What makes it possible for me to stand here, I think, is that you are all great friends.
In the Lord’s special revelation on government in the Church, he says that the First Presidency is upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the Church. (See D&C 107:22.) On behalf of these six who have just been called, I would like to express to the First Presidency our confidence, our faith, and our prayers. We love the First Presidency, and we appreciate the confidence they have in us. I would also like to thank those of you who have expressed your confidence to us. It’s the only possible way we can do this work. We have felt a rich outpouring of your love, and that has been an outstanding experience.
I would like you also to know that we have felt the love of the Saints throughout the Church. And especially on behalf of myself, I feel the love of my fellow California Saints, who are here in such great number, and of those great Saints in Idaho—and if I could be allowed a point of personal privilege, of those great missionaries of the Idaho Boise Mission. I feel their strength. Of course, our families are the essential cornerstone of that sustaining love. It’s tremendous to belong to this great church.
Now, as to the calling, the awesome calling which has come. The Seventy are called to preach the gospel and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and all the world. As I have searched my heart, I think the only qualification I can think of—and I believe I speak on behalf of my brethren—is that we have an especially strong witness of this work.
I testify to two things. One is that there is a real Jesus the Christ. He has a personal interest in each one of us. And secondly, if we seek him, he brings to us the peace which passeth all understanding.
Last October I was on a trip across the mission. I was near a little town called Fairfield, Idaho, and I was reviewing the scriptures. I was reviewing the account of the First Vision, which I had asked all of our missionaries to memorize, found in the Pearl of Great Price. And as I reviewed that beautiful account from memory, I had a singular experience.
There came to me a very, very special witness that what was recounted by Joseph Smith in those words which he wrote in the Pearl of Great Price was exactly what happened. In a sense, I experienced, as it were, the First Vision myself. And I became a witness to it, a personal witness, through the power of the Holy Ghost. I bear you that witness that the Father and the Son did appear to Joseph Smith the Prophet. I imagine that my experience was very similar to that which many of you have had.
When President Hinckley called Thursday afternoon (that’s when we had the first inkling that some change was coming up in our lives), he said, “Brother John, I’d like to interview you and Sister Carmack. I’d like to have you take the first flight out tomorrow morning and meet me in my office.” Then he added, “Don’t worry about this.” That was a big, big help.
The medicine didn’t work. We worried. But during the early morning hours, the Savior’s Holy Spirit reached us and comforted us. We felt peace. It became possible to rest.
May I suggest to all of the Church, and particularly to you young people and you missionaries throughout the world, don’t neglect those early morning prayers to our Heavenly Father. Through those prayers, you reach him, and through that, you can have peace.
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15.)
I think it was C. S. Lewis—I believe he was quoting George MacDonald—who said that we are like a house. When Christ comes in, it hurts abominably. We knew the roof and the gutters needed fixing, Lewis said, but all of a sudden we find that he starts putting up a new story here, and he shoots out a new wing there. We knew that the cottage needed fixing and those things needed doing, but this? (See Mere Christianity, New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1943, p. 174.)
Well, Christ’s love can be tough. What is he trying to do with us? In his best-seller, The Road Less Traveled (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), Dr. M. Scott Peck said that no matter how much we may pussyfoot around it, all who ask the question “What is God’s love leading to?” come to a single terrifying conclusion: God wants us to become like himself. We are being prepared for godhood, and it hurts; it hurts abominably, but there is peace.
In those early morning hours, there came to my mind the theme from Ralph Rodgers’s play III Nephi:
I feel my Savior’s love in all the world around me. …
He knows I will follow him, give all my life to him.
I feel the Savior’s love, the love He freely gives me.
On behalf of these brethren who have joined me, we pledge our energy, our love, our prayers, our faith, in humble obedience to a call we did not seek, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.