Spiritual Power

Elder Devere Harris


Dear brothers and sisters, this is very humbling, and I pray sincerely for the Spirit of the Lord to sustain me. Since being called as a General Authority last April, I have developed a greater love for the gospel of Jesus Christ and a much deeper appreciation and love for a great and wonderful wife who has stood by my side through every facet of married life. I am grateful for our five children who sustain us and live as they should, and thankful for parents who taught correct principles and set a marvelous pattern for us to follow. I have learned to love and appreciate good men and women who have influenced my life and stood by my side through many Church callings.

I am most thankful to a kind Father in Heaven for the privilege of serving in the Area Presidency of the South Pacific Islands under the leadership and direction of a great and spiritual leader, Elder Robert L. Simpson, and of being one with a counselor, companion, and friend, Elder Philip T. Sonntag. What a thrill it has been in the last month to participate in the dedication of a beautiful temple in faraway Australia, and to see thousands of wonderful Saints as they came from all corners of that great land and raised their voices in song and prayer and appreciation—true evidence that temples are being built in many countries across the face of the earth and that thousands of righteous men and women and children will visit them to be sealed together in family units for time and for all eternity.

We visited the Saints in New Zealand and felt the same sweet spirit. Our spirits were lifted and our testimonies strengthened. What a privilege to participate in the dedication of the first LDS chapel in Papua, New Guinea—where 450 wonderful native people sat with tear-filled eyes as President Robert L. Simpson dedicated their beautiful building. A handsome young New Guinean stood in that meeting with a Book of Mormon in one hand and a Bible in the other; he held them high above his head and bore a strong witness and testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ to his people. We thrilled after traveling sixty-five miles to a jungle village to witness the faith and testimony of our members there. They gave us gifts that had been handed down from generation to generation because we represented the gospel they love so much. And we gave a prayer and blessing on their village before we left. Tears filled our eyes as we saw President Kimball’s picture hanging in a building in far-off New Guinea.

We felt the spirit of missionary work as we literally watched the prophecies unfold that the gospel of Jesus Christ should be taken to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. (See Mosiah 15:28.) I am grateful for the spirit of the gospel, the spirit of missionary work, and the spiritual leadership of great latter-day leaders. I support and sustain them with all my heart.

I have observed from many years of activity in the Church that there are some underlying principles of leadership that cause men to become great. There is a certain spiritual ingredient necessary in all areas of activity if we are to reach the pinnacle of performance. George Washington, father of our country, was on his knees at Valley Forge, seeking the spirit and the direction of God. Abraham Lincoln, as he stood on the platform of the train as it left Springfield, Illinois, for Washington, D.C., where he was to be President of the United States, said this: “Without the assistance of that Divine Being … , I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail” (Ida M. Tarbell, ed., Selections from the Letters, Speeches, and State Papers of Abraham Lincoln, Boston: Ginn and Co., 1911, p. 63.)

These same principles of spiritual leadership caused Moses, Nephi, Abraham, and Enoch to become giants in the land. What powers of the spirit did David use as he walked out on the battlefield to meet Goliath? He said, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.

“This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand.” (1 Sam. 17:45–46.)

What source of power did Moses use as he stretched his arm toward the Red Sea and caused the waters to roll back and his people to cross on dry land?

Columbus sailed from Spain, and after several months there was mutiny on the ships Pinta and Nina. He was told that if land was not sighted within so many hours they would turn around and go back. Columbus said that he went into the cabin and prayed mightily to God, and on that dark night, 12 October 1492, a small island was sighted, and they named it San Salvador, meaning Holy Redeemer.

I bear witness that inherent in every member of the Church are powerful resources of the spirit if we righteously seek them. Man’s closest communication with his Maker is through the medium of prayer. It is the means offered him to place his problems before God and receive spiritual strength and sustenance.

Each of us has a right to revelation as far as it relates to our area of responsibility. I sincerely believe if we should ever lose the power of individual revelation in the Church we would have lost most everything. We could implement programs of the Church, but without that great spiritual ingredient we would fail to redeem the Saints, convert the nations, and accomplish the mission of the Church.

We can each have access to those great spiritual blessings and that great power used by David and Moses—but there is a price to pay. Let me quote: “There are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

“Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

“That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.” (D&C 121:34–36.) Now, brothers and sisters, what were the powers of Heaven? They caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the dead to rise. And through these same powers the earth was organized. But here is the key—the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. (See D&C 121:41–42.) The key, then, to the future and to the use of these spiritual blessings is personal righteousness.

As President Romney once said, “May we recognize that prayer is the instrument of miracles,” and may we use the power and direction of the Holy Spirit and not rely wholly upon our own ability in the work of the Lord.

I bear my witness that God lives, that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, that a prophet of God leads this Church today, that life is eternal. I believe that man was “overbuilt” for this world. Have you ever seen a man who was totally satisfied with what he has here? There seems to be a yearning, a longing, a reaching up for something not had here. I think a wise man of old described it best when he said, “Surely God has planted the seeds of eternity into the souls of men.”

I bear witness he has planted those seeds, and I pledge all that I have for the building of the kingdom of God in this work in these latter days, and I confirm this witness and this pledge in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Devere Harris