As a 20-year-old missionary serving in Alabama only a year after he was baptized, Elder Peter M. Johnson felt confused when he learned of some of the Church’s former policies and practices.
“This lack of understanding led to self-doubts and worries,” the General Authority Seventy said at a Brigham Young University–Idaho devotional broadcast remotely from Salt Lake City, Utah, on Tuesday, May 12. “As a result, I was resisting to become the kind of missionary the Lord needed in Alabama because I was struggling to understand my place in the gospel plan.
“It was as if the Spirit of the Lord had left me, and I felt alone.”
During this period of confusion and frustration, he said, his companion ministered to him by telling him nightly, “Elder Johnson, I love you.” Eventually, these words softened the young Elder Johnson’s heart, and he knelt to pray out loud.
Though he had never read or studied these verses, Doctrine and Covenants 6:21-23 came to his mind: “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the same that came unto mine own, and mine own received me not. I am the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?”
This scripture reminded him of the joyful feelings he experienced a year earlier when he asked in prayer whether the Book of Mormon was true and whether Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
Because of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, families can be sealed together for eternity and individuals can be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, Elder Johnson said.
“These marvelous blessings of the Restoration are for you and for me.”
His wife, Sister Stephanie Johnson, recalled a family vacation in southern Utah, when their children convinced them to hike two slot canyons called Peek-a-boo Gulch and Spooky Gulch. These hikes required some difficult climbing, passing through a few gaps only 10 inches wide and descending a 10-foot drop.
“As we struggled to climb down this narrow portion of the canyon, we had to lean on each other, and at one point my son had to catch me as I slid down the canyon wall. Often in this adventure I questioned, ‘Is this the right way?’” Sister Johnson said.
“The only reassurance that we were going the right way was the footprints left in the dirt. Others had gone before us.”
Similarly, she noted, Jesus Christ has gone before and showed the way that all of God’s children should follow. He declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
The footprints they followed on their hike reminded Sister Johnson of “the footprints I have that guide, reassure, and help to light my way through the obstacles of life.” For her, those guiding footprints include the scriptures, living prophets and the Holy Ghost.
“When we seek to hear our Savior and come to know how He speaks to us, we begin to feel the reassurance that we are following His path and feel the peace that we are going the right way,” Sister Johnson taught.
Referencing Esther 4:14, Elder Johnson told BYU–Idaho students, “You have come to Earth for such a time despite the uncertainty you face with career choices, temporary failures at school or in relationships, or feelings of anxiety, depression or loneliness. And you have come to Earth for such a time when the fulness of the gospel has been restored.
“This is your time to receive the magnificent blessings of the Restoration, ‘especially in these times when the tempest is raging,’” he added, quoting President Russell M. Nelson.
Those who receive the restored gospel have a responsibility to “minister to the one” and invite others to hear the Savior.
Jesus taught parables that demonstrate the importance of seeking out the one who is lost. Luke 15 records the examples of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son.
“We will have to kneel down and, in a sense, carry the one upon our shoulders to lead him or her back to the covenant path so he or she can hear Him once again,” Elder Johnson said.
“There are times we will be like that good sister who employed all the resources at her disposal to find the one. We will have to light a candle, use a broom and call upon a Relief Society sister, elders quorum president, ministering brothers, ministering sisters and others to assist us as we seek to find and minister to the one. …
“And there are times we will be like that good father — regardless of what resources have been employed to find the one, it will not be enough. These are the times that are most difficult as we wait, hope and pray for that day when the one we love … comes unto himself or herself, repents, and finds the way back home. When that time comes, … we will run to embrace the one with love.”
Following the example of the good father, Elder Johnson added, individuals may also need to minister to “the one who never left.” Those who come to Church regularly but feel forgotten, who struggle with depression or anxiety, or who are active in the Church but not in the gospel may need special care.
“Those of you who are amazingly faithful and yet still feel alone, please know that you are loved and trusted and that all the Father has will be yours,” he said. “Continue to make and keep your covenants and seek to feel His loving arms because He is there, you are never alone, and He wants you to hear Him — even the voice of Jesus Christ.”
As Latter-day Saints strive to emulate the Savior’s care for others, they need to ask, “How will I know which role I will need to play as I seek to minister to the one in normal and natural ways?” Elder Johnson said. “The answer is that we will need to receive personal revelation.”
Inspired by President Nelson’s warning that “in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost,” Elder Johnson offered three ways to invite the guidance of the Spirit in efforts to minister to the one.
First, he declared, “everything we do should be motivated by our love for God.” As individuals strive to keep the first great commandment taught by Jesus Christ, they will continually repent and keep all of God’s commandments to show their love for Him.
“Repentance is not punishment; it is the process of changing and becoming more like Christ each and every day,” Elder Johnson taught.
“As we repent, we come to feel Christ’s perfect love, and, in a miraculous way, our love for Christ increases. ‘We love him, because he first loved us’” (1 John 4:19).
Second, scripture study and active participation in the Church’s “Come, Follow Me” curriculum will invite inspiration from the Holy Ghost.
Third, Latter-day Saints need to share the message of the Restoration of Jesus Christ’s gospel with those who are not members of the Church.
Quoting President Jean B. Bingham, Elder Johnson encouraged his remote listeners to consider how they can individualize their efforts to serve: “As you have the privilege to represent the Savior in your ministering efforts, ask yourself, ‘How can I share the light of the gospel with this individual or family? What is the Spirit inspiring me to do?’”
Last year, Elder Johnson and his family were able to share the message of the restored gospel with their friend Katrisse, a single mother of six children.
“As we discussed the gospel together, there was a defining moment when the missionaries asked Katrisse’s oldest son to give the closing prayer,” Elder Johnson recounted. “It was the first time Jay’Mon had prayed out loud to God. The love and gratitude that filled our home that day was almost overwhelming.”
After the meeting, as he took the missionaries home, Elder Johnson asked them what they saw as they looked at Katrisse and her children. The elders replied that they envisioned the family dressed in white for their baptism.
Then they asked Elder Johnson what he saw.
“Elders, I see Katrisse with her children being endowed with power in the house of the Lord, kneeling at the altar to be sealed for time and for all eternity,” he answered. “I see the children serving missions. I see the circle of poverty being broken as these wonderful children of the Lord receive college degrees and advanced training that enables them to pursue careers that provide financial stability. Oh, elders, I see so much more than a family being baptized.”
With this expanded vision, “the missionaries stopped teaching lessons and began to teach Katrisse the things she needed to know and to do to hear Him so that she could envision what the Lord had in store for her and her family,” Elder Johnson said.
“As we love God with all our heart, prayerfully study the scriptures and share the message of the Restoration, we will hear His voice and come to know Him as our Savior and Redeemer,” he testified. “We will receive the promised blessings pronounced by a prophet of God, even President Russell M. Nelson. He promised that we will be ‘blessed with additional power to deal with temptation, struggles and weakness.’ We will have ‘miracles in our marriages, family relationships, and in our daily work, and our … capacity to feel joy will increase even if turbulence increases in our lives.’
“My friends, I know these promised blessings will be ours as we seek to hear Him, minister to the one in normal and natural ways, and invite others to receive the message of the Restoration.”