EAGAR, Ariz.— Testifying that “Jesus Christ is the center of our restored gospel,” President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency spoke to nearly 8,500 members of the Church in rural northeastern Arizona.
He encouraged all in attendance at a multi-stake devotional on Saturday, Sept. 14, to increase their faith and trust in the Savior and challenged them to study Alma 7:11-13.
“You cannot have any depression, frustration, disappointment, temptation or any other speed bump that we all encounter in the pathway of mortality that He has not experienced Himself. He has felt it all; He knows it all, so that He can succor us, which means to strengthen us, in our challenges in mortality.”
In addition to sharing his testimony of the Savior, the first counselor in the First Presidency reviewed some of the major changes that have been made since President Russell M. Nelson became president of the Church in January 2018.
“We have been through a remarkable period in the restored Church in the last year and a half. I have been privileged to be a close-up witness and participant in the many things that have come through the Lord’s prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, to us as members of the Church.”
He reviewed what he called “major initiatives” and challenged all to ask what they’re doing to further these things that the Lord has given as great priorities for members of the Church to pursue.
He then discussed the reorganization of Melchizedek priesthood quorums, ministering efforts, family-centered gospel study, using the correct name of the Church, gathering of Israel and the re-emphasis of temples.
“Consider all that has come to us in the last 18 months,” he said. “There is a hastening of the work.”
Accompanying President Oaks in the Round Valley Dome, a one-of-a-kind high school sports stadium, were his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks; Elder Wilford W. Andersen, General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Kathleen Andersen; and Elder Raymond S. Heyman, Area Seventy, and his wife, Sister Diane Heyman.
Seven Arizona stakes were invited to attend: Eagar, St Johns, Show Low, White Mountain, Snowflake, Centennial, and Silver Creek.
Sister Oaks spoke prior to her husband.
“Life is not easy, but we have to be consecrated,” she said. “It is consistent, repetitive, holy behaviors that will shape us into children of God. The cumulative effect of everyday actions may not be immediately apparent, but we are all becoming. And with each effort activating the divine potential that lies in each of us.”
She added: “Tonight one of the 15 apostles of Jesus Christ has come to you. That is no coincidence; there is a reason. And I tell you that he will speak the words that you need to hear. It might not be the words, it might be impressions, or peace. I ask you to write it down in your journals tonight, and teach it to your children.”
Elder and Sister Andersen spoke together at the pulpit on the importance of giving heed to living prophets.
“I know of no practice more calculated to bring peace to our homes and to lead us and our families back to the presence of God than to simply follow the counsel of the prophets,” Elder Andersen said.
Elder Heyman spoke on the Holy Ghost and said, “What great comfort and instruction we gain by knowing that God will reveal to us the truth of all things through the common language of the Holy Spirit.”
Sister Heyman testified that “Jesus Christ is involved in the details our lives.” She then asked her husband to join her as she told a personal experience of suffering a stroke while her husband served as a mission president in Argentina and her road back to recovery and increased faith.
Afterward, Gwendena Lee-Gatewood of the White Mountain Stake shared her feelings of being able to meet President Oaks before the devotional.
“We were richly blessed that he took the time to be with us,” said Sister Lee-Gatewood, who is the first elected female tribal chairwoman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe in Arizona. “I felt the spirit immensely.”
“The work of the Lord is hastening,” she said of President Oaks’ remarks at the devotional. “The message is that we all need to repent and follow the right path. What resonates with me is ‘whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.’”
Bob Cole of Silver Creek Stake attended with his family and said it meant a lot to the small communities that were invited.
“These are amazing communities with lots of faith, but kind of isolated,” he said. “So by having President Oaks come here it’s like saying, ‘The prophet loves you too and appreciates your faithfulness, and don’t stop – keep going!’”
President Scott R. Hamblin of the Eagar Stake said it’s remarkable what a visit from an apostle can do for the whole community.
He said for weeks he has seen “a desire to clean up the town, clean up our yards, and to clean up our lives.”
“We have been blessed spiritually as we prepared physically,” he said. “And the message tonight was something that our stake, as I’m sure for the surrounding stakes too, needed to hear.”
“I know this will be talked about for a long time,” he said, “for years.”