The wives of six Apostles joined their husbands in speaking to young adults in the six geographical areas of the Church in North America on Sunday, Nov. 1. Here is a glimpse of the words offered by Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, Sister Susan Bednar, Sister Mary Cook, Sister Lesa Stevenson, Sister Ruth Renlund and Sister Susan Gong to young adults throughout the United States and Canada.
Sister Uchtdorf: ‘The light you share’
To begin her remarks on Sunday evening, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf offered the assurance to “those of you who are single, divorced, or live in challenging family circumstances,” that “God knows and loves you, and when you stay true to your covenants, the joy of family life will not be shortened or kept from you.”
Sister Uchtdorf and Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf grew up together in the same branch in Frankfurt, Germany. They learned to dance together at Church activities during the time of the foxtrot, boogie-woogie and rock and roll.
Even after he returned from two years away to become a fighter pilot, she was not too impressed. However, eventually she found he had matured. This year they marked their 58th wedding anniversary, “and we are still in love,” she said.
“I have never regretted that I took a good look at him, even after an uncertain first impression.” And, she continued, “you must know, we still love to dance together — even to this very day.”
She then spoke about a time in her youth where her home seemed “a place of suffering, sadness and hopelessness” — after the death of her father from cancer.
The light of the gospel and the teachings of the Book of Mormon dispelled the darkness her family had been feeling. The two missionaries who came to their home “were like two angels of glory sent to us by God” as they shared the light of their testimonies, Sister Uchtdorf said.
To her “dear young friends” listening to her remarks, Sister Uchtdorf said, “you are made of the same divine material. … Please don’t forget, you have a light to share. You have the potential to be angels of glory to those around you.”
Calling young adults “living testimonials of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ,” she told them they are “powerful leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ proclaiming the gospel message by your good life and your courageous testimony.”
Sister Uchtdorf told listeners that God relies on, knows and trusts them. “Every simple and plain word or deed of goodness, integrity, charity, kindness, service, love, and compassion can become your act of leadership in the kingdom of God. Don’t underestimate your influence and power for good.”
Sister Bednar: ‘God does answer prayers’
Prayers are not always answered immediately or in the way we are expecting, said Sister Susan Bednar.
Speaking to young adults in the North America South East Area, Sister Bednar recalled teaching her grandchildren a different way to pray: “Don’t pray for what you want. Instead, pray for what God wants for you.”
This requires patience, she said.
“God does answer prayers. He does hear our prayers. But he answers on his timetable
, and according to His will.”
Sometimes, in the moment, it is hard to “wait upon the Lord” or “hear what He wants us to hear.”
Sister Bednar spoke of a time just after her marriage to Elder David A. Bednar. The couple lived in Indiana, where he attended graduate school, and then they moved to Arkansas. She wanted to move to the Western United States so her children could live by their grandparents and prayed for this righteous desire for almost 20 years.
“That prayer was not answered in the way that I wanted for many years. God does hear and answer your prayers, just not always the way you want and not always on your timetable. He knows the beginning from the end.”
Still, now as she looks back, she understands the Lord was preparing Elder Bednar to lead the transition of Ricks College to BYU-Idaho and to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
That doesn’t mean Sister Bednar’s prayers went unanswered. She felt she needed to embrace the place where she lived and love the people and teach her children to love it.
“Next Saturday ground will be broken for a temple in Bentonville, Arkansas, just 30 minutes from where we lived,” she said. “Bentonville was part of our stake.”
She is grateful today their family was able to make treasured friendships in Arkansas and contribute to the growth and development of the area that will now have a temple.
Sister Cook: A confident testimony
Sister Mary G. Cook, Elder Quentin L. Cook’s wife, encouraged young adults to be confident in their knowledge and testimony of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, His Atonement and His restored gospel.
“Never forget that you are children of Heavenly Parents,” Sister Cook said during a devotional broadcast to young adults in the North America West Area. “Be true to the faith, steadfast and courageous in dealing with worldly influences.”
President Russell M. Nelson has invited individuals to take steps to “Hear Him” better and more often. As baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, “You will receive special sacred experiences as you listen to the Holy Spirit. Please heed his promptings and warnings because they are real,” Sister Cook said.
A pattern of small and simple things will keep testimonies strong and vibrant, she continued.
“As you go forward in life stay close to family and friends where you are loved and accepted beyond expression,” Sister Cook said. “You also are loved and accepted by your Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Stay close to them through the scriptures, through prayer and through Church service. Always be temple worthy. When we can resume our temple worship, serve in the temple and do work for your kindred dead.”
“President Nelson has counseled us to repent daily. As we do this, we find joy in everyday life. Remember:
“There is forgiveness, there is a way
“To lift the burden of yesterday,
“His name is Jesus, He sets me free.
“There is forgiveness. He died for me.”
As she thinks of her young listeners, Sister Cook said she is reminded of 1 Nephi 13:37, “And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.”
Sister Stevenson: ‘She had faith’
Late one evening while living and serving in Tokyo, Japan, Sister Lesa Stevenson and her husband, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, ran into a young women who was taking lessons from the sister missionaries.
The Stevensons knew the woman had a good job with traditional work hours and were surprises she was out so late. They learned the women had left her job and was now working the grave yard shift at a local fast food restaurant.
The woman told them of learning about the law of the Sabbath from the missionaries and subsequently quitting her job and finding one that did not require Sunday work.
When this young woman heard the voice of the Lord she responded, Sister Stevenson explained. “Every time the missionaries came something happened really dramatic to her life. She had a wonderful job, …. Yet she had faith to quit her job.”
She lived in a beautiful apartment with her boyfriend. But after learning about the law of chastity, she left her boyfriend and the apartment they shared. “It’s very difficult to get a place and apartment in Japan, and it is very, very expensive.”
Sister Stevenson said the young woman also faced opposition from her family, who disowned her when she decided to join the Church.
“She lost her family, her job, her apartment, her friends,” said Sister Stevenson. “She lost everything. But she was brave. And she did hard things, because she knew the gospel was true. And because of this, her life was blessed.”
Following this woman’s baptism, she met a returned missionary and they eventually married in the Tokyo Japan Temple. Her husband has a good job, they have beautiful children and she has reconciled with her family.
During this time of pandemic, there are many limitations, said Sister Stevenson. “But we have been blessed with so much. We just have to look and see the different things that we’ve been blessed with. We’ve been blessed with more time, so that we can hear Him. We’ve been blessed to be around family, or to reach out to family in different ways.”
Sister Stevenson said Latter-day Saints are learning to listen and heed revelation from President Russell M. Nelson. “And we also are learning how to receive our own revelation,” she added.
Sister Renlund: Becoming spiritual adults
Sister Ruth Renlund, has noted in her travels throughout the world with her husband, Elder Dale G. Renlund, that regardless of where they are, all members of the Church know one hymn — “I Am a Child of God.”
“Although we are children of our Heavenly Father, and that will always be true, He doesn’t want us to forever be children when it comes to our own spiritual maturity,” Sister Renlund said during an institute devotional broadcast to young adults in the North America Central Area. She then shared two ways to grow in the Lord and become spiritual adults.
First, develop a testimony of Heavenly Father, His plan, Jesus Christ and His Atonement, and that Joseph Smith is the Prophet of the Restoration of Christ’s Church.
“Have you asked God about the Book of Mormon?” Sister Renlund asked. “Do you know in your heart that Jesus Christ is your Savior? Do you know in ways that can be hard to explain, but nonetheless real, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s Church on the earth today? Having this spiritual knowledge will launch you into spiritual adulthood.”
Second, children of God “grow up” as they seek to increase spiritual knowledge. “Truth that we discover is ours forever. That is why we are encouraged to study and act in faith, because as we act in faith our faith will grow. Then it becomes more than faith, it becomes knowledge.”
Increasing in spiritual knowledge involves the private, personal, acts of devotion such as reading scriptures, praying, worthily partaking of the sacrament, doing family history, participating in temple worship when available and reflecting on the goodness of God and His mercy and grace.
“Increasing your spiritual knowledge is a personal and private endeavor. Nobody else can do it for you,” Sister Renlund said.
Those who act with confidence in spiritual matters, firm in the testimonies and knowledge that he or she has obtained, can be sure that he or she is a “grown-up” in God’s Kingdom, Sister Renlund said.
Sister Gong: ‘The power of personal righteousness’
Doing good “with all our heart, might, mind and strength is vital,” said Sister Susan Gong, wife of Elder Gerrit W. Gong. “We are on earth to do good—to bear one another’s burdens, to lift, strengthen and bless.”
Sister Susan Gong addressed the young single in the North America Southwest Area on “The Power of Personal Righteousness.”
Some think the idea of personal righteousness is dated, she said.
“We don’t talk about character, conscience, and right and wrong nearly as much as we did a generation ago. How often do our social media feeds encourage integrity, chastity, respect for parents, self-control, or restraint?
“It’s not enough just do good; we need to be good, to keep the commandments our Heavenly Father has given us. By keeping His commandments we show we love Him. We become more like Him. Becoming like Him is also a reason we’re on earth.”
Being good is important, she said.
“What will society be like if we abandon personal righteousness?” she questioned, quoting Elder D. Todd Christofferson who has taught that, adhering to moral virtues is fundamental to a flourishing society.
Personal righteousness prevents an avalanche of mental and emotional anguish, brings gifts of the Spirit, and makes possible temple blessings, she said.
“As we strive to be good, we become more like our Heavenly Father. Our efforts to be righteous allow Him to refine us. A Chinese proverb says, ‘rotten wood cannot be carved.’ But those who live righteously are ready to be shaped by the Master’s hand….
“Our lived experience, spiritual growth, connection with God, relationships with loved ones and our understanding of ourselves will be deeper, richer, and more joyous as we strive to be like our Savior — to both do good and be good. Commandments are God’s gift. He lives and loves us. His gospel is true, it is beautiful, powerful and important.”