Editor's note: "This Week from the Pulpit" highlights recent messages by General Authorities and General Officers of the Church.
One of the most powerful tools for change in our world? Prayer. We all have the ability to speak with our Heavenly Father directly. Great and marvelous things can happen when we pray. Joseph Smith started with one question, one prayer that led to the Restoration of the Lord's Church. This past week, Church leaders gave messages about the importance of prayer and its ability to shape the world around us. Here are a few summaries of their messages.
President M. Russell Ballard, The National Prayer Breakfast
Recently, President M. Russell Ballard penned an article for Deseret News regarding the importance of the National Prayer Breakfast that was held Thursday morning. President Ballard mentioned that the National Prayer Breakfast is a gathering where religious, government, and business leaders set aside their differences to reflect on the “need for divine guidance in addressing the difficult challenges that face America today.”
It seems that now more than ever, prayer is seen as irrelevant in the modern world. President Ballard took a different stand on the necessity for this sacred ritual, “The secularists and the skeptics scoff at the need for prayer in our modern world of science and knowledge. I disagree.”
President Ballard referenced the Founding Fathers as a demonstration of faith through prayer. “Our nation was founded on prayer, it was preserved by prayer and we need prayer again.”He wrote about the different individuals, including first United States President George Washington, that were involved with the founding of America. These individuals “entered into a relationship with God” and relied on miracles by prayer to build this nation.
An invitation to pray for our nation was given by President Ballard. “It is time again to unite to pray for this country, for our leader, for our people and for the families that live in this great nation founded by God. I invite all to join, not just in a moment of prayer, but in a new, and sustained movement of prayer.”
President Ballard concluded with the hope of uniting our nation through prayer. “I believe a movement of prayer in this nation will build new bridges across those differences and to that God who knows our collective and individual struggles and whose help this nation desperately needs.”
Read President Ballard's article at Deseret News
Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, BYU Devotional
The focus of Sister Bonnie H. Cordon’s message to BYU students was instruction regarding the nature of prayer. Sister Cordon presented the solution for the human need to connect with the divine, “ask of God.”
Sister Cordon remarked that there is a pattern to prayer. She discussed the connection that we have and need with our Heavenly Father in order to communicate with him. Sister Cordon said that “recently, as I uttered the familiar words to address my Heavenly Father in prayer, I was overcome with a sense of awe. I paused and thought, ‘Who am I to address God?’ But almost instantly, an innate knowledge was rekindled—He is my Father, and I am His daughter.”
After we have established our connection with Heavenly Father, we should show our gratitude to the Lord. Sister Cordon explained that “there is a power that comes as we are generous with our gratitude.” She then presented the questions, “What if we offered thanks for those situations that bring us frustration, sorrow or even anguish?” “Could we open our heart and offer thanks for a trial while still experiencing it?”
Heavenly Father also welcomes prayers that include gratitude and requests for blessings. “The object of our prayers should be to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is eager to bestow, according to His will and timing.”
She expanded more on the idea of “His timing.” “There may be some of you who are thinking, ‘I have prayed and continue to pray, but the Lord doesn’t answer.’” She continues, “There is a reason prayer is referred to as ‘a form of work.’” “At some point, we all ‘wait upon the Lord.’”
Sister Cordon referenced that reason we close our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ is because it “puts our gratitude and our askin in the context of the divine plan of happiness.”
Prayer should be a daily fervent ritual; it is not just for times of trials. Sister Cordon remarked, “How would our relationship with our Father change if the passion and sincerity of our prayers did not wane after the crisis has passed? Can you imagine the truths we will discover and the wonders we will achieve as we choose to ‘pray always’ with the same fervor we plead with when we are in need?”
Sister Cordon invited the students to think of prayer as “your solace, guide and stay.”
Read a summary of Sister Cordon's message at Church News
Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., “The First Vision of Joseph Smith, Jr.: 200 Years On” Conference
The Huntington Library and Art Museum hosted a conference last month for the upcoming 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. Church News reported that the conference consisted of 12 religious scholars, including members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and those of other faiths, that addressed different topics surrounding Joseph Smith and the First Vision.
Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., a General Authority Seventy and Church Historian delivered an address that consisted of an outline of “four theological truths that Latter-day Saints derive from the First Vision.” Church News summarized the four theological truths, they are as follows:
God hears and answers prayers asked with faith.
God is willing to reveal His will to mortals, as He did in biblical times.
God’s nature is merciful, and the Godhead comprises three distinct personages.
The general apostasy prophesied in the Bible occurred, and the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ began with Joseph Smith’s First Vision.
The First Vision is critical to our faith. These four theological truths derived from the First Vision allows us as members of the Church to know of the existence of God and the nature of Heavenly Father.
Many scholars have questioned the legitimacy of Joseph Smith’s First Vision based upon the fact that there have been variations in Joseph Smith’s different accounts of the Vision. Elder Curtis interpreted the variation of among the accounts as Joseph Smith’s “inability to adequately describe his experience, which is something he mentioned and lamented repeatedly. I believe that the accounts, taken as a whole, are harmonious and that the differences are expected rather than a cause to suspect that Joseph did not experience a vision of divine beings.”
In the early days of missionary work, the First Vision was not as heavily focused on as it is now. In regards to the shift of focus, Elder Curtis responded, “in the second half of the 19th century, as agnosticism and atheism spread across the western world, teaching about the First Vision increased in importance,” he said. “It was viewed as an important part of our ministry that we testify that God had personally appeared to a modern prophet.”
Church News recorded that the Church purchased the Sacred Grove in 1907, where Joseph Smith’s First Vision took place. The site is now reserved for visitors that would like a moment “for quiet reflection on the sacred theophany that occurred there.”
The First Vision is critical to the basis of our faith and has influenced millions of people. “Millions of people around the globe have been impacted for good by [the First Vision], as it has been shared by Joseph Smith and the Church that was restored through him,” he added. “I am one of those millions,” Elder Curtis said.
Read a summary of the conference and Elder Curtis Jr.'s message at Church News