We All Have Stories About Jesus
There are few things that could really get me to sit down and cry like a baby more than beautiful music. That was heavenly. Thank you.
I came in and sat down this morning, and I had a memory in this building, and I really had not remembered it until I came here. I recall sometime back in the dark ages when I was a little girl, I recall helping my father lay out—I think they were programs or little sheets of music for stake conference in this building. I remember, especially right about where you are sitting, I remember this area, and I had forgotten that I had—I’ve been in this building many times, but I had forgotten that until I sat from this vantage point, I guess, and it came back to me. So that’s how old this building is, at least that old.
I am so happy to be here this morning with you. I feel so much love for you and, actually, from you. I have been blessed by your prayers already, and I’m grateful to know that because the things I would like to share with you today are things of my heart. And so, I appreciate your prayers.
I love the stories of Jesus. They are the most beautiful stories in the whole world because they are true stories of God’s Son. These stories belong to each of us. When I think of His stories, I can’t help but think about my own stories of Jesus. They are like golden threads in the tapestry of my life. My stories are very, very simple, but they too are true stories of God’s love.
You also have your stories of Jesus. This morning, I would like to share some of my stories of Jesus.
Luke 2:52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”
When I was seven years old, I moved with my family to Belgium. One Sunday not long after I had been baptized, I went with my parents to Brussels, where my mother was to rehearse for an upcoming performance in a community choir. The place that we went to was called the Palais des Beaux-Arts, which means “palace of beautiful arts.”
As we were traveling, I started to become sick. It got kind of bad, and they wanted to pull me over and maybe get me some soda, and I said, “No, it’s Sunday and I don’t want to ruin my baptism.” So we didn’t stop, but as soon as we got to the Palais des Beaux-Arts, my parents rushed into the performance hall and I found a place where I could pray. When I knelt in prayer, I asked Father in Heaven to please make me feel better. That was basically the gist of my prayer. But I did make Him a promise. I said, “I promise if you make my stomachache feel better, I promise I will try to be a good girl all the rest of my life.”
That was the substance of my prayer. Well, when I stood up, to my great joy and astonishment, I was all better, 100%! I had my own miracle. That had never happened to me before. I was so excited, I immediately ran into the performance hall, and my mother was rehearsing on the stage. I signaled to her, “Mom, Mom! Jesus healed me!” I was overjoyed.
But that was not to be the end of the story. Fast forward 35 years. Having successfully completed the audition process for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir only a few months before, I found myself once again in Brussels in the Palais des Beaux-Arts. The Choir was to perform that evening, and that afternoon we were having a sound check in the performance hall. It was at this sound check that the Lord gave me a most wonderful gift. As I entered that hall, I was able to recall with clarity that event of 35 years before. In fact, the upholstery in that hall was still the same purple. Everything seemed the same, and I remembered it all. I experienced a holy moment with the Savior as the words of my prayer returned to me.
And then I was told that the reason I was a member of the Tabernacle Choir was because I had tried to do my best all of my life to be a good girl.
Mark 1:17–18: “And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.”
I’ve often marveled at the faith of those early disciples who followed Jesus without question. I’ve wondered if I had been there, would I have been one of the ones to follow Him? Perhaps the answer to that question is, how do we follow now? Are we strictly obedient now? I believe that accepting and magnifying the callings we are given from the Lord, as well as harkening to the impressions we receive from the Spirit are ways that we demonstrate our love for Jesus.
My junior and senior years of high school were not easy for me. I struggled with who I was and with my testimony of the Savior. It was during this part of my life that an extraordinary thing occurred.
When I was 17, my mother had given me the book Added Upon by Nephi Anderson. The book is a fictional account of our post-mortal, premortal, and mortal estates. And on December 4th, I began to read this book. The more I read, the more I became filled with a spirit of peace. The book filled me with a desire to know more about our Savior. As I read, I began to feel, to know that the principles in the book were true. On the third night, on December 6th, I came upon this little verse near the end of the book:
Know this that always shall his loving arm
Extended be to you; the Father-heart
And Mother-heart eternally do yearn
And feel for you in sorrow or in pain.
Where’er you are, you’re still within my reach.
If you’ll but turn to me, I’ll hear your cries
And answer you in my good time and place.
I read this passage over and over, and I was filled with a burning desire to know for myself if my Father in Heaven really felt this about me. My desire to know grew stronger and stronger until I felt compelled to kneel in prayer. As I began to pray, the Spirit of the Lord filled my being. My room became very warm and bright, and the Holy Ghost bore testimony to me that everything I had learned about the Church and about the Savior was true, and that the Savior Jesus Christ was the Redeemer of the world. There came into me a love that filled my entire being. For the first time in my life, I knew who I was. And I knew who He was.
I anxiously searched the Book of Mormon to find an explanation as to what was happening to me at that very moment. In Alma 5:14 I read the following: “And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?”
As I read, I felt the scriptures come alive. I felt the scriptures become living to me, and the love I felt in my heart was different than any love I had ever felt before. I talked with my Father in Heaven for a long time that evening, and I felt the constant presence of the Holy Ghost affirming that what had transpired was from the Lord.
Though it has been over 40 years since that sacred event, I can never deny what the Holy Ghost gave to me. This experience has been pivotal in helping me gain an understanding of who I am and of who Jesus Christ is and of how our Father in Heaven feels about each one of us.
The testimony that was given to me as a 17-year-old, as well as the increased light and knowledge that I have acquired since then, has been a powerful guide throughout my life. I have learned for myself that we are never outside of His reach. I am convinced that the Lord desires each one of His children to feel of this perfect love so that each of His children can accomplish the missions that we were sent here to do.
John 7:14: “Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.”
In June of 2002, the Tabernacle Choir was invited to sing at the dedication of the Nauvoo Temple. I had never been to Nauvoo before, so this was my first time. I was not prepared for the pentacostal outpouring of the Spirit. Just as Oliver Cowdery had expressed while acting as a scribe to Joseph Smith, these too were “days never to be forgotten.” Thousands thronged to the temple and the temple grounds that week, just as they had 167 years earlier when the Saints were preparing to leave their beautiful city and their beautiful temple.
During each of the dedicatory sessions, I felt—I felt as if a marvelously large crystal dome had replaced the roof of the temple, with hosts of angels witnessing the events from above their earthly participants. This was indeed their celebration and their temple. All of Nauvoo felt aglow with the marvelous light and life of this newly dedicated temple.
When not participating in a session, I seized the opportunity to walk through the city. It was in that beautiful city that the Spirit reconfirmed to my soul that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that he did translate the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. The Spirit was as a river of light and truth, continually flowing and living. If there is one word to describe what the Spirit was like, it is alive. In Nauvoo, everything was alive—the grass, the trees, the ground, the air, the atmosphere. All was alive.
I look forward to that beautiful day when the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory and when Jesus will come and reign once again upon the earth.
Mark 4:37, 39: “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”
There is something deeply personal about the hymn, “Master, the Tempest Is Raging.” In fact, it doesn’t get a lot more personal that this: what do we do and to whom do we turn when life’s tempests rage?
While living in California several years ago, spending time at the beach with the children was always a favorite activity. We would watch as the waves would come rolling in from a great distance and then come crashing against some barrier or a reef. And the sights and the sounds and the smells were always thrilling. But while observing this very same scene late one night, I had an entirely different experience. Whereas the scene during the light of day had been thrilling, in the darkness of the night it was terrifying. The sights and the sounds and the smells were still the same, but suddenly everything had transformed. All I could feel was a great fear of the angry deep and of the billows as they tossed high in the blackness of the night.
But while driving away from the scene, and as reason and light began to return, the Lord taught me about the devastating power found in the darkness of sin and about the anguish of adversity. The skies will appear to cover us with blackness. Each one here will experience these raging tempests in their lives. We will find ourselves perishing and wonder if He is even aware or if He cares about us anymore. Then just as we are convinced that we can go no further and are doomed to destruction, if we plead to Him to “hasten and take control,”  we can feel a peace that passeth understanding—that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that man or demons can do that will ever be able to “swallow the ship where lies the Master of ocean and earth and skies.”
Through the Spirit I have come to know this for myself. He is the Master. He is our song in the night.
Matthew 26:39: “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
Everything, especially our trials, seem to point us toward the Savior and to give us a greater understanding of His Atonement and of the Garden of Gethsemane. While it’s difficult to see things clearly while you’re in the middle of the maelstrom, if we seek understanding, peace, and guidance, the Holy Spirit teaches gently and clearly another beautiful facet of the Lord’s Atonement.
Shortly after becoming a member of the Tabernacle Choir, I was invited to audition for a small solo in an upcoming Christmas concert. The part was at the high end of my comfort level, and so I worked really, really hard and practiced so that I would be prepared for this audition. On the morning of the audition, I decided to fast so I could be calm and do my very best. The audition was held in the chapel of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and seated in the audience was Jerold Ottley, Craig Jessop, and Michael Moody, who at that time was head of the Church Music Department.
There were several others who were invited to audition as well, and they were all in attendance. As I settled in my seat and tried to relax, I tried to be calm but, as luck would have it, I was the first one that was called up. As soon as the pianist began to play the introduction, I knew I was in trouble because she was playing much, much slower than I had rehearsed, and that slower tempo would make it much more difficult to hold out the long high notes. This slower tempo made me scared. Even before I opened my mouth a deathly fear settled in my heart and gripped my vocal chords so that by the time I started to sing, a ghastly sound came out in the place of the voice I had known all my life.
Jerold Ottley stopped me, and he invited me to begin again, which I did, but to no avail. In silent horror and astonishment, I sat down. I had completely failed. Returning to my seat, I was filled with deep humiliation and embarrassment, particularly in the presence of these good men and my peers. While waiting for the others to complete their audition, I battled intense feelings of betrayal. I had not expected nor even desired this solo, but I had at least hoped to represent myself well.
Throughout the remainder of the evening, I battled these deep feelings of shame and humiliation. As I drove home, I prayed fervently to understand why the Lord had allowed this to happen. I wanted to have a faithful and trusting heart, but I felt abandoned, alone, humiliated, and utterly forsaken. I pled with Him to teach me what He wanted me to learn. I focused all of my grief and pain on that one question: what do You want me to learn from this?
When I got home, I went to bed, but I slept fitfully. At some point in the night, however, I must have fallen asleep because, at about 2:00 am, I awoke bathed in light and warmth and with a clear understanding that the Lord had an answer to my prayer. Into my mind came these words: He too felt abandoned and alone. He too felt humiliated and utterly forsaken. Jesus knew exactly how I felt, and how each of us feels, for He has “descended below them all.”
In those early morning hours, I pondered on this sacred gift in behalf of the entire human race. And for me, I marveled that all things point to this last sacrifice. Our pain, our sorrows, our humiliations, our embarrassments, our injustices, our betrayals, our sins are all meant to point us to Him, to create holiness from horror.
Many years have passed since that night of horror turned holy. The price of my miniscule suffering was well worth the gift of understanding Him better. From trials come opportunities to create holiness because we can be touched us with a particle of Gethsemane.
John 21:17: “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? . . . And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”
So, exactly what does He expect of me, of each of us? In the October 2012 general conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said the following:
My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” And if at such a moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty. . . .
So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before.
My dear young friends, each of us here has our stories of Jesus. They are personalized gifts to us from a loving Father in Heaven. I am grateful for my stories, and I am thankful for and love your stories. I pray that each of us will continue to write our stories and share them, for they are true and they are the most beautiful stories in the world. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Nephi Anderson, Added Upon, Deseret News Press (1912), p. 227.
 Joseph Smith—History 1:71
 “Master, the Tempest Is Raging,” Hymns, no. 105.
 “Master, the Tempest Is Raging,” Hymns, no. 105.
 See Philippians 4:7.
 “Master, the Tempest Is Raging,” Hymns, no. 105.
 D&C 122:8. See also D&C 88:6.
 Jeffrey R. Holland, “The First Great Commandment,” Oct. 2012 General Conference.