Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints extended three invitations Sunday evening to the faith’s 2.3 million members between the ages of 18 and 30.
Speaking live from a studio on Temple Square Sunday evening, the Apostle first invited young adults to “be still and know that God is God. Let His goodness and creations stir your imagination, calm and assure your heart, and testify He waits ready to deepen your personal relationship [with Him].”
Elder Gong encouraged the audience to make deliberate attempts to slow down and engage in a more reflective kind of faith life. This includes, he said, an appreciation for the wonders of the heavens, the beauties of the earth and the inspirations of art, literature, and music.
“It takes conscious effort to slow down and ‘be still.’ It takes spiritual openness and humility to ‘know that [God is] God (Psalms 46:10)’” he said. “Sometimes slowing down in things that matter less helps us find the things that matter most.” Beholding ultimate things fosters an eternal perspective that “can anchor us today,” he added.
Second, Elder Gong asked young adults to “change the future now” by developing “multigenerational relationships that will bless you and those around you for years to come.”
A woman named Melba Oakes (no relation to President Dallin H. Oaks), now 94 and a resident of St. George, Utah, was such a blessing to Elder Gong’s mother, Jean. When Melba was 21 and living in California, she befriended Jean, then 17 and new to the Church. Jean was far from home and the only Latter-day Saint in her family. “In small and simple ways,” Elder Gong said, Melba was there for his mother. This included being present at her high school graduation and keeping her wedding invitation.
“There are Jean Gongs and Melba Oakes all around us — in our apartment, workplace, ward or branch, in our circles and associations,” Elder Gong said. “We each look for sociality and opportunities to contribute. We all need a safe place to ask and seek, a safe space to learn and live gospel doctrine and Church culture.”
The Apostle said more love and less judgment of others will turn each congregation into a vulnerable and inviting faith community that radiates compassion and inclusivity.
“In divided societies, disciples of Jesus Christ can share a common divinity and humanity greater than any differences,” Elder Gong said. “In darkening, sometimes claustrophobic times, believers radiate His light and liberating truth. Where there is spiritual famine in the land, we celebrate Him as living water and the bread of life. … Today you help me. Tomorrow I help you. We are here for each other. That’s what gospel friends and family do.”
Elder Gong’s final invitation was for young adults to “trust the Lord of the harvest to help you become a better you.” He referenced a recent Church survey that shows the many ways young adult Latter-day Saints are helping to address significant humanitarian needs in their communities around the globe.
For example, Elder Gong said, young adults in the Church and their friends sew masks, support women’s refugee centers, clean up after natural disasters, provide nutrition to children, build local communities and donate to food banks.
Elder Gong also listed many of the humanitarian projects the Church writ large is engaged in. These include:
- 1,031 COVID-19 response projects in 151 countries
- 700 truckloads of food and other essentials that have traveled 1.6 million miles from the Bishops’ Central Storehouse to 380 food banks, homeless shelters and other charitable agencies. These trucks carry cans of meat and other foods, including fruit, legumes and puddings produced at the Church’s 19 farms, four canneries, three orchards and livestock operations, and one dairy.
- A partnership with another organization to deliver 30 million meals to school children in nine developing countries
“As disciples of Jesus Christ, our covenant belonging with God and each other invites us to be good and do good,” the Apostle said. “As you know, our Church provides humanitarian assistance without regard to race, religious affiliation or nationality. Our humanitarian activities are not used to proselyte our beliefs. We work with partners of all faiths, or of no faith. We respond to immediate and long-term needs. We stay while needs continue, long after the news cameras have gone. We foster self-worth and self-reliance. We feel Heavenly Father’s blessings as we express our love of God in doing all possible for our brothers and sisters, His sons and daughters, everywhere, in every way we can.”
Continual engagement in such service, in partnership with God, “will give an abundant increase” in life satisfaction, Elder Gong said, because “[God’s] are the blessings of a joy which is full.”
Elder Gong also encouraged young adults to qualify for and hold a current temple recommend, volunteer to serve in their local congregations, and “create a personal environment that nurtures faith and helps you keep God’s commandments. … Do not let the world pretend to offer you things it cannot deliver.”
Sister Susan Gong: Do Good Now Because “Heaven Is Not Waiting for the Pandemic to End”
In her remarks Sunday evening, Sister Gong said that increased time at home during the pandemic (in October 2020 she and Elder Gong both had the novel coronavirus) has allowed her to learn the skill of paper piecing. This is a kind of quilting that turns scraps of fabric into intricate designs.
These projects, she said, are counterintuitive because cloth is sewn together upside down and backward from how the final product will appear. “It’s hard to see how these bits of color will resolve into a coherent pattern,” she said. “But gradually, as you patiently cut, stitch and press over and over again, a beautiful design emerges.”
This, said Sister Gong, is also true of life — especially during a global pandemic now in its tenth month. Though the plan for one’s life may be obscured by the fog of difficult circumstances, she encouraged young adults to do good now by developing talents and seeking out wise and righteous mentors.
She encouraged young adults around the world to begin each day with a prayer of gratitude and a sincere plea for chances to serve and grow. “Then look for opportunities to be a truer friend, a kinder sister, a better son, a more generous neighbor, a more inspired minister, a more patient parent,” she said.
“Heaven is not waiting for the pandemic to end, for me to lose ten pounds or for you to be married to the person of your dreams,” she concluded. “Heaven is not waiting for us to be perfect or for us to arrive in the next world to bless us. If we do ‘the works of righteousness,’ we ‘shall receive [our] reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come’ (Doctrine and Covenants 59:23).”