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Grateful in Any Circumstances
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Of the First Presidency
But some might say, “What do I have to be grateful for when the world is falling apart?”
Perhaps focusing on what we are grateful for is the wrong approach. It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count. True, it is important to frequently “count our blessings” -and anyone who has tried this knows there are many-but I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be less thankful in times of trial than in times of abundance and ease. In fact, most of the scriptural references do not speak of gratitude for things but rather suggest an overall spirit or attitude of gratitude.
It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems out of reach?
Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being “thankful for things” we focus on being “thankful in our circumstances” -whatever they may be.
In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we have the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside each of us that resists endings.
Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.
The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions-temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.
How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings only everlasting beginnings.
Elder M. Russell Ballard
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
I’m a great believer in the principle of follow up. As it says in the missionary guide, Preach my Gospel, “extending an invitation without following up is like beginning a journey without finishing it or buying a ticket to a concert without going to the theater. Without the completed action, the commitment is hollow.”
Preach my Gospel teaches everyone how to not only invite but also how to follow-up on our invitations. The purpose of missionary work is defined as inviting “others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
Inviting is certainly part of the process. But notice that there is much more to missionary work for members than simply extending invitations to people to listen to the missionaries. It also includes follow up with the missionaries in the cultivation of faith, the motivation to repentance, the preparation for making covenant and enduring to the end.
Brothers and sisters, can you imagine the impact is family and friends included things they are learning from their personal study of Preach my Gospel in their letters and emails to their full-time missionaries? Can you picture the blessings that will come to families when they know and understand better what their sons and daughters will be studying and teaching on their missions? And can you even begin to fathom the extraordinary outpouring of atoning grace that will be ours, individually and collectively, according to the Savior’s promise to all who bear testimony in the process of inviting souls to come unto Him-and then following up on those invitations.
“Ye are blessed,” the Lord said though the Prophet Joseph Smith, “for the testimony which yet have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you.”
“For I will forgive you of your sins with this commandment-that you remain steadfast…in bearing testimony to all the world of those things which are communicated unto you.”
Fear Not I Am With Thee
Sister Jean A. Stevens
First Counselor, Primary General Presidency
Deric had stayed after school for an activity and had missed the last bus. As a young teenager, he felt confident he could make it home, so he started walking.
An hour and a half had passed as he walked the lonely road. Still miles from home and with no houses in sight, he was scared. In despair, he walked behind a pile of gravel, got on his knees and asked Heavenly Father for help. Just minutes after Deric returned to the road, I stopped to provide the help he prayed for.
Those many years later, Deric now reflects: “The Lord was mindful of me, a skinny, short-sighted boy. And despite everything else going on in the world, He was aware of my situation and loved me enough to send help. The Lord has answered my prayers many times since that abandoned roadside. His answers aren’t always as immediate and clear, but His awareness of me is just as evident today as it was that lonely night. Whenever the dark shadows of life blanket my world, I know He always has a plan to see me safely home again.”
As Deric expressed, not every prayer is answered so quickly. But truly our Father knows us and hears the pleadings of our hearts. He accomplishes His miracles one prayer at a time, one person at a time.
We can trust that He will help us, not necessarily in the way we want but in the way that will best help us to grow. Submitting our will to His may be difficult but it is essential to becoming like Him and finding the peace He offers us.
We can come to feel, as C.S. Lewis described; “I pray because I can’t help myself…because I am helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time…It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”
Your Four Minutes
Bishop Gary E. Stevenson
Of the Presiding Bishopric
In the same way that certain steps are essential in the very brief performance of an Olympic athlete, jumps or maneuvers for skaters and snowboarders, negotiating the turns of a bobsled run, or carving through the gates of a downhill slalom course, so it is in our lives where certain things are absolutely essential-check points which move us through our spiritual performance on earth. These spiritual markers are the essential God-given ordinances of the gospel: baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, priesthood ordinations, temple ordinances, and partaking of the sacrament each week.
“In the[se] ordinances…the power of godliness is manifest.”
And in the same way the discipline of training prepares and qualifies an athlete to perform elements in their sport at the highest level, keeping the commandments will qualify you to perform these saving ordinances.
Do you sense the urgency?
My young friends, wherever you are in your “four-minute performance,” I urge you to ponder, “What do I need to do next, to ensure my medal?” Perhaps during this conference the Spirit has whispered to you what that may be: to prepare more purposefully for an ordinance in you future, or to receive an ordinance that you should have received a long time ago. Whatever it may be, take it. Do it now. Don’t wait. Your four minutes will pass quickly and you’ll have eternity to think about what you did in this life.
Self-discipline is needed. Daily prayer, scripture study, and church attendance must be the foundation of your training. A consistent pattern of obeying the commandments, keeping the covenants you have made, and following the Lord’s standard found in For the Strength of Youth is required.
Perhaps you’re aware of things in your life that are threatening to slow or stop your spiritual progress. If so, follow Paul’s counsel: “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease
Elder David A. Bednar
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
The Savior said: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
A yoke is a wooden beam, normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals that enables them to pull together on a load. A yoke places animals side by side so they can move together in order to accomplish a task.
Consider the Lord’s uniquely individual invitation to “take my yoke upon you.” Making and keeping sacred covenants yokes us to and with the Lord Jesus Christ. In essence, the Savior is beckoning us to rely upon and pull together with Him, even though our best efforts are not equal to and cannot be compared with His. As we trust in and pull our load with Him during the journey of mortality, truly his yoke is easy, and His burden is light.
We are not and never need be alone. We can press forward in our daily lives with heavenly help. Through the Savior’s Atonement we can receive capacity and strength “beyond our own” (“Lord I would Follow Thee, Hymns, no. 220). As the Lord declared, “Therefore, continue your journey and let your hearts rejoice; for behold, and lo, I am with you even unto the end” (D&C 100:12).
Consider the example in the Book of Mormon as Amulon persecuted Alma and his people. The voice of the Lord came to these disciples in their afflictions:
“Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me: and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage” (Mosiah 24:13).
Note the centrality of covenants to the promise of deliverance. Covenants received and honored with integrity and ordinances performed by proper priesthood authority are necessary to receive all of the blessings made available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. For in the ordinances of the priesthood, the power of Godliness is manifest unto men and women in the flesh, including the blessings of the Atonement (see D&C 84:20-21).
Love-the Essence of the Gospel
President Thomas S. Monson
President: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
We cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey. Likewise, we cannot fully love our fellow men if we do not love God, the Father of us all. The Apostle John tells us: “This commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” We are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father and, as such, are brothers and sisters. As we keep this truth in mind, loving all of God’s children will become easier.
Actually, love in the very essence of the gospel and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar. His life was a legacy of love. The sick He healed, the downtrodden He lifted, the sinner He saved. At the end, the angry mob took His life. And yet there rings from Golgotha’s hill the words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”-a crowning expression in mortality of compassion and love.
There are many attributes which are manifestations of love, such as kindness, patience, selflessness, understanding and forgiveness. In all our associations, these and other such attributes will help make evident the love in our hearts.
Usually our love will be shown in day-to-day interactions one with another. All important will be our ability to recognize someone’s need and then to respond. I have always cherished the sentiment expressed in the short poem:
I have wept in the night
For the shortness of sight
That to somebody’s need
Made me blind
But I never have yet
Felt a twinge of regret
For being a little too kind.
Brothers and sisters, some of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate our love will be within the walls of our own homes. Love should be the very heart of family life, and yet ofttimes it is not. There can be too much impatience, too much arguing too many fights, too many tears. Lamented President Gordon B. Hinckley: “Why is it that the [ones] we love [most] become so frequently the targets of our harsh words? Why is it that [we] sometimes speak as if with daggers that cut to the quick?” The answers to these questions may be different for each of us, and yet the bottom line is that the reasons do not matter. If we would keep the commandment to love one another, we must treat each other with kindness and respect.
Of course there will be times when discipline needs to be meted out. Let us remember, however, the counsel found in the Doctrine and Covenants-namely, that when it is necessary for us to reprove one another, we afterward show forth an increase of love.
I would hope that we would strive always to be considerate and to be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around us. Let us not demean or belittle. Rather, let us be compassionate and encouraging. We must be careful that we do not destroy another person’s confidence through careless words or actions.
Forgiveness should go hand in hand with love. In our families, as well as with our friends, there can be hurt feelings and disagreements. Again, it doesn’t really matter how small the issue was. It cannot and should not be left to canker, to fester, and ultimately to destroy. Blame keeps wounds open. Only forgiveness heals.