Never has the need to hear the voice of the Shepherd been greater, Sunday School president tells BYU students

On Aug. 8, 1844, six months after Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum had been martyred, thousands of Latter-day Saints gathered just east of the Nauvoo Temple. With mob violence threatening and with no precedent of how to replace their beloved leader, the Saints were anxious and uncertain. 

After Sidney Rigdon proposed that he led the Church as its “guardian,” Brigham Young, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, addressed the assembly. 

At least 95 people recorded accounts of what happened next, including Emily Smith Hoyt, 37; George Romney, 12; and Wilford Woodruff, 37. All bore witness in some form that Brigham Young “had the voice of Joseph, and it was the voice of the shepherd.”

“That afternoon, the influence of the Holy Ghost rested on the Saints,” said President Mark L. Pace, Sunday School general president, in recounting the events. “These were the true sheep of the true Shepherd, and they recognized His voice — it was the familiar voice of the Spirit.”

Speaking during a BYU campus devotional broadcast on March 16, President Pace said the need for members of the Church to hear the voice of the true Shepherd has never been greater. But “the influence of the Holy Ghost is available for us in our lives, every day,” he testified.

Those who received a witness of Brigham Young’s divine call were sustained as they followed his leadership to the valley of the Great Salt Lake, as they accepted mission calls around the world and as they carved out Zion in the Rocky Mountains, President Pace said.

“Their lives and their experiences might sound very different from yours, but they are not,” President Pace told students gathered in the Marriott Center and listening virtually. “These were Saints who recognized and followed the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and so are you. They were Saints of great faith, and so are you.” 

Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace speaks to BYU students for the weekly campus devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, March 16, 2021.
Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace speaks to BYU students for the weekly campus devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Credit: Alyssa Dahneke, BYU Photo

President Pace testified that the same spiritual power — a central blessing of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ — is available today. It is the same gift of the Holy Ghost.

Two and a half years after Joseph Smith died, he appeared to Brigham Young in a vision. Joseph counseled, “Tell the people to be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and follow it, and it [will] lead them just right.”

Years later, in 1893, President Wilford Woodruff had a vision where Brigham Young told him, “Seek always to have the Spirit of God, and it will direct you aright.”

“Isn’t it interesting that when these two great prophets, after having passed to the other side of the veil, had a chance to counsel their successors, both chose to emphasize the same message: ‘Keep the Spirit of the Lord’?” President Pace asked.

He then quoted President Russell M. Nelson during the April 2018 general conference, who said: “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost. … Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.”

From Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff to President Nelson, the message is the same, President Pace said, “Seek always to have the Spirit of God, and it will direct you aright” and “Do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

President Pace noted that although the format of Sunday School has changed over the years, its purpose has always remained the same: “To bless the Saints with the influence of the Holy Ghost.”

As individuals study the scriptures, with “Come, Follow Me,” as their guide, they can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, President Pace said.

Through his own scripture study, President Pace said he has learned that the scriptures help preserve the commandments of the Lord, today and into the future. “It is wisdom in the Lord that we carry the scriptures with us in our daily lives as we journey through our wilderness of mortality toward our heavenly home. It was a great blessing for Nephi and his family to have, read, and apply the scriptures. It is an equal blessing for us today.”

He has also come to understand that the Lord knows what is coming, including the rains and the floods of life. “He is preparing us ‘against these things.’ … A significant part of that preparation comes by way of our scripture study, with ‘Come, Follow Me’ as a guide,” he said.

Never in the history of the Earth have people had greater access to the scriptures, President Pace said. “It is a miracle. The Lord has provided this miracle because He knows the challenges we face in our day, and He wants us to receive the blessing of the influence of the Holy Ghost. He is our loving Shepherd, and He wants to lead us to ‘green pastures’ and ‘still waters,’ where He will restore our souls.”

Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace speaks to BYU students for the weekly campus devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, March 16, 2021.
Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace speaks to BYU students for the weekly campus devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Credit: Alyssa Dahneke, BYU Photo

Those blessings are found, President Pace continued, as individuals have personal experiences with the word of God and the Holy Ghost. “It occurs as each individual reads the scriptures and receives promptings from the Holy Ghost. I invite you to seek that experience in your personal scripture study. It will bless your life in a very meaningful way.”

He then shared two ways that that he hears the voice of the Good Shepherd. First, he encouraged listeners to read the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon. Second, he encouraged them to pray with a humble willingness to listen and act in faith.

“May you be blessed as you read the scriptures, with ‘Come, Follow Me’ as a guide. May the Book of Mormon be a daily blessing for you. May your prayers reflect a humble willingness to listen and then act in faith. May you rise up and follow the Lord’s prophet. As you do so, no matter what the future may bring, the Holy Ghost will be your comforter and guide on the covenant path throughout your life,” he promised.