My dear young friends, Aloha. What a great privilege to be here with you today. I am so grateful for this opportunity to speak to you today.
Our oldest son and oldest daughter, their spouses, and our youngest son were graduated from BYU–Hawaii. So, BYU–Hawaii is very familiar with my family.
Today, I want to discuss with you who you are. To know who you are, may I ask you three questions?
Question 1. Do you remember what you were doing before you were born?
Does anyone remember that?
Alright. I invite you to think of your premortal life.
Let me tell you what happened and what you did in the spiritual world. It may be a long story, but I would appreciate it if you could listen to this story carefully.
You are God’s children. You were living with your heavenly parents. Were you happy at that time? Yes, you were happy. But your Heavenly Father knew you could not progress beyond a certain point unless you left Him for a time. He wanted you to develop the Godlike qualities that He has.
To do this, you needed to leave your premortal home to be tested and to gain experience. Your spirits needed to be clothed with physical bodies. You would need to leave your physical bodies at death and reunite with them in the Resurrection. Then you would receive immortal bodies like that of your Heavenly Father. If you passed your tests, you would receive the fulness of joy that your Heavenly Father has received. (See D&C 93:30–34.)
Your Heavenly Father called a Grand Council to present His plan for your progression.
He prepared a plan for you to be able to return to Him, to become like Him, and to progress. We call it the Plan of Salvation.
You learned that if you followed His plan, you would become like Him. You would be resurrected; you would have all power in heaven and on earth; you would become heavenly parents and have spirit children just as He does (see D&C 132:19–20).
You learned that He would provide an earth for you where you would prove yourselves (see Abraham 3:24–26). A veil would cover your memories, and you would forget your heavenly home. This would be necessary so you could exercise your agency to choose good or evil without being influenced by the memory of living with your Heavenly Father. Thus, you could obey Him because of your faith in Him, not because of your knowledge or memory of Him. He would help you recognize the truth when you heard it again on earth (see John 18:37).
At the Grand Council, you also learned the purpose for your progression: to have a fulness of joy. However, you also learned that some would be deceived, choose other paths, and lose their way. You learned that all of you would have trials in your lives: sickness, disappointment, pain, sorrow, and death. But you understood that these would be given to you for your experience and your good (see D&C 122:7). If you allowed them to, these trials would purify you rather than defeating you. They would teach you to have endurance, patience, and charity. (see Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball , 15–16).
At this council, you also learned that because of your weakness, all of you except little children would sin (see D&C 29:46–47). You learned that a Savior would be provided for you so you could overcome your sins and overcome death with resurrection. You learned that if you placed your faith in Him, obeying His Word, and following His example, you would be exalted and become like your Heavenly Father. You would receive a fulness of joy.
Anyway, when the plan for your salvation was presented to you in the premortal spirit world, you were so happy that you shouted for joy (see Job 38:7).
You understood that you would have to leave your heavenly home for a time. You would not live in the presence of your Heavenly Father. While you were away from Him, all of you would sin and some of you would lose your way. Your Heavenly Father knew and loved each one of you. He knew you would need help, so He planned a way to help you.
You needed a Savior to pay for your sins and teach you how to return to your Heavenly Father. Your Father said, “Whom shall I send?” (Abraham 3:27). Jesus Christ, who was called Jehovah, said, “Here am I, send me” (Abraham 3:27; see also Moses 4:1–4).
Jesus was willing to come to the earth, give His life for you, and take upon Himself your sins. He, like your Heavenly Father, wanted you to choose whether you would obey Heavenly Father’s commandments. He knew you must be free to choose to prove yourselves worthy of exaltation. Jesus said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever” (Moses 4:2).
However, Satan, who was called Lucifer, also came, saying, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1). Satan wanted to force you all to do his will. Under his plan, you would not be allowed to choose. He would take away the freedom of choice that your Father had given you. Satan wanted to have all the honor for your salvation. Under his proposal, your purpose in coming to earth would have been frustrated (see Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay , 207).
After hearing both sons speak, Heavenly Father said, “I will send the first” (Abraham 3:27).
Because your Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ to be your Savior, Satan became angry and rebelled. There was war in heaven. Satan and his followers fought against Jesus Christ and His followers. The Savior’s followers “overcame [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11).
In this great rebellion, Satan and all the spirits who followed him were sent away from the presence of God and cast down from heaven. A third part of the hosts of heaven was punished for following Satan (see D&C 29:36). They were denied the right to receive mortal bodies.
My dear friends, during that war in heaven, what did you do? Where were you?
I am sure you were the Savior’s followers. But where were you?
I am sure you were at the forefront of the fight then. You were fighting with Satan and his followers at the forefront. Thank you very much for your great work. I am sure you were chosen and incredible spirits. I am very proud of you.
By the way, where was I at the time? I must have been on the battlefield too. However, I think I was in very back and was supporting you.
Question 2. Returned missionaries, what souvenirs did you bring back home?
I know many of you are returned missionaries. I much appreciate your faithful services and huge sacrifices. Some of you served at a unique and difficult time with the COVID-19 Pandemic. I am very proud of you. What souvenirs did you bring back home?
You might take some local items, local candies, and local cookies.
Let me tell you about one of my missionaries. One elder tried to take a Japanese sword umbrella. It was not a real sword. It was just an umbrella, but it looked like a sword. When he was checking in at the airport, a staff member of the airline asked him, “What is this?” “This is an umbrella,” he answered. Unfortunately, however, that staff member did not believe it and asked, “Will you open the umbrella?” When he opened the sword umbrella and showed it to him, he said, “You can’t take it.” He did not understand it, but he gave up taking the sword umbrella home with him.
Another missionary took a lot of things; Japanese bags, Japanese snacks, Japanese kimonos, etc. All of his suitcases were over the weight limit. He left many things at the airport.
President Hinckley told us about souvenirs from the mission field.
He said, “There are ten souvenirs that we ought to take home from the mission field.”
A testimony of the living reality of God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ.
A greatly engaged understanding of the gospel.
A love for the people among whom you labor.
Greater love and appreciation for your parents.
An understanding of the meaning of hard work.
An enlarged understanding of the meaning and true worth and value of personal virtue.
Increased poise, the ability to meet people, to converse with them, to talk with them.
The courage to act.
The faith to do.
The humility to pray.
My dear brothers and sisters, what souvenirs did you take home from your mission field? Hopefully, most of you took those ten souvenirs to your home.
I have met many faithful missionaries in Japan, Korea, Guam, Micronesia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, French Polynesia, Marshal Islands, Kiribati, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea. They were very good. They had a great desire to invite others to come unto Christ. They were right, as the Book of Mormon’s description of the 2,000 young warriors. They are working hard. They are doing their best. They try to be faithful all the time.
Let me quote the Book of Mormon. Alma 53: 20-21 describes those 2,000 young warriors.
And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.
Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.
I express my deep gratitude to all of you. You were also faithful missionaries. You served the Lord in the great work of proclaiming the gospel and establishing the kingdom of God. Thank you very much for that all you have done.
President Oaks gave you a powerful message years ago, quoting these passages from the Book of Mormon.
“In the spirit of that description I say to our returned missionaries--men and women who have made covenants to serve the Lord and who have already served Him in the great work of proclaiming the gospel and perfecting the Saints--are you being true to the faith? Do you have the faith and continuing commitment to demonstrate the principles of the gospel in your own lives, consistently? You have served well, but do you, like the pioneers, have the courage and the consistency to be true to the faith and to endure to the end?” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 101–2; or Ensign, Nov. 1997, 73; italics added).
My dear brothers and sisters continue to exercise your faith in Jesus Christ. Continue to repent. Continue to love each other. Continue to help each other. Continue to do ministering. Continue to read the Book of Mormon. Continue to go to the temple. Continue to hold Family Home Evening. Continue to pray. Continue to come to sacrament meetings and worship the Lord on Sunday. Continue to open your mouth and invite them to come unto Christ. Continue to testify of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.
I know that you have brought many good souvenirs from your mission field. Did you leave it somewhere? Do not hide those souvenirs.
Please continue to use those souvenirs you have taken from your mission field for your life.
We need a daily practice of the faith in Jesus Christ as always. President Nelson told us. “As we repent and live in accordance with the commandments of God, the Atonement of Jesus Christ becomes a force for permanent change in our lives.”
Fortunately, Sister Yamashita is with me today. Tazuko san, will you ask them the third question and share with them your experience?
Question 3. Are you ready to be a missionary?
I know some of you have not served yet as young missionaries. Some of you have not committed yet to be missionaries. So, I would like to speak to you who have not served yet as missionaries.
I am a convert to the church. When I was a college student I was baptized. I wanted the truth. “Is there a God? Why am I here? Where do I go here? Where do I go after I die?” So, I met with the missionaries, and I joined the church. Soon after I was baptized, one night when I studied the gospel, The Holy Spirit came down to me and called on my deep soul like echoes very strongly. “Go on a mission, go on a mission, go on a mission..." repeated again and again. My heart was beating with excitement. My eyes were ﬁlled with tears, and I felt peace completely.
So, I decided to go on my mission and I started to save money for my mission. After two years, when I had a birthday, I realized one thing. Oh, I am not young, I am old. So, I started to wonder if I should go on my mission or get married. I was worried that I might miss the chance to get married. One day, I was thinking about that from the bottom of my heart. Once again, the Holy Spirit came down to me and said exactly very strongly. “Don’t worry about your future; peace be unto your soul.” On my whole body was ﬁlled with the Spirit peace and love. I cried. I committed again to go on my mission. Soon, I was called as a missionary. I served in the Tokyo North mission. I worked hard there. It was so wonderful!! During my mission, I met a nice a wonderful young man many times. And I had many opportunities to hear his testimonies. Each time, I was ﬁlled with The Spirit.
So, I thought; in my future, I wish I could get married to someone like him. A month after my mission was ﬁnished, I was prompted to write a letter to him. I decided to write him the letter to only express thanks to him. I did not expect to have an answer from him, but soon I got a letter from him expressing thanks as well. He wrote this in his letter. “Your letter ignites my fuse, thinking of marrying, please go on a date." I was so surprised! At that time, I decided to get married to him. After three months, we married. Do you remember, before my mission, what the Spirit said? “Don’t worry about your future; peace be unto your soul.”
The Lord has granted my wish. So, I want to say to you; Heavenly Father really loves you. Heavenly Father really knows your needs. As we live the Gospel, follow the prompting of the Holy Ghost speedily, He always says, “Don’t worry about your future; peace be unto your soul.” I know this is true. The Lord said, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (D&C 82:10) In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Thank you, Sister Yamashita. It is an inspired message, isn’t it? I am a lucky man.
My dear young brother and sisters, as President Nelson described, you are the battalion of the Lord. You were fighting with Satan and his followers at the forefront during that war in heaven. Now, you are fighting with Satan and his followers at the forefront on this earth as a chosen spirit. You are invited by a living prophet to work with the Lord. President Nelson said, “My dear extraordinary youth, you were sent to earth at this precise time, the most crucial time in the history of the world, to help gather Israel. There is nothing happening on this earth right now that is more important than that.” (Worldwide Youth Devotional • June 3, 2018, • Conference Center, Salt Lake City, Utah)
In addition, you are good, returned missionaries who have taken good souvenirs from your mission-fields. I know that you have a power given by God. You can do anything good in this world as you did good things in your mission-field.
Let us continue to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Let us continue to seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Let us continue to think of Jesus Christ and focus on Him as always.
You are now ready to be good missionaries. You have a good desire and willingness to serve the Lord. Many friends are waiting for you to find them. Sisters, it is not an obligation for you. However, we know that sister missionaries have great power and a big influence on ministering to people.
To close my talk, I would like to share an experience of mine with you.
When I was a young teaching assistant at the university, I had a beautiful experience that taught me such a great lesson that I can still recall that experience vividly, even now.
At our university at that time, we used to give a physical test to a whole school every spring. One year, I was supervising a 50m running test. We had students line up with a group of eight, had them start running, and timed their running.
One day, after I finished the test of the big group of students, a small group came to the test. Among them, one student came up to me and asked me if his friend can run the very last. Not understanding his intention, I looked at his friend who was standing beside him. Looking at him, I instantly recognized the situation. He was blind. There, I accepted their request, and let this blind student run at the end.
After all other students finished with the running test, that student came up with his blind friend. Although we did not know what to do, we watched carefully what they were doing. As we watched them, this student took the hand of the blind student and had him stand in the middle of the start line. He then went over to the goal line, turned around, and started to make a big clap, extending his arms wide. We watched the moment that the blind student, standing on the start line, started running. As he took off, the stopwatch started. The blind student certainly could not run fast; however, he masterly completed running 50m and run into his friend’s outstretched arms.
They have taught me an important lesson; that is, we all need the help of someone to make a goal.
In our daily lives, of course, there are things that we must do by ourselves. However, there are things that we cannot deal with by ourselves. And that is to reach the goal of eternal life. We need the help of someone who is special. The savior, Jesus Christ is the one and His atonement becomes a great help to us. Except for the Lord, no one can accomplish this work. Only Jesus Christ, our savior, can atone for our sins. Through His atonement, we are cleansed, healed, forgiven, and strengthened.
President Nelson said. “The precious promise of perfection could not have been possible without the Lord’s atonement and example.” (Russel M. Nelson)
My dear friends, I would like you to be happy. If you have a positive attitude and seek out good things, you will have the Holy Spirit to be with you. If you think of God and good things, the Holy Spirit will guide and direct you.
Standing in front of you, I testify that the gospel is true. I know Our Heavenly Father does live. He loves each of us His children. Because of His love for us, He sent His son to save us. I know that His Son, Jesus Christ, lives. He is our Savior. He loves each one of us. He knows each one of us. He knows everything, our weaknesses, strengths, good points, bad points, challenges, and sufferings. He is watching over us each day to guides and help us. I know that this church is His church. I know President Russel M. Nelson is our living prophet.
I so testify, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.