Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to students at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, March 2, about the indispensable link between blessings and responsibilities for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Many of us are familiar with an expression used by a company in numerous ad campaigns: ‘Membership has its privileges,’” the Apostle said from the Marriott Center, quoting a slogan from American Express in the 1990s. “Well, we are not a secular organization. We are the restored Church of Jesus Christ. As such, if I were to articulate similar sentiments as a member of the Church, it may sound something like, ‘Belonging brings blessings.’ And yet there is more isn’t there? Belonging brings responsibility as well.”
Elder Stevenson described the four main responsibilities of being a Latter-day Saint, as outlined in the Church’s General Handbook:
- Living the gospel of Jesus Christ
- Uniting families for eternity
- Inviting all to receive the gospel
- Caring for those in need
“As we strive to fulfill these divinely appointed responsibilities as part of the Lord’s work, the Church provides a multitude of resources,” he said. “These are blessings, pouring down upon us from heaven. They come in many forms. Many are customized to our age, location and circumstance. Some of these blessings result from covenants we make as Church members; others bless the lives of all of God’s children.”
Elder Stevenson described several ways the Church helps Latter-day Saints carry out the required work in each of the four areas.
Living the gospel of Jesus Christ
How does the Church help its membership follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ? With his student audience in mind, Elder Stevenson pointed to the faith’s heavy focus on education. Combining the enrollment numbers of Church universities and colleges with that of its seminaries and institutes, more than 900,000 students are enrolled in the Church’s educational endeavors, he said.
He also noted the blessings of the For the Strength of Youth conferences in over 46 countries; the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum that members consult weekly around the globe; the Book of Mormon’s availability in 112 languages; the new program for children and youth, which began in 2020; Face to Face broadcasts, where youth and young adults can ask questions of leaders; and the Church’s 20,000-plus chapels that provide spaces to gather.
Uniting families for eternity
“Uniting families for eternity would be impossible without the blessing of temples dotting the earth,” Elder Stevenson said, “because in the house of the Lord, ordinances that bind families take place.”
“Here is a dramatic demonstration of the blessing of temple proximity,” Elder Stevenson said. “When President [Russell M.] Nelson was born in 1924, there were only six operating temples in the Church worldwide. Sixty years later, in April 1984, when he became an Apostle, there were 26 operating temples. With President [Gordon B.] Hinckley’s inspired vision to build more temples, by 2000 there were 100 operating temples. There are now 168 operating temples in the world.”
The Church has another 35 temples under construction and 28 announced to be built, for a total of 231 temples. When all are complete, Elder Stevenson said, “it is estimated that 81% of the members of the Church will be within three hours’ traveling distance to a temple.”
Inviting all to receive the gospel
Elder Stevenson described the sacrifices of some of the Church’s hundreds of thousands of missionaries who have served since 1830. “It seems that each generation of missionaries are blessed to be able to stand on the shoulders of those who proceeded them,” he said.
Today, despite the pandemic, missionaries continue to serve. “The work moves forward,” Elder Stevenson said. “Missionaries diligently follow local COVID guidelines in the areas they serve. In some instances, they teach outside, socially distanced. In other places where greater restrictions are in place, missionary teaching originates from missionary apartments, done virtually.
“For several months now, newly called missionaries have completed their [missionary training center] training in an online virtual framework from their homes. The diligence of missionaries with the support of their families and members, combined with Church resources, blesses us to fulfill the divinely appointed responsibility of inviting all to receive the gospel. Belonging truly brings blessings.”
Caring for those in need
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, Church humanitarian efforts in 2020 have been “by far the most extensive in history, comprised of hundreds of projects spanning 151 countries.” This includes the distribution of more than 28 million items of personal protective equipment, 1.3 million medical items (such as ventilators and thermometers), 2.1 million hygiene kits and food for some 4 million people.
The Church also supports immunization campaigns around the world, he said. This includes a recent partnership with UNICEF to get COVID-19 vaccines to the most vulnerable around the world. The Church also helps displaced populations of refugees from the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. This aid has ranged, he said, from basic relief and shelter supplies for emerging crises to educational support for the more prolonged situations. The Church has also come to the rescue for other crises, including storms and fires in the United States, as shown in the video embedded below.
“In many of these instances, it was once again our members who were the heroes, donning their yellow vests — now accompanied frequently by masks — and braving the conditions of the pandemic to continue to provide the selfless post-disaster relief efforts that they have come to be known for,” he said.
Elder Stevenson concluded with an invitation for BYU students to “consider your role in accomplishing these divine responsibilities and anxiously engage in this work. As you do so, I promise you will be humbled and overcome with joy in recognizing and enjoying the heaven-sent blessings for you to accomplish this work.”