President Henry B Eyring was called to be a twelve apostle on 1 April 1995, for the Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints. He is the first counselor to President Thomas S. Monson.
Gathering The Family of God
I have felt impressed to speak to you today about another kind of gathering. This kind does not happen only every six months, as general conference does. Instead, it has been going on continuously since the early days of the Restoration of the Church, and it has been hastening in recent years. I refer to the gathering of the family of God.
To describe this gathering, it may be best to begin before we were born, before what the Bible calls “the beginning” (Genesis 1:1). At that time, we lived with Heavenly Father as His spirit children. This is true of every person who has ever lived on earth.
You see, the names “brother” and “sister” are not just friendly greetings or terms of endearment for us. They are an expression of an eternal truth: God is the literal Father of all mankind; we are each part of His eternal family. Because He loves us with the love of a perfect Father, He wants us to progress and advance and become like Him. He ordained a plan by which we would come to earth, in families, and have experiences that would prepare us to return to Him and live as He lives.
The central element of this plan was the promise that Jesus Christ would offer Himself as a sacrifice, to rescue us from sin and death. Our task in that plan is to accept the Savior’s sacrifice by obeying the laws and ordinances of the gospel. You and I accepted this plan. In fact, we rejoiced in it, even though it would mean that we would leave the presence of our Father and forget what we had experienced there with Him.
Only a very small minority of God’s children obtain during this life a complete understanding of God’s plan, along with access to the priesthood ordinances and covenants that make the Savior’s atoning power fully operative in our lives. Even those with the best of parents may live faithfully according to the light they have but never hear about Jesus Christ and His Atonement or be invited to be baptized in His name. This has been true for countless millions of our brothers and sisters throughout the world’s history.
Some may consider this unfair. They may even take it as evidence that there is no plan, no specific requirements for salvation—feeling that a just, loving God would not create a plan that is available to such a small proportion of His children. Others might conclude that God must have determined in advance which of His children He would save and made the gospel available to them, while those who never heard the gospel simply were not “chosen.”
But you and I know, because of the truths restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, that God’s plan is much more loving and just than that. Our Heavenly Father is anxious to gather and bless all of His family. While He knows that not all of them will choose to be gathered, His plan gives each of His children the opportunity to accept or reject His invitation. And families are at the heart of this plan.
This is the work of our generation, what the Apostle Paul called “the dispensation of the fulness of times,” when he said God would “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Ephesians 1:10). This is made possible through the atoning work of God’s Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Because of Him, our family members, “who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Ephesians 2:13–14).
I testify that God the Father wants His children home again, in families and in glory.
My Peace I Leave With You
The Lord promised peace to His disciples as He was about to leave them. He has made the same promise to us. But He said that He would give peace in His way, not in the world’s way.
Those who do not see their weaknesses do not progress. Your awareness of your weakness is a blessing as it helps you remain humble and keeps you turning to the Savior. The Spirit not only comforts you, but He is also the agent by which the Atonement works a change in your very nature. Then weak things become strong.
You will at times have your faith challenged by Satan; it happens to all disciples of Jesus Christ. Your defense against these attacks is to keep the Holy Ghost as your companion. The Spirit will speak peace to your soul. He will urge you forward in faith. And He will bring back the memory of those times when you felt the light and the love of Jesus Christ.
Like you, I have been thankful for the many ways the Lord has visited me with the Comforter when I needed peace. Yet our Father in Heaven is concerned not just about our comfort but even more about our upward progress. “Comforter” is only one of the ways the Holy Ghost is described in the scriptures. Here is another: “And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good” (D&C 11:12). Most often, the good He will lead you to do will involve helping someone else receive comfort from God.
Walk With Me
So if you feel a little overwhelmed, take that as a good sign. It indicates that you can sense the magnitude of the trust God has placed in you. It means that you have some small understanding of what the priesthood really is.
There are very few people in the world who have that understanding. Even those who can recite a reasonable definition may not truly understand it.
There are some scriptures that, through the power of the Spirit they carry, can deepen our sense of awe regarding the holy priesthood. Here are some of those scriptures:
“The power and authority of the … Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—
“To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
“The power and authority of the … Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels” (D&C 107:18–20).
“In the ordinances [of the priesthood], the power of godliness is manifest. …
“For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live” (D&C 84:20, 22).
“This high priesthood [is] after the order of [God’s] Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things” (Alma 13:7).
“Every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;
“To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world” (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 14:30–31 [in the Bible appendix]).
One way to respond to such awe-inspiring descriptions of the power of the priesthood is to assume that they do not apply to us. Another way to respond is with soul-searching questions, asked in our own hearts, such as these: Have I ever felt that the heavens have been opened to me? Would anyone use the phrase “ministering of angels” to describe my priesthood service? Do I bring the “power of godliness” into the lives of those I serve? Have I ever broken a mountain, defied an army, broken someone’s bands, or subdued worldly powers—even if only figuratively—in order to accomplish God’s will?
Such introspection always brings a feeling that we could be doing more in the service of the Lord. I hope it also brings you a feeling that you want to do more—a longing to participate more fully in the Lord’s miraculous work. Such feelings are the first step toward becoming the kind of men that priesthood service is meant to produce.
Brethren, our ordination to the priesthood is an invitation from the Lord to walk with Him. And what does it mean to walk with the Lord? It means to do what He does, to serve the way He serves. He sacrificed His own comforts to bless those in need, so that’s what we try to do. He seemed to take particular notice of people who were overlooked and even shunned by society, so we should try to do that too. He testified boldly yet lovingly of the true doctrine He received from His Father, even if it was unpopular, and so must we. He said to all, “Come unto me” (Matthew 11:28), and we say to all, “Come unto Him.” As priesthood holders, we are His representatives. We act not for ourselves but for Him. We speak not our words but His. The people we serve come to know Him better because of our service.
As soon as we accept the Lord’s invitation “Walk with me,” the nature of our priesthood service changes. It becomes all at once higher and nobler but also more achievable, because we know that we are not alone.
Gratitude On The Sabbath Day
The fact that we are able to gather with even one other Saint and partake of the sacrament will help us begin to feel gratitude and love for God’s kindness.
Of all the blessings we can count, the greatest by far is the feeling of forgiveness that comes as we partake of the sacrament. We will feel greater love and appreciation for the Savior, whose infinite sacrifice made possible our being cleansed from sin. As we partake of the bread and water, we remember that He suffered for us. And when we feel gratitude for what He has done for us, we will feel His love for us and our love for Him.
The blessing of love we receive will make it easier for us to keep the commandment to “always remember him.” You may even feel love and gratitude, as I do, for the Holy Ghost, who Heavenly Father has promised will always be with us as we remain faithful to the covenants we have made. We can count all those blessings every Sunday and feel grateful.
The Sabbath is also a perfect time to remember the covenant we made at the waters of baptism to love and serve Heavenly Father’s children.
Fulfilling that promise on the Sabbath will include participating in a class or quorum with full purpose of heart to build faith and love among our brothers and sisters who are there with us. That promise will include cheerfully fulfilling our callings.
I have felt that transformation of growing gratitude for blessings and a love of God increasing across the Church. It seems to accelerate among members of the Church in times and places where there are trials of their faith, where they have to plead to God for help to even carry on.
The times we will pass through will have in them hard trials, as they did for the people of Alma under the cruel Amulon, who put burdens on their backs too heavy for them to bear:
You and I are witnesses that whenever we have kept our covenants with God, especially when it was hard, He has heard our prayers of thanks for what He has already done for us and has answered our prayer for strength to endure faithfully. And more than once He has made us cheerful as well as strong.
You could begin today with a private and family prayer of thanks for all God has done for you. You could pray to know what the Lord would have you do to serve Him and others. Particularly, you could pray to have the Holy Ghost tell you of someone who is lonely or in need to whom the Lord would have you go.
I can promise you your prayers will be answered, and as you act on the answers you will receive, you will find joy in the Sabbath, and your heart will overflow with thankfulness.
I testify that God the Father knows and loves you. The Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, atoned for your sins out of love for you. They, the Father and the Son, know your name as They knew the name of the Prophet Joseph Smith when They appeared to him. I testify that this is the Church of Jesus Christ and that He will honor the covenants you make and renew with God. Your very nature will be changed to become more like the Savior. You will be fortified against temptation and against feelings of doubt about the truth. You will find joy in the Sabbath. I so promise you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
That He May Become Strong Also
Wilford Woodruff, as President of the Church, described his experience in the offices of the priesthood:
“I heard the first sermon I ever heard in this Church. The next day I was baptized. … I was ordained a Teacher. My mission immediately commenced. … I went through that whole mission as a Teacher. … At the conference I was ordained a Priest. … After I was ordained a Priest I was sent … on a mission to the southern country. That was in the fall of 1834. I had a companion with me, and we started out without purse and scrip. I traveled alone a good many miles and preached the Gospel, and I baptized a number that I could not confirm in the Church, because I was only a Priest. … I traveled some time preaching the Gospel before I was ordained an Elder. …
“[Now] I have been some fifty-four years a member of the Twelve Apostles. I have traveled with that and other quorums now for sixty years; and I want to say to this assembly that I was just as much sustained by the power of God while holding the office of a Teacher, and especially while officiating in the vineyard as a Priest, as I ever was as an Apostle. There is no difference in this so long as we do our duty.”
Many things may help strengthen our younger brothers to rise up in the priesthood, but nothing will be more powerful than our helping them develop the faith and confidence that they can draw on the power of God in their priesthood service.
That faith and confidence won’t stay with them from a single experience of being lifted by even the most gifted Melchizedek Priesthood holder. The ability to draw on those powers must be cultivated by many expressions of confidence from those who are more experienced in the priesthood.
The Aaronic Priesthood holders will also need daily and even hourly encouragement and correction from the Lord Himself through the Holy Ghost. That will be available to them as they choose to remain worthy of it. It will depend upon the choices they will make.
You priesthood leaders and fathers of Aaronic Priesthood holders can work miracles. You can help the Lord fill the ranks of faithful elders with young men who accept the call to preach the gospel and do it with confidence. You will see many you have lifted and encouraged stay faithful, marry worthily in the temple, and in turn, lift and prepare others.
It will not take new activity programs, improved teaching materials, or better social media. It will not require any call beyond what you have now. The oath and the covenant of the priesthood gives you power, authority, and direction. I pray you will go home and study carefully the oath and covenant of the priesthood, found in Doctrine and Covenants section 84.
Eternal Families: Our priesthood obligation is to put our families and the families of those around us at the center of our concern.
Eternal life is that kind of life which God our Eternal Father lives. God has said that His purpose is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). The great purpose of every priesthood holder, therefore, is to assist in the work of helping people rise to eternal life.
Every priesthood effort and every priesthood ordinance is intended to help Heavenly Father’s children be changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ to become members of perfected family units. It follows that “the great work of every man is to believe the gospel, to keep the commandments, and to create and perfect an eternal family unit,” and to help others do the same.
Since that is true, everything we do should have celestial marriage as its focus and purpose. That means we must strive to be sealed to an eternal companion in the temple of God. We must also encourage others to make and keep the covenants that bind a husband and wife together, with their family, in this life and in the world to come.
Why should this matter so much to each of us—young or old, deacon or high priest, son or father? It is because our priesthood obligation is to put our families and the families of those around us at the center of our concern. Every major decision should be based on the effect it will have on a family to qualify for life with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. There is nothing in our priesthood service as important as this.
You may wonder, as I did when I was a young teacher and priest, how in the world I could rise to those challenges. I was never sure how I could exhort in a way that would move a family toward eternal life without offending or seeming to criticize. I have learned that the only exhortation that changes hearts comes from the Holy Ghost. That occurs most often as we bear testimony of the Savior, who was and is the perfect family member. As we focus on our love for Him, harmony and peace will grow in the homes we visit. The Holy Ghost will attend us in our service to families.
There is no more important commitment in time or in eternity than marriage.
In considering marriage, he will see that he is choosing the parents of his children and the heritage they will have. He will make the choice with earnest searching and prayerful consideration. He will ensure that the person he marries shares his ideals for family and his convictions of the Lord’s purpose for marriage and that she is a person to whom he would be willing to trust his children’s happiness.
President N. Eldon Tanner gave wise counsel: “The parents that you should honor more than any others are the parents of your children-to-be. Those children are entitled to the best parents that it is possible for you to give them—clean parents.” Purity will be your protection and the protection of your children. You owe them that blessing.
In our home and in our priesthood service, the greatest value will be in the small acts that help us and those we love work toward eternal life. Those acts may seem small in this life, but they will bring everlasting blessings in eternity.
Where Two or Three Are Gathered: If you listen with the Spirit, you will find your heart softened, your faith strengthened, and your capacity to love the Lord increased.
Where and when we feel the closeness of the Savior depend on each of us.
All of us have had our faith tested by precious blessings delayed, vicious attacks of those who wanted to destroy our faith, temptations to sin, and selfish interests that reduced our efforts to cultivate and soften the spiritual depths of our hearts.
Those who are saddened by the loss of the joy they once had are the blessed ones. Some do not see the withering of faith within themselves. Satan is clever. He tells those he wishes to be miserable that the joy they once felt was childish self-delusion.
Trust In That Spirit Which Leadeth To Do Good: We grow closer to the Savior as we, out of pure love, serve others for Him.
Our desire to serve others is magnified by our gratitude for what the Savior has done for us.
When our faith in Jesus Christ leads us to qualify for the joy of His forgiveness, we feel a desire to serve others for Him. King Benjamin taught that forgiveness is not accomplished in a single moment.
He said it this way: “And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants” (Mosiah 4:26).
My prayer for the sisters in the kingdom, wherever they may be or in whatever circumstances, is that their faith in the Savior and gratitude for His Atonement will lead them to do all they can for those God asks them to serve. As they do, I promise that they will move up the path to become holy women whom the Savior and our Heavenly Father will welcome warmly and reward openly.
The Holy Ghost As Your Companion: We can, if we live worthy of it, have the blessing of the Spirit to be with us, not only now and then but always.
To always have the Spirit with us is to have the guidance and direction of the Holy Ghost in our daily lives. We can, for instance, be warned by the Spirit to resist the temptation to do evil.
If we partake of the sacrament in faith, the Holy Ghost will then be able to protect us and those we love from the temptations that come with increasing intensity and frequency.
The companionship of the Holy Ghost makes what is good more attractive and temptation less compelling. That alone should be enough to make us determined to qualify for the Spirit to be with us always.
We live in a time when even the wisest will be hard-pressed to distinguish truth from clever deception.
So, for many reasons, we need the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. We desire it, yet we know from experience that it is not easy to maintain. We each think, say, and do things in our daily lives that can offend the Spirit. The Lord taught us that the Holy Ghost will be our constant companion when our hearts are full of charity and when virtue garnishes our thoughts unceasingly (see D&C 121:45).
The most valuable inspiration will be for you to know what God would have you do….When you demonstrate your willingness to obey, the Spirit will send you more impressions of what God would have you do for Him.
As you obey, the impressions from the Spirit will come more frequently, becoming closer and closer to constant companionship. Your power to choose the right will increase.
The companionship of the Spirit had more than comforted and guided him. It changed him through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. When we accept that promise of having the Spirit with us always, the Savior can grant us the purification required for eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God (see D&C 14:7).
You Are Not Alone In The Work: As you move from one priesthood service to another, you will see the Lord is in the work with you.
My encouragement is to help you know that when you do your part, the Lord adds His power to your efforts.
Any calling we receive in the Lord’s kingdom requires more than our human judgment and our personal powers. Those calls require help from the Lord, which will come.
It is my prayer that every priesthood holder will reach out in faith to rescue every soul for whom he is responsible. God will add His power to His servant’s efforts. Hearts of people will be touched to make the choices that will bring them along the gospel path toward happiness and away from sorrow.
He will bless our efforts beyond our fondest expectations as we give our all in His service.
The Comforter: I give my witness that the living Christ sends the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, to those we are pledged to help Him comfort.
I recognize that having had such a family and such a wonderful family life comes from their having the Savior at the center of each of their lives.
Many are praying to Heavenly Father for relief, for help in carrying their burdens of grief, loneliness, and fear. Heavenly Father hears those prayers and understands their needs. He and His Beloved Son, the resurrected Jesus Christ, have promised help.
The burdens His faithful servants must carry in life are made lighter by His Atonement. The burden of sin can be taken away, but the trials of mortal life for good people can still be heavy burdens.
You made a covenant, and you received a promise that began changing your very nature.
We lighten the loads of others best by helping the Lord strengthen them [by helping others feel the Holy Ghost and the Love of God]. That is why the Lord included in our charge to comfort others the command to be His witnesses at all times and in all places.
It was the witness of the Spirit of the coming Atonement which saw Job through the tests life is intended to include for all of us. That is part of the great plan of happiness the Father gave us. He allowed His Son to provide, by His atoning sacrifice, the hope that comforts us no matter how hard the way home to Him may be.
Priesthood and Personal Prayer: (Personal Favorite) With a prayer of faith, God can grant us power in the priesthood for whatever circumstance we may be in. It simply requires that we ask in humility for the Spirit to show us what God would have us say and do, do it, and continue to live worthy of that gift.With your acceptance of the priesthood, you have received the right to speak and to act in the name of God.
Is Not This The Fast That I Have Chosen?: Your fast offering will do more than help feed and clothe bodies. It will heal and change hearts.
Daughters In The Covenant: The path … we must take on our journey back to our Heavenly Father … is marked by sacred covenants with God.
The Priesthood Man: You can be a great model, an average one, or a bad model. You may think it doesn’t matter to you, but it does to the Lord.
A Priceless Heritage of Hope: When you choose whether to make or keep a covenant with God, you choose whether you will leave an inheritance of hope to those who might follow your example.
Continuing Revelation: Human judgment and logical thinking will not be enough to get answers to the questions that matter most in life. We need revelation from God.
The Preparatory Priesthood: In priesthood preparation, “show me” counts more than “tell me.”
We Are One: I pray that wherever we are and whatever duties we have in the priesthood of God, we will be united in the cause to bring the gospel to all the world.
Come Unto Me: By His words and His example, Christ has shown us how to draw closer to Him.
To My Grandchildren: There is one overarching commandment that will help us to meet the challenges and lead to the heart of a happy family life.
Bind Up Their Wounds: I pray that we may prepare ourselves to give whatever priesthood service the Lord may set before us on our mortal journey.
Mountains To Climb: If we have faith in Jesus Christ, the hardest as well as the easiest times in life can be a blessing.
Families Under Covenant: There is nothing that has come or will come into your family as important as the sealing blessings.
Preparation in the Priesthood: “I Need Your Help”: "Don’t worry about how inexperienced you are or think you are, but think about what, with the Lord’s help, you can become."
A Witness: "The Book of Mormon is the best guide to learn how well we are doing and how to do better."
Opportunities to Do Good: The Lord’s way to help those in temporal need requires people who out of love have consecrated themselves and what they have to God and to His work.
Learning in the Priesthood: "If you will be diligent and obedient in the priesthood, treasures of spiritual knowledge will be poured out upon you."
A Living Testimony: (General Young Women Meeting) Testimony requires the nurturing by the prayer of faith, the hungering for the word of God in the scriptures, and the obedience to the truth.
Serve with the Spirit : "Let us do whatever is required to qualify for the Holy Ghost as our companion."
Trust in God, Then Go and Do: "You show your trust in Him when you listen with the intent to learn and repent and then you go and do whatever He asks."
Our Perfect Example: "The message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can and must expect to become better as long as we live."
Adversity: "I bear you my testimony that God the Father lives. He set a course for each of us that can polish and perfect us to be with Him."
Our Hearts Knit As One: "The Saints can accomplish any purpose of the Lord when fully united in righteousness."
The True And Living Church: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and it lives on."
This Day: "All of us will need His help to avoid the tragedy of procrastinating what we must do here and now to have eternal life."
Here is a You Tube video about this talk. This message will give you that extra edge to make the most of every day.
O Remember, Remember: “O remember, remember,” Book of Mormon prophets often implored.1 My point is to urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness."
Watch this video clip about this talk.
As a Child: "Our natures must be changed to become as a child to gain the strength we must have to be safe in the times of moral peril."
Spiritual Preparedness: Start Early and Be Steady; "The great test of life is to see whether we will hearken to and obey God's commands in the midst of the storms of life."
Hearts Bound Together; "When you were baptized, your ancestors looked down on you with hope. . . . They rejoiced to see one of their descendants make a covenant to find them."
Faith and Keys: "We have to know by inspiration that the priesthood keys are held by those who lead and serve us. That requires the witness of the Spirit."
In the Strength of the Lord: "We need strength beyond ourselves to keep the commandments in whatever circumstance life brings to us."
An Enduring Testimony of the Mission of the Prophet Joseph: "The Prophet Joseph is an example and a teacher of enduring well in faith. . . . I thank and love him as the Lord's prophet of the Restoration."
A Child and a Disciple; "The Lord trusts His true disciples. He sends prepared people to His prepared servants."
Rise to Your Call; "The Lord will guide you by revelation just as He called you. You must ask in faith for revelation to know what you are to do."
True Friends: "All of us will be tested. And all of us need true friends to love us, to listen to us, to show us the way, and to testify of truth to us."
Prayer: "With . . . faith, we will be able to pray for what we want and appreciate whatever we get. Only with that faith will we pray with the diligence God requires."
Write upon My Heart: "Prayer can provide the shield of protection the parent will want so much for [a child] to have."
Watch Over and Strengthen; "The Savior will let you feel the love He feels for those you serve. The call is an invitation to become like Him."
Do Not Delay: "Nephi was right. God gives no commandments to the children of men save He prepares the way for them to obey. However difficult our circumstances, we can repent."