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Archive for the ‘Elder Robert D. Hales’ Category

Nehemiah was a Jew during the period where most Jews were in exile in Babylon.  He served as a cup-bearer to Artaxeres, king of Persia and ruler over Babylon, around the time 445 BC. His duty was to taste the king’s drink to verify that it was not poisoned.

Nehemiah learned that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the Jews in that city were suffering.

He prayed:

[4] And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
[5] And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
[6] Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.  (Nehemiah 1)

The King then granted Nehemiah permission to travel to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and gates.

As he began the reconstruction, Nehemiah was opposed by Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah and by Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines.  These adversaries were very wroth and conspired to fight against Nehemiah and his fellow workers.

Nehemiah armed his men and told them to trust in the Lord.

[14] And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.  (Nehemiah 4)

The builders completed the wall.  Ezra, the priest and scribe, and Nehemiah  then revived Sabbath day worship among the Jews in Jerusalem.

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Remember Nehemiah, who was charged with building a wall to protect Jerusalem. Some wanted him to come down and compromise his position, but Nehemiah refused. He was not intolerant of others; he simply explained, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease … ?

Elder Robert D. Hales, Stand Strong in Holy Places,
General Conference, April, 2013

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Nehemiah of the Old Testament is a great example of staying focused and committed to an important task. Nehemiah was an Israelite who lived in exile in Babylon and served as cupbearer to the king. One day the king asked Nehemiah why he seemed so sad. Nehemiah replied, “Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ [graves], lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?”

When the king heard this, his heart was softened, and he gave Nehemiah the authority to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. However, not everyone was happy with this plan. In fact, several rulers who lived near Jerusalem grieved exceedingly “that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.” These men “took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.”

Fearless, Nehemiah did not allow the opposition to distract him. Instead, he organized his resources and manpower and moved forward rebuilding the city, “for the people had a mind to work.”

But as the walls of the city began to rise, opposition intensified. Nehemiah’s enemies threatened, conspired, and ridiculed. Their threats were very real, and they grew so intimidating that Nehemiah confessed, “They all made us afraid.” In spite of the danger and the ever-present threat of invasion, the work progressed. It was a time of stress, for every builder “had his sword girded by his side, and so builded.”

As the work continued, Nehemiah’s enemies became more desperate. Four times they entreated him to leave the safety of the city and meet with them under the pretense of resolving the conflict, but Nehemiah knew that their intent was to do him harm. Each time they approached him, he responded with the same answer: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.”

What a remarkable response! With that clear and unchanging purpose of heart and mind, with that great resolve, the walls of Jerusalem rose until they were rebuilt in an astonishing 52 days.

Nehemiah refused to allow distractions to prevent him from doing what the Lord wanted him to do.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down
General Conference, April 2009

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– Tom Irvine

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“There is nothing that we are enduring that Jesus does not understand, and He waits for us to go to our Heavenly Father in prayer. If we will be obedient and if we are diligent, our prayers will be answered, our problems will diminish, our fears will dissipate, light will come upon us, the darkness of despair will be dispersed, and we will be close to the Lord.”

–Robert D. Hales, “Behold, We Count Them Happy Which Endure”, Ensign, May 1998

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In 1968 a marathon runner by the name of John Stephen Akhwari represented Tanzania in an international competition. “A little over an hour after [the winner] had crossed the finish line, John Stephen Akhwari … approached the stadium, the last man to complete the journey. [Though suffering from fatigue, leg cramps, dehydration, and disorientation,] a voice called from within to go on, and so he went on. Afterwards, it was written, ‘Today we have seen a young African runner who symbolizes the finest in human spirit, a performance that gives meaning to the word courage.’

For some, the only reward is a personal one. [There are no medals, only] the knowledge that they finished what they set out to do” (The Last African Runner, Olympiad Series, written, directed, and produced by Bud Greenspan, Cappy Productions, 1976, videocassette).

When asked why he would complete a race he could never win, Akhwari replied, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; my country sent me to finish the race.”

He knew who he was—an athlete representing the country of Tanzania. He knew his purpose—to finish the race. He knew that he had to endure to the finish, so that he could honorably return home to Tanzania. Our mission in life is much the same. We were not sent by Father in Heaven just to be born. We were sent to endure and return to Him with honor.

Jesus chose not to be released from this world until He had endured to the end and completed the mission He had been sent to accomplish for mankind. Upon the cross of Calvary, Jesus commended His spirit to His Father with a simple statement, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Having endured to the end, He was released from mortality.

We, too, must endure to the end. The Book of Mormon teaches, “Unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved” (2 Ne. 31:16).

May we be able to say as Paul said to Timothy, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept [my] faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).

– Elder Robert D. Hales,

Behold, We Count Them Happy Which Endure, April 1998

The Covenant of Baptism: To Be in the Kingdom and of the Kingdom, October 2000

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As a young man, President David O. McKay prayed for a witness of the truthfulness of the gospel. Many years later, while he was serving his mission in Scotland, that witness finally came. Later he wrote, “It was an assurance to me that sincere prayer is answered ‘sometime, somewhere.’”

We may not know when or how the Lord’s answers will be given, but in His time and His way, I testify, His answers will come. For some answers we may have to wait until the hereafter.

– Elder Robert D. Hales, Waiting upon the Lord: Thy Will Be Done, October 2011
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“If God answers your prayer, He is increasing your faith.
If He delays, He is increasing your patience.
If He doesn’t answer, He knows you can handle it.”

– Unknown

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Here are some more thoughts on enduring trials and tribulation . . . .

Suffering is universal; how we react to suffering is individual. Suffering can take us one of two ways. It can be a strengthening and purifying experience combined with faith, or it can be a destructive force in our lives if we do not have the faith in the Lord’s atoning sacrifice. The purpose of suffering, however, is to build and strengthen us.

-Elder Robert D. Hales

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President Thomas S. Monson wrote:

“Life is full of difficulties, some minor and others of a more serious nature. There seems to be an unending supply of challenges for one and all. Our problem is that we often expect instantaneous solutions to such challenges, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required.”

My friend Raphael wrote, “Even though tough moments abound, our focus is on the crown that awaits all those who will endure.”

“And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who calls you to share His eternal glory in union with Christ, will Himself perfect you and give firmness, strength, and a sure foundation.” (I Peter 5:10)

There is more to life than facing hardships, however. There is much joy available even in this troubled world.

The very first verse in the Bible is:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1).

President Monson also wrote:

“God left the world unfinished; the pictures unpainted,
the songs unsung, and the problems unsolved,
that man might know the joys of creation.”

May you find joy in the creative exercise of your talents, especially as you serve your fellow man.

And may the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be upon you,

Tom Irvine

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