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Devotionals

Elder Ulisses Soares

By December 11, 2019
Elder Ulisses Soares was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on March 31, 2018. He had been serving as a General Authority Seventy since April 2, 2005 and was named a member of the Presidency of the Seventy on January 6, 2013. He served previously as a counselor in the Africa Southeast Area, President of the Brazil Area and as a counselor in the Brazil South Area.

Quotes


Good morning, my dear friends. I am so thrilled for the assignment to speak to you this morning. I bring greetings and love from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to all of you. They are aware that I am with you today and they asked me to express their best wishes and love to all of you. They truly love you and pray for you constantly, more than you can imagine. I can assure you that you are always on their minds and in their hearts.   

My wife and I are very impressed by what you are doing here, your backgrounds, and your dedication in pursuing an education at this wonderful school. We know it has not been easy. We applaud your determination to attend school where you learn “by study and also by faith.”  We are grateful for the service of President and Sister Kusch. They are great friends of ours, we love them. They speak highly of you as students. 

A few weeks ago, I had a very interesting experience. I had as assignment in a location where I had never been before. I got my GPS, input my destination address and started following the directions. As I was approaching the destination, the GPS started giving me directions that seemed a little odd. I then decided to turn the GPS off because I thought I could find my destination myself. I soon realized that I was going in the wrong direction. Without the guidance of my GPS, I got lost and could not find my destination as I thought I could. I then stopped and turned the GPS on again and restarted following its directions. Fortunately, I repented on time and was able to reroute my direction. This time I followed each direction I received from my GPS. Eventually, I found my way, and I was able to worship with the members of the Church and enjoy the Spirit of the Lord in that special meeting and assignment I had.  

This little experience reminded me of God’s mercy for us, His children. He sent us here for this mortal experience with the purpose of getting us to our final destination, but He did not leave us without direction. Metaphorically speaking, God has provided various spiritual GPSs for us so we can walk through this mortal life and get to our final destination, which is to live with Him and His son Jesus Christ. Unlike GPSs that we have here on earth that sometimes do fail us, the spiritual GPSs He provides us are unfailing and have a 100% guarantee of getting us safely to our destination.  

One of the spiritual GPSs that God has made available for us is the teachings of Jesus Christ as revealed to His ancient and modern prophets. One of the glorious messages of the Restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that God continues to speak to His children as He did in ancient times! Thanks to Joseph Smith’s prayer, the heavens were opened again, and prophets of God have been called in this dispensation to guide and lead His children on earth.  

This year, as you know, we celebrate the bicentennial of this majestic event that initiated the Restoration of the Lord’s gospel—an unfolding Restoration that continues today, like President Nelson says. One of the signs of the restored Church of Jesus Christ on earth is continuing revelation through prophetic guidance. It distinguishes us from many other religious movements. We, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believe in both ancient and modern revelation and prophecy. We are blessed to be led by the Savior through these inspired men, called to speak for the Lord in our day, as did Moses, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, Nephi, Mormon, and many other prophets of the scriptures in their days.  

We sustain the President of the Church as a prophet, seer, and revelator—the only person on the Earth who receives revelation from the heavens to guide the entire Church and provides direction on how to live and how to qualify to return to our Heavenly Father’s presence. We also sustain the counselors in the First Presidency and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators.  

Like the prophets of old, prophets today testify of Jesus Christ and teach His gospel. A Christ-centered Church relies on a prophetic foundation to bless God’s children in all times—but especially in times of adversity or danger like we are living in today; times when we might feel like children, confused or disoriented, and sometimes, perhaps a little fearful.  

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are commissioned by God to be “Special Witnesses” of Christ and have been given authority, through priesthood keys, to be those witnesses of Him. You need to know that we love Him and we want the whole world to know the joy that comes from following Him.  

As a prophet and president of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, President Nelson is in a critical position to bear a powerful witness of Jesus Christ and guide the Church today as he seeks to bring Him to all of the world. Many of you have felt the power of such a unique call as you have served as missionaries, ministering sisters and brothers, teachers, and in other callings where you helped people know the importance of Jesus Christ in their life. 

From ancient and modern times, these shepherds form the foundation of the true Church, positioned around and gaining their strength from the chief cornerstone, “the rock of our Redeemer, who is [Jesus] Christ, the Son of God.” According to Paul’s teachings, Jesus Christ is the great “Apostle and High Priest of our profession.”i  

Such a foundation in Christ was and is always to be a protection in our days “when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds… when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you.”ii In such days as we are now in—and will more or less always be in—the storms of life “shall have no power over you . . . because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”iii 

We can always trust the goodness and intentions of the living prophets. The Lord Himself declared: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”iv  One passage in Second Chronicles that really impresses reads: “Believe in the Lord your God so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.”v  Through declarations like these, the Lord is assuring us that God desires that all of His children listen to and heed His voice. His prophets are dedicated to helping us build our faith in Jesus Christ.  Much of what the Lord reveals to His prophets is intended to prevent sorrow for us as individuals and as societies.  

My dear friends, in less than three months, the Lord will speak again to us through His living prophets in the upcoming April general conference. Our greatest safety lies in following the words of the Lord as revealed to His prophets, especially in a world that is getting more confusing, like ours. Mortal life is full of distractions and detours, especially in these latter days. We are surrounded by all kinds of modern-day social pressures, loud voices and social media opinions that encourage us to turn off our spiritual GPS and look for guidance elsewhere or blaze our own trail. We put ourselves in spiritual danger when we trust only our own wisdom and turn off this spiritual GPS. Therefore, following the words of the Lord and His prophets is not only an issue of convenience, but more importantly, it is a question of spiritual survival. In addressing the whole Church two years ago, President Nelson declared: “The Lord always has and always will instruct and inspire His prophets. The Lord is at the helm!” What a blessing. “We who have been ordained to bear witness of His holy name throughout the world will continue to seek to know His will and follow it.”vi    

The Lord promises great blessings to those who listen to His words, including what comes through His prophets. For example, we read the following in Section 21 of Doctrine and Covenants: “Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith. For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.”vii On the other hand, my dear friends, the Lord also warns that those who ignore the words of the living prophets, they will fall.viii  

Beginning at a very young age, I have always tried to mirror the teachings of the prophets of our day in my life. Following their teachings has had a tremendous impact on me. President Spencer W. Kimball was God’s prophet at the time I returned from my mission and his teachings influenced many of my decisions regarding education, marriage, and career as I was trying to direct my life according to the Lord’s will. Besides being an apostle and a prophet of God, President Kimball was also a mighty man and had an incredible life. He was a successful businessman, a civic leader, a speaker, a poet, a musician, a teacher. Most importantly, he was a wonderful father, a patriarch for his family. One of his teachings that then really impacted my life was a message entitled, “Jesus: The Perfect Leader.” President Kimball’s teachings helped me to shape my decisions and my life for the future that was ahead of me. I will quote just a little portion of that message that really impacted me and my posterity. “One of the great teachings of the Man of Galilee, the Lord Jesus Christ, was that you and I carry within us immense possibilities. In urging us to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect, Jesus was not taunting us or teasing us. He was telling us a powerful truth about our possibilities and about our potential. It is a truth almost too stunning to contemplate. Each of us has more opportunities to do good and to be good than we ever use. These opportunities lie all around us. There are many individuals waiting to be touched and loved if we care enough to improve in our performance. The scriptures contain many marvelous case studies of leaders who, unlike Jesus, were not perfect but were still very effective. It would do us all much good if we were to read them—and read them often. We forget that the scriptures present us with centuries of experience in leadership,” (and might I add, discipleship) “and… the fixed principles upon which real leadership must operate if it is to succeed. The scriptures are the handbook of instructions for the would-be” (and I add again, disciple) “and leader.”ix  

My friends, these teachings truly made a difference in my life as I was seeking to know the Lord’s will for me through the scriptures and helped me to establish my way of being not only as a member and leader in the restored Church of Jesus Christ, but also as a father, a husband, and a participant in my professional career. It also helped me to look for ways to constantly improve myself.  

My wife and I have committed each other to following the teachings of our prophets since the beginning of our marriage, no matter what circumstances we faced. That decision brought us closer to the Lord and blessed us immensely. As you approach major decisions in your life, I would encourage you to make that same commitment. Study the words of the prophets to help you in your decisions! Modern technology makes their words very accessible and also searchable. I promise that as you make an effort to seek out and follow prophetic counsel, you will be led in your search to specific direction that will be pertinent and helpful to you in your individual situation. 

A friend of mine called me the other day and shared with me that he was questioning the teachings of our current prophets. He told me that he was in the middle of a faith crisis and he wondered how he could really believe in the words of prophets. I responded to his comments with a question for his consideration – “how could I deny the feelings, blessings and testimony that I had already felt throughout my life as I followed the words of prophets of our day?” Concerning the questions he had, I told him that I chose to cling to what I already knew and not to what I don’t. Maybe some of you might be struggling with your own faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, or even in the teachings of His prophets. I know people who have chosen this path. This does not make them bad people, for sure not. However, I want to help you see that this path, while tempting, can lead us to undue stress, heartache, and grief, similar to what I experienced when I turned off my GPS trying to find my direction on my own that day. God loves you, I assure you, and does everything He can to keep you close to Him. That is why He continues to reveal His will to us through living prophets. 

As I reflect on how blessed we are to have living prophets on earth in our day, another personal experience comes to mind. Before my call as an apostle, I accompanied Elder D. Todd Christofferson to Yaoundé, a beautiful city located in the country of Cameroon, in central Africa. Due to multiple flight delays, we landed in Yaoundé later than planned, and we were set to depart for South Africa in the early evening. 

A devotional was planned for noon that day, and members were invited to come if their schedules would allow. Due to the unusual meeting time, we expected there to be a very small number of Saints in attendance, but Elder Christofferson felt a strong desire to take that opportunity to be among any who were able to come. To our surprise, when we arrived, the auditorium was filled to capacity. Following the meeting, Elder Christofferson greeted each of them individually. Watching these faithful members greet a prophet of God is something I will never forget. Some would cling to his extended hand for quite some time, others would kiss his palm and hold his hand to their face. Some would simply reach out and touch his clothing in love and awe, reminding me of the woman who touched the clothing of the Savior in order to find strength and healing. Each greeting was warm and filled with the Spirit of the Lord.  

One man in specific, who came with his two children, mentioned that his children were supposed to have been in school that day, but he emphatically said, “How could I send them to school when they had the opportunity to come here and be with a prophet of God?” I hope this good man’s testimony will live on in the hearts of his children, as it has lived on in my heart. Brothers and sisters, do we fully realize the blessing it is to have living prophets on the earth today? 

Much of what has happened and is happening in our lives as a family is a result of the application of what I have learned from our prophets, seers and revelators as they revealed the Lord’s love and concern for us. I assure you that “for those diligently seeking eternal life, the prophet’s voice brings spiritual safety in very turbulent times.”x Following the teachings of our prophets is one of the most important “spiritual GPSs” available to help us find our final destination in the presence of God and Jesus Christ.  

Well, before I conclude my message today with my testimony, I just want to provide you my personal reflection about what it means to me to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ and join this unique group of senior leaders in the Church.   

Apostles are chosen through inspiration by the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day-Saints, sustained by the general membership of the Church, and ordained by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles by the laying on of hands. In addition to serving as a witness of Jesus Christ, as Jesus’ ancient Apostles did, I was given the keys of the priesthood to help God bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children.    

As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I have a purpose to invite and help all to come unto Christ. I and the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve work tirelessly to find ways to strengthen the faith of people we meet as we are sent by the Savior Jesus Christ to minister to all. We have responded to President Nelson’s call to become ministering brothers. That is really the core of what it means to be a disciple and an apostle of Jesus Christ. Like the Apostle Paul, we are weighed down by the concerns and worries of Church members, especially yours as single adults. We pray for them, and we pray for you. We strive to inspire you to become strong and powerful ministers so you, yourselves, can reach out and bless and help those in need. 

It is important to remember, my friends, that like anybody else, we are also mortals who are striving to live the gospel. We are not experts in academic scripture research or have received degrees in Church history as a qualification to be called. In fact, the Lord doesn’t require a PhD in biblical studies or American history before someone is called to serve in this or in any callings in His Church. Please remember that among Christ’s original Apostles, none were trained biblical scholars either, but rather, were men with common occupations of His day and were men with faith. We certainly do our best to seek everything that is virtuous, lovely, and of good report and praiseworthy through the scriptures, revelations, teachings of the living prophets and Apostles, and the writings of thoughtful scholars. We constantly consult and listen to experts in many fields and then grow in developing our knowledge as we serve in Christ’s Church. Despite all that, the Lord has called us, and we are willing to move forward in faith and help Him until we die.  

In conclusion, I want to testify from the bottom of my heart that the Lord speaks through His modern prophets and Apostles and moves us to act in His name to fulfill His purpose. I testify that they speak by the power of the Holy Spirit. They testify of Christ and His divine mission on Earth. They represent the mind and heart of the Lord and are called to represent Him and teach us what we must do to return to be in the presence of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. By following them, we are blessed, our lives are happier and less complicated, our difficulties and problems are easier to bear, and we create a spiritual armor around us that will protect us from the attacks of the enemy in our day. 

I testify to you that Jesus is the Christ. He is the head of His Church, and He has called faithful and dedicated men and women to serve Him. In particular, the Savior called President Nelson as the prophet of God on earth today. His counselors and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are called to guide us in these difficult days we are living in. Let us listen to their teachings. Our prophets represent the Savior and will teach us according to His will. I promise you that living by these principles will enable us to gain eternal life. I testify that God loves us and that He is real. He lives. We love you. We appreciate you and we honor your faith and welcome your desires to follow the teachings of our prophets. You are precious souls sent on Earth in a very special time in history, when the enemy has put all his strength and energy against God and His plan, against Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. I testify to you as we follow the words of our prophets in our days, we will find safety, peace, and we will be embraced by our Savior Jesus Christ. I testify of all this with all of my love and my respect for each one of you. And I say these things in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

[1] Hebrews 3:1.

[2] Helaman 5:12.

[3] Helaman 5:12.

[4]  Doctrine and Covenants 1:38.

[5]  2 Chronicles 20:20.

[6]  “As We Go Forward Together”, Ensign, April 2018, 6.

[7] Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-6.

[8] See Doctrine and Covenants 1:14–16. 

[9] Spencer W. Kimball, “Jesus: The Perfect Leader,” Young Presidents Organization in Sun Valley, Idaho, on January 15, 1977; see https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1979/08/jesus-the-perfect-leader?lang=eng,.

[10] Neil L. Andersen, “The Prophet of God,” General Conference April 2018.

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