Today, Father’s Day, June 21, 2020, I have the honor of being asked to speak in our church meeting, my first time back at church since March 8th. Here are the remarks I plan to deliver, although these are longer than my allotted speaking time, so they will be shorter, and if the spirit dictates, different.
I understand our meeting, limited to 50 people, has capacity for 5 to 7 additional people if someone is interested in attending. 11 AM CDT at 3882 Quail Run Rd, Flower Mound, TX 75028. Mask are suggested but not required.
Brothers and Sisters:
It is an honor to be asked to address you today. This week Elder Bednar in speaking to a conference on religious freedom in the COVID-19 era said:
One key realization [brought by COVID-19] is that for most faith communities, gathering for worship, ritual, and fellowship is essential; it is not merely an enjoyable social activity.
For example, gathering is an especially powerful element in the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints….
Being in each other’s presence is a unique and irreplaceable experience. In Christianity, the God of the Old Testament came to His people in the flesh. Jesus Christ touched people, embraced them, healed them, ministered to them. And we believe we are called to do as He did.[x] He taught, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”[xi](“And When He Came to Himself (Luke 15:17)” By Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The following address was given June 17, 2020, for the digital-only 2020 BYU Law School Religious Freedom Annual Review.)
What a precious gift we have to be in each other’s presence for a few minutes today. In a coming day, when this chapel is full, we’ll clasp hands and embrace and “we’ll sing, and we’ll shout” when we can raise our voices in praise to God in the songs of Zion. And what gratitude we will feel to partake of those simple blessings we have taken for granted our entire lives.
My assigned topic today is “How does understanding the atonement of Jesus Christ help us find ways to solve life’s demanding challenges?” The reference talk given was the talk by Elder Uchtdorf in April 2018, “Behold the Man!” about the Savior’s Atonement.
I have been drawn all week to Abinadi’s teachings about the Atonement, and his quotation of Isaiah Chapter 53.
What is the atonement? Abinadi gives a wonderfully concise description:
34 Have…not [all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began] said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?
35 Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted?(Mosiah 13:34-35)
I asked a young friend recently how Caiaphas would have described the Savior’s life immediately after the crucifixion. Caiaphas was the head of the Sanhedrin, the ruling national council of Israel under the Romans. I imagine he would have said the Savior was a complete failure. He might have said, “Here was a crazy man, with some extraordinary talents, but from the most backward parts of the nation, who talked about ruling the country and world, and yet never got into any office, never became part of any organization, and in the end was just killed and will be forgotten.”
I am certain the Savior’s life and ministry to those without faith in his day looked to be a complete waste.
Listen and think about Isaiah’s words, as quoted by Abinadi in Mosiah Chapter 14 in the Book of Mormon:
…he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him.(Mosiah 14:2)
He was not voted the most popular, best looking, most talented, or any other award when in school. In fact, the Savior said of himself, “I receive not honour from men.” (John 5:41) He may have been amazed that for all his incredible abilities, he was never given any public award!
He is despised and rejected of men; …and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not…we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.(Mosiah 14:3-4)
He was treated like many of us treat homeless people as we hide our faces from them, and blame them for their condition. “Don’t make eye contact!” “I’m certain if that person applied themselves they wouldn’t be homeless.”
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief..(Mosiah 14:3)
I think it is a distinct possibility he suffered deeply from depression at times; and not for a moment which then passed, but unrelenting, clinical, deeply distressing depression for prolonged periods.
Abinadi’s quote goes on the describe his betrayal, his suffering, and his crucifixion. The Lord’s mortal experience taught him about all the suffering that can define this mortal experience. There is no challenge we might face that he is not acquainted with, and as I’ll discuss later, he showed how we might overcome it.
A Prophetic Example
Returning to the suggested talk, Elder Uchtdorf is an Apostle of Jesus Christ, committed to serving him to Elder Uchtdorf’s death. One could view his life as one of incredible successes, with few visible failures.
Here in that talk and the subsequent behaviors, he has shown how we might apply Jesus Christ’s atonement to our personal challenges; that often from the ashes of failure comes the greatest results.
The talk was given in April 2018, the first General Conference in a decade where he did not give multiple talks at General Conference as a member of the 1st Presidency, the leading body of the church. (Leader Biography Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf). The Wikipedia entry on Elder Uchtdorf says, “While not unprecedented in church history, the last time a new church president did not retain a counselor that served in the First Presidency under his predecessor was in 1985, when a frail Marion G. Romney was not retained, in marked contrast to Uchtdorf’s vitality and age.”
Elder Uchtdorf is a successful man. I am certain such a change in his position was not something he likely greeted with relish and excitement.
How might have Elder Uchtdorf responded to this “demotion” in a sense? Might he have groused? Might he have publicly questioned the choice? Could he not have in fact, gone so far as to apostatized? Such an action would certainly have not been unprecedented in the world.
But he did not. He went to work. At the time, President Nelson said he “has already received major assignments for which he is uniquely qualified … and where he is needed most.” The assignment was “chair of the Missionary Executive Council…where he…direct[s] the global operation of all missionary activities of the Church.” (Church leaders announce new assignments for Elder Uchtdorf)
President Hinckley’s biography makes clear that the missionary department is the most active, the most challenging, the most sensitive organization in the church. It is a worldwide, 24×7 assignment managing the activity, welfare and security of tens of thousands of young people serving missions. (“Go Forward With Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley” by Sheri Dew, page 152-153).
Given the events of the last 5 months, would you not want someone who had been trained in the highest council of the church for a decade to make rapid fire decisions of unprecedented proportion to not only protect those lives, but to move the work of proclaiming the gospel forward in a dramatic new way?
If Elder Uchtdorf’s mortal ministry were to end soon, in a coming day, it may well be that these last few months are viewed as the capstone of his service. A lifetime of preparation to be able to successfully carry out this assignment.
Elder Uchtdorf I believe understands how to apply the Atonement to our setbacks and difficulties; how to turn those things into ultimate successes; how to submit our wills to the will of the Father; how to have patience in the face of adversity and affliction.
No greater strength can come to our lives than through understanding and partaking of the vicarious act of Christ suffering with us through his Atonement. That is how we can overcome out challenges.
Today is Father’s Day here in the US. I was drawn to Abinadi’s teaching on the Savior because he explains so completely how the Savior’s great failure, in a sense, in his mortal ministry will define his ultimate role in eternity.
After Abinadi quotes Isaiah Chapter 53, he goes on to explain it. He says:
I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son–
3 The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son–
4 And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.
5 And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.
6 And after all this, after working many mighty miracles among the children of men, he shall be led, yea, even as Isaiah said, as a sheep before the shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.
7 Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.
8 And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men–
9 Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.(Mosiah 15:1-9)
It has taken me years to understand what Abinadi was saying as he explained how Christ is the Father and the Son. We are all clear about how he is he Son, as he is the Son of God. But how is he the Father?
After verse 9, Abinadi uses two of Isaiah’s phrases to explain how he becomes the Father. Isaiah asked:
and who shall declare his generation?(Mosiah 14:8)
when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed,(Mosiah 14:10)
10 And now I say unto you, who shall declare his generation? Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed?
11 Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God.
12 For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed?
13 Yea, and are not the prophets, every one that has opened his mouth to prophesy, that has not fallen into transgression, I mean all the holy prophets ever since the world began? I say unto you that they are his seed.
14 And these are they who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation; and said unto Zion: Thy God reigneth!
The great vision by Joseph F. Smith (given in the midst of the global pandemic of 1918) describes clearly what awaited the Savior upon his death:
12 And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality;
15 I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand.
16 They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death.(Doctrine and Covenants 138:12, 15-16)
Christ, as the first fruits of the resurrection, assumes the place of Adam as the head of the human family. In the next life, we will all become descendants of Christ, viewing our resurrection as a new birth, into a new life.
Christ will be the Father of the entire human race; and those who are righteous, who have become children of Christ through their choices in mortality, will choose to view him as such.
This honor to Him is the result of His overcoming the world by swallowing all the suffering and pain within it, and by so doing, defeating it.
His Atonement, His example to us, is the most powerful force in the universe. Through it, we can overcome any challenge we face; in fact, through it we will all ultimately overcome our own extinction, in death.
Onward, friends! Upwards and forward! With such a Father-to-be as Christ, we are part of a unconquerable family, a noble–even divine–heritage. All good people of the world will ultimately recognize His great gift; they are our brothers and sisters in overcoming the challenges of this world.
On this, Father’s Day, it is appropriate to look to whom we choose to believe will be our progenitor, our Great God, our Next Father.
I leave this message with you in His Holy name, even Jesus Christ, amen.