-that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but surely He had not comprehended this. Had he not said to His disciples, “Behold, the come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him?”

With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required; indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill, nor done wrong, nor touched an unclean thing, had to know how the rest of humankind would feel when they did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly and hopelessly alone.

But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings, that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that he never flees nor fails us. When the uttermost farthing had been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, then finally, mercifully, it was “finished.” Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God, restored physical life where death had held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption our of hellish darkness and despair. With faith in the God He knew was there, He could say in triumph, “Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit.”

Get On with our Lives
Elder Steven E. Snow
Of the Presidency of the Seventy

The lives of the early pioneers are excellent examples of how we should accept change and overcome challenges and difficulties.

Robert Gardner, Jr. was baptized into the Church in January of 1845 in a frozen pond in the backwoods of eastern Canada . Faithful and industrious, he made his way with his family to Nauvoo and after much hardship, arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in October of 1847. After entering the valley they camped at a place called Old Fort, located a few blocks from this conference center. In his hand-written history he recorded, “I unyoked my oxen and sat down on my broken wagon tongue, and said I could not go another day’s journey.”

Starting with nothing, Robert began to create a new life for himself and his family. The first years were hard but gradually things improved as he and his brother, Archibald, began to develop mills on Mill Creek and the Jordan River . A few years later he suffered a reversal of fortune. The water powering his mill was taken upstream leaving his portion of the stream dry. An attempt to build a six-mile canal to the mill failed. Again from his history:

“The dam kept breaking until it proved a failure. The failure caused me to lose all my crops and my mill would not run. My stock was all gone and I was flat broke.”

If that was not test enough, his next entry in his history informs us he has been called on a mission to Canada .

A few months later he left his family and with a contingent of missionaries traveled by handcart, steamboat and railroad to his field of labor.

He completed this mission, returned to his family and through hard work and diligence once again established himself and began to prosper.

Just a few years later Brother Gardner was entertaining some friends at his farm in Millcreek in the Salt Lake Valley . One remarked, “I am glad to see you so well recovered from being broke. You are nearly as well off as you were before you lost your property and went on your mission.” Robert’s history records:

“My reply was, ‘Yes, I was well off once and it all went off, and I am almost afraid of another [mission] call.’ Sure enough, a few hours later some of my neighbors, who had been to a meeting in Salt Lake City called in and told me that my name was amongst a number of names who were called today to go south on a mission to make a new settlement and raise cotton. We were to start right away. Her records: I looked and spit, took off my hat and scratched [my head] and thought and said, ‘All right.'”

Robert Gardner knew what it meant to deal with change in his life. He followed the counsel of the brethren, accepting calls to serve when it was not convenient. He had a great love for the Lord and demonstrated strong, unbending faith with amazing good humor and grace. Robert Gardner, Jr. went on to become a leading pioneer in the colonization effort of Southern Utah . It is he, and countless pioneers like him, who gives us inspiration to carry on and confront fearlessly the many changes and challenges which come into our lives.

His Arm is Sufficient
Sister Barbara Thompson
Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency

It is the responsibility and blessing of each of us to strengthen our families and homes.Some ways to strengthen families are illustrated by the following example. I had an assignment in the Boise, Idaho area. After training on Saturday afternoon I stayed in the home of my niece and her family.

That evening before the children went to bed we had a short Family Home Evening and a scripture story. Their father told about the family of Lehi and how he taught his children that they must hold fast to the iron rod which was the word of God. Holding fast to the iron rod would keep them safe and lead them to joy and happiness. If they should let go of the iron rod-there was danger of drowning in the river of dirty water.

To demonstrate this to the children, their mother became the “iron rod” that they must cling to and their father played the role of the devil, trying to pull the children away from safety and happiness. The children loved the story and learned how important it is to hold fast to the iron rod.

After the scripture story it was time for family prayer. Their mother reminded the children to pray for the bishop who was having serious eye problems. Three-year-old Brooklyn offered the prayer that evening. She thanked Heavenly Father for their blessings and then she fervently asked him to “bless the bishop because his eyes are broken.”

The next morning we got to sacrament meeting and got seated. Brooklyn and her five-year-old sister, Kennedy, looked up on the stand and saw the bishop standing there. The girls pointed to the bishop and excitedly said to their mother, “Look, there’s the bishop.” Then a knowing look passed between these two little girls that seemed to say, “We prayed for the bishop and now he is better.” They prayed in faith, knowing that Heavenly Father would hear their humble prayers.

Be of Good Cheer
President Thomas S. Monson
Of the First Presidency

Since last we met together in a general conference six months ago, there have been continuing signs that circumstances in the world aren’t necessarily as we would wish. The global economy, which six months ago appeared to be sagging, seems to have taken a nose dive, and for many weeks now the financial outlook has been somewhat grim. In addition, the moral footings of society continue to slip, while those who attempt to safeguard those footings are often ridiculed and, at times, picketed and persecuted. Wars, natural disasters and personal misfortunes continue to occur.

It would be easy to become discouraged and cynical about the future-or even fearful of what might come-if we allowed ourselves to dwell only on that which is wrong in the world and in our lives. Today, however, I’d like us to turn our thoughts and our attitudes away from the troubles around us and to focus instead on our blessings as members of the Church. The Apostle Paul declared, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

None of us makes it through this life without problems and challenges-and sometimes tragedies and misfortunes. After all, in large part we are here to learn and grow from such events in our lives. We know that there are times when we will suffer, when we will grieve, and when we will be saddened. However, we are told: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”