Instead of giving a talk or engaging in a question-and-answer forum, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles used his time with BYU–Hawaii students in a Sunday night devotional to delve together into the scriptures.
BYU–Hawaii student Crystal Tania, from Indonesia, who attended the Nov. 14 event, saw it as a scripture study session with an Apostle. “I learned so much about the scriptures,” she told the Church News.
In sharing, exploring and teaching from the scriptures, Elder Bednar taught students about what matters most in the tumult of the latter days: the holy covenants and sacred ordinances of the gospel that yoke them to and with the Savior.
“My beloved brothers and sisters, understanding the covenants and the associated ordinances — learning, understanding, living, honoring, remembering them — that is the work of salvation and exaltation. The covenants and ordinances are the heart and the focus of missionary work. The covenants and ordinances are the heart and the focus of temple and family history work.
“Everything in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is focused on the covenants and ordinances,” he declared.
The devotional — which was not streamed online but delivered in-person at the Cannon Activities Center — was one of the first events to include an Apostle on the Laie, Hawaii, campus since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland traveled to the North Shore for the inauguration of BYU-Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III in October.)
‘The time in which we live’
Accompanied by his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, who offered brief remarks, Elder Bednar began by inviting students to turn with him to several scriptures that describe “the times in which we live.”
Doctrine and Covenants 45:26-27 describes the latter days as a time when there will be “wars and rumors of wars,” when the “whole earth will be in commotion and men’s hearts shall fail them” while “the love of men shall wax cold and iniquity abound.”
Elder Bednar noted the word “commotion” from that verse, which denotes disturbance, uproar, turmoil, disorder, confusion, unrest and disruption. “Surely that word and this verse are descriptive of the day in which we live.”
In the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 16, the Lord describes the latter days with these words: “They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world.”
Today, the world is witnessing the deconstruction of many principles, ideas, institutions and established patterns and traditions as people now walk in their own way and after the image of their own gods, Elder Bednar said. “May I suggest that many people presently are experiencing both a societal and an individual identity crisis, a lack of understanding about who we are and Whose we are.”
In the next verse, the Lord says that He, knowing the calamity which would befall the inhabitants of the earth, called Joseph Smith Jr. and gave him commandments.
“Through the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ that were restored to and through the Prophet Joseph Smith, we learn and know that we are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, and we are covenant disciples of His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. … In the commotion and confusion of the latter days, we are blessed with a sure knowledge of who we are, who each of us is, and Whose we are,” Elder Bednar explained.
Moroni, the last Nephite prophet and compiler of the record that would become the Book of Mormon, witnessed the atrocities leading up to the destruction of his people. He was alone and being relentlessly hunted by his enemies. He saw the modern day and chose to include in the record the things needed most for this time, Elder Bednar said.
Elder Bednar encouraged those participating to read the final chapters of the Book of Mormon and consider, “This is Moroni’s closing argument; this is his final invitation.” Moroni is sharing the things of his soul that are most important and, in his loneliness, his heart is drawn to the priesthood, priesthood authority, properly performing ordinances, and the vital role of the Church in coming unto Christ.
Elder Bednar then directed his listeners to Moroni 9, verse 25: “May Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and His mercy and long-suffering and the hope of His glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.”
As individuals think of the commotion and confusion today, they may wonder if they can be lifted up by the Savior. In response, Elder Bednar said, “Absolutely. Can we turn and come unto the Savior and have the blessings of His gospel rest in our minds forever? Undoubtedly. Are these blessings really available to us today? I affirmatively and emphatically witness that yes, they are available to every covenant-receiving, covenant-keeping member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Yoked to the Savior
In summation, Elder Bednar directed students to Matthew 11:28-30, where the Savior says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
How can individuals be yoked to the Savior? “We are yoked to and with the Savior through the covenants and the ordinances of His gospel,” Elder Bednar explained.
While a covenant is an agreement between God and His children, an ordinance is a holy act performed with priesthood authority that teaches about the covenant. “An ordinance is not an empty ritual, not just a behavior or performance that we go through, not merely a tradition. An ordinance is instructive about the associated covenant,” Elder Bednar taught.
What did the Savior teach His Apostles when He knew He was about to die? He instituted the ordinance of the sacrament. What did the Savior teach when He appeared to the people in the land of Bountiful before ascending to His Father? He conferred priesthood authority and He clarified disputations about the proper mode of baptism.
Why are covenants and ordinances so important? “Because that is how we can be yoked to and with the Savior. That is how the blessings of His Atonement flow into our lives. In the ordinances of the priesthood, the power of godliness is made manifest,” Elder Bednar taught.
In this world of commotion and chaos, covenant-keeping Latter-day Saints have access to the power of godliness to enliven, enrich, enlarge and enable them to do things that otherwise they could never do, Elder Bednar testified.
In her remarks, Sister Bednar shared Isaiah 41:10, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
Sister Bednar shared examples from her life where she originally thought, “I don’t think I can do this.” In each experience, however, she received additional strength from the Lord.
“We can do hard things. The Lord will bless us, help us, and give us the confidence to do things that we don’t think we can do,” Sister Bednar said. “You can be the beneficiary of His love and His help through prayer, through your scripture study, and through your everyday activities.”
What they learned
Many students shared what they learned and how they were impacted by the unique framework for Sunday’s event and Elder Bednar’s specific counsel and invitations.
BYU–Hawaii student Rachel Richardson’s job is to run the teleprompter during devotionals so she noted right away that Elder Bednar was not using the device but simply reading scriptures and then discussing them with students. “You could tell he was following the Spirit throughout the whole thing,” she said, which made his message feel personal, despite the fact that there were thousands in attendance.
Being in the same room made it feel like Elder Bednar’s message was specific to them, agreed Tania.
In his discussion of Moroni, Elder Bednar explained that the Book of Mormon is not just a history book. It is a book about the future with instruction specifically for the latter days. That truth resonated with Kody Finley, a student from California.
“I felt inspired to start reading the Book of Mormon with a different focus than I have in the past,” Finley said. “I’ve always been interested in finding the principles that relate to my life, but now those principles seem much easier to identify, now that I’m thinking of the Book of Mormon as a book about my present and future.”
Prior to Sunday’s devotional, Jerameel Recodig, a student from Indonesia, had been feeling overwhelmed with trying to balance his many responsibilities. Elder Bednar described and bore witness of how the 24-year-old Prophet Joseph Smith was able to translate the Book of Mormon through the gift and power of God.
Recodig said he realized that task must have been challenging and overwhelming for Joseph Smith too, but he didn’t do it by himself. “I realized that I was too focused on what I could do, not on what I could with the Lord. I am not alone. I should let the Lord help me, and like Joseph, I can do the seemingly impossible tasks in the Lord’s strength.”
Elder Bednar blessed the students to trust in the Savior Jesus Christ and believe that His promises apply to them individually. Rachel Richardson said that is something she is going to remember in the weeks and months to come. “I need to believe in the Savior but also believe Him.”