Our Lord Stands at the Head of This Church
This is a very sweet and sacred privilege. Thank you for the opening prayer, your comments, and the choir. President Richards and I are friends now, and we’ve only known each other a few minutes. It’s really easy to read him. He was willing to say, “But I am learning,” this morning. He also leaned over to me with great emotion in his voice as he was looking upon you and listening to the hymn, and said, “Noble and great ones.”
Now, we all know that we’re imperfect. I come here as an “anybody.” I know an “anybody” when I see him, because I see him in the mirror all the time. “Weak and simple,” I think the Lord calls us (see D&C 1:23). But in some remarkable way, He sees the nobility in us. He sees the greatness in us. And if we will draw near unto Him, He will draw near unto us, and enable us, and empower us (see D&C 88:63).
Now, as we go through our few minutes together, I’d like to have you pay attention to the pattern. The pattern you’ll watch today will serve you well in your home evenings. It will serve you remarkably well in the raising of your children. It will serve you beautifully in loving and adoring your grandchildren. Our love doesn’t decrease as generations move on; our love increases for our posterity. I am confident we’ll be reaching after our posterity to the tenth generation and beyond, until we try with all of our might to see all of them are in the path of exaltation and glory.
This morning I had kind of an interesting idea. But I’ve learned to obey interesting and warm ideas, and I’ve ceased to be afraid of them. And as you obey warm, generous urges, just as we’ve been invited to do today by President Richards, write it down. Go ahead and tweet it. But more importantly, you will receive personal revelation today independent of what I say or anyone else says because He is here with you. President Richards and I both bear witness: He is in your midst. [Speaking to President Richards:] Am I accurate in bearing that witness for you as well? [Speaking to the audience:] “Amen,” he said. The Lord is in your midst. He bears witness of that. He does say “but ye see me not,” but He is in your midst. And if you’ll please record the gentle, quiet, soft urges to do good and be good, and if you act on those urges, you will be led and prospered and empowered and enabled through the grace, mercy, and merit of Jesus Christ to do all things that He has planned for you.
I actually had this video brought up today; we’re not going to use it. But it reminds me that you have a . . . God knows all things. There is not anything but what He knows it. The past, the present and the future are before Him as an eternal now. He knows who you’ve married; He knows your children; He knows your future, and your future is magnificent. I just saw a dear friend, and I know her heart, and I know where she stands. And if I’m here today just for someone, then I know I’ve done what He wanted to me to do. And I witness that He has full intention of helping you, if you’re willing, fulfill the most beautiful future that you can dream of. The only difference between what you can dream of and your future, if we were to play it on the video (your future), is that you may not recognize the star of the video. Because the beauty of the life of that star exceeds what you can dream of. [To his wife:] Is that true, Mama? [To the audience:] Absolutely. When we fell in love, in an institute at the University of Utah, we couldn’t have possibly dreamt of the beauty, challenge, difficulty, work, labor, sweat, tears . . .but the beauty that resulted therefrom, of our future.
Now, I’ve invited—as of this morning at 8:30 the generous nudge that came that I’ve learned to obey—I’ve invited one student to bring three other students with him. Because I know Arturo and I know his phone number, and so I texted him this morning at 8:30, and I said, “Arturo, are you going to the devotional at the Assembly Hall this morning?” He said, “Yes, I am.” Then I texted again, and I said, “Would you find three of your friends, two young ladies and a young man, who will also join you, and I’d like to have you participate with me in the devotional today?” He said, “Yes, love to. But we’re not dressed; one of us is in his scrubs because he had a MA –Medical Assistant’s class.” I said, “Come as you would, and as the other students would, to a normal devotional. Because I want it to represent the level of preparation you’ve made.” And I know the level of preparation they would have already made had I not tested them, because President Richards identified it. When you held up your pads that you’re going to record your promptings on, and you did so with a spontaneity and affection, I know that you’re learning exactly how to learn and act. You’re learning exactly how to know, learn, and act. So, Arturo, would you come up please with your friends? Then, Arturo, if you’ll just introduce briefly each of your friends, where they’re from? Starting with yourself.
Arturo: So, my name is Arthur. I’m from Armenia. I’ve been here about two years already, at LDS Business College. I’m in the Executive Medical Assisting program. And these are my friends: this is Seth, and he’s from here, the US; Brooke, and also Keoko. The three of us are in the same class, in Medical Assisting class. Also, we are taking other classes together.
Elder Summerhays: Perfect. I want two of you on one side and two of you on the other so you can get close to the mike. I’m going to demonstrate that the lesson is in the learner. I’m also going to demonstrate that the teacher should also be the learner.
I asked them if they would just read a quote, and then I wanted them to be prepared to not just give a talk—talking and telling has its place, but not in your home evening, okay? If you follow a pattern of talking and telling, and if you think that learning is going to occur in a profound way in your children, guess again. But if you’ll invite them to prepare and participate, you will be stunned at what comes out of their mouths in your home evenings. And you will come to know that you’ve had noble and great ones born into your home.
Here is the quote—it’s by President Boyd K. Packer. And then each, in turn, I just want them to share what the feelings of their heart were and what was in their mind. Fair? Are we on? And then we’re going to do that with a couple of other quotes. Fair? I like this participation. How could they say no, right?
President Packer says this, but I’m going to personalize it a little bit. Elder Holland took some license not too long ago with this quote, and I really know if President Packer was here he would promise you this: I have a [the] conviction that the Lord will bless you [us] as you [we] attend the sacred ordinance work of the temples. Blessings there will not be limited to our temple service. We will be blessed in all our affairs. We will be eligible to have the Lord take an interest in our affairs, both spiritual and temporal. No work is more spiritually refining, no work gives us more power,” (Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple). Sisters first.
Brooke: “So when I first read this quote, for me, I know that the temple work will bless us, and not just in our lives by doing temple work—it blesses our future generations, it blesses us from the past, and He’ll help us in what we need in our lives now. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
Elder Summerhays: Thank you.
Keoko: “I like to attend the temple. I like the feelings that are at the temple, and I like the calmness in the air in the temple. When I’m too busy to go to the temple, I go to the temple. When I’m so occupied with all this stuff, and when I’m in trial and feel like everything is falling apart, I go to the temple. Because that’s the time I need to be reminded by the Holy Ghost that Jesus Christ is walking with me and Heavenly Father is always watching me.”
Seth: So when I read this quote, the line that stuck out to me was “No work is more spiritually refining” than the temple work. And that struck me because I thought that it was missionary work. Missionary work. For myself, I thought that serving a mission had been the most refining time in my life. But I’ve made a commitment to go to the temple as much as possible since I’ve been home from my mission, and I’ve thought about that a little bit as well, and how that has affected my life. And one particular instance when I went, I was really uncertain about whether I had time to make a certain commitment to the temple. I went, and I just felt peace. And that’s built upon itself as I’ve continued to go. That peace has just gone and gone, and it’s given me confidence in my life.
Elder Summerhays: Thank you very much.
Arthur: I wasn’t surprised when Brother Summerhays asked me to read from President Packer because I know the spirit he has and that Sister Summerhays has, and I knew that he knows my heart and he knows what’s special for me. And why President Packer is special for me is because his grandson converted me to the Church, or helped me to convert to the Church. And when I read from President Packer about the temple, I remember the feelings that I had last week when I went to the Salt Lake Temple for the first time in my life with very close friends. And I remember again sitting in the celestial room, remembering all of my covenants and everything that I made with God, and remembering the presence—that I’m really in front of God, sitting and talking to Him face-to-face. It’s a lot different than praying to our Heavenly Father. It’s like when you’re right sitting next to Him, and you’re talking to Him and feeling all the Spirit that comes from brothers and sisters surrounding you and sitting next to you, and from their prayers. You kind of can hear them, and you can understand them spiritually. The temple is a place of covenant for me. It’s a place of remembering who I am, where I am coming from, and what is my purpose—the highest purpose here. And I am really glad that I had the chance to read the testimony of President Packer again.
Elder Summerhays: That was a good first part of this, our Family Home Evening. That was beautiful.
I’m going to turn in the scriptures to look at the pattern we just followed. This is just one pattern of teaching, but it’s a very powerful one, particularly in your homes. The Lord has lots of patterns. It’s the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 122, and the Lord gives this instruction to us: “Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his [or her] sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man [and woman] may have an equal privilege.”
I’ll tell you one effect that following this pattern in this moment in time had for me: I developed a sweet love and confidence, absolute confidence, in all four of you. And I think there’s a growing reciprocal affection, is that true? Is Daddy okay today? Think of the unity that will occur in your home if you listen to, value, and treasure, and learn from the comments and feelings—the feelings of the heart and the thoughts of the mind—of your children. And it is a pattern in your home. I invite you to make this a pattern in your home.
Now we’re going to read a couple of more quotes. And now, I’ll just look around and one of you will say, “I’ll take that one,” okay? And if someone else wants to make a . . . there’s no more structure. They’re watching, “Behold, here is matter unorganized,” (referring to the Creation). But there is an order—there’s an order of spirit, and warmth, and love. You’ll never have a Home Evening that is perfectly orderly; count on it, unless you’ve beaten them into submission and they just sit there and are quiet because they’re afraid to do anything more. There will be movement, there will be noise, there will be activity. But there will always—if there’s love there, and they’re being listened to, and they’ve got the privilege of thinking for themselves and acting for themselves—there will be Spirit there. So, we’ll read another quote. Fair?
Now, I invite each of you to think and feel, “What is in my heart? What is in my mind? What would I say?” And before we’re done we may invite one of you to come up.
This is President Packer again: “Brother Widtsoe reaffirmed that those who give themselves with all their might and mind to this [family history] work receive help from the other side. Whoever seeks to help those in the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life,” (Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, 252). I feel prompted—can Dad take this one? Is that okay? I’ll just make a brief comment on this one.
I grew up in a home where Daddy was a member, but we didn’t know it, and Mom wasn’t a member. We never had a prayer, never had a scripture, never had a hymn. We had no scriptures, and it was devoid of any religious faith. My mother had an incredible ability to love. So in a remarkable way we had a beautiful spirit in our home, but we had no guidance. We all joined the Church—the three boys, my two brothers and I—in our teenage years. I was the only one to serve a mission, and shortly after I came home from my mission, I developed a passion for my ancestors, particularly on my mother’s side. I had a passion for her redemption, too. About my third letter home, I started talking about eternal families because it became the passionate desire of my heart.
Long story short, Annie and I are away on a vacation from our seven children— it wasn’t seven then; I can’t remember the number, but it’s not important. It seemed like seven. We were relaxing, and I would typically take four or five books or more with me because it was all the things I wanted to read but couldn’t read because of the hectic pace of life. And I was reading The Holy Temple on a beach in Mazatlán, Mexico, and I had an ancestor come to me. Now, she didn’t come to me—we all understand this, right? But she came to me, and the impressions in my heart and mind were so vivid. She was so happy because now was her time for her and her posterity. And the names that I’d gathered some years before in the backwoods of West Virginia that were in a cardboard box—now is the time when those would be approved and their work could be done. She was so happy that this work was now going to commence. She promised me that she’d remove the veil from my mother’s eyes and redeem her. A long story short is we now have about 4,000 relatives who’ve been baptized in Greenbrier County. Now, they’re not living there; well, they may be living there, we just can’t see them, right? They may be living there. But their descendants are living there. And this woman who had come, this beautiful mother, she was Jay Nelson Patton we later came to know, she’d borne 14 children in the West Virginia frontier. The 12th and 13th were twins. All of them lived to maturity, 12 of the 14 lived past 70. Her posterity was enormous. And in some remarkable way, because we did her work, she did redeem my mother. And that’s an independently beautiful story. But I have felt their help in all the affairs of my life because of participating in their redemption. No one can account for why we’ve been so blessed, outside of help from somewhere beyond our own, in a powerful way.
Okay. Ready? This one is yours.
President Thomas S. Monson said, “As you and Igo to the holy [house] . . . , as we remember the covenants we make within, we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation,“ (“The Holy Temple—A Beacon to the World,” Apr. 2011 General Conference). The temple provided purpose for our lives. It brings peace to our souls. Not the peace provided by men, but the peace promised by the Son of God when He said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,” (John 14:27). I’m going to let each of you express, again, what you are thinking and feeling. We’ll have the brethren go first.
[Seth]: I was reading over the covenants we make there: there are very powerful covenants we make in the house of the Lord, with specific promises and blessings. I have a very strong testimony that it’s true—what it says here, what President Monson says—that we’ll be able to bear every trial and overcome each temptation. I know that’s true. I’ve felt the power in my life from the ordinances and from the promises and the covenants we make in the temple. I’ve felt that power in my life to help me overcome the temptations and the hardships in my life. I know it’s true because I’ve experienced it.
Arthur: I remember the promise and also the advice that Christ gave in the New Testament. He said, “Be not afraid, [only] believe,” (Mark 5:36). And, this is what I remember every time when I go to the temple. I remember that I have a lot of trials in my life, and I’m pretty sure that all of us have. We’re finding a way how to overcome it and how to be strong. But I have a testimony that in the temple we receive the charge that we need in order to overcome everything and be not afraid of anything because I know that Christ is next to me, and He knows that I am doing the right thing by going to the temple. And I know that everything that I do is coming through the covenant, and everything that I do righteous, I judge, because of the covenant I made with God, if it’s the right thing to do or not. And I know exactly and perfectly where is my place, if I am going on the right direction or no. It’s like knowing your grade, if you’re going to pass the class or no, in school. But, if we follow the covenant and we keep it sacred in the Church, I know that we will be next to our Heavenly Father, and we will learn a lot more from Him in person than we’ll learn now in the Church. This is the preparation in the temple, preparing us for something a lot better and a lot greater.
Keoko: So, this couple last months I have been having problems with keeping one particular commandment, and I needed strength. And I know this quote to be true because I always receive that strength as I go to the temple. I feel the power of the Atonement supporting me, enclosing me. And as long as I partake of the sacrament every week and attend the temple regularly, I know I can overcome the problems with keeping that commandment; I can overcome the temptation and stay strong.
Brooke: I know that the temple does bring peace to everyone. I remember the day my parents got sealed and my little sister. And I remember going into the sealing room and feeling the peace and knowing that Heavenly Father loves every one of us, and that He gave me the strength that I can make it through the trials and things that have happened. And as I continue to go, He’s always there. And as we go to the temple, we’ll feel blessed and we’ll have that peace and get the revelations that we need in our lives.
Elder Summerhays: Thank you. Just a couple of final thoughts. In spite of being an “anybody,” I have been ordained a special witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and have been loaned by the Salt Lake authorities so that we may represent the First Presidency and Twelve wherever we’re assigned or invited. And I would be amiss, knowing that the Savior Himself, if He were here, He’d invite you each up one by one. I will not do that. But He would invite you one by one. I’m sure He’d be smiling, too; the radiance of His countenance would shine upon you. And one by one, you would feel the enormous love and power to bless, empower, and strengthen you in all the affairs of your life. And I bless you that you will feel that.
Yesterday I had the thought, isn’t it interesting that next to all of the colleges and universities that the Church operates, there’s a temple? Is that coincidence? No. In a major publication to the youth, the First Presidency made this statement, “In all that you do, stay focused on the temple,” (For the Strength of the Youth). And if you go there to feel, since it’s His house, will He allow you, as his great-great-great-great-great-great grandchild, to leave that place if you’re willing, without His embrace, without His feeling of love and confidence in you? Not a chance. We have 27 grandchildren, and none of them get out of our house without an embrace, a look in the eye, and us saying, “You are special, Avery. You are special, Robert. You are special.” It’s irresistible. It’s just part of being a father, a grandfather, a great-great-great grandfather.
Now, I close by inviting you in the name of our Savior to make the temple a priority and a focus in your life now. And I witness to you that even though sometimes it’s going to take a bit of study time away or to take yourself away from some activity–it will almost always be inconvenient— if you’ll make that commitment, somehow He’ll multiply the loaves and the fishes in the rest of your life. And you will have greater productivity because of it, in all of the other affairs of your life. I witness that He lives. I testify that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, stands at the head of this Church. I testify that President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet, seer, and revelator. I know that Joseph the Seer has done more for the salvation of man than any man, save Jesus only, that has ever lived on the earth. And I’m so grateful to have been with you today. I feel His love for you. It’s almost like I can say that I love you, but I know in truth that it’s He who loves you. And of that I bear witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Introduction: President J. Lawrence Richards
Elder Summerhays was named a member of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy on April 2, 2011. His responsibilities are for the stakes in Bountiful, North Salt Lake, and Tooele, Utah. After completing his education in 1972, he served as an executive officer in the United States Army. In 1974, he began his career with the Church Education System and worked as an area director. In 1975, he served as an assistant to the director of the Aaronic Priesthood Department, and in 1977 as Executive Secretary to the Young Men Department. In 1979 he was named senior partner with The Boyer Company, a commercial real estate development firm.
Elder Summerhays has served in numerous Church callings, including a full-time mission to New Zealand, and has been a bishop’s counselor, a high counselor, a bishop, a member of the Young Men General Board, and the president of the Florida Tallahassee Mission. Elder Summerhays was born in Salt Lake City and married Anne Frischknecht in 1970. They are the parents of seven children. Elder and Sister Summerhays reside in Farmington, Utah.
We are grateful to have him here. He and I have only met for a few moments, but this is a man, I can tell, of a tender heart and a great spirit. I invite you to listen, as well, with tender hearts and an open and great spirit to Elder Summerhays.