In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have an opportunity to sustain—support, help, pray for—each of our leaders in their callings by raising our right hands when their names are read to us in general conference, stake conference, ward or branch conference, or sacrament meeting. Our sustaining is a vote of confidence in the person, because we recognize that he or she has been called of God through priesthood authority.
Elder Hall had finished calling for a sustaining vote of the leaders of the Toledo Cebu Philippines District. He looked out over the congregation.
For your information, there are 23 missionaries from the Toledo District now serving, or in the Mission Training Center, or who have received calls and will soon be serving. We extend our love and commendation to these young men and women.
We remembered attending a farewell Family Home Evening the week before for a sister about to leave to serve a mission. When we reached the house, her grandmother offered us small boiled bananas. People filtered in from the trails and through the jungle. Few were members of the church but all were friends who had come to honor one of their own. Over forty people squeezed into the house, with more standing outside the doors.
The meeting began with a song, a prayer, and a spiritual thought. A sister missionary gave a short lesson. Then we divided into teams to play games. The rule is that the team that loses has to do a talent. Our team lost. So I taught the group to sing “Once There Was a Snowman,” complete with actions. It was a bit crowded.
Then people gave advice, gave testimony, or expressed love to the young sister, followed by lots of hugs.
As we walked down the dark path to go home, I remembered reading a description of a “black velvet tropical night.” The warm moist breeze was soft and smooth against our cheeks, and really did feel like rich velvet.
A few days later, we were attending a Temple Preparation class for three young sisters who were preparing to receive their blessings in the temple prior to serving a mission. The instructor had shared D&C 109 with the class. Then she asked:
Elder Hall, what blessings have you received from receiving the temple ordinances and making covenants with our Father in Heaven?
He looked down and thought for a few moments. Then he looked up.
You just talked about Doctrine & Covenants section 109. I’d like to read verse 22 again and talk about how the blessings listed there have affected my life.
“And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them.” (D&C 109:22)
A few years ago we had a family reunion at what is called Alturas Lake in Idaho. My sons and I wanted to float down Alturas Creek to the lake. We rented a kayak and drove up towards the head of the creek.
It was springtime. The snow-melt had turned the usually placid creek into a wide river. One of my sons said the water was too high and that we should not try to float the creek. I said that I thought we would be alright.
Not long after, we knew we were in trouble. Huge pine trees and branches had been caught by the raging torrent and piled up in a log jam just ahead. My sons bailed out, but I stayed with the kayak.
The powerful current forced the kayak down under the log jam. I found myself about ten feet (3 meters) under the water and under the log jam. The force of the water held me so tightly that I could not move any part of my body. I knew that there was no way that I would get to the surface before I drowned.
Elder Hall paused a moment in thought, then continued.
Now, in Joseph Smith’s history, when he made his first attempt to pray vocally for wisdom from God, he said he:
“…was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction … I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head…”
Elder Hall continued his story.
When I thought that there was no hope, it seemed that a conduit opened above me. I was able to go up through that conduit, and, sucking great gulps of air, pull the kayak up after me.
Sisters, the power of God is real. His promises are true. We do go forth from the temple armed with power, with God’s name upon us, and His glory round about us, and with angels to have charge over us.
My life has been preserved a number of times. This was the most dramatic.
Elder Hall smiled a bit ruefully.
I am so grateful that the Lord has given me more time to repent.
President George Q. Cannon said:
“Now, this is the truth. We humble people, we who feel ourselves sometimes so worthless, so good-for-nothing; we are not so worthless as we think. There is not one of us but what God’s love has been expended upon. There is not one of us that He has not cared for and caressed. There is not one of us that He has not desired to save and that He has not devised means to save. There is not one of us that He has not given His angels charge concerning. We may be insignificant and contemptible in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, but the truth remains that we are children of God and that He has actually given His angels … charge concerning us, and they watch over us and have us in their keeping.”
(Gospel Truths, comp. Jerreld L. Newquist, 2 vols., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, 1:2.)