Since the last installment of the Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church in April, three apostles have passed away. President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, died in July; Elder L. Tom Perry died in May and yesterday Elder Richard G. Scott passed away.
I wrote recently on the call of apostleship, and it’s somehow fitting that at this time I find myself still pondering that massive call. I remember when I was called to be a Relief Society President. To say I felt humbled would be a huge understatement. I wrestled with the most pessimistic part of me, recalled past mistakes and insecurities, and doubted my capability completely: I was not patient enough, I was not knowledgeable enough, I was not loving enough, I was not confident enough. However it was that I came to that moment, I realised one evening that I truly had a broken heart- and a contrite spirit: there was nothing more that I wanted than to qualify for this call.
I knelt down and told my Father in Heaven what I was feeling. I wasn’t- and in my intelligent analysis of myself, I would conclude that I would never be- a perfectly qualified candidate for this call. But I would make promise. As inadequate as I felt and knew that I was, I would show up, and I would meet Him every night, in this very spot. I would work hard- but He had to do the rest.
I have often thought of this promise I made, in miss-matching pajamas and mascara-streaked cheeks. Some nights I can kneel there feeling a little more knowledgeable, a little more successful. Most nights I feel the same despair and clueless-ness. Every day I feel His love and teaching, the constant support of the spirit and scores of sweet women who pray for me too. It reminds me the state I was in as I knelt that first time was exactly how the Lord asks His servants to come unto Him- the broken heart and contrite spirit are the conditions for miracles, for true growth, and learning.
Today as I have mulled over the sad passing of another great apostle, whose sacred words and deeds have no doubt changed countless lives forever, I also think of the three men who at this time will be in the pit of anguish as they are prepared for this great call to apostleship. Their good lives they will themselves question, and wonder if they are acceptable to the Lord. They will struggle for a time, until the learning of the Spirit and the gentle power of the Atonement will strengthen their humble hearts.
Elder Andersen, in his first talk as an apostle, spoke of his experience of preparation to step into the call of a special witness of Christ. It’s a powerful reminder that our meager offerings to our Heavenly Parents will always be added upon by the Grace of the Saviour.
“My dear brothers and sisters across the world, my knees are weak and my emotions close to the surface. I express my love for you and profoundly thank you for your sustaining vote. In so many dimensions, I feel inadequate and humbled.
“I take solace that in one qualification for the holy apostleship where there can be no latitude extended, the Lord has deeply blessed me. I do know with perfect and certain clarity through the power of the Holy Ghostthat Jesus is the Christ, the Beloved Son of God.
“There is no man with more love than President Thomas S. Monson. His warmth is as the sunshine at midday. Yet, as he extended to me this sacred call, you can imagine the overwhelming soberness I felt as the eyes of the prophet of God peered deeply into the chambers of my soul. Happily, you can also imagine the love I felt from the Lord and from His prophet as President Monson wrapped his long and loving arms around me. I love you, President Monson.
“To those who know me, if ever I have been less than I should have been in your presence, I ask for yourforgiveness and patience. I so very much need your faith and prayers in my behalf.
“I know that I am not what I must become. I pray that I might be willing and moldable to the Lord’s tutoring and correction. I take comfort from the words of President Monson last night in the priesthood session that the Lord will shape the back to fit the burden placed upon it.
“Just after my call as a General Authority 16 years ago, in a stake conference where I accompanied President Boyd K. Packer, he said something I have not forgotten. As he addressed the congregation, he said, ‘I know who I am.’ Then after a pause, he added, ‘I am a nobody.’ He then turned to me, sitting on the stand behind him, and said, ‘And, Brother Andersen, you are a nobody too.’ Then he added these words: ‘If you ever forget it, the Lord will remind you of it instantly, and it won’t be pleasant.
“… For 16 years the members of the First Presidency and the Twelve have been my examples and teachers. I have learned from their integrity and righteousness. In these many years, I have never observed any unbridled anger, any desire for private or material gain. Never have I seen any personal positioning for influence or power.
“Rather, I have seen their loyalty and care for their wives and children. I have experienced their love and sure witness of our Heavenly Father and His Son. I have watched them untiringly seek first to build up the kingdom of God. I have seen the power of God rest upon them and magnify and sustain them. I have witnessed the fulfillment of their prophetic voice. I have seen the sick raised and nations blessed through their authority and have stood with them in moments too sacred to recount. I testify that they are the Lord’s anointed.
“I pray that my spirit might be like that of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin—whose passing brought about this call—a spirit void of any desire for personal attention, willing to go anywhere and do anything the Lord’s prophets would have me do, applying my full consecration in testifying of the Savior and building the kingdom of God until my final breath.
“Our days are days long anticipated in the history of the world. The scriptures speak of things ‘the Lord ordained and prepared before the foundation of the world’ (D&C 128:5).
“…We live in these days of the Lord’s ‘marvellous work and a wonder’ (Isaiah 29:14; see 2 Nephi 25:17). We have been blessed to bring the gospel to our families and our posterity and to assist in preparing for the Second Coming of the Savior. The Lord described the purposes of the Restoration ‘to be a light to the world, … to be a standard for [us, His] people, … and to be a messenger before [His] face to prepare the way before [Him]’ (D&C 45:9). Our responsibility is not trivial; it is not by chance that we are who we are; the keeping of our covenants in these days of destiny will be a badge of honor throughout all the eternities.
“… We must remember, my dear brothers and sisters, who we are and what we have in our hands. We are not alone in our desire to do good; there are wonderful people of many faiths and beliefs.
“We are not alone in praying to our Heavenly Father or in receiving answers to our prayers; our Father loves all of His children.
“We are not alone in sacrificing for a greater cause; there are others who are unselfish.
“Others share our faith in Christ. There are loyal and decent fathers and mothers in every land who love each other and love their children. There is much we can learn from the good people all around us.
“Yet we must not shrink from what is uniquely and singularly found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Only here is the priesthood of God, restored to earth by heavenly messengers. Only here does the Book of Mormon stand with the Bible in revealing and declaring the full divinity and gospel of Christ. Only here are there prophets of God, bringing guidance from heaven and holding the keys that bind in heaven what is bound on earth.
“Our knowledge of the divine mission of the Church should not bring feelings of superiority or arrogance but should take us to our knees, pleading for the Lord’s help that we might be what we should be. But in humility we need not be timid in remembering the Lord’s words: ‘This is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it’ (Mosiah 27:13).
“Above all, we proclaim our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. All that we are—all that we will ever be—we owe to Him. While we gaze in awe at His majesty, He does not ask us to stay our distance but bids us to come unto Him. ‘I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him’ (Revelation 3:20).”