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Conference Counsel: God’s ‘relentless’ desire to bring everyone home

By Ryan Comer - | May 11, 2024

Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News via AP

Elder Patrick Kearon, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, arrives at the Orem Utah Temple dedication in Orem on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024. Kearon is the newest Latter-day Saint Apostle.

One of the many qualities I find impressive about apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is their eagerness to serve. They acknowledge the demands of the calling but never complain. I never get the feeling that they don’t want the responsibility or that they aren’t willing to try their hardest.

This was apparent to me yet again at last month’s general conference of the church as recently called apostle Patrick Kearon spoke.

“I would like to express gratitude for your prayers as I have started the process of adjusting to the call, through President (Russell M.) Nelson, to serve as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Elder Kearon said. “You can probably well imagine how humbling this has felt, and it has been a time of extraordinary upheaval and sobering self-examination. It is, however, indeed a great honor to serve the savior, in any capacity, and to be engaged with you in sharing the good news of his gospel of hope.”

For Elder Kearon, as I’m sure is the case for every apostle, it’s clear that the effort is worth it because of what the mission is, and that’s a concept I found myself thinking about not only in relation to Elder Kearon’s thoughts on his call in general but also as I listened to his address.

The title of Elder Kearon’s address was “God’s Intent Is to Bring You Home.”

Photo supplied

Ryan Comer

“My friends, my fellow disciples on the road of mortal life, our Father’s beautiful plan, even his ‘fabulous’ plan, is designed to bring you home, not to keep you out. No one has built a roadblock and stationed someone there to turn you around and send you away. In fact, it is the exact opposite. God is in relentless pursuit of you. He ‘wants all of his children to choose to return to him,’ and he employs every possible measure to bring you back.”

Elder Kearon makes God’s mission clear. He wants to bring all of us home. God has not created some kind of exclusive celestial club and there’s simply no way that we could possibly qualify for it. He doesn’t put up barriers that we have no hope of getting past. He wants all of us to return, so much so that he does everything he can to accomplish that goal. Some see commandments as barriers. They believe certain commandments are too difficult to follow, or that there’s no way that following certain commandments can bring happiness. But if we understand God’s mission to be as Elder Kearon stated, then we realize that those commandments are necessarily for our benefit. It is possible to follow them, and they will bring us happiness. As we follow them, we realize that the effort is worth it. We even become grateful for the commandments and wouldn’t want to be without them.

What is the proof that God’s intent is what Elder Kearon says it is? What is the proof that God really does want everyone to return to him and that despite how we may feel about his commandments he has not constructed roadblocks for anyone?

“Our loving Father oversaw the creation of this very earth for the express purpose of providing an opportunity for you and for me to have the stretching and refining experiences of mortality, the chance to use our God-given moral agency to choose him, to learn and grow, to make mistakes, to repent, to love God and our neighbor, and to one day return home to him,” Elder Kearon said.

If God wanted to keep people away from him, why would he allow for this earth to be created? What would be the point? Why wouldn’t he just cast out all those spirits he decided he wanted nothing to do with and keep the ones he wanted? He created this earth so that we would have the opportunity to return to him. The trials that we face in mortality, which Elder Kearon eloquently described as “the stretching and refining experiences,” are not roadblocks, but rather opportunities to use our agency to “choose him, to learn and grow, to make mistakes, to repent, to love God and our neighbor, and to one day return home to him.” All of us have the power to make that choice. All of us have the power to return to God if that’s what we want.

Continued Elder Kearon:

“He sent his precious beloved Son to this fallen world to live the full range of the human experience, to provide an example for the rest of his children to follow, and to atone and redeem. Christ’s great atoning gift removes every roadblock of physical and spiritual death that would separate us from our eternal home.”

Without Christ, none of us would be able to qualify to return to Heavenly Father. It simply wouldn’t be possible. We all sin, and we all will die. But because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, sin and death are not roadblocks.

Said Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during a general conference talk titled “The Gift of Grace” in April 2015:

“Because of the sacrifice of our beloved Redeemer, death has no sting, the grave has no victory, Satan has no lasting power, and we are ‘begotten … again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.'”

If God wanted to keep us away from him, why would he send his only begotten son for the purpose of removing roadblocks for us to return to him? The way was set for us to be cast out forever because of sin and death, but Heavenly Father didn’t want that. He wanted us all to return to him, so he gave us a savior.

“Everything about the Father’s plan for his beloved children is designed to bring everyone home,” Elder Kearon said.

God’s plan for all of us to return to him is given various names. It is called the plan of happiness, the plan of redemption, the plan of mercy and the plan of salvation. Elder Kearon discussed all these names in relation to God’s intent.

“The intent of the Father’s great plan of happiness is your happiness, right here, right now, and in the eternities. It is not to prevent your happiness and cause you instead worry and fear.

“The intent of the Father’s plan of redemption is in fact your redemption, your being rescued through the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, freed from the captivity of sin and death. It is not to leave you as you are.

“The intent of the Father’s plan of mercy is to extend mercy as you turn back to him and honor your covenant of fidelity to him. It is not to deny mercy and inflict pain and sorrow.

“The intent of the Father’s plan of salvation is in fact your salvation in the celestial kingdom of glory as you receive ‘the testimony of Jesus’ and offer your whole soul to him. It is not to keep you out.”

Perhaps you read all that and wonder, “But why does it have to be as hard as it is? Why can’t it just be easier?” Elder Kearon emphasized just how much is expected of us.

“Surely one of Jesus’ most consistent invitations and pleas during his mortal ministry was that we change and repent and come unto him. Fundamentally implicit in all of his teachings to live on a higher plane of moral conduct is a call to personal progression, to transformative faith in Christ, to a mighty change of heart.

“God wants for us a radical reorientation of our selfish and prideful impulses, the eviction of the natural man, for us to ‘go, and sin no more.'”

I believe God expects so much because he’s offering so much. From Latter-day scripture, we learn that eternal life “is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7) How could obtaining so much not require so much from us? Could we really coast through life and then feel good about obtaining such a gift? What would then be the purpose of even coming to this earth? Why wouldn’t God have just let us forgo this entire experience altogether?

Consider these words by Jeffrey R. Holland, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, delivered during a general conference talk titled “Waiting on the Lord” in October 2020.

“With apologies to Elder Neal A. Maxwell for daring to modify and enlarge something he once said, I too suggest that ‘one’s life … cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free,'” he said. “It simply will not work ‘to glide naively through life,’ saying as we sip another glass of lemonade, ‘Lord, give me all thy choicest virtues, but be certain not to give me grief, nor sorrow, nor pain, nor opposition. Please do not let anyone dislike me or betray me, and above all, do not ever let me feel forsaken by thee or those I love. In fact, Lord, be careful to keep me from all the experiences that made thee divine. And then, when the rough sledding by everyone else is over, please let me come and dwell with thee, where I can boast about how similar our strengths and our characters are as I float along on my cloud of comfortable Christianity.'”

Hard as it is, however, we have the assurance that we do not have to make the journey through this life alone. Here are some more words from President Holland, this time from a general conference address titled “None Were with Him” in April 2009:

“Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path — the merciful care of our Father in heaven, the unfailing companionship of this beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the atonement of Jesus Christ and the restoration of his gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: ‘I will not leave you comfortless: (My Father and) I will come to you (and abide with you).'”

All of that leads to another point from Elder Kearon, which is that Jesus’ intent is the same as Heavenly Father’s. He said:

“If we believe the intent of the Father’s all-reaching plan is to save us, redeem us, extend mercy to us, and thereby bring us happiness, what is the intent of the Son through whom this great plan is brought about?

“The Son tells us himself: ‘For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.’

“Jesus’ will is the benevolent Father’s will! He wants to make it possible for every last one of his Father’s children to receive the end goal of the plan — eternal life with them. None is excluded from this divine potential.”

Perhaps you’re convinced it’s too hard, that too much is expected, that you have made too many mistakes. I think we’ve all felt this way at one point or another during our lives. It can be hard to believe that we’ll ever measure up, or that we can ever be forgiven. But the atonement of Jesus Christ is infinite.

Infinite means infinite. Infinite covers you and those you love,” Elder Kearon said.

“Nephi explains this beautiful truth: ‘He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.’

“The savior, the Good Shepherd, goes in search of his lost sheep until he finds them. He is ‘not willing that any should perish.’

“‘Mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive.’

“‘Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you.’

“He did not cast away the woman with the issue of blood; he did not recoil from the leper; he did not reject the woman taken in adultery; he did not refuse the penitent — no matter their sin. And he will not refuse you or those you love when you bring to him your broken hearts and contrite spirits. That is not his intent or his design, nor his plan, purpose, wish or hope.

“No, he does not put up roadblocks and barriers; he removes them. He does not keep you out; he welcomes you in. His entire ministry was a living declaration of this intent.”

Nothing speaks more about Christ’s intent than the actual sacrifice of his life for us.

“The veil of the temple was rent in twain when Jesus died upon the cross, symbolizing that access back to the presence of the Father had been ripped wide open — to all who will turn to him, trust him, cast their burdens on him and take his yoke upon them in a covenant bond,” Elder Kearon said.

When I think of how much Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want me to return to them, and how much they have done to make sure that happens, I can’t help but feel inspired. If they don’t give up on me, how can I give up on myself? If they have hope for me, how can I not have hope?

Those are questions I hope will be asked and considered by anyone who thinks God doesn’t want them to return to him or that they cannot make it back.

Contact Ryan Comer at rcomer@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @rbcomer8388 and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rbcomer8388.

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