Elder D. Todd Christofferson Encourages Students to Look Outward at Southern Virginia University Address
This story was originally published in Church News.
In an address at Southern Virginia University on Jan. 11, 2019, Elder D. Todd Christofferson and his wife, Sister Katherine Christofferson, spoke to more than 1,250 students, faculty and staff about God’s invitation to assist in His work of redemption.
God brings about the redemption of His children from physical and spiritual death, Elder Christofferson taught, as well as redemption from things like poverty, ignorance and suffering. “All of it is work that you and I are invited to participate in,” he said. “Yes, He loves us, but can He trust us?
According to Elder Christofferson, engaging in God’s work and earning His trust requires focusing outwardly rather than on ourselves.
“That is not an easy thing to do at any point in your life. It’s especially difficult, perhaps, now, as you worry about the future,” he said.
He cited the Savior’s promise, “Whosoever [shall] lose his life for my sake shall find it” (see Matthew 16:25). Conversely, Elder Christofferson cautioned that “if we are caring only about our wellbeing, our comfort and ourselves, in the end, that’s a recipe for losing happiness and our possibilities and potential in life.”
Elder Christofferson spoke about the blessing of social media but also warned against letting it become a distraction.
“It is certainly a blessing in our lives to have that capacity in our hands,” he said. “But it is possible to be so absorbed and so focused on the entertainment aspects of it, that it becomes inward looking—that is, you cannot focus on things and people and needs beyond what may show up on the screen. I hope that you can use it and not let it use you—that you can use it to help you think about and relate to other people.”
Elder Christofferson also focused on the theme of “gather, lift and launch,” which forms the basis of Southern Virginia University’s mission statement.
“Gathering is an essential part, truly, of how the Lord does His work,” he said. “Lift—that really is, if you could summarize it in one word, the purpose of the gathering—that we lift and are lifted, that we develop, that we become stronger, that we have greater capacity, that we have greater understanding. … And then launch—do something with it. Have I done any good in the world today? Have I made a difference? Have I served? Have I helped in the Lord’s redemptive work?”
Emphasizing the importance of Christ’s command to take up one’s cross daily (see Luke 9:23), Elder Christofferson challenged those at the devotional to make an enduring decision to follow God and keep His commandments.
“As you seek to be trustworthy in the Lord’s eyes, settle it in your heart, once and for all, that you will do the things that He commands and teaches,” he said (see Luke 14:27, note (b) JST Luke 14:28).
Because God has promised to forgive His people as often as they repent, Elder Christofferson taught that no one ought to become discouraged (see Mosiah 26:30). “There’s not an upward limit; there’s not a quota,” he said. “You don’t get just 12 tries or 100, you get whatever it takes.”
“Don’t be discouraged if perfection eludes you for the next several millennia,” he continued. “I don’t know how long it takes; it won’t happen by the end of this life for sure, but as you progress on the path, He will be with you. He will forgive, He will extend mercy, He will lift, and His Spirit will be given to you to guide and sustain and direct you.”
Sister Christofferson spoke about finding truth and recognizing the adversary’s lies. “When you’re young, you need to be aware of how the devil works and functions,” she said.
Reading from Genesis 3, Sister Christofferson shared her perspective about how Satan belittled Eve in order to convince her to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
“I believe he said to her, ‘Eve, you are pretty naïve and don’t know very much. That’s why you need that tree; you don’t know what I know.’ … Here’s the lie: this is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It is not the tree of wisdom. … People will try to convince you that you’re not very bright, that you haven’t been around the block or that you’re not old enough—but you have sufficient to know the right path to choose, and you do have the truth,” she said.
Elder and Sister Christofferson were accompanied by Elder Randall K. Bennett of the Seventy, who presides over of the North America Northeast Area, and his wife, Sister Shelley Bennett. They shared their testimonies about the power of listening to the voice of the Savior and how prayer and reading the Book of Mormon bring relief from anxiety and despair.