“The Book of Mormon is true, and you are part of it,” Elder Neil L. Andersen told a group of about 100 Native American youth and young single adults from Kirtland, Gallup and Crownpoint, New Mexico. They were invited to a devotional held in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 31, and to attend general conference the next day.
The devotional was organized by the Church’s Native American Initiative Committee. Elder Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, and Elder Larry J. Echo Hawk, General Authority Seventy, spoke at the devotional. Elder J. Devn Cornish, General Authority Seventy, conducted the meeting.
Thanking the youth for traveling so far to attend the devotional and general conference, Elder Andersen told them their journey is an act of faith. “Faith is something very powerful. This will be a very special weekend for you because in coming you are showing forth your faith, and you are prepared to receive miracles.”
Elder Andersen said that all disciples of Christ must firmly decide that they believe in Him and will follow Him. “Sometime you’re going to have to make [that decision] because you’re going to have trials, you’re going to have difficulties, you’ll have temptations, you’ll have things that will make you want to do things that you know aren’t right. You must become, as the Apostle Paul said, grounded, settled, immoveable, with a firm foundation. One of the blessings we pray for you this weekend is that you plant your feet solidly in your faith in Christ.”
Elder Andersen told the youth, “The Book of Mormon ... is written for the descendents of the children of Lehi.”
After bearing his testimony on the truth and clarity of the Book of Mormon, he invited them to read it for themselves. “You don’t have to read very fast, but read it on your own without any coercion from a seminary teacher, a Sunday School teacher, your parents, or your grandparents. You kneel down and pray, ‘Is this something that comes from Thee, Heavenly Father?’ ” Elder Andersen told them that “if you promise Him you’ll follow Him, then He will make it known unto you that the Book of Mormon was given by God to the Prophet Joseph Smith.”
Sister Andersen suggested that they remember Elder Andersen’s counsel to “record the inspiration they received that night and would receive during general conference.” She said, “I bear my testimony that as you listen to the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, those men that we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators, and follow the counsel that they give to us, that the Lord will bless us in extraordinary ways.”
Elder Echo Hawk began his address by telling the audience about giving a family history to the president of the Navajo Nation, Russell Begaye, on Monday, March 27. (See accompanying story.) “That is quite a recognition for the Navajo Nation that the Church would want to honor him and his family by preparing that.”
Since they would be attending general conference the next day, Elder Echo Hawk shared a special experience he had soon after he and his family joined the Church. The missionaries who baptized his family arranged for them to attend general conference. They had heard that President David O. McKay would leave out of a certain door. “Along with my two brothers, I decided to climb the fence on the west end of the Tabernacle so I could get up high enough to see when President David O. McKay came out of the Tabernacle. I don’t think you’re supposed to be clmbing on the fence.” They got there in time to see him come out to the car waiting for him. “As he walked out, he was about to get in when he saw something kind of unusual. He looked up and he saw this kid with thick black hair. That was me. ... He looked up at me with a smile. I felt something.” He felt the Spirit.
Elder Echo Hawk said that his hope was that these youth would be able to feel the Spirit after meeting an apostle that night and attending general conference the next day. “When that feeling comes over you, recognize that that is the Spirit that you’re feeling testifying of the truth of the things that you’re witnessing.”
Many of the Native American members who attended are part of a pilot program begun by the Native American Initiative Committee of the Church. “Very specifically, the main focus is right now to impact the rising generation of Native Americans,” Elder Echo Hawk told the Church News. Currently, it is being run in Kirtland, New Mexico, with seven missionary couples in the area.
“It’s all about spiritual conversion, deep conversion. So we’re interested in giving these Native American youth a spiritual experience that will help them in this age range to prepare them for missionary service,” Elder Echo Hawk said. “Then when they finish their missionary service, we would like to see them get a good education, a college education, and become future leaders in their communities.”
Elder Andersen and Elder Echo Hawk shook all of the youths’ hands in an expression of love and confidence.