God Wants His Children to Return to Him, Elder Nelson Teaches
By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer
- Heavenly Father wants all of His children to return and live with Him.
- To obtain eternal life we must have faith, repent, receive the Holy Ghost, make temple covenants, and endure to the end.
Elder Russell M. Nelson enjoined 21 departing missionary couples to “keep an eternal perspective” as they assume assignments in various locales at missionary training centers and Church visitors’ centers or historic sites.
At the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, Elder Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was the concluding speaker at the three-day 2014 Seminar for New MTC Presidents and Visitors’ Center Directors. The couples received intensive training and instruction January 14–15 at the Provo MTC and January 16 in Salt Lake City.
The day-to-day challenges the couples will encounter typically pertain to the here and now, not eternity, Elder Nelson observed. But he encouraged them to ask a one-word question, “Why?”
Referring to the opening hymn in the session, “Hark, All Ye Nations,” Elder Nelson recited some of the lines and followed them with the word “Why?”
“Hark, all ye nations! Hear heaven’s voice thru every land that all may rejoice!”
“Chosen by God to serve him below, to every land and people we’ll go, standing for truth with fervent accord, teaching his holy word.”
Then, answering his own question, Elder Nelson said, “Because God wants His children back; it’s so simple.
“Any parent can understand that. You send your children off to kindergarten and the young mothers gulp. Then children go off to school, and then they go off to mission, and then they go off to education. Some go off to military duty. And you have but one desire, and that is that they’ll come home safely.”
A loving Heavenly Father has but two desires for His children, Elder Nelson said: immortality and eternal life, “which means life with Him back home.”
Immortality is an unconditional gift, but eternal life is conditional, he explained.
“We have to have faith and repentance, and we have to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and endure to the END-dowment of the temple and the sealing ordinances of the temple, remain faithful to those covenants,” he added.
Thus one can be safely qualified to enter into the holy presence of the Lord, Elder Nelson said.
He spoke of the Book of Mormon in the context of “two great promises” from God that have not yet been fulfilled.
“One is that scattered Israel will be gathered again in the latter days, and the other is that there will be the great Second Coming of the Lord. We don’t doubt this; we just don’t know when.
“And neither of those will be fulfilled without the Restoration. So I say that song for you with those ‘whys’ interjected; the ‘why’ is so that Israel can be gathered. The ‘why’ is that the world will be prepared for the Second Coming of the Lord.”
The delightful thing, he said, is that people living in this age get to participate in the fulfillment of the promises.
“Prophets from Adam on down have foreseen our day,” he said. “They’ve talked about our day, when Israel will be gathered and the world will be prepared for the Second Coming. But of all people who have ever come to earth, we are the ones who get to play on the team. Everybody else have just been spectators. And they’re watching through their heavenly portholes at what’s going on.”
Elder Nelson spoke of the promise the Lord made to Abraham some 4,000 years ago and reiterated to his son Isaac and grandson Jacob that through their lineage all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
Many of Abraham’s descendants, the tribes of ancient Israel, rejected the teachings of the Lord and killed the prophets, he said. Israel became scattered due to that rejection, but God promised they would be gathered back into the fold.
“The promise of the gathering was just as emphatic as the scattering,” Elder Nelson said. “Isaiah, for example, foresaw that in latter days, the Lord would send ‘swift messengers’ to these people who were scattered and peeled away from the Lord.”
The missionary couples and other missionaries who will be in their charge are part of that cadre of swift messengers, Elder Nelson said. “There are no slow, shuffling steps allowed. You are swift messengers, and the time of your service will be swift in passing.”
The coming forth of the Book of Mormon in latter days is a tangible sign to the world that the Lord has commenced to gather Israel and fulfill the covenants made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Elder Nelson said.
“Mercifully, the invitation to come unto Christ can also be extended to those who died without a knowledge of the gospel,” he said. “Part of the preparation of the people who live on the other side of the veil requires earthly efforts of those who live on this side of the veil.”
Elder Nelson said that this, the dispensation of the fulness of times, was foreseen by prophets as a time of fulfillment of promises, including a restoration of priesthood authority and keys. That has been accomplished through the visitation of heavenly messengers, such as the resurrected Peter, James, and John, Moses, Elias, and Elijah.
“Why is all this so crucial?” he asked. “Because the gathering of Israel is necessary to prepare the world for that promised Second Coming. And the Book of Mormon is God’s instrument needed to accomplish both of these objectives. The Book of Mormon is a gift from God to the entire world.”
The Second Coming will not be in secret as was Christ’s first coming when He was born into mortality, Elder Nelson said, citing the phrasing of Isaiah: “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). He added, “When anything happens of significance now, it’s known instantly all over the world.”
Also addressing the group of missionary couples was Elder Nelson’s wife, Sister Wendy Watson Nelson.
“In our home we believe in missionary work on both sides of the veil,” she said.
“We know that as you’re in the MTC, as you’re in your visitors’ center, there will be those on the other side who will be pleading for their posterity to be taught by the Holy Ghost. So you get to have the privilege of creating environments, creating messages, creating experiences for those who will come to the MTC, to the visitors’ center, so that the Spirit can be the true teacher. It is an amazing work. It is no small thing. You will have these experiences—you’ve already had them in your lives—where you do know that the Lord is serious when He says, ‘I can do my own work.’ He really just invites us to the party.”