LETHBRIDGE, Alberta — Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ offer all a divine birthright and the potential of eternal life, said President Russell M. Nelson in a message broadcast Sunday, Oct. 16, to 125,000 Latter-day Saints in Alberta and British Columbia.
“We have the potential of inheriting all the Father has,” he said. “The gift of eternal life is well worth the price of devoting our mortal lives to following Jesus Christ.”
President Nelson, leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, intended to deliver his message from southern Alberta. But a mistake by an airline company prevented him and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson — who has deep Canadian roots — from making the trip; they instead broadcast their talks from Church headquarters in Salt Lake City.
“We cannot even begin to express how grieved we are that we are not with you in sunny southern Alberta — right there in Lethbridge,” said Sister Nelson.
In addressing the members, President Nelson recalled a time years ago when he met a woman who expressed joy to see him in person instead of on a television screen. “Then she added, ‘You look better on TV,’” said President Nelson. “So my dear brothers and sisters, perhaps our flight cancelation is not all bad,” he quipped.
President Nelson thanked members for their preparations for the meeting, especially expressing gratitude to the children who — in anticipation of his visit — wrote him tender notes expressing their love, gratitude for temples and appreciation for his general conference addresses. One child pointed out that her grandmother was Sister Nelson’s piano teacher. Others drew self-portraits and pictures of President Nelson.
Paying tribute to Sister Nelson, who was raised in Raymond, Alberta, President Nelson said, “When I really want to make Wendy happy, I put on my Raymond Comets (the local high school) T-shirt.”
Also participating in the devotional were Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Ruth L. Renlund, whose grandparents on both sides were born in southern Alberta. The meeting was conducted by Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong, a General Authority Seventy and president of the North America Central Area.
During his remarks, President Nelson called Canada a “seedbed of faithful Saints from the earliest days of the Restoration.”
“This continues to the current day,” he explained. “We thank you for your faith, for your devotion to truth and for your examples of inspired gospel living.”
Having recently celebrated his 98th birthday, President Nelson reflected on several major principles he has observed again and again during nearly a century of life here on the earth.
He introduced those principles by turning his thoughts to England’s Queen Elizabeth II, who died last month.
“The outpouring of appreciation for her life signaled the far-reaching impact this British monarch had on millions of people. The crown on top of her casket indicated her royal status.”
Yet, he continued, “as unlikely as it may seem, we have more in common with the queen than you might think.”
First, he said, “each one of us is going to die.” Second, “each one of us is royalty — spiritual royalty.”
Claiming that privilege comes by devoting one’s life to Jesus Christ, he emphasized.
President Nelson then offered six steps to help Latter-day Saints progress from being members of the Lord’s Church to becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ.
1. “Increase your capacity to receive revelation.” In a complex world, it can be difficult to know what is true or not. “For that reason, learning to hear the voice of the Lord is one of the most vital spiritual skills you can pursue,” said President Nelson.
The most important way to prepare to receive revelation is to be ready, he said.
“When the Lord knows you are eager to communicate with Him, He will teach you how to hear Him. … Heavenly Father is so very generous. He wants to help you with everything — your families, callings, work, heartaches and concerns.”
2. “Fill your life with truth.” The world is filled with much information that is neither useful nor true, he said. “I plead with you to be discerning about how and where you seek truth,” said President Nelson.
He said it was during his medical education that he came to have a firm testimony of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. “I realized that divine law always holds true. A surgeon would never have the courage to operate on a patient if he or she did not have complete confidence in the divine laws that govern the structure and function of the human body.
“Understanding divine law is important, because ‘when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated’” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:21).
3. “Refuse to let opposition to truth weaken your testimony.” Opposition to a person’s beliefs can be disconcerting, but it does not have to be, said President Nelson. “Opposition can actually strengthen your testimony,” he added.
Angry voices critical of the Church can be unsettling, he said. “But that is when the commitment always to seek truth compatible with gospel principles will help you discern truth from error. Our Father and His Beloved Son would not have sent you to earth now if They had not known you had the strength, wisdom and insight to be able to discern what is right and what is not.”
4. “Serve and worship in the temple as much as you can.” Recently, President Nelson’s daughter asked him which of the many advancements over his lifetime had been most significant. He responded that it is the Lord’s generosity in making His temples available for His children. “When I was born, there were only six operating temples in the Church — four in Utah, one in Hawaii, and one near here, in Cardston, Alberta. That was it. Now, we have 169 operating temples and 131 more in design or under construction.”
Every time a temple is dedicated, more light comes into the world, he said. “In this day of intense deception and evil, there is nothing that will protect you more than regular time in the temple.”
5. “Realize just how vital you are to the gathering of Israel.” The Lord is “hastening His work and urging us to prepare for His Second Coming,” said President Nelson. “Meanwhile, our charge is to prepare a people ready to receive the Lord.”
President Nelson said all are vital to the work. “Will you pray about the simple things you can do to help gather scattered Israel? Any time you do anything to help someone find or stay on the covenant path, you are helping to gather Israel,” he said.
6. “Expect joy.” A loving Father designed this mortal probation so that, despite the challenges, His children could experience joy, said President Nelson. “If my 98 years of life have taught me anything, it is that true joy comes by living in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ,” he said. “I have never met any who were happier because they broke their covenants with God. Wickedness does not and cannot lead to happiness” (Alma 41:10).
President Nelson testified that joy comes from following Jesus Christ. “My dear brothers and sisters, you have a divine birthright and the potential of eternal life. That is what our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ offer you. They love you. Above all else, They want you to choose to come back home to Them.”
President Nelson wants to do more
In her remarks, Sister Nelson called growing up in southern Alberta idyllic.
Part of the magic of her youth was the absence of contention in her home, said Sister Nelson. “My parents would want me to quickly say that they were not perfect. However, from my point of view, they were gifted in creating an environment of love in our home.”
Sister Nelson said she wished she could invite all the Latter-day Saints in British Columbia and Alberta into their home. At some point in the visit, President Nelson might play his guests something on piano, she said. Then to the delight of the congregation, she showed a 60-second video of President Nelson playing on the piano the selection “I Could Have Done More.”
It is fitting, she said, “because President Nelson always wants to do more.
“He wants to reach more people with his messages about the joys of finding and staying on the covenant path and of working with the Savior to remove the mountains in our lives.
“He wants to help more Latter-day Saints increase the spiritual momentum in their lives, and to overcome the world so they can find true rest.
“He wants to help more experience the joy of letting God prevail.
“He wants to inspire more youth to remain, or become, morally clean to worthily serve valiant missions for the Lord.
“President Nelson wants to be more persuasive in his invitations, so that more people — on both sides of the veil — will choose to receive the blessings of the temple.
“He would like to help prepare more — actually, every person in the world — for his or her personal interview with the Savior.”
Sister Nelson said that since her husband became President of the Church, she knows more than ever “that general conference is filled with truth directly from the Lord, and directed by the Lord.”
She asked the congregation to study general conference talks with more “joy and exactness.”
“I know more than ever that what President Nelson says is what the Lord would have him say. President Nelson is the Lord’s Prophet: chosen, prepared and instructed by Him.”
Elder Renlund emphasized the need for all Latter-day Saints to partake of the sacrament each week.
“While it is true that we renew our baptismal covenants when we partake of the sacrament, it is much more than that. We make new covenants,” he said. “Think of the verbs in the sacrament prayers. The verbs are present tense, not past tense. We witness to our Heavenly Father, that we are willing to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. We do not witness that we took or have taken on us the name of Christ but that we are willing to do so. We make these covenants anew each week.”
Elder Renlund continued, saying worthily partaking of the sacrament brings promised protective blessings.
“When we approach the sacrament with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, make the sacramental covenants anew with real intent, we can appropriately and honorably bear the name of Jesus Christ,” Elder Renlund taught. “When we always remember Jesus Christ in this way, we receive power to have all our thoughts and affections directed to the Lord. We naturally counsel with Him in all our doings, expecting that He will direct us for good. Our hearts will be full of thanks to Him and our Heavenly Father, and we can rely on being saved and exalted in the eternities. We receive power and momentum along the covenant path.”
In her remarks, Sister Renlund addressed the 2022 theme for Latter-day Saint youth, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
To illustrate how trusting in the Lord can bless lives, she shared the story of her maternal grandparents, who left Cardston, Alberta, to serve as missionaries soon after they were married. They made the long journey to Tonga, where her grandfather eventually was called to serve as the mission president and her grandmother would give birth to two of her four children. “Trusting in the Lord and having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are intricately woven together,” she said. “We demonstrate our trust in the Lord as we act in faith.”
‘Strength in numbers’
Many who attended the meeting expressed appreciation for the Nelsons’ and the Renlunds’ remarks that looked back to the deep Latter-day Saint roots in Canada and to the future. “They told us how to carry on, to press forward,” said Ally Sloan of the Lethbridge Alberta YSA Stake.
Sloan was one of almost 175 single adults who performed in a choir for the event. Originally capped at 135 due to limited space in the meetinghouse, the choir directors invited everyone on the choir “wait list” to join the performance when they learned President Nelson would not be attending in person.
Linda Bains was among hundreds of Latter-day Saints who lined up at 10:30 a.m. in anticipation of the 3 p.m. meeting. When she learned President Nelson would be transmitting his address from Salt Lake City, she came anyway. “We were prepared to be here and wanted to be united,” she said. “There is strength in numbers.”
Joseph Wilsher did not have a ticket to attend the meeting, but came after learning the gathering was no longer a ticketed event — desiring to be with other members as he listened to President Nelson’s message. “We decided we wanted to be here and get the most out of it,” he said.
Elder David Stewart, an Area Seventy from Lethbridge, said President Nelson’s message was given specifically to Latter-day Saints in British Columbia and Alberta — but applies to all Church members. “We can all be better disciples of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Even though he was disappointed the messages could not originate from Lethbridge, he was touched that all members in Western Canada received the meeting the same way. The members listened and laughed and were inspired together, he said.
Noting the power of the Nelsons’ and the Renlunds’ remote messages written just for Canadian Latter-day Saints, Elder Stewart said it was as if they had been there in person. “We were honored that they would come,” he said.