Thursday, October 22, 2020

Elder Gary E. Stevenson on recognizing blessings amid challenges

Elder Gary E. Stevenson (born August 5, 1955) was called as a Seventy in 2008, then as Presiding Bishop in 2012. He was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.

"Many, many of you have dealt with heartbreaking disappointment, sorrow, and discouragement [because of the COVID-19 pandemic]. So how do we heal, endure, and move forward when things seem so broken?

"The prophet Nephi began engraving the small plates when he was a grown man. As he looked back on his life and ministry, he offered an important reflection in the very first verse of the Book of Mormon. This verse frames an important principle for us to consider in our time. Following his familiar words, 'I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents … ,' he writes, 'and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days.' (1 Nephi 1:1)

"As students of the Book of Mormon, we are familiar with the many afflictions to which Nephi refers. Yet following acknowledgment of his afflictions in the course of his days, Nephi gives his gospel perspective of being highly favored of the Lord in all his days. Times of affliction and disappointment do not change the watchful eye of the Lord as He favorably looks upon us, blessing us....

"We too can draw parallels as individual members and as a church in the way in which we have been highly favored of the Lord during the challenging times we have encountered the past several months....

"Brothers and sisters, I believe that one day, each of you will look back at the canceled events, the sadness, the disappointments, and the loneliness attendant to the challenging times we are passing through to see them overshadowed by choice blessings and increased faith and testimonies. I believe that in this life, and in the life to come, your afflictions, your Ammonihah, your Liberty Jail, will be consecrated for your gain (see 2 Ne 2:2). I pray that, along with Nephi, we can acknowledge the afflictions in the course of our days while at the same time recognizing that we are highly favored of the Lord."

- Gary E. Stevenson, "Highly Favored of the Lord," General Conference October 2020, Sunday afternoon

In his conference message, Elder Stevenson reviewed some of the challenges that came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the blessings that we discovered during the time of difficulty. I love the insight from the opening verse of the Book of Mormon. We can acknowledge the challenges and difficulties that we each encounter in our lives, to varying degrees; but we should never forget the rest of the "big picture"—the profound nevertheless—"nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days." Challenges will certainly come, but so will blessings, and if we focus only on the former, we deny ourselves the hope, peace, and faith that come from acknowledging the latter.
We must never forget the "watchful eye of the Lord" that is always upon us. How greatly we are blessed in all our days!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

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