The Doctrine and Covenants is a book full of affirmations that individuals count—that each of us is important in the sight of God. Message after message is to individuals, some we have heard of like Oliver Cowdery or Hyrum Smith, and some to less familiar people.
The Doctrine and Covenants is a book full of affirmations that individuals count—that each of us is important in the sight of God. Message after message is to individuals, some we have heard of like Oliver Cowdery or Hyrum Smith, and some to less familiar people like Leman Copley or Northrop Sweet, but then the Lord often adds this note: What I say unto one, I say unto all (see for example D&C 1:2; D&C 11:27; D&C 25:16; D&C 61:18). But if that is not enough to let us know WE count; He gives us these 12 words in our lesson this week—and I memorized this scripture 45 years ago: “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” (D&C 18:10)
Welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me Podcast. We are truly delighted and humbled to be with you again. This week’s lesson covers Doctrine and Covenants, sections 18 and 19 and, not surprisingly, the lesson is entitled “The Worth of Souls is Great.” May I just insert a personal note how grateful Scot and I are that we have made it through our immersion in COVID-19? We feel so blessed to be with you. We feel so grateful to have made it through hospitalization for Scot and pneumonia and all that has gone with this season. We have felt the Lord’s hand in our lives and His watch care. And we mourn with those who have suffered the loss of loved ones through this pandemic. We send our love to you and ask the Lord’s choicest blessings upon you.
It helps to know the setting and context of the things we are studying. As we both taught institute for so many years we discovered that many members of the Church do not know the Doctrine and Covenants and fewer knew the details of the history of the Church. Isn’t it wonderful we get to talk about these things each week together?
Remember, the translation of the Book of Mormon is now being completed in Peter and Mary Whitmer’s home in Fayette, Seneca County, New York. About 70 percent of the book had been translated in Joseph and Emma’s home in Harmony, Pennsylvania and the final 30 percent was done in the Whitmer home in Fayette.
That’s right—and as Joseph and Oliver are completing the translation, they continue to have questions and come upon things they don’t understand. You have to remember, Joseph is the head of the dispensation of the fulness of times, but he is also in training. He had at least 22 visits from the angel Moroni—that we know of—and Joseph “received instruction and intelligence from [Moroni] at each of [their] interviews, respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days.” (see Joseph Smith History 1: 54) We don’t have transcripts of those interviews, but just imagine all that must have been transmitted from Moroni and other angels to train Joseph and school him in how to establish the kingdom of God on the earth in these last days, because this kingdom is a kingdom of order and precision and it had to be set up properly.
It’s very exciting. We do have record of every head of all the dispensations coming to Joseph during the Restoration—surely bringing their specific keys and bestowing them upon him. That means Michael, who is Adam, and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Moses and John the Baptist and, of course, the Savior Himself came many times. In fact, we have documented at least 56 different heavenly beings coming to Joseph in no less than 85 or 86 visits. This is serious business—setting up THE kingdom of God upon the earth again after it was lost. And I love how President Nelson has reminded us that the Restoration is ongoing—it continues to unfold. Revelations continue to come. The Lord continues to do His work.
President Nelson has quoted D&C 42:61 a number of times recently which says, “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.” And, clearly President Nelson has been asking and receiving continuing revelation.
Now, among those revelations a major assignment was given to Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer—they are to seek out and find the twelve apostles! Now, mind you, the quorum would not be organized until February 14, 1835—still more than 5 ½ years from the assignment. But with Martin Harris joining in the search—thus, the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon—these brethren were watching for these special 12 men.
Here’s a spoiler alert from a future podcast in September of this year—the initial search for the twelve began after the reception of what we now call section 18 of the Doctrine and Covenants, but the final decision for the members of that very first quorum of the twelve and for the quorum of the seventy was made after Zion’s Camp March—which took place in May and June of 1834. Nine of the twelve came from that group of 205 men, and ALL of the Seventy came from that group. The Prophet Joseph said, “[God] could not organize his kingdom with twelve men to open the gospel door to the nations of the earth, and with seventy men under their direction to follow their tracks, unless he took them from a body of men who had offered their lives, and who had made as great a sacrifice as did Abraham. Now, the Lord has got his Twelve and his Seventy.” (History of the Church 2:182)
The Twelve Apostles are not ordinary men. Yes, they were born in normal circumstances and raised by regular families and looked pretty ordinary in those early days, but there is something about them that is different—and they came with it from the pre-mortal realms. The Lord Himself gave instructions to Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer as to how to recognize these men.
…and the Twelve shall be my disciples, and they shall take upon them my name; and the Twelve are they who shall desire to take upon them my name with full purpose of heart.
28 And if they desire to take upon them my name with full purpose of heart, they are called to go into all the world to preach my gospel unto every creature.
29 And they are they who are ordained of me to baptize in my name…
38 And by their desires and their works you shall know them. (D&C 18: 27-29; 38)
These are some of their qualities and attributes but there are more. Maurine, you had the privilege of associating with a number of the Twelve before they were called. Henry B. Eyring was your bishop when you lived in Palo Alto. L. Tom Perry was your stake president in Boston. Jeffrey R. Holland was your institute teacher when you were at Harvard and Neal A. Maxwell mentored you when you were at the University of Utah. What did you observe about these men long before they were apostles?
I don’t know why it is, but in my young life I just happened to have interaction with these four men, years before they became apostles, and yet all four captured my attention because of the love and spirit that they carried that were truly remarkable. Of course, I didn’t know that they would be called to be apostles, (I didn’t know that it was the Jeffrey Holland or the Neal A. Maxwell) but I knew there was something about each of them that helped me feel the Spirit. Henry B. Eyring was my bishop, only for a short time, but his warmth and love of the gospel was radiant. I felt it. I thought I had never met anyone like him.
Then when I was in graduate school, L. Tom Perry was my stake president, and I was in awe as I watched him enter the chapel at stake conference. He took a very long time making his way from the chapel door to the pulpit because he had a personal greeting of love for each person. I watched him across the chapel, greet each one as if they were the most special person in the world to him, and I remember wondering, “Who is this person with such a gift of love?
I heard Jeffrey R. Holland speak for the first time when I was a volunteer at a Latter-day Saint girls’ camp in New England and he was attending Yale. As he spoke, I felt the Spirit so keenly I wished to just pull myself aside and bask in it for a while. Later he became my Institute teacher, and my mind was alive and expanded as he taught the gospel. He was the Jeffrey R. Holland then that we have come to know as Elder Holland.
Finally, Neal A. Maxwell. As the vice-president of the University of Utah, he gave an institute fireside and after, among a horde of students, I went up to
ask him a question. He told me that was a good question and asked if I’d like to read some more books about it. He invited me to his home, lent me books, and talked with me about them, acting as a mentor. Can you even imagine being so kind to just one person, who was only a member of a crowd—especially when you are a very busy university executive?
When each of these men were called, it was no surprise to me. I’d already seen who they were—and they had been that way for a very long time.
I love your personal witnesses of these men. They have certainly played an important role in our lives.
One of the things I have done over the years is carefully study the now 102 men who have been called as apostles in this last dispensation. I never cease to be impressed, so much so, that every time we are in Israel, leading a tour, I always give my lecture called, “To Live Like the Apostles” on top of Mt. Arbel high above the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. I have made a list of the qualities I have observed about these men, including some from the scriptures. I won’t give the entire lecture but we would like to share these 24 attributes of the apostles—and there are certainly many more:
1. They attend the temple once a week including joining the prayer circle
2. They have daily and careful scripture study
3. They have deep and thoughtful personal prayers
4. They each have a very personal ministry and service (“Minister unto you, and be your servants” 3 Nephi 12:1)
5. They are constantly exercising the power of the priesthood
6. They are always bearing witness of and being a witness of the resurrected Jesus Christ at all times and in all places. Every time we have been with Elder David A. Bednar, for example, in a non-conference setting, and he is asked to say a few words—he ALWAYS bears witness of the reality of Jesus Christ.
7. They live their lives so that they have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.
8. They take upon themselves the name of Christ with full purpose of heart.
9. They are willing to go into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature.
10. They walk uprightly before the Lord.
11. They testify that they have heard the voice of the Lord and they know His words.
12. They have tried to get to the point where they respond immediately to the promptings of the Spirit.
13. They always tell the truth, unvaryingly so, or pursue truth by heeding the words of Christ.
14. They are always ready to exercise priesthood power.
15. President Monson often said: “Is my work all up to date?” This is how he lived. Do we keep up with all we have to do?
16. They have come to minister not to be ministered unto. (See Mark 10:45)
- They heal the sick. “Freely ye have received; freely give.”
- Dallin Oaks said: I gave my life to Jesus a long time ago.
- This is from Elder Neil Andersen: They have a spirit void of any desire for personal attention, willing to go anywhere and do anything the Lord’s prophets would have me do, applying my full consecration in testifying of the Savior and building the kingdom of God until my final breath. (Neil Andersen). My sister-in-law, Virginia Jensen, who served in the Relief Society General Presidency, said to me once when I asked her about the apostles: “I remember coming home from a very long international trip once with a number of Church leaders, including Elder Neil Andersen, and he got his suitcase and literally ran with it and then had the driver stop downtown so he could run up to his office to see what he could do to further the work.”
- Pray like Enos of old. Elder Neil L. Andersen told this story: One time I went to President Faust with a piercing problem I didn’t know how to solve. He said to me, “Neil, have you prayed about it? Have you prayed all night like Enos did?” and then he sat back in his chair and said, “I’ve prayed all night many times to receive answer to difficult challenges. That is how you will get your answer as well.” He was right.
- This is from Wilford Woodruff: Let us lay aside all evil practices, all those habits which will prevent our communing with God…
- This is from Elder Neil Andersen about L. Tom Perry and Boyd K. Packer: Elder Andersen spoke of the last moments he spent with Elder Perry, less than 24 hours before his passing. He told Elder Perry, when his own time came to pass through the veil, that they would meet. “I hoped he would be there to greet me. He promised that if given permission, he would. He told us he would do all that he could to bless our work from the other side of the veil. Less than 24 hours later, he stepped through the veil. Thirty-four days later President Packer followed him. I with you revere these two disciples of Christ. I confirm to you that they were honest men, holy men, devoted to their callings…I testify that we will yet see them again.”
- They are full of the pure love of Christ.
- From M. Russell Ballard: There is one clear, unpolluted, unbiased voice that you can always count on. And that is the voice of the living prophet and the apostles. Their only motive is ‘the everlasting welfare of your souls.
So, keep your eyes on the apostles. Follow them. Pattern your lives after them. Read and study their words and they will bring you closer to Jesus Christ. Their mission is “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body [that’s the members of the Church] of Christ.
And listen to this: “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
And here’s this great blessing in our topsy-turvy world:
That we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” (Ephesians 4: 12-14)
That is powerful.
Let’s talk about the heart of the lesson today, the worth of souls. You’re probably familiar with this part of the 18th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. “Remember, the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” (D&C 18:10) And verses 15 and 16 are familiar to many because they have been set to music:
15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!
Isn’t this true? How many untold thousands of returned missionaries could testify of the joy of bringing souls unto Christ? And remember, to bring a soul unto Christ is not just to find them, teach them the missionary lessons, set a date of baptism, baptism them and see them receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Sometimes it’s literally that you bring them to Christ—and He begins to do His work.
That’s right. And I am so taken by this God we worship who loves each one of us with a love that is so pure, so real and so powerful that some have described that it would seem to melt the very marrow of their bones.
One of my favorite stories about the worth of a soul from the early days here in Utah’s history is the one of Joseph Millett. Elder Boyd K. Packer first told this in the April 1980 General Conference of the Church.
“Let me quote from the diary of Joseph Millett, a little-known missionary of an earlier time. Called on a mission to Canada, he went alone and on foot. In Canada, during the wintertime, he said:
“I felt my weakness. A poor, ill-clothed, ignorant boy in my teens, thousands of miles from home among strangers.
“The promise in my blessing and the encouraging words of President Young to me, with the faith I had in the gospel, kept me up.
“Many times I would turn into the woods … in some desolate place with a heart full, wet eyes, to call on my master for strength or aid.
“I believed the Gospel of Christ. I had never preached it. I knew not where to find it in the scriptures.”
That didn’t matter so much, for, “I had to give my Bible to the boatman at Digby for passage across the sound.”
Years later, Joseph Millett, with his large family, was suffering through very, very difficult times. He wrote in his journal:
“One of my children came in and said that Brother Newton Hall’s folks was out of bread, had none that day.
“I divided our flour in a sack to send up to Brother Hall. Just then Brother Hall came.
“Says I, ‘Brother Hall, are you out of flour?’
“‘Brother Millett, we have none.’
“‘Well, Brother Hall, there is some in that sack. I have divided and was going to send it to you. Your children told mine that you was out.’
“Brother Hall began to cry. He said he had tried others, but could not get any. He went to the cedars and prayed to the Lord, and the Lord told him to go to Joseph Millett.
“‘Well Brother Hall, you needn’t bring this back. If the Lord sent you for it you don’t owe me for it.’”
That night Joseph Millett recorded a remarkable sentence in his journal:
“You can’t tell me how good it made me feel to know that the Lord knew there was such a person as Joseph Millett” (Diary of Joseph Millett, holograph, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City).
“The Lord knew Joseph Millett. And He knows all those men and women like him, and they are many. Theirs are the lives that are most worth recording.” (Packer, Boyd K., A Tribute to the Rank and File of the Church, General Conference, April 1980)
Both Joseph Millett and Newton Hall were precious to the Lord. “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.
Elder D. Todd Christopherson relates this story:
“In 1918 Brother George Goates was a farmer who raised sugar beets in Lehi, Utah. Winter came early that year and froze much of his beet crop in the ground. For George and his young son Francis, the harvest was slow and difficult. Meanwhile, an influenza epidemic was raging. The dreaded disease claimed the lives of George’s son Charles and three of Charles’s small children—two little girls and a boy. In the course of only six days, a grieving George Goates made three separate trips to Ogden, Utah, to bring the bodies home for burial. At the end of this terrible interlude, George and Francis hitched up their wagon and headed back to the beet field.
“[On the way] they passed wagon after wagon-load of beets being hauled to the factory and driven by neighborhood farmers. As they passed by, each driver would wave a greeting: ‘Hi ya, Uncle George,’ ‘Sure sorry, George,’ ‘Tough break, George,’ ‘You’ve got a lot of friends, George.’
“On the last wagon was … freckled-faced Jasper Rolfe. He waved a cheery greeting and called out: ‘That’s all of ’em, Uncle George.’
“[Brother Goates] turned to Francis and said: ‘I wish it was all of ours.’
“When they arrived at the farm gate, Francis jumped down off the big red beet wagon and opened the gate as [his father] drove onto the field. [George] pulled up, stopped the team, … and scanned the field. … There wasn’t a sugar beet on the whole field. Then it dawned upon him what Jasper Rolfe meant when he called out: ‘That’s all of ’em, Uncle George!’
“[George] got down off the wagon, picked up a handful of the rich, brown soil he loved so much, and then … a beet top, and he looked for a moment at these symbols of his labor, as if he couldn’t believe his eyes.
“Then [he] sat down on a pile of beet tops—this man who brought four of his loved ones home for burial in the course of only six days; made caskets, dug graves, and even helped with the burial clothing—this amazing man who never faltered, nor flinched, nor wavered throughout this agonizing ordeal—sat down on a pile of beet tops and sobbed like a little child.
“Then he arose, wiped his eyes, … looked up at the sky, and said: ‘Thanks, Father, for the elders of our ward.’” (Christopherson, D. Todd, D., The Elders Quorum, General Conference, April 2018)
I love the depth of that story, Maurine, how precious George was to all those neighbors and how each person in that story was known of and loved by and cherished by the Lord.
“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” We learned the truthfulness of this scripture many years ago in our travels.
We had been in the Middle East for some time leading tours and were quite exhausted from all our work there. We had planned a break for a few days in Switzerland before we went home. The only way we could do this was to plan a round trip within a round trip. Scot is a bargain flight shopper and he found a way for us to do this. We flew from Tel Aviv to Istanbul then caught a Ukrainian Airlines flight to Kiev and on to Zurich.
But our flight from Istanbul left an hour late, so when we arrived in Kiev, our connecting flight to Zurich had left and they had to rebook us on Swiss Air. So far, so good.
We arrived in Switzerland and headed, bagless, to our refuge village of Lauterbrunnen. Within a few days the bags did arrive and we found ourselves quite relaxed and enjoyed our time in the Alps. We read and hiked and gazed at the breathtaking waterfalls and took the gondola to the top of the Schilthorn and caught a glimpse on this clear day of 15,777-foot Mt. Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe, far off in the distance. Save the baggage debacle and the delay in Ukraine, this could not have been more relaxing—just what we needed.
Our time finally ended and we headed back to the Zurich airport to make our return flights in our round trip within the round trip to finally make our way home. We did not know what lay ahead.
When we got to the counter of Swiss Air, we gave them our tickets and our passports to get onto our flight just like any normal situation when you go to the ticket counter. The woman carefully looked at all our documents and our tickets and she said, “One moment please.” She left with our papers and came back and she said, “I’m sorry but you don’t have any tickets to fly today. You are welcome to purchase new tickets and that will be, let me see, two thousand five-hundred US dollars each.” We were shocked. But we both felt the Spirit whisper to us to stay calm.
We said, “How can this be? We paid for these tickets months ago. Can you check the flight manifest to see if we are listed on this flight?” She did so and there we were, both listed on the manifest. We thought we had just asked a pretty smart thing and all would be well. It was not to be. Stay calm the Spirit whispered, even though we were now without tickets in a foreign airport with no way to get home.
We kindly asked, “May we speak with your supervisor?” The woman said, “Yes, but she will not be able to help you any more than I can.” Remember, the clock is ticking and we are now under two hours before this flight is to depart. In a few minutes, the supervisor came and we explained the situation and the missed flight in Kiev and their booking us on Swiss Air and here are all the flight documents and we found our names on the flight manifest, etc. The supervisor looked over everything and said, “I’m sorry but you do not have tickets for this flight. When the people booked you on Swiss Air in Ukraine they used up all your flight credits and basically erased all your other flights. You are welcome to buy new tickets. That will be, let me see, two-thousand five-hundred dollars each.” I could feel pockets or pools of my blood beginning to boil. The Spirit whispered again, Stay calm. We didn’t get any message beyond that–just: Stay calm.
We went through one more supervisor with all the exact same results and we felt completely stuck. At that moment, out of the corner of our eyes, to our right, another man walked into the scene behind the counter. He had been observing us and he said, “You’re Mormons aren’t you?” We said, “Yes, we are.” “I could tell you were. Where are you from?”
We said, “We are from Utah.” “What do you do for a living?” We said, “We run an online magazine called Meridian Magazine.” This man, whom we will call Michael, said, “You’re kidding me! I just found Meridian Magazine this morning for the first time. Come with me.” We thought we were going to solve the problem of our flight, but he took us to his office to show us that when he wiggled his mouse to awaken his screen, there was Meridian Magazine and a picture of the temple. He said, “I love the temple with all my heart. I am a member of the Church too, but I am gay and I have a partner and I have felt rejected by my branch and all my former friend in the Church. I love the Church so much and I love the temple, but I feel alone.
The moment felt so orchestrated. That he should have just been looking at our magazine for the first time and that we should meet that day. We knew that down to this very detail that there was nothing accidental about our encounter or this moment.
You know how remarkable it is when you feel the Lord’s love personally directed at you. You just feel awash with light and joy. But this was one of those moments when we felt the Lord’s very specific love for Michael. It just burned in us and we told him. We told him that we knew how much the Lord cherished him and that he was never forgotten to the Lord. We told him that we knew all the hassle with our flight had been for this purpose—that we could deliver this message to him. We knew that no matter who rejected him, he was tenderly and lovingly regarded by the Savior. We all felt the Spirit convey this truth. Michael was known and loved in the heavens and the Lord remembered him.
Michael said, “I can fix this problem with your tickets—it will take a bit, but I’m sure we can do this. Follow me.” We went to some other airline counters. We went back to his office, we went back to the counter. Mean time we were now under 45 minutes before the flight was to leave. The clock was ticking, and while we were eager to solve our problem, we knew that something much larger was happening.
Michael did fix everything and get us the valid tickets that we needed to make our long journey home. But at that point, we stopped and we put our arms around Michael and said, “Michael, we know that this whole thing happened in Ukraine and here in Zurich so that we might meet you and give you this message: Our Heavenly Father loves you. He knows you. You are of great worth to Him. He has never forgotten or forsaken you. You are of infinite worth to Him. And He sent us here to Zurich to tell you that.” Tears were streaming down his face and ours. And we said, “And you know that is true, don’t you?” He said, “I really do. I know that He is aware of me and I have not known that for a long, long time.”
We had to run to the gate at this point and so Michael ordered an electric cart and a driver and we put all our bags on the cart and gave Michael a hug and a ton of thanks and headed to the gate.
When we got to the gate, no one was there except for the gate agents and they said, “Mr. and Mrs. Proctor?” “Yes! That’s us.” “Good. All is well, you’re all taken care of. Let’s get your bags on the plane. And one last note: Michael just called and just wanted to say, ‘Thank you.’”
You remember, Scot, we got on that flight and just cried and cried and marvelled that the Lord had used us as an instrument to deliver a message to one person—and the message was, “Michael, you are known of your Heavenly Father and He loves you so much.” Truly, that whole flight that’s all we could think about and we felt so regarded by the Lord, too, that he would use us as instruments in his hands. And we stayed in touch with Michael for many years afterwards. Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”
In section 19 we have another indication of God’s eternal and everlasting love for each of us, but it is given in another context. In verses 16-19 we have the only first person account of the intensity of the pain that the Lord felt in bringing to pass the atonement:
16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
[Now listen closely to this:]
18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
This truly is the greatest witness that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God—that He would suffer so much pain and suffering to finish the “preparations unto the children of men”—that the way would be prepared as we give ourselves to Him and repent of our sins, for us to return, without spot, to stand once again in the presence of our Heavenly Father. And that will bring us the greatest joy of all as we once again feel His love enkindled upon us. This gift of eternal life is the greatest of all the gifts of God. (see D&C 14:7)
That’s all for today. We have loved being with you—you are very dear to us. Next week we will be studying Sections 20, 21 and 22 with the lesson entitled: The Rise of the Church of Christ. As always, thanks to Paul Cardall for the music that begins and ends this podcast and thanks to our producer, Michaela Proctor Hutchins for the great work she does. Have a great week and see you next time.