President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency
(Given in Priesthood Session) We men sometimes identify ourselves by titles. Many of us have multiple titles, and each says something important about our identity. For example, some titles describe our roles in families, such as son, brother, husband, and father. Other titles describe our occupations in the world, such as doctor, soldier, or craftsman. And some describe our positions within the Church.
Today I would like to suggest four titles that I believe apply to all priesthood holders around the world—titles that may help us recognize our individual roles in God’s eternal plan and our potential as priesthood holders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Son of Heavenly Father
One title that defines all of us in the most fundamental way is son of Heavenly Father. No matter what else we are or do in life, we must never forget that we are God’s literal spirit children. We were His children before we came to this world, and we will be His children forevermore. This basic truth should change the way we look at ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and life itself.
Unfortunately, none of us quite lives up to everything that this title implies, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
It can be discouraging at times to know what it means to be a son of God and yet come up short. The adversary likes to take advantage of these feelings. Satan would rather that you define yourself by your sins instead of your divine potential. Brethren, don’t listen to him.
We have all seen a toddler learn to walk. He takes a small step and totters. He falls. Do we scold such an attempt? Of course not. What father would punish a toddler for stumbling? We encourage, we applaud, and we praise because with every small step, the child is becoming more like his parents.
Now, brethren, compared to the perfection of God, we mortals are scarcely more than awkward, faltering toddlers. But our loving Heavenly Father wants us to become more like Him, and, dear brethren, that should be our eternal goal too. God understands that we get there not in an instant but by taking one step at a time.
I do not believe in a God who would set up rules and commandments only to wait for us to fail so He could punish us. I believe in a Heavenly Father who is loving and caring and who rejoices in our every effort to stand tall and walk toward Him. Even when we stumble, He urges us not to be discouraged—never to give up or flee our allotted field of service—but to take courage, find our faith, and keep trying.
Our Father in Heaven mentors His children and often sends unseen heavenly help to those who desire to follow the Savior.
Disciple of Jesus Christ
And that leads us to the next title we all have in common: all who strive earnestly to follow the Christ are called His disciples. Although we recognize that none of us are perfect, we do not use that fact as an excuse to lower our expectations, to live beneath our privileges, to delay the day of our repentance, or to refuse to grow into better, more perfect, more refined followers of our Master and King.
Remember that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is built not for men and women who are perfect or unaffected by mortal temptations, but rather it is built for people exactly like you and me. And it is built upon the rock of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, through whose Atonement we can be cleansed and become “fellow citizens … of the household of God.”
Without the Atonement of Jesus Christ, life would be a dead-end road without hope or future. With the Atonement, life is an ennobling, inspiring journey of growth and development that leads to eternal life in the presence of our Heavenly Father.
But while the Atonement is meant to help us all become more like Christ, it is not meant to make us all the same. Sometimes we confuse differences in personality with sin. We can even make the mistake of thinking that because someone is different from us, it must mean they are not pleasing to God. This line of thinking leads some to believe that the Church wants to create every member from a single mold—that each one should look, feel, think, and behave like every other. This would contradict the genius of God, who created every man different from his brother, every son different from his father. Even identical twins are not identical in their personalities and spiritual identities.
It also contradicts the intent and purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ, which acknowledges and protects the moral agency—with all its far-reaching consequences—of each and every one of God’s children. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences.
The Church thrives when we take advantage of this diversity and encourage each other to develop and use our talents to lift and strengthen our fellow disciples.
Brethren, discipleship is a lifelong journey following our Savior. Along our metaphorical path from Bethlehem to Golgotha, we will have many opportunities to abandon our journey. At times it will seem that the path requires more than we had wished for. But as men of the priesthood, we must have the courage to follow our Redeemer, even when our cross seems too heavy to bear.
With every step we take following the Son of God, we may be reminded that we are not perfect yet. But let us be steadfast and constant disciples. Let us not give up. Let us be true to our covenants. Let us never lose sight of our Advocate and Redeemer as we walk toward Him, one imperfect step after another.
Healer of Souls
Brethren, if we truly follow our Lord Jesus Christ, we must embrace a third title: healer of souls. We who have been ordained to the priesthood of God are called to practice “the healer’s art.”
It is our job to build up, repair, strengthen, uplift, and make whole. Our assignment is to follow the Savior’s example and reach out to those who suffer. We “mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” We bind up the wounds of the afflicted. We “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”
As home teachers, we are healers. As priesthood leaders, we are healers. As fathers, sons, brothers, and husbands, we should be committed and dedicated healers. We carry in one hand a vial of consecrated oil for blessing the sick; in the other we carry a loaf of bread to feed the hungry; and in our hearts we carry the peaceable word of God, “which healeth the wounded soul.”
This is our first and foremost responsibility as priesthood holders—and it applies to both Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood holders. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ blesses lives not just when we believe it—but much more when we live it. It is in the application of gospel principles that individuals are uplifted and families are strengthened. It is our privilege and responsibility not just to talk the talk but also to walk the walk.
The Savior is the worker of miracles. He is the great Healer. He is our example, our light, even in the darkest moments, and He shows us the right way.
Let us follow Him. Let us rise up to our role and become healers by serving God and our fellowmen.
Heir of Eternal Life
The fourth title we all share returns us to the first title in our list. As sons of our Heavenly Father, we are heirs to all that He has.
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”
Think of this, my beloved brethren. We are joint-heirs with Christ!
So, does it make any sense that many of us spend so much of our valuable time, thoughts, means, and energies in pursuit of prestige or worldly goods or to be entertained by the newest and coolest electronic gadgets?
The Lord has put before us the divine promise that “whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods, … magnifying their calling, … [will] receive me, saith the Lord; … and he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; … therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.”
It is beyond my power of thought to imagine all that this promise entails. But I do know it is grand, it is divine, it is eternal, and it is worth all of our efforts in life.
Knowing this, how can we not willingly and joyfully engage in serving the Lord and our fellowmen and living up to our responsibilities in the priesthood of God?
This is a most noble labor that will challenge our every sense and stretch our every ability. Do we desire to see the heavens open and witness the promptings of the Holy Spirit showing us the way? Then let’s take up our sickle and put our back into this great work—a cause much greater than ourselves!
Serving God and our fellowmen will challenge us and transform us into something greater than we ever thought possible.
Perhaps you might think that you are not needed, that you are overlooked or unwanted, that you are nobody.
I am sincerely sorry if any priesthood holder feels this way. Certainly you are not overlooked or unwanted by your Heavenly Father. He loves you. And I tell you with certainty that you are needed by your Church.
Do you not know that “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to [put to shame] the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to [put to shame] the things which are mighty”?
Perhaps it is true that we are weak. Perhaps we are not wise or mighty. But when God works through us, no one and nothing can stand against us.
This is why you are needed. You have your own special contribution to make, and God can magnify that contribution in a mighty way. Your ability to contribute is not dependent upon your calling in the Church. Your opportunities for service are endless. If you are waiting on the sidelines, I encourage you to get in the game.
Don’t wait for a particular calling before you become fully engaged in building the kingdom of God. As a priesthood holder, you are already called to the work. Study the word of God daily, pray to Heavenly Father every day, internalize the principles of the restored gospel, give thanks to God, and ask for His guidance. Then live what you learn, first in your family but also in all situations of your life.
In the great Composer’s symphony, you have your own particular part to play—your own notes to sing. Fail to perform them, and with certainty the symphony will go on. But if you rise up and join the chorus and allow the power of God to work through you, you will see “the windows of heaven” open, and He will “pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Rise up to your true potential as a son of God, and you can be a force for good in your family, your home, your community, your nation, and indeed in the world.
And in the process, as you “lose [your] life” in the service of others, you will grow and develop until you reach “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Then you will be prepared to inherit, with Christ, everything your Father has.
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My life was eternally blessed by one choice member who reached out more than 50 years ago. Some days after World War II, my grandmother was standing in line for food when an elderly single sister with no family of her own invited her to sacrament meeting in Zwickau, East Germany. My grandmother and my parents accepted the invitation. They went to church, felt the Spirit, were uplifted by the kindness of the members, and were edified by the hymns of the Restoration. My grandmother, my parents, and my three siblings were all baptized. I had to wait two years because I was only six. How grateful I am for a spiritually sensitive grandmother, teachable parents, and a wise, white-haired, elderly single sister who had the sweet boldness to reach out and follow the Savior’s example by inviting us to “come and see” (see John 1:39). Her name was Sister Ewig, which translates in English to “Sister Eternal.” I will be eternally grateful for her love and example.
With these tender feelings of gratitude for all who have influenced my life in past years, I commit myself to the future. My heart and mind are filled with joy that for the rest of my life I will have the opportunity to “talk of Christ, … rejoice in Christ, … preach of Christ, [and] prophesy of Christ” (2 Ne. 25:26), all this as a special witness of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ (see D&C 107:23).
Realizing my weaknesses, I gain great comfort from the instructions given by the Lord. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read:
“The fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers. …
“And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed; …
“And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge” (D&C 1:23, 26, 28).
And in the Book of Mormon we read:
“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments … save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Ne. 3:7).
And in the Old Testament we receive comfort:
“The Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt … be turned into another man,” “God gave him another heart,” and “God is with thee” (1 Sam. 10:6, 9, 7).
I trust these wonderful promises. I therefore pledge to you, to these my Brethren, and to the Lord that I will live to be worthy to know the will of the Lord and to act accordingly.
God our Heavenly Father knows us by name. Jesus Christ lives; He is the Messiah; He loves us. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real; it brings immortality to all and opens the door to eternal life.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is again on the earth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true and living.
The Book of Mormon is a second witness of Jesus Christ and a manifestation of the truthfulness of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I love the Prophet Joseph. I love President Gordon B. Hinckley, who is the prophet of God and holds all the keys of the kingdom at this time, keys which prophets have held in uninterrupted succession since Joseph Smith.
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After the turmoil of the Second World War, my family ended up in Russian-occupied East Germany. We had fled from Czechoslovakia before the Russian front and lost everything during this terrible war. In the town of Zwickau, East Germany, my family learned about the restored gospel and joined the Church. At that time I was only six years old and the youngest of four children. The Church made an indescribable difference in our then very difficult lives. Even in these trying times, with extreme financial hardship, we were a happy family because of the Church.
Later, as a 10-year-old boy, I attended fourth grade and had to learn Russian as my first foreign language. Initially it was quite difficult because of the Cyrillic alphabet, but as time went on I seemed to manage all right.
When I turned 11, we had to leave East Germany overnight because of the political orientation of my father. He was perceived as a dissenter by the Communist government, and his life was endangered. We were refugees again and had lost everything for the second time.
Now I was going to school in West Germany, and the Russian language was not appreciated there at all. We were in the American-occupied part of Germany, and in school I had to learn English. Somehow I could not learn it. To learn Russian was difficult, but English was impossible. I even thought my mouth was not made for speaking English. My teachers had a hard time. My parents were desperate. And I knew English was not my language.
I agonized through those school years, helped and encouraged by kind and understanding English teachers, but I just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t my thing!
At this time, my dream in life was to become a pilot. Almost daily I rode my bicycle to the airport. I could picture myself in the cockpit of an airliner or even in a military jet fighter. This was definitely my thing!
I eventually learned that to become a pilot, I needed to speak English. Suddenly, the resisting condition of my mouth changed. I was able to learn the language. Why? Because of a strong motive!
Our motives and thoughts ultimately influence our actions. Jesus repeatedly emphasized the power of good thoughts and proper motives: “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:36).
In Proverbs we read, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).
Nephi wrote about the struggles he had with his brothers: “And when my brethren saw that I was about to build a ship, they began to murmur against me, saying: Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters” (1 Ne. 17:17).
But Nephi clearly had the right motives and succeeded because he knew “that the Lord … [would] prepare a way … [to] accomplish the thing which he commandeth” (1 Ne. 3:7).
From young Joseph Smith we can also learn that the right motive was crucial for the success of his mission. When the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph and instructed him about the coming forth of the gold plates, Moroni repeated over and over again that Joseph’s motives must be true.
Joseph said Moroni taught that “Satan would try to tempt me. … I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them” (JS—H 1:46).
What a great lesson in doing things for the right reason.
Our own prospects for eternal advancement are closely influenced by learning to put in the center of our motives a very personal testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 121).
How did the young Prophet Joseph Smith arrive at his strong testimony? How did he manage this great transition from a farm boy to a prophet of the Lord, to a civic leader, to a man of God?
Let’s use him as our example. He was a teenager when he studied the scriptures. During this time a multitude of unanswered questions arose. He wondered, he pondered, he asked, and he received answers.
Build your testimony the same way: Study the scriptures, increase your knowledge of the gospel, search for answers in the scriptures. If you have doubts or fears, invest the time and energy to find the answers in the scriptures and in the written words of our prophets. Contemplate, meditate, ponder, and pray.
Go to our Heavenly Father in prayer; communicate with Him daily. Draw close to Him, and He will draw close to you. Ask about your studies of the scriptures, about your feelings and your questions, and He will answer. He is waiting, He is real, and He is there. Use the gift of the Holy Ghost. Believe in the power of prayer.
It takes effort and time. Be patient; it is worth it. You can do it. You are not alone in this; others went through this before. Remember, it is easy to doubt, but it is a sure sign of maturity and responsibility to question and then search prayerfully for answers.