Elder Cook addresses Ukrainian Latter-day Saints: ‘We are aware of the incredible challenges you are facing’
Members can face tragedies and hardship with faith and confidence that there ‘is a bright future planned for each of us,’ said Elder Cook
Exactly 200 days after armed conflict erupted in Eastern Europe, Elder Quentin L. Cook promised Ukrainian Latter-day Saints that for those completely focused on the Savior, Jesus Christ, a brighter day will come.
“We are aware of the incredible challenges you are facing,” said Elder Cook, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Speaking during a member devotional originating in Riga, Latvia, and broadcast to Ukraine on Sunday, Sept. 11, Elder Cook said among the most frequently asked questions of Church leaders are: “Why does a just God allow bad things to happen, especially to good people?” and “Why are those who are righteous and in the Lord’s service not immune from such tragedies?”
Elder Cook said while Church leaders do not know all the answers, they do know important principles that allow God’s children to face tragedies “with faith and confidence that there is a bright future planned for each of us.”
Elder Cook’s message — given on the day that also marked the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks in the United States — was also broadcast to Moldova as well as the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In addition to Elder Cook, Sister Mary Cook and Elder Kyrylo Pokhylko, an Area Seventy, also addressed the members.
In his remarks, titled “The Father’s Plan,” Elder Cook noted that one year before The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery what is now section 6 of the Doctrine and Covenants — sacred scripture that contains counsel for difficult times.
The verses remind the Lord’s people to “fear not,” “look unto me in every thought,” and to be faithful and keep the commandments “and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:34-37).
“Clearly, our heavenly destiny is not impacted when we suffer adversity,” said Elder Cook.
Speaking to any who are dealing with the reality of the conflict, Elder Cook said that while their situation is “unique and extremely challenging,” there are examples all over the world of trials and tribulations. “We are moved in our souls by media images of death, acute suffering and despair,” he said.
Unfortunately, he added, “your situation is an exceptional example of tragedies that are very personal. But tragedies do occur in this life across the world. A son or daughter dies early in life or falls victim to a devastating disease. A loving parent’s life is taken because of a thoughtless act or violence.
“Whenever tragedy occurs, we mourn and strive to bear one another’s burdens,” he continued. “We lament the things that will not be accomplished and the songs that will not be sung.”
Elder Cook shared three important principles that can sustain Latter-day Saints during times of trial and despair:
“First, we have a Father in Heaven who knows and loves us personally and understands our suffering perfectly.
“Second, His Son Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, whose Atonement not only provides for salvation and exaltation, but will compensate for all the unfairness of life.
“Third, the Father’s plan of happiness for His children includes not only a premortal and mortal life, but also an eternal life as well, including a great and glorious reunion with those we have lost. All wrongs will be righted, and we will see with perfect clarity and faultless perspective and understanding.”
Those who do not have knowledge, understanding or faith in the Father’s plan, may not be able to view mortality with perspective, he said. “Church leaders have compared this perspective with someone walking into the middle of a three-act play,” explained Elder Cook. “Those without knowledge of the Father’s plan do not understand what happened in the first act or the pre-mortal existence and the purposes established there; nor do they understand the clarification and resolution that come in the third act which is the glorious fulfillment of the Father’s plan.
“Many do not appreciate that under His loving and comprehensive plan those who appear to be disadvantaged, through no fault of their own, are not ultimately penalized.”
The scriptures are clear, said Elder Cook. “Those who are righteous, follow the Savior and keep His commandments will be blessed.”
He counseled members to focus on three areas that promote righteousness.
- Immerse yourselves in the home-centered, Church-supported curriculum.
- Honor the Sabbath in your homes.
- Focus your goals on the temple.
“We know how you have loved attending the Kiev temple,” he said. “We are hopeful that we will be able to reopen the Kyiv temple in the near future.”
Elder Cook said President Russell M. Nelson commenced his service as leader of the Church by addressing members from the Salt Lake Temple and asking them to begin with the end in mind. He “made it clear that the ordinances of the temple and the covenant pathway should be our primary goal. He has counseled us to gather scattered Israel on both sides of the veil.”
Because of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, Elder Cook said, “we understand the purpose of life, the Father’s plan of salvation for His children, the Savior’s redemptive sacrifice and the central role of families in the organization of heaven.
“It is my humble supplication that we dedicate and rededicate our lives to serving God and His children — on both sides of the veil.”
Seven Ukrainian full-time missionaries serving in Ukraine participated in the devotional, as well as six Ukrainian missionaries currently serving in the Baltic Mission. During the devotional, the later group performed a beautiful musical number, “Peace in Christ.”
Sister Cook said “as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we know the Lord is mindful of His people no matter what circumstances they find themselves in.”
“We rely on the Lord Jesus Christ and his help and we are ministered to by the Holy Ghost. What a beautiful gift we have been given at baptism.”
She asked members to let their light shine.
“We can let our light so shine. I testify that we are blessed to be engaged in the greatest cause of all — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
If members worship and serve the Lord, love the Savior and appreciate His atoning sacrifice, and keep the commandments and repent daily, “we will have the Lord’s peace with us,” she concluded.