A 'journey to higher ground' at Southern Virginia University conference

By Hannah Benson Rodriguez

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, June 5 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Wright, who writes a column for Mormon Times titled “Wright Words,” focused his message on bearing testimony to others. He began by encouraging attendees to bear testimony not just to a congregation or an investigator, but also personally to siblings and loved ones.

He highlighted the word “look” in 1 Nephi 11, and how the word is an “immediate invitation” to see what is really important.

“Are you directing the people in your life to look?” Wright said. “Feel the passion and the energy behind that word: look.”

He encouraged others to actively share what they know, both to bless others and to strengthen their own testimonies. Wright added his witness to a principle taught by living prophets, that “some testimonies are better gained on the feet bearing them than on the knees praying for them.”

“At the times that you feel the most alone … remember that you have a loving Father in Heaven, and He is always with you,” Wright said. “He knows what you’re good at and He knows what you need help with, and He stands prepared.”

In the 'covenant of safety'

Sister Pearce presented on the Holy Ghost and how it relates to covenants, repentance, forgiveness and gratitude. She said that in order to understand the Holy Ghost, or any principle of the gospel, we must understand “every other true principle of the gospel” embedded in it.

“We will always have him if we’re in a covenant relationship,” Sister Pearce said. “Our covenants bind us. We are bound to him in covenants so as we’re kept close to him. We will ultimately grow to be like him and to be part of his eternal kingdom.”

Pearce, the daughter of the late President Gordon B. Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie, included stories from her childhood in the Hinckley home. From one childhood experience, she illustrated the need to trust in the Lord and the safety of his covenants.

“I believe that as we recognize that we are in this covenant of safety, that we are more free to recognize what we’ve done wrong and to seek forgiveness,” she said.

Sister Pearce said that gratitude is a way to increase our ability to always have the Spirit and to claim our covenant privileges. After following the counsel of President Henry B. Eyring, the first counselor in the First Presidency, to write down instances where they had seen the Lord’s hand in their lives, Sister Pearce and her husband felt a greater abundance of the Holy Ghost that buoyed them up during hard times.

“We can claim the privileges that he extends as we offer all that we are and express gratitude over and over again,” said Sister Pearce. “As we do so, He will touch our lives with His power. The Holy Ghost will give us light to the journey back home.”

Following the plan of salvation

Ridges, who, along with his wife, just completed an 18-month mission at the Buena Vista Institute of Religion, which serves Southern Virginia University students, spoke about the plan of salvation and how it serves as our map to higher ground. He emphasized the importance of utilizing the scriptures, the words of modern prophets and correlated material as a basis for understanding the doctrines of the plan. With these resources, he explained many aspects of the plan from a doctrinal standpoint and combated accepting false doctrine or rumor as fact.

“At the beginning of every single course we teach in the church, we have a good review of the plan of salvation,” said Ridges. “If you know where you’re going, it’s harder to get lost.”

He emphasized key points, such as the love of Jesus Christ and the power of his Atonement, which is at work during each phase of the plan, and the importance of enjoying the journey.

“We’ve got a lot of wonderful doctrine in our journey to higher ground,” said Ridges. “May we enjoy it and may we use the atonement in our journey to higher ground.

Hannah Benson Rodriguez is a communications and marketing assistant at Southern Virginia University. She currently resides in Buena Vista, Va.

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