Atonement Is Foundation, Elder Cook Testifies

The foundation of our lives is the Atonement, says Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Speaking to a group of several hundred young adults (ages 18–30), he told them that now is the time of their lives to accept that knowledge. 

Elder Cook established Doctrine and Covenants 88:33 as the scriptural basis for his thoughts. He explained that, while the scripture refers to gifts the Savior offers to us, he wanted to use the scripture in a broader sense. In his message, which was delivered at the LDS institute on the campus of Utah Valley University on March 4, he shared several things he learned between the ages of 18 and 30 that continue to be meaningful to him today. 

Focus on Principles and Priorities

The first was to focus on priorities. He used the example of a Peanuts comic, in which the character Lucy loses the baseball game for her team because she is distracted, to show that we need to keep our eye on the ball. In support of this concept, he shared three principles taught to him by his mission president, Elder Marion D. Hanks (now an emeritus member of the Seventy).

  1. 1. Make sure our choices are consistent with our goals. Especially in youth, he explained, we can believe that we are committed to a noble purpose, but we encounter diversions that prevent us from achieving that purpose. Quoting Harry Emerson Fosdick, he said, “The tragic evils of our life are so commonly unintentional. We did not start out for that poor, cheap goal. That aim was not in our minds at all.” We need to focus on our everyday choices if we are to achieve our goals.
  2. 2. Be careful about wanting to do big, noticeable things. He told the story of his ancestor David Patten Kimball, one of the young men who carried members of the Martin handcart company across the freezing Sweetwater River. Their aim was not to be viewed as heroes, he said. They were simply following the direction of the prophet to rescue the handcart pioneers, even if that was at the cost of their lives. Elder Cook said that we too should be willing to make sacrifices in our everyday lives to follow prophetic counsel. We need to understand that exceptional performances do not define us; rather, it is meeting everyday life with strength and courage that creates character that is eternal.
  3. 3. Recognize that “‘There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul’” (Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1850-1919). While we can’t avoid the challenges inherent to mortality, we can focus on moral principles that, in spite of our challenges, will ensure us the blessings of being strong and immovable.

Work toward Something

Another lesson Elder Cook said he learned as a young adult was the importance of deciding his future. When Elder Cook was a child, his father had each of the children report to him regularly on their future goals. His father did not force their goals in a particular direction, and they were allowed to change goals as often as they liked, but they had to have something that they were working toward. Elder Cook followed his father’s example and did the same with his children. He discovered the “Saturday morning cartoon” principle when his young son abandoned his goal of becoming a doctor simply because he would have to miss watching Saturday morning cartoons. Now when anyone in his family encounters a “crazy” diversion to something they are trying to achieve, they refer to the diversion as a Saturday morning cartoon.

On this topic, Elder Cook’s advice for the young adults listening during the fireside was to “learn a lot of things; don’t limit yourself, but have goals” and work toward them. “If you do that, then you’ll always feel like you’re preparing to do your best.”

Have a Doctrinal Foundation

Touching briefly on marriage, Elder Cook told his listeners to look for character and gospel commitment first in a potential marriage partner, before other considerations. For this, “your posterity will revere your wisdom and righteousness,” he said.

Our choices in life should be based on gospel doctrine and principles, Elder Cook said. He told how his older brother had the opportunity to serve a mission but met resistance from their inactive father, who wanted his son to go to medical school and start his career. Elder Cook and his brother discussed the options and decided that if Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and Joseph Smith is truly the prophet of the Restoration, and the Book of Mormon is the word of God, then they knew what needed to be done. Elder Cook’s brother returned to their father and told him that he had a testimony of the gospel and would prefer to serve a mission.

This experience caused Elder Cook to seek answers regarding the truth of the gospel. He received those answers and now calls those three realities—that Jesus is the Savior, that Joseph Smith is a true prophet, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God—“the foundation of everything else you’ll do.”

Regarding the Book of Mormon, Elder Cook said the same passage from the Book of Mormon can have different effects on similar people, according to their needs and their sincerity in seeking for answers. He bore his testimony of the Book of Mormon and encouraged students to read it with real intent if they have not yet done so, telling them that they will receive answers if they do.

Of Joseph Smith, Elder Cook said that he was a “great man, great teacher, great leader” and an “instrument in the Lord’s hand in bringing forth the gospel,” and he noted that Joseph had to learn step-by-step as we do.

Concluding with his witness of the Savior, Elder Cook called Him the “foundation of everything for everyone.” He spoke of the Savior’s doctrine, ministry, and example. Referring to the story of the father who brought his possessed child to Christ for healing, he pointed out that the Savior did not reject the father when the man said, “Help thou mine unbelief.” Instead, the Savior accepted the response and healed the child. Elder Cook said that, like that father, he does not have all of the answers, but he does not let this have a negative effect on his testimony.

He also used the story of the woman who was healed when she touched the hem of Christ’s robe to show the great love and compassion of the Savior. Extending this principle to include Heavenly Father, he spoke of the love that Heavenly Father had for us in sending His Son to atone for our sins. The Atonement is the “foundation of your lives,” he said. “Now is the time for you to decide that. This is the time for you to accept the Savior’s Atonement.”

Elder Cook then bore his testimony of the Savior’s divinity and declared that “Jesus Christ lives. . . . [He] guides the Church today.”