Chapter 7: Studying General Conference Addresses

Teachings of the Living Prophets Teacher Manual, (2010), 33–46


Introduction

Chapters 1–6 provide a doctrinal understanding of the role of living prophets, seers, and revelators. Chapter 7 discusses teaching from the conference issue of the Ensign or Liahona. As stated in the course introduction, it is not intended that a teacher take the entire semester to teach the first six chapters. Rather, this course is designed so that the majority of class time will be spent discussing and learning from the most recent general conference. Teachers may take class time to study an entire talk or parts of several talks.

Conference addresses in the Ensign and Liahona teach the words of the living prophets.

A primary goal of this course is to help students learn from the words of living prophets. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught religious educators that they must help students become spiritually self-reliant:

We are all familiar with the adage that giving a man a fish feeds him for one meal. Teaching the man to fish, on the other hand, feeds him for a lifetime. As gospel instructors, you and I are not in the business of distributing fish; rather, our work is to help individuals learn to “fish” and to become spiritually self-reliant. …

I have observed a common characteristic among the instructors who have had the greatest influence in my life. They have helped me to seek learning by faith. They refused to give me easy answers to hard questions. In fact, they did not give me any answers at all. Rather, they pointed the way and helped me take the steps to find my own answers. I certainly did not always appreciate this approach, but experience has enabled me to understand that an answer given by another person usually is not remembered for very long, if remembered at all. But an answer we discover or obtain through the exercise of faith, typically, is retained for a lifetime. The most important learnings of life are caught—not taught. (“Seek Learning by Faith” [an evening with Elder David A. Bednar, Feb. 3, 2006], 4–5)

Note: Students should be encouraged and expected to bring a personal copy of the most recent conference issue of the Ensign or Liahona to class each time you meet.

Advance preparation: Included at the end of this lesson are two copies of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk “We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down” from the April 2009 general conference (see Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 59–62)—the first one is for teachers and the second one is for students. Make a copy of the student talk for each of your students.

Suggestions for Teaching

Scripture Study Skills That Can Be Used to Study Conference Talks

Ask your students:

  • How are studying and searching different from reading?

Hold up a copy of a school textbook in front of your students and ask:

  • What specific strategies have you used to improve comprehension and retention of material found in school textbooks? (List student responses on the board, such as memorizing, rereading, marking important material, and taking notes.)

Note: It is not necessary to take a lot of time having students explain these strategies. Brief, simple answers are sufficient.

Hold up a copy of the most recent conference issue of the Ensign or Liahona and ask:

  • Besides the written texts of the conference addresses, what other parts of the magazine can help enhance your study? (Answers might include “Contents” and “Topic Index” in the front of the magazine and “They Spoke to Us” and “Conference Story Index” in the back of the magazine.)

Explain to your class that general conference addresses can be studied using many of the same skills used to study school textbooks and, more importantly, skills used to study the scriptures. Ask:

  • What are some scripture study skills you have used to better understand the scriptures? (Add student responses to the list on the board; they may include prayer, pondering, reading aloud, and cross-referencing.)

As students give a response, encourage them to briefly explain how that scripture study skill has helped them to understand the meaning of the scriptures.

Have students turn to pages 86–93 of the student manual under the heading “Practice Good Study Skills When Studying General Conference Addresses.” Divide the list of 17 study skills described in this section among the students. Invite students to take two or three minutes to study their assigned study skills. After a few minutes, ask the students to describe those study skills to the rest of the class. As the students make their presentations, add to the board any additional study skills not already mentioned.

Give each student a copy of the talk “We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down” by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency (found at the very end of this chapter). Divide your class into four groups. Assign each group to read and look for one of the following items:

  • Cross-references to the scriptures

  • Encouragements or invitations

  • Memorable phrases

  • Repetitions

Note: One unmarked copy of President Uchtdorf’s talk is provided for distribution to the students, as well as another copy for the teacher with the examples of these four items highlighted (both copies of the talk are located at the end of this chapter—the teacher’s copy first). The teacher’s copy demonstrates only a few of the items described above. In their study of the talk, the students may find several other examples not found in the teacher’s copy.

After giving students sufficient time to study the talk, ask each group to report their findings and describe how using that study skill strengthened their understanding of President Uchtdorf’s message.

Encourage students throughout the remainder of the course to use the study skills described in chapter 7 of their student manuals to enhance their study of the conference issue of the Ensign or Liahona. These skills can also be effectively used to study talks given by the Brethren on occasions other than general conference or to study other articles they have written for Church magazines. Share with your students how you have benefited by using some of these skills in your study of general conference messages.

Ways to Teach the General Conference Talks

Make sure students know in advance what talks will be covered in class. You may wish to provide a class outline that lists which talks will be discussed each class period. Ensure that each student has a copy of the talk, and encourage them to read and study the talk before class. This will enable the students to participate more fully in class discussions.

As with any course, using a variety of teaching techniques helps maintain a student’s interest and gospel growth. Following are some suggestions for teaching general conference addresses:

  • Show portions of general conference. While playing a talk on a DVD or videocassette, have students follow along with a written copy of the talk. Invite students to mark portions that stand out to them. You might encourage students to raise their hand when they would like to pause the DVD and discuss that portion of the talk. You might invite the students to look for a specific detail or the answer to a question. When video clips are not available, conference talks could be read in class.

  • Assign student reports. Students may sign up (or be assigned) ahead of time to lead a discussion on a particular talk. Students may also be assigned to teach biographical information on the Brethren.

  • Share personal stories. Show video clips of the Brethren sharing personal experiences. When video clips are not available, these experiences could be read in class.

  • Use group work in class. Have students discuss, in pairs or small groups, certain aspects of a talk or specific questions related to it. Invite groups to share their discussion with the entire class.

  • Use “look for” assignments to study talks at home. As students study conference addresses at home, have them look for key doctrines and principles, supporting scripture passages, and significant phrases or sentences. You may wish to assign them to write a short paper summarizing in their own words the insights they found.

  • Have students keep a study journal. Encourage students to record spiritual impressions before class, or provide time for this at the end of class.

  • Have students write topic summaries. Assign students to write short compositions that incorporate the teachings of multiple speakers on a specific topic.

  • Discuss the Brethren’s response to current events. Invite students to consider and discuss how the Brethren respond to events happening in the world today through their teachings in general conference.

  • Read talks in class. You may wish to have students read talks silently, aloud, in pairs, or in small groups. On occasion, you may also wish to read part of a talk to your class if you wish to emphasize a particular teaching.

  • Share stories. Review the stories that were shared in general conference from the “Conference Story Index” located near the back of each conference issue of the Ensign or Liahona. You could have students share why a particular story was meaningful to them. Help students identify the doctrines and principles underlying the story and cross-reference each one to their scriptures.

Biographies of the Apostles

The Apostle Paul counseled, “We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you” (1 Thessalonians 5:12). You can help strengthen students’ testimonies of the prophets, seers, and revelators by sharing brief biographical information about them. You can find biographical information at newsroom.lds.org and in Church almanacs. General Authority pictures, available from the distribution center, also include biographical information on the back.

Additional Teaching Resources

The Sunday School manual Teaching, No Greater Call (1999; item 36123) provides additional suggestions for teaching from general conference addresses (see “Preparing Lessons,” pages 98–99; “Creating Lessons from Conference Talks and Other Resources,” pages 100–101). Collaborate with coordinators and other teachers for additional ideas.

We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down

Teacher copy

Set your heart on the things that matter most.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor in the First Presidency

In Conference Report, Apr. 2009, 59–62; or Ensign, May 2009, 59–62; italics added.

My dear brethren, I have known for a few months the message I want to give to you today. During that time, I have searched for a story that would illustrate what I want to say. I looked for a story about farming. I looked for a story about animals. In honor of Elder Scott, I looked for a story about nuclear engineering, and in honor of President Monson, one about raising pigeons.

In the end, one story kept coming back to me—a story that has been imprinted on my memory for many, many years. It isn’t about farming, animals, nuclear engineering, or pigeons. It is—as you might have guessed—about aviation. I call it “The Story of the Lightbulb.”

The Story of the Lightbulb, or Losing Sight of What Matters Most

On a dark December night 36 years ago, a Lockheed 1011 jumbo jet crashed into the Florida Everglades, killing over 100 people. This terrible accident was one of the deadliest crashes in the history of the United States.

A curious thing about this accident is that all vital parts and systems of the airplane were functioning perfectly—the plane could have easily landed safely at its destination in Miami, only 20 miles away.

During the final approach, however, the crew noticed that one green light had failed to illuminate—a light that indicates whether or not the nose landing gear has extended successfully. The pilots discontinued the approach, set the aircraft into a circling holding pattern over the pitch-black Everglades, and turned their attention toward investigating the problem.

They became so preoccupied with their search that they failed to realize the plane was gradually descending closer and closer toward the dark swamp below. By the time someone noticed what was happening, it was too late to avoid the disaster.

After the accident, investigators tried to determine the cause. The landing gear had indeed lowered properly. The plane was in perfect mechanical condition. Everything was working properly—all except one thing: a single burned-out lightbulb. That tiny bulb—worth about 20 cents—started the chain of events that ultimately led to the tragic death of over 100 people.

Of course, the malfunctioning lightbulb didn’t cause the accident; it happened because the crew placed its focus on something that seemed to matter at the moment while losing sight of what mattered most.

Set Your Heart on Things That Matter Most

The tendency to focus on the insignificant at the expense of the profound happens not only to pilots but to everyone. [Memorable phrase] We are all at risk. The driver who focuses on the road has a far greater chance of arriving at his destination accident free than the driver who focuses on sending text messages on his phone.

We know what matters most in life—the Light of Christ teaches this to everyone. We as faithful Latter-day Saints have the Holy Ghost as a “constant companion”1 to teach us the things of eternal value. I imagine that any priesthood holder listening to my voice today, if asked to prepare a talk on the subject “what matters most,” could and would do an excellent job. Our weakness is in failing to align our actions with our conscience. [Memorable phrase]

Pause for a moment and check where your own heart and thoughts are. Are you focused on the things that matter most? How you spend your quiet time may provide a valuable clue. Where do your thoughts go when the pressure of deadlines is gone? Are your thoughts and heart focused on those short-lived, fleeting things that matter only in the moment or on things that matter most? [Invitation]

What grudges do you bear? What excuses do you cling to that keep you from being the kind of husband, father, son, and priesthood holder you know you should be? What are the things that distract you from your duties or hinder you from magnifying your calling more diligently?

Avoid Becoming Distracted

Sometimes the things that distract us are not bad in and of themselves; often they even make us feel good.

It is possible to take even good things to excess. [Memorable phrase] One example can be seen in a father or grandfather who spends hours upon hours searching for his ancestors or creating a blog while neglecting or avoiding quality or meaningful time with his own children and grandchildren. Another example could be a gardener who spends his days pulling weeds from the soil while ignoring the spiritual weeds that threaten to choke his soul.

Even some programs of the Church can become a distraction if we take them to extremes and allow them to dominate our time and our attention at the expense of things that matter most. We need balance in life. [Memorable phrase]

When we truly love our Heavenly Father and His children, we demonstrate that love through our actions. We forgive one another and seek to do good, for “our old [self] is crucified with [Christ].2 [Cross-reference] We “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,” and we keep ourselves “unspotted from the vices of the world.”3 [Cross‑reference]

My dear brethren of the priesthood, we live in the latter days. The gospel of Jesus Christ is restored to the earth. The keys of the priesthood of God are given again to man. We live in an era of anticipation and preparation, entrusted by God to prepare ourselves, our families, our world for the approaching dawn—the day when the Son of God will “descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God”4 and usher in His millennial reign.

We have been entrusted with the holy priesthood and charged with the responsibility, power, and right to act as agents of our Heavenly King.

These are the things that matter most. These are the things of eternal value that deserve our attention.

We cannot and we must not allow ourselves to get distracted from our sacred duty. We cannot and we must not lose focus on the things that matter most. [Memorable phrase]

Nehemiah

Nehemiah of the Old Testament is a great example of staying focused and committed to an important task. Nehemiah was an Israelite who lived in exile in Babylon and served as cupbearer to the king. One day the king asked Nehemiah why he seemed so sad. Nehemiah replied, “Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ [graves], lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?”5 [Cross-reference]

When the king heard this, his heart was softened, and he gave Nehemiah the authority to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. However, not everyone was happy with this plan. In fact, several rulers who lived near Jerusalem grieved exceedingly “that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.”6 These men “took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.”7 [Cross-reference]

Fearless, Nehemiah did not allow the opposition to distract him. Instead, he organized his resources and manpower and moved forward rebuilding the city, “for the people had a mind to work.”8 [Cross-reference]

But as the walls of the city began to rise, opposition intensified. Nehemiah’s enemies threatened, conspired, and ridiculed. Their threats were very real, and they grew so intimidating that Nehemiah confessed, “They all made us afraid.”9 [Cross-reference] In spite of the danger and the ever-present threat of invasion, the work progressed. It was a time of stress, for every builder “had his sword girded by his side, and so builded.”10 [Cross-reference]

As the work continued, Nehemiah’s enemies became more desperate. Four times they entreated him to leave the safety of the city and meet with them under the pretense of resolving the conflict, but Nehemiah knew that their intent was to do him harm. Each time they approached him, he responded with the same answer: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.”11 [Cross-reference]

What a remarkable response! With that clear and unchanging purpose of heart and mind, with that great resolve, the walls of Jerusalem rose until they were rebuilt in an astonishing 52 days.12

Nehemiah refused to allow distractions to prevent him from doing what the Lord wanted him to do. [Cross-reference]

We Will Not Come Down

I am encouraged and inspired by the many faithful priesthood holders today who are of similar heart and mind. Like Nehemiah, you love the Lord and seek to magnify the priesthood you bear. The Lord loves you and is mindful of the purity of your hearts and the steadfastness of your resolve. He blesses you for your fidelity, guides your path, and uses your gifts and talents in building His kingdom on this earth.

Nevertheless, not all are like Nehemiah. There is room for improvement.

I wonder, my dear brethren of the priesthood, what could be accomplished if we all, like the people of Nehemiah, “had a mind to work.” I wonder what could be accomplished if we “put away childish things”13 and gave ourselves, heart and soul, to becoming worthy priesthood bearers and true representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ. [Invitation]

Think for a moment what could be accomplished in our personal lives, in our professional lives, in our families, in our wards and branches. Think of how the kingdom of God would progress throughout the earth. Imagine how the world itself could be transformed for good if every man who bears the priesthood of God were to gird up his loins and live up to his true potential, converted in the depth of his soul, a true and faithful priesthood man, committed to building the kingdom of God. [Invitation]

It is easy to become distracted—to become focused on one burned-out lightbulb or the impolite acts of unkind people, whatever their motive may be. But think of the power we would have as individuals and as a body of the priesthood if, in response to every temptation to lose focus or lower our standards—the standards of God—we responded, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.” [Repetition]

We live in times of great challenges and great opportunities. The Lord is seeking men like Nehemiah—faithful brethren who fulfill the oath and covenant of the priesthood. He seeks to enlist unfaltering souls who diligently go about the work of building the kingdom of God—those who, when faced with opposition and temptation, say in their hearts, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.” [Repetition]

When faced with trial and suffering, they respond, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.” [Repetition]

When faced with ridicule and reproach, they proclaim, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.” [Repetition]

Our Heavenly Father seeks those who refuse to allow the trivial to hinder them in their pursuit of the eternal. He seeks those who will not allow the attraction of ease or the traps of the adversary to distract them from the work He has given them to perform. He seeks those whose actions conform to their words—those who say with conviction, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.” [Repetition]

A Great Work to Do

I bear solemn testimony that God lives and is mindful of each one of us. He will stretch forth His hand and uphold those who rise up and bear the priesthood with honor, for in these latter days He has a great work for us to do.

This gospel does not come from man. The doctrine of the Church is not someone’s best guess as to the meaning of ancient scripture. It is the truth of heaven revealed by God Himself. I testify that Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw. He truly looked into the heavens and communed with God the Father and the Son and with angels.

I bear witness that Heavenly Father speaks to those who seek Him in spirit and in truth. I have witnessed with my own eyes and joyfully testify that in our day, God speaks through His prophet, seer, and revelator, even Thomas S. Monson.

My dear brethren, like Nehemiah, we have a great work to do. We stand overlooking the horizon of our age. It is my fervent prayer that in spite of temptations, we will never lower our standards; that in spite of distractions, wherever they may come from, we will not lose focus on what matters most; that we will stand resolute and together, shoulder to shoulder, as we valiantly bear the banner of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I pray that we may be worthy of the holy priesthood of Almighty God and, to a man, lift our heads and with unwavering voice proclaim to the world, “We are doing a great work, and we will not come down.” [Repetition] In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down

Student copy

Set your heart on the things that matter most.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor in the First Presidency

In Conference Report, Apr. 2009, 59–62; or Ensign, May 2009, 59–62.

My dear brethren, I have known for a few months the message I want to give to you today. During that time, I have searched for a story that would illustrate what I want to say. I looked for a story about farming. I looked for a story about animals. In honor of Elder Scott, I looked for a story about nuclear engineering, and in honor of President Monson, one about raising pigeons.

In the end, one story kept coming back to me—a story that has been imprinted on my memory for many, many years. It isn’t about farming, animals, nuclear engineering, or pigeons. It is—as you might have guessed—about aviation. I call it “The Story of the Lightbulb.”

The Story of the Lightbulb, or Losing Sight of What Matters Most

On a dark December night 36 years ago, a Lockheed 1011 jumbo jet crashed into the Florida Everglades, killing over 100 people. This terrible accident was one of the deadliest crashes in the history of the United States.

A curious thing about this accident is that all vital parts and systems of the airplane were functioning perfectly—the plane could have easily landed safely at its destination in Miami, only 20 miles away.

During the final approach, however, the crew noticed that one green light had failed to illuminate—a light that indicates whether or not the nose landing gear has extended successfully. The pilots discontinued the approach, set the aircraft into a circling holding pattern over the pitch-black Everglades, and turned their attention toward investigating the problem.

They became so preoccupied with their search that they failed to realize the plane was gradually descending closer and closer toward the dark swamp below. By the time someone noticed what was happening, it was too late to avoid the disaster.

After the accident, investigators tried to determine the cause. The landing gear had indeed lowered properly. The plane was in perfect mechanical condition. Everything was working properly—all except one thing: a single burned-out lightbulb. That tiny bulb—worth about 20 cents—started the chain of events that ultimately led to the tragic death of over 100 people.

Of course, the malfunctioning lightbulb didn’t cause the accident; it happened because the crew placed its focus on something that seemed to matter at the moment while losing sight of what mattered most.

Set Your Heart on Things That Matter Most

The tendency to focus on the insignificant at the expense of the profound happens not only to pilots but to everyone. We are all at risk. The driver who focuses on the road has a far greater chance of arriving at his destination accident free than the driver who focuses on sending text messages on his phone.

We know what matters most in life—the Light of Christ teaches this to everyone. We as faithful Latter-day Saints have the Holy Ghost as a “constant companion”1 to teach us the things of eternal value. I imagine that any priesthood holder listening to my voice today, if asked to prepare a talk on the subject “what matters most,” could and would do an excellent job. Our weakness is in failing to align our actions with our conscience.

Pause for a moment and check where your own heart and thoughts are. Are you focused on the things that matter most? How you spend your quiet time may provide a valuable clue. Where do your thoughts go when the pressure of deadlines is gone? Are your thoughts and heart focused on those short-lived, fleeting things that matter only in the moment or on things that matter most?

What grudges do you bear? What excuses do you cling to that keep you from being the kind of husband, father, son, and priesthood holder you know you should be? What are the things that distract you from your duties or hinder you from magnifying your calling more diligently?

Avoid Becoming Distracted

Sometimes the things that distract us are not bad in and of themselves; often they even make us feel good.

It is possible to take even good things to excess. One example can be seen in a father or grandfather who spends hours upon hours searching for his ancestors or creating a blog while neglecting or avoiding quality or meaningful time with his own children and grandchildren. Another example could be a gardener who spends his days pulling weeds from the soil while ignoring the spiritual weeds that threaten to choke his soul.

Even some programs of the Church can become a distraction if we take them to extremes and allow them to dominate our time and our attention at the expense of things that matter most. We need balance in life.

When we truly love our Heavenly Father and His children, we demonstrate that love through our actions. We forgive one another and seek to do good, for “our old [self] is crucified with [Christ].”2 We “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,” and we keep ourselves “unspotted from the vices of the world.”3

My dear brethren of the priesthood, we live in the latter days. The gospel of Jesus Christ is restored to the earth. The keys of the priesthood of God are given again to man. We live in an era of anticipation and preparation, entrusted by God to prepare ourselves, our families, our world for the approaching dawn—the day when the Son of God will “descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God”4 and usher in His millennial reign.

We have been entrusted with the holy priesthood and charged with the responsibility, power, and right to act as agents of our Heavenly King.

These are the things that matter most. These are the things of eternal value that deserve our attention.

We cannot and we must not allow ourselves to get distracted from our sacred duty. We cannot and we must not lose focus on the things that matter most.

Nehemiah

Nehemiah of the Old Testament is a great example of staying focused and committed to an important task. Nehemiah was an Israelite who lived in exile in Babylon and served as cupbearer to the king. One day the king asked Nehemiah why he seemed so sad. Nehemiah replied, “Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ [graves], lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?”5

When the king heard this, his heart was softened, and he gave Nehemiah the authority to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. However, not everyone was happy with this plan. In fact, several rulers who lived near Jerusalem grieved exceedingly “that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.”6 These men “took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.”7

Fearless, Nehemiah did not allow the opposition to distract him. Instead, he organized his resources and manpower and moved forward rebuilding the city, “for the people had a mind to work.”8

But as the walls of the city began to rise, opposition intensified. Nehemiah’s enemies threatened, conspired, and ridiculed. Their threats were very real, and they grew so intimidating that Nehemiah confessed, “They all made us afraid.”9 In spite of the danger and the ever-present threat of invasion, the work progressed. It was a time of stress, for every builder “had his sword girded by his side, and so builded.”10

As the work continued, Nehemiah’s enemies became more desperate. Four times they entreated him to leave the safety of the city and meet with them under the pretense of resolving the conflict, but Nehemiah knew that their intent was to do him harm. Each time they approached him, he responded with the same answer: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.”11

What a remarkable response! With that clear and unchanging purpose of heart and mind, with that great resolve, the walls of Jerusalem rose until they were rebuilt in an astonishing 52 days.12

Nehemiah refused to allow distractions to prevent him from doing what the Lord wanted him to do.

We Will Not Come Down

I am encouraged and inspired by the many faithful priesthood holders today who are of similar heart and mind. Like Nehemiah, you love the Lord and seek to magnify the priesthood you bear. The Lord loves you and is mindful of the purity of your hearts and the steadfastness of your resolve. He blesses you for your fidelity, guides your path, and uses your gifts and talents in building His kingdom on this earth.

Nevertheless, not all are like Nehemiah. There is room for improvement.

I wonder, my dear brethren of the priesthood, what could be accomplished if we all, like the people of Nehemiah, “had a mind to work.” I wonder what could be accomplished if we “put away childish things”13 and gave ourselves, heart and soul, to becoming worthy priesthood bearers and true representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Think for a moment what could be accomplished in our personal lives, in our professional lives, in our families, in our wards and branches. Think of how the kingdom of God would progress throughout the earth. Imagine how the world itself could be transformed for good if every man who bears the priesthood of God were to gird up his loins and live up to his true potential, converted in the depth of his soul, a true and faithful priesthood man, committed to building the kingdom of God.

It is easy to become distracted—to become focused on one burned-out lightbulb or the impolite acts of unkind people, whatever their motive may be. But think of the power we would have as individuals and as a body of the priesthood if, in response to every temptation to lose focus or lower our standards—the standards of God—we responded, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”

We live in times of great challenges and great opportunities. The Lord is seeking men like Nehemiah—faithful brethren who fulfill the oath and covenant of the priesthood. He seeks to enlist unfaltering souls who diligently go about the work of building the kingdom of God—those who, when faced with opposition and temptation, say in their hearts, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”

When faced with trial and suffering, they respond, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”

When faced with ridicule and reproach, they proclaim, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”

Our Heavenly Father seeks those who refuse to allow the trivial to hinder them in their pursuit of the eternal. He seeks those who will not allow the attraction of ease or the traps of the adversary to distract them from the work He has given them to perform. He seeks those whose actions conform to their words—those who say with conviction, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”

A Great Work to Do

I bear solemn testimony that God lives and is mindful of each one of us. He will stretch forth His hand and uphold those who rise up and bear the priesthood with honor, for in these latter days He has a great work for us to do.

This gospel does not come from man. The doctrine of the Church is not someone’s best guess as to the meaning of ancient scripture. It is the truth of heaven revealed by God Himself. I testify that Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw. He truly looked into the heavens and communed with God the Father and the Son and with angels.

I bear witness that Heavenly Father speaks to those who seek Him in spirit and in truth. I have witnessed with my own eyes and joyfully testify that in our day, God speaks through His prophet, seer, and revelator, even Thomas S. Monson.

My dear brethren, like Nehemiah, we have a great work to do. We stand overlooking the horizon of our age. It is my fervent prayer that in spite of temptations, we will never lower our standards; that in spite of distractions, wherever they may come from, we will not lose focus on what matters most; that we will stand resolute and together, shoulder to shoulder, as we valiantly bear the banner of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I pray that we may be worthy of the holy priesthood of Almighty God and, to a man, lift our heads and with unwavering voice proclaim to the world, “We are doing a great work, and we will not come down.” In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.