How can we know that God is aware of us and loves us? He tells us by the scriptures—likewise, by our honestly counting the blessings and bestowals of His grace in our lives. Most of all, He tells us by the still, small voice of the Spirit! The “mighty change” required by discipleship may seem roller-coaster like, as soaring revelations bring the gravity of humbling perspective. It was so with Moses, who “fell unto the earth” and exclaimed, “Man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” Then came, however, the divine, reassuring disclosure: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”. “Mighty” changing, however, is mighty hard work, a labor made more difficult by heeding the unflattering urges of the natural man. Too often our possibilities have been muted by the mundane. We are scarcely ready for the vaulting revelations. Imagine—a spirit portion of each of us is actually eternal and that we were with God in the beginning! Of course we cannot fully comprehend all this right now! Of course we cannot know the meaning of all things right now. But we can know, right now, that God knows us and loves us individually!
As I have read these testimonies—and many others like them over the years—it has always touched my heart to sense how deeply Heavenly Father loves His eldest Son and how Jesus shows His love by His obedience to His Father’s will. I testify that when we do what is necessary to know Them and know Their love for one another, we will obtain “the greatest of all the gifts of God”—even eternal life. For “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” How can this gift be ours? It comes through a matter of personal revelation, which has been spoken of and taught this morning. Do you remember the first time you knew there was a God and could feel His love? As a boy, I used to gaze into the starry sky and ponder and feel His presence. I thrilled to explore the magnificent beauties of God’s creations—from tiny insects to towering trees. As I recognized the beauty of this earth, I knew that Heavenly Father loved me. I knew that I was a literal spiritual offspring, that we are all sons and daughters of God. How did I know this? you might ask. The scriptures teach, “To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and … to others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.” From my perspective, this does not mean that some people will forever be dependent upon the testimonies of others. My own testimony grew as I learned about Heavenly Father and the Savior from the teachings and testimony of my parents, teachers, the scriptures—which I read diligently—and especially the Holy Ghost. As I exercised faith and obeyed the commandments, the Holy Ghost testified that what I was learning was true. This is how I came to know for myself.
But God does not work this way. The father in this story does not tantalize his children. He does not mercilessly measure them against their neighbors. He doesn’t even compare them with each other. His gestures of compassion toward one do not require a withdrawal or denial of love for the other. He is divinely generous to both of these sons. Toward both of his children he extends charity. I believe God is with us the way my precious wife, Pat, is with my singing. She is a gifted musician, something of a musical genius, but I couldn’t capture a musical note with Velcro. And yet I know she loves me in a very special way when I try to sing. I know that because I can see it in her eyes. They are the eyes of love. . . I testify that no one of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another. I testify that He loves each of us—insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all. He doesn’t measure our talents or our looks; He doesn’t measure our professions or our possessions. He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other. I know that if we will be faithful, there is a perfectly tailored robe of righteousness ready and waiting for everyone.
Today in our hurried and hectic lives, we could well go back to an earlier time for the lesson taught us regarding crossing dangerous streets. “Stop, look, and listen” were the watchwords. Could we not apply them now? Stop from a reckless road to ruin. Look upward for heavenly help. Listen for His invitation: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He will teach us the truth of the beautiful verse: Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul. We will learn that each of us is precious to our Elder Brother, even the Lord Jesus Christ He truly loves us. His life is the flawless example of one afflicted with sorrows and disappointments, who nonetheless provided the example of forgetting self and serving others. The remembered verse of childhood echoes afresh: Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so! And so does the Book of Mormon, so does the Doctrine and Covenants and so does the Pearl of Great Price. Let the scriptures be your guide, and you will never find yourself traveling the road to nowhere.
And so it happened that the Lord sent a virtual stranger across town to deliver not just the desired homemade bread but also a clear message of love to Tiffany. What happened to her cannot be explained in any other way. She had an urgent need to feel that she wasn’t alone—that God was aware of her and had not abandoned her. That bread—the very thing she wanted—was delivered to her by someone she barely knew, someone who had no knowledge of her need but who listened to the prompting of the Spirit and followed that prompting. It became an obvious sign to Tiffany that her Heavenly Father was aware of her needs and loved her enough to send help. He had responded to her cries for relief. My dear sisters, your Heavenly Father loves you—each of you. That love never changes. It is not influenced by your appearance, by your possessions, or by the amount of money you have in your bank account. It is not changed by your talents and abilities. It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there. As we seek our Heavenly Father through fervent, sincere prayer and earnest, dedicated scripture study, our testimonies will become strong and deeply rooted. We will know of God’s love for us. We will understand that we do not ever walk alone. I promise you that you will one day stand aside and look at your difficult times, and you will realize that He was always there beside you.
In the depths of his anguish in Liberty Jail, the Prophet Joseph Smith cried out: “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” Many of us, in moments of personal anguish, feel that God is far from us. The pavilion that seems to intercept divine aid does not cover God but occasionally covers us. God is never hidden, yet sometimes we are, covered by a pavilion of motivations that draw us away from God and make Him seem distant and inaccessible. Our own desires, rather than a feeling of “Thy will be done,” create the feeling of a pavilion blocking God. God is not unable to see us or communicate with us, but we may be unwilling to listen or submit to His will and His time. Our feelings of separation from God will diminish as we become more childlike before Him. That is not easy in a world where the opinions of other human beings can have such an effect on our motives. But it will help us recognize this truth: God is close to us and aware of us and never hides from His faithful children.