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Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Tender Mercies of the Lord: Sacrament Talk from a Teenager in China

I am so grateful for the privilege we foreign Latter-day Saints in Shanghai have to meet and worship. There are two large branches of "expats" (foreign passport holders) and we have wonderful sacrament meetings on average. The average was brought down last week when I was the concluding speaker, but fortunately the meeting also featured an exemplary talk from one of the terrific young women in the Shanghai International Branch, 16-year-old Kimberly Teo. When I spoke, I commented on what a fine talk it was and publicly suggested that it should be put online. I later spoke with her personally and got permission to share this with you. I really like how well she prepared, how she thoughtfully applied scriptures and personal experiences to her topic, and how her talk was written and delivered with the objective of helping those in the audience. She told me that when she prepared the talk, she prayed that at least one person might be touched. There were many of us. Thank you, Kimberly!
Sacrament Meeting Talk by Kimberly Teo, Shanghai, June 2012

Good morning dear brothers and sisters. When was the last time that you counted, one by one, each of God’s tender mercies towards you? When was the last time you acknowledged that through the power of the great Omnipotent, you have been spared by the fiery darts of evil and been protected, spiritually and physically? If you have not, you can always start, and the time is now. In preparation for this talk, it dawned on me that I have been protected in many instances by the power of God, and that even in circumstances where I needed to experience a trial, it was because of God’s tender love and mercy towards me that I am able to stand before you and deliver this talk to you today. However, because I feel like God’s tender mercies over His children are limitless and so insurmountably great, I will be focusing my talk specifically on God’s tender mercies to us during times of trial.

In Psalms 56:1, King David cries out: “Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me”. In this increasingly dark and filthy world we live in today, I am sure that many of us in this room have echoed the words of David at one point of our lives. However, we can find comfort in modern day revelation, where in 1 Nephi 1:20 it reads, “But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all…to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance”. That was revelation given to Nephi at the start of the Book of Mormon. At the end of the Book of Mormon we also see similar words being offered by Moroni, who pleads: “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things… that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts”. I don’t know about you, but when I try to think about times from the creation of Adam up till the time when Moroni says “that ye shall receive these things”, it’s a pretty long time. God is definitely a patient God. What with the wars and rumors of wars that have happened on the face of the Earth since the dawn of time up till this very moment, God has definitely proven himself to be a merciful God.

Elder David A. Bednar of the twelve said, “As you and I face challenges and tests in our lives, the gift of faith and an appropriate sense of personal confidence that reaches beyond our own capacity are two examples of the tender mercies of the Lord. Repentance and forgiveness of sins and peace of conscience are examples of the tender mercies of the Lord. And the persistence and the fortitude that enable us to press forward with cheerfulness through physical limitations and spiritual difficulties are examples of the tender mercies of the Lord.”

I cannot imagine a life to lead where my knowledge of this gospel is void. Unable to recognize a higher power from on high, I would most definitely feel lost and out of place in this world of 7 billion people. However, because I was blessed to grow up in the church, I have been able to see God’s hand move throughout my life.

My parents recount that I was a particularly difficult birth. Almost immediately sent to the intensive care unit soon after I was born into this world, the fragile body that my new soul was set into could have easily lost the battle with my physical fragilities, and I could have just spent a few hours, days, or weeks on this Earth. Being then fresh into this world, I know now that God was watching over me, preserving my tiny life and giving me a chance to experience mortality. That was an example of God’s tender mercy towards me.

Some of you may have heard my Mom tell this story before. My sister Krystal encountered an unfortunate accident when she was about 3 years old. One of her fingers on her right hand was cut off in the incident, and when you put a screaming toddler and a group of confused and crying young cousins together, you get a much disoriented, angry, and sad mother who walks in and sees what has happened. The chaos might have been long-lasting even after the incident was cleared, but my family is a clear witness that God was watching over us. He was merciful in eventually allowing my sister to get back what she lost that day. Just like Elder Bednar said, He gave Krystal the persistence to press through physical limitations. But hidden more subtly behind the surface was that God taught my Mom what it meant to be merciful. To forgive the ones who had done wrong, and to have a cheerful heart despite of the circumstances. Brothers and sisters, I am sure that as I could ramble on and on counting every time God has shown my family and I mercy, so could you. We are all walking, breathing testimonies of the love that God has for us.

A striking example of the Lord’s tender mercies upon all of his children is definitely Christ’s atonement. Christ did something for us that we could not do for ourselves. W. Jeffrey Marsh wrote in an April 2000 Ensign article that says, “Besides providing a way for us to escape the demands of justice, and beyond enabling the Resurrection of all mankind, our Savior would extend mercy to help us in time of need. His mercy is the ultimate expression of His love for us. As Isaiah explained, He will teach us, comfort us, give us beauty, anoint us with the oil of joy, and clothe us with the garment of praise. The Atonement provides eternal life, but it is also a real power that helps us throughout life. It is our immediate help as well as our eternal hope.”

I promise that as we live by the words of Helaman 5:12, the mercy extended to us by our Savior will be fulfilled. “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” Afterall, “Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.Yea, ... the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.”

President Brigham Young wisely observed that one day, in the celestial kingdom, we will look back on the difficulties of our lives and say, “But what of all that? Those things were but for a moment, and we are now here”. Throughout this mortal life, we will see God’s tender mercies towards us as he sustains and supports us. As he warns us of impending danger through spiritual promptings. As he enlightens us, delivers us, and shields us. We will experience his tender mercies from the peace he brings into our lives, and we will be encircled by his arm of mercy.

“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands”. I bear my testimony as a Young Woman of this Church that if we recognize the tender mercies of God in our lives, he will know of our gratitude and not hesitate to shower us with more. I know that my Father in Heaven is a merciful God, and I await the day I can stand beside him and thank him for his mercy, saying as Paul of old: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”. I know that this church is the only true church on the face of this Earth, and that our living prophet today is President Thomas S. Monson. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I felt the Spirit as I read the talk. I appreciate my Heavenly Father's tender mercies.

Anonymous said...

Powerful words from a young one! I copied it onto my Uplife File, to reread on days when the world closes in. Thanks!

deb

KhyEllie said...

Eveningsun,
You don't have the 'recognition of a higher power' that she made reference to, so of course you can't imagine where she is coming from or why your lifestyle doesn't make sense to her. I feel exactly the way she does because I know what you're missing out on, even if you don't.

And remember the girl is sixteen. She's still quite young enough to talk in absolutes without understand the statement she's making. No, she isn't dismissing the possibility that you and others without the Church can be happy; she's dismissing the possibility that after having the gospel for herself, she can be as happy without it as she is with it. It's a truth many members of the Church have come to understand through personal experience.

Paul said...

Two thoughts, Jeff. First, thanks for sharing this lovely talk; I really enjoyed attending church in Shanghai when I was visiting there.

I find that our ward's youth speakers are exemplary, too -- some of our best talks are from the youth.

Jeff Lindsay said...

I deleted a comment from one of our committed detractors of all things LDS because I thought the response was overly harsh. Sorry that your perspective is so sour on the Church.

Openminded said...

Eveningsun had a good point about happiness only coming from the church.

I don't know if he ever grew up in a religious environment where thinking like this was the norm, but when you do, it's hard to even pretend life would be better off without God or the church.

And it really isn't at first. Growing up your whole life thinking that living for Christ is the most purposeful means that leaving this faith is losing an entire perceived support system.

it's surprising how much this is like losing your first love, though. a broken-hearted phase, a lot of sadness, but, within the year, coming out of the experience at least as happy as you were before and with a lot of lessons learned.

I don't think it's possible to see that, though, until you've gone through it. I would've thought none of the rebounding was possible while i was still a devoted evvie

Jamie said...

"Count your blessings"...
What a great talk. Looks like the future of the Church is in good hands in China.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the post you deleted was so "sour on the church". The poster merely pointed out that the teenager you cited had dismissed the fact that there are a great many people who find happiness, compassion, fulfillment and ethics without the LDS specifically and religion in general.

I hope I'm remembering the deleted post fairly and with some accuracy. In any case it's a significant and legitimate question. A teenager who has lived inside a bubble can be forgiven for lacking awareness of things but adults holding up such an incomplete argument as exemplary is, frankly, silly and distorted.