Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles first saw his future wife, Mary, when they were in the seventh grade at Logan Junior High School. Performing in the school talent assembly, she walked on the stage with “a big smile, blonde, almost white hair, and bright blue eyes.”
She looked like she would “have a soprano voice,” Elder Cook told a virtual gathering of BYU-Idaho students during a campus devotional on Wednesday, Jan. 27. Instead, her “rich, mature, alto voice” offered an incredible rendition of the popular song “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”
Reciting the words to the song — “Grab your coat, and grab your hat. Leave your worry on the doorstep, Just direct your feet To the sunny side of the street” — Elder Cook titled his remarks after the title of the song.
Elder Cook, 80, celebrated his 58th wedding anniversary last November with Sister Cook — whom he described as warm, kind, friendly and righteous. She has spent her life on the sunny side of the street, he said.
“She modeled her life, then and now, on the righteous principles taught in the gospel of Jesus Christ …,” he said. “In Mary’s honor, and because I think it is an important message for you, I want to share some thoughts on living on the sunny side of the street. I want you to be optimistic, joyful, of good cheer, and also to be united in and through the gospel of Jesus Christ to be one with the Savior.”
Elder Cook said during the October 2020 general conference, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, titled one of his talks, “Be of Good Cheer.” His message declares, “Our unshakable faith in the doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ guides our steps and gives us joy.”
President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, has also counseled members to be a “wise optimist in tumultuous times.”
“My desire today is for you to understand how seminally important it is for you to both seek the sunny side of the street and also to be united with our Savior,” said Elder Cook.
Being optimistic and being of good cheer is a decision all can make. “This attitude usually begins with being grateful,” he said, expressing thanks that President Russell M. Nelson taught this profound principle to the world in November. “Gratitude is the first step towards optimism and good cheer.”
Elder Cook told the students they have much for which to be grateful. “We live in the final dispensation and have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to not only guide us now, but also to provide us with a bright and glorious future hereafter,” he said.
This great university exists in a great country with a marvelous past, he added. “Many who are despondent and discouraged want to use a restricted and narrow lens to judge our early U.S. Founding Fathers. While they were far from perfect, they were inspired to bring forth constitutional documents which have blessed and supported the host country of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These seminal documents were monumental and essential in leading to the establishment of religious freedom. The founding history we celebrate is not some great national myth.”
The doctrine and culture of the gospel of Jesus Christ is optimistic, taught Elder Cook. “The plan of happiness is the plan of a loving Father in Heaven to bless all His children. There are no racial or cultural limitations in this all-inclusive plan.”
Elder Cook said it is his prayer that “we can share the gospel more fully with all of our Father’s children. It is also my prayer that we can be unified with diversity and that we can be one with the Savior.”
In the summer of 2019, Elder Cook addressed some Jewish and Latter-day Saint scholars at the BYU Center in Jerusalem — where he visited sacred sites including the “eternity-shaping” Garden of Gethsemane.
“I love the Savior’s pleading intercessory prayer on our behalf,” said Elder Cook. “The Savior acknowledged that the Father had sent Him and that He, the Savior, had done what He was sent to do. His message, ministry and example were behind Him. His atoning mission was still starkly ahead. He prayed for His Apostles, including that they might be sanctified through His truth. He also prayed for those who would believe in Jesus Christ through the words of His Apostles. That prayer directed to followers of Christ, including us, was the Savior’s petition to His Father: ‘that they may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us’” (John 17:21).
Oneness, said Elder Cook, is what Christ prayed for prior to His betrayal and crucifixion.
“The pathway of righteousness is established by the Lord upon simple, but eternal principles,” he said, referencing revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 38, given at the beginning of the Restoration in 1831. “We are to esteem our brothers and sisters as ourselves. We are to practice virtue and holiness. We are to be one. If we are not one, we are not His.”
To be one, Church members can learn from the past and prepare for the future, said Elder Cook.
Elder Cook’s grandfather, Crozier Kimball (Elder Cook’s great-great grandfather is Heber C. Kimball), once told Elder Cook’s cousins that the pioneers left each of them a legacy of working together.
“We need each other,” Crozier Kimball told his grandchildren. “In addition to sharing our testimonies of the gospel with one another, our duty is to love and serve and strengthen and nourish and support and sustain each other, especially in our family. Please remember that in the last days, your very survival may depend on your willingness to work together, to love and serve.”
Elder Cook asked the BYU-Idaho students, “What are some of the ways that we can find peace in this divisive and contentious world?
“We can be in the world, but not of the world. We can be determined not to let the world’s wickedness, contentions and divisions invade the sanctity of our united effort to follow and worship the Savior in our homes and families. We can live on the sunny side of the street as we stay firmly on the covenant path. While we cannot control others, we can achieve the peace that comes from personal righteousness,” he said referencing Doctrine and Covenants 59:23.
Students can be assisted in this effort as they understand, appreciate and learn from the scriptures and Church history, including the Church’s narrative history “Saints,” said Elder Cook.
“The example of our ancestors in all lands overcoming hardships, making sacrifices, and building their faith in order to be one with each other and the Savior is an inspiration to each of us as we face hardships and challenges,” said Elder Cook.
Latter-day Saints this year are blessed to have as the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum both at Church and in the home: Church history and the Doctrine and Covenants.
“We can be one in our congregations wherever we live,” said Elder Cook. “The Apostle Paul was aware that the callings, service and contributions of the members were dramatically different, but equally important. He emphasized to the Corinthians the diversity of spiritual gifts such as faith, wisdom and healing explaining that the manifestation and gifts of the Spirit blessed everyone (1 Corinthians 12:1,7-11). He also compared the parts of the individual human body to the body of the Church. Each part of the body is important to the whole body.”
Paul noted, “the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you … [but] those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary.” He concludes, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:15-27).
Some members have challenges in feeling they are important and necessary to the body of the Saints, said Elder Cook. “The Apostle Paul’s point was that each member is both necessary and important.”
Other members feel their calling is not significant enough or the mission where they are called to serve is not dramatic enough. “Our doctrine is clear: ‘In the service of the Lord, it is not where we [you] serve, but how,’ we serve that is important,” he said, quoting a conference address by President Boyd K. Packer. “In addition, sometimes we all feel we are not capable of the callings we are given.”
Feeling less capable to undertake a calling is not unusual, Elder Cook continued. “Every Apostle that I know, including myself, experienced this feeling of inadequacy when called to the apostleship. Whatever our calling, we know that we do not have all the qualities and gifts that we think are needed. Over time we realize that any one person, like the eye or the hand of the body, does not have every quality necessary to accomplish the Lord’s purposes. But as a ward or branch, or quorum, we in a cumulative way have all the gifts and qualities necessary to bless our own lives and achieve the purposes the Lord has in store for us.”
Concluding, Elder Cook promised the virtual congregation that “if you focus your life on the Savior, you will find yourself on the ‘Sunny Side of the Street’ and have joy.”
Quoting President Nelson, he said, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”
That focus, he said, “is the Savior!”
“I testify that if we are determined to live on the sunny side of the street, with the light of the Savior as our focus and our guide, we will be on the covenant path. As we love, follow, and worship the Savior, we will have peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come.”