True Greatness

What is greatness? A quick search on the Internet can give you several definitions. Webster’s Dictionary defines great as “markedly superior in character or quality.” Another online dictionary site defined greatness as being larger than ordinary size or ability, or being higher in degree or importance.

But what is true greatness? Ezra Taft Benson said, “The only true test of greatness is how close a life can come to being like that of the Master, Jesus Christ.” A very similar thought was shared by Howard W. Hunter in Chapter 11, when he said that true greatness “is the thousands of little deeds and tasks of service and sacrifice that constitute the giving, or losing, of one’s life for others and for the Lord.” Using these definition of true greatness, think of all the truly great people you know!

The spouse who sees in you what you cannot seem to see in yourself.

The incredible single mom, who has such a heavy load to bear. And her family and friends who help bear that load with her.

Those who give so much of themselves to their Church callings – the bishop, Primary teacher, Elders Quorum president, early morning seminary teacher, Young Women leader.

Or the husband who lovingly takes care of his wife whose health is failing.

Neighbors who are watching out for each other.

The friend who instinctively knows just when you need her (or him).

The parent who loves even the most wandering child.

And what about those who have put their pasts behind them and are making better futures for those they love.

President Hunter had his own list. His include, “those of you who quietly and consistently do the things you ought to do. I am talking about those who are always there and always willing. I am referring to the uncommon valor of the mother who, hour after hour, day and night, stays with and cares for a sick child while her husband is at work or in school. I am including those who volunteer to give blood or to work with the elderly. I am thinking about those of you who faithfully fulfill your priesthood and church responsibilities and of the students who write home regularly to thank their parents for their love and support. I am also talking about those who instill in others faith and a desire to live the gospel—those who actively work to build and mold the lives of others physically, socially, and spiritually. I am referring to those who are honest and kind and hardworking in their daily tasks, but who are also servants of the Master and shepherds of his sheep.”

These are the people who would never think they are examples of true greatness – but they are! Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “We often don’t know the reach of a simple act of kindness.”1

President Hunter taught, ” To do one’s best in the face of the commonplace struggles of life—and possibly in the face of failure—and to continue to endure and to persevere in the ongoing difficulties of life when those struggles and tasks contribute to others’ progress and happiness and one’s own eternal salvation—this is true greatness.”

Struggles, failure, ongoing difficulties. While those words may sound a little grim – okay, maybe a lot grim – they are real life. And what I love about that quote is President Hunter is telling us that it is especially while we are going through the hard times that we are helping other people along their often bumpy road of life. And to help us keep an eternal perspective, he reminds us that “realizing who we are and what we may become assures us that with God nothing is really impossible.”

Joseph B. Wirthlin taught, “Every one of us has potential we can scarcely imagine. There is within each of us a divine spark of greatness. Who knows of what we are capable if we only try?”1

How very blessed I am to have such incredible people in my life who have kept trying especially when it was hard, who thought of others before themselves, who put God first, and who helped shape my life and my children’s lives. Most of these wonderful people the world would never consider great, but to me they are the epitome of true greatness.

I love this quote by President Hunter, which has a very special meaning today since it is Mother’s Day:

“Let us remember that doing the things that have been ordained by God to be important and needful and necessary, even though the world may view them as unimportant and insignificant, will eventually lead to true greatness.”


1.  The Abundant Life  – Joseph B. Wirthlin


“Life—every life—has a full share of ups and downs. Indeed, we see many joys and sorrows in the world, many changed plans and new directions, many blessings that do not always look or feel like blessings, and much that humbles us and improves our patience and our faith.” That quote is found in Chapter 3 of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter. President Hunter taught often about adversity and the need for hope and encouragement as we journey through life. The lesson comes from four such talks – three from general conferences and one from a CES Fireside. Links to those talks are at the bottom of the page.

I remember well the first time I saw the Mormon Message entitled “The Refiner’s Fire.” (The link is below.) I don’t think any of us can truly anticipate how hard life can be at times. However, the strength this sweet sister finds through the Atonement of Jesus Christ is inspiring! It is the lesson we are all here to learn. That video epitomizes President Hunter’s reminder that in times of trouble, “Jesus Christ possesses the power to ease our burdens and lighten our loads.”

That quote also brought Elder David A. Bednar’s talk from April 2014 LDS General Conference to mind. He told the story of a friend who went into the mountains to cut and haul firewood. There was already some snow in the mountains. However, the farther up the mountain he got, the deeper the snow got. Having recently purchased his truck, this man was confident he could handle the snow and so he kept driving. Unfortunately he went too far and got stuck. The harder he tried to get out the more his wheels spun. He didn’t really know what to do or how he would get out. So he got out of his truck and went to cut the firewood he had come for. He completely filled the back of his truck with a heavy load of wood. He decided to try one more time to get out of the snow. Slowly the truck inched its way out and he was finally back on the road. Elder Bednar taught us this lesson about his friend, the truck and the load of firewood:

“For my friend, the load of wood provided life-saving traction. The empty truck could not move through the snow, even equipped with four-wheel drive. A heavy load was necessary to produce traction.

“It was the load. It was the load that provided the traction that enabled my friend to get unstuck, to get back on the road, to press forward, and to return to his family.

“The unique burdens in each of our lives help us to rely upon the merits, mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah (see 2 Nephi 2:8). I testify and promise the Savior will help us to bear up our burdens with ease (see Mosiah 24:15). As we are yoked with Him through sacred covenants and receive the enabling power of His Atonement in our lives, we increasingly will seek to understand and live according to His will. We also will pray for the strength to learn from, change, or accept our circumstances rather than praying relentlessly for God to change our circumstances according to our will. We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14). We will be blessed with spiritual traction.”

By yoking ourselves to the Savior, President Hunter tells us we will have “the power and peace of standing side by side with a God that will provide the support, balance, and the strength to meet our challenges and endure our tasks here in the hardpan field of mortality.” And Elder Bednar tells us “we are not and never need be alone. We can press forward in our daily lives with heavenly help. Through the Savior’s Atonement we can receive capacity and strength beyond our own.”

Helping us learn to keep perspective through our trials, President Hunter teaches us:

“When the difficulties of mortality humble us and refine us and teach us and bless us, they can be powerful instruments in the hands of God to make us better people, to make us more grateful, more loving, and more considerate of other people in their own times of difficulty.

“We all have difficult moments, but even in the most severe of times, those problems were never intended to do anything but bless the righteous and help those who are less righteous move toward repentance.”

He also reminds us that “God knows what we do not know and sees what we do not see.” Adversity is a necessary part of life. It is part of God’s plan. He knows what is best for us and what will help us become who He wants us to be. Trust in His plan will bring peace during times of trial. Brigham Young said, “Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation.”

I really like how Orson F. Whitney said the same thing, with even greater depth:

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”

Perhaps the most beautiful talk I have read about trusting God and relying on the Atonement of Jesus Christ while enduring adversity was the one given by Richard G. Scott the general conference following his wife’s death. He taught that adversity is evidence that the Lord feels we are prepared to grow and that those experiences stimulate growth, understanding and compassion which will benefit us eternally. He said, “To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.” I love his tender reminder:

“Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love.”

The entire talk is definitely worth reading!

President Hunter encouraged us to “have faith and hope, two of the great fundamental virtues of any discipleship of Christ” and that “if our faith and hope are anchored in Christ, in his teachings, commandments, and promises, then we are able to count on something truly remarkable.” He then leaves us this powerful promise:

“I promise you in the name of the Lord whose servant I am that God will always protect and care for his people. We will have our difficulties the way every generation and people have had difficulties. But with the gospel of Jesus Christ, you have every hope and promise and reassurance. The Lord has power over his Saints and will always prepare places of peace, defense, and safety for his people. When we have faith in God we can hope for a better world—for us personally, and for all mankind.”

Evidence of the Lord’s tender care during our afflictions can be readily found in the scriptures. Here are just a few:

1 Nephi 20:10 – I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

1 Nephi 21:13 – The Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.

2 Nephi 4: 20 – My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions.

Jacob 3:1 – He will console you in our afflictions, and he will plead your cause.

Alma 26:27 – Bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.

Alma 36:3 – I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.

D&C 24:1 – I have lifted thee up out of thine afflictions, and have counseled thee.

D&C 24:8 – Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.

D&C 98:3 – All things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good.

D&C 121:7 & 8 – Peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

As I look back on some of the hardest times in my life, I can see that was when my testimony grew the most. I could not have learned the things I have learned in any other way. Relying on the Savior, I had the strength to bear hard things. Holding fast to the covenants I have made, I found great hope. Faith to submit my will to the Father’s gave me peace. As I continue to align my will with His, I know I will be blessed with the strength, hope and peace I need to endure what is yet to come.

Additional Resources:

God Will Have a Tried People – Howard W. Hunter

The Opening and Closing of Doors – Howard W. Hunter

Come Unto Me – Howard W. Hunter

An Anchor to the Souls of Men – Howard W. Hunter

The Refiner’s Fire – Mormon Message

Finding a Safe Harbor – Joseph B. Wirthlin

Adversity – Henry B. Eyring

Bearing Our Burdens with Hope – Mormon Message

Jesus Christ is the light

The Wondrous Gift

“The life of the Savior, the meaning of Christmas and how they are still relevant today.” That was the topic I was given to speak on this past Sunday. What a tender blessing it was to reflect on the many ways the Savior’s life, example and Atonement have blessed my life, especially at this special time of year when we sometimes get overwhelmed with the busyness of the season. I would like to share a portion of my talk with you. The words in the third verse of the Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” are so beautiful. They tell of the most beautiful gift that has ever been given to this world and remind us that it is up to each of us to let Him in:

“How silently, how silently

The wondrous gift is giv’n!

So God imparts to human hearts

The blessings of his heav’n.

No ear may hear his coming;

But in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive him, still

The dear Christ enters in.”

The wondrous gift our Heavenly Father gave us was His Son, Jesus Christ. While the ultimate gift is the Atonement, the Savior’s life is a most wondrous gift. The wondrous gift of the Savior often comes silently and personally to us. “Where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.” I love the reference to meek souls. Meekness is one of the Savior’s attributes. As soon as we are meek enough, He will enter. And He is always there, waiting for us to let Him in.

We are all familiar with the Savior’s interaction with the rich young man who asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. The Savior told him that he needed to obey the commandments, to which the young man replied that he had done so all his life. We can each put ourselves in this young man’s place as we read the piercing words the Savior said next, found in Luke 18:22:

22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

In essence, the Savior told him to give up what was holding him back – his riches. What is our “one thing” that is holding us back?

Continuing in verse 23:

23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. (Insert your own adjective here)

24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches (or stubbornness or pride or whatever our “one thing” is) enter into the kingdom of God!

Those who were listening then questioned the Savior about who could be saved. I love His response!

27 And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

How grateful I am that the Savior taught how not only eternal life is possible but also happiness in this often very difficult life. It is possible by heeding those simple yet profound words, “Come, follow me.” A similar invitation found in Book of Mormon in 3 Nephi 27:27, “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.”

Russell M. Nelson, in the 2013 Christmas Devotional said, “As our great Exemplar, Jesus taught us how to live, to love, and to learn. He taught us how to pray, to forgive, and endure to the end. He taught us how to care about others more than we care about ourselves. He taught us about mercy and kindness—making real changes in our lives through His power. He taught us how to find peace of heart and mind. One day, we will stand before Him as our just Judge and merciful Master. These sacred responsibilities of the Lord cause us to adore Him as our personal and perennial Prince of Peace.”

His power is what makes it possible for us to change our hearts and our ways.

The Savior’s power was evident in the miracles He performed. When He lived on the earth, He healed the sick, the lame, the blind, the deaf. He offers to each of us those very same miracles today. When I have come to Him in faith, He has healed me when I have been spiritually sick, spiritually lame, spiritually blind, spiritually deaf. I love the promise that even if we are spiritually dead, He can heal us.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said it like this, “However many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.”

I hope that every day of my life the Savior’s life and love have a great impact on me! There have been several occasions when I could not have survived without Him.

In this year’s Christmas Devotional, Elder David A. Bednar declared, “In every season of our lives, in all of the circumstances we may encounter, and in each challenge we may face, Jesus Christ is the light that dispels fear, provides assurance and direction, and engenders enduring peace and joy.”

That is why the life of the Savior and the meaning of Christmas are still relevant today.

I am so grateful for the most wondrous gift of the Savior, Jesus Christ!

Merry Christmas!

A Christ-Centered Life

Imagine what the world would be like if we were all striving to be like Jesus Christ. I love the beautiful reminder in one of the Primary songs. It says, “I’m trying to be like Jesus. I’m following in His ways. I’m trying to love as He did, in all I do and say.” Ezra Taft Benson gave us this advice, “If we would truly seek to be more like our Savior and Master, then learning to love as He loves should be our highest goal.” That quote comes from Teachings of the Presidents of the Church – Ezra Taft Benson, Lesson 24. This lesson is the perfect way to finish our study of this extraordinary man! His life was one of love and devotion to the Savior. The lesson quotes from his April 1984 LDS General Conference, when he said:

“I testify to you that there is no greater, more thrilling, and more soul-ennobling challenge than to try to learn of Christ and walk in His steps. Our model, Jesus Christ, walked this earth as ‘the Exemplar.’  …

‘What would Jesus do?’ or ‘What would He have me do?’ are the paramount personal questions of this life. Walking in His way is the greatest achievement of life. That man or woman is most truly successful whose life most closely parallels that of the Master.”

Some of the most beautiful scriptures are found in Chapter 7 of Moroni in the Book of Mormon. They teach:

  45  And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

 46  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

 47  But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

 48  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.”

Verses 45-47 plainly teach us how we should live. Verse 48 reminds us that we cannot do it alone.  We must pray to our Father and ask for His help. Charity is a gift of the Spirit. We must ask for His help in obtaining that gift.

I love the last part of verse 48. Two things strike me in that sentence – we shall be like Him and we shall see Him as He is. The only way to become like the Savior is to try every day to do the things He would do. And to see Him as He is will only be possible if we know Him.

President Benson reminds us that becoming Christlike is a lifelong pursuit. He said:

“To become as He is, we must have Him on our mind—constantly in our thoughts.  . . .  If thoughts make us what we are, and we are to be like Christ, then we must think Christlike thoughts.

Let our personal lives, our homes, and our work performance reflect our Christlike character. So live that others will say about you, ‘There is a true Christian!’

Yes, we believe in Jesus Christ, but more—we look to Him, we trust Him and strive to emulate His attributes.

Christ is our ideal. He is our exemplar. … The best measure of true greatness is how Christlike we are.

To be like the Savior—what a challenge for any person!”

In October 2015 LDS General Conference, Elder Richard J. Maynes compared centering our lives on Christ with a potter who must have the clay perfectly centered on the wheel.  He said:

“The world in which we live is similar to the potter’s spinning wheel, and the speed of that wheel is increasing. Like the clay on the potter’s wheel, we must be centered as well. Our core, the center of our lives, must be Jesus Christ and His gospel. Living a Christ-centered life means we learn about Jesus Christ and His gospel and then we follow His example and keep His commandments with exactness.

“If our lives are centered in Jesus Christ, He can successfully mold us into who we need to be in order to return to His and Heavenly Father’s presence in the celestial kingdom. The joy we experience in this life will be in direct proportion to how well our lives are centered on the teachings, example, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”

We were also reminded in general conference that we don’t have to be perfect but that we need to be good and getting better. 

Neal A. Maxwell said it like this, “Once our direction is correct, we can give attention to pace.” (The Christ-Centered Life.)

Elder Maxwell,  from that same article, said, “To speak of personal progress and drawing closer to the Savior requires our trusting not only in the Lord’s plan for all mankind but also trusting in his unfolding and particularized plan for each of us. Drawing ever closer to the Lord, therefore, means much more than merely acknowledging that He is in charge, though that is a beginning. Believers who remain underinvolved with Him are, in a sense, living without Him in the world.

“In spite of what the world declares, there is still only one way to find ourselves and that is by losing our lives for the sake of the Savior and the gospel.”

As we center our lives on the Savior and keep our focus firmly fixed on Him, we will see more clearly His hand in our lives.  He loves us and wants us to succeed.  If we pause from our busy lives, it is actually quite easy to see how much He loves us individually.

 I cannot think of a better way to show our love for the Savior, especially at this special time of year, than to accept this challenge from President Benson, “May we all have the moral courage from this moment forward to more fully strive each day to think on Christ, learn of Him, walk in His steps, and do what He would have us do.”

Sacrifice Brings Heaven’s Blessings

Two years ago, we had the opportunity to go to Martin’s Cove and the historical sites in Wyoming and Utah that were significant along the Mormon Pioneer Trail. It was a life changing experience for me! It was a long trip, even in an air-conditioned, comfortable car! We hiked through several of the areas, drove to others, ate at restaurants and slept in nice, comfortable hotel rooms. They were exhausting, adventure-filled days. They were also days filled with of feelings of overwhelming sacredness.  It was incredible to walk some of the places the pioneers had walked, to read their testimonies and to hear their stories, some even about my own ancestors. Without actually walking the trails and seeing the difficult conditions (and I saw it on a beautiful summer day), it is nearly impossible to even imagine what the early Mormon pioneers went through to get to the Salt Lake Valley. So even though I have gained an appreciation, it is nowhere near an understanding!  

A very sacred experience happened when we went to Church there on Sunday. My husband and son were asked to bless the sacrament. Words are inadequate to express my feelings. As I listened to the words of each prayer, tears rolled down my cheeks. I found a deeper meaning to those words as I listened to them that day and thought how the pioneers must have heard those same words on that same spot so many years ago. As we take the sacrament, we promise to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and always remember Him, and keep His commandments so that we can have His Spirit to be with us. That day I thought of all that the pioneers had endured because they had truly taken His name upon them and remembered Him and kept His commandments. And it was because they had His Spirit with them that they had been able to endure all they had been through and could continue to endure all that was still ahead. I thought of their sacrifice and their devotion. I remember wondering if the way I was living my life was evidence that I truly appreciated that sacrifice and devotion. Would they be as proud to be my relative as I was to be theirs? Am I as willing to take the Savior’s name and always remember Him and keep His commandments as they were? Do I allow His Spirit to guide me and sustain me like they did?

There are so many lessons we can learn from the pioneers! They knew sacrifice! They also knew that they would be blessed for their sacrifice. There are incredible stories that tell of the miracles. I believe that, while they too experienced heaven’s blessings, their sacrifices have brought us heaven’s blessings! I have heard stories about the pioneers all my life. However, I didn’t understand or appreciate what they went through – for us – before I went to Martin’s Cove. The things I heard, saw and felt have deepened my faith and filled my heart with gratitude for the blessings I have because of the sacrifices of others. I am so grateful for that experience. I love the story below about Francis Webster.  It had such a profound impact on me when I first heard it! And it still does. It is a sweet reminder to me that those times which are the hardest to bear are never really borne alone! If we put our trust in our Heavenly Father, those will be the refining times when we are being molded into the person He wants us to become. 

In 1856, Francis and Betsy Webster had enough money to travel to Utah in a wagon, but they donated their money to the Perpetual Emigrating Fund. Their donation allowed an additional nine individuals to travel by handcart. Brother and Sister Webster, who were expecting a baby, traveled to Salt Lake City with the Martin handcart company and suffered along with the rest of the company.

Years later, as Brother Webster sat in a Sunday School class, he listened to some Church members criticize Church leaders for the handcart tragedy. Unable to constrain himself, he arose and testified of the blessings of being in the Martin handcart company:

“I ask you to stop this criticism for you are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the handcart company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it. … We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation. But did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? … Everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities [extreme needs].

“I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I said I can go only that far and there I must give up for I cannot pull my load through it. I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.

“Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor one moment of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come to Zion in the Martin Handcart Company” (in William R. Palmer, “Pioneers of Southern Utah,” The Instructor, May 1944, 217–18).

The second quote comes from Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s First Presidency message, All is Well, in this month’s Ensign. It is a great reminder of the optimism that the pioneers exhibited. The title of President Uchtdorf’s article comes from the song “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” I love the second verse.  It says:

“Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? ‘Tis not so; all is right. Why should we think to earn a great reward If we now shun the fight? Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. Our God will never us forsake; And soon we’ll have this tale to tell – All is well! All is well!” I’ve always told my kids that life is hard – and it’s supposed to be! That is exactly what I read in that second verse! Don’t whine and think life is hard. It is! But it is supposed to be! We will never earn “a great reward” if we aren’t willing to work hard and fight for it. Adjust your attitude! Be strong! Know that God will never leave you alone! And no matter what, because of our Savior, “All is well!”

Instead of just being a day filled with parades, parties and fireworks, Pioneer Day is now a holy day and not just a holiday. It is a day to express how truly proud I am of my heritage and how thankful I am for ancestors who gave so much so I can have so much!

Freedom Through Forgiveness

It is inspiring to see how some people handle adversity. A couple of weeks ago, there was a senseless act of violence that occurred in a church in South Carolina. Nine people who had come to worship God were murdered by a very disturbed young man. He calculatingly killed people who he considered beneath him. What a horrible act of racism and bigotry! As horrible and horrific as that day was, the days that followed were miraculously filled with faith and forgiveness. I was brought to tears as I heard the family members express their forgiveness to the very person who had killed their loved ones. What an incredible lesson they taught all of us! Their love of God allowed them to forgive. The young man was emotionless to the feelings and words of these forgiving followers of Christ. Of course he was emotionless! He was full of hate! That is precisely what drove him to do what he did.  While it may be true that their offering of forgiveness did nothing for him, it definitely did do something for them! What these God-fearing people understand is that forgiveness frees from hate. Hatred had destroyed this young man, but it would not destroy them!

The picture quote comes from a talk given by President James E. Faust in the April 2007 LDS General Conference. His talk has several inspirational stories of forgiveness and is definitely worth reading. Here is the link to that talk. The common thread in each of the stories (and also in the recent event in South Carolina) is they are all religious people, whose love of God taught them to forgive. There is such an important place in our society for religious freedom! It is one of the freedoms I cherish most! In the April 2015 LDS General Conference, Elder Robert D. Hales gave four cornerstones of religious freedom that we must rely upon and protect. They are:

    – Freedom to believe

    – Freedom to share our faith and our beliefs with others

    – Freedom to form a religious organization, a church, to worship peacefully with others

    – Freedom to live our faith—free exercise of faith not just in the home and chapel but also in public places

Here is the link to his entire talk. 

July 4th is Saturday, a day we celebrate our nation’s freedom. We have seen far too much hatred in our society lately. While it is true we have different beliefs, backgrounds, hertiages and religions, we must be respectful of those differences if America is going to remain a truly free country. We must never forget this nation was founded “under God.” The tragedy in South Carolina reminds us that some people use their freedom for good and others use it for evil. Hopefully we all learned a lesson or two from those who used their freedom for good! As we will undoubtedly have many opportunities this weekend to see our beautiful flag, remember what it stands for! Let us have the courage to defend the freedoms that we hold so dear!