Good morning brother and sisters. I am very excited to speak to you today in regards to a subject that I myself am rediscovering every day and hope to learn to keep in my heart always. When Dave and I were asked to speak, for some reason, I strongly felt the need to choose my own topic. I think it’s because when I watch conference, I hear the General Authority talk about how they were inspired and the spirit helped them to choose what they should address the members about. Not that I’m a general authority or anything, but I guess I just wanted to pray and let the spirit guide and see where it took me. But I found myself struggling to find the topic because I kept on wanting to narrow it down to something specific. The funny thing is, the more I kept trying to whittle it down, the more I was feeling to draw back and be broader. I kept fighting it until I realized that that was exactly what inspiration is. So here goes.
I want to speak about our Heavenly Father’s love for us. Let’s just take a moment to try to let that sink in. Forget about all the bad things that have happened over the past week or even this morning when you contemplated whether or not you were even going to church and just try to understand this one thing: Heavenly Father loves us so darn much. Despite all of our humanly imperfections, He loves us in a way that we will never completely grasp. He sees us as a complete picture of flaws and goodness and not just where we are in our progress, but more importantly, what we have the potential to become. When I think of this, it doesn’t really matter how crummy things are going because I feel happy just knowing that there is nothing I can do in this life that can make Him love me less. This doesn’t make me feel like I can just get a pass on making bad choices, but just helps me to remember that no matter what happens, He’ll never turn his back on me or leave me alone.
Heavenly Father shows us His love in countless ways each and every day. I know that for me, I can very easily get caught up in the day to day so that I forget about all those ways and end up focusing on all the things that are going wrong. I think I even start to make a list of all the ways God shows me that he hates me because he would have to in order to allow L.A. traffic to interfere with my daily life. I think that in order for us to remember how much He really does love us, we need to bring it back simple basics.
Our very existence is proof of Heavenly Father’s love. He gave us life so that we can have this earthly experience to have the opportunity to choose to follow Him and someday return Him and be exalted as He is. To live life on Earth, he gave us our physical bodies. With that, He gave us the ability to touch, to smell, to taste, to hear, and to see, and while all of these senses can definitely give us unpleasant experiences, they can also bring us great joy and happiness. Another big way Heavenly Father shows us His love is by giving us our families. The special relationships between parents and children, brothers and sisters, and husband and wives are all meant to give us the care and support we need and also allows us to have a little taste of what God feels towards each one of us. Understandably though, not every person is born with all the ideal physical capabilities or even the ideal family situation. Life can still be pretty unfair to even those who seem to “have everything.” This is why our individual earthly experiences and what we make of it determines the happiness we’ll feel and where we’ll go after this life over.
Heavenly Father loves us but He does not want to make us love Him back. Instead, He wants us to show Him. By giving us free agency, we can choose whether or not to show our love for Him. We may practice our agency to make wise or not-so-wise choices that can lead to good or bad consequences, and then it is up to us to either learn and grow from these experiences or repeat and regress. Life is a constant cycle of stumbling, getting back up and continuing on and we are always in a “work in progress” state. The point is to just keep on trying and learning each day. Another way to grow is through enduring trials. As a part of our probation on earth, being tested and tried helps us to reach our full potential by being able to overcome hardships through the guidance and companionship of God. There are many times in my life that I know that the only way I can make it through a difficult situation is by trusting and having faith in Him.
When I was in 9th grade, my father bought a business that moved my family to a different state. I was scared and angry at him for making me leave my friends and home to live in a strange place and start all over. I remember him asking me to have faith that everything will be okay and to trust that this was the right thing to do. When we got to our new house, within minutes, the whole neighborhood was there to help us move in and when I went to our new ward for the first time, as soon as Sacrament meeting was over, three very sweet young women approached me and swept me away to Sunday school. These same three girls took me to school the next day and made sure that I never felt lost or alone. To this day I will never forget the feeling of relief and happiness they gave me by becoming my instant friends and making me feel so welcomed and loved. After just a few short days, I felt completely happy and comfortable in our new home. Of course, at the time I was told about the move and feelings of anxiety and fright overwhelmed me, I had no idea what great blessings were in store. We tend to only see what’s right in front of us and only Heavenly Father is capable to seeing the end result. I could’ve saved myself a lot of crying and worrying if I could’ve just trusted Him from the start. A couple of my favorite scriptures that come to mind when I am needing a little more faith in times or trial are Isaiah:55 8-9.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
I think that during tough times, we often want or even expect Heavenly Father to spare us the difficulty and remove it from us and when he doesn’t, we become bitter and resentful. But why would He if he can see clearly how the trial will benefit us and help us become the people we are meant to be? I’m certain that as we suffer, he and suffers with us, but would he still rob us of a chance to grow and learn if it meant that we can be prematurely relieved of our pain? No I don’t believe he would. He loves us too much. In a talk by Elder Richard G. Scott called “The Sustaining Power of Faith in Times of Uncertainty and Testing,” He said:
“God has given us the capacity to exercise faith, that we may find peace, joy, and purpose in life. However, to employ its power, faith must be founded on something. There is no more solid foundation than in the love Heavenly Father has for you, faith in His plan of happiness, and faith in the capacity and willingness of Jesus Christ to fulfill all of His promises.”
So often during this life, we find ourselves feeling lost and confused. Our mortal existence was never meant to be easy or else there would be no point in us being here in the first place. But it was never intended for us to wander aimlessly or without guidance. In fact, our loving Heavenly Father gave us everything we need to make it through any situation and return home safely. Whether we choose to use the help is up to us. I am a big fan of obscure analogies so when I think about this concept, I think of a literal classroom. We are obviously the pupils and since life is a test, we are there to take an exam. I think of our prophets as the teachers. They have taught us what we need to know and have painstakingly tried to instill the lessons in our hearts. They have given us most of the answers but often we’ve either daydreamed through the teachings or have gotten distracted and ignored them all together. I know that I personally have many times taken for granted that we have living prophets to guide us in this day and age when we need it so much. I have slept many times through conference and am definitely guilty of moments of thinking that I am smarter than the inspired men who communicate with God. I end up learning the hard way and come to find that the things they preach are true and there to aid us. In a First Presidency Message, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “Because Heavenly Father loves His children, He has not left them to walk through this mortal life without direction and guidance. That is why He pleads so earnestly with us through His prophets. Just as we want what is best for our loved ones, Heavenly Father wants what is best for us.”
Along with the best teachers that we can have, God has also given us the best materials to study and learn from. In my classroom analogy, those vital materials are of course the scriptures. I am embarrassed to say that am I twenty five years old and just a few short years ago I started using the scriptures more regularly. But what a difference it has made. So many answers to questions, examples of how to lead a righteous life, and personal messages lie in the pages of the scriptures and we truly cheat ourselves when we don’t take advantage of it. It’s like taking an open book test and refusing to use the thing that will give us the answers we need. Heavenly Father has literally given us books with the answers and we could always use it more often. As we read the scriptures, we can find simple truths and promises that are so clear that confusion can instantly dissipate. I remember during a trying time in my life, I heard someone read the words from D&C 82:10 and even though I have read it before, it took on a whole new meaning at that time. It says, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” Scriptures like that bring us back to the knowledge that if we just do what Heavenly Father has commanded us to do, we will be blessed.
Back to my analogy. Here we are sitting in a classroom, having been taught be amazing teachers, been given textbooks with all the answers and Heavenly Father goes one step further to help us. He gives us tutors to sit with us and guide us to through the exam. They can point us to the answers we seek, or even whisper them in our ears. The tutor is obviously the Holy Ghost. How blessed are we that as long as we live righteously, we are promised a constant companion by our side to guide us through life.
When I was in high school, I began dating a boy that would be my boyfriend for years. He was a non member who was never very interested in the gospel. I’m sure that I could have tried harder but at that time, I let my inhibitions control and I failed to share it with him the way that I should have. Around the time that we had been dating for about three years, the Sacramento Temple was built. At that point I had put church low on my priority list and had gotten comfortable living without the spirit in my life. One morning, my mother come into my room and reminded me that the temple dedication was coming up and asked me to come to it. Suddenly, a feeling swept over me like I had never felt it. At that very moment, I knew that the temple was so important to me and that I couldn’t live a life that didn’t include it. I also knew in my heart that the relationship I had with my boyfriend wouldn’t lead to a temple marriage or life of church activity. I’m not telling this story to make judgments on non members or even to discourage having relationships with people who is not LDS. That is a very personal decision and Heavenly Father has a different plan for each of us. I am telling this story to remind myself of a time that the spirit testified to me strongly and I followed the promptings. I ended the relationship which was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done and began to transform my life. The gospel is now the most important thing in my life and I now enjoy a temple marriage. We were even married in the Sacramento Temple.
Heavenly Father loves us so much that he couldn’t let us take the test without everything we need. He provides us with prophets, scriptures, and the Holy Ghost. So basically its open book test for a class is taught by the smartest teachers, with tutors telling us all the answers. We have no excuses to fail since He has given us all the tools to be successful.
Another major tool God has given us to be successful and without there is no success is the Atonement. After the Fall of Adam, we became subject to opposition and temptation. As we use our agency, we can make decisions that do not align with God’s plan. When we use the Atonement, we are able to right the wrongs and wipe away sins that pulled us away from the spirit. Through repentance, we are able to be clean again. Heavenly Father provided us a way to have this through his only begotten son.
The ultimate teacher this world had and will ever know is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the most powerful way God shows His love to us, His children. He sent his son to be to atone for our sins so that we may someday be resurrected and live forever in His presence. His plan could not have been fulfilled without the sacrifice Christ made by suffering in Gethsemane and dying on the cross. But as significant as his death was to us, his life and ministry is also equally important. His life stands as the perfect example of service and obedience and if we try to follow him and do as he did, we can be the happiest that we can possibly be. I think that the scripture that encompasses this the best is John 3:16. It says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The Atonement is key to having everlasting life. In order to continue to grow and be free from sin, we need to be able to repent. Repentance can often be linked to negative things like suffering, guilt and shame. Even though it is necessary to feel those things to truly repent, repentance is also meant to bring us peace, happiness and hope. One of my earliest memories of repentance is a time when I was in elementary school when my family and I lived in Okinawa, Japan. The school that I went to split the classes up between an early schedule and a late schedule. The late scheduled half of the class stayed after school each day and thoroughly cleaned the classroom and would alternate with the early half. It was a day that I had to stay and help my class clean and I that particular day, I was not interested in cleaning at all. I found a corner behind some cabinets and hid there while my classmates did what they were supposed to do. I found a crayon and began drawing on the white cabinet door. When it was time to go home, my teacher discovered my artwork and calmly asked the children who did in. I was so nervous and scared that I didn’t dare admit it. She then said that if the person who did it told the truth, they would not get in trouble. At the time, I saw it as a trap and not as a lesson the teacher wanted to teach about honesty. As I was walking out the door, I almost told her that it was me but I chicken out and ran passed her. I remember how awful I felt that I hadn’t told the truth. When I got home, I found a place to be alone and prayed for forgiveness. As soon as I sincerely asked to be forgiven, I felt a warm feeling and felt some of the guilt lift. That experience helped me as I grew older to go to Heavenly Father to repent so that I may be set free from my wrong doings and be happy again. We can find much comfort in D&C 58:42 which reads: Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.
The Atonement not only allows us to repent, but also saves us from physical death. Christ’s sacrifice to us gave us a way to be resurrected and live forever. Resurrection provides us a way to live after death, with the knowledge we gained from life, and with the family members that we love. Heavenly Father created us so that we can become like Him and live for eternity.
We are all so very loved. From creation to resurrection, Heavenly Father has provided us with ways that we can be guided to the fullness of joy that he has in store for us. I have strong testimony that God knows each one of us individually and wants nothing but the best for us. He wants to see us accomplish our goals, overcome trials, and serve one another. He wants us to be happy because He loves us. He’s given us life, assistance through prophets, scriptures, and the Holy Ghost, and the Atonement to give us a safe passage home. Through life’s hardships we can learn to trust Him, endure faithfully, and lean on Him for comfort. We are so lucky to have the gospel in our lives and to be able to enjoy its rich blessings. I hope that we can all come to know the great love our Creator has for us feel it always.