Elder David A. Bednar, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, together with his wife, Sister Susan Robinson Bednar, visited the Philippines for the first time. They first traveled to Cebu where Elder Bednar presided over the Cebu Philippines Central Stake Conference. Several firesides and meetings with the saints were held from August 15 to 17, 2008. Together with Elder and Sister Bednar on this trip were President Keith R. Edwards, Area President, and his wife Sister Judith Edwards, newly called President D. Parke Hansen and wife Sister Barbara Hansen of the Philippines Cebu Mission and Area Authority Elder Benson Misalucha and wife Sister Arlene Misalucha.
Members from the five (5) stakes in Cebu were delighted to be visited by an apostle and were amazed at the unconventional but truly inspirational manner by which Elder Bednar conducted the meetings. “How many of you are willing to help us today?” was the question that Elder Bednar would ask at the beginning of each fireside. The help that he was referring to was in the form of questions that he would want members to ask. “It’s a rare opportunity for you to be given this time to ask an apostle and be given an answer right away, so grab this chance.” remarked Elder Bednar as he encouraged the Cebu saints to speak out. What transpired during Elder Bednar’s short trip in Cebu was no less than a miracle -questions were answered, confusions were clarified, lessons were taught and the Spirit was felt.
Multi-Stake Single Adults Devotional
“There are no wrong questions. However there are good questions, there are better questions and there are questions that you know are inspired by the Spirit.” began Elder Bednar as he addressed the single adults. As the participants warm up to this unconventional form of fireside, Elder and Sister Bednar waited patiently for the first question to be asked. Principles such as faith, prayer and personal revelations were given emphasis as Elder Bednar answered questions revolving on these topics. Elder Bednar told the saints, “The gift of revelation is real and it applies to all members of the church. It is easy to look to others (like leaders of the church) for revelations – but we have to seek the power of personal revelations in our own individual lives. Every circumstance is different – we have to be able to recognize the answer to our own personal prayers as we sincerely and humbly seek personal revelations.” He continued by admonishing the saints to engage in meaningful prayers to help strengthen faith. “When I listen to the prophets pray I learn the following principles. First, prophets express more gratitude in their prayer. President Hinckley can express a variety of gratitude in his prayer by just merely seeing a beautiful floral arrangement. Second, prophets communicate – not just talk – when they are praying. Their prayers are uttered to be heard of God and not just by others. Third, prophets pray with faith and their faith invokes a principle of power and action. Pray that you will have the strength to act according to the Lord’s will.”
Elder Bednar also addressed the concern regarding having too many responsibilities and callings through a story. He narrated, “There was once a man who bought a 4-wheel drive truck….once he took this truck up in the mountain to get some wood but unfortunately the truck’s wheels got trapped in the snow and wouldn’t move. So the man thought that since he is stuck, he might as well do what he was set to do there which is to gather some woods. So he piled woods on his truck until it was full, then he tried to start the truck and to his amazement the truck’s wheels got unstuck from the mud and started to move. Why? Because of the LOAD. The load helped the truck’s wheels move and release them from being stuck in the snow. The load or our callings in the church is part of our mortal existence. In Mosiah 24: 13 – 15, when the Lord said “I will ease the burdens” it does not necessarily mean that the burden will be taken away, but the load will be made light. Sometimes I think I have a heavy load as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve until I see President Eyring and President Uchtdorf. Happiness is not the absence of the load. Happiness comes from serving God.”
Sister Bednar also shared her thoughts with these words, “Women have a lot of responsibilities. Sometimes women think that we need to accomplish all. See what you can accomplish in each stage of your lives. Pray to find out what the Lord wants you to do. Educate yourselves. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Have high expectations but not unrealistic ones. Gain the capacity to do the things with the help of the Lord. Look for His sustaining hands to bless and magnify you.” Elder Bednar then taught, “Balance in doing all things doesn’t exist. You cannot be perfectly balanced in doing all things. The principle is over time were you able to give sufficient attention to all things that you need to attend to. Prioritize. The Holy Ghost will help us to focus on the things that need attention at a time. There are nice things that are not very important – don’t attend to those. You have to determine what you need to do according to the will of God. Don’t neglect the things that really matter most.”
When Elder Bednar expounded on the principle of forgiveness, he emphasized the principle by saying, “The Spirit of the Lord cannot dwell in an unclean vessel. As a person begins to feel the presence of the Spirit, that’s a sign that he or she has been forgiven. The evidence of forgiveness is the return of the Spirit.” Elder Bednar also taught that sometimes a remembrance of our sin is needed to safeguard us from repeating it again but he also reminded that when we sincerely repent then as promised in the scriptures, the Lord remembers them (sins) no more. Elder Bednar further taught the need to remember covenants that we made to the Lord and how keeping our covenants help us when we are in the process of making decisions in our lives. “Pray in faith. Decide. When you feel at ease or settled with your decision then go for it. But if you feel unsettled or uneasy, pray and make another decision. Sometimes we will not know the reason why we decide on things that we decided on.” Elder Bednar continued, “It is the sense of feeling settled that is the key and answer to your prayers. If you are a good boy or a good girl and you are honoring your covenants, then you cannot go amiss. Ninety nine (99%) percent of the reason why you are here on earth is to honor your covenants. If you do, then Heavenly Father will not allow you to go far off”.
Elder Bednar also felt impressed to emphasize the importance of relying on the Spirit to help direct us to the path where we should go. He said, “The spiritual gift of personal revelations operates in the lives of all men and women who are obedient in keeping their covenants. If you are living worthily and are enjoying the comforting presence of the Spirit, then you have the right to receive…revelations for yourself.” When the topic was turned to the principles involving the word of wisdom, Elder Bednar had this to say, “The word of wisdom is about wisdom. It is also about health. If we obey the principles of the word of wisdom then our physical body will be a clean vessel that is ready to receive personal revelations from God. Stay away from substances that could mess up your health and physical body.”
“You are the rising generation of the church.” remarked Elder Bednar as he concluded the fireside. “It is not the church’s responsibility to teach you the gospel; rather it is your responsibility to learn it. You have to learn the gospel now then apply its doctrines and principles everyday. That is required of me and you. Learn the gospel at home and the church will help you – not the other way around.” Elder Bednar continued by counseling the single adults with these words, “It is important for you to understand that the master teacher is the Spirit. It is not knowing more, but applying what we already know with conviction. You must have the confidence to apply gospel principles and you get this kind of confidence when you keep your covenants. The Lord will help you if you seek His help. The Lord will say “You can, you will and you should enjoy the blessings of the gospel.”
Saturday Night Adult Session Stake Conference
Cebu Philippines Central Stake
When Elder Bednar stood up to address the members of Cebu Philippines Central Stake he began with an anecdote of someone asking the Quorum of the Twelve how a man like him was called to become an apostle, to which he said he got the reply “We have to put up with him to get to Sister Bednar.” Elder Bednar then invited Sister Bednar to give a short message and testimony. As Sister Bednar began her message she expressed her profound gratitude for her temple marriage with Elder Bednar. “Everytime I would think about the day we knelt together on the altar, I would always feel the desire to make our marriage better. I always feel strengthened.” Sister Bednar shared. “Great things happen in the temple. Prepare yourselves to receive the blessings of the temple.” she continued.
As Elder Bednar continued, he recalled an experience he had when he was a young stake president. He said that he made an observation that members who live far from the meetinghouse would always arrive early for church services. Those who live nearby always arrive late. So when the time came for a new meetinghouse to be built which would service the ones living far, he gave these members a reminder, “People who are at most convenience tend to become lazy.” Elder Bednar then related how this scenario could happen with the temple being built in Cebu. He said, “Since the temple would be very near and convenient for you, there might be a tendency to neglect it unlike when you have to go to Manila to attend temple services.” He then enumerated the predictable pattern of excitement whenever a new temple is being built. He observed that once a new temple site has been announced, saints tend to become very excited and the excitement grows stronger as the groundbreaking happens then construction until the dedication. But as soon as the temple is operational, the excitement slows down and the temple becomes underutilized with very few saints performing ordinances. Elder Bednar counseled, “You will be held accountable for what you do in the temple here in Cebu. Look with anticipation what blessings the temple would bring to this place and to the saints.” he continued.
Elder Bednar then related a question he would always ask released mission and temple presidents when he invited them for meetings in BYU Idaho where he served as president. The question was, “What have you learned from your previous assignments or callings?” to which he would always get the same answer. He said that the answer to this question revolves around the realization of the protecting power of the ordinances of the temple. He then itemized the promises given to the pioneers in Doctrine and Covenants 109 and related how these could also apply to the saints in Cebu when they seek the temple. “The Cebu saints will be greatly blessed if you seek these blessings as you serve in the temple. The temple will only be a short distance from you – please make sure it will not be underutilized.” reminded Elder Bednar.
Elder Bednar also explained why the adversary works hard to disqualify us from going to the temple. “Satan has no body. Therefore he hates us because we have one and he would do everything to make sure that we use our bodies inappropriately such as dressing immodestly, disobeying the law of chastity and others.” Elder Bednar then emphasized these words, “What Satan hates most are the things that are going on inside the temple.” He added that whenever Satan knows that a temple is being built he launches massive attacks to individuals and families to destroy homes. “Have you ever wondered why in the last 10 years there has been a huge decline on family values? It’s because in the last 10 years more than 60 temples were built” remarked Elder Bednar. He continued by counseling, “Make your homes patterned after the temple – a house of learning, a house of prayer, a house of order.” He then explained how our homes should be an avenue for learning in a way that inspired questions are answered with the assistance of the Spirit. He also emphasized that homes should be neat, orderly, reverent and should be a place where the gospel of Jesus Christ is learned and obeyed. “Our homes should be the most spiritual place when patterned after the temple.” added Elder Bednar. “There is power evident in the ordinances performed in the temple. Focus on them.” counseled Elder Bednar. He also cautioned the saints to avoid being caught by the web of “being too busy on things that don’t matter”. “Do not take the temple for granted.” ended Elder Bednar.
Special Youth Devotional
Cebu Philippines Central Stake
Elder and Sister Bednar started off the Special Youth Devotional with these words, “We love questions coming from the youth. They ask the best questions that adults are too afraid to ask.” After the quiet laughs died down, one by one the hopeful faces of the youths beamed as they vocalized the yearnings of their hearts. As questions were asked, Elder Bednar was able to teach and emphasize principles beginning with regularly reading the Book of Mormon. He explained to the youth why the Book of Mormon has the capacity to inspire and enlighten readers. He said, “The Bible has a lot of plain and precious things lost from it. We believe the Bible to be the words of God as far as it is translated correctly. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, is complete with all the plain and precious things that are missing in the Bible. Also the language used in the Book of Mormon is simple, plain and easy to understand. The Book of Mormon’s completeness and simplicity help us to be inspired when we read its contents. Read and study this book and pray that the Spirit will manifest it truths to you in your hearts.”
When asked what temptations he faced when he was growing up, Elder Bednar said “Same as yours today. Satan wants us to hurt our bodies with immodesty, drugs, disobedience to the law of chastity, smoking and others. The world is so captivated by addicting things because the adversary wants us to misuse our bodies – it wants us to focus only on “how do I look” instead of the gospel.” Elder Bednar further explained, “I overcame these (temptations) when I paid more attention to the teachings of my mother. My mother read to me the Book of Mormon everyday and because of the principles I learned I didn’t want to do bad things because I didn’t want to disappoint her. I also didn’t want to lose the companionship of the Holy Ghost. When we see, hear or do things that we are not suppose to, the Holy Ghost can sense and feel it and it will go away.” Elder Bednar also shared his thoughts regarding the need to turn our backs from the vain things of the world. He said, “There isn’t anything in this world that would make us truly happy except the plan of happiness of the Lord. I have seen and met some of the richest and most beautiful men and women of this world but their riches and beauty could not make them happy. Riches and beauty do not last. The only thing that could make us truly happy is to know the plan of God for us. This knowledge would create in us a profound joy that would last more than a lifetime. We have to set aside the things of this world so we can focus on Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness.”
Elder Bednar taught about humility with these words, “Humility is acknowledging God when things we do go well. None of us can do our callings without His help. Nobody is called because he is qualified; we are called because we could learn from God. When we think it’s WE instead of God that is pride. Humility is the key to learning from God.” Sister Bednar also shared her thoughts by sharing that we should always recognize our dependence to God. “When we think that we could do things only because of us then we cut our opportunity to learn from Him.” Taking the time to thank Sister Bednar for sharing her thoughts, Elder Bednar paid tribute to her by saying that the most spiritual and inspirational moment of his life was when he married his wife. “When I met her I want to be a good boy. I don’t want to do bad things. She looks pretty but she is also virtuous, pure, worthy and good.”
Elder Bednar also spoke to the youths regarding full time missionary service telling them that it is challenging and sometimes hard but with the help of the Lord it could be faithfully rendered. He also taught that through the help of the Spirit we can remember all things that we need to remember at the hour that we need them. “Study the scriptures and learn to obey all commandments. When you do these things then you can help teach others do the same. Listen in your seminary class and other gospel classes at home and in church. Always remember to follow the prophet.” counseled Elder Bednar. He then ended the question and answer portion with these words, “I have watched thousands of people who are not aware why they are here and where are they going after. They do not know their purposes. The gospel provides the answers which help us obey the commandments because we know. When you know and fully understand that you are a child of God, you will not violate the law of chastity and other commandments. We must know that we have the potential to become like our Heavenly Father. When we do wrong we have forgotten who we really are. You have to fully understand who you are first then obedience will follow.” Elder Bednar then quoted Elder Scott saying, “Be loyal to the royal within you.”
“What have you learned from the questions of the youths?” Elder Bednar asked the parents and leaders present as he concluded the devotional. “Do not under estimate the spiritual capacity of the youths to understand the gospel. They have spiritual depths, yearnings and desire.” reminded Elder Bednar. He also encouraged the parents to allow their children to ask questions during family home evening and let the answers to these questions be the lessons. “We owe our children the learnings and teachings.” counseled Elder Bednar. “The church will help provide spiritual nourishment and the simple truths of the gospel but the effort to teach them must come from you.” he continued. As Elder Bednar bore his special witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ he left a very special blessing to all with these words, “According to your desire and obedience, may the power of protection be upon all of you.”
Sunday General Stake Conference
Cebu Philippines Central Stake
Elder Bednar expounded two important principles attached to the atonement of Jesus Christ as he spoke to the saints who filled the halls of Sikatuna chapel. Elder Bednar emphasized that, first, the redeeming power of the atonement allows our sins to be cleansed. He said, “Because Jesus Christ is the Son of God and because He lived a perfect life, His atonement has the power to forgive mankind of their sins and iniquities when they repent sincerely. However, there is another principle that most of us tend to forget regarding the atonement and that is that the atonement has the capacity to strengthen us and enable us to do the things that we could not accomplish on our own.” Elder Bednar called this as the strengthening power of the atonement and that this is available to all and is intended to provide comfort, succor, support and upholding during our challenges, sufferings and limitations. Elder Bednar recounted that when Sister Bednar was pregnant with all of their three sons, she was very ill for almost eight months in each pregnancy. He said that they prayed for the illness to go away but instead of receiving a cure Sister Bednar was instead blessed with the capacity to endure her condition and eventually gave birth to healthy sons. “We should pray not for our burdens to be taken away but that we will have the capacity to bear them. The atonement can bring this blessing.” Elder Bednar explained. He further illustrated this principle by citing the experience of the people of Alma as recorded in Mosiah 24. He added that people have different challenges and are in a variety of circumstances but the atonement covers all. “The Savior suffered not only in Gethsemane but He also suffered for our anguishes, injustices and inequalities.” related Elder Bednar. “We cannot do the difficult tasks and endure difficult circumstances without the help of the atonement. In the Lord’s strength you and I can do what He asks each of us.” Elder Bednar continued. As Elder Bednar concluded his message, he counseled the saints to go home and ponder on the lessons given. He said. “As you pray, as you seek and knock, there will come to your heart an understanding of the strengthening power of the atonement and it will bring you to your knees. When this happens you will have the assurance that no matter what happens to the world you will be safeguarded and protected.”