President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: The Merciful Obtain Mercy
“We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children,” said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency in his address Sunday morning.
“This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon,” he said. “When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm—please apply the following: Stop it!”
Offering a talk titled, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy,” President Uchtdorf said strained and broken relationships are as old as humankind itself. “I imagine that every person on earth has been affected in some way by the destructive spirit of contention, resentment, and revenge. Perhaps there are even times when we recognize this spirit in ourselves. When we feel hurt, angry, or envious it is quite easy to judge other people, often assigning dark motives to their actions in order to justify our own feelings of resentment. Of course, we know this is wrong.”
President Uchtdorf said people can so clearly and easily see the harmful results that come when others judge and hold grudges. And they don’t like it when others judge them. “But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous, and our judgement as reliable and only appropriate.”
President Uchtdorf said the minute “we judge others, we condemn ourselves.”
“Refusing to forgive is a grievous sin—one the Savior warned against. … When the Lord requires that we forgive all men—that includes forgiving ourselves.”
He asked members of the congregation to forgive so they can be forgiven. “Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves?”
Forgiving, he said, is not easy. “In fact, for most of us it requires a major change in our attitude and way of thinking—even a change of heart. But there is good news. This mighty change of heart is exactly what the gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to bring about.”
President Uchtdorf said the more Church members allow the love of God to govern their minds and emotions, the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ. “As we open our hearts to the glowing dawn of the love of God, the darkness and cold of animosity and envy will eventually fade.”
The pure love of Christ can remove the scales of resentment and wrath “from our eyes, allowing us to see others the way our Heavenly Father sees us: as flawed and imperfect mortal who have potential and worth far beyond our capacity to imagine. Because God loves us so much, we too must love and forgive each other.”
He said in a world of accusations and unfriendliness, it is easy to gather and cast stones. “Brothers and sisters, let us put down our stones. Let us be kind. Let us forgive. Let us talk peacefully with each other. Let the love of God fill our hearts. Let us do good unto all men (Galatians 6:10). ...
“Let us, as disciples of Jesus Christ, return good for evil. Let us not seek revenge or allow our wrath to overcome us. … As member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wherever we may be, let us be known as a people who have love one to another” (see John 13:35).
President Uchtdorf said there is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without adding to it through stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.
“We are not perfect. The people around us are not perfect. People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger. In this mortal life it will always be that way.
“Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord’s way.
“Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive.
“Lay your burden at the Savior’s feet. Let go of judgement. Allow Christ’s Atonement to change and heal your heart. Love one another. Forgive one another. The merciful will obtain mercy.”
Elder Russell M. Nelson: Thanks Be to God
Many live day to day without an awareness of God and His goodness. How much better it would be if all could be more aware of God’s love and express gratitude to Him, said Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve.
Speaking Sunday morning, the apostle declared that God is the “Father of our spirits” and “when He created us physically, we were created in the image of God,” each with a personal body.
“Think of our physical sustenance,” he said. “It is truly heaven-sent. The necessities of air, food, and water all come to us gifts from a loving Heavenly Father. The earth was created to support our brief sojourn in mortality. We were born with a capacity to grow, love, marry, and form families.”
Marriage and family, he added, are ordained of God, and the family is the most important social unit in time and eternity.
Central to God’s eternal plan is the mission of His Son Jesus Christ. “He came to redeem God’s children. Because of the Lord’s Atonement, resurrection (or immortality) became a reality. Because of the Atonement, eternal life became a possibility for all who would qualify.”
Elder Nelson said a loving God has provided His children with physical and spiritual gifts. Each organ of the body is a wondrous gift from God—from the eyes to the heart and to the body’s remarkable ability to heal and renew itself.
“Yet some people erroneously think that these marvelous physical attributes happened by chance or resulted from a big bang somewhere,” he said. “Ask yourself, ‘Could an explosion in a printing shop produce a dictionary?’ The likelihood is most remote. But if so, it could never heal its own torn pages or reproduce its own newer editions.”
Death, like birth, is part of life. “To return to God through the gateway we call death is a joy for those who love Him and are prepared to meet Him.”
As important as is the body, it serves as a tabernacle for one’s eternal spirit, he said. “Our spirits existed in the premortal realm and will continue to live after the body dies. The spirit provides the body with animation and personality. In this life and in the next, spirit and body, when joined together, become a living soul of supernal worth.”
Elder Nelson then spoke of the eternal importance of the spirit. “The attributes by which we shall be judged one day are all spiritual. These include love, virtue, integrity, compassion, and service to others. Your spirit, coupled with and housed in your body, is able to develop and manifest these attributes in ways that are vital to you eternal progression.
“Spiritual progress is attained through steps of faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end, including the endowment and sealing ordinances of the holy temple.”
It is one’s challenge to access the power of the Atonement each day to become more Christlike and live eternally with God, Jesus Christ, and the family, Elder Nelson said.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband: Special Lessons
Trusting in God’s will is central to mortality, said Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy in his Sunday morning conference address.
“With faith in Him, we draw upon the power of Christ’s Atonement at those times when questions abound and answers are few,” he said.
Elder Rasband began his address by sharing a personal story about his grandson Paxton, who was born with a rare genetic disorder. Shortly after his grandson was born, Elder Rasband said he knew Heavenly Father would bless and teach the family special lessons. While giving his grandson a blessing, the words from the ninth chapter of John came into his mind. “… that the works of God should be made manifest.”
“We are learning patience, faith, and gratitude through the balm of service, endless hours of intense emotions, tears of empathy, and the prayers and expressions of love for dear ones in need, especially Paxton and his parents,” he said.
He quoted President James E. Faust: “I have a great appreciation for those loving parents who stoically bear and overcome their anguish and heartbreak for a child who was born with or who has developed a serious mental or physical infirmity. This anguish often continues every day, without relief, during the lifetime of the parent or the child. …”
Elder Rasband said that Paxton’s family has been surrounded by countless heavenly and earthly ministering angels. Through their acts of service, another special lesson was learned. “We continue to learn the important value of being aware and interested in the lives of those around us; learning not only the importance of giving help, but also the overwhelming joy that comes from helping others,” he said.
Though many people face trials, adversities, disabilities, heartaches, and all manner of afflictions, a loving Savior will always be there, said Elder Rasband. “He has promised: ‘I will not leave you comfortless: I will come unto you’ (John 14:18) ‘… My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid’” (John 14:27).
“Brothers and sisters, it is my hope and prayer that we will continue to bear nobly our burdens and to reach out to those among us who are suffering and in need of being lifted and encouraged.”
Julie B. Beck: The Vision of Prophets Regarding Relief Society: Faith, Family, Relief
Faith, family, relief—these three simple words have come to express the vision of prophets for sisters in the Church, said Sister Julie B. Beck.
“Understanding about how we can increase faith, strengthen families, and homes and provide relief comes as we seek, receive, and act on revelation,” said Sister Beck, who was released Saturday afternoon as the Church’s Relief Society general president.
Since the days of Joseph Smith, prophets have spoken of the essential need for sisters to be full participants in the Lord’s work, she explained. “They have shared their vision of strong, faithful, purposeful women who understand their eternal value and purpose.”
Each year, hundreds of thousands of new sisters become part of Relief Society, she said. “Thereafter, wherever a sister lives, and wherever she serves, she retains her membership and association in Relief Society. Newly baptized sisters and young women entering Relief Society learn how to fulfill their purpose.”
Relief Society is a not a program, she said. “It is an official part of the Lord’s Church that is divinely ordained of God to teach, strengthen, and inspire sisters in their purpose regarding faith, family, and relief. The influence of Relief Society has always extended far beyond a Sunday class or a social gathering. Relief Society is meant to be a way of life for Latter-day Saint women, following the pattern of female disciples who served with the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles in His ancient Church.”
Sister Beck said Relief Society is meant to help sisters avoid problems, if possible, and establish righteous patterns in their lives. “It helps sisters learn spiritual and practical skills that teach them how to make their homes a sacred center of gospel living.”
Relief Society leaders and sisters carry the sacred responsibility to avoid fads and socials trends, she added. “They are to seek revelation and ensure that every meeting, lesson, class, activity, and effort of the Relief Society fulfills the purposes for which it is organized. The sociality, friendship, and unity we desire are not the purposes of our association; rather they are the sweet results of serving together with the Lord in His work.”
Sister Beck said, as evidence of their desire that the “glorious heritage” of Relief Society be preserved, the First Presidency recently published and distributed worldwide, Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society. “As sisters become more aligned with the purposes of Relief Society, the vision of the prophets will be fulfilled,” she said.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson: The Doctrine of Christ
“We have seen of late a growing public interest in the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in his conference address Sunday morning. “This is something we welcome because, after all, our fundamental commission is to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, His doctrine, in all the world. But we must admit there has been and still persists some confusion about our doctrine and how it is established.”
Since the beginning, it has been the purpose of the Lord and the labor of His prophets to proclaim God’s plan of redemption, said Elder Christofferson. For centuries, the struggle to preserve the doctrines of the gospel against false tradition and philosophy prevailed, until, after occasional rays of gospel light, the Restoration of the gospel in its fullness illuminated the earth.
“A brilliant dawn of Restoration broke upon the world and the gospel of Christ, full and complete, was once again on the earth,” he said. “This glorious day began when, in a pillar of light ‘above the brightness of the sun,’ God the Father and His Beloved Son Jesus Christ visited young Joseph Smith and initiated what would become a virtual flood of revelation linked with divine power and authority.”
Elder Christofferson quoted from 3 Nephi, which records what might be termed the core doctrine of the Church Jesus Christ established upon the earth. Jesus Christ declared: “This is my doctrine … which the Father hath given unto me; … And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. … And whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. … this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them” (vv. 23-25, 39).
The Church today, just as anciently, establishes the doctrine of Christ by revelation to those the Lord endows with apostolic authority, said Elder Christofferson.
He said, “In some faith traditions, theologians claim equal teaching authority with the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and doctrinal matters may become a contest of opinions between them. … We value scholarship that enhances understanding, but in the Church today, just as anciently, establishing the doctrine of Christ or correcting doctrinal deviations is a matter of divine revelation to those the Lord endows with apostolic authority.”
It is through that authority that leaders are able to declare the mind and will of God to His people, he said.
“The Savior may act by messenger or in His own person to reveal His will and doctrine to prophets, seers, and revelators, he said. He may speak by His own voice or by the voice of the Holy Spirit. … He may direct Himself to His servants individually or acting in council. …
“These same patterns are followed today in the restored Church of Jesus Christ. The president of the Church may announce or interpret doctrines based on revelation to him. Doctrinal exposition may also come through the combined council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. … But in the end, just as in the New Testament church, the objective is not simply consensus among council members, but revelation from God. It is a process involving both reason and faith for obtaining the mind and will of the Lord.”
President Thomas S. Monson: The Race of Life
In his Sunday morning conference address, President Thomas S. Monson spoke of eternal truths, “those truths which will enrich our lives and see us safely home.”
Noting that everywhere people are in a hurry, rushing about the business of the day, he asked, “In this fast-paced life do we ever pause for moments of meditation—even thoughts of timeless truths?”
He said when compared to eternal verities, most of the questions and concerns of daily living are really rather trivial. Questions about what’s for dinner, or how to decorate the home, or in which activities to enroll children “lose their significance when times of crisis arise, when loved ones are hurt or injured, when sickness enters the house of good health, when life’s candle dims and darkness threatens. Our thoughts become focused, and we are easily able to determine what is really important and what is merely trivial.”
He spoke of visiting a woman fighting a life-threatening disease. Prior to her illness, her days were filled with activities such as cleaning her house and filling it with beautiful furnishings, visiting her hairdresser, and spending money on clothes. Concerned that her grandchildren might break or ruin her precious possessions, she invited them to visit infrequently. Then, at the moment her doctor gave a diagnosis of a potentially fatal medical condition, she knew immediately that she would spend whatever time she had remaining with her family and friends and with the gospel at the center of her life, for these represented what was most precious to her.
“Such moments of clarity come to all of us at one time or another, although not always through so dramatic a circumstance,” President Monson said. “We see clearly what it is that really matters in our lives and how we should be living.”
Further, he said, “In our times of deepest reflection or greatest need, the soul of man reaches heavenward, seeking a divine response to life’s greatest questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where do we go after we leave this life?
“Answers to these questions are not discovered within the covers of academia’s textbooks or by checking the Internet. These questions transcend mortality. They embrace eternity.”
Where Did We Come From?
“This query is inevitably thought, if not spoken, by every human being,” President Monson said.
“The Lord has declared that ‘the spirit and the body are the soul of man’ (Doctrine and Covenants 88:15). Thus it is the spirit which is the offspring of God. The writer of Hebrews refers to Him as ‘the Father of spirits’ (Hebrews 12:9). The spirits of all men … are literally His ‘begotten sons and daughters'“ (See Doctrine and Covenants 76:24).
Why are We Here?
“Clearly, one primary purpose of our existence upon the earth is to obtain a body of flesh and bones,” President Monson said. “We have also been given the gift of agency. In a thousand ways we are privileged to choose for ourselves. Here we learn from the hard taskmaster of experience. We discern between good and evil. We differentiate as to the bitter and the sweet. We discover that there are consequences attached to our actions.”
President Monson said, “The Apostle Paul likened life to a race. To the Hebrews he urged: 'Let us lay aside … the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us’ (Hebrews 12:1).
“In our zeal, let us not overlook the sage counsel from Ecclesiastes: ‘The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong’ (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Actually, the prize belongs to him who endures to the end.”
President Monson, speaking of an experience from his youth, said he and his friends made toy boats that they raced on the river. One boat, caught in a whirlpool, capsized. “The toy boats of childhood had no keel for stability, no rudder to provide direction, and no source of power. Inevitably their destination was downstream—the path of least resistance.
“Unlike toy boats, we have been provided divine attributes to guide our journey. We enter mortality not to float with the moving currents of life, but with the power to think, to reason, and to achieve.
“Our Heavenly Father did not launch us on our eternal voyage without providing the means whereby we could receive from Him guidance to ensure our safe return. I speak of prayer. I speak, too, of the whisperings from that still, small voice; and I do not overlook the holy scriptures, which contain the word of the Lord and the words of the prophets—provided to us to help us successfully cross the finish line.”
Where Do We Go after We Leave This Life?
President Monson said that Latter-day Saints know that death is not the end, as taught by prophets through the ages. He quoted from Alma 40:11-12, which explains that the “spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body … whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life,” and that the “spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.”
Further, President Monson declared, “The answer to Job’s question, ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’ came when Mary and others approached the tomb and saw two men in shining garments who spoke to them: ‘Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.’
“As the result of Christ’s victory over the grave, we shall all be resurrected. This is the redemption of the soul. Paul wrote: ‘There are … celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another’ (1 Corinthians 15:40).
“It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings are earned through a lifetime of striving, seeking, repenting, and finally succeeding.
“Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where do we go after this life? No longer need these universal questions remain unanswered. From the very depths of my soul, and in all humility, I testify that those things of which I have spoken are true.”
President Monson said Heavenly Father rejoices for those who keep His commandments. “He is concerned also for the lost child, the tardy teenager, the wayward youth, the delinquent parent. Tenderly the Master speaks to these, and indeed to all: ‘Come back. Come up. Come in. Come home. Come unto me.’
“In one week we will celebrate Easter. Our thoughts will turn to the Savior’s life, His death, and His resurrection. As His special witness, I testify to you that He lives and that He awaits our triumphant return.”