General Conference
God’s Intent Is to Bring You Home
April 2024 general conference

God’s Intent Is to Bring You Home

Everything about the Father’s plan for His beloved children is designed to bring everyone home.

I would like to express gratitude for your prayers as I have started the process of adjusting to the call, through President Nelson, to serve as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. 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 honour to serve the Saviour, in any capacity, and to be engaged with you in sharing the good news of His gospel of hope.

Beyond that, it has been said that behind every new Apostle stands an astonished mother-in-law. I don’t know if that has actually been said, but in this case, it certainly could be. And I suspect that the fact that my mother-in-law is no longer with us does nothing to reduce her astonishment.

Several months ago, when my wife and I were visiting another country for various Church assignments, I woke up early one morning and looked blearily outside our hotel window. Down below on the busy street, I saw that a roadblock had been set up with a policeman stationed nearby to turn cars around as they reached the barrier. At first, only a few cars traveled along the road and were turned back. But as time went by and traffic increased, queues of cars began to build up.

From the window above, I watched as the policeman seemed to take satisfaction in his power to block the flow of traffic and turn people away. In fact, he seemed to develop a spring in his step, as if he might start doing a little jig, as each car approached the barrier. If a driver got frustrated about the roadblock, the policeman did not appear helpful or sympathetic. He just shook his head repeatedly and pointed in the opposite direction.

My friends, my fellow disciples on the road of mortal life, our Father’s beautiful plan, even His “fabulous” plan,1 is designed to bring you home, not to keep you out.2 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,”3 and He employs every possible measure to bring you back.

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,4 to learn and grow, to make mistakes, to repent, to love God and our neighbour, and to one day return home to Him.

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.

Everything about the Father’s plan for His beloved children is designed to bring everyone home.

What do God’s messengers, His prophets, call this plan in Restoration scripture? They call it the plan of redemption,5 the plan of mercy,6 the great plan of happiness,7 and the plan of salvation, which is unto all, “through the blood of mine Only Begotten.”8

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,9 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 honour 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”10 and offer your whole soul to Him.11 It is not to keep you out.

Does this mean anything goes with regard to how we live our lives? That the way we choose to use our agency doesn’t matter? That we can take or leave God’s commandments? No, of course not. Surely one of Jesus’s most consistent invitations and pleas during His mortal ministry was that we change and repent and come unto Him.12 Fundamentally implicit in all of His teachings to live on a higher plane of moral conduct13 is a call to personal progression, to transformative faith in Christ, to a mighty change of heart.14

God wants for us a radical reorientation of our selfish and prideful impulses, the eviction of the natural man,15 for us to “go, and sin no more.”16

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.”17

Jesus’s 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.

If you are prone to worry that you will never measure up, or that the loving reach of Christ’s infinite Atonement mercifully covers everyone else but not you, then you misunderstand. Infinite means infinite. Infinite covers you and those you love.18

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.”19

The Saviour, the Good Shepherd, goes in search of His lost sheep until He finds them.20 He is “not willing that any should perish.”21

“Mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive.”22

“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.”23

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.24 His entire ministry was a living declaration of this intent.

Then of course there is His atoning sacrifice itself, which is harder for us to understand, beyond our mortal capacity to comprehend. But, and this is an important “but,” we do understand, can comprehend, the holy, saving intent of His atoning sacrifice.

The veil of the temple was rent in twain when Jesus died upon the cross, symbolising 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.25

In other words, the Father’s plan is not about roadblocks. It never was; it never will be. Are there things we need to do, commandments to keep, aspects of our natures to change? Yes. But with His grace, those are within our reach, not beyond our grasp.

This is the good news! I am unspeakably grateful for these simple truths. The Father’s design, His plan, His purpose, His intent, His wish, and His hope are all to heal you, all to give you peace, all to bring you, and those you love, home. Of this I am a witness in the name of Jesus Christ, His Son, amen.