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Chris Samuels, Deseret News
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks at a fireside for the Salt Lake Inner City Mission in Salt Lake City, Friday, Dec. 4, 2015.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's holiday message to senior couples serving as church service missionaries along the Wasatch Front highlighted three essential "P's": the Pattern, the Path and the Promise.

On Friday, the second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke at the annual Christmas devotional of the Salt Lake City Inner City Mission. He saluted the missionaries — who typically care for the poor and needy in an assigned congregation — for bettering the lives of thousands of Utahns.

He also spoke tenderly of the tremendous responsibilities shouldered by LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson.

President Uchtdorf said the scriptures teach a consistent, common pattern: “The Lord has always commanded His children to serve and to love Him and to seek the welfare of their brothers and sisters.”

Charity for one another, he added, is essential to pleasing God and “become a people of Zion.”

“We could cover the earth with members of the church, put a meetinghouse on every corner, dot the land with temples, fill the earth with copies of the Book of Mormon, send missionaries to every country, and say millions of prayers. But if we neglect to grasp the core of the gospel message and fail to help those who suffer or turn away those who mourn, and if we do not remember to be charitable, we 'are as [waste], which the refiners do cast out',” he said.

Having charity and caring for one another is not simply “a good idea” — it's at the core of the gospel.

“Without this transformational work of caring for our fellowmen, the church is but a facade of the organization God intends for His people,” he said. “Without charity and compassion we are a mere shadow of who we are meant to be —both as individuals and as a Church. Without charity and compassion, we are neglecting our heritage and endangering our promise as children of God.”

Jesus Christ — who loved the sick, broken and rejected — exemplified this pattern of charity, he said.

“He spent time among the poor, the unpopular, and the burdened. He knew that it was the sick, not the whole, who need a physician. He reached out to those who sorrowed and suffered.”

This patternof charity, said President Uchtdorf, defines the path one must walk to please God.

“We are called to follow the example of the Savior, and it is impossible to do so if we set aside our compassion and refuse to care for our fellowmen.”

Acknowledging the inner city of Salt Lake may not be as exotic or remote as Nepal or Bangkok, President Uchtdorf told the missionaries “the work you do is just as important to the Lord and to the people to whom you minister. You are the hands of the Savior, ministering to God’s children. You are angels of God to those you serve. You are examples to your families — you are examples to me, and to all the world of what a disciple of Christ should do.”

One's love for God, he added, kindles his or her love for others. “This is the path of discipleship. It is the path God desires us to walk.”

At the end of the path, there is a promise.

“Surely, those who 'lift up the hands which hang down' will find that their own hands are lifted up in their time of need,” he said. “Without a doubt, those who bring peace to others will find peace in their own hearts. The merciful will surely find mercy.”

Such blessings do not all come at the end of the path.

“Often, the reward is in the doing. When asked why he was so faithful in the Church, one elderly brother replied, 'I'm faithful because it feels good. It makes me feel right when I do right'.”

Speaking of President Monson, President Uchtdorf said he “carries tremendous responsibilities, and regardless of being 88 years of age he still loves to serve God and fellowmen with all his heart, mind and strength. All of his life, when he has seen those in need, especially the poor and needy, his heart has instantly reached out to them in deeply personal ways.”

The church's 16th president, he added, continues to lead the church “and build the Lord's kingdom.”

“Those who work with him each day know how deeply President Monson is involved in every decision of major importance to the ongoing work of the Lord’s kingdom,” said President Uchtdorf. “His is the final decision on key matters.”

The recent calling of three new members to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, for example, was made by President Monson. “He alone had the responsibility to obtain the Lord’s will on this critical matter, and he did.”

President Uchtdorf said the church president doesn't walk as briskly as he once did. His short-term memory “is not what it once was” and the long work days are becoming tougher.

“Fortunately, God is at the helm,” he said. “The Lord’s divine system of Church government ensures that the Church is always in good and steady hands. The quorums of the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles are the Lord’s pattern for His church. And it works wonderfully.”

[email protected] @JNSwensen