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‘Differences can unite us,’ Elder Soares says to Spanish-speaking Latter-day Saints in special devotional

In what he calls a kind of ‘returning home’ to Denver, Colorado, Elder Ulisses Soares addresses Spanish-speaking Saints about navigating life’s trials

As children of Heavenly Father, everyone came to earth with the same purpose of returning to God, Elder Soares said in a special devotional Friday, Dec. 2.

Broadcast live from Denver, Colorado, to Latter-day Saints in the Church’s North America Central Area, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to Spanish-speakers in their native language. 

“Strengthening our faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ helps us to live focused on the plan of happiness that God created for us,” he said. 

Elder Soares was joined in the devotional by Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela, General Authority Seventy and second counselor in the North America Central Area presidency, and Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric. 

Elder Soares spoke about moving past differences and staying focused on the Savior and building faith in Him and Father in Heaven.

A choir of Church members sings at a devotional for the North America Central area of the Church on Friday, Dec. 5, 2022. | Screenshot from ChurchofJesusChrist.org

“We can compare our lives to a boat,” he said. 

As with most boats, life needs a rudder to help it change or maintain a direction, he explained. 

Elder Soares taught that in order to navigate the waters and keep our rudders well-directed and our boats going on the right course, it is important to remember who the lighthouse is on the shore. He explained: “Jesus Christ is the light of our life. As we follow His light and apply His teachings, as taught in the scriptures and by His living prophets, we can sail safely through the strong waves of this life and receive the promise to live with Him eternally.”

Quoting the late President Thomas S. Monson from the October 2014 general conference, Elder Soares read: “As we strive to place Christ at the center of our lives by learning His words, by following His teachings and by walking in His path, He has promised to share with us the eternal life that He died to gain. There is no higher end than this, that we should choose to accept His discipline and become His disciples and do His work throughout our lives. Nothing else, no other choice we make, can make of us what He can.”

He continued by analyzing in retrospect the Church’s collective study of the Old Testament this year. He said this set of scriptures teaches repeatedly that people make bad decisions and that God is always there with His arms wide open to receive those who will repent after making bad decisions. 

“As we study the scriptures, we will develop trust and hope to move forward in our lives,” Elder Soares said.

“The time you faithfully spend in the scriptures each day will help you maintain your life’s rudder toward Jesus Christ.”

Then talking finally about the benefits of following living prophets, Elder Soares said the counsel given to the first six members of the restored Church still stand as solid counsel for today’s Church members. 

He read Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-6 and asked why the Lord would have asked followers in His Church to receive the words of prophets with patience and faith.

“Why faith and patience? Because we need to believe and because sometimes we aren’t immediately in line with what the Lord asks and we need to patiently move toward Him,” Elder Soares explained. 

In moving with patience and faith, God promises that “The doors of hell will not prevail against us, and He will make the powers of darkness disperse from among us. We all need blessings — protection.”

“The protection we need in this life comes from following prophets with faith and patience.”

Differences can unite

Elder Soares said being in Denver was like “returning home” because he had served as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy with the responsibility to preside over the North America Central area prior to being called as an Apostle.

He recognized the different cultures, circumstances and locations that many in the audience came from and encouraged them to not allow those differences to divide them. 

“Having cultural differences among us is wonderful. If everything outside was blue, that would be boring. ... Differences can unite us,” he said. 

“Cultural differences don’t matter to God. We are all children of Heavenly Father and our differences can enrich our life experience and help us to have more empathy for one another.”

Prior to Elder Soares speaking, Elder Valenzuela spoke on the same topic. 

“Those who come here [to the United States and Canada], come to do a great work in the stakes where you serve. You have a lot to offer.”

Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela, General Authority Seventy, speaks in a devotional for the North America Central area of the Church on Friday, Dec. 5, 2022. | Screenshot from ChurchofJesusChrist.org

Elder Valenzuela said that members of the Church come and share their light with others through their examples and their abilities to share the gospel in their native languages. 

Elder Soares further noted that the reasons some come to these two countries vary on the surface but are the same in the end. 

“Sometimes we think we chose to come here,” Elder Soares said. “But have you thought about everything Elder Valenzuela said? … God guided us here for a reason.” 

“Why are you really here? It isn’t just to earn money or find a better life situation, but to bring to light something that others need,” he said. “Please, think about this. The truth is that you can bring the light of the gospel to others and bring the Lord’s eternal blessings in their life.”

Elder Valenzuela mentioned that when he was assigned to attend the recent temple dedication in Belem, Brazil, he began to study Portuguese to be able to communicate clearly with the members there. 

“All the children of God are welcome and valued in the kingdom of God,” he said. “All should hear the gospel in their own language.”

Regarding his own study efforts, Elder Valenzuela said he felt relief after being able to speak in Portuguese during his assignment. 

“I don’t know how I did it, but I did it,” he said. 

While living in the U.S. or Canada, Elder Valenzuela invited native Spanish speakers to put in the needed effort to speak the language of those they live around. 

“You have to work hard” in studying the language, he said.  

The King of the kingdom

Bishop Waddell also talked about maintaining focus on what is most important and not becoming distracted from eternal purpose and identity. 

Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, speaks in a devotional for the North America Central area of the Church on Friday, Dec. 5, 2022. | Screenshot from ChurchofJesusChrist.org

He said the mission home where he and his wife served in Barcelona, Spain, from 2006-2009 had a quote displayed from the late Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It said, “If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.”

Bishop Waddell said one way to choose the kingdom of God is to “choose the King of the kingdom.” 

“In the end, if you haven’t chosen Jesus Christ, it will not matter what you have chosen instead,” he said. 

Part of choosing the Savior is choosing to follow his prophet, Bishop Waddell said. And that includes returning physically to Church activity and Sunday worship now that COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted. 

“When the prophet says, ‘It’s time to return,’ it’s time to return,” he said. “We can’t stay home because we are more comfortable with it.”

Participating in the sacrament each week through the correct authority can be as meaningful to members of the Church today as touching the scars on the Savior’s hands and feet was to the Nephites when He appeared to them in the Book of Mormon, Bishop Waddell said. 

“The Savior’s sacrifice was infinite and infinitely individual to each of us.”

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