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"God Knows and Loves You" given by Ashley G. on January 21, 2024

Updated: 17 hours ago

This week in the Book of Mormon, we read about the Tree of Life and everyone pushing forward to taste that delicious fruit, to experience the love of God and the blessings of the Savior’s love and sacrifice for us. Today, I am speaking on that love, using the talk “God Knows and Loves You,” by Elder Phillips, from our last general conference.

So I’m here to tell you that God knows you and loves you, and I mean: You can count on that! You are a beloved child of Heavenly Father. You can know that for sure and live by that reality. That is truth, even when you might not feel loved by anyone else. “Where there is a design, there is a designer” – a great one-liner from Elder Phillips. And I wanted to share a couple of quick experiences on this theme.

Emmy's Story: We celebrated the 5th birthday of our little daughter Emmy last week, and I was reminded of how our Heavenly Father knows Emmy and loves her. Emmy was born in Los Angeles to a woman struggling with a severe drug addiction, and Emmy had a couple of alleged fathers who seemed interesting online, to say the least. One might not think that the child of an addict on the streets of LA and who-knows-what-father would be that precious and valuable to our Heavenly Father, but Emmy clearly matters to Him and has been in his hands. About a month after Emmy was born, while she was still in the hospital, Adam was shown Emmy’s face in a dream. Adam woke up in bed beside me and said: I dreamed we adopted a baby girl with a perfectly round head. Not long after the dream, Adam met Emmy’s grandmother at the bishop’s storehouse, and she asked him to adopt her granddaughter, then just before Emmy came to live with us, I had a strong impression to change her official name to the name I had wanted for my second child, which was unexpected to me. I had counseled adopted teenagers and had been sort of against name-changing when possible. But through all of this, it became clear that Emmy’s face was known by our Father in Heaven, her name mattered, and her coming to our home was divinely orchestrated. (And all of that makes me think in some way that her parents are known by our Heavenly Father as well since he was watching out so closely for their baby, and I hope one day we can know them both and reassure them that Emmy has been in her Heavenly Father’s hands.)

Anna's Story: Along that line, I have a story about a woman named Anna from my hometown of Sugar City, Idaho, where sweet things grow. Anna was a middle-aged, single woman from Mexico, who might have been married at some point, but had no children. She was not a member of the church and lived on the outskirts of our ward boundaries in a trailer house that was nothing like the illustrious mobile homes of Huntington Beach. Anna was soft, slow, simple, and sweet, and she had some struggles with hoarding. Her father had gambled away many of their possessions in Mexico, so holding onto things was a genuine challenge for Anna. Well at this point in time, my mother had sent off six missionaries, and she dreamt of having a convert of her own. So she took Anna under her wing, but as she got to know Anna better, my mother saw her struggles and challenges, and she began to question if Anna really mattered that much. One day, my mother took her question to Heavenly Father and asked Him “Does Anna even matter?” In response, she felt this warm overwhelming feeling of love for Anna just completely fill her whole body, and she knew that Anna was precious to her Father in Heaven. After that, everything fell into place for Anna to be baptized, and her baptism happened on a day with fresh, white falling snow, to match the sacred holiness of that day.

Just like Anna and Emmy are known and loved by our Heavenly Father, so are we. I think if any of us took that question to the Lord “Does she even matter? Does he even matter? Do I even matter?” we could also feel the Lord’s deep love for each of us.

Jesus Taught the Father’s Love

Jesus’ message throughout his ministry was about the worth and value of the individuals he came across. He wanted them to know they were known and loved. This past year, we read about the Savior sitting down to eat with some “sinners” and publicans and telling them three stories back-to-back: one about a shepherd who lost a sheep and called all of his friends and neighbors together to rejoice with him when it was found; one about a woman who lost a coin and called all of her friends together to celebrate when the coin was found, and one about a father who held a great feast to celebrate the return of his prodigal son.

Now if I could have been there for just one of the Savior’s teaching moments, I would choose this gathering, to hear the Savior tell firsthand how much we individually matter to our Heavenly Father, even when there are 99 other sheep that have not wandered, and 9 other coins that are not lost, and other much better sons like the brother of the prodigal son. We are precious, unconditionally loved, and invaluable to our Father in Heaven because we are His, and His heart is with us when we are lost or wandering.

Jesus Manifested the Father’s Love Through the Atonement

Elder Phillips said: “You are a beloved child of Heavenly Father. You are the subject matter of all those parables and teachings. God loves you so much that He sent His Son to heal, rescue, and redeem you.” And that’s a beautiful list – to heal, rescue, and redeem – All things we need at different times. I knew a woman in a previous ward who shattered some bones in her back and was in extreme pain for several weeks. There was nothing that could be done for her back, so she just had to lie on her bed in agony while all the bone fragments gradually healed. At the same time, she was talking on the phone with another friend who had been having an affair with a married man in the ward who had recently committed suicide and left behind his wife and three teenage sons. She was also in extreme pain, and there was little that could be done to ease her pain either, to say nothing of the pain the other family was experiencing, including the wife and three sons who had lost a husband and father in the most painful way.

Even though we are all self-reliant and like to do things independently, there are things we cannot stop and things we cannot fix, things in life we cannot resolve on our own. But we don’t have to go through our trials alone. As quoted by Elder Pillips: “A burden that was overwhelming or impossible for one to bear, could be born by two bound together.” We remember the Savior’s invitation to take his yoke upon us, so he can give us rest.

Hailey’s Luggage Story:

And that brings me to one last experience I wanted to share:

This is a story about my little sister Hailey, and her baggage (and that might be literal and metaphorical!). Hailey was in the process of moving from England to Italy with her little 2-year-old son, while her husband was working outside of the country. My mom flew to England to help Hailey prepare for the move, and they cleaned out her apartment and narrowed her belongings down as much as possible. Then my mom and Hailey took everything to a hotel near the Gatwick Airport the night before their flights out of London the next day.

But as my mother and sister got settled in the hotel, they realized there was a serious problem. My Mom was flying back home to the US significantly earlier the next day than my sister was flying to Italy, and it would be difficult for Hailey to wait in the airport all day with a 2-year-old. This meant that my Mom would be leaving my sister alone at the hotel with tons of baggage and a baby, and Hailey would have to navigate her way to and through the airport all alone. The problem was, that Hailey had way more stuff than she could carry, including large suitcases, other bags, a backpack, a diaper bag, a car seat, and a 2-year-old.

Sitting in the hotel with Hailey, my Mom looked at the situation and realized it was impossible. There was no way Hailey could get into and through the airport with all of the stuff by herself. So they did one of the only things we can do in life when there is more than we can carry: they knelt together in prayer and turned to the Lord for help, to carry all of these things. Hailey said that everywhere she went that next day from the hotel, to the shuttle, to the trolley, and through the airport, there was always someone there to help her carry her baggage.

And just like there was always someone there for Hailey and her baggage, there is someone there for us. Elder Phillips said: “To anyone burdened, lost, or confused, you do not have to do this alone.” And this is the sweetness of the fruit of the tree of life – tasting the love that our Father has for us, feeling the lightening of our burdens through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and one day being with our Father again and sharing in all that He has.

Finding Faith to Believe in Heavenly Father and His Love

Before I conclude, I just wanted to say a few words about finding faith to believe in our Father and our Savior. It’s a tricky time for faith when we can glance at one thing online and really have our faith rattled. Elder Phillips reminded us that: “Faith requires work”. We cannot expect we will magically have faith in hard times if we have not developed it. It takes time and effort and witnesses from the Holy Ghost.

But I also love this encouragement from Elder Phillips: “Whatever the need, wherever you are, pour out your heart to Heavenly Father.” Like Enos went to the woods to pray, we can go and pour out our hearts to our Heavenly Father and receive comfort, assurance of His love, forgiveness, hope for others, and certainty that God is there. Now, we don’t have a lot of woods in these parts, but we do have some lovely scenic overlooks where one might find solitude to talk to God on a quiet Sunday afternoon in January.

I want to conclude by saying I am so glad you are all here. Elder Phillips said: “Our journey to God is often found together,” and I really feel that. I love being with Latter-Day Saints and seeing all of your faces on a Sunday morning. I am grateful for your faith, for your testimonies of the love and goodness of God, and for all that you sacrificed for the cause. I know our Heavenly Father and Savior know us and love us, that we individually matter to them. I testify that we can be healed, rescued, and redeemed and that we do not have to do this alone. As the Father said to the son standing outside the house: “Come in my son; for mine is thine, and thine is mine.”

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