When the apostle Paul wrote to his friend Timothy, he noted that “without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day.
“Greatly desiring to see thee … that I may be filled with joy” (2 Timothy 1:3-4).
One of Paul’s latter-day apostolic associates, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, expressed similar sentiments of joyful reunion during a Friday, April 22, devotional broadcast originating in Friedrichsdorf, Germany, to German-speaking Latter-day Saints in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
“I am so happy to be with you,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “My heart overflows when I look into your faces. … I rejoice with you. I mourn with you. I share your testimony of Christ — our Advocate and Redeemer.”
Latter-day Saints, he acknowledged, are living in a time of uncertainty and danger. They need and pray for one another. “And we recognize the countless good deeds that are happening around us every day.”
God’s power and blessings await all who love Him, keep His commandments and care for His children by sharing their spiritual, emotional and material gifts.
“Heavenly Father sees your sacrifices and will reward you for your kindness to others,” promised Elder Uchtdorf, who has spent the past couple of weeks ministering to Latter-day Saints in Europe, including refugees who were forced to flee Ukraine.
Often a person’s greatest needs are emotional — including heartache, loneliness, despair and a loss of faith.
“Your faith is important and your prayers are important,” he said. “Your actions, driven by commitment and charity, dispel darkness and bring light into the world. Now is a time for faith, courage and compassion.”
Given the troubles of the day, some may doubt the goodness of humanity. “But instead of losing faith, we can strengthen ourselves and open our souls to heavenly light.”
Latter-day Saints live in a time of both great challenges and unimagined opportunities, Elder Uchtdorf observed. Therefore, it is essential to self-reflect, and ask:
- “What values are important to me?”
- “How am I spending my time?”
- “How can I bring divine goals to the forefront — looking beyond the fog of everyday life and seeing my eternal future?”
“Like the disciples of old in Alma’s day, we can learn to be steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God and to endure, with patience, the challenges that may come our way” (see Alma 1:25).
Alma and his people demonstrated their love of God and others, regardless of the difficulties of the day. Because of their devotion, they did not become impoverished through their sacrifices. Instead, they enjoyed peace and abundance.
“We need this peace in our personal lives and in the world today,” declared Elder Uchtdorf.
Personal lessons taught by the past
Like many in Europe today, Elder Uchtdorf was born at a time of great turmoil where the world seemed stretched beyond its breaking point. His family knew fear and heartache.
“As a young boy I went through some of what many refugee families in Europe are facing today,” he said. “I became a refugee twice. We left friends and family behind and had to give up security and comfort. At the time, I didn’t know what my future would be like.”
Refugees and regional unrest are not the sole claim of recent history. Jesus Himself was once a child refugee.
King David, meanwhile, was a fugitive who was forced to flee from a powerful ruler who wanted to take his life. There were moments when David was uncertain he would see the next day, and he could not envision an escape from his dire circumstance.
“Perhaps in this formative phase of his life, David learned that, despite everything, he could rely on God. Perhaps through adversity, he learned that he could depend on God,” said Elder Uchtdorf.
David’s psalms record heartfelt pleas to Heavenly Father — and expressions of faith, hope and encouragement that continue to uplift readers today. As Psalm 30:5 assures: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
And through David’s psalms, God also offers an answer to all one’s worries and needs: “Be still, and know that I am God …. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:10-11).
Gratitude for the European Saints — and the divine power of unity
Elder Uchtdorf also expressed his admiration for the many Latter-day Saints in Europe who have provided safety and sanctuary to refugee families. “When I hear about your sacrifices, generosity and kindness, my heart fills with joy. I promise you the Lord sees your good deeds. He will bless you.”
Unity, he added, should define the Lord’s people. Jesus Christ was the great Unifier. During His mortal life He often transcended convention’s bounds to include those otherwise excluded. He praised the faith of a pagan woman and a Roman soldier. He touched lepers. He ate with sinners and tax collectors.
“This is the Church of Jesus Christ, where there are no outcasts,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “It is His Church, not yours or mine. … Nobody should feel like a stranger with us.”
Knowing all of God’s children are brothers and sisters should foster unity in the Church and transcend any differences — be they cultural, political or ethnic.
Elder Uchtdorf encouraged his devotional audience to focus on matters that strengthen and unify the Church.
“Spreading the good news of the gospel through our words and actions helps people feel that this is the gospel and Church of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit can work through us.”
Anyone who is filled with Christ’s light has no room in his or her life for pride, prejudice or contention. The two great commandments — to love God and to love one’s neighbor — should take their proper place.
“Family and honoring our sacred covenants become natural and part of our daily lives,” he said. “Prayer becomes a sure source of peace and strength. The scriptures will be dear, and trusted by us as faithful counselors and guides.
“Christ must be at the center of our lives.”
Elder Uchtdorf then offered three tips on achieving unity in the Church:
1) More dialogue. Less monologue.
2) Listen more and argue less.
3) Judge less and talk to each other more.
Despite advances in communication, people are often drifting away from each other rather than getting closer. Technology is often being used to reinforce prejudices with like-minded people.
“Our God, the Lord and Master of the Universe, gives us every opportunity to achieve unity, but we must choose to use these divine gifts for His purposes,” he said.
Baptism and partaking of the sacrament to renew baptismal covenants help foster unity. They are sacred ordinances that connect individuals to the community of Christ.
The scriptures also teach that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
“Having the Savior in our midst is an absolute necessity if we are to survive spiritually during these trying times,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “Our unity as Latter-day Saints will help others to believe in Jesus Christ.”
Meanwhile, dividing characteristics such as disunity, pride and selfishness will do the opposite.
“Your efforts to be close to God and to love and respect those around you will open the floodgates of heaven for those you serve — but also for you and your loved ones,” concluded Elder Uchtdorf.
“I bless you with the assurance that if you follow God, even though you may weep at night, you will rejoice again in the morning. He will give you strength, confidence and hope.”