Fall 2016

These Are Our Days

25 Oct. 2016

Video

Transcript

These Are Our Days

Thank you for that wonderful choir. That was beautiful. And President Richards, thank you for that kind introduction. It’s a pleasure for Marcia and I to be here today. We just want you to know how much we love you. Our rising generation is our most valued asset in the Church. We love each of you and we are grateful for your devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re grateful that you are here getting a good education. I was excited to hear that tomorrow you will have—I couldn’t believe how many companies will be here tomorrow to hire you. You are the cream of the crop; they want to come. They need you, and we just express our love and appreciation to you. Thank you for who you are and for the wonderful lives that you live. If you don’t learn anything else from us today, we hope that you will learn that we love you and we appreciate who you are.

It seems like wherever I travel, and especially when I turn on the television or look on my iPhone and look at the news today, it always seems like it is bad news. It always seems like people are telling us how bad things are, and often I’ll hear people say, “I wish we lived back in the 1940s or the 1950s,” or “I wish that we could go back to another time.” And when I think about that, I think within myself, “I don’t think we want to go back to the 1940s. That was during World War II, and we lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers in wars all around the world.”

They say they want to go back to the 1970s, and I think, “I don’t think you want to go back there. That was a terrible Vietnam War time, and many of my classmates lost their lives in war, and there were other terrible things happening.” And we think always that maybe it was better at another time.

It reminds me of Nephi in 3 Nephi. This is Nephi, the son of Helaman, and this is in Helaman 7, and I find it interesting what he says. He has been on a mission for a few years, just like some of you may have been, and he comes home and is surprised to see what has happened at his home. And he says, staring in Helaman 7:6,

Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years; and when Nephi saw it, his heart was swollen with sorrow within his breast; and he did exclaim in the agony of his soul:

Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord.[1]

I have to tell you that when I read that, I want to say to him, “Are you sure you read First Nephi? I don’t think that’s what happened.” I seem to remember Nephi being tied up and his brothers trying to kill him. I don’t think they were easy to be entreated. I think Nephi had it really rough. I think his brothers and he finally had to separate, and they became the Nephites and the Lamanites.

And Nephi, now hundreds of years later, is saying, “Oh, I wish I could have lived back then. It was so much better then.” I find it interesting that Nephi goes on to say, like you and I might on occasion, “Yea, if my days could have been in those days, then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren.”[2]

Sometimes we catch ourselves saying, “Oh, I wish my days could have been in those days. I wish I could have lived in a different time or a better time.” But I love then the words that Nephi speaks, and he says this: “But behold, I am consigned that these are my days.”[3]

I would say to all of you, in the year 2016, these are our days. And I want you to know—and I’m about to share with you why I think this—these are amazing days. These are wonderful days. We have never had better days than we have now. As you think about your life and what you are doing, I am reminded of this statement from Nephi that “these are my days,” and this statement from Esther, who we find in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, Esther was married to a king, and she was of the Jewish faith, and the time came when she needed to stand up for her faith. And Mordecai came to her and said, “And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”[4]

And I would say to all of you of this rising generation that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.

I’d like to share with you why I am so optimistic about the day that you live in now and the things that are happening to you in your life. A few years ago, the Church History Museum, just close to here, allowed me to hold in my hands the journals of Wilford Woodruff. It was an amazing experience. Wilford Woodruff recorded what Joseph Smith did almost every day of his time as the president of the Church. Wilford Woodruff kept a wonderful journal. He wrote very tiny, and he wrote very neat, and it was clear that he was trying to save space in his books.

I had a stack of his journals and was able to look through those. It was a wonderful experience for me. As I was looking through those journals, I remembered something that Wilford Woodruff had recorded in that journal. He was in a meeting with the Prophet Joseph Smith, and there were just a small number of people in the meeting in Kirtland, Ohio.

As they were in this meeting, the Prophet Joseph Smith said something that is very significant for you and for me, and Wilford Woodruff recorded it. It’s the only place we have this recorded. He said to those present: “You know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it. . . . This Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world.”[5]

I want you to know that living in little Twin Falls, Idaho, I had no more knowledge of the destiny of this kingdom. I served as a stake president there, and I didn’t really realize what was happening all around the world with this Church. Can I just share with you a little glimpse of why this is such an amazing day to live?

Soon after my call as a general authority, Marcia and I received the assignment to move to New Zealand, where we helped to supervise the work in all of the Pacific Islands. I had never been to those Pacific Islands before. Some of you are from those islands, and you know exactly what I am talking about.

I was surprised to get an assignment to go to Kiribatius. Any of you been to Kiribatius before? Maybe we have students from Kiribatius. Marcia and I arrived in Kiribatius—I’d never even heard of it before—it’s the top of an atoll. It’s the top of a volcano—it’s called an atoll; it sticks up out of the water. It’s a narrow island; you can see the ocean on both sides no matter where you stand. It’s just a narrow piece of land.

 

65,000 people live in Kiribus. I was shocked when I arrived to find two stakes of the Church in Kiribus. We then flew to Ebai. You’ve all heard of Ebai, right? You’ve been there before? We went to Coagulin—I had never heard of Coagulin—where we found a district of the Church. We were in Majuro. We were in places I had never heard of before. And everywhere I went—in Vanuatu—I saw missionaries. I saw chapels. In Tonga, we have 19 stakes. Half of the population of Tonga is LDS, and in Samoa we have 26 stakes. We have temples and members all across the Pacific Islands.

We then went to the Philippines. We were assigned there, where we found that we have 700,000 members of the Church, 900 chapels, 21 missions. Last year we created ten new stakes just in the Philippines alone.

Since my call to serve in the Missionary Department as the director, Marcia and I just returned from a trip a few months ago to Malaysia and Singapore and Hong Kong. Did you know we have a chapel in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia? Did you know we have a chapel in Kuching? Did you know we have a stake in Singapore? All around the world, the Church is growing and progressing. We have millions of members in Brazil and Mexico. The Church is growing everywhere.

Do you know it took us from 1830 to 1930 to get our first 300,000 members? One hundred years. Just a year ago, we baptized that many in one year. We have never had more full-time missionaries serving in the Church of Jesus Christ than we have had over the past couple of years. We now have 73,000 missionaries today, serving in places all around the world.

We’ve never had more temples in the world. Now, 177 either constructed or announced temples. When I was a young man, when I was your age, in seminary I had to memorize all 12 temples in the Church. There was a picture of them in front of our classroom, and I had to identify where all 12 temples were.

 And then they gave me my little four-generation sheet that I filled out with my No. 2 pencil. And they told me that we’re going to take the gospel to all the world. And we’re going to baptize all the people who have ever lived. And I looked at my four-generation sheet and those twelve temples, and I said, “I don’t think so.”

But I want you to know that I’ve seen the future. I was in the Family History Department, and they shared with me that our FamilySearch site is a petabyte of information. I didn’t know what a petabyte was. A petabyte is a quadrillion volumes of information. We add 1.4 million new names every day to our site. There have never been more people finding their own ancestors and taking them to the temple than we have today.

Can I give you a feel for the fact that there has never been a better time to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than it is today? I hope that you feel that, and I hope that you know that. And I hope that if you ever hear of any negativity, you just say, “You know what? There’s never been a better day.” And as Nephi said, I hope you are consigned to the fact that these are your days, and they are wonderful days. And I hope like Esther that you will understand that you have been prepared for “such a time as this.”

We’re grateful in the Missionary Department for these amazing tools that we now use to take the gospel to all the world. Do you know that just since January, we have had 14 million separate inquiries on Mormon.org from non-members of the Church—14 million people who came to our site asking questions about the Church. And as we get better at this and as you get better at sharing the gospel, as President Richards mentioned to you, it’s going to be incredible to see what happens. We live in an amazing time and in an amazing day. We should be fully optimistic about the future because our Heavenly Father is in charge of His work, and it’s a wonderful day to live.

With that in mind, I’d like to talk to you for just a moment about you personally because there are wonderful things that are happening in the Church, and we baptize many thousands of people every single month. Wonderful things are happening all around the world. But it all really comes down to me and to you. It comes down to our own personal feelings about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and how we will live our lives, and how we can become happy as members of this wonderful Church.

As I focus on that, may I just share with you an experience that I had when Marcia and I received this call to serve as a General Authority. We were living in Twin Falls, Idaho, and I received a call at my office one day. I was a lawyer there, and I received a telephone call from the office of President Dieter Uchtdorf. He didn’t call me every day. That was a surprise to me.

I took the call from his office, and President Uchtdorf asked if my wife and I could come to Salt Lake City and meet with him. That didn’t happen every day. I had never met personally with President Uchtdorf before. We drove to Salt Lake City, and we went over to his office, which is close to here. And President Uchtdorf called me to be a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and to serve as a general authority, which would require us to sell our home, and to sell my business, and to totally change my life and to come and serve full time in the Church. It was a shocking moment for us.

Shortly after that, we went to April conference in the Conference Center, and I was announced as a new general authority, and I went up on the stand. And after conference, I was told, “Now go home, get all of your affairs in order, and come back on August 1st, and you can begin your service.”

So we went home and tried to get everything done that we needed to do so that we could leave our home and move to Salt Lake City. When I arrived in Salt Lake City on August 1st, they showed me my office over in the Church Administration Building over here. I was in office 406. That doesn’t mean anything to you, and it didn’t to me until I realized that in office 405 is Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. And in office 407, at the time, was Elder Richard G. Scott. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I couldn’t believe that these two wonderful general authorities were on either side of me, these amazing apostles.

I found myself at lunch every day eating with members of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency. It was a remarkable new experience for me. They told me when I arrived that they would train me as a new general authority. And so, on that first day, I asked the secretary who was assigned to me, I said, “So when does the training start?”

And she said, “I don’t know. I’ll have to call and find out.” So she called to the office of the Seventy, and they said, “Tell Elder Nielson that we’ll let him know. It will start soon.”

So I sat in my office my first day, and I got my paper arranged, and I got my pens arranged and made sure my pictures were straight on the wall. And I came home from the office, and Marcia said, “Tell me about your first day as a general authority.”

And I said, “I just sat there all day. I didn’t do anything.”

And she said, “Well, I’m sure tomorrow will be better.”

I went the next day and still didn’t hear anything. On the third day, I asked the secretary, “Are you sure they know I’m here? Maybe you’d better call and ask them.”

Then I received a wonderful welcome phone call from one of the senior Brethren in the Church, and it was actually an interview that changed my life, which I’d like to share with you today.

I went to meet with the wonderful brother, and he said to me, “Elder Nielson, you’ve been an attorney your whole life, haven’t you?” And I said, “I have.” He said, “Life here will be a little bit different than it was as a lawyer.”

And then he said to me this phrase that has had great meaning for me ever since. He said, “Go to your office and become.” It was one of the shortest interviews I’ve ever had. “Go to your office and become.”

I went to my office, and I sat at my desk, and I thought, “What does it mean to become? If I were to become, who would I become like? What would I become like?”

I opened my scriptures and found in the 107th section of the Doctrine and Covenants that a Seventy is called to be an especial witness of the Savior.[6] Clearly, I needed to try to become like Him. I tried to figure out, when the Savior was on the earth, how did He teach? How did He treat other people? How did the Savior interact with those not of His faith? If the Savior were here today, what would He be like?

I began to open the scriptures and read where the Savior says, in 3 Nephi 27, “Do the things that you have seen me do.”[7] Certainly, He wasn’t asking us to perform the Atonement or the Crucifixion, but He was asking us to become like He is. I began opening my scriptures and learning all that I could. In fact, I became so busy learning how to become that when the call finally came that the training was to start, I was reluctant to go because I was busy becoming.

I would ask you today, if someone asked you, “Go to your office and become,” what would you do? How would you become? What would it look like if you did become?

Some of the scriptures that are meaningful to me I would like to share with you today. And the first one comes from Mosiah 27. You’ll remember this story from the Book of Mormon. Alma Sr. was one of the wicked priests of King Noah, and Alma was there when Abinadi preached to those wicked priests. Alma was converted as he listened, and he left and took the people who followed him to the Waters of Mormon, and he baptized them.[8]

And then he had a son that he called Alma the Younger. You all remember that? Alma the Younger became friends with the sons of Mosiah, and they were rebellious kids. They were damaging the Church. They were not doing good things, and Alma Sr. prayed that Alma the Younger would change.

You might remember that an angel appeared and struck Alma the Younger dumb, and he lay in a coma-like state for three days and three nights. I’m always fascinated by the first words that Alma spoke when he woke up. These are his words—let me share them with you. He wakes up from this coma, and these are the words he says:

“And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people,”—does that include all of us? All men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people?—“must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters.”[9]

This is what Alma the Younger learned. What did he learn? He learned that we all have to change. We have to change. It’s the gospel of repentance. It’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s why we came to this earth. We came to this earth to become, to progress, to change. And so if you are not sure what you need to change, ask your mom or your dad. If you’re married, ask your wife or your husband. If you need to ask someone, ask your bishop or ask your stake president, “What do I need to do to change? What is it that would be helpful if I needed to change?”

Another word for change is repentance. Another word for change is conversion, which means to turn, as Elder Renlund taught us in general conference.[10] It means that we turn; it means that we become. It means that we are always focused on that.

There are a couple of places in the scriptures where we learn about conversion. And one of those is an interesting one in Luke 22, where the Savior—you’ll remember, He says this to His senior Apostle. He says, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” And then He says to Peter, “And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”[11]

The interesting thing about that experience is that Peter was actually offended that the Savior would say, “Peter, when you are converted.” And you can see in the next verse that Peter says to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.”[12] So what do you mean, when I’m converted? I’m converted. Look at me. I’m following you.

And the Savior says these sobering words to him: “I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.”[13] Peter still had some work to do, didn’t he? He still needed to become; he still needed to change.

There’s another scripture that I think is an interesting one. You’ll remember that after all of the destruction in the Book of Mormon, that a few people—2,500 people—gathered to the temple. And then the Savior appears to them.

Just before He appears to them, they hear His voice from heaven, and He says something very interesting. Listen for the word convert. These are the righteous people gathered at the temple. Listen to what the Savior says to them: “O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?”[14]

I think that’s fascinating. Weren’t these the righteous ones that were gathered at the temple? Did they still need to change? Did they still need to be converted? Clearly the answer is yes.

My question for all of you then—as we meet together today and as you think of your own personal life and I think of mine—I always wonder, what does conversion look like? If I were to be converted, what would it look like?

I think of the amazing experience in the Book of Mormon where the sons of Mosiah taught the Lamanites. You’ll remember that these Lamanites were a wicked and a bloodthirsty people. They had swords and shields and knives, and they had killed many people. And once they realized what their lives had been like and they understood the gospel, they were heartbroken. And they realized that they had to change. And so they did something very unique that is reported in the Book of Mormon, and you all remember this story.

They dug a deep hole in the ground, and they took all of their weapons, and they put them deep in the ground, never to touch them again. And you might remember that they were attacked by other Lamanites, and they were probably tempted to go and get their weapons. But they knew they had made a covenant that they wouldn’t touch those weapons again.[15]

In the Book of Mormon, we learn about these people. And I’d like you to listen for the word converted:

For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God anymore, neither against any of their brethren. Now, these are they who were converted unto the Lord.[16]

I ask you of the rising generation in the year 2016, what does conversion look like? If you were to become, what would that look like? I find the answer here in the Book of Mormon; it means that we have buried the weapons of our rebellion.

Do any of you carry weapons of rebellion? All of us have some. Those weapons might be pride; they might be that we have a bad temper. Maybe we are not as kind to other people as we hope we would be. Maybe there are issues with keeping the Sabbath day holy. I don’t know what your weapons are; I know what mine are.

When we identify what our weapons of rebellion are, we take those weapons and we bury them deep in the ground, never to touch them again. When we do that, we change. When we do that, we become. And our Heavenly Father sees our desire to change and to become.

Here’s the amazing thing. Do you know who their children are? Do you know who the children of these Lamanites were? It is the army of Helaman. They saw their parents bury the weapons of their rebellion, and when these parents did that, they raised up an amazing, faithful generation.

Do you want your kids to be like the army of Helaman? Bury the weapons of your rebellion. Bury them deep in the ground, never to touch them again. It’s amazing that when we do that, the Lord blesses us and He helps us. And it is the process of becoming. For me in my life, I had to figure out what those weapons are, and I had to start burying them. I’m still in that process. We are all still in that process.

The process of repentance and becoming is ongoing. And my hope for you in your personal life—in light of all of the wonderful things that are happening in the gospel of Jesus Christ—the very most important thing that could ever happen in the gospel of Jesus Christ is your personal, individual conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When that happens, this Church becomes amazingly strong.

I close with just one scripture I’ve noticed recently in the New Testament as I was reading in John 6. In this particular place in the scriptures, the Savior fed 5,000 with just a few fish and a few loaves of bread.[17] You know about this amazing miracle. It was incredible when it happened.

I didn’t notice until just recently when I was reading that, after that miracle, He tells His Apostles, “Go gather up all the remnants.” What are remnants? It’s the leftovers. He says to go get all the leftovers. And so His Apostles go, all 12 of them—imagine, this is a big task. There are 5,000 people. This didn’t just take two seconds; this was a long task. They gathered up all the leftovers from 5,000 people, and then they brought the baskets and they showed the Savior, “Here are twelve baskets full.”

And the Savior motioned to them and told them, “Look, there are twelve baskets full.” I thought, “What is He teaching us?” He is teaching us that “I can feed 5,000 and there are leftovers. My grace is sufficient for all men, and there are leftovers.” There is no wound too big, there is no sin too large, there is no trial too difficult that the Savior’s Atonement won’t cover it. And there are leftovers.

I’m grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ. I love Him. His invitation to all of us is to “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. . . . For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”[18] His invitation is to come.

My invitation to you today is to become. Become the person that you know that you can become. We do that as we change, as we bury the weapons of our rebellion. I bear my witness to you that God lives, that His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and our Redeemer. I love Him. I am grateful for all that He has done for us. I’m grateful for you and share with you my love and appreciation for the wonderful lives that you live. And I hope that you and I together can begin this process and continue this process of becoming. And I share that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

[1] Helaman 7:6–7.

[2] Helaman 7:8.                                                                                                                                    

[3] Helaman 7:9.

[4] Esther 4:14.

[5] “Chapter 11: The Organization and Destiny of the True and Living Church,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2011).

[6] See D&C 107:25.

[7] See 3 Nephi 27:21.

[8] See Mosiah 12–18.

[9] Mosiah 27:25.

[10] See Dale G. Renlund, “Repentance: A Joyful Choice,” Oct. 2016 General Conference.

[11] Luke 22:32.

[12] Luke 22:32.

[13] Luke 22:34.

[14] 3 Nephi 9:13.

[15] See Alma 23–24.

[16] Alma 23:7–8.

[17] See John 6:5–13.

[18] Matthew 11:28, 30.