The Sunday, March 21, devotional for Portuguese-speaking young adults was an interactive gathering.
Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles joined a panel of ecclesiastical and Church education leaders to respond to previously-submitted questions from their young audience.
Elder Soares and the panel focused on questions related to seven topics:
- How to get closer to the Savior
- Faith and testimony
- Afflictions and tribulations
- Dating and marriage
Here are a few highlights:
How get closer to the Savior
Elder Soares recalled the occasion when President Russell M. Nelson, shortly before becoming the Church president, extended an invitation and a challenge during a worldwide devotional for all single adults.
President Nelson invited them to improve their testimonies of the Savior by giving them a simple way to do it:
“If you study everything that Jesus said that had been recorded in the New and Old Testaments, the doctrine related to the Savior found in the Book of Mormon, and the revelations He has given to the prophets, starting with Doctrine and Covenants, your love for the Savior will increase.”
Elder Soares exhorts vast audience of Portuguese-speaking young adults to exercise faith, draw near to the Savior and follow the prophets
President Nelson also said that their capacity to become more like the Savior would increase significantly. What he did not mention was that he was doing all that before he extended his invitation. Despite his busy schedule, he completed his study in six weeks and found more than 2,000 references of Christ in the standard works.
Sister Nelson asked her husband what he took from that experience. President Nelson, who was 93 at that time, answered, “I’m a new man.”
Elder Soares said that President Nelson has a contagious enthusiasm, an energy that motivates everyone around him to walk faster, as well as a loving heart and a tender look.
“It’s difficult to be close to President Nelson and not feel the presence of the Savior.”
He closed his remarks on this topic by reading Doctrine and Covenants 88:63, “Draw near unto me, and I will draw near unto you.”
Faith and testimony
“Everything that we do is to strengthen our faith in God and Jesus Christ, in His Atonement and in Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness,” said Elder Soares.
But sometimes, he acknowledged, it is exceedingly difficult to understand how this can apply to our lives.
In a tender moment that summarized all the principles and answers to several topics, Elder Soares shared his family’s experience, after he and Sister Rosana Soares were married, which helped them understand the meaning of faith.
Despite their busy life, working and studying full-time, and after a couple of years of dealing with health challenges, they were blessed with the birth of their first child. Sadly, Sister Soares’ second child was delivered stillborn.
Elder Soares remembered holding the baby and putting him to rest in a small white coffin. Along with his brother-in-law, Elder Claudio R. M. Costa, they went to the cemetery to bury his child.
While walking on the cemetery streets, he prayed for the Lord to give him the courage to finish what he needed to do to move forward and remain firm.
“I remember, my dear young adults, at that moment feeling something from Heaven that filled my heart. A feeling of profound love. I clearly felt Heavenly Father telling me, ‘Stay calm, everything will be alright. Don’t give up.’ ”
“That feeling gave me the courage to continue and bury our child. … That profound feeling of peace, courage, strength, strengthened my faith to the point that I did not lose my hope or the vision of the blessings that the Lord had for me in the future.”
He continued, “I could never imagine everything that happened in our lives in the future, but it was experiences like that that taught me to trust the Lord and have more faith. … We can trust Heavenly Father and know that He … is aware of our challenges.
“When we try to do what is right, even if we do not have a full understanding of things, He will prepare the way for things to work out.”
Elder Soares said prayer is a necessary step to progress, to be forgiven, to receive the power of God in one’s life and to receive the influence of the Spirit.
“It is an attitude of humility before God. When we kneel and pray, we’re acknowledging our smallness before God and recognizing His power over us.”
Doctrine and Covenants 112:10, he added, teaches: “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give the answer to thy prayers.”
“Prayers are vital, and we all need, in one way or another, to find a Sacred Grove in our lives … where the Lord may give us the revelations He has prepared for us.”
Elder Soares said Christ suffered for our sins and our sufferings.
Referring to King Benjamin in Mosiah 4, he said we can know when we have been forgiven, when we feel the influence of His spirit in our lives, when we are full of joy, and when we have peace of mind.
Elder Soares noted that in Doctrine and Covenants 58:42, the Lord said that He does not remember our sins after repenting, but He did not say that we would not remember. Elder Soares thinks that remembering past discretions is not something negative — it serves to warn us so we do not commit the same error again.
President Nelson has warned against living without orientation from the Holy Ghost, Elder Soares said. An important step to ensure that orientation is to pray with honest intention to receive answers and follow inspired direction.
Afflictions and tribulations
Why do good people have to go through trials and difficulties? Difficulties come to all, regardless of race, culture, or nationality, Elder Soares said.
The Savior faced difficulties despite living a perfect life. The Lord suffered to accomplish His Father’s plan of salvation.
Dating and marriage
Elder Soares also taught that marriage is part of God’s plan. Maybe not all will marry in this life— but the Lord will give all His promised blessings to those who remain faithful to Him until the end (Mosiah 2:41).
Seek and practice purposeful dating, he added. One should not date without a purpose — or date simply to have fun. Search for someone who will combine “the crucial things” in one’s lives to build a life together.
Some people make lists with their expectations and desired characteristics that they want to find in another person. But Elder Soares said it’s important to also ask, “Do I have such characteristics?”
“We need to prepare ourselves before looking for such a person.”