Transcript of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's address to the Salt Lake City Inner City Mission, given December 4, 2015.
The Pattern, the Path, and the Promise
My beloved brothers and sisters, my dear friends, it has become almost a negative cliché for speakers to say, “I’m pleased to be here, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to address you.”
However, please know of my tender feelings, that Harriet and I are very pleased to be here among beloved friends. I have looked forward to being with you, as you truly exemplify the spirit of this season every day of the year. It is a privilege to spend part of the Christmas season with you, who give so much of yourselves to bless those in need.
My wish would be that—instead of only me talking—I could listen to your experiences in which the Lord has worked through you and you have witnessed the transforming power of God’s love.
My beloved friends, dear associates in the Lord’s work, as I look out over this faithful group, I am deeply impressed with your willingness to serve at a time of life when many choose to simply sit back and enjoy leisure and rest. This year I turned 75, and I realized that in the Lord’s work we never retire. I am told that some of you are even in your 80s and that you are still serving with great dedication!
I bring you the greetings and love of President Thomas S. Monson. As I prepared my remarks, I noticed that you are serving in about the same geographic area where our dear prophet and president, Thomas S. Monson, served as a 22-year-old bishop. He often reminds us of those special days in his life.
President Thomas S. Monson carries tremendous responsibilities, and regardless of being 88 years of age, he still loves to serve God and fellowmen with all his heart, mind, and strength. All of his life, when he has seen those in need, especially the poor and needy, his heart has instantly reached out to them in deeply personal ways. So much of what he has done has gone unseen and unannounced, and it still does.
I am a personal witness that the Lord sustains President Thomas S. Monson in spite of his age. Brothers and sisters, you should hear President Monson pray for you. In turn, I assure you, he needs your prayers! All of us in our so-called “golden” years need the Lord’s help, but imagine the burden that President Monson carries! Those who work with him each day know how deeply President Monson is involved in every decision of major importance to the ongoing work of the Lord’s kingdom. His is the final decision on key matters.
Regarding one most recent example, I am a witness that the Lord directly inspired President Monson with respect to the calling of the three new members of the Quorum of the Twelve, as Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone had the responsibility to obtain the Lord’s will on this critical matter, and he did! That’s how the Lord is leading His Church, and it works wonderfully.
Of course, President Monson is 88 years of age. His walk is not as brisk anymore. He used to swim swiftly nearly every day; he can’t do this any longer. His short-term memory is not what it once was, and long work days are becoming tougher for him. I guess these things sound quite familiar to most of us who are advanced in age. And of course we who stand closest to our dear prophet love to help our dear friend and leader.
Fortunately, God is at the helm. The Lord’s divine system of Church government ensures that the Church is always in good and steady hands. The quorums of the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles are the Lord’s pattern for His Church.
Let me be clear: President Monson is God’s prophet on earth, and the Lord inspires him to lead us and build the Lord’s kingdom. I love and sustain our dear prophet, President Thomas S. Monson.
As I contemplate his life of service and the service that all of you are rendering at a more mature season in life, I’d like to share with you a message that is dear to me.
Today I would like to speak of a pattern, a path, and a promise the Lord has established.
When you search the scriptures and study the Lord’s dealings throughout all dispensations, you will see a consistent, common pattern. The Lord has always commanded His children to serve and to love Him and to seek the welfare of their brothers and sisters.[i] These two commandments become one, of course, because those who love God and strive to serve Him will also find themselves filled with concern for others—to use Jacob’s words, “weighed down with much … anxiety for the welfare of [their] souls.”[ii] They will certainly not be willing to sit by and watch their brothers and sisters perish.[iii]
Look at those rare societies that approached to becoming a people of Zion: from Enoch to Melchizedek to Alma, and on to those blessed disciples in the days following the Savior’s life, both in Jerusalem and on this continent, to the early Saints in the days of the Prophet Joseph. All Zion societies have three things in common: They are of one heart and mind, they dwell in righteousness, and there is no poor among them.[iv]
That last ingredient is such a common, fundamental element in these societies that we can rely on the fact that unless we care for one other—temporally as well as spiritually—we cannot please God, and it is impossible to become a people of Zion.
I would even say that we will not succeed if we only go through the motions of religiosity. We could cover the earth with members of the Church, put a meetinghouse on every corner, dot the land with temples, fill the earth with copies of the Book of Mormon, send missionaries to every country, and say millions of prayers. But if we neglect to grasp the core of the gospel message and fail to help those who suffer or turn away those who mourn, and if we do not remember to be charitable, we “are as [waste], which the refiners do cast out.”[v]
Indeed, as one ancient prophet put it, if we “turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of [our] substance to those who stand in need … if [we] do not any of these things, behold, [our prayers are hollow], and availeth [us] nothing, and [we] are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.”[vi]
We can only have hope of Zion with “every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.”[vii]
To put it simply, having charity and caring for one another is not simply a good idea. It is not simply one more item in a seemingly infinite list of things we ought to consider doing. It is at the core of the gospel—an indispensable, essential, foundational element. Without this transformational work of caring for our fellowmen, the Church is but a facade of the organization God intends for His people. Without charity and compassion we are a mere shadow of who we are meant to be—both as individuals and as a Church. Without charity and compassion, we are neglecting our heritage and endangering our promise as children of God. No matter the outward appearance of our righteousness, if we look the other way when others are suffering, we cannot be justified.
We “meet together oft”—yes, “to fast and to pray,” to teach and learn, but also “to speak one with another concerning the welfare of … souls.”[viii] This was true in the Nephites’ Zion-like society, and this is the work in which you are deeply engaged.
It should not surprise us that caring for the needy is such a central part of our faith. A century ago, President Joseph F. Smith reminded the Saints that “it has always been a cardinal teaching with the Latter-day Saints, that a religion that has not the power to save people temporally and make them prosperous and happy here, cannot be depended upon to save them spiritually, to exalt them in the life to come.”[ix]
Yes, this has been the pattern of our Father from the days of Adam until now. Those who love Him and strive to walk in the path of discipleship have this in common: they “remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple.”[x]
The Savior, of course, exemplified this pattern, for He walked among and loved the sick, the broken, the rejected.
He spent time among the poor, the unpopular, and the burdened. He knew that it was the sick, not the whole, who need a physician.[xi] He reached out to those who sorrowed and suffered.[xii] Matthew tells us that “his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.”[xiii]
He forsook the riches and honors of men and instead ministered to and healed those who were most in need.
President Brigham Young summed up this pattern in these words: “The Latter-day Saints have got to learn that the interest of their brethren is their own interest, or they never can be saved in the celestial kingdom of God.”[xiv]
Not only is this the pattern God has given to His children, it is also the path we must walk if we wish to please God.
We are called to follow the example of the Savior, and it is impossible to do so if we set aside our compassion and refuse to care for our fellowmen.
Jesus “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.”[xv] In Nazareth, the Savior announced His ministry and foreshadowed His work by saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.” Preaching the gospel was one part of His mission. He also came “to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised”[xvi]
If we are to be His disciples, to represent Him on earth, we must follow His path. When I look over this wonderful group of servants of the Lord, I know that we could fill the evening with stories of you doing precisely that.
Let me share just one such story with you.
Brother and Sister Misbach had recently moved to a small, quiet town to retire. They were comfortable. Content. But it wasn’t long before they felt a yearning to do something more to benefit others. They submitted their names to the Church and requested to serve as humanitarian missionaries. They were called to serve in Hyderabad, India.
But after they arrived, they began to feel discouraged and helpless. There was so much poverty, hunger, sickness, and desperation all around them. In spite of being surrounded by four million people in that city, they felt completely alone and lost.
There was so much to do. And where could they even start?
One day they heard about a school for blind children and went to visit. The furnishings were so sparse; children were crowded together in a tiny space. A rope led from the back door, across a vacant space, to an outside toilet.
The Misbachs did not know what to do or where to begin. Nothing in their lives had prepared them for anything like this.
But they decided to begin anyway.
With the help of the Church and in cooperation with the local government, they built six new indoor toilets.
They acquired braille typewriters.
Sister Misbach organized the children into a choir. They became so good that they entered a talent competition sponsored by a local TV station and won first, second, and third place.
Years later they went on their second mission, this time to Nepal. They discovered a leper hospital that had been founded by Mother Teresa but had since fallen into disrepair. The Misbachs bound up wounds and provided bandages, blankets, clothing, and baskets of fruits and other nourishing food. They brought in books for schools and water for villages. They trained teachers in English.
On their third mission, the Misbachs went to Thailand, where they helped the homeless, the elderly, and the street children in Bangkok.
Brother Misbach said, “We could have stayed home and been content, but we knew that we were needed so much more here. As a consequence, we feel much closer to Heavenly Father and to our Savior.”
Sister Misbach agreed. She said, “I wanted our children to understand more than their little world. I wanted them to understand better the example of the Savior and how He walked among the poor and ministered to them. And I wanted them to see that we did what the prophet of God wanted us to do.”
The Misbachs’ children wrote in a letter to them that they couldn’t stop talking to their friends and neighbors about their parent’s exemplary life in helping God’s children in many different places around the world.
While the inner city of Salt Lake may not be as exotic or remote as Hyderabad, Nepal, or Bangkok, the work you do is just as important to the Lord and to the people to whom you minister.
You are the hands of the Savior, ministering to God’s children.
You are angels of God to those you serve.
You are examples to your families, to me, and to all the world of what a disciple of Christ should do.
The following commentary describes the hearts of the people in the days of Alma the Younger: “And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.”[xvii]
The Apostle Paul summed up the entire law of Christ in five words: “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”[xviii] That is how we fulfill the law of Christ. It is how we fulfill all the law and the prophets, for “whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”[xix]
It is our love for God that kindles our love for those around us. This is the path of discipleship. It is the path God desires us to walk.
At the end of this path, there is a promise. You here are witnesses that the Lord blesses those who reach out to bless the lives of others.
President Gordon B. Hinckley once said:
"I commend most warmly those who with a compelling spirit of kindness reach out to those in distress, regardless of whom they might be, to help and assist, to feed and provide for, to nurture and to bless. As these extend mercy, I am confident that the God of heaven will bless them, and their posterity after them, with His own mercy. I am satisfied that these who impart so generously will not lack in their own store, but that there will be food on their tables and a roof over their heads. One cannot be merciful to others without receiving a harvest of mercy in return."[xx]
I’m sure each of you could testify that these words are certain.
Our beloved and Almighty God, who is aware of the fall of a sparrow, will surely smile upon an individual and a people who are full of charity and kindness. Surely, those who “lift up the hands which hang down”[xxi] will find that their own hands are lifted up in their time of need. Without a doubt, those who bring peace to others will find peace in their own hearts. The merciful will surely find mercy.
Sometimes we think that those we help are the ones who receive the greatest blessings, but I am not so sure. Something happens within us as we extend ourselves to others. We become more refined, more charitable, more humble. Our hearts become more receptive to the Spirit, and the windows of heaven can be opened to us.
You, your children, and your children’s children will be blessed because of the compassion you are showing while serving your mission.
But as you have experienced, the blessings do not all come at the end of the path. Often, the reward is in the doing. When asked why he was so faithful in the Church, one elderly brother replied, “I’m faithful because it feels good. It makes me feel right when I do right.”
I suspect that if I were to ask each one of you, you would affirm that the work itself is reward enough—that it helps you feel good, that it feels right when you do right. The scriptures tell us that as a result of our charitable service, our confidence in the presence of God will wax strong.[xxii]
Isn’t it wonderful that we are twice and thrice blessed for our righteous efforts?
Truly, our perfect Father in Heaven opens the windows of heaven and pours out a blessing to those who incline their hearts to Him and seek to bless their fellow men. In the Gospel of Luke, the Savior offers these words of hope: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.”[xxiii]
All I need to do is look into your eyes and see the Spirit shining in your faces to know that this is true.
I believe these promises hold true today, especially for those who give of themselves so that others may rise from despair to joy.
We have a beloved scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God … And if it so be that you should labor all your days … and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”[xxiv]
Now, this scripture is most often applied to those who are preaching the gospel—and for good reason. However, I wonder if it does not also apply to the temporal work of saving people by lifting them up, freeing them from pain, delivering them from captivity, bringing joy and hope into their lives.
I believe it does, because there is no better way to preach the gospel.
And how great will be your joy for the blessed and hallowed work you do during your mission experience.
The work you are doing follows the pattern that God has ordained for His Saints from the foundation of the world. As you go about this work, you are walking in the path of discipleship. As you give of yourself to others, surely you will reap the blessings promised by our Heavenly Father.
This is the Lord’s way—not only to care for and lift up those in need, but to refine ourselves in the process.
This is the pattern, the path, and the promise that has existed since the dawn of the world.
My dear friends, my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, I feel impressed to bestow upon you an Apostolic blessing.
I bless you to know that the Lord knows and loves you.
He knows your hearts and is pleased with your sacrifice.
He smiles upon you.
He will uphold you and prepare the way for you.
He will soften hearts and open doors. He will give you wisdom in your moment of need to transform lives and sway decisions. He will send His angels before you. And with the help of heaven, your talents will be multiplied.
Because you have given of yourself to others, I bless you to know that you are in the hands of the Lord. As you lift those around you, the Lord God, the Creator of the Universe, will lift you up. He will place within you a peace that surpasses understanding.
He will bless you and your loved ones in the hour of need.
He will spark in your soul a testimony that will shine brightly within you, and others will look upon you and know that this is what it means to be blessed of God.
My beloved friends, I admire you, I love you. I am grateful for who you are and what you do.
May you, during this Christmas season, feel the special warmth and blessings that come from following the example of the Savior. This is my prayer and blessing for you, and for your loved ones, in the sacred name of our Redeemer and Master, in the name of Jesus the Christ, amen.
[i] See 2 Nephi 1:25.
[ii] See Jacob 2:3.
[iii] In this we emulate God, who is “not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9).
[iv] See Moses 7:18–19.
[v] Alma 34:29; see also Matthew 25:31–46.
[vi] Alma 34:28.
[vii] Doctrine and Covenants 82:19.
[viii] Moroni 6:5.
[ix] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith (1998), 164.
[x] Doctrine and Covenants 52:40.
[xi] See Matthew 9:10–12; Luke 5:31.
[xii] See Luke 6:20–21.
[xiii] Matthew 4:24.
[xiv] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young (1997), 217.
[xv] Matthew 8:17.
[xvi] Luke 4:18.
[xvii] Alma 1:30.
[xviii] Galatians 6:2.
[xix] 1 John 3:17.
[xx] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Blessed Are the Merciful,” Ensign, May 1990, 70.
[xxi] Doctrine and Covenants 81:5.
[xxii] See D&C 121:45.
[xxiii] Luke 6:38.
[xxiv] Doctrine and Covenants 18:10, 15–16.