Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
by President G. Scott Spendlove
It is remarkable to have the privilege and opportunity to stand at this pulpit on Temple Square in this beautiful historic building and spend some time together. I feel very privilege and blessed for that opportunity. We have loved serving here. We’ve had amazing and remarkable experiences. It is an understatement to say that we are going to miss it. We love our missionaries. We love the work they do. We love you. We’re grateful to associate with so many amazing people. I’m just really glad to be with you today.
I pray, brothers and sisters, that what I say may have some impact on you, and that it will bless and inspire you as you seek to better yourselves, so you can better the world.
I’m a big fan of LDS Business College. Like LDS Business College’s students, our missionaries come from all over the world and the United States. Here they serve as full-time missionaries and gain experiences seeing how the Church functions in the heart of the Church. They then return home and are a huge blessing to their communities and countries.
You, too, come from all over the world and the United States to gain education and training that you will take back with you to build and bless your communities and countries. In fact, many of our former missionaries come back to Salt Lake City to study at LDS Business College and I love it! There are a few of them here today.
Notice that I have not mentioned coming to LDSBC to build a career, earn a living or to become successful, rich or famous. Most of you will work hard and use your education from LDS Business College to provide a comfortable living for you and your family. Some of you may go on to become rich and successful as measured by the world. And, who knows, maybe one or two of you might even go on to become famous! Please avoid infamy—it’s still fame, but it’s the wrong kind.
But worldly success, riches and fame should not be your motivation for gaining an education. Those things are really very hard to define and can be quite fleeting. Rather, you should gain your education to serve others and to better the world. In the process of serving others and bettering the world, you will find that you will be blessed with secure employment and financial compensation sufficient for your needs and, perhaps, even beyond your needs to be able to help others with their wants and needs. That’s when you’ll find true joy, peace and happiness—when what you do for a living blesses the lives of others. It truly is better to give than to receive.
It’s important to remember that you were put on this earth at this time “to be an influence for good in helping to build the kingdom of God and prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Savior” (For the Strength of Youth, iii).
Those are the words of the First Presidency in the introductory message to the youth of the Church as found in For the Strength of Youth. It was written to you, to your generation. It comes from our Father in Heaven to you through His prophets, seers and revelators. This latest edition of For the Strength of Youth was first published in 2001, not long after most of you were born. So even though you are no longer considered “Youth” in the broad sense we use in the Church, this charge—this core purpose for your life—is still yours.
Listen to it again. You are “to be an influence for good in helping to build the kingdom of God and prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Savior.”
What does that mean? How will you do that? How does that fit into your dreams, your plans, your desires? Can you really do both—can you have a rewarding, fulfilling career and realize your dreams while still building the kingdom of God and preparing the world for the Second Coming of the Savior?
You absolutely can and that’s what I want to talk about today.
I greatly appreciate the stated mission of LDS Business College. It was on the screen when you came in: “To develop capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.” In that is everything I want to share with you today.
A disciple of Jesus Christ is a student of Christ; a believer in Christ; a follower of Christ and a laborer with Christ. A disciple of Jesus Christ is “an influence for good in helping to build the kingdom of God and prepar[ing] the world for the Second Coming of the Savior.” Capable, trusted, faithful disciples of Jesus Christ live the gospel each day in order to help others become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ (see Handbook 2: Administering the Church, chapter 3, 3.1, “The Savior’s Way of Leading”).
Following His example, disciples of Jesus Christ are full of love and compassion for others. Disciples of Jesus Christ seek and obey the Father’s will in all things. Disciples of Jesus Christ are completely committed to His sacred mission – to bring God’s children back to Him. Disciples of Jesus Christ love the scriptures and use them to teach and testify of His mission and build and strengthen themselves and others. And disciples of Jesus Christ live what He taught – to pray to the Father; to love and serve others and to live His gospel by the way He lived (“Introduction: Teaching in the Savior’s Way,” Teaching in the Savior’s Way (2015). That’s why He invites, “Come, follow me” (Luke 18:22).
As you gain your education and prepare to go out into the world, remember that your greatest ambition and dream should be discipleship.
I am so grateful for the Savior’s teachings in Matthew chapters 24 and 25 in the New Testament because they speak to us about discipleship in our day.
In Matthew 24, the Savior is asked the question, “Tell us…, what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3).
Jesus then describes the day in which we now find ourselves. He warns at least four times against deception, cautioning that it’s possible that even the very elect will be deceived. He speaks of wars and rumors of wars, famines and pestilences and earthquakes in diverse places. He warns of hate and envy and strife. He speaks of the love of many waxing cold and of other calamities and wickedness that will attend our day. He also promises that the Gospel will be on the earth and preached to those who will listen. Powerfully, He teaches that, if we will treasure up His words, we will not be deceived (Joseph Smith–Matthew 1:37).
Then, as recorded in Matthew 25, the Savior gives three parables meant to teach us what we should be found doing as we build the kingdom of God in these last days and prepare the world for His Second Coming. I call these the Parables of Intentional Discipleship—of being purposed-filled and purpose-driven disciples of Jesus Christ.
The first parable is the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). In this parable, we learn that we should be expecting the return of the Savior and that we should each be prepared for the time of His coming by having our own lamps trimmed and full of oil, because we cannot in that day (which is this day) borrow the light of another. The drops of oil that fill our lamps and give us our own light to walk by as disciples of Jesus Christ come through our daily living of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Living the Gospel begins with faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement and repenting daily to constantly align our will with God’s. We make and keep sacred covenants. We do what it takes to be worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, and we endure to the end – growing through trials and challenges and calling upon the enabling power of the atonement of Jesus Christ to help us climb the mountains in our life that otherwise won’t move.
Filling our lamps with oil also includes the small and simple things like personal, daily prayer; daily feasting on the words of Christ through scripture study and application – especially from the Book of Mormon; simple obedience; worthily partaking of the sacrament each week; worshiping in the temple; honoring the priesthood; giving heed to living prophets, seers and revelators; humbly listening and responding to the promptings of the Holy Ghost; and placing the wisdom of Heavenly Father above our own (see For the Strength of Youth, 42-43).
The second parable of intentional discipleship is the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). In this parable we learn that we are each given a certain number of talents “to every man according to his several ability” (Matthew 25:15). The Lord then expects us to take those talents we’ve been given and put them to work to build the kingdom of God and return to Him more than He gave us to begin with. We are to work with our talents and increase them. We are to seek “earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given” (D&C 46:8). Those who bury their talents are counted as “wicked and slothful servants,” (Matthew 25:26) while those who increase in their talents and return even more to the Lord are blessed. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” He will say in that day. “Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:23).
The final parable of intentional discipleship is the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). This is my favorite of the three parables of intentional discipleship because it so plainly and clearly lays out what we should, when the Savior comes again, be found doing to inherit the Kingdom of God. As disciples of Jesus Christ and builders of His kingdom, preparing the world for His Second Coming, we are to give meat to the hungry and drink to the thirsty; take in strangers; clothe the naked; visit the sick and go into the prisoners (Matthew 25:35-36).
While there is certainly ample opportunity for us to care for the poor and the needy and the sick and the afflicted in their temporal afflictions, I particularly love to consider these things in spiritual terms and recognize that the Savior has provided the remedy for each of these spiritual maladies:
Who do you know who is spiritually hungry? He is the Bread of Life! (John 6:35).
Who do you know who is spiritually thirsty? He is the Living Water! (see John 4).
Who do you know who is spiritually a stranger? He calls the faithful His friends (D&C 84:63; see also John 15:13-15).
Who do you know who is spiritually naked? “Consider the lilies of the field...” (3 Nephi 13:28).
Who do you know who is spiritually sick? He is the Master Healer (see “Jesus Christ – the Master Healer”, Russell M. Nelson, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, General Conference, October 2005).
Who do you know who is spiritually in prison? He has burst open the prison doors! (see 2 Nephi 9:10-12).
I invite you—in all your learning and seeking—to remember these things. Make them a priority. Put them first in your life. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (3 Nephi 13:33). Build your life in such a way that you can, as a trusted and capable disciple of Jesus Christ, be an influence for good in the world, build the kingdom of God and prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Savior.
The greatest and most important work you will ever do in building the kingdom of God and preparing the world for the Second Coming of the Savior will be in your own home as you and your husband or wife raise your family in love and righteousness. Husbands and wives becoming faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in order to help their children become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ is a solemn responsibility and a sacred duty (See “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”, First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
I invite you, right now, to envision your family—your husband or wife and your children—and promise yourself that you will never make a choice or a decision that would hurt them. Live for them now. Love them now. Make choices today that will bless them tomorrow. Lay down your life for them. It’s the greatest love you can have for them (see John 15:13).
Then, beyond the walls of your own home, lose yourself every day in the service of others. Make your studies part of serving others. Gain an education and invest in yourself but not just for yourself. From my alma mater, “Enter to learn; go forth to serve.”
Live a life of service as the Savior did. Live a life of discipleship. Give meat and drink to the spiritually hungry and thirsty. Take in spiritual strangers. Clothe the spiritually naked. Visit the spiritually sick. Go into the spiritually imprisoned (see Matthew 25:35-36).
Make these things your vision and your greatest ambition. Let them motivate and drive you. Become intentional disciples of Jesus Christ—men and women built for others (from Marx, Jeffrey. Season of Life: A Football Star, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood. Simon & Schuster, 2004). Be a light unto the world! Use your talents in ways that bless and build others including your own families. And seek to minister to and bless others in all you do by helping others come unto Christ. Then, how great shall be your joy with them in the Kingdom of God (D&C 18:10-16).
“OK, President Spendlove… I hear you. Really? You’re telling me to put these things first? I’m barely scraping by right now as it is! I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do with my life. I’ve got a lot to figure out. I don’t even know how I’m going to pay rent this month. And Mom and Dad are really pressuring me to get married but I can barely find time to even date! Besides, I’m a returned missionary and I’ve already put God first for all that time. I need a break! Put the kingdom of God first? Really?”
Yes. Really. Listen to these words of the Savior found in 3 Nephi 13:
“Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
“Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
“And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin;
“And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.
“Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field…, even so will he clothe you, if ye are not of little faith.
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” (3 Nephi 13:25-31, emphasis added). [Or what shall I study or who shall I date or where shall I work or what shall I do with my life?]
Then the Savior speaks some of the most tender words in all of scripture:
“For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (3 Nephi 13:32).
And then this great promise:
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (3 Nephi 13:33).
My dear young brothers and sisters, I testify to you—from my own and often-repeated experiences—that this is true! If you will put the kingdom of God first in your life, your Heavenly Father will bless you with all that you truly need and with what He knows will be best for you. You must seek and accept His will in your life in all things.
Make the solemn responsibility and sacred duty of raising your family in righteousness your first priority—your first motive for all you undertake to do with your life. Then, beyond your own family, live a life of discipleship and service as men and women built for others.
Get your education; seek for meaningful employment; be the best you can be in all you undertake or accept to do. But always have your eye single to the glory of God (D&C 4:5). Then watch what He does with your life.
I walked away from my position as the chief financial officer at a large oil refining and marketing company four years ago while serving as a stake president because the Lord made it clear to me that He wanted me to. It wasn’t easy to unexpectedly leave behind something I loved and had built over nearly three decades. But I clearly heard the voice of the Lord and chose to put Him first. Six months to the day after I retired, I was set apart by President Russell M. Nelson as President of the Utah Salt Lake City Mission – a calling we had accepted with just three weeks’ notice. As a couple and a family, all our wants and needs have been met as we’ve served the Lord in this capacity and we couldn’t be more blessed. But, in this service, we have also seen our wants and needs refined to what the Lord wants for us and sees we need.
We put the Lord first and He has blessed us in ways we never would have imagined. I promise you that He will do the same for you as you put Him and His kingdom first in your life.
Ultimately, putting Him and His kingdom first comes down to your vision and your purpose in life. What are you doing and why are you doing it? If what you do and why you do it is grounded in discipleship and being an influence for good in building the kingdom of God and preparing the world for the Second Coming of the Savior, then you are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the other things pertaining to your life will be given to you as Heavenly Father sees fit. That’s the Savior’s promise in 3 Nephi 13.
I conclude with this powerful promise, found at the end of For the Strength of Youth, given especially to you and your generation from prophets, seers and revelators. Here is what is says:
“As you do these things [seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and do the small and simple things He invites you to do], the Lord will make much more out of your life than you can by yourself. He will increase your opportunities, expand your vision, and strengthen you. He will give you the help you need to meet your trials and challenges. You will gain a stronger testimony and find true joy as you come to know your Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ, and feel Their love for you” (For the Strength of Youth, 43, emphasis added).
That is one of the most powerful promises ever given to this generation. I testify to you that it is true. If you will do the things He asks you to do, He will make much more out of your life than you can by yourself. He will increase your opportunities, expand your vision, and strengthen you, and He will give you the help you need to meet your trials and your challenges. I’ve seen this in my life; in the lives of my wife and my children and in the lives of our missionaries.
You can choose God and His “unlimited wisdom and omnipotence” over your “own limited knowledge and power” (L. Tom Perry, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, General Conference, April 2014, “Obedience through Our Faithfulness”). Then the Lord will make much more out of your life than you can by yourself as you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, truly love Him, and intentionally serve Him as capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
In the Strength of the Lord, I Can Do All Things
by Sister Kariane Spendlove
Good morning. This is a sweet opportunity, to be able to bear testimony here in this beautiful, beautiful, historic Assembly Hall, and to think of all the testimonies which have been given and all the strength that we have from our pioneer forebears. I’m grateful for the strength that I feel by having my family here, our current missionaries, former missionaries, and all of you who have come to learn by the Spirit, because the Spirit is here. I feel it a great privilege to be able to testify of our Savior Jesus Christ and of His work and our Father’s work, to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” (Moses 1:39) of all of Heavenly Father’s children.
Our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, has told us that all of God’s children are wanted home. He says that the fondest hope of our Father is that all of His children return home to Him (see “Begin Missionary Work with the End in Mind, Says Elder Nelson,” 24 June 2014, Church News). And we know that that is made possible in and through our Savior Jesus Christ. He is the Way. His way is always the best, and He will lead us and guide us back to our Father in Heaven, if we will walk as His disciples daily, putting our hand in His, trusting Him to help us, to forgive us, to strengthen us to make this journey.
I have been richly blessed to be able to be a full-time missionary this past three years in the great Utah Salt Lake City Mission. It is a lifelong dream and desire of my heart, and I’m so grateful that I had this opportunity. I have learned many, many things, but one thing I know is that “I can do all things through Christ [who] strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
I’d just like to finish my testimony with the beautiful last verse of the opening hymn that we sang:
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose [this is the Savior speaking]
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake! (“How Firm a Foundation,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, No. 85).
And I say this in his sacred name, Jesus Christ, amen.