On the 7 June the Europe Area Conference for northern Europe (the UK, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland) was Broadcast from Edinburgh, Scotland to 56 stakes and 4 districts. Elder Jeffrey R Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve presided, and the session was conducted by Elder Clifford T Herbertson of the Seventy. Elder Herbertson is Scottish. Also present were Elder and Sister Teixeira. Elder Teixeira is concluding his time as president of the Europe Area before heading to Brazil. Whilst conducting Elder Herbertson recognised the presence of the leaders and their wives (Sister Holland is convalescent, and was not present) by name, including his own wife Julie. There were 7 speakers. I appreciated hearing speakers local to the conference area. The programme follows.
1. Elder Clifford T Herbertson (area authority Seventy)
Elder Herbertson spoke about the Saviour’s concern for those he loved and who depended on Him, and especially His apostles, as he neared the end of His mortal ministry. He quoted from John:
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:” (John 15:26)
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:26-27)
The Saviour spoke to them about the important role of the Holy Ghost in remembering and teaching, promised that they would enjoy peace and reassurance. We can have those same blessings and assurance. Many need those blessings in times of trials and challenges that can feel too hard.
Our trials and challenges can include loss of a loved one, be they elderly parents or a young child. We can be blessed with comfort and assurance. He quoted President Monson speaking six months following the death of his wife Frances:
“Brothers and sisters, six months ago as we met together in our general conference, my sweet wife, Frances, lay in the hospital, having suffered a devastating fall just a few days earlier. In May, after weeks of valiantly struggling to overcome her injuries, she slipped into eternity. Her loss has been profound. … She was the love of my life, my trusted confidant, and my closest friend. To say that I miss her does not begin to convey the depth of my feelings.” (Thomas S Monson, General Conference October 2013)
None of us are spared pain and mourning. He then quoted President Monson’s expression of faith given the same address:
“Of utmost comfort to me during this tender time of parting have been my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the knowledge I have that my dear Frances lives still. I know that our separation is temporary. We were sealed in the house of God by one having authority to bind on earth and in heaven. I know that we will be reunited one day and will never again be separated. This is the knowledge that sustains me.” (Thomas S Monson, General Conference October 2013)
Elder Herbertson quoted from Matthew:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
We need to remember this promise when facing difficulties; that the Saviour took upon himself the pains of each of us. When we turn to Jesus Christ with faith and effort, we will be blessed with rest and relief from the challenges we face. We should also recognise and accept that we can provide rest to others with our empathy and service.
He shared an experience of his family. When Elder Herbertson was 15 years old his 18 year old brother was killed in a road accident. He was able to find peace through the Holy Ghost as he sought answers and comfort. His family was also comforted, not only by the Holy Ghost, but by the kind acts of service provided by other people. Elder Herbertson’s father worked as a salesman and was paid on commission only. The death of his son, had left the father distraught. He would appear to leave for work in the morning, but would spend the day sitting on a bench in a park crying. He had a friend who worked for the same company. During this period of mourning the friend entered half his own sales in the name of Elder Herbertson’s father, thus ensuring that he would still be paid. Bringing peace and comfort to others is an obligation of our discipleship. Quoting from Mosiah:
“…and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life— Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” (Mosiah 18:8-10)
We have the opportunity and responsibility. We can assist, often in small acts of service such as a note, a phone call, a compliment, or an expression of concern. We need to be “doers of the word” (James 1:22) and make a significant impact in the lives of others. We should be sensitive to situation, and identify how we can help. We never need to feel that we cannot give service. It applies to all of us. Whilst Elder Herbertson served as a Bishop he called a housebound sister as a member of the ward membership care committee; her task was to send birthday cards to all the ward members on behalf of the Bishopric. This simple service touched the lives of many, and in some cases was the only card they received. Sometimes we are the ones needing service. We should all turn to the Lord, and be willing to assist and serve others; “lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5). We can bring joy and happiness to others.
Christ loves and knows us. We need to use the sacrifice that the Saviour has made for us in our lives. Elder Herbertson quoted the following from a hymn:
“Lord, wilt thou fill my soul with peace,
That pain and sorrow there might cease?
Let songs of praise and of glory fill my ear,
And may thy holy spirit linger near.”
I loved this talk, unreservedly. It was a great opening to the conference.
2. Sister Julia Olsson (of the Gothenburg, Sweden stake)
When she was only 14 years old, Sister Olsson became concerned about how prepared she would be to share her testimony if called upon during a stake conference. Since then, she has tried to be prepared each stake conference. That preparation stands her in good stead now she is asked to speak in this meeting. She was born into a family who loved Christ and served God, who taught her well, following the admonition of King Benjamin:
“But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” (Mosiah 4:15)
Her parents were her heroes. As she grew older she noticed that others didn’t share her values. This was a hard balance as a teenager. The Young women programme reminded her who she was as a daughter of God, and also reminded her that her friends at school had that same worth and divine nature. She was able to build her testimony with the support of her leaders and her family.
Now she is married with a husband and children, and making traditions for her own children. She and her husband are the heroes of their own children. She asked can her children see that she “[feels] to sing the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26).
Being a mother is very hard work. She is more aware of the things that are happening in the world. In the words of Paul “that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim 3:1). One night everything felt too much for her; horrible news in the world, defending her choice to be at home with her children. She felt ill, was worried about her health, and was experiencing severe anxiety. Over time she came to a spiritual experience in which her fear was gone, and replaced by a feeling of peace. The reason for the change was a renewed faith in Jesus Christ. She quoted Alma:
“…they were encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction; but behold, he has brought them into his everlasting light, yea, into everlasting salvation; and they are encircled about with the matchless bounty of his love;” (Alma 26:15)
Apathy is not from God. “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Cast doubts and fears away. She quoted Elder Hales:
“As we look into the eyes of our children and grandchildren, we see the doubt and fear of our times. Wherever these precious ones go in the world, they hear about unemployment, poverty, war, immorality, and crime. They wonder, “How can we cope with these problems?”
“To find answers, they look back into our eyes and listen to our words. Do they hear us speaking faithfully and hopefully, despite the tribulations of our times?
“They need to see us continuing to pray and study the scriptures together, to hold family home evening and family councils, to serve faithfully in our Church callings, to attend the temple regularly, and to be obedient to our covenants. When they see our steadfastness in keeping the commandments, their fears will subside and their confidence in the Lord will increase.” (Robert D Hales, General Conference April 2003)
Sister Olsson bore her testimony, and said we can cast away our doubts and fears.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
[During the introduction to his later address, Elder Holland mentioned that Sister Olsson was the daughter of his dear friends Hans & Birgitte Mattsson, and held up a family photo in which she appeared age 4.]
I loved that Sister Olsson had recognised the worth and divine nature of her classmates, as well as of herself, and her emphasis on faith in Christ. Being told something of her background afterwards, did allow me to put other aspects of her talk, which appeared on the surface to be rather doom-laden, into perspective, and gave me greater appreciation for her speaking so positively about her parents.
3. President Allan D Freed (President of the Edinburgh, Scotland stake)
President Freed chose to speak about “The Rescue” opening his talk with Alma’s words:
“Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. I say unto you, unless this be the case, they must be cast off; and this I know, because I was like to be cast off. Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God. My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God.” (Mosiah 28:25-29)
This is a great description of rescue. Christ is the great rescuer. His light penetrates penetrates the darkest abyss.
President Freed reminded us that President Monson has emphasised following in the footsteps of Christ and rescuing our brothers and sisters since becoming president of the church.
“Since becoming President of the Church I have felt an increased urgency for us to be engaged in this rescue effort. As faithful members of the Church have reached out with love and understanding, many have returned to full activity and are enjoying added blessings in their lives. There is yet much to do in this regard, and I encourage all to continue to reach out to rescue.” (Thomas S Monson, Reach Out to Rescue)
President Freed compared the rescue effort to the rescue of 338,000 during the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk during WW2, and pointed to lessons we can learn from Dunkirk.
1. This was a labour of love, compassion and devotion which required a willingness to sacrifice for someone else. On day 1 of the evacuation over 7000 were rescued using larger military vessels. These larger vessels required a harbour, and it was recognised that the harbour would become a bottleneck, slowing the evacuation process. Smaller boats were required that could access the beaches. 800 smaller craft volunteered saving 100,000 over 8 days, and are remembered for their willingness to sacrifice. We must be engaged in the work out of love for our fellow men.
“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.” (D&C 58:26-28)
2. Desire was strong enough to overcome limitations. Fishing vessels and pleasure yachts were not military vessels. The rescue doesn’t only require well-equipped vessels such as full-time or returned missionaries. The call is for each of us to participate, however unprepared. Small vessels can get in closer to help where larger vessels cannot.
3. Seemingly insignificant individual efforts can have a huge impact. The 75th anniversary of the evacuations was celebrated last month, including many of the little ships crossing the channel in memory of the original event. President Freed quoted veteran Garth Wright who said:
“This is a great occasion. They are making much more of it than I thought it was going to be. I have been back a number of times over the years, but I have never experienced the importance like this one is. I think it is the little ships that have contributed to the effect of it all. Seeing them all, it is an inspiring and thrilling sight.”
It was the little ships that had delivered him from an awful fate. We should engage enthusiastically in our rescue efforts.
“And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, 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!” (D&C 18: 15-16)
Europe has greater peace and political stability. The war is for the hearts of the inhabitants. We have a unique opportunity to get involved and make a difference. We can overcome the obstacles in our path. President Freed quoted Churchill praising the miracle of Dunkirk:
“We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.”
He compared the battle to the battle raging around our youth. We must renew our willingness to engage in the work. A battle rages for the hearts of the children of men. We can invite others to come unto Christ; the most noble and meaningful work we can engage in.
President Freed expressed gratitude for those small craft that have rescued him from time to time in his life, and closed with his testimony.
The Rescue isn’t my favourite topic, but this has to be hands down the best treatment of it. I particularly loved that he opened with the Saviour as the great rescuer, that rescuing is bringing people to Christ, and that ill-prepared individuals can get closer to helping and serving others than can the more formal institutional roles.
4. Sister Leanne Coltart (of the Edinburgh, Scotland stake)
Sister Coltart spoke about preparing to serve a mission. She made the decision to serve when she heard the announcement to reduce the missionary age for sisters to 19. She likes the definition of a missionary as:
“Someone who leaves their family for a short while so others can be with their families for eternity.”
Shortly after she made the decision to serve she decided to get her patriarchal blessing. She was 16 at the time, and so had a while to wait to serve a mission. The blessing spoke of serving a mission which confirmed her decision.
She has enjoyed the blessing of having sister missionaries in her Livingstone ward. She has been able to experience how teaching the gospel can change lives. Teaching the young women has also been a blessing to her in preparing to serve a mission. She wants to bring a knowledge of the Saviour to others. Recently she alighted from the bus at the same time as a fellow passenger, and since they were headed in the same direction, they got into conversation. She was able to teach the woman about the plan of salvation, which touched the woman who thanked her. Sister Coltart said she has also learnt a lot from teaching in Relief Society.
Ah. Youthful enthusiasm. I hope she has great mission experience.
Intermediate hymn: Hark, All Ye Nations!
5. Sister Filomena Teixeira (wife of Elder José A. Teixeira)
Sister Teixeira first told us how much she loves us, bore testimony of Elder Holland as a prophet, and expressed her love for Sister Holland.
Sister Teixeira spoke about Golgotha, a barren hill outside Jerusalem, which became a place of salvation because of what happened there. It holds no reminder of who once stood there, lifted on a cross, as people rush by; where the words “father forgive them” (Luke 23:34) were spoken; the most important event in history. How often do we rush past the atonement? We must kneel at the foot of the cross, offering our whole selves.
The Sabbath day gives us the opportunity to pause at His cross, at the altar of the sacrament table; to recollect Christ and go forward with Him as our partner. We can set aside an entire day for worship, to remember, to seek for better things. The Lord promises to walk among us. As we walk with Him, we are promised that “the fulness of the earth is [ours]” (D&C 59:16).
She spoke about her 2 year old grand-daughter who has a simple rule to follow when she is out in the street: that she must hold someone’s hand. On one occasion she told her grandmother that she would hold her own hand. We need to be holding God’s hand on the Sabbath, not our own. Sister Teixeira closed by telling us that keeping the Sabbath is much more than a list of dos and don’ts. It is our sign to the Lord, a sacred opportunity.
I found Sister Teixeira’s address to be beautifully poetic in it’s expression, and my notes absolutely don’t do it justice. Sorry!
6. Elder José A. Teixeira (President of the Europe Area)
Elder Teixeira expressed gratitude for the arrangements that had been made for the conference. He began his address by speaking of the missionary work of Orson Pratt in Edinburgh. Elder Pratt was finding things hard going because at the time Edinburgh has undergone rebuilding in a classical style, and was regarded as the philosophical capital of the English-speaking world. The rate of conversions was very slow, and by the end of summer there had been only 23 baptisms. He climbed Arthur’s Seat to pray that he could achieve his goal of 200 converts. He persevered in preaching and testifying over 10 months, and by his departure, his prayer had been answered.
We can never have too much prayer in our lives. We have the love of our Heavenly Father who desires to bless us when we ask Him. There is an unlimited upload capacity during prayer. We must “watch and pray always” (3 Nephi 18:15). “Don’t forget to pray” (hymn 140). Stay anchored in a habit of prayer. The story of Daniel is one of courage, faith and devotion to prayer (see Daniel 6). Elder Teixeira introduced the story and quoted:
“Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.” (Daniel 6:10)
The King also prayed and fasted for Daniel while he was in the den of lions.
Are our windows open to Jerusalem? Do we pray in good times and challenging times? Prayer really works and helps us face the challenges of the day. When we pray we can:
1. Include our plans for the day, even our every day activities.
2. We can evaluate our day at the end of the day; be accountable to Heavenly Father for our days.
Our prayers can be answered by the power and influence of the Holy Ghost. Prayer involves every member of the Godhead. We can talk with God and receive His guidance. Elder Teixeira closed with his testimony of prayer; that He is always there.
I was a bit twitchy about the opening: goals for numbers of converts. I wondered where he was heading with this theme, so it came as a relief when he used it to tie in prayer and Edinburgh. I was reminded of Elder Bednar’s conference address on the subject, and I loved the observation about prayer involving every member of the Godhead.
7. Elder Jeffrey R Holland (Quorum of the Twelve Apostles)
These satellite broadcasts were established as a result of trying to keep up with the growth of the church over the past 20 years. He doesn’t want to make invidious comparisons, but today’s meeting has been the best such meeting he has attended. It has been a wonderful morning for him.
He expressed his love for Elder and Sister Teixeira. Elder Teixeira has been serving as Europe Area President for a number of years, and we’re now saying goodbye to them. They’ll accept another call, and will be in South America next.
Elder Herbertson has had a tremendous load coordinating everything, including arranging for Elder Holland to speak in the British Parliament on Wednesday [On 10 June he spoke in the House of Lords about humanitarian aid and the role of religion in conflict resolution, as did Sharon Eubank, director of Humanitarian Services and LDS Charities].
Wonderful, wonderful speakers. He enjoyed hearing about sister missionaries, on the impact of sister missionaries in church. Nothing will change the fabric and future of the church more than the calling of more sister missionaries, the kind of wives they will make and homes they will create. It is a dramatic chapter in the history of the church. Sisters have gone from 8% to 25% of the missionary force.
Elder Holland described himself as an anglophile and student of WW2 history. He loved President Freed’s talk. A safer and spiritual cause now, but with dangers and risks. An ever younger generation of leaders – stake presidents, bishops, primary presidents. Thrilled.
Elder Holland showed a photo of the Mattsson family, acknowledging that we probably can’t see it, and explains Sister Olsson is the 4 year old in the picture. We pass on the faith of our fathers and mothers. A generational experience, what we’ve received before, what we come back to.
25 years ago Elder Holland was sent to preside over the Europe North Area as it was then, the same countries covered by the broadcast today. His wife, with him then, is recovering from a serious illness and he’s missing her today. At the end of his service as area president he was called to the twelve, and hasn’t really been back until today.
The topic he has selected to speak about he hasn’t given before in this way. Frequently, in youth conferences, with teenagers, someone is bound to ask when are the last days, meaning will they live to see them. It’s there in the name of the church. We’ve been in the last days 190 years now, unfolding to that final destiny ever since. The youth mean when is the last day (singular). No-one knows. Not the angels in heaven. But it will come. A glorious moment for those that love Him. The warnings don’t sound pleasant.
“And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fulness of my gospel; But they receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men. And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land. But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die. … And the Lord shall utter his voice, and all the ends of the earth shall hear it; and the nations of the earth shall mourn, and they that have laughed shall see their folly. And calamity shall cover the mocker, and the scorner shall be consumed; and they that have watched for iniquity shall be hewn down and cast into the fire.” (D&C 45:28-32,49-50)
Leading up to this day is a time of sifting and polarisation, wheat and tares, the wise and foolish. A time of confusion and commotion. What is the principle sign and strength? That sign is the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. It is given to future generations, even up to the last day.
“And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.” (3 Ne 26:9-10)
“And when these things come to pass that thy seed shall begin to know these things—it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel.” (3 Ne 21:7)
The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a symbol that the work has begun for the last time, until the last day. It is why Moroni came – the first element of the restoration after the first vision. There was no other gift, everything else waited until after the translation was complete and the Book of Mormon offered to the world. The Book of Mormon is evidence that prophets are in the land. The Book of Mormon is a shield and a protection against a loss of faith.
Elder Holland has had many spiritual witnesses that Jesus is the Christ. Spiritual experiences which first came to him as a young man on a mission in the UK, when he read the Book of Mormon seriously and voraciously. He has felt the Holy Ghost declaring the truthfulness of the message whilst reading the Book of Mormon. There have been endless other moments, sanctifying moments, some he is not permitted to tell. He can testify how the experiences began.
The Book of Mormon is a sign of the last days, it has had such an impact on his life. It is a new covenant. His great great great grandfather was a convert from the Isle of Man, who said of the Book of Mormon that no wicked man could write it, and no good man would write it unless commanded to do so.
We forget how young Joseph Smith was. The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. The truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is central to the integrity of the church. Authenticity of the Book of Mormon is a black and white issue. The Book of Mormon is the word of God, “quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword” (D&C 6:2; 11:2; 12:2; 14:2; 33:1; Hebrews 4:12). That’s an uncompromising declaration.
A recent critic said it contains the most cherished and unique Mormon belief, and affirms Jesus is Christ and the Saviour and Redeemer of the world.
Would you be capable of writing such a book that people would want to read? If Joseph Smith didn’t translate the Book of Mormon as a work of ancient origin, then he wants to meet who did write it. No author (or descendants) has stepped forward to claim credit. What of the 3 witnesses and the 8 witnesses? The Book of Mormon is a new and last covenant, a new and final testament.
My notes stop at this point. Elder Holland clearly feels very strongly about the Book of Mormon. I was wondering, in light of his comments, whether we no longer believe there is other scripture out there that we don’t yet have? He seems to have a higher bar than most of us, when it comes deciding what quotes get stuck up on our fridges – we have a declaration that any student found reading the Quibbler will be expelled on ours. And through much of what appeared to have become an unfortunate rant to end the meeting, I couldn’t help thinking, well I might not, but Shakespeare… and there are plenty of other good, thought-provoking writers out there.
I wish Sister Holland a good recovery, I did feel for Elder Holland having to attend without her. I was really pleased that he got to hear some really great talks by members in Europe, and feel of our strength and testimony.
Closing Hymn: Did You Think to Pray (I think – I don’t appear to have noted this)
Closing Prayer: Sister Linda Lorentz (Malmö, Sweden)
NB. This is assembled from my notes made during the broadcast. My apologies for any errors. The choice of hyperlinks is mine.