Drawing Near to the Savior

ELDER ULISSES AND SISTER ROASANA SOARES

Devotional given at BYUI on 16 May 2021

Good evening my dear brothers and sisters from BYU-Idaho. My wife and I are thrilled for the opportunity to be with you tonight. Choosing to join us in this event shows much about your faith and love for the Lord and your desire to follow Him. We welcome some of you who are here in person, who are currently attending school online or are off track, and who live in the Salt Lake City area. Thank you for your presence, all of you. 

President Eyring, thank you so very much for your kind introduction. It is a real honor for us to be with you and your dear sweetheart. President and Sister Eyring speak so highly of each one of you.

I bring greetings and love from our beloved prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, to all of you. He truly loves you and prays for you more than you can imagine.

My dear students, I want to commend you for your continued effort to pursue your education, even considering the circumstances at the moment. You have been an example of dedication and devotion. I am sure that the experiences you are going through are providing you with unique preparation to deal with the complexities and challenges of the world, and I hope you all feel a sense of great accomplishment as you continue to pursue your personal progress. We are very proud of all of you.

We are broadcasting this devotional from the lobby of the Church Office Building here in Salt Lake City. Behind us, there is a beautiful painting on the wall featuring the Savior giving guidance to His disciples. The Savior spent His life on earth inviting others to come unto Him and find rest. [1] His special invitation is extended to all of us no matter the circumstances of life. The lyrics of this beautiful song we just heard remind us of the Savior’s loving invitation to us.

There is peace in Christ
When we learn of Him.
Feel the love He felt for us
When He bore our sins.
Listen to His words.
Let them come alive. . . .
He gives us hope
When hope is gone.
He gives us strength
When we can’t go on.
He gives us shelter
In the storms of life. [2]

My dear friends, a few weeks ago our beloved prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, taught: “For the past year, we have all been dealing with dramatic and unexpected events. Amid such uncertainty, there is only one way to feel at peace . . . That peace is found in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” [3]

Some of you have expressed concerns about how you can feel confidence and peace about the future when the conditions of the world do not look that promising. I assure you that our confidence in our Savior Jesus Christ will strengthen us to continue moving forward in life despite the challenges we go through. Coming unto Him does not tie us down or limit our freedom! Rather, it gives us reason for firm hope and provides a solid anchor to our souls, giving us a lasting inner peace that we need to live in these days and find rest in Him. If we don’t turn away from the light we receive from the Savior, we won’t have a hollow feeling of emptiness in our lives but a fullness that occupies the innermost chambers of our souls. It is through the Savior Jesus Christ and His healing, atoning sacrifice that we are enabled to stand tall and strong, even in the face of adversity. The Savior’s healing power fills our souls with peace, light, understanding, joy, and love.

My dear friends, Jesus Christ is the source of true peace in this world. Throughout the dispensations, He has repeatedly invited His people to seek Him in every thought and to follow Him with their heart. [4] In so doing, we align our mind and desires with His. Adopting this path in our life implies that we strive to conduct our lives in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ and focus daily on everything that is good. The Lord counseled Joseph Smith to “treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your mind.” [5]

A few years ago, President Nelson taught that when we focus our energy on Jesus Christ and His gospel, “we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives.” President Nelson remarked that joy comes from and because of Christ, and that He is the source of all joy. “For Latter-day Saints, Jesus Christ is joy.” [6] I testify to you that as we rely upon the Rock of Salvation, the Savior of our souls, and act in faith on His invitation to come and find rest in Him, we will be strengthened to deal with our struggles, our weaknesses, and our temptations, and He will increase our capacity to feel a consistent peace in every circumstance of our lives. In light of these principles, I would like to now take some time to discuss some of the questions that were submitted to us previously by you. Some of the students who are here today have kindly agreed to represent all of you in sharing those questions with us. We have grouped them—these questions—by topics of general interest.  

Q&A PERIOD

ELDER SOARES: So, shall we begin? Let’s start with the questions related to receiving spiritual guidance for our life. This was one of the most repeated topics mentioned in the questions submitted to us. So, we will invite Anna Stoutenburg. Would you please share your question to us?

ANNA: Many have asked, “How can I make my prayers more meaningful when I am seeking answers or guidance in life?”

 

ELDER SOARES: Thank you, Anna. This is an insightful question. Thank you. I think my dear sweetheart would like to share her thoughts about this one.      
 

SISTER SOARES: Let me share with you what I have learned from the prophets of God on this matter. I have learned that I need to pray in the morning before I do anything else. Before looking at my phone or getting up, no matter how busy my day is, I pray first. This shows that Heavenly Father comes first and that He is my priority. My prayer is more of a conversation and I try to visualize our Father in Heaven looking at me and feel His embrace. But I need to be fully awake for this to happen. 

If we pray more sincerely and with energy each morning, as if we are trying to survive the day, even if we don’t have any major events happen to us, we will be prepared for when they come. [7]

Another thing I learned is if we are becoming casual in our study of the scriptures, we will become casual in our prayers. “We may not cease to pray, but our prayers will become more repetitive, more mechanical, lacking real intent. Our hearts cannot reach a God we do not know, and the scriptures and the words of living prophets help us know Him. As we know Him better, we love Him more.” [8]

As we strive to make our prayers more meaningful, we should try to express gratitude more, especially for the little things that we often take for granted. Elder Bednar recommended that “periodically, you and I offer a prayer in which we only give thanks and express gratitude. Ask for nothing; simply let our souls rejoice and strive to communicate appreciation with all the energy of our hearts.” [9] 

Sometimes we may struggle with a problem and not get an answer. What could be wrong? It may be that you are not doing anything wrong. It may be that you have not done the right things long enough. And remember, we cannot force spiritual things. Let’s try some of these ideas in our next prayer and see if we notice a difference.

ELDER SOARES: Well said, dear. Thank you very much for your great comments. Well, I just wanted to join my wife in her counsel and her wonderful teaching about prayer.

Please consider praying for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost in your life, praying for help to overcome the day-to-day battles, and praying to have a strong faith and testimony. In so doing, you will be able to stay on the path of covenant. And that’s what we expect from all of us.

Well, thank you for sending this meaningful question, all of you. I believe Connor Berry, another student, has a question for us now on this same topic, don’t you?

CONNOR: Yes. How do I know that my career and personal aspirations are in line with God’s plan for my life when I do not get an answer one way or another in prayer? How do I know I am making the right decisions?

ELDER SOARES: Well, thank you, Connor, for this question.

I believe that one of the most important tasks in this mortal life is to learn to hear and to heed the impressions of the Spirit. Let’s consider together some principles on this matter.   

First, there is no question that personal revelation plays an important role in our life, but we ought to make sure that we do our homework beforehand. So, the Lord expects us to become agents unto ourselves as we exercise our agency. We are to study our concerns carefully and make up our mind on a direction to pursue. Then, in sincere, faithful, and real intentional prayer, go to the Lord. [10] If it is right, we will get the sweet surety that comes only from the Holy Ghost. If there is anxiety and uncertainty in our heart, it’s better to start it over. The Lord’s hand may not be in it.  

The second thing I would like to share is in D&C 11:12, which teaches that trusting in the Lord leads us to do good in life. And in D&C 80:3, it teaches that if we are going about doing good, it “mattereth not” because we can’t go amiss. So, Heavenly Father will not let us make big mistakes without proper warning. So, if we are about doing good things continuously and if we still haven’t received the specific direction we seek, maybe the Lord is leaving the decision up to us. There were instances in the scriptures in which the Lord didn’t give a specific answer to a question. One example of it is when Jared’s brother came to the Lord, asking how to have light in the vessels he prepared to cross the sea, remember? There are several other examples.

Well, finally, please distinguish between questions with one right answer from questions with more than one right answer. Questions like, “Should I love my neighbor? Should I obey the law of chastity? Should I pay my tithing?” and many others, are questions with just one right answer, right? But where to attend school, what course of study to pursue, where to live, or who to marry are questions with more than one right answer. We all possess talents and a sense of judgement, so we can exercise our gifts to make decisions on what is good for us. So, let us always do the things that keep us close to the Lord—like prayer, immersion in the scriptures, serving others, and many other good things—and find your own way to hear the Lord.

Well, thank you, these are thoughtful questions. Thank you very much. Let’s now move on to a second topic: dealing with confrontation and differing opinions. This is pretty common in these days, right? Kara Berry, would you have a question on this topic for us?

KARA: How do we learn to stop worrying what our peers and the world think of us? I am reminded of the verses in the scriptures that talk about how we should fear God more than man, and I want to learn how to be better about that. How do we stop caring so much about the opinions and influences of the world?

ELDER SOARES: Oh, this is a very important question, especially considering the age that we are. I include myself in your group. So, the age that we are, facing the challenges established in our lives.

Well, these sincere questions show your desire to become trustworthy disciples of Jesus Christ. Thank you very much for that question. Let’s examine together these questions from the context of becoming disciples of Jesus Christ.

First, as we strive to be good disciples of Jesus Christ, we will always be tested in our character. Always. We will receive criticism no matter our circumstances. Think about the great heroes of the scriptures. They became valiant disciples of the Lord. Peter, for example, moved from being a fisherman to a real rock of the gospel on those days. His example still lives in our hearts. Our strength as an individual depends on how we respond to the tests of life.

The second thing is the world is more concerned about reputation than character. I selected one quote here from a very famous basketball coach. His name is John Wooden. You’ve probably heard about him. He is from the UCLA basketball team. He said something interesting: “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

So, my friends, don’t be frightened or discouraged by opinions and influences of the world. The constant use of social media pressures us to create a reputation—but at the sacrifice of our character. We need to be very careful with that. If we let what others think of us define who we are or cause any negative effect on us, we are going to be hurt down the road and our character will be affected. So, let us choose to live based on who we are and make our choices in life on our discipleship. We are children of Heavenly Father with promises.

And lastly, let’s live our life with real and focused intent. This is an important character trait for the great achievers in life. They keep persisting in the right direction, no matter pressure or circumstance or distraction. So, our testimony on faith and faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in His atoning sacrifice are the foundation we need to live with real intent. These are the greatest powers available to us in this life. President Nelson taught lately, and I quote: “Through your faith, Jesus Christ will increase your ability to move the mountains in your life . . . not the mountains of rock that beautify the earth but the mountains of misery in your lives.” [11] Beautiful, isn’t it?

Let’s now invite Mario Rengel to share his question on this same topic. Would you please, Mario?

MARIO: How can we fully forgive our loved ones’ past mistakes and sins?”

ELDER SOARES: That is a great question, thank you, Mario.

Well, we all learn through the scriptures what the Savior taught about forgiving, right? [12] There is no question about it. But we know that nobody is perfect too, right? We are all dealing with our weaknesses. Let’s explore one aspect of how harmful for us it is not to forgive. I think this is the most important thing. We may better understand how to apply this principle in life when we focus on that side of this question.

My friends, when we choose to not forgive others, we become chained by bitterness and anger. This is a heavy burden on us and that may cause us to lose the influence of the Spirit in our life. We cannot repent for the mistakes other people make, right? But we can forgive them. In so doing, we can free ourselves of being someone’s judge. We surrender to the Lord, and we stop carrying this heavy burden on us. I am very strong in my emotions and I feel joy and happiness very strongly. But sometimes it is hard for me to keep my emotions at bay when I choose to allow something to hurt me. So, in trying to balance my emotions, I’ve learned that nurturing negative feelings in my heart is a roadblock to healing, and ultimately, to my happiness. If we let these feelings go, the Savior can heal our heart and can help us feel joy once again.

One more thing, my dear friends: Forgiving others can be an expression of our faith and testimony of the Savior and His forgiveness extended to all of us through His atoning sacrifice. The Savior gave His life to separate us from our sins, giving us the power to turn away from our iniquities. [13] In Moroni 10:8, it is recorded that we should not deny “the gifts of God.” When we choose not to forgive, in a sense, we are denying one of the most precious gifts of God—the gift of the Savior’s Atonement.

Shall we move to a question related to living the gospel fully and enduring life’s challenges? I will invite Bianca Lima to share her question. Would you please, Bianca?

BIANCA: How do you help close friends who are also members of the Church more fully live the gospel, especially those who might be slipping away? How may I better learn patience and understanding towards those that I do not agree with?

ELDER SOARES: Thank you very much, Bianca. Bianca’s from Brazil, and I knew her mother many years ago when we were young, so it’s wonderful to have her here.

Jesus has asked us to observe the law of perfect love, which is a universal and an unconditional gift. He invited us to follow Him, and His invitation to follow Him is an invitation to become like Him. Think of the instance when Jesus was in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Do you remember that occasion? When a woman anointed Jesus’ feet and He forgave her sins? Remember what the Lord said to her? In Luke 7:47, the Lord said this: “Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are  forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” Beautiful, isn’t it? It sounds like as much we love, as much of our sins are forgiven. So, that’s the answer of the Savior for this question. Show a genuine love for them. Try to be a good influence for them through your light and serve them the best way you can. Let them know you care about them.

Does it make sense to you? I think it makes sense for me. What do you think about this dear?

SISTER SOARES: Just a thought. We have to remember that we don’t love people because they are members of the Church or because they are doing the right things. We love them because they are children of God. When Jesus said, “Love one another,” he didn’t say love only those that are similar to you, but everyone. [14]

ELDER SOARES: Thank you dear. One more question on this topic and we will pass to the second portion of this devotional. Lucas, Bianca’s husband, would you share a question with us?
 
LUCAS: How would you define enduring to the end? How do you endure well? What is the role of adversity and how can we learn from it?

ELDER SOARES: Oh, that’s wonderful. These questions are meaningful, especially considering the current circumstances we are living with the pandemic and all the challenges we have been through the past year.

Well, the Lord said that life is a time of trials and tests. [15] These trials and tests are part of the plan of happiness of God for all His children, including for those who are doing everything right. I know that going through trials is not an easy task. We don’t like that. But sometimes they can oppress us to such a point that makes our spiritual light dim. In addition to that, it is declared in the scriptures that it is necessary to have opposition in all things. [16]

So, how could we recognize the sweet without experiencing the bitter? My friends, we all can get the strength we need to endure our trials from the Savior and His atoning sacrifice. The Savior descended below all things, so He understands pain and He is aware of our adversities. His heart is full of mercy, and He is always ready to help us in any circumstances.

We will be able to overcome our challenges of life as we draw closer to Him and surrender spiritually to His care. Listen to what the Savior said: “Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [17]

The psalmists wrote: “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee.” [18] “And then may God grant unto [us] that [our] burdens may be light through the joy of [His] Son.” [19] Well, one of the great lessons I have learned in my life is to see trials through the eyes of faith. [20] I have learned that healing comes, but in the Lord's time and in His way. Without seeing our trials with the eyes of faith and trusting in the Lord’s wisdom, it is difficult to endure in our challenges. I testify to you of this important principle.

Thank you all for sharing your questions with us. You represented all the students of BYU-Idaho, so we are very grateful for you. Your questions were important and greatly impact the way we draw nearer to the Savior , so, thank you very much.

I invited two friends, who are your colleagues at BYU-Idaho, to share their experiences with us. Their life stories really tie into the question Lucas just asked us. Let me introduce them to you. The first one is Yocely Ramon, who is attending this devotional by Zoom. How are you doing Yocely?

YOCELY: Doing well, how are you doing?

ELDER SOARES: We are doing great. We are enjoying the devotional from here, and I hope you are enjoying it from there.

YOCELY: I wish I could be there, but . . .

ELDER SOARES: Thanks for being with us tonight all the way from Tennessee. Yocely, if I may, I would like to share a little video that was prepared based on your life story. Is that okay for you?

YOCELY: Of course.

ELDER SOARES: Thank you very much. So, let’s watch the video then. [See 30:42 - 34:40.]

YOCELY (video clip) “I was raised in the church and I always went to seminary. I went to Young Women’s. Toward my high school years, I started to doubt a little bit. In high school I felt like an outcast.  I believe in God, and I kept telling them I believed in the same God but I wasn’t believing in the same things they were believing.  I kept thinking to myself, well if God is so loving and he loves every one of his children then why is religion separating every single person? And so, I remember I decided to venture out and see different churches and go to church with my friends. I remember I went on a trip with my friends to New York. I was in the subway and there was people coming in and out trying to get to Times Square and I remember feeling so empty.  I didn’t know what that emptiness was coming from but deep down inside I just felt like something was missing. There is something that I needed to fulfill, I didn’t know what that was or where I could find it.  I had left religion behind, I still believed in God, I believed in Jesus Christ, but it wasn’t really my priority, it wasn’t something that I put first and I felt so empty. I remember going to different churches probably like every other Sunday and trying to find answers. In the back of my mind, the church my parents are in, I’m never going back there, I’m never going back to the Book of Mormon, I’m never going back to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ever again.  It wasn’t until finally I was tired of feeling this emptiness that I decided to ask Heavenly Father, in a prayer, I said “fine have it your way, if you want me to be in this Church, if you want me to believe in the Book of Mormon, to believe things I grew up on, just tell me right out.” And he did that.  I started reading the Book of Mormon, about finding answers, maybe he will give me a verse and you’ll see this truth but it wasn’t an answer like that. I felt so loved, so peaceful, I felt such joy.  Joy that I was trying to fulfill  and had been looking for all those years.   I started going back to church, to feeling more and more of that joy, more and more of that fulfillment and it just started to feel right to me. It started to feel good.  I told myself “well God, I’m back on track, get me back on track, get me towards marriage, get me towards having a degree”, but he wanted me to go on a mission. People were saying “oh, were you going on a mission?” I would read the scriptures and it would talk about missionary work. It was mission, mission, mission everywhere and I just knew that I had to go on a mission.  Being back from my mission, I proudly say that I am a member of the Church and that I believe in the Book of Mormon and they accept that because I believe it.  Before I was lonely and empty and I didn’t have anyone to share that burden with or to carry that burden with me. But now I have it, I have Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father there with me all the time and I don’t want to lose that.  A lot of times he sees what we have in store for ourselves but we don’t see it until we act upon his will and what he wants us to do and that’s when we start to see it ourselves.  And I know that if you do that as well, that is just something that is unexplainable, I can’t describe the feeling you will feel but you will know, you’ll just know.”

What an inspiring story. Thank you so much for sharing part of your life experience with us, Yocely. It helps us to know that it’s very possible to draw ourselves to the Lord and find peace in Him in moments of doubts in our life. Thank you, Yocely, I just have one more question for you if that is okay.

YOCELY: Of course.

ELDER SOARES: How has your consistence in studying the Book of Mormon continued to help you to overcome your past personal challenges and draw nearer to the Savior?

YOCELY: You know, the Lord said that the Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the gospel and the principles of the gospel. The first is faith, and so that’s something that’s helped me a lot is just having faith. When I read the Book of Mormon, I have faith that I’m going to feel or know the answer that I need to have or need to get, and I do that consistently. It’s given me so much peace and so much joy to be able to find those answers in the Book of Mormon and to be able to have that in our dispensation, to have the Book of Mormon here. And so, it’s helped me so much. Like I said in the video, I can’t explain that feeling, but we’re all going to get that feeling once we have that desire to read the Book of Mormon and the desire to follow Jesus Christ.

ELDER SOARES: Thank you very much, Yocely. It has been marvelous to learn from you. We love you. Let me now introduce to you, Mason Powell, who is here in person with us. It is good to have you here, Mason.

ELDER SOARES: Would you allow me to share a little bit of your life with all of these great students today?

MASON: Yes, sir.

ELDER SOARES: Okay, so let’s watch this little video that was prepared about his life. [See 37:12 - 41:15.] 

MASON (video clip): “I grew up racing motocross, BMX, played a lot of football. Got my training wheels off when I was two, and I started racing motocross when I was four, it was a huge part of my life, all those extreme sports.  Academically I was doing good in school, I was starting to take AP classes and was really looking forward to moving forward in life and progressing on to college. In my junior year, I had a helmet to helmet collision. I was shortly thereafter was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.  My brain injury really took a toll on my life in the sense that I got told I was not allowed to play contact sports, I immediately had had to withdraw from my advance placement courses and I was put into the school’s special ed program.  I remember being frustrated because I could not remember things that had happened twenty minutes beforehand.  I had to constantly be reminded by friends, family or whoever I was around at the time, where I was going and what I was supposed to be doing. For a long time, I was pretty upset with God. I remember having thoughts of doubt and confusion as to why he would let something like that happen to me. I have always been a super big social butterfly.  I love talking to people and I love having lots of friends and I have gotten back to that.  Having to switch up friends group and the people I hung out with every day was extremely difficult for me. It was easy at that time to feel alone while I was going through that trial. And that is something found that I found the church  helped with a lot actually.  I found a lot of new friends in seminary and was able to meet a lot of great people and get involved in a lot of different activities that helped me grow and helped me feel normal again.  I ended up joining the choir and I joined the ballroom team.  Music was something, that I’m not sure how, but it always triggered my memory, it was easy to remember the dances. I could memorize the songs easily.  It was something that gave me hope and it helped my memory come back and help  me see that light at the end of the tunnel.  A mission was not something that I had really planned on in high school, it was something I had talked to my parents about to reassure them that I was going to go but it was never something I had individually planned on doing.  I was really hoping for college scholarships and to play college football.  After having my brain injury and having that option completely taken away from me, I decided to go on a mission.  I was called to serve in the Canada Edmonton mission and it  was the best two years for my life. I learned some much up there and learned  different ways that I can grow in the gospel and I didn’t have any issues as far as memory goes. I was truly blessed  and want to make sure that my brain injury is not an excuse.  I feel that the Lord has strengthened me a lot.  Going forward, I really hope to not let it limit me.  I want to be as normal as everyone else and I feel like I have achieved that so far. This brain injury has help me gain a closer relationship with God, I find myself on my knees praying than I did before and it’s helped me to see that I am not alone, that none of us are alone through our trials. That someone is always there, even when we feel that there isn’t and that we always have someone to turn to.”

ELDER SOARES:  What a moving story. Thank you for uplifting us with your life experience. May I ask you one more question?

MASON: Yes.

ELDER SOARES: How has the adversity you have gone through continued to strengthen your determination to stay on the covenant path and draw nearer to the Savior, Jesus Christ?

MASON: I feel that as I’ve gone through these different trials and different situations in my life, as I’ve learned to turn and look to the Savior and know that He is there and that He understands me, that I’ve gained a deeper relationship with Him and that I’ve gained that reliance on Him in all that I do—that I know He’s always there to turn to, that I know that He understands what I’m going through and what I’m going to go through and He’s always going to be there for me.

ELDER SOARES: I totally agree with you and support you on this answer. Thank you very much, Mason. Thank you, thank you, please have a seat.

Yocely and Mason, you are wonderful. Thank you for your participation in this devotional. We love you both. Well, this concludes our question-and-answer period. We will now turn the time back to President Eyring to announce the remainder of the program. So, thank you very much for all the questions you have sent.

Well, thank you, President Eyring, for this wonderful experience, and thank you for the beautiful music we just heard and will continue to hear at the end of this devotional. Just to let you know, Lethicia Caravello is my daughter, and she came all the way from Dallas, Texas, just to be with you today, so we are very grateful for her; for Alex Melecio, my dear close friend like a brother; and also our great friend, Rodrigo Betancourt, who is with us too. Thank you so much.

My dear students from BYU-Idaho, I believe that our learning experiences can help us to turn our hearts to the Savior and draw nearer to Him. As we seek Him with all of the energy of our hearts, focusing our thoughts, our prayers, our faith, and our desires on Him, we will receive, by His grace, His influence in our life and will enjoy the blessings of His atoning sacrifice.  

We are living in a very interesting time. Lately, we are seeing many tumultuous events in the world in many ways. Many of us are still feeling the sobering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to facing problems of so many kinds in our day. All these circumstances, together with a general moral decline in society, are causing a lot of confusion in the minds of people. That confusion causes some people to forget who Jesus Christ is and what He did for us. Those in this circumstance will often turn to the philosophies of men for answers, rather than the doctrine of Christ. The enemy of the truth and his followers are taking every opportunity to create even more distraction and confusion in our minds, relentlessly trying our faith and our self-esteem. All these events may generate fear and uncertainty about our future. But looking at you and recognizing your abilities, your talents, and gifts, my heart rejoices—our hearts rejoice—and we feel the assurance that it is totally possible for you and us to carry out what the Lord has foreordained us to do in these days as we seek and follow Him and walk in His covenant path. I promise you, as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, that as you turn to Him—to His doctrine—in times of doubt, difficulty, and confusion, you will be blessed with the answers and the assurance we all need—answers that are specific and personal to all of us, individually.

In December of 1832, a group of Saints in the early Church received a personal invitation from the Savior through a revelation given to Joseph Smith. This is what the Lord said: “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me.” [21] This invitation is extended to all of us in our day. As we commit our faith and energy to draw closer to Jesus Christ, we begin to understand more fully who He really is. We begin to gain a deep and abiding testimony of His matchless life and His example and the blessings of this great atoning sacrifice. We truly begin to find Him and to recognize Him as the Creator of the earth, the Redeemer of all mankind, the Only Begotten of the Father, the King of kings, the Prince of Peace.

The more we draw near unto Him, the more we begin to understand His eternal message of salvation and exaltation. We recognize that He continues to beckon us to come and follow Him and that His doctrine is perfect and every bit as applicable today as it was throughout all previous generations. And finally, we begin to appreciate more profoundly His role as the Holy Messiah of the world and what occurred in Gethsemane and on Calvary. Although He was convicted and sentenced unfairly, He gave His life willingly to fulfill His own prophetic words and He was resurrected on the third day. This priceless gift brings immortality to all and eternal life to the obedient and faithful.

In addition to all these things, my dear friends, we can receive a witness of His personal visit, together with His Father, to the young prophet, Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-awaited dispensation for the fulness of times. With this witness, we will recognize that He has restored His Church for us to the world in these days, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that within His Church, He has bestowed the power and authority to provide essential ordinances that will permit us to return and live with Him once again. We will also recognize that He continues to guide His Church through His living prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, and that the organization of His Church is built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, “Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” [22]

Thank you once more for your attendance today. I would like to conclude this devotional testifying to you that as we diligently draw near unto the Savior, we will find Him and feel His love for us and understand more clearly the answers to our prayers. Please remember that the Lord has promised that if our eyes are single to His glory, our whole body shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in us. A body which is filled with light comprehends all things. [23] I share my witness that He is the “the light and the life of the world.” [24]

I pray, my friends, that our lives may be sanctified by honoring our Savior and keeping His commandments so we can live in happiness and peace in this life and in the life to come. I invite all of us to align our lives with the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ so when calamities threaten us, we will feel the support of the Savior’s powerful arm. I pray that we may abide in the Spirit of the Lord, listening to the still, small voice that prompts us to perform works of righteousness. In so doing, we won’t deviate from the path that leads to the knowledge and power of the Savior in our life, thus receiving the heritage reserved for the faithful, even life everlasting.

I pray that our hearts may be filled with the spirit of love, of patience, of kindness, of charity, of selflessness, that come only from the Savior and that enriches our life and makes the world brighter and better. We love you—all of you—and pray for you always. Jesus is the Savior. President Nelson is the prophet of God on earth in our day. And I say these things in the sacred name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

elder and sister soares
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 Michelle D. Craig, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, delivered this devotional address on December 11, 2018.