Sunday Morning Session

Sunday Morning Session

From the Conference Center
at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, this is the
Sunday morning session of the 185th Annual
General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter day Saints with speakers selected from the
General Authorities and general officers
of the Church. Music for this
session is provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This broadcast is furnished
as a public service by Bonneville Distribution. Any reproduction,
recording, transcription, or other use of this program
without written consent is prohibited. President Henry B.
Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency
of the Church will conduct this session. Brothers and sisters, on
this beautiful Easter morning we welcome you to the
Sunday morning session of the 185th Annual
General Conference of The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter day Saints. We are grateful
for the opportunity to gather together to
commemorate the Atonement and Resurrection of our
Savior, Jesus Christ. President Thomas S. Monson,
who presides at the conference, has asked that I
conduct this session. We extend our
greetings and blessings to those of you who
are participating in these proceedings
throughout the world by radio, television, the
Internet, or satellite transmission. We acknowledge the
General Authorities and the general officers who
are in attendance this morning. The music for this session
will be provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,
under the direction of Mack Wilberg with
Clay Christianson and Richard Elliott
at the organ. The choir opened this meeting
with “Rejoice, the Lord Is King!” and will now favor
us with “He Is Risen!” The invocation will then be
offered by Sister Linda S. Reeves, second counselor
in the Relief Society general presidency, after
which the choir will sing, “Consider the Lilies.” [MUSIC – “HE IS RISEN”] (SINGING) He is risen! He is risen! Tell it out with joyful voice. He has burst his
three days’ prison; let the whole wide
earth rejoice. Death is conquered; man is free. Christ has won the victory. Come with high and
holy hymning; chant our Lord’s triumphant lay. Not one darksome cloud is
dimming yonder glorious morning ray, breaking o’er
the purple east, symbol of our Easter feast. He is risen! He is risen! He hath opened heaven’s gate. We are free from
sin’s dark prison, risen to a holier state. And a brighter Easter beam on
our longing eyes shall stream. And a brighter Easter beam on
our longing eyes shall stream. Amen. Our dear Father in Heaven. How we love thee, dear Father. How grateful we are to
be gathered together on this glorious
Easter morning when we remember our beloved Savior. Please bless us,
Father, that we might be able to understand
and recognize all that He has done for
us so individually. We’re grateful to be led
by a prophet, Thy prophet, even Thomas S. Monson, and by
our other consecrated leaders. We ask Thee to bless them. Please bless, Father, all that
will participate on this day. And bless each of
us, Father, that we might feel in our
hearts those things that we need to
know and to feel, that will keep us firmly
bonded to Thee and to Thy Son. How grateful we are for
the blessings of covenants and for temples. Again, dear Father, we
express our gratitude to Thee and to Thy
Son, our Savior, and say this in His
name, Jesus Christ, amen. [MUSIC – “CONSIDER THE LILIES”] (SINGING) Consider the lilies
of the field, how they grow, how they grow. Consider the birds in the sky,
how they fly, how they fly. He clothes the
lilies of the field. He feeds the birds in the sky. And He will feed
those who trust Him and guide them with His eye. Consider the sheep of His fold,
how they follow where He leads. Tho’ the path may wind
across the mountains, He knows the meadows
where they feed. He clothes the
lilies of the field. He feeds the birds in the sky. And He will feed
those who trust Him and guide them with His eye. Consider the sweet
tender children who must suffer on this earth. The pains of all
of them He carried from the day of His birth. He clothes the
lilies of the field. He feeds the lambs of His fold. And He will heal
those who trust Him and make their hearts as gold. He clothes the
lilies of the field. He feeds the lambs of His fold. And He will heal
those who trust Him and make their hearts as gold. Thank you for the
beautiful music. It will now be our privilege
to hear from our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. He will be followed by
Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president. Elder Jose A. Teixeira of the
Seventy will then address us. President Monson. My beloved brothers and
sisters, how grateful I am to be with you this
beautiful Easter morning, when our thoughts turn to
the Savior of the world. I send my love and
greetings to each of you and pray that our Heavenly
Father will inspire my words. This conference
marks seven years since I was sustained as
President of the Church. They have been
busy years, filled not only with a few
challenges but also with countless blessings. Among the most enjoyable
and sacred of these blessings has been
my opportunity to dedicate and
rededicate temples. Most recently,
this past November, it was my privilege to dedicate
the beautiful new Phoenix Arizona Temple. I was joined by President Dieter
F. Uchtdorf, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder Richard J.
Maynes, Elder Lynn G. Robbins, and Elder Kent F. Richards. On the evening prior
to the dedication, a marvelous cultural
celebration was held, where over four thousand
of our youth from the temple district performed beautifully. The following day the temple
was dedicated in three sacred and inspiring sessions. The building of temples
is a very clear indication of the growth of the Church. We currently have 144
temples in operation worldwide, with
5 being renovated and 13 more under construction. In addition, 13 temples, which
were previously announced, are in various
stages of preparation before construction begins. This year we anticipate
rededicating 2 temples and dedicating 5
new temples, which are scheduled for completion. For the past two years,
as we have concentrated on our efforts in completing
previously announced temples, we have held in advance plans
for any additional temples. This morning, however, I’m very
pleased to announce three new temples will be built in the
following locations–Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Port-au-Prince,
Haiti; and Bangkok, Thailand. What marvelous blessings are in
store for our faithful members in these areas and indeed,
wherever temples are located throughout the world. The process of determining
needs and finding locations for additional
temples is ongoing, for we desire that as
many members as possible have an opportunity
to attend the temple without great sacrifices
of time and resources. As we have done in
the past, we will keep you informed as decisions
are made in this regard. As I think of
temples, my thoughts turn to the many blessings
we receive therein. As we enter through the
doors of the temple, we leave behind us the
distractions and confusion of the world. Inside this sacred sanctuary,
we find beauty and order. There is rest for our
souls and a respite from the cares of our lives. As we attend the temple,
there can come to us a dimension of spirituality
and a feeling of peace which will transcend any
other feeling which could come into the human heart. We will grasp the true meaning
of the words of the Savior when He said, “Peace I leave with
you, my peace I give unto you. . . . Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid.” Such peace can permeate
any heart–hearts that are troubled, hearts that are
burdened down with grief, hearts that feel confusion,
hearts that plead for help. I recently learned
firsthand of a young man who attended the temple with
a heart pleading for help. Many months earlier he
had received his call to serve in a mission
in South America. However, his visa was delayed
for such a lengthy period that he was reassigned to a
mission in the United States. Although disappointed
that he could not serve in the area of
his original call, he nonetheless worked hard
in his new assignment, determined to serve to
the best of his ability. He became discouraged, however,
because of negative experiences he had with
missionaries who seemed to be more interested
in having a good time than in sharing the gospel. A few short months
later this young man suffered a very serious
health challenge which left him
partially paralyzed, and so he was sent
home on medical leave. Some months later the young
man had healed completely, and his paralysis
had disappeared. He was informed
that once again he would be able to serve as
a missionary, a blessing for which he had prayed daily. The only disappointing
news was that he would return to the
same mission which he had left, where
he felt the behaviors and attitudes of
some missionaries were less than they should be. He had come to the temple to
seek comfort and a confirmation that he could have a good
experience as a missionary. His parents, also, had
prayed that this temple visit would provide the
help their son needed. As the young man entered
the celestial room following the session, he sat
in a chair and began to pray for guidance
from his Heavenly Father. Another who entered
the celestial room shortly afterward was a young
man whose name is Landon. As he walked into
the room, his gaze was immediately drawn
to the young man sitting on the chair, eyes
closed and obviously praying. Landon received an unmistakable
prompting that he should speak with the young man. Hesitant to interrupt,
however, he decided to wait. After several
minutes had gone by and the young man
was still praying, Landon knew he could no
longer postpone the prompting. He approached the young man and
gently touched his shoulder. The young man opened
his eyes, startled that he had been disturbed. Landon said quietly,
“I felt impressed that I need to talk with you,
although I am not certain why.” As they began to
converse, the young man poured out his heart to Landon,
explaining his circumstances and ending with his
desire to receive some comfort and encouragement
concerning his mission. Landon, who had returned from a
successful mission just a year earlier, told of his
own mission experiences, the challenges and
concerns he had faced, the manner in which he
turned to the Lord for help, and the blessings
he had received. His words were comforting
and reassuring, and his enthusiasm for his
mission was contagious. Eventually, as his fears
subsided, a feeling of peace came to the young man. He felt deep gratitude
as he realized his prayer had been answered. The two young men
prayed together, and then Landon
prepared to leave, happy that he had listened
to the inspiration which had come to him. As he stood to go,
the young man asked Landon, “Where did you serve
your mission?” (To this point, neither of them had
mentioned to the other the name of the mission
in which he had served.) When Landon replied with
the name of his mission, tears welled up in the
eyes of the young man. Landon had served in the very
mission to which the young man would be returning! In a recent letter to me, Landon
shared with me the young man’s parting words to him: “I had
faith Heavenly Father would bless me, but I never
could have imagined that He would send
someone to help me who had served in my own mission. I know now that
all will be well.” The humble prayer
of a sincere heart had been heard and answered. My brothers and
sisters, in our lives we will have
temptations; we will have trials and challenges. As we go to the temple, as we
remember the covenants we make there, we will be better able
to overcome those temptations and to bear our trials. In the temple we can find peace. The blessings of the
temple are priceless. One for which I am grateful
every day of my life is that which my
beloved wife, Frances, and I received as we
knelt at a sacred altar and made covenants binding
us together for all eternity. There is no blessing
more precious to me than the
peace and comfort I receive from the
knowledge I have that she and I will
be together again. May our Heavenly
Father bless us that we may have the spirit
of temple worship, that we may be obedient
to His commandments, and that we may follow
carefully the steps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I testify that He
is our Redeemer. He is the Son of God. He it is who came forth from
the grave that first Easter morning, bringing with Him
the gift of everlasting life for all of God’s children. On this beautiful day, as we
celebrate that momentous event, may we offer
prayers of gratitude for His great and
marvelous gifts to us. That this may be so, I pray
humbly, in His holy name, amen. On this Easter morning,
President Monson, we are so grateful to hear the
voice of our living prophet. We value your words,
including your counsel: “Find joy in the
journey” and “The future is as bright as your faith.” This year Primary
children are sharing the joy and the
brightness of their faith in Jesus Christ when
they sing the song “I Know That My Savior Loves Me.” They sing the truth:
“I know He lives! . . . My heart I give to Him.” Like Primary children,
every one of us can strengthen our
faith in Jesus Christ on our individual
journey and find joy. In a recent Relief
Society I listened to a young mother share part
of her journey of conversion. She had grown up in
the Church with parents who taught her the gospel. She attended Primary,
Young Women, and seminary. She loved to learn
and discover truths. Her constant quest
was to know why. Elder Russell M. Nelson has
said, “The Lord can only teach an inquiring mind.” And this young
woman was teachable. After high school she
attended a university, was sealed in the temple
to a returned missionary, and was blessed with
beautiful children. With the spirit of
inquiry, this mother continued to ask questions. But as the questions grew
harder, so did the answers. And sometimes there were no
answers–or no answers that brought peace. Eventually as she
sought to find answers, more and more
questions arose and she began to question some of the
very foundations of her faith. During this confusing time,
some of those around her said, “Just lean on my faith,”
but she thought, “I can’t. You don’t understand; you’re not
grappling with these issues.” She explained, “I was
willing to extend courtesy to those without doubts if they
would extend courtesy to me.” And many did. She said, “My parents knew my
heart and allowed me space. They chose to love
me while I was trying to figure it out for myself.” Likewise, this young mother’s
bishop often met with her and spoke of his
confidence in her. Ward members also did not
hesitate to give love, and she felt included. Her ward was not a place
to put on a perfect face; it was a place of nurture. “It was interesting,”
she remembers. “During this time I
felt a real connection to my grandparents who had died. They were pulling for me and
urging me to keep trying. I felt they were saying,
‘Focus on what you know.'” In spite of her
substantial support system, she became less active. She said, “I did
not separate myself from the Church because
of bad behavior, spiritual apathy,
looking for an excuse not to live the commandments,
or searching for an easy out. I felt I needed the
answer to the question, ‘What do I really believe?'” About this time she read
a book of the writings of Mother Teresa, who had
shared similar feelings. In a 1953 letter,
Mother Teresa wrote: “Please pray specially for me
that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show
Himself–for there is such terrible darkness within me,
as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or
less from the time I started ‘the work.’ Ask Our Lord
to give me courage.” Archbishop Perier responded:
“God guides you, dear Mother; you are not so much in
the dark as you think. The path to be followed may
not always be clear at once. Pray for light; do not
decide too quickly, listen to what others have to
say, consider their reasons. You will always find
something to help you. . . . Guided by faith, by
prayer, and by reason you have a right intention,
you have enough.” My friend thought if Mother
Teresa could live her religion without all the answers
and without a feeling of clarity in all things,
maybe she could too. She could take one simple step
forward in faith–and then another. She could focus on the
truths she did believe and let those truths
fill her mind and heart. As she reflected back, she
said, “My testimony had become like a pile of ashes. It had all burned down. All that remained
was Jesus Christ.” She continued, “But
He does not leave you when you have questions. When anyone tries to
keep the commandments, the door is wide open. Prayer and scripture study
become incredibly important.” Her first step to
rebuild her faith was to start with
basic gospel truths. She bought a Primary
songbook and began reading the words of the songs. They were treasures to her. She prayed for faith to
lift the heaviness she felt. She learned that when she came
up against a statement that caused her to doubt,
she “could stop, look at the whole picture,
and make the gospel personal.” She said, “I would ask, ‘Is
this the right path for me and my family?’ Sometimes I would ask
myself, ‘What do I want for my children?’ I realized
I want them to have temple marriages. That’s when belief
came back to my heart.” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
has said, “Humility, faith, and the influence of the
Holy Spirit [will] always be elements of every
quest for truth.” Though she had questions
about how the Book of Mormon came to be, she could
not deny the truths she knew in the Book of Mormon. She had focused on studying
the New Testament to better understand the Savior. “But eventually,” she
said, “I found myself back in the Book
of Mormon because I loved what I felt when
reading about Jesus Christ and His Atonement.” She concluded, “You have to have
your own spiritual experiences with the truths in that book,”
and she was having them. She explained, “I read in Mosiah
and felt completely directed: ‘Believe in God;
believe that he is, and that he created
all things . . .; believe that he has all
wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth;
believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which
the Lord can comprehend.'” About this time a call came
to serve as Primary pianist. “It was safe,” she said. “I wanted to have my
children in Primary, and now I could be with them. And I wasn’t ready
to teach yet.” As she served, she continued
to feel from those around her: “Come, we want you
whatever stage you are at, and we will meet you there. Give us whatever
you have to offer.” Playing the Primary songs,
she often thought to herself: “Here are truths I love. I can still bear testimony. I will just say those things
that I know and trust. It may not be a perfect
offering of knowledge, but it will be my offering. What I focus on
expands inside of me. It is beautiful to get back
to the essence of the gospel and feel clarity.” On that Sunday morning, as I
listened to this young sister share the story
of her journey, I was reminded that it is upon
the rock of our Redeemer that we all must
build our foundation. I was also reminded of the
counsel of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: “Hold fast to what
you already know and stand strong until additional
knowledge comes.” During her lesson,
I came to know more fervently that answers
to our sincere questions come when we earnestly seek and
when we live the commandments. I was reminded
that our faith can reach beyond the limits
of current reason. And, oh, how I want
to be like those who surrounded this young
mother, loving and supporting her. As President Dieter
F. Uchtdorf said: “We are all pilgrims
seeking God’s light as we journey on the path
of discipleship. We do not condemn others
for the amount of light they may or may not
have; rather, we nourish and encourage
all light until it grows clear, bright and true.” When the Primary children sing
“A Child’s Prayer,” they ask: “Heavenly Father,
are you really there? And do you hear and answer
ev’ry child’s prayer?” We too may wonder, “Is
Heavenly Father really there?” only to rejoice–as my friend
did–when the answers come in quiet, simple assurances. I testify those
simple assurances come as His will becomes ours. I testify that truth
is on the earth today and His gospel is found
in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. In the name of
Jesus Christ, amen. My dear brothers and
sisters, it is with great joy that I stand here
before you as we participate in this general
conference together. Listening to the words of
wisdom, counsel, comfort, and warning given in general
conferences over many years has been an immeasurable
blessing to Sister Teixeira, to our family, and to myself. In this special
season of the year, especially on this
Easter Sabbath, I cannot help but reflect
on the significance of the Savior’s teachings and
His kind and loving example in my life. A deeper understanding
of Jesus Christ will give us greater
hope for the future and, despite our
imperfections, more confidence in achieving our
righteous goals. This will also grant
us a greater desire to serve our fellowman. The Lord said, “”[Seek] me
in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” Seeking the Lord and
feeling His presence is a daily quest, a
worthwhile effort. Brothers and sisters, today
more than in any other time, we have at our disposal
exceptional opportunities and resources to deepen
our understanding of the teachings of Jesus
Christ and His Atonement. Using these resources
appropriately will help us live a fruitful
life filled with joy. In the Savior’s metaphor of
the vine and the branches, He said: “Abide in
me, and I in you. As the branch cannot
bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the
vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” The more we understand the
extraordinary role of Christ in our lives, the more conscious
we will become of our purpose here in mortality,
which is to have joy. That joy, however,
does not preclude us from experiencing trials
and difficulties, even some so great and complex
that they might lead us to think that
happiness is not possible in such circumstances. I know by personal
experience that the joy of living in righteousness
and abiding in Christ can continue despite the
tribulations characteristic of mortality. Ultimately, these
tribulations often enrich, refine, and guide us to
a deeper understanding of our purpose in our
existence here in mortality and of the Atonement
of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the fulness
of joy can only be achieved through
Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the vine,
ye are the branches: He that abideth in
me, and I in him, the same bringeth
forth much fruit: for without me ye
can do nothing.” I believe that as we deepen our
understanding of the Savior, we will have an
increased desire to live joyfully and a conviction
that joy is possible. Consequently, we will
have a greater ability to go about each day with
more enthusiasm for life and for keeping the
commandments of God, even in challenging
circumstances. Let us not leave for tomorrow
what we can do today. It is now that we must come unto
Christ because “if [we] believe [Him], [we] will labor
while it is called today.” Every day we should consider
including frequent interactions with the teachings of Christ. Small and simple
gestures and acts made daily will deepen
our understanding of the significance of
the Lord in our lives and will help us share this
understanding with the rising generations, who will surely
feel the love of Heavenly Father and His Son,
Jesus Christ, when they see our example of
sincerely living the gospel. So what are some of the simple
behaviors in this modern time that will become a
balm for our souls in strengthening our testimony
of Christ and His mission? In 2014, the National
Geographic photo contest received 9,200 submissions
by professional photographers and enthusiasts from
over 150 countries. The winning photo
depicts a woman in the center of a train
filled with passengers. The light coming from her mobile
phone illuminates her face. She relays a clear message
to the other passagers: despite being
physically present, she is not truly there. Mobile data, smartphones,
and social networks have profoundly changed our
way of being in the world and how we communicate
with others. In this digital era, we can
so rapidly transport ourselves to places and activities
that can quickly remove us from what is essential for a
life filled with lasting joy. This networked life
can, if left unchecked, give precedence to relationships
with people that we don’t know or have never met rather than
with people we live with–our own family! On the other hand
we all know that we are blessed with the
excellent online resources, including those
developed by the Church, such as text and audio
versions of the holy scriptures and general conference,
video productions of the life and teachings of
Jesus Christ, apps to record our family
history, and opportunities to listen to inspiring music. The choices and priorities
we make with our time online are decisive. They can determine our
spiritual progress and maturity in the gospel and our desire
to contribute to a better world and to live a more
productive life. For these reasons,
today I would like to mention three simple
habits that will establish healthy online activity. These habits will generate
the daily self-reflections that are necessary
for us to grow closer to the teachings of
our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Habit Number 1: Visit the
Church’s official website for resources. Often visits during the
week to these resources will help us to always be
sensitive to the teachings of the gospel and encourage
our family and friends to think and reflect on
what matters most. Habit Number 2:
Subscribe to the Church’s official social networks. This choice will
bring to your screen the content that is essential
to deepen your search and seeking of the
Lord and His teachings, and it will
strengthen your desire to understand the gospel. More importantly, this
will help you remember what Christ expects of us. Just as “there is no good
soil without a good farmer,” likewise there will be
no good online harvest unless we prioritize
from the very beginning that which is accessible to
our fingers and to our minds. Habit Number 3: Make time to
set aside your mobile devices. It is refreshing to put
aside our electronic devices for a while and instead turn
the pages of the scriptures or take the time to converse
with family and friends. Especially on the Lord’s
day, experience the peace of participating in
a sacrament meeting without the constant
urge to see if you have a new message or a new post. The habit of setting aside
your mobile device for a time will enrich and broaden your
view of life, for life is not confined to a four-inch screen. The Lord Jesus Christ said,
“As the Father hath loved me, so I have loved you:
continue ye in my love.” God wants us to have joy
and to feel His love. Christ makes such joy a
possibility for each of us. We have the means to know Him
better and to live His gospel. I bear my testimony
of the joy that exists when we keep
the commandments and of the peace
and safety that we feel when we abide in the
love of Heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior. In the name of
Jesus Christ, amen. On a signal from the conductor,
the choir and congregation will sing “I Know That
My Redeemer Lives.” After the singing, we will
hear from Bishop Gerald Causse of the Presiding Bishopric. He will be followed
by Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Seventy. Elder Jeffrey R. Holand of the
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will then address us. After his remarks, the choir
will sing “Jesus Has Risen.” [MUSIC “I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER
LIVES”] This is the 185th Annual
General Conference of The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter day Saints. (SINGING) I know that
my Redeemer lives. What comfort this
sweet sentence gives! He lives, he lives,
who once was dead. He lives, my ever-living Head. He lives to bless
me with his love. He lives to plead for me above. He lives my hungry soul to feed. He lives to bless
in time of need. He lives to grant
me rich supply. He lives to guide
me with his eye. He lives to comfort
me when faint. He lives to hear my
soul’s complaint. He lives to silence
all my fears. He lives to wipe away my tears. He lives to calm
my troubled heart. He lives all
blessings to impart. He lives, my kind,
wise heav’nly Friend. He lives and loves
me to the end. He lives, and while
he lives, I’ll sing. He lives, my Prophet,
Priest, and King. He lives and grants
me daily breath. He lives, and I
shall conquer death. He lives my mansion to prepare. He lives to bring
me safely there. He lives! All glory to his name! He lives, my Savior,
still the same. Oh, sweet the joy this
sentence gives: “I know that my Redeemer lives!” He lives! All glory to his name! He lives, my Savior,
still the same. Oh, sweet the joy this
sentence gives: “I know that my Redeemer lives!” My wife and I had the great joy
of rearing our five children near the magnificent
city of Paris. During those years we wanted to
offer them rich opportunities to discover the marvelous
things of this world. Each summer, our
family took long trips to visit the most significant
monuments, historic sites, and natural wonders of Europe. Finally, after spending 22
years in the Paris area, we were getting ready to move. I still remember the day
when my children came to me and said, “Dad, it is
absolutely shameful! We have lived here
all our lives, and we have never been
to the Eiffel Tower!” There are so many
wonders in this world. However, sometimes when
we have them constantly before our eyes, we
take them for granted. We look, but we
don’t really see; we hear, but we
don’t really listen. During His earthly ministry,
Jesus said to His disciples: “Blessed are the eyes which
see the things that ye see: For I tell you, that many
prophets and kings have desire to see those things which ye
see, and have not seen them; and to hear those
things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” I have often wondered
what it would have been like to live at
the time of our Savior. Can you imagine
sitting at His feet? Feeling His embrace? Witnessing as He
ministered to others? And yet so many who met
Him failed to recognize–to “see”–that the very Son of
God was living among them. We too are privileged to
live in an exceptional time. The prophets of old saw
the work of the Restoration as “a marvelous
work . . . , yea, a marvelous work and a wonder.” In no previous dispensation
have so many missionaries been called, so many nations
been opened for the gospel message, and so
many temples been built throughout the world. For us as Latter-day
Saints, wonders also occur in our individual lives. They include our own personal
conversion, the answers we receive to our
prayers, and the tender blessings God showers
upon us daily. To marvel at the wonders of
the gospel is a sign of faith. It is to recognize the hand
of the Lord in our lives and in everything around us. Our amazement also
produces special strength. It gives us the energy to
remain anchored in our faith and to engage ourselves
in the work of salvation. But let us beware. Our ability to
marvel is fragile. Over the long term, such things
as casual commandment keeping, apathy, or even
weariness may set in and make us insensitive to
the most remarkable signs and miracles of the gospel. The Book of Mormon
describes a period, very similar to our own,
that preceded the coming of the Messiah to the Americas. Suddenly the signs of His
birth appeared in the heavens. The people were so
stricken with astonishment that they humbled themselves,
and nearly all were converted. However, only a short
four years later, “the people began to forget
those signs and wonders which they had heard, and began to
be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder
from heaven . . . and began to disbelieve all
which they had heard and seen.” My brothers and sisters, is the
gospel still wonderful to you? Can you yet see, hear,
feel, and marvel? Or have your spiritual sensors
gone into standby mode? Whatever your
personal situation, I invite you to do three things. First, never tire of
discovering or rediscovering the truths of the gospel. The writer Marcel Proust said,
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in
seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Do you remember the first time
you read a verse of scripture and felt as if the Lord was
speaking to you personally? Can you recall
the first time you felt a sweet influence
of the Holy Ghost come over you, perhaps
before you even realized it was the Holy Ghost? Weren’t these sacred,
special moments? We should hunger
and thirst every day after special knowledge. This personal practice is
founded on study, meditation, and prayer. Sometimes we might
be tempted to think, “I don’t need to study
the scriptures today; I’ve read them all
before” or “I don’t need to go to church today;
there is nothing new there.” But the gospel is a fountain of
knowledge that never runs dry. There is always something new
to learn and feel each Sunday, in every meeting, and in
every verse of scripture. In faith we hold to the
promise that if we “seek, . . . [we] shall find.” Second, anchor your faith in
the plain and simple truths of the gospel. Our amazement should be
rooted in the core principles of our faith, in the purity of
our covenants and ordinances, and in our most simple
acts of worship. A sister missionary
told the story of three men she met during a
district conference in Africa. They came from an
isolated village far away in the bush where
the Church had not yet been organized but where
there were 15 faithful members and almost 20 investigators. For over two weeks these
men had walked on foot, traveling more than 300 miles
over paths rendered muddy by the rainy season, so they
could attend the conference and bring the tithes from
the members of their group. They planned to stay
for an entire week so they could enjoy the
privilege of partaking of the sacrament
the following Sunday and then hoped to set out on
the return trip carrying boxes filled with copies
of the Book of Mormon on their heads to give to
the people of their village. The missionary
testified how touched she was by the sense of wonder
these brethren displayed and by their
wholehearted sacrifices to obtain things that
for her had always been readily available. She wondered, “If I got up
one Sunday morning in Arizona and found that my
car wasn’t working, would I walk to my church only
a few blocks away from home? Or would I just stay home
because it was too far or because it was raining?” These are good questions
for all of us to consider. Finally, I invite you
to seek and cherish the companionship
of the Holy Ghost. Most wonders of the
gospel cannot be perceived by our natural senses. They are the things that
the “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, . . . the things which
God hath prepared for them that love him.” When we have the Spirit with
us, our spiritual senses are sharpened and our memory is
kindled so we cannot forget the miracles and signs
we have witnessed. That is why, knowing Jesus
was about to leave them, His Nephite disciples
prayed fervently “for that which
they most desired; and they desired that the Holy
Ghost should be given unto them.” Although they had seen the
Savior with their own eyes and had touched His wounds
with their own hands, they knew that their
testimonies might dwindle without being
constantly renewed by the power of
the Spirit of God. My brothers and sisters, never
do anything to risk the loss of this precious and marvelous
gift–the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Seek it through fervent
prayer and righteous living. I testify that the work
in which we are engaged is “a marvelous
work and a wonder.” As we follow Jesus Christ,
God bears witness to us, “with signs and wonders,
and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost,
according to his own will.” On this special day, I bear
witness that the wonders and marvels of the gospel are
anchored in the greatest of all of God’s gifts–the
Savior’s Atonement. This is the perfect gift of love
that the Father and the Son, united in purpose, have
offered to each one of us. With you “I stand all amazed at
the love Jesus offers me. . . . Oh, it is wonderful,
wonderful to me!” That we may always have eyes
that see, ears that hear, and hearts that
perceive the wonders of this marvelous
gospel is my prayer, in the name of
Jesus Christ, amen. The Savior Jesus Christ spent
His earthly ministry teaching of His healing and
redemptive power. On one occasion in Luke chapter
15 in the New Testament, He was actually criticized
for eating and spending time with sinners. The Savior used this
criticism as an opportunity to teach us all how
to respond to those who have lost their way. He replied to His
critics by asking them two important questions:
“What man of you, having an hundred sheep,
if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety
and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is
lost, until he find it?” “What woman having ten pieces of
silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle,
and sweep the house, and seek diligently
till she find it?” The Savior then teaches the
parable of the prodigal son. This parable isn’t about 100
sheep or 10 pieces of silver; it is about one precious
son who is lost. Through the parable,
what does the Savior teach us about how to respond
when a family member loses his or her way? The prodigal son
informs his father that he wants his
inheritance now. He wants to leave the safety
of his home and his family and seek after worldly pursuits. Please note that in
the Savior’s parable the father lovingly responds by
giving the son his inheritance and letting him go. Certainly the father
must have done everything he could to
convince the son to stay. However, once the adult
son makes his choice, the wise father lets him go. The father then
demonstrates sincere love, and he watches and he waits. My family had a
similar experience. My two faithful brothers,
wonderful sister, and I were raised by
exemplary parents. We were taught the
gospel in our home, we successfully made it to
adulthood, and all four of us were sealed in the
temple to our spouses. However, in 1994
our sister, Susan, became disenchanted
with the Church and some of its teachings. She was persuaded
by those who mocked and criticized the early
leaders of the Church. She allowed her faith in
living prophets and apostles to diminish. Over time, her doubts
overcame her faith, and she chose to
leave the Church. Susan has given me permission
to share her story with the hope that it might help others. My brothers and I and our
widowed mother were devastated. We couldn’t imagine
what possibly could have led her to abandon her faith. My sister’s choices seemed to
be breaking our mother’s heart. My brothers and I had served as
bishops and quorum presidents, and we had experienced
the joy of success with ward and quorum members
as we left the ninety and nine and went after the one. However, with our sister,
our persistent efforts to rescue her and to
invite her back only pushed her further
and further away. As we sought heavenly guidance
as to how we might properly respond to her,
it became evident that we had to
follow the example of the father in the
parable of the prodigal son. Susan had made her choice, and
we had to figuratively let her go–but not without her knowing
and feeling our sincere love for her. And so, with renewed
love and kindness, we watched and we waited. My mother never stopped
loving and caring for Susan. Every time my mother
attended the temple, she placed Susan’s
name on the prayer roll and never lost hope. My older brother and his wife,
who lived closest to Susan in California, invited
her to all family events. They prepared dinner
in their home each year on Susan’s birthday. They made sure they were
always in touch with her and that she knew of their
genuine love for her. My younger brother and his wife
reached out to Susan’s children in Utah and cared for
them and loved them. They made sure that her
children were always invited to family gatherings,
and when it came time for Susan’s granddaughter
to be baptized, my brother was there to
perform the ordinance. Susan also had
loving home teachers and visiting teachers
who never gave up. As our children went on
missions and were married, Susan was invited and attended
those family celebrations. We tried diligently to
create family events so that Susan and her
children could be with us and they would know
that we loved them and that they were
part of our family. As Susan received an advanced
degree at a California university, we were all there to
support her at her graduation. Although we could not
embrace all of her choices, we could certainly embrace her. We loved, we watched,
and we waited. In 2006, after 12
years had passed since Susan left the
Church, our daughter Katy moved with her
husband to California so he could attend law school. They were in the
same city as Susan. This young couple
looked to their aunt Susan for help and support,
and they loved her. Susan helped care for our
two-year-old granddaughter, Lucy, and Susan
found herself helping Lucy with her nightly prayers. Katy called me one day
and asked if I ever thought Susan would
come back to the Church. I assured her that
I felt she would and that we needed to
continue to be patient. As another three years
passed, with continued love, we watched and we waited. Six years ago this weekend
my wife, Marcia, and I were sitting on the front row
of this Conference Center. I was to be sustained as a new
General Authority that day. Marcia, who is always in
touch with the Spirit, had written a note
to me that read, “I think it is time for
Susan to come back.” My daughter Katy suggested
that I leave and call Susan to invite her to watch
general conference that day. Prompted by these two great
women, I walked to the foyer and called my sister. I got her voice mail
and simply invited her to watch that session
of general conference. She got the message. To our delight, she
felt impressed to watch all the sessions of conference. She heard from
prophets and apostles she had loved in earlier years. She found new names she
had not heard before, like President Uchtdorf
and Elders Bednar, Cook, Christofferson, and Andersen. During this and other unique
heaven-sent experiences, my sister–like the prodigal
son–came to herself. The words of
prophets and apostles and the love of her family
moved her to turn and begin the walk back home. After 15 years our daughter
and sister who was lost had been found. The watch and the
wait were over. Susan describes this experience
just as Lehi described it in the Book of Mormon. She let go of the iron
rod and found herself in a mist of darkness. She states that she
did not know she was lost until her
faith was reawakened by the Light of Christ,
which brightly magnified the stark contrast between
what she was experiencing in the world and what the Lord
and her family were offering. A miracle has occurred
over the past six years. Susan has a renewed testimony
of the Book of Mormon. She has received her
temple recommend. She has served as an ordinance
worker in the temple, and she currently teaches
the Gospel Doctrine class in her ward. The windows of
heaven have opened to her and her grandchildren,
and although there have been difficult
consequences, it feels as if she never left. Some of you, like
the Nielson family, have family members who have
temporarily lost their way. The Savior’s instruction
to all who have 100 sheep is to leave the ninety and
nine and go after and rescue the one. His instruction to those
who have 10 pieces of silver and lose one is to
search until you find it. But when the lost one is
your son or your daughter, your brother or your sister, and
he or she has chosen to leave, we learned in our family
that, after all we can do, we love that person
with all of our hearts and we watch, we pray, and
we wait for the Lord’s hand to be revealed. Perhaps the most
important lesson the Lord taught me
through this process happened during our
family scripture study after my sister left the Church. Our son David was reading as
we studied together Luke 15. As he read the parable
of the prodigal son, I heard it differently
that day than I had ever heard it before. For some reason, I
had always related to the son who stayed home. As David read that morning,
I realized that in some ways I was the prodigal son. All of us fall short of
the glory of the Father. All of us need the Savior’s
Atonement to heal us. All of us are lost
and need to be found. This revelation
that day helped me know that my sister and I
both needed the Savior’s love and His Atonement. Susan and I were actually
on the same path back home. The Savior’s words in the
parable as He describes the father greeting his
prodigal son are powerful, and I believe may be the
description of the experience you and I will have
with the Father when we return to
our heavenly home. They teach us of a father who
loves, waits, and watches. These are the words
of the Savior: “When he was yet
a great way off, his father saw him, and
had compassion, and ran, and fell on his
neck, and kissed him. May you and I receive
the revelation to know how to best approach
those in our lives who are lost and, when necessary,
to have the patience and love of our Father in
Heaven and His Son as we love, watch, and wait
for the prodigal. In the name of
Jesus Christ, amen. Thank you, Elder Nielson, for
the remarkably personal candor of that remarkable counsel. Without safety
ropes, or harnesses, or climbing gear of any kind,
two brothers–Jimmy, age 14, and John, age 19–(though
those are not their real names) attempted to scale a sheer
canyon wall in Snow Canyon State Park in my
native Southern Utah. Near the top of their
laborious climb, they discovered that a
protruding ledge denied them their final few feet of ascent. They could not get over
it but neither could they now retreat from it. They were stranded. After careful maneuvering,
John, the older, found enough footing to boost
his younger brother to safety on the top of the ledge. But there was no
way to lift himself. The more he strained to find
finger or foot leverage, the more his muscles
began to cramp. Panic started to
sweep over him, and he began to fear for his life. Unable to hold on
much longer, John decided his only
option was to try to jump vertically
in an effort to grab the top of the
overhanging ledge. If successful he might, by
his considerable arm strength, pull himself to safety. In his own words, he
said: “Prior to my jump I told Jimmy to go search for
a tree branch strong enough to extend down to
me, although I knew there was nothing of the
kind on that rocky summit. It was only a desperate ruse. If my jump failed,
the least I could do was make certain my
little brother did not see me falling to my death. Giving him enough time
to be out of sight, I said my last prayer–that
I wanted my family to know I loved them and that Jimmy could
make it home safely on his own–then I leapt. There was enough
adrenaline in my spring that the jump extended my
arms above the ledge almost to my elbows. But as I slapped my hands
down on the surface, I felt nothing–nothing but
loose sand on flat stone. I can still remember the
gritty sensation,” he says, “of hanging there with
nothing to hold on to–no lip, no ridge, nothing
to grab or grasp. I felt my fingers
begin to recede slowly over the sandy surface. I knew my life was over. But then suddenly, like a
lightning strike in a summer storm, two hands shot
out from somewhere above the edge of the
cliff, grabbing my wrists with a strength and
a determination that belied their size. My faithful little
brother had not gone looking for any
fictitious tree branch. Guessing exactly what
I was planning to do, he had never moved an inch. He had simply waited–silently,
almost breathlessly–knowing full well I would be foolish
enough to try to make that jump. When I did he grabbed me. He held me, and he
refused to let me fall. Those strong brotherly
arms saved my life that day as I dangled helplessly
above what surely would have been certain death.” My beloved brothers and
sisters, today is Easter Sunday. Although we should
always remember (we promise in our
weekly sacramental prayer that we will),
nevertheless this is the most sacred day of the
year for special remembrance of brotherly hands
and determined arms that reached into
the very abyss of death to save us from our fallings and
our failings, from our sorrows, and from our sins. Against the background of this
story reported to me by John’s and Jimmy’s family, I express
my gratitude for the Atonement and Resurrection of
the Lord Jesus Christ and acknowledge events
in the divine plan of God that led up to and give
meaning to the “love Jesus offers [us].” In our increasingly
secular society, it is as uncommon as it
is unfashionable to speak of Adam and Eve, or the Garden
of Eden, or a “fortunate fall” into mortality. Nevertheless the simple truth is
that we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement and Resurrection
of Christ and we will not adequately appreciate the unique
purpose of His birth or His death–in other words there
is no way to truly celebrate Christmas or Easter–without
understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell
from an actual Eden with all the consequences that
Fall carried with it. I do not know the details of
what happened on this planet before that, but I do know
these two were created under the divine hand
of God, that for a time they lived alone in a
paradisiacal setting where there was neither human
death nor future family, and that through a
sequence of choices they transgressed a commandment
of God which required that they leave their garden
setting but which allowed them to have children
before facing physical death. To add further
sorrow and complexity to their circumstance,
their transgression had spiritual
consequences as well, cutting them off from the
presence of God forever. Because we were then born
into that fallen world and because we too would
transgress the laws of God, we also were sentenced
to the same penalties that Adam and Eve faced. What a plight! The entire human race in
free fall–every man, woman, and child in it physically
tumbling toward permanent death, spiritually plunging
toward eternal anguish. Is that what life
was meant to be? Is this the grand finale
of the human experience? Are we all just hanging
in a cold canyon somewhere in an indifferent universe, each
of us searching for a toehold, each of us seeking
for something to help, something to grip–with nothing
but the feeling of sand sliding under our fingers
nothing to save us, nothing to hold on to, much
less anything to hold on to us? Is our only purpose in
life an empty existential exercise–simply to
leap as high as we can, hang on for our prescribed
three score years and ten, and then fail and fall,
and keep falling forever? The answer to those
questions is an unequivocal and eternal “No!” With prophets
ancient and modern I testify that “all things have
been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.” Thus, from the moment those
first parents stepped out of the Garden of Eden, the
God and Father of us all, anticipating Adam
and Eve’s decision, dispatched the very angels of
heaven to declare to them–and down through time to us–that
the entire sequence was designed for our
eternal happiness. It was part of His
divine plan which provided for a Savior, the
very Son of God Himself, another “Adam” the Apostle
Paul would call Him, who would come in
the meridian of time to atone for the first
Adam’s transgression. That Atonement would
achieve complete victory over physical death,
unconditionally granting resurrection to every
person who has been born or ever will be born
into this world. Mercifully it would
also provide forgiveness for the personal
sins of all from Adam to the end of the
world, conditioned upon repentance and obedience
to divine commandments. As one of His
ordained witnesses, I declare this Easter morning
that Jesus of Nazareth was and is that
Savior of the world, the “last Adam,” the
Author and Finisher of our faith, the Alpha
and Omega of eternal life. “For as in Adam, all
die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” And from the
Prophet-Patriarch Lehi: “Adam fell that
men might be. . . . And the Messiah cometh
in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the
children of men from the fall.” Most thoroughly of all, the Book
of Mormon prophet Jacob taught as part of a two-day sermon on
the Atonement of Jesus Christ that “the resurrection
must . . . come . . . by reason of the fall.” So today we celebrate the gift
of victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every
sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement
we have ever had, every fear we have ever
faced–to say nothing of resurrection from death
and forgiveness for our sins. That victory is available
to us because of events that transpired on
a weekend precisely like this more than two
millennia ago in Jerusalem. Beginning in the
spiritual anguish of the Garden of Gethsemane,
moving to the Crucifixion on a cross at Calvary,
and concluding on a beautiful Sunday morning
inside a donated tomb, a sinless, pure and holy man,
the very Son of God Himself, did what no other deceased
person had ever done nor ever could do. Under His own power He
rose from death, never to have His body separated
from His spirit again. Of His own volition He
shed the burial linen with which He had been bound,
carefully putting the burial napkin that had been placed
over His face in “a place by itself,” the scripture says. That first Easter sequence
of Atonement and Resurrection constitutes the most
consequential moment, the most generous gift,
the most excruciating pain, and the most majestic
manifestation of pure love ever to be demonstrated in
the history of this world. Jesus Christ, the Only
Begotten Son of God, suffered, died, and
rose from death in order that He could, like the
lightning in a summer storm, grasp us as we fell,
held us with His might, and through our obedience
to His commandments, lift us to eternal life. This Easter I thank Him
and the Father who gave Him to us that Jesus still
stands triumphant over death, although He stands
on wounded feet. This Easter I thank Him
and the Father who gave Him to us that He still extends
unending grace, although He extends it with pierced
palms and scarred wrists. This Easter I thank Him
and the Father who gave Him to us that we can sing before
a sweat-stained garden, a nail-driven cross, and
a gloriously empty tomb: “How great, how
glorious, how complete, redemption’s grand
design, where justice, love, and mercy meet
in harmony divine!” In the sacred name of the
resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, amen. [MUSIC – “JESUS HAS RISEN”] (SINGING) Jesus has
risen, Jesus, our friend. Joy fills our hearts;
he lives again. Praises we sing to
him, this Easter-time. Jesus has risen, Savior divine. Jesus has risen, Savior divine! Jesus has risen, Jesus is love. Joy fills our hearts;
he reigns above. Praises we sing to
him, this Easter-time. Jesus has risen, Savior divine. Jesus has risen, Savior divine. Jesus has risen, Jesus our King. Joy fills our hearts;
hosannas ring. Praises we sing to
him, this Easter-time. Jesus has risen, Savior divine. Jesus has risen, Savior divine. Savior divine. We are grateful to
the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for the
beautiful music they have provided this morning. Our concluding speaker
for this session will be President Dieter F.
Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency. Following his remarks, the
choir will close this meeting by singing “Christ the
Lord Is Risen Today.” The benediction will then
be offered by Elder Kevin S. Hamilton of the Seventy. President Monson, thank
you for announcing those three new temples in
such marvelous locations. President, we love and sustain
you with all our hearts. And our dear brothers and
sisters, dear friends, please have a wonderful
and happy Easter Sunday, all of you. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate. We celebrate the most
long-awaited and glorious event in the history of the world. It is the day that
changed everything. On that day my life changed. Your life changed. The destiny of all
God’s children changed. On that blessed day
the Savior of mankind, who had taken upon Himself
the chains of sin and death that held us captive, burst
those chains and set us free. Because of the sacrifice
of our beloved Redeemer, “death [has] no sting,” “the
grave [has] no victory,” Satan has no lasting power,
and we are “begotten . . . again unto a lively hope by the
resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Truly the Apostle
Paul was correct when he said we can “comfort
one another, with these words.” We often speak of the Savior’s
Atonement–and rightly so! In Jacob’s words, “Why not speak
of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect
knowledge of him?” But as we “talk of Christ, .
. . rejoice in Christ, . . . preach of Christ, [and]
prophesy of Christ” at every opportunity, we must
never lose our sense of awe and profound gratitude
for the eternal sacrifice of the Son of God. The Savior’s Atonement
cannot become commonplace in our teaching, our
conversation, or in our hearts. It is sacred and
it is holy, for it was through this “great
and last sacrifice” that Jesus the Christ brought
“salvation to all those who shall believe in his name.” I marvel to think
that the Son of God would condescend to save
us, as imperfect, impure, mistake-prone, and
ungrateful as we often are. I have tried to understand
the Savior’s Atonement with my finite mind,
and the only explanation I can come up with is that God
loves us deeply, perfectly, and everlastingly. I cannot even begin to estimate
the “breadth, and length, and depth, and height . . . [of] the love of Christ.” A powerful expression
of that love is what the
scriptures often call the grace of God, the divine
assistance and endowment of strength by which we grow
from the flawed and limited beings we are now into exalted
beings of “truth and light, until [we are] glorified in
truth and [know] all things.” It is a most wondrous
thing, this grace of God. Yet it is often misunderstood. Even so, we should
know about God’s grace if we intend to inherit
what has been prepared for us in His eternal kingdom. To that end I would like to
speak of grace–in particular, first, how grace unlocks the
gates of heaven, and second, how it opens the
windows of heaven. First: grace unlocks
the gates of heaven. Because we have all “sinned, and
come short of the glory of God” and because “there cannot
any unclean thing enter in the kingdom of God,” every
one of us is unworthy to return to God’s presence. Even if we were to serve
God with our whole souls, it is not enough,
for we would still be “unprofitable servants.” We cannot earn our
way into heaven; the demands of justice
stand as a barrier, which we are powerless
to overcome on our own. But all is not lost. The grace of God is our
great and everlasting hope. Through the sacrifice
of Jesus Christ, the plan of mercy “appease”appease[s]
the demands of justice” “and [brings] about means unto
men that they may have faith unto repentance.” Our sins, though they
may “be as scarlet,” can become “white as snow.” Because our beloved Savior
“gave himself a ransom for all,” an entrance into His everlasting
kingdom is provided unto us. The gate is unlocked! But the grace of God does
not merely restore us to our previous innocent state. If salvation means only
erasing our mistakes and sins, then salvation–as wonderful
as it is–does not fulfill the Father’s aspirations for us. His aim is much higher: He
wants His sons and daughters to become like Him. With the gift of God’s grace,
the path of discipleship does not lead backward;
it leads upward. It leads to heights we
can scarcely comprehend! It leads to exaltation
in the celestial kingdom of our Heavenly
Father, where we, surrounded by our loved ones,
receive “of his fulness, and of his glory.” All things are ours,
and we are Christ’s. Indeed, “all that [the] Father
hath shall be given unto [us].” To inherit this glory, we need
more than an unlocked gate; we must enter through this gate
with a heart’s desire to be changed–a change so dramatic
that the scriptures describe it as being “born again;
yea, born of God, changed from [our worldly]
and fallen state, to a state of righteousness,
being redeemed of God, becoming his sons
and daughters.” Second: grace opens
the windows of heaven. Another element of God’s
grace is the opening up the windows of heaven, through
which God pours out blessings of power and
strength, enabling us to achieve things that otherwise
would be far beyond our reach. It is by God’s amazing grace
that His children can overcome the undercurrents and
quicksands of the deceiver, rise above sin, and are
“perfect”perfect[ed] in Christ.” Though we all have weaknesses,
we can overcome them. Indeed, it is by
the grace of God that, if we humble
ourselves and have faith, weak things can become strong. Throughout our lives God’s
grace bestows temporal blessings and spiritual gifts that
magnify our abilities and enrich our lives. His grace refines us. His grace helps us
become our best selves. In the Bible we read
of Christ’s visit to the home of
Simon the Pharisee. Outwardly Simon seemed to
be a good and upright man. He regularly checked
off his to-do list of religious obligations: he
kept the law, paid his tithing, observed the Sabbath,
prayed daily, and went to the synagogue. But while Jesus was
with Simon, a woman approached, washed the
Savior’s feet with her tears, and anointed His
feet with fine oil. Simon was not pleased with
this display of worship, for he knew that this
woman was a sinner. Simon thought if
Jesus didn’t know this He must not be a
prophet, or He would not have let the woman touch Him. Perceiving his thoughts,
Jesus turned to Simon and asked a question. “There was a certain creditor
which had two debtors. The one owed five hundred
pence, and the other fifty. And when they both
had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of
them will love him most?” Simon answered that it was the
one who was forgiven the most. Then Jesus taught a profound
lesson: “Seest thou this woman? . . . Her sins, which are
many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to
whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” Which of these two
people are we most like? Are we like Simon? Are we confident and comfortable
in our good deeds, trusting in our own righteousness? Are we perhaps a
little impatient with those who are not
living up to our standards? Are we on autopilot,
going through the motions, attending our meetings, yawning
through Gospel Doctrine class, and perhaps checking
our cell phones during sacrament service? Or are we like this
woman, who thought she was completely and hopelessly
lost because of sin? Do we love much? Do we understand our
indebtedness to Heavenly Father and plead with all our
souls for the grace of God? When we kneel to pray, is
it to replay the greatest hits of our own righteousness,
or is it to confess our faults, plead for God’s mercy, and
shed tears of gratitude for the amazing
plan of redemption? Salvation cannot be bought
with the currency of obedience; it is purchased by the
blood of the Son of God. Thinking that we can trade
our good works for salvation is like buying a
plane ticket and then supposing we own the airline. Or thinking that after
paying rent for our home, we now hold title to
the entire planet earth. If grace is a gift
of God, why then is obedience to God’s
commandments so important? Why bother with God’s
commandments–or repentance, for that matter? Why not just admit we are
sinful and let God save us? Or, to put the question
in Paul’s words, “Shall we continue in sin,
that grace may abound?” Paul’s answer is simple
and clear: “God forbid.” Brothers and sisters,
we obey the commandments of God out of love for Him! Trying to understand
God’s gift of grace with all our heart and
mind gives us all the more reasons to love and
obey our Heavenly Father with meekness and gratitude. As we walk the path of
discipleship, it refines us, it improves us, it helps
us to become more like Him, and it leads us back
to His presence. “The Spirit of the
Lord [our God]” brings about such “a
mighty change in us . . . that we have no more
disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” Therefore, our obedience
to God’s commandments comes as a natural outgrowth of
our endless love and gratitude for the goodness of God. This form of genuine
love and gratitude will miraculously merge
our works with God’s grace. “Virtue [will] garnish [our]
thoughts unceasingly [and our] confidence [will] wax strong
in the presence of God.” Dear brothers and sisters,
living the gospel faithfully is not a burden. It is a joyful rehearsal–a
preparation for inheriting the grand glory
of the eternities. We seek to obey
our Heavenly Father because our spirits
will become more attuned to spiritual things. Vistas are opened that
we never knew existed. Enlightenment and
understanding come to us when we do the
will of the Father. Grace is a gift of
God, and our desire to be obedient to each
of God’s commandments is the reaching out
of our mortal hands to receive this sacred gift
from our Heavenly Father. The prophet Nephi made
an important contribution to our understanding of
God’s grace when he declared, “We labor diligently . . . to persuade our children,
and also our brethren, and to believe in Christ,
and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace
that we are saved after all we can do.” However, I wonder if sometimes
we misinterpret the phrase “after all we can do.” We must understand that “after”
does not equal “because.” We are not saved “because”
of all that we can do. Have any of us done
all that we can do? Does God wait until we
have expended every effort before He will intervene in our
lives with His saving grace? Many people feel discouraged
because they constantly fall short. They know firsthand that “the
spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” They raise their
voices with Nephi in proclaiming,
“My soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.” I am certain Nephi knew
the Savior’s grace allows and enables us to overcome sin. This is why Nephi labored
so diligently to persuade his children and brethren
“to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God.” After all, that
is what we can do! And that is our
task in mortality! When I think of what the
Savior did for us leading up to that first Easter
Sunday, I want to lift up my voice and shout
praises to the Most High God and His Son, Jesus Christ! The gates of heaven
are unlocked! The windows of
heaven are opened! Today and forevermore
God’s grace is available to all
whose hearts are broken and whose spirits are contrite. Jesus Christ has cleared the
way for us to ascend to heights incomprehensible
to mortal minds. I pray that we will see with
new eyes and a new heart the eternal significance of
the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. I pray that we will show our
love for God and our gratitude for the gift of God’s
infinite grace by keeping His commandments and joyfully
“walk”walk[ing] in [a] newness of life,” in the sacred name of
our Master and Redeemer, in the name of
TODAY”] (SINGING) Christ the Lord
is ris’n today, Alleluia! Sons of men and
angels say, Alleluia! Raise your joys and
triumphs high, Alleluia! Sing, ye heav’ns, and
earth reply, Alleluia! Love’s redeeming work
is done, Alleluia! Fought the fight, the
vict’ry won, Alleluia! Jesus’ agony is o’er, Alleluia! Darkness veils the
earth no more, Alleluia! Lives again our
glorious King, Alleluia! Where, O death,
is now thy sting? Alleluia! Once he died our souls
to save, Alleluia! Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen. Our beloved Heavenly
Father, it is with awe and a profound
sense of gratitude that we come to the
conclusion of this session of general conference
on this Easter Sunday. We thank Thee for Thy Son,
our Savior and Redeemer. We thank Thee that
because of Him we have hope, that because of Him
we can be cleansed and renewed. We are grateful,
Father, for prophets and for those general
officers of the Church who have spoken to us today. Wilt Thou please bless
us with greater faith. Help us to know Thy will. Help us to be true and faithful. Help us to go
forward and do that which we have felt and heard. We are so grateful
for all that we have, for the great membership
that we enjoy in Thy Church. And we say this in the name of
Jesus Christ, our Savior, amen. This has been a broadcast
of the 185th Annual General Conference of The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. Speakers were selected from
the General Authorities and general officers
of the Church. Music was provided by the
Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This broadcast has been
furnished as a public service by Bonneville Distribution. Any reproduction,
recording, transcription, or other use of this program
without written consent is prohibited.

4 Replies to “Sunday Morning Session”

  1. I am moved by this true message. Our loving heavenly Father loves us and is ever ready to bless as we choose aright. He will never force or compel. As we exercise faith we invite the Heavens to come to our aid in times of need. And in good times to deepen our joy.

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