In their opportunities to teach and minister across the globe, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf and his wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, have learned an important truth.
“While it is true that each one of God’s children is unique, and shaped by a distinctive set of experiences, it is also true that we have one most significant attribute in common — we all are God’s children, we all are brothers and sisters,” said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the annual BYU Education Week devotional on Tuesday, Aug. 17.
Heavenly Father desires all of His children’s hearts to be “knit together in unity and love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:21), Elder Uchtdorf said. “Though our circumstances may be different, our hearts are not.”
To those gathered in the Marriott Center on the Provo, Utah, campus, and the thousands more listening virtually, Elder Uchtdorf presented five messages that all of God’s children need to hear.
“I pray that in these messages for all, you also will feel and hear very personalized messages,” the Apostle said, “messages for your individual circumstances and situation in life, given through the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, just for you.”
1. ‘First, move toward the light’
When he was an airline captain, Elder Uchtdorf sometimes flew his Boeing 747 from Germany to the West Coast of the United States and back. On those long flights across oceans and continents, Elder Uchtdorf noticed when he flew west, the daylight seemed never to end. When he flew east, sunset came more quickly than normal.
“Whether I traveled west or east, the sun never changed course,” Elder Uchtdorf explained. “It held its position, steadfast in the heavens, providing warmth and light to the earth.”
However, his access to that warmth and light depended on his location, direction and speed.
Like the sun, God never changes, retreats or alters course. “But we do,” Elder Uchtdorf said.
During the periods of times when individuals feel in darkness, they can be reassured that God, like the sun, is always there. “When we incline our hearts to Him, He embraces us and fills our souls with light, warmth, knowledge and guidance.
“That’s a message we all need to hear,” Elder Uchtdorf declared.
2. ‘You are better than you think you are’
“Even the most successful among us need this message from time to time,” Elder Uchtdorf said.
Fred Astaire — the iconic actor, dancer and singer who was ranked No. 5 in the American Film Institute’s top 25 Male Film Legends — was tormented with feelings of inadequacy. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Vincent Van Gogh sold very few paintings during his lifetime.
In the Old Testament, the reluctant warrior and hero Gideon thought of himself as an ordinary farmer, but an angel of God told him that with the Lord’s help, he would liberate his people from a conquering nation (Judges 6-7). “The Lord took that self-doubting, humble farmer and turned him into a national hero — someone whose faith still inspires us today, more than 3,000 years later.”
Jeremiah believed he was too young to be a prophet. Moses doubted himself because he was slow of speech. Enoch felt inadequate to preach repentance.
“The Lord often accomplishes the most with those who feel the least accomplished,” Elder Uchtdorf said.
In this dispensation, the Lord took a young, unschooled farm boy and mentored him to become the great latter-day Prophet who began “the marvelous work and a wonder” rolling forth unto every nation.
“Perhaps, at times, we see ourselves as a little less than we are. Unworthy. Untalented. Nothing special. Lacking the heart, mind, resources, charisma or stature to be of much use to God.”
To those who say they are not perfect or good enough, Elder Uchtdorf said: “Welcome to the club! You may be just the person God is looking for.”
Quoting the words of the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 1:26–29), Elder Uchtdorf explained that the Lord chooses the humble and meek partly because they are humble and meek. “In this way, there is never a question regarding the reason for their success. These wonderful, ordinary people accomplish great things not because of who they are, but because of who God is.”
God will take individuals’ talents, abilities, words and actions and magnify them and use them to bless multitudes.
God does not need people who are flawless, Elder Uchtdorf said, but those who will offer their heart and a willing mind.
“That’s a message we all need to hear,” he declared.
3. ‘Learn to love God and your neighbor’
When a Pharisee asked Jesus which is the greatest commandment, “He established once and for all what our priorities as individuals and as a Church should be: Love God. Love your neighbor,” Elder Uchtdorf said.
Those two commandments are the center of the gospel and should be the center of every effort as a Church and as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Elder Uchtdorf noted it is easy to get caught up in other things. “Even good things can distract us from our primary purpose.”
All have things they gravitate toward, speak about and emphasize in their Church service. “Are those principles important? Certainly. But we would do well to consider whether they are the most important,” Elder Uchtdorf said.
Latter-day Saints should beware the mistakes made by the Pharisees who compiled hundreds of rules and commandments but “lost sight of the center.”
“It’s not to say these rules and gospel topics are not important or valuable. They have a purpose. They are part of the whole. They can lead us to the center, but they are not the center.
They are branches of the tree, but they are not the tree,” Elder Uchtdorf explained.
The great commandments could be used as a two-point diagnostic exam for individuals to evaluate themselves as disciples of Christ. How can individuals be better parents, be happier or magnify callings in the Church? “One, love God. Two, love our neighbor.”
“This is the bull’s-eye of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the foundation of who we are as His followers,” Elder Uchtdorf declared.
“That’s a message we all need to hear.”
4. ‘Conflict is inevitable. Contention is a choice’
Conflict in life comes in a variety of shapes and sizes: An unwanted medical diagnosis, a wandering loved one, loss of a job, the passing of a loved one, even a pandemic.
Elder Uchtdorf described how the Savior Jesus Christ, “our model of perfection,” did not live free from conflict. He was betrayed, accused by false witnesses, beaten, bloodied and crucified. His response?
“To some, He did not speak a word. To others, He spoke the simple truth — not in anger but with calm majesty. As others contended with him, He stood in His place, trusting in His Father, calm in His testimony, firm in the truth,” Elder Uchtdorf said.
While conflict is inevitable and a condition of mortality, contention is a choice. “Our world overflows with contention. We have 24/7 access to it: on the news, on social media — even, at times, in our relationships with those we love.”
While individuals cannot adjust the volume on others’ bitterness, wrath or rage, they can choose their response. “We can choose a better way — the Lord’s way,” Elder Uchtdorf said.
Followers of Jesus Christ can follow His example. “We do not shame or attack others. We seek to love God and serve our neighbors. We seek to joyfully keep God’s commandments and live by gospel principles. And we invite others to do the same.”
To some say nothing. To others, state with quiet dignity who you are, what you believe and why you believe, Elder Uchtdorf encouraged listeners. “Let us emulate the gentle Christ. And we do that through learning to love God and reaching out to bless others.”
There will be conflict in life. “But our all-powerful Father in Heaven has promised that He will fight our battles for us,” Elder Uchtdorf taught.
“That’s a message we all need to hear.”
5. ‘Our Heavenly Father is a God of new beginnings’
As long as humans live on “this wonderful and beautiful planet,” they will make mistakes. “This is not a surprise to God,” Elder Uchtdorf said.
Heavenly Father sent His Only Begotten Son to make a grand, eternal sacrifice to cleanse His children from sin as they repent and have faith in Him.
“Because of Jesus Christ, our mistakes, our sins — even our everyday sorrows, pain, disappointments, frustrations and shortcomings — can be healed. Thanks to our Savior, such things need not prevent us from fulfilling our divine destiny.”
Heavenly Father is a God of new beginnings, Elder Uchtdorf repeated. “Every day, every hour, can be a fresh start — an opportunity to renew ourselves in the Holy Spirit and become better at walking as true and faithful disciples of the Savior. His gospel is the good news that we can begin again — we can become new creatures in Christ.”
That does not mean that individuals should trivialize their sins and mistakes or “brush them under the carpet.” Instead, to receive God’s forgiveness, they must confess their sins, Elder Uchtdorf taught. “Only when we fully and honestly acknowledge our weaknesses and failures can we learn from them and overcome them. We must humbly assess where we are, before we can change course and progress to where we want to be. In other words, we must repent.”
Elder Uchtdorf testified that God yearns for all to come to Him. “His mercy is sufficient to heal your wounds, inspire you to move forward, cleanse you of sin, strengthen you for trials to come, and bless you with hope, wisdom, and His peace.”
No matter individuals’ shortcomings or flaws, God can heal, inspire and cleanse.
“For He is the God of new beginnings. This, too, is a message we all need to hear,” Elder Uchtdorf declared.