When I served as a member of the Europe Area Presidency, I was in Ireland for a mission tour and district conference. At that conference President John O‘Farrell, the first counselor in the Ireland Dublin Mission presidency, spoke and asked a most interesting question:
“Where would I be without the Church?”
He asked the congregation, “Where would you be without the gospel in your life?” He proposed that, “Here in Ireland, without the gospel we would likely be down at the local bar, drinking beer, and telling inappropriate stories.”
Each of us might well ask that question: “Where would I be without the Church?”
What a blessing it is to have the gospel in our lives and to enjoy its saving power.
My dear young friends, may I share with you from the experience of others and from personal testimony my conviction that the gospel has a dramatic power to change lives. The scriptures are full of stories of men and women whose lives were changed by its influence.
Think of Matthew, a despised tax collector who followed the Savior. Where would he have been had he not met the Master and had continued to seek earthly rather than heavenly wealth? (See Matt. 9:9.)
Think of Saul, the tent maker of Tarsus, and his dramatic confrontation with God on that fateful day near Damascus. He held the coats of those who martyred Stephen, and he went “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). Where would Saul have been—what would he have become—had not the Lord taken charge and turned anger and hatred into desire and dedication?
Peter and Andrew, James and John heeded the call to leave their nets and become “fishers of men” (see Matt. 4:18–22). It wasn’t easy for these men, it wasn’t convenient—it seldom is, in purely worldly terms—but the Savior’s call was answered, and they were never the same again.
But what of today? Are there still such stories? Definitely, yes!
Let me take you to Huddlesfield, England, for a personal testimony of a sweet sister named Mina Kreslins. She was born in Amsterdam, Holland, into the Jewish faith. She had lost her parents and brothers and sisters during the wartime occupation of that country.
She tells in the testimony of her conversion, “I was bitter, and although I prayed, I just could not forgive.”
Then in early October 1983, her daughter Karla came into contact with the missionaries. Karla became interested in the gospel and was converted. She invited her mother, Mina Kreslins, to attend her baptism.
“It was at Karla’s baptism I felt the Spirit. It was so strong. I had never felt anything so beautiful in my whole life. I felt so elated and so wonderful, and I wanted to become part of it.”
The missionaries began teaching Sister Kreslins, and the Spirit bore witness to her of what they said. “When they told me about Joseph Smith and the Restoration, the Spirit was so strong, from my head to my feet. I knew then, with all my heart, that the Church was true and that I had to be part of it.”
“My baptism was beautiful. No words can describe the feeling I had as I came out of the water. I felt so clean—almost holy. When I received the Holy Ghost, I felt wonderful. I wanted to shout for joy. Finally, there was rest and relief from the horrors and the hating of those war-torn years.
“Now, since I have become a member of this beautiful Church, I have forgiven and I have no bitterness in my heart.”
Where would Mina Kreslins be today without the gospel?
I have asked that serious question of myself: “Where would I be without the gospel?”
It was that gospel testimony that helped me to say no to my Navy friends when our first leave came while I was in training camp in early 1944. My naval colleagues invited me to share in their worldly activities; to prove that I was a “man” by getting a tattoo, and then going after drink and women.
I was the only Latter-day Saint in that group, and, yes, I felt a little lonely as I left them to go by myself to the servicemen’s recreation center and then to a movie. The following day I found Church services and Church friends who strengthened and reinforced a lonely Mormon boy from Provo, Utah.
To have come home from the service in world War II still living a virtuous life has held eternal rewards for me.
The power of Satan is increasing. You see it all about you in books, in magazines, in movies, and on television. You can resist that evil only by putting on the whole armor of God (see Eph. 6:13–17). Put on God’s spiritual armor, for it will protect all who wear it against the deadly weapons of evil and wickedness.
Without the gospel, we would not have available to us the whole armor of God, which is a shield of faith and truly a breastplate of righteousness.
You, in your youth, can have the blessings that come with living a righteous life. You don’t have to wait until you are an old man or an old woman. There is much you can do to build the kingdom—much, indeed, that a priest or a Laurel, a teacher or a Mia Maid, or a deacon or a Beehive can do. Remember that it was through a fifteen-year-old Joseph Smith that the gospel light was given back to the world.
Only Satan would have you underestimate your worth; those who truly follow God know well the worth of souls (see D&C 18:10).
Let us learn our lessons well so that we might be profitable servants. Make full use of the educational opportunities the world offers, but support them with the spiritual strength that comes through seminary classes. Seeking then serving, and learning then living is the process.
I testify to you that the gospel can change lives and that we have a loving and caring Heavenly Father who knows each of us and our hopes and desires, our strengths and weaknesses.