When I initially started thinking about what I wanted to say today I was stumped. Nothing seemed right. However, as I continued contemplating I began thinking about my parents and things that had happened when I was a child. Now, I am the 4th of 7 kids but I was the youngest for the first 6 years of my life. So, there was a marked difference from before my little brothers were born. One of these differences was the bedtime routine.
When I was the youngest there was just my three older siblings and I to put to bed (but my siblings are at least 4 years older than me so it was more of just putting me to bed). So, we would have family prayer and then my parents (usually my dad) would ask each of us kids two questions. It was always the same two questions. The conversation with each child would go something like this:
Dad: Who loves you?
Me: Mama and Daddy.
Dad: Who else?
Me: Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ
Dad: How long will we love you?
Me: Always and forever.
This conversation would take place 4 times each night. Now, the responses we gave were conditioned responses, so the words did not have much meaning to a child as small as I was. However, it was the repetitive, routine of this conversation that would stick with me throughout my life.
Once my little brothers were born this routine changed. My little brothers are twins, so putting them to bed took a lot longer and was much more of a process now, so the nightly Q&A stopped. However, I never forgot those words, and from time to time I would remember those questions and their answers, but still not really understand the significance of them.
I hit my teenage years and as happens sometimes, I hit a downward spiral. On one of my darkest days, I had hit rock bottom and tried to go 6 feet under. I was home and in tears and then my daddy came home and just held me while I cried. As he held me he too started crying (which is something I have seen him do less than 10 times in my life) and he said these words:
“Sister Elliott, who loves you? You know who loves you, right?”
“Your mother and I do and we will love you always and forever. But there is someone who has loved you for far longer. Our Heavenly Father has loved you longer than you can comprehend and he will love you for far longer than you can imagine. You will always be my little girl in this life and in the life to come. But, you were a precious daughter of God before you were my daughter and will be forever….”
Of course, the confused, lost teenager that I was just started crying harder and the words, while they held meaning at that moment were ones that would fade away and would turn back into being words from childhood.
The night before I left for my mission my father gave me words of advice. As he spoke to me his eyes began tearing up and those tears began to fall when he said, “During those hard times there are two things I want you to remember:
Who loves you?
I responded (with tears in my eyes): Mama and Daddy
I said: “Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ”
He asked: “How long will we love you?”
I replied: “Always and forever”
Those words were some of the last words my father said to me before I got on the plane and left for my mission. This time, the words have stuck. In the 4 1/2 months I have been on my mission I have had some pretty crazy things happen. I have had low points and high points. But, something I am always reminded of is that I am a Daughter of God. I am precious in His eyes and will be no matter what I do. I never want to disappoint my Father in Heaven because he knows what I am capable of and I cannot think of a worse feeling than meeting Him and realizing that I did not become the person He knew I was capable of becoming.
God loves us with a perfect love. He sees beyond our faults and our weaknesses, and our imperfections. His love is endless and knows no bounds. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to be a sacrifice for us so that we can return to live with Him.
“For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” —John 3:16-17
I know that God lives. I know that He is my Father in Heaven. I know that He loves me more than I can comprehend. I know that He has a plan that will enable all of us to live with Him again. I know that my Saviour Jesus Christ is at the center of that plan. That through Christ and his sacrifice we can be made clean and whole. We can repent and change for the better, we can be healed of any pain or hurt. I know that this love is extended to all people everywhere. God is no respecter of persons. Race, age, gender, those things do not matter to Him. The one thing that matters is that I, you, and all of us are His children.
When it comes down to it, all the knowledge of men does not compare to this one simple truth:
We are children of God. We have a divine heritage with a potential to become like our Heavenly Father.
It is a wonder and a blessing to have this knowledge and have the opportunity to share it with the world.
I bear witness to these things in the name of my Lord and my Saviour, my elder brother, Jesus Christ, Amen.