Thank you choir for the beautiful music. I would also like to say thank you, Tanner, for the prelude music today.
It is wonderful to be with you brother and sisters.
It’s an honor to especially join you in this wonderful pioneer hall. I appreciate that you are here because of your desire to do God’s will in your life, and I humbly join with President Russell M. Nelson who said, “Our Heavenly Father has reserved many of His most noble spirits—perhaps, I might say, His finest team—for this final phase [before the second coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ]. Those noble spirits—those finest players, those heroes—are you!” (Worldwide Youth Devotional, June 2018).
As I pondered and prayed about what to speak to you about today, my mind was taken to perhaps the most soul-piercing question in all of scripture when the Savior asked Peter, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15). This question is universal to all of us. I think Jesus was in part saying to Peter, “I know you profess my name, but do you bear my name?”
When I was a freshman student at BYU, I had a friend in my dorm by the name of Jack who was not a member of the Church. By the way, Elder Anderson was in my dorm with me, and he is going to be speaking to you in a couple of weeks too at devotional. We both taught and baptized our friend Jack. Jack and I often had long discussions about the gospel. One afternoon he opened up The Book of Mormon and read the following verse to me, “The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame” (Alma 40:23).
After reading this verse, Jack looked at me and asked, “Is this really true?”
I was caught a little off guard by this question. I actually had never pondered the reality of God’s life-perfecting resurrection. But in that moment through the Spirit I knew, as well as I knew anything, that those words were absolutely true and simply said, “It’s all true, Jack—every single word.” Jack then handed me a letter he had just received from his brother who was serving in Vietnam. In that letter his brother shared that both his legs had been blown off on the battlefield. A few months later my friend Jack, and later his brother, were both baptized.
As I reflect back on that day, I am reminded of the reality of how close our Heavenly Father is. He is not an absentee father; He never forsakes any one of us. Today I would just like to say to each of you the same thing I said to Jack, it’s all true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Church of our Savior and you are numbered and known by Him. Not one hair of your head will ever be lost to Him; within the restored gospel we can all find healing and deliverance. Because of Christ, any loss, any weakness, any struggle, and any addiction may be overcome. We can all be made whole through Him.
I invite you to let these words from our prophet, Russell M. Nelson, find a permanent place in your hearts: “In a coming day, you will present yourself before the Savior. You will be overwhelmed to the point of tears to be in His holy presence. You will struggle to find words to thank Him for paying for your sins, for forgiving you of any unkindness toward others, for healing you from the injuries and injustices of this life. You will thank Him for strengthening you to do the impossible, for turning your weaknesses into strengths, and for making it possible for you to live with Him and your family forever. His identity, His Atonement, and His attributes will become personal and real to you” (New Era, January 2018).
Do not let anyone or anything you have done ever keep you from God’s covenant path. However, I am keenly aware that for many, at this time in your lives, when you are immersed in academic pursuits, it is easy to become overwhelmed, it is easy to feel alone, it is easy to think that the only thing that matters is getting your degree so that you can get a job, and it is easy to let the world’s press and priorities become your priorities. It’s easy to be overly worried and concerned about marriage, about family. Seven months ago, President Nelson also said, “The adversary is quadrupling his efforts to disrupt testimonies and impede the work of the Lord. He is arming his minions with potent weapons to keep us from partaking of the joy and love of the Lord… The forces of evil have never raged more forcefully than they do today” (General Conference, April 2019). No one is immune from this attack.
Today I would like to speak to you about becoming more valiant in bearing the name of Christ and how to triumph against the adversary’s intensifying battle for your soul. To do this I would like to talk about first, the importance of hearing the voice of the Lord in your life above all other voices; and second, about the necessity of living the principles exemplified in Christ’s submission at Gethsemane.
Let me talk first about hearing His voice.
I have asked myself why we are told that Adam and Eve, after they were expelled from the Garden of Eden, chose to hearken only to counsel that came from the Lord or His chosen messengers (See Moses 5:4-8.) Few things are more clear than the one overarching lesson Adam and Eve learned in the Garden. That lesson is this: when you hearken to any voice except God’s, you are going to fall.
The command to hear the voice of Jesus Christ is the guiding instruction that opened the Restoration. In the Sacred Grove, after he had been physically and spiritually attacked by the adversary, Joseph was told, “This is my beloved Son, hear Him” (JS—History 1:17). Joseph was also immediately commanded that he was not to join any church at that time because they were teaching as doctrines the “commandments of men.”
Nephi warned, in The Book of Mormon, that the adversary looks to entice those who become learned and educated to set aside the counsel and voice of God. He wrote, “O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God for they set it aside supposing they know of themselves … to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Nephi 9:28-29).
As you continue in your studies be aware of the adversary’s cunning plan, examine how you are conducting your daily life by asking, “Am I hearing the voice of God, or am I hearkening to my own voice or the voice of man?” Remember this great principle and plant it in your hearts. That in hearkening to the voice of men, there is no salvation.
God taught Joseph Smith this very lesson early in his ministry after He taught it to him in the First Vision. Joseph began the translation of The Book of Mormon in Harmony, Pennsylvania. I was recently there with my wife. At Harmony, Joseph gave Martin the 116 pages and he allowed him to take the translated text to show to others, despite being counseled by the voice of God not to do that. As you are aware, Martin lost this transcript. Both he and Joseph were then severely chastised by the Lord. What did the Lord say to Joseph after the pages were lost? “Behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men. For, behold, you should have not feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words—Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble” (D&C 3:6).
As we hear and keep the counsels of God we are supported against the fiery darts of the adversary. The world will always challenge you to bow down before its voice. You will be asked and tempted to make the Sabbath a day of recreation, movies, and sports. You will be asked to join in drinks, inappropriate social events and conversations, and activities. Remember how King Nebuchadnezzar commanded everyone to worship his golden calf and how he threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego into a fiery furnace when they refused? They then found that when they walked with God, He walked with them as He joined them in the furnace and shielded them (see Daniel 3:25). What was true for these Israelite young adults will be true for you also.
As you prepare for your life’s service at this college, you will also find that you will save lives and souls as you learn to hear the voice of God in your life’s vocation. If you listen at school, at work, or at home, you will always be led to someone that needs a disciple’s hand and touch. You will be on His errand.
Two years ago, during a weekly administrative meeting in Tokyo, the name of a particular member family suddenly came to my mind. While I had never met this family, I was aware that they were struggling with a serious matter. A voice within me told me that I needed to reach out to them right away and arrangements were made to visit with them the next day. During the visit, I learned about the spiritual battle that had deeply wounded them and how they felt abandoned by the Church. But then they spoke about an experience from the day before as they traveled to the Fukuoka Japan Temple. And decided on the temple grounds, not knowing what else to do, to offer up a prayer and plead for the Lord to send someone who could help them. I asked them at what time they offered that prayer and discovered at the same time they offered that prayer was when the impression came to me to reach out to them.
We both knew in that moment this great reality: our Heavenly Father lives, He is in our midst, and when we turn to Him, He hears our pleas and will always bless and lift us. I know and am sure that if God can send a rescue message in English from a heartfelt remote prayer in Japanese, He has all power to lift you no matter your struggle. He will never forsake you.
“Hear Him!” are the guiding words of the Restoration (JS—History 1:17). Hear Him at school, in your studies, in your jobs, in your Church service. As you hear Him, you will be protected against the attacks of the adversary and you will become an instrument of God in blessing the lives of others.
Now let me just talk for a moment about living the principles exemplified in Christ’s submission at Gethsemane.
Several years ago, before I was called as a general authority, I had a business partner who was suffering from a challenging illness. He phoned me one afternoon and said that President Boyd K. Packer had just been to his home to give him a blessing. As President Packer was leaving, he said to him, “Don’t come back too fast from Gethsemane. Learn the lessons there.” My friend then asked me, “Bob, what do you think he meant by that?”
The Garden of Gethsemane was actually an olive tree orchard. The name—Gethsemane—means the place of the olive press. Here olives were harvested and then pressed for their oil by a huge crushing stone. Harvesters increased the pressure of the crush until all the fluid was drained from the olives.
It was in no way coincidental that Jesus chose the Garden of Gethsemane to take upon Himself our sins. The Garden was a symbol of what He came to earth to do—to voluntarily submit to the press of eternal justice that caused Him to bleed from every pore in order to redeem us from and to succor us in our imperfections that we might have eternal life. Scripture records that He did this so that “His bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that He may know according to the flesh how to succor His people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12). Christ “descended below all things”—including any sickness, infirmity, and even dark despair we might experience—in order that He might “comprehend all things, that He might be in all and through all things, the light of truth” (D&C 88:6). This unfathomable press of Gethsemane ultimately culminated in the His crucifixion at Calvary and triumphant resurrection at the garden tomb.
The Savior said in our day: “Behold the wounds which pierced my side and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet” (D&C 6:37). Ponder for a moment the challenges and circumstances of your life and the press of Gethsemane and the precious drops of blood shed for you. This first lesson of Gethsemane is primary: Because of Him, each of us can be healed and saved, and receive enduring, eternal joy and while we may experience trials and tribulation is mortality, we need not fear them.
There is, however, a second overarching lesson we must recognize and deeply internalize from the events of Gethsemane and Calvary: To receive God’s greatest blessings we will also need to become submissive to God’s will for our lives. This includes drinking from the Father’s bitter cup by being, in the words of scripture, “willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us]” (Mosiah 3:19). Elder Neal A. Maxwell testified, “If we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are most difficult for us to do” (A Time to Choose, 46). When asked by Elder Bednar about what lessons Elder Maxwell had learned from the leukemia that would eventually take his life, he said: “I have learned that not shrinking is more important than not suffering.”
When Christ entered the Garden of Gethsemane, He fell to the ground sore amazed at the task before Him. In our day, He said this of that moment in His mission: “Would that I might not drink the bitter cup and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:18-19).
Submission, repentance, and sacrifice is Christ’s message to us from the Garden.
Our greatest test will be to determine if we too will partake and finish the course God lays before us. This is the underlying requirement of the first and great commandment to love God. The love of God always includes repentance. Jesus, Himself, has said, “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I” (D&C 19:16-17).
When President Nelson has talked about the intensifying increase in the adversary’s attacks, He has also taught, “Repentance is the key to avoiding misery inflicted by traps of the adversary. The Lord does not expect perfection from us at this point in our eternal progression. But He does expect us to become increasingly pure. Daily repentance is the pathway to purity, and purity brings power. Personal purity can make us powerful tools in the hands of God. Our repentance—our purity—will empower us to help in the gathering of Israel…. We all need to repent. We need to get up off the couch, put down the remote, and wake up from our spiritual slumber. It is time to put on the full armor of God so we can engage in the most important work on earth. It is time to ‘thrust in [our] sickles, and reap with all [our] might, mind, and strength’” (General Conference, April 2019).
This message was also taught by the Lord directly to Martin Harris as this dispensation opened, and implicitly taught to all of us. Martin was an exceptional individual. He was willing to mortgage his entire farm to pay for the printing of The Book of Mormon. When the book came from the printers, he panicked because not enough copies were being sold to service his mortgage obligation. He became afraid he would lose his farm and asked Joseph for a new revelation. That revelation is Section 19 of the Doctrine and Covenants. What did the Lord say to Martin Harris? He said, “Thou shalt not covet thine own property… declare glad tidings… do[ing] it with all humility, trusting in me…” (see verses 13-30).
To Martin Harris, the person who encumbered his property for the building up of the kingdom, the Lord commanded him to repent and focus on what mattered most. What was true for Martin Harris will be true for you. This is what we too must do in our lives. We are to examine them, look at where we are spending our time and ask ourselves, “Are we more worried about our own or God’s work?” The young ruler who came to Christ professing to keep all the commandments was told that he needed to sell his possessions and give to the poor. He walked in sorrow, unwilling to submit (see Luke 18:21-24). God expects each of us to ask, “What lack I yet?” (Matthew 19:20) and then be willing to submit, partake and finish His work—not our work.
For some, your most important submission to God’s will might mean doing jobs and assignments you feel are beneath you. In 1861, when the Church needed a large quantity of rags to process in their paper mill, the First Presidency asked bishops to sponsor rag drives in their local wards and settlements here in Salt Lake. President Brigham Young called a loyal Church member who was a very successful business merchant, by the name of George Goddard, to go on a “rag mission” to gather rags for the paper mill. Brother Goddard wrote this in his journal: “[This calling] was a severe blow to my native pride. … After being known in the community for years as a merchant and auctioneer, and then to be seen on the streets going from door to door with a basket on one arm and an empty sack on the other, enquiring for rags at every house. Oh, what a change in the aspect of affairs. … When President Young made the proposition, the humiliating prospect almost stunned me, but a few moments’ reflection reminded me that I came to these valleys of the mountains from my native country, England, for the purpose of doing the will of my Heavenly Father, my time and means must be at His disposal. I, therefore, answered President Young in the affirmative” (quoted in Leonard J. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom , 115).
George Goddard served for three years on this mission and collected over 100,000 pounds of rags. What seemed menial in his eyes was essential to God. You are likely to find similar tests in your life’s journey. For some of you, it might simply mean not staying here in the United States and going back to your home countries to serve.
There is one other profound part of the submission to God’s will that is deeply rooted in service to others. The Book of Mormon records that Jesus laid “down his own life that he may draw all men unto him”—not just those who followed Him, but all men—for all are “privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden” (2 Nephi 26:24, 28). Jesus submitted to the Father’s will in Gethsemane in order to bless all mankind. Part of our submission to God’s will is that we also will love and serve all others, like He did.
In the gospel of Jesus Christ, it does not matter whether someone is rich or poor, black, brown, or white. It does not matter whether they are female or male, weak or strong, addicted or sober, introverted or extroverted, ADHD or bipolar, conservative or progressive. It does not matter whether they are our friends or our enemies, whether they are obedient or unruly. The Church of Jesus Christ is not just the church for those in Zion at the LDS Business College, it is the Church for all from Africa to Chuuk, from India to Iceland, for commandment keepers and commandment breakers throughout all the world. No one should pass us by unnoticed. We are to simply love one another with the pure love of Jesus Christ our Savior.
Years ago, during my freshman year in college, I invited a friend of mine to visit me at school. We became friends in high school. I wanted her to see and experience the Church and BYU firsthand. My time at BYU had changed my life, and I wanted to share this great joy. I arranged for her to stay in the women’s dorm on campus. During her visit, while she was having dinner with six other women in the dorm, one woman asked the others about a new minority on campus. Another responded, “How many do we have on campus now?” Then another said, “We better not say anything more because Heidi is from UCLA and they have lots there.”
That such a dialog took place on a Church-owned campus is deeply troubling. Everything I had been teaching my friend about our religion was undone in that dinner conversation. Our conversations and actions must transcend those of the world.
On the night of His Atonement, Jesus said twice, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). How did Jesus love? That night He washed the feet of one disciple who betrayed Him, of another who denied knowing Him, and of others who He awakened twice but who ultimately fell asleep in His most needed hour and imposing trial.
How we treat one another is a pre-eminent moral test.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said in Selma, Alabama in a sermon, “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true" (sermon delivered on March 8, 1965 in Selma, Alabama).
Unlike ever before, the adversary is attacking the teachings and mission of the Savior and any person who would follow Him. Because of the strength of this attack, many are falling or being silenced. Today you are being asked an incredible choice to make, whether you will take upon yourself the name of Jesus Christ or not. We boldly do this in part as we see and minister to all around us.
In the closing chapters of The Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni is allowed to see our day and then says to us, “Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? … Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?” (Mormon 8:38-39).
I often ask myself, “Am I willing to submit to God’s command to love as He loved?” A test for you and I is whether we will love God and wash the feet of our neighbor, as Jesus did; even the feet of the marginalized, the outcast or the wounded of this world—or whether we will fulfill Moroni’s vision of our day and not notice or dismiss those who are different, unsightly, or inconvenient to everything else we have going on. This test is very real and is implicit in Christ’s submission at Gethsemane.
May I share one last experience with you. Several years ago, I was in Orlando, Florida, visiting a father who was a Melchizedek priesthood holder that had not been at church for several years. As we met, I asked him why he had not been to church. He said it was because his sons played on elite hockey teams that required practices and games on Sunday. If I remember correctly, he said two of his sons had been on national championship teams and that his third son was just now starting to play on what he hoped would be another championship team. Now, I am sure that Heavenly Father has nothing against national championships, unless it takes us away from what God would have us become. I reminded the father that day that, as a priesthood holder, he was promised that if he magnified his oath and covenant, he would receive “all that [our] Father hath” (D&C 84: 48). I then asked him, “Is a national championship worth more than all the Father has?”
Now ask yourself, “Is there anything in my life that is worth more than all the blessings that the Father has?” Ask yourself the same question that the Savior asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Let the voice of God and His will have full sway in your heart. Examine yourself, repent, and love Him and become the instrument in His hands that He needs you to be.
Ammon said this to his brethren, “Behold my beloved brethren, we came into the wilderness… with the intent that we might save some few of [our brethren’s] souls. Now when our hearts were depressed and we were about to turn back, behold the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren … and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give you success” (Alma 26:26-27).
This is my testimony to you also. As we sung this morning, you are the hope of Israel. You are God’s finest team. You are here to become His instruments in blessing lives, in gathering His sons and daughters to His covenant path. In that journey you will need to bear His name powerfully; you will be attacked, your heart at times will feel dispirited. But as you hear His voice and submit to His will in whatever He feels necessary to inflict upon you, He will give you success.
I leave you my witness that you are known and loved of God; that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that He came into the world to be crucified for the world and to bear our sins and infirmities that all might receive the blessings of enduring eternal joy with Him. His is a joy that, according to the scriptures, exceeds in magnitude the treasures of this world and which has a depth and breadth that is yet to be fully conceived by the heart of man (see D&C 19: 39; also D&C 76:10). This is your time. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Church that will be delivered to the Savior at His second coming. The Savior has proclaimed: “[You] may forget [me], yet I will not forget thee. Behold, I have engraven thee upon the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16). Of these truths I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.