By Elder Kent F. Richards, USA
Formerly Second Counselor in the Europe Area Presidency
The Area Presidency has a marvelous vision for the growth of the Church in Europe. As described in the annual Area Plan, there is every possibility of doubling the number of members attending sacrament meeting by 2019. That vision is one of faith, hope, charity and hard work. Sometimes we think in terms of large numbers and large groups of people worshipping together. This is wonderful when it happens. We strengthen each other and serve each other. But, perhaps even more important is the sweet conversion that takes place in the heart of each individual and the power within a family to protect, strengthen and literally save each member.
Through this wonderful year of service here in the Europe Area, I have seen and felt the power of the Spirit of the Lord reaching into the hearts and homes of members in many countries. I have felt personally His love to each person. Sometimes I feel that more real good is done in a one-on-one visit with a struggling soul, than all that is said in a general session of stake conference. Of course, meetings are important because each individual can feel the sustaining influence of the Spirit and the messages are personalized by the Spirit.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for each person is continuing faithful. I have seen many people who have decided to take “time off” from being active. Even when they come back, they have a hard time regaining what they might have learned, felt and become had they remained throughout. The prophet Alma in talking about his faithful son Shiblon used some powerful words: “steadiness,” “faithfulness,” ‘continue,” “endureth to the end.” There is great happiness and goodness in these words and what they signify. The ultimate object of our mortal journey is to receive the ordinances of the temple with their associated covenants, and then to keep those covenants into eternity. Indeed, they are eternal covenants made with our Father himself. These ordinances and covenants are the very key to our eternal happiness—far overshadowing all of the challenges and seemingly insurmountable problems that often beset us.
The Savior Jesus Christ “brought us out” from our ‘Egypt’—our problems, our sins, our fears—“that he might bring us in” to peace and joy and enduring happiness and hope. His promises are real. They are constant. They are personal. They never fail. He is standing with open arms eternally—for us to covenant in our hearts and He lives to take upon us His name, to keep His commandments, and to serve others.
For most of us, it seems to be the most difficult to give back our precious resources—both time and means. Perhaps that is why the Lord instituted tithes and offerings as a standard for covenant making and steadfast faithfulness. But, with the commandment He promises such sweet blessings and assurances that far outweigh any difficulty. And most important our faith is stronger. We are happier. There is real assurance that He knows us and that He cares.
“And thither ye shall bring your …tithes, and …your freewill offerings…. And there ye shall eat before the Lord your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the Lord hath blessed thee.” “…For the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him (reverence him), and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him; and cleave unto him.” Even though these words were spoken by prophets thousands of years ago, they still apply and are true. He needs our hearts and our covenants—so that He can bless us without measure.