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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Building Bridges--My New Year's Testimony 2019

Hello again, everyone! Just over a year ago, the Church laid to rest our beloved Church President, Thomas S. Monson. President Monson always seemed larger than life, a heroic individual who, even in his declining years and months, was still reaching out to the one to rescue them from the sorrows, ills, and transgressions in their lives, or anything else that was keeping distance between them and the Lord.

The stories about the way he ministered to the one could and do fill volumes. Through word and deed, he pointed those within the sound of his voice to a higher way of life, to live the gospel more fully, and urged all of us to reach out and rescue all those within the scope of our influence who are struggling in their own paths. President Monson demonstrated that attitude through engaging personal stories and the many poems and scriptural passages he amazingly committed to memory.

One such poem which he often quoted was "The Bridge Builder". In 2009, while I was taking the "Teachings of the Living Prophets" class at BYU, my classmates and I were assigned to individually memorize one scripture cited by President Monson, one of his many most-recognized quotes, and poems he shared over the pulpit. I chose to memorize "The Bridge Builder". As we get further into this New Year, I felt impressed to share that poem, and some thoughts about what it (and the opportunities afforded by each new year) means to me.

An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream held no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build you this bridge at the eventide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
"Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
There followeth after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
"This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him."

A new year has often been considered to be the optimal time to start something anew, to mend fences or broken bridges in relationships, to correct mistakes in our conduct and day-to-day living, and to look with hope towards the promise that, if we will do such things, each new year can and will be better than however many years have come before it. But more than that, we can and must reach out to rescue those within our circle of influence who have, for whatever reason, managed to get any aspect of their lives off-course.

Earlier today, the first Music & the Spoken Word broadcast for 2019 was a special one with a "New Year" theme. Lloyd Newell, who gives the "spoken word" portion of the program, shared this message this morning. Part of any transition we make in this life from one stage to another surely involves the process whereby we are presented with new territory in which to forge a path ahead, and the opportunity to cross various chasms and, where possible, turn around and build bridges for others who will, through no fault of their own, need to cross similar chasms in their own lives and situations.

Will we, as the ones who have gone before, make the path easier for those who will follow after us? It has well been said that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. While serving as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (and Acting President of the Church during the apostolic interregnum following the death of Brigham Young), John Taylor was quoted as follows: "If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those whom you might have saved had you done your duty."

Therefore, if we fail to learn from the mistakes we and others before us have made, do not successfully cross the chasms in our own lives and build bridges for those who will follow after, do not take the time to ensure that each New Year can be such an opportunity to change ourselves for the better and to build bridges for those that will follow after us, we will definitely be accountable to the Lord on Judgement Day for those faults and failings.

That said, since there has only ever been One Man I know of who was absolutely perfect, and who never lost sight of His mission and purpose, who was willing to pay the price for our shortcomings, faults, failures, and flaws, if we have failed in these priorities before now, then this new year also presents an opportunity for each of us to correct course now, to resolve to do better, and to ensure that we do what He has sent us here to do.

While it is never an easy process to make such course corrections, He never said it would be easy: He only said it would be worth it. If we lay claim to the merits, mercy, compassion, understanding and opportunity to course correct, which is freely offered by Him through the gift of His atonement, then not only can we correct our course and resolve to do better in the year ahead, but we can also be successful in doing better in the future, and in preparing the paths we have already trod for those who will follow after, and who would, if not for our preparation, fallen by the wayside.

This is the opportunity that each New Year affords for us all. I pray that we will take that opportunity this year, and every New Year for the rest of our lives. If we can do so, we will then be able to stand blameless before our Father in Heaven and His Son, who makes it all possible. This is the New Year testimony which I offer on this Fast Sunday in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.