David A. Bednar, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
The word chosen in 1 Nephi 1:20 is central to understanding the concept of the Lord’s tender mercies. The dictionary indicates that chosen suggests one who is selected, taken by preference, or picked out. It also can be used to refer to the elect or chosen of God (Oxford English Dictionary Online, second ed. , “Chosen”).
Some individuals who hear or read this message erroneously may discount or dismiss in their personal lives the availability of the tender mercies of the Lord, believing that “I certainly am not one who has been or ever will be chosen.” We may falsely think that such blessings and gifts are reserved for other people who appear to be more righteous or who serve in visible Church callings. I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are available to all of us and that the Redeemer of Israel is eager to bestow such gifts upon us.
To be or to become chosen is not an exclusive status conferred upon us. Rather, you and I ultimately determine if we are chosen. Please now note the use of the word chosen in the following verses from the Doctrine and Covenants:
“Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
“Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men” (D&C 121:34–35; emphasis added).
I believe the implication of these verses is quite straightforward. God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added. He does not limit “the chosen” to a restricted few. Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitively determine whether we are counted as one of God’s chosen.
Enoch was instructed by the Lord on this very point of doctrine. Please note the use of the word choose in these verses:
“Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
“And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father” (Moses 7:32–33; emphasis added).
As we learn in these scriptures, the fundamental purposes for the gift of agency were to love one another and to choose God. Thus we become God’s chosen and invite His tender mercies as we use our agency to choose God.
One of the most well-known and frequently cited passages of scripture is found in Moses 1:39. This verse clearly and concisely describes the work of the Eternal Father:
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (emphasis added).
A companion scripture found in the Doctrine and Covenants describes with equal clarity and conciseness our primary work as the sons and daughters of the Eternal Father. Interestingly, this verse does not seem to be as well known and is not quoted with great frequency.
“Behold, this is your work, to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength” (D&C 11:20; emphasis added).
Thus, the Father’s work is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children. Our work is to keep His commandments with all of our might, mind, and strength—and we thereby become chosen and, through the Holy Ghost, receive and recognize the tender mercies of the Lord in our daily lives.
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Can we sense the grace and strengthening power of Christ in the testimony of Ammon? "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever" (Alma 26:12). Truly, brothers and sisters, in the strength of the Lord we can do and endure and overcome all things.
As I walked out of the Church Administration Building after my interview with President Hinckley on Friday afternoon, I recalled the words of Enoch:
"And when Enoch had heard these words, he bowed himself to the earth, before the Lord, and spake before the Lord, saying: Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?
"And the Lord said unto Enoch: Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance, for all flesh is in my hands, and I will do as seemeth me good" (Moses 6:31–32).
For all of us who feel unprepared and overwhelmed and unequal to a new calling or responsibility, the promise of the Lord to Enoch is equally applicable. The promise was true in Enoch's day, and it is true today.
On the night of June 20, 2000, several colleagues and I were working late in the executive offices of then Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho. We were making final preparations for an unexpected and historic assembly on our campus the next morning and the announcement by President Hinckley that Ricks College would become a baccalaureate-degree-granting institution and take on the name of Brigham Young University—Idaho. As an administrative team we were just beginning to realize the monumental nature of the responsibility and challenges that were before us.
As we walked out of the building that night, one of my colleagues asked, "President, are you scared?" As best as I can recall, I answered something like this: "If I thought we had to execute this transition relying exclusively upon our own experience and our own judgment, then I would be terrified. But we will have help from heaven. Because we know who is in charge and that we are not alone, then no, I am not scared." And we who serve at BYU—Idaho unitedly testify that there has been help from heaven, miracles have occurred, revelations have been received, doors have been opened, and we have been greatly blessed as individuals and as an institution.
Please permit me now to express gratitude and appreciation. I am thankful for my progenitors—for those faithful and steady men and women whom I respect and honor and to whom I owe everything. I love and appreciate my mother and father and my wife's mother and father. I am grateful for their love and support and teaching and strength.
My wife, Susan, is a virtuous woman and a righteous mother. You will quickly see that purity and goodness are evident in her countenance. I love her and appreciate her more than words can express. I thank her for the woman she is, for the lessons she has taught me, and for the love we share.
Susan and I have been blessed with three stalwart sons. I love and thank them. And our growing little family now includes two righteous daughters-in-law and three brilliant and beautiful and charming granddaughters. As we have opportunities to be together, we are blessed to see just a glimpse of the family unit in eternity.
My dear brothers and sisters, I am grateful for you. As I see you assembled here in the Conference Center and envision you in meetinghouses all over the earth, I am blessed by your faithfulness and devotion to the Savior. As your arms were raised to the square on Saturday, I felt a sustaining influence flow into my soul that was most remarkable. Few of you know who I am, yet you know from whom the call has come, and you are so willing to sustain and support. I express my thanks to you and pledge my whole soul and all of my energy to this sacred work.
I will go where the Lord and the leaders of His Church want me to go, I will do what they want me to do, I will teach what they want me to teach, and I will strive to become what I should and must become. In the strength of the Lord and through His grace, I know that you and I can be blessed to accomplish all things.
As one of the weakest of the weak, I testify that God lives. I testify and witness that Jesus is the Christ. He is our Redeemer and our Savior, and He lives. And I testify that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His true Church have been restored to the earth in these latter days through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Priesthood keys and authority and saving ordinances are again found on the earth. By the power of that priesthood, families truly can be together forever. The Book of Mormon is the word of God and the keystone of our religion. And, brothers and sisters, the heavens are not closed. God speaks—to us individually and to the leaders of His latter-day kingdom on earth. President Gordon B. Hinckley is the Lord's prophet on the earth today. Of these things I testify and declare my witness...