I would be very remiss if on this occasion I did not express my deep appreciation for the blessings I enjoy because of what others have done for me.
Each day my personal prayers do not seem complete without a heartfelt expression of gratitude to my Father in Heaven for my Savior—the Savior of all mankind, who overcame the world and gave His life so that we might live and work out our individual salvation.
I am also grateful for Joseph Smith, who never shrank from his calling as the prophet of the Restoration and all that it entailed. John Taylor wrote, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it” (D&C 135:3).
I have also been blessed by the efforts of many other people. I am grateful for my ancestors, without whose faith and sacrifice I would not be here. I am grateful for my mother, who is my hero. Now in her 88th year, she continues to be an example of industry and of steadfastness in the gospel. During my adolescent years, I grew up in a single-parent home. May the Lord bless and sustain you wonderful single parents who have to carry such a heavy burden alone. Your names will be blessed forever.
I am also grateful for my own sweet companion, Jill, whom I love dearly. She has always been an example of unwavering faith who has stood at my side as an equal companion and a sustaining influence. Our seven children have likewise brought joy and happiness to us by their example and continued family togetherness.
The gospel of Jesus Christ has universal application. Since the beginning, it was designed to bless the lives of everyone, without exception. Regarding this, the Apostle Peter said, “I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34–35).
President N. Eldon Tanner, who was a member of the First Presidency, taught: “Regardless of country, clime, or condition, the gospel of Jesus Christ applies to every individual just the same. It is a way of life that each can accept, and if lived, will bring greater joy, success, and happiness than anything else in the world” (“Christ’s Worldwide Church,” Ensign, July 1974, 6).
I am grateful that the gospel applies to all people, no matter where they live or what station in life they come from. I served a mission in South America more than 40 years ago, when the work was slow, even discouraging at times. Now as I return to that great continent for my present assignment, I marvel at how the Lord has blessed it and how He is making the gospel readily available to everyone, regardless of their circumstances. South America is rapidly becoming dotted with stakes and temples.
Related to the gospel’s universal application is its simplicity. With the help of the Holy Ghost, any earnest person can easily understand the gospel and receive its great personal blessings. The Savior taught, “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).
A few years ago Sister Jolley and I concluded an assignment where I presided over a mission in south Texas. Our missionaries there wholeheartedly embraced the “balanced effort” concept of missionary work, which includes finding, teaching, baptizing, and doing everything possible to retain new converts, and spending several hours each week working with less-active members. Our missionaries, like all missionaries throughout the world, were great kingdom builders.
When my wife and I returned to our home ward in Idaho, I was determined to practice what I preached in the mission field. I therefore asked the bishop to assign me as a home teacher to some of our wonderful families who were not enjoying the blessings of full activity in the Church. He quickly obliged by assigning me to six of these special families.
After several visits to one of these families, I challenged the father, who had been inactive for almost 40 years, to become fully active in the Church and to participate in the temple preparation classes. He responded, “These kinds of things are more than I can understand; they are way over my head.” I was troubled by his response and felt bad that he did not think he could embrace the gospel because it was too difficult to understand. But I knew that the truths of the gospel are for everyone and that everyone can understand them through earnest prayer and scripture study. So our next few home teaching visits were spent talking about the simple and beautiful things of the gospel.
With patience and persistence our visits became more enjoyable and more spiritual. We developed a genuine friendship. As time went on, it became apparent that he could and did understand the principles of the gospel. This made his wife very happy. They grew closer in their marriage. They are now attending church regularly, becoming good friends with all members, and preparing to go to the temple. We had similar experiences with other families. The Lord blesses us as well as these wonderful families when we put forth the extra effort to share these simple truths with them.
Our own honest study of the gospel will show us how simple, pure, and universal its precepts are. James wrote, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
I am grateful for the gospel’s beauty and simplicity, and I bear witness to you that it is true and easy to understand.
I bear witness that the gospel applies universally to all people—the learned and the unlearned, the rich and the poor, the old and the young, no matter where they are found on the earth.
I bear solemn witness to you that the gospel brings peace in a troubled world. As the Savior taught: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
I also bear witness that Jesus Christ is the author and proponent of the gospel. He stands at the head of this Church, which is for everyone; none are excluded from it. President Gordon B. Hinckley stands today as the Lord’s prophet to lead us. There is no doubt in my mind about the truthfulness of these things. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.