Stand in the Sacred Grove

CES Devotional for Young Adults • May 6, 2012 • Sacramento, California


Good evening, brothers and sisters. I feel very grateful but also very humble to have been given this choice assignment by the First Presidency to speak to you tonight. To begin, I want you to know that I was once wrinkle-free, dark-headed, and full of life like you—a part of what the scriptures call the “rising generations.” I’m not sure what the correct antonym or opposite of rising is—perhaps “sinking” or “declining”—but whatever it is, it describes the stage of life I am now in, and it doesn’t sound very promising to me!

Although I’m speaking to you from a beautiful chapel near the Sacramento California Temple, I can see in my mind’s eye the tens of thousands of you—speaking nearly 40 different languages—who are assembled all across the world. I have been blessed to visit many of your countries, to hear you speak and bear testimony in your native tongues, and to witness firsthand your faith and devotion to the Lord. I love and commend you for your righteousness. I know life at your age can be challenging, and I know we sometimes err and have need to repent. But I sincerely thank you for seeking to stand firm in your faith in Christ and His restored gospel. My fondest wish tonight is that I might be blessed to speak by the power of the Holy Ghost and thereby contribute to an increase of your faith.

Sacred Places

There are places on this earth that have been made sacred by what happened there. According to the Old Testament, one of these places is Sinai, Horeb, or “the mountain of God” (Exodus 3:1; see also Exodus 3:12; 34:2), where the Lord appeared to Moses in the burning bush. As Moses approached the bush, the Lord said to him, “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).

My family and I were once blessed to live in a sacred place. In 1993—four years after my call to the Seventy—we were asked to serve for two years in the Church’s New York Rochester Mission. That mission includes the town of Palmyra (where Joseph Smith and his family lived during much of the 1820s) and Fayette (where the Church was organized in April 1830). About 110 miles south of Palmyra, in the state of Pennsylvania, is the site of Harmony (where Joseph Smith met Emma Hale and where they lived as a newly married couple while much of the Book of Mormon was translated in the late 1820s). This general area is known as the “Cradle of the Restoration,” as this is where the Church was born. It is picturesque country, characterized by rolling, wooded hills; clear lakes and streams; and warm, colorful people. It is also a place made sacred by what happened there.

The Sacred Grove

In a grove of towering beeches, oaks, maples, and other trees, about one quarter of a mile west of the Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith family home near Palmyra, 14-year-old Joseph Smith saw in vision God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, in the spring of 1820. This divine manifestation, in response to Joseph’s prayer to know the truth concerning religion and how he might obtain a remission of his sins, began the Restoration of the gospel in this final dispensation. It also made that grove of trees a revered place in the history of our Church—a place we honor with the name “Sacred Grove.”

While I served as mission president, my family and I came to love that grove of trees and to feel of its sacredness. We went there often. Each month as new missionaries arrived and as those finishing their missions departed, we took them there. Our practice was to gather at an entrance to the grove, and after singing tonight’s opening hymn—“Joseph Smith’s First Prayer”1—we invited the elders and sisters to disperse and find a secluded place in the grove where they could each commune with God in prayer and make and report on their personal commitments to Him. These visits to the Sacred Grove were and remain treasured experiences for all who were blessed to have them.

I realize, however, that only a small number of you will ever be able to visit the Sacred Grove in person. For this reason, in this, the spring of 2012—192 years after Joseph Smith’s First Vision—I want you to come with me virtually into the Sacred Grove. Stand with me there while I share with you some visual scenes of the grove, the reasons for my love of that sacred place, and the valuable life’s lessons one can learn there.

I am indebted to Brother Robert Parrott, a forester and naturalist employed by the Church, who lives in Palmyra, for bringing to my attention some of the insights about the Sacred Grove that I will share. Though not yet a member of our faith, Brother Parrott reveres the Sacred Grove and gives it tender and very professional care.

Scriptural Imagery Involving Trees

As I have reverently walked through the Sacred Grove or sat in thought on the benches that are provided there, I have often reflected on the abundance of scriptural imagery involving trees, branches, roots, seeds, fruits, and forests. Adam and Eve, our first parents, undoubtedly received the first lesson in tree husbandry. The prophet Jacob, quoting Zenos in the Book of Mormon, shares an intricate allegory or story of tame and wild olive trees as he teaches about the scattering and gathering of Israel (see Jacob 5). And who among us hasn’t read, reread, and prayerfully pondered the seed of faith Alma invites us to plant that, with patient care and proper nourishment, becomes “a tree springing up unto everlasting life”? (Alma 32:41; see verses 27–43).

So it is with the Sacred Grove. A careful observer of nature—especially when he is accompanied by a naturalist of the caliber of Brother Robert Parrott—can learn some significant lessons from the ecosystem that exists there. I wish to briefly share four of those lessons with you tonight.

Life’s Lessons from the Sacred Grove

Lesson number 1: Trees always grow toward the light.

One interesting phenomenon to be observed in the Sacred Grove is the trees growing on the edge of the original forest, as well as those lining many of the interior pathways. They have grown outward to escape the overshadowing foliage above them, and then upward to absorb the greatest possible sunlight. Their crooked trunks and branches stand in stark contrast to neighboring trees that grow almost perfectly straight. Trees, like almost all living organisms, need light to survive and to thrive. They will do all in their power to soak in as much sunlight as possible to promote photosynthesis—the process of converting light energy into chemical energy, or the “fuel” used by almost all living organisms.

I’m sure your young, bright minds already know where this metaphor from the Sacred Grove is taking us! Light is an even more important catalyst in the spiritual realm than it is in nature. This is so because light is essential to our spiritual growth and the realization of our full potential as God’s sons and daughters.

Darkness is the opposite of light and represents the forces in the world that seek to separate us from God and to frustrate His divine plan for our lives. It is usually after dark or in dark places that the forces of evil exert their greatest influence. At your stage in life, breeches of the law of chastity, acts of stealing, gambling, violations of the Word of Wisdom, and other behaviors forbidden by our Heavenly Father are usually engaged in under cover of darkness. Even when we choose to do wrong during broad daylight—for example, by cheating on an examination, plagiarizing in writing a paper, maliciously gossiping about someone, using profanity, or lying—we can’t help but have feelings of darkness.

Fortunately, the Spirit of Christ “giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.

“And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father” (D&C 84:46–47).

This passage from the Doctrine and Covenants beautifully describes the upward reach of man, the natural God-given spiritual instinct we all have—if we don’t stifle it—to go toward the light and, in so doing, to go toward God and His Son and to become more like Them. Of Himself, Christ said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

In understanding scripture, you can tell a lot about a word by the company that it keeps. In your scripture study, notice how often the words light, Spirit, truth, and Jesus Christ are found in close proximity. They are nearly synonymous, and all draw us upward to a higher and more holy way of life.

With all my heart I urge you to avoid the darkness of sin in all its vile forms and to fill your lives with Spirit, truth, and the light of our Savior, Jesus Christ. You can do this by seeking after noble friends, inspiring music and art, knowledge out of the best books (especially the scriptures), moments of sincere prayer, quiet times in nature, wholesome activities and conversations, and a life centered on Christ and His teachings of love and service. Remember always, and especially in seeking an eternal companion, the Lord’s declaration that “truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light” (D&C 88:40). This principle of goodness being attracted to goodness provides hope that if we live a life in the light of the gospel, we will eventually find a companion walking a parallel path of righteousness. I know the more we endeavor to fill our own lives with light, the less room there is for darkness and the closer we will eventually come to being like Christ, the Light of the World.

Because of the special blessing that is mine tonight to speak to you exceptional young Latter-day Saints, I want to raise a voice of warning but also a voice of encouragement and hope concerning the darkness that will inevitably invade your life if you become involved with pornography. Using pornographic material in any way offends God and violates His command that we not commit adultery “nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6). Use of pornography almost always leads to additional violations of the law of chastity. Repeated exposure to pornographic materials and participation in the forms of sexual transgression that usually follow can create an addiction that must be dealt with and treated with the same care that is given to addictions to alcohol or drugs.

If pornography has already plagued your life and is a persistent and recurring problem, I beg of you to seek both ecclesiastical and professional help. Please know that a pornography addiction is not just “a little problem” that you can conquer in secrecy with prayer, scripture study, and greater self-control.

Because an addiction to pornography can diminish your willpower to choose good over evil, you will need meekness and humility to embrace the Atonement of Jesus Christ and be blessed by the Atonement’s enabling power. What this means, in practical terms, is that if you exert your own best efforts—which include going through a repentance process with your bishop’s or branch president’s help to gain forgiveness of sin and going through a recovery process involving professional counseling and possibly group support to overcome your addiction—the enabling power of the Atonement (which the Bible Dictionary describes as a divine means of help or strength2), will assist you to overcome the compulsion of a pornography addiction and, over time, to heal from its corrosive effects. Through the power of the Atonement, both forgiveness of sin and recovery from addiction are possible, and both are wonderful.

Please, shun darkness and, like trees, always seek to grow toward the light.

Lesson number 2: Trees require opposition to fulfill the measure of their creation.

Various schools of thought about forest management have been followed through the years in caring for the Sacred Grove. At one time a test plot was selected and a practice known as “release thinning” was employed. It worked this way: The foresters identified what they felt were potentially the largest and healthiest young trees in the test plot, and then they cut and pruned out the less-promising trees and the competing undergrowth. The supposition was that by removing much of the competition for water, sunlight, and soil nutrients, the chosen trees would be “released” to grow and develop in extraordinary ways.

After some years it became obvious that just the opposite was occurring. Once freed from competition, the chosen trees became complacent. Instead of stretching upward toward the light, they slowed their vertical growth, put out many lower limbs that would eventually become useless when the canopy closed, and became fatter. Meanwhile, the trees that were removed resprouted as multistemmed bushes, which would not become viable trees but continued to use water and nutrients. These bush-like trees continued to compete with the chosen trees, but not in a way that would bring about positive growth in either of them. As a result, none of the trees in the test plot compared in size or vitality to the trees left to grow more naturally and that had to compete and overcome opposition in order to survive and to thrive.

As you know, one of the key doctrines of the Book of Mormon is that there must be an opposition in all things. A world with opposites provides choices between good and evil so that agency can operate. Equally important, however, is the principle that opposition must exist for spiritual growth to occur—or, as father Lehi put it, for “holiness” to be brought to pass (2 Nephi 2:11). I want to stress that understanding this principle—that spiritual growth requires opposition and adversity—and even embracing this principle at your age is a key to accepting and being generally happy with life. It is also critical to experiencing needed personal growth and development.

Sooner or later, all of us will encounter opposition and adversity. Some of it will come simply as a result of being here in mortality in a fallen world. It is the common lot of all mankind. Such opposition can take many forms. It may involve forces of nature. It may consist of illness and disease. (I seem to be able to contract the flu even when vaccinated against it!) It may come in the form of temptations. For some it will mean unmet expectations. (I would have loved to be 6 feet 5 inches tall, but I have learned to be happy with the 5 feet 9 inches that I was allotted—and with the inevitable lowering of the pulpit whenever I have a talk to give.) It may be in the form of loneliness or physical or mental imperfections and disabilities—the list of opposing forces is nearly endless, and so are the blessings of personal growth and development if we have the faith to take the long view and endure it all well. I take great solace from the Lord’s words to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail at a time when Joseph’s burdens were nearly unbearable: “Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).

Sometimes opposition and hardship come because of our own misguided choices. The poor health or injury that may result from a reckless lifestyle, the anguish and sorrow that come from breaking God’s laws, the regret we later feel when we fail to make the most of the time and talents given to us—all are conditions of our own making. How grateful we should all be to our Savior, whose Atonement provides a way for us to mend everything that is broken.

I’ve noticed that when faced with opposition we often ask “why”—Why me? Why now? Why this?—when to ask “what” would be more constructive. I once sent a letter of comfort to a couple in distress because the husband was dying of an incurable illness. Their reply was humbling: they enumerated the blessings God had given them in their many years together and then faithfully wondered “what” it was that God was trying to teach them in this final tutorial.

There are trees in the Sacred Grove that Brother Parrott calls “character trees.” These are trees that demonstrate that opposition can work to our benefit and that in our extremity there is often much to be gained. These trees have had to react and adapt to and sometimes recover from various forms of opposition or adversity—a lightning strike, a powerful gust of wind, a heavy accumulation of snow or ice, the encroachment and abuse of careless humans, and even sometimes the aggression of a neighboring tree! Out of these adverse circumstances have come some of the sturdiest and most visually interesting trees in the grove. What they may lack in symmetrical beauty, they more than make up for in resoluteness and in character.

From my own life’s experience, I can testify that opposition, hardship, and adversity produce character and growth. Some of the most challenging and demanding experiences of my own life—feelings of inadequacy and self-consciousness during my adolescence, my mission to Germany as a young man and the learning of the German language, the earning of a law degree and passing the bar examination, my efforts to be an acceptable husband and father and to provide both spiritually and temporally for our family of eight children, the loss of my parents and other loved ones, even the public and often stressful nature of my service as a General Authority (including the preparation and giving of this address to you tonight)—all this and more, though challenging and hard, has given me experience and has been for my good!

I know it’s not an easy case to make to you young people that a little pain is good for you, but it honestly is. If we are ever going to receive “all that [the] Father hath” (D&C 84:38), it’s not going to happen without giving all that we have in return. Our Heavenly Father desires noble sons and daughters, and as Lehi taught, holiness can only be brought to pass through adversity and testing. People, like trees, require opposition to fulfill the measure of their creation.

Lesson number 3: Trees are best grown in forests, not in isolation.

If you think about it, in nature it’s very unusual to see a tree standing alone. They almost always congregate in groves, and over time, groves may become forests. The Sacred Grove, however, is much more than just a group of trees. It is a complicated ecosystem that includes numerous species of flora and fauna. There is an observable interconnectedness among all the different varieties of wildflowers, bushes, shrubs, trees, fungi, mosses, birds, rodents, rabbits, deer, and other creations that are there. These species interact and rely on one another for food, shelter, and a synergistic and social environment where they can all experience their cycle of life.

God’s plan for our lives contemplates a similar interconnectedness and sociality for us. We are to work out our salvation together, not in isolation. The Church builds meetinghouses, not hermitages. We are asked to attend a specific ward or branch—not to pick and choose our congregation, as in some faiths. This wise policy requires us to learn to get along with each other and to be accountable to our bishop or branch president for our behavior, not to run and hide when the going gets tough! We’re commanded to love our neighbors (which includes our family members), and learning to love those closest to us is often much more difficult than remotely loving “all the world.” From the beginning of the Restoration, the command has been for the Saints to “come to Zion” and to gather in communities where we can learn to live in harmony and mutually support one another by honoring our baptismal covenant “to bear one another’s burdens, … to mourn with those that mourn; … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8–9). As God’s children, we can no more prosper in isolation than a solitary tree can. Healthy trees need an ecosystem; healthy people need each other.

Thankfully, there is in all of us a longing for sociality, for companionship, for loyal friends. As members of God’s eternal family, we all yearn for the satisfaction and security that close and lasting relationships can provide. You will learn that the creation of such relationships takes time, effort, and an abundance of charity. As Mormon expressed it, “charity … seeketh not her own” (Moroni 7:45)—not her own agenda, not her own interests, and certainly not her own pleasure. Although the Internet and social networking sites undoubtedly provide for a form of sociality, they are no substitute for the honest, open, and face-to-face communication that must occur for authentic and lasting relationships to be established.

Certainly the earliest and best laboratory for learning to get along with others is the home. It is at home that we learn the lessons of service, unselfishness, forgiveness, and patience that are essential to the formation of lasting relationships with others. I think it is for this reason that a part of being “temple worthy” is the requirement that we live in love and harmony with members of our family.

Happily, the inspired organization of the Church also provides opportunities and settings where we can develop socially. From our youngest to our oldest years, we belong to a ward or branch and are in situations where relationships with others and sociality can flourish. In Church callings, meetings, classes, quorums, councils, activities, and a variety of other opportunities for association, we develop the attributes and social skills that help prepare us for the social order that will exist in heaven. In speaking of this higher order, the Lord, through Joseph Smith, said: “And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy” (D&C 130:2).

If we hope to enjoy the sociality of heaven and its associated glory in the world to come, we need continually to mature socially as well as spiritually while here on earth. People, like trees, are best grown in communities, not in isolation.

Lesson number 4: Trees draw strength from the nutrients created by previous generations of trees.

There was a period of time in caring for the Sacred Grove when those in charge decided that the grove should have a well-groomed appearance. Service projects for youth and missionaries were periodically organized to clear the grove of fallen trees and limbs, undergrowth, and even stumps and dead leaves. Under this practice, it wasn’t long before the vitality of the grove began to diminish. Tree growth slowed, fewer new trees sprouted, some species of wildflowers and plants began to disappear, and numbers of wildlife and birds decreased.

When Brother Parrott took over the care of the grove some years ago, he recommended that the grove be left in as natural a state as possible. Fallen trees and limbs were left to decompose and enrich the soil. Leaves were left lying where they fell. Visitors were asked to stay on marked pathways so that the grove would be less disturbed and the soil within the grove less compacted. Within just a few years, the grove began to regenerate and renew itself in a remarkable way. Today it flourishes in a nearly pristine state, with lush vegetation and an abundance of wildlife.

The lesson to be learned from this experience in forest management is dear to my heart. For seven years now it has been my privilege to serve as the Church historian and recorder. This is an office that was created by the Prophet Joseph Smith in response to the Lord’s command to him on the day the Church was organized: “Behold, there shall be a record kept among you” (D&C 21:1). From that day—beginning with the appointment of Oliver Cowdery as the first Church historian and recorder and continuing until the present time—a remarkable record of our Church’s history has been kept. John Whitmer replaced Oliver Cowdery and was told by the Lord to keep “a history of all the important things … which shall be for the good of the church, and for the rising generations that shall grow up on the land of Zion” (D&C 69:3, 8).

Why do record keeping and the collection, preservation, and sharing of history enjoy such importance in the Church of Jesus Christ? Why is it critical for you, as part of today’s “rising generations,” to be mindful of and draw strength from past generations?

In response, I suggest that it is impossible to live fully in the present—much less to plan for our future destiny—without the foundation of the past. This truth was brought forcefully to my attention some months ago in meeting a wonderful couple who had experienced a most unusual trial, which I share with permission. After some years of marriage and the birth of several children, the wife was involved in a serious accident. She remained in the hospital several weeks in an unconscious state. When she came to, she had suffered a complete loss of her memory! She had, in effect, no history. Without memory of her past, she had no point of reference. She didn’t know her husband, her children, or her parents! As the husband related this story to me, he confided that in those early months following the accident, he worried that his wife would wander off if left unattended. He also feared that his wife wouldn’t fall in love with him again. During courtship he had been a trim, athletic young man with a full head of hair. Now, at midlife, he was more portly and had much less hair!

Fortunately for all concerned, at least a partial record had been kept. The husband had saved letters written by his wife before and during his mission. These provided evidence that the two of them had indeed been in love. He also had kept a journal that contained helpful entries. Gradually, over some years, the wife has had much of her past restored to her through the sharing of that history by her loved ones.

This unique and tender situation illustrates well the important relationship of the past to the present and to the future. It helps us more fully appreciate the Lord’s definition of truth as revealed to Joseph Smith: “Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (D&C 93:24). The knowledge we have of our past because of the records that have been kept and of our future because of the scriptures and the prophetic teachings of living prophets provide us the context that allows wise use of our agency during our present existence. In effect, this knowledge gives us a more godly perspective because it brings us closer to His ability to have “all things … present before [His] eyes” (D&C 38:2).

As members of the Church from many nations, we all share the early history of the Church in common. It is important for all of us to become familiar with our Church’s history, especially what I will call its “founding stories.” These stories—Joseph Smith’s First Vision, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, angelic visitations by John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John, Elijah, Elias, and others—contain the foundational truths upon which the Restoration of the gospel is based.

Regrettably, in this technological age where information abounds—some of it critical of events and people in the Church’s history—some Latter-day Saints become shaken in their faith and begin to question long-held beliefs. To such questioning individuals I extend love and understanding and the assurance that if they will abide by gospel principles and prayerfully pursue their study of Church history—studying sufficiently to gain a more comprehensive rather than a fragmentary or incomplete knowledge—the Holy Ghost will confirm their faith in the essential events in Church history by speaking peace to their minds. In this way they can become settled in their convictions concerning the history of the restored Church and “be no more … carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). I have staked the course of my entire life on just such feelings of peace concerning Joseph Smith’s First Vision and other seminal events of the restored gospel, as have many of you, and I know we will never be disappointed.

History in its most basic form is a record of people and their lives, and from those lives come stories and lessons that can reinforce what we believe, what we stand for, and what we should do in the face of adversity. Not all of the stories that make up our history are of the epic nature of Joseph Smith’s First Vision or of Wilford Woodruff’s mission to England. In fact, some truly remarkable stories come from the lives of very ordinary Latter-day Saints, which most of us are. They are especially dear and helpful to us when the stories involve our own ancestors.

For instance, in the 1920s my grandfather and grandmother Jensen—despite toiling long hours—were forced to give back to the seller a farm they were buying and on which they lived in the state of Idaho. They wanted to return with their young children to their hometown in Utah but couldn’t leave Idaho until they cleared $350 in debt. This seems like a small amount today, but it was significant then. Grandfather tried to borrow the money from men who had it, but with no success. Borrowing from a bank was out of the question because of their destitute circumstances. He and Grandmother prayed for help every day. One Sunday morning at priesthood meeting, a man Grandfather hardly knew approached him and told him he had heard of his trouble and would lend Grandfather the $350 with the expectation that when Grandfather got back to Utah, he would repay the man as soon as possible. Their agreement was consummated with a handshake, and Grandfather kept his word.

This simple story recorded by my grandmother Jensen is a family treasure. It inspires me by illustrating attributes of hard work, honesty, overcoming adversity, family solidarity, and most significantly, it shows the hand of God in the lives of my faithful grandparents. I draw great strength and encouragement from their example and from the example of others, both the great and the common, of past generations.

You may find similar stories in your own land and in your own families. Where they exist, I urge you to collect these stories, to preserve them, and to share them. Take care to pass them on from one generation to another. My children (and mostly now my grandchildren) always love it when I tell them stories about “when I was a little boy”! I have heard it said that a people can be no greater than its stories, and I believe the same is true of families. Good stories—if true—make good history. Remember, people, like trees, draw strength from the nutrients created by previous generations.


Now, as I conclude, I want you to return with me to the Sacred Grove and stand with me there near one of the so-called “witness trees.” These are trees that were growing in the grove 192 years ago at the time of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. There are three of them still living in the grove and three dead witness trees that remain standing through the skillful preservation efforts of Brother Parrott.

When we were serving our mission near Palmyra, I used to sometimes go into the Sacred Grove alone and stand in reverence next to my favorite witness tree. I used to imagine that if that tree could talk it would tell me what it witnessed that spring day in 1820. But I really didn’t need that tree to tell me—I already knew. By virtue of spiritual experiences and feelings beginning in my youth and continuing to this very hour, I have come to know, independent of any other person, that God, our Father, lives. I know, too, that His Son, Jesus Christ, is the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. I know these two glorified Beings appeared to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove in the spring of 1820. They raised Joseph up as the founding prophet of this, the final gospel dispensation. Working under Their divine direction, Joseph translated the Book of Mormon, received priesthood keys and authority, and organized Christ’s Church again in these latter days. We are tremendously blessed to be living at this time and to be members of Christ’s Church.

These glorious truths of which I have testified have their beginning in the Sacred Grove. As you have figuratively stood with me in the Sacred Grove tonight, so stand always in your minds and in your hearts in that sacred place and live true to the truths that God began to reveal there.

Remember, too, the life’s lessons that the Sacred Grove teaches:

  1. When powers of darkness seek to destroy you—as they once did an inquiring young Joseph Smith, stand in the Sacred Grove and remember the pillar of light, “above the brightness of the sun” (see Joseph Smith—History 1:15–17).

  2. When opposition and adversity hedge up your way and hope dims, stand in the Sacred Grove and remember that “all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).

  3. When loneliness and isolation are your lot and you struggle to establish fulfilling human relationships, stand in the Sacred Grove with the community of Latter-day Saints who have covenanted to help bear your burdens and comfort you in your need.

  4. And when experiences or people or conflicting truth claims challenge your faith and create doubt concerning the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, stand in the Sacred Grove and take strength and encouragement from the generations of faithful Latter-day Saints who have steadfastly stood there before you.

This is my prayer for you, my young friends, and I offer it with love and in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


  1. Hymns, no. 26.

  2. See Bible Dictionary, “Atonement”; see also Guide to the Scriptures, “Atone, Atonement,”