Opening Hymn: Come, Come Ye Saints
During his talk, President Monson focused on the blessings that come from membership in the Church. President Monson taught powerfully from the examples shown by Church members throughout history who endured incredible hardships with faith. These are “the experiences of those who have struggled and yet who have remained steadfast and of good cheer as they have made the gospel of Jesus Christ the center of their lives,” he said. “This attitude is what will pull us through whatever comes our way.”
President Monson uses a trio of stories to illustrate how it is possible to Be ofGood Cheer, even during the worst trials imaginable.
His first story is from his personal ancestors migration from Sweden to Zion, enduring the hardship of 8 weeks on a boat. The journey claims the life of a child who, according to custom, must be bound and buried at sea. Witnessing the death of your young child, then burial at sea and then somehow finding joy again?
The second story President Monson shared was about a faith-filled man who overcame physical adversity through spiritual faith.
And the third — Elder Benson’s moving story about the German latter-day saint woman who lost absolutely everything and found her Savior. Through her harrowing ordeal, President Monson impressed upon us all how it is possible to be of good cheer even in the harshest of times.
This woman — a German mother and Latter-day Saint — lived in East Prussia at the start of World War II. Her husband was killed during the war. She and her four children, the oldest was 7, found themselves living in territory now occupied by others and she, along with all other Germans, was ordered to leave.
Having no form of transportation, she began a 1000-mile journey on foot.
Let’s put that into a little perspective. That’s like any one of us traveling from Michigan to Dallas, Texas with 4 small children. She was permitted to take only a small hand-pulled cart – the size of a Red-flyer wagon — and whatever would fit into it. They had no money, so they were forced to gather food from the fields as they traveled.
Winter came and they had only rags wrapped around their feet, because the shoes had fallen apart. The young mother carried her baby as the 7-year old pulled the cart. They avoided troops and other refugees who might prove dangerous.
And then, after weeks of exposure to the cold with only rags to cover them and a scant amount of food to eat, her children began to die. She buried the three oldest children,
one by one,
digging their graves with a teaspoon
because it was all she had with which to dig.
Imagine digging an entire grave for your child in the frozen ground with only a teaspoon, a grieving mind and a broken heart …
As she approached the end of her 1000 mile journey, her last surviving child,
Quietly died in her arms.
But she had no spoon left. Kneeling on the frozen ground, covered with ice and snow, she dug the last grave with her fingers over the course of several heart-breaking hours.
At that moment, she felt she had lost everything: her husband, each of their four children, their home and even her country. With no one left to live for, she contemplated suicide, when the Holy Ghost prompted her to pray. She tried to ignore it, but finally obeyed.
This was her prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father,
I do not know how I can go on. I have nothing left-except my faith in Thee.
I feel, Father, amidst the desolation of my soul, an overwhelming gratitude for the atoning sacrifice of Thy Son, Jesus Christ. I cannot express adequately my love for Him. I know that because He suffered and died, I shall live again with my family; that because He broke the chains of death, I shall see my children again and will have the joy of raising them.
Though I do not at this moment wish to live, I will do so, that we may be reunited as a family and return-together-to Thee.
As she prayed, she was reminded that no matter how painful this life on earth could be, there was a great promise for her if she held on and kept up her spirits – to ‘be of Good Cheer’
She knew that she had a loving Father in Heaven and that Jesus Christ died for her – for each of us- so we could live again. And she knew through her beliefs as a Latter-day Saint, that families can be together forever.
God is our Father — he loves us too much to take our families from us if we love them enough to do what it takes to keep them forever.
It was her knowledge of these things and absolute faith in God and the Plan of Salvation that gave her the courage to get back on her feet and finish her journey through life.
President Monson said, “When she finally reached her destination of Karlsruhe, Germany, she was emaciated….her face was a purple-gray, her eyes red and swollen, her joints protruding. She was literally in the advanced stages of starvation.”
In a Church meeting shortly thereafter, she bore a glorious testimony, stating that of all the ailing people in her saddened land, she was one of the happiest because she knew that God lived, that Jesus is the Christ, and that He died and was resurrected so that we might live again.
She testified that if she continued faithful and true to the end, she would be reunited with those she had lost and would be saved in the celestial kingdom of God.”
Imagine that through your worst mortal trial; you can be the happiest person on earth!
Because of the knowledge of a living God and the atonement of Christ – Be of good cheer!
There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us!
Question: How might we have joy in our lives, despite all that we might face?
None of us makes it through this life without problems and challenges—and sometimes tragedies and misfortunes. After all, in large part we are here to learn and grow from such events in our lives. We know that there are times when we will suffer, when we will grieve, and when we will be saddened.
However, we are told, ‘Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.’
How might we have joy in our lives, despite all that we may face?
Again from the scriptures: ‘Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.’ ”
We are taught as Latter-Day Saints that the gospel is not a gospel of fear. The scriptures are filled with admonitions to be cheerful and not afraid.
This can prove challenging when it seems the world is falling apart and the media is determined to keep you in a state of fear to sell newspapers or increase ratings. If I may make one side comment here about the choices we make: I’ve chosen to not have cable tv in my new home. All that my children see is what I’ve set up for them on the computer that is hooked up to the tv sets. They can watch the inspirational messages on Scripture Scouts Radio or the Mormon Channel on YouTube as well as wholesome movies on Netflix. All of these I choose for them. Since taking media out of our home, I have personally felt less stressed and worried about what’s happening ‘out there’. It helps and it works.
If we do all we can do to prepare for hard times, we can also choose to trust God, or choose what the adversary would like: for us to be afraid. You can’t always control what happens, but you can choose your attitude.
No matter what disappointments, frustrations, or even tragedies we face during our mortal probation, because of Christ’s Atonement, we know that if we continue to have faith in Him, and do our best to live righteously, we can eventually join Him, and our Heavenly Parents, in realms of glory.
“Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (D&C 123:17).
Everyone is going to have difficult experiences throughout their lives, but for me, it’s about prayer several times a day, every day, scripture study, journaling, and listening to General Conference talks as well as other uplifting media has strengthened me and brought me closer to the Lord. It has also helped me to see which things are the most important in my life.
The final story shared by President Monson will haunt me forever with its corresponding message: the blessing that Christ has given me through the Atonement. The deep understanding of the atonement and of my purpose here on earth have truly blessed my life. I can’t imagine living my life any other way.
How has being a member of the church blessed your life?
President Monson ended his talk with this admonition: “From the holy scriptures we read, “Behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in [Him], they who have endured the crosses of the world, . . . they shall inherit the kingdom of God, . . . and their joy shall be full forever. ”I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure.
Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.
My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.”
Divide the class into four groups, with a leader for each group, and give each group a hymnbook.
Assign each group one of the verses of the hymn “Count Your Blessings” or “Come, Come Ye Saints”.
Have each group find the message of their verse (or verses).
Encourage them to think of examples from scripture stories, Church history, or personal experiences that teach the same message.
After each group has had time to think of ideas, have the leader read the verse to the class and then share the ideas the group discussed.
I bear my testimony that this is the Lord’s Church. Only a loving Father would want His children ‘to be of good cheer’ and then offer His own son to restorfamilies will be reunited forever.
One of the greatest blessings in my life through membership in the church is the sense of purpose and peace that it has brought into my life. The focus on the family and helping each other has been a real blessing.
I am grateful that these things have been a part of my life. Preparing this lesson taught me, probably most of all, to be of good cheer. No matter what the adversary tries or the mortal struggles of health issues, long-term unemployment, loss of a beloved family member….
That’s why I am so grateful for a living Prophet, Thomas S Monson, to guide us, teach us and receive modern revelation for the entire Church. This exceptional talk strengthens my testimony that this is the true church and I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father as well as my sisters here in this room for the kindness and support you’ve shared with me.
I testify that the Book of Mormon is the word of God that was translated by the courageous Prophet, Joseph Smith. I believe it is the greatest book ever published alongside the Bible.
Be of good cheer today and forever, my sisters. Find joy in your everyday journey. I say these things in the blessed name of Jesus Christ, Amen.