Brothers and Sisters, I am grateful to be with you today!
I wish to speak to my young friends of the Stake today, the young women and men. I hope that you hear what the Lord would have you hear today.
I hate to do it, but I’ve got to start this conference off with a flex. The Ireland Dublin Mission was the greatest mission in the world. I figured this out early in my service. My first area was called Ballymun. It was located in Dublin the largest city in Ireland. Ballymun was made up of 7 main towers 17 stories tall each with 18, 9 story towers surrounding them. They were constructed in the 1960’s during a housing crisis in Ireland. They were built by the Irish government to house those who could not afford shelter on their own. Made of concrete, steel, and glass in the simplest design possible. By the late 90’s when I arrived, these towers were in horrible shape. They hadn’t received any upkeep in decades. Any visions I had of rolling green hills filled with sheep and rainbows were swiftly dashed to pieces. The grass fields were mostly mud and garbage with hordes of wild dogs and horses. The kids who called Ballymun home were quite resourceful and learned how to ride the wild horses bareback. Through this bizarre backdrop, I had my first real experience of seeing others through the Lord’s lens. We shared Ballymun with 3 other sets of missionaries. The good thing about serving in Ballymun is that you lived in a decent sized house on the outskirts of the area with the other missionary companionships. That meant most evenings broke into a wrestle mania session. The stories we traded at the conclusion of our working hours from that day’s events were always exciting and humbling. The main portion of my first area was on the other side of Ballymun consisting mostly of regular homes and some traveling gypsy camps.
Until this point in my life, my experiences with the spirit had come from Family home evenings, seminary, scriptures, Baptisms in the Temple, and prayer. I knew that God our Father and his son Jesus Christ lived. That they had appeared to a young Joseph Smith and re-established the church and Priesthood upon the earth. I had felt their love for me, and it drove me to serve for them. But it all changed for me near the end of the first week of my mission. A week in, I was waterlogged. As we knocked door to door in a subdivision beyond the towers, I thought to myself, does it ever stop raining in Ireland? My trainer looked at me through his fogged glasses and rain drenched eyebrows and said, “well Elder, let’s finish this street and head home for lunch and dry off.” It was a string of houses maybe 20 long. 19 either no answers or doors slammed later, we stood on the doorstep of the last house on the street. To our surprise after a brief introduction and a request to share a lesson about the Savior the Woman at the door whose name was Margret, said yes! As we stood on the door to teach about God the Father, Jesus Christ and prophets the spirit was thick, she was asking real questions. Margret explained that while we were teaching, she felt so much peace and at the same time so much joy. We taught her about the spirit and that it was a confirmation that what we were teaching was true. As I began to relate Josephs Smiths first vision the rain where we stood ceased, the clouds parted, and a beam of sunlight shot straight down on this woman’s doorstep where we stood. NO CAP! Oh, hold on to all my boomer friends “NO CAP” is what me and all the kids say when we’re telling the truth. I didn’t forget the “r”, promise. It was as if my trainer hit a button that made the event happen right on queue. She stopped and said “Would you look at that. Sure, I haven’t seen the sun in four days.” She looked at us and said, “do you think he’s trying to tell me something up there?” We confirmed with a very clear, “YES!” We taught Margret about the book of Mormon and gave her some reading assignments. She took the book, promised to read the pages and we set up an appointment for four days later. And yes, when the lesson ended just as we closed her gate, the clouds consumed the sun, and we walked home through Ballymun in the rain. But I couldn’t feel it that afternoon, I was flying. I had just taught my first real lesson!
Over lunch, my trainer Elder Dugan explained that what we just experienced was a miracle that I shouldn’t expect the heavens to part each time I taught a lesson in the rain. He proved to be correct. I never saw the rain stop and cloud’s part like that again.
Four days later we returned to Margret’s home for our 2nd lesson. Instead of a warm invite Margret handed the book of Mormon back to us and said that she did not want to continue to meet with us. That we gave her lots to think about, but that now wasn’t a good time. Leaving her home, I prayed that she would have a change of heart in the future and be more receptive to the gospel. Then I felt something like I had never felt before. It was as though the Lord opened my eyes to the pain, he felt for her now but that he would never give up trying to reach her. That, he was in charge of his work and his invitation to help in his work would bring both joy and pain. That if I leaned into his work with him, he would give me glimpses to see as he sees. That day as we walked home, I was glad it was raining. I sobbed the whole walk home. While this experience of seeing through the Lord’s lens was and is painful it taught me a powerful lesson that changed my motivation in how I would interact with others for the rest of my life. People were no longer a checklist to complete. I had clarity on how real the Lord’s love is for each of us.
To my young friends. I blew it! I was on a mission when I learned to see others through the Lord’s lens. Don’t be like me. Yes, I was a decently good boy. I read my scriptures, graduated seminary, and attended mutual.
Gaining a testimony is critical. Attending seminary, reading the scriptures, and attending your meetings are critical to your growth. But we MUST act! What does it look like to act?
It means you’re looking for those that are not in your Sacrament or Sunday lessons. Reaching out to those who have not come to seminary or have missed youth activity night. Don’t wait for someone else to do the work you can do!
Elder Christofferson has taught that “Zion is not just a place, but a people”. He’s describing you and me. The Savior has invited you and I to his work. If you lean in, he’ll give you some amazing opportunities to see. To truly see others as he does and to see more clearly what your Father in Heaven would have you become. You may ask the question “Can I really be a part of this work?” The answer is YES! Doctrine and Covenants section 4 declares “If ye have a desire to serve God, ye are called to the work”. The desire to serve is just the start, the seedling to greater things ahead.
When faced with the prospect of serving alongside the Savior you may believe that you are not worthy? Some of you may feel as though your Father in Heaven doesn’t even want to hear from you. That’s just not true.
Each year, the Saturday before Labor Day is the Ventura Nationals car show. This show hosts some of the best low riders and led sleds in Southern California. For the last seven years except for 2020 Ashley and I have made the journey North. We travel PCH from Santa Monica to Ventura, roughly a two-to-two-and-a-half-hour ride up. Take in the sites and cars at the show and grab some of the most excellent fish tacos on the Ventura pier and then follow that up with a two and half to three-hour drive home down the 405. You may be wondering what do low riders and led sleds have to do with Heavenly Father wanting to hear from me. Well, as it turns out this weekend has turned into a time when Ashley and I get uninterrupted time to talk. She talks to me about all kinds of different topics, from her school schedule, team mates on her field hockey team, seminary class, boys at school – who’s cute and who’s got the Rizz or doesn’t…. She asks me about super boring things like my work and how servers work or what an ecommerce platform really means or does. I absolutely cherish this time with her. If me an earthly Father loves to hear everything that is going on in my daughter’s life, then image how much more a loving Heavenly Father wants to hear from you! He wants to hear it all, unload what is on your mind, and he will answer. If you have questions about your worth in his sight, ask him how he feels about you. If you ask with a sincere heart and real intent (Moroni 10:4), he will answer you!
Once you’ve established communication with your Father in Heaven Repent! The Lord’s work requires a pure heart. For those of you, who think you have gone too far I share the following comforting wisdom from Truman G. Madsen:
“If there are some of you who have been tricked into the conviction that you have gone too far, … that you have had the poison of sin which makes it impossible ever again to be what you could have been—then hear me.
“I bear testimony that you cannot sink farther than the light and sweeping intelligence of Jesus Christ can reach. I bear testimony that as long as there is one spark of the will to repent and to reach, he is there. He did not just descend to your condition; he descended below it, ‘that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth.’ [Doctrine and Covenants 88:6.]”4
Repentance is not easy. But it is worth the prize, and you are worth the effort! You are precious to the Father. So immensely important to him that he sent his son as a sacrifice.
Repentance must be earned, like all prizes of value there is a price.
When true faith takes root in a person, it inevitably leads to repentance. Amulek taught that the Savior’s sacrifice would “bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance” (Alma 34:15).
The Lord has commanded us to repent, to change our ways, to come unto Him, and be more like Him. This requires a total change. Alma so taught his son: “Learn wisdom in thy youth,” he said. “Learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God. … Let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.”(Alma 37:35–36)
To repent fully is to convert completely to the Lord Jesus Christ and His holy work. Alma taught that concept when he posed these questions: “I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” (Alma 5:14) That change comes when we are “born again,” converted and focused upon our journey to the kingdom of God.(John 3:3; 7)
Let us not justify ourselves in a casual effort. We must be anxiously engaged (D&C 58:27) in the work of repentance and helping to fulfill Heavenly Fathers work and glory (moses 1:39). Let us not be content to retain any evil. Let us worthily partake of the sacrament each week and continue to draw upon the Holy Spirit to root out all impurity within us. I testify that as we continue in the path of spiritual rebirth, the atoning grace of Jesus Christ will take away our sins and the stain of those sins in us, temptations will lose their appeal, and through Christ we will become holy, as He and our Father are holy. It will change our hearts from ourselves to others.
We will truly become New creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). With pure hearts, we will be prepared to work the work (John 9:4) that we were sent for.
My young friends, I testify that God lives! I testify that his son Jesus Christ paid the debt that was owed! You have been saved and you are needed in this great work! May you find peace through the power of prayer, repentance, and the love of our Heavenly Father in your journey to return to him in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.