We watched general conference this weekend. It was great! I loved it! It was being shown in Ukrainian in the chapel, but we had an audio recording of it in English which we listened to in the back of the room. We tried to match it up the best we could to the video, but it was a few seconds off. It was a little distracting but ok though.
I could post some of my favorite quotes from my favorite talks, but I love them so much that it would not do justice if I do not post the whole thing! So here are two of my favorites, and my thoughts are after each one.
The Love of God
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor in the First Presidency
Love is the measure of our faith, the inspiration for our obedience, and the true altitude of our discipleship.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is continually growing and becoming better known throughout the world. Although there will always be those who stereotype the Church and its members in a negative way, most people think of us as honest, helpful, and hardworking. Some have images of clean-cut missionaries, loving families, and friendly neighbors who don’t smoke or drink. We might also be known as a people who attend church every Sunday for three hours, in a place where everyone is a brother or a sister, where the children sing songs about streams that talk, trees that produce popcorn, and children who want to become sunbeams.
Brothers and sisters, of all the things we want to be known for, are there attributes above all others that should define us as members of His Church, even as disciples of Jesus Christ? Since our last general conference six months ago, I have pondered this and similar questions. Today I would like to share with you some thoughts and impressions that have come as a result of that inquiry. The first question is:
How Do We Become True Disciples of Jesus Christ?
The Savior Himself provided the answer with this profound declaration: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” This is the essence of what it means to be a true disciple: those who receive Christ Jesus walk with Him.
But this may present a problem for some because there are so many “shoulds” and “should nots” that merely keeping track of them can be a challenge. Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles—many coming from uninspired sources—complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of “good ideas.”
This was one of the Savior’s criticisms of the religious “experts” of His day, whom He chastised for attending to the hundreds of minor details of the law while neglecting the weightier matters.
So how do we stay aligned with these weightier matters? Is there a constant compass that can help us prioritize our lives, thoughts, and actions?
Once again the Savior revealed the way. When asked to name the greatest commandment, He did not hesitate. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” He said. “This is the first and great commandment.” Coupled with the second great commandment—to love our neighbor as ourselves—we have a compass that provides direction not only for our lives but also for the Lord’s Church on both sides of the veil.
Because love is the great commandment, it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do in our own family, in our Church callings, and in our livelihood. Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities, and nations. Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility, and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope. Love should be our walk and our talk.
When we truly understand what it means to love as Jesus Christ loves us, the confusion clears and our priorities align. Our walk as disciples of Christ becomes more joyful. Our lives take on new meaning. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father becomes more profound. Obedience becomes a joy rather than a burden.
Why Should We Love God?
God the Eternal Father did not give that first great commandment because He needs us to love Him. His power and glory are not diminished should we disregard, deny, or even defile His name. His influence and dominion extend through time and space independent of our acceptance, approval, or admiration.
No, God does not need us to love Him. But oh, how we need to love God!
For what we love determines what we seek.
What we seek determines what we think and do.
What we think and do determines who we are—and who we will become.
We are created in the image of our heavenly parents; we are God’s spirit children. Therefore, we have a vast capacity for love—it is part of our spiritual heritage. What and how we love not only defines us as individuals; it also defines us as a church. Love is the defining characteristic of a disciple of Christ.
Since the beginning of time, love has been the source of both the highest bliss and the heaviest burdens. At the heart of misery from the days of Adam until today, you will find the love of wrong things. And at the heart of joy, you will find the love of good things.
And the greatest of all good things is God.
Our Father in Heaven has given us, His children, much more than any mortal mind can comprehend. Under His direction the Great Jehovah created this wondrous world we live in. God the Father watches over us, fills our hearts with breathtaking joy, brightens our darkest hours with blessed peace, distills upon our minds precious truths, shepherds us through times of distress, rejoices when we rejoice, and answers our righteous petitions.
He offers to His children the promise of a glorious and infinite existence and has provided a way for us to progress in knowledge and glory until we receive a fulness of joy. He has promised us all that He has.
If all that is not enough reason to love our Heavenly Father, perhaps we can learn from the words of the Apostle John, who said, “We love him, because he first loved us.”
Why Does Heavenly Father Love Us?
Think of the purest, most all-consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God’s love for you.
God does not look on the outward appearance. I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.
He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked.
What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us.
How Can We Increase Our Love of God?
Since “God is love,” the closer we approach Him, the more profoundly we experience love. But because a veil separates this mortality from our heavenly home, we must seek in the Spirit that which is imperceptible to mortal eyes.
Heaven may seem distant at times, but the scriptures offer hope: “Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
However, seeking God with all our hearts implies much more than simply offering a prayer or pronouncing a few words inviting God into our lives. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” We can make a great production of saying that we know God. We can proclaim publicly that we love Him. Nevertheless, if we don’t obey Him, all is in vain, for “he that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
We increase our love for our Heavenly Father and demonstrate that love by aligning our thoughts and actions with God’s word. His pure love directs and encourages us to become more pure and holy. It inspires us to walk in righteousness—not out of fear or obligation but out of an earnest desire to become even more like Him because we love Him. By doing so, we can become “born again . . . [and] cleansed by blood, even the blood of [the] Only Begotten; that [we] might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.”
My dear brothers and sisters, don’t get discouraged if you stumble at times. Don’t feel downcast or despair if you don’t feel worthy to be a disciple of Christ at all times. The first step to walking in righteousness is simply to try. We must try to believe. Try to learn of God: read the scriptures; study the words of His latter-day prophets; choose to listen to the Father, and do the things He asks of us. Try and keep on trying until that which seems difficult becomes possible—and that which seems only possible becomes habit and a real part of you.
How Can We Hear the Father’s Voice?
As you reach out to your Heavenly Father, as you pray to Him in the name of Christ, He will answer you. He speaks to us everywhere.
As you read God’s word recorded in the scriptures, listen for His voice.
During this general conference and later as you study the words spoken here, listen for His voice.
As you visit the temple and attend Church meetings, listen for His voice.
Listen for the voice of the Father in the bounties and beauties of nature, in the gentle whisperings of the Spirit.
In your daily interactions with others, in the words of a hymn, in the laughter of a child, listen for His voice.
If you listen for the voice of the Father, He will lead you on a course that will allow you to experience the pure love of Christ.
As we draw near to Heavenly Father, we become more holy. And as we become more holy, we will overcome disbelief and our souls will be filled with His blessed light. As we align our lives with this supernal light, it leads us out of darkness and toward greater light. This greater light leads to the unspeakable ministerings of the Holy Spirit, and the veil between heaven and earth can become thin.
Why Is Love the Great Commandment?
Heavenly Father’s love for His children is the core message of the plan of happiness, which plan is made active through the Atonement of Jesus Christ—the greatest expression of love the world has ever known.
How clearly the Savior spoke when He said that every other commandment hangs upon the principle of love. If we do not neglect the great laws—if we truly learn to love our Heavenly Father and our fellowman with all our heart, soul, and mind—all else will fall into place.
The divine love of God turns ordinary acts into extraordinary service. Divine love is the motive that transports simple words into sacred scripture. Divine love is the factor that transforms reluctant compliance with God’s commandments into blessed dedication and consecration.
Love is the guiding light that illuminates the disciple’s path and fills our daily walk with life, meaning, and wonder.
Love is the measure of our faith, the inspiration for our obedience, and the true altitude of our discipleship.
Love is the way of the disciple.
I testify that God is in His heaven. He lives. He knows and loves you. He is mindful of you. He hears your prayers and knows the desires of your heart. He is filled with infinite love for you.
Let me conclude as I began, my dear brothers and sisters: what attribute should define us as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
Let us be known as a people who love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and who love our neighbor as ourselves. When we understand and practice these two great commandments in our families, in our wards and branches, in our nations, and in our daily lives, we will begin to understand what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus the Christ. Of this I testify in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
I think President Uchtdorf really captured how important and vital love is to our every way of life. I love Love. It is the driving factor of – everything. If we don't have love we have nothing.
Safety for the Soul
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
I want it absolutely clear when I stand before the judgment bar of God that I declared to the world . . . that the Book of Mormon is true.
Prophecies regarding the last days often refer to large-scale calamities such as earthquakes or famines or floods. These in turn may be linked to widespread economic or political upheavals of one kind or another.
But there is one kind of latter-day destruction that has always sounded to me more personal than public, more individual than collective—a warning, perhaps more applicable inside the Church than outside it. The Savior warned that in the last days even those of the covenant, the very elect, could be deceived by the enemy of truth. If we think of this as a form of spiritual destruction, it may cast light on another latter-day prophecy. Think of the heart as the figurative center of our faith, the poetic location of our loyalties and our values; then consider Jesus’s declaration that in the last days “men’s hearts [shall fail] them.”
The encouraging thing, of course, is that our Father in Heaven knows all of these latter-day dangers, these troubles of the heart and soul, and has given counsel and protections regarding them.
In light of that, it has always been significant to me that the Book of Mormon, one of the Lord’s powerful keystones in this counteroffensive against latter-day ills, begins with a great parable of life, an extended allegory of hope versus fear, of light versus darkness, of salvation versus destruction—an allegory of which Sister Ann M. Dibb spoke so movingly this morning.
In Lehi’s dream an already difficult journey gets more difficult when a mist of darkness arises, obscuring any view of the safe but narrow path his family and others are to follow. It is imperative to note that this mist of darkness descends on all the travelers—the faithful and the determined ones (the elect, we might even say) as well as the weaker and ungrounded ones. The principal point of the story is that the successful travelers resist all distractions, including the lure of forbidden paths and jeering taunts from the vain and proud who have taken those paths. The record says that the protected “did press their way forward, continually [and, I might add, tenaciously] holding fast” to a rod of iron that runs unfailingly along the course of the true path. However dark the night or the day, the rod marks the way of that solitary, redeeming trail.
“I beheld,” Nephi says later, “that the rod of iron . . . was the word of God, [leading] . . . to the tree of life; . . . a representation of the love of God.” Viewing this manifestation of God’s love, Nephi goes on to say:
“I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, . . . [who] went forth ministering unto the people. . . .
“ . . . And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; . . . and they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.”
Love. Healing. Help. Hope. The power of Christ to counter all troubles in all times—including the end of times. That is the safe harbor God wants for us in personal or public days of despair. That is the message with which the Book of Mormon begins, and that is the message with which it ends, calling all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” That phrase—taken from Moroni’s final lines of testimony, written 1,000 years after Lehi’s vision—is a dying man’s testimony of the only true way.
May I refer to a modern “last days” testimony? When Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum started for Carthage to face what they knew would be an imminent martyrdom, Hyrum read these words to comfort the heart of his brother:
“Thou hast been faithful; wherefore . . . thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.
“And now I, Moroni, bid farewell . . . until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ.”
A few short verses from the 12th chapter of Ether in the Book of Mormon. Before closing the book, Hyrum turned down the corner of the page from which he had read, marking it as part of the everlasting testimony for which these two brothers were about to die. I hold in my hand that book, the very copy from which Hyrum read, the same corner of the page turned down, still visible. Later, when actually incarcerated in the jail, Joseph the Prophet turned to the guards who held him captive and bore a powerful testimony of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Shortly thereafter pistol and ball would take the lives of these two testators.
As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?
Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. In this I stand with my own great-grandfather, who said simply enough, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.”
I testify that one cannot come to full faith in this latter-day work—and thereby find the fullest measure of peace and comfort in these, our times—until he or she embraces the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it testifies. If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject 531 pages of a heretofore unknown text teeming with literary and Semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages—especially without accounting for their powerful witness of Jesus Christ and the profound spiritual impact that witness has had on what is now tens of millions of readers—if that is the case, then such a person, elect or otherwise, has been deceived; and if he or she leaves this Church, it must be done by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit. In that sense the book is what Christ Himself was said to be: “a stone of stumbling, . . . a rock of offence,” a barrier in the path of one who wishes not to believe in this work. Witnesses, even witnesses who were for a time hostile to Joseph, testified to their death that they had seen an angel and had handled the plates. “They have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man,” they declared. “Wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true.”
Now, I did not sail with the brother of Jared in crossing an ocean, settling in a new world. I did not hear King Benjamin speak his angelically delivered sermon. I did not proselyte with Alma and Amulek nor witness the fiery death of innocent believers. I was not among the Nephite crowd who touched the wounds of the resurrected Lord, nor did I weep with Mormon and Moroni over the destruction of an entire civilization. But my testimony of this record and the peace it brings to the human heart is as binding and unequivocal as was theirs. Like them “[I] give [my name] unto the world, to witness unto the world that which [I] have seen.” And like them, “[I] lie not, God bearing witness of it.”
I ask that my testimony of the Book of Mormon and all that it implies, given today under my own oath and office, be recorded by men on earth and angels in heaven. I hope I have a few years left in my “last days,” but whether I do or do not, I want it absolutely clear when I stand before the judgment bar of God that I declared to the world, in the most straightforward language I could summon, that the Book of Mormon is true, that it came forth the way Joseph said it came forth and was given to bring happiness and hope to the faithful in the travail of the latter days.
My witness echoes that of Nephi, who wrote part of the book in his “last days”:
“Hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, . . . and they teach all men that they should do good.
“And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day.”
Brothers and sisters, God always provides safety for the soul, and with the Book of Mormon, He has again done that in our time. Remember this declaration by Jesus Himself: “Whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived”—and in the last days neither your heart nor your faith will fail you. Of this I earnestly testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
This talk by Elder Jeffery R. Holland blew me away. His passionate testimony of the Book of Mormon is very much what I desire for myself. I think that if I could share with my investigators just a fraction of that kind of testimony I will bring so many more people to Christ. Can I join my testimony to his and declare my love and gratitude for the Book of Mormon?
I did not come on a mission just because I know that Christ lives.
I did not come on a mission just because I wanted to serve others.
I did not come on a mission just because I love my church.
I came on a mission because I know the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
I know that it will bring people closer to Jesus Christ than through any other book. I know that it was written by prophets of God anciently and translated by a the Prophet Joseph Smith by the power of God. I know that by reading it and living it's principles you can find more happiness in this life than you could in any other way. I invite all to read, study and pray about the Book of Mormon so that they may know of it's truthfulness and glory for their-selves. This I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.