Looking at screens dotted with the faces of young adults from across North America on Sunday evening, President M. Russell Ballard said the images filled him with confidence for the future, and he promised that even amid dark times, there is hope and light.
“May the Lord bless you, my beloved young people, with the realization now of how very important you are for the future of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he said. “Do not underestimate what the Lord has ahead for you.”
President Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, asked the young adults to defend, build and strengthen the Church. “We have great confidence in the future of the Church because we have you,” he said.
The March 7 devotional, originating from Church headquarters and reaching 300,000, was one of six streamed this month by senior Church leaders to Latter-day Saint young adults worldwide. Joining President Ballard for the devotional were Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy, and Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency.
Each leader focused remarks on the power of light in an ever darkening world.
President Ballard recalled serving as a missionary in the British Isles some 73 years ago and speaking before the Nottingham Debate Society. He was serving as the Nottingham District president, with responsibility for 30 missionaries and seven branches of the Church, when he was asked to speak in defense of the Church.
“On that occasion, I had my first real experience with the power of the Holy Ghost,” he recalled. “I had often thought about it, and I had read about it. And on that occasion, I experienced it.”
President Ballard recalled that he had the answers in his mind before critics had finished asking their question. He even had the ability to move through the scriptures with an ease that felt as though “the pages were being turned by someone else.”
“As I was defending The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was defending the Prophet Joseph, I was defending the Book of Mormon, and I was doing a pretty good job because the power of the Holy Ghost was with me.”
He held a Book of Mormon in his hand and promised that all who would read the sacred text could know for themselves the truths he proclaimed.
President Ballard told the young adults they don’t need to preach before the Nottingham Debate Society to be anchored by the scriptures.
“You need to say your prayers every day,” he said. “Start the day with your prayers and end the day with your prayers and talk to the Lord as necessary, whatever you may face during the day. And you will have the same kind of experience I did.”
He invited the virtual congregation to prepare now for the opportunities the Lord has in store for each of them. “You will have done what you need to do to know the basic fundamentals of the gospel, and you will know how to defend it and teach it and how to inspire and lift and bless the lives of others.”
Sister Eubank, the oldest of seven children, recalled a family vacation she took at the age of 21 while preparing for a mission. Her father rented a houseboat on Lake Powell in Southern Utah. The boat was smaller than he expected, and the entire family slept each night under the stars on the roof.
On the fifth night, the Eubank children woke up to fierce wind and rain. Sister Eubank’s father, a meteorologist, spread a large tarp over his children, and she spent the next hour holding down one corner.
Amid the family’s tears and the storm, her father belted out the words to the hymn “Master, the Tempest Is Raging.”
Eventually the wind and the rain stopped, the sun came up, and the family dried off — and the storm became a metaphor for all who have made covenants with God, she said.
“When it gets dark and loud and stormy, our job is to find a tarp and spread it over people and hold on to it and sing about peace,” Sister Eubank said. “And in a lot of ways, I’ve been through much worse storms than that in my life.”
She then spoke of a Biblical time that is reflective of light and peace. Recorded in John 8, Jesus attended the “Feast of the Tabernacles.” As part of the feast, 75-foot-high candelabras were filled with oil and lit — spreading light across ancient Jerusalem. As the celebration ended, a woman caught in adultery was brought to the Savior — who declared, “I am the light of the world.”
“The context of that scripture is so meaningful to me. Because there are so many times in our lives when we feel let down. We feel sad. We’ve just witnessed a scene of judgment and persecution on someone who sinned and there wasn’t very much mercy, and we get discouraged. And Jesus says, ‘I am the light of the world. I’m the light that you should hold up. I’m the light that’s in the sun. I’m a light that cannot be quenched.’ The scriptures mention light over 450 times; it is the metaphor for Jesus Christ.”
Light comes to God’s children because of their acceptance of Jesus Christ, she said.
Elder Nielson began his remarks by recalling a day in December when he sought “meditation music” on his smart phone. Within a few hours, however, he noticed all his platforms — social media and his news feed —were offering him advertisements for meditation. “All of a sudden I was being bombarded with meditation,” he said.
He realized that computer algorithms were serving him more of the things he had been searching for in the past. It took him weeks to unsubscribe to some of the messages hitting his feed.
“This happens to you and to me all the time,” he said. “Those computer algorithms begin to send you more and more of what it is that you search for.”
Those who search for light receive more light, he explained. “And sometimes, if we are not searching for light, if we are not searching for hope, if we are not searching for happiness, we can get in a bubble that is dark.”
He told the young adults to be intentional about searching for things that will “bring light into our life and hope into our life.”
Quoting Doctrine and Covenants 50:24, Elder Nielson said that which does not edify is not of God and is darkness. In Moroni 7:15, Moroni teaches that the way to judge is as plain “as the daylight is from the dark night.”
“I don’t think there has ever been a generation that is as bombarded with all kinds of things — whether it is meditation or whatever you are searching for — and so we need to become agents, not objects, that decide what it is we want to see.”
One day at a time
Referencing a conference talk by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Elder Nielson spoke about the Savior’s final days. On the terrible Friday when the Lord was lifted on the cross, the earth shook and grew dark, he said. Of all the days in the world’s history, that Friday was the darkest.
But on Sunday, the resurrected Lord appeared and light again filled the earth. Of all the days in the world’s history, that Sunday was the brightest. “There is hope, smiling brightly before us because of the Savior and His gospel,” said Elder Nielson.
President Ballard told the young adults that service is the one thing that always brings light into his life. Just before the devotional, President Ballard learned his cousin’s wife had been given a cancer diagnosis. After the devotional he planned to call her. That act, he said, would be “the most important thing” he did all day — even more important than the devotional.
As the meeting continued and the leaders took questions from the congregation, Elder Nielson shared a sweet message from a young adult. “I just wanted to say I’m grateful for President Ballard’s comments about the most important thing that he will do today,” the young adult wrote. “I just got a cancer diagnosis this week. And for some reason, that really comforted me.”
President Ballard promised the commenter, and all the young adults, that the Lord would see them through whatever challenges are ahead of them.
“I look at every day as a great new challenge, a great new opportunity to do something worthwhile. I think you just lock in your minds to do the best you can. The Lord doesn’t expect you to be superhuman, Superman, Superwoman. He just wants you to be good. He wants you to be kind with each other.”
The happiest people are the people who take life a day at a time, said President Ballad, promising the young people that this is a time of preparation. “Look for something every day that will teach you something that will make you better for tomorrow,” he said.
Concluding he asked the congregation to love the gospel. “Love being a member of the Church. Love the Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart. Look to heaven for guidance. Trust in the promptings of the Spirit.”