What a distinct honor it is for me to be here in this amazing tropical paradise to speak to you in this devotional address, and to perform on Thursday evening in concert with five of my student prodigies whose playing you’ll find breathtaking! Thank you, President Kauwe, for your personal invitation those many months ago to bring us here for this thrilling opportunity!
Dear friends, brothers, and sisters in the gospel, our Heavenly Father and His magnificent Son, Jesus Christ, know you and me personally by name! They love us unconditionally and care about each one of us and our successes in this mortal life. Because we are God’s children, His royal offspring, the value of our souls is enormous!
During His earthly ministry the Savior taught, unless ye “... become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3)  . So, let’s think for a moment about the characteristics of children! Children are loving, kind, giving, and trusting; who see the best in others! From their innocence, joyful excitement for life, and amusing antics, they make us smile and laugh. Little wonder why our Savior adored children!
Here are some instances of little ones I thought you might enjoy.
- Children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Catholic school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. A nun had written a note, “Take only one, God is watching.” Moving through the line, to the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. A boy wrote a note, “Take all you want, God is watching the apples.
- During the bishop’s talk one sacrament meeting there was a loud whistle from one of the back pews. Gary’s mother was horrified. She pinched him into silence, and after the meeting asked, “Gary whatever made you do such a thing?” Gary answered soberly, “I asked Heavenly Father to teach me to whistle and He just then did!”
- And this little four-year-old girl prayed, “And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.”
- A small boy was overheard praying, “Lord, if you can’t make me be a better boy, don’t worry about it. I’m having a real good time like I am!”
- One morning a mother decided to make pancakes for her two young sons—Tyler, age 7 and Johnny, age 4. To her surprise, the boys began arguing over who was to receive the first pancake. Seeing this as a perfect opportunity to teach her two young sons a gospel lesson she said, “Now boys, if Jesus were here, he would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake’, to which Tyler quickly replied to his younger brother, “Johnny, you be Jesus!”
- And finally, a woman invited some friends over for dinner. At the table, she turned to her 6-year-old daughter and said, “Would you like to say the blessing on the food, sweetie?” “I wouldn’t know what to say,” the little girl replied. “Just say what you’ve heard mommy say,” the mother said. So, the little girl bowed her head and said, “Dear Heavenly Father, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?” 
Yes, children are precious. In so many ways they teach us how to love life and to keep hope and excitement alive!
[MUSICAL PRESENTATION- I AM A CHILD OF GOD]
Now, in contemplating the value of a soul, ask yourselves this question: who are you? You might answer with your name, but that’s just what people call you. You may start telling others that you are kind, funny, and generous. But, those are only personality traits—not who you are! So, who are you, really? Do you know? We are talking about identity!
We must understand our own self-worth before we will be able to see the great worth in others—our mate, children, family members, friends, and associates. As an example, for those of us who are married, how do we value our spouse? Adam and Eve must have had an ideal marriage! He didn’t have to hear about all the men she could have married, and she didn’t have to hear about the way his mother cooked! And then there was the time a senior citizen’s cell phone rang while he was driving down the freeway.
Answering, he heard his wife’s voice urgently warning him, “Herman, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on I-40. Please be careful!”
“You're telling me,” said Herman. “It’s not just one car. It’s hundreds of them!
From what or where does our true identity come?
Unfortunately, many people feel that their true value comes from popularity, exceptional athletic ability, superior music or artistic gifts, awards and the praise of men, acquiring large sums of money, keen intelligence, physical appearance. Now there’s nothing wrong with bodybuilding, excelling sports, achieving awards by mastering a musical instrument, amassing large sums of money, or receiving accolades from colleagues—but we must not allow our identities to be founded on these hollow, superficial things which can actually create within us, false security.
Let me introduce to you my youngest prodigy here today, Parley Brooker. Not only a talented athlete—football, skiing, and golf to name a few sports he loves, Parley is already an accomplished pianist at age 12! I’ve invited him to perform Rachmaninoff’s, Polichinelle, for you now.
[MUSICAL PRESENTATION- POLICHINELLE]
For a moment, let’s contemplate the following statement about false security profoundly expressed by our late apostle, Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Think for a moment how different it would be if people took on that physical appearance which would reflect distinctly how well they were doing spiritually. How would some of today’s beautiful people really look? A highly publicized movie star, beautiful though she may be physically—if her life were fully represented in her appearance, might be ugly, perhaps with a hunched back, a prune face, or a withered arm. How ironic it is to be jealous of someone who has a pretty figure or a handsome face but who is a spiritual cripple!” 
I’m quite certain that God doesn’t care about achieving vast honors of men or whether or not we’re unattractive. He’s not interested in medals, trophies, nose jobs and tummy tucks! But He does care that we understand the incredible value of the soul that comes from our true identity as children of God!
Once during a teaching moment, a bishop held up a $100 bill and asked the Gospel Doctrine class who would like to have it. He said, “I’ll give it to one of you, but first let me do something.”
He then crumpled the bill in his hands until it disappeared into his fist. “Okay,” he said, “Now who still wants it?”
The class members looked at each other and chuckled as their hands shot up again.
“Alright, but what if I do this to it?”
He threw the bill on the floor and stomped on it, grinding it under his heel.
“Now who would want this one-hundred-dollar bill?”
Everyone’s hand still shot up!
But what he said next really made the class think!
“Brothers and sisters,” he said, “Why is it that no matter what happened to this bill—whatever it had gone through, wherever it had been—you still would take it? 
I will tell you. It’s because you still recognized its value! Nothing it had been through could change its value one bit.” In like manner, the master placed great value on people during His lifetime! Regardless of where a person had been in life, regardless of the sins, weaknesses, or strengths of an individual, Christ understood the value of the soul and ministered daily! In modern revelation, the Savior said: “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” (D&C 18:10)  In Galatians 4:7 we read, “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” This is an incredible explanation of our value! We are royalty—Joint heirs with Christ! 
Many years ago, my self-worth was challenged during my participation in an international piano competition. Let me share with you one of those pieces that propelled me into the competition finals:
[MUSICAL PRESENTATION- SCRIABIN ETUDE IN D-SHARP MINOR]
My young sisters and brothers—we must stop allowing other people to tell us whether we are good enough, attractive enough, rich enough, famous enough, or desirable enough! Rather, we must care only about what Heavenly Father says about us—which is that we are of immense worth!
In doing so, however, we must be aware of the great destroyer who is working daily to destroy our self-concept! The destroyer is the great deceiver—the ultimate lying liar who will stop at nothing to separate us from God. His tactics haven’t evolved much since the garden, but he’s certainly adept at staying ahead of the curve! The great deceiver’s specialty is his keen interest in your feelings, opinions, and personal preferences. He’s quite progressive that way and wants to hear all about it. Your concerns are his concerns. And he knows exactly which rendition of Jesus is pertinent to your cause. Lately, it is likely to be a socially relevant, liberal Jesus who somehow cares more about your truth than the truth He came to personify, proclaim, and die for. The deceiver dishes out a new gospel: the gospel of your own truth! And then he whispers to us, "Ahhh, that’s much better!" To be clear, he won’t tell you to give up your faith in Jesus, but that obviously some of His outdated theology needs revamping because it no longer works today. A good chunk of it is offensive enough to be considered a hate crime, especially that bit about marriage and sexuality. Jesus told His followers to love one another, not judge one another. So, who are you to judge how others love one another, right? That’s just how stealthily and insidiously the father of lies leads members of the Church astray. He distorts God’s word and presents a new, different gospel to each generation. He knows how to place deceit in our hearts and is well acquainted with our carnal desire to rule and worship ourselves- and he’s happy to show us how! Simply put, Satan wants to destroy people! He wants to thwart God’s kingdom purposes and plans. He wants to hurt the people God created and loves. He wants to wreak havoc on those who are chosen by discouraging, disarming, and derailing us. He wants to confuse people and lead them away from the truth of who God is. He wants to kill and destroy the soul of every man, woman, and child!
But guess what? We don’t have to be duped.
Jesus told His disciples, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matthew 24:4) . This warning is applicable to every biblical topic and all aspects of our daily Christian walk. There’s only one way to prevent the Great Deceiver from having great influence in our lives. We must focus on Jesus Christ - His truth, His words, and the gospel He came to proclaim and die for so that we would never again be separated from God!
As we all know, life can be extremely challenging. In fact, it’s just plain hard! But our Heavenly Father knows of our enormous potential and divine worth! He knows we can be victorious in the cause of truth and righteousness. So, when the gray clouds of life appear, always remember that the Master understands for He has already experienced these things. He is the perfect example for us to follow. And will always be here for us if we but allow Him to be the great dominating force in our lives! No, He will not barge into our lives, but He stands at the door and knocks! We must engage Him! John 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” May we all recognize the value of the soul—that every soul is of divine worth in the sight of God! Never forget that the eternal value of our souls is the very reason He gave His life for us! 
I so testify in the name of Him whose Church this really is—even the Master, our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, amen.
[MUSICAL PRESENTATION- AMAZING GRACE]
 Matthew 18:3
 Warm Tones and Tiny Miracles, written by my high school seminary teacher, Don J. Black Brigham Young University Press, Provo, UT 1st edition, 1971
 Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book Deseret Book Editor, Cory Maxwell Publisher: Bookcraft, 1997
 A personal experience created for a Sunday School lesson by my father, Glen Hatch, while serving as Bishop in the Provo 25th ward
 D&C 18:10
 Galatians 4:7
 Matthew 24:4
 John 15:5