My dear brothers and sisters, I come before you with a humble heart and rejoice with you in the marvelous spirit of this conference.
I am grateful for the blessings of this day. I am thankful for my knowledge and testimony that God lives and that through the atoning sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we may enjoy eternal life as we are obedient to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. We are blessed to be living in this dispensation when the gospel, the Church, and the priesthood, which is the power to act in the name of God, have been restored through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith, one of the great leaders of all time.
And today, in a world where there are millions of God’s children who are frustrated and discouraged and are looking for an explanation of life, we are blessed to be led and guided by another prophet, our beloved President Harold B. Lee. May the Lord bless and sustain him.
In considering the purpose of life, the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.” (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 5, pp. 134–35.)
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in his life, set the pattern for us to follow in our quest for this eternal joy and happiness. He admonished his disciples to be perfect, “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48.)
There is tremendous power in focusing upon an ideal. People are inclined to become like those whom they admire. As we increase our knowledge and love of the Savior and indicate our willingness to do his will, we necessarily become more perfect and like him.
Some of the Savior’s greatest attributes and most profound teachings are to be found in the incidents immediately preceding his crucifixion.
After the Last Supper, Jesus and the eleven apostles left the house in which they had eaten and walked to the olive grove known as Gethsemane, on the slope of Mount Olivet. Jesus apparently frequented this grove or garden when he desired privacy for prayer and meditation.
He left eight of the apostles near the entrance, with the suggestion, “Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.” (Matt. 26:36.)
Peter, James, and John accompanied the Savior further and “then, saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
“And he went a little farther, 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.” (Matt. 26:38–39.)
The life of the Savior is replete with instances where he applied the principle of “Thy will be done, not mine.” Christ’s ability to apply this great principle in his life made it possible for him to become perfect.
As we apply “Thy will be done, not mine” in our lives, we will likewise move toward perfection and true happiness.
But how can we know God’s will in order to make our life conform? The Savior said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15.)
Live so that the Holy Ghost will guide and direct you.
Seek to grow in knowledge, wisdom, and understanding by continuous study and contemplation of the words of Christ and those whom God has appointed to teach and instruct us.
And pray always, remembering the promise given to us: “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you. …” (D&C 88:63.)
As we live in this type of environment, we will know God’s will and have the desire and courage to conform. This doctrine or philosophy requires one to deeply love the Lord and have great faith in his judgment.
Let me illustrate:
In the prayer offered by the Prophet Joseph Smith at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, which prayer was given to him by revelation, he said, “… Help thy servants to say, with thy grace assisting them: Thy will be done, O Lord, and not ours.” (D&C 109:44.)
In the fall of 1834 the Prophet was busily engaged in preparing for the school of the elders and wrote in his diary, “No month ever found me more busily engaged than November; but as my life consisted of activity and unyielding exertions, I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it.” (DHC, vol. 2, p. 170.)
Here again is evidenced the spirit of “Thy will be done.” Joseph Smith’s life exemplifies this great principle.
President Brigham Young’s feeling about this divine principle is recorded in a letter to Orson Spencer in January of 1848 when he said, “As the Lord’s will is my will all the time, as he dictates so I will perform.” (Millennial Star, vol. 10, p. 115.)
Some of you are converts to the Church. Did you find it difficult to accept baptism when you felt it would mean being estranged from your family or friends, losing the security of your social position, maybe even losing your job or employment?
But in your heart you knew it was the will of God that you should accept him and become a member of his church, because the Holy Ghost had borne this witness to you.
When you had the will to say “Not my will, but thy will be done,” placing your trust in God, and by your acceptance of baptism, showing your faith and humility, didn’t you find that you had just opened the way for God to give you greater blessings than you had ever known before?
This is the testimony of two wonderful young people I met recently in Mexico, Brother and Sister Alvarez. They told me that since they were baptized eight months ago, rather than the estrangement from family and friends they had feared, they were finding a new love and respect being given to them, besides all the wonderful new friends that they had found among their brothers and sisters in the Church. They had prospered materially, and above all they had found a peace and nearness to their Heavenly Father that they had never known before.
May I refer to two experiences:
As a young man I was offered an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. This was an honor and a real temptation. However, in my early life I had definitely decided that I would like to go on a mission, and I could now see that if I accepted the Naval Academy appointment I probably would not be able to serve as a missionary.
After prayerful consideration I declined the appointment, as I felt it was the will of the Lord that I go on a mission. Soon thereafter I received a call to serve in the Eastern States Mission.
I will be eternally grateful for the call I received, because it was in the mission field that I learned to love the gospel, learned the power of faith, and felt the happiness and peace that come when one is responsive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. The pattern I set in the mission field has been a guide to me throughout my life.
My mission president, Brigham H. Roberts, in his letter of release to me, promised me that I would “find new beginnings from time to time … even more missions.” As I left the mission field I prayed fervently and at length that this promise might be fulfilled. Twenty-four years later it was partially fulfilled when I was called to be the stake mission president of the East Mill Creek Stake. At that time Elder Gordon B. Hinckley was president of that stake, and also at that time President Harold B. Lee gave me a beautiful blessing as he set me apart.
Four years later it was further realized when I was called to preside over the Northwestern States Mission. And one of the choicest and most inspiring experiences of our lives was when Sister Richards and I spent approximately ten days with President and Sister Lee in touring our mission.
As we have listened to missionaries bear their testimonies, many have told us how they put aside dreams and plans for school and careers and accepted mission calls. Others who have been called to important church assignments have set aside, to a large extent, their personal affairs, to give the needed attention to the work of the Lord; and all have borne witness of the happiness and blessings they and their families have received.
In my opinion, the strength and vitality of the Church is due, to a large extent, to the willingness of its members to live the principle, “Thy will be done, not mine.”
In 1959 when I received my call to preside over the Northwestern States Mission, it came at a most inconvenient time. But both Sister Richards and I felt that if the Lord wanted us to go, then we should go.
Many of our friends, Church members and nonmembers, indicated that they felt we were making a real sacrifice. We felt otherwise, and as President McKay set me apart, he promised me that it would be the happiest time of our lives. And it was, because our entire time was spent in serving our fellowmen. And we remembered the words of King Benjamin, “… when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17.)
Why should we consider it a sacrifice to enjoy such happiness, growth, and development?
Again I was grateful that my parents had taught me to live by the rule, “Thy will be done, not mine.”
Applying this rule in our lives can mean never to turn down an opportunity to serve in building the kingdom when asked by one in authority. Our callings to serve in the Church, coming from an authorized agent of our Heavenly Father, can properly be construed to be the will of the Lord.
In many other ways, to accept the will of the Lord is ofttimes most difficult, as is the case of the death of a loved one.
Death is an important part of eternal life, yet we are never quite ready for the change. Not knowing when it will come, we properly fight to retain life for ourselves and for our loved ones. We pray for the sick and administer to the afflicted. We implore the Lord to heal and extend life. But all are not healed, even though great faith is manifested.
However, God has given us a promise that though a loved one may die, yet he or she shall live again, through the atonement and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The loss of loved ones is a difficult experience that builds great faith, courage, and humility, and we must all expect such experiences.
To obtain the desired happiness on this earth and in the world to come, we must steadfastly face trials and tribulations regardless of the form they take, with the spirit, “Thy will be done, not mine.”
The Savior again set the pattern in this respect. No martyr ever approached death with greater courage and dignity than did Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Undoubtedly the greatest evidence of righteousness in a person is to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer without any qualifications, and an evidence of this is to live the doctrine, “Thy will be done, not mine.”
In conclusion, let me again repeat the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.”
By loving the Lord, keeping his commandments, and serving our fellow beings, we are doing his will, and this will bring us great happiness and eternal life.
I bear you this witness in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.