Zone Conferences – August/Sept. 2014 – Fear Not, I Am With Thee

 

Zone Conferences are always a highlight! The Elders and Sisters come prepared to receive counsel from the Lord through their appointed leaders – which include the words and videos of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve from the 2014 New Mission President’s Seminar. The focus of this series of Zone Conferences was Pres. Uchtdorf’s address, Fear Not, I Am With Thee. Our charge from Pres. Uchtdorf – be righteous and speak with EVERYONE! We are on it! Rather than paraphrase Pres. Uchtdorf’s remarks, they are included in their entirety below.

Fear Not, I Am with Thee
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor in the First Presidency
Tuesday, June 24, 2014

It is wonderful to be among friends. My dear friends, my beloved brothers and sisters, Harriet and I are indeed grateful to be with you as you embark on this great and marvelous journey to proclaim the Savior’s message to the nations of the world. As we drove down here this morning, we were all excited to be with you. We wish we could give you a hug—each and every one of you.

Earlier this year as I prepared an Easter message, the question arose of why the Church doesn’t celebrate more openly the events surrounding Easter.
When you think about it, as members of the Church we actually celebrate Easter week every Sunday by partaking of the sacrament. It was on the Thursday before Easter Sunday when the sacrament was established. As we partake of the sacrament we recommit ourselves to remember the Savior’s sacrifice and to keep His commandments. At the same time we are promised to have His Spirit to be with us at all times and at all places.

Think about what happened during the week following Palm Sunday and culminating in Easter Sunday, when Jesus Christ rose triumphant from the tomb. He broke the bonds of death and made it possible for all mankind to be resurrected. For us as missionaries, as servants of the Lord, this is the core message we take to the world— “I know that my Redeemer lives.” Make sure that your missionaries never forget this. Keep this in mind when you and your missionaries partake of the sacrament on Sundays and when you invite people to attend sacrament services with you. Partaking of the sacrament is a very sacred act. If you explain to those who seek truth what the gospel and the sacrament can be to them, you will touch their hearts.

Because of Christ’s sinless life and through the profound miracle of the Atonement, He created a way for us to be purified and glorious—a way for us to return to our Heavenly Father and to receive eternal life. But it is also interesting what else happened as a result of His rising from the tomb. This act of love transformed a band of frightened, worried disciples into a dynamic group of fearless missionaries who changed the world. The events of that day have the potential and power to do the same for every servant of the Lord, for every missionary, for every one of you who is proclaiming and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Please go back with me to the events of that Easter week in the Holy Land immediately after the Savior of the world was crucified. The disciples huddled together afraid, perhaps in disbelief that their Master was really dead. I can imagine them looking into each other’s eyes and feeling confusion, anger, and — perhaps most of all—a profound and consuming grief. If you will recall, the day after Christ’s crucifixion the chief priests and Pharisees approached the Roman ruler, Pilate, and said, “Sir, . . . that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days [he would] rise again.

Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead.”1 Pilate approved that request, and a detachment of Roman soldiers guarded the tomb to ensure that no man would steal away
the body. It was just before dawn2 of that Easter Sunday morning when the earth began to shake and an “angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door. . . . His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.”3

Not long after, Mary Magdalene, with a few of the other women, came to dress Jesus’s body.4“And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And . . . behold, two men stood by them in shining garments . . . [and] said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.”5 The women rushed back and told the eleven and the others with them what they had seen, but “their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.”6 However, Peter ran to the tomb. And “he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves,. . . wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.”7

After he left again, wonderful Mary Magdalene remained alone and wept. She had also been at the crucifixion of the Savior. There at the foot of the cross she endured the pain and humiliation of her beloved Lord. She had looked into His eyes and had watched Him die. This was on Friday. That first Easter Sunday morning, it seemed like the universe was heaping one sorrow after another on that little band of disciples who had loved Jesus so deeply.After a time, Mary Magdalene looked once again inside the tomb. But this time it was not empty. She saw “two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had [been] lain. And they [said] unto her, Woman, why weepest thou?”

When I ponder her answer, I can feel the unimaginable, profound sorrow she must have endured. She replied, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” It was then that she sensed there was someone behind her. She turned and saw a man who spoke to her. “Woman,” He said, “why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?”3 Mary thought that perhaps the man was someone who worked in the garden—perhaps he might have seen what had happened at the tomb. And so she said, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”8 Can you feel the pain in her words? Can you feel the desperation? Can you feel the pleading of a disciple who loved her Master, who had helped pull His
lifeless body from the cross, who had wrapped him for burial and laid him to rest?

And what of Jesus Christ who now stood before her? Can you imagine the Savior’s anguish at seeing someone He loved so deeply engulfed in such grief? And can you also imagine His joy for the message He was about to impart—the message that would change all mankind forever? He spoke one word to her. I can almost hear it. He spoke with such tenderness, such love, such joy. “Mary,” He said. And that one word opened her eyes. She had heard Him say her name before. She recognized His voice. The Man she had followed and listened to stood before her. “Master,” she said. And she went to Him but He forbade her to touch Him, saying that He had not yet ascended to His Father. But He asked her, “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”9

My dear brothers and sisters, my dear friends, you all know the story of what happened next: how the Savior appeared to His disciples, how He invited them to touch Him and see for themselves that He lived. He tarried with those who loved and followed Him, and He opened up the scriptures—“Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”10 He appeared to more than 500 people 11
during that time and “shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, . . .speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”12

It is remarkable to me how things changed after that day. Before His death, Jesus’s disciples were mostly in the role of witnesses and followers. They observed and learned, and they witnessed the Savior’s acts and teachings. But everything changed for them after Christ rose from the tomb. The great senior Apostle, Peter, is of particular interest to me. Here was a man who was no stranger to adversity—he was a man’s man. How often had he steadied
the rudder of his small fishing vessel during a threatening storm? How often had he bartered with shrewd merchants for the price of his fish?

And yet, what do we see in this “rock” of a man prior to the Resurrection? Among other things, we see fear!

When he stepped out of his boat on the Sea of Galilee and walked on the water toward the Savior, we see the beginnings of great courage and faith. “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”13 Later, only a few hours before Christ was
taken prisoner, the impulsive Peter boasted of his faithfulness. “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I,”14 he proclaimed to the Savior. And when Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny Him three times that very night, the great fisherman became even bolder and proclaimed, “If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise.”15 And the other Apostles were quick to echo his words.

Peter was one of the closest friends of the Savior. That terrible night of Jesus’s trial, Peter stood beneath the palace attempting to learn of what was happening when a maid approached and said, “Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.”16 Fear overtook him at that critical moment. Mark, who knew Peter well, 17 would later record the events of that night. Possibly on Peter’s instructions did Mark tell the story in all its humiliating detail.
Mark writes of Peter’s denials and even says that Peter “began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.”18

Peter later wept and agonized over that betrayal. With a broken heart, he pleaded with God for forgiveness. How could he have been so weak? How could he have allowed fear to make him deny the man whom he knew was “the Christ, the Son of the living God”?19 But from the moment Peter saw the risen
Christ, he was transformed. He was a different man. Along with James and John, he was a true leader.No longer was he afraid. From that moment on he boldly testified that “this Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.”20

Peter fearlessly spoke in public places—even the temple itself. Peter, along with John, was taken into custody and the next day brought to the rulers, elders, and scribes for interrogation. Annas the high priest was there, and so was Caiaphas. It must have been an intimidating group—a group that held Peter and John’s lives in their hands.21 But any trace of the old, fearful Peter had by now disappeared in the magnificent refiner’s fire of that Easter morning. Peter bravely confronted those who condemned him—the very men who had slain His Lord—with miracles performed in the name of the Lord.
When he healed the lame man, he was asked by what power and through whose name he had done this. 22 Peter proclaimed: “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you. . . . There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”23

Such courage and boldness were not expected by the rulers of the Jews. The scriptures say that they marveled how these unlearned and ignorant followers could be so bold.24 These scholars of the law finally decided that the best course of action was to threaten them “that they speak henceforth to no man in this name . . . [or] speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.”25 For Peter and John, this was their opportunity to leave Jerusalem without
penalty. “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye,” the disciples said with boldness. “For we
cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”26

From that Easter Sunday morning on, Peter was a new man. He had been born again. For the rest of his life, Peter faced threats, ridicule, hatred, and humiliation. But he did not back down. He feared no man. Nothing kept him from fulfilling his mission to raise his voice as a witness of his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not know for certain what happened to this magnificent servant of God toward the end of his life. Tradition suggests that he was arrested in Rome and imprisoned. The Roman authorities had to keep changing his guards because Peter’s bold testimony had the effect of converting them nearly as fast as they could bring new ones in.27 That’s a true missionary! Tradition also suggests that Peter was crucified at Rome, head down, because he did not feel worthy to be crucified in the same way as his Master and Redeemer.28

Now, I ask the question: What does this have to do with your sacred callings to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ? What does this have to do with your responsibilities to lead our missionaries? My dear brothers and sisters, it has everything to do with you. This is the core of your calling.
Each day you put on your nametag, your badge of honor, you declare to the world that you are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like Peter, you have taken upon yourselves the name of the Lord and the great responsibility to spread the happy and glorious news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The ancient Apostles were charged by the Lord to teach and baptize all nations, “teaching them to observe all . . . I have commanded.” 29 You are called to do the same. In this way you and your missionaries are the extended arm of the Twelve Apostles, with the same promise that the Lord will be with you, even unto the end of the world.

Every day of your mission you are faced with choices similar to what Peter had to make. Like Peter, you have the same question before you: What kind of witness will you be?

Among the 86,000 missionaries serving today there are many who, like Peter, are fearless in proclaiming the truth. They approach each day with renewed vigor. Even in the face of ridicule, apathy, and hatred they raise their pure and joyful voices to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Of course, there are also some who are afraid, as Peter once was. But in a sense, we are all like Peter. We each can see the fruits of Christ’s life, Atonement, and Resurrection in our discipleship. The life-giving waters of the everlasting gospel are before us. Will we take just a few sips through a pinched straw? Or will we allow these waters to spring up inside of us, filling us with renewed energy and divine power? During your mission, will you allow your fears to get the better of you? Will you give only a portion of your potential to the work before you?

I am confident that I am speaking to those who serve God “with all [their] heart, might, mind and strength.” You are called to the work. And each day you serve your Savior by “[thrusting] in [your] sickle with [your] might,. . . [bringing] salvation to [your] soul.”30

To illustrate the potential and options for your missionaries and for you, let me share with you the experience of one missionary who seems to embody the fearless disciple we all want to be. Three decades ago, a recently baptized member of the Church whom I will call Elder Strong accepted a call to serve as a missionary in Great Britain. When he left his home, his mother and father begged him not to serve a mission. Even though it broke his heart to see his parents so troubled, Elder Strong felt peace in his heart about his decision because he would be serving the Lord. From the moment Elder
Strong stepped off the plane in England, he began putting his entire effort into serving the Lord. It didn’t take long before he began developing a reputation as one who was fearless. And he worked so hard that other missionaries started calling him the “workhorse,” because he would pull his
companions with him each day.

This kind of dedication wasn’t all that easy on his companions. Let me mention one specific new missionary whom I will call Elder Green. Elder Green didn’t like Elder Strong’s style of missionary work. Elder Strong insisted that they get up early—even earlier than the handbook said—and as soon as they were out the door, they began speaking to people about the Church. When they walked to the center of a town to street contact, they stopped people in the open-air malls and everywhere. Elder Green was absolutely terrified and later wrote, “I had given half-hearted attempts. Nothing had
come of it and I was becoming depressed, irritable, and downright discouraged.” Elder Strong, on the other hand, approached one person after another in his own special way and had many fruitful conversations.

When asked how he was able to do this, Elder Strong said, “I fear no man.” He really seemed to have no fear at all. Seeing that Elder Green had plenty of fear, Elder Strong one day asked him, “Elder, do you know who you are?” Elder Green considered this a typical Sunday School question and responded, “I am a child of God.” But Elder Strong smiled, opened his Book of Mormon to 3 Nephi 5:13, and read: “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.” Then he looked at his junior companion and said, “Elder, you are a disciple of Christ! You fear no man!”

Something in those words seemed to empower Elder Green, and he felt suddenly energized. He walked to the front door of a health club and watched a strong body builder coming out of the door. He decided to test out his newfound courage on this giant of a man. This is how he described the experience: “I stumbled through my dialogue and looked like an absolute rookie, then this man responded to the invitation to share a lesson with him
with a surprising ‘yes.’” Over the next three weeks, this impressive investigator accepted the gospel and was baptized.

Still, Elder Green did not like this bold style of missionary work, and he argued with his companion about it continually. But Elder Strong kindly responded, “Elder, I fear no man, and that includes you. I will baptize with you or without you. I prefer with, but that is up to you.” And then he said something else: “The Lord tells us to be bold but not overbearing. Being overbearing is showing boldness without love. When people know and feel your love, you can never be too bold!”

One day Elder Green made a very insensitive comment about another religion. Elder Strong tried to talk to him about this, but Elder Green didn’t care for that inconvenient conversation. When the two missionaries finally arrived at home that night, the junior companion quickly jumped into bed, hoping
his body language would signal the fact that he was not interested in talking. But Elder Strong came over to the side of his bed and said, “Elder, there are two reasons why missionaries get along as a companionship. Either they are working together as humble, obedient, and loving
companionships or they get along because they are both doing the wrong things.” And then he added, “When missionaries don’t get along, when they fight and argue, it is often because one missionary wants to do what is right and the other doesn’t care.” He paused for a moment and then said, “We do
not get along, so I ask you tonight; please tell me, are you trying to do what is right? Perhaps I am choosing what is wrong and I need to change.”
That was all he said.

Elder Green felt the Spirit while his companion spoke. And, as the darkness of night surrounded him, tears came to his eyes. He had mocked Elder Strong for many of his methods, but he realized that night that he was the missionary who was not caring enough. Their conversation transformed him as a missionary.

Elder Green said that the two months he spent with Elder Strong were eventually the most important and formative days of his mission experience. Elder Strong believed that his responsibilities while serving as a missionary were quite simple. He was to listen to the Spirit and to find and speak to people. When he wasn’t finding or speaking to people, he was to try to find and speak to people. Preaching the gospel is all he desired to do.

Elder Strong was never an assistant to the president. He was never a zone leader. But he trained many new missionaries. Training new missionaries is one of the most important leadership positions in the mission field. In the mission where these two missionaries served, missionaries averaged two or three baptisms over a period of two years. During the course of his mission, Elder Strong baptized many, many more. The number of baptisms is not always a sign of a good missionary. But Elder Strong’s example as a missionary is worth following because it teaches that we must work hard, depend upon the Lord, seek and follow the Spirit, have faith, be obedient, and fear no man.

The sign of a good missionary is also manifested in how one lives and honors gospel principles in the many years after the mission. The fruits of a successful mission can be seen in the lives of our returned missionaries. It is how gospel values are applied as a husband or wife, as a father or
mother, and as a son or daughter of Heavenly Father. It is “enduring joyfully” as disciples of Christ that will eventually show the success of
a mission, long after the missionary badges have been retired.

Dear presidents and sisters, as you begin this new and exciting journey as disciples of Christ, I invite you to consider the example of the Apostle Peter, who overcame his fears and became a courageous missionary and leader of the Church. We can learn not only from Peter, but also from all missionaries who have the same kind of commitment and dedication—missionaries like the many you find in all the missions around the globe, missionaries like those who will serve with you.

Each day let us remind ourselves that we are disciples of the Savior Jesus Christ. And because He is with us, we do not fear.

Jesus of Nazareth lives! He is the rock of our salvation. Today, I bear witness that He lives. I know Him. I know that my Redeemer lives. I know this beyond any doubt, beyond question, beyond debate. He lives! He is the Son of the living God. He guides this work. He cares about you. He knows the silent, unspoken prayers of your heart. As He inspired Peter, John, and all disciples who followed Him, He will lift up and inspire you. If you dedicate your work and will to Him and put your worries and fears in His hands, He will make you a great witness and disciple of Him, of His gospel, and of His Church. He will make you strong in testimony and fearless of heart. He will make you great mission leaders and great missionaries.

Christ the Lord is risen! He stands at the helm of His Church and His work. I bear witness that we have a living prophet again on the earth, our beloved President Thomas S. Monson.

As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I give you a blessing that as you incline your hearts and minds to the Savior, He will surely lift you up and strengthen you. He will visit you with knowledge, peace, and courage. He will lighten your sorrows and your load. He will bless your family at home, even your extended families. He will take care of you and the things you worry about. He will prepare the way for you and send His angels to surround
and uphold you. He will help you to overcome fear. He will help you rise up and become even greater men and women of God.

My dear fellow servants, please know how much I love you. I am grateful for you. I pray for you. Today and always the Savior calls out to you:

“Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee
to stand, . . .
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”31

My dear friends, dear brothers and sisters, may you feel that strength and that courage as you serve as His emissaries is my prayer and my blessing. I do this in deep gratitude for each and every one of you and in the name of our Master, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.9
© 2014 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

1 Matthew 27:63–64. 2 See John 20:1; see also Matthew 28:1.
3 Matthew 28:2–4.
4 See Luke 24:1.
5 Luke 24:2–6.
6 See Luke 24:9–11.
7 Luke 24:12.
8 John 20:10–13, 15.
9 John 20:16–17.
10 Luke 24:27.
11 See 1 Corinthians 15:6.
12 Acts 1:3.
13 Matthew 14:30; emphasis added.
14 Mark 14:29. 15 Mark 14:31.
16 Mark 14:67.
17 See 1 Peter 5:13.
18 Mark 14:71.
19 Matthew 16:16.
20 Acts 2:32.
21 See Acts 3; 4:1–7
22 See Acts 3:1–10; 4:7, 22.
23 Acts 4:10–12.
24 See Acts 4:13.
25 Acts 4:17–18.
26 Acts 4:19–20.
27 See http://www.bartleby.com/210/6/291.html. “St. Peter readily understood this vision to be meant of
himself, and taking it for a reproof of his cowardice, and a token that it was the will of God he
should suffer, returned into the city, and, being taken, was put into the Mamertine prison with St.
Paul. The two apostles are said to have remained there eight months, during which time they
converted SS. Processus and Martinian, the captains of their guards, with forty-seven others.”
28 See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_peter#Death. “Origen wrote: ‘Peter was crucified at Rome with
his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer.’ This is why an upside down cross is
generally accepted as a symbol of Peter, with the interpretation that he would not have considered
himself worthy enough to die the same way as his Savior.” 29 Matthew 28:20.
30 Doctrine and Covenants 4:2–4.
31 “How Firm a Foundation,” Hymns, no. 85.

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