Church Leaders Address Servicemen and Servicewomen in Special Military Devotional
Contributed By Melissa Merrill, Church News and Events
“We want you to know that we love you, we remember you, and we are proud of you,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told Latter-day Saint military servicemen and servicewomen in a prerecorded devotional the Church released on Wednesday, June 13, 2012. “We remember your families also and recognize that their sacrifice is every bit as great as yours. We include them in our prayers and include them in the spirit of our devotional audience today. Please know that our support and our concern are intended for those of you at home as well as those of you on active duty.”
The Middle East/Africa North Military Devotional was recorded on Friday, June 8, 2012, and included addresses from Elder Holland, Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy, and Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president.
Messages of the Devotional
In his message, Elder Holland drew on lessons learned from Joseph Smith’s experience in Liberty Jail.
“My message today is that when you have no other choice, you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in any situation you are in,” Elder Holland said. “Indeed, let me say that even a little stronger: You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced.
“… The lessons of the winter of 1838–39 teach us that every experience can become a redemptive experience if we remain bonded to our Father in Heaven through that difficulty. These difficult lessons teach us that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, and if we will be humble and faithful, if we will be believing and not curse God for our problems, He can turn the unfair and inhumane prisons of our lives into temples—or at least into a circumstance that can bring comfort and revelation, divine companionship and peace.”
Elder Holland closed by leaving an apostolic blessing on those serving their countries as well as on their families.
Elder Hallstrom focused his remarks on the spiritual safety found through making and keeping covenants.
“It is common for us to pray for physical protection,” he said. “In a dangerous world for all—and especially for you—that prayer makes sense and certainly is appropriate. However, I have come to more fervently pray for something else: I pray continually for the strength to live true to my covenants.
“We should live wisely in protecting ourselves from bodily harm, but, in reality, whether we live a long or short life upon this earth is of relatively little consequence in the eternities. What really matters is our character and how we live. Living the life of a covenant-maker and covenant-keeper is of highest value, as that is the only way for us to fulfill our eternal purpose.”
Sister Burton also spoke about the importance of covenants—as well as of following the leaders of the Church, emulating the Savior’s example in reaching out to and rescuing others, and turning to the scriptures and hymns for strength.
“I testify we have a loving Father in Heaven who knows and loves you perfectly and individually,” she concluded. “You and your precious families are being prayed for in sacred places by the Lord’s anointed ones. I know those prayers are heard and will be answered in the Lord’s own time and in His own way.”
Blessings of Church Membership for Latter-day Saints Everywhere
The devotional became available online on Wednesday, June 13, 2012; DVDs for those without Internet access are being distributed to groups (a group is a Church unit smaller than a branch and is common in military settings) in Afghanistan and Iraq.
During the last two years, annual district conferences in the Middle East were held for Latter-day Saint servicemen and servicewomen representing 16 nations. Even though many troops withdrew from the region last year, this year's devotional will be distributed to members still serving in the armed forces there.
Those who helped produce the devotional hope that the resource will provide help and comfort not only immediately but in the future as well, said Frank Clawson, director of the Church’s Military Relations Division.
“We want to be able to provide our members who serve in the military the blessings of Church membership no matter where they are,” Brother Clawson said. “The idea behind the devotional is to help strengthen those who are bearing a tremendous responsibility and facing family separation and other challenges for long periods of time. We hope to reassure them of God’s love and to remind them that the Church is mindful of them and their needs. We want to let them know the Church strives to strengthen their testimony as they face trials.
“It’s unprecedented to have such a meeting recorded like this,” he added.
Resources like the devotional are created to bless not only members of the Church serving in the armed forces but also those who work in warzones as civil service employees, civilian contractors, embassy personnel, or nonprofit organization representatives, he added.
Moreover, Brother Clawson said the devotional can bring peace to families who have members serving in the military and serve as a reminder to general Church membership of the sacrifices that so many are making to preserve freedom.
“I think it’s important for Church members to be aware of the people out there making tremendous sacrifices on their behalf,” Brother Clawson said. “We may not always see it directly, but ultimately our freedom to worship God and to show our devotion to Him according to the dictates of our own conscience is predicated upon that. The things we enjoy and have become accustomed to—things like being able to go to church and have youth activities and go to seminary and institute—are possible because of the great sacrifices that happened generations before us and because of the sacrifices of those in the current generation who are ensuring liberty and freedom.”
The devotional is just one of many efforts and resources provided by the Church military relations program, which exists to help ensure that the blessings of Church participation are available to members who serve in the military. The program consists of
- Church orientation for members who enter military service.
- Support from stakes and wards regardless of where military members are stationed throughout the world.
- The organization of service member groups when Church members in military service are unable to attend local wards or branches.
- Endorsement of qualified individuals who desire to become military chaplains in the various branches of military service.